Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Calvinism 2

Likely this will be my last post on this subject, but it is the hot topic in my house right now. Part of the Calvinistic thinking is that God only loves those he foreordained to be saved. In other words, he doesn't love sinners who will not be saved. This is explained by pointing to scriptures where the Bible says God loves all as really meaning only His own.

However, we as Christians are instructed to love our enemies, our neighbors as ourselves, and even those who persecute us. The question then is: "Why would God call His creation to a higher standard than He Himself is going to follow?"

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Doctrinal Debate - Calvinism vs Arminianism

I think that most folks who come to this blog are Christians. I'm sure some aren't, but given that a high percentage of the postings and linkages deal with Christianity explicitly or have a religious right flavor, those who are not so disposed probably run for blogs that think like they do.

Within the evangelical church, there are many factions, and some of those factions have factions, which sometimes breed other factions. In fact, there are now so many factions, that I wouldn't be surprised if independent churches are becoming the norm.

In my world (and welcome to it) I have had an ongoing debate with my brother and my partner regarding the Charismatic side of things. What about tongues? Slain in the spirit? Word of knowledge? I don't agree that these things are necessary in the Biblical age, but I'm OK that they do.

My prayer partner tends toward the Calvinist side and is a bedrock member of Calvary's mother church. We love to debate one another and have lively differences on some of the issues that divide Southern Baptists and Calvary thinking.

That debate now rages close to home. I'm just guessing, but for 99% of Christians I doubt that the Arminian/Calvin issue ever comes up, and for almost that many I doubt they even know there is a debate.

There are several points of disagreement, but foundational to all is the sovereignty of God. All fundamentalists believe that God is 100% sovereign, otherwise how can he be omnipotent (all powerful, and omniscient (all knowing.) The narrower question is the application of this to our lives, even to our salvation.

Calvinists believe famously in predestination. You may be more aware of this concept from the Presbyterian church where the debate sometimes is compacted into: "there is a bullet with your name on it. Nothing you can do." That trivializes the actual issue which is better stated thus: God does not love all people, only those he predestined to be saved. We are born completely depraved and with no good in us. But at some point in your life, if God has chosen you, He will regenerate you, and you will recognize your need for Jesus. It will not be up to you to choose Jesus. That would be a "work" on your part, therefore you could boast that you had a hand in your own salvation.

The Calvinists acknowledge that this seems to strike a death blow to the idea of Free Will in general, and specifically the issue of man's responsibility for his actions that can only arise out of his having free will. The Arminian (Southern Baptists and most other Baptists, Methodists, etc.) argues that if we don't have a free choice over the most important decision in our life, having free will on the rest is pretty meaningless. Thus, the Arminian says that God knows the beginning and the end, and therefore knows who will be saved, but that we must choose to accept the gift of salvation. (Modern Methodists commonly would think this choice can just be part of a running lifelong participation as opposed to a clear-eyed, come-to-Jesus moment.)
Thus, our Free Will is intact for this decision.

Most of my friends on both sides of this issue say that this distinction should never be a family divider, but it has been and will undoubtedly continue to be a congregation divider. I'd sure be interested to hear comments from the blogosphere.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Goal Setting for Old Folks

Truth is, the following ideas for setting goals are not only for old folks, but will work for anyone. However, in this post the examples and such will be aim at those over 50 or thereabouts. We established a few days ago some of the reasons why goal setting should not be only the province of the young. Now on to the practical methods of doing so.

To do the following exercise right, you would do well to set aside as much time as possible in a quiet place with no chance of interruption. The good new for most in this age category is that such time availability and quiet spaces are way more likely than for those 20-50. Get rid of the cell phone. Relax and contemplate.

