Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sacred spaces and places

I was reading a chapter out of a book by James Jordan (the title of which I cannot remember off hand). The chapter was called "God's Hospitality and Holistic Evangelism". Jordan always has a good, healthy mixture of things that I think are absolutely insightful and right on the money and things that I think are absolutely goofy and unfounded. He is unlike most scholars in that regard: his errors (as I see them) aren't cushioned behind clever rhetoric meant to make you think one thing when he is saying another. He's obvious proud of all he writes and thinks, even if he changes his mind later (of which he freely admits).

One of the things he brings up in this chapter is about how it is easier to bring a "stranger" (an unbeliever) into your house for meal evangelism than it is to do door-to-door methods. He looks on it this way: your house (if you are a Christian) is sacred space belonging to the Lord God, since your house (everything you have) is dedicated to God. An unbeliever's house is dedicated, consciously or not, to some other god/idol/demon. The spiritual warfare is more intense when you don't have home-field advantage, but relatively easier when you are in a place consecrated by God's creative Spirit.

What about "neutral ground" though? Many people think of places like coffeeshoops, bars, shopping malls, etc. However, if we believe the gospel, there are no "neutral" spaces in the world. All spaces and places are the scenes of Spiritual conflict, where the people of God are to be pressing the crown rights of Jesus the Messiah. Every coffeeshop, mall, or whatever is dedicated, whether consciously or not, to some divinity, whether it is a "secular" deity such as positivistic rationalism or a "religious" deity such as modern pantheism. It gives me impetus to be praying for the visitors, outsiders, and strangers who visit my coffeeshop, that they may catch a glimpse of God's recreative activities through Jesus and his people.

Makes me want to reread Zechariah 14.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Problem with Libertarians

I'm a little "l" libertarian. That means that I believe some different things from big "L" Libertarians (the Party members and die-hard dittoheads). I do not believe that political freedom is the be-all end-all of human existence. I think that it is a by-product of a righteous citizenry who wish to glorify God in their endeavors. That is the main difference, but boy, is it a big one.

One of the problems that crops up is that many libertarians (big and little) start sliding towards libertinism, that is, the lack of moral restraint. An example is here. The author cavalierly disregards composting as barbaric and shows no sense of having been given a gift by his Creator, for which he is responsible in using. It always interests me when the people who are supposed the most committed to efficiency are extremely wasteful--and poke fun at those trying to be efficient (I'm refering to the creational efficiency of composting, especially).

Those who believe that having uncoerced freedom of choice over their own affairs, those of their families, and those of their neighborhoods, should be the most responsible, thrifty, grateful people around. Otherwise, since others see a need that must be filled, they will be someone--government or thug--to fill the need that could be meet by the individual/family/neighborhood. Does he not realize that his misuse of the garbage disposal means higher taxes because of increased water treatment needed in his area? Or is he working with a well and septic system (highly unlikely)?

I'm trying my best (and failing often) to live a life that incarnates the true libertarian virtues: thrify, charity, hospitality, responsibility, peace-making, love for neighbor, gratitude to man and God, etc. But how can a movement or ideology or whatever ever expect liberty when it acts so immaturely?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Religious Objectivity

This really shows the youth and immaturity of my faith. Recently, I was comforted by the fact that my salvation is not based on anything I do--it is based on historical events that transpired about 2000 years ago over which I had no control or input. That is incredibly freeing.

The second part of this came today as I read Rainbows for a Fallen World by Cal Seerveld:

God is the focus of a man or woman's life who is freed from the divisive finagling of sin. You do things not to improve yourself, but to make God happy. You sweat not to save the "souls" of people, but to bring the lives of individual men and women, families, institutional leaders, society, under the convicting rule of the Word of God. You work in this world not to make it a better place to live in, but to have it demonstrate the wisdom and glory of God. From God and through God and to God let all things be done for ever and ever, amen--that's that! Followers of Christ live for God's sake. That means they live utterly in response to his Word, according to the ordinances of his creative, structuring Word, enlightened by the inscripturated, God-breathed Word testifying that in Jesus Christ are hid all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom.

This changes everything.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Beaver Falls Coffee Blog

Due to the fact that poor ol' Jason P. is getting pounded in the comments section of his blog concerning "BiFC&T" (pronounced "bifcat"), I thought I might take the brunt of the questions on myself...I am, after all, co-owner of the Beaver Falls Coffee & Tea Company. This blog won't be the official coffee blog, but until that appears, this site (and my wife's proposed site and Jason's site) will have to do.

