Archive for the 'Hypocrisy' Category

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.

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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.

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“I hated the hypocrisy that niceness cloaks.”

–Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah’s Child, 28

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“Hypocrisy is the natural expression of what is meanest in us all.”

–as quoted by Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, 71

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From the Apostle Paul, to the church in Colossae:

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

And the church in Galatia:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

And the church in Corinth:

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

In short – if we, as Christians, happen to believe that Paul had something important on the issue of races and classes, then we ought to recognize that its core is this: In Christ, there is no discrimination between races, classes, sexes or nationalities in the salvation they have received.

In this respect, it is love that ought to lead Christians to both respect and love all men, as loved by God, created in His image, and paid for by Jesus’ blood, if only they will recognize him as Lord.

Unfortunately, as he is wont to do, Satan takes something that God has made good – a love and respect for all men – and has taken that grain of truth and twisted it into a false view of “tolerance”, and then inflicted it upon the people of the world. Even though I’ve not paid incredibly close attention to the news this past week or so, I’ve heard (or been sent) a number of stories that all seem to have this tension as a common thread between them.

Read the rest of this entry »

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(or Ricky Bobby becomes a theologian )

In case you were not aware, pastor/author Francis Chan is stepping down later this year after a decade and a half as teaching pastor of Cornerstone Church. This video gives a short description of the decision. It’s also a bit amusing, as the guy who was interviewing Chan had no idea what was coming. Watch his face in the first few minutes.

There’s a longer video here — as Chan addresses his congregation regarding the decision.

Now, of those who know who Chan is, there are probably very few who didn’t already know about this transition. So why bring it up, anyway? Well, a sure sign that you’re getting older is that you have déjà vu more often (after all, if there’s “nothing new under the sun”, you’re bound to get more re-runs the longer that you’re on the planet). And I had a massive, two-fold case of it recently.

Piper-esque déjà vu

While some of the reaction to Chan’s decision has been positive — “Wow, rock on, bro; sounds like God is doing some serious stuff in your heart and life” — there has been other reaction that has been quite negative. And the negative reaction isn’t just coming from the far-right fringe bloggers who only care about attaching labels and don’t give a rat’s glutes as to the actual veracity of what Chan writes and teaches. Rather, it’s coming from writers who, while further to the right than I am, I would consider to be rational and capable of conversation with those with whom they disagree. While it’s not clear in some cases, many of these bloggers certainly seem to be people who like/admire Chan. As I said recently about the crucifixion of John Piper, with friends like these …

Actually, a lot of the hub-bub surrounding Chan is quite reminiscent of the firestorm around Piper. And much of the same reasoning that I discussed in my last post about Piper applies here as well. For instance, while Chan’s track record is not as extensive as Piper’s — and it looks like it may never be, at least publicly, as God takes Chan off the radar — it’s still pretty clear that the guy has lapped me (and probably you) a few times spiritually. And while (again) no one gets carte blanche, I’m thinking that a Christian brother needs to be given at least a tiny bit of the benefit of the doubt.

Since the Chan issue has no whipping-boy (a la Warren in the Piper issue), there are some points of divergence in the criticism. One of them seems to be an appeal to cessationism. Now while I think it’s a wrong viewpoint, I don’t have a major beef with cessationism. Unfortunately, in most cases surrounding the criticism of Chan, it’s tied to something with which I do have a major beef.

Many of the writers criticizing Chan would claim to believe in sola Scriptura, and if that’s what they truly believed, I would agree with them. But what they are actually espousing is not sola Scriptura (the belief that Scripture is the highest and ultimate guide for the Christian’s life), but solo Scriptura (the belief that Scripture is the only guide for the Christian’s life). Sola places things like counsel from other Christians, teachings, and guidance by the Spirit on a lower level than Scripture. Solo dismisses them entirely.

