Archive for the 'Commentary' Category

Over at Apprising Ministries, Ken Silva responds to a letter from a reader. Here are a few excerpts that are quite telling of his attitude when it comes to his status

The following is based on an unsolicited email I received here at Apprising Ministries. Please understand that I do not think any pastor-teacher is above reproach [insert typical Emerging Church whining here], etc. [emphasis mine]
What I wish to bring out is how easy, and I’ll argue arrogant as well, it is for people to simply disregard the teaching of someone like myself who has been studying the fields of apologetics, Comparative Religion and evangelizing non-Christian cults for 21 years….

You said: “I was very surprised to see your negative views on Christian meditation in the article CHRISTIAN MEDITATION WITH MANTRA: DOM JOHN MAIN.” So let me put it another way: I am very surprised to see you so quick in attempting to instruct someone like me whom Jesus has called as one of His pastor-teachers. [emphasis mine]

My dad always told me that you could tell alot about someone based on how they respond to correction or constructive criticism. This correspondence to Apprising was in no way instructional or a harsh rebuke. It sounded like an honest reader that was trying to understand where Silva was coming from. Most of the email was actually the reader asking him questions. But, Ken strikes back with his lofty credentials and how a man of his status should not be quickly instructed. How did Silva know that this reader had not spend some time looking at the Apprising articles and made an educated and simply inquisitive inquiry. On top of that, he sends such mixed statements: no pastor is above reproach, but people should not instruct someone who is a pastor-teacher in this manner.

Anyhow, this all too telling of the attitude of both Apprising and CRN:
We are educated, anointed and experienced, therefore we get to criticize whoever we want, whenever we want. And, you better not say anything about it.

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The tongueLike many conversations, there are certain subjects which rise to the surface from time-to-time, often (and hopefully) becoming clearer over time. One such subject that probably bears another go is that of the language we use – words and sentences.

Setting the Stage

As part of the baseline for this discussion, I would like to borrow and briefly touch on some concepts from this article last fall. Specifically, there are three ways of classifying behavioral beliefs:

Absolutes – those things which are cross-cultural truths, which are demanded or forbidden. To do (or not do) such things is sinful, regardless of the cultural context.

Convictions – those things which are personally convicting, actions which a person believes they should (or should not) do. To do (or not do) such things would be sinning against one’s conscience, and therefore would be sinful. However, convictions are limited to the person or faith community (as with binding and loosing) and cannot be demanded cross-culturally.

Preferences – those things which are personally preferred, based on traditions or likes and dislikes.

Legalism occurs when Preferences or Convictions are raised to the level of Absolutes. This is the sin of the Pharisees. Relativism occurs when Absolutes are lowered to Convictions or Preferences. This is the sin of the Pagans and Hedonists.

Both are to be avoided.

The Words We Use

The Bible has a number of things to say about the words we use. Just a few relevant examples:

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Beating a Dead HorseWe’ve had a number of questions about why we’ve not addressed the ODM response to Todd Bentley and the Lakeland Revival. The answer is pretty simple – because the ODM’s, in general (when they aren’t lumping the ECM, Granger Community Church, Rick Warren or their other favorite whipping-boys in with Bently & Co.) have it right – the guy’s a huckster and the ‘revival’ is downright wacky.

While we’re at it – just in case anyone asks:

  • Fred Phelps is a hate-monger who does a disservice to modern Christianity
  • The Church of Jesus Christ & the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) is not a Christian denomination
  • The Unification Church is not a Christian denomination
  • The Universalist Unitarian church is not a Christian denomination
  • The health & wealth gospel is a lie and is antithetical to the Kingdom of God
  • The sky is blue
  • Water is wet
  • Most politicians lie to get votes

I hope this clears up where we stand on the issue of the circus in Lakeland.

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When I checked Slice this morning, I was stunned to hear that Granger Church had flipped the audience the bird during their easter service. This was something that I had to see for myself, so I checked out the video. I was a little disappointed, as I really was in need of some good drama to jump start my day.

