Saturday, August 27, 2011

Free Will

Arminianism versus Lutheranism.
Arminians: "I have decided to follow Jesus." "I accepted Him as my personal Lord and Savior." "Give your heart to Him."
Lutherans: "A dead man cannot decide to be alive." "He chooses us; we do not choose Him."

In the past, free will* was explained to me with the following chart:
Before the fall into sin: Man had free will; he was pure.
After the fall into sin: Man had no free will; he was a slave to sin.
After conversion: The Christian man has free will; he can choose to sin or not sin.
After temporal death: The Christian man has no free will; in the resurrection he will be forever freed from sin and confirmed in grace, unable to fall again.

* With the term free will, we are talking not about the free will to choose whether I'm wearing jeans or a dress today, but whether the will is free to choose to love God and selflessly live for the neighbor.

So, basically:
Free will.
No free will.
Free will.
No free will.

I agree with the first two.

I'm not so sure about the third. Remember that little spiel Paul had in Romans 7? "The good that I will to do, that I am unable to do"? Yeah. That whole struggle between the New Man and the Old Adam -- it's not a cake-walk. As Pastor says sometimes, "If you can choose to not sin, then why don't you??? It's pretty warped if you can choose to not sin, but you keep on sinning anyway!" Ah, but that's a tangent; it's not the topic of this post.

It's the fourth one that's got me wondering.

A couple of months ago, Pastor was telling us in Bible class of his musings while mowing the lawn. He suggested that we would indeed have free will in heaven. Why? Because Jesus is the perfect Man, and He freely and willingly does the will of His Father. He is not bound and chained and forced. He chooses to love sacrificially because it's what He really wants to do.

But that's Jesus. What about us? We sinners surely will need to be "stuck" in the No-Sin Mode, right? Otherwise, wouldn't we just head right back to our swill?

First, I don't think God wants robots in heaven. Does He want us to be bound (even in the good)? Or does He wish for us to love and serve Him freely?

Second, let's go back to that section of Romans. Just before Paul's talk about "Argh! I sin when I don't want to, and I don't do the good things I want to! I'm stuck!" we read, "We have been buried with Him through baptism into death. If we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be of His resurrection." Jesus wasn't "stuck" doing the will of His Father; He did it freely, out of love. If we are like Him, if we are joined to Him, if we are His body, won't we also be so overwhelmed in heaven with the love and mercy of the Father that we will choose freely to serve Him? Can we even imagine a grace so humongous that it would be impossible to turn from it? Not because we are forced to it, but because no one would ever be fool enough to turn his back on it. A heart captured by love is very different from a heart captured by chains (or mind control).

Parkview Field

The ball park was right next door to our hotel in Fort Wayne. It is a most beautiful ball park! Way better than Miller Park or County Stadium or any other major league ball park I've seen. (So, I'm biased -- I much prefer minor league baseball.)

I love the look of the water bouncing in the splash pad in this snapshot! Oh, and the shadows of the water on the concrete! Cool!

"Mom, why are you taking my picture?!!?"

Trying to figure out which window in the hotel was our room.

Alia and Papa checking the computer. (This is not at the ball park. But you figured that out, didn't you?)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hymns I Used to Like

There are hymns that I was never especially fond of. That's probably not unusual. What startles me is when I realize something used to be a favorite and now it's emphatically not. For instance, we haven't sung "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus" or "Onward, Christian Soldiers" in decades, and that's fine with me. I was quite fond of "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" about 20 years ago and memorized the whole thing, but I was quite relieved seven years ago to see that it wasn't slotted for the new hymnal.

Then there are others where one line troubles me. Most of the hymn is good, but one or two lines make me uncomfortable. For instance, compare the second stanzas of "Built on the Rock the Church Doth Stand" (LSB 465) and "Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation" (LSB 909). One says that God does not dwell in our church buildings, the other says He does. Another example is "We Praise You and Acknowledge You" (LSB 941) where it says "You opened heaven's kingdom to all who would believe." That can be understood rightly, but it's also too easy to understand it Calvinistically.

And then there are hymns that I liked very much when I was little (probably due mostly to the melody), and then didn't like, and now am back to liking again. "Lord of Glory, You Have Bought Us" used to have a stanza warning us that God would turn His love away from us if we didn't give alms and alleviate the suffering of the poor (TLH 442:4). Once I figured out what those words were saying, I grew to hate the whole hymn. When LSB was published, that stanza had disappeared, and the emphasis is more balanced between what Jesus has done to save us and how our charity flows from His goodness to us. And now I have grown to like the hymn again.

For Caseys

The picture Gary took because he loves the last two pictures in our wedding album: the parents exhausted but happy at the end of the day.
Pssst: Notice Colin's torn shirt. Gary
suggested that we might blame Jane for that.
But since this is [mostly] a G-rated blog, I'll
leave ornery comments to y'all on Facebook.

And some photos from Sunday afternoon:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

For Rheins

Because I haven't figured out how to share pictures via Facebook .... here are a couple from the wedding.

Today's Laugh

I thought art imitated life, not that life imitated art.

We were watching the fish today at the aquarium at Discovery World. The fish swim under you, over you, next to you, as you stand in the tunnel.
A woman, watching the fish zip past under her feet and over her head, gasped to her companions, "It's almost like it's 3-D!"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

YOU Seem To Be Doing a Good Job

Because we've reached one of those milestone anniversaries (the kind where most people have a party or go on a cruise or some big vacation to Hawaii or Europe) Gary and I went to APT last weekend. We attended a "Bard Talks" discussion on poetry, led by dear, wonderful David Daniel. (That was beyond awesome!!) Then we saw The Tempest. (That was okay.) Turns out that it was a teacher-appreciation night, and the theatre was packed.

