Category Archives: Post-Modernity

The Drama of Doctrine: A Book Summary

The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Westminster John Knox: Louisville, 2005. 493pp. $39.95.

According to the author, “The present book sets forth a postconservative, canonical-linguistic theology and a directive theory of doctrine that roots theology more firmly in Scripture while preserving Lindbeck’s emphasis on practice”  (xiii).  On the whole, this work is a fascinating piece that helps theologian and layperson grasp the energetic nature of Scripture. Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic approach de-emphasized the autonomy of the exegete while heightening that of his enveloping culture – “the experience and the reasoning of the individual human subject is always already shaped by a tradition of language use” (10). By replacing “cultural” with “canonical,” Vanhoozer is able to say the same of Scripture – namely, it is the shaping subject for humanity. In this way, Vanhoozer reorients theology from theory to wisdom (13).

The author aptly shows how drama is a correcting foil for the theological endeavor. God is both the script(ure) writer and player in the drama. Humans are actors following a script. Theologians are the dramaturge for humanity.  Regarding the script, Vanhoozer makes it clear that this is a not a wooden mimic of the script. Rather, it is likened to a dinner theater, where the audience plays a part in the action and shaping as well. The actors are given roles, and they are so intended to enter into the ethic of the role that their actions and words will reflect the kind of person the playwright intended. Further, the Church acts out her parts in front of the surrounding culture and draws them into the drama that God intended them to live. Poignantly put, “Neither the pastor nor the magisterium should be allowed to become the sole voice or actor in the church. On the contrary, the whole people of God is responsible for participating in and continuing the action. Only an active rather than passive audience can turn deadly theater into ‘ a rehearsal of revolution.’ At its best, the church, as the theater of the gospel, is revolutionary, overturning idols and ideologies alike as it displays the first fruits of eschatological reality” (404; original emphasis).

Vanhoozer’s work should be read by all those who seek to bring doctrine and practice together. While this is not the only model by which we can organize Scripture’s teaching, the author has powerfully argued for it as a major contender. Unlike Michael Horton’s work regarding Divine Drama, Vanhoozer helpfully incorporates the surrounding culture in his model of theology. That is, rather than just saying that he will organize his theology around an analogy that follows the Bible’s own intrasystematic categories (when drama itself is not a category given in Scripture), Vanhoozer helps further theology’s enterprise of incorporating culture and Scripture together.

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Reclaiming the Center: A Book Summary

Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times

Millard J. Erickson, Paul Kjoss Helseth, Justin Taylor, eds.

In an effort to respond to post-conservative evangelicals that have challenged the presuppositions and foundations of popular evangelicalism, the conglomerate of authors have written to correct Grenz, et al. As Taylor writes in his introductory essay, the editors of the post-conservative movement are Roger Olson and Robert Webber, the pastor is Brian MacLaren, and the professor is Stanley Grenz. These men have emphasized narrative theology, while poo-pooing propositional doctrine. MacLaren describes what he seeks to do as the pastor as an emerging postmodernism that seeks middle-ground between Derridian Deconstructionism and Cartesian certainty.

What is telling in the essays is the desire to draw clear boundaries in methodology and application of doctrine so that there are contours of evangelical theology. In his review of Grenz’s Renewing the Center, Carson summarizes the movement’s greatest weakness that he is “utterly unable to detect any weakness in postmodern epistemology, and therefore all of his prescriptions for the future assume the essential rightness of postmodernism” (45). Carson highlights a strong disparity within the post-conservative vision by pointing out that if our problem in speaking of universals is due to our finitude, there is no hope for a universal redemption of body and mind since we will continue to be finite.

The post-conservative problems persist in their inability to articulate/define truth. As Wellum says, “their project leaves Christian theology apologetically defenseless, a self-contained linguistic system that is not able to demonstrate before a watching world why it is indeed true” (188). Brand’s essay helpfully moves in the direction of defining what the sometimes nebulous term “evangelical” means. It is particularly helpful to see that evangelicalism grew out of the revivalist tradition. Thus attributing to the diverse theological persuasions – Pentecostal, Methodist, etc. However, it would have been helpful to see how more Reformed strands began to be seen as evangelical if this is one of the criteria. Lastly, Millard Erickson’s essay on post-postmodernism has a helpful summary on what the post-conservative movement seeks to accomplish. He says, “Civility and irenicism are not identified with a particular position; they involve acting with respect and using language that is not perjorative or inflammatory” (348). Much of the rhetoric used by post-conservatives seems to draw a false dichotomy between foundationalism’s certainty (and arrogance) and post-conservative’s humility. Humility should be a characteristic of anyone who is called “Christian.”

