Archive for September 19th, 2007

Today is the anniversary of the death of Rich Mullins. For me, he seemed like the one voice in the CCM scene of my high school years that didn’t make me want to hide in shame during conversations about Christian music. I still listen to his songs and interviews, and though I never met him personally, I miss his voice, and influence.

Here is a tribute to him from one of my favorite sites and does justice to his legacy.

Here is one of my favorite orations from him.

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I’ve known the John Newton story for a number of years, how he became a Christian during his time as a captain of a slave ship. In later years, when he wrote the words to this song, long after he had left the slave trade, he finally realized how terribly wrong and sinful this occupation had been. What I did not know was the history behind the melody until I saw this YouTube video.


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Recently there’s been a lot of talk about whether or not this blog is significantly different from the watchdoggies out there. In response to this Ingrid writes:

We now have a CRNinfo commenter calling Jim Bublitz the devil. Imagine that. “Iggy” always has the flamethrowers at the ready to take down those he disagrees with, even going so far as to liken them to the devil himself, in Christian love, of course. I think the point here has been made very well by CRNinfo. Fix yourself, guys, before you start attacking others for being unloving.

And with that she magnanimously shuts down any further discussion. Of course what she doesn’t point out, or allow to be pointed out by commenters is that Iggy was called into account for that comparison.

First by Houston John:

Your comment about Jim in regards to fleeing the devil crossed the line I think.

And then by Chris L:

I agree with HJ – The correlation crossed the line…

Iggie ultimately concludes:

… Then I am rebuked.

And that ultimately is the difference.

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The Wittenburg Door (I remember reading this in my youth minister’s office years ago… which probably tells you too much about my background and my youth minister, now that I think about it…) has an interview with Rob Bell in its most recent issue.  Some excerpts:

DOOR: The Church hasn’t always been kind to artists. Especially ones bringing electricity.

BELL: Our assumption is that Church is where you say the things that have to be said. So people will speak but say, “Oh, I wouldn’t say that in church.” Well then, where would you say it? To me, it’s the place where you would push it the furthest. A faith community should be the place with the most honesty and vulnerability and prophetic culture—calling things what they are. So when I hear people say, “That’s nice but you really couldn’t do that in church,” I can’t even fathom that. My understanding is it would lead the culture in reality. 

I talk about having the first word. This idea that Church waits to see what the culture is doing then produces a D grade version with some sort of clever Jesus twist to me is utter blasphemy. The DaVinci Code, for example. You wait for a C grade movie with stars with bad haircuts and then gear your church teachings around a movie that many people aren’t even going to see? That seems absolutely anemic.

DOOR: Welcome to our world.

BELL: I don’t believe in Christian art or music. The word Christian was originally a noun. A person, not an adjective. I believe in great art. If you are an artist, your job is to do great art and you don’t need to tack on the word Christian. It’s already great. God is the God of Creativity. Categories desecrate the art form. It’s either great art or it isn’t. Followers of Jesus should have the first word instead of coming late to the game with some poor quality spin-off. Let’s talk about things before everyone else.

DOOR: As a pastor, how do you motivate people to the front lines?

BELL: First, the scripture always bends towards the oppressed and the marginalized. Beginning in the Torah—take care of the widow, the orphan, the stranger among you. The story is written by oppressed minorities. And it continues, no room in the inn, they follow Jesus because they are hungry. The story always goes towards the underside of the Empire. I think it is sometimes hard for the American church to understand the Bible because we are the Empire. We are the ones in power, the ones with wealth. I think in some settings that’s why the Bible has such little power—because it’s an oppressive narrative. There are six billion people in the world, three billion live on less than $2 dollars a day, 800 million people will not eat today, and 300 million in Africa alone do not have drinking water. So we as Americans are six percent of the population yet we consume 40 to 50 percent of the resources. We are the upper, upper, rich elite. And our way is taking over the world. So we have to first ask the question—how can we take all this wealth and give it away? All the technology and beautiful parts of capitalism and bless the world and the poor—or else we’re in deep trouble.

DOOR: Sometimes the issue of the poor gets lost in all the left vs. the right crap in this country. How do you cut through that? Serving the poor is not a new message.

BELL: The issue is not saving the poor—it’s saving us. When Jesus uses the word hell, He does not use the word with people who are not believers or not believing the right things. It is a warning to religious people that they are in danger of hell because of their indifference to the suffering of the world. So the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is not what heaven and hell are like. It’s a parable to rich people warning them that their apathy has them in danger. Heaven and hell are present realities that extend into the future.
     For a lot of Americans, this is about the saving of their own soul. Recapturing God’s heart for the world. Otherwise I will end up not caring and not passionate. At our church, people are desperate to understand this culture of excessive materialism. We were made to bless the world. The original call is that blessing was always instrumental. When that blessing gets misconstrued as favoritism you have a very toxic thing happening. Our people are desperate to give, hardwired for it. I assume that people are good and just need opportunities.