So, when are we opening?

Well, we finally squared away the last of our needed funding for our espresso machine, so that should be ordered and installed within the next two weeks. The major thing that we are waiting on is the cabinets for the bar. Painfully waiting. In the meantime, though, local construction wizards Townsend Construction & Engineering (note the use of the "&" (pronounced "&") in Beaver Falls based businesses) are making good progress on the site. We are almost ready to drywall the bathroom, build the bar area (after I finish drywalling the ceiling, yikes!), and paint/tile/refinish floors.

Much of the bureaucratic paperwork is squared away, but it is plentiful. Bethany is getting it done, though, as always with a lot of class and fortitude.

So, when are we opening?

Questions, questions, questions! Our provisional timeline is about 3 weeks, hopefully by Geneva's homecoming, but there are no guarantees. I repeat: there are no guarantees about start date right now. When I know, you will know. Pray that it will happen sooner than later. Pray that our busy lives will not be too overloaded (they've never been "just loaded" as it is, but it can get overwhelming). Pray that our business will help those in impoverished Third World countries and the local community. Just pray.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

On Language

HERESY ALERT: If you freak out when hearing doubts and criticisms of a Christian who struggles with things faith related, please stop reading.

Today in Assembly we recited the Nicene Creed. There is a part in it, and it is common amongst theological talk, that seems to say that the "Son of God" was "incarnate". Often times you hear pastors and preachers talk about the "eternally begotten Son of God becoming incarnate" in/as Jesus Christ. I heard Tony Campolo speak earlier this year at the Jubilee Conference about a being called "Christ" becoming incarnate in a separate being called "Jesus". I wonder though...

In John 1:14, it says not "the Son of God was made flesh" or "Christ was made flesh", but "the Word was made flesh" "made flesh" being the base of our word "incarnate". Maybe, in the large scheme of Trinitarian thought, that is a minor difference. Granted. However, shouldn't our language about God, the Persons in the Trinity, the Messiah, the Spirit, etc. be precise? Don't we just court error by being this sloppy, if I may be so bold, with our language?

Precise language is the key to communication, it may also guard us from tri-theism, which is a common accusation hurled at Trinitarians. Many trinitarians, also, seem to hold tri-theism as it is, possibly because of their use of language? I've heard people, in prayers, mix Jesus and the Father together as one undifferentiated being, which orthodox Trinitarians will tell you is not proper or orthodox.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Recently I've noticed the need of neighbors. I'm hanging a drywall ceiling in the room that is to be the barroom in the coffeeshop. The sheets are 14 feet long, which makes them a little wobbly and hard to handle. I used to have a renter that would help me with question. However, he happily was married a couple of weeks ago and is doing newlywed stuff. This means his time is limited, understandably. So, when my wife and I went to hang the ceiling, we found we needed our old Amish-style (with power tools) community back. It is quite an adjustment. I'm sure things will go back to the way they were eventually, but it made me thoughtful about the joys and trials of close community. I am definitely thankful for my neighbors, but I find that I cannot help them as often as they need and they cannot help me as often as I need (which is a lot!).

On another neighborly note, my wife, Jason P., and I went to a local comedy group's show last night. Bethany and I both remarked that we were glad that there were local ways to entertain ourselves, instead of the usual bolster of L. Ron Hubbard's coffers at the box office. I hope to find more of this sort of thing and also to make my own entertainment closer to home (the show was 25 minutes away). It was very fun, though. Have you talked to your doctor about Bilosec?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Withdrawals of a Theological Junkie

There may be some question, although nobody has asked me about it, as to why this blog is no longer called "Mutterings" and is now "Withdrawals". My interests, as always, are shifting. I'd like to think that they are becoming well-rounded. I'm not so much interested in the technical aspects of exegesis or theology, as I am in the whole story (of which the small stuff makes an invaluable and inescapable part). I'm on the quest to becoming "truly human". In some ways, that means that I have to do a little withdraw from my former discipline-specific self--especially as this year is a strange transistion from the academy to the larger community for me (only took seven years!). The time has come to realize that I am not an expert on the Bible, but am an amateur in the true sense. I love reading the Bible, I love reading theology, I love thinking about what this world would be like if we all were faithful to God (especially if I could make that jump). Some withdrawals have to happen here and they are painful, they rock what I thought I was going to be and who I am now.

