Benedict Option collage

Since I already have some pretty definite opinions about the book, I thought maybe I ought to read it.  My preliminary thoughts about Rod Dreher‘s The Benedict Option is that it offers a good analysis of the present states of both culture and Church, but Dreher’s solution seems more imposed than necessary or biblical. In other words, Dreher seems to have a fascination with the Rule of Benedict, and uses the current social climate as an excuse to encourage others to embrace it.

It’s not that I think there is no benefit from Benedictine practices. On the contrary, I was intrigued a few years ago when reading Dennis Okholm’s Monk Habits for Everyday People with a group of pastors with whom I would meet monthly or so.  What I appreciated from Okholm’s work, and expect to appreciate from Dreher, are the categories of thought the Benedictine’s have developed.  I appreciate many of their disciplines, and I can see that many of their practices could help cultivate a disciplined and rich spiritual vitality.  However, the notion of withdrawal from the world at the root of Benedictine discipline, is not only an impractical option for most people, I am convinced that it violates Jesus’ command to his disciples found in John 20.21:

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

And it is out of line with God’s expressed instruction to his people who were living in Babylonian exile, as recorded in Jeremiah 29.7:

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

In other words, despite some – even many – ideas worthy of serious consideration, and that might be appropriate to be adopted with some adjustments, it seems to me that The Benedict Option is not really an option for those who want to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.  And Dreher himself seems to understand this since, despite the provocative title, he spends much energy explaining that what he is encouraging is the employment of some of Benedict’s principles without necessarily actually withdrawing into monastic communities.

See also:

My wife and I made a brief escape, down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina – Corolla and Duck specifically. Though only a two hour drive from our home – a home where we have lived for the past 4 1/2 years – this was my first time to visit the Outer Banks.  We loved it!

Here are some shots taken during our brief stay:

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vote-by-post

I have never been a fan of early voting, especially not in something as significant as a presidential election.  I am of the opinion that there are some things important enough that people ought to order their lives around them in order to participate.

As a Christian, and a pastor, I would consider the Lord’s Day to be the ultimate example of such a thing.  God created the world in a span of six day then, essentially and metaphorically, “rested” the 7th Day.  God then decreed that people – especially those who claim to be devoted to God – should follow the same pattern; that we ought to set one-day-in-seven as a Sabbath, where we rest from our labors, and commit the day to God in a way unique from the others (which also actually belong to God).  The Sabbath is a gift, if we understand it correctly. The 4th Commandment, that requires humanity to observe this day in no way mitigates the gift God has given us in the form of a day of rest. My point in this post is not to make a case for a specific day of Sabbath, nor to consider appropriate vs. inappropriate activities for this day, but only to offer it as an example. A Sabbath day, commanded by God, as a gift of God, is intended to be, and is important enough to be, a day set aside, around which we build our weekly schedules.

While less important cosmically than a Sabbath, in the civil sense Election Day is monumental enough that people ought to set the day aside, and vote on the appointed day, whenever possible. In other words, Election Day is too important to subordinate it to the idol of convenience.

Granted, some exceptions can, and should, be made.  For instance, the case for our daughter who, as a student at a college in another part of the state, would find it quite difficult to appear at our home precinct. She needs some accommodations.  I am not sure that an absentee ballot would not be a sufficient accommodation, but in Virginia an early voting option is offered. And students are not alone in their need for some accommodation.  Some whose business travel requires them to be out of town, others who may be in the midst of various types of long-term infirmities, are examples of those I believe should also be afforded some sort of accommodation.  But the thing is, in Virginia early voting requires a good reason. Simply avoiding lines, or whatever motive for convenience, is not sufficient reason.  But not all states are as much sticklers as Virginia is.  in Tennessee, for example, which I consider to be my adopted home state, early voting is just one option among many, offered for convenience.  As I understand, far more states are akin to Tennessee than to Virginia in this respect.

I appreciate those who are concerned about restriction that make voting prohibitive for some segments of our society. In no way would I want to endorse practices and policies that would suppress legitimate opportunities for any citizen to vote.  But I fear that by making convenience a chief factor in our national elections, we have devalued the importance and downplayed the privilege extended to every citizen of the United States.  I can’t help wondering if this – along with an unappetizing roster of candidates – has not played some part in declines in voter turnout.