Now I would imagine that the writers who espouse solo would argue that that’s not what they’re saying. But when Chan specifically states that he’s been diligently searching the Scripture to be sure that this decision aligns with God’s Word, there are only two conclusions at which we can arrive: (1) the aforementioned critics are ignorant of Chan’s statement* or (2) the aforementioned critics are genuinely espousing solo Scriptura. If the latter is true, then — to be intellectually honest and consistent with their beliefs — they need to stop attending church immediately (and throw out chunks of the Bible, to boot).

(And yes, I recognize the conflict of a believer in solo Scriptura throwing out chunks of Scripture. This is simply illustrative of the lunacy of such a belief.)

One other thought on this. I defy anyone to watch this two-minute video of Chan and tell me that this is not a man who takes the Bible very seriously.

Bobby-esque déjà vu

In Talladega Nights**, there is a conversation between Ricky Bobby and his team’s owner, Larry Dennit Jr., after Bobby has won a race. Dennit chides him on the “obscene gesture” that Bobby made, specifically as it relates to the NASCAR points and sponsorship dollars that it will cost them. The following exchange ensues:

Bobby: With all due respect, Mr Dennit, I had no idea you’d gotten experimental surgery to have your [censored] removed.

Dennit (indignantly): What did you say?

Bobby: Whoa, whoa! I said it “with all due respect”!

Dennit: That doesn’t mean you get to say whatever you want to say to me.

Bobby: It sure as heck does! It’s in the Geneva Convention. Look it up!

(The censored word refers to a portion of the anatomy often attributed to manliness.)

While the criticism of Chan and its theological ramifications are quite disturbing, I find it down-right terrifying that some of Chan’s critics are employing the same logic as Ricky Bobby. They might not use the phrase “with all due respect”, but they often employ some radical, wild-eyed (and usually generic) example, quickly followed by “I’m not saying this about Chan, but …”

Puhleeeeeze, Sparky. If you’re not saying it about Chan, then why even bring it up in a blog post that’s all about criticizing his decision? I’ve looked it up. The Geneva Convention does not allow you to make crazy accusations about mythical third parties in the midst of a criticism of a real person, but preempt any cry of “foul” by simply saying that your crazy accusation was not in any way related to the real person.

With all due respect, we’re not as stupid as you show yourself to be.

* I know for a fact that this is the case for one critic. He’s actually proud of his willful ignorance. Don’t confuse him with the facts; his mind’s made up.

** (not a movie I’d recommend, FWIW)

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Ephesians 2:4-6 (NKJV – emphasis mine) — But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together …

I have noted before on my blog that legalism mocks God’s grace. If we are raised in a home that doesn’t perform “worldly” externals, and all Christianity is about is not doing those “worldly” externals, then God hasn’t really saved us from much — we weren’t dead in our trespasses; we just had the sniffles.

A couple weeks ago, Neil wrote about labels, and how they can be helpful at times — and downright useless and silly at other times. The latter issue was the larger portion of his post and (although he didn’t initially identify it at the time of the writing), I was one of the people that he wrote about who had been incorrectly and unfairly labeled. (He later went back and filled readers in on who the label-ers were. ‘Twas a hop, skip, and jump from there to figure out who the label-ees were.)

Unfortunately, for any “fact-checkers” out there, the background of my incident can’t be accurately checked, as the moderators of the site on which I was labeled chose to conveniently excise large parts of the exchange in which either (a) I made a strong point or (b) they looked foolish in retrospect. But that’s not why I’m writing this, anyway …

I was attempting to answer the question “Is Francis Chan emergent?” by noting that the important question was not whether or not someone had attached a label to Chan, but whether or not what he teaches/writes is the truth. As the questioner appeared to truly be researching Chan, but coming up empty, I pointed her to a couple of book reviews and a brief (and, for me, convicting) video by Chan.

(For what extremely little it was worth, one of the book reviews included a quote from Chan that pretty much answered her irrelevant question.)