So, the next morning at the bed & breakfast, Gary and I are, naturally, the oddballs. The homeschoolers in a dining room full of very nice teachers. "So how long have you been doing this?" "Why did you decide to homeschool?" "I just don't think many people have the ability to teach high-school chemistry and calculus." (Amazingly, now that I'm thinking back on it, the Socialization Question did not arise once all weekend. Bizarre!)

And of course there was the perennial, "YOU seem to be doing a good job of this. But not everybody can." There are many good responses to that statement, and Gary gave one. But something crossed my mind that hadn't before. What if we had turned the tables? "Well, YOU seem to be doing a good job in your position of teaching, but what about all those other teachers who don't care as much? Who don't teach the material and ensure kids comprehend it? Who allow kids to be bored by history? Who don't know how to identify the subject and verb in a simple sentence? Who choose reading material that is intentionally provocative and offensive to some parents? Who take a couple of weeks' vacation on school-days instead of going to Florida when school is out of session?"

I'm not saying that everyone who claims to be a homeschooler does an outstanding job. But neither will I assent to the claim that all teachers in conventional schools are doing a good job. Who should be judging whom? And is the failure rate among homeschoolers anywhere near the failure rate in conventional schools?

A Lutheran View of Contraception

It's quite rare to hear anyone speak aright about contraception. In our society today, even Christians fall into the trap of treating children like consumer objects, thinking that we decide when to make babies and when not to. Objecting to that error, some people are vocal that they believe any use of contraception to be sinful and that we ought to do a better job of trusting God to take care of these matters.

Pastor Stuckwisch wrote what is a most excellent perspective on the topic. It seems to me that there's no way to disagree with this paper without becoming either legalistic or antinomian.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Now that I'm fraternizing out the in The Real World, I hear a question I'm unaccustomed to: "So, do you have any big plans for the weekend?" There's also the corresponding statement: "I have to figure out what I'm going to do this weekend."

People are looking for events. Ball games. The state fair. Blues Fest. Camping. Opening weekend of a movie. Summer Fest. A barbecue with friends. The county fair. A trip to the cabin UpNorth. A parade. A thresheree. A wedding shower. Corn Fest. A bike rodeo. A couple of restaurants to try out. The customers and my co-workers have time on their hands, and there don't seem to be frequent enough events to fill up their weekends and days off.

I do not understand this.

For us, entertainment has to be squeezed into the schedule. We have tickets for the Cardinals game next week, but it's going to be wearying to go to the game. We want to go. We will enjoy going. But there's stress attached to it too. There's always work to be done. If there were no chores and big tasks to tackle [you're laughing at the nonsense of it, right?] it would be fabulous to sit around at home and just relax, reading a book, playing a game, singing at the piano, going for a walk.

HOW do these people have enough time available to them that they're having trouble hunting up enough events to amuse themselves without becoming bored bored bored? What am I doing wrong?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Not Technically My Kid

LaRena commented recently that it's wonderful to have all your kids around the dining room table. Oh, it IS!

But what's even more wonderful is having them all at church, in the same service. Doesn't matter to me if we sit together. We often have somebody in the front pew, another near the back, and several of us scattered through different sections of the choir. I have developed this mother-hennish habit that I will locate & count my kids during church. Who's here? Where are they? It takes a whoppin' couple of seconds. I don't do it every Sunday. But there is a pervasive joy when I notice that they're all there, or even that they're all there but one. So yesterday I'm doing a quick head-count shortly before the opening hymn:

Philip next to me. Andrew in front of me. Maggie a few down from Philip. Bethany (with Evan) near the back on the lectern side. Katie (with her three additions to the family) several pews behind me. That's five!

And then came the question mark in my brain. Wait -- Rachel's not here and Paul's not here. I have six kids. Six minus two is four. How come I counted five?

Suddenly tears of joy welled up: I'd counted Beppers. I don't know whether it's good or naughty. But I counted her as part of mine.

After a while I realized that I'd had the same experience with Anthea during symposium. And yes, Rachel, I realize you were there too, but I didn't know it yet when I was counting.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's Not My Deficit

The other day, someone commented on how his paycheck was littler now. I expressed my sympathy.

Then he went on to tell me that he was a state employee and that Scott Walker's budget plan had kicked in and was affecting his paycheck now. He said, "I don't see why it's up to me to fix a deficit I didn't create."


So when the economy was tanking, and Gary got a pay cut and this man got a pay raise, he wasn't helping create the deficit? When we pay hundreds of dollars each month for our health insurance, and this guy paid nothing, he wasn't helping create the deficit? When we have no pension plan, but we are paying for his pension plan (and he's not), he didn't help create the budget deficit?


Sure, sure, I know the man wasn't the one voting for these perqs for himself and other state employees. I know that if I were in his shoes, I'd be taking the paycheck and benefits and not giving them back, just because people in the private sector were being paid less. I know that it's hard to have your paycheck cut, even if you're still being paid generously, because after all, it's less generously than you were paid last month, and that's not fun.

But still... he didn't help create the deficit?

I think we've all helped create the deficit. Pell Grants for our college kids. Social Security for the senior citizens. Libraries. Government subsidies for the arts. PBS. Tax money going to help build ball parks. WIC. Public schools. Medicare. I think even the most libertarian, small-government folks among us have helped create the deficit, even those of us who've been voting and lobbying against government expenditures.

But, c'mon, the guy who is upset that he is now having to spend HALF as much on his health insurance as I am? Sorry, bud -- whatever sympathy I had for your smaller paycheck is now gone.