Having expressed some of my philosophical aversion to allowing early voting as a common option, I want to turn my attention to the more pragmatic reasons for my oppostion.

About a month ago – 6 weeks before Election Day 2016 – some political analysts expressed their concerns about early voting.  Their concern: simple regret.

“Some people have estimated, and this may be way too large, that one third of the electorate will already have a voted early by November 8 of this year. One-third!”

“And somebody could say, ‘Well I wouldn’t have voted for that person if I would’ve known that that happened 24 hours ago’,”

I am not a fan of October Surprise as a political strategy. It seems to me, if a candidate is worthy of my vote he or she ought to show me why they deserve it; not keep pointing out to me why the other candidate does not deserve it.  Someone else’s disqualifying characteristics do not necessarily qualify me.  But sometimes, like this year, what comes to light in the final days of the election season are not mere sleazy revelations from the opposition camp, but legitimate news of criminal or disqualifying facts from legitimate sources.  And as some political analysts predicted a month ago – weeks before revelation that the FBI was re-opening its investigation of Hillary Clinton – once certain facts come to light, conscientious people are likely to have regret.  But their vote has already been irreversibly cast.

In our present election cycle, it is difficult for me to believe that if the one about whom these potentially criminal revelations have surfaced is elected, that the citizens of the USA will have any reason to believe real justice will ever be carried out.  Whether the possible allegations are legitimately criminal or not, I do not know.  But if a candidate with a reputation for and  history of cover up is elected, unless impeached, can we ever know if justice is done?

If early vote were not such an easy option, those who are already experiencing buyers remorse would not be able to send the nation in such a regrettable direction.

Two Sides of Holiness

October 24, 2016

east-knox-reflections

Jerry Bridges offered a powerful insight and challenge to Christians about the nature and focus of the Christian life:

“Scripture speaks of both a holiness which we have in Christ before God, and a holiness which we are to strive after. God has made provision for us to live holy, but He has also given us definite responsibilities to pursue holiness. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.”

College football season is just around the corner. In fact, I think this is the last weekend without a game until January.  While I don’t seem to be able to watch as many games as I used to – I just don’t seem to have the endurace; my interest wanes – I still feel the excitement this time of year.  In many ways it’s like my New Years – everything is starting new, anything is possible.  And this year my Tennessee Volunteers are back!

Arguuing with the Ump

The rhetoric of this political season is dizzying.  Remarks by candidates and supporters alike have reminded me of Arthur Schopenhaur and his 38 Stratagems.  Schopenhaur was a brilliant German philosopher of the early to mid 19th century (1788-1860) who, while analyzing both rhetoric and debate, discerned 38 different tactics to win a debate or argument.

I have decided to make a game of this campaign cycle, if for no other reason than a diversion to keep me from exasperation.  I am using Schopenhaur’s Strategems to analyze the candidates. While watching the debates, the conventions, and even the attack ads, I am seeing how many of the stratagems I can identify.  It’s sort of like the Licence Plate game, or Road Trip Bingo, families play on long road trips; except, sadly, ultimately the end results are not a game.

Schopenhaur’s 38 ways to win an argument are below. See how many you can identify.

