My friend Adam posted this rendition of “Amazing Grace” to YouTube yesterday.
In my last post, I ended with the thought that I may settle into a small Baptist church nearby.
Well, last weekend I attended the evening service and the pastor used the message to express his belief that the earth was created between 6 and 10,000 years ago.
Now, I’ve never looked into the young earth view of creationism, so I sat there trying to keep an open mind. As a believer, I cannot rule out miraculous acts of God.
The thing is, I’m not sure exactly what to believe on the topic of creation. There are portions of Genesis that I don’t understand, so I’m willing to listen.
However, as the pastor proceeded, the attitude he expressed about the position bothered me. There was a mere 1 area of scripture he cited, in Genesis 1:6–8 when God was proceeding with creation on the 2nd day:
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
Whenever I’ve read that passage, I have trouble understanding what exactly this “firmament” is. And what did the waters look like? So, there was much water, and this thing called “Heaven” separated water above from water below. Is this even something on the earth? Is this some part of Christian cosmology that I don’t understand? How does this act sit in the whole series of creation? I only have questions.
The pastor referred to a theory that the firmament is 11 miles up in the atmosphere and refers to a thin shell around the earth of supercooled hydrogen, creating something like a greenhouse of the earth, with pink light as the sunlight came through that firmament. (What’s this, the tropopause?)
This theory can then extend to explaining dinosaurs who need to eat the huge vegetation, the soothing pink light explains lion laying down with lamb, and the fracturing of that shell releasing the waters above explains the great flood.
It’s a weird idea, and a fascinating concept to entertain.
So, the attitude. The pastor was referring to a few scientists who posited these ideas and claiming them as “scientific fact.” Further, he also cited the a news account from the Illustrated London News in the 1800s about some construction workers coming across a living pterodactyl while blasting a tunnel.
The problem I have is the inconsistency in using these two sources as a reliable argument for the young earth creationist perspective. If you choose to claim “scientific fact” how can you ignore all the other “scientific facts” that point to alternate explanations? Personally, my view of “scientific fact” is that only a very elementary view of science would claim such theories as “fact.” Science history is riddled with facts that have been found lacking, so any claim to scientific fact, to me, sounds naive.
And I probably don’t have to explain why citing a news article from the 1800s should not prove anything. I don’t believe everything I read in newsprint now, so why should I trust something written in a newspaper in the 1800s? That’s just silly. Especially when the goal is to substantiate something so important as a question about how the heaven and the earth came into existence.
I expect pastors to be clearheaded about what they believe, but in his message he seemed desperate to find evidence to support his view of creation, which is surely a stretch by what is shown in scripture.
How much of an issue is this to me? Well, what a person believes about salvation is far more important than what that person believes about creation. This pastor has the important stuff figured out.
Last Summer I moved to a village about an hour and a half away from where I have lived for the last 14 years, and so left a vibrant church community I had become a part of.
A year has passed, and I am still unsettled. Why?
This post includes reflections on my search for a church community.
My assumptions about churches
I’ll start by explaining where I’m coming from in regard to churches.
- The world-wide, past, present, and future followers of Jesus Christ are the church.
- To claim that any single Christian denomination has some exclusive mantle of righteousness is frighteningly short-sighted in regard to the power and reach of God’s Word in this world, and the power of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
- In terms of the traditional term of “church,” that being a local or regional congregation, I have never visited one that I think is perfect. This is the nature of man, and it is in spite of our foolishness that God’s work is done. I do not expect to find a “perfect” church. Paul’s letters to the early churches suggest to me that we have never had a church that is beyond reproach.
- The attitudes and attributes of a church are determined by the leadership of that church, the traditions and rules the church holds to, and the community and context in which it serves.
What I want in a church
- I want the leadership of the church to be humbled servants of the Word of God, willing to be corrected on long-held doctrinal stances out of reverence for the sovereignty of God. How can I trust them otherwise?
- I want the people in the church to serve earnestly for the common good, to be there for each other, to challenge, encourage, and enrich each other to grow in knowledge and spirit, and to hold each other accountable as needed.
- I want a community of believers that I am comfortable raising my daughters with.
The church I grew up in
As a child, before I believed, I attended a church called the First Apostolic Lutheran Church. The messages were always based on scripture and usually returned to the gospel of the forgiveness of sins. During services we often heard the pastor remind the congregation that our sins are forgiven in the name and blood of Jesus Christ. The congregation responded with those words back to the pastor. Let me be careful to point out that we were not actually forgiving any sins, we were reminding each other that our sins have been forgiven.
