Current Events and IssuesThe Church

The Remnant #2 – March 2018

All articles written by W.R. Harris

Check out my newest book that I released just a few days ago: The Pincushion Heart. https://www.amazon.com/Pincushion-Heart-Novel-W-R-Harris-ebook/dp/B07B91BR96/

With working tirelessly the past month or so to finish my latest book and tweak some things in Obsessions: Hell and Back Again, I got behind with the second edition of The Remnant. I plan to start publishing The Remnant on a set day of every month. I’m thinking either the 1st or 15th. I haven’t decided yet. If you happen to have a preference, let me know.

Church

Christians on Facebook: The New Holy War

We’ve all seen it. Christians friends and family on Facebook sharing polarizing and sometimes downright mean political posts. For gun control, against gun control, defending illegal immigrants, blasting illegal immigrants, etc., etc.

You can have political convictions as a Christian. I’m not against that. You can express them, including on social media. I’m not against that. But slamming others in the process? What makes us think Jesus would approve of that?

What good is it if we make a valid, cogent political point but lampoon and attack people in the process? What good is it if you’re a master of “trolling,” but non-believers gag at your online behavior? And don’t say, “It’s only the conservatives!” or “It’s only the liberals!” Nope. It’s both.

Look… We’re not representing Jesus well when we act like fools online. I don’t care if you’re right. It doesn’t matter. I’d rather someone be “wrong” in their political views and do it with respect and class. If that were the case—if everyone on social media had “wrong” political views but were loving, understanding, and respectful of others—I don’t think I’d be as mad as I am. Jesus calls us to represent His character, not be “right.”

Please…please, please, please. Examine yourself. Don’t read this and think of Uncle Bill. Read this and look at yourself and your post history. You can express your politics, but is Jesus honored in the process? Just because someone is “wrong” doesn’t justify belittling him or her (or their position for that matter). Some of us need to hear that. It does not justify that behavior.

I fear we’re turning people away from the good news of the gospel. They see Christians acting like fools online, and they say No Thank You to Christianity. Honestly, if I were considering Christianity and I saw my Christian friends on Facebook, I’d laugh and say, “What a joke!”

I’m guilty too. Read the article “Being Nice” in this edition. It’s only been this month that I realized I’ve done the same thing. I thought I was above it… But in the last edition of this magazine I wrote “You’re No Expert,” in which I lampooned people’s political beliefs and the way they express themselves online. I considered deleting it because I was ashamed for having written it. But I own it. I did it, I apologize, and I’m moving forward.

We need to get back to the gospel. Jesus loves us, forgives us, and is gracious to us when we don’t deserve it. That’s the way we ought to treat people too. Even if their political views are so crazy that we’re not sure if they know left from right.

 

Egalitarianism and the Historical/Cultural Background of the New Testament

I sort of regret promising this. I’m no Bible scholar. I’ll probably miss something. And this may take a relatively long time to write. We’ll see.

I moaned last edition about egalitarians not explaining their position well. I’m sure some of them believe what they do because they want to. But I’m really interested in seeing cogent, convincing arguments for egalitarianism start floating around the internet. Most of the articles and arguments I see aren’t good. When I was a complementarian, I just took that to mean my position was right.

Truth is, I’m not willing to die for this position. As my current pastor once said about this debate, “This is not a hill I will die on.” Some of you may be appalled to hear that. I would only ask you this: have you ever read Paul’s writing? For much of it, any interpretation is speculation. We don’t know for sure. So, I’m not willing to break fellowship with other believers or leave a church over this. The same, I hope, goes for complementarians. I’ve seen a complementarian church snub an important member of theirs because he advocated women leadership. I was very disappointed in that church’s leadership.

Well, let’s get to it. My premise is this: Paul was concerned about the church’s reputation among unbelievers. The culture of the day often viewed women as inferior and a small minority of women were educated to men’s education level. It wouldn’t have been attractive to the culture at large for the church to be led by women. Thus, in 1 Timothy 2:11 Paul wants women to learn “in quietness” during worship service.

Given the culture’s opposition to women receiving education, Paul’s explicit desire for them to do just that is somewhat shocking. It appears as though false teachers were targeting women during this time: “They (false teachers) are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women” – 2 Timothy 3:6. Thus, it makes sense that Paul encourages women to learn truth. Regarding the “in quietness and full submission” phrase, “Greek culture, predominant in Ephesus, valued women’s meekness and quietness…More generally, teachers expected new students to learn quietly and submissively” (NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, Craig Keener and John Walton).  