  1. Carry your opponent’s proposition beyond its natural limits; exaggerate it. The more general your opponent’s statement becomes, the more objections you can find against it. The more restricted and narrow his or her propositions remain, the easier they are to defend by him or her.
  2. Use different meanings of your opponent’s words to refute his or her argument.
  3. Ignore your opponent’s proposition, which was intended to refer to a particular thing. Rather, understand it in some quite different sense, and then refute it. Attack something different than that which was asserted.
  4. Hide your conclusion from your opponent till the end. Mingle your premises here and there in your talk. Get your opponent to agree to them in no definite order. By this circuitous route you conceal your game until you have obtained all the admissions that are necessary to reach your goal.
  5. Use your opponent’s beliefs against him. If the opponent refuses to accept your premises, use his own premises to your advantage.
  6. Another plan is to confuse the issue by changing your opponent’s words or what he or she seeks to prove.
  7. State your proposition and show the truth of it by asking the opponent many questions. By asking many wide-reaching questions at once, you may hide what you want to get admitted. Then you quickly propound the argument resulting from the opponent’s admissions.
  8. Make your opponent angry. An angry person is less capable of using judgement or perceiving where his or her advantage lies.
  9. Use your opponent’s answers to your questions to reach different or even opposite conclusions.
  10. If your opponent answers all your questions negatively and refuses to grant any points, ask him or her to concede the opposite of your premises. This may confuse the opponent as to which point you actually seek them to concede.
  11. If the opponent grants you the truth of some of your premises, refrain from asking him or her to agree to your conclusion. Later, introduce your conclusion as a settled and admitted fact. Your opponent may come to believe that your conclusion was admitted.
  12. If the argument turns upon general ideas with no particular names, you must use language or a metaphor that is favorable in your proposition.
  13. To make your opponent accept a proposition, you must give him or her an opposite, counter-proposition as well. If the contrast is glaring, the opponent will accept your proposition to avoid being paradoxical.
  14. Try to bluff your opponent. If he or she has answered several of your questions without the answers turning out in favor of your conclusion, advance your conclusion triumphantly, even if it does not follow. If your opponent is shy or stupid, and you yourself possess a great deal of impudence and a good voice, the trick may easily succeed.
  15. If you wish to advance a proposition that is difficult to prove, put it aside for the moment. Instead, submit for your opponent’s acceptance or rejection some true poposition, as thoug you wished to draw your proof from it. Should the opponent reject it because he or she suspects a trick, you can obtain your triumph by showing how absurd the opponent is to reject a true proposition. Should the opponent accept it, you now have reason on your own for the moment. You can either try to prove your original proposition or maintain that your original proposition is proved by what the opponent accepted. For this, an extreme degree of impudence is required.
  16. When your opponent puts forth a proposition, find it inconsistent with his or her other statements, beliefs, actions, or lack of action.
  17. If your opponent presses you with a counter proof, you will often be able to save yourself by advancing some subtle distinction. Try to find a second meaning or an ambiguous sense for your opponent’s idea.
  18. If your opponent has taken up a line of argument that will end in your defeat, you must not allow him or her to carry it to its conclusion. Interrupt the dispute, break it off altogether, or lead the opponent to a different subject.
  19. Should your opponent expressly challenge you to produce any objection to some definite point in his or her argument, and you have nothing much to say, try to make the argument less specific.
  20. If your opponent has admitted to all or most of your premises, do not ask him or her directly to accept your conclusion. Rather draw the conclusion yourself as if it too had been admitted.
  21. When your opponent uses an argument that is superficial, refute it by setting forth its superficial character. But it is better to meet the opponent with a counter argument that is just as superficial, and so dispose of him or her. For it is with victory that your are concerned, and not with truth.
  22. If your opponent asks you to admit something from which the point in dispute will immediately follow, you must refuse to do so, declaring that it begs the question.
  23. Contradiction and contention irritate a person into exaggerating his or her statements. By contractiong your opponent you may drive him or her into extending the statement beyond its natural limit. When you then contradict the exaggerated form of it, you look as though you had refuted the orginal statement your opponent tries to extend your own statement further than you intended, redefine your statement’s limits.
  24. This trick consists in stating a false syllogism. Your opponent makes a proposition and by false inference and distortion of his or her ideas you force from the proposition other propositions that are not intended and that appear absurd. It then appears the opponent’s proposition gave rise to these inconsistencies, and so appears to be indirectly refuted.
  25. If your opponent is making a generalization, find an instance to the contrary. Only one valid contradiction is needed to overthrow the opponent’s proposition.
  26. A brilliant move is to turn the tables and use your opponent’s arguments against him or herself.
  27. Should your opponent surprise you by becoming particularly angry at an argument, you must urge it with all the more zeal. Not only will this make the opponent angry, it may be presumed that you put your finger on the weak side of his or her case, and that the opponent is more open to attack on this point than you expected.
  28. This trick is chiefly practicable in a dispute if there is an audience who is not an expert on the subject. You make an invalid objection to your opponent who seems to be defeated in the eyes of the audience. This strategy is particularly effective if your objection makes the opponent look ridiculous or if the audience laughs. If the opponent must make a long, complicated explanation to correct you, the audience will not be disposed to listen.
  29. If you find that you are being beaten, you can create a diversion that is, you can suddenly begin to talk of something else, as though it had bearing on the matter in dispose. This may be done without presumption if the diversion has some general bearing on the matter.
  30. Make an appeal to authority rather than reason. If your opponent respects an authority or an expert, quote that authority to further your case. If needed, quote what the authority said in some other sense or circumstance. Authorities that your opponent fails to understand are those which he or she generally admires the most. You may also, should it be necessary, not only twist your authorities, but actually falsify them, or quote something that you have invented entirely yourself.
  31. If you know that you have no reply to an argument that your opponent advances, you may, by a fine stroke of irony, declare yourself to be an incompetent judge.
  32. A quick way of getting rid of an opponent’s assertion, or throwing suspicion on it, is by putting it into some odious category.
  33. You admit your opponent’s premises but deny the conclusion.
  34. When you state a question or an argument, and your opponent gives you no direct answer, or evades it with a counter question, or tries to change the subject, it is a sure sign you have touched a weak spot, sometimes without knowing it. You have as it were, reduced the opponent to silence. You must, therefore, urge the point all the more, and not let your opponent evade it, even when you do not know where the weakness that you have hit upon really lies.
  35. This trick makes all unnecessary if it works. Instead of working on an opponent’s intellect, work on his or her motive. If you succeed in making your opponent’s opinion, should it prove true, seem distinctly to his or her own interest, the opponent will drop it like a hot potato.
  36. You may also puzzle and bewilder your opponent by mere bombast. If the opponent is weak or does not wish to appear as if he or she has no idea what you are talking about, you can easily impose upon him or her some argument that sounds very deep or learned, or that sounds indisputable.
  37. Should your opponent be in the right but, luckily for you, choose a faulty proof, you can easily refute it and then claim that you have refuted the whole position. This is the way which bad advocates lose a good case. If no accurate proof occurs to the opponent or the bystanders, you have won the day.
  38. A last trick is to become personal, insulting and rude as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand. In becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack on the person by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character. This is a very popular trick, because everyone is able to carry it into effect.

