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Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

I am a self proclaimed coffee addict and Executive Director of a non profit missions agency working primarily in the Mexican cities of Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and Ensenada. I've been married for over 30 years to Chelle, and we have one grown son, Joseph, a graduate of Auburn University in Alabama.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Church, Politics, and a Good Hike

I went hiking yesterday. It always amazes me that less than 45 minutes from the crowded Las Vegas Strip and its hordes of people, is a beautiful, tranquil place with only a handful of people around once you get more than 5 minutes from your car.

Up on Mt. Charleston, while the temperature in central Vegas reached close to 100 degrees, we had cold mountain air in the 60's and even some rain. All in all, it was a great day.

When I hike I get a lot of time to think without interruption. Yesterday my thoughts turned to the church, politics, and post modernity. Let me share with you.

Think of modern man as someone who prefers to live in a black and white world. It is a place where there is no fuzzy middle. No gray if you will.

Post modern man is someone who has come to the conclusion that black and white don't work for him. That frequently gray is an alright place to be.

Let's take an example. The New Testament says in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount that you should not divorce, except for marital unfaithfulness. Churches, theologians, pastors, and leaders have for years taken that to mean that God considers divorce for any other reason, sinful.

It is what has been known as a black and white issue. Or is it?

Let's say a woman is at home tending to the house and family. Now let's say a couple of nights a week her husband comes home drunk and beats her up. If she chooses divorce, is it sinful?

The question is a yes/no question. Yet I do not believe you can answer it with a yes or no answer. For me, the answer is one of nuance. I think God's heart is broken when a couple in a very difficult situation decides to split up. Is it sinful? I don't know. I do know that I am not willing to label the woman who flees violence as a sinner.

That makes me a liberal theologically, or more in the post-modern camp because I am willing to look for another way or understanding, rather than accept what for some is settled belief.

Here's how all of this ties into politics. John McCain is a modern. He lives in a very black and white world. He loves yes/no questions because his world view fits in that box.

Barack Obama is more post-modern. He lives in a world that does not easily fit into black and white boxes. A world of nuance.

I know that world because it is where I live. I find that more and more on a daily basis, gray is a better color.

It isn't that us post modern people don't have a moral compass, as some have said. It is just that we are willing to look for solutions in different places. It is just that we are not willing to accept orthodoxy as fact or the best option.

Comments on "The Church, Politics, and a Good Hike"


Blogger Bullfrog said ... (8:50 AM) : 

Dave: Regarding Biblical divorce, God has made it very clear in His word that he HATES it. No nuance there. Marriage is presented in the Bible as a parallel of our relationship with our God as the bride of Christ.

That said, God knows we are weak, so He made an allowance that we could legally divorce in the case of infidelity. I have heard this infidelity used as physical infidelity and also infidelity of the heart. I suppose it could be said that your example of a husband not loving his wife and physically abusing her makes him guilty of this type and she is therefore released from her contractual obligation.

Technically, she would still be sinning by breaking her end of the contract, but that is why we are under grace.

God hates divorce, and morality is a black and white issue absolutely. The Most High does not care about our personal philosophy or "nuance". He has stated explicitly in the word what is right and wrong.


Blogger James & Emilee said ... (10:22 AM) : 


You are missing a little of the historical context here.

The Jews, under Moses`law, were divorcing their wives (wives could not divorce their husbands) because they wanted something prettier.

Technically, the wife is NOT sinning. In the Bible, women couldn´t even do it. The Man did not hold up his end of the contract, to "love his wife", therefore the contract is null and void and she may leave freely.

Its not so black and white once you factor in historical and cultural context.


Blogger Bullfrog said ... (12:03 PM) : 

I understand that the Jews of antiquity used the law to their own personal advantage, even writing some 500+ extraneous laws to make sure they didn't sin. I agree with you that the spirit of the law is love, which is why I brought up the example of the abusive husband basically committing a form of adultery in his own heart by not cherishing his wife.

In historical context, the Jews of Christ's time completely missed the point, and were called "stiff-necked", "brood of vipers", and "white-washed tombs" by Jesus himself.


Blogger Patrick M said ... (3:35 PM) : 

Being fuzzy in the middle is fun. The ladies all love it.

One of the biggest problems with Biblical interpretations is that far too many people view everything in a black-and-white context. There are certain things that are right, and certain things that are wrong, but almost everything in between requires nuance.

On the specifics of a divorce,the wife beater has already broken the marital vows in spirit, and is therefore the sinner. The wife in this instance is merely formalizing the destroyed marriage as over by asking for the divorce.

As for the candidates, Nuance is good, but they should be able to say yes or no on specifics.

So out of curiosity, is "nuanced" the word to replace the phrase "voting present?" :)


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (3:46 PM) : 

Patrick, present is not nuanced. Nor is abstaining. It may be politically prudent, but not nuance.

A more effective way is to just not be there on that vote day.

Bullfrog, it should be noted that what we see as black or white, may not have been so in the day the Bible was written.

Then what do we do?

Or, what if I see something as black, and you reading the same passage, see it as white? Does onr of us have to be wrong?

For instance, the view that a beater is being unfaithful is a pretty modern viewpoint. It would not have passed as a valid understanding of infidelity.

It is a way we have to give the passage some elasticity so we can stretch what we see as the meaning.

In other words, nuance.


Anonymous Chelle, Dave's wife said ... (5:40 PM) : 

No where in the example does it say that the husband did not "love" his wife. Again an interpretation of scripture in this present world that may not apply. Try dealing with the fact that the husband is a drunk, a wife beater and a sinner who needs Christ to change.

Want a truly nuanced answer that most moderns, post-moderns or anyone else has a problem accepting in our messed up world?