The video in question was simply a new fad in YouTube videos, where lyrics to a song are drawn on fingers and then shown moving with the music. In this case, the word “make” was written on the middle finger, and was raised when the word was sung. This was not the performer “giving fellow Christians, and the Lord, the finger”, as Ingrid would suggest. It would be very hard to watch that video think that the intent was to flip the audience off.

Now, could Granger Church have used some tact in making this art piece? Certainly. At some point in rehearsals, someone should have said “hey, someone might get confused with the middle finger being held up alone.” But for Ingrid to say this is obscene, and assume that they were doing this to flip the audience off, is rediculous. I sometimes wonder how much time the ODMs spend poking around on the internet to find one headline that will make them the best Christian tabloid of the day. There is a big difference between having the spirit of discernment, and getting up in everyone’s business.

Oh, and she never mentioned the words of the pastor following the art piece… “I have good news, Jesus Christ is alive, now and forever more, the crucified on has risen from the grave, and he has ascended to the right hand of God, and he is the sovereign king and lord of all who live and all who have ever lived. He is worthy of our praise.” Funny thing… never heard about his extremely biblical sermon from that morning on Slice.

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Last Sunday morning, one of my friends told me to look-up a video she’d seen on GodTube, which I got around to doing.

As an ex-theater major (turned chemical engineer – go figure), I have always been wary of the use of drama in corporate worship settings. In some ways, I think it has been the quality of thought, writing and production often absent – and the feeling of being ‘tacked on’ or ‘disconnected’ from the service, as a whole – that has led to this apprehension.

However, I found myself surprised and moved by this one:

As I hear more and more in my workplace about the power of images over words in current culture, I wonder if well-done elements like this one might have more of a place for effective outreach – when combined with sound teaching, of course – as we look to teach and evangelize, particularly youth…

The important thing, I think, though is to be wary of what we lose in visual presentation, aware of what we gain by it, and that we supplement the visual/experiential with, at least, the bare minimum of exposition to interpret the visual ‘narrative’…

In my time as a Training & Development professional, I learned that one of the ‘rules of thumb’ in the trade is called the “70-20-10 rule”. Teens and adults tend to learn and retain based upon: 70% experience, 20% relationships and 10% expositional/didactic teaching. So, the key to training people is to leverage the 90% that is not in the ‘classroom’ or reading – the use of music and art taps into the 70%…

When you look back at the church, prior to the invention of the printing press and prior to the ability to easily duplicate images, the use of imagery within the architecture and traditions of the church was much more prevalent than the past several hundred years. The use of illumination, as in the Book of Kells, and the use of iconography were ways in which the church used images to convey the truths of the Bible. Because most of the people could not read nor understand Latin, these methods of teaching, learning and experience were effective. However, when worshipers started behaving in ways that worshiped the icons and venerated the images, their usefulness was outstripped. The icons, in and of themselves, were not evil, but for some, they were being used in a way that was so.

In the same way, I see churches who use artistic expressions, displaying truths of Christ, as something that can be very helpful – particularly in light of the ways adults, especially, learn.

The danger lies in idolizing the methods and missing the message.

To demonize the method or to insist the message be expressed in a singular manner is not the proper response. Instead, it takes the involvement of the local shepherd to gauge the pulse of his sheep, and to make adjustments accordingly…

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I thought this comment by new commenter, Chad, was rather insightful, demonstrating a truth I’ve tried to convey in the past, though much more ham-handedly than he has elegantly phrased.  In answer to the question “what would you consider ‘heresy’”, he writes:

Making works necessary for salvation. I would qualify this, though, by saying that our Roman Catholic friends are not heretics in this regard. When I say “works as necessary for salvation” it is to say that grace is being denied as free gift (or more to the point, that there is no need of grace), that God in Jesus has not done something to open the door to heaven.

I am quick to point out that many of my protestant brothers and sisters are no different than our RCC brothers and sisters – they have simply changed the system of “works” from one of penance to one of mental assent to a set of propositional truths or doctrines. While not “heresy” I consider it to be a departure from orthodox understandings of grace (gift!).

