Fear Of Whales

Archive for June, 2011

Egalitarianism V Complementarianism

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A long time ago I wrote an article about Calvinism and Arminianism (Free Will and Predestination) where I argued that the debate itself was theologically valuable, and that the reason it was able to persist so long was that both points held truths that the other missed.

I argued at the time that the same could be said for other great debates, but until today I haven’t followed up on any of them.

I want to crack open Egalitarianism V Complementarianism today, which is the theological debate about gender roles. On the lay level this is summed up in the question “Can women be pastors?” but on a scholarly level it has much broader implications.

Complementarians say that while Women and Men are equal, they have differing and complementary roles. Leadership roles are reserved for men, and support roles are better suited to women. Egalitarians argue that this is prejudiced, and that in Christ we are given the freedom to do whatever it is that God made us and called us to do regardless of gender.

As was the case before, these two points are mutually exclusive. Only one can be true, (or they are both wrong). But as previously, both hold truths about God which are deep and valuable and difficult to understand apart from the doctrines.

Egalitarians see God the creator as fair, and Christianity as progressive. After all, justification by grave is the first and only means to holiness that is utterly egalitarian, helping people of all races, classes, and genders equally. Christianity is a libertarian religion that calls us to throw down the shackles of slavery that formerly held us back and be who we are, only moreso, in Christ. This message is central to the heart of Christianity, and our adoration of the savior who defied all societal, and religious expectations.

As something of an egalitarian myself, I’m often struck by how wooden the interpretation of the bible is among my more conservative brothers. It seems to me that Jesus was far more interested in people than he was in rules.

The complementarians however will point out that they don’t disagree with any of that (they just don’t emphasize it). However, equality cannot and should not be assumed to mean sameness. “Yes,” say the complementarians, “the genders are equal under God, but they are also different, and any 7th grade anatomy book should make that obvious. Women should not be made to function as men in order to achieve equality anymore than men should be asked to bear children.”

There are disappointing societal structures that have been built which assign prestige to masculine roles, but the problem is not the roles, it’s the structures! And these should be done away with so that when I look at a women, and I see that there are elements of my spirit, my body, and my whole self that are different from hers and I would not assume that makes her inferior, but instead, that those differences make her “other” or “holy” a oasis of femininity to be protected and cherished for what it is.

Written by RyanGaffney

June 29th, 2011 at 9:56 am

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“Someday I’d love to take a road trip with no predetermined destination.”

“I’ve been meaning to see that movie, It’s on my list”

“One of these days I’ll go back and finish college”

“I wish knew how to dance”


How about we go do that. That sounds good, Let’s do that right now!


Why not? We’re grownups now, there is nothing keeping us from accomplishing our dreams but us.

Oh, I see “You don’t have the time”

Well here’s the thing about time:

Everything that ever happens, or has happened, or is going to happen, happens at the same time.
And that time is called “Now”.

Nothing in the entirety of human history has ever happened in the future. And nothing ever will happen in the future, because the future is not a time when things happen.

Likewise nothing has ever happened in the past, and nothing will happen. You might think it has, but you are mistaken.
“The Boston Tea Party” you might say. “That happened in the past”
No it didn’t.

The Boston Tea Party happened in the present. It’s just that back then December 13, 1773 was the present

Now the Boston Tea Party is in the past, and that’s why it isn’t happening anymore. Because the past is not a time when things happen.

Similarly you might think something is going to happen in a couple weeks, but it isn’t going to. Do you know why?

Because a couple weeks is in the future. So nothing will ever happen then.

Mid-August is a different story. I’m writing this in late June, so a couple weeks from now is going to be mid-August. And on August 11th something might happen. But when it does it won’t be in a couple weeks, it will be when August 11th is right now.

Does that make sense? Because it’s important! It might seem like I’m being pedantic and weird, worrying about technical stuff that doesn’t matter. But it makes a difference. And It’s the difference between all your dreams coming true and not.

When people say “I’ll do it when I have more time” what they don’t realize they are saying “I will never do it” Because you will always have exactly the same amount of time as you have right now, everyone does. That’s a part of the definition of time.

So do it.

Or else don’t.

Written by RyanGaffney

June 27th, 2011 at 12:28 am

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Literal And Figurative

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I get asked often whether I believe Genesis to be “Literal” or “Figurative”

I usually say figurative. I’m a theistic evolutionist, I think the universe is about 4 and a half billion years old, and that life on earth was created gradually. I think the Origin stories in Genesis and John are both steeped in rich symbolic and mythic tradition and poetic language.

