Theological Musings

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Important Change in Comments

This is a sad day for me. It's sad because it marks an end of a particular aspect of this blog that I have really enjoyed. As I mentioned in a recent post about comments, I have always enjoyed having a free, open comments section. However, a recent anonymous comment has finally convinced me that anonymous comments are not worth the freedom.

As the old saying goes, it only takes a few anonymous commenters to ruin a good discussion on a blog. Well, ok, so I just made that up, but it should be an old saying by now! ;)

So, with my apologies to ded (one of my dearest friends and frequent commenter here) and any of my other wonderful commenters who don't have Blogger accounts, everyone who wishes to comment from now on (this has been put into effect immediately) must have a Blogger account to comment. Now, this does not cost a thing (except a few minutes of your time) and does not require you to set up your own blog. However, for those who currently don't have a Blogger account, please go to and set up an account for yourself. You don't even have to use your real name, but you will have to create some kind of "nickname" to use.

Again, I'm very sorry to have to make this change. I guess by nature, I'm a pretty optimistic person, and I had hoped that this blog could always remain a totally free and open exchange. But I don't want to have to avoid mentioning certain topics (such as eschatology) just to fly below the radar of rabid hounds and their Google searches for key terms in those debates.

To all of my sincere commenters who haven't hid behind the cloak of anonymity, please know how grateful I am to each of you. And I realize this won't stop all the bizarre comments (some of the more bizarre ones lately have actually had Blogger accounts), but I've just had enough of some of the most slanderous comments coming from people who can't even be bothered to change the word "Anonymous" to something more useful.

Now that this change has been put in place, let's all return to edifying dialogue, shall we? :) And Lord willing, with my next post, we will!

Until next time,

Anonymous steve :)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hidden in My Heart: More than Memorization

Most of us who have been around Christianity for any length of time probably are familiar with the verse in the Psalms which says, "I have hidden Your word in my heart so that I might not sin against You." (Psalm 119:11) And to many of us that has meant one thing: Memorize Scripture.

I guess the reasoning goes like this: When Jesus was tempted to sin, He responded with Scripture. "It is written...." Since it's highly unlikely that Jesus had a set of Old Testament scrolls and a Strongs Exhaustive Concordance in the desert with Him, we can safely assume that He had these verses memorized. And it was this memorized Scripture that He turned to in order to refute the temptation. Therefore, the thinking continues, Psalm 119:11 can best be applied to our lives by memorizing Scripture that can be used in times of temptation.

And you know what? That's not a bad idea in the least! I highly recommend it. But lately, I have begun to realize that having something in our heart is light years beyond mere memorization. Allow me to use a metaphor.

As many of you know, I'm a professional musician. I am classically trained as a pianist, but my music experience varies greatly from country to jazz to rock to classical to praise and worship. With the exception of heavy metal, I have probably done something in just about every genre, either live or in the studio. Specifically in the area of classical music, however, I often refer to knowing a piece of music "by heart". Usually, that's shorthand that many of us use (not just in music) for "I've got it memorized." But there's more to it, I think.

It might be more appropriate (although it sure would sound funny!) if we referred to memorization as "I know it by head!" Head knowledge is way different from heart knowledge. If I have something memorized, it may not have anything to do with my heart (and of course, I'm using "heart" as the common term for the emotional and spiritual center of our being).

When I know a piece of music truly "by heart", it is more than just notes that I'm playing with my fingers. The music begins to take on a life of its own. It begins to communicate with the listener. In truth, it even begins to communicate with me. Part of me becomes part of the music, and part of the music becomes part of me, if you know what I mean.

See, I had an understanding of something just this past year that I had never really thought about in over 30 years of playing the piano. Musical notation is not at all perfect. Think about it. A composer may write four quarter notes in a line of music. Every quarter note in the printed notation looks exactly alike. The value of each note, as notated, is precisely the same as the others. And yet, if I play them the way they are written (each one identical to the others), it sounds very dull and uninteresting.

When I play "by heart" (or "from the heart"), however, something happens. One note may be a bit longer than the others. One note may be a different volume than the others. Each note gets some life added to it that is in no way indicated by the printed music. Yet it becomes what the composer intended. He never intended each of those notes to be precisely identical in length, volume, etc. Not until I play the music "by heart" does it begin to find its full life.

Now, let's pull the analogy into where we started this post. What does it mean to hide the word "in my heart"? Well, if you will tolerate some more of my "out of the box" thinking on the written word, I would like to submit that, much as with written music, the words on the page don't really begin to take on their truest expression until they become part of my heart. I can tell you from very personal experience (several years in an Awana program) that it is possible to memorize Scripture and have it be as dull and as lifeless as those precisely-played, completely-equal quarter notes I mentioned in my musical analogy.

And I believe that is exactly what Jesus did not do with the Scripture. Nor do I believe that is what the Psalmist had in mind in Psalm 119. No, there is definitely a deeper level where we begin to "own" the Scripture, and it begins to "own" us. Just like with music, it is not until I put myself into that Scripture, and put that Scripture into myself that the Scripture becomes what its "Composer" intended it to be. Not what I intend it to be. But what He intends it to be.

Any musician who is worth anything knows that the goal is not merely to put his own interpretation into the music. The goal is to capture what the composer intended. May that be true of our use of Scripture, as well.

