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Messages - Mike Bennett

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76
If you are asking me, yes.

This is how the little Quote thingy works, in case anybody should care what the question was to which you are offering a Yes answer.

77

Compare Joshua with his army coming into the foreign land and Jonah coming into the Assyrian (a traditional enemy of Israel) capital city of Ninevah by himself. Joshua kills everyone. Jonah converts everyone (even when Jonah didn't want to).


And the key difference I find is that God commanded Joshua to do one thing and Jonah to do another.  

We can read further in each account to learn what happened after (a) Israel stopped obeying God's command regarding Canaan and (b) Jonah (kicking and screaming) did obey God's command regarding Ninevah.

Mike Bennett

78
Oh my goodness, Pastor.  "The reason was not because they were ungodly?"  "They probably worshipped pagan gods?"

What I did read is: Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until they had crossed over, their hearts melted in fear and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites" (Josh 5:1 TNIV).


Yep.  And Judas Iscariot didn't have the courage to even live after he did what he did.  St. Peter repented after he'd done his bad.

Mike Bennett

79
Oh my goodness, Pastor.  "The reason was not because they were ungodly?"  "They probably worshipped pagan gods?"

My point is that I don't find anything in the text -- in fact, I just read Joshua 1-6 -- and still find nothing that declares they were ungodly or that they worshipped pagan gods. Maybe they did. Maybe they didn't.


If you were only permitted to read Joshua 1-6 you could in good conscience say "Maybe they did.  Maybe they didn't."  But we get to read the rest of Scripture.  And we get to read outside Scripture too.  So we can't in good conscience say, "Maybe they didn't."

Mike Bennett

80

Why would killing the children of ungodly nations be any different? I'm sure that you wouldn't say that abortion for non-believers is OK.

Consider Deut. 2:34: "At that time we [Moses and his army] took all his towns and completely destroyed them -- men, women and children. We left no survivors" (NRSV).

Or Deut. 3:6 "And we utterly destroyed them, as we had done to King Sihon of Heshbon, in each city utterly destroying men, women, and children" (NRSV).

Joshua's army destroyed every living thing in Jericho -- "men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys" (Josh 6:21). While neither "children" nor "the young" are mentioned in the destruction of Ai, we are told that all who lived in Ai were destroyed (Josh 8:26).

The reason for the entire destruction of these cities and their people was not because they were ungodly (even though they probably worshiped pagan gods,) but because of ḥerem, a Hebrew word that carries the idea of "to place under the ban," "to utterly destroy," "to be devoted to destruction." We are also told in Deut 2:30b before the destruction: "For the LORD your God had hardened his [King Sihon of Heshbon's] spirit and made his heart defiant in order to hand him over to you, as he has now done."

Israel's treatment of the children of some of those they conquered was not good.

Oh my goodness, Pastor.  "The reason was not because they were ungodly?"  "They probably worshipped pagan gods?"

It happens my Sunday School class had a lesson yesterday on the battle of Jericho, which I chose to extend to include Joshua 1-6, with an added preview of "Why did God order the destruction of all those Canaanites, and is that His command for all time?"  And then in the p.m. started preparing for next week's lesson on Deborah.  So I'm fairly freshly studied up on the answer to your riddle.

Do the words "First Commandment" (the foundation of alll the Commandments) and "Gross Idolotry" ring a bell?  Canaanite fertility cults, ritual prostitution, cult of the dead, and sacrifice of children?  And the accounts throughout Joshua, Judges, and the rest of the OT of Israel's disobedience to the command, because they wanted to be "good neighbors" don't you know (sound like Scandanavian Lutherans for goodness sake) and the consequences (which God knew about in advance) of living cheek by jowl with idoloters? 

Mike Bennett

81
Your Turn / Re: Perils of Church-Related Pensions
« on: November 01, 2010, 01:21:33 PM »
And I suspect the issue of justice in this matter will be sorted out by the courts; and I would expect that if it is found that the ELCA has obligations, the ELCA will satisfy those obligations. Until then, we are either rushing to judgment or being irresponsibly defensive.

