Saturday, February 23, 2008

they do it in the Bible, so why can't I...

Over the years, I've encountered some interesting attempts at justifying one's actions or thoughts with the use of Scripture. Almost always they involve digging in Scripture for analogies to defend our vantage point. I've decided to post some here, and invite you to comment or share your own. Note: I'm not necessarily talking about debatable doctrines or applications of Scripture. I hope you will notice the difference between that and what I'm posting here.

1. The "they use offensive language in the Bible, so why can't I" defense: A recent version of this can be seen in Tim Challies book review of Mark Driscoll's new work Vintage Jesus and some follow up comments he made on his next post. Challies takes exception to some of Driscoll's language (and anyone familiar with Driscoll will not be surprised), though is largely favorable to Driscoll's ministry. If you'd like to find out more, I highly recommend you read these 2 posts, I tend to agree with Challies' summary.

Here, Driscoll uses these words when talking about Mary and the sketchy circumstances surrounding her pregnancy: "Most people thought she concocted a crazy story to cover the 'fact' she was knocking boots with some guy in the backseat of a car at the prom." The problem that some have, naturally, is the use of the phrase "knocking boots", which is deemed crass and unnecessary. A commentor, however, argued that since some of the prophets use strong language denouncing Israel ("whore", etc), we can't really be upset at Driscoll's comments.

Regardless of whether or not you think his wording is offensive, I would think that the deficiency of this defense is obvious (and I've heard this numerous times over the years). The prophets use strong and vivid language to show the immensity of Israel's sin and God's punishment for that sin. The offensive language used in the manner like Driscoll here is not at all analogous to Ezekiel's language (or Isaiah, Hosea, etc). This type of offensive language is nothing more than an attempt to be funny. I won't speak about Driscoll, since I don't know him personally, but in my experience, most Christians who frequently use these types of terms and phrases (and I'm not talking about swearing when you drop something heavy on your foot) are doing so simply to be cool and "edgy." There's nothing really to be gained by doing it, and in fact, I find it to be sad and pathetic rather than cool. Anyway, the Scriptural justification is wanting.

2. I've seen people pull one verse out to justify actions, all the while ignoring the mountain of verses against them. For instance, as I've been teaching on the gospels lately, I remembered in undergrad how people would defend their churches spending a lot of money on various and assorted decorations for their church building. I mean, a lot. What always killed me was the common use of Jesus' words "You will always have the poor among you" (see John 12:1-8).

Now, Jesus spoke these words in response to the disciples' objection to Mary anointing Jesus for His burial. It was a one-time act of worship by a woman disciple who actually understood what Jesus was about to go through (unlike his closer disciples). Jesus wasn't laying out a theology of giving to the poor, He was commending this faithful follower for her act of worship. Building a waterfall in your church foyer is not the same, or even analogous to, as Mary's one-time act of worship before Jesus' death. Not even close. (Side note: yet none of these folks who defended their churches ever considered that maybe Jesus' command to the rich young ruler to sell everything he had and give to the poor was for them, they had "good" reasons to argue against that. That's what my former NT prof would call "hermeneutically dodging the bullet.")

Now, you may disagree with me on how money is to be spent for church decor and for the poor (though to warn you, I'm developing very strong opinions about this), but at the very least I hope you can see why this defense is so very weak.

3. Leading in the irony department, I remember a debate with someone who was coming from a liturgical church background. We were discussing spiritual gifts and their use in the church service. This person, who didn't believe in the continuing existence of spiritual gifts anyway, argued that liturgy should be used because excercising spiritual gifts is disorderly. After all, it was said, "God is not a God of disorder but of peace" (1 Cor 14:33). The irony, of course, is that Paul wrote this in the middle of discussing the proper use of spiritual gifts during a congregational meeting. It certainly is far removed from liturgy, isn't it?

4. I went to a Southern Baptist school in undergrad. As a Southern Baptist university, the school did not allow school-sponsored dances (what you did on your own time was up to you, I suppose). Now, many fought against this, understandably so, but used an interesting way to argue their case: David danced, so why can't we? Of course, David danced, no one argues that. But David danced before the Lord in worship. He didn't go to clubs or go line dancing. Mind you, I have no problem with dancing, at least not morally (I mean, I don't like dancing, but don't have a moral objection to it). But I didn't confuse dancing at my wedding with dancing before the Lord as the ark was being returned to Jerusalem. Again, poor analogy.

Anyway, I kind of breezed through these, but I hope you see the points I'm making. Any of your own? Oh, and if anyone would like to point out the plank in my eye, please do so. Thanks!

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Patriots Got Beat

I've pretty much avoided writing about the Patriots this year on purpose. Other than some early stuff about the Spygate scandal, I haven't touched them. For the most part, I've been busy (getting married will do that) and I really didn't want to repeat everything that people have been saying. I mean, if you could go back over the season and read the columns writers put out, they just repeated themselves all year. I can't tell you how many "Bill Belichick is a jerk, but he's a great coach" and "The Patriots are the team you love to hate" columns that I ran across. Seriously, if I were a sports editor and one of my columnists turned something like that in, I'd throw it back in their face and tell them to go cover high school sports until they can be at least slightly original. Anyway, I digress...

I actually think last night's game is a very simple one to analyze. You can't really blame the Patriots defense, though it did cave a bit at the end. But, if you told anyone before the game that the Giants would score 17 points, 99% would have said the Pats would win. Other than Ellis Hobbs playing Plaxico Burress in single coverage near the endzone for the game winning TD, there weren't too many bad defensive calls (it just so happened that that decision was costly, I still don't understand it).

Some will point to Belichick's decision not to kick the 48-yard field goal in the 3rd quarter on 4th and 13 as a huge mistake. Obviously in hindsight, when you lose by 3 points, you wish you could have had a field goal in there. But people neglect 2 points: 1) Belichick has never followed conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom leads to punting rather than aggressive play calling, running on 1st down and so on. Much of the Pats success has been due to the coach's refusal to follow conventional wisdom. 2) Has anyone considered that Belichick didn't think Gostkowski could make that kick? Everyone considers it a gimme, but the Pats have never had that much faith in him (and sometimes justifiably). Again, conventional wisdom says go for the kick, but conventional wisdom doesn't take into account a shaky kicker vs the greatest offense ever.

No, the real analysis of this game boils down to one simple point: the Giants defensive line outplayed the Patriots offensive line. It's as simple as that. Some may try to claim Brady didn't play well, but I can't think of one quarterback in Super Bowl history who got hit that many times (not to speak of how often he was forced to throw off his back foot) and still played as well as he did. The Patriots line, revered all season long, looked overmatched.

I knew going in that the Giants had something the Patriots struggled against: speed. Stick him opposite a 310lb monster, and Matt Light could block him with one arm. Line him up against a speedy rusher like Osi Umenyiora, and he struggles. But I don't think anyone expected him to struggle that much. Even more surprising, in my opinion, was watching Logan Mankins get beat by Justin Tuck on the inside. I've maintained all year that Mankins is the best guard in football. But he absolutely did not look like it last night.

So, you really don't have to waste your time reading a bazillion articles written by the "experts" who have been in autopilot all season dribbling out the same crap every week. Nope, you've got all your analysis right here. The Giants defensive line beat up the Patriots offensive line, which always leads to beating up the quarterback. They deserved to win.