Separatism & Syncretism

This past Sunday we discussed the tension of being “all things to all men” (1 Cor. 9:22-23) without “being conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). I unpacked biblically what we are (resident aliens – 1 Peter 1:1 & 2:11) and 2 things we are not (neither separatists who isolate from the culture nor syncretists who uncritically conform to the culture).

Interested in your thoughts: which do you feel is more prevalent in Coram Deo (or in your community) – separatism or syncretism? What aspects of each do you see in yourself and in those around you? How have these false models of cultural engagement (or disengagement) lessened the church’s gospel-driven impact in the world?

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  1. I think syncretism is probably more prevalent at Coram Deo, just because of things like the Alex Dupree concert. I guess I swing back and forth like a pendulum, myself. I have periods where I get rid of a bunch of music and stop watching rated-R movies, and then I get bored with that and decide to justify everything I listen to and watch. I guess I still have trouble figuring out how to receive, reject and redeem stuff like movies. Is there a “line” that is crossed in media, or is anything fair game? In other words, can I watch a movie like “Superbad” for purposes of amusement, or does the fact that it’s raunchy mean that it can’t be redeemed? I’ve been asking these questions to myself for a while, maybe because I am waiting to hear what I want to hear, which would allow me to enjoy all that stuff without the guilt.

    The problem is that engaging culture in this way, and in the syncretic way, is that it might cause people to stumble, I think. If you’re supposed to be setting a good example, and some new believers see you watching “American Pie” and then going for drinks at the bar, that might confuse them and not give a great impression. So I think this might be perceived as hypocrisy, which would definitely lessen the impact of the gospel in the world.

    Matt VanEpps

  2. Matt, I am going to take issue with your comment: Why do you see the Alex Dupree show as syncretism … “uncritically conforming to the culture”?

    I see it as critically engaging the culture with good music, thoughtfully provoking lyrics, and emotional depth … all of which is lacking in Christian and pop culture.

    So why is it syncretism in your view?

    — Walker

  3. What’s that quote that Driscoll uses to describe his church? Culturally liberal, but theologically conservative? I think that’s a good way to describe Coram Deo…

    When it comes to theology, CD is far from syncretist. If anything, it would lean toward separatist.

    With what Driscoll calls cultural things (music, film, beer), at first it seems Coram Deo would lean syncretist…However, I would argue that there are parts of Coram Deo that are actually more separatist when it comes to culture…It’s just that it’s separatist in the opposite way that fundamentalists are.

    To paint with a broad brush here, there is a certain type of music or “art” that is accepted at Coram Deo…People that listen to American Idol singers (as Bob joked about in his sermon) aren’t really welcome culturally at CD. And we tend to separate ourselves from K-Love listening Christians…So, in a cultural sense, we do accept what the “intellectual elites” would deem as good art…good music, good movies, good books…but it seems that we do not accept those cultural things that we view as not artistic enough, or not deep enough, or (maybe) even not trendy or hip enough.

    I know that Coram Deo’s whole mission is to reach the lost…CD isn’t as interested in having Christians just switch from one church to the next, but rather in actually going out and trying to bring people in from the outside. And maybe in that mission, CD has tried to separate itself from the K-Love listening, Ned Flanders type of Christian. But, I think in doing that, we are also separating ourselves from the American-Idol listening non-Christians.

    So we’re more syncrotist when it comes to the hip, trendy, artistic, indie aspects of culture. We’re separatists when it comes to things that we deem as artistically inferior.

    Or at least that’s my two cents. Maybe I’m wrong in this.

  4. matt, i would not call american pie good culture. its about as cheesy as michael w smith. at least in my opinion.

    i say separatist. i think we make good attempts at embracing culture, but we do it in cheesy ways. it is fine and dandy to want to redeem things, but we seem to try and latch onto the tiniest art of the gospel that could be faintly present in some part of the culture. at least i do. if any song has “i’m sorry” in it, i turn it into a prayer of confession. if a singer is vague on the lover he or she is singing about, i use it to worship God. apparently i am not creative enough to come up with my own unique way of worship. i have to separate “good” (not necessarily christian) aspects of the culture from the rest of it just to make myself feel okay about it. a lot of the time, not all the time.

    the thing about God being creative is that he sat back and enjoyed what HE made. not what someone else made. i think if we are going to be resident aliens, we need to start creating some more culture instead of just trying to squeeze stuff out of whats already out there

    now, i am not a very creative guy, and musically all i can play is the tuba and the oboe. those dont make for great culture except in germany. thats why i love having musicians like Jared and writers like will and evan in our community. but it seems like there are huge untapped resources in our body. one thing i know is beer. should i start my own homebrewing business? maybe. maybe derek can start a wheat grass farm. (only a half joke). it seems like we need to go deeper than just embracing culture and start (re)creating the culture.

