How to Ruin Your Life by Misunderstanding the Will of God / Anatomy of a Train Wreck

How to Ruin Your Life by Misunderstanding the Will of God: The Danger of Christian Mysticism
(This is an intentionally ironic title. You’ll see.)

“The Bible never tells us to seek the will of God. It tells us to do it.” (Dr. John Hannah)

Modern Christians, especially in conservative churches, tend to be obsessed with finding “the will of God” for their lives. We will examine what the Scripture actually teaches about the will of God, as well as refuting a number of very prevalent misconceptions about God’s will.

Lord willing, I’ll be presenting this topic at the adult Bible study at our church on Wednesday, February 7.

I will post a PowerPoint presentation, and other resources when they are complete. (PowerPoint has been posted here. Note the PowerPoint contains far more information than I actually covered. I used only about 40% of it.)



Anatomy of a Train Wreck

Photo of a train wreck in LaGrange, Illinois, from The Monkey Is Always Watching photoblog by Daniel Heath.

In some ways, the lesson was a disaster. I wanted to get people thinking about dangerous, unbiblical rhetoric we use, and instead wound up inflaming the congregation. At least 8 people walked out.

I touched on a number of foundational topics, including the KJV, with a slide entitled, “Why the KJV is Not the Word of God.”

However, my first two points on that subject were these:

Don’t excommunicate me: Almost everything I have studied leads me to believe the KJV is a highly accurate, trustworthy translation from excellent manuscripts. But it isn’t perfect.

And, we have a serious problem with the rhetoric we use.

But no one heard them.

I had to discontinue that topic after two slides, although people kept bringing the discussion back to them. But completely unheard were my points about translation errors, the danger of sounding like Ruckmanites, or even how the Jewish religious leaders Jesus debated with in the temple would not conduct theological discussions in any language other than Hebrew. Also prohibited was something that is very important to me:

Significant changes in the English language over the last 400 years are rendering the KJV less and less relevant to our spoken language.

Although most people can understand it, the meaning of many words and verses is completely unclear without a historical understanding of the English language.

This is a serious problem. We are in danger of insulating the common people from the Word of God, just as the Catholic Church did (most famously before the Reformation, but through the 1960s).

So, to reiterate:

  • I do believe the KJV is the Word of God (although I did state otherwise in attention-getting slide title—the text of my slides makes my ultimate meaning very clear)—although I do not believe it is the only English version of the Bible that can be called the Word of God. (However, I made no attempt, and, indeed, specifically avoided, recommending a different version to our congregation.)
  • We are making a big mistake when we don’t acknowledge that, like any translation, the KJV has errors and ambiguities.
  • The KJV is very difficult for modern English speakers to read; a number of word meanings have changed significantly in the past 400 years, some enough to cause erroneous interpretation.
  • The KJV absolutely should not be elevated (in rhetoric or otherwise) to the level of the original languages in which Scripture was written. There is a reason God chose Hebrew, Chaldee, Aramaic, and Greek, over another language like English. (This is especially clear when comparing the compexity and nuance of the Greek to English.)

What I wish I had done differently:

  • Not used hyperbole (or perhaps even irony, as defined literarily) with an Independent Baptist Church audience. Despite the fact that this is an oft-used literary device (ask my Sunday school students), even by our own pastor, the people were not familiar enough with my teaching style to stop to listen beyond the radical statement.
  • Asked questions instead of making statements about semantics—I still have no idea (for several reasons) what specifically those most offended disagreed with. Had I introduced the topics with questions about specifically what people meant by certain phrases, they probably would have been lest hostile. (Several people disagree with me on this, believing I was doomed no matter how gentle my presentation.)
  • Not tried to put quite so much material into the presentation.
  • Spent more time on the conclusion, which was a little weak. (I also goofed on illustrating one point, but in retrospect that seems less significant.)

You’ll want to read all the comments on this one.

(Edited significantly on Tuesday, February 27, 2007.)

Onward …

Geek Man Attends Professional Sports Event

[Editor’s note: This post is really old, dating back to January 20, 2006. So, call me a slacker—as you will, anyway, although this time you’ll be justified in the attribution!]

