Archive for the 'ODM Responses' Category

Commenting on Jesus’ sacrifice for me and how others apparently think that He did it wrong.

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“Having recently completed six years of research on the question of how God transforms us, I can tell you that genuine transformation is about love God and people with everything you have. To reach that state, you must be permanently changed. First, you have to be broken by God–broken over your sins against Him, over your focus on self, and over your reliance on society for your cues and marching orders. And it gets tougher once you are shattered by what you’ve done and who you’ve become. At that point, you have to surrender the fullness of your life to God and submit yourself to His will. That’s a searing process: being humbled by your bad choices, getting over yourself, recognizing the holiness of your creator Father, accepting His forgiveness and love, and returning that love by throwing out your own plans and expectations and completely adopting His. Only then can you truly love God and others. Without this kind of inner transformation, you’ll choose to love yourself more than Him. When push comes to shove and difficult choices have to be made, you’ll opt for those things that advance you rather than God. Brokenness, surrender, submission, and deep love–those are the ‘big four’ that most of us ignore in our lives to our own detriment and that of the people we’ve been placed on earth to love and serve”–George Barna, Futurecast, 222-223

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I was writing this up as a post, and it just wasn’t coming together. So I tried a video instead.

Here’s the link that I reference (to the actual interview): John Piper interviews Rick Warren

I’ll note that if I hated Rick Warren with a passion, I’d still only have to change about 5% of this video. So a laundry list (given in the comment thread) of his errors will not be germane to the OP. Not that that’ll stop anyone. I’m pretty darn good at derailing myself. Just sayin’…

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Been thinking a lot about this, and it’s time to shoot off my mouth.  I’m calling “shenanigans” right now on anyone who says that this is just a thinly-disguised defense of Rob Bell, as this is applicable to several incidents in the last few years.

GROUND RULES

I’m going to concede a lot of ground to the critics.  In some cases, I agree with some of these points anyway, but I can make my argument even if I disagree with some of these points.

  • Let us assume that the criticized person is 100% in error theologically.
  • Let us assume that the critics are 100% accurate theologically.
  • Let us assume that everyone who does not disagree completely with the criticized person are sheeple who are totally lacking in discernment, will consume and espouse everything that the criticized person says, and desperately need the critics to straighten out this problem.
  • Let us assume that the error being disseminated by the criticized person is so grave that the critics have carte blanche to use any methodology they choose to confront it, without even the remotest possibility that they will err in their methodology or that their methods will turn off any of the aforementioned sheeple.
  • Let us assume that the method that Jesus gave in Matthew 18:15ff is totally inapplicable.

SIDEBAR

I find it interesting that the Matthew 18 passage gets batted down so quickly.  While I understand that Jesus was particularly referring to more “private”, one-on-one sins, I have searched several translations and have yet to find one with a verse where Jesus says “unless it’s a public sin, then all bets are off”.  The ludicrous speed* with which the applicability of the passage is dismissed speaks not so much of someone who wants to move on as it does of someone who is so loathe to try one-on-one confrontation, that any loophole is seized desperately as a lifeline.

WE NOW RETURN YOU TO YOUR REGULARLY-SCHEDULED POST

But let’s play nice.  As I said, let’s assume that Jesus’ command is inapplicable in this situation.  Does inapplicability automatically mean that we are commanded not to use this method sometimes?

Let me put it another way — the way that (sadly) seems to be the de rigueur method for how this is played out.

SCENARIO #1

  1. The criticized person espouses and publicly disseminates error. In his efforts, he manages to reach and convince 1000 sheeple. **
  2. The critics recognize the error and scramble to publicly disseminate the truth in response. ***  In their efforts, they manage to rescue 995 of those sheeple from the error. ( Highly improbable that the critics will turn around that high of a percentage, but hey, let’s be generous. )
  3. Two years later, the criticized person espouses and publicly disseminates more error. Because of some past success, in his efforts, he manages to reach and convince 2000 sheeple.
  4. The critics recognize the error and scramble to publicly disseminate the truth in response. Their astronomical success rate remains steady so that, in their efforts, they manage to rescue 1990 of those sheeple from the error.
  5. Two years later, the criticized person espouses and publicly disseminates more error. Because of some past success, in his efforts, he manages to reach and convince 3000 sheeple.
  6. The critics recognize the error and scramble to publicly disseminate the truth in response. Their astronomical success rate remains steady so that, in their efforts, they manage to rescue 2985 of those sheeple from the error.
  7. Two years later, the criticized person espouses and publicly disseminates more error. Because of some past success, in his efforts, he manages to reach and convince 4000 sheeple.
  8. The critics recognize the error and scramble to publicly disseminate the truth in response. Their astronomical success rate remains steady so that, in their efforts, they manage to rescue 3980 of those sheeple from the error.
  9. Ad infinitum (or would that be ad nauseum ?)

