Wherever Two or Three are Gathered

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity

An interesting post at Worship Matters about a Christian "community" of bloggers. While I generally agree with his earlier thoughts on Blogging to Worship God (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), I have to take issue with a couple of his conclusions here.

First, the issue of a blogger community, with respect to the church:

I’m not sure how much of a healthy community CAN exist in cyberspace. Any community I experience with people over the Web is going to be severely limited at best. Community requires “doing life” together – praying together, eating together, evangelizing together, serving together, worshipping God together. The key word here is “together.” It involves much more than exchanging information over the Internet.

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While I may identify with someone of a common interest over the Internet, that hardly qualifies as true Christian community. Those in my community see me at my worst, challenge and encourage me in daily life, observe how I live, and can exercise discipline if I am engaging in unrepentant sin. The kind of community requires a church, not simply an Internet connection.

If the question is whether or not an online "community" can - or should - replace the local church, then I would agree whole-heartedly. However, the question does not inherently imply anything of the sort.

Not to be incredibly anal (okay, so, I can't help it...), but according to Dictionary.com, the following is the definition of community:

    1. A group of people living in the same locality and under the same government.
    2. The district or locality in which such a group lives.
    1. A group of people having common interests: the scientific community; the international business community.
    2. A group viewed as forming a distinct segment of society: the gay community; the community of color.
    1. Similarity or identity: a community of interests.
    2. Sharing, participation, and fellowship.
  1. Society as a whole; the public.

It appears that Worship Matters is focusing only on the first definition of "community". Certainly, the blogosphere - Christian or otherwise - does not fit this definition (which I would argue to be a credit/strength of the blogosphere). However, the Christian blogosphere is certainly a "group of people having common interests", a "group viewed as forming a distinct segment of society" (and of the blogosphere), having "similarity or identity", and indicative of "sharing, participation, and fellowship".

The salient question is not whether or not the Christian blogosphere constitutes a "community", but to what end that community exists. Certainly, for the vast majority of Christians, the blogosphere cannot and should not replace a local body of believers. However, even on this point, the Christian blogosphere can serve as a very important - even vital - link to believers for some Christians: for example, missionaries or other Christians in remote or hostile locations. The Christian blogosphere can also serve as a means to maintain fellowhip with a local body of believers from whom a Christian is separated (military personnel, missionaries, those in prison, etc.). The Christian blogosphere can also foster unity and fellowhip among believers world-wide, in a way never before possible.

So, certainly, the Christian blogosphere is not the local church; but that it is not the local church is not a detriment, and does not mean that it does not constitute a community of believers nor does it lessen the importance or usefulness of such a community.

I also contend with the second conclusion, with respect to oversight of blogs:

But, it seems wise for every Christian who writes a blog to be accountable to a pastor or leader in their local church rather than someone they’ve never met. I’m unwise, and possibly arrogant, to share my thoughts with the “world” when they haven’t been received by those who know me best. I suspect that if local pastors approved or at least viewed their member’s blogs prior to posting, we’d have a significant reduction in the number of blogs being written, but a welcome rise in the quality.

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Here’s the problem. Increasing the number of people talking doesn’t automatically increase the quality of the conversation. Judging from many blog comments I’ve read through, it only adds to the confusion.

With all due respect, my thoughts and words in general are accountable to One: my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I do not need "oversight" in order to speak - much less, to speak the Word and preach the Gospel (the very thing we are commanded to do)! Further, recognizing the lack of a need for such oversight is not inherently "unwise" nor "arrogant".

If my local pastor ever tried to - or even suggested that he ought to - "oversee" or "approve" what I think or say or write, I would immediately be in search of a new local pastor. For one, we "laypeople" do not need such approval, for we too speak with the full authority of Jesus Christ - since ALL believers have the Holy Spirit. I am guided by the Spirit as my conscience - who knows me far better than anyone ever could, including myself. We do not follow Christ under the supervision of a priesthood, for we ourselves are a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9), serving Jeus directly as our High Priest (Hebrews 3-9). While a pastor has a Spiritually appointed office of service, he has no more ability to discern, interperet, or understand the Word than we "lay" people, nor does he have any more authority to preach the Word to others. We each, to some extent and at some time or another, are commanded to preach and to teach the Word.

The Christian blogosphere provides a medium for discussions of interest to Christians in a format that is safe, instantaneous, and self-regulating. We will never always agree, and at one time or another, each one of us will be wrong about something. However, it has always been my opinion that more voices - more perspectives, more points of view, more choices - adds to the quality rather than detracts from it. Obviously extreme voices will be more easily recognized as outliers, while overwhelmingly common voices will be more recognizably familiar. The benefit we as Christians have in this "conversation" is we have the One Voice - the Word - to which to compare and in which to anchor our conversation. Letting our individual voices be "filtered" or "vetted" or "approved" by pastors - or anyone else - will not inherently increase the quality of the conversation; it will only limit the conversation unnecessarily.