The first exercise will deal with the things of this world. What do you wish to acquire? Where would you like to travel? What will you spend your money on? So, imagine that you as you are sitting there, a fairy princess appears. (insert any other magical creature you wish if you aren't in to fairy princesses.) She has appeared before you for the express purpose of fulfilling ten wishes. There are the usual disclaimers: None of the wishes can be for more wishes; you can't wish for things that are impossible; you can't wish for health, happiness, true love, long life etc. You can wish for money. But that is a bit boring.

So sit back and contemplate what you would wish for. A huge home in Newport Harbor, a Hummer, full time travel on back to back cruises, diamonds (blood free, of course), a lifetime supply of Italian Ices? Make a list. When you get to 10, you can add 10 more if you like. In fact, go crazy and list all kinds of things.

If you like travel, list the places you'd like to go. If you have a very special home in mind, give the details that matter to you. If you want some bling, what kind.

Take your time. Think about it. I'll be back in a few days to offer the next step.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Poppy bragged about his Granddaughter. Equal time for the Grandson. How much cuter can one small human be. Watch out girls. In about 20 years he will be the most eligible bachelor on the planet.

More on Cost of Driving

Did some more research on cost of driving cars today. The overall inflation rate from 1950 to today is almost exactly 10 times. A dime in 1950 buys what a dollar will buy today. Gas cost about 20¢ in 1950 in the Midwest. It now averages around $2.50. But in 1950 cars averaged about 11 miles per gallon vs over 20 today. So the real cost of gas per mile is $1.25 by comparison. We spend the same dollar amount per person on gas today as we did in 1950, but that's because we drive almost double the miles per person. With dramatic increases since 1950 in disposable income, the actual percent of disposable income used to buy gas has gone down, not up, even though we drive twice the miles.

The cost of the automobile itself is slightly up as a percent of disposable income, but this is largely due to the fact that we are buying more expensive cars with far more features. My loaded 1960 Fury did not have seat belts, airbags, a.m/f.m. stereo with cd player and 6 speakers, fuel injection, computerized engine analysis, or electric seats, door locks, and alarm system. It required far more maintenance (although you could do it yourself if you were so inclined.) Expected life 125,000 miles, maybe.

In telling this to one friend the other day, he said: "Why does it still hurt so much when the gas pump reads $50." Good question. I was only 2 in 1950, so I'm not sure whether a full tank at $5 gave my Dad a headache or not. I'm guessing it did. I do remember buying used cars for $250 in the late 60's and that was a lot of money to me.

Overall, I think we should quit our grousing. We have it so, so, so good.

Throwing Good Money and Lives After Bad

I'm beginning to get it. Those on the left and more than a few on the right are convinced that we cannot attain the results we want in Iraq. No amount of money, guns, or boots on the ground is going to convince these dumb Iraqis to stop killing each other over centuries' old grievances, and tribal annoyances. The issue isn't so much one of ideology, but just plain practicality. Why waste more effort, spend more money, and risk more American blood to chase an illusory dream.

The battle from the right isn't much more ideological either. Americans have made this huge investment. We should finish the job. The risks in money and blood is worth it. The potential risks of walking away are substantial.

I don't know if the average reader of this blog understands that the Iraqis are looked at by others in the region as the lowlifes of the Middle East. Iranians (Persians), Turks, Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians, and Saudis all look down their noses at the scrabble in Iraq. The triumphant era of Babylon is far too distant in comparison to the more recent successes of their neighbors. Unconsciously, I think all Westerners do see this population as the Pollocks of the region (pardon my un PC description, but it is the comparative stereotyping that appealed to me, not any real sense of mine that Polish folks are not as smart as say, Frenchmen.)

So the practical among us, may really be wondering why we are spending so much to save so unseemly a bunch of ragtag thugs. Maybe this is really the issue with our lack of substantial effort in Darfur. Maybe it really isn't racism, as much as it is just cutism. (I am copyrighting that term as of this posting.) Cutism (I will now define my new term) is the very human inclination to be more interested in saving cute things than ugly things.

