Archive for December, 2007

I’m going to use the consumption of alcohol as an example here. If you are of the mind that every Scriptural reference to “wine” is really unfermented grape juice, then mentally substitute another example. If you can’t think of any, then I’m quite worried for you.

Need a few extra boundaries in your life? Totally understandable. With the exception of a sip of champagne at my aunt’s wedding, I haven’t ever knowingly consumed alcohol. I grew up in “grape juice” circles, and don’t want to unnecessarily offend my friends that are still in those circles, but that’s not the primary reason. To be honest, the main reason that I don’t drink is that I don’t know if I can handle it. Who knows? I may not have an addictive personality, but I’d hate to find out the hard way that I do.

I find nowhere in Scripture that forbids all consumption of alcohol. But for me, personally (and by “personally”, I mean “personally”), that’s the standard.

A few interesting Scriptures (emphasis mine):

Genesis 2:16-17
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 3:2-3
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

Genesis 3:11
And [God] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

At the risk of getting a Sesame Street tune stuck in your head, one of these things is not like the others. In the first reference, God gives a command, and in the last, He references that command. But in the middle passage — let’s be honest here — Eve lies about God.

Which leads me to a sidebar: If I interpret this passage correctly, the first human sin was not the consumption of the forbidden fruit or even the pride or lust that led to that consumption. Rather, it would seem that the first human sin was Eve’s lie about God. If someone has Scriptural reference to refute that, I’ll be glad to back off it.

Note that Eve did not say, “God said not to eat it, and I’m not even gonna touch it, because I know that I can’t eat what I don’t touch.” No, she ascribed to God something that He never said. I have to wonder if the serpent’s deception didn’t get easier with that statement, because she was already half-way “there”.

And so, here we see that legalism is older than dirt. It wasn’t invented in the 1950s by some preacher to keep his people from going to see Doris Day movies.

Now, granted, legalism often involves more than ascribing to God what He never said. It also involves imposing your personal extra-Biblical standards on others. But in some sense, is this not really the same thing? Perhaps I am not so bold as to quote from the book of Hezekiah. But if I put my personal standards on your life, am I not either claiming divine revelation and an open Canon, or at least claiming that God has told me what He wants for your life?

Seems that either way, you’re lying about God — something we might wanna do less of.

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Watchkittie?With the New Year approaching and considering the blessings we’ve all received this past year in our own lives apart from, and possibly in relation to, this site, I’d like to take some space over the next few days for myself (and the other editors who want to join in) to look back over the year and offer an opinion of the “best of 2007″ articles.

Yesterday, we gave the dear readers/commenters on the site their “vote” (based on web-hits) for the most popular articles of the year, and so now I think it is only fitting that the writers take their picks, if they so desire. Here are my Top 15 (’cause I had a hard enough time getting to 15, let alone 10!) I could not, in good conscience, include any of my own articles, as I would probably not be a good judge of a “best of”, though my favorite one to write was the Chosen: To What Purpose series and the one that probably represented the biggest change to myself was this one.

So, without more rambling, here’s my list:

