Archive for January 21st, 2008

Tim Reed, Chris Lyons and Christian Penrod talk about the role of certainty in the Christian worldview.

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I was reminded of the use/abuse of “persecution” as a ministry’s thermometer, and thought a reposting of this 2006 article from my other blog might be relevant to the conversation (then again, it might not be…)


The Synagogue at CapernaumIf you’ve spent any appreciable amount of time reading comments in Christian blogs, you’re most likely familiar with this 1-2 punch scenario:

Person A states a position and cites sources friendly to that position.

Person B comes back with Luke 6:26

Woe to you when all* men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets

Then, just to make sure their point is driven home, Person B will quote John 15:20

Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.

And thus, the implication is that people agree with Person A, and therefore he is a false prophet. Additionally, since Person A is not being persecuted, he is therefore not a servant of the Master. Game, set and match – no need for further discussion. Person B can declare victory and assume any further conversation on the topic is divisiveness, and that Person A is to be avoided (often citing Titus 3:10, just to complete the scriptural abuse trifecta).

What’s Wrong With This?

In the case of Luke 6:26, it is first important to read the entire passage, rather than just the prooftexted one:

Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.

Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.

Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:20-26)

Jesus is giving parallel woes and blessings – demonstrating the need to temper our attitudes, and to maintain perspective. Notice also, that the woes are not curses, but warnings. This passage is not a call to asceticism, but a comfort to those in need and a warning to those currently without want (in one or more areas).

In the case of Lk 6:26, it is a warning to the person to be on guard when everyone is speaking well or agreeing with him or her, to be sure that they are not under false conceptions – it is not stating that if people agree with you and like you, therefore you must be wrong. And, just to add to the irony, people in the shoes of Person B are exactly the ones who should not give this warning, since in doing so, they invalidate it.

In the case of John 15:20, it is only necessary to include the entire verse:

Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

In the entire passage (John 15:18-27), Jesus is warning his disciples about what they will face out in the world (after all, ten would die as martyrs, one would die in exile, and one would betray him). In this particular passage, he is letting them know that the people they bear witness to who would have persecuted Jesus will persecute them and that those who would have obeyed his teaching, would obey them, too. To put it differently, from the perspective of the disciples, Jesus is telling them that he is confident enough in them that they can be just like him. The ultimate goal of a disciple is to be just like their rabbi. (Note to literalists – this is not saying the disciples thought they could be divine, but that they could be enough like Jesus that people could know what He is like through knowing them.)

One additional note to make – we, as westerners, often individualize the scripture far more than those who wrote it and who first witnessed it did. In Hebrew context, scripture is a community experience, not an individual one. Because of our difference in perspective, we may sometimes feel guilt when we are not individually persecuted, but we miss the greater point. The church is still being persecuted in many parts of the world, and it is important that we, as a body, should support those who are in the state of persecution, with support requiring action on our part. Even if I am not currently being persecuted, the church is, and it is my responsibility to take action on the part of my persecuted brothers & sisters.

Grace & peace,



*If they are pulling it from memory or being dishonest, Person B will often leave out the important word “all”, so that you end up with “Woe to you when men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets”. This makes it much easier to avoid the obvious logical fallacy.

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Recently discovered document, from backstage at the REDACTED show.


TO: “Christians” with Artistic Gifts
RE: Success and Doing Your Best

It has come to our attention that you are employed in the world of entertainment. While this, alone, should disqualify you from the book of life, since you claim the title “Christian”, please realize that we will be watching you like a hawk. At some point, you will fail, and when you do, you will get a foretaste of what your experience will be like in hell, as we will be the hands and feet of God to deliver it to you. So please, keep in mind the following:

1) If you are ever interviewed, our skepticism of the press will vanish to be replaced with an “absence detector”, which identifies anything and everything you never said in that interview. Even if you DID say what didn’t get printed, it does not matter – you must not have said it forcefully enough, or else they would have printed it.

2) If you are involved in an artistic venture that requires dancing, you are going to hell. Unless you are encased in a full-body cast, we will characterize your performance as “writhing around” and “fanny shaking” and “pelvic thrusting”. Fanny-shaking is of the devil.

3) If you’re a woman, it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a burkha. Your dress will always be called ‘immodest’, and characterized as “fleshly” or “worldly”. Deal with it.

4) If you’re an actor, you’d best marry another actor and ONLY perform with that person. Otherwise, do not take any part which requires you to so much as hold hands with another actor. If you do so, be prepared for an onslaught of criticism for your cavalier attitude toward sexuality.

5) If you are required to travel as part of your work, please realize that – unless you travel back to your home church EVERY week – we will exoriate you for your lack of faithfulness in attending your local church. NOTE: If you have support from your local church community while you’re on the road, that doesn’t mean you’ll get a free pass. We’ll just criticize you because of all of those people who can’t afford such nicities.

6) DO NOT, by any means, attain any level of ‘success‘. If you do, it will be evidence of your carnality and worldliness, which we will roast you for. If you are successful, that is a sign that you’re not being persecuted, and, therefore, not a Christian. Your best bet is to suck enough to prevent success, but not so much that your tithe won’t pay for the new educational wing at your “church”. Remember – the tallest blade of grass is always the one that gets cut down first.

7) If you do not mention “Jesus” (”God” doesn’t count) at every available opportunity, we will trumpet this as evidence of your fleshly, worldly motivations and your selling out on the altar of worldly success. We will thump our breasts to show what an awful hypocrite you are!

8) If you are a painter, we’d best not find any paintings of things outside of Christianity (or, worse yet, which depict anything apart from a modernist or romantic view of the Biblical account). If we can construe something to be anti-Christian, we will, and we will blame you.

9) If you are a singer, every song had best mention “Jesus” (not “God”), or you’re a worldly sell-out.

10) If you are an actor, never play the part of a villan or do anything that would be a sin. Additionally, do not ever act in a movie that gets a rating of PG or higher (unless it is a semi-realistic portrayal of the crucifixion, in which case we will only criticize you for being a Catholic instead of being a Christian). We may give you a pass, though, if you act in poorly-produced pre-mill dispensationalist fantasies.

11) At some point in your life, after you are on the public stage, you will sin. We will be there to point it out for you, just in case you don’t see it. After this, we will be sure to label you by your sin for the remainder of your life. If we could (and unfortunately, your lawyers would probably prevent it), we would engrave it on your tombstone. Regardless, we will bring it up at every turn to justify why were were right to hate critize you in the first place. If, by some chance, you don’t have publicly known sin after awhile, we will dig into your past to find it for you.

12) If you attend a church that is not on our short list of “approved” churches (like Grace Community Church in CA), then you don’t really count as “Christian”, as your pedigree is suspect. Should we ever see you in the same photo with Rick Warren, Erwin Mcmanus, Rob Bell or other “Christians” we hate disagree with, you can pretty much expect the ink to flow from our loving pens.

So, please realize that as a Christian artist, you have chosen a profession with more minefields in it than the Kuwaiti border. Your best bet would just be to turn back now. Should you decide to trudge on forward, remember – we will be watching you – like a hawk.

In Christian love,

The watchmen (and women)

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I just wanted to give Mike Corley kudos for his new tone in his work.  This article was a shining example of how we all should treat people that are different than us.  I hope Mike’s new ODM style catches on with his peers –and with many of us.

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