  5. Paul E… who are you, man??

    Really insightful comments. I think you have a pretty sharp read on some aspects of CD. You should become a member. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I might argue that we are simply pushing for good culture (hip, trendy, artistic, indie) and not pop culture (Ned Flanders-esque Christianity and/or American Idol). But as other commenters have pointed out, such judgments can be pretty subjective.

    Although, if anyone wants to make an argument that American Idol singers are creating high-quality art, that would be a fun argument to have.

    (You are definitely correct that we have tried to intentionally separate ourselves from the K-Love listening, Ned Flanders Christian subculture. We have done so “for the sake of the gospel” in obedience to 1 Cor 9:22-23.)

  6. Okay, I’m sorry, Will – I need to explain. I’m not saying that Coram Deo really is syncretist because of the Alex Dupree concert. I just interpreted Bob’s blog as asking us which way we felt Coram Deo was leaning. And I think Paul did a better job describing what I was trying to say. I agree with what he said about being accepting of some forms of intellectual culture, but separate from more fundamentalist-Christian stuff. The reason I feel like the Alex Dupree concert could be contrived as syncretist in any way is that it’s not a “Christian” band, so it would be reaching to more of the community. That seems to be quite the opposite of separatism, so I guess it would have to make it closer to syncretism. So I’m sorry if I riled anyone up in trying to answer the question – I’m just thinking that CD would fall on the syncretist part of the spectrum. It’s a tough question to answer without offending people.

    And did I say that “American Pie” was good culture? That confused me, Patrick. I definitely didn’t mean to if I did.

  7. Matt, I hear what you are saying … I guess I’m just trying to say that syncretist and separatist are not the only options. Redemptive is an option.

    I saw that concert as redemptive, precisely because it is not a “Christian band” (for the record, everyone in the band is a believer and the lyrics are strong with biblical theme and story).

    To say that Coram Deo is syncretist is a fair opinion. I was just curious why you cited that particular thing (Dupree show) as syncretist.

  8. sorry matt. guess you never did call it good culture. my bad.

    also, i would not call american idol good. or any of the musicians outstading. but, and t-lo will back me up on this one… i do love me some kelly clarkson.

  9. That’s what I’m talkin’ about, Patrick. Repentance, honesty, transparency. Don’t be sayin’ a dude said something when he didn’t say it.

    And… Yep, you’ve put yourself out there now. However, single dudes digging on Kelly Clarkson is not the same as Kelly Clarkson writing good music.

    Maybe you and T-Lo can start another thread about all the not-so-good musical artists that you love for reasons other than their musical prowess.

  10. Van Epps, thanks for putting your thoughts out there as well. Whereas Will is pressing into your ‘syncretist’ judgment, I want to press into your question about whether “I can watch a movie like Superbad for purposes of amusement.”

    My question is: what exactly are “purposes of amusement?” Is amusement a gospel-centered purpose? Or does it fall, as Will pointed out last week, into a passive disengagement which violates the command in Romans 12:1 to “present my body to God?”

    Just curious on your thoughts here. It’s always easier to talk about what I can or can’t do than to critically evaluate the thinking and motivation behind what I want to do.

  11. I don’t think the Alex Dupree concert was a “syncretist” event, but I don’t think that I engaged with the music or other people in a way to make the event truly redemptive. I enjoyed the music and have contemplated buying the CD for about a month now with no action. I couldn’t really hear the lyrics very well at the concert and have intended to look them up for about a month now with no action. I haven’t engaged in conversation about the meaning behind the music and the event with Christians or with Sojourners – don’t know if I ever intended to do this.

    I am realizing that Bob was right – being a resident alien that redeems culture is hard work. I just can’t sit back, soak culture up and then critique it in my own head. Interaction with culture that doesn’t expose anyone Jesus or His kingdom cannot be redemptive.

    I don’t think it is the aspect of culture that is separatist or syncretist, it is the way we interact with it.

  12. I guess “purposes of amusement” are: I just want to laugh at a movie, that’s all. I’m not going to emulate anything in the movie or become conformed to the behavior in any way. I’m just going to have a good time with my friends watching it.

