Friday, June 29, 2012


A few words of qualification before I start:
a) This is speculation. This is not fact, not doctrine; this is speculation. I saw this connection; thought it was interesting, and it made me think.
b) This seems really long for a blog posting, but, I want to make sure everyone knows the stories I’m talking about. If you already know them, you can probably skip them, though I hope you could still enjoy the spin I put on them.
                Today, I have three stories to tell. The first is a story of the Greeks.
                 Long, long ago, our ancestors were created by the gods in a state of bliss and sufficiency.[1] It was always spring and the climate was always mild; we knew only happiness and never wanted for anything. Our only obligation was to worship and serve the gods, which we did happily, for we knew nothing else.
                Now it happened that a titan, named Prometheus, began to wonder about the lot the gods had given us. “This is not right,” he thought to himself, “these creatures may be happy, but their bliss is in their ignorance, they are only happy as the dumb beasts are happy. Why should the gods have given them inquisitive minds and capable hands if they are not to use them?”
                This thought burned in his mind until one day he went to Zeus, king of the gods.
                “Oh, great Zeus,” he said “Why have you condemned these creatures to dumb ignorance? We should give the humans fire that they might grow in strength and knowledge.”
                “What you call ignorance is innocence.” Zeus replied “What you call darkness is the shadow of my will. Man is happy now. Man does not have fire, true, nor the crafts which fire teaches. On the other hand, he does not know disease, warfare, old age, or that inward pest called worry.”[2]
                “But they are only happy as the dumb animals are happy in their stupidity;” responded Prometheus, “they are happy only because they do not know what all that they do not have. Why have you made these creatures ingenious and capable if you will not let them use their ingenuity?
                “Humans are ingenious, yes, but they are also easily contained and easily awed. They use their ingenuity to worship us, but their blissful ignorance keeps them satisfied with their service. This is their purpose; this is their lot; and this is how they must remain.”
                “But surely, my lord, if we give them fire, they would be able to worship and serve us better; and they might become interesting to us as well.”
                “More interesting, perhaps, but infinitely more dangerous. For there is this in man too: a vaunting pride that needs little sustenance to make it swell to giant size. Improve his lot and he will forget that which makes him pleasing – his sense of worship, his humility. He will grow big and poisoned with pride and fancy himself a god, and before we know it, we shall see him storming Olympus. Enough, Prometheus! I have been patient with you, but do not try me too far. Go now, and trouble me no more with your speculations.”[3]
                Prometheus did leave, but he did not stop thinking. He mulled and ground at his thoughts until finally he came to a decision. He took some dry kindling, made a torch, and lit it with fire from Mt. Olympus. With this fire he descended to the tribe of men and showed them his gift. At first they were frightened of the fire, but Prometheus took some meat and let it cook slowly over the flames. Soon the humans’ eyes were opened as the delicious scent of cooking meat flowed into their nostrils. They could not help but descend ravenously upon the meat, savoring every last bite.
                With their stomachs won to his cause, Prometheus had only to teach the humans about the dangers of fire and how to contain it. They could discover all of the ways fire could be used on their own. Soon they were cutting down trees to fuel their fire, then they discovered that they could use the wood to make houses and villages as well. They discovered how fire would make metal soft and began making better tools to do more work with. They began using those tools to till the soil and raise crops, domesticate animals, and make ships to ply the oceans. They even made swords and spears and went out to wage war in the manner of the gods themselves.
                Soon, however, Zeus noticed a lag in the worship and sacrifice he received, he looked down and discovered, to his surprise, all these human endeavors laid out before him. In anger he tracked down Prometheus and demanded an account. Hearing the story he chained the titan to a rock and condemned him in his immortality to be forever fed upon by vultures and eagles for what he had done.
                Returning to the humans he sat down and watched them, angrily at first, but with a slow sly smile growing across his face. “This isn’t all bad,” he thought, “the game has become a bit more interesting now, just as Prometheus said. The humans will chase their new-found powers and eventually turn it upon each other. I will take revenge on Prometheus and his pets simply by allowing them to keep what they have taken.” And so he sits, watching through hooded eyes, the twisted destiny of humanity.
                The End
                My Second story is from the Hebrews:
The Garden of Eden
                In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth and all that is. He formed a man out of the dust of the earth and breathed life into him. He formed a woman out of the flesh of the man and gave the man and the woman to one other. The man was called Adam and the woman was called Eve.
                He set Adam and Eve in the middle of a garden where they had plenty of food and water and would never want for anything. They would never get sick, never hunger, never thirst, never be cold, never feel pain, never suffer, never die. He set them in relationship to their environment, in harmony and order with all creation and with God Himself. And every day, in the cool of the evening He would come and sit with them, or walk with them, or even simply hold them and be their father. He gave them a plan.
                “All this will continue day after day for as long as you can imagine if only you will do one thing.” He said, “Eat of the fruit of the tree of life, but do not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If ever you taste the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die.”
                They agreed and continued to live with their father, God.
                All went well until one day the serpent, the craftiest of all creatures, came and tempted them. “Did God really tell you not to touch the fruit?” He asked slyly.
                “Well, no,” they answered, “He did not.”
                “So go on, then, touch it. Does it not feel smooth and ripe? Can you feel the juice just bursting to get out? Fruit that feels like this simply must be eaten. What a waste for it to taste the ground! Why does God tell you not to eat of such wondrous fruit?”
                “God said that we would die if we ate it,” they answered.
                “What!” the serpent exclaimed laughing, “He said what! You will not die just from eating a piece of fruit! I know why God has told you not to eat it. He’s scared. He doesn’t want you to be like He is; He doesn’t want you to have knowledge and wisdom, and He knows that you will gain knowledge from eating this fruit.”
                So Adam and Eve looked at the fruit, and they looked at each other, and they looked at the serpent, and they took hold of the fruit, and they ate it. Just as the serpent said, they gained knowledge with their very first bite; before the juice was even dry on their chins they looked at each other and saw that they were naked. They were immediately embarrassed and went to cover themselves with plants and leaves and whatever they could find.
                Later that day, when God came, He found them hiding in the bushes, wearing tattered and torn fig leaves. He knew what had happened. He knew that they had rejected his plan; that they no longer trusted Him; that they wanted to find their own way in the world. So, He said “If you will not follow my instructions; if you will not trust what I say, and trust who I am, then I will let you find your own way. If you will not bear my presence, then you will have to leave my garden; and if you leave my garden, you must leave the tree of life. It will be hard for you, you will have to scratch the dirt to make it bear fruit, and you will have to suffer pain to alert you to danger. You will die, but I will not leave you without help. Although the Serpent who has led you astray will now forever more hunt you and lead you to danger, I promise you that one day, Eve, one of your daughters will bear a son who will crush this serpent and lead humanity back here to me.”
                So the Serpent was cursed; and Adam scratched the ground, and Eve bore children in pain; and their days were numbered in sweat and blood.
                The End
Two versions of the same story
                A simple chart will suffice to make my point
Creates humans
Creates Adam and Eve
Humans are in ignorant bliss
Adam and Eve are in perfect harmony
Prometheus’  name means “forethought”
The Serpent was the wisest of all the creatures
The story casts doubt on Zeus, Prometheus doubts Zeus
The Serpent causes humans to doubt God
Prometheus tempts with cooked meat
Satan tempts with fruit
Gift brings knowledge, but also war and disease
Fruit brings both knowledge and suffering
Prometheus is punished
Satan is cursed

