Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Fruity Manhood, Part One (and other Biblical principles you should live by)

Granted, it's a long title. But after our short, but passionate discussion last week, I'm having a hard time boiling it down into soundbytes.

What does a godly man look like? How does Godliness manifest itself in a maturing, Christ-seeking believer of the male persuasion? Here are some recent mullings...

1. Godly Men are Fruity...in the Galatians 5 sense, not in the Brokeback sense. Jimmie mentioned that the Fruit of the Spirit (singular FRUIT) has to be at the top of the chain. After chewing on it a few days, I have to agree that he's right. After all, it's the mark of any mature believer.

2. Godly Men are Imitators...in the context of Ephesians 5, we are to be imitators of Christ. It's our agenda. Our plan. Our role. How often do we look like Christ? Who do you look like?

3. Godly Men are Serial Killers. It is our job/role/responsibility to KILL our old nature.

Part Two coming in the next couple of days...


At 1:47 PM, Blogger scott m said...

Obviously I agree that 1 and 2 lie at the heart of it. But simply stated as though they can be, it does beg the question -- how? (Which takes us back to your starting point, but with a little different perspective.)

You've seen enough of my thoughts on that subject to fill a smallish book. Certainly more than can fit here. But it needs to be more than an ideal or some abstract goal. Spiritual formation does not, at least in my experience, just magically happen. It requires a definite effort and discipline to change our habits and ways. Maybe that's just been clearer to me along my journey because I was never inculturated in the Christian church, so have been more aware of the gap. I don't know. But this is the piece we do not really offer today.

And the third, of course, is true. However, there is a danger involved with it. It is my observation that when we focus our attention too intently on that which we desire to change, the opposite occurs. Rather than move away from it, we become consumed by it. And it strikes me that as we increasingly focus on true spiritual formation, the others will begin to die off. Focus less on the negative -- on sin and death -- and focus more on the positive trait we are attempting to acquire. That space will be filled with something after all. We won't achieve a vacuous existence free of any individual nature. And growing a quality that is the antithesis of one in our old nature will crowd out the quality we do not desire.

It's the same sense I have that it is unhealthy and dangerous to focus on sin too intently in efforts to "fight" it. Our focus should be on our Lord, not sin.

At 4:05 PM, Blogger Jimmie W. Kersh said...

The serial killer is my only question. Are we killed and die when we are born again? OR Do we kill ourselves and die when we are born again? I know this sounds like symantics, but it is not. There is a deep theological question here. Does God kill our "self" or do we kill our "self?"

Another way to ask the question is: does God control His plan for our lives or do we control our lives? I am not going off Calvinist at this point. It really is a question about God's omnipotence as to our potency.

Maybe Godly men are the result of a serial killer and not themselves serial killers?

At 4:33 PM, Blogger scott m said...

Tom already knows this about me, but I don't see a conflict or an either/or at all in that question. The answer, as close as we can approximate it, is simply yes. God is all-powerful and all-knowing. And for reasons known only to him (but I sense a desire to be loved in return), he formed a creation capable of choosing something other than God. Not just man. I sense that the entire creation had to be formed in such a way, with some deep uncertainty, that a human who could choose God or not choose God could exist at all. So I see this woven deep into the fabric of creation. And thus the reason our Fall so deeply impacted all of creation, perhaps even back to the dawn of time in some non-causal or at least non-linear way.

I also find this perspective more compatible with Christian history than the more deterministic extremes. It strikes me that only a culture capable of producing a Laplace in the sciences could have produced a corresponding theology.

I also take a somewhat different view at God's good and perfect plan for us. There absolutely was one. A perfect and unique plan for each and every one of us. But all of us except one blew it. Completely and thoroughly. So now we're all clinging to Plan B. :-)

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Craig said...

That space should be filled with Christ. In the Word it tells us that we are to crucify our flesh. God has done everything He is going to do about our sinful nature. We have to apply it to our lives. It doesn't happen over night. If we SUBMIT our life to Christ those "evil desires" will lose their hold on us. The church needs to quit being so "sin conscience' and focus on being (and staying) in Christ.
In our children's church, one of our 3rd graders is always praying to be good in school and at home. He is constantly getting sent to the office and etc. He thinks that God is "poof" going to make him good. I taught a lesson on how we need to "crucify our flesh" and how we are not puppets. God has given us a free-will. We have choices to make, to obey or desobey.
Needless to say,on the following Monday, he got D-hall talking back to his teacher.

