Archive for the 'ODM Responses' Category

As many of you know, we’re somewhat mixed in feelings when it comes to Mark Driscoll, with some of us as fans and others, um, anti-fans.

I think, though, that at least for a day, he should be an honorary PPP’er, after reading his response to critics of Rick Warren and the events of the past week. I offer a link to his article and the following quote from the article, with no additional commentary:

“These people are often well intended but badly informed. Rather than reading the doctrinal statement on his church’s website to discover what he believes, they instead get bizarre bits and pieces strung together out of context from extremist “discernment” ministries with no theological credibility or research integrity. Subject to lying, fearful and gullible people are then guilty of lying and gossiping as they swarm like bees around a colony every time some queen bee summons them for orders to head out for online stinging. I make a conscious effort to avoid these and porn sites for the same reason: they are filled with horrible trash that ruins lives.”

Amen.

  • Share/Bookmark

In my younger days, I played a lot of video games on my computer. (Anyone remember Commander Keen and its cutting-edge use of EGA graphics in the early ’90s?)  The real drain on my time, though, came with the release of Wolfenstein 3D, one of the first FPS (first-person shooter) games to employ all three dimensions. Although it looked very cheesy by today’s standards, it was mind-blowing back then. It was also very addictive — I knew that I had stayed up too late the night before playing the game when I walked down certain hallways at work and would slow my pace as I approached an intersection.

As with all FPS games (at least back then), the basic scheme of Wolfenstein 3D was simple — work your way through various levels, killing the henchmen until you reach the ultimate battle against the “boss” (the head of the bad guys). Along the way, you could pick up items that would regenerate your health (if you had been non-fatally wounded), better weaponry, and random treasure. But the bulk of your points was earned by killing the henchmen. In some FPS games, if it took more than one bullet to kill a henchman, you would earn some points for wounding him, but then even more for killing him.

Fast-forward to 2013 and shift over to the real world.

A fairly prominent blogger has put out a couple of tweets recently that are salient to my (upcoming) point. The context is unclear, but — to be honest — it’s also irrelevant.  Here are the tweets in question:

You know, there’s a reason it doesn’t say “put on the smoking jacket of God, and take up the tea cup of daintiness”

You know, there’s a reason it doesn’t say “put on the faculty lounge discussion group suit of God”

He’s obviously riffing off the Scripture that advises the Christian to “[p]ut on the whole armor of God”. But there can be — and in that blogger’s tribe, there often is — a problem with applying that verse incorrectly. Because if you look at the whole verse, you notice some elaboration (emphasis mine):

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

And just in case it’s not clear enough what we’re fighting, Paul goes on in the next verse (emphasis mine):

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

You see, hearkening back to my illustration, the devil (and his demons) are the “boss”. But you know who the henchmen are? They’re people.

Are they being used to achieve the devil’s purposes? Sometimes.

Are they even doing so with full knowledge and willingness? Sometimes.

Is every last one of them a person for whom Jesus died? YES! YES! YES! 1000 times YES!

(Note: even if you’re a Calvinist who would cite your belief in limited atonement to object to that last question, you still don’t know who the “elect” — in your usage of the term — are, so practically, the answer is still “yes”.)

The “boss” needs to be killed — and Jesus will do that completely and finally one day. And if our actions in the meantime can cause a wound or two on the “boss”, that’s groovy.

But this is real life. This is not a game. We don’t get any points for (ideologically) wounding or killing the henchmen. Jesus did not come to give us “life, and life more confrontational.”

Stop it.