Logistically speaking, it may not have made much sense to immediately place women in church leadership roles due to lack of education (through no fault of their own). Certainly, some women could have done it (see Paul’s commendation of Phoebe in Romans 16:1 and his praise of Junia in verse 7 of Romans 16). But after doing research on Greco-Roman (and Jewish) views of women, it doesn’t seem likely that the culture would have perceived women-led churches as credible. As I pointed out last edition, there are several examples of women leaders in the Bible. It doesn’t seem to me that God has a problem with women teaching or leading men. But in the New Testament cultural context, it made sense to have male-only teachers, at least publicly.

Regarding Ephesians 5, the norm of the culture was for women to submit to their husbands. Again, it wouldn’t have made any sense for Christian women to start defying husbands or acting in the same household role as them. The surrounding culture would have been horrified. Paul wanted men and women to behave virtuously in their socially-prescribed role to attract unbelievers to the faith. I don’t think he means the traditional gender roles were set in stone by God, never to be moved.

If we were to apply the logic that the Ephesians 5 marriage roles are commanded by God, what do we do with slavery, since it’s discussed in a similar fashion immediately afterward? No one in their right mind would maintain that slavery is still okay and prescribed by God. Yet Paul says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ” – Ephesians 6:5. If we can agree that Paul’s encouragement to submit for Christ’s sake in this situation doesn’t justify slavery, wouldn’t that also apply to marriage roles in the previous chapter? Those just happen to be the situations in the time of the New Testament writing, and Paul is merely saying to display Christ in spite of them.

One of our problems is ethnocentrism. That is, we look at the New Testament’s culture through the eyes of our culture and its preconceived notions. We read Paul’s writing and scream, “How can he say that?!” We don’t take the time to understand the historical and cultural contexts. Thus, we have a situation in which one side sticks to their guns regarding what the Bible literally says in these verses: “I do not allow a woman to teach” and “Wives submit to your husbands.” The other side doesn’t like that, so they rip pages out of their Bible and butcher the text when they exegete it.

There’s a better way. Research the context. You may gain a better understanding of the Bible than you ever thought possible.

 

 

There are probably books about this subject that I honestly don’t know about. One thing I can suggest for further study (not just on this subject, but the whole Bible) is the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible by Craig Keener and John Walton. It’s available as a physical book and e-book. They did have an app version that cost $5 (which is what I use), but Tecarta merged it, I think, into another one of their apps. If you can find it I highly recommend it.

 

Book Review

Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money: The Handbook of Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey. The evangelical money expert, the guy who screams at you for having a credit card and tells you to dump your debt. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Just from being in evangelical circles I heard his name several years ago, though I never listened to his radio show or read any of his books till recently.

My wife and I moved from Texas to Colorado about two years ago. I had the distinct pleasure of driving a large Penske truck with my Toyota Tacoma attached on a trailer. It was a somewhat stressful drive…

Anyway, as you can imagine, I had a lot of time—about 20 hours—to listen to the radio. I don’t like listening to music that long unless it’s Johnny Cash, but, alas, the truck didn’t have a CD port. So, I surfed AM. I listened to conservative talk radio, sports radio, and probably something else forgettable.

As we reached Raton Pass in New Mexico, it was late. I remember skimming through the AM until I found coverage of a New Mexico high school basketball game. I listened to that for a while until I got bored (I had no idea who the teams were, so it was hard to be engaged). I skimmed again, and I found a show with someone answering financial questions from phone calls.

I’m no financial expert, but the guy sounded like he knew what he was talking about. So, I kept listening. At a commercial break, I found out I was listening to the Dave Ramsey show.

I didn’t immediately start listening religiously to Dave Ramsey when we settled in Colorado. It wasn’t until six or seven months ago that I figured I should look him up. I can’t even remember what prompted me. I started listening to his show when I was driving, then I bought and read his Entreleadership when I started my blog, then I downloaded his show app and listened while working out, and then I read The Total Money Makeover and his Complete Guide to Money.

I don’t think of Dave Ramsey as God. But I do wish I had started listening to him years ago. I agree with his premise: borrowing money isn’t smart, and there’s really no such thing as “good debt.”