At 6:02 PM, Blogger tom cottar said...

Jimmie said:
Are we killed and die when we are born again? OR Do we kill ourselves and die when we are born again?

Yes. We are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.

And I do agree with Craig, the church (myself included) has focused too much on sin management, instead of how we are to be like Christ. Are the two related? Without a doubt. But I've seen more ground gained by showing others how GREAT God is than by slapping the beer (or whatever) outta their hand...

Of course, the scripture teaches that if you are 'in sin' instead of 'in Christ' (Ephesians 2), you are an enemy of God. There came a point that things really made sense to me when I realized that, due to my sin, I was just bratwurst for God's grill...and grace takes on a whole new meaning. (Confession: that's one reason I don't understand positions that try to deny 'total depravity'---like scott's. It's not something that hinders our brotherhood, but it *does* puzzle me....maybe for another discussion??)

At 6:13 PM, Blogger Craig said...

God took care of our SPIRIT.
We need to renew our MINDS.
We need to crucify our FLESH.

Did Pharoah, Pilate,and Judas have a choice??? God's plan for His people will come to pass.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger scott m said...

Tom, trust me. Those who hold to this strange idea of "total depravity" utterly bewilder me at least as much as I do you. Of course, the immediate question is the same one C.S. Lewis raises. If we're "totally depraved" how do we know that we are depraved at all? Further, how do you deny the obvious evidence that people are capable of both great good and great evil, as well as everything in between? And if we were "totally depraved", we could not simultaneously be Eikons of God, as that defines the antithesis of all that God is. Thoroughly cracked? Sure. But still an Eikon. That's why sometimes world religions follow a path that is good. It's why we begin life with an outrage at unfairness.

The saddest thing to me is the manner this doctrine appears to predispose the perception by parents of their very young children. The "depravity" stands out while the deeply innate goodness seems to vanish. At least from the comments I've seen by those who hold to this doctrine.

I wouldn't go as far as C.S. Lewis and place this doctrine on the border of outright heresy. Nevertheless, I do believe it was an extreme over-reaction by Luther and
Calvin, and is pretty unhealthy to hold as a core belief.

Of course, nobody actually believe people are totally depraved. That's evident in everything else they say. Go figure. [g]

At 7:12 PM, Blogger scott m said...

Craig, either they had a choice or you are claiming that both good and evil flow from God. Yet God rejects such monoism in Scripture. No darkness in the light. Evil has no part in him. Etc.

At the same time God rejects dualism. All things were created by him. All creation is sustained in him.

Pursue either path and you are following a path God says is not right. The truth strikes me as a mystery. Somehow both are simultaneously true.

Sprinkle in free will and I would say that Pharoah, Pilate, and Judas absolutely had the freedom to choose otherwise. They weren't mere puppets dangling helplessly from the strings of the divine puppetmaster. Such a God may be powerful, but could never be considered 'good'.

Anything we propose must balance on that razor.

At 9:07 PM, Blogger Jimmie W. Kersh said...


I like Men who follow after God. I do know that I am not a good example of one. I would nominate Paul, but he said he was the worst of all sinners.

You do know I am giving you a hard time on this question because I hold you up as a person I want my kids to be like.

I have met leass than a handful of Christian leaders I want my boys to grow up immulating. I want my boys to be thinkers, believers and men of integrity. I challenge them to think past what they are taught. I challenge them to become beleivers who follow as they are called. I challenge my boys to have integrity no matter what the circumstances.

Maybe a Godly man is a man with a brain who does follow blindly in some cases and no matter what has integrity in every situation. I know that is the man I want to become when I grow up.

At 6:10 AM, Blogger scott m said...

I think part of it is that as we spend time with God, we better perceive the damage and cracks sin has wrought in our own lives and in our relationships to others and with God. On the one hand, if I look at where I am today compared with where I was a dozen years ago, it appears that I have changed tremendously. On the other hand, I now understand better how unlike Christ I actually am. I am barely out of the starting gate when it comes to spiritual formation. When I think of Jesus' statement that people will know we are his followers by our love, I'm crushed, for I love so very poorly.

I do echo Jimmie's thoughts, though. I could certainly come up with a long list of people I think would be much worse for my kids to emulate than you Tom.