I am thankful for this upbringing, because it was during one of these church services that I, as a spiritually wayward 16 year-old, first truly believed that I am a forgiven child of God. The good news is very simple and very profound.
Fall of 2008: The pastor forgives my sins?
I attended a service at a church that shall remain anonymous. This particular service was a bit formal, with a pastor wearing a robe, deacons, an altar girl, and probably other trappings that I missed.
The message was about anger, and, ironically, I thought it was weak. During the service I could have sworn that the pastor said he forgave our sins. That’s not okay. I don’t expect to go back.
Winter 2008–2009: Baptist churches
I have attended a few Baptist churches recently. I have heard nothing that I take issue with, but I don’t think I am a Baptist. Perhaps I will end up in a Baptist church, by default.
Attending these Baptist churches has helped me realize that I do not like the idea of being labeled by any particular denomination’s stamp. My faith in God is fiercely independent of any local church I may attend and serve in. I look with skepticism on church-endorsed viewpoints, products, activities that do not root in God’s Word.
Social validation and manipulation
One church that I have been to a few times included an “altar call” in each service where the pastor exhorted people to self-identify, come forward, be prayed for, and so forth.
This can be a good opportunity for people to take that step of acknowledging Christ as savior. However, the line of prompts from the pulpit came off to me, a believer, as a sort of mass manipulation relying on the band-wagon effect—social validation to get people to make some sort of emotion-driven public statement.
Salvation is a spiritual act. Emotions are often tied to it, but by manipulating people, I feel like the pastor was using a dirty trick. This leads me directly to question whether the pastor was doing this to make himself feel good, or whether he was doing it to preach the gospel.
Spring 2009: A spinny church
Earlier this Spring I attended another church. It was fairly charismatic, with about an hour of worship music and dancing before the more sedate portion of the service ensued.
A tall woman in a long red robe waved her arms in wide spirals and spun around and around, her robe twirling with her. It was quite pretty. Another woman walked around the room waving a blue banner with symbols and writing that may have been Jewish over peoples heads. Others danced. Some laid down and cried. Others shouted, “JEEESUSSS.”
One song was about spinning for God and God spinning over us, and that God is happy when we spin over him.
That’s happy and all, but show me this in scripture? It is important that worship is based on truth.
I was reminded of whirling dervishes in the Middle East and of prayer banners in Tibet.
Let me say this: I believe that God’s work is being done in that church, and that there are sincere believers who are furthering God’s plan.
However, I won’t attend that church, because they have women pastors (I know, controversial—read Timothy 1 and Titus and then argue this in comments to this post if you like) and secondarily it seems like they are worshiping too much to their own glory and not enough to God’s. I could be totally wrong on this point.
Summer 2009: So where does this leave my quest?
I believe that as a Christian I am supposed to be engaged with a community of believers. As a father, I need to demonstrate that to my children.
I may continue to seek, or may end up settling in a tiny Baptist church nearby that I have attended quite a few times. It doesn’t have the richness of activities you get with a larger congregation, but more importantly the leadership and congregation seem to be humble, sincere followers of God. That is sufficient.
As I gingerly pulled a shard of glass from my forearm this morning, I thought I might blog about the car accident I had this past Wednesday.
Following is an excerpt of a message I emailed to my coworkers on Thursday morning.
I was in a 2-car collision last night while I was driving my daughters back to St Charles from Saginaw. An elderly woman pulled out from a side street in front of both lanes of traffic on the highway. We were in the left lane, and I didn’t see her until we hit her car because an SUV just ahead and to my right obscured the view. She was taken to the hospital but it sounded from the police like she was going to be okay.
After the impact we ended up against one of those raised cement storm drains in the ditch on the other side of the highway, I’d guess about 40 yards back from where we were.
Lila and Eva are both fine, other than a seat belt burn on Eva’s upper right shoulder. Lila was gasping that she couldn’t breathe, probably because of the impact and she probably inhaled smoke. After a few minutes she was just fine.
Some other people stopped and called 911, and helped get Eva out of the car while I was checking Lila.
Chey came and we went to a hospital in Saginaw with the girls just to be safe. They’re fine.
My left hand hurt and wasn’t working quite right, and I wanted to be sure that my fingers (middle finger and thumb, specifically) were not broken. Thankfully the X-Rays showed no fractures, and this morning the swelling is down and I can move it better than last night.