Here is the last story, it is my own:
The Night the World Broke
                In the beginning, God formed humanity out of the elements of the earth. He crafted and shaped us out of creation. We were meant to love and be loved by God, and, through Him, with one another. These relationships were grounded in trust and knew no abuse. As long as there was no evil, we could trust with impunity. As long as we trusted God, we could never fall into evil (for evil is the antithesis of God). As long as the cycle continued, we held Paradise.
                Satan, for who knows what reason, despised this perfect society which we enjoyed with God and each other, so He came to us in the night. He brought fire. The fire was not magic; it was not special; and it brought no sudden epiphanies. It was just fire. But the fire was a symbol for something else. It was the symbol of a new way of life. It was a symbol of humanity’s attempt at providing for itself; of our turning our backs on God’s provision; and the beginning of our addiction to progress.
                Without fire, we had no need of fire. As long as we trusted God and allowed ourselves to be in correct relationship with Him, we had no needs that He did not take care of. But Satan knew that if He could get us to mistrust God, that He could break the whole system. We would leave God’s protection and become vulnerable to his machinations. Plus, by giving us fire, he could plant a myth in our heart: progress is always good, and more is always better. If He could convince us that we only needed new inventions and discoveries, or more money, or greater comfort to be happy, then we would never again look to God.
                So, he came.
“Hello,” he said gently, materializing out of the darkness with flint in his hand “May I join you?”
                At first, we were scared, especially when he piled up wood and started a roaring campfire; but his smile was easy and his stride was confident, so we didn’t try to stop him. He turned, surprised at our fear. “What, have you not seen this before? This is fire. It’s a wonderful tool.”           
                “No,” we said, “God has never even shown this to us.”
                Satan’s eyes grew large “Really? Wow, why would God keep such a marvelous gift from you.” Casually, he took a strip of raw meat and placed it over the fire. He stared into the flames for a moment, as if in deep thought, and then started and said “I wonder, has God told you what you are? Has He told you that you were made in His image, that you are gods?” Our looks of mystification answered his question. He stood “Why would God keep all this from you?”
                When he left, unnoticed as we stood fixated with the fragrance and flames, his words remained gnawing at our hearts. Questions turned to doubt, doubt turned to indignation, and indignation simmered into anger.
                The next day, God knew exactly what had happened. We believed the lie; we wanted to be gods. So, He let us. God is love, and love does not rape. Love does not force itself where it is unwanted. He tried to prepare us for the life we were choosing; He tried to warn us; He told us that once we left we could never get back on our own; that once mistrust is allowed to take root, you can never get it out.
Like a rebellious teenager, we ignored every word; and our story has been written in sweat and blood from that day to this.
The End

