Archive for September 24th, 2007

From here:

The reason why I engage in these discussions is very simple: I want to remove the stumbling block to the Gospel message that is being created by a dogmatic presentation of Creationism. Not the belief in a young earth and creation without evolution per se, but the “either/or” teaching that comes with it. I am not here to argue for an old earth or evolution, necessarily, but against the false dichotomy that so often comes along with Creationism. More and more people are being taught that an old earth/evolution and Christianity are wholly inconsistent and that if you believe one, you can not really believe the other. Such a blanket statement puts two very distinct groups in crisis and I am convinced that souls are being lost to the Kingdom as a result. This may sound a bit over-dramatic, but I have seen too many people distracted from the Gospel message by this issue.

Creationism (generally of the young earth variety) is one of those issues that has assumed center stage for many Christians. If we believe that the gospel is the center of Christiantiy, and is that which saves, and reconciles the sinner with God then the gospel should be the primary focus of our churches, ministries, and lives.

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In this latest post at CRN / Apprising, Ken Silva attacks Mars Hill Bible Church (Rob Bell) for allowing Doug Pagitt to fill in as a guest speaker while Rob Bell was sick. First off, Ken often makes insignificant jabs at churches for really ridiculous reasons. For example, he writes:

…was asked to preach yesterday at Mars Hill Bible Church. This is from a member in covenant relation with MHBC; ah, that’s a member for those of us who speak English

It really isn’t that hard to understand what a member in covenant relationship with MHBC implies and means. But I digress. Ken presents the idea that because MHBC allowed an emergent leader to preach, that somehow Rob Bell is emergent. He writes

As I have said before: If it looks Emergent, and it does; if it acts like Emergent, and it does; and if it sounds like Emergent, and it does…then know it’s just as Emergent as Brian McLaren

I am confused as to how Brian McLaren got into the conversation. But I digress yet again. So, I am wondering if Ken actually heard what was preached at MHBC, or is he just assuming that what Pagitt preached was heresy? Is everything that comes out of an emergent leader’s moth heresy just because it comes from an emergent leader? I am sure that a well researched theologian and author like Ken Silva would not make accusations about someone before actually hearing what they said in a given setting.

Also, I do not understand how allowing an emergent leader to speak at your church makes you emergent. If a democrat preaches at my church, does that then dictate my political views? If someone with a literal 6-day creation theory comes and preaches on sin, does that dictate my views on the foundation of the world? Of course not. The problem here is that the staff at CRN is generally unable to differentiate between labels, insignificant theological differences and the truth. They see everyone in different boxes with labels on them. It is impossible to run in emergent circles and yet be a reformed thinker. It is impossible to be reformed and actually believe that non-reformed thinkers are not heretics. And at the core: if you are not like me and my friends, then you are man-loving heathen. Are there essential doctrines should divide? Yes. I just think that CRN often chooses the wrong ones to divide over.

Lastly, the logic in the article flows like this:

  • Bell allowed Pagitt to preach for him
  • Pagitt is emergent, therefore Bell is emergent
  • Brian McLaren is emergent, therefore Bell is too
  • Pagitt actually gets along with Dan Kimball
  • Dan Kimball is therefore emergent
  • Pagitt would then agree with Ken that Kimball preaches a “perverted gospel”

What? Guilt by association is no good here. If that was the case, Jesus would be considered a whore, a drunk and a thief. I would also like to point out that 6 of the 7 reference links go back to Ken’s website for reference. The other link is from Team Pyro. I am not too sure, but I am pretty certain that using yourself as a reference is not good research.

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Judging by this pyrotechnic display of whining when Johnny Mac is criticized with a remarkably watchdoggie-like terminology from Doug Pagitt there is very little taking of what is dished out (oh, and before you get all “OH NOES TEH HYPROCRSY” on me I don’t approve of what or how Pagitt expressed himself, I’m just making an observation about how the watchdoggies have responded to someone who has applied the terminology of the watchdoggies to the head watchdoggie).

And just in case you think this is an actual matter of theological differences they also manage to criticize Mark Driscoll who is all about being Reformed.

Before you get too excited about that, note that Driscoll also took some hard shots at non-Emerging critics who don’t approve of the methodology (and scatology) he employs to contextualize his ministry for postmodern young people. Driscoll dismissed all such critics as “fundamentalists” (he clearly doesn’t relish saying that word the way he does certain four-letter expressions). He said such people pose a danger equal to that of the heretics within Emergent.

I guess its not a matter of being Reformed, its a matter of doing it with the right kind of style.

