Archive for the 'Misuse of Scripture' Category

For those who never knew, for those of us that need a reminder, and for those who still don’t get it, Ben Witherington III has a great article explaining a few of the basic reasons for a proper hermeneutic: Hermeneutics – What is it, and why do Bible readers need it?

(Etic: of or relating to features or items analyzed without considering their role as a structural unit in a system.)

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[Repost: Apparently it's a slow news day at CR?N, as Ken has recycled a slander-filled hit-piece from February 2007 (which was actually a slander-filled hit-piece from a year or so before that) against Rob Bell without, of course, letting anyone know it was just warmed-over trash with no new "information" and about as much "research" as he normally puts into his writing.  So, in the spirit of reposts, here's our reposted response from the first/second/third? time Ken's hogwash was vomited up as "discernment"...]

Issue: Rob Bell’s view of scripture and Ken Silva’s misuse of the Name of God.

CRN’s Take: The one-man vendetta against Rob Bell continues. Ken has published an article “Rob Bell in a Nutshell”, which makes a number of claims about Rob Bell, including one Amy asked about:

Bell’s neo-orthodox view of the Bible would be along the lines that the text of Scripture itself is not necessarily inspired but rather as the Holy Spirit inspires a particular passage to a particular person it then comes to life as it becomes the Word of God. We would then breathe it in, so to speak, living it out in subjective and existential experience.

My Take: Rather than just reprint Ken’s article, I will critique sectons of it, piece by piece, strawman by strawman, fallacy by fallacy.

The Lord apparently has His reasons as to why He chose to position Apprising Ministries as the “go to” ministry for critique of Emergent Church Pastor Rob Bell. [blah, blah, blah]

In Exodus 20:7, it states

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

A number of Christian (and Jewish) scholars have commented that the intent of this commandment is not about misusing the name of the Lord in anger (which would be included), but to misuse the name of the Lord by attaching it to something as an endorsement of something that is of man, or to justify sin. Or, to put it more bluntly, we are not to presume upon God.

So, before we even get to whatever it is Ken has to say, he’s already disregarded scripture in a way that suggests that the end justifies the means. Besides which, Bell has, on numerous occasions rejected the label of “Emergent” or “Emerging”, as Ken has also noted on a number of occasions; yet “pastor” Silva has still decided to characterize Bell in a way contrary to what even Ken has even recognized as reality.

Time to do so has been hard to come by due to a lack of financial support but here now is the first installment in what I pray will be a series toward that direction. As God leads watch for this to continue to develop [...blah, blah, blah].

Exodus 20:7 (and related verses and curses) applies yet again… Perhaps a possibility could be considered that the lack of financial support and the aim of this “ministry” are somehow connected. While it is also possible this is not the case, I do not believe that God sends messages/prophecy via sinful or highly-errant means.

At best Bell is now neo-orthodox although at one time he was actually quite sound as an expositor of Scripture. As one who used to hear Bell back in his Calvary Church days told me recently, think MacArthur. However, after Bell and his wife read A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren, as you will now see like most Emergents Bell has rejected sola Scriptura. This is an irrefutable fact.

I’m sorry, Ken, but just because you website says it and isogetes it doesn’t make it ‘irrefutable fact’. (Realize, as well, that the definition of sola Scriptura, and how people interpret the usage of this extra-Biblical doctrine has a good deal of variance in how it is applied.)

Irrefutable: adj. “Impossible to refute or disprove; incontrovertible”

Let us see how ‘irrefutable’ Ken’s “facts” are…

[Quoting Belief.net] The Bible itself, he writes, is a book that constantly must be wrestled with and re-interpreted. He dismisses claims that “Scripture alone” will answer all questions. Bible interpretation is colored by historical context, the reader’s bias and current realities, he says. The more you study the Bible, the more questions it raises.

“It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says,” Bell writes. [Emphasis his]

Oddly (or prehaps not all that much so) Ken does not finish Bell’s quote in the article, instead giving this the appearance of a complete thought on the part of Bell. Here is the remainder of the quote:

“We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people.”

In one of the sermons from which Velvet Elvis was developed in 2004, Bell used the example of Paul’s comments about women covering their heads and not wearing braided hair. He said that we first had to see what this meant in the time it was written (basically – “women – don’t dress the way prostitutes do – you’re not a prostitute!”). Next, we had to look and see how we would apply this now, in Grand Rapids 2004. He mentioned the name of a brand or a store I didn’t know, but his jist was that women shouldn’t dress in ways that say they are sexually available to other people.