At what price do we progress?
Does my iPhone4 really make me any happier?
Did my ancestors smile, even through their sweat?
What has fire really brought us; and what has all our running around caused us to ignore?
Are we big enough to be our own gods?

[1] Herbert Spencer Robinson and Knox Wilson Myths & Legends of all Nations (NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1950) 123.
[2] Bernard Evslin, Dorothy Evslin, Ned Hoopes The Greek Gods (NY: Scholastic Book Services, 1966) 58. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are the author’s invention. The particular quote here footnoted is an exact quote from The Greek Gods.
[3] Evslin, 58-59. Exact quote.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Evangelized Evangelizers

Have you already been evangelized?

Ok, so here is the way I am used to thinking about evangelization. I was evangelized; my dad and others preached the gospel to me and I invited Jesus to live in my heart. After that moment, I no longer needed evangelization because I had already been evangelized. Now I needed discipleship. I needed to be instructed in the way to live life, and taught what beliefs I should hold. With practice, willpower, and the proper instruction, I would become well equipped to resist temptation, refute the heathen, and walk the path of Christ all the way to Heaven.
The presupposition I want to focus on is that evangelization is for the unsaved; and that after evangelization, the strategy of discipleship changes to a primarily intellectual and practical affair of learning beliefs and behaviors.
I believe that I made an error in how I understood the gospel. I thought that the cross reoriented me; I was headed in the wrong direction, and Christ re-directed me toward God. I thought that once my feet had been set to walking the right course, that I no longer needed the cross. I had my bearings, I knew the truth, and that was all I needed. How far off can a guy be!?!
Darrell Guder points out the flaw in my assumptions: “Christianity has no universal message to proclaim . . . witness is not the interpretation of philosophy but the continuation of the event of God’s self-disclosure in human history.”[1] The gospel is not a message; it is Christ. Evangelization is not conveying an idea or a philosophy to which one might intellectually assent; it is an encounter with a person whom one must either follow or reject.
If this is true, then that means that I must completely re-think my notion of evangelism. Evangelism is not conveying a set of propositions or beliefs. Such a definition would align well with a “once and done” understanding of evangelization: once I learned that the earth was round, and I filed that knowledge away in my brain so that I never had to re-learn it. But, if being evangelized is, instead, an encounter with a living person whom I must decide to follow, then I must also continually be re-deciding to follow Him, as the option to leave is always open. If this is an accurate picture of evangelism, then that means that evangelization applies to all people, not simply the unsaved.
I believe, therefore that evangelization is an ongoing existence characterized by the presence of Christ.. To evangelize is to allow oneself to be used as a conduit for the presence of Christ. To be evangelized is to submit; to surrender, moment by moment, to the Kingdom of Heaven. To evangelize is to be the living, concrete representative of that Kingdom; a catalyst for Heaven’s colonization of earth. To be evangelized is to be open to that Kingdom and its movement.
As Christians, it is our job to simultaneously embody the encounter between Christ and the other, as we open ourselves to encountering Christ in the other. We are to be, simultaneously, continually evangelizing and continually evangelized. Simul Peccator et Justus; simultaneously sinners and justified; the evangelizers being evangelized.
So, what do you think?

[1] Darrell L. Guder The Continuing Conversion of the Church (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000) 29.

Friday, June 15, 2012

To: Dad

            For as long as I can remember, you’ve always said that you didn’t want or need any presents. Well, guess what? This year, I’m takin’ you up on it. For Father’s Day, I want to let you know how much I appreciate you and all that you’ve done for me over the years. I understand that you sacrificed a lot for us, and I want to thank you. So, this is what your baby-broke soon-to-be-a-father youngest son has come up with for Father’s Day: a tribute blog.

