Archive for the “Religion” Category

As I was closing the Library last night, I happened to notice a book laying on one of the shelves in the Bound Periodicals section. Not a big deal I thought—someone probably just set it down while looking at an article and forgot about it. As I drew closer I noticed that it was a copy of Joüon & Muraoka’s A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, and that it didn’t have a call number label on its spine—apparently someone’s personal copy. However, when I picked it up I started noticing some odd things about the book. Imagine a Library book where the barcode had been peeled off the back, the call number label had been cut out of the protective tape on the spine, and the ownership label had been removed from the front endsheet. That’s exactly what I was looking at. The call number was still written on the inside front cover and indicated that it was from the Reference section.

Was someone going to steal the book, but had a change of heart? Did someone “borrow” it for the semester and then return it? Who knows? You just don’t expect that sort of thing to happen around a seminary. Sure we have security gates, but they’re more to prevent people from accidentally walking out with books than to deter conscious theft. I was troubled and disturbed that someone in the Seminary community would do something like this.

However, the more I think about it, the less troubled I am. Around the Seminary, where everyone is so nice to everyone else (most of the time), it’s easy to begin believing at some level the illusion that we are good people. People out in the world may be sinful, but seminarians are righteous—or so it might seem. But that’s not the truth. Seminarians are sinners like everyone else. Although my particular struggle may not be the temptation to steal library books, I have my sins, and they are just as evil and ugly. Who am I to cast the first stone?

So, to whoever tried to make off with the Joüon-Muraoka, Christ forgives you, and so do I.

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I found this gem in the Seminary book sale. These kids don’t look too happy about prayer.

That’s right, kids—prayer shouldn’t be enjoyable.

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All personal bias in favor of my employer aside, I am thrilled that Covenant has introduced a new online resource called Covenant Worldwide. Covenant Worldwide is a free educational resource that provides complete sets of audio lectures and study guides from the classes in the Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree program. That’s right, the same content that one would get while working on an MATS degree is now available for free online (though not for credit). This is an incredible resource for anyone who wants to learn more about theology, Church history, and biblical studies.

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Yesterday I received a letter from a “very old church (55 years)” promising me joy, peace, health, money, a new car, a new house, and/or healing in family communication. All I have to do is follow their very detailed instructions for praying, which includes kneeling on the included prayer “rug” (actually a 11 x 17 in. piece of paper), and respond to them within 24 hours.

Wait a minute… I smell a scam. Indeed, the ever-vigilant Trinity Foundation is already on to them.

This letter would be incredibly funny if I didn’t know that these people are getting rich by preying on the poor and destitute.

Read the letter [1.3 MB PDF].

Read the letter (high quality) [5.7 MB PDF].

See the prayer “rug” [571 KB JPG].

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On Saturday, July 2nd, I joined several other men from my church and met at the home of one of our elders to receive a lesson in home-brewing. Yes, one of the elders at my church has taken up the hobby of home-brewing and now is passing on the knowledge he has gained as an occasion for fellowship. How cool is that? I’ve been intrigued by home-brewing ever since that time Jed brewed a batch of beer in his dorm room and I helped bottle it. Of course, I went into this knowing that I have yet to taste a beer that I like. However, one, I’ve been told its an acquired taste, and two, there are other things one can brew beside beer. Part of the afternoon was a beer tasting, and sure enough, I didn’t like any of them. Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun learning about the ins and outs of home-brewing, and maybe one day I’ll try fermenting something—other than grain, that is.

On a related note, I later had a little revelation that may make sense of my continued dislike of beer. I’m starting to think that I might be a supertaster, because that would make complete sense out of my finicky eating habits. I don’t like coffee, beer, and grapefruit. What are three things that are too bitter for supertasters? Coffee, beer, and grapefruit. How many times have I listened to “John Lee Supertaster” by They Might Be Giants, and this is just now clicking in my head? (22 according to iTunes.) Now, I’ve read that supertasters also aren’t so fond of green vegetables, which I’m mostly okay with, so I’m not 100% positive about my informal diagnosis yet. I guess I’ll have to track down some 6-n-propylthiouracil and get the final word.

On Sunday, July 3rd, I of course went to church, and afterward I ran into James and Jess, who were also interested in heading over to Fair St. Louis to see the Switchfoot concert under the Arch and the river-front fireworks. I ran home to get changed into some shorts and sneakers and to get some lunch, then they picked me up and we headed downtown. Although the afternoon was hot and there wasn’t much to do while waiting for the scheduled events, it was worth getting there early to see the air-show and get a good spot on the Arch-grounds. Some other people from church showed up before the concert and through cellphones we managed to get them over to the choice spot we had staked out. Switchfoot rocked the crowd, although I can’t say they were better than They Might Be Giants or Five Iron Frenzy. Immediately following the concert was the fireworks show, which led off with a stunt plane shooting off fireworks over the river before the traditional fireworks shot off from a river barge.