So, Ken’s use of contextomy in this case fails to prove anything, other than Ken’s predisposed inclination to malign and misuse Bell’s words to say things they just don’t say.

Next, Ken writes:

Then in VE, after laying out a neo-orthodox understanding of some of the Biblical writers, Bell specifically says:

This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice but it is not true! When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true [emphasis Ken's]

Aside from Ken’s predeliction for esoteric terminology (neo-this and hollow-that), this is just another example of contextomy. In this section of Velvet Elvis, Bell is discussing the First Century practice of “binding and loosing“, that is the practice of church or synagogue leaders forbidding (”binding”) or permitting (”loosing”) specific practices or interpretations based upon the community’s understanding/interpretation of scripture.

In Ken’s quote, he excises the actual purpose of this discussion to give Bell’s words an appearance and meaning he did not intend (which would be, well, the definition of a “straw man” – which most anyone who has read a miss-ive from Ken has become readily acquainted with). Here is the full quote from Velvet Elvis, along with continuation from the chapter.

This is part of the problem with continualling insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice but it is not true.64 In reaction to abuses by the church, a group of believers during the time called the Reformation claimed that we only need the authority of the Bible. But the problem is that we got the Bible from the church voting on what the Bible even is. So, when I affirm the Bible as God’s word, in the same breath I have to affirm that when those people voted, God was somehow present, guiding them to do what they did. When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true.

In affirming the Bible as inspired, I have to affirm the Spirit who I believe was inspiring those people to choose those books.65 Where they binding and loosing the Bible itself?

At some point we have to have faith. Faith that God is capable of guiding people. Faith that God has not left us alone. Faith that the same Spirit who guided Paul and Peter and those people in a room in the 300s is still with us today. Guiding us, showing us, and enlightening us.

Binding and loosing can only be done if communities are willing to wrestle. The ultimate display of our respect for the sacred words of God is that we are willing to wade in a struggle with the text – the good parts, the hard-to-understand parts, the parts we wish weren’t there.

The rabbis even say a specific blessing when they don’t understand a portion of the text. When it eludes them, when it makes no sense, they say a word of thanks to God because of the blessing that will be theirs someday. “Thank you, God, that at some point in the future, the lights are going to come on for me.”

The rabbis have a metaphor for wrestling with the text: The story of Jacob wrestling the angel in Genesis 32. He struggles and it is exhausting and tiring, and in the end his hip in injured. It hurts. And he walks away limping. Because when you wrestle with the text, you walk away limping. And some people have no limp, because they haven’t wrestled. But the ones limping have had an experience with the living God.

I think God does know what He’s doing with the Bible. But a better question is, do we know what we’re doing with the Bible? And I say yes, we are binding and loosing and wrestling and limping. Because God has spoken. [emphasis mine]

So, Bell is not questioning whether or not scripture is inspired – he is illustrating that when we affirm the authority of the Bible, we are also affirming that we believe that God was leading the people who created the canon. Bell has commented in a couple of sermons I’ve listened to that he believes that the Bible is inspired but that doesn’t mean that some people’s interpretations of portions of the Bible are equally inspired. In a different part of Velvet Elvis, Bell refers to this bad habit of assuming that your interpretation of some passage is as inspired as the text you are intepreting as “warped and toxic” (another phrase Ken has taken a liking to, in a perverse – or perhaps a ‘warped and toxic’ – sort of way).

The only sola Scriptura being deined by Bell here is the strictest interpretation of this extra-Biblical doctrine which suggests that the Bible is completely independent of the context in which it was written and the manner in which it was canonized. Most peoples’ views of sola Scriptura are not quite so narrow, though.
In footnote #64 from the above section of VE, Bell states:

64. I understand the need to ground all that we do and say in the Bible, which is my life’s work. It is the belief that creeps in sometimes that this book dropped out of the sky that is dangerous. The Bible has come out of actual communities of people, journeying in real time and space. Guided by a real Spirit.

So, once again, by examining the actual context, rather than Ken’s isogetical ’slice’, we see something different, something that shows Ken’s premise to be incredibly, shall we say decidedly

refutable: adj. Admitting of being refuted or disproved; capable of being proved false or erroneous.