Having just made the point that the issue was truth (not labels), the very next comment — by a moderator, no less — asked me if I was emergent. Quite frankly, I was stunned at how incredibly and thoroughly he had missed my entire point. I felt like tapping the mic and asking, “Is this thing on?”

I temporarily evaded the question, as it was no more relevant for me than it was for Chan. However, after a while, it became obvious that I was never going to get that point through, even though I repeated it numerous times in different ways. So I just (metaphorically) threw up my hands and answered their question. I worked off a list of teachers/writers that one of my accusers had provided, and (I’m sure to their utter shock) largely agreed with their stances on these men.

But then I “messed up” and dragged God into the conversation (what was I thinking?):

Bottom line though: While none of those men are on my bookshelf, I do not think God incapable of using them to speak truth to me.

The responses to this statement (all of my others “disappeared”) made things abundantly clear — they were so utterly focused on these men, that they totally (dis)missed God. One can only come to the conclusion that they do think God incapable of using those men.

There was even a great, though certainly unintended, illustration of this. One of the moderators has an image in his signature line — riffing off of President Obama’s “Hope” slogan — that says “Hopeless” (complete with the same logo in the “O” as was in the original). While no fan of the president by a long shot, I have to note that this image says infinitely more about the moderator’s view of God than his view of the president.

I ran across a post on another blog today about some truly horrific people — murderers, drunkards, adulterers, pimps, prostitutes — the scum of the earth. Oddly, they’re all characters cited in Genesis, many of whom were greatly used by God. And some of them don’t even have the “good” testimonies of how they did all that bad stuff before they met God, and walked the straight and narrow ever since.

The phrase “another gospel” (riffing off Galatians 1) has been perverted in its overuse to mean “that with which we do not agree”. And, to be sure, I saw that phrase used often in the discussions surrounding Chan and others. But to claim (even indirectly) that God is incapable of using anyone requires not only the ignoring of large portions of Scripture, but an outright mockery of God’s grace and the heart of the gospel message.

That, my friends, is truly “another gospel”.

Galatians 1:9 (NKJV – emphasis mine) — As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

Don’t blame me — I didn’t say it.

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I remember when my father got his first label maker. It was a long time ago and the labels it produced were the thick plastic kind with raised letters. Unlike contemporary label makers that actually print, this maker was really a crimper. The label was produced by crimping the plastic band to produce raised letters. In the process the coloration of the plastic was removed on the letters – thus raised white letters on a colored band. At the time it really was cool. Fortunately, my father resisted the temptation to label everything… though he did label a lot of things… a lot of things.

Labeling has a certain function of course. It allows things to be identified easily. We label a file so that its contents can be known at a glance. We label a bin so that we can know what’s in it without opening it. Some people label shelves or cabinets to prevent others from placing things in them that are forbidden. We label things to identify their owner.

Labels are potentially useful, very useful.

They can also be very useful in categorizing people. Followers of Jesus were first labeled Christians in Antioch. This was because the church there was comprised of mostly Gentiles who had embraced Jesus as Lord and Messiah – calling them Jews would not work. A new label needed to be created, and it stuck. Labels are very useful in identifying and categorizing; Christian, Liberal, Gay, Calvinist, Egalitarian… are labels.

Labels are also potentially dangerous, very dangerous.

They can be very dangerous in categorizing people when those assigning the label wield them – not as a shortcut, but as a weapon; when they are assigned out of laziness; when they are assigned based on secondary or even tertiary issues. Labeling is the ally to all who practice Guilt by Association.

We all do it. We all label. Sometimes we do it correctly, sometimes we do it incorrectly. Some however are more consistent in their misuse of labeling than others. Some excel at weapon-labeling and for them it is not a tool as much as it is a first step… a step from which all other steps must proceed.

This was recently illustrated to perfection through two different exchanges between select writers here and self-proclaimed discerners, both of which took place on the sites of the latter. I say self-proclaimed so as to be clear this is not a label I have assigned to them, they have done so themselves.