  • Share/Bookmark

Code words are such fun. For those unfamiliar with their usage by the critics of this site, its writers, and those who we dare to think might occasionally have something to contribute to the faith, here’s a handy-dandy guide. Some are adapted from the Bible, whereas others are lifted directly from Scripture (and then twisted like a contortionist’s pretzel):

  • sheep-beater: any straightforward pastor/teacher with whom I disagree
  • compromiser: all others pastors/teachers with whom I disagree, especially if I don’t like his Hawaiian shirts
  • another gospel: any belief with which I disagree, regardless of its relevance to the gospel
  • persecution: anything negative that I have to endure, regardless of its causation or its relevance to my faith
  • post-modern: any thought or belief whose inception occurred after my great-grandfather’s birth
  • emergent: anyone who is friends with anyone who is related to anyone who read a book by anyone who once quoted anyone who once ate dinner in the same restaurant as the fourth-cousin twice removed of anyone who has already been declared emergent (by this definition)

Although that last one is the most ludicrous (and the most common), it’s not my favorite. Rather, my favorite abuse of Scriptural language is to call someone an “enemy of the cross” when you disagree with them. So whence cometh that phrase?  I’m glad you asked:

Philippians 3:18
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

I’m pretty sure that every contributor to this blog has been labeled an “enemy of the cross” at one time or another. Yet, strangely enough, I’ve never seen anything even approximating “weeping” accompanying that accusation. The actual attitude of the labeler is left as an exercise for the reader.

  • Share/Bookmark

Caveat 1: That’s not a typo, but a pun that jumped out at me, given the topic at hand. Had I declined to use it, I surely would have been disinherited.

Caveat 2: This is not a pop on all cessationists — some of my best friends are cessationists. It is, however, a pop on those who feel that they must beat the dead horse into the ground with a stick as part of their ministry of criticizing continuationism (that list of links spans less than a month, and yet doesn’t even include the post about which I wish to talk).

Over at TeamPyro (where one can have one’s comments purged for the horrific offense of quoting the Bible), Dan Phillips has climbed back on his hobby horse of bashing continuationists. The latest installment contains several interesting aspects on which I’ll briefly touch before getting to my main point:

  • Phillips starts by noting that we all have blind spots, however there’s no indication in the context of the post (or the favorable comments or Phillips’ response to them) that this could be one of his, but rather that this is one that others have which he has identified.
  • We are assured that this post is not a blanket criticism that impugns the “Gospel soundness” of all continuationists, some of whom are “splendid preachers of the Gospel”. I’m sure that this is of great comfort to those people, as Phillips never actually refers to them as “continuationists”, but always uses the highly derisive term, “Leaky Canoneers”.
  • Noting that something occurred to you “while I was praying today”, when prayer has nothing to do with your topic, seems like a violation of Matthew 6:5-6 to me (see also, “I thank thee that I am not like these continuationists”).
  • Phillips’ overall thesis is “that there is a parallel between the Leaky Canon position and the false gospel of moralism”. This is an “interesting” idea, at least in my experience, as the vast majority of the moralists that I know are cessationists.

But, all of those observations aside, the implications of Phillips’ “proof” of his argument are terrifying (or at least an epic fail in logic), and one doesn’t even need to subscribe to any particular belief in the cessationism/continuationism spectrum to see the problem.

Phillips premise is that since Christianity does not perfectly teach nor practice the 66 books in the Canon (I’ll certainly buy that), that the last thing we need is more revelation from God to further condemn us.

If you aren’t nauseated by that last sentence, go back and read it again. If you still don’t get it, read on.

Phillips’ contention is that the purpose of Bible (and/or further words from God, if you embrace such a thing) is to provide a means by which God communicates to us how much we suck.  And no, that is not my analysis extrapolated from his statements. Rather, witness these words, direct from his keyboard:

More words from God, given our failure to be faithful to what we already have, and absent repentance, would simply mean more failure and more faithlessness.

If that’s Christianity, would someone please direct me to the nearest mosque?

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that if the occurrence “while I was praying today” is not a violation of Matthew 6:5-6, then one must come to the conclusion that God extra-biblically communicated to Phillips while he was praying. Which, ya know, pretty much destroys his whole post.