Next, Ken decides to venture in the realm of Guilt by Association (GBA).

In the Christianity Today article The Emergent Mystique we find out that Bell is another McLaren disciple. [blah, blah, blah]

What we learn from this section is that Bell was influenced by MacLaren’s book “A New Kind of Christian”. What seems to be asserted is that Bell is a disciple of MacLaren who, thus, agrees with everything MacLaren say. I am familiar with at least two rather large topics on which Bell has expressed opinions which disagree with MacLaren – the practice of homosexual sex and universalism – both topics which have given me the most trouble with Brian, as well.

So we start here because without this anchor of sola Scriptura Rob Bell’s neo-orthodoxy (being quite lenient) has now led him into a “repainted” [i.e. redefined] liberalism. And you need to understand that his embracing of mystery is Emergent-speak for the practice of contemplative mysticism.

Woah! Hold the phone. Here we have a classic example of Ken’s most common creation of a straw man. Let’s deconstruct this to see how it is comepletely false, misleading and slanderous.

So we start here because without this anchor of sola Scriptura [not proven, irrefutably or otherwise] Rob Bell’s neo-orthodoxy [never proven, and refuted by a number of comments from Bell about the Bible being inerrent, but people's intepretations not being so] (being quite lenient) [not proven] has now led him into a “repainted” [i.e. redefined] [Once again, defining a term for Bell in a potentially inaccurate manner] And you need to understand that his embracing of mystery is Emergent-speak for the practice of contemplative mysticism. [Wow! TOTAL 100% speculation/fabrication by "pastor" Silva. Let's see, 1) Bell claims nothing to do with Emergent; 2) Bell doesn't teach contemplative mysticism (which itself is very loosely defined); and 3) A number of times where Bell has talked about 'mystery' in this manner, it has been in the Hebrew sense of the word that allows wonder with and unknowableness to many aspects of God and how He works.]

So, now Ken has taken a shaky premise about Bell and sola Scriptura and extrapolated it to mean something miles apart from anyting EVER stated by Bell.

Slander in its purest form. Way to go Ken!

Bell’s neo-orthodox view of the Bible would be along the lines that the text of Scripture itself is not necessarily inspired but rather as the Holy Spirit inspires a particular passage to a particular person it then comes to life as it becomes the Word of God. We would then breathe it in, so to speak, living it out in subjective and existential experience.

This entire paragraph is a fabrication of Bell’s theology, thoroughly unsupported by anything written or spoken by him. Rob Bell isn’t neo-orthodox. Reading the wiki entry on Neo-orthodoxy, I cannot find a single point that would be supported by Bell’s teaching. In fact, his sermons and parts of VE (and Sex God) directly contradict a several of the points. As noted above, Bell believes that Scripture is inspired and that we have to trust that the men who wrote it were inspired by the Spirit when they did so. What is not necessarily inspired is how men choose to use/interpret scripture, particularly for selfish ends.

What Bell frequently says in his sermons (as noted above) is that before we can interpret scripture and apply it, we have to first understand what it meant when it was written. As he says on a number of occasions, “the Bible didn’t fall out of the sky – it wasn’t created by fiat [out of nothing]. It was written within the context of a culture and a people who lived and breathed in a specific time and place.” Once we understand its cultural context, we can apply it to the time and place and culture in which we live. What Ken wrote above is utter baloney. To be blunt – Ken is lying and slandering. Period. [Seems not much has changed in 18 months since this was first published - CL]

But he continues:

This heretical view sees the Bible as “a human product” and in fact denies the plenary inspiration of the text of Holy Scripture which it claims for itself (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16). Now you know the underlying reason why Emergent men like Rob Bell make studying the texts of Holy Scripture far more difficult than it needs to be.

So now, Ken is defining a heretical view he has foisted upon an upstanding Christian man, based on a false attribution of disagreement with an extra-Biblical doctrine. Ken proves nothing, because he is now writing complete fiction.

Next, Ken gives a quote from a long, incoherent rant against Velvet Elvis by a pastor in Wyoming, Michigan (a church near Mars Hill, where Bell teaches, and most likely impacted by the large number of folks who attend Mars Hill), who throws around a lot of pseudo-intellectual jargon. However, when you read the actual article Ken pulls his quote from, you quickly realize that the criticism are first and foremost, in response to Bell’s writing about people’s interpretations being fallible and not Holy writ. Secondly, you can’t help but notice in the linked article, that there is a lack of logic and coherence even worse than Ken’s usual screed.

