thinktoomuch.net

Pondering the South African Memesphere – Looking for the Good in Everything

thinktoomuch.net header image 2

Many Meetings, Sweet Discussions

February 21st, 2008 · Posted by Hugo · 14 Comments

I met a whole bunch of people yesterday. In the evening, I had drinks with Bertus! (from Saligerus) and two of his friends — someone from Kletskerk, and another blogger blogging from within the Dutch Reformed church. (I’m intentionally keeping the details vague. If I’m talking about you, and you would like yourself named, by all means, say so!)

And before that, around lunch time, I met Bad Ben. That adds three to the number of people I have met in person, that have read my blog, on occasion at least. I love real life meetings. Actually, Ben and I had met before, back in 2003. He’s a really nice guy, and he’s keen for constructive input. In addition, he is apparently a big fan of Brian McLaren. Yay! He is looking for neutral, unbiased feedback about Shofar. I’m hoping we can build a good relationship, built largely on what we agree on, even if we have big differences elsewhere.

It seems Fred May has actually seen my blog. He has read at least one post. Sias le Roux and Morné Bosch recognise my face, and are highly likely able to put my name to it. I have very good reasons to believe Sias already recognises me as someone that “thinks too much”. ;-) He may remember me from the creationism seminar last year. All in all, I’m sure at least some members of Shofar’s leadership are wondering what on earth I’m up to, what my views are, etc. So let me try to give a little more context.

We all know that many people in Stellenbosch have gripes with Shofar. Shofar is highly controversial. But yes, most people do mud flinging, because they feel there’s not much else they can do. And mud flinging is pointless, it gets us nowhere. So… here I am, I’m attending Shofar again every now and then, when I have the opportunity. I’m keen on constructive and open dialogue, and very keen on cooperation.

There are a number of points on which I disagree with Shofar. Let’s get the empirical one out of the way: I love science. We cannot live without it. Or at least, without it, the majority of humanity will die or suffer greatly. We have already over-populated the world many times over, if we were to live science-less. But apart from adverse consequences, I love inquisitiveness, I love exploration, I love looking at this mysterious universe, all of creation, and marvelling at its intricate complexity. In Meh terms, I love it’s beauty. And science is the tool with which we read this great big book of the universe. If you swing that way, the great big book that is (more directly?) written by the creator’s hand. (Or, in poetic Genesis terms, the great big poet in the sky spoke this great piece of poetry into existence.) You will have to forgive me if I have some serious gripes with “anti-science” sentiments. I’m afraid that, right now, young-earth beliefs classify as “anti-science” in my books. I’d like this blog to discuss science eventually, but that would require research time I don’t have right now.

Hand-in-hand with science goes critical thinking. I believe it is an important skill in this day and age, and I’m concerned about any kind of suppression of that skill. I don’t know how much that happens in Shofar itself, I just know that I didn’t see much critical thinking at the creationism seminar last year. I will soon continue my analysis of the seminar, in an attempt to demonstrate what I mean by “informed critical thinking”.

Furthermore, the rumours I hear with regards to the behaviour of Shofarians in science lectures has me appalled. I’d prefer not to hear or see any irrefutable evidence, I prefer to have the opportunity to believe these are only rumours… In fact, please tell me they are only rumours? Self-deception is a wonderful self-preservation mechanism.

Enough with science et al, and onto theology. I naturally also disagree on a significant number of doctrinal positions. Clearly I’m not a “literalist”. In propaganda terms, Shofar would say I’m not a “Bible believer”. Meh. I love the Bible. This blog will hopefully be taking a deeper look at it later. I also disagree with the idea that “Jesus came to raise the bar”. I believe Jesus challenged oppressive regimes and rejected oppressively-legalistic purity codes in favour of a value-driven way of life, based on compassion and love. And more. We will eventually get around to having some discussions around that.

