Church – Religion

Flatland Theology

I’m about to describe how an understanding of some of the ideas expressed in Edwin Abbott Abbott’s Flatland has helped me understand a couple of difficult theological topics.  I’m 95% sure that I’m following the common (little-o) orthodox Christian theology.

1: On the nature of God

Christian theology describes God as a trinity – one God, but made up of three distinct parts: The Father, The Son (Jesus), and The Holy Spirit.  Many have problems with how can one entity also be three distinct entities.  But if one thinks back upon the 2-dimensional world described in Flatland, and how a three-dimensional object passing through it would appear, at times, to be a different shape.  Now God is clearly an extra-dimensional entity (beyond however many dimensions various theories in physics postulate).  So he can appear to us differently depending on what side or part interacts.

Now, as with any model that attempts to explain God, this isn’t perfect.  One of the oddities is that The Son, while fully God, still prays – or at least in his time on Earth being equally fully Man prayed – to The Father.  I’m not sure how to explain this beyond an idea that it might have had to do with the Son being fully man at that time.

2: On Predestination and Free Will

The teachings of The Bible, as well as the fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecy, show that God has a knowledge of what is to come.  This is further played out in Ephesians where Paul talks about predestination.  However, we also have free will.  Yet, if God knows who will follow him and who won’t ahead of time, how do we have the will to choose freely to love and follow, or not to love and follow, him?

Take an extension of Flatland where their temporal dimension (time) maps into our third spatial dimension.  Now, we see not just one point in Flatland’s history – but all of its history spread out along that third dimension.  The 3-dimensional observer is now able to travel back and forth through Flatland’s history, and may be able to make changes by altering something in “the past” which is connected to “the future.”

Now, I don’t believe that these simple models (and my simple explanation) fully covers the much more complicated reality – but I also don’t think we are (yet) equipped to fully understand God.  On the other hand, these do help me deal with these sometimes seemingly self-contradicting points of (again, little-0) orthodox theology.


Third Day Concert Report

Last night, I saw Third Day at the San Diego County Fair.  This was a good concert, and the third time I’ve seen Third Day live.

Previously, I saw them in December 2007 in Hoffman Estates during their Christmas tour, and two years ago at the San Diego County Fair – that time as part of a mini-festival that also featured Mercy Me, John Mark McMillian, a third singer I don’t recall, with brief appearances from Jamie Grace (who did a longer set on one of the smaller stages earlier) and Trevor Morgan (who was touring with Third Day and did a couple of songs in the middle of their set)

This was the first time I saw just Third Day.  They did a nearly 90 minute set.  During that 90 minutes, Mac Powell’s only breaks were during instrumental solos and briefly between songs.  Other than that, he was either singing or talking the rest of the time.  Mark Lee (lead guitar) and the support musician on the keys had a few more breaks – during long song introductions.  The rest of the band had a longer break during a short acoustic set (vocal, piano and acoustic guitar).

I couldn’t help myself from noticing some of the technical details.

The fair was providing image magnification (imag), so I sometimes paid a bit of attention to the shots, but only spotted two of the cameras, and deduced where a third was.  There was a hand-held cameraman fairly visible on the stage much of the time, and there was a camera position in front of the stage at stage right.  There was also a fixed camera looking over the drummer – so clearly the video crew had worked with the band’s tech crew during setup.  There had to be at least one more camera that had a good view of center stage based on some of the shots.

From where I was sitting, I could also see someone just off stage right who spent much of the evening doing something to guitars for Mark Lee, who swapped them out after nearly every song.  Sometime this was clearly to switch from electric to acoustic, but I think it was also to re-tune the guitars (which was probably what the guy off stage was doing).

Towards the end, once it was full dark, I could see that just off of stage left there was manned console.  At first, I thought it might be the lighting console – which could have been there as well.  But then I realized, it was probably the monitor board.  I’m fairly sure that on a show of this scale, and for a band of this level, the main mixing board sits somewhere in front of the stage so that the operator can use his (or her) own ears for the mix.

On a different topic, I think I was witness to something spirit directed.  During the introduction to the song “I Need a Miracle” from their most recent album, Mac Powell interrupted the story of the song’s creation to share the gospel.  He mentioned that he doesn’t normally do this, and since I’ve seen Third Day twice before (and have a copy of a fourth concert), I have good reason to believe that this is the case.  So it is clear to me that something moved him to share at that point – someone in the audience needed that message.  (Anyone attending the fair could sit in the second level – possibly better seats than I had paid for – or stand in front of the stage, so there were probably people who had never heard of, or heard, Third Day in that audience).

Open Letter to Churches That Want to Reach the Comic-Con Crowd

All weekend – that is Thursday through Sunday – a Christian group sat near the train tracks on 5th avenue with signs and megaphones attempting to reach the attendees and others near Comic-Con.  (See this link – but note that it is to a gallery and the photo may move).  By Sunday, they were joined both by other sign holders and preachers with stronger messages, and by Comic-Con attendees holding up humorous counter-signs.

Early on, I realized the best this outreach could accomplish was to gain a few souls for Christ, and drive an equal but small number further away – and once it reached the level it was on Sunday (one person with a megaphone was all but actively condemning the activities of everyone at Comic-Con as I was boarding the trolley to head home) it was actively driving people away, including the few seekers who might have been saved by the earlier effort.  But, I also came up with something that would probably be orders of magnitude more effective at reaching attendees of Comic-Con for Christ.

Instead of holding signs with provocative words and linked bible verses, the sigs should simply say “Free Water,” or perhaps “Free Water, no strings attached.”  And, instead of boxes full of tracts, the group should have coolers full of water bottles, with a label that says something along the lines of “Courtesy of [name of church/congregation],” and nothing more – except the existing label on the bottle.  They should have someone standing by in case someone wants to talk more, but beyond that, this should simply be an outreach to meet a need (the body thirst of people outside in the San Diego summer weather).

Some Thoughts on Worship Music

This morning, it occurred to me that lyrically music (etc.) used as part of a corporate worship experience in a Christian church generally break into a limited number of categories:

  • Lyrics directed upwards towards God – lyrics of praise, thanksgiving, etc.
  • Lyrics directed outwards about God – lyrics that testify to what God has made
  • Lyrics directed inwards about God – lyrics that are instruction to the believer.

In many cases, a given song, or psalm, can have more than one of these, but all should contain at least one.

And, while I’ve not done any research – and definitely haven’t done exhaustive research (it would probably take a lifetime to read the lyrics to every song and psalm ever written – I am fairly sure that this is true for everything from the earliest Psalms up to the most modern songs and hymns being composed today.

I also think that all three have a place in corporate worship, even if I tend to favor the first two myself.

Church/Worship Reflections – Messages on Stewardship

This morning during and after church, I started thinking (in addition to thinking about the message) about the structure of worship services, especially when the message is going to be on the topic of stewardship.

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A Couple Good Perspectives on Worship

Recently, I’ve had two different humorous reflections on Worship.  {In this case I’m using the term “Worship” to refer to the act of corporate singing during a church – specifically a Christian church – service}

I’ll put a cut-tag (at least in WordPress and LiveJournal) for those who don’t wish to continue to read something with explicit Christian content and topics.

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