DOOR: Um, we’re getting the impression we might not see you on TBN anytime soon.

BELL: Ha. I think that’s one of the most warped ideas—that God just can’t wait to bless you. God blesses you so you will bless the world and if at any point I keep that for myself, then I am in trouble.

DOOR: Actually, your church is one of the hottest churches in America.

BELL: I don’t even know what that means. I know there’s a woman in the second row in the second service that has cancer for the third time. I know there’s a single mom named Erin who needs a place to live. I know this guy who just got custody of his kids and he’s trying to figure out how to be a single dad. So to me a Church is real people trying to figure it out. The word hottest isn’t really a word I associate with a community of Christians. (laughs) For my wife and me it’s very important that we live as close as possible to a normal life in our city. So words like hottest and up and coming are not reality and not a place to live. It’s a dead end road.

DOOR: How did this Mars Hill thing happen, anyway?

BELL: Seven years ago, a group of friends were just dreaming of something better. I guess the natural evolution of each generation is to explore what it means. How to live the way of Jesus here and now. So we started and it now feels like fifty years packed into seven. Mars Hill is an old mall. Our “architect”—I say that as a joke—says everything about the church should scream “Welcome to our church service! Now get the hell out of here.” We say, “This isn’t the church, this is a church service. It’s just an hour where we have some teaching, some singing and you’ll hear about things in the community.” If there are 43 “one anothers” in the New Testament—serve one another, carry one another’s burden’s, confess to one another—you can only do a couple of those in a church service. Until you have a community that you are journeying with, please don’t say you are a part of this church. You just come to a gathering. We are very intentional about that. The question is, “Who do you call when your brother ODs on cocaine? If your mom is in the hospital, who comes and sits in the waiting room with you? When you cannot pay your rent, who do you go to and say please help me out?” That’s your church.  

HT: Bob Hyatt via Chris Pajak

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In the comments section of this post (where Ben Witherington III takes on John Piper’s view of the Minneapolis bridge collapse – an excellent read), Ben makes the following observation which meshes with a number of the recent discussions on free will/predestination on this site:

First of all, it is not correct to say in any way that “what God permits, he also wills”. This is to ignore that it is one thing to say God is sovereign, quite another to talk meaningfully about how God exercises his sovereignty which is always for good. God of course could have pre-ordained all things. Had God, who is light and in whom there is no darkness at all, done this. the world would certainly look like a very different place than it does.

God instead chose to create a world in which his will is not the only will in play. There are other actors in the drama and they are responsible for their own moral actions. Why did God do this, when God knew that there would be those who exercised their will at least on some occasions in ways that violated God’s will for their lives? Why did God create a world where sin and evil was possible? One answer, but by no means the only one, is that God wanted a world in which loving relationships were possible between God and those created in God’s image. And if love, which must be freely received and freely given, and can never be coerced or forced or predetermined, is possible in that world, then also its opposite is possible. Read again the heartache of God in Hosea 11 because of Israel’s rejection of God Does this sound like a God who preordained for Israel to sin and reject him? I think not.

The more profound question is, why would God not intervene and stop that disaster in Minneapolis? This is an excellent question, and simplistic answers will not do because: 1) sometimes God does intervene and stop disasters for his people; and 2) certainly God has not run out of power. My answer to this question is a more philosophical one, taken from the arena of parenting. What happens to a child where the parent always hovers, never allows the child to grow up, never allows any risk to enter the picture for that child. Does the child ever learn to become a responsible moral adult, a person who will take responsibility for his or her own choices? No, they do not, I am afraid. If you want to have a world where love and human virtue is actually possible, then you have to allow more than one moral agent to be acting in that world, and sometimes even at odds with God’s will. Doubtless God could have predetermined all things, but once he chose to create a world where love between higher beings, and real moral virtue and real free choices were possible, then sin, and evil became possible as well.

Think for a moment about Jesus himself. When Jesus submits to God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane, could he have done otherwise? Well, Jesus seems to think so, indeed he struggles here because his personal will is actually at odds with God’s in this case. Did he freely choose to obey and do God’s will, or was it a situation where he could not do otherwise? Now if you say the latter, then you actually have removed part of your Bible from existence, namely the stories about Jesus enduring real temptations from Satan whether at the beginning or end of his ministry. Temptation by definition is only as temptation if you are inclined to do it, and there is actually a possibility that you might do so!

Think of a text like Rom. 8.28 which we might translate “God works all things together for good for those who love God…” this does not in any way suggest that all things in themselves are good, or willed by God, even indirectly. It does suggest that an almighty God can intervene and weave things together for good for those who love God. That is frankly a different matter.

HT: iMonk

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