So, at the end of six years (all but that last bullet), you now have 50 people who have bought into the errors disseminated by the criticized person.

This scenario is particularly self-damning for the critic who chooses to do a series of blog posts detailing the errors of the criticized person over the years. ****

But what happens if we change it up a bit?

SCENARIO #2

  1. The criticized person espouses and publicly disseminates error. In his efforts, he manages to reach and convince 1000 sheeple.
  2. The critics recognize the error. One critic approaches the criticized person and convinces him of his error.  The criticized person then disseminates a mea culpa, and manages to rescue the same 995 people that the critics rescued in the first scenario.
  3. Two years later, the criticized person espouses and publicly disseminates truth in some manner.
  4. The critics only needed response is to praise God and send the criticized person notes of encouragement.
  5. Two years later, the criticized person espouses and publicly disseminates truth in some manner.
  6. The critics only needed response is to praise God and send the criticized person notes of encouragement.
  7. Two years later, the criticized person espouses and publicly disseminates truth in some manner.
  8. The critics only needed response is to praise God and send the criticized person notes of encouragement.

Some other things that might happen if this second scenario occurred:

  • Because of the dissemination of truth by the criticized person (in steps #2, 3, 5, and 7), God is glorified and people are brought closer to the truth.  Hard to believe otherwise.
  • The criticized person and the critic (who originally approached the former) cultivate a strong friendship from which both benefit spiritually.  Hard to believe otherwise.
  • Let’s dream really big and assume that in six years, the critics and the criticized person are able to convince the original 5 (who they didn’t rescue originally) of the truth.

BOTTOM LINE

So, when a critic chooses to go with Scenario #1, he’s treating the symptom while the disease goes on unabated.  So what is he really trying to accomplish?  Is he really rescuing the sheeple *****, or is he just showing off his mad Bible skillz?  Is he really trying to “gain his brother”, or is he merely auditioning for some spiritual MMA league?

No, really.

* yes, that was a Spaceballs reference

** I recognize that these numbers are probably too small.

*** How they do this is irrelevant.  We’ve already established carte blanche in the ground rules.

**** OK, that one was, admittedly, about the Rob Bell situation.  But I’m not giving any Google juice to the critic, so if you don’t know specifically what I’m talking about, c’est la vie.

***** which, it is to be noted, quickly becomes Sisyphean

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John 12:20-26 (NKJV)
Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”

If it had only been Martin Bashir instead of Andrew and Philip, I bet this evasive Jesus guy would’ve been nailed down.

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There is an interesting phenomenon that takes place in the world of the church (blogdom serves as a microcosm of this phenomenon). It is marked by a careless attention to detail when it comes to Scripture which thus results in a profound misreading of Scripture to suit one’s own ends, to justify one’s own position, and to hammer to death those with whom we disagree. This phenomenon is, of course, proof-texting.

I heard a professor say it like this once: A text without a context becomes a pretext for a proof-text. Or, something similar to that. As I reflect on the way I was trained to read Scripture and exegete it, I see what the professor was getting at: the authors of the Bible did not write verses. Instead, they wrote books comprised of stories, poems, laws, Gospel and more. Paul did not sit down and write Romans 3:21. Paul sat down and wrote an entire letter to a church (or churches) in the city of Rome (1:7). In other words, what we call Romans 3:21 is merely (not minimally) part of a carefully crafted argument concerning God, the Scripture, and humanity contained within a much larger context. He wrote it to a specific people, at a specific time, and in specific circumstances.

Still, he did not write a single verse of Scripture. He wrote entire letters, the contents of which have been, through the years, utterly mangled in people’s attempt to justify their own belief systems in a sort of a priori kind of way: I have an idea, let’s see if I kind find a verse of Scripture to back it up! And, as it turns out, just about any idea we want to find in the Bible can be found in the Bible. And wow! The ideas are limitless. I never cease to marvel at the religions that have been constructed upon the foundation of one jot or one iota of one word of one verse and then given the name ‘Christianity.’