I grew up with a pretty good foundation in personal finance. I didn’t know the intricacies, but my parents taught me the never-changing foundations: you make money by hard work, you don’t buy things you don’t have money for, and you save. I’m finding out that much of America still doesn’t understand those three principles.

Ramsey spends the first bit of this book explaining his “7 Baby Steps,” which, if you already listen to him, you know what those are. For me, at least, I didn’t have to read much further before I really started learning.

First of all, before I read this book I had an uneasy feeling whenever people bashed rich people or corporations just because they’re rich. There’s a notion that money and being rich is evil, and I’ve even heard this expressed in churches. Jesus never said, “Rich people are evil.” He said that it’s hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, but then he goes on to say, “but with God all things are possible” – Matthew 19:23-26. Being rich doesn’t make you evil, whether you’re a corporation or a person.

And then there’s the common misquoting of 1 Timothy 6:10. The Bible doesn’t say money is the root of all evil. Think about it… What a downright illogical and silly thing to say! Money, in and of itself, the root of all evil! No, what the Bible says is this: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” – 1 Timothy 6:10. All that to say this: I’m very glad Dave Ramsey addresses that at the beginning of this book. Jesus isn’t calling all of us to be a bunch of destitute homeless people.

Anyway, like I mentioned, I didn’t—and still don’t—know all the intricacies of economics and finance. Mortgages still make my head spin. This book has been very useful, though, in helping me understand much of these somewhat basic financial intricacies (if I can say that). Things like what liquid means, a short history of credit in America, cosigning a loan, the ridiculous depreciation of cars, credit bureaus and collections practices and how to deal with them, marketing techniques and practices, what exactly a break-even analysis is, term vs. cash value life insurance, how to negotiate deals, IRAs and mutual funds, Education Savings Account (ESA), and a few other things. He also talks extensively about great budgeting practices at the beginning.

One of my favorite things about Dave Ramsey is he makes everything very understandable. He doesn’t use big technical words; he makes things simple. I found it extremely helpful in my battle to achieve financial peace. I think you will too.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

Culture

Being Nice

I recently read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. He talks a lot about being kind to people to win them over. He often quotes the maxim “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” It got me thinking… Do I demean others and/or make fun of them in my writing? Do I ever attack anyone or lampoon their opinions?

Maybe you don’t think so. But I think I’ve done that a little bit more than I’d like the last few years.

It started in college. I had a really stilted, academic writing style until my rhetoric professor talked to me in office hours. He told me I should let loose and write with personality, to not worry so much about adhering to all the silly English-major rules. After that meeting, I began writing what I was thinking. I deliberately tried not to have a filter, and I think that was good. My writing improved exponentially and has continued to since that day four years ago. I’d like to think my writing is somewhat fun to read nowadays. Hopefully.

The next semester, I took a class about adolescent literacy for secondary English teachers. We were required to write blog posts about the class readings once a week. We all read each other’s posts and then discussed them at the beginning of class (it was a one-day-a-week class). About two or three weeks in I became disgusted with the class readings. I agreed with almost nothing in them, and I realized the professor was politically biased. What’s worse, she assumed the class shared her beliefs, which was mostly true. I got so freaking mad at her and at some of my classmates.

Thus, when blogging time came around, I bashed the readings I didn’t agree with. I really tried to slam them. I can’t describe how pissed off this class made me. Perhaps that was because I had been through four years of UT Austin already, of professor after professor lampooning Christianity and conservative values. They just assumed everyone was a liberal secularist just like them—all the smart people, at least. I was so freaking tired of it, and I took it out in my posts.

My classmates in there and other classes started telling me that I was a great writer. So, naturally, I took on that way of writing.

Now, I don’t think I’m that bad. But the more I think about it, the more I realize I don’t want to be one of those polemic writers—the type who’ve become so popular nowadays, even, unfortunately, in Christian circles. That may be entertaining writing. It may even be writing that will grow a tremendous following and make money. But that kind of writing is becoming a serious problem in the U.S., and people don’t realize what they’re buying into. I will not be one of those writers. I could slam secularism and liberalism. I could probably do it pretty well. But that might just do more harm than good. “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

Jesus convinced people through love, not by screaming about how right he was or how wrong his opponents were. I want others to actually consider my positions, not just to write explosively entertaining material at the expense of morality. That doesn’t happen by attacking others and their positions, no matter how silly I think they are. In today’s highly sensitive online climate, reconciliation and understanding are more important than slamming the truth down someone’s throat.

 

 

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