    However, the gospel-centered purpose thing throws me off. There probably isn’t much that is redeeming in that movie, but then I wonder how you decide what is okay to watch again. I have a feeling that this is one of those things where I already know the “right” answer but I just don’t want to accept it, so I make excuses and justifications for why it might be okay. Would amusement be a gospel-centered purpose in the instances where you use laughter to encourage and life people up, though?

    Matt

  13. i never said i thought she was really good looking. or that her music was good. i simply enjoy listening to it. kind of like i enjoy listening to mandy moore.

  14. Bob,

    I’m going to go ahead and take one for the “team” on the “American Idol” issue.

    First of all, since you said the name ,. . Kelly Clarkson has become someone who is admired in the music industry, not for her sales as much as her voice, and, yes, her good songs. If you don’t like Kelly Clarkson, that’s fine. But, she is admired and respected by musicians that you admire, so that seems to be a personal opinion to me.

    And, yes, I agree with Patrick, that there is a real “reverse-pop” thing happening with indie music. Suddenly, if an artist that you like happens to sell more than 400 albums, you (and they) are a sellout, and are labelled as commercial pop drivel. Just because you’re successful and (gasp) talented doesn’t mean you aren’t “good”.

    Now, I know there have been some fantastically bad American Idol records,. . as there have been in every genre,. . .sorry indie rockers. But, let’s be careful here. One man’s Picasso is another man’s finger paint.

    And, here’s the thing. . Art is supposed to be that way,. . .it’s supposed to be subjective, because we all have different tastes. Can we make judgements? Sure. In a global way? maybe. I’m not seeing the upside in labeling things “bad art” for those who might enjoy it. Let’s just get to the heart of what we think redemptive is, . . .and let the chips fall where they may.

    You may find a huge redemptive theme in the middle of a (gasp) gold record.

    standing up for pop,
    Aaron

  15. Another question for Bob and Will,

    At what point is it ok to have some “passive disengagement”. I agreed with Will’s sermon last week that we probably gorge on this a bit in our culture.

    But, isn’t part of sabbath un-plugging from your responsibilities. . which might include taking in a college football game?

    Don’t hear me saying we should always be turning our brain off. . . I agree that we do that too much. I”m just getting the sense that perhaps there is a view in this blog that it’s never ok to do that.

    Isn’t part of presenting your body to God, . . resting? (I realize defining rest here is a big issue)

    Aaron

  16. Can I chime in on the issue of “passive disengagement”? (with the disclaimer that I am the chief of hypocrites. I chronically overcommitted myself and God has been beating the drum of Sabbath for a long time but it takes things a while to reverberate through my thick skull)

    There is a drastic difference between inactivity (what we normally equate with relaxation) and rest. The Sabbath that God patterned and we are to emulate is not stopping doing things but ceasing what we normally do in order to recognize our dependence on God and recenter ourselves on Him. Sabbath can in fact be very hard work as we wrestle with our own restlessness. The goal of Sabbath is not to recharge by mentally checking out but to be renewed as we relax into the security of being โ€œin Christโ€ and acknowledge Him as the reigning Sovereign in all areas of our livesโ€”including the size of our paycheck and the activities we do with our body. The goal of Sabbath is not mental disengagement or legalistic rules but proper alignment to God, acknowledging our creaturely status.

  17. Hooley,

    Thanks, that was helpful.

    I know what you’re saying. . .I think for some of us, though,. . “hard work” on the sabbath might be to just sit down and not do anything. Yes, there will be time in prayer, time in the word. . . . . .

    My question is. . .Do you think God ever would have a time for us of inactivity? Are we not to relax in any way that doesn’t involve prayer or spiritual retreat?

    When I heard Will’s sermon, it resounded in my life and day to day in a huge way, and I was grateful for it.

    ***need to hear Will’s sermon to get the rest of this post*****

    I was wondering , though, (in Will’s case) if it was a different weekend,. . if God would’ve led him to not go to the wedding for instance. . and just relax. Or, perhaps, put his kids to bed and watch a movie with his wife.

    I’m asking because I think we chronically do too much. And, often times out of obligation to “christian” things we over-do it, and our health, and our families pay the price. Mark Driscoll speaks of pastors going to get a massage for stress relief. Should they be praying the whole time that they’re getting the massage?