I have an idea about the Bible that is fairly simple and greatly eases the project of exegesis. Commenting on the nature of the hermeneutic used by Luther, Berkhof writes, “He defended the right of private judgment; emphasized the necessity of taking the context and historical circumstances into account; demanded faith and spiritual insight in the interpreter; and desired to find Christ everywhere in Scripture” (Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Louis Berkhof, 26-27). It’s in that last phrase that I find the most hope and, I think, that through the years it has been that piece that has stuck in my mind and heart more than any other piece of hermeneutics: Jesus is there in Scripture, and all I have to do is open my eyes, listen to the Holy Spirit, an adjust my priorities (so that I am looking for Jesus and nothing else).

So, we look carefully at Scripture and we see Jesus all over the pages, and in every story, without allegorizing or even putting too much effort into it. Paul did write, “But apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.” Jesus made similar statements in Luke’s Gospel: “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and Psalms” (Luke 24:44, cf. Luke 24:25-27). There are other instances too, for example John 5:36-47 and Acts 8:26-35—especially verse 34-35. That sounds too easy, doesn’t it? Even the book of Revelation, so often abused and misused and misunderstood is perfectly understood if we begin with the idea that it is (as it is in the Greek) ‘the Revelation of Jesus Christ’ (I take it as both an objective and subjective genitive) instead of as ‘the Revelation of John’ (as it is in English) or the ‘Revelation of how the end times will come about’ (as it is in so much popular fiction based on the book.

A wonderful example of what I am talking about is the letter we call ‘Hebrews.’ This short letter, surely one of the most beautifully written books in our Bible, is about Jesus—first to last. It is difficult to read Hebrews and come away with anything but a stunning picture of Jesus who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. I could go on and on and on.  All this is to say that I believe we spend far too much time looking for things in Scripture that are simply not there—and we are not meant to find them. When we read the Bible, we are meant to find Jesus.

Jesus is the point of Scripture. I heard it also this way: The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is Old Testament revealed. Cliché? Yes. True? Yes. “Jesus our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7; it’s kind of difficult to escape the sort of Jesus hermeneutic that Paul is using.)

But there is ‘tragedy’ in the church. Mafred Brauch writes of this tragedy, “…many who most passionately and stridently proclaim allegiance to the Bible and love for the inspired, authoritative Word of God often interpret and apply Scripture in ways that are abusive, thus distorting its mean and message…[C]onsequently, instead of releasing the transforming power from God and the treasures of God’s Word into the world in and through broken vessels of our presence and witness (2 Cor 4:7), we contribute to brokenness and abusiveness in our world” (Abusing Scripture, 18). Brauch goes forward with five specific ways we manage to accomplish this (the following paragraphs are direct quotes from Brauch):

A. We use [the Bible] as an instrument of bitter warfare, both within our own circles and against outsiders: we condemn, judge, malign, demean and reject. What does this say about the validity of the central message of Jesus—loving not only brothers and sisters but also neighbors and adversaries?

B. We announce that the Bible speaks the truth from God about human life and relationships, but then we undermine our commitment to that truth by using all kinds of biblical proof texts—often out of context and not in keeping with their original meaning or intent—in an effort to ‘prove’ to those with whom we disagree that we are ‘on the Lord’s side’ and they are of the devil (or at least very wrong!) Is this attitude and practice compatible with the spirit and teaching of the Jesus of the Gospels?

C. We use biblical texts selectively to build arguments for particular theological doctrines or biblical teachings, while conveniently ignoring biblical texts that stand in tension with our views.  Or we employ sophisticated (and often deceptive!) ‘exegetical gymnastics’ to eliminate tensions between and among diverse texts, or we reinterpret texts that are inconvenient and do not support our dearly held convictions or doctrines. What does this say about integrity in the work of interpretation?

D. We invest tremendous energy and time on matters that our Lord told us were not to be our primary concern (such as timetables of the end times) and spend too little time and energy on matters that both God’s prophets and our Lord, as well as his earliest followers, placed very high on their agendas—such as a passion for justice, peacemaking, concern for the poor and righteousness in human affairs. Does this not undermine our claim that the whole Bible is our authority?