  • Share/Bookmark

So, after Brendt’s post last week, I thought my temptation to write an article on this would pass.  However, after a number of DM’s, Tweets, Facebook messages and some emails, I think it might just save me some time and lots (and lots) of repeating myself.  Additionally, a good friend asked me what was going on with all of this, and my reply was “it’s a long story” (which I probably owe her at some point, anyway), and current events seem to be surfacing this topic, as well.

Background on “Christian”

Andy Stanley started an 8-part series a couple of months ago at North Point Community Church, called “Christian”.  The overarching premise is that “Christian” is a malleable word (a poor adjective) that can mean most anything these days.  It was a word given to Jesus-followers by outsiders, not the followers, themselves.  What the followers called themselves, and what Jesus called them, is much better defined: disciples.  As such, we, as followers of Christ, ought to try to live up to what Jesus expected us to be (disciples), not take the squishy road of “Christian”. [I highly recommend the entire series, FWIW.]

  • Part 1: Brand Recognition – This is the basic premise of the entire series, relayed above, where Stanley lays out Christianity’s reputation, outside the church as “judgmental, homophobic moralists, who think they are the only ones going to heaven and secretly relish the fact that everyone else is going to hell”, and then goes on to describe the difference between “Christian” and “disciple”
  • Part 2: Quitters – Picking up from Part 1, Andy tells the story of Anne Rice – leaving the church, rediscovering her faith, and then disavowing “Christians”, saying “Today I quit being a Christian.  I’m out.  I remain committed to Christ, as always, but to being ‘Christian’ or being part of ‘Christianity’.  It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.“  Stanley then goes on to describe the defining characteristic given to disciples by Jesus (see 1 John 4:7-8), that should differentiate us from the world around us, so that we don’t settle for the brand “Christianity”.  Key quote: We give up our leverage in society when we opt for anything other than LOVE.
  • Part 3: Insiders Outsiders – Andy follows the evolution of the early church – from a small, persecuted minority to a movement that toppled the Roman Empire.  He points to this event in time as a point where Christians stopped leveraging love as their distinguishing characteristic, and started leveraging other things – like political power – to impose their faith on others, by threat or force.  He examines how Christians should treat those outside the faith, and that we should not expect those who don’t follow Jesus to live as he commanded his followers to live.  (This sermon shared points with the incredibly good 1-sermon series last summer, The Separation of Church and Hate.)  Over time, though, Christians morphed the Great Commission into “Therefore, go and impose my teaching, values and worldview on all nations, threatening them with judgment and destruction if they don’t obey everything I have commanded you.“  The main point he comes to is that we are to judge disciples (who are acting against his commands), not outsiders (who never signed up to follow his commands).  [He uses Mark & Grace Driscoll's appearance on The View as an example of how to demonstrate this.]
  • Part 4: Showing Up -  The Sunday before Easter, Andy preached this sermon on how disciples should live – as salt and light – in the world.  He traces this from the experience of the early persecuted church, up to how we ought to live now – where how we treat one another and how we treat those outside the church (by “showing up”) – is to be such examples of Christ that when people see us, they see what he is like.  This is messy, and is not always immediately (or ever) visible to us, but our good deeds should shine in such a way that others speak well of Christ from seeing how we act.  “The way we act may make them feel guilty, but it should not make them feel that we are condemning them.”  (i.e. it should be their conscience that convicts them, not our criticism.)
  • Part 5: When Gracie Met Truthy – In a theme common here, Andy touches on the tension that exists between grace and truth.  His basic premise, spoken several times and several ways:  “A tension exists between grace and truth.  If we try to resolve that tension, in either direction, we lose something.”  He goes through multiple examples in Jesus’ ministries where Jesus, described by John as the perfect embodiment of grace and truth, gives both grace AND truth.  For example, in the woman who committed adultery and as brought before him, Jesus response was “I do not condemn you” (grace) and “go and live in sin no more” (truth).  As Brendt quoted this sermon, “… people may misunderstand your grace towards sinners as somehow condoning their sin, but that is not the case.“  This was a very good, but very difficult lesson (and the source of the controversy, covered below).
  • Part 6: Angry Birds – This sermon covers similar territory the previous week – this time via Jesus’ teaching, whereas Week 5 dealt with Jesus’ actions.  It examined Jesus’ teaching to the disciples about how to treat sinners, followed by the story of the Two Lost Sons (sometimes called The Prodigal Son).  In the first part, he says that if Christians are doing what Jesus did and following what he taught, we, too, should end up attracting the “tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes”, which will likely result in the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law to mutter that we’re associating with the wrong sorts of people.  Even though we have more in common, and nearly identical theology, to the ‘Pharisees”, the way we live our belief – if we’re doing it right – will likely result in the sinners feeling welcome and the self-righteous feeling … self-righteous and put out.  Basically, as Stanley follows on, we should be modeling the role of the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
  • Part 7: Loopholes – This sermon continues on, examining how “Christians” (and, to some degree, non-Christians) try to use “loopholes” which allow our own sinful behavior, while condemning/damning the sins of those who are different than them.  He contrasts this with what Jesus taught – “Love God, and love your neighbor – all other laws flow from/are subservient to these”.  In the context of loopholes, Andy sums this up – to the Pharisees – as “Don’t you dare take a verse or a passage of Scripture and use it to unlove someone else, you hypocrites” and then continues: “Disciples don’t look for workarounds or loopholes – ‘Christians’ do that – Disciples ask ‘What does love require of me?’“  [I loved this particular bit, as well: "'Christians' use the Bible like a mace - 'Disciples' use the Bible like a mirror."]  If you only have time for one sermon in the series, I’d go here.  Very challenging stuff.  Stuff I often suck at.  Stuff that will make you uncomfortable.  Stuff that doesn’t require you to compromise, but requires you to love people who are not like you.
  • Part 8: Working It Out – In the final sermon of the series, Andy picks up from the final question of Week 7:  What does love require of me? In it, he notes that the people who have shaped us the most are either a) those who really loved us; and b) those who really hurt/abused us.  Originally, Jesus gave us a new commandment: Love one another.  Our defining characteristic was to be how we love one another, but over time it has evolved from being more about how we behave to being almost completely about what we believe.  If we want to re-brand “Christian” to become synonymous with “Disciple”, we need to follow the new commandment he gave us.  “We represent the commander, not the commandments.”  He finishes up the series by talking how to prepare ourselves to live in love: 1) Don’t do anything that will hurt you; 2) Don’t do anything that will hurt someone else; and 3) Don’t be mastered by anything.
  • All in all, this was an incredibly good series, and one that is challenging (for good reasons).  I encourage you to watch/download/listen to it all.  Twice.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Share/Bookmark