  1. Mr. Corley Goes to Washington – I can’t say how much Mike’s example should speak to other ODM’s on how to conduct actual “research” into those they may desire to criticize. This also speaks to such things as reading books before you critique them, etc.
  2. Humor Day – Rick Frueh came in from out of the blue with this one, and it was great seeing everyone “play nice” and get into the spirit of laughing together.
  3. Why Do I Write Here? – Joe Martino, one of the first co-editors here at CRN.Info lays out his reasons for writing here. Of all the writers here “on staff”, Joe’s passion is always evident and transparent. This article is one I like to go back to.
  4. Are Women Human? – I have to say that, based on my conversations with her, I expected Julie would quietly dip her toe in the water with her first post here on CRN.Info. Instead, she just jumped right in with both feet, and it was an interesting conversation to have.
  5. If You Don’t Agree With Us, You’re Going to Hell – The title pretty much describes one of hundreds of CR?N articles from the previous year, but its subject matter was an article by Mike Ratliff that raised matters of conviction to the level of essential doctrine.
  6. Christian [Insert Noun or Verb] – As we keep butting up against such human classification as “secular” vs. “Christian”, Neil did an excellent job laying out the logical inconsistency in trying to classify things as “Christian”
  7. Do Seeker Sensitive Churches Produce False Christians? – I have to admit that one of the things that irks me most is the way some folks bandy about charges of mass numbers of believers as “false Christians”, particularly when it is because the accused don’t hold to the same systematic theology as the accuser. John D did a great job defending one such group of believers in this article.
  8. Dan Responds To His Critics – One of the things I set out to do when I set up this site was to give a place for those folks mauled by the watchdoggies a platform from which to respond, if they so desired. This article was just such an occasion, where we gave Dan Kimball the floor to defend himself against Ken Silva’s slander.
  9. Suddenly It All Becomes Clear – Contrary to popular belief, I’m not an anti-Calvinist. I know a good number of Christians who believe in part – or in whole – much of what Calvin taught, and I would never hesitate to call them my brother. Brendt is one of those kind folks and he does a beautiful job with what I think was his first article here on CRN.Info. I also loved the comments section of the article which spent most of the time in rational discourse without lots of sidetracking.
  10. Was Wesley a Christian? – An excellent post by Matt B, who seems to have a knack for visiting the way-back machine and making history (dare I say) relevant to current events.
  11. Preach it Brother (and only preach it) – Wow! I had thought that the “Regulative Principal of Worship” was an artifact of the A Capella Churches of Christ, but this piece showed me how wrong I was. What it seemed to underline was how little faith we have in the Spirit to lead when it doesn’t match our preconceived notions whose roots are actually apart from scripture…
  12. Lessons from the Language Incidents – an excellent summation from what was learned in the discussion about language and the attack-mechanics of O”D”M’s
  13. Irony, Thy Name is Ingrid – As a fan of Francis Schaeffer years ago, I found his son Frank’s autobiography to be interesting (confession: this article got me to pick it up and skim it a Border’s over lunch, but I’ve still not bought it for a full read). Ingrid’s review seemed to be of a completely different book, which Phil seemed to notice, as well…
  14. Serving Christian Dirt – Back in August, Rick dug into some of what seems to be behind the “need” to dish dirt on other Christians, and the sad state of ODM affairs. It was a sobering article.
  15. Just The Facts, Ingrid, About Christmas at Saddleback – The ODM “reviews” of the Saddleback Christmas program last year were pretty much written before the event even took place, and John D did a great job pointing out what actually happened and how it honored God.

So, there you go – I could easily have gone to 25 or 30 – which was where I started – but I have to say I’m consistently and pleasantly pleased with all of the writers who have participated here in 2007. Thank you all of you!

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Chris Lyons has spoken out again and again about the dangers of buying so totally into a systematic theology that it becomes an idol. Recently Jim Bublitz has provided us with an example of this in the form of a criticism of Chris Lyons. Check out the criticisms leveled:

Those words, spoken by Chris Lyons
on his podcast represent the ongoing challenge by his CRN.INFO website, to the Protestant Reformation and the beliefs that were affirmed in it. He is joined on the podcast by his blog contributor Tim Reed who is Senior Minister of Owosso Church of Christ. Tim and Chris are postmodern followers of the “No Creed But The Bible” Restoration Movement (stemming from 19th century Stone-Campbellism). So it is that you will find them militating against the Confessions of Faith and Systematic Theologies which have always been an important part of Protestant Christianity.

