Two Perspectives On Love

Author Ayn Rand

Image via Wikipedia

This first perspective is from Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand is what you would call an Objectivist. That is, that reason and logic is the only true way through which we can acquire knowledge–implicitly rejecting religion and faith. She arrives at this through the subjectivity of human experience, that reality exists outside of human consciousness and our perceptions of the world can be defined only through inductive and deductive reasoning. Of course, that statement cannot be proved through reason or logic, but that is beyond the scope of this blog. Moreover, a myriad of other things cannot be proved through empirical evidence–love is the first that comes to mind.

Objectivism means that the human pursuit in life (a human assignment, mind you) is aggrandizement of the self. Therefore, her perspective on love are somewhat different from what we are used to, to the point where it is almost Stoic. She says:

“Love should be treated like a business deal, but every business deal has its own terms and its own currency. And in love, the currency is virtue. You love people not for what you do for them or what they do for you. You love them for the values, the virtues, which they have achieved in their own character.” -Ayn Rand.

The second perspective is from Don Miller.  

I know I’ve been speaking about Don Miller a lot recently, and I know that I am quick to say state my disagreements with him as well. Yet, to his own protests, I would define him as an Emergent. Hence, I do dislike some aspects of his work, but most aspects of his work is quite wonderful. He provides a wonderful foil to what Rand has said above, defining love purely by what it can do for you. After all, what is the point of loving someone if they don’t love you back?

In her book, “An Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology”, Rand argues that love is measurable–it is only Romanticism that muddies the waters. A man may not marry a person because it would affect their class or other people’s perception of him–“still another man may risk his life to save the woman he loves, because all his other values would lose meaning without her.” (33-34) She uses this to define varying amount of self-sacrifice to create a hierachy of love. Yet, what is love if it is not all love?

Don Miller provides the antithesis to Rand, and proposes a selfless love–one that would love if there was going to be no return, nothing good inside the person you love. Loving purely because it is our inherent nature as humans to love.

“Mr Spencer asked us about an area in which he felt metaphors cause trouble. He asked us to consider relationships. What metaphors do we use when we think of relationships? We value people, I shouted out. Yes, he said, and wrote it on his little white board. We invest in people, another person added. And soon enough we had listen an entire white board of economic metaphors. Relationships could be bankrupt, we said. People are priceless, we said. All economic metaphor. I was taken aback.

The problem of Christian culture is we think of love as a commodity. We use it like money…if somebody is doing something for us, offering us something, be it gifts, time, popularity, or what have you, we feel they have value, we feel they are worth something to us, and, perhaps, we feel they are priceless.” – Miller, Don. Blue Like Jazz. pg 218.

What is Love? Is your Love really love, if it isn’t love to the end?

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Are Christians Blogging A Contradiction?

The goal of a professional blogger is quite simply to be popular on the internet.

 

More often than not, blogs are the means of which to get the end of making money through getting enough advertising revenue or directing people towards a book they’ve written. A trend I often see is to get popular through getting enough traffic onto your site by writing on popular topics and relating to the audience that they are directed towards. Abortion and homosexuality are both hot button topics which people are attracted like fruit flies to. Sarah Palin has built her whole political soapbox on these two principles, which are admittedly small in the larger scheme of things like running an economy.

Yet, the goal of a Christian “is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever” as the Westminster Confession states. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says it all that “whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” The Christian life is totally God-focused, and dependent on the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit within our lives. The difference is the focus is turned onto God, and the Holy Spirit as he works in us.

I understand there is a difference between amateur and professional blogging, but where exactly does the line get crossed? A professional has a success measured by popularity and views, but an amateur is only a voice that wants to be heard. The aspirations are the dividing factor, and I’ll let God judge the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts.