Shofar’s afterlife-centred doctrines also have me worried. I believe this misses Jesus’ message. Sometimes people live in such fear of hell-after-life, that they end up living a hell-in-life. I care much more about the hell and heaven that exists right here, right now, on this earth. I believe Jesus’ primary message was “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. The Kingdom of Heaven is a place on earth. A place within each of us. I would love to see more emphasis on “Kingdom-centric” living. Maybe if I continue looking, I will see it.

I would love more cooperation across the board. The other churches are getting together and building relationships. From what I hear, it sounds as though Fred May is not interested? Are these just rumours? More cooperation with everyone. This means no more “othering”. My dream has religious people and secular humanists working together to bring God’s Kingdom to Earth (as it is in Heaven, Meh).

Lastly, I do also disagree with Shofar’s stance on homosexuality, that is no secret. I doubt discussion on this topic will bear much fruit though, and there are bigger fish to fry, as long as Shofar doesn’t ruin people’s lives by loading them with guilt towards their own nature. I’ve heard rumours of support groups for homosexuals in other churches. I’d encourage Christian homosexuals to join these support groups. (Rumours. I don’t know how many, maybe only one for all I know. I hope there’s more.) Alternatively, there’s also Lesbigay, with their closet support program “Close-Up” (I think), which incidentally has helped some ex-Shofarians.

So, that’s about that.

Oh, and people like Ben (Bad/Sad Ben) demonstrate to me that there is hope. Honest, inquisitive, eager to learn, eager to improve, eager to follow Jesus, humble… Given the right soil, a mustard seed can move mountains. I pray we can walk a path together. Ben, or whoever, please keep an eye on me, and inform me when I stray onto a path of destruction. I believe in a God of creation, not destruction, as hard as that God’s commands may be to follow. May the soil of my mind be fertile ground for fruit-bearing trees.

Amen.

Categories: Shofar
Tags: · ·

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Clare // Feb 21, 2008 at 1:51 am

    “I believe Jesus challenged oppressive regimes and rejected oppressively-legalistic purity codes in favour of a value-driven way of life, based on compassion and love.”

    I love that line! I also applaud you for keeping the dialogue open between science and religion. I see no reason why seeking to understand and revere this world shouldn’t give a person more reasons to be thankful and humbled by it.

  • 2 Hugo // Feb 21, 2008 at 2:12 am

    Thanks Clare!

  • 3 Mon'Siret // Feb 21, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Hugo,

    – True, “Shofar is highly controversial” whether in reality or just perceived by the general public. This fact might however probably be the only and also the most important evidence that there is indeed something deeply wrong somewhere in the Shofar vs Everyone else debacle. My main question would therefore be: Where are we not seeing what we should? What are we not seeing? What don’t we know? What are we not told? Have the leaders of Shofar acknowledged that the community is devided about them? Have they, in all decency, given the same community that supports them in congregational numbers and finances, a explanation to this controversy? Why are we blogging and being all activist without the long overdue declaration of what it’s really about?

    It just seems to me that if Shofar’s leaders have answers they are not eager to wash away the mud that has been flung by people who have clearly had a bad run-in with the instituion.

    – You touch on many subjects (science, homosexuality, theology etc) that have activists and controversial aspects innately linked to it. Why is it that (filtering from all your blog topics) that there is always two opposing sides that banter on endlessly with arguments that do not lead to a conclusive summary. Don’t you think maybe the blog medium is lacking in this regard? I would suggest that every topic not just have a topic name, but also a list of desired outcomes to be able to answer some of our questions more effectively. It seems that you want to be known as one who thinks too much. But what will thinking help if not to better our relationships and come to a definite conclusion every time we utter one of these topics?

    – Personal note: Shofar’s activism reminds me ever so much of the Zeolot Jews under the Roman rule. They had a lot of zeal and wanted the Messiah to come in glory, but their focus was misplaced and therefore they were dissappointed. They did not expect God on His terms, because they were not educated in the written Word of God (then the Old Testament) and so Jesus didn’t fit their profile. I’m afraid that a large movement like Shofar could easily get carried away by financial providence that they forget to be dependent on the soverign God. Their economic systems are so well in place that they don’t need God, and therefore they do not heed God, however much His name are on their lips. This is apparent in the easy, lekker, comfortable way that they go about a holy, righteous and almighty God. Where is the fear of the Lord? do they even know that they are sinners any more? The whole thing stinks of arrogance to me.