And in the meantime AF retirees will eat catfood.  But we wouldn't want to rush to judgment or use the PB's bully pulpit for a special appeal to replenish the pension fund so AF's promises can be kept.  The whole thing is just an excuse for ELCA's enemies to take pot shots.  (Including the enemies within, who would love to see a fund appeal against which they can write a check!)  

Wow.  Just wow.

Mike Bennett

And please don't say something stupid, such as I can write a check any time I please, without a fund appeal.  I'll point out in advance that there really isn't a way for an ELCA pew sitter to write a check that goes straight into AF's DB pension plan

82
Your Turn / Re: An Open Letter from Dr. Carl Braaten
« on: November 01, 2010, 12:37:03 PM »
I have a high regard for Dr. Braatan as a professor of systematics. He taught me much about Tillich, Pannenberg and other systematic theologians and brought me to a greater understanding of that phase of theological enterprise.
I am less impressed with his recent missives on ecclesiology and the role of ELCA publications.


I find it kind of surprising that Braaten still considers himself a "Tillichian."  

He explicitly states that he is not and never was a "Tillichian."

Mike Bennett

Maybe he isn't now, but he was when we last drank beer together, which was in 1986.

Wednesday evening last week he explicitly said that he was not a "Tillichian" during the time he was Tillich's teaching assistant and learning from Tillich, nor at any other period of his life.  I wasn't drinking beer, so I think I heard correctly.

Mike Bennett

In that case, I'll defer to your sober experience.  The local hockey team was celebrating at the next two tables over and I only heard about every other word anyway.  In fact, maybe it was "Teilhard" that he said, not "Tillich."  Better?  Or worse?

So that this isn’t a memory contest, the following from his recent memoir, Because of Christ.  I can’t give page numbers because I have it on Kindle, so I’ll show chapters and Kindle Location numbers.

Preface (location 79):  “Paul Tillich was my most important mentor on my way to becoming a theologian.  Yet, I knew I could never become a Tilichian.”

Chapter Six (location 585):  “Although I had been a student of Tillich, I was in no way a Tillichian, and furthermore I never regarded Tillich’s theology as American.  It was thoroughly Germanic.”

Mike Bennett


I wonder how he distinguishes "American" from "Germanic".  Or, to put it a different way, what's "Germanic" about Tillich?

Any thoughts?

Any thoughts I have worth sharing would come straight from the book, which I've already quoted enough I think.  $12.24 at Amazon.com, or $9.99 on Kindle and you can have it in less than 60 seconds.  He does talk about what you've asked.

Mike Bennett

83

There is no doubt that there are many secure sinners.  Just as there are many that are terrified.  Those are certainly two responses to hearing the Law, with the latter receiving the pronouncement of forgiveness and the former continue to need to hear the Law.  If you object to this approach, then you are objecting to what is very basic to Lutheran thought -- the proclamation of Law and Gospel.


This reminder is one of the best things I've read in the past week.  And I've read a depressingly large amount of all sorts of stuff in the past week.

Thanks Scott.

Mike Bennett

84
Your Turn / Re: Perils of Church-Related Pensions
« on: November 01, 2010, 12:19:52 PM »
Mike Bennett seems to have some special knowledge that can be useful in the discussion. Good. Our knowledge is still incomplete regarding this "church plan" exemption, and - as noted above - I don't believe any opinion begins to hold water until we have seen the exact documents and legal standing of this particular case.

We are also unaware of the longer-term consequences if Augsburg-Fortress or the ELCA would - out of our sheer graciousness and Christian compassion - say "oh, sorry. The plan can't pay you, but here's your money anyway, taken from funds that should have gone elsewhere." We do not know what kind of unintended consequence that might have or what it might mean the next time a pensioner is in need.

But, of course, this sad situation does give ELCA critics another chance to say how hypocritical and corrupt we are. Enjoy.

1. "if Augsburg-Fortress or the ELCA would - out of sheer graciousness and Christian compassion . . . . . "

Charles, since you evidently believe some kind of "special knowledge" is required to read English, read my lips instead.  This is an AF Defined Benefit Pension Plan.  The Defined Benefit is a promise.  AF is the party making the promise.  Keeping a promise doesn't require sheer graciousness and Christian compassion.  It only requires integrity.