I’m very thankful that everyone is okay.
And, for all of us techies, my laptop is a little bent, but seems to work okay. 😉
I hit the range again this morning for a practice 900 bullseye match. What a beautiful morning! I started just after 8 AM and was facing East, and the sunshine played a nice highlighting on my iron sights.
Gun: .22 caliber Ruger Mk II
Ammo: Winchester Super-X .22 long rifle standard velocity
Slow fires were at 50 yards, timed and rapid fires at 25 yards.
|Slow Fire||National Match Course||Timed Fire||Rapid Fire||Total|
So, other than the Slow Fire of the NMC, it was a rough practice!
The Saginaw Field & Stream Club, where I shot, has a really nice 50 yard bullseye pistol range. I feel very fortunate to be a member there.
I put the remaining 10 rounds through a hybridized High Standard Victor. It had been working poorly, but my father brought it to the High Standard folks at the national championships at Camp Perry last year and they replaced the spring in the slide.
It looks like that was the problem, because those 10 shots all functioned great. Previously, I couldn’t get off 3 rounds without a malfunction.
I plan to shoot the High Standard for my next practice outing.
My friend Adam posted this to Youtube. Nice job Adam.
I made it to the range today! The afternoon was sunny and seemed like it was in the high 30s. My fingers were stiff on the cold pistol, but the lighting was beautiful and the wind was light. This was the first time I’ve shot at the Saginaw Field & Stream club. It has an excellent 50 yard pistol range.
I had a small mixture of .22 ammo, which I shot in this order: 50 rounds of Remington Target (standard velocity lead), 5 rounds of Federal Lightning (high-velocity jacketed hollow-point), and the remaining 35 rounds were Remington Thunderbolt (high-velocity jacketed).
Thoughts on the ammo
This was the first time I’ve shot Remington Target rounds, and, frankly, they were great. They felt very consistent and they functioned reliably in my old Ruger Mk II.
The Federal ammo was cheap stuff, and, oh man, was it bad. Of the 5 rounds, 3 stovepiped. And, they felt very inconsistent. The Remington Thunderbolts are also cheap stuff, but they were consistent and functioned fine.
I ran through a practice 900 match (conventional bullseye pistol).
So, here’s how I shot.
|Slow Fire||National Match Course||Timed Fire||Rapid Fire||Total|
That adds up to 822-15X (out of 900 possible). Average score of 91.3.
Really, I had no right to shoot that well, since I haven’t practiced at all for over a year. So, this is a good benchmark to start the season with.
I hope to get out to the range every week, starting in mid-April, and I would like to compete in at least a couple matches by the end of the outdoor season.
The weather today was sunny, blue sky and mid-forties. The Winter is long, and on days like today, it is easy to think the season has changed. No dice.
I’m sick. Some sinus, upper-bronchial thing. I left work a little early; I was in no shape to start writing an XML schema. At home I decided the most therapeutic thing was for me was to go to a shooting range. Makes sense, right?
So, I transferred an extra gun into my box, scrounged up a single paper target (25 yd slow-fire target), found 5 rounds of .22 and 15 rounds of .45, and left. Yeah, not exactly geared-up for a good shooting session, but I think Spring-fever may have set in.
So I get to the club and the long dirt road to the pistol range is pretty mucky. So naturally I gunned the engine and took my chances.
Well, the mud won.
I finally gave up trying to drive out, and walked down to the pistol range from where I heard shots. An amiable guy in a pick-up truck with a tow strap gladly pulled me out.
I left the club without hitting the range. I can’t wait till the mud dries.
Lila, Eva and I spent a week up at my parents’ house in Chassell, MI. We had a great time!
Snow fell continually, except for a beautiful blue sky on Christmas morning. Eva came down with a cold, so we did not spend much time outside. We did do a little sledding though.
Here are a couple photos of the girls from Christmas morning.
We drove down yesterday and today. What crazy weather! Yesterday was pure thick fog all the way through the U.P. and the Norther Lower, until evening, when we had a downpour along with the fog. Visibility was so bad, everyone was driving very slowly.
We spent the night in Gaylord. This morning at 7:15, the driveway outside the hotel was submerged with a river from the snowmelt. By 8:45 it was frozen solid.
So we hit the road for St. Charles and the highway was so bad that we were in a column of cars all moving 45 MPH or less, for hours. It was slow-going, but we made it in this afternoon.