Until next time,

steve :)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Comments on the Comments

First of all, let me say that it's nice to be back from vacation. While I did have some access to the internet while I was away with my wife and son, I chose to severely limit the time I spent online -- hence no major posting or commenting. I now have several hundred posts in Bloglines to sift through, but oh well!

It was really interesting to see the wide range of comments on my recent posts. Several picked up on my brief comment about no longer being a dispensational, pre-tribulationalist and voiced their agreement (or disagreement, if you're Gordon Cloud! hehe). Others refrained from commenting on the position itself (my post was not intended to be a defense of any eschatological position) and commented on the idea of "celebrity Christians." Great comments on both of those.

And then.....

One commenter simply copied and pasted an entire post from their own blog as their comment. A simple link would have been sufficient, and would have given my readers the opportunity to visit the other blog if they so desired. But why post a link when you can just copy and paste the entire post?! ;) Not to mention that the lack of any kind of formatting, even in the original post on their site, leads me to believe they might have copied and pasted it from some other blog onto their own.

And there was the self-proclaimed Messiah whose proofs I admittedly did not read in their entirety. All I know is that he was born in the year of the lamb, under the zodiac sign of the lion, making him very unique, as I'm sure there were no other births during that time period... ;)

And there were a couple of anonymous comments which basically just bashed the pre-trib position in general and Tim LaHaye in specific. (A tangential question: Did anyone feel like my post about Tim LaHaye was slanderous or in any other way inappropriate?) And it is those comments which prompt me to ask my own readers for their input.

I have made it clear on a number of threads that I do not delete comments (unless, of course, they are outright spam). If a comment was incredibly offensive (containing profanity, for example), I might consider editing it slightly and reposting it, but that has never even come up. So, I have yet to delete a comment that was anything but a duplicate post or spam.

Obviously, increased readership brings increased comments, but I've noticed that some of these comments are coming from Google searches for the topics discussed. (In other words, it is not technically "increased readership". These are more along the lines of what some bloggers refer to as "drive-by commenting".) For example, I mentioned the pre-trib rapture in another post a while ago (I have no idea which one now), and got a similar anonymous comment about searching Google for certain phrases that are guaranteed to give interesting reading material about the pre-trib rapture position. And now, when I mention it again, the same type of comment shows up, again anonymous.

Should I just delete comments like that? Should I have some guidelines for commenters that give me a basis for deletion? Or is it enough to simply respond with a comment saying that those types of comments are not desired, yet still leave it for the record? Those of you who also have blogs, how do you handle this?

Let me explain my reasoning for not deleting comments, and open it up for discussion, correction, or other viewpoints. Any of you who have read my blog (or comments elsewhere) for any length of time know that part of my philosophy regarding the body of Christ is that people should not set themselves up as "filters" for information. In other words, if we believe that people are filled with the Spirit of God, then we should not feel like we need to "protect" them from information that might counter the Spirit. Rather, we should be helping them learn how to listen to the Spirit themselves so that they can discern.

I base this idea, in part, on the example of the Apostles themselves. For example, Paul wrote to the entire citywide church (i.e., Corinth) regarding heresies that were infiltrating their fellowship. He did not simply tell the leaders to make sure to cover up the heresies and keep it under wraps. He told the entire congregation to test prophecies, etc. Similarly, John wrote to the believers (1 John) telling them to test spirits, etc., and that they didn't need anyone to teach them the things to which he referred. Likewise, the Bereans are spoken of positively in Acts for searching the Scriptures themselves to test what the Apostles were teaching.

In other words, while the elders and leaders certainly should be trying to persuade people of correct doctrine, it is not their job to actually filter the information for the people. I can find no precedent in Scripture for this (please correct me if someone knows of a passage I am missing in my thoughts here). So, if I delete a comment, just because I disagree with it, or because I think it is something that does not need to be propogated (such as self-proclaimed Messiahs or attacks on people), I feel like I would be overstepping my bounds and trying to do the the Spirit's job for Him.

Now, many blogs have "rules of engagement", either written or unwritten, to which commenters must adhere or risk being deleted. On blogs such as those, the anonymous comments about pre-tribbers would not be tolerated. But are those rules actually a hindrance to legitimate dialogue at times? For example, some blogs do not allow anonymous comments. People who comment without certain information revealed (such as name, email address, etc.) are deleted (well, their comments are deleted, not the actual people themselves, to my knowledge!) regardless of the content of the comment. The comment may include very pertinent and truthful information, or may ask legitimate questions, but the "rules" of the blog supercede the content, and so those comments are deleted. That seems to me to be antithetical to other principles that should be at play.

All that to say, I would like some feedback from my readers (even anonymously, if you choose!) with regard to all of this. Are there legitimate reasons (other than those I already mentioned) for deleting comments, thereby filtering some of the discussion? Is it a necessary step for a growing blog? Or is it possible to live differently, even in this world of blogging, and allow more true discussion to take place, even if that discussion is counter to my own thoughts and desires?

Whatever your thoughts, I do so appreciate you regular readers and commenters, and value this particular type of conversation. And for those who comment anonymously (or any of us for that matter), I would appeal to something other than a set of rules that I might come up with on my own. I would appeal to the Spirit of God's own guidelines. May we all demonstrate fruit of His indwelling in our conversation here.

Until next time,

steve :)