2. "another chance to say how hypocritical and corrupt we are."

As I'm a part of ELCA, "We" includes me.  And yeah, we're hypocritical and corrupt.  You're another one with a problem with the peccator part of the simul?  I've never been to seminary, and I get it.

3. "Enjoy."

Not hardly.  But I am willing to call a thing what it is, and AF has broken its promise to long-time employees, while ELCA stands to one side resting on its lack of legal liability.  It's scandalous.

Mike Bennett

85
Your Turn / Re: Perils of Church-Related Pensions
« on: November 01, 2010, 12:05:14 PM »

many state governments (including--I'm told--Illinois still must appropriate pension money every year, because they refuse to fully fund their pension obligations; after all, that would RAISE TAXES, and we can't have that) still pay pensions as they go.

Don't get me started. >:(

Mike Bennett
Fort Sheridan, Illinois

As the risk of getting you started: my Illinois relatives tell me that two Illinois state pension funds ARE fully funded (whatever it costs!), namely, the one for legislators and the one for judges.  >:(

Peace,
Michael

I did not know that.  I believe Illinois must have the worst state government of the 50, in pretty much every way I can think of.  Irresponsible operation of pension funds is only one of the many ways.  My party and the other one cooperate happily in the mess. I know there are some supposed competitors for worst state government, but I think we've got 'em licked.   Another chance to try to fix it tomorrow.   >:(

Mike Bennett

86
Your Turn / Re: Perils of Church-Related Pensions
« on: November 01, 2010, 11:27:24 AM »

many state governments (including--I'm told--Illinois still must appropriate pension money every year, because they refuse to fully fund their pension obligations; after all, that would RAISE TAXES, and we can't have that) still pay pensions as they go.

Don't get me started. >:(

Mike Bennett
Fort Sheridan, Illinois

87
Your Turn / Re: Perils of Church-Related Pensions
« on: November 01, 2010, 11:11:06 AM »
Personally, I do not know enough about the situation to declare it "unjust." That requires some assumptions about what is going on that I am not qualified to make. And, as noted above, I don't think you know enough about the situation either.

Now, if your view of justice is that all retirees or all people should somehow receive a certain level of support at a certain time in their lives, you will want to expand the work of the LC-MS offices of governmental affairs.

Is it unjust that none of the places where my wife has worked has given her pension?


But AF has a DB Plan, which includes promises to the participants as an integral part of being DB.  What part of "promise" is unclear, and how does "given" come into play?

From lawyers I might expect this (sorry Dad, sorry Roger, sorry Jason) (sorry Scott's dad) but from pastors?

88
Your Turn / Re: Perils of Church-Related Pensions
« on: November 01, 2010, 11:03:25 AM »
Translation:  Because the only way to make this church (ELCA) "do the right thing" is to compell them to do so under secular law?  ??? ??? ???

You have a problem with the peccator part of the simul?

Mike Bennett

89
Your Turn / Re: Perils of Church-Related Pensions
« on: November 01, 2010, 11:02:00 AM »
Read more carefully, Pastor Henry, I do not know that in this situation the church has not "done the right thing." Wow! The assumptions fly around here like autumn leaves!
Oh, and before the howling begins, I do not contend without a doubt that the ELCA or Augsburg-Fortress has "done the right thing." My point is: We do not know. We do not have in our hands the information necessary for us to know. So the carping and wailing and accusations are inappropriate.

1. It is a matter of uncontroverted public record that
a. The AF employees had/have a defined benefit pension plan ("AF DB Plan")
b. A DB Plan includes a promise to its participants to pay them a pension based on the formula stated in the Plan
c. A DB Plan is overseen by its trustees and, unlike a defined contribution plan (401K or the non-profit equivalent) is completely outside the control of its participants
d. The AF DB Plan has become increasingly underfunded over the past several years, as employer contributions and investment returns were inadequate to fund the actuarially calculated value of pension benefits
e. AF has now explicitly advised its DB Plan participants that it cannot and therefore will not keep its promiss to them (b. above) and has reduced the payments in specific announced ways

On what planet is it unclear whether AF has "done the right thing" in breaking its promise to retirees and soon-to-be retirees, who have naively believed their employer's promise?