    – Practicaly I see that most Christians (not only Shofar-attendees) are in a word grossly misinformed about what the Bible teaches about God and our relationship with Him. Many blog-posts and/or replies are sown with quoted Bible verses as if the Word backs up the unsettling remarks they utter. This especially has frustrated me when trying to reply, because of the sheer magnitude of their illiteracy. Where do you start when so much is wrong? It seems to me that people read the Bible in every wich way they choose to fit their idealistic endeavours. They leave out parts and read verses out of context, they add their own perceived wisdom to amplify texts and force interpretaions and applications. I truely see that the word in doing the rounds is not the Word any more. My humble plea thus: People, go and make effort to read your Bibles. And do not add to it that which is not there! Hugo, some of your replies and disagreements to Shofar’s Biblical stance is also not what is said in the Bible. This is not a criticism on your logic or thinking capability, I think you are a bit more of a brain power than myself. ;o-) I would rather indicate that it’s evidence that you do not know all the bits and pieces (from within the Bible itself) that will lead you to the conclusion that brings glory to God.

    – Jesus came to raise the bar!
    What a wonderful thougt. I actually believe He did! Refer to His take on the practical things like “turn also the other cheek, walk another mile, give him also your robe…” Two things though:

    The bar was not raised by Jesus as if the Law of Moses haven’t demanded perfection from the start, (be you perfect as I am perfect) but rather Jesus interpreted the Law to a standard that surpassed the Jews first assessment of it. This effectively set the bar so high that we could never attain it!

    The glorious Good News however is then that Jesus, after resetting the original super-standard (and it being so high above our capaibilies), then set out to attain it on the Cross of Calvary. The evidence then as to His capability and success in attaining this, is that God rose Him from the grave! And therefore He is our High Priest that pleads for us before the Father and that is why we can come into the holy presence of God without destruction that is rightfully ours because of our sin.

    When the Father looks at us, all He sees is Jesus, His Anointed Son.

  • 4 Al Lovejoy // Feb 21, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Amen.

  • 5 Sad Ben // Feb 21, 2008 at 9:33 am

    AWESOME MON’SIRET!!!

    I really appreciate your critical, yet humble approach. I am burdened by the same things I would like to see changed in our approach as Shofar. I feel that there is much critique that is ridiculous, biased and misconstrued, but a lot of people’s objections are legitimate (if not necessarily on account of fault on our behalf). I will engage you a little bit later. First I have to earn my ridiculously overpaid shofar salary
    (Ben tips his hat, hoping and sincerely trusting no-one will missquote him on that bit of obvious sarcasm)

  • 6 Sad Ben // Feb 21, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Hell Yeah! Im so excited about this Blog! Lets keep it this way! Hugo Ek deel amper AL jou sentimente oor Shofar. Die oortuigings moet ons nog oor gesels. maar ons gaan, JAY!

  • 7 Hugo // Feb 21, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Mon’Siret:

    I hear you, thanks for your suggestions. I will keep them in mind in writing future posts. However, I am not here to find the “definite answers”. I want people to think, and realise it isn’t a black-and-white issue. There is much diversity in human culture and in Christianity. If we make enough definite conclusion, what happens is another schism, and the 33,000 Christian denominations that already exist, simply increase. Yay.

    But what will thinking help if not to better our relationships and come to a definite conclusion every time we utter one of these topics?

    Definite conclusions do not better our relationships. These two are mutually exclusive. Definite conclusions are what divide us. Divided we fall, united we stand. We stand united in our diversity, and in the lack of easy answers.

    – Jesus came to raise the bar!
    What a wonderful thougt. I actually believe He did! Refer to His take on the practical things like “turn also the other cheek, walk another mile, give him also your robe…” Two things though:

    The bar was not raised by Jesus as if the Law of Moses haven’t demanded perfection from the start, (be you perfect as I am perfect) but rather Jesus interpreted the Law to a standard that surpassed the Jews first assessment of it. This effectively set the bar so high that we could never attain it!