Please raise your hand if you have ever read an article in the paper about a tragic death, checked the picture, and thought: "not much of a loss." How many campaigns are well funded to save some endangered snake, moth, or rodent? How come the year-long saga's of missing individuals or unsolved murders are almost always cute blond women?

If Iraq's population were cuter and fuzzier, were contributing more to Western Culture by way of art, films, literature, great food or wine, or were passionately fierce fighters for justice, spending another couple of years there would probably be a no brainer.

So Bush and friends, I've maintained for a long time that the failure of your administration in the public opinion polls (not in the results of your governance) is due to horrible communication. If you want to finish the job in Iraq, we need some PR for them as a people. Pictures with flies on open sores have been overdone and are better at getting folks to let go of $26 a month. No, we need some very attractive men and women that are still in Iraq, to become spokesfolks for their fellow countrymen. Otherwise, General Petraeus, you better have some great stats in September. Americans like great stats, too. But I'd start working the PR angle as a back up.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Don't Count Out Mr. Misunderestimated

I wanted to write this column last week, but I couldn't take the heat. Bill Kristol said it better and wiser than I ever could, and he has a spine. "Why Bush Will Be A Winner."

Tax Cuts
Beating the goals on lowered deficit
Prescription Health Care
No Child Left Behind
No attacks on American soil since 9/11
Korea dismantling nuclear plant
Lybia joins the civilized world
US friendly governments in Germany and France
We will win in Iraq ... by Spring
Next President a Republican WITH coattails.

That's my list, which has a few more items than Bills.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Planning the Senior Years

"Aim at nothing, and you are very likely to hit it," or words very nearly like that set the stage for a class in leadership training I offered at my church years ago. Part of this course laid out a method for setting goals, including deciding about certain things you would desire to happen in the next ten years. "But if you aim for the stars and only hit the Moon, you will have likely been more fulfilled and successful during those ten years," would have been the follow-on line.

One of the older gentlemen in the group (I think he was around my current age at the time), came up to me afterward and asked: "Why should I be setting 10 years goals? I probably won't even be around in 10 years." Twelve years later I reminded him of that conversation.

I have always been a goal setter and a long ranger thinker. Nothing to be proud of, since it seems to have been born in. However, a few changes in my life gave me a jolt. I have neglected this discipline for a long time, and have been coasting a bit ... Ok, a lot. And while it is true that very few people actually sit down and consider their goals, I'm going to surmise (no survey results on this subject) that folks 50 and older are the least likely among adults to do so.

How crazy is that? A twenty-something has 60 years to screw things up and still have the time and opportunity to take several other bights at the apple. Second careers are almost normal today. Back to school in your forties is almost a cliche. But a fifty something is potentially down to 15 or 20 years of active living where most choices are still available (major league ballplayer is probably out.) Every day wasted would be like a week wasted for a young person.

It really hit home with me when I was contemplating the financial side of my future. Because of some unusual ways that my life has unfolded, our family has very little savings compared to our income. To make things more interesting, at age 59 I have one child starting college this year, and one who will start the year I turn 65. Our pretty decent income is well spent every month, so any increase in savings now without a serious increase in income, would mean a decrease in lifestyle.

So the choice might become a decrease in lifestyle during my 60's and my wife's 50's, so we can enjoy a better lifestyle 10 or more years from now. Hmmmm. Not an easy choice, but is it make a choice or to just wing it?!

Multiply that choice by decisions about: where to live, where to travel, how to contribute back into the community, how much time with kids and grandkids, should my spouse or I work, what legacy will we have, and what do we do with the body?

It might seem like my situation is unique. But suppose you have $1,000,000 bucks in your 401k, the house is paid for, retirement is already at hand, and the kids are all married and on their own. Does that change the need to set goals? You could still end up looking back 10 years from now and wonder at the wasted time watching TV, sleeping, or even golfing. You could easily ask yourself at age 70, why didn't I get to know my grandson when he was a kid. Now he's 15 and grandpa is not a major concern in his life.

Next time: How to prepare for setting goals.