We have already seen that Bell clearly tells us he flatly rejects the Biblical Reformed position of sola Scriptura. So now we add Bell’s disregard for the plenary inspiration of the Bible to his fascination with the Hebrews Roots movement and the strong influence of Ray Vander Laan.

Well, Ken, no we haven’t seen Bell flatly reject sola Scriptura. We haven’t seen anything from Bell to suggest that he disregards the plenary inspiration of scripture. In fact, we’ve seen the exact opposite. Finally, Ken randomly pulls in Ray Vander Laan and the research of the Hebrew Roots of scripture. I’m not exactly sure what his point is in doing so. RVL has intense respect, reverence and faith in scripture, and has done a great deal in bringing conservative first-century scholarship to laypeople within the church.

As we then combine this with Bell’s embracing alleged postmodernism and the contemplative spirituality at the core of the Emergent Church you will now be able to see that Rob Bell has been seduced into its new kind of social gospel, which just as in liberation theology, reduces Christ Jesus to a social reformer–little more than a cause to live for as one fights poverty, aids, social injustice, etc.

Let’s see, here we have a small platoon of straw men. Bell hasn’t ‘embraced alleged postmodernism’, and Ken hasn’t even set out to prove so. Bell hasn’t said anything about contemplative spiriturality, and the only connection between the two is in Ken’s imagination, as noted above. Bell’s not Emergent. While a number of Bell’s recent sermons have been about social ills and the church’s response, it is not the only focus at Mars Hill – it is a balance of scriptural grounding and social action. Liberation theology gets pulled in here randomly, along with the making Jesus in to little more than a social reformer. None of these have been proven in any manner that couldn’t be disproven by an eighth grader, fresh from the ‘logic’ unit in AP English.

As for Ken’s pulling in the ’social gospel’, I am reminded of a recent quote I read that is quickly becoming one of my favorite. It is similar to a comment by Bell last summer:

An individual gospel without a social gospel is a soul without a body and a social gospel without an individual gospel is a body without a soul. One is a ghost and the other a corpse. – E. Stanley Jones

Grace and Peace,

Chris L

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There has been a series of posts across the web that have made their way to Slice. They deal with the issue of whether or not God dreams. The general consensus of the ODMs is a big NO. God is all powerful and has no dreams of the future. This is especially true if it involves a dream that God gave Rick Warren to help cure aids and feed babies. It is even more true if Brian McLaren or Robert Schuler have a dream that God has given them

Well, that’s all good if you are a fatalist. If everything is set in stone, and the road map of eternity is unchangeable, then there is no need for God to have dreams for the future of humanity. But, in my world (and from what I pick up from scripture), God has so many dreams for the world. He dreams that no man should perish, but that all should come to salvation. He dreams that we would not resist the work of the Holy Spirit and would look more and more like Christ everyday. He dreams that his bride would be spotless for Him. He dreams that our true religion would be helping widows and feeding orphans. There are lots of dreams that I see.

Jesus himself wept over the city, because he knew that the sin of the people was moving them further and further away from the dream that God had for all humanity.

The truth is, even ODMs believe that God has dreams. They too believe that God dreams of a pure and undefined church. In fact, they see themselves as dreamkeepers and dreammakers in the grand scheme of thing. They are going to assure that the dreams of God take place with their wittings and warnings.

On a related note… one of Ingrid’s links was this post from Herescope. I didn’t agree with most of what the writer had to say, but found this quote interesting on a pretty cool prayer and fasting movement that is taking place.

The context for much of this activity is through food deprivation (fasting)

Funny how we change perspectives around for our enemies. If John MacArther called for a global prayer and fasting movement, the words “food deprivation” would have never been used. While the author did put “fasting” in parenthesis, I find their word choice very telling of their agenda.

Herescope only gives this as “the truth.” You tell me if this shows that God doesn’t dream

“Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:3

2)

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Arf!In a recent Submissions thread, Rick F asked:

Chris L. – This post puzzles me.

http://christianresearchnetwork.com/?p=5708

Especially this statement:

“Any Emergents that deny the Penal Substitutionary Atonement (aka the True Biblical Gospel) will have to try to save themselves based solely on their good works, best of luck to them.”

