Saturday, February 27, 2010
“In summary, the Old Testament should be seen as preparation for and anticipation of the King’s coming. The New Testament should be seen as the proclamation that God’s expected reign has come in Jesus, with the cosmic and ethical implications of this fact worked out in many new contexts. The New Testament’s thrust is: now that God has established his kingdom, what are the implications of this gospel (good news)? That’s why each book of the new Testament doesn’t simply rehearse or rehash the barest essentials of the story — Christ died, Christ was raised, Christ will come again (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3). No, rather than playing the exact same melody again and again, the New Testament writers transpose it and arrange it for new contexts and audiences. But the narrative anchor point is always Jesus and his kingdom, and the subsequent pouring out of the Spirit upon the church at Pentecost.” - Michael R. Emlet, CrossTalk (Greensboro, NC; New Growth Press, 2009), 49-50.
Friday, February 26, 2010
"It may be said without qualification that every man is as holy and as full of the Spirit as he wants to be." - AW Tozer ... via Jeff Goins
"he 'tended to unsettle every thing, and yet settle nothing.'" - Ben Johnson on a theologian of his day and many in ours. ... via Bob Hyatt
"Whoever seeks God outside Jesus Christs finds the devil." ... Jeremy Bouma
Thursday, February 25, 2010
We saunter up to God to claim his patronage and friendship; it does not occur to us that he might send us away. We need to hear again the Apostle Peter's sobering words, "Since you call on a father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives in reverent fear." (I Peter 1:17) In other words, if we dare to call our judge our Father, we must beware of presuming on him. It must even be said that our evangelical emphasis on the atonement is dangerous if we come to it too quickly. We learn to appreciate the access to God which Christ has won only after we have first cried, "Woe is me for I am lost."
- John Stott, The Cross of Christ
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Anyway, I ran across this interesting post on how to have better dinner conversations. Here are some of the conversational points:
Ask open-ended questions. As the hosts, Gail and I have a singular goal: we try to ask interesting questions. We try to make these questions open-ended, so that people must elaborate and give us some insight into them as a person. For example,
- What is your idea of a perfect vacation?
- If you could design your ideal job, what would it look like?
- What is the best book you have read in the last 12 months and why?
- What is the most important lesson you learned from your father?
- What is your very favorite thing about your spouse?
- If you were by yourself, and could listen to any music you want, what it be?
- If you could spend a day with anyone on the planet, who would it be?
- What it is like to be your friend? or to be married to you?
- If you were suddenly the President of the U.S., what would you do first?
- Looking back over your life, what would you describe as your proudest moment?
- How did it feel when that happened?
- Can you elaborate on that?
- Why do you think that is important to you?
- Do you think you would have answered the same way five years ago?
- What emotion do you feel when you describe that?
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
In ANKoChristianity, McLaren repeatedly mischaracterizes Christians. I noted some of this based on on an critique by Michael Wittmer. To add to that, since many of the defenders simply claim McLaren isn't being properly represented, here's another.
McLaren claims that according to Sola Scriptura, we must take everything in Scripture at face-value. From page 89;
“God has just told us that a large proportion of what is uttered in the book of Job is false and foolish. Yet we are taught that the book of Job, being part of the Bible, is the Word of God and is inspired by God. Does that mean that God inspired the introduction and conclusion, but not the middle, where the pious blowhards speak? Or does it mean that God inspired the pious blowhards’ false statements? Or that God was pretending to inspire that part, but was crossing the divine fingers behind the divine back, so as to come out later on to say, ‘I was only kidding in that part’?
As with so much that the emerg* is against, they simply do not understand what they vehemently dislike or disagree with. I'm sure they have had some bad experiences but rather than take time to properly understand, they just want to be different. When it comes to Christianity, this is the reaction of the unregenerate. I'm reminded of the number of times I've talked to someone who recently had some sort of "conversion experience". If they had any church history at all, they inevitably report something to the effect of, "wow, that other church never told us about God/Jesus like that." Now I'm sure many in their past failed at some point but it is not true that no other church ever witnessed the truth of God. It's typically that the person simply didn't have ears to hear and now that the Holy Spirit has opened their heart, they "hear" for the first time. The problem isn't usually that it wasn't said.
So back to ANKoChristianity. McLaren is a smart man. His writing is simply to fuel the dissension in the emerg* ranks rather than to help clarify and correct. He promotes an absurdly wrong view of Sola Sciptura and therefore his alternative cannot be taken seriously.
McLaren proposes redefining a Christianity that he doesn’t understand and doesn't like. He and his follows need to return to Scripture and to God. There, and only there will they find the peace and the life we all so desperately need.
Monday, February 22, 2010
If you are a Christian, it’s in your spiritual DNA to hunger for more of Jesus Christ. That hunger can be choked by other pursuits. Even religious pursuits. But that hunger is present. It just needs to be watered a little. Reading a book that reveals Christ . . . or hearing a message where the riches of Christ and the deep things of God are unveiled . . . causes that hunger to be watered and even awakened. It is that very hunger that causes many to seek the experience of the Body of Christ. At bottom, a longing for body life is really a hunger for more of the Lord.
In my observation and experience, if a ministry is not utterly centered upon and revealing Christ in ever-greater depths, it will eventually wear out in your life. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only thing that never wears out. Everything else grows thin eventually . . . and that includes the 1001 religious and spiritual things that Christians chase after today.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Chris Brauns offers a decent answer using Romans 12.17-21 as an outline.
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Principle 1: Resolve not to take revenge
Principle 2: Proactively show love
Principle 3: Don't forgive the unrepentant but leave room for the wrath of God
I think the first principle is self-explanatory and not contentious. The same with the second but let's highlight, love needs to be genuine, i.e., authentic, and "Christians should dream of how they can pursue peace even with their enemies. Rather than lying in bed picturing how we might retaliate ..."
