Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Another Voice for the Cessation of Imprecision:

Dr. Kevin Bauder, is a writer I describe as a sane Fundamentalist.  He wrote a fourth of the book, Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism.  I find his articles at In The Nick of Time, his blog, to be consistently worth reading. He recently wrote about Cessationism and Continuationism.  In that post he observes some of the same "imprecision" that I observed in my foray into the world of academic theological conversation on that subject.  You can read his thoughts about the need for greater precision in the conversation here.  You can find my thoughts, and links to some papers on cessationism, at least the promise thereof, from the presenters at the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics,  here, here, here, and here.

It is an important conversation.  I hope it continues.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I post this primarily for my preacher buddies.  Let me add, I appreciate what you do.
If some of you who face the other way on Sunday morning happen to read it, there is a lesson here, but that's between you and the Lord.  I'm just posting it so some of my fellow "Men of the Cloth"--even though the cloth is frequently denim these days--can say, "Amen."

Who Is Your Pastor?  No Really . . .

Monday, October 7, 2013

Some thoughts from the House of Mourning:

This is one of those blog posts that has more to do with me wrestling something to the ground than anything else, but if it provokes profitable thought and/or comment from others, so much the better.  Solomon says that we are wise to visit the house of mourning (Ecclesiates 7)  I had to visit recently, and decided to stay for a bit, look around, and ponder.
From my last post here on the TVTMK blog as well as several articles at STTA, you may have gathered that my mom recently died.
My brother, sisters, and I knew mom's death was near.  In fact, we hoped it would come quickly.  Unlike when my father died unexpectedly, we had some time to plan.  Money was a factor.  We wanted to properly honor my mother, but we all think it foolish to be extravagant.  My immediate family lives in Virginia, Texas, and Indiana.  The next generation takes in another four states and a nation in Europe.  So, things are complicated.  Mom lived in Indiana with my sister. Her last real home was here in Virginia where my dad is buried.  Early on we decided that mom would be buried here.  Having any service in Indiana was unlikely, and in the end we didn't have any there.  One of the early points of discussion had to do with cremation.  Since mom would die in Indiana and be buried five-hundred miles away in Virginia, there were obvious logistical advantages.  I don't have any strong Theological/Biblical opposition to cremation.  I have read some of the attempts to prove from the Bible that it is wrong and haven't been convinced, but I was opposed to it.  Primarily I was opposed to cremating mom's body, because I know other people find cremation highly offensive.  I wanted to honor my mom.  That is hard to do that while thumbing one's nose at the sensibilities of others.  Especially since I am called to minister to those folk, I voted against that possibility.
We chose to have no viewing of mom's body.  I last saw her several months ago.  I hope I don't offend anyone by saying this, but generally when I go to a viewing (a wake as it is called in other places) I only look in the casket, because some people expect me to.  I don't need to see in order to know that the person is gone.  Perhaps others do. Mom's body was brought here to Virginia.  She was buried in a private graveside service.  Later that day we honored here in a Memorial service.

In a Theologically rich passage about death, the Apostle Paul speaks of the body as an "earthly tent," and says it will be "torn down." He says it will be replaced with a "dwelling from heaven."  After some further discussion, the Apostle, well versed in bodily suffering, pronounces his druthers--"to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord."  (2 Corinthians 5:1-8)
Yet in other places it is clear that the body is not merely a container of the person, but an integral part.  Jesus spoke of His friend Lazarus, as being sick, asleep, and dead.  In each case it was Lazarus that was in the condition Jesus described.  Jesus told His disciples, ". . . let us go to him."  (my emphasis) Jesus assured the grieving sister, Martha, "Your brother will rise again."  When Jesus called Lazarus from the grave He called him by name, "Lazarus, come forth."  (John 11)

Several months ago I visited my uncle's grave in Normandy, France.  Nearly ten, thousand servicemen are
buried there.  On a wall more than a thousand more names are inscribed.  These are the fallen whose bodies were not recovered.  If Sergeant  Hugh Allen Merrell is in the grave, where are those hundreds whose bodies were destroyed or lost in their battle against Nazi tyranny?

