Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The M's Have Their Man

It's official. The Mariners have found their new GM - Jack Zduriencik. The bloggers (see USS Mariner) don't think it's a bad move. He's built a great roster with the Brewers. We'll see how he does, but there's hope on the horizon in Seattle.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Battle Line is Drawn: I’m Borderline Obese…

…The doctor assured me it isn’t a pejorative term, but a scientific one. That takes a little sting out. A little. I need to get down to 182 to be normal. I’m currently “Overweight.” Ouch. I’ve got some work to do.

I started running last week. I need to keep it up for health’s sake. The part I’m dreading is eating better. But it needs to be done if I want to just stay “Overweight,” let alone get to being “Borderline Overweight” or “Normal.”

[I thought about putting a Homer Simpson picture on here, but I just couldn’t do it.]

PS – I’ll get back to the church & state posts soon. I’m sure everyone’s holding their breath J

Thursday, October 16, 2008

We could have used this for our parables series this summer.

Oh well. To follow up on my “I’m-excited-to-start-the-next-Eugene-Peterson-book” post a few days ago. Scot McKnight shares my enthusiasm for Peterson (and does a good job of explaining why I like it better than I could) by giving a brief preview of Peterson’s newest book, Tell It Slant. Too bad I won’t get to it for a while.

McKnight on Peterson’s Tell It Slant:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Some Challenging Thoughts on Poverty

I don't check it everyday, but I should. Scot McKnight's blog,, is fantastic. Check out this challenging and, I think, pretty spot on post about dealing with poverty as believers:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Classic Separation Perspective (Derek Davis) #4: Some Concluding Thoughts

There was much I enjoyed in this perspective and it is, actually, probably my default position, though that is probably changing as more social issues get raised these days. I didn’t note any critiques of the Catholic perspective, but a couple questions/issues came up in this one that are worth noting. Not long critiques, but noteworthy…

· The Catholic critique here notes how Davis’ study is more individual oriented and doesn’t speak to our social responsibilities.
· The idea of a civil religion is why I’m not terribly offended that they’ve taken prayer out of the schools and why there are some ways I’d like to be more than a “Classic Separationist.” It isn’t that I want to avoid all of it; it’s that I don’t want the US church to become Europe.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Classic Separation Perspective (Derek Davis) #3: The Rules of Classical Separation

OK. I'll quit whining about lame Seattle sports. Back to the different church-state relationships from a Christian perspective. This is the last installment of the Classic Separation Perspective. There are three distinct, yet related rules when it comes to Classical Separation, according to Davis.

1. Separation of Church and State.
There are clearly ways where there is no separation (“In God We Trust”). The issue is more of an institutional separation. That means “church and state in American society not be interconnected, dependent on or functionally related to each other.” The idea is that they will both function better if they function independently (e.g., government appointing clergy or the church dictating laws like the Middle Ages).
Davis seems to be skeptical even of partnership of church and state when it comes to social programs because religions have been historically considered “pervasively sectarian” (p. 104). Whether it goes this far or not, Davis’ concern is that “making religion the servant of government would likely inaugurate the decline of religion’s current role as the nation’s ‘prophetic voice’ and conscience against ill-advised governmental policies. Religion with its hand out can never fulfill its prophetic role in society” (p. 105).

2. Integration of Religion and Politics.
While the official separation is clear, religious voices are encouraged in politics. Whether it be the individual citizen, or lobbying, religion does play a role in the political arena – and should. Religious people can enter into the process just like anyone else and it is expected, or at least understood, that those running for public office can speak about their faith.

3. Accommodation of Civil Religion.
Classical separation also recognizes a civil religion under the generic terms of “God” and it allows symbols that have been around for a while to stay prominent in a given community (Nativity scenes, menorahs, etc…). This ends when it will make an impression on the young, which is why they still pray in Congress, but not in schools.