It is the third principle, don't forgive the unrepentant, which doesn't set well with many. And this is compounded with the liberal denial of God's wrath.
But Romans 12.19b is consistent with John 20.23 which does not at all imply that all are to be forgiven ... it does however reinforce the seriousness of our role in forgiveness which is to be granted as often as it is requested (Lk 17.3b-4).
An example of Paul not always forgiving is found in 2 Timothy 4.14-15. In addition, he confronts the notion held by some that we cannot confront error/sin - a idea based on a wrong understanding of texts such as Matthew 7.1 and Luke 6.37. True love will want to remind (1 Cor 13.6) others that God's judgement is certain (Heb 9.27).
Some overlook the overall story-line of Scripture by cherry picking texts they perceive support Jesus forgave without requiring repentance. An example of cherry picking is Luke 23.33-34. Some would say Jesus gave forgiveness with no evidence of repentance. But notice that Jesus' words are not that they have been forgiven or that he now forgives them, he is praying for their future forgiveness. These words stand in contrast to the language of Lk 5.20-24; 7.49; 23.43 - all of which were preceded by some act or statement of faith and repentance on the part of the one being forgiven. Stephen's prayer in Acts 7.60 parallels those of Jesus in Luke 23.33-34. These words are asking for future forgiveness and an example of the fruit of this is Paul's conversion and forgiveness (which came after a mighty encounter with God and repentance).
Some point out that repentance is not an explicit prerequisite to forgiveness in Matthew 6.12, 14-15 and 18.21-22. This is true but given we are told to forgive even as God forgives, I understand the repentance prerequisite to be implicit. And it should not be overlooked that Matthew 18.21-22 is sandwiched between Jesus' teaching on Church discipline (Mt 18.15-20) and a parable teaching that people should be forgiven when they repent (Mt 18.23-35).
In summary, John Murray [“A Lesson in Forgiveness,” in The Collected Writings of John Murray] writes:
Forgiveness is a definite act performed by us on the fulfillment of certain conditions…. Forgiveness is something actively administered on the repentance of the person who is to be forgiven. We greatly impoverish ourselves and impair the relations that we should sustain to our brethren when we fail to appreciate what is involved in forgiveness.
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But let's be careful. I am not promoting works based salvation. The reason we must do the above is because we are no longer as we were but by His grace we have been made new (2 Cor 5.17). What I describe above is works but it is works that spring from a new creation, in-dwelt by the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. It is not motivated to earn love, it is motived by love.
Interestingly, in 2 Cor 5, we see that see that Christ has come to reconcile the world to Himself and the we are recreated to be ambassadors for that purpose (2 Cor 5.18-21). We are always to have a heart (and behavior) of love. We are to be quick to forgive, in fact we should pursue opportunities to forgive (Mt 5.23-24). But we are not being asked to forgive where no repentance has occurred. I think this is the same with God.
The difference (well, one of them anyway) between us and God is that God can (1) know the true heart of a person so He can speak into a life before it has verbalized repentance and (2) He - and only He - has the power to change a heart to repent. But, we have spiritual ears and God can certainly speak the truth of a situation to us. And certainly, by His Spirit and by Scripture we can discern the fruit of a person. Moreover, we can be a vessel used by God to bring change to another's heart. Therefore we must pursue forgiveness and reconciliation.
But we must not confuse love and the pursuit of forgiveness with overlooking the requirement of repentance. This is in part why I am stirred up about the liberal assault on the true nature of sin and the true nature of what Christ accomplished on the Cross. Getting that wrong affects our life together - ironic because living in love together is the professed desire of many that get this wrong - which is why I continue to claim their real goal is to recreate God in their image. They have such a damaged view of righteousness, the Church, authority, etc. that they cannot conceive of love lived out in the truth described in the Bible. Their fallenness forces them to re-manufacture "a new kind of Christianity".
The Bible Can Be Inerrant and Still Include Loose or Free Quotations. The method by which one person quotes the words of another person is a procedure that in large part varies from culture to culture. In contemporary American and British culture we are used to quoting a person’s exact words when we enclose the statement in quotation marks (this is called direct quotation). But when we use indirect quotation (with no quotation marks) we only expect an accurate report of the substance of a statement. Consider this sentence: “Elliot said that he would return home for supper right away.” The sentence does not quote Elliot directly, but it is an acceptable and truthful report of Elliot’s actual statement to his father, “I will come to the house to eat in two minutes,” even though the indirect quotation included none of the speaker’s original words.
Written Greek at the time of the New Testament had no quotation marks or equivalent kinds of punctuation, and an accurate citation of another person needed to include only a correct representation of the content of what the person said (rather like our indirect quotations): it was not expected to cite each word exactly. Thus, inerrancy is consistent with loose or free quotations of the Old Testament or of the words of Jesus, for example, so long as the content is not false to what was originally stated. The original writer did not ordinarily imply that he was using the exact words of the speaker and only those, nor did the original hearers expect verbatim quotation in such reporting.
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Saturday, February 20, 2010
The Bible Can Be Inerrant and Still Speak in the Ordinary Language of Everyday Speech. This is especially true in “scientific” or “historical” descriptions of facts or events. The Bible can speak of the sun rising and the rain falling because from the perspective of the speaker this is exactly what happens. From the standpoint of an observer standing on the sun (were that possible) or on some hypothetical “fixed” point in space, the earth rotates and brings the sun into view, and rain does not fall downward but upward or sideways or whatever direction necessary for it to be drawn by gravity toward the surface of the earth. But such explanations are hopelessly pedantic and would make ordinary communication impossible. From the standpoint of the speaker, the sun does rise and the rain does fall, and these are perfectly true descriptions of the natural phenomena the speaker observes.
A similar consideration applies to numbers when used in measuring or in counting. A reporter can say that 8,000 men were killed in a certain battle without thereby implying that he has counted everyone and that there are not 7,999 or 8,001 dead soldiers. If roughly 8,000 died, it would of course be false to say that 16,000 died, but it would not be false in most contexts for a reporter to say that 8,000 men died when in fact 7,823 or 8,242 had died: the limits of truthfulness would depend on the degree of precision implied by the speaker and expected by his original hearers.
This is also true for measurements. Whether I say, “I don’t live far from my office,” or “I live a little over a mile from my office,” or “I live one mile from my office,” or “I live 1.287 miles from my office,” all four statements are still approximations to some degree of accuracy. Further degrees of accuracy might be obtained with more precise scientific instruments, but these would still be approximations to a certain degree of accuracy. Thus, measurements also, in order to be true, should conform to the degree of precision implied by the speaker and expected by the hearers in the original context. It should not trouble us, then, to affirm both that the Bible is absolutely truthful in everything it says and that it uses ordinary language to describe natural phenomena or to give approximations or round numbers when those are appropriate in the context.
We should also note that language can make vague or imprecise statements without being untrue. “I live a little over a mile from my office” is a vague and imprecise statement, but it is also inerrant: there is nothing untrue about it. It does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. In a similar way, biblical statements can be imprecise and still be totally true. Inerrancy has to do with truthfulness not with the degree of precision with which events are reported.
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“The really important thing about this elaborate reconstruction of the history of the church is not the historical improbability of it in detail, but the presupposition upon which it is based. We do not indeed demand that a historian should be without presuppositions. But the important question is whether the presuppositions are true or false. And in the case of Dr. McGiffert, we think that they are false. The entire book is really based upon the pragmatist assumption that religion can be separated from theology and that a man can obtain the values of the religious life apart from the particular intellectual conception which he forms of his God. This assumption leads in the first place to an artificial treatment of history, which altogether fails to do justice to the real complexity of human life; and it leads, in the second place, and in particular, to the reconstruction, contrary to all evidence, of a primitive Gentile Christianity which shall exhibit just the type of nontheological religion which the modern pragmatist desires.”
J.Gresham Machen, “Review of Arthur Cushman McGiffert’s The God of the Early Chrisitans” (1924) in Selected Shorter Writings, edited by D.G. Hart, 499-50.
We will not at this point repeat the arguments concerning the authority of Scripture that were given in chapter 4. There it was argued that all the words in the Bible are God’s words, and that therefore to disbelieve or disobey any word in Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. It was argued further that the Bible clearly teaches that God cannot lie or speak falsely (2 Sam. 7:28; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). Therefore, all the words in Scripture are claimed to be completely true and without error in any part (Num. 23:19; Pss. 12:6; 119:89, 96; Prov. 30:5; Matt. 24:35). God’s words are, in fact, the ultimate standard of truth (John 17:17).
Especially relevant at this point are those Scripture texts that indicate the total truthfulness and reliability of God’s words. “The words of the Lord are words that are pure silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times” (Ps. 12:6, author’s transl.), indicates the absolute reliability and purity of Scripture. Similarly, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Prov. 30:5), indicates the truthfulness of every word that God has spoken. Though error and at least partial falsehood may characterize the speech of every human being, it is the characteristic of God’s speech even when spoken through sinful human beings that it is never false and that it never affirms error: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent” (Num. 23:19) was spoken by sinful Balaam specifically about the prophetic words that God had spoken through his own lips.
With evidence such as this we are now in a position to define biblical inerrancy: The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.
This definition focuses on the question of truthfulness and falsehood in the language of Scripture. The definition in simple terms just means that the Bible always tells the truth and that it always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about. This definition does not mean that the Bible tells us every fact there is to know about any one subject, but it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true.
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Friday, February 19, 2010
"I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems. On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving. I don't know what makes people so cruel."
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Wittmer writes, "Brian closes his book by calling us to follow his lead and evolve to a higher community which consists of “Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and others” and “welcomes all people to mature and advance in the human quest.” He warns that those of us who haven’t fully evolved “are likely to mock it or condemn it as something naïve, silly, or even evil,” but that’s just because we are defending the status quo from “innovators” like him."
Wow! This is the new kind of christianity? One that includes all these? Clearly the new christianity of McLaren and the emerg* doesn't mirror Scripture or God.
Read the rest of Wittmer's final critique here.
This differs from two typical dysfunctional extremes.
- Blow up and have a shouting match with the offender. Here Brauns makes the astute observation that "this causes additional damage beyond whatever caused the conflict in the first place. Both parties say things they later regret."
- Avoid conflict. That is, once a blowup has occurred and lines have been drawn, the parties involved often distance themselves. They ultimately avoid the issue and act as if all is "forgiven" but in fact they simply avoid the issue and subsequently reconciliation. And while pretending they have "forgiven", they talk and involve others unnecessarily.
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For all the talk of being new (xi) and at the same time ancient (255), McLarenism is neither. It is old fashioned liberalism. McLaren, despite his historical plundering, has no right to claim he is in tradition of Martin Luther because he finds “sustaining inner strength,” or in the tradition of the Wesleys because “our hearts can be ‘strangely warmed’” (227). This is like saying I’m in the tradition of Ignatius because I have strong convictions. It doesn’t work. McLaren stands in the tradition of Ritschl, Harnack, Rauschenbush, and Whitehead, plain and simple.
In their book 20th-Century Theology, Grenz and Olson, no rabid fundamentalists they, describe classic liberalism in five points:
1. Liberals believe doctrine needs to develop to meet the needs of contemporary thought.
2. Liberals emphasize the need to reconstruct traditional beliefs and reject the authority of tradition and church hierarchy.
3. Liberals focus on the practical and ethical dimensions of Christianity.
4. Liberals seek to base theology on something other than the absolute authority of the Bible.
5) Liberals drift toward divine immanence at the expense of transcendence.
McLaren fits each of these points like a glove. H. Richard Niebuhr’s famous description of liberalism has not lost its relevance: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of Christ without a cross.”
The message of McLarenism is pretty simple: God is love and wants everyone to be kind and inclusive and care for the poor and the environment. This is what Jesus was like, and we should be like Jesus. This is, of course, not wrong in so far as it goes. The Liberal/McLaren emphasis on the kingdom is right, their concern for the “other” is right, much of their ethics is right. But McLarenism, like liberalism, cannot be right. It has its emphases all out of proportion, its right statements thrown out of whack by all that is missing. In McLarenism there is no original sin, no wrath, no hell, no creation-fall-redemption, no definite future, no second coming that I can see, no clear statement on the deity of Christ, no mention of vicarious substitution or God’s holiness or divine sovereignty, no ethical demands except as they relate to being kind to others, no God-offendedness, no doctrine of justification, no unchanging apostolic deposit of truth, no absolute submission to the word of God, nary a mention of faith and worship, no doctrine of regeneration, no evangelistic impulse to save the lost, and nothing about God’s passion for his glory. This is surely a lot to leave out.
McLaren’s Christianity is not new and certainly not improved. I don’t believe you can even call it Christianity. It is liberalism dressed up for the 21st century. We can only hope this wave of liberalism fades as dramatically as did the last.
Net - I'm glad McLaren has written this book. Many were critical of the emerg* gang before the thing ever got moving - this frustrated me a bit since it seemed to be based on a lot of assumptions. But now I can see they were right. The leaders and louder voices in emerg* are clearly not glorifying the God of the Bible. Sadly, many who are vested in the emerg* can only muster "our tradition [referring to previous church experience] was much, much more liberal than Emergent" and naively "I don't really think the theology of guys like McLaren or Pagitt or Jones or Tickle or whoever is all that radical."
The wise are moving on.
Complementarianism is the belief that men and women have God given differences that are essential to their person. Men and women are ontologically (in their essential nature) equal, but often, functionally, take subordinate roles (like the Trinity). These differences complete or “complement” each other. Due to these differences, there will be some things that women are predisposed and purposed to do more than men. As well, there will be some things that men are predisposed and purposed to do more than women. Therefore, there are ideal roles for both men and women that should be celebrated, exemplified, typified, and promoted in the church, family, and society. To deny these differences is to deny the design of God and thwart his purpose.
I think this is excellent and it drives him to his even more excellent conclusion. It's worth reading his entire post.
Complementarians, while I believe that the Bible teaches the ideal that women should not have authority over men in the church, let us promote the true spirit of complementarianism then simply defending its particular applications.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Brian says that the last judgment “is not merely retributive” but is “reconciling and restoring.” It “will not involve God…pulling down our pants to check for circumcision or scanning our brains for certain beliefs…. No, God will examine the story of our lives for signs of Christlikeness—for a cup of cold water or a plate of hot food given to one in need, for an atom of mercy shown to one who has been unkind or unthoughtful… These are the parts of a person’s life that will be deemed worthy of being saved, remembered, rewarded, and raised for a new beginning. All the unloving, unjust, non-Christlike parts of our lives…will be burned away, counted as unworthy, condemned (which means acknowledged for what they are), and forgotten forever.”
It’s not clear whether Brian sees the afterlife as a series of chances to repent until everyone comes around or whether everyone immediately endures a fiery judgment which burns away their bad stuff and preserves whatever remains. Either way, what’s left of us is ultimately reconciled, or perhaps absorbed into God ...
I'll only add what I've noted before which is the emergent leaning towards a works based view of salvation.
With his A New Kind of Christianity, Brian McLaren and the emergent hoard that follows him formally join that group. I appreciate Michael Wittmer's analysis of McLaren's writing. Wittmer notes that McLaren throws out the usual red herrings, i.e., McLaren describes "those opposed to homosexual acts as “angry, dominating” fundasexuals (conservative Christians who seem overly preoccupied with sexual sins) and reminding heterosexuals that they have their fair share of promiscuity and divorce. This last point is sadly true enough, but I don’t understand how the sins of heterosexuals prevent me from saying that homosexual acts also are wrong."
Wittmer then summarizes McLaren's heresy as follows (emphasis mine):
Here are the various arguments which Brian uses to defend homosexual practice.
1. Male and female is a dualism which goes back to Plato, so if you oppose homosexual practice you are being Platonic. In Brian’s words, you are endorsing “the Platonic dualisms in which maleness and femaleness are two absolute, eternal categories of being into which all people fit.”
I covered this in an earlier post (“Interlude”), but let me say again that not all dualisms are Platonic and not all dualisms are wrong. Brian’s argument is also strange from a historical perspective, as Plato himself might have been gay. Plato said that you might remember the form of beauty when you look at a naked boy—an unfortunate statement which would have landed Plato on my state’s sex offender list.
2. Our experience should trump the authority of Scripture. He writes that “If a Christian today experiences gay friends, neighbors, colleagues, or relatives as healthy, sincere, and morally equal” then we must not “marginalize and discredit this experience” just because we think the Bible tells us “that they are rebellious and dangerous sinners, a twisted abomination, a…moral aberrance.”
Here I would appeal to Luther’s theology of the cross, which aptly reminds us to allow the Word of God to interpret what we see rather than the other way around. Brian is reading his Bible and experience from the wrong direction.
3. It is unchristian to say that homosexual practice is wrong for then we are condemning gays “simply for being who they are.”
I address this in chapter 5 of Don’t Stop Believing, so I’ll just say here that we must not allow homosexuals to define themselves by their homosexuality. They are essentially the image of God, not gay. We are actually defending who they are when we say that homosexual practice is not how an image bearer of God should behave. This may be difficult for some to hear, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t humbly and lovingly say it.
4. Brian says that “God demonstrates supreme solidarity…with the ones who are rejected and excluded…with the ones who are humiliated and shamed.” So we who “cast the first stone at the ‘sexually other’” are throwing rocks at God. Got it?
5. Biblically, if God accepted the Ethiopian eunuch (a marginalized sexual other) then we can expect God to be okay with other forms of sexual otherness, including homosexual practice.
Observe that Brian conflates loving a person and accepting what they do, as if bringing the gospel to a eunuch or homosexual connotes acceptance of a homosexual lifestyle. He also equates being a eunuch, which is a non-moral issue, with homosexual practice, which is a decidedly moral one.
6. Rather than criticize homosexual practice we should be thanking gay people, for “By coming out of the closet regarding their homosexuality, gay folks may help the rest of us come out of the closet regarding our sexuality” (emphasis his).
I am sure that coming out is often difficult and I would gladly embrace anyone who feels isolated and ostracized. But openness is not our greatest moral achievement. I don’t think God grants unrepentant sinners a free pass simply because they’re vulnerable. And neither do we. I’m not saying that these sins are in the same category as homosexual practice, but just as we don’t exonerate Bernie Madoff because he said “I did it!” or John Edwards because he finally let his baby girl out of the closet, so I don’t see why we must look the other way when someone admits they commit homosexual acts.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
At the cross…
…We see God’s sovereignty—reigning with absolute control over humanity’s greatest sin.
…We see God’s purpose—making known the mystery of His will prepared before time.
…We see God’s plan—to unite all things, on heaven and on earth, in Him.
…We see God’s judgment—requiring recompense for guilt.
…We see God’s holiness—demanding the perfect sacrifice.
…We see God’s power—crushing the Son of God according to the purpose of His will.
…We see God’s wrath—punishing the wretchedness of sin.
…We see God’s sorrow—wailing as only a forsaken son can.
…We see God’s mystery—the Son, as God, separated from the Father, committing His Spirit to God.
…We see God’s compassion—pleading to the Father to forgive the ignorant.
…We see God’s gift—His one and only Son, bruised and broken on our behalf.
…We see God’s mercy—making unrighteous sinners righteous.
…We see God’s love—Christ dying for sinners.
…We see God’s rescue operation—delivering us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His Son.
…We see God’s proposal—pledging Himself to His bride forever.
…We see God’s revelation—the Word of God speaking His last so He might speak on behalf of many.
…We see God’s victory—disarming His enemies, putting them to shame, and triumphing over them.
…We see God’s glory—the name of the Father being magnified for the sake of all peoples.
And from Will Willimon, "When Christians are asked to say something profound about ourselves, to say something about the nature of God, this is what we say – “cross.”"
Brian’s notion of sin seems to be primarily external or social—it amounts to judgmental violence committed against others. While I agree that social sin is prevalent and serious, we need to emphasize that sin is first and foremost rebellion against God, which then leads to violence toward others.
I love it because that was my take on Rob Bell's The Gods Aren't Angry. It seems to me that these guys are working overtime to deny our sin against a righteous, holy God and His response to that. They mistakenly focus the issue on our treatment of each other and our misperception that God must be angry.
Also, there solution (because they miss the problem) is works based. That is, we must learn to love our neighbor, to be reconciled to him - and to do that without the regeneration that come through Jesus' substitutionary death and resurrection. As Wittmer states, "the personal change which alone enables us to be reconciled to others."
Wittmer also points out how McLaren (as most postmodern innovators) overlooks sin (especially homosexuality) and allows for universalism, the salvation of all regardless of what they believe.
For another analysis, see Tim Challies' thoughts ...
Monday, February 15, 2010
Brian observes a potential problem with the Bible’s depiction of Jesus. Rev. 19:11-16 says that Jesus will appear riding a white horse, leading the armies of heaven to make war. A sharp sword from his mouth strikes the nations, whom he then rules with a rod of iron as he treads “the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” Most perplexing is that this passage comes at the end of Scripture, so unlike the Noah narrative in our last post, John’s vision represents a more fully evolved God. Brian can’t explain it away with later revelation.Brian solves this problem by declaring that Revelation is an apocalyptic of the oppressed whose point is that the way of peace modeled by the suffering Jesus will ultimately triumph over evil and its perpetrators. There is some truth here, but it’s characteristically lopsided in Brian’s hands. He ignores the part about Jesus treading the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God and insists that Jesus will not return to this earth as a conquering hero who destroys his enemies. Instead, Jesus will never be anything other than “the poor unarmed Galilean riding on the donkey.” The point of Rev. 19:11-16, if you can believe it, is “that God’s anointed liberator is the one we beat up, who promises mercy to those who strike him….”Five observations:1. Brian’s God is too small. He really needs to let God evolve beyond the Jesus meek and mild. God is as loving as Brian says—and more, but he is also holy and just and has a fair amount of wrath which he will unleash on sin and those who commit it.2. In two chapters on the question, “Who is Jesus?”, it is disturbing that Brian nowhere says that Jesus is God. This is the most important thing we can say about Jesus (alongside he is human), and it’s troubling that Brian never got around to saying it. Especially since he professes kinship with Marcus Borg, Harvey Cox, Pete Rollins, and John Crossan, folks who either deny or refuse to say whether Jesus is God, he needs to clearly say that Jesus is ontologically God and man. He doesn’t, leaving us to assume that at the very least Jesus’ deity does not excite Brian as much as his example of patient suffering.3. Brian’s Jesus seems to be a mere human who liberates us from violence by providing an example of peace for us to follow. Brian writes that “Jesus matters precisely because he provides us a living alternative to the confining Greco-Roman narrative” of violence. This is wrong. Jesus matters precisely because he is the God-man who bore our sin in our place on the cross and rose again. His non-violent example is an important application of our salvation, but it is not the main thing.4. Brian’s Jesus is not new, nor is he a third way which transcends the liberal-conservative divide. Brian follows a liberal Jesus, one remade in his image and according to his liking, whose mere example is not enough to save us in this life nor in the life to come.If Brian’s theology is new, then how did H. Richard Niebuhr so aptly describe it in 1959? Niebuhr wrote that liberals believe that “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.5. The most damning indictment of Brian’s theology is that Jesus isn’t absolutely necessary for it to work. If Jesus is merely our example of patient suffering, then other examples may do just as well. As such, Brian’s theology is an unintended assault on Jesus. Brian has unwittingly begun to marginalize Jesus, and it won’t be long before an unnecessary Jesus becomes an absent Jesus. How ironic that Brian’s concern for the excluded and the marginalized leads him to exclude and marginalize Jesus!Here is an essential question which Brian and all of us must answer: How and why is Jesus essential for our salvation? Could God save us in any other way? See Anselm, Why God Became Man, for an orthodox answer from the 11th century.
From The World Race ... I believe it ...
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
[T]he modern church is slowly losing viability over the requirements it places on those walking in, while the “emergent church” (whatever you want that to mean) doesn’t object to being full of hypocrites, liars, adulterers, prostitutes, homosexuals and degenerates – yes, with people like me. It’s message before change, not change before message – embrace of all men, not conditional interaction.
Here is my reaction:
I acknowledged my sin and need for forgiveness and committed myself to Jesus' leadership nearly 31 years ago. Since then I've been involved in many "churches". I have never been in one that has formal requirements for those "walking in". On the other hand, I have never experienced any group that ultimately doesn't have some level of informal boundaries. It would be self-deception if someone from the emerging gang really believes they do not have a "code". Therefore, I'm not clear what my friend's statement is other than confusing and fueling the bias of some against the organized church.
I wonder who are the hypocrites, liars, etc.? If this refers to those walking in, see the point above. If this means that the church is full of those who are tempted by and give in to these things, then I'm not aware of a church that isn't. That's not unique to the EC. In fact, many in the EC are becoming more open and aggressive in their pointing out of sins in the "traditional" church. I become more and more unclear, if the church is full of these and the EC gang claims it ought to be, why do we need a new kind of Christianity in their mind? Or, if it means that the church is full of those that still are these by nature and not recreated and in the process of sanctification, then yes, we have a difference in understanding of the work of Christ. And yes, I would not consider those people the "church". I would go to those, love them, care for them, etc. but in the end they need the life of Christ that ultimately results in healing and setting us free from bondage to sin ... oh, and to a life of obedience.
"People like me." See the point above - I sin, but I'm not a slave to sin. And I do not help others see that they are ok to remain in their sin as many EC folks are proud to have done. Separately, I understand that these can be loved before they see there need to change. But I also know, that if I show up Christ-like, it will be the aroma of life to some and of death to others.
"It's the message before the change, not change before the message." So I'm missing what's emerging about that concept?
Net, all of this seems loving to the ear not trained by the Spirit. In fact it only opens the door to the liberal (not new) heresies of false teachers such as McLaren.
Technorati Tags: Emerging Church
McLaren (along with the likes of Pete Rollins) see the Bible as our human projection of God rather than God's revelation of Himself to us. Given that, I'm not sure how he continues to call Scripture God's inspired Word. Bottom line, the Emergent/Emerging Church/Conversation/Village has left what little Christian mooring it had and has sailed far from the intent of its early thinkers into the sea of heresy.
Some write of of the EC's demise and they are correct because they speak of what was good in it. Others continue to propagate how the EC is wonderfully maturing, moving on, whatever and they are also right - because they are speaking of liberal heresy that has always existed and will continue to do so until Christ's glorious return.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Confronting in the right spirit is actually love. Allowing sin to continue or hiding behind the fear of judgement is not. BUT - the key is a humble heart motivated by the Spirit of God (Rom 3.9,23; Gal 3.22; 1 John 1.8).
Clearly, Jesus is addressing a wrong kind of judging. A judging which is unforgiving condemnation—a hypercritical, self-righteous, vindictive spirit that continually seeks to uncover the faults of others while overlooking one's own sins.
We are actually commanded to rebuke our brothers when they sin (Lk 17.3-4). And contrary to the wrong spirit Jesus confronts in Lk 6, proper rebuke is followed by forgiveness when preceded by repentance.
John McArthur writes:
Paul made [bearing one another's burdens] a high priority. It was the centerpiece of his admonitions to the Galatian churches. The first half (or more) of Galatians is a defense of justification by faith and a series of arguments against the false teaching that threatened to place those churches in bondage to the Law. In Galatians 5:14 he reminded them: “The whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
How is that love best manifest? “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2).
The first and preeminent example of burden-bearing Paul mentions involves dealing with the burden of another Christian’s sin. “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (v. 1). That, of course, isn’t a different approach from the steps of church discipline Jesus outlined in Matthew 18:15–17. It merely explains how that process is to be carried out (gently and meekly), and it underscores the true goal (restoration, not punishment or public rebuke per se).
In other words, the person restoring the sinning brother isn’t to approach him as if he were a master over him but meekly — as one who is willing to help shoulder the burden so that the one who has stumbled can get to his feet again.
This approach is true love (Pro 27.5-6). It is our enemies that make like we are ok when we sin. Sad so many miss the whole of Scripture.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
From Scotty B on FaceBook ...
The Defining Issue
Before I examine Brian’s next question, I think it is important to interact with the foundational thesis which grounds everything else he says in this book. Brian’s underlying point is that what Christians call the Creation-Fall-Redemption narrative actually starts with Plato and was adopted later by imperial Rome. It is this “Greco-Roman narrative” which generates the violence and oppression which Brian seeks to avoid.
Specifically, Brian says that the Greco-Roman narrative produced:
1. Dualisms, such as “matter/spirit, physics/metaphysics, natural/supernatural, and male/female” (emphasis mine).
2. A Feeling of Superiority, where Greeks and Romans thought they were better than other, barbaric people.
3. An “Us” versus “Them” Mentality, where we exclude those who are not like us.
If you accept this thesis then everything else Brian says pretty much follows.
1. The Bible is not our authoritative constitution because that would reinforce a dualism between God and us and enable those in the know to feel superior to those who don’t get it.
2. There is no Fall, because that would imply a dualism between a previously good world and our present fallen one.
3. There is no hell, for that would be the ultimate power play upon those on the outside, resulting in an everlasting dualism between the saved and the damned.
4. Jesus is forever the suffering servant and never the conquering Lord, for that would split him into a dualism of sorts, with the returning Jesus playing the ultimate superior who casts his enemies into hell.
5. Other religions must be acceptable because who are we to say that we are better than them? (another dualism).
6. Homosexual practice is not only acceptable, it beats advocating “the Platonic dualisms in which maleness and femaleness are two absolute, eternal categories of being into which all people fit.”
Since Brian’s entire book hinges on this Greco-Roman thesis, I need to say a few words about it.
1. Brian does not give an argument for this thesis. He simply says that it dawned on him in conversation that the traditional understanding of the biblical narrative came from the Roman Empire, which picked it up from Plato. Brian’s hubris here qualifies him for Stephen Colbert’s Alpha Dog of the Week. Brian’s entire book rests on his belief that Christians have confused the biblical narrative with Plato and Caesar, and yet he does not give an argument as to why this is so. We could just take his word for it, except that there is good reason to think that he is wrong.
2. The Christian understanding of creation, fall, and redemption differs dramatically from Plato’s pagan version.
a. Creation: the Bible says the entire world, including its physical aspect, is good. Plato taught that the material world is evil (matter is the matter).
b. Fall: the Bible teaches that our problem is moral rebellion, with ontological consequences (such as death). Plato taught that our problem is ontological (we are trapped in bodies) and epistemological (we are ignorant of our true home).
c. Redemption: the Bible teaches that salvation is moral, with ontological consequences (e.g., resurrection). Plato taught that salvation occurred through education.
At every point in the story Christian orthodoxy contradicts Plato’s narrative. So how exactly does Brian think that our story came from Plato?
3. Brian’s explanation of the consequences of the Greco-Roman narrative looks very much like a postmodern projecting his views (by negation) upon them (the great sin of the Greco-Roman culture was feeling superior to those who were different). With that said, I agree that we should not feel or act superior toward others and we should not strive to exclude them unnecessarily (though every meaningful set, such as a church, will necessarily have a boundary between what is inside and outside).
4. Brian’s un-nuanced broadside against all dualisms is silly (there’s a theological term for you). I have written an entire book against Platonic dualism, so no one can accuse me of being in bed with Plato. But not all dualisms are Platonic. Even more, not all dualisms are wrong. Is Brian against all pairs? He would have made an awful Noah, with all those animals coming toward him two by two.
Is he really against a male-female dualism? Try holding that view the next time you take out your wife on a date. Is he really against a natural/supernatural dualism? This dualism is the foundation for everything we believe. Christian thought begins with the fact that there are two kinds of reality, God and everything else (creation). Brian’s point here is profoundly disturbing, and raises the question as to whether he believes that God is a separate being from creation. Is he slouching toward a panentheism which does not distinguish God from this world?
This is a serious charge. I am not saying that Brian claims to be a panentheist, only that his denial of a natural/supernatural distinction implies as much. If he means something different, now would be a good time to speak up.
Finally, Brian’s book will persuade a lot of people because he uses a lot of Scripture. There are many biblical passages that speak to loving our neighbor and our need for unity, so the fact that Brian finds much Scripture to his liking is not surprising. However, discerning readers will notice the parts of Scripture which Brian omits or explains away (Gen. 6; John 14:6; Rom. 1:26; 5:12-21; Rev. 19:11-16), and just as important, weigh the likelihood that his fundamental assertion about the Greco-Roman argument is right. I have given several reasons to reject it, and since Brian supplies no argument for it, a wise reader will remain unconvinced.
From John Stott’s book, Christ the Controversialist (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1970).
On what Christians should do when they disagree with each other:
The proper activity of professing Christians who disagree with one another is neither to ignore, nor to conceal, nor even to minimize their differences, but to debate them. (p. 22)
On why we should speak the truth in love, not being truthless in love or loveless in truth:
We seem in our generation to have moved a long way from this vehement zeal for the truth which Christ and his apostles displayed. But if we loved the glory of God more, and if we cared more for the eternal good of the souls of men, we would not refuse to engage in necessary controversy, when the truth of the gospel is at stake. The apostolic command is clear. We are “to maintain the truth in love,” being neither truthless in our love, nor loveless in our truth, but holding the two in balance. (p. 19)
On the difference between a “tolerant mind” and a “tolerant spirit”:
We need to distinguish between the tolerant mind and the tolerant spirit. Tolerant in spirit a Christian should always be, loving, understanding, forgiving and forbearing others, making allowances for them, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, for true love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” [1 Cor. 13:7]. But how can we be tolerant in mind of what God has plainly revealed to be either evil or erroneous? (p. 8)
I think Stott would have liked something G. K. Chesterton once said: ““The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid” (The Autobiography, vol. 16 of The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton [San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988], 212).
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Up here on the farm
We chop wood To stay Warm
We all could use some Global Warming
We all need to fight
To preserve our rights
I don't want to be taxed a just for breathing
Open your eyes
Don't believe their lies
It's just a Frozen Wasteland
Al Gore is a liar
His pants are on fire
Plus he's getting rich from carbon offsets
He's loose with the facts
All he wants is a tax
Lets get together
Before it gets much colder
Its just a Frozen Wasteland
WE'RE ALL FROZEN!!
Technorati Tags: current events
1) Why not propose a more careful reading of Scripture as opposed to rewriting the basics for reading?
2) He caricatures the other side by saying the Bible is read as a constitution without regard to genre. This is obviously not true. Including genre is good hermeneutics and if that wasn't happening to at least some degree then as Wittmer points out, we would "consider the speeches of Job’s misguided friends to be as much the Word of God as what God himself says in the book. If the Bible is a legal document, then every word in it—even the speeches of Satan—is equally what God wants us to believe. Brian says that “there isn’t an easy way out of this problem.” Actually there is. It’s called hermeneutics, and every seminary teaches it."
3) McLaren says we read the Bible as our constitution when we stand under it as our authority. In this he tangles a constitution-like reading method (which anyone would reject) with the authoritative nature of the Bible; reinforcing the liberal love affair with killing Sola Scriptura.
Wittmer reminds us that it is "easy to stand under the Bible as our authority and still read biblical poetry differently than Paul’s epistles." We simply do not need to resort to the extreme suggested by McLaren in order to deal with our historic shortcomings.
On a related note, Bill Kinnon confronts McLaren's presumptuous set-up for how we are allowed to interact with his book. Basically, the conversation is beginning to see that not all of the thought leaders are really interested in conversation. Sarah, of Emerging Mummy, has begun to realize that the conversation is becoming just that, conversation only ... and worse, "the tone has gotten a little self-righteous, a bit holier-than-thou. Only we're not so holy about things like swearing and sex; it's more about social justice and who is posting more buttons on their blog for the One campaign."
Jeremy Bouma notes that he has "grown downright tired of the theology that has bubbled-up out of the emerging church." He writes:
I’m not exactly sure when my saucy love affair with emergent and liberal Christianity ended. My “I don’t” isn’t as crystalized as my “I do.”
Maybe it was when I read Pelagius‘ writings and realized much of Emergent theology really does mirror his 5th century theology.
Maybe it was after the former head of Emergent Village, Tony Jones, rejected original sin, a historic part of the Rule of Faith, claiming that it is “neither biblically, philosophically, nor scientifically tenable. “.
Maybe it was when I read Fredrick Schleiermacher and realized his and modern liberalism’s vapid, gospel-less faith are being repackaged and popularized to an unsuspecting, ignorant Christian community as a wholesome alternative to what has been.
Maybe it was after I read Karl Barth and realized the natural theology pushed by popular emergent theologians is not revitalizing Christian faith, but killing it; it is the same kind of faith Barth so vociferously fought against in order to preserve the historic Rule of Faith.
Maybe it was after reading a leading emerging church voice suggest that God and grace and the Kingdom of God are not tied directly and exclusively to Jesus Christ; ultimately its not really about Jesus, but about a vanilla, generalized World-Spirit god (lower-case “g”).
His conclusion is spot on, "in reality the emerging church simply believes otherly; the form of Christianity that this version of Christianity pushes is neither innovative nor different: it is a form of Christianity other-than the versions that currently exist but mirror those that have already existed."
A few years ago, I was struggling with some of the issues McLaren raises. But I found that some of the answers being proposed were less, not more, satisfying. I believe that our biggest need is not for a new Christianity, but instead to rediscover some of the contours of the gospel we may have forgotten. We don’t need a new contract; we need to “guard the good deposit” that’s been entrusted to us (2 Timothy 1:14).
We really don’t need a new kind of Christianity. We need to do a better job of rediscovering, and living in light of, the one we already have.
Technorati Tags: Emerging Church
In Ephesians we are reminded of how we used to walk in a state of death and disobedience (2:1-3), before being made alive by God, saved by grace through faith, and set on a new path of obedience. God has prepared good works beforehand for us to walk in (2:10). We are to walk worthy of our calling (4:1), and not walk in the way that the Gentiles do in the futility of their thinking and darkened understanding (4:17). Instead we are to walk in love (5:2), and walk as children of light (5:8), taking care how we walk (5:15)
In Colossians we are told that just as we "received Christ the Lord" so we are to "walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving" (2:6-7).
We are exhorted to "walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time" (4:5). We will only know how to do this because "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge"are hidden in Christ (2:3).
The Colossians heard the familiar call to walk worthy of the Lord. But notice the setting for this walk:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (1:9-10)
In Galatians we are to walk by the Spirit since we live by the Spirit, and not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16, 25)
In John's letters the same emphasis is repeated. We are to walk in the light as he is in the light, and not in darkness (1 John 1:7). Indeed we are to walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6).
Yet, for John, the setting for this walk is that of his proclamation of that which was from the beginning, the eternal life, which was with the Father and which was made manifest to us (the "us" being the apostles, 1 John 1:1-2). Moreover, unless this authoritative, authentic, original apostolic message and testimony is believed then no fellowship with the Father and the Son is possible (1 John 1:3-5). The truth supplies the boundaries, map, and direction for the walk.
The same note is struck in 2 & 3 John:
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father (2 John 4)
And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it (2 John 6)
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (3 John 4)
To separate truth and life, doctrine and practice, may well be a contempoary evangelical theory, but on the surface of these texts, and many others, it is an absurdity.