Let me start by saying that this is going to be about the Andy Stanley kerfuffle. If you’ve missed out on what I’m talking about, hit your knees and thank God — even if you’re an atheist.  Also, if you fall in that category (blissfully ignorant) — and here I’ll commit a major sin of authorship — I suggest that you read no further, as your curiosity may be piqued. Then you’ll go and hit Google and start reading up on what this is all about. And then I’ll be partially responsible for you being exposed to articles and comments that have all the civility of Johnny Knoxville burping the alphabet during the prayer at a royal wedding.

In the sermon that everyone’s carping about, one of the other things that Andy said was:

“… people may misunderstand your grace towards sinners as somehow condoning their sin, but that is not the case.”

The story of the woman caught in adultery is a prime example of this. A cursory reading of the passage makes it look like Jesus totally let her off the hook. Actually, forget “cursory” — there’s a level at which I still don’t get it. And it’s probably a safe bet that you’re in the same boat.

Yes, He said “go and sin no more”, but He didn’t even specifically state that the act in which she was caught was sin. Based on nothing more than that single isolated instance (notice a pattern here?), we could just as easily conclude that He was telling her to stop smoking those funny cigarettes.

When Jesus told parables, people misunderstood all the time. And it wasn’t simply an issue of Him knowing in advance that this would be the case and thinking “c’est la vie“. Part of the reason that He used parables was specifically because people wouldn’t understand.