Most people who say that they believe genesis “literally” believe the world is 6 to 10 thousand years old, was created at the same time as the universe, and was inhabited by the first family a week later. So I wouldn’t want to be misleading or deceptive by implying that’s what I believe.

Still I don’t feel completely comfortable saying I believe Genesis only figuratively or symbolically. that word “only” looms large.

sometimes people might describe my understanding of creation as “just a symbol” which is patently untrue.

a symbol? Yes!

“Just a symbol”? Absolutely not!

This is probably a diffacult tension for you to understand if you are standing on the other side of the fence. So I have an example:

Isaiah 2:4 offers a familiar prophesy about the coming kingdom:

4And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

Now my question is: Do you believe that literally or figuratively?

Well… Both! Right?

If you are like me then you believe that Jesus is real and he is really coming back and when he does there will literally be no more war and we won’t have any use for things like swords anymore!

But obviously we aren’t literally going to beat literal swords into literal plowshares. I mean… Come on… Jesus hasn’t come back yet and already we are not really using swords much. We’re not using plowshares either, we have big mechanical tractors, you can’t make those out of swords even if you wanted to.

There is not reason to make useless ancient tools for farming out of useless ancient tools for war. it isn’t going to happen. But that doesn’t mean we won’t make swords into plowshares, we just won’t do it literally. What we will actually do is turn Machine Guns into nail guns, and use nuclear bombs to power spaceships, and spread the gospel using a military technology known as the “internet”

Do you feel like that compromises the meaning of Isaiah?

I don’t

What would you say if you met someone who thinks that when Jesus comes back we’ll all have to take up blacksmithing so we can bang on swords until they become plows for some reason?

Would you think they have more or less trust for the scriptures than you do?

That’s also how a feel about Genesis. I think it’s rich and deep and awesome and exciting and it has some great symbols. And people point at me and say I’m watering it down, but I don’t feel like I’m compromising at all. I just feel like I’m reading the Bible as it’s written.

Written by RyanGaffney

June 25th, 2011 at 6:32 am

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Heaven is a big place

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My first paid ministry job was at a little Lutheran Church in California. The pastor was everything you’d expect from a little mainline church (that’s not him in the picture but it’s the same idea) He was old but not aged, always well dressed, and with a smile a mile wide. He used to teach the Catechism class for the Jr. High kids who were getting confirmed.

I’ve never forgotten him, or what he said in those classes. Much like a good Lutheran he was laser focused on salvation by grace alone, when kids would misunderstand things or get a question wrong  he loved to say “well no, but ya’know if you ever forget, you’ll still go to heaven!”

He spelled his stance out more clearly at one point, while seated on a chair that was way too small for him in his robe. “When I was young I used to think there was one way to God and it was my way, and anybody who had it different was just off, or they weren’t really a christian. The older I get the more people I allow into my understanding of heaven, heaven is a big place, and there are going to be a lot of kinds of people there, not just people like me.”He chuckled, and then continued “I still think my way is the best, but we’ll find out in heaven, right kids?”

That’s always stuck with me, and I wish I had heard it more often from christian leaders so i wanted to take this forum and pass his wisdom along. I think Pastor would like that.

Oh! and also, he would want me to mention that “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” write that down!

Written by RyanGaffney

June 23rd, 2011 at 5:03 am

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Monogamy refers to a form of marriage in which an individual has only one spouse at any one time. However, monogamy may also refer to the more general state of having only one mate at any one time and as such may be applied to the social behavior of some animals. In current usage monogamy often refers to having one sexual partner irrespective of marriage or reproduction.
Form Wikipedia

Of if you prefer Websters: marriage with only one person at a time (compare to “bigamy”)

So let me say this clearly, because it seems like we are very confused about something here. CHRISTIAN DATING RELATIONSHIPS SHOULD NOT BE MONOGAMOUS

Christian Marriages should be monogamous. Christian dating relationships need to be “Nonogamous”. If you are dating someone it’s vitally important that you not also be married (even if your only married to one person) or to use the looser modern use of the word, you should not have only one sexual partner. You should have zero sexual partners. in anticipation of having only one.

Nonetheless christian authors make big bucks off of telling young and restless teenagers the step by step proscription God has for their dating life and it almost always includes a heavy dose of monogamous commitment right at the beginning (or often even before the relationship starts)

This isn’t just a confusion in the christian world either. It’s often a rule on secular Dating Shows like the Bachelor that there is to be “No sex before monogamy” that sentence makes no sense. That’s like saying you are to eat no fish until they’re aquatic. By this they do not mean that the contestants should not have intercourse prior to marriage, they are saying that they should not have intercourse until you are ready to stop dating other people. (“going steady”) Of course if you currently have zero sexual partners than beginning a relationship with the first one is monogamous by default.