And then there’s this:

Meanwhile, Driscoll himself is under fire from some of his Emerging friends who don’t like his combativeness and claim he fudged the numbers in his description of Mars Hill’s “baptsmalooza.”

So it seems the “Emerging Conversation” is coming apart at the seams.

I think I’ve finally figured out the watchdoggie gag-reflex towards conversation. Within the watchdoggie ranks there is no room for differences at all. A watchdoggie conversation is one person talking and everyone else nodding in agreement. While within the e/e communities conversations are pursued specifically because of the differing views. So a watchdoggie sees what is a normal conversation with people disagreeing and talking it out and sees something that is “coming apart at the seams”, while the rest of us who aren’t checking with Johnny Mac first before forming an opinion see a normal conversation.

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This post which was linked on CRN contains one of the oddest attempts of storytelling I have seen. The author calls it the “Doctrine of the Three Little Pigs”. It basically takes different verses and strings them together to make the point the correct doctrine will keep us safe from the enemy. There is some truth in that statement, but I guess the thing that I found most egregious in this parable was the references to the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It seems to me the author is taking away points from the parable that are not there.

The story of the prodigal son starts with Jesus introducing us to a son who asks his father for his part of the inheritance.  First off, this request would have been enough to justify the father disowning the son, if not having him put to death for disobeying the Fifth Commandment.  This son was basically wishing his father dead.  However, the father honors his son’s wish, and gives him his inheritance.  This would have been a shocking start to this story for the Jewish audience.

It doesn’t stop there.  The son goes to a “far country” which would have been considered a cursed pagan land.  Things like famine and drought in those time would have been considered God’s judgment on evil people.  To make matters worse, the son, in order to survive ends up defiling himself further by working with pigs.  Pigs were unclean, and Jews were forbidden to raise or eat them.  Basically, Jesus makes a point of portraying this young as the most vile and disgusting thing a good Jew could think of.

So we all know how the story goes.  The son regains some sense and decides to return home and beg his father’s forgiveness in hopes of being made a servant in the house.  He starts his journey home.  Now is where the real shocking part of the story begins.  The father sees the son, and actually runs toward him.  This was not the act of a dignified Jewish father.  To top it off he gives the son a robe, a ring, and sandals.  The robe is a sign of honor, the ring a sign of inheritance, and the sandals a sign of prestige.  Basically the father gives the son back all his rights and privileges of sonship in spite of the son’s dishonorable and horrible deeds.  Then, of course, the party begins.

Enter the elder son.  This son was dutiful.  He was working in the fields for his father.  He hears the party and wonders what’s up.  When he finds out this is a party for his younger brother, he is livid.  This is the brother that deserted his father, why is his father celebrating his return?  Is there no retribution, no justice?  It seems the elder son, while dutiful, has lost the ability to experience his father’s joy.  Perhaps he doesn’t really understand the depth and width of his father’s love.  But still, the father invites him to the party.  Does the elder son accept the request?  We are left with the unanswered question.

This brings me back to the beginning of my post.  It seems that some have taken the story of the prodigal son to be a warning against sinful living.  That may be a small part of the story, but to make it a focus misses the point entirely.  It is interesting that the parable has come to be known as “The Prodigal Son”.  Many people assume the meaning of the word “prodigal” to be “wayward” or “lost”.  In actuality, the definition is this:

adjective-

1. wastefully or recklessly extravagant: prodigal expenditure.

2. giving or yielding profusely; lavish (usually fol. by of or with): prodigal of smiles; prodigal with money.

3. a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift.

noun

4. a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift.

So, yes the son can be describes as being a prodigal, since he wasted his father’s inheritance.  On the other hand, I believe it would be more accurate to call this parable, “The Prodigal Father”.  The Father in this story is the one who the Jewish audience would have considered “wasteful or recklessly extravagant”.  He bestows honor and wealth on a son who earlier in the story wished him dead.  He gives lavish gifts that the son didn’t deserve.  This story is about the extravagant love of God.

So the question we must ask ourselves is the same question that the elder son is left with.  Will we partake in the Father’s extravagant love toward sinners, or will we remain outside and be bitter that sinners do not get what is coming to them.  It is the choice between cynicism and joy, judgment or acceptance.

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I have to say, with all the talk of man-centered, semi-pelagians running about in pulpits and churches, only attracting people by their creativity and talent I was a bit surprised to see this post praising George Whitefield. After all, Whitefield was the very definition of innovation and creativity when it came to crafting a sermon.

