Archive for the 'What Can You Say?' Category

“Most people confuse pleasantness with kindness and have no idea what kindness actually is. When they actually confront it, they find it to be unpleasant and often dismiss because of that.”

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(i.e. shooting fish in a barrel)

As I have noted before, debunking the theological hokum that runs rampant in the God-blogosphere has never been a primary purpose for this blog, but has been described for years as “the lowliest” of the six tasks that this blog seeks to accomplish.  This perspective was, IMHO, strengthened by the somewhat recent name and URL change that we underwent here.

But in the words of Dr Horrible, sometimes “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”.  Especially when it’s this dadgum funny (in the “ludicrous” sense of the word).

A little context first:

Mark 4:11 – And [Jesus] said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery  of the kingdom of God …”

Romans 16:25 – Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began

1 Corinthians 2:7 – But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,

1 Corinthians 15:51 – Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed …

Ephesians 1:9 – having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,

Ephesians 3:3-4 – how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),

Ephesians 3:9 – and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;

Ephesians 5:32 – This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Ephesians 6:19 – and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,

Colossians 1:25-27 – the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Colossians 2:2 – that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,

Colossians 4:3 – meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,

1 Timothy 3:9 – holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.

1 Timothy 3:16 – And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.

Notice a pattern? Is it too much of a stretch to say that the word “mystery” is often used in Scripture to describe (or at least be associated with) good things?

Now, admittedly, there is a verse in Revelation that associates this word with something bad:

Revelation 17:5 – And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

So, let’s see.  Fourteen associations with good things. One association with something bad. Is it too much of a stretch to say that it would be at least fallacious (if not downright silly) to somehow imply that the Revelation verse is the only standard by which we should measure the word “mystery” (ignoring the other 14)?

Yet that’s exactly what this post does.

Now granted, I have some major problems with Brian McLaren (the “attackee” of that post).

They used to be purely theological until I heard him sing.  But I digress.

But how am I supposed to take seriously anything said about him (or anything/anyone else) from a source so devoid of basic logic?

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Stuart Scott - ESPNTo be honest, I’m getting a bit extremely tired of Christians who are striving to be conformed to the image of Stuart Scott.

I read a blog post today. Granted, it’s a bit old. I scanned it when it was fairly new, but some personal issues in recent days brought it back to mind, and I was wondering, “Was it really that vomit-inducing or is my memory given to exaggeration?” (Answer: no exaggeration on this one.)

Now let me be clear. A lot of what was in this post — when it was sticking to facts — was very accurate and true. But the way in which it was presented — and garnished with a healthy dose of the author’s opinion — was enough to cause anyone with any intellectual honesty to throw up in their mouth at least a little.

The post discussed the reasons given for leaving the faith and/or never believing in the first place. These reasons were broken down into three categories, the first of which was claimed (by the post author) to be mostly populated by obviously fake stories. In case we missed that, it is re-iterated a bit later that the author doesn’t believe the person telling the story most of the time. This is followed by highly dismissive language that covers the writer in the event that one of the stories turns out to be true.

This is then followed by a deadly logical refutation of 10 possible reasons (how we got from 3 to 10 is anyone’s guess), complete with Scripture references backing up much of the refutation.

(The sensitive of ear should be warned that I am about to use language that — in a different context — would probably be deemed offensive. But I am using it in a Biblically accurate sense.)

So, if we boil the post down (along with some of the comments that followed), what the author has said is this: “Take that, you damned atheist. And if you don’t buy into the logic I’ve presented, then to hell with you.”

Literally.

But that’s not quite the message that I hear from Jesus. In Mark 9, we see the story of a possessed boy and his father seeking healing for him. Jesus told the father, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” The father admitted to an incomplete belief (”Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”). And you know what Jesus did? He healed the boy.

In John 20, the disciple Thomas stated unequivocally that he would not believe that Jesus was risen unless he had visual and tactile evidence. And so, the next time they were together, Jesus accommodated him. And He did not rebuke Thomas for his lack of faith.

I’ve yet to meet a hurting person for whom logic was the answer. Yes, it can certainly be a tool to help that person see the truth. But it’s certainly not the answer. Jesus is the answer.