What this does essentially, is confuse “-Gamy” Meaning “Marriage” and by association “Sex” with another word that means “Dating” or “Flirting” but it’s vitally important that we understand that these are two very different things because if we start to thing dating is marriage  and marriage is dating then what we are going to start to see is that married people will start to “break up” and divorce rates will go sky high, and dating people will start to think they are “monogamous” and therefore sex would be okay and you’ll see lots of premarital sex.

And we wouldn’t want that to happen would we?

There is a much easier answer: No sex before monogamy, sure, but no monogamy before marriage, no gamy of any sort before marriage, just lots of flowers and chocolates and fun times had together until dating time is over and a new season begins (whether that be engagement or more dates with other people or singleness)

Written by RyanGaffney

June 17th, 2011 at 6:35 pm

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It’s not about Islam

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What do you know about Islam?


You know the mane of their prophet, and their holy book right?

Do you know what the central tenants of their faith are? (hint: there are 5 of them)

If you’re like most Americans your knowledge about Islam probably drops off after that, and You’ll start talking about the war in Iraq.

You aren’t so uninformed as to think Haamas and Al Queda represent the entirety of Islam. You know better. but still in your head when you think of Islam, You’re kinda thinking Al Queda.

And you’re getting this information from the news and the church foyer and the coffee shot as you talk about the war.

There’s a problem though. A very serious problem, with getting your information about Islam from the War in Iraq.

The war is not about Islam

It’s near Islam.

There are islamic people there.

But it’s not about Islam it’s about politics.

See we’ve been buying oil and a very small minority class has been benefiting from that, and while we’ve been doing things like fighting the Cold War and becoming the dominant world power, much of the middle east has been picking up the pieces from their last interaction with the west….Over and over again… for generations.

So a certain group of people got kinda annoyed about that and staged a massive protest in New York City, which we retaliated to, which they responded to and so on….

And it’s a big complicated mess because we’re kinda allies with the governments of most of these nations, but their people kinda don’t like us very much and so they are all kind of afraid of internal revolt so they are sort of only half helping us, and half covering their butts, and now there’s all sorts of independent revolts for democracy and we don’t always know what side to be on because we’re in a financial crisis and…. yeah…

But it’s not about Islam. and it’s not about Christianity.

The terrorists use Islam and adapt it to explain and respond to what they are feeling and what they want, and they talk about their political allegiances using Islamic vocabulary, but it would be very much the same if the middle east had been Zoroastrian or Hindu instead.

In the same way, we have responded in a majority christian culture, by co-opting out christian vocabulary and saying things like “God Bless America” “One Nation Under God” “Pray for the Troops” yadda yadda. But we aren’t responding to terrorism because we’re christian. We’re responding because we’re American, we’re just talking about it the way we are because we’re christian. It’s the same for them.


“Yeah, Yeah…” You’ll say. “…But it kinda IS about Islam though, isn’t it” with ears full of sawdust from having heard for 10 years that this is what Islam is about.


No it isn’t. But for the sake of argument. Let’s suppose for a second that it was. Let’s say this is a war about Christians vs Muslims not US vs Terrorists. if that’s  the case: then we are wrong!

We’re wrong!

In Islamic language they use the word “Jihad”, we have a very similar word in Christian parlance “crusade” which is a holy war against Muslims, and it hearkens back to one of the darkest times in our history when we went in and invaded the middle east trying to convert all the heathens by means of the sword and reclaim the holy land. If this is a war about religion then there is no question that it is a crusade.

And this crusade is worse than the last. After all, we already have the holy land. We gave it to the Jews and protected them with Nukes. And now what are we after? Peace? Certainty not. More like revenge.


If this war is about terror it’s justifiable. It’s a bit questionable to try to fight an idea using violence but an argument can be made in support of it.

If it’s about national defense, it’s justifiable. We need to make sure nothing like 9/11 ever happens again. It might seem counter-intuitive to do that this way. But at least it’s one way to do it

Even if it’s a war about oil it’s justifiable, It’s again questionable but hey, listen! we payed for that oil, and it’s not our problem if their government is too unstable to share the wealth. if it’s causing problems for us, we have enough money and enough guns to solve the problem. Don’t mess with us! U-S-A! U-S-A!


