About My 500th Post

This is my 500th post. I remember a joke from a comic strip (can’t remember which one) that showed a historical marker that stated that it was the 1000th historical marker put up by a certain person. Of course, that was meant to be funny. The marker has no purpose except to reference itself.

But at risk of doing the same thing, let me reflect on this being my 500th post.

Doing 500 of almost anything is quite an investment of thought and aggravation. Since there is no financial remuneration for the effort (my son did used to get paid to produce copy for websites, and some blogs do have advertising… but these do not pertain for me). Is it really worthwhile doing? .

1. In readership, the answer is NO. I (as of today) average a little over 60 hits per post. Since, I have a couple of posts that have had several thousand hits, the average of the other 498 posts is more like a bit over 50 hits per post. Not really worth it. I have more hits on my slideshare account for a couple of dozen presentations… much less work. Periodically, I get offers from SEO experts in how to pull in more readership… but, frankly, my interests are fairly limited and I expect my readership to be fairly limited. Not really looking to suck people in with deceptive links, tags, and the like.

2.  Financially, the answer is NO. I don’t do advertisements and don’t do “donations” and the like. Some do, and that is okay, I am sure. My son used to earn money by researching and writing copy for websites (and people have offered to sell those same services to me). It’s just not for me.

But there are reasons that are valid for me, at least.

A.  For me, these 500 posts help me think, create, and worship. I think better when I write… more so than when I am in internal monologue mode, or speaking mode. It helps me make something new. As long is it is only in thought it is likely to get lost. It will eventually fade away. It is also worship. My form of worship is not really in music, movement, or ritual. For me, it is in contemplation and action (or action/reflection).

B. It allows me to join the worldwide discussion of important topics (important to me at least). There are great voices of wisdom on the Web, and the idle chatter of fools. It is quite likely that have have been among both the great voices and the idle chatter… but either way, one becomes part of the dialogue. As such, I get the opportunity to learn and grow, and others do (hopefully) from me as well.

C. It feeds my other work. It helps me with my lesson plans for seminary, as well as my (limited) work on books and articles. Ideas get created and tested in the blog and upon reflection, some ripen and are ready to be part of something bigger.

I don’t know if I will ever make to to 1000… but it is cool to have reached this milestone.

The “Sin” of Submission

This is a touchy subject. I am American and Americans are not necessarily big fans of submission. Over here in the Philippines, submission is somewhat more appreciated. Confucian relationships (4 of 5) are built around submission (and to a far lesser extent, benevolence). “Islam” and “Muslim” as terms relate to the concept of submission. Some other religions here in the Philippines also take a very high view of submission.

In Christian circles recently, I have seen those who have strongly, even vociferously, pushed a high view of submission as a virtue. A few ways this has been done has been:

  • High submission to government officials based on Romans 13 (primarily).

  • High submission of wife to husband. Complementarian beliefs

  • High submission of child to parent (even after the child is grown up).

  • High submission of church members to church hierarchy.

I would argue that submission can as easily be a sin as a virtue.

  1. Submission in itself is not a virtue… it really depends, in part, on the object of one’s submission. Submitting oneself to God is a good thing. Submitting to Satan or to one’s addictions is not virtuous– far from it.

  2. Submission, even when the object of the submission is Biblically encouraged, is always wrong when perpetuates evil. One should not do evil things because one is submitting to the evil will of another. One should not cover up evil, submitting to the evildoer allowing more harm to be done. “I was just following orders” is no excuse. The OT prophets never commended people for obeying evil rulers. Rulers were responsible for doing evil… but so were the people.

  3. Related to point #2, submission is always ultimately to God. In fact, if God says to submit to someone, we do it because we believe that God is the ultimate one to submit to. However, related to that, if the object of one’s submission is requiring one to break one’s submission to God, than God takes first place, not the other.
  4. (Christian) Submission ALWAYS involves mutuality.

This last point is really important, but perhaps needs a bit of explanation. Ephesians 5:21 says that Christians are to submit one to another. Of course, almost immediately afterwards certain aspects are brought up such as wives submitting to husbands or servants (slaves) submitting to bosses (masters). It would be easy to say that these latter cases negate the first case. I read a LONG article just minutes ago written by a very impassioned Christian pressing this very point… that mutuality in submission is not Biblical. Despite his passion, his argument seemed fairly weak. In fact, the concept of mutuality (including, but not limited to, submission) appears to be a lost virtue in the church, taught over and over again in the Epistles (just look at all of the “one another passages”, and modeled by Christ.  Mutuality, of course does not mean that there is no differentiation of roles. but the one who is served, should also serve. The one who encourages others also has a Biblical need for encouragement by others. Those who are submitted to by others, must also demonstrate submission to others… all within the church family.

Christian submission always involves a certain amount of mutuality. Actually, if one ignored the verse on mutual submission and simply accepted the other Biblical verses on mutuality (serve one another, bear one anothers’ burdens, love one another, admonish one another, etc.) the point would still stand. It would be challenging at best to come up with a definition of non-mutual submission that would be compatible with the other guidelines on mutuality.