I am no expert of the different views of the atonement, but do they really “try and save themselves SOLEY based on their good works”? Isn’t that a gross misrepresentation?

Here, Rick has hit the nail on the head with what is wrong with the armchair “discernment” “ministries” – as opposed to professional discernment ministries (like Reasons to Believe, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, The Christian Research Institute, Stand to Reason, etc.) – the dividing line between “discernment” and “gross misrepresentation” is sometimes hard to navigate, and when it is bungled it does great damage to the bride of Christ, as in the example cited.

With the post in question, not only is their conclusion wrong, but their initial definition of PENAL Substitutionary Atonement is wrong, as well:

penal substitutionary atonement, the teaching that Jesus Christ is our substitute and that through His death on the cross our sins and wickedness were atoned for and through faith we are given Christ’s righteousness.

Incorrect (definitionally) – What they have described is simply Substitutionary Atonement, leaving out the Penal aspect of PSA – the belief that God HAD TO punish someone for sin, so He chose Jesus instead of every other individual on earth. It is this particular clause within this systematic view, which has been existent for about 500 years, that many Christians disagree with.

A couple months ago, we published an article which lays out all of the major BIBLICAL views of atonement, including PSA. Each view of atonement holds that Jesus was a substitute – though where they differ is who Jesus was a substitute for and how this substitution fits narratively. PSA says that God HAD TO punish Jesus for the sins of each individual who He predetermined to be ‘elect’. Other views of atonement differ as to whether the atonement was for mankind or for individuals and whether it was a holistic victory over Satan or only over sin. Additionally, each theory differs somewhat on the mechanism of Jesus’ substitutionary atonement – was it a substitution for punishment? Was it a substitution for the dishonor done to God by man, satisfying the need to glorify God? Was it a substitute for the necessity for punishment?

So, when the writer of the quoted article says:

“Any Emergents that deny the Penal Substitutionary Atonement (aka the True Biblical Gospel) will have to try to save themselves based solely on their good works, best of luck to them.”

They are committing multiple logical fallacies for the purpose of creating division within the Body of Christ. First off, they haven’t even correctly identified PENAL Substitutionary Atonement. Secondly, by calling it the “‘True’ Biblical Gospel”, they are expressing a great deal of anti-Biblical arrogance, ignoring parts of scripture and placing their faith in systematic theology rather than God. Additionally, they are willfully blinding themselves to the possibility of their own man-made explanation of PSA being deficient as a holistic word-picture to describe atonement.

Finally, by somehow bringing in the notion that all non-PSA theories are based on faith in works, they are committing a fallacy of false dichotomy. All of the major atonement theories (Ransom Theory, Satisfaction Theory, PSA, Governmental Theory, Moral Influence Theory and Christus Victor) support that salvation is based on God’s grace, not good works.

So, to Rick’s question:

Isn’t that a gross misrepresentation?

The simple answer is “yes”, and it is an unbiblical one, as well…

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bottleRemember in scripture where it tells us that God will provide holy men to feed the lowly spiritual peons. And that when the spiritual peons are spiritually hungry, they are to go to the holy man, the one who can truly fill them up. But, if the spiritual peaons are not getting spiritually fed (whatever that means), then it is the fault of the holy man. mmm… that passage really spoke to me.

I find it really hard to believe that people still believe this stuff. I mean, that should have flown at the window when Luther presented the biblical idea of the priesthood of beleivers. When most people say that they are not getting fed, it usually doesn’t mean that their souls are suffering due to what is happening at church. It usually means that they just want more theology taught to them from a hired holy man, to hide the fact that they really don’t have an actual relationship with the living God. Really what we have created is a spiritual consumer culture. I come. I get fed. I leave. If my spiritual life isn’t vibrant, it must be because the man who has the seminary degree isn’t feeding me right.

I am absolutely disgusted with what we have created — an obese community of beleivers. We have so much knowledge of God, so many resources available to us, and so many freedoms to pursue our faith… but we still cry out “FEED ME!” to those who have studied the exegesis of Hebrew and Greek texts (and I graduate on Friday with one of those degrees, so I can say that). AS if they have some magic spiritual food that will make everyone full. What we need is pastors who don’t see it as their job to feed people. We need pastors who make a living out of making people HUNGRY enough for God, that they go on a relentless pursuit of Him.