In the early church, particularly those with a Jewish background, the separation of “works” from “faith” was inconceivable.  In this mindset, one physically cannot have a belief system that is not demonstrated.  Sin, itself, is a demonstration of a belief that God cannot provide.  As most of the world, and the church along with it, was Hellenized it began creating abstract compartmentalizations which separated ones “faith/belief” from one’s “actions”, leading to the church schizophrenically pitting one against the other.

We see the seeds of this already planted in the book of James, and the schizophrenia fully realized in Luther’s desire to strike it from the canon, since it appears to stake out ground somewhere between legalism and sola fide.  To paraphrase James, “faith” (mental assent) really isn’t faith (mental assent) unless it is demonstrated.

And all of this is independent of grace, which is freely given.

As you survey the online landscape of Christianity (in which the relative percentage of Evangelical vs. Reformed vs. Catholic is skewed far differently that represented in living, breathing human beings), you can’t help but wonder why so many people are busy defending a 450-year-old church split, looking for the devil in the other party.  One need only examine the wailing and gnashing of teeth anytime a Protestant church reintroduces a Catholic tradition.  What you end up seeing is extra-biblical whining in condemnation of extra-biblical tradition (noting that I used ‘extra-biblical’ and not ‘unbiblical’ or ‘anti-biblical’).

It’s no wonder Jesus’ criticisms were almost exclusively about the religious class, always eager to demonstrate their righteousness while condemning anything that didn’t fit their own narrow traditions.

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Shark!I guess it’s time for the weekly question about Mark Driscoll: Do the ODM’s love him or hate him this week?

[spins the wheel]

Love Mark – Hate Mark – Like Mark – Hate Mark – Like Mark …

-Hate Mark-

Oops! Guess it’s his time to toss Mark in the barrel. Why, you might ask? Let’s start with the video below, part of the promotion for a one-night appearance in Sydney, Australia called Burn Your Plastic Jesus. subtitled “Mark Driscoll takes a blow-torch to the 21st century Jesus, and rediscovers the Jesus of the New Testament”.

YouTube Preview Image

Probably the quote that tipped it over the edge was the one the held a mirror to a particular type of Christian, of which discernments are a key subset -

Ask the average person, walking down the street, what they think of Jesus, and they will immediately identify him with someone who is religious, loves rules, is unpleasant, unkind, unhelpful. Someone they do not want to be with. Someone they do not want to be like.

Does that sound like the most accurate understanding of Jesus? In no way.

When Jesus was on the earth, he called sinners to repent of sin, go find your pants, stop drinking, get a job, move out of your parents’ house, grow up… He said those sorts of things and people loved him for it.

Religious people hated him the most. He told them to repent of their religion. Stop being so prideful. Stop being so self-righteous, so judgmental, so holier-than-thou. The result is that they despised, opposed and ultimately murdered him.

This may shock you – Jesus is as opposed to ‘religion’ as he is to sin…

Ah – no need to wonder anymore why the teeth were set to ‘gnash’ in ‘discernment-ville’ today.

Apparently, Mark’s public message in Australia, which partly concludes (if the advertisement is correct) that Jesus wants to save Christians in addition to the lost, isn’t going to cut the mustard because he is disrespectful of the plastic, pop-culture “Jesus”, represented by the kitschy bobble-head represented on the page. Or possibly that he describes religious folk as being just as bad as sinners. The mysterious “editor” doesn’t let us know.

And so whose spiritual advice does the anonymous discerner give regarding Driscoll ? Jesus? James? Peter? John? Paul? Nope – a few steps above those (though still below Spurgeon) – Christian mystic A. W. Tozer:

Some preachers have such a phobia for repetition and such an unnatural fear of the familiar that they are forever straining after the odd and the startling… We dare not impugn the honesty or the sincerity of the men who thus flap their short wings so rapidly in an effort to take off into the wild blue yonder, but we do deplore their attitudes.