E. In the midst of the confusing and distorting voices about human sexuality in our time, we champion Scripture’s call to holy living and morality, grounded in creational intention and covenant commitment. And so we must. But at the same time we often blithely set aside or ignore the cancers eating away at the communal life and witness of our churches—such as strife, bitterness, gossip, backbiting, greed, divisiveness—all named in the New Testament as incompatible with kingdom values (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 4:25-32; 5:3-5). Are we then not guilty of distorting the Bible’s claim on all areas of human life and community?  (All quotes are from Manfred Brauch, Abusing Scripture, 18-19.)

I don’t think Brauch is suggesting anything radical or out of the ordinary or, for that matter, new. What I do think he is suggesting is that we carefully examine ourselves and how we use Scripture, what we expect of Scripture, and what we are showing the world when we talk about Scripture. Let’s find a way to listen to Scripture, to seek Jesus who, from first to last, is the Mystery of Scripture.

Think about it: what would happen if we, the Body of Christ, consistently pointed to Jesus instead of our pet projects and pet theologies when we talk about Scripture? I wonder how much strife could be done away with in the church if we ‘used’ the Bible to talk about Jesus—which is what God used it for. Doesn’t it lay to rest a lot of controversy when we point to Jesus instead of ourselves? Seriously, isn’t the end of all hermeneutical adventures to find Jesus? I wonder how many churches could be planted if we preached Christ and him Crucified instead of something else? How many churches would not split if we were all on board that Jesus matters only? How many preachers would not lose their jobs if they consistently, weekly, perpetually preached about Jesus? Conversely, how many preachers would lose their jobs if that were all they talked about?

Sometimes I think that we talk about all the extra stuff because we are not brilliant enough to talk about Jesus without end. Or we get bored talking about Jesus so we have to talk about all that other stuff that is so beside the point. I’d challenge any preacher to put aside his plans for sermons about life, family, finances, heaven and hell and talk for a whole entire year about nothing and no one but Jesus. I contend that if we talked more about Jesus we could talk about the rest of it much, much less. Can we ever exhaust our conversation about Jesus? But we are not predestined to become like a theological system or an idea about life. We are, Paul wrote, predestined to become like Jesus (see Ephesians 1)—and God is, in fact, renewing and restoring in us the image of Jesus (wow, see Colossians; what else could this mean, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ, in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4); see also Hebrews 12:1-3 among others).

“The story of Jesus is full of darkness as well as of light. It is a story that hides more than it reveals. It is the story of a mystery we must never assume we understand and that comes to us breathless and broken with unspeakable beauty at the heart of it, yet it is by no means a pretty story, though that is the way we’re apt to peddle it much of the time. We sand down the rough edges. We play down the obscurities and contradictions. What we can’t explain, we explain away. We set Jesus forth as clear-eyed and noble-browed, whereas the chances are he can’t have been anything but old before this time once the world started working him over, and once the world was through, his clear eyes swollen shut and his noble brow as much of a shambles as the rest of him. We’re apt to tell his story when we tell it at all, to sell his story, for the poetry and panacea of it. ‘But we are the aroma of Christ,’ Paul says, and the story we are given to tell is a story that smells of his life in all its aliveness, and our commission is to tell it in a way that makes it come alive as a story in all its aliveness and to make those who hear it come alive and God knows to make ourselves come alive too.” (Frederick Buechner, “The Two Stories” in Secrets in the Dark, 85-86),

May we find Jesus in the Scripture, that the world may find Jesus in us.

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From here.

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Over the last week, I’ve read a lot about Rob Bell’s new book. This post isn’t about that. This post, ultimately, isn’t about people’s responses to what they’ve read or seen about about the book, or even about my response to them. Reading comments on an article about the book, however, is the thing that got me thinking. One of the comments I read said the following:

With all due respect, what is the most loving thing one can do for another? The most loving thing we can do is tell another about the most loving thing anyone has ever done… Christ’s death on our behalf (plethora of Scriptural references follow.)

Now as I read that, I wasn’t really surprised. It’s something I’ve basically heard my entire life. I’ve probably said something very similar at different points in my life. But as I read it in that context, it made me stop dead in my tracks. Perhaps it was the writer’s use of the descriptor “most”. Is the act of telling another person the story of Jesus the most loving thing we can do. That is, is the act of sharing certain information with other people actually what constitutes love?