And for the last time… where in scripture does it say that exegetical preaching is going to save the world?

by the way, if you haven’t checked out this blog, you absolutely MUST!

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Is it proper to make a comparative apology? If so, then I must repent of any accusations of hyper-fundie-ness, bitterness, or anger that I have made about Ken or Ingrid. I’ve found someone who makes them look like Joel Osteen on uppers.

A few days ago, a commenter on my last post noted that the discerners “are now equating rudeness, mean-spiritedness, and nastiness with … godliness!” I sent him a note to ask where specifically the text (that he quoted as proof) came from. Hang on to this link if you ever need to induce vomiting.

I popped over there and asked a quick question. I got a response from the blog author. I say “response” purposefully, because it wasn’t anywhere close to an answer. But that’s OK.

The statement that “inspired” this post, though, was buried in that response (emphasis mine):

If a person is a student of the Bible he will readily find that the Bible is for the most part a negative book, of wrath, judgment, and condemnation.

What a sad existence. If that’s Christianity, include me out.

What am I saying? He probably already has.

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In the movie, Tin Cup, Kevin Costner plays a golf pro who is so broke that his golf clubs are in hock. However, he has an opportunity to go against his nemesis, and decides to play with a hoe, a rake, and other garden equipment. While Costner’s financial state was of his own doing, the status of his clubs is all too familiar to those that write here.

Quote 1 Corinthians 9:22 (”all things to all men”) to an anti-emergent, and you’ll be told that “all emergents use that verse”. Never mind that (a) that response may be irrelevant to the conversation and (b) you’re not actually an emergent. That verse is off-limits (and therefore, apparently, not inspired by God).

Try to defend the usage of cultural references in teaching and preaching by noting Acts 17:22-34, and the anti-emergents will derisively sniff “contextualization” and terminate the conversation.

Then, of course, there are the claims — though not in so many words — of omniscience. An appeal is made to Matthew 7:16 and similar verses. However, a discussion of the recognition of false teachers somehow becomes a carte blanche that allows one to know every last intimate detail of every motivation of any person in the world, based on a single issue.

Case in point: I’m sure that someone discredited this entire post after 5 words, because I referenced an R-rated movie.

Finally, there’s the slam dunk. If nothing else seems to be working, the anti-emergent claims that the other person is not a Christian. Or as one Slice commenter once so graciously put it:

Houston will be a desert before I accept [him] as a brother in Christ.

I bet the person about whom she was speaking is glad that her acceptance is absolutely meaningless when it comes to his salvation. I find it truly amazing the work that God must have prepared for us, that heaven isn’t going to be full of cursing — “Oh, #%#^!! They are here ?!?!”

And so, here we sit — with a hoe, rake, and a few other garden tools — looking at the opponent’s multi-thousand-dollar set of Callaways, and thinking that the clubs in the backseat of his car look awfully familiar. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.

In the early days of the Peanuts comic strip, Linus was still a toddler. In one strip, Lucy spitefully takes all the toys away — not that she’s going to play with them — she just doesn’t want him to have them. She leaves behind a lone piece of string. Linus looks at it for a minute, and in no time is having a blast with that string. Furious, Lucy rushes back and snatches it from him.

To mix the Peanuts and Tin Cup metaphors, Lucy’s coming after the hoe now.

Kevin DeYoung (a pastor in Michigan) and Ted Kluck (a sportswriter) have teamed up to write a book titled Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be). The parenthetical portion of the title is a reference to the fact that, ostensibly, the emergent movement appeals to a particular demographic of which these men are a part. A bit presumptuous, but hey, lets not pick nits. There are much bigger issues between the book’s covers.

In decrying the argument that some of emergent theology is still in process, DeYoung writes:

It’s one thing for a high school student to be in process with his theology. It’s another thing for adults to write books and speak around the world about their musing and misgivings.

This is simply a (slightly) more gracious inverse version of Steve Camp’s rant regarding Tim Challies. Now instead of age bringing wisdom, and formal training being a good thing, we are told that by adulthood, we should have “arrived”.

So why is DeYoung writing this book? Is his only target demographic high-school students? Because, according to him, no one else should be in process with their theology.

For that matter, is the entire congregation of his church under 18? If not, why is he even bothering to talk to people who’ve already missed the boat?