I am genuinely happy for the author that he has not faced adversity that was significant enough to shake his faith to the core. And I genuinely hope that God doesn’t deem such adversity necessary in the future to build the author’s sanctification.

But, for the rest of us, there’s grace.

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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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(And yes, this title is a riff off of one of the more measured — but still wrong — criticisms of Piper’s decision.)

It was noted earlier this year that John Piper has invited Rick Warren to speak at this year’s Desiring God national conference. This has been public information for at least a couple months, but was more formally announced in recent days.

When this announcement was made, to quote Tillie in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? , “all hell done broke loose”.

Now, admittedly, I was a bit surprised by the invitation. There are some things that Warren has written which strike me as being in error, as best as I interpret Scripture. And, then there’s those dang Hawaiian shirts.

But, on the other hand, some of the criticisms of Warren take asininity to a height that would give a Sherpa a nose-bleed.

Either way, I wouldn’t consider Warren to be part of (what I affectionately have termed) “the Piper posse”. But hey, I have a great appreciation for Pastor John. And ya know what? Before further investigation into any issue, if he and I disagree on something, I’m putting my money on him turning out to be the one who is right.

Does that mean that I give him a free pass and blindly follow whatever he says or does? No, not by a long shot. (And I’d venture to say that he wouldn’t want that, either.) In fact, I know there are some issues that he and I disagree on, and I’m fairly certain that my view is correct.

There is, admittedly, a part of me that wants to say, “C’mon; this is John freakin’ Piper we’re talking about!!” But even setting aside any “celebrity pastor” status, we have to look at the man’s track record. And ya know what? At the end of the day, we’re talking about the track record of John freakin’ Piper.

(And the circle of life is complete.)

Seriously, if I’m going to claim anything even approximating intellectual honesty, I need to hear him out even if he says that all 43-year-olds should be painted purple and hung upside-down from a flagpole next Wednesday. Granted, that one would probably need a long expository explanation; but, to whatever degree I ought to give the benefit of the doubt to any Christian brother or sister, Pastor John should be getting it ten-fold.

And yet we’re hearing nothing but criticism for Piper’s decision. Some of it may be valid; some is tiresomely obtuse, rehashing sad (and untrue) whacks at Warren; and some of it takes the form of crap like this (referring to Piper’s upcoming sabbatical):

If [I] had just endorsed Rick Warren and brought him to my conference, I’d take a sabbatical, too. Permanently.

But all of it (that I’ve seen, anyway) is ostensibly coming from those that like and/or admire Piper. With friends like these ….

What I am completely incredulous about, though, is that Piper made clear why he made this decision and some of the criticisms actually quote his reasoning — verbatim — and yet miss the whole thing. Part of what Piper said was this (emphasis mine):

When I wrote [to Rick Warren] … I said “the conference is called ‘Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God.’ I want you to come. You are the most well-known pragmatist pastor in the world. I don’t think you are a pragmatist at root. Come and tell us why thinking Biblically matters to you in your amazingly pragmatic approach to ministry.”

One of the corollaries to Occam’s Razor says, “Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity.” In that spirit, I’m going to assume that those who quoted Piper (and yet totally whiffed on the content of the quote) did so out of a mistake and not a willful blindness born of a hatred for Warren. So let me spell it out. And let me do so by past example.

A few years ago, Piper invited Mark Driscoll to speak at a DG conference. The God-blogosphere was all abuzz with what a Bad Idea this was. Most of it surrounded predictions that Driscoll’s invitation would result in a plague of locusts in downtown Minneapolis and a protest headed by Chris Rock and Quentin Tarantino over all the foul language that Driscoll would use.

And when, at the conference, Piper gave Driscoll a mild bit of fatherly admonishment, many of the critics took this as validation of their prognostication, as though Piper had rent his clothes in agony and apologized for screwing up so badly by inviting Driscoll. When Piper heard that his words were being used to bash Driscoll, he was appalled.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve noticed (and if you only listen to him to find new stuff to criticize, then you probably haven’t), but Driscoll has become a bit more mature and a bit less rash over the last few years. In short, Mark is growing. While all credit goes to God on this one, I’d bet dollars-to-doughnuts that his relationship with Piper is one of the tools that God is using in this process. And maybe, just maybe, the fact that Piper invited him to speak at DG helped to show how much Piper meant business.