If this is a war about Islam than we have no recourse. Make no mistake, they did not draw first blood, we did. And even if we hadn’t Jesus doesn’t speak too highly of revenge. Crusades are terrible moral atrocities, and not a part of the way of Jesus. So if you think this war is about fighting Muslims then we need to stop right now and apologize. Otherwise we should start talking about it more as what it is.

Written by RyanGaffney

June 15th, 2011 at 2:11 am

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It seems to be a common problem in Christendom that we feel like we are stuck waiting.

It’s not a problem I am at all unfamiliar with

At one point in my life I was waiting for a church to hire me as a Youth Director. I remember recounting to a friend that my call to ministry felt like God presenting a giant oak door to me, which I obediently started walking towards. But that at that I was relating the story moment I felt like I had arrived at the door to find it closed. “I have faith that when the time is right God will open the door” I said to her “but right now I’m being pushed up against a closed door, and knowing that it will open someday isn’t helping much”

It seems like a lot of Christians I meet feel like that, whether called to Professional Ministry or not, we are all called to minister, and it seems like more and more people are hearing that call, and then waiting.

I felt that again when I was Fund Raising to come out to Kansas. It was a full year from the time I first heard there was an opportunity here for campus ministry, to the time I finally left California. And during that entire time I sat waiting for the events to align that would enable me to move.

It’s a good process, it teaches us reliance on God, and patience, and all sorts of other good things. But it’s also infuriating, and it makes you feel desperate and purposeless. Your life begins to feel like a waiting room at a train station, and the train is way behind schedule. It’s hard to live for God today while waiting for tomorrow, and sometimes this waiting stretches on for years at a time.

The common wisdom is to keep waiting, have faith, pray more. and the common wisdom is not wrong, that’s often the right thing to do. But the common wisdom is also common, and there’s another side to this coin that needs to be addressed.

So here’s my advice on making it go away.

Have you considered getting on a train?

Because if you’re just sitting there in that waiting room, and trains keep whizzing by, and you keep identifying them as “the wrong train” maybe it’s time you just hop on one.

Try to pick one going in vaguely the right direction and get on. Worse case scenario: You just got on the wrong train, and you’ll catch yours at the next station, best case: this train was right all along, you just didn’t recognize it from the outside.

The bible tells a story of Johnathan In 1 Samuel Ch 14 who without prompting from God or anyone, decided to rout out the Philistines.  Even Johnathan himself did not know if it was what he was called to but said “Perhaps the Lord will give us victory today” and proceeded forward.
And God did give him victory.

Meanwhile when Baalam began down a road which God didn’t want him on God made a Donkey to talk and give him better directions!
Bodies in motion can be redirected, but bodies at rest tend to stay at rest.

So pick something good, something that goes with what you already know God wants for the world and try it. If you end up doing the wrong good thing that’s okay! God can fix it.

When I was Waiting fro my Youth Minister Job I got involved with a Church that accepted me as a volunteer and I began to work with them in their young adult ministries to develop their College room into a 24 Hour Coffee Bar.

It’s long been a dream of mine to see a community where at 2 in the morning you could go and interact with people. When you are at your most desperate place, and nobody loves you you know you can always go there.

It seemed like something God would like, so even though it wasn’t youth pastoring (or even a paying job) I got to work. I learned to make Espresso Drinks, and cleaned up the room. We repainted it and designed a new look for the building. I made logos, and wrote up proposals to present to elders, and they came back with positive feedback.

Then La Mirada United Methodist Church hired me, and I responded to the call I had been waiting for. I said goodbye to the other church and did my best to leave other leaders to take over the mission but found none who were able to commit themselves to that mission.

The College Group moved to the sanctuary, the Coffee House is now a very nicely painted Storage Room.

No harm done.

A year later I took some of the blueprints for that College Coffee House and Built a Swing Dancing Venue in La Mirada for Young Adults. The work I did there caught the attention of my current supervisor and got me the job here in Kansas, and now months after leaving the state, The Dance still happens every Wednesday night without me thanks to the leaders who took it over in my absence.

I want to challenge you to find your Coffee House. Pick something that you can do right this minute, to take action towards a goal that seems good. That goes with the fruit of the holy spirit. and if nothing else. It will keep you from going crazy waiting for the real writing on the wall to show up.

Written by RyanGaffney

June 13th, 2011 at 12:28 am

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Multiple Man

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Introduction Games are just a fact of life when you meet as many new people as regularly as I do. It seems like just about every month I’m in a new circle telling people my name rank and serial number, along with what my dream car is, or what major I had, or what my most embarrassing moment was.