    I really respect all of you guys for wrestling with this,. .I have much to learn from you. . . those are just my questions. .

    Aaron

  18. I would argue that sometimes movies and music are the best way to engage our culture and reach sojourners. I think that if we start limiting the things we watch and listen to (excluding some of the obviously perverse) we are taking away an excellent tool in reaching those around us. We will begin to be viewed as the Ned Flanders of the world that don’t have a clue about what is really going on.
    Take the example of Napoleon Dynamite. Clearly this movie has very little to do with redemptive topics, but it was a funny movie that became huge within our culture. Everyone from little kids to 40-somethings were quoting lines from this movie. It became an underlying moment within our culture where people could relate to one another and connect. If you hadn’t watched the movie, you were completely lost. Maybe I am giving a little too much credit to a movie, but if we begin taking away those opportunities to connect, we really will become serparatists.

  19. Aaron, I must not have been too clear. I think the point Will was making and I was trying to echo is that Sabbath aims to acknowedge God as over all areas of our life: not just our time in prayer but also our time at play. Today I had a friend over to my place for lunch. I hope that God wasn’t just honored when we said grace before the meal but as we talked, laughed and enjoyed each other’s company and some good food. As Bob said Sunday, a full-orbed understanding of the gospel will work itself out in all areas of our life–Not just the way we read our Bibles but also the beer we choose to drink.

    I think the challenge for those of us who are workaholics is to learn to genuinely rest in God. Most of the time when we seek to disengage and just “veg out” it’s a cop out for true, satisfying rest. Looking a little closer, it often reveals the reaction of running to the world to meet our needs rather than to God, sanctifying everything (including a baseball game & a beer) by ordering it in light of the gospel. Check out 1 Tim 4:1-5…it often brings me up short in my assumptions. While asceticism may seem spiritual Paul exposes it as demonic and directs us instead to God-ward, gospel-oriented enjoyment. I think we need to beware of the assumption we all-too-often carry (which Will so effectively exposed as he challenged us not to be pimped out to Satan) that what we do with our bodies doesn’t really matter. God’s word is clear that fleshly passions can wage war against our souls (1 Pet 2:11). Our bodies are powerful weapons that will be used either to further God’s kingdom or be pimped out to Satan (cf. Romans 6)

  20. Hooley,

    agreed. . . .

    let’s have a blog topic on how you engage something like a football game, or Napolean dynamite in a gospel centered way. I know the gospel changes everything. . but I would like to get real practical with that stuff. What is the frame of mind you go into the game/movie with? What should you be doing while you watch?

    thanks for hashing through that,
    Aaron

    ps. piper has a thing in “a Godward life” about drinking orange juice to the Glory of God. . . which really just centered on thankfulness. . .which is a huge part of it I think.

  21. In regards to Aaron’s comment about “drinking orange juice to the Glory of God.” I think you (well, Piper and you) are onto something there.

    1 Timothy 4:4…”for everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”

    In the context of the passage, Paul is talking about food. But, I think the wording (“everything created by God”) indicates that Paul is talking about more than food…So maybe, the gospel-centered way to sit down and watch a game is to receive that time of enjoyment and rest and fellowship with a thankful heart, and to also approach it with a prayerful mind focused on the word of God…

    And maybe the prayerful mind, focused on the word of God, is kind of the screening test for whether or not an activity is worth engaging in…If receiving it with thanksgiving was the only requirement, then some horny guy could watch American Pie, saying “thanks God for these naked women.”

    But, if that same guy had a prayerful heart and mind, and was focused on the word of God, reading his Bible regularly, then he might know and recognize his lustful intentions in watching the movie, and would not engage in it.

    I don’t know, I’m kind of just thinking out loud here. This is an area that I feel like I have a lot of work to do in.

    (P.S. Bob, I’m the guy that emailed you about a week ago, asking about M.C.)

  22. Which is more prevalent in Coram Deo? Syncretism in the social/cultural area. Examples would be the robust and rousing mention of drinking beer, the glossed over reference to gambling, and the only-the-thoughtful-music-really-tracks attitude.

    Which is more prevalent in me?
    Separatism.
    Whichever side of the perfectly tense middle (where Jesus is) we find ourself on, we need to pray and strive for the center, the area of greater tension.

    I think the reason that Coram Deo slacks toward the syncretist side is due to being brought up through childhood and young adulthood on the separatist side and then rebelling against that, if even subtly.