Ah, poor Mark. He didn’t get the ODM playbook on the only proper ways to preach. I just wish these guys would make up their minds about Driscoll – is he OK or not? Will they not discern for the masses?

Or – have the sheep already heard the echo of the master’s voice in his under-shepherd from Seattle and recognized the baying of the wolves for what it is?

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Go To FailSometimes the truth is so much better than anything you could make up. Tonight, we can witness a case in point.

First, just to establish some context: As many readers may know, one of the frequent “discernmentalist” sites we take to task for injurious action toward the Body of Christ is Slice of Laodicea (SoL). Slice’s primary mode of operation is to place itself in a position of sanctimonious judgment over anyone/anything its primary author deems to fall short of her shallow, externalist view of Christianity. Unfortunately, Sol’s author is also a radio personality with a larger-than-average platform from which to spew her “discernment” on unsuspecting masses.

Frequent readers of SoL will recognize that one of its author’s primary sources of scorn against the modern church is its lack of older hymns and “proper” externals (with “proper” being defined as 1950’s idealized church culture). And so it is no surprise that SoL would publish an article like this one (here is a link to a screen-capture (and a full one), since it is highly probable that its author will attempt to make it disappear into the ether, as if it never happened).

In this article, SoL’s author begins by staking out a “moral” high ground:

I have heard hip, healthy young Christians laugh about the musical format at VCY America during the wee hours of the morning. Over the night hours our radio network airs quiet hymns and instrumental music interspersed with Scripture readings and devotional thoughts from the host, Vic Eliason. Oh, if only these young people could read the mail that we get.

Before we go on, it should also be noted that the author trumpets, with great pride, her vastly over-inflated ability of “discernment”. With this “gift”, she is able to spitefully trash all sorts of Christian brothers and sisters – Rick Warren, Ravi Zacharias, Rob Bell, Bill Hybels, Mark Driscoll and many more – along with casting aspersions at entire bodies of believers all over the world. For instance, her magnified powers of ‘discernment’ have recently been raking Ravi Zacharias over the fires of hell for not mentioning the name of Jesus in a prayer during a program on the National Day of Prayer.

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This post is more personal than that of the standard fare here at .info but I think there are some applicable learnings for current affairs buzzing in the blogosphere.

I’ve been estranged from my family (mom, step-dad, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc…) for the better part of 9 years. Without giving all of the details; suffice it to say I did many things wrong as a teenager and my parents did many things wrong as parents. Neither party was able to forgive. Because of the strain I chose to close off communication. One time about 5 years ago I did contact my Mom in an attempt to live out the verse “As much depends on you be at peace with all people”. In a God given moment of humility I was able to say “Please forgive me” to which my Mom responded with “You’ve made your bed now lie in it” and slammed down the phone. In that moment, having honored God with his command to seek forgiveness, I had peace. The bridge to my family wasn’t reopened that day but I continued to trust that “All things work to the good for those of love Christ”.

Fast Forward 4 years. This past Christmas I received a Christmas card in the mail from my Aunt. Stunned that I got a Christmas card from her I didn’t open it. My wife however did. Inside was a personal note that read “We miss you guys being a part of the family give us a call. P.S. (my cousin) is getting married in May and she would love for you guys and the girls to come” My immediate response was I’m not going to the wedding. I questioned everything… “Who’s gonna be there”; “What’s their motivation for inviting me”; “What if so and so is there”; etc…

But then God began to nudge me. He reminded me of the call of a Christian. We are to be ministers of reconciliation; by our Love they will know us; as much depends on you be at peace with all people; Bless those who curse you. On and on scripture came in rapid fire pattern until I was literally on my knees humbled by the words of my Savior. Now I knew I had to go to that wedding to honor God and the commitment I made to follow him wherever leads.

Recently Saddleback Church issued personal notes to those in the blogosphere that have been most critical of what Rick Warren is doing; inviting them to a future conference. To say that this has caused a little questioning of motives would be an understatement. Quite frankly their (the bloggers) thoughts haven’t varied much from the thoughts that I had when I was invited to the wedding of my cousin. What is very different however is the public manner in which they are airing those thoughts.

