Archive for January 22nd, 2009

OK, I openly admit that I have not been a huge fan of Rick Warren.  A few years ago, I participated in a 40 Days of Purpose Bible Study, and at many times, I was underwhelmed.  It wasn’t that I thought that things were outright wrong as much I just thought it was very surface-level stuff.  That being said, one thing that does stick out in m memory is Warren’s assertion on the very first page of The Purpose Driven Life that “life isn’t about you”.  Apparently, that assertion flies over some people’s heads.

When I see an article like this, complaining about the video here, it honestly saddens me.  When I read this statement:

Can you imagine calling on this individual at 3am when your loved one is dying or seriously ill? Can you imagine Mr. T-shirt holding the hand of an elderly saint as she passes into eternity?

a few things come to mind.  First, I wonder how often it is really necessary to call someone at 3am.  I’m not saying it should never happen, but this makes it sound like a reoccurring event.  Secondly, I wouldn’t really care what someone was wearing when they came to visit me.  But, hey, that’s just me…

Now there’s nothing about either of those things that’s inherently bad, but in a large church is it really realistic to expect the lead pastor to perform these functions?  To me, the thing that’s amazing is that these aren’t just expected, but they’re demanded.  It’s the attitude that says the pastor is there is serve me, and I expect him to meet all of my expectations.  It’s ironic that the piece is referring to Perry Noble as a “hireling”, because, in reality, the kind of pastor Ingrid is describing seems more like a hireling – a person hired by the church members to meet their needs.

Now, I don’t deny that a big part of being a pastor involves caring for people and being involved in their lives.  But I will also say that as a church body, we are to minister to one another’s needs and there are many things that can be done by the average church member to help the pastor.  Have the critics volunteered their time to visit the sick and help other members?  Have they spent time and energy to be a blessing to their pastor?  If not, then they really have no room to complain.  Coming from a pastor’s family, perhaps I am more sensitive to these complaints, because I know that there are some people who will take and take but never give anything.  And these people most of the time simply need to grow up.  I think these are the type people the author of Hebrews had in mind when he wrote:

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.

So perhaps, the fact that Warren’s book starts with the basic premise, “it’s not about me” is a good thing.  It seems that some of us need reminded of that fact.

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Just because something was written in 1923 doesn’t mean it is of value, nor does it mean it is right. Just because the title of the book has the words ‘Christianity’ and ‘liberalism’ in the title, doesn’t mean the author, in 1923, was speaking to same issues we are confronted with in 2009. It doesn’t mean the quote is bad or wrong either. Machen was an outstanding scholar and preacher.

That said, here is the thesis of my short post: Machen was addressing a different issue altogether than the one Pastor-Teacher Silva thinks he was addressing; therefore, Silva is, in my opinion, wrong and his case is not substantiated by the quote he provides.

The title of the post is ‘The Emergence Gospel of Good Deeds.’ The post goes on to spout off a quote written by J Gresham Machen. It is sad to me that Machen’s legacy has been tarnished by the opening sentence of Pastor-Teacher Silva’s post:

If you still think that this reimagined and repainted inclusive squishy social gospel of good deeds preached by postliberals like Rob Bell is something new; you’d better think again.

Actuallllly…..the ‘Gospel of Good Deeds’ didn’t arise with Rob Bell (Oh, by the way. I watched my first ever Nooma video the other day; ‘Rain.’ The woman at the book store told me, “I have a friend who bought [a particular Nooma video] and showed it to a unbeliever and ‘won him to the Lord.’” I also showed it to the FCA group I help lead at the middle school. It led us into a time of prayer. Amazing. One of the other adult leaders commented how it moved her because her family had gone through almost the same situation recently and her husband was feeling badly about it.) But I digress. The so-called ‘Gospel of Good Deeds’ didn’t arise from any so-called ‘emergent’ theologian. This is just bad, bad misrepresentation of Bell among others as I’ll show in a minute.

I think it is best summed up by NT Wright when he writes, “What are we waiting for? And what are we going to do about it in the meantime?” (Surprised By Hope, xi) What would they have us do, sit around doing nothing? Are we supposed to eschew good deeds? Are we supposed to sit back in our comfortable faith, clutching the pews, while we wait, staring at the sky? No. The angel confronted the disciples, in Acts 1, and said, ‘Why are standing here staring at the sky? He’ll come back. But you: Get busy!’ (I’m paraphrasing just a bit since Jesus had just told them they would be witnesses and there they stood.) He doesn’t mean for us to be do nothings–and I would say that merely sitting around the ‘ministry office’ collecting receipts is not a ‘good deed’ as Christ defined it. I like how Bell has said it, “Jesus wants to save our church from thinking that the priests are somebody else.” (Jesus Wants to Save Christians, 178) Amen.