Oh, by the way, while I wish it could go without saying, nevertheless it probably needs to be said: all of these are counter to God’s way of communication.  The way and the wisdom of God would be better summarized:

  • Recognize the value and dignity of the person with whom you are speaking/debating. Disagree with a position or an argument, but do not demonize an opponent.
  • Seek wisdom for discernment.  As Stephen Covey urges in his 7 Habits of Highly effective People: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  • Do not bear false witness. This means our words must be an honest reflection of our convictions and positions.   Simply, let your yes be yes, and your no be no.  And we should not intentionally distort the statements of our opponent.  Such tactics obscure and violate Truth.  And the 9th Commandment forbids anything that gets in the way of the truth, or injures anyone’s reputation.

The third gathering of Race and the Church in Richmond, Virginia took place on Saturday May 14.  Featured speaker Leonce Crump addressed the diverse crowd on the subject of The Church’s Commission.

Leonce Crump’s bio, from the Race and the Church RVA web page:

Originally from Louisiana and raised Catholic, Léonce began following Jesus at age 16. Always an athlete and a talker, Léonce outran his first mall security guard (and pregnant mother) at age 3, and spent most of his grade school years talking with his principals on the subject of public speaking during class. He has been in ordained ministry for 9 years, is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma; and holds Masters degrees in Criminal Justice, with a focus on Case Law, from the University of Tennessee, Missional Leadership from the now defunct Resurgence Theological Training Center, an; is currently finishing his Masters of Divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary.

At Oklahoma he was an All-American wrestler and played a short while on the Sooner football team. He experienced an extended time of rebellion and running from God during college, but after 22 months of living as though he were not a Christian he surrendered to Jesus and ultimately to God’s calling into ministry. After college Léonce competed to make the world team in wrestling, played professional football for the New Orleans Saints and coached collegiate wrestling.

Prior to planting his present church, Léonce had served in 3 churches, starting and leading 3 college and young adult ministries. In 2006 he felt called to plant a church and settled on the under-served area of downtown Atlanta; and in early 2008 he and his wife began the process of planting Renovation Church, in partnership with  Acts 29 and Perimeter Church.

A prodigious reader and engaging speaker, Léonce regularly speaks and preaches across the country at conferences and churches of all denominations. Léonce enjoys boxing and MMA, studying theology, history, leadership, church structure and poetry. He likes Soul music, jazz/standards, and Bossaniva. He also loves to lift, keep up with wrestling, football, and rugby, playing with his kids, hanging with the homeless dudes.

To view the first two gatherings of Race and the Church RVA: