Archive for August 15th, 2007

Oak Hills Church has posted their September sermon series. From the site:

“Hole in My Life”: Everyone has to make the decision to follow Christ and stay on the path to full devotion
“Spirits in a Material World”: We have to plug-in to God and others at our weekend services.
“So Lonely”: We have to charge-up to become like Christ in small group gatherings.
“Driven to Tears”: We have to live-out our faith by serving at Oak Hills or in our community.
“Message in a Bottle”: Live a missional life.

Who could argue with that? You start with a decision to follow Christ and stay on the path to full devotion, go on to serving those in your church, then move on to small groups for discipleship, then on to serving your community at large, and finally living your entire life in a radical, Christ honoring way.

Who could object to that kind of sermon series?

I bet you can guess who it might be, as our watchdoggie friends demonstrate yet again that that when they evaluate the church its all about style for them.

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Watchdawggie in casual dressIn general, I have steered away from discussions of eschatology, primarily because it stirs great passion to little end. However, I am afraid I will have to venture into that territory with this particular post, as the fruits of bad theology when combined with similar poorly-fueled eschatology are often terrible to behold. In particular, deterministic/fatalistic theology (which is often part and parcel, though not limited to, of the Calvinist flavour) when combined with premillenial eschatology (especially of the dispensational variety) results in gnostic orthopraxy and a world view dominated by paranoia and fear. Unfortunately, this combination also makes good news (though not Good News), and allows a rather vocal subset of Christians to paint the whole in a rather poor and (unintentional, I would agree) un-Christlike image.

Background

I do not intend this to be an all-encompassing description of eschatology, but only to highlight a few points.

I tend to take a partial-preterist view of eschatology, summed up here with much more detail here. This view tends to read a number of the prophecies in the Olivet Discourse, Daniel and Revelation (save the last few chapters) as being relevant to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. (rather than, or possibly in addition to, to the eschaton).

This is significantly different than most flavors of premillenial eschatology that is much more favorable to the Calvinist worldview (though not universally so), which sees the Bible as independent from its writers and the time in which it was written. (Ironically, this pre-mil view of eschatology forces those who hold it to fudge the issue of inerrancy of the Bible when dealing with Daniel’s 70 weeks via a number of shell games, but that’s another long, sore subject, as well.)

What it boils down to, though, is this:

The worldview of fatalistic/deterministic theology paired with premillenial eschatology is one which posits that society will continue to degrade, and that nothing can be done about it. Therefore, we should concentrate on the world to come. This view interprets Jesus’ words to Pilate, “my kingdom is not of this world” to literally mean that his kingdom does not and can not exist in this world. As such, the only thing of any importance in this world is preaching an individual gospel focused on the eternal salvation of individuals – the world, itself, is destined for destruction, so there is no need (from a Christian perspective) to concern ourselves with the temporal.

Where this worldview starts to fail is in that the world, itself, has not fallen to disrepair and steadily worsened to Apocalyptic conditions (though I would note that such conditions did occur in Asia Minor and Palestine under the reigns of both Nero and Domitian in the first century AD – a coincidence, I am sure). Rather, it has fluctuated between periods of excess and revival, with more and more societal structure added to provide order and prevent doomsday conditions. Next, couple this with a consistent belief in a number of Christian communities of each generation, even before John Darby, that they were living in the last days before the parousia. With this dichotomy, many individuals with this worldview are forced to assume that the doomsday events are still proceeding apace, but are just not very visible, therefore pointing to some vast conspiracy which will bring about a one-world government and the ascendance of the antichrist. Therefore, every current event must be viewed through this lens, with a paranoid eye toward conspiracy

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Greetings! Below is another guest article penned by Henry (Rick) Frueh. Thank you again, Rick!

Jn.1:16 – And of His fulness have all we received grace for grace.

The common and general definition that has been used to satisfy and sometimes placate the masses is that grace is “unmerited favor”. Although in a surface and most shallow sense that description does touch the absolute fringe of the gift of grace but in so many ways it misleads and falls painfully short of even challenging the heart to allow the Spirit to bring us deeper than just a toe testing understanding of God’s amazing grace. Let us dissect these two words and see if they pass the Biblical smell test when gazing at grace, while embracing a desire to honor God with our description because in the final analysis only the revelation of the Spirit can even give us a glimpse, everything else is nothing more than cerebral gymnastics usually designed to bring convenient closure so we can add it to our theological dictionary.

Unmerited. That seems so humble and yet it abandons the core of who we really are. It appears so antiseptic as the word attempts to remove all our good works as the reason for God’s gift of grace, but again this word fails to filet our inner man and lay wide open for public inspection and, yes, humiliation about the depravity and absolute rebellious nature of every single cell of our being. We not only refused to make any attempt to gain God’s favor but we made every single possible attempt to discredit Him and our very driving purpose was to blaspheme His Lordship and His Holiness openly and finally and daily declare ourselves as “god” of our own existence. We were His declared enemy and our lives were a magnificent expression of our hate and disgust toward our Loving Creator. So the word “unmerited” is a comfortable effort that only tells half of the story, the more pleasant side that we can more easily embrace and teach.