Thank you for all the times you said something you didn’t want to say
Thank you for all the times you held your peace
Thank you for that one time you spanked me, the one time I deserved it  got caught
Thank you for the times when I wouldn’t be quiet and go to sleep
Thank you for all the nights you stayed up with me
Thank you for the nights you let me sleep in your room when I got scared (remember Hurricane Hugo?)
Thank you for all the times you talked with me
Thank you for all the times you let me talk
Thank you for not jumping into the Ohio River
Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a man
Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a Christian
Thank you for teaching me to appreciate beauty
Thank you for showing me the stars on the state capitol
Thank you for taking me on walks through cemeteries
Thank you for buying me toy soldiers and model airplanes
Thank you for showing me slideshows and pictures from our family’s past
Thank you for teaching me to appreciate history
Thank you for helping me to memorize Psalm 23, 1 John 1:9, et. al. on the way to school
Thank you for all the times you picked me up from school
Thank you for letting me laugh at you the one time you almost didn’t pick me up from school
Thank you for teaching me how to eat junk food while watching T.G.I.F.
Thank you for taking me to the Grand Canyon, Tombstone, and the Petrified Forrest
Thank you for the alphabet game on road trips (“Q” in Dairy Queen!)
Thank you for reading fairy tales to me
Thank you for painting with me at the kitchen table
Thank you for taking me to the museum
Thank you for wrestling with me on the family room floor
Thank you for taking us camping on the beach
Thank you for watching hockey with me
Thank you for all the late night discussions
Thank you for teaching me about God
Thank you for all the times you gave up what you wanted so that I could have what I wanted
Thank you for all the days you worked to provide for us
Thank you for taking on my Junior year of high school
Thank you for imparting your wisdom to me
Thank you for sending me to France
Thank you for encouraging me to sing
Thank you for the name Pelton, and thank you for what you did with that name before I got it
Thank you for letting me be me
Thank you for being you

I love you Dad; happy Father’s Day!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hello World!

                Well, here’s my first blog post. The first thing you should know is that I’m no good at introductions. When I write papers, I normally write the intros last in an effort to put them off to the last possible moment; although it never really has made sense to me to start writing an introduction before you’ve figured out what you’re going to say; and how do you figure out what you’re going to say until you’ve already said it?
Also, I ramble.
Which brings me back to my first point: I’m no good at introductions; so I can tend toward the abrupt.
                I should probably take a moment to tell you about myself. I don’t really have a career at present. I have and have had jobs, but my only true occupation is academics. If I could survive just by going to school, I would; no hesitation, none at all. Since I can’t, I work. Over the past decade I’ve had jobs singing, fixing cell phones, working in IT, helping to manage a homeless shelter, working retail sales, customer service and stocking groceries; but my occupation has always been that of a student.
Reading is also a major part of who I am; and, since I read a lot, much of my blogging will come out of what I read. That said, you may need to have an idea of what kinds of books I read. My home base in literature is probably fantasy, although I’ve been trying to branch out lately. My current reading list contains books like The Grapes of Wrath, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Emma and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I also read the occasional history (especially French and English history), philosophy, or religion book outside my studies. My other major hobby is hockey. I tried playing for a little while, but it’s expensive, time consuming, and I’m not very athletic; so I spectate. Go Predators!
You’ll also want to know about my personality. Myers-Briggs scores me as an INTP, with very close I-E and F-T scores; so, according to them, I’m intuitive, I don’t like planning, I’m a cross between touchy-feely and analytical, and I’m something like a social introvert. I’m very sarcastic and my sense of humor falls along the lines of Monty Python, The Princess Bride, and Douglas Adams. I’m also a night person.
So now that you know more about who I am, the next thing to know is why I’ve decided to blog, and what I’ll be blogging about. I’ll answer the second question first. My blogs won’t generally follow the events of my life, or chronicle the events in our family’s world. Instead, these blogs will be a journal of my thoughts, inspired by the things and ideas I encounter in everyday life, and the things I watch or read. Subjects will probably range from history and philosophy, to religion, politics, social theory, and the random whatever that comes from my head. I call it “Welcome to Left Field” because I’m giving vent to a lot of the crazy thoughts that most people filter out before saying; and I’m letting my theology be speculative. Please be slow to drag me to the pyre J
The reasons why I’ve decided to blog are complex. One of the biggest is simply that I have too much in my head and I need to get it all out. Blogging also requires me to process my thoughts and work through them. Hopefully, some of these thoughts will connect in some sort of coherent form, but I make no promises.
Well, that’s probably what you need to know for now. I’ll try to post at least once every friday, (due date is 11:59pm CST). Hope to see you back here next week; in the meantime, thanks for stopping by, and welcome to left field!