Would the good Rev Silva have us to do nothing because someone in 1923 seemed to be saying do nothing? Or was Machen fighting another battle? Bell, as far I understand him, is not saying we should ‘abandon historic doctrines of Christ (which are found only in Scripture; not in the creeds or theologies formulated by the church) in order to promoted a new social agenda’. He is saying, I believe echoing Wright, ‘the fact of the resurrection changed everything and we have no reason to sit around doing nothing. While we wait, he has work for us to do.’ I can hear the angel now, “Why do you sit there, staring at a computer screen, doing nothing, complaining about folks like Bell, Wright and Warren who are out living a resurrection driven life? Oh. I see. You disagree with their methods. You disagree with their different types of thought and life. Oh. OK. You’re justified.” Angelic aside: *Right.*

To be sure, Machen was warring against something entirely different in 1923 than what our esteemed colleague and friend Pastor-Teacher Silva says because folks like Wright, Warren, Bell and others have not denied or thwarted cardinal doctrines of historic Christian faith. No doubt some today have and no one denies it. Those Machen argued against in his book had done so since he was warring against a particular liberal version of modernism that had ransacked the church; Machen was right. As Machen himself wrote, “There is much interlocking of the branches, but the two tendencies, Modernism and supernaturalism, or (otherwise designated) non-doctrinal religion and historic Christianity, spring from different roots.” (see previous link.)

This is exactly where Machen’s war and Silva’s war are different: The roots are not different in our day. In fact, I might go so far as to say that many, like Bell and Warren, would actually agree with Machen because they too would reject such a liberal modernism as he warred against. (I could be wrong.)

Getting back to that idea of ‘good deeds’ and where its origins are found. Here’s what I remember from Scripture:

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Then I also remembered this:

The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden. (1 Timothy 5:24-25)

And then there’s this:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

And oh, don’t forget about this doozy:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

And finally:

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)

If good deeds is a part of the so-called ‘emergent’ theology heralded and promoted by preachers such as Rob Bell, then I guess Jesus was emergent and so was Paul because they both seemed to think that good deeds should be a part of our continual practice as we Christians wait.

In conclusion: I don’t think the out of context quote provided by the Rev. Pastor-Teacher Silva today proves his point in any way. The roots may have been different in Machen’s day, but they are not (at least in the case of Bell, Warren, Wright, and many others that ADM’s hate) in our day. Pastor-Teacher Silva needs to go back and regroup. His condemnation is unjust and unfounded. His quote is meaningless to his cause.

*I used Bell as the example here since that is who P-T (Barnum) Silva used in his article.

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(or How did I miss that? )

Tammy, a friend of mine on the worship team at church noticed that I wear moccasins (the slip-on shoes, not the snakes) a lot, and told me about a clearance sale that a store was having on Lands’ End shoes. She had gotten a pair or two herself and encouraged me to go check it out.

I went to the nearest location of the store the next day and did the Goldilocks thing (this shoe is too big, this shoe is too small). Having determined what size I needed, I saw that the store had none in my size (except for a really nasty stomach-acid green color). About a week later, I was at another location of the store, and they had my size, in my first color choice, no less. And they are, indeed, comfy.

The next Sunday I went to rehearsal before the service. I was wearing my new shoes and noticed that Tammy had hers on, too. I walked up to her, put my foot right next to hers, and remarked that she had good taste in shoes. Where and when I got them and how much I paid were all brief discussion topics. ;-)

It was then time to get down to business, and our worship leader opened in prayer. He thanked God for shoes, and for when we can get them cheaply. He then segued into thanking God for the gifts of salvation, grace, and mercy.

The shoes and the sale were no less a gift from God than salvation, grace, and mercy. Granted, they are less valuable, but they are no less from Him. James James 1:17" href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+1:17" target="_blank">tells us (emphasis mine):

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

God gives us tangible signs all the time, reminding us of His goodness. Sometimes, they’re right in front of your nose toes.

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