    I know the reason that I slack toward separatism is in part a reaction to my past.

    One way in which these errant positions have lessened the church’s impact is in the time and effort that we spend in-fighting about which of us is has it all together.

    Chad Hansen

  23. Chad – thanks for helping me understand why I am drawn in my mind and thought to snycretism and yet often yeild to the nagging draw of separatism.

  24. Chad, I’m gonna push on you here… while I could perhaps agree with your root assessment (syncretism as more prevalent in CD), I’m not sure I follow your reasoning for ending up there.

    Why is a “robust and rousing” mention of beer an evidence of syncretism? And how exactly did you feel that gambling was “glossed over”?

  25. The pitch and inflection of the voice along with the body language, and the subsequent response from a few in the building just reminded me of any number of beer commercials that I used to see on NFL Sundays. I haven’t seen any for quite a while though, so you’ll have to forgive me if the commercials have changed.

    The story about being up at your grandparents, (no doubt in beautiful Murdo, SD), your Mom cautioning you to put away the cards (you may not play cards, let alone poker, let alone for money with your brother) or grandma would “freak”. I had to assume that you perceived nothing wrong with the gambling, Mom just didn’t want to upset grandma’s taboo, while in fact grandma rightly considers gambling to be a sin. Hence, the “glossing over” comment.

    The commercial medias along with society in general teach very clearly that drinking beer and gambling are fine. While in reality both are destructive and a ruination of many families and individuals. Most of these life-wrecks start out with just a little. Kind of like the proverbial frog in the pot.

    Tired now, time to sleep.

    Chad Hansen

  26. Chad,

    “…Both [drinking and gambling] are destructive and a ruination of many families and individuals. Most of these life-wrecks start out with just a little.”

    I could not agree with you more. Which is one reason why it is crucial for the church to figure out how to act redemptively in the culture. I (and we) affirm neither path to life-ruin.

    The poker reference was tongue-in-cheek sarcasm. Actually my brother and I were probably playing a game of “Go Fish.”

    Furthermore, the point of that story was not to say anything about gambling, but rather to decry the separatism that is prevalent in Christian fundamentalism (i.e. the rejection of a deck of cards because it is associated with gambling.) So I would disagree that the issue of gambling was “slighted.” It was simply not my point to address that issue.

    I think in these matters it is very important to be appropriately nuanced. You state that “drinking beer… [is] destructive and a ruination of many families and individuals.” Actually, it is the abuse of alcohol, not merely the drinking of it, that causes destruction and ruination. The fundamentalist solution is teetotalling – avoiding alcohol altogether. Those who hold that conviction have a right to hold it as their own conviction before God (Romans 14:22-23). However, when they impose it as the only biblical standard for Christians (hints of which I sense in your post), it becomes a matter of legalism, which must be opposed for the sake of the gospel.

    Christians are to avoid, decry, and fight against the abuse of alcohol. Those who do so by abstaining from it entirely do well to live by that conviction. Those who do so by consuming alcohol in moderation also do well (Romans 14:1-3). It is not biblically appropriate to broadly label “drinking beer” as syncretism.

    Thanks for pushing us critically in these matters. I appreciate your voice and influence in our community. By hashing through these issues together, we cause deeper gospel growth in our community. May Jesus be honored.

  27. Patrick said:
    “t-lo will back me up on this one… i do love me some kelly clarkson.”

    BUT SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE!!!!!!!

    hahaha

    You guys don’t even know how good Kelly Clarkson songs can be, done right!

  28. Just an observation as someone who checked out your blog and read the info about your community. Sorry for going to the American Idol concert last week in Omaha. I’m sure God is displeased that I enjoyed those hacks. And sorry for going to a more conventional church that apparently doesn’t have it going on like you all do at Corem Deo (probably like the one that funded your operation for awhile). Sorry that over the years Ive experienced community in a Sunday School class and not some hip coffeehouse. Sorry that every once and awhile I’ve listened to K-Love–how could I be so lame. I guess artistically and spiritually we’re all way behind you guys. Just a first impression but on this website you come across as a community far more elitist than the churches many of you probably left to join Corem Deo.

  29. to the anonymous commenter,

    we welcome your feedback and observations. We have a lot to learn from those who can offer a fresh perspective. Your comments are obviously sarcastic and grossly general, but we’ll take them if it helps us cultivate a church that loves Jesus and engages culture in meaningful ways. I don’t think your “impression” fits many of our people, but again, impression counts for something. Thanks for joining the conversation.