The thing that was interesting about both of these cases, even though the labelers come from wildly different scenarios, was the consistency of using labels as weapons, the lack of logic, lack of thought and… well lack true discernment. This is where I venture into speculation – I speculate that labeling has become short-hand because it is easier than actual thought, it is easier than actual research. It is easier to connect the dots of guilt by association (even if such association does not really exist), then label. And once the label has been applied – it matters not what the person actually says, does, or believes. The label has been applied – the case is closed. Don’t bother with what is actually in the bin or folder, just label it. Don’t bother discussing or researching or getting to know what a person believes or does – just label them.

For example: In one of the conversations I was labeled as unsaved, Emergent, a follower of a false Jesus and anti-Semitic. There are more, but these will suffice.

I am anti-Semitic because I advocate a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine.
Never mind that I never said anything against any Semite and even affirmed Israel’s right to exist.

I am unsaved because I disagree with someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Never mind my profession of faith, my reliance on God’s grace, my repentance, my faith experience of God’s grace… all were summarily dismissed – the Holy Spirit never disagrees with himself, and we disagreed, therefore I have not the Holy Spirit. I must admit I admire the logic: “I am filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit never disagrees with himself. Therefore, by disagreeing with me you prove you have not the Holy Spirit.”
Apply label – unsaved!

I am Emergent because I referenced a common faith, a faith shared with said Holy Spirit believer.
This I found comical, since the reference was not to some interreligious experience, or even interdenominational ecumenicalism – it was a reference to the shared faith between the discerner and me. I was attempting to establish common ground in Christ. The use of the phrase “common faith” was enough for me to be labeled.

I follow a different Jesus because I refused to label someone else as “Not a Christian.”
This became the crux of the matter. Even though I laid out exactly what I believe, even though my beliefs are thoroughly orthodox and biblical, even though these beliefs were never addressed or disagreed with – I follow a different Jesus based on guilt by association, based on connecting the dots, based on being labeled. Never mind that all I did was refuse to label someone else, who I do not even know.

We also practice hypnotism.
Never did figure out what that was based on.

When I pressed for an answer as to which of my very detailed beliefs the discerner found lacking… I was referred to the story of the disciples brushing the dust from their feet. This and other examples of the misuse of Scripture in the labeling process could easily be another post in and of itself. This tactic is used because discernment is not the goal, answers are not the goal, knowing is not the goal – the label is. Above all else, the label must be defended.

Other writers experienced similar labeling, mostly based on equally shallow, tangential, and irrelevant criteria. I chalk it up to laziness, joy in hostility, and a false-discerning attitude.

The point is this. Labels are very useful tools; when applied properly and with a little thought and research. They can also be hurtful, inaccurate and sin; when they are applied flippantly and in spite of reality.

Labels are useful in defining the contents of a bin or folder; they are useful in categorizing and identifying people. But they are worthless and worse when one applies a label without looking into the folder or bin first. They are even worse when they are applied in direct contradiction to the contents of the same.

Let us all learn from the abuse of labels and use them wisely and apply them accurately.

I have left out the names of the discerners and their sites because they are not the point. I prefer it remains that way.

UPDATE: Since this has run its course, and it was pointed out that without links the facts cannot be checked I am updating the post: the sites that labeled us using shallow, tangential, and irrelevant criteria are Rapture Ready. and Discerning the World.

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Way back in 2006, Mark Driscoll was interviewed prior to speaking at the Desiring God conference that year.  One of the interview clips can be found here, but I’ll quote the salient part:

When [missionary] Hudson Taylor shows up in China, and dresses in Chinese dress, and learns Chinese language, and eats Chinese food, and gets a Chinese haircut, everybody says, “There’s a good Christian.” When we do that in punk rock culture, people think it’s capitulation. I think there’s hypocrisy there. That’s why we’re not reaching Americans. We have a double-standard that we get stuck on the style and we forget the substance of the Gospel.