Conclusion of Classic Separation
Separation is important for the purity of the church, but it has had great benefits. There is no country as religious as the USA – and with such broad respect for so many different faiths. The church and state can pursue doing good to all (Gal. 6.10), but it is the role of the church to make disciples of the nation (Mt. 28.19-20) and the state can’t do that.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Can it get any worse?

Of course it can. It's only sports, but this has to be the darkest season in my Seattle sports memory.

Seahawks whacked again ... at home:

Mariners 100+ losses ... and no new GM in sight yet.

Sonics are no longer.

Cougars embarrassed ... big deal.

Huskies only avoid losing because they have a bye.

Rough year.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Too long without Eugene Peterson: contra spiritual elitism

I’m making myself stop. I just started reading Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. He’s been one of my favorites over the last few years, but it’s been too long since I last read him (a year ago or so, I think). I started reading Christ Plays (because my amazing wife gives me Saturdays to relax, recharge, and read) and wanted to pound through the first section of the book because that’s what I do with books, but I made myself stop. Too good. I need to think about it.

I can’t begin to capture how good Peterson is because it’s mostly in how he says it, but I’ll at least let you think about what I’m pondering to see if it is worth you pondering, too. He’s “clearing the playing field” for Christian spirituality to get rid of distractions. The first he’s dealing with is the myth of spiritual elitism, that spirituality is for a special class. He debunks this brilliantly by contrasting two consecutive stories in John 3 and 4 – Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. The stories show that Jesus shows no preference and, in fact, it is the “less respectable” one who gets what Jesus is talking about and. Notice the contrast:

A man and a woman.
City and country.
An insider and an outsider.
A professional and a layperson.
A respectable man and a disreputable woman.
An orthodox and a heretic.
One who takes initiative; one who lets it be taken.
One named, the other anonymous.
Human reputation at risk; divine reputation at risk (p. 18).
Ultimately the point of each doesn’t revolve around the person, but Jesus and the work of God. Peterson states, “Jesus is working at the center. Jesus is far more active than any one of us; it is Jesus who provides the energy” (p. 19). In removing the clutter around spiritual formation and the issue of elitism we see:

spirituality is not a body of secret lore,
spirituality has nothing to do with aptitude or temperament,
spirituality is not primarily about you or me; it is not about personal power or enrichment. It is about God (p. 19).
What a great reminder. God doesn’t care where we are or where we come from, but He cares about where we are going and wants to work in our lives. What a great reminder that, ultimately, the pressure’s off. God’s at work. Not because of who I am or what I’ve done, but because He is and He loves me and wants to change me to become like Him.

Nice. Encouraging.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Classic Separation Perspective (Derek Davis) #2: Classic Separation is not Anti-God

The separation was not given to inhibit religion, but to “energize religion to supply the moral virtue in the citizenry that the nation would need for success” (p. 94). The Enlightenment rationalism wasn’t secular; God was behind the scenes as the providential hand in the universe. After noting the Baptist contribution towards separation (he’s from Baylor – he’s gotta give some love to the home team!), Davis discusses the contributions of religion to the new system. Religion contributes by creating a pious and moral people upon which freedom stands. This is whey there are so many great quotes from founders about faith – without saying the government might “promulgate religion.”

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Classic Separation Perspective (Derek Davis) #1: The Basic Debate

Derek H. Davis lays out the “classic separation” perspective by citing how religious liberty is America’s gift to the world. While most of his essay discusses the American Founders’ rationale for “classic separation,” he starts by mentioning the theological foundation of church and state, which is that all are created in the Image of God. Image bearers must be honored and belief and practice cannot be coerced. The difference between the classic and “strict” separationist view is that in Davis’ model, there can be some interaction between church and state.