I’ve been wrestling with this idea the last few days. I genuinely do think that the act of telling, sharing is implicit in how the Gospel spreads. Humans are verbal creatures, and every human culture has storytellers. It’s in our DNA to share stories with each other. My question is, though, does the Gospel go beyond the act of simply transmitting information?

The conclusion I’ve come to is that, yes, it must. If we are simply telling people they are sinners in need of a savior, but refuse to engage in actual, tangible things that demonstrate love to people, do we love them? A number of years ago, the book The Five Love Languages was all the rage (I believe it still sells quite well). In the book, Gary Chapman lays out the simple proposition that there are five ways in which people give and receive love – words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Now the book itself is geared more towards marriage relationships, but as I think of the relationships I have with friends in my life, and I realize that the same principles can apply in just about any relationship.

The thing that I notice about all of them is that they truly cost something for the one attempting to show love to the other person. It takes effort to encourage someone. It is difficult to spend quality time with someone when I have a busy schedule to worry about. The list goes on. Love isn’t the easy thing. A lot of the time it’s the thing I’d rather not do. I would rather stay at home and watch the game on Saturday rather than help a single mom move into a new apartment. I’d rather go to the pub with my friends rather than volunteer to tutor the kids for the single father.

So as far as what is the “most loving” thing to do, I guess I come down to the answer that there simply isn’t a simply answer. What is most loving to my neighbor depends on my neighbor’s needs, and it depends on me being open to pour myself out. I tend to think that simply sharing information about Jesus, as important as that is, is often seen by those we are trying to share with as the easy way out – drive-by evangelism in a drive-thru world. The Gospel becomes simply another sales pitch, and we become little more than the salesman at Best Buy trying to sell an extended warranty.

This, of course, isn’t a new problem. Saying one thing and doing another is part of the human condition. The truth that Christ brought when He came is that He didn’t simply say He loved humanity. He demonstrated through His miraculous works, His tender compassion, and ultimately through His death on the cross. The question is will we truly follow Christ. Are we willing to take up our crosses for the sake of those who need to be loved? Or will we be content to simply think that sharing information with people is enough.

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.

1 John 3:18-20

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Matthew 25: 31-46

Many a modernist evangelical, still caught in the culture wars and small-god systematics, loves to pull out the sheep and the goats metaphor when judging others. They do so, most often, when they are discerning who among the visible flock are true believers (sheep) and who are the pretenders, the modern-day heretics, the goats of the church. There are, of course, appropriate times to judge. Jesus was, after all, concerned about right belief… – but this post is not about those times.

Some judge while others mock those they believe are too concerned for things we call “social issues.” When it comes right down to it, they say, it’s all about getting people saved… not about drilling wells, educating heathens, or fair wages. And to some degree they are right…

…yet it is interesting.

When Jesus spoke of the final judgment and upon what it would be based – he did not speak of right beliefs, of right morality, or the right kind of music… he spoke of giving drink to the thirsty, feeding the hungry, of clothing the naked. In the context of sheep and goat differentiation; having a heart for the poor, the oppressed, the least of these – is what allows us to discern the sheep. It is not about winning a culture war. It is not about fighting socialism. It is not about convincing homosexuals not to homo-sex. It’s not about ranting against liberalism. It’s not even about getting as many people as possible to repeat a sinners prayer.

As Tim Keller put it: “Jesus did not say that all this done for the poor was a means of getting salvation, but rather it was a sign that you already had salvation, that true saving faith was already present” (Generous Justice, pg. 53 [emphasis his]). The “test” for saving faith (in this case) was not a check-list of acceptable beliefs, or witnessing, or service within the church, or even the fruit of the Spirit… (all of which a vitally important). Instead he chose our attitudes toward and actions on behalf of the poor.

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Fred Phelps and his minions at Westboro Baptist Church [sic] are at it again. While they backed off picketing the funeral of the 9-year-old girl who was killed in the recent Arizona shooting spree, they still planned to picket the funeral of the district judge who was killed in that same event, with their special brand of “God hates fags” theology.

In 2005, Pastor Kyle Lake was electrocuted during a baptism. Several writers and bloggers said that this was a message from God against the emergent church (in which Kyle was allegedly a big player).

Both instances involve people deigning to speak for God (funny, I thought the canon was closed) and exploiting the deaths of others to advance their own agenda.

Can someone tell me how the two are any different?

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