So now Piper is cultivating a relationship with Rick Warren. And here’s what I hear Piper essentially saying:

There are many ways in which you and I, foundationally, believe the same things. Now in my sphere, the way that this plays out in my life and the lives of many of my peeps is XYZ. But in your life, this plays out differently. Show us how you get from point A to point B.

Honestly, this is a challenge that Piper has presented to Warren. But not in the sense of throwing down a gauntlet. I believe that Piper truly believes that there is a path from point A to point B, and he is genuinely interested in seeing how this plays out. Right there is enough reason for Piper to have extended the invitation.

But even if we assume the worst, and there is not a path from point A to point B, and Warren falls flat on his theological face, who’s to say that the whole Piper posse influence doesn’t cause Warren to step back and think some things through? While Warren is not a young buck (so he probably won’t have the Timothy-Paul relationship with Piper that Driscoll has), it’s hard to imagine him being involved with someone God is using mightily and not being affected in some way.

There are only three conclusions that I can reach about much of the virulent criticism:

  1. There are many professing Christians out there that not only think that Warren is in error, but genuinely believe that God is totally incapable of changing him. Even if we set aside the laughable nature of such a view, it becomes even more ludicrous for someone to claim any affinity for Piper — someone who is all about God’s sovereignty — and yet believe in such a wimpy God. It would be more logical for Ahmadinejad to claim that he greatly admires the teachings of a particular Hasidic rabbi.
  2. There are many professing Christians out there that think that the worst will happen — Warren’s head will start spinning and he’ll vomit pea soup from the pulpit at Bethlehem — and yet Piper won’t do or say anything. An examination of Piper’s track record would indicate otherwise. At one conference (and I’m not even sure it was his conference), one speaker said something with which Piper strongly disagreed, and when it came his turn to speak, he made no bones about the disagreement before launching into his message. (This viewpoint also points to a God who is totally incapable of protecting His sheep from error. See previous comment about Ahmadinejad.)
  3. There are many professing Christians out there that don’t want to see certain people drawn closer to God, because it would upset the apple-cart of their philosophical belief system — something that I doubt God gives a rip about.

Perhaps there is a fourth, more charitable, conclusion out there. But, frankly, I ain’t holdin’ my breath.

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OK, so for the past couple of weeks, the outrage from the “pro-choice” left increased  in decibels and shrillness in anticipation of a 30-second commercial to air in the Superbowl from Heisman Trophy-winner Tim Tebow and his mother, in support of life (when she was pregnant with Tim, as a missionary overseas, she was afflicted with a condition where the medical advice was to have an abortion – instead, she carried him to term).  For example, Joy Behar on The View derided Pam Tebow’s decision, as Tim could just as easily turned out to be a “racist pedophile”.

And that was one of the nicer comments.

I have been critical of Focus on the Family in the past, and hearing that they were buying a Superbowl Spot made me cringe a little bit on the inside, just because of the ham-handed way they’ve handled political issues in the US in the past.  In this case, though, I have to tip my hat to them.  In the words of the Washington Post’s pro-choice sports columnist Sally Jenkins, to write last week:

Tebow’s 30-second ad hasn’t even run yet, but it already has provoked “The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us” to reveal something important about themselves: They aren’t actually “pro-choice” so much as they are pro-abortion.

Indeed.  FotF’s strategy of not releasing the video in advance now appears somewhat brilliant in its ripping the veneer off of much of the pro-abortion left, as their rage built with CBS over its’ willingness to air the ad.  [Which is rather revealing that a group called the National Organization for Women went nuclear over CBS airing the Tebow ad, but had no similar outrage over the aired GoDaddy commercials, which - I would think - were far more offensive to women (and men).]

So, the game is over now [I really didn't want to see either team lose, though I was hoping for overtime instead of interception to end it], and the ad has aired.  So, what was all the fuss over?  Here you go…

Be prepared to be offended:

YouTube Preview Image

Really offensive, right?  Brilliantly played, Focus. Brilliantly played, I say.