Check it out:

At an early age, he found that he had a passion and talent for acting and the theatre, a passion that he would carry on through the very theatrical re-enactments of Bible stories that he told during his sermons.

Oh, but it gets even worse:

Whitefield was also known to be able to use the newspaper media for beneficial publicity. His revolutionary preaching style shaped the way in which sermons were delivered.

So why is Whitefield admired and praised while current preachers who innovate, create and revolutionize detested by the watchdoggies?

Were one cynical one could conclude that Whitefield is admired by watchdoggies because he hasn’t been around for over two hundred years. A slightly less cynical person might conclude that he gets a free pass because they agree with him. Either way, it’d be nice to see a slightly less subjective view from the watchdoggies.

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Greetings!  It is great to see the discussion which has gone on this past weekend while I was out, directing music for my church’s Great Banquet weekend.  Since this past week seems to have been more centered on orthodoxy, I think I’m going to (at least attempt to) steer part of this week’s discussion toward practice (though I’ve got some -doxy posts in the works, as well)…

In this light, I’ve had a few RL conversations this past week on the poor, and what Jesus believed and taught as our response to the poor.  To start this off, here is a repost of a scriptural study I put together last fall on Jesus’ comments along the lines of ‘you will always have the poor…’

Blessings,

Chris

__________________________
It is interesting how the Spirit works – I don’t know about you, but I cannot count the times that I have read a passage of scripture, a chapter in a book, or listened to a sermon and *BAM* within the next day or so I find that I need exactly what I heard/read. What if I hadn’t taken the time for personal study and devotion? It is a sobering thought.

Interestingly, when I hear/read scripture being misused (particularly by literalists), I often bite my tongue, waiting for that ‘leading’ or ‘tugging’ that seems to then happen when I see the exact passage misused multiple times by multiple individuals in multiple forums.

Today is just such a day, and the passage(s) in question are the three gospel accounts where Jesus states that ‘the poor you will always have with you’. These are located in Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, and John 12:8. Where these scriptures seem to be (mis)used is in casting aside calls to be ‘missional’, particularly relating to serving the poor and addressing poverty at home and abroad. Usually, the misuse is along the lines of “We should be far more concerned with eternal issues, rather than temporal ones. Besides, Jesus said that ‘For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.’”

So, what is Jesus’ point here?

First off, let’s look at the context. All three accounts are of the same event in Bethany, where Jesus is eating at the house of Simon the Leper with Lazarus, Mary, Martha, Judas and at least some of Jesus other disciples. There, a woman (identified by John as Mary) took expensive perfume and anointed Jesus with it (two accounts accentuate her use of it on his head, the other account accentuates the use on his feet – possibly indicating that she was anointing the head, heart, hands and feet, as with a miqvah.)

Then, Judas criticizes Mary’s actions by saying ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages!’. However, John also includes this statement about Judas’ motives:

He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:6)

So, we can already see that the question being put to Jesus isn’t really a genuine one in the first place. It was one that was self-serving with the appearance of appealing to service to the poor. And so, Jesus answers:

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (John 12:7-8)

As I’ve discussed on a number of occasions, Jesus was a master rabbinical teacher, using PaRDeS and Parable as his key methods. As such, this teaching contains (at the very least) P’shat and Remez.

The P’shat (or ‘plain meaning’) is often expressed in contrast and placed second (like with ‘you have heard it said X, but I say to you Y’). In John 12:8, the emphasis (or plain meaning) is after ‘but’. The key is ‘you will not always have me’ and not ‘you will always have the poor’. So, to give the proper interpretation to Jesus’ words, you would see that he is agreeing with the sentiment (you will always have the poor), but making an exception based on his physical presence and the significance of Mary’s anointing with the perfume to be used in his burial. This is not a callous statement that ‘we will always have the poor, and therefore we have no responsibility to do anything about it’ – that is 180-degrees apart from His teaching!

To emphasize this, we need to look at the remez (the ‘hint’). When Jesus says ‘You will always have the poor among you’, he is actually quoting from Deuteronomy 15:11, which states ‘There will always be poor people in the land.’ If you will remember, to understand remez, we must look at the verses immediately before and after the one quoted. Jesus’ audience, who had the Torah memorized, would have been able to do this instantly -

If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. (Deut 15:7-11)

So, if it wasn’t obvious from the P’shat, the Remez should not only put the lie to those who misuse Jesus’ words, but show us, once again, that – while the eternal destination is not unimportant – our temporal responsibility is to care for both the physical and spiritual needs of those less fortunate.

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