A few weeks ago Ingrid wrote a scathing response essentially stomping on the graciousness of Rick Warren to pay for the trip. Recently Chris Rosebrough of Extreme Theology wrote a more balanced response to his invite and in fact accepted the invite. But again questioned the motives of the invitation. In fairness to Chris he has since removed that post stating “There is a commitment that I need to honor and I want to respect the wishes of my host.” Which shows character and perhaps a willingness to take a “wait and see” approach.

Others however (who haven’t received invites) have been blogging and commenting voraciously; ascribing all kinds of conspiracy theories to Rick and Co.

Purpose Drivel had this to say.

Wow. I have to wonder what the spin will be on this one. I would be torn. Do I go and let him twist the event to his own advantage? Or do I decline and let him publicly say “they wouldn’t play nice, look we even invited them for ‘dialogue’!”

I guess if I could have a recording team there to record the meeting, I would be OK with it. Then nothing could be edited for slant/spin purposes without it being exposed by the opposing team.

Jim Bublitz of Old Truth in the Extreme Theology comments (the old post)

I‘ve been hearing about all of the invites to this event for the past week and have wondered what’s really behind it all. Is Warren finally starting to see that the blog world is a great detriment to his methods, and this is his way of doing damage control? Surely he’s not naive enough to imagine that he’s going to change the minds of people like you and Pastor Bob DeWaay who is also there and has written a book against Warren’s teachings. Or maybe Warren thinks he’s going to shower you with gifts and kill you with kindness (so to speak) to the point where you are going to think of him as “Uncle Rick” from now on; somebody you just can’t speak poorly about. I just don’t know, but will be interested in your opinions. It just doesn’t make sense.

You’re right Jim; it doesn’t make sense. Why would Rick Warren a heretic invite a fringe group of malcontents to a conference on his dime. I suspect because Rick is wise enough to understand that the caricatures we have in our heads (heretics and malcontents) vary widely from the reality of who people are in real life. Communication is the only thing that will close that gap. Which is exactly what I experienced at my cousins wedding.

Most of my relatives (sans my mom and step-dad) were gracious and affirming of me. Many were able to see the change (Christ) in my life and I was able to say to them that I am where I am today because of Christ. It was a powerful night and my wife, kids, and me were able to witness to my family the grace of Christ. On a very personal note I got to see my Grandfather, whom I assumed was dead. I was able to introduce him to his great grand-daughters and was also able to say good bye (he has cancer and Alzheimer’s and was given only about 2 months to live). Which was a wonderful gift from God in my eyes. Plus all of the caricatures that I had of my family were shattered during the night. In my humanness I would never have expected God to be able to reconcile my family. Sure I still have room to grow and certainly the healing in my family has a long way to go but God is good and able to “work all things to good for those who love Christ”.

Maybe God is calling all of us to that higher ground. Lets not let pride, humanness, or team politics get in the way of that calling.

Grace and Peace to all.

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Elvis has left the buildingSO much digital ink seems to be spilled these days, sniffing about how the church is whoring itself out by ‘looking like the world’. While I agree with this sentiment on a number of levels, it seems that the targeted examples of ‘worldliness’ are merely personal preferences, while the actual examples of worldliness move on, virtually unchallenged.

Examples of supposed ‘worldliness’:

  • Mars Hill Church (Seattle) holds a “Red Hot Bash” for New Years Eve, which serves a champagne toast at midnight.
  • Saddleback Church holds a “Glitz and Glamor” night for singles in the church
  • Christians hold a dance festival, one weekend in Michigan
  • Pastors use examples in their sermons from current movies, like Spiderman
  • Christians are involved in movies, popular music or other popular artistic ventures
  • Christians attend movies or watch TV shows that other Christians disapprove of

While this isn’t to suggest that poor decisions may (or may not) have been involved with any of these examples, but all of these – and most usages of the word “worldly” by the fundamentalist and discernmentalist crowds – are not examples of “worldliness”, at least as it is defined by Jesus, who they claim to be their standard.

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