DeYoung goes on:

I agree there must be space for Christians to ask hard questions and explore the tensions of our faith, but I seriously question that this space should be hugely public where hundreds of thousands of men and women are eagerly awaiting the next book or blog or podcast arising from your faith journey.

I’ll lay aside the ridiculous notion that says that if others react improperly to your teaching (e.g. hero worship), that’s because you did something wrong — that horse died a long time ago. The way I read this, DeYoung is saying that hard questions should not be public. Rather, they should be kept relatively private. This way, other people assume that you have no problems or struggles, and they figure they’re the only ones that are messed up. And God forbid that they find out that their leadership doesn’t have all the answers.

In short, DeYoung is advocating lying by omission.

Now, here’s where DeYoung goes after the hoe. To the claim that all emergent leaders should not be lumped together, DeYoung writes that:

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.

Let’s break this down:

  • Endorsing one another’s books: While Camp’s rant on Challies was waaaaaaaaaay over the top and contained a good bit of error, there probably was a measure of truth to his statements regarding book endorsements — namely, they don’t mean as much as one might think.
  • Speaking at the same conferences: A couple years ago, Mark Driscoll spoke at the same conference as someone with whom he disagreed immensely on several theological issues. For occupying the same space as someone else within a 48-hour period, Driscoll was decried for “partnering in ministry” with the other man. From there it was only a short hop to (mis-)applying 2 Corinthians 6:14 to the situation and claiming that Driscoll was in direct violation of being unequally yoked. Update: Matt Chandler has noted that if someone has the opportunity to share the gospel “even in shady areas, they would be fools to not take advantage of that.”
  • Writing on the same blogs: I can’t decide if this one is asinine or simply hysterical. There are many things about which I disagree with other writers on this blog — and not just because Joe is a [shudder] Yankees’ fan.

In short, DeYoung is saying, “Sorry, you can’t argue that all emergent leaders shouldn’t be lumped together. I have declared otherwise. It is so.” And whatever you do, don’t confuse him with the facts.

And there goes the hoe.

Other anti-emergents must be kicking themselves right about now. Instead of trying to defend irresponsible over-generalization, all they had to do was say “Over-generalization? What over-generalization?” And they could’ve spent their time more productively, like by digging out footnotes from 3-year-old books.

Excuse me — I’m gonna go play with this piece of string now.

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Posts like this make me profoundly sad. In fact, it makes me wonder if this author really can know the peace and grace of Christ (I’m not suggestion this person is outside of Christ, only that they’ve not realized the work that Jesus accomplished between us and God). 

This post is not meant to be a criticism of the opinions expressed about Driscoll (we’ve rehashed that conversation dozens of times, though it does seem odd the author would criticize Driscoll without actually reading the book itself).  Rather, I want to address the assumptions made by the author about the relationship between us and God, and I want to do so because it seems lately that I’ve been seeing these assumptions made by Christians in many different streams of theological thought. 

Consider the following statements, which are representative of the piece:

Scripture says we are to fear HIM:

He destroys the HOLINESS and FEAR for Christ Jesus. There is nothing worth taking from Driscoll’s pig stye to sift through and find truth. Go to Scripture and find the pristine reverence for Christ, held up above all people and all of Creation, set apart as Master, Righteous One, and without spot or blemish, never acting like the pigs, dogs, and vipers of His day.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing in this piece that speak of the intimacy we have with Jesus.  Nothing in it speaks of the great love that God has for us. 

Consider, for example, the consistent and overwhelming use of the metaphor of God as father.  It is so overwhelming that when Jesus is asked by his disciples how to pray he begins with "Our father in heaven".  Or consider that Christ is consistently pictured as the bridegroom of the church, which is the exact comparison Jesus uses for himself when his disciples’ actions are being compared to that of the Pharisees.  We also have the description of Jesus as older brother, and we are called adopted sons into the family of God. 

The descriptions of God I get from many Christians, and this article in particular is far from the familiarity and intimacy of a brother, father, or husband, instead God is pictured as this unapproachable, unreasonable, petty tyrant who is looking to punish anyone who forgot to dot an I or cross a T.

Its almost like verses such as:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
Luke 13.34

Have been forgotten.

Ultimately, theology such as the one represented in this article is a Christless theology because Christ is our mediator.  His work is the work that created the easy familiarity of brother, husband and father with God.  The only way that God is an ineffable, unapproachable deity is if Christ’s work didn’t work. 