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Beyond Foundationalism: A Book Summary

I was recently encouraged to post some book summaries I am writing for my Theological Methods seminar this semester. These are not summaries that would be up to the stellar quality found in a published magazine, but, I hope, are helpful nonetheless. Here is the first installment.

Beyond Foundationalism – Stanley J. Grenz and John R. Franke

It is evident from the title of the first chapter that the author’s want to take the Scripture and apply it to our contemporary context (“Beyond Fragmentation: Theology and the Contemporary Setting”) in a way that explains the diversity found in the varied schools of thought. The other danger they seek to avoid is foundationalism that was berthed from modernity. It is clear (and true) that there are many shades of postmodernism (eight according to Vanhoozer as cited on p.22) so that aspects of it can be affirmed by Christians, while several presuppositions must be denied. However, Grenz and Franke believe that the movement should be embraced more than modern evangelicalism want to.

Particularly, what the authors want to espouse is that all language and talk about God is conditioned and bound by culture. So that they say, “A nonfoundationalist theological method leads to the conclusion that ultimately all theology – as the ‘postmodern codition’ suggests – ‘local’ or ‘specific’” (25). The question is raised, then, do even orthodox beliefs (as enumerated in the Nicene Creed) become bound so that they cannot communicate true things about God? In other words, do statements that affirm the Trinity or Jesus’ divinity or the Spirit’s personhood have no reference in trans-cultural situations.

It is questionable what Grenz and Franke actually believe to be foundationalism – in the pejorative sense. Modern (not “modernist”) theologians are hardly classic foundationalists. If they were, it would appear that much of the authors’ criticisms would be well-founded. However, they indict Grudem for having a foundationalist definition of systematic theology when he says that it is “the attempt to determine what the whole Bible teaches about any given topic” (37). How can this be foundationalism in the technical sense (cf. 51)? Of all the talk regarding language games and enculturation, what kind of definition of systematic theology might the authors put forth? They, unfortunately, opt for a coherentist approach to theology, which leaves the very problem unanswered that systematic theology seeks to answer – the relevance for the surrounding culture!

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Engaging Contemporary Culture

Series of four lectures by Jerram Barrs:

1)Friday Night Session I: Cooperating with God’s Testimony in the Lives of Unbelievers

2) Echoes of Eden in Literature, Legend and Myth

3) The Evangelism of Jesus: Parables for a Mixed Gathering

4) Acts 17: Paul and the Athenians

[HT: Living in Skin]

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The Lure of Opposition

One of the traps I have seen set for me while studying – not that it has not been set before and not that I have not tripped it – is the desire to be a contrarian. You read all these books and you want really bad to make a name for yourself or show that you know the intricacies of an argument so you’ll say something like this: “I liked the book, I think I would have explained things a little differently.” Or, “I can’t stand so-and-so, he doesn’t articulate x as well as he should.” 

This betrays two things (as I see it): 1) my lack of charity; and 2) my laziness.

1) Lack of Charity: If my first inclination is to pick apart someone’s writing and view, then I have not truly listened. Therefore, I am in no position to respond. This is an issue in epistemology where our presuppositions can keep us from gaining knowledge. The wider culture calls it being close-minded. And while most people ruffle at the idea, it is, more often than not, true. Although I may believe what I know to be true, I should bite my tongue and repeat the cpnversant’s argument in my head to make sure I have really listened. My first response should be a question rather than a statement. “Did I hear you right?” “Do you mean this?”