Last time this happened we talked about super powers. “If you could have any super power what would you have?” which is actually a complicated question when you are a huge nerd like me. Most normal people are trying to choose between speed, strength, or invulnerability, but nerds know that the possibilities really are endless. In the X-Men continuity alone there are over 3000 Mutant Powers.

The nerd’s mind is also rife with useless information about the pitfalls of superpowers. Nerds know that light hitting your retina is what enables you to see, and so if you are invisible and light is going right through your eyes, scientifically speaking you should go blind, which would definitely not be worth it!

Well anyway I have officially settled the matter for all introduction circles about superpowers so that I don’t have to spend three hours thinking. I settled on multiplication, Like Multiple Man (pictured) which means the ability to copy myself in order to take every opportunity, even those that happen at the same time. To spend the time getting a Masters in philosophy and not miss out on the chance to go on mission in Zambia at the same time. Meanwhile another me might be in Tibet studying Kung Fu on a mountaintop so he could come back and merge back into the rest of us. Best of all, It has no obvious downsides.


Interestingly. I realized that this already what I do. I myself can only be in one place at a time, I can only leader one bible study or visit one church in any given moment. So I spend most of my time teaching other people to do it instead, and then letting them teach others who teach others. This is the way Jesus, who multiplied his ministry into 12 disciples saw those 12 to multiply and multiply until we saw little Christs in every nation of the world.

I might not be able to take every opportunity, but one of my multiples can get the pieces I miss. Pretty cool

Written by RyanGaffney

June 9th, 2011 at 6:28 pm

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On Lying

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It's all natural, non dairy, AND all natural!I had a friend back in California who’s mother was completely opposed to the consumption of dairy products. her father on the other hand was more lenient on the subject, and it was a significant childhood memory for her that her dad would occasionally sneak her out and get ice cream at thrifty. Before they left however they would each consume a small taste of her mother’s Non-Dairy-Rice-Based-Iced-Cream-Substitute so that when Mom returned home they would not have to lie about the fact that they both had “Rice Dream” (as the concoction was called)

The story is very cute but it rather completely misses the point of morality. Mom’s desire was clearly not that her children consume minute quantities of Rice Dream, It was that her children do not consume dairy. By telling her that you had Rice Dream you are using an irrelevant fact for sole purpose of deceiving her into drawing an incorrect conclusion about what else had not been consumed that night.

Nonetheless this sort of thing very common within the christian church, Brother Andrew told a similar story in his book “God’s Smuggler”. Andy spent his life bringing bibles,and teaching gospel lessons in “closed countries” where it was illegal. Nonetheless he refused to lie as he went about breaking the law of these various nations, and records his difficulty in making the decision to describe himself on an immigration application, not as a “missionary” but a “teacher”. To the brother’s mind this was of course technically true, but to the authorities the information received was certainty not “I am entering your country for the expressed purpose of breaking it’s laws”

Even as far back as 350AD the great Saint Athanasius who famously defended the doctrine of the trinity in the early church was not immune from this tradition. Once when the roman emperor sent troops up the Nile to find ant kill him Athanasius sailed his ship right past them. they asked him “Have you seen Athanasius?” and he responded honestly “you are not far from him” so they sailed on.

One can only justify tactics like this by taking a very specific definition of lying. Perhaps you could define it as “Intentionally saying something which you know to be false to another person in order to get them to believe it” this then would exclude statements of untruth like sarcasm or irony, as well as acting, and simply being mistaken. It also excludes deceptive statements of truth like “I ate Rice Dream”. But at that point, Why bother? If it is moral to deceive your neighbor as much as you wish so long as you do not technically break the rule, then what exactly is the rule there for? Just for kicks?

Maybe instead of striving not to lie we should strive to be honest. Honesty has a much wider definition that implies we should communicate truth in all circumstances (truth being defined as that which corresponds to reality) This begins with honesty with yourself, meaning that if you are a career criminal for the gospel you probably shouldn’t pretend like you are following all the rules as well. 😉

Written by RyanGaffney

June 6th, 2011 at 8:53 pm

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Thoughts on Biblical Womanhood

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I’d like to show you a video of a young theologian expressing her thoughts on biblical womanhood.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rbMHLDY1pA&w=640&h=390]
All jokes aside I think the fact that this is funny to us illustrates an intriguing point about the normal desires for woman and how they are being changed.

I can’t say I disagree with her. Heck yeah Gurl! if he gives you an ultimatum you say “Movin’ on!” ::Z-Snap::

Then again… she’s five… Isn’t she still supposed to be under the deluded and kinda creepy notion that she will marry whoever rescues her from the dragon first?

Written by RyanGaffney

June 5th, 2011 at 12:28 am

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