And if you think this Christless theology is confined to an obscure blog dedicated to re-publishing, and re-hashing the same old critiques against Driscoll, I invite you to read this group of comments.  Here’s some highlights:

Ultimately we (all people) live under the threat of eternal death if we worship improperly, do we not?

The Bible does not say God is “love, love, love.” It does say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

Great reminder that we are not approaching "the man upstairs" but the King of glory!

Read the rest of this entry »

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A weapon is not something to be trifled with or taken lightly. It is to be handled carefully and used purposefully. Certainly, if one is in a battle or similar situation, the weapon might be used quite often. But regardless, at all times, the weapon is to be taken seriously and recognized for its potential. It is not uncommon to hear in training for use of a weapon that one should “respect” it.

I would imagine that those sentences conjure images of some type of fire-arm in most people’s 21st-century minds. However, in the first century, there were no fire-arms, so when citing a weapon, Scripture writers never referenced an AK-47.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Now granted, the applications of this metaphor* go beyond the fact that the sword is a weapon. But nonetheless, it cannot be denied that this is one of its characteristics. It is not to be taken lightly or used haphazardly.

I ran across this rather disturbing image the other day:

…………………………………………………………………………

This is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about. For the uninitiated, that’s Rob Bell’s mug superimposed with a Scripture passage. Were this slide used by Bell himself, his critics would be up in arms — and rightfully so — at the arrogance of using one’s own image right beside Scripture. Were this slide used by a Bell devotee, the critics would be up in arms — and rightfully so — decrying the speaker for improper elevation of a man.

But neither is the case. Here’s the image without its title blurred out.

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Just in case that doesn’t clear it up enough, this image is from a video of someone critiquing one of Bell’s Nooma videos. This slide was put together by one of Bell’s critics. Suddenly, since it’s being used to criticize Bell, the juxtaposition is now a Good Thing ™ and the video is praised on at least one the ODMs (three guesses as to which one).

Excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little.

* Or dare I say “contextualization”?

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Here’s an idea. Let’s go back through historical church eras and glean from such time periods those issues deemed to be of value in the development of the Christian faith. Let’s review the first-century church, the church between A.D. 100 and 600, then consider the medieval era (A.D. 700 to 1500), followed by the Reformation period (A.D. 1500 and later), and so on. To be effective in this endeavor, it’s important to have a good understanding of the cultural context in which the Christians of each era practiced their faithT. A. McMahon

It started with such promise, a suggestion to study history and glean what is of value.  McMahon even proposes making sure we understand the cultural context so the gleaning can be more accurate.  Here’s an idea… and it’s a good one: Learn from the past.

But then, after a brief history of the recent upsurge in interest in the ancient church, the article takes an unfortunate but certainly predestined twist.  Apparently learning from the past is not a good idea.

First to be assaulted is Richard Foster who “wrote Celebration of Discipline. His book, which introduced Catholic and occult meditative techniques to evangelicals” – problem #1… gba assertions without foundation or support.  Just what did/does Foster promote that is of the occult?  And techniques must be bad if they were used by Catholics?

Problem #2 follows shortly thereafter… false dichotomies.

Let’s both reason from the Scriptures, and simply be reasonable (Isaiah 1:18). The Ancient-Future search to discover gems from “Classic Christianity” comes up short by a century — the century in which the New Testament was written. The critical difference should be obvious. The writers of the New Testament were inspired by the Holy Spirit as they penned God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21, 22). What writings from A.D. 100 and later can claim such inspiration? None

McMahon is right, there is a critical difference between the inspired writings of the Apostles and those who followed.  Problem is, no one is saying that the Church Fathers are on par with the Apostles.  I pondered this a bit trying to decide if it is a straw-man, or a false dichotomy.  I chose the latter since McMahon argues against a point no one is making.

The bulk of the rest of the article is a series of mostly ad hominem attacks against ancient church celebrities.  How did the Gospel ever survive until Luther?

 The summation lies in his final question: “Will this soon pass? No. It’s all part of related agendas that are building the end-times apostate church (Revelation 13:8).” I guess it only goes to show that you will indeed see what you are looking for.

P.S. – I found the McMahon article through Ingrid’s link here - though she fails to give any substantial reasoning, she does a much better job at listing the heretics

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