2) Laziness: The times I have quickly responded to someone I have read or listened to with a rebuttal as noted above, I have drifted off into imprecision and laziness myself. That is, I hear so many people say, “Yeah, I heard the speaker but he was a little soft on this.” I have been challenged several times in my short tenure as a theologian by someone when they ask the question: “How would you have said it differently?” So my question to you is: What precisely do you disagree with?

I think many times I have heard someone I respect give such a response to an opponent, but I forget that they backed up the assertion with a list of reasons. My ears keyed in on the “I disagree,” but not on the “why.” So many of us, I fear, want to appear like we know what we are talking about – that we are privy to knowledge unbeknownst to our hearers, when, in fact, we are blowing fluff. May God help us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christian Living, Counseling, Evangelism, Family | Parenting, Interpretation, Pastoral, Post-Modernity, Sanctification, Theology

Art & God (3)

This is a brief response to Matt’s previous post. I hope it provides some historical/cultural background to the issue of art in the church.

I think there are several reasons why the Christian culture seems to have an inordinate amount of guilt with regards to art and cultural engagement. Matt, you mentioned fundamentalism’s decampment from the arts, which in my estimation is no small part of the problem. In fact, I think you have the crux of the issue right there. Although there are many variables in the issue, in the end you are dealing with the broader aspects of truth and beauty, essential commonalities that resonate with every fallen human being. If the Church withdraws from those grounds, how can we show them a Savior who is perfect in beauty and truth?

Concepts of truth and beauty have changed drastically over the past couple of generations. In cultural chronology going back only a little more than a century ago, you have the movement of Modernism, which in a great sense rebelled against “traditional” forms of art and literature. In general, Modernism rejected the reality of the supernatural and the authority of the church or religion. Modernists asserted truth can be discovered and beauty can be seen, but only through objective power of the individual mind or scientific methodology. Modernism affirmed the reexamination of previously accepted forms of art and truth and beauty, and did so while maintaining that these were things with external anchors and standards outside of one’s self. While perceptions of art and beauty changed, truth was still considered discoverable, knowable.

As Modernism begot Postmodernity, truth joined beauty as being “in the eye of the beholder.” Ambiguity and contradiction no longer matter (or are even seen as desirable) since any notion of truth is relative to the sovereign eye of the individual. Comic books and computer screens can be just as good and beautiful as classic literature or the Sistine Chapel – it all depends on your point of view.

As postmodern plurality and relativity emerged in the early 20th century, the Church’s general reaction was not to engage or redeem – but to withdraw from all things “secular.” Modernism gave us the ol’ stinkeye, so we sulked off and sat in a corner while postmodernity took root around us. Faith in the Church became a buffer zone between the secular and the sacred. Parachurch ministries virtually exploded because the Church disengaged. Now, decades later, we have finally decided that it may actually be beneficial to engage people culturally for the sake of the Gospel… but we approach it like the annoying little sister who is just trying to tag along with big brother.

Think about it – for centuries, the Church drove art and music and cultural trends. Now, we simply try to imitate those things. While society in general and Western culture in particular rejoices in the value of the creative individual (see also, YouTube, Myspace, the blogosphere, etc.), the best the church seems to be able to do is make flimsy imitations (see also, GodTube, MyChurch, the blogosphere, etc.) We are not exactly a consistent hotbed of innovation in the areas of visual art, music, film and literature. I think we sense we should be doing more, but are really too lazy to put forth the effort of being truly innovative. So we feel guilty.

Why is it assumed that to reach the culture, we must be artistically engaged? I think the answer is because culture is artistically engaged. That is where unregenerate people are. The Church in many senses has become passive and lazy. We want the people to come to us because going to them takes effort, and – God forbid – maybe pain. Artistic engagement on whatever front or medium can be a powerful means of missional engagement. They are confused about truth, but are drawn to beauty. We have truth, but have lost a clear vision of the beauty therein. Truth and beauty are essential commonalities within us and are worthy ground upon which to advance the Gospel.

This, of course, begs the question – what is the relationship between beauty and truth? Comments are open.

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Proclivity

406711575_54743e9b0f1.jpg

I was chatting with a friend of mine this morning and he was relaying a story of a friend of his who has been across the board theologically speaking. I had another similar conversation with a friend a couple years ago. It seems like there are people who have a proclivity for poor doctrine. I have a few proposals as to why this happens as I have heard the Sirens singing and have almost crashed.