As you listen to the second half of that podcast, you will note their certitude in declaring various Reformational beliefs (most notably Calvinism) as being emphatically untrue. While calling for those who hold such beliefs to behave less certain, they themselves demonstrate dogmatic certitude that such beliefs are unbiblical. Chris Lyons asserts that ALL discernment watchdog websites (ODM’s as they call them) are operated by Calvinists. While disparaging these beliefs, he enlists the help of several contributing postmodernists, including two that espouse Calvinism and yet demonstrate little willingness to engage the blog’s frequent misrepresentations of their beliefs.

Notice that the criticism has nothing to do with placing the Bible as our authority, nor does it have anything to do with Christology, or even acting like a Christian. Jim, is, instead criticizing Chris for being critical of “Reformational beliefs”, “Calvinism”, and “Protestant Christianity” (which is such a broad category most doctrinal statements both affirms portions of it and condemns portions of it).

Accusing this blog of these things means about as much to us as accusing us of being critical of Jungian psychology, or despising the designated hitter. In other words, it is, at best, a non sequitur when it comes to discussing what it means to follow Christ, because we aren’t following a philosophy of “Calvinism”, “Reformational beliefs” or “Protestant Christianity”. We are following Christ.

This is also the same reason we compare the watchkitties to the new Roman Catholic Church. The key difference between the RCC and other churches is the source of authority. The RCC has the pope, tradition, and the Bible as their sources of authority, while other denominations use only the Bible. Well, other non-watchkittie denominations. Because, as Jim has made clear here, the watchkitties’ source of authority are Calvin’s writings, councils and individuals who codified his writings and the Bible.

And that, friends, is the danger of systematic theology.

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It seems it has become more en vogue these days for several of the ODM’s to accuse this site of being just as judgmental and harsh as other places on the internet. There are few things I would say right away to that. First, all of the writers here have been open to correction, and we have apologized if we’ve stepped over a line. Second, a lot of what gets posted here is meant to be a defense from these very ODMs attacks. It is always surprising to me that often people who spend so much time attacking others act surprised when they encounter some form of defense. Do they really think everyone should just roll over for them?

Jim from Old Truth actually quotes a response I made on Joe Martino’s blog a few weeks ago where I said this:

This is always the defense of the Pharisee. They feel fine calling out other’s sins, but try to insulate themselves from others doing it to them. Jesus had no problem calling these type of people out.

Now, really, I feel honored, but I wanted to elaborate on that comment. I think sometimes Christians hear a message that sounds somewhat contradictory. We are told to remove the log from our eye before worrying about the speck in someone else’s eye. But we are also called to have some level of discernment. How does one negotiate this minefield?

One book that helped me clarify my thoughts on these subjects was Greg Boyd’s Repenting of Religion. In it Boyd starts from the very beginning explaining how humanity’s original sin was an effort to have the ability to discern between right and wrong. By eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil we set ourselves to make judgments that only God has the right to make. Eating from this tree gives us a false sense of self-worth, and humans love to do it today.

Obviously, though, it seems there are some situations where we have to have discernment, Boyd says. We need to know when something is particularly harmful. This is very important when dealing with people in the Church. The importance, though, is not in keeping sinful people away from Church, it is in protecting the Church from the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. This is deadly. It’s why Jesus confronted Pharisees so strongly.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 11, entitled Confronting Pharisees.

First, it is important for us to notice that religious sin is the only sin Jesus publicly confronted. The religious variety of the forbidden fruit is the most addictive and deceptive variety. Instead of acknowledging that the knowledge of good and evil is prohibited, religious idolatry embraces the knowledge of good and evil as divinely sanctioned and mandated. It gives the illusion of being on God’s side even while it destroys life and hardens people in direct opposition to God.

Religious sin is the most destructive kind of sickness, for it masquerades as and feeds off the illusion of health. Far from being open to a cure, this kind of sickness thrives on the illusion that it is the epitome of health. By its very nature it resists soft correction. Indeed, because it gets life from the rightness of its beliefs and behavior rather than from love, the religious version of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil tends to construe all compassion, accomodation, and unconditional acceptance as compromise. People afflicted with religious sin thus tend to disdain compassionate love, even if it is extended toward them. Hence, Jesus’ approach to leaders who fed off this illusion could not be to gently offer them a cure. Rather, for their sake and the sake of those who blindly followed them, he had to publicly expose their sickness.