But I'm happy at the same time. Maybe my tunnel-vision will have its cure.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

To Wit

Tonight, as part of our exercises, the Humanities 103 class watched the Emma Thompson movie, Wit. It was an interesting movie, classified by many as "tear-jerker". For me it brought up a lot of questions. The main character is an English PhD, who in light of her cancer, struggles to understand the meaning of what she has done with her life. On top of this, she compares her attitudes towards students with the attitudes of the industrial medics towards her. That alone made the movie for me. It has been on my mind lately, especially as I am doing a bit of research on coffee, which is the poster boy for "social-conscious" issues today.

The reason that this is interesting is that the dichotomy is played out rather well in the movie. She wants to be treated as a full human by the doctors, however they cannot seem to treat her like anything more than a condition or a datum. She recognizes through this that she has often treated her students the same way, which is (quite frankly) easy to do with 19 year olds. What does this have to do with coffee?

Two of the largest social issues today are the two black liquids that captivate us: oil and coffee (which is often roasted and brewed to match oil). Many people will raise a big fuss about either of these two commodities but will nary turn an eye towards the larger agricultural or moral or industrial or familial crises that form/deform American life. Why? Why does (seemingly) no one care about the massive, almost irreplacable, loss of topsoil from America's heartland (and my original home)? What about the problem of actually figuring out how family dynamics are supposed to work in God's economy, instead of settling for stereotyped relationships? Granted, there are people who are passionately concerned about these things, but not that many and not that vocal.

Part of the answer (a good academic wiggle maneuver--never claim to solve the problem until you have tenure and then don't worry about publishing it because they can't fire you) is that these two liquids are our addiction. There are many who would be racked with debilitating headaches everyday without coffee or oil. There are many who would not be able to work without them or get to work without them (in all its varied meanings). In other words, without these two ultimately unnecessary things (man lived a long time without knowledge or addiction to either of these), American, and quite possibly global, society stops running. Could it go on? With great effort, yes. Maybe we would need a couple of days to stay in bed since our moods would be quite menstrual, but yes.

We aren't addicted to topsoil. We aren't addicted to family life. Addictions, so far as I can tell, are always dangerous and more than often deadly. Would the coffee crisis and the sustainability issues it raises be such a problem if we limited or (forbid!) abstained from its consumption? Would our current difficulties in the Middle East and Central America and Alaska be as pressing or as volatile if we walked more places (including to the local coffeeshop)? Could it be that our various cultural addictions lie as roots, maybe not the tap root, to some of our other domestic, natural, and international problems?

This is even stranger to me considering I'm about a month away to opening a coffeeshop.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Maybe it has been the lack of time. Maybe it has been the baby, the coffeeshop (about a month or so from opening), maybe the new role as professor, maybe the lack of time discipline. But I haven't been here.

Maybe it has been a lack of things to say. I, frankly, struggle to reconcile some of my theological proclivities with my outright actions. Try mixing Calvinism, theonomy, anarchism, New Perspectivism, a scepticism towards "orthodoxy", libertarianism, localism, a heavily-modified agrarianism, an even more heavily modified Ludditism (I am, after all, using the internet), and a younger brother attitude.

Part of it may be that I don't want to make anyone mad. This may also explain why for the last couple of years I've held most friends (if not all, with the possible exception of my wife) at arms length or lengther with what I really think and believe. Either I waffle (always a noble choice) or I give up caring (again, the noble choices continue). There are days when I want to shout, "Shut up! You're wrong, I'm right, deal and move on!" However, for those who know me, it is a rare and frightful (mostly for me) day when that happens.

Here's the strange thing, though. Whenever my friend base was largely nominal or non-Christian, I was much more strident. Sometimes I didn't care what they thought, sometimes I had genuine concern to win their hearts and minds to Jesus. Around Christians it is much harder to express doubt over doctrine or the way we do things. Why? One, I'm afraid of being right and the consequences that brings. Two, I'm afraid of being wrong and the consequences that brings. Three, I'm afraid of knowing that I'm wrong but being obstinant. There are so many times when I have to use vagaries so as to not arouse suspicion of the authorities or even my equals.

In the wise words of Jason P., maybe I should just stick to the coffee business.