1. Typically folks that have such a tendency for moving like ooze through various theological systems begin with an attitude of skepticism. That is, they have not first got hold of a sound understanding of authority in their lives. They hear something from the pulpit and their first inclination is to question what has been said. This can be nourished into a good habit when hearing sermons, but I am speaking of the inability to be shape by the sermon – to desire to come under the faithful preaching of the Word. These men question whether the Church has done anything right since the last Apostle died. We haven’t worshipped aright. We haven’t practiced social justice. We haven’t lived in the power of the Spirit. Etc. This tendency runs deep, of course, to pride. But that doesn’t fully answer the question. We must first learn how to submit ourselves under the authority God has graciously placed in our lives – parents, elders, managers, etc.

2. The desire to be fresh and cool does not escape even the Christ-follower. I remember when I was in high school I used to claim that I heard about a band or a song on the radio before it was popular. That is, I was trying to let others know that I was on the in and they were Johnnies-come-lately. Thus I preserved a sense of elitism by the prevenient knowledge I possessed. Is there not a bit of this in the movements of the Federal Vision and the New Perspectives and Theonomy?

3. A final reason (at least in this brief meditation) is the lack of tethering that folks have to the biblical worldview. Now this is not a trump card – “You’re just not biblical.” Rather, I have felt my tendency to lay hold on the latest hipster theology because I did not hae a solid system in which to grade and adopt teachings. Although I am sure this proclivity has been around before Marcion, I believe with the anchoring provided by catechisms and such helped people imbibe a biblical wordlview. They may not have been able to articulate the doctrine of the hypostatic union of Jesus, but they could sniff out some bad Nestorianism or Socinianism when it introduced itself at a Bible study. I was not so fortunate. Had I been provided with some kind of coherent worldview prior to my college days I would have saved myself a lot of time and heresy-ache.

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The Pride of Laziness

Sloth 

I was watching the Today Show yesterday morning and they interviewed a fellow whose wife was missing for eight days because she was trapped in her car, which had wrecked on the side of the road. Granted, the interview took place at 4 in the morning for the fellow. But it is during those times of candidness that our true colors shine.

Of particular interest was when the interviewer was trying to wrap up the time. He wanted to invite people to come to the prayer service they were having the next day for his wife – she is in recovering health. What he said was typical for the way people in our culture speak of religion – and it was patently proud. He said, in effect, “I want to invite everyone to come to the prayer meeting tomorrow. It doesn’t matter what religion you are because they all basically teach the same thing. They are al confused as to what the truth is and the more people we have praying, the better.” My question is, and you should be asking the same question, “How does he know that all religions are confused? Who told you that we are all confused?” It seems that he has cornered the market on truth and that he can make a totalizing statement over the heads of all people of religion. The sad truth is that this is how most people who are too lazy to udnerstand religion say. That is, rather than evaluate the religions (even if only one!) of the world the proud and slothful say that they all believe in the same god.

As a person who places his faith in the Triune God of Christianity, I do not believe in the same god as the Hindus or the Muslims or the Satanists or the materialists. What is more, the prayes that I offer up will be different than those of the Muslim, Hindu, and materialist. So when I pray for this man’s wife, it will be not only nuanced, but diametrically opposed on different levels. For example, I will pray that this woman’s experience would be used to bring her to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. I will pray that the husband will be a loving husband who will love his wife as Christ loves the church. I will pray that the woman’s health will be restored so that she wil have faith in the only living God who heals and who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are merely three prayers that are different than the materialist, who will pray for immediate healing…On a larger evaluation, my prayers will all point to the sufficiency and glory of the Triune God.
What is sad is that so many people speak foolishly like this man did yesterday morning. They do it, however, on their lunch breaks. They have no excuse for such folly. If our co-workers and friends and family paused long enough to think through their answer, they would be able to see the inherent pride of their position. They would be able to see that the god they worship is not the true God. Honestly, I don’t think it being 4:30 am made a difference.

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What’s Wrong With Akon’s Shame and Blame?