What does this mean for the church? We have seen that the church is called to be the corporate body of Christ that unconditionally loves and embraces all people, regardless of their sin, and invites them into its own celebration of the cessation of the ban. The only exception to this otherwise unconditional embrace is the sin Jesus confronted in the religious leadership of his day. While all sin is equal in the sense that it separates us from God, sins differ in terms of their impact on people and thus differ in how they need to be dealt with. Religious sin is unique in that it is the only sin that by its very nature resists the cure of God’s unconditional love and embrace.

Boyd goes on to explain ways of dealing with modern-day Pharisees, but the point is that a religious spirit can be deadly in a church. Jesus at one point accused the Pharisees of blocking people from entering the Kingdom. He called Pharisees out in His day, and I believe we need to be wary of them in our day.

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It is rumored that the next edition of Webster’s Dictionary will have a picture of Randy Alcorn next to the definition for “gracious”. If the rumor isn’t true, it ought to be.

A couple years ago, Alcorn brokered a bit of a detente between Every Tribe Entertainment and Jason Janz of the Sharper Iron blog after the latter made some slanderous comments and over-generalizations about ETE and its casting of a homosexual actor to portray a Christian missionary in End of the Spear. That Janz reportedly made something of a mea culpa says to me that Alcorn did the right thing. That others — who simply couldn’t let go of the issue — derisively mocked Alcorn’s efforts says even more.

As I wrote back then, “[k]nowing what I do of Randy Alcorn, [his actions are not] at all surprising.” And today I stumbled on another instance of how God is working through this man.

LA Times columnist Joel Stein made his own contribution to those dorky little quotes on the side of Starbucks’ cups:

Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can’t wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but heaven has to step it up a bit. They’re basically getting by because they only have to be better than hell.

Obviously, Stein has a lot to learn about the heaven that the Bible describes. And, unsurprisingly, he got a lot of angry emails about the quote, chastising him for his lack of knowledge. That’s right, boys and girls, ignorance is now a sin; even if professing Christians are responsible, to some degree, for spreading the ignorant thoughts in the first place.

Sadly, it is somewhat surprising that some Christians responded to Stein graciously, seeking to help to correct his error, not just lambaste it. And five people sent him copies of Alcorn’s book, Heaven, in which Alcorn details what Scripture actually does say about heaven. This impressed Stein so much, that he called Alcorn and wrote a column about the experience.

Alcorn, in turn, wrote a post on his blog about the entire experience. Granted, some of it was to clarify and/or refute some inaccuracies that Stein attributed to him in the column. But there is also a lot to be learned from what Alcorn wrote, and I believe that was probably his primary purpose for the post.

When writing about Shelly Migliaccio, who sent Stein an autographed copy of Heaven, and whom he also called, Stein’s column closes by saying:

In Migliaccio’s heaven, the colors are more brilliant, we all have jobs we love, we are free of the lies and horrible stuff she sees on the news. And, at least for the little while we were on the phone, I believed in Migliaccio’s heaven too.

Alcorn notes:

Wouldn’t you expect Joel Stein, whose columns can be crass, cynical and extremely hostile to the Christian faith, would end this column differently? Notice he doesn’t just say for a little while he wanted to believe in Shelly’s view of heaven, but that he actually did. He may not realize it, but he saw Jesus in Shelly, and for a little while, believed, because cynicism melts in His presence.

Whether he realizes it or not, Joel Stein took an irrevocable step that day. Hopefully, God will see to it that it’s one of many steps that eventually makes the real heaven a bit more crowded.

In the meantime, go read Alcorn’s post. And in the slightly longer term, I think that we would all benefit to remember his example of graciousness with others with whom we disagree.