Often referred to as “übergeek,” “LegoDoug,” or, “that dweeb,” I’ve actually attended a professional sports event only one other time in my life. In fact, I can be considered so Geeky that Weird Al actually did a music video about me. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself:

I spent about $30/ticket for John, John’s friend AJ, my friend Phil Luchon, and myself to attend this game of the Celtics (which is universally pronounced wrong—it should have a hard C sound). I should have just gone for the $10 seats, which ended up being two rows behind us. Next time I’ll just cheap out. It was advantageous to have Phil along to answer technical questions. (“What’s that shorter timer that keeps counting down while the ball is in play?”)

There’s a whole lot of stuff that goes on at a basketball game. First were a number of “pre-shows,” some good and entertaining, some otherwise. One that interested me were two choriography teams from one of the local public school systems. First out was a group of 20 or so elementary-school-age girls; their choreography was well-coordinated and quite good, reflecting a high degree of skill and practice, with well-coordinated movements. Then out came junior-high or high school girls: They were terrible. Their movements were uncoordinated, and it was almost painful to watch. I later concluded that the vastly better quality in the performance of the younger students was because they had not yet discovered boys.

John clearly enjoyed the game.

The Celtics “mascot”—a person dressed as a leprechaun—and his team did some amazing gymnastic/acrobatic moves, kind of like Peter Pan meets the Harlem Globe Trotters. They set up big mats and springboards, and would do things like a reverse backflip culminating in a slam dunk. That was an amazing display, and fascinating to watch. (In fact, they displayed more skill than the Celtics, and appeared to have a higher percentage of successful shots.) There was also a “ball handler” demonstration, which was interesting, but not nearly as impressive as the mascot’s work.

Then came the game! The players came out and warmed up. There was tension and excitement building in the air. At last, I would experience the action and excitement of a live, professional basketball game!

Except that every single player on both teams stank beyond belief, and they were all the laziest slackers on the face of the earth.

Q: What’s the difference between this warmup and the first 70% or more of the game? A: Only the warm-up suits.

Does that sound harsh? I disagree. Your average athlete ought to be able to maintain a good level of physical activity for twelve minutes—that’s how long a quarter is in professional basketball. In fact, an overpaid, professional athlete ought to be able to “push it” for the 48 minutes that would cover an entire pro game. Now, 48 minutes is generous—the “real” games are broken up by between-quarter breaks, and time outs within each quarter, so 48 minutes would be extreme, but if a zilllion-dollar player can’t hustle for 48, he ought to be thrown off the team so someone deserving can take his place.

Instead of intense action, we were treated to a performance, up until no more than the last quarter-and-a-half, that could best be described as pitifully lethargic. The players were nearly walking around the court, rather than running. Then, as the game approached the 75% mark, the players actually began to hustle in a way that might have been worthy the exorbitant salaries they were earning.

Play Intensity Plotted Over Time

But hustle wasn’t enough. The Celtics (pronounced “kell-ticks,” remember?) missed enough free throws to change the balance of the game from the close match it was to a slaughter that would have sent the Nets home crying. If I had been the coach, they all would have been doing laps every day until several of them collapsed in exhaustion, then suicides until the rest did, and anyone who missed a free throw I’d make walk from city-to-city between games. Inexcusable!

In the end, the Celtics won, albeit just barely. I was disgusted at their pitiful performance. Where has the professionalism of Larry Bird gone? He used to walk every inch of the court before a game to find out where there might be an irregularity in the flooring, and he would endlessly practice free throws.

Other distractions abounded. The guys behind us were constantly yelling profanity. In contrast to our economic stereotypes, they were well-dressed “Yuppies” who must have come to the game from white-collar jobs in Boston. Also, apparently, all it takes to operate the “interactive” things on the big scoreboard is the ability the launch the “DE-FENSE, DE-FENSE” animation whenever the Celtics didn’t have the ball. Duh! Salter once wrote that you never see basketball coaches explain their victory strategy as, “Well, what we really need to do to win is get more baskets than the other team.”

There were, of course, other highlights to the game, especially from an engineering perspective. One of the things I found fascinating was the superbright LED displays that ringed the entire balcony. It was only relatively recently that the semiconductor doping of blue LEDs became commercially practical, which is what enabled these RGB displays to be used for such applications.

A close-up of the LED arrays that create the wraparound displays.

The final score was Boston 99, New Jersey 96. There’s a recap available here on Yahoo Sports, but to be honest, reading it is more boring than watching American football.