The Basic Debate: The Meaning of the Religion Clauses
The 1st Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The first clause means the government cannot establish a church, but the second clause, the “free exercise clause” leads to much debate. I’ll save the debate, but Davis believes it refers to “classic separation” because direct/financial support of religion compromises the religious mission and its ability to be a prophetic voice.
While he admits it is difficult to determine from the Framers of the Constitution whether it should be separate or whether it accommodates partnership, he opts that, based on the founders’ deliberations, the separatist view is preferred, particularly since “nonpreferential” language toward religion was rejected up to five times in the process of writing the Amendment. If the framers thought it was an issue of fairness, they had ample opportunity. Since they didn’t, it seems they were aiming at separation.

Classic separation has been an historical process. Many colonies supported churches, but most stopped around the time of the Revolutionary War. After that, religious tests for holding office ended, and then finally they decriminalized religious behavior (e.g., being Catholic, etc…).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Catholic Perspective (Clark Cochran) #3: Church and State in Tension

There needs to be division so the church can pursue its mission, but it will be in constant interaction with the state. There is not a strong wall. Tension is Cochran’s key word in all of this. There are four points of tension in CST. Cooperation with the state, transcendence, competition, and challenge are the key points of tension that shift according to seasons and issues. Virtues are stressed in CST more than structures.

The church needs to walk the line between assisting the state to help people flourish without assimilating into the culture. This tension means, based on the issue, the church needs to cooperate with the state for the good, transcend the state when it comes the eternal things the state cannot speak to. The church must challenge the state when it is unjust and compete when it will help raise the bar for the state’s performance and contribute to the common good.

The book I’m reading is one of those “five views” books, but I’ll let the differences emerge with each summary rather than comment on their rebuttals. I’m already getting tired of blogging this, which means I’ll never finish if I look at each rebuttal. Feel free to rebut, however.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Catholic Perspective (Clark Cochran) #2: Purpose of the State in Catholic Doctrine

According to Cochran, government is the stewardship of God’s gifts. Here are the responsibilities of Government, according to Catholic Social Teaching (CST).

Government & natural order – The government is to help the flourishing of the human person for the common good. There is a restraining of evil that is valuable. When governments fail in this regard, peaceful resistance should b eordinar, but there are some times where revolutionary violence is acceptable.
Common good – Government is responsible to the good is why God grants authority to the state. This steers between individualism and collectivism. There is no fulfillment in isolation. Your flourishing is tied to your neighbor.
There is admittedly tension with capitalism here. There is a ‘universal destination of goods’ that means everyone has a share of the earth’s goods and this isn’t just national, but poorer nations have legitimate claims on wealthier nations.
Solidarity – I am my brother’s keeper. There is a common humanity, which impels action. We are responsible for all the others. This is where ‘structures of sin’ fit in – exploitation of labor, nuclear proliferation, or racial stigma. This solidarity applies within and across national barriers.
Social justice – The common good is valued and pursued. The broadest application is in the economic sphere. The poor are the test, particularly the gap between the rich and the poor in the US as well as dire poverty in the Third World. CST recognizes private property, but it has a ‘social mortgage.’ This is in tension again with capitalism. CST has no economic commitment. Key is preventing exploitation, which some conservatives and neo-conservatives think is best done in free-market capitalism. Catholics on the left disagree.
Freedom & human dignity – People are made in the image of God and this dignity is both individual and collective. People have a right to sustenance, protection, and no oppression. Democracy is the best hope for this, but not the only hope. CST universally teaches that governments are responsible to stop abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research, but there is debate on war, poverty, death penalty, lack of health care, etc…
Order & stewardship – There is a tension between the need for the government to punish evil and to and pursue the common good. Government has to help allocate the limited resources and “insure the preservation of God’s gifts into the future” (p. 56).

Some good stuff here. Some other stuff sounds nice, but doesn’t fit with our standard American values/structures. What do you think?