2. Like you and Scott, I am not a lawyer (though I can raise Scott's lawyer father by one lawyer brother and one lawyer nephew).  More to the point, I am trustee of a DB pension plan (in addition to several 401K plans).
a. Each year our actuary provides the DB plan trustees a report based on  its assets, pension formula, investment returns, and participant demographics that tell us the amount of employer contributions required in the following year to maintain a sound funding level.
b. As we are a for-profit company, we are subject to regulations established by the ERISA law, which, among other things, require a certain funded level and impose certain limitations on the plan if it fails to attain that level.
c. Following the 2008 investment market debacles, we were required to dig deeper than planned to maintain the required funded level for our DB Plan.  We did it.  That's what plan sponsors do.
d. Further, because the people of the United States became sick and tired of seeing pension plans break their promises to participants, we are required to pay an insurance premium to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation ("PBGC") each year.  Should oru plan become insolvent and its sponsor (my employer) be unable to save it, the participant pensions are protected by PBGC.

So long as churches invest in the same world as for-profit organizations, there is no excuse for the continuation of a "church plan" exception from ERISA and PBGC coverage.

3.  For the present AF DB Plan human crisis (and it is a human crisis), the ELCA churchwide "expression" of church needs to step up and do what churches traditionally do in a financial emergency - make an emergency fund raising appeal to its 5 million (4 million? 3 million?) members, explaining exactly what's happened, the human suffering that's resulted, and promising that all proceeds from the emergency appeal will be added to the AF DB Plan investments, and the promised benefit levels restored to the participants.  My wife and I would respond as we traditionally do to true emergency appeals, and I am confident that enough other ELCA members would do the same that the crisis would be dealt with.  There is only one reason not to do this, and it has everything to do with establishing a bad legal precedent for ELCA, and nothing to do with right and wrong.

Try to refrain from references to "howling" "carping"  and "wailing," Charles.

Mike Bennett

90
Your Turn / Re: An Open Letter from Dr. Carl Braaten
« on: November 01, 2010, 10:15:06 AM »
I have a high regard for Dr. Braatan as a professor of systematics. He taught me much about Tillich, Pannenberg and other systematic theologians and brought me to a greater understanding of that phase of theological enterprise.
I am less impressed with his recent missives on ecclesiology and the role of ELCA publications.


I find it kind of surprising that Braaten still considers himself a "Tillichian."  

He explicitly states that he is not and never was a "Tillichian."

Mike Bennett

Maybe he isn't now, but he was when we last drank beer together, which was in 1986.

Wednesday evening last week he explicitly said that he was not a "Tillichian" during the time he was Tillich's teaching assistant and learning from Tillich, nor at any other period of his life.  I wasn't drinking beer, so I think I heard correctly.

Mike Bennett

In that case, I'll defer to your sober experience.  The local hockey team was celebrating at the next two tables over and I only heard about every other word anyway.  In fact, maybe it was "Teilhard" that he said, not "Tillich."  Better?  Or worse?

Probably didn’t say “Teilhardian” either.  Also from Because of Christ:

Chapter 10 (location 2579-80):  “I was invited to participate in a Conference on Hope and the Future of Man, held at the Riverside Church in New York City, October 8-10, 1971.

“The conference was uniquely designed to bring together for the first time three theological currents – eschatological theology from Germany, American process theology, and the evolutionary thought of Teilhard de Chardin.  Theologians representing the three schools of thought were chosen to address the conference, all dealing with the question, ‘What do you mean by the future?’  . . . . .

“The conference began with three position papers on the meaning of the future.  John Cobb represented the process point of view; Philip Hefner spoke from a Teilhardian perspective; I spoke for the theology of hope from the point of view of eschatology . . . . . The main result of the conference was to clarify the many ways in which process thought, biblical eschatology, and Teilhardian perspectives are radically incompatible.  Even when they may use the same words, they are loaded with different manings.”

How many bullets are you down to?

Mike Bennett

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