Obviously, there is a tension, here, and as with most theological tensions there is a tendency to gravitate toward one pole or the other, or, to change the metaphor, to swing the pendulum to one of the extremes.

I reacted against one extreme years ago when a close friend died.  His eldest son wanted to get rid of the body in as cheap a fashion as possible.  Immediate cremation, and unceremonious disposal was his plan.  My friend was loved, not only by me, but by many others, including his church.  I thought, and, more so, I felt that this proposal was wrong--even vulgar.  Not knowing where I would get the resources I said, "I don't want my friend to be remembered this way.  If need be, I will take care of the expenses."  (There was more involved, and as is often the case, the difference financially between cremation and burial was not as great as was originally thought.)  My friend was properly, but modestly honored.  Later when I watched this scene from West Wing, I was reminded of what I had done for my friend.  It was right.  The extreme that says the body is nothing is wrong.

Yet I hear others speak as if the body is everything.  Some of the more intellectual among them are fond of using the word gnostic*.  I think, in using the word they are railing against the extreme bifurcation of body and spirit that marked the Second Century cult, and is the excuse for the shabby treatment of the body that I and the fictional Toby objected to.  Yet in their objections, it seems that some go to far.  Look here for an extended--very extended--discussion.  They seem to make more of the body than it is, and pronounce absolutes were none exist.

I'm humbled by the realization that I don't all that I wish I did about death.  It is an enemy.  For those of us in Christ.  It is a defeated enemy.

*I find it interesting that in railing against gnosticism some folk embrace a characteristic of the cult.  The idea of, and dare I say "the pride in," possessing knowledge that others do not have.  Why else bandy about a code word that clearly separates the initiate from the ignorant masses.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Yesterday, after a long decline, my mother died.
Mom was the least healthy the four parents my wife and shared.  I can't remember a time when she wasn't sick, yet she outlasted the other three.  She spent more than a 1/4 of her life a widow.  Most of that time she was my nearest neighbor, living in an apartment my family was able to build for her.

September 30, about 12:30 PM Irene Merrell opened her eyes. She saw clearly for the first time in a number of years. Not only did she see, she also comprehended with brilliant clarity all that she saw, heard and felt. All at once the cruel hand of the dementia that had caused her world to grow ever smaller and dimmer—taking away her independence, then her recognition of others, command of words, even her self-awareness, and, finally the ability to do vital tasks like swallow a sip of water—released its grip on her in one liberating flash of deliverance. In an incalculably brief moment she became not only all that she had ever been, but more. Eighty-five years after her conception she became all she was meant to be. Irene was with us for eighty-four years
I think she first saw our Lord. She had been born into His family when she was still a child. Now she was born into His presence by angels sent to bring her home. I don’t know, but I’d like to think she saw Doc Merrell a moment later. He stands strong and erect. No Parkinson’s stoops his frame or brings tremors to the hand that reached out for hers. His playful grin shows the gap in his teeth. Her eyes have a sparkle that has for so long been missing.
Irene was known by many names in her life. Madge and Luke Hargrove called her Daughter.
Elene, Clara, Ray, Lena, Ruth and Jim called her Sister. There was no doubt she was Doc Merrell’s Sweetheart. Howard, Ted, Judy and Carol called her Mom. To Chad, Chris, Leslie, Audrey, Stacy, Joy, Jayne, Dawn and Mitzi she was Grandma, and to the next generation she became Gooma.
In eternity God’s people will serve Him, a task Irene was accustomed to. While yet a teenager she taught Sunday School, a ministry she continued off and on for more than half a century. She exercised the gift of hospitality and used her sharp mind to keep the books of one church. Her little crocheted angels are literally around the world. She died having no treasure here and much there.
Irene’s desire for her funeral arrangements can be summarized in four words, “What the children want.” In keeping with those wishes we will bury mom next to dad in a private graveside service and then honor her at a Memorial Service Thursday evening, at Covington Bible Church, 2140 S. Carpenter Drive, Covington VA 24426. The family will be at the church to receive friends at 6:30, the service will begin about 7:30. Mom desired, and we children concur, that in lieu of flowers donations be made to IU Goshen Home Health Care & Hospice, 200 High Park Ave, Goshen, IN 46526, or Covington Bible Church.