A missionary family (we’ll call the couple George and Mary — names changed for safety/anonymity sake) was recently at my church.  The people group to whom they minister are very disinterested in reading.  So much so that it is not uncommon for houses in that part of the world to lack indoor plumbing but have satellite television.  Another example — to be considered a best-seller, a book has to sell only a few thousand copies.

While their ultimate goal is translating the Bible — this people group does not have the Scriptures in their language — George and Mary realize that in the short-term, they need to set a primary focus on spreading the Word through other media (though, even this is not simple, due to laws in their region).  As George was describing the unique challenges that they face, he noted that their desire was to be — parents, cover your children’s ears — relevant.

A horrified gasp went up from the congregation when he used such a dirty word.  Actually, I’m kidding.  His choice of that word summed up what they were trying to do, given the culture of the people with whom they are dealing.  His point was that their message to those people is not “get your act together, get interested in reading, and then we’ll deem you worthy of telling you about Jesus”.

I doubt that anyone would fail to laud George and Mary’s efforts.  So why, exactly, does any mention of relevance in our culture get poo-poo-ed on so quickly and thoroughly by so many?

Are people in our culture less unsaved?  I keep seeing an image of Westerners showing up at the pearly gates, and St Peter does his best Maxwell Smart* impression, saying, “Missed it by that much.”

* (the Don Adams version — I’m old)

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just because we have changed the primary focus of our blog does not mean that we won’t “slum it” every once in a while and see what the buzz is on our favorite odm sites.  it’s the same fascination that allows me to argue the nuances of justification AND watch shows about people driving badly… or buildings collapsing…

over at crosstalk they are offering this commentary:

Evangelical Church Tattoos Woman on Altar

In the you-just-can’t-make-this-up department, a Seattle church decided to tattoo volunteers during the “live tattoo final” to a sermon series. I predicted tattoo parlors in church some time ago and was jeered at for doing so. I was wrong. They aren’t building parlors to tattoo anyone in church. They’re doing it on the altar. Read more from the Seattle Times.

i particularly like the angst of “They’re doing it on the altar” – complete with shock value and double entendre.

our church has had artists creating works as a form of worship while a pastor delivers a sermon, but we have never had a human as the canvas.  and i’m not sure we would – but that is not the point. the point is the interesting use of the term altar, the use of a sexual double entendre, and the appeal to the slippery slope of sin.

i am not sure why crosstalk uses the term “altar” – particularly since evangelical churches usually do not have them – they do not need them.  and crosstalk ignores a great opportunity for a jab since the linked article uses the term “stage.”   i have a hunch it is used for shock value, and to make an illusion to paganism.

this latter reference, of pagan altars, plays into the use of the sexual double entendre, which i find mildly hypocritical from folks that find this abhorrent when used by others.  remember, christians should not talk about sex in public.  this is a deliberate sexual reference, i believe, because of the popularity of the  “so and so’s do it…” jokes/bumper stickers/etc….  clearly this has not eluded the editors.

the inuendo was clearly seen by truthinator who posted the follow-up comment:

First coffee shops and now tattoo parlors… can the temple prostitutes be far behind…?

i find this appeal to a slippery slope interesting for its sheer grade of the slope; from coffee to church sanctioned prostitution in three simple steps (emphasis on simple).  it seems to slip the mind of truthinator that coffee and tattoos are neither illegal, immoral, nor biblically prohibited (and only quote leviticus 19:28 if you also obey 19:13a, 16-18, 19c, and 27.)

finally, what really mystifies me is why crosstalk (and truthinato) even cares what this church in seattle does – since what they did violated no biblical injunction.  i have a hunch that it is just another objection against folks doing things different – it’s probably not coffee that is objectionable… it’s that it’s not served the way we do it.

[UPDATE: it was pointed out that the newspaper article opened with the use of "altar" - this explains crosswalk's use of the term. i should have seen this in my reading.]

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