You've reached the shared blog of Michael Mckay and Todd Frederick. Two friends who have worked together in ministry and labored in similar educational endeavors. Please join us as we consider the interaction of Christianity with modern culture...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Inn on the Roman's Road

In the first century, the Roman roads were a technological advancement that encouraged travel, commerce, and communication. There were often inns on these roads that were intended to provide rest to travelers, but which often were places for bed-bugs and thievery. I have been reading again Paul's letter to the Romans and have appreciated anew chapter 8. Contrary to ancient inns on the ancient Roman roads, Romans 8 is an incredible place of rest within Paul's entire argument (which can often feel like an extended road trip because of the complexity of his arguments!).
It struck me the other day that there are several statements in the chapter which should cause believers to reevaluate their interpretation of events occurring around them and to them. For example, Rom 8:31b (TNIV) says "...If God is for us, who can be against us?" It is a powerful truth to know that God is actually for his children. He is not against us. How often do we think that the negative or stressful events occurring around us daily are a sign that God has neglected us or is against us? And yet, here we find evidence to the contrary; a different way of interpreting those events.
Here is another example, Rom 8:32 (TNIV) "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Here is another powerful perspective changer: If God has already given his Son for us, then He will not be stingy in giving us all things. This is an argument from the greater to the lesser. In other words since God has given the greater "thing", then all other lesser "things" are not a problem. However, since we all don't have everything we want, there must be good reasons for God withholding something from us. Most likely it is because God will never put us in a situation where we do not have to trust in Him.
Even if we only meditate on these two of many illustrations from this chapter, we can already see how they cause us to step back from the details of our lives and see a generous God who is for us. Thus, we can and should trust Him in the midst of whatever is going on, because we know His character and His attitude towards us. This chapter is full of these perspective changers. They are like five star resorts as we travel the Roman's road.

Friday, January 11, 2013

To kill or not to kill: the zombie dilemma.

I have a guilty confession: I like zombies. I know, I know… it’s horrible and gross, but it does bring about some important ethical questions related to desperate circumstances. If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, a horrible virus has turned the majority of the population into zombies. The zombie has an unbelievable hunger to kill other humans and seriously diminished intellectual capacities. It’s impossible to reason with a zombie, and it wants to eat you. Worldwide authority structures have collapsed, and there is no apparent cure for the condition, thus the world is now kill or be… gulp… eaten. 

From a Christian perspective, this creates an interesting thought experiment. At what level is the zombie still human? How should we treat someone (or is it something?) who is afflicted as a zombie? Well, one might say, the zombies have already died once as part of the zombification process, so they are not really human. One might further argue that a zombie’s diminished capacities for reason or love render it non-human and thus ‘disposable.’ Not to mention that they want to consume the flesh of the living. Not so fast, another may counter, during normal times, we don’t regard the disabled as less than human, so what’s really changed? A person who is born with a disability may have a reduced capacity for reason or emotion, yet we do not prematurely end their lives. Someone who attempts to harm another human being, and is ignorant of the consequences of their actions is considered mentally ill, and yet we do not destroy such persons. We don’t kill other people who have diminished capacities because we recognize, explicitly or implicitly that it’s morally wrong. We don’t kill such people because we shouldn’t. 

Christianity teaches that God created mankind in His image (Gen. 1:26-27) and because of this, humanity is worthy of respect and care (Gen. 9:6; James 3:9-10). Does this change in the zombie apocalypse? Our answer to the zombie problem reveals something important about how we handle real people here in the real world. When we are pushed to the wall in desperate circumstances, retaining our humanity means that we accept an ethical standard that is beyond our current problem. We treat people humanely because God created us in His image. Even though someone may have a reduced set of capabilities (and who doesn’t), that person bears His image and is worthy of dignity, respect and fair treatment. 

I might be persuaded otherwise with regard to actual zombies, should that situation ever actually arise. Until they, stay human. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Original Sin

My second pleasure read of the winter break was Alan Jacob’s Original Sin which chronicles the importance and near ubiquity of the doctrine of original sin. You remember original sin, right? That’s the belief that people are born into a state of separation from God, with a bent toward rebellion against Him, and His moral standards for us. Upon our initial entry into this world, we’re already broken.
I think the best evidence, apart from the Biblical witness to the doctrine, is day care. Yep, one child on his or her own is precious and sweet, but put a few of them in a room together and you’ve unleashed hell itself. The conflict comes when our little darlings want something that conflicts with the other little darlings in the room. And what conflict! Have you ever seen the rage on a child’s face when you tell them: ‘no, you cannot have it?’ I recall a story from when my own children were very young. We had placed one child in day care, even though a little younger than the rest of the children. We were shocked (mostly) when the teacher called and reported that our precious little munchkin had been, well, biting the other kids. When we asked who had been bitten, we were told that it would be easier to identify the children who had not been munched on by our little monster.
I’m sure we could identify all sorts of social maladies that we believe contribute to the lack of ethical commitment on the part of our children. The plain and simple truth is that no child is born sweet and innocent, but all are born sinful and in need of correction and discipline. It’s a hard truth, but true nonetheless. Jacob’s book is a worthwhile read: it isn’t preachy, nor is it theologically burdensome. If you’re looking for something to read on a cold day at home, send your kids to day care and dig in.