Too often we are easily entrapped by the attraction of money and fame on the internet, especially here on revelife and xanga, with the number of views openly counted. There is constantly a temptation to me to write on controversial topics because they garner more views, but God calls me back constantly to this place of writing what he wants me to write. It is so easy to march under the flag of God, but to be faithful to the cause is much more difficult. Similarly, it is easy to write about Christian topics, but to fully submit to God and let him write the words is much more difficult in my experience. The lyrics to the chorus of the song “Write The Words” from FFH describe exactly my thoughts:

“I don’t know what to say
That hasn’t already been said
I don’t know what to write
That hasn’t already been read
I don’t know what to play
That You haven’t already heard
So here’s my song, You write the words
Here’s my heart, You write the words”

The thought of having to write 6 posts a week consistently is difficult for me. There is so much that I don’t know, and so much that I think that should not be written down in a blog. I feel especially convicted when I think of the amount of time I spent writing blogs in proportion to how much time I spend praying that my words might be powerful. There is a self-centeredness rooted in the way that I blog, that I seek to change.

In many ways, it is a far cry from being led by God to write because some nights where I can churn out 3 posts without an issue. Other times I can just sit around and surf the web for hours with nothing jumping out, but I don’t actually waste my time doing that now that I’m back at school. Continually, I find myself where I have to come back and remember why I’m here blogging, and it is to glorify God and in everything I do.

Therefore, how can we reconcile, the God-centered life of a Christian with the money-centered demands as we traverse deeper and deeper into blogosphere? Exactly how compatible is it to attract people to a site compared to a Christian, who seeks God in all that he does? Is Christian blogging a oxymoron?

 

Christians and Giving (Part Two)

Frank was talking the other day about the “happy” church that he attends on occasion. They were participating in a faith promise campaign, beginning in giving out forms to complete: “for their faith promise commitment that requires the following information: name, address, total income, phone number, % of increase of last years giving, and the option to drop the donation in the offering plates or letting the church take the giving directly out of the giver’s checking account.”

Beside the fact that it seems they are breaking rules of confidentiality and some human rights as well, it doesn’t quite see any shame in asking for money from its congregation. I can’t say this would the most correct method to ask for more money, the reality is, it is one among a myriad of possible ways to ask. What method that a church asks for money is probably best measured against the Bible which prescribes that:

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2Corinthians 9v.7)

I know it’s a tried and used passage about giving, but it’s still often used too carelessly. In fact, I’m pretty sure reading the context, the verse isn’t even specifically referring to money, the passage surrounding talks of reaping what you sow and therefore, you must give generously to God because He is the author of our lives. Exactly what the passage is talking about is the refocusing of ambition towards God, cheerfulness in giving not out of compulsion or of guilt.

Previously, I argued that we cannot begin to make givers out of unsaved people. Similarly, I would argue to make cheerful givers, there needs to be understanding of the grander reality of the Kingdom. There is a unhealthy perception of church from many peoples as a boring and irrelevant place. According to what other people have thought, a lot of churches have changed and molded to what other people want the church to be. Unfortunately, the church isn’t a circus, nor is it a country club and it isn’t a Fortune 500 company either. While I find there is always room for improvement, as being part of the Church we are aiming towards the perfection of Jesus always, the people that are the problem more often than not are not the people within the church but the outside people knowledge of the people within the church.

Changing the knowledge of people outside of church is difficult. I don’t have answers to counteract the power of mass-media, and stopping the multitude of movies that are so driven for pushing down Christianity dishonestly. *cough* Easy A *cough*

Finally, on the topic of giving, all the money we have is not ours, it is all from God. How could we have this money without the grace and mercy that God has shown to us? The first premise of correct Christian giving comes not from a percentage of your total income, but from a fundamental understanding of our own poverty. Charles Spurgeon says:

So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Do you want nothing? Then, I fear you do not know your poverty.