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Grumpy CatSo, the end of the year is always the time for “Top 10 Lists”, and to carry on that tradition, here is the list of the top 10 articles, in terms of readership, from 2007.

From a quick perusal of the list, I would also note that two of the articles were from January (the first full month of operation) and that, despite the huge spike in traffic over the past month or so, only two articles were from December.

  1. Criticism of Christian Yoga as “Oxymoron” is Simply Moronic
  2. O Holy Night (Sort Of)
  3. Is it Just Me…
  4. Ingrid’s 1/26/07 “Missing” Article on Watchblogging
  5. Dine with the Porn Producers!
  6. Hallelujah: What’s Right With the World
  7. How Systematic Theology Kills People – Forever
  8. When Scoring Points is of Greater Need than Love
  9. Thou Shalt Not Say “Dude”, Nor Shalt Thou Call Thy Wife “Hot”. Henceforth Consult Ingrid First
  10. Anatomy of a Blogstorm

Also, to honor Julie’s request for more cats, I’ve pulled in a cat picture for this article…

Here’s looking toward a great 2008!

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Mike Corly, who I will call one of the few friendly ODMs, recently went to Seattle to find out more about Mars Hill Church. Now I know what you are thinking, “There’s a novel concept –actually going to meet with the people you have differences with before you criticize.” Here’s Mike’s thoughts on his trip. I think it would do the ODMs some good to follow Corley’s example and make an attempt to connect with the people they say are destined for hell.

**UPDATE**

Direct from Mike Corley:

I read your piece on the site and wanted to say thanks for the kind words.

There were a few points I have noticed have been mentioned in the comments that I wanted to respond to. I dont know if you would like to post them as an update or prefer that I post them as a comment, but you can let me know.

I made the trip to Seattle at my own expense for the sole purpose of meeting and interviewing Mark Driscoll, for a book I am writing on the Emergent Church, but also to see for myself what Mars Hills is all about and to try to understand Mark’s ministry. We visited for about 2 hours which included an interview that was video taped by the MHC staff. I will be given a copy of the footage and Mars Hill will keep a copy as well. We will release the video in DVD form when production is completed, and we will feature portions of the audio on the radio program and online. I have come to appreciate Mark’s ministry, although his methods may be unorthodox in some ways. After meeting him I realized we have a lot in common and I hope to work with him again one day.

One comment was made about my expectations of visiting Mars Hill, mentioning lack of scripture reading and sitting in the dark. These rumors were sent to me by readers and listeners, and were not my statements, nor did I believe them before attending the services at MHC.

There also statements attributed to me regarding Mark, taken from a post on my blog dated June 26, 2007. The quote is actually that of Phil Johnson and not myself. I simply posted the Johnson quote on my site.

Lastly, I am writing a reflective piece on my personal meeting with Mark now. But I wanted to share that I have been harsh in the past and jumped to conclusions in some instances when I should have been more compassionate and merciful, and patient perhaps, before making judgements. I have been convicted of this, repented and asked for forgiveness. I will be the first one to my feet in the defense of the Gospel, and sometimes with a assertive tone or posture. But God help me not to do so with a mean spirit or proud attitude.

I think we could all learn something from this ODM.

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Here’s our Xmas podcast, a little late, but I’ve been busy feeding my son cookies and trying to get him to rip wrapping paper off of presents. So, its a day late.

Download it here, or listen to it below.

If you’d like to contact us about the podcast you can send email me or leave a voicemail at (313) 416-0285.

Click here to subscribe to the podcast in Itunes.

Here’s the feed for every other podcast client.

 
icon for podpress  Merry Xmas!: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
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Sometimes I wonder if Charles Schultz were alive today if he would still have the artistic license to publish this:

YouTube Preview Image

Merry Christmas, all!

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I’m about to sign off the internet for a while and celebrate with my wife and family. Merry Christmas to all. I hope you have a truly wonderful evening and day.

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