Assuming the wife is a Christian, she could leave the abusive situation, get a legal separation to protect herself and seek her own healing. She could continue to stick to her vows and not remarry while seeking to reconcile the relationship with her husband through prayer, counseling and forgiveness. She could recognize that her husband may never repent and she may never live with him again yet live out the commitment she made in her marriage vows and to Christ. If at some point the husband asks for a divorce, the wife would then grant it.

That would be really messy, complicated, require selflessness and a level of maturity in the wife that I have seldom seen in most Christians.

As far as McCain and Obama...most of us want a president who lives in a black and white world until that world impedes on our rights and freedoms. I really respected McCain and his commitment to honor and integrity until I heard the number of lies told in his campaign. I will not deny that Obama has told lies, too, but I like his nonlinear, out of the box thinking.

What I would really like to see from both of them is enough maturity to stop the lying and exaggerating so some real and consistent ideas (black, white, gray or purple) can emerge in a world in need of the change they both champion!


Blogger Bullfrog said ... (9:36 PM) : 

"...what if I see something as black, and you reading the same passage, see it as white? Does on(e) of us have to be wrong?"

Yes. You have to commit intellectual suicide to think otherwise. Truth is objective and absolute. There is only 1 reality, and it is contained in scripture.

I believe historical context is very important when interpreting the Bible, but I also believe it to be the inerrant word of God and the ONLY reliable source of truth.

Post-modernism is the worship of man, intellectualism, philosophy, and relative morality. If you lean on your own senses and reason and not the word of God, you don't worship God, you worship YOU.


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (10:10 PM) : 


There is no argument here that the bible is inerrant. However, history will show that our understanding of it must indeed be errant, or evolutionary.

Our exegesis of text, and theological understanding of what the biblical writers were trying to communicate have changed numerous times in the approximately 3000 years that we have had those texts, either in writing or orally.

If I have a different understanding of a particular text than the early church, yet that interpretation is generally accepted today, how do we determine who is right and who is wrong?

Chelle, shouldn't the woman remain single then? Wouldn't that be a better non self serving solution?


Blogger James & Emilee said ... (7:00 AM) : 

The best example I ever heard of the Bible being inerrant goes like this:

The Bible is inerrant when all the contextual facts are known and interpreted correctly. That being said, modern (and post-modern) man does not interpret it correctly, and we do not have all the facts yet.

Another way the same man, Tom Johnson, put it is that the Bible is the word of God, is Truth.

Put that Truth into a glass of water, called the Ancient Jewish culture. It becomes distorted. Now put us into our own glass of water, called our culture/traditions. Now we are looking through a fishbowl into another fishbowl containing the Truth.

We are bound to misread God´s truth.

The other thing is, God did not dictate the Bible word for word. Men wrote it, inspired by God, based upon their own cultural and historical understanding.

The original writers had no notion of modern slavery, modern divorce, modern women´s lib, or many of the other issues facing our generation or the generations of our fathers.

You gotta look at what Jesus was saying behind what he was saying, just like the parables.

The Jews were using the law to hurt the downtrodden, in this case the wives. The men could divorce at any moment, but the women had no out. Jesus said those men had no excuse, except for their wives´ marital infidelity.

Chelle, in that example the man is not loving his wife. Love is a daily action and commitment, not an emotion. Yes, he may "love" his wife emotionally, but on a committment level, he stopped loving her when he put his alcohol and violent wishes above her well-being. That being said, it would take a mature Christian to come back to him when he has repented and changed.



Blogger Bullfrog said ... (8:27 AM) : 

James: interpretation is important, and that is one of the reasons God sent the Holy Spirit, who leads us into all truth. If you believe the Bible is fallable, or only good to a theologian, than the common man (like myself) is almost as good without the Bible as with it, aside from it being an excellent "how to" on leading a good and prosperous life. Which has no real value where it counts; in God's kingdom.


Blogger James & Emilee said ... (11:32 AM) : 

I completely agree. You just made my point; without the Holy Spirit the Bible is only good for reading, and is therefore fallible.

The human race has misinterpreted the Bible countless times. Example: just a little over a hundred years ago people were using Paul´s epistles to support slavery.

We now know that that was a wrong interpretation. In a hundred years, how many of our "black and white" interpretations are going to be proven wrong?

We, as the human race, are lost with or without the Bible.

Only Christ saves.

Without Christ, the Bible is just another book.


Anonymous Chelle, Dave's wife said ... (2:20 PM) : 

First to David's question: you will note in my example, there is no mention of the woman remarrying. If the husband seeks a divorce, then see is free even by Biblical standards.

Second to James' comment: I love your idealism and I pray that you are able to keep it forever. I agree that love is an action, a commitment and a choice. I also know that as humans we falter in even the smallest baby steps and we fall off cliffs far more than we care to admit. Sometimes as we are falling we grab anything to keep from hitting the ground and it is the not the commitment, action or choice, but the slightest memory of the emotion of love that can bring us back to spouses and even to Christ.

Third: Bullfrog, I appreciate your stance and agree that the Bible is the only reliable source of Truth, but our understanding of the Bible is altered by all the things that both Dave and James mention. Hence the reason that the love of Christ and the moving of the Holy Spirit must also be considered when seeking truth!


Blogger Bullfrog said ... (7:47 PM) : 

By stating the Bible is the only objective source of truth I strongly imply, by virtue of what the Bible contains, that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are integral to understanding it properly. Jesus told the Pharisees that although they prided themselves on knowing the word, they refused to make the connection that the word is all about Jesus, and thereby respond by going to Him to receive life. (JOHN 5:39-40)


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