  30. Will, You’re right that some of the comments were sarcastic, but they were no more general than the statements about “most” churches on the home page of your website. Do those churches fall short of God’s ideal? Of course. Are they filled with broken,flawed people and led by broken, flawed leaders? Of course. Could I say the same thing about Coram Deo? You tell me. The people in “most” churches are your brothers and sisters in Christ (and Im guessing some of them have written checks to support your church plant).They make up the body of Christ. When I read some of your statements it strikes me as unnecessarily denigrating those churches to elevate your fellowship and approach to ministry. I’m not sure how excited Jesus would have been if Peter and John were dogging Philip and Bartholomew in a public forum. I’m not criticizing what you seem to be trying to do at C.D. I hope you are blessed in your ministry and develop a true community of disciples. But one of the ways we engage the culture is by loving one another –last time I checked “most” churches were made up of people.

  31. To the anonymous commenter:

    I am saddened by the biting tone of your remarks. But as Will said, we welcome any and all interaction that will help Coram Deo more fully glorify and honor Jesus.

    It is important that you know that many of the people we are engaging are those who have rejected (or been rejected by) traditional expressions of the church. So while we affirm and honor our heritage and our spiritual unity with gospel-teaching churches around the city, we have also tried to intentionally distance ourselves from some elements of traditional evangelicalism. We do this not out of disrespect or arrogance, but out of a missional conviction to be “all things to all people… for the sake of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:22-23).

    Many Christians in the city who pray for and stand behind the work of Coram Deo have read the same things as you and have not reacted negatively, because they understand the mission Jesus has called us to. I trust that reading our website in that light will move you to a more gracious estimate of our intentions.

    If there has been any affront to you, intentional or unintentional, I urge you to contact us personally so that we can resolve it graciously and biblically. At the very least, it would be nice if you would identify yourself. Anonymity breeds a sharpness in tone and spirit; conversations tend to be much more gentle when one’s identity is at stake.

  32. Bob and Will, A couple of things. Sorry if I came across too harshly. I usually respond to national type blogs where there is strong dialog going on and its a little more impersonal. You guys are the leaders of a much smaller community and I clearly came across a little more personal than intended. Let me dial myself down to a less strident tone here.I don’t know you guys, have no interaction with you and have not been personally offended.As I came upon the homepage,and then clicked through the website and various bloggings (some of Bob’s go back several years) it seems pretty weak on the “honoring and affirming” part. Truth is that I agree with many of your assessments about the church . I empathize with those who have been wounded and hope Coram Deo is a place for healing and growth. But it’s just my opinion that in a day and age where a website is a primary entry point into a faith community, the cause of Christ might be better served by focusing on what you hope to become rather than the shortcomings of the more “conventional’ church. Thanks for the opportunity to dialog.

  33. Bob, thank you for affirming the comment about ruined lives in our society. I am relieved to know that your reference to gambling was a facetious one. I absolutely had taken your gambling comment to mean exactly what I heard, which lead to my “glossing over” label. We certainly have to be careful with how we say things. Words don’t have meaning, people do.

    I’ll be back to the “beer” issue later.

    GO FISH . . . for men.

    Chad Hansen

  34. Chad,

    Again, I am concerned that we remain biblically nuanced in this matter. Playing a game of low-stakes poker with friends or throwing a dollar in the office March Madness pool is categorically different from visiting a casino or playing the Lotto. There will be some who, due to convition or prior addiction, will rightly choose to refrain from anything associated with gambling. There will be other Christians who have the strength of conscience to draw the lines in different places.

    These issues are weighty because there are so many factors to consider, including how our decisions impact the broader acceptance of gambling in society, which does create ruin and addiction. You should know that I am writing from pastoral experience with these matters and I do not take them lightly. But neither do I take lightly the tendency in these sorts of ethical conversations to draw the lines in places where the Bible does not draw them.

  35. I just wanted to chime in and say, listening to Melinda perform “I Will Always Love You” at the American Idol concert last Friday gave me goosebumps, it was that good. Move over, Whitney!

    Ivan, 23, male, Phil Stacey apologist

  36. Bob, back to the “beer” discussion.
    Definition is very important. When I, Chad Hansen, hear the phrase “drinking beer”, I always interpret that to mean drinking beer after beer for the express purpose of getting drunk. That comes from my past experiences, BC. So, in order to be appropriately nuanced, I should restate my claim to read “getting drunk on beer is destructive and a ruination of many families and individuals”. This should square well with your follow-up that “the abuse of alcohal . . . causes destruction and ruination”. So as to not be thought a died in the wool separatist on this issue, I state that drinking a standard sized can or bottle of beer or a typical sized glass of wine, in and of itself, is a non-moral issue.