    The glorious Good News however is then that Jesus, after resetting the original super-standard (and it being so high above our capaibilies), then set out to attain it on the Cross of Calvary. The evidence then as to His capability and success in attaining this, is that God rose Him from the grave! And therefore He is our High Priest that pleads for us before the Father and that is why we can come into the holy presence of God without destruction that is rightfully ours because of our sin.

    It sounds to me as if that means we don’t have to listen to Jesus with regards to his advice…?

    You mention turning the other cheek and walking the extra mile. I discussed those here:

    http://thinktoomuch.net/2008/01/18/everything-must-change/

    And then, about “be you perfect as I am perfect”… let me go draw from something I think this blog isn’t ready for yet. So hold onto your horses here… (this draws from scholarship of scripture, translation issues, and a bunch of finicky stuff many people are not aware of):

    Marcus Borg prefers the “Be compassionate, as God is compassionate.” translation of Luke 6:36. The footnote is as follows:

    I have three brief comments about this verse. First, it is early tradition; its close parallel in Matthe 5.48 indicates that it was part of Q. Second, Luke’s wording (“compassionate”) is to be preferred to Matthew (“perfect”); the use of the word perfect is a demonstrable characteristic of Mathew’s redaction. Finally, along with the New English Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, and the Scholar’s Version, I prefer the translation “compassionate” to “merciful” (King James, RSV, and NRSV). Merciful in English has connotations quite different from compassionate, about which I will say more slightly later in this chapter.

    Um… yea… the Gospels of Matthew and Mark are not completely independent. Read them in parallel, notice the similarities. I hope in vain that this isn’t news to any Christian. Matthew uses a lot of material from Mark, or rather, both use material from a common source, labelled “Q” by scholars. *sigh*

    Well, a taster of the future discussions on this blog.

  • 8 Hugo // Feb 21, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    OK, my comment was a bit too assertive, maybe? What do you guys think? Need I tack on “I think this, scholarly opinion says that…” at various locations?

  • 9 Sad Ben // Feb 21, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Never a bad option.

    I seem to have become a bit immune to assertive opninions…

    scary.

    Oh well “a pinch of salt nd light to the world!”

  • 10 Sad Ben // Feb 21, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    You will have to forgive me if I have some serious gripes with “anti-science” sentiments. I’m afraid that, right now, young-earth beliefs classify as “anti-science” in my books.

    This statement seems unlike you: how can you say that? granted most young earth propagators are quite silly, but hmmm. can you discredit it so vehemently if it isn’t based on scriptural fundamentalism? What if an honest seeking scientist comes to such a conclusion? Im not saying that I have examples; which is probably a big issue.

    I just don’t experience our bible school approach as being anti-science. The focus seems to be on asking questions about fundamentalistic scientific empiricist beliefs. However i see why you would want to object to uninformed young believers who uncritically accept this viewpoint as gospel. I reckon i’m a bit controversial in my own circles considering I refuse to take a standpoint on something I know relatively little about.

    Inform me? Maybe some good articles? On both sides (and everywhere in between the spectrum if possible). I must admit that if Kent Hovent is considered to be the authority on young earth- eish. I dunno ey. Somewhat dodgy fellar from what I hear…

  • 11 Hugo // Feb 21, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    I seem to have become a bit immune to assertive opninions…

    Maybe a good thing, dunno. Depends, I guess.

    About the rest of your comment…

    “Vehemently” is quite a strong word to describe my statements. Did you find them “vehement”? I have not yet come across an “honest seeking scientist” that came to that conclusion, no. I strongly believe mainstream science is unanimous about the age of the earth.

    With regard to your Bible school, I wouldn’t know. I’ve not done it. Yet. I’m referring specifically to the creationism seminar I attended. That did shock me to a great extent. There I might have had a rather “vehement” response. I will have to continue my series in order to describe what I mean.