Let me share a disturbing illustration that I hope will rearrange the theological furniture of our hearts and force us to re-examine the very nature of God’s grace. In the country of Uganda there is a civil war, we don’t hear much about it in America because they don’t have oil and they also are not white (sorry but let’s be honest). One of the uniquenesses of this war is that the rebels capture and kidnap children and teach them to maim and kill their enemies. They equip some with razors and the children, some as young as 6, are trained and forced to cut off ears, lips, and other parts of people’s bodies or else they themselves will be killed. Now this forces millions of children in Uganda to hide and constantly move in groups to avoid being captured. It is common for a group of one thousand children from age 3 to age 16 to huddle overnight in an abandoned building only to rise before daylight and move again in a relentless effort to escape the ruthless rebels. Not a story but a reality.

Let say you wanted to help the children and so you organized a group to go over to Uganda. You collected food and clothing and you took money with which to build strong buildings to protect these children. So you went and helped feed and clothe and protect these children and with that you felt good. Now these children did not deserve your help based upon anything they had done before but due to your sense of compassion you desired to help them. They had received unmerited favor from your hand.

Now as you got off the plane you immediately saw what these rebels had done. People all over were horribly maimed and there were mass graveyards marking their victims, and they presently were still engaged in enslaving children to carry out their violent acts. So you unloaded the cargo with all the materials that you had brought to help and minister, and instead of the helpless children you took them to the rebels and gave them to those killers and child abusers. All the Africans watched in confounded horror and unbelief as they saw these rebels being showered with these wonderful gifts. No one could explain it. Why? Because, brothers and sisters, they were witnessing an earthly representation of the grace of God. And the spiritual reality of the grace of God is impossible to fully understand in the natural and when it is reflected in such an illustration as this, we finally are awakened to the fact that we have been fooled into believing a shallow and self serving understanding of the glory of God’s grace.

Favor. Let us examine what that word means when it comes from God Himself. We sometimes get this idea that God’s favor is something akin to letting someone butt in line ahead of you or waving a car to pull out in front of you. Or we think it correlates to giving someone a promotion who really doesn’t deserve it. It is those carnal understandings that rob us of the glorious and eternal nature of God’s favor of which there are an infinite number of components. Just a dust particle of God’s favor would be beyond what anyone could fully absorb or comprehend, but God has not given us a dust particle of His favor. Open the ears of your understanding, you will not be able to completely fathom the truth of this, but God has given us His complete and perfect favor that contains no limits and holds no restraints either in blessing or time. One more step, please, because God has actually bestowed upon us all of His available favor which of course is eternally infinite. Now you must remove your shoes for this final step crosses the threshold of unimaginable glory. God has granted unto us….the same favor….that He has shown….His own Son.

You can breathe now. My poor mind and my poorer pen can never do justice to that revelation, but as a theological woodpecker I can only peck and peck at it attempting to go further into God’s heart all the while realizing that this side of heaven I will only see small chips that in themselves leave me broken and spilled out before Him Who is the Author and Finisher of all of it. And one day I will know even as I am known which is a colossal act of favor in itself, and on that day I will see Him from Whose face the heavens have fled away. And as I, in my new favored body, fall to my knees in immobilized worship, I will then fully realize what grace actually was.

What will we do, what can we do, when we come to terms with the fullness of the truths we now believe in part but then fully face to face? How will we feel and act when the grace that we so lightly defined on earth now reverberates throughout heaven and to the glory of God and we alone, we alone, have been the recipients? As I write this I am beginning to weep as I am overwhelmed at the prospect of seeing the Author of this grace and being granted the eternal privilege of glorifying Him who purchased it all for me. I am at the end of words, if you are a believing follower of the Risen Incarnation of Grace then you will understand.

In Revelation 7:17 the Word describes the Lamb in the midst of the throne and wiping away all our tears as He leads us to the living fountains of water. In the very next verse, after our tears have been wiped away, the Word says there was silence in heaven for one half hour.
I have wondered if that silence represents the first time we see clearly the Lamb of Grace and we are rendered speechless. All of heaven glorifies the Risen Christ with the silence of a holy and speechless worship.
Unbelievable, Jesus in Whom is all of God’s amazing grace.
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Martin Luther said, “When theology flourishes, everything goes on happily; for theology is the head of all branches of knowledge and the arts.”

If that is true, then when we compare the emerging/emergent church and the watchdoggies’ churches, which of the two has a healthier theology based on the flourishing of knowledge and arts?

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Why do some critics insist on describing their opponents in the worst possible way. It’s a sort of “Christian” way to call someone a name without actually doing it. Any time someone compares someone else to Hitler, Lenin, or Stalin, the accuser loses their credibility and becomes annoyingly shrill.

It’s ok to disagree with Hybels. Comparing Hybels’ leadership to any of these awful men is just wrong.

As Christians, in any discussion, no matter how much we disagree with the other person, we should always offer charity first. Not demonize them.

So, here’s the critic’s comments:

“Well, you know, Bill, if leadership is all that matters, I know some whiz bang leaders from history that would really get “underwear in a bundle.” How about some great teaching tapes from Der Fuehrer? Now that was some mind blowing leadership! How about V.I. Lenin? He was such a “great leader” that his corpse is still being refrigerated somewhere in Moscow so the public can stop by to pay their respects. Stalin wasn’t so bad in the leadership department either. It takes one doozy of a leader to kill what is estimated to be at least 40 million of his own countrymen. Then there’s Chairman Mao. Mao successfully led his minions to kill even more than Joseph Stalin. His legacy of leadership is so powerful that we have Americans, all these years later, actively funding the communist Chinese war machine every time we shop at WalMart. We’re talking leadership. If leadership concepts are all that matters for these pastors and teachings and beliefs of those we look to for examples are unimportant, why not get some of that great flickering, black and white newsreel footage and let pastors see what real leadership looks like?”

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