God sustains us. Money does have a central role in our society, so much so, I admit sometimes it feels like a sustaining force as well. Having money is equated to having power, and celebrities are celebrated because of their wealth. If we can begin to understand how powerless money is, it cannot sustain us beyond one more breathe that God has breathed into us, only then would we be good with investing more into the Bride of Christ. If we can change the perceptions of the Church; A church not controlled by man’s thirst for power but only accountable to God, only then could we be expecting enough to sustain the church. Then, only then, will giving to the church be equated to giving to God as an instrument for His work in this fallen world.

We all should be giving 100%. Giving 100% of our money, but of our hearts and of our lives. Nothing we have is ours, but all is given and blessed onto us from God alone. How can we begin to be like Anaias and Sapphira and begin to hold some back from God? How can we be like Adam and Eve and pretend that we could run and hide away from God? The money we have is utterly worthless and we should invest more in Jesus and the Kingdom coming to reign in our hearts.

i personally love that pic. got a nice ring to it, i guess every superhero need his theme music. oh yah. this book really helped me. not. http://tinyurl.com/5s7xn8p

Christians and Giving (Part One)

Especially with the recent bankruptcy in Crystal Cathedral, it exposed a certain fragility in churches in the dependency on the money that it receives. It’s an age-old question of how people should pay for their church services. It has been reported that their church nativity scene, complete with live animals cost well into the $60k area. (source) This also is the church whose founding pastor was none other than Robert Schuller, the founder of the popular television program “Hour of Power”. How does a television program continuing running without the constant inflow of advertising revenue on top of viewer donations? The viewer donations which have been the staple of tele-vangelists of the past 50 years.

Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman of the Crystal Cathedral blamed the recession as “budgets could not be cut fast enough to keep up with the unprecedented rapid decline in revenue.” (source) While it could be expected that the recession will naturally reduce the funds that are available for a congregation to give, I don’t find it surprising that people find the first thing to stop spending on is the church. (I’m also not surprised by the congregation that meets in a $18million church designed by Philip Johnson)

In this post, I don’t wish to comment on the use of the money, which I think is flagrant and a unwise account of the wealth that God has given, but rather the people giving the money. Not that how much a church congregation gives is illustrative of how holy the flock is, the bankruptcy is more illustrative of a lack of teaching from churches on giving.

With the introduction of Christianity on television, pastors with flocks of only 1000, suddenly could get an captive audience of 1,000,000! It is the power of mass media, the gospel is much more able to be applied to many, with greater efficacy than ever before. I could liken it to George Whitefield who could address 30000 followers on a Sunday morning on the slopes of Mount Hanham and every single one of them could hear! Then again, while the tool of mass media has its merits, but also can a slippery slope if abused, which more often than not considering the sinfulness of man, seems inevitable. The slippery slope being the high costs of maintaining and broadcasting a television channel has transformed this mode of communication to begin to be totally weighted towards the consumers in the church while maintaining apathy towards its believers.

My question is: If there are no believers, how can it begin to expect funds?

There is a shift in our churches today, the people that come in through the front doors are nothing more than consumers. The pulpit on which the Word of God was once preached has been transformed into a stage, where the people standing on it are merely performers onto droves of adoring fans. These churchgoers lack commitment with the smallest distractions enough to sway their attention, loving things for a short period of time before moving on. A culture of tourist Christians is created (I blogged about this here), with people continually moving from one attraction to the next and only what is relevant being the measure of what is good and bad.

I’m not just bashing Crystal Cathedral or any specific church, but the church in general across the world. There has developed this need to keep people entertained in the church, and the reason is mainly the irresponsible use of mass media in the church. Abuse of mass media leads to dependance on earthly means to bring believers. If awe in earthly things is our central message, and we forget the awesomeness of the holiness of God, how greatly then are we diminishing His glory? Moreover, what does it show about my trust and belief in God? When the way that the notices are presented have more resources poured into them, as opposed to praying for the pastor’s sermon on the pulpit, there is something wrong.

A fragmented understanding of the church, and its function, will lead disjointed giving in not just money, but as well, their lives to God. In a church that does not demand total devotion to the gospel, how can you begin to demand funds to be given to the work of the church?