By sheer definition, not everyone can be the sharpest knife in the drawer. When we show grace, some people are going to misunderstand. The only way to avoid misunderstanding is to stop showing grace altogether.

Is clarity of your beliefs that important to you?

  • Share/Bookmark

Shawn & BrendtMeet Shawn. Shawn was my best friend in high school.  (That’s him on the left at his graduation, and me still looking 12 after my first year of college.) When we were in our fundy Christian high school together, Shawn was planning on being a pastor. He even preached a few times in our weekly chapel service. We lost touch a couple years after this picture, but I caught up with him on the phone about 5 years after college. When I asked what he was doing (work-wise), he hemmed and hawed a bit before finally “admitting” that he was a social worker in the county where he lived. He was happily surprised that I wasn’t disappointed (in him) that he wasn’t a pastor.

I asked if he was doing what he believed God wanted him to do and he affirmed excitedly that he was and gave me a couple of recent examples in which he had seen God working through him at his job. Then I noted to him that being a pastor was a logical choice back when we were kids, given the environment that we were in. Back then, it was made clear to us (caught, if not necessarily taught) that a man who wished to truly follow God’s will for his life — and Shawn did want that — would be in “full-time Christian service”. This pretty much limited the options to (1) preacher, (2) missionary, or (3) Christian school teacher. A woman had the options of #2 or #3 or (better yet) the spouse of any of those options. There was lip-service paid to the legitimacy of the “Christian businessman”, but the overall influence showed that it was merely lip-service to the guy who actually paid the bills, er um, tithes.

In short, if you weren’t one of the big three, you were a second-class Christian.

Fast-forward to today. I saw a video whose overall theme still has me a bit puzzled, but it had a particular thought in it that conjured up the same tired old images of second-class Christianity. In addressing the Christian viewer about having heard and believed the gospel, the speaker threw a frickin’ bone to those who may have heard it differently than he did:

even if it’s a gospel that a guy like Barnabas would preach, as opposed to an apostle like Paul

Say what? When did Barnabas get ranked below Paul in anything?

If anything, in those days, Barnabas had a better grasp on grace than Paul did (Acts 15:36-39), something of which Paul apparently later repented (2 Timothy 4:11). But I digress.

I was so confused that I felt like I had to keep listening, in the desperate hope that he’d explain that gem.

The speaker’s text was Acts 11:19-26. I’m going to divide the passage into a few pieces so as to comment on the story as it progresses.

Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.

OK, so we’ve got unnamed guys (”from Cyprus and Cyrene”) who were preaching Jesus and leading people to the Lord.

Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.

Hey, this sounds pretty cool. Go check it out, Barney.

When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

Barney confirms that it is way cool. And he encourages them in their faith.  A few good things are recorded about him, and apparently his influence led to others finding Jesus, too.

Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Hey, Paul, you gotta see this! And so Paul comes and the two of them stay there for a whole year, teaching.

So, we’ve got a movement of the Spirit that starts with guys that the Bible doesn’t even bother to name, then Barnabas gets to throw in, and then Paul does too. It definitely seems that this whole thing is all about God, both from just the general gist of the story and that whole “the hand of the Lord was with them” thing in verse 21.

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ !!!! Wrong !!! Thanks for playing.

This isn’t about God. This is about Paul. You see, according to the speaker, the reason that Barnabas went for Paul was because the people at Antioch wanted to know more than Barnabas could teach them. And Paul knew the Scripture better than Barnabas and had actually had a (brief) physical encounter with Jesus.

Yeah, I’m not sure what bodily orifice the speaker got that one out of, either. Is it possible that there was such a need/desire and that Paul could better fulfill it? Sure. But nowhere near with the factual certainty that the speaker classified it.

Oh, and the disciples in Antioch being called “Christians” — that was a direct result of Paul teaching them.  (See previous bodily orifice reference.)