And it occurred to me that I should clarify my thoughts on total depravity since I posted a pretty incomplete thought. I don't hold a Pelagian view that man is able to truly follow God in this creation marred by sin. However, I do think (and agree with the Roman Catholic church on this one) that Luther, Calvin, and others at the start of protestantism misread Augustine and took his arguments against Pelagianism to unwarranted extremes that are not truly supported in scripture. And maybe that was OK at the time, but it leaves many today unable to respond coherently to very real (and I would say obvious) questions and objections it raises outside the evangelical culture.

And I think part of the root of the problem is the cultural focus on the individual and the relationship between each individual human being and God apart from each other and the rest of creation. It does not strike me that scripture can be properly understood from that perspective.

And it strikes me that the most straightforward reading of scripture is that sin is inevitable. Even in the most perfect setting God could devise, man was unable to resist temptation. (I've always noticed the peculiarity that a lot of people actually say that evil/sin/not-God was introduced and unleashed into God's creation at the Fall. Hello? The serpent? I'm not the only one to see him, right? Even if we assume a temporally sequential cause and effect cycle, evil was present in the Garden before the Fall. In fact, its presence led directly to the Fall.)

How much more inevitable is it then that, in our own power, we will each individually fall in this thoroughly cracked creation surrounded by both sin-damaged people and demonic forces? At the same time, we are Eikons/images/reflections of God. As cracked and damaged as we are, that remains true. When you look at your brother, do you see God? Imperfectly reflected, true. Through a glass darkly. Absolutely. Damaged by the destructive force of sin in their life? Sure. But also a holy eikon of the one true God of all creation.

And I'll note two things. Honoring both poles of this truth in scripture at the same time avoids many of the tortuous forensic explanations I've heard people formulate for all sorts of things. The transmission of this depraved nature and how Jesus avoided it. God and the death of infants. And even man's personal and individual as well as collective responsibility for sin and death. Those and many more simply never arise as issues.

Secondly, I'll note that what I've described comes closer to what most of the Baptists today that I've encountered actually believe, whatever words they use to describe it. The whole 'age of accountability' construction combined with the emphasis on each person's choice to sin brings them to effectively the same place. After all, we all believe God perfectly and individually formed each of us and had a perfect plan for each of us, do we not?

Sorry for the length, Tom. I suck at brevity.

At 12:01 PM, Blogger tom cottar said...

Scott said: "Anything we propose must balance on that razor."

You realize you're teetering on the Calvinist/Arminianist/semi-Peleigianist razor there.... :p

At 7:21 PM, Blogger scott m said...

Well, since Calvin and Arminius are really just variations on the same theme, if I have to pick from that list, I would be forced to go with semi-pelagian. In reality, though, I would rather stick with my statement. Sin is inevitable. The story of the fall illustrates that even with almost everything tilted in our favor, we aren't able to live the lives God designed for us. If we couldn't do it in the Garden setting, we certainly can't today. I find all the lengthy, tortuous, and highly contrived explanations for that reality to be something like theological Rube Goldberg machines. 'Total Depravity' is simply the worst of the lot. If I were to accept its central premise, that we are incapable of good unmarred by evil, and thus also incapable of choosing to reach or step toward God, then total universalism would be the only way I could reconcile God's statements about himself.

Besides, I couldn't tell anyone we are incapable of the purest good. We are certainly as capable of untarnished good as we are of the most abhorrent evil. The fact that most of the time we don't hit either extreme is hardly 'proof' of total depravity.

I guess, probably because I wasn't inculturated in it, I just don't feel any urge or drive to build these elaborate constructs like 'age of accountability' (or the others in varying denominations -- like the recently discarded RC Limbo) in order to reconcile a belief that we're all born evil and condemned from conception to the fiery pits of hell with a conviction that a good and just God would never do that to innocent babies.

Instead, I just find it a lot less effort to say, "Sin is inevitable. At some juncture we all, like Adam or Eve, break our relationship with the Father by declining to follow his plan. And we break our relationships with other Eikons by doing harm/evil/bad to them rather than love/good/justice. At that juncture, our only lifeline is Jesus. And we must grasp his hand in the midst of the whirlpool of Charybdis we have created by our collective and individual sin."

Rube Goldberg contructs, theological or otherwise, do not fare well against 'deconstruction' (or whatever you choose to label it).

Well, there you go again, Tom. [g] You got me yammering on something that's completely off the topic of this post...

At 7:27 PM, Blogger tom cottar said...

you crack me up, bro.

[thread successfully hijacked]


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