Tomorrow we’ll look at how this church/state tension is lived out from a Catholic perspective.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


You mean the Mariners weren't bad enough this year?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Catholic Perspective (Clark Cochran) #1: Mission of the Church in Catholic Doctrine

Catholic Social Teaching (CST) is broad, but here are some key points – even if there’s diversity within perspectives. It isn’t a tidy enterprise. There are four key aspects of CST that will be discussed later when it comes to how church and state will engage – cooperation, challenge, competition, and transcendence. First, we’ll look at Cochran’s explanation of the Mission of the Church and the Responsibilities of Government from a CST perspective.

Micah 6.8 is a key text in CST – do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with our God. Here are some key elements of Catholic doctrine.

Incarnational – Just as Christ came in the flesh to redeem humanity, so the church is to redeem the human and material world. This includes “that there is a natural justice and a natural common good” (p. 43).

Sacramental – Everyday events are chances for intimacy and relationship with Christ – everything is potentially sacred, which makes CST comfortable with the tensions inevitable in church/state relations.

Social anthropology – There is individual responsibility, but we are social creatures and have responsibilities toward one another.

Option for the poor – Tension between value of poverty and the relief of it. Monastic orders both honored voluntary poverty and worked to relieve the suffering. This has been characteristic of the Catholic left, but conservatives Catholics recognize it as their responsibility, too. They do it by different means.

Church as public institution – Most of the above the elements make the Catholic church public because it is committed to societal transformation for the public good – not for theocracy.

Friday, October 3, 2008

What's the difference between evangelicals, Catholics, & Orthodox?

Scot McKnight has an interesting response toward a letter that asked him, since he's so fond of Catholic and Orthodox tradition, why he hasn't converted.

He lays out some key issues in a helpful, brief way. There are strong issues, but his appreciation for these other traditions make this an gracious disagreement. Check it out.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Church, State, & Public Justice: Introduction

By way of introducing the complexity behind the issues of church and state relations, there is undoubtedly a history that includes a diversity of opinion and approaches. Even during great triumphs of social action by the church (slavery, for example), there was no unified golden age where everyone was in harmony. Christians have historically been on both sides of the issues at stake. Before concluding that there is no consensus voice on how Christians should engage the public and political squre, Kemeny sketches a brief history of the church’s role in society:

* Protestantism as established religion.
* Protestantism as de facto established religion (after separation of church and state is established in the Constitution)
* “Second Disestablishment” – Protestantism loses “hegemony” in society from 1920-1950s (examples of Scopes trial; JFK a Catholic president)
* End of the Protestant Establishment (1960s) – Global immigration along with the previous disestablishments lead to the most diverse nation in the world.

The current climate of disestablishment gave rise to what has come to be known as the Religious Right in the late 70s, early 80s as Christians have tried to return from irrelevance to make a difference in public policy and governance. The views on how this is best done is incredibly varied and there is no consensus.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fear and Trembling: Politics Coming …

‘Tis the season! I’m somewhat interested in politics, though I’m not an intense partisan. I listen to talk radio and I’m conservative, but I think it is a place where thoughtful people can disagree – even as Christians. There are some issues that I think are pretty black and white – you can probably guess what they are since I’ve said I’m a conservative. But when I talk to my godly, smart friends who are more liberal – even Democrats! – they make sense and they are, by any standard, every bit the Christian as a passionate evangelical Republican.

I’m not going to open the politics can of worms – at least in a partisan way. Not my bag – and certainly not something I’m going to argue about, particularly online. I’d love to chat over coffee or lunch and learn more about how people who hold like values express them differently in the ballot box, which I’ve recently had the pleasure of doing.

The next few blog posts are intended to be descriptive of different Christian perspectives on how church and state are to interact. It is a summary of Church, State, and Public Justice, edited by PC Kemeny. I hope it is of interest to you. Feel free to interact with what you think the strengths/weaknesses are of each perspective as we go. This won’t be as exhaustive an outline as my Stetzer summary was, so I’m not sure I can even do these chapters justice (they’re beefy), but I’ll try. I’ll hit the intro tomorrow and then I’ll get each view rolled out as soon as I can – I hope I can get it all out by election day.