When it comes to doctrine, Paul could kick anyone’s asterisk-dollarsign-dollarsign. So it’s really a toss-up as to whether this junk is Paul-olatry or doctrine-olatry. Either way, though, it ain’t good.

In short, Barnabas was (in the speaker’s mind) a second-class Christian. I guess the unnamed guys were third-class. So brush up on your doctrine, boys and girls. Otherwise, you’re disappointing God.

  • Share/Bookmark

On Febraury 11, 2010, the Rapture Ready bulletin board banned me for two years (apparently for dragging God into a conversation) and informed me that I am not saved.

If you’re reading this, that means that the world has not ended yet, and I am over there renewing my membership and finding out from those gracious people how to be saved before I’m eternally damned.

And if you believe that last line, when I return from RR, I want to talk to you about a bridge in New York that I can sell you for a really good price.

  • Share/Bookmark

Some time ago, I noted some problems with Why We’re Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. One of the more ludicrous issues was the ex cathedra declaration that it was fair game to lump all emergent leaders together:

when people endorse one another’s book and speak at the same conferences and write on the same blogs, there is something of a discernible movement afoot.

Never mind that none of these actions — either separately or together — really mean anything, let alone that they constitute “a discernible movement”.

More recently, on his post about the term “Young, Restless and Reformed”, DeYoung states that he is

afraid the label is often used in a way that makes YRR sound like an organized movement with official standards and spokesmen.

He then goes on, in detail, to show how it is not.

Four years ago, he declared that A+B+C=D.  Now “D” (by that declaration) applies to his team. And he doesn’t like it.

Changing horses mid-stream is a tricky thing.

  • Share/Bookmark

Godwin’s Law states:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

Mike Godwin has written about the law that “its purpose has always been rhetorical and pedagogical: I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler or to Nazis to think a bit harder about the Holocaust.”

And this is the spirit in which I’ve always understood it. There are, indeed, thought processes and rationalizations that are eerily similar to “Hitlerian rhetoric” (if I may paraphrase Stephen Fry). And so, there are times when such a comparison may be valid. But more times than not, the comparison is inaccurate and made out of sheer laziness, as though ole Adolf was a trump card.

But Godwin’s Law is mostly only applicable to political discussions. Yes, sometimes the issues are moral or spirtual, but they still have a distinct political bent to them (e.g. issues surrounding abortion). Yet the same laziness that made Godwin’s Law necessary is prevalent in many online theological discussions.

My first thought was how Matthew 7:16 gets twisted to mean that if you do one thing that I don’t like, then I am capable of reading all of your innermost thoughts and commenting on them definitively and publicly.

Or how “another gospel” (Galatians 1:9) has been twisted to mean “anything with which I disagree”.

And let’s not forget the all-purpose barn-burner: emergent (which apparently encompasses everything I don’t believe in — even when two thoughts are contradictory).

But we really need a person, not a concept.

Brian McLaren? Nah. He’s so last decade.

Rob Bell? Nah. He’s so earlier this year. Even the recent announcement of his departure from the pulpit only produced a brief ripple in all but the craziest corners of the blogosphere.

Besides which, there are plenty of people who haven’t heard of either of these guys.

Rick Warren? Now we’re getting somewhere with the recognizability factor. But more and more of the criticisms of him are either over old stuff, misinterpretation of stuff, or can’t withstand any real logic (or some combination of the three). So he’s not really a legitimate whipping boy anymore.

So who then? And then it hit me.

As an online theological discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Oprah Winfrey approaches 1.

As with Godwin’s Law, there are cases where the comparison rings true. But let’s be honest. For quite a while and probably for many years to come, Winfrey has become the poster child for “any spiritual belief that is less rigorous than my own”.

So in the words of Phil Esterhaus, let’s be careful out there — let’s not play the O-card too quickly.

Waters’ Corollary to Godwin’s Law. I’ll be over here holding my breath, waiting for the Wikipedia update.

  • Share/Bookmark