    Articles on the views of mainstream science can be found at the talk.origins archive. Allow me to make an unpopular statement quickly: don’t worry too much about the science right now. I like your stance:

    I reckon i’m a bit controversial in my own circles considering I refuse to take a standpoint on something I know relatively little about.

    Right now, I’d recommend blissful ignorance. ;-) There are more important things than that. Take a strong stance, and they might kick you out more quickly than you can say… um… ah, whatever. Stupid comparison. Just remember that by clause 11 you are supposed to submit to their authority with regards to doctrine.

    So again, “I don’t know” is a good answer. An answer I wish more people will give. While you’re there, I’d suggest you stay with that answer. We will investigate scientific theory as we get the opportunity. (I dream of having some guest posts from scientific experts, on various topics.)

    So there, I said it. Molecules and evaporation stuff…

  • 12 Rad Ben // Feb 21, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Ja, check, what I meant by not taking a strong stance is that I refuse to take a strong stance for creationism. I don’t feel that what I’m presented with is conclusive. Which is something that concerns me along the lines of fundamentalism. Don’t get me wrong. I sometimes get quite torn between loyalty and integrity on this matter: Loyalty always wins, hen I start to realise it doesn’t have to be an either/or.

    But I cannot criticise those who are presented with proof of a young earth that seems quite conclusive to them and accept it as such, until they become unwilling to discuss or criticise their held opinions. I think neither should you. You are fortunate enough to have a highly developed critical/analytical mind and you have read extensively.

    Do you think it is wrong for an institution to teach something as conclusive even if it is in ignorance? I suppose we need to ask how much attention is given to the opposition AND (most impotantly) how is that attention given.

    humbly? questioningly? sincerely?

    I experience such a willingness at Shofar; it is however countered by a busyness that usually postpones such endeavour. this is no excuse. I think we really should look into contrary opinions as a matter of urgency; if we want to be adamant in expressing our stance.

    Then again, I don’t know exactly who decides these stances? My (educated) guess would be that these things are usually discussed and debated and decided upon (even reviewed) by the eldership council. I guess I better find out. But in my ignorance I could ignore that much thought has actually gone into the official stance; in which case it is a matter of integrity on their part. If such a council truly beilieves the evidence they have is conclusive then can we judge them, even if they err in their decision?

    Ons sal baie pak vat onsself as dit met ons moes gebeur!

    (sorry, het nie nou tyd om weer deur te lees nie, hoop ek is lucid)

  • 13 Hugo // Feb 21, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Do you think it is wrong for an institution to teach something as conclusive even if it is in ignorance?

    Tricky question. A quick truthism: education is the process of telling smaller and smaller lies.

    If an institution has a firm belief in a particular doctrine, I don’t consider it wrong to teach that, no. If they are teaching out of ignorance, the fact that they are teaching is not wrong. The fact that they are ignorant is where the problem lies. If they are teaching from ignorance.

    I don’t like finger pointing and talking about morality, in terms of “wrong” and “right” right now. I’m more interested in what can be done to battle ignorance and improve education. In general. Know what I mean?

    If such a council truly beilieves the evidence they have is conclusive then can we judge them, even if they err in their decision?

    Again speaking of judgement. I will judge ridicule, I will judge inexcusable stuff. We will talk about that when I discuss the creationism seminar (which was done by CMI, not Shofar, even if it was organised by Shofar).

    Judgemental attitudes shut down conversation. Were the ancients of other religions “wrong” to teach mythology, with regards to how the universe came about?

    In the factual sense, sure, well, they spoke of mythology. Pre-enlightenment, pre-modernistic understanding. “Wrong” in the judgemental or moral sense, naah, why? No point in judging them for that. More interesting to teach them a new understanding.

  • 14 Leon // Oct 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Hey all,

    Very interesting and hopefully constructive. Hey Ben. (We know each other). Ive been randomly reading the blog for a while and will try to engage at some time. Just wanted to let you all know that I’m around.

    Adieu

Leave a Comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>