After all the festivities were done and the crowd began to clear, I noted a sort of Tragedy of the Commons—trash everywhere. I dutifully carried my trash to one of the multitude of trash cans along the main paths, but most people seemed content to simply drop empty cups and wrappers on the ground for Fair volunteers to pick up sometime before the next day’s events. As if I needed another sign that humanity is depraved.

Anyway, I went to the Fair expecting a good time—which was indeed had—but I never expected to walk away a millionaire. As James, Jess, & I walked through the streets towards the car, a group of youths standing on the side of the sidewalk made eye contact with us and extended towards us pieces of paper in their hands. Lo and behold they were giving out million dollar bills! Or not. No, they were merely religious tracts “cleverly” disguised as counterfeit million dollar bills.

The million dollar question: Will you go to Heaven? A quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God’s name in vain? Jesus, said, “Whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already with her in his heart.” Have you looked with lust? Will you be guilty on Judgement Day? If you have done those things God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. The Bible warns that you will end up in Hell. That’s not God’s will. He sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for you. Jesus took your punishment upon Himself-“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Then he rose from the dead and defeated death. Please repent (turn from sin) today and trust in Jesus, and God will grant you everlasting life. The read your Bible daily and obey it.

As I continued to walk, examining this evangelistic gimmick and having not even exchanged a single word with the young man who handed it to me, it struck me. What bothers me about this is that it is Christian spam. Someone convinces these kids to stand out on a street corner after a large event and hand out as many of these things as possible with the hopes that just a few will read the message crammed into the back border area of this fake bill and say, “Gee, I never realized this before. I’ll give my life to Jesus right now and read my Bible every day.” Does it work? Well, enough people respond to emails about porn, prescription meds, and widows in Nigeria to keep email spam going, so I’m guessing they get a few takers. Quick, clean, simple. No need to know the person or invest in a relationship. Just trick people into reading a “Gospel presentation”, get them converted, and the job is done.

I find this approach to be highly inadequate. There’s no follow up. There’s no discipleship. The tract doesn’t mention anything about going to a church and becoming part of a fellowship of Christians, who can challenge and love one another. Instead, the tract advocates an individualistic religion—a religion of just “me and Jesus”—that does not capture the fulness of the Gospel.

And then a few blocks later we passed a tent city. I vaguely recalled from a news report that I caught bits and pieces of as I was getting ready to go out one day that a bunch of homeless people were camping out somewhere downtown in protest of something. Well, there it was, just a few blocks away from my brothers and sisters with the tracts. I had to wonder. Did they give out any tracts to the camped out homeless people? Wouldn’t giving “million dollar bill” tracts to homeless people be kind of cruel in a way?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the perfect answer. I’m still learning what it means to evangelize, to love, and to have mercy. I can’t give anyone a 10 step evangelism program. And if anyone claims to have a 10 step evangelism program, I think it’d be best to run the other way. I don’t think evangelism is so simple and well-defined. Although the Great Commission is only one sentence long, it’s complex, involved, and time-consuming in its application.

Perhaps searching for concrete, well-defined answers is what makes these tracts look like a good idea. You can quantify it and think that you did some real good. “I handed out 200 tracts today. I touched 200 lives with the Gospel.” It sounds impressive and pious, but it doesn’t really capture the fullness of the Great Commission.

Anyway, theological musing aside, they say the first million is the hardest, so I guess it won’t be long before James, Jess, and I are being chauffeured in our limos to the airport where our private jets can fly us off to our mansions in the Hamptons. (Although, if I ever actually somehow become a millionaire and I buy a limo, a private jet, and a mansion in the Hamptons, someone out there better beat the ever-loving snot out of me.)

On Monday, July 4th, I slept in, having been quite tired from the fullness of the previous day. My only plans that day were to go to a Library staff party at the home of our serials coordinator, Joanna. I and the rest of the staff gathered for a fine cookout—though the cooking was the only thing going on outside. Being St. Louis, it was a little too warm outside, and we all stayed inside to chat. And there was much chatting—so much so that we lost track of time and completely missed the Kirkwood fireworks that we had intended to go see. Oh well.

Finally, for those of you who aren’t regular hr viewers: Relevancy Link

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