In watching this whole thing played out, it reminded me of how many times we (myself included) deride things, sight-unseen, simply because of the source or the anticipated message, only to be left with egg on our faces (and lots of “splainin’ to do” afterwards”.

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It was discovered recently that a publisher (whose name I won’t dignify by citing) is releasing a book critical of Sarah Palin with a cover that is very similar to that of her forth-coming autobiography. Here are the covers of her book and the critical book, side-by-side.

Sarah Palin - book covers

This is some pretty amazing bait-and-switch, and should offend anyone of any intelligence, regardless of their thoughts on Palin or their political affiliation. The cover (of the critical book) says “My message is so lame and weak that it can’t stand on its own.”

OK, good and riled? Or at least annoyed?

Now tell me, how this is any different.

Other than, ya know, the implication that God’s message it too lame and weak to stand on its own.

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Utah lawmakers tend to quickly fall in line when the influential church makes a rare foray into legislative politics. So Tuesday’s action could have broad effects in this highly conservative state where more than 80 percent of lawmakers and the governor are church members

From here

To be sure this post is not about Gay rights but more about how influential a church/religion can be.  Conversely it shreds the concept  that there  is actually a seperation of church and state.

As a wise man once told me “I’m in favor of the state when the state is in favor of me; otherwise I don’t give a damn”.

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Duct Tape - Use Some

Ah, the silly season has arrived, yet again.

Over the past several years of blogging, I’ve noticed a number of trends in topics, discussions and general attitudes which seem to cycle with the calendar. For example, it seems that July is the month for a large uptick in seeing commenters, cited articles and site authors (including myself) to lose patience and get ultra-snippy and personally petty about one another.

Christmas season settles down (from a personal-tone standpoint), but conflicts about personal preference (of all orders – music/worship style, dress, drinking, etc.) come to the forefront.

January/February seems to foster a bit more focused theological debate (often with systematic theologies in the crosshairs), etc.

It’s not that these things don’t happen other times during the year, it is just that they tend to “spike” at certain parts more than others.

Early fall, though, seems to be a season where a lack of basic reading comprehension and any sense of charity toward ones theological “enemies” seems to ratchet up. And this one, like last year, (or previous years) is gearing up to be no exception to the rule.

For example, we have a frequent commenter in one thread who is so blinded in his hatred for another brother in Christ that he reads/hears his brother say and explain one thing (”early Christianity was a subversive movement in the Roman Empire, which hijacked its symbology to declare Jesus as Lord of all, not Caesar”) and accuses him of saying the opposite (”early Christianity was just a cheap knock-off of Rome”).   It is like either A) basic literary comprehension or B) any guise of honesty has taken a holiday…

And then, we have this example, submitted to us by M.G., where a similar “perfect storm” of hatred, ill-will and an utter lack of charity or comprehension (or, possibly, tinfoil-hattery) has led tinpot ODM’s to accuse Rick Warren of trying to merge the church and state – completely misunderstanding (or misappropriating) “reconciliation” to mean something it does not…

And then, there’s the frequent purveyor of misapplication and miscomprehension, Mike Ratliff, who apparently has no clue about what orthopraxis is, or, apparently, that ’systematic theology’ and ’sound doctrine’ aren’t synonymous.  (Though, once again, I think ODM criticism has led me to want to purchase a book subjected to their criticism).

And on… And on…

As I read this screed over the weekend, I was struck A) by how little I missed reading C?N – I’d gone a couple of months without “researching” it; and B) How right Rob Bell was in his August 16th message “The Importance of Beginning in the Beginning” , in which he laid out (in a 65-minute message that intentionally ran long) his view of how Christians fit into Creation, and how important it is that we root our understanding of Christianity in Genesis 1, and not Genesis 3.

But I’m sure there will be some who purposely “misunderstand” him, and will argue (somehow) that he is stating the opposite of what he’s saying.

But let’s not blame them for their stupidity.  It IS that time of year, you know…

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Why – oh why – do we never learn.

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

My prediction: September 22 will arrive on schedule, no worse for the wear.  (Though maybe a woot-off if we’re lucky)

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