It may be true that submission in Confucian, Islamic, or secular models does not have mutuality, but Christian submission does. Sometimes we fall into the trap of defining things based on historical norms rather than what is true. Consider ecological concerns. I have known people to have argued that Christians don’t have to express ecological stewardship and concern because humans are supposed to have “dominion” over the earth. But that argument is, unconsciously, based on a 16th century view of what it means to have dominion over something (divine right to control with impugnity… exercising “droit du seigneur”). But Biblical dominion is understood Biblically in terms of the good shepherd of Ezekiel 34, not the bad shepherds.

Christian submission is built around the fact of equality before God. The brotherhood (and sisterhood) of man is not just a nice thought but is grounded in physical reality (Genesis 1), divine reality (Galatians 3), and ecclesiastical mandate (James 2). Since nature and God place all as equal, when culture/society places one over another, this placement has strong moral limitations. In fact, those in charge have a greater responsibility to serve those in need. Kings who submit to their own greed rather than to the will and needs of their people are condemned (Ezekiel 34 again, as well as I Samuel 8).

Mutual submission is best understood in Christ. Again, I read an article that passionately attacked this view… but to me that person’s argument is highly flawed. Philippians 2 talks about Christ voluntarily submitting Himself. When one combines this with the text of the Gospels, we see a number of ways that Christ submitted. He submitted Himself to the will of the Father. But He also submitted Himself to the limitations of humanity, to human parents, to human laws, to service of those in need, and to death.

Of course, one reason some people get nervous about mutual submission is that they feel that it is a flanking maneuver to negate the Biblical concept of submission. I would argue that it MAY INDEED be a flanking maneuver to negate some people’s mental picture of submission… but not a Biblical view of submission. Mutuality is based on reality and on Christian love. Submission is built on that same foundation… or it is not Christian.

Mutual submission generally implies two different but necessary aspects:

  1. Submission involves  a relationship that is Biblically supported or culturally promoted and dictated within a power structure.

  2. Submission involves a relationship that is voluntary, loving, and sacrificial.

If one only had the first of these two, one definitely has submission. But one needs both to have Christian submission.

It is true that Christians are supposed to submit even in certain situations where mutuality does not exist. The Kingdom of God may be all around us, but does not completely hold sway. We do submit to the power structures of government even when that government in some ways is bad. Wives are to submit in some ways to bad husbands and servants to bad masters. Yet the argument in all of these is in showing good Christian testimony (adorning the gospel as it says in Titus 2:10) not in demonstrating the inherent virtuousness of such submission. Submission is unlimited only to God and even there, God does not assume rulership of all things at this time. If submission was a virtue unto itself, then Christians would have no place to challenge, prophetically, evils of those in power. OT prophets challenged powers and dominions, Christ did, and the apostles did. So submission must be properly grounded in a Christian/Biblical understanding rather than a “Websterian” (based on dictionary definitions) understanding.

Cross-cultural Missions Diagram

Just been working on a drawing for showing work in a different culture.  In this case, the missionary is from Culture A, and is seeking to minister to Culture B. It works for me at least. Maybe I will be able to improve it later.

Question 1:  What should happen culturally for someone in Culture B to become a follower of Christ?  Options:

  • Become Culture A? Lose their original culture. Frankly, it is doubtful that Culture A is especially close to God. But even if it was closer… someone from Culture B will always be a second-rate citizen of Culture A… not because of status, necessarily, but adaptation.
  • Stay Culture B? Ultimately missions is about conversion… not “fire insurance.” Conversion changes things so Culture B would not to change, not simply e affirmed.
  • Grow in Counterculture (CB)? I believe this is the goal. The Old Testament patriarachs stayed essentially Semitic. Even with the Mosaic Law, followers of Yahweh were recognizably Semitic and distinctly not other cultures. Greek and Roman Christians were also distinctly Greek and Roman rather than other cultures… although distinct in certain ways. That is what counter-culture means. Counter-cultures are distinctly part of the dominant culture, while still challenging that culture.

Missional WorkQuestion #2. If counter-culture (CB) is the goal for followers of Christ in dominant culture B, then who is the best witness to culture B? That one is easy. The best witness is a follower of Christ in CB. As a member of the dominant culture, he (or she) can connect with the people while understanding how to challenge that culture with God’s truth.

Question #3. How does such a witness (CB) develop in the culture B?

  1. God is always at work in all cultures. In Culture B, God has been at work, is at work, and will continue being at work. We can call this His Missional Plan (MP)
  2. God’s message needs to be available in a form that is understandable and relevant to Culture B. We can call this the Translated Message (TM).
  3. God’s messenger is needed. If there is no such messenger in that culture, than one must come from a different culture (Culture A) As a messanger, he (again, or she) will:  (1) assist in making the message understandable and relevant (TM), (2) help people in Culture B to see what God has been doing, is doing, and will be doing in the culture (MP), and (3) work to develop an indigenous witness (from CB). To be effective in these areas… all requiring a fairly subtle understanding of Culture B, the missionary needs to be involved in “incarnational ministry.” That is, the missionary must follow the model of Christ learning and growing within the culture of ministry (Culture B).