    Perhaps this communique` helps you to understand why a “robust and rousing mention of drinking [lots of] beer” can be perceived as evidence of syncretism. Yes?

    Now, you’ve opened another can of worms with your last note on the gambling issue. It sounds as if you are condoning the activities of playing poker for money and participating in office pools (for money or some consideration); both of which are illegal. Did I read you right? Please elaborate.

    God bless you.

    Proverbs 27:17

    Chad Hansen

  37. Yeah… aah… I didn’t know that. So thanks for the clarifier. I certainly would not condone any activities which are against the law. So apparently the examples I chose (in my ignorance) were not the best ones to make my point!

    Perhaps we could speak instead of the friendly wager Will and I make on the OU-Texas game every year, which often involves one of us buying the other a beer… the advantage of that example is that it will combine our conversations about the nuances of drinking and gambling into one. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  38. Playing poker for money is illegal? My understanding is that poker is only illegal when there is a “house” taking money. I’ll check with my poker and legal sources and get back to you.

  39. Being a novice blogger, it is just dawning on me that I have no dependable way of knowing when the other blogger(s) is being sarcastic, facetious, or serious.

    So, I think I am waiting for your more thoughtful reply.

    Chad

  40. In about half the states, social gambling is allowed, and a few of those place loss-limits on that. Nebraska is not one of the states that allows social gambling. You might want to check out http://www.lcc.ne.gov/gambling_faq.html

    A quick read of that site would indicate that yes, even your friendly wager on the OU-Texas game is illegal in Nebraska and Oklahoma, but not in Texas.

    Why am I on this like white on rice? It is due mostly to years of gambling in our extended family and the resultant turmoil.

    In Christ, Chad

  41. Good to know. And for clarity: I am not in this because I particularly enjoy gambling. I don’t remember the last time I played poker or waged something … although, I did have to change the area code on my cell phone because of a bet I lost to Bob. That hurt, like part of my identity being stripped away.

  42. Thankfully, Will and I made a lifetime annual wager on the OU-Texas game while both of us still lived in Texas. ๐Ÿ™‚

  43. Chad, I just now clued into your comment about not knowing whether or not I was being facetious … I didn’t know you were talking to me because I was not being facetious. I really do have “sources” on these matters … my neighbor is a lawyer and my brother-in-law is very active in the poker world, journalistically and politically.

    Sorry for the misunderstanding. I am actually enjoying the dialogue … I agree with you about the dangers of gambling and alcohol. My interest is in all of this is to help people work through those issues with discernment, not acting out of legalism or license. That is why I am glad we are having this conversation in a public arena … so others can work through it as they go.

    I respect your convictions … I just want to nuance the difference between where you draw the lines for you (perhaps rightfully so) and where the Bible draws (and doesn’t draw) the lines more generally.

    By the way, almost finished with the music article. I had to abandon the “long version” and settle for medium.

  44. Will, actually you and I were making comments at about the same time the other night. My comment about not knowing if someone was/is being facetious was 1.general in nature and 2.in response to Bob’s prior comment about “combining the conversation about the nuances of drinking and gambling into one”, followed by what may have been a wink ๐Ÿ˜‰ at the end.

    I so appreciate your comments and interest in the dialogue.

    Concerning drawing the lines, I believe that I understand the line the Bible draws on drinking alcohal. If a person wishes consume a little alcohal and they have no guilt in their conscience nor sinful attitude in their heart in regard to that action, they are not sinning. If a person consumes enough alcohal to the point of drunkenness, then they have sinned.

    Chad

  45. “I state that drinking a standard sized can or bottle of beer or a typical sized glass of wine, in and of itself, is a non-moral issue.”

    Chad, don’t you think that it could be possible that drinking alcohol that God created to “gladden the meart of men” (Psalm 104:15) could be a moral issue in that in can be glorifying to God?

    -Travis, *just stirring the pot little* ๐Ÿ˜‰

  46. standard size: wine – 6 oz. beer – 12 oz. proof liquor – a funny inverse relationship of proof to ounces.

    ivan, 23, male, with way too many years in the service industry

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