So I say, let every voice be heard! Let every question be answered a thousand times in a thousand ways. And let each of us discern the truth in the Word, through the Spirit. That way, the collective quality of the community "voice" will improve, to everyone's benefit.

How So Say “Copyright” in Latin

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity

What if I Stumble? links to an article about the Vatican copyrighting the Pope.

While I wouldn't agree with Vittorio Messori that the Pope is "the principal interpreter of the Gospel," I do agree that putting a copyright on all papal documents will surround the clergy [of the world's largest Christian church] with the odor of money.

First, let me say that the concept of copyrighting one's own work is not inherently wrong, even for religious works. Zondervan and (I'm sure) other Bible publishers copyright their works (which, unlike the words of the Pope, actually are the Words of God), and nobody seems to have a problem with it.

The Vatican seems to be setting itself up in an untenable position, though - both logically, and legally. Copyrights allow for fair use, and the example of Vatican-alleged copyright infringement given in the article seems to fall pretty well within fair-use provision. (I could be wrong.) Regardless, if the following is the intent of the copyright:

A Vatican spokesman said that the Holy See had to defend itself against “pirated editions”. The move is also aimed at “premature publication”.

Then the following use seems proper:

Journalists accredited to the Vatican are handed papal texts under embargo. The Vatican said that if embargos were broken in future not only would the journalist face sanctions but also his or her publication would face legal action.

But the Vatican's additional use of that copyright seems wholly inappropriate:

Publishers will have to negotiate a levy of between 3 per cent and 5 per cent of the cover price of any book or publication “containing the Pope’s words”. Those who infringe the copyright face legal action and a higher levy of 15 per cent.

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Officials said that newspapers would be free to publish extracts from papal documents without charge once they were officially released, but only by “prior agreement”.

I half hope the Vatican will attempt to enforce such penalties against a major US newspaper, and see just how far they get.

The bigger problem I have, though, is a more important one: If the Roman Catholic church believes that the words of the Pope are the very words of God, then they are not claiming to copyright the words of a mere man, but of God Himself. As the Pope is not God, then if the words he expresses are those of God, then the Pope, a mere man, would be claiming to be God by claiming a copyright on those words - since a copyright holder of a given work is the author of that work. If the Pope is a mere man, expressing his own words, then he has every right to copyright his original words and ideas, as expressed. However, if those words and idea's are God's, then God alone owns the "copyright" on those words.

So, by copyrighting what are claimed to be the words of God, is the Vatican by implication claiming that the Pope is God? And if the Vatican is NOT claiming that the words of the Pope are the words of God, then why do those words need extraordinary protection as afforded by the copyright claim? I don't see how they can have it both ways.

P.S. Vatican: this move is not a good way to win friends and influence people for the Gospel...

Martha’s Distraction

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Martha's Distraction has been added to the OYB blogroll. Welcome!

What If I Stumble?

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

What If I Stumble? has been added to the OYB Blogroll. Welcome!

OYB: January 24

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today´s reading:
OT: Genesis 48-49
NT: Matthew 15:29-39, Matthew 16:1-12
Ps: Psalm 20
Pr: Proverbs 4:20-27

Today´s notable verse:

2He replied, "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' 3and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

Matthew 16:2-3 (NIV)

This passage reminds me of the old sailor's adage, Red sky by night, sailor's delight; red sky by morn, sailor be warned. Interesting, isn't it, that even before men had the scientific knowledge of meteorology to understand why such an adage is true, God demonstrated that our universe operates according to rules that have been set in place? As our reading yesterday in Psalm 19 also stated, God reveals to us that He exists in the very order by which our universe exists. The existence of "laws" of nature belie the existence of a Lawgiver. The thought may not seem to be related to Jesus' point here, but wasn't He saying much the same thing? The Pharisees understood the signs of the creation, yet they were blind to the signs of the Creator. How true is this dichotomy in our world today - and how sad! The more we learn about our world and our universe, the more we realize that it is not the result of random chance. With everything we know today, more faith is required to believe in random chance than to believe that we are the result of intentional, intelligent design.

The One Year Bible Blog notes:

Comments from you & Question of the Day - Proverbs verses 25 & 26 are powerful and bring up a question I'd love feedback on - "Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe." One thing that jumped out at me in these verses is the ideas of setting goals. Are you a goal setter? ...This Proverb verse kind of makes me wonder if setting goals helps us keep looking straight ahead? If goals help us mark out a straight path for our feet? And to stay on it? So, let me know in the Comments section below if you are a goal-setter? And to the extent you can share how you set goals? How often? In writing? How often do you check back in on your goals? Do they make a difference in your life? In your spiritual life?

I am definitely a goal-setter. Of course, I was that kid who was carrying around a 7-Habits planner in Junior High, and actually using it. 🙂 Remember the words of Paul:

13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

Paul clearly had goals - spiritual goals, and devoted his life to pursuing them. What better example, other than Christ Himself, could we emulate? I've used several methods to make, pursue, and meet goals in my life; however, if our aim is to have a "straight path" for our feet:

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)