Akon

As some of you may know, Verizon Wireless pulled their backing of rapper Akon following a concert he did in Trinidad. He simulated sex acts and gang raping the girl. It turns out the girl was a minor and a pasotr’s daughter.

He has recently put out a very catchy song called “Sorry, Put the Blame on Me.” In it he says:

As life goes on I’m starting to learn more and more about responsibility
And I realize that everything I do is affecting the people around me
So I want to take this time out to apologize for things that
I’ve done things that haven’t occurred yet
and things that they don’t want to take responsibility form

It sounds magnanimous to say that I will take blame for what others do not want to take responsibility for. ut as the song goes on, there is no reason for anyone to take blame other than Akon for the wrong that he did Read the verse that he uses to try and put blame on other people in a backdoor kind of way:

I’m sorry that it took so long to see
But they were dead wrong trying to put it on me
I’m sorry that it took so long to speak
But I was on tour with Gwen Stefani

I’m sorry for the hand that she was dealt
And for the embarrassment that she felt
She’s just a little young girl trying to have fun
But daddy should of never let her out that young

I’m sorry for Club Zen getting shut down
I hope they manage better next time around
How was I to know she was underage
In a 21 and older club they say

Why doesn’t anybody want to take blame
Verizon backed out disgracing my name
I’m just a singer trying to entertain
Because I love my fans I’ll take that blame

So is he saying that Club Zen, the pastor, and Verizon are to blame for his lewd behavior? Is he saying that if she was not underage, he would be justified to have pretended to rape her on stage? Let’s not forget to mention that the underage girl was told that she would win a trip to Africa for performing on stage in a dance contest. That’s bating a girl and using her as meat on stage for a good laugh.

What bothers me is not so much that she was underage – although there are issues with clubs and such. The main contention I have is that Akon has tried to slough off the fact that he treated a woman in ways that people are charged with felonies for. Sad to say that this is not the main issue, either. This is merely a symptom of a greater oproblem in our society. As we have given in to pluralism and “what’s right for you, is fine by me” keeps people from condemning the sickening nature of the acts committed on stage, and instead they have pleaded to an implicit vulgarity that we all know deep down inside is wrong. Perhaps the only middle ground our culture has with morality – exploiting juveniles.

The main issue is that because people have bought into the lie that relativity is the final law for life, we cannot say that a man pretending to rape a girl is wrong. We cannot say that proselytizing prostetution and drug abuse is wrong. The morality that was once implicit is now gone and we have to setttle for arguing that he should not have pretended to do such a thing.

Shall I go on to mention the fact that Akon has a wife/girlfriend and sons (so the song says previously). Do we not see an inconsistency in life. He is not merely an entertainer – as though that existed. Even jesters have spheres of influence who will imitate them. Even troubadours have families that they are responsible for not only raising, but rearing in the fear and instruction of God.

No the problem is not just that a minor was involved. It is the fact that a man wo committed such violations can turn around and say that a sponsor are wrong for calling him to give an account for his actions.

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A Rent Fabric

#messageCanvas_40B5E202_0113_1000_8021_14C9AE899F5A_6241 {color: #000000; font-family: ‘Lucida Grande’, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 11px; line-height: 15px; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; background:#ffffff; } I just finished Richard Lints’ The Fabric of Theology in which he concludes how evanglicals move from a theological framework (how to read the Scriptures) to a theological vision (how the Scriptures apply to life). There are three pieces of a problem that Lints’ brings to light as pertains to our lack luster performance in theology.

1. Cultural Pluralism: With so many cultures in our world tossed together as neighbors, evangelicals have succumbed to the corners and implicitly heralded acceptation of all peoples’ faiths as the greatest virtue. It is not wrong to listen and learn what other cultures teach, but we mustn’t say that all paths are in the right direction. Rather than arguing for truth, evangelicals have whimpered, tucked their tale in between their legs, and kept their truth shut. Lints says, “Though most of the world’s religions are monopolistic in their worldviews, popular culture challenges all such claims to exclusivity not by assessing their truth or falsity but by preemptively dismissing truth as a relevant category of assessment” (p. 323).

2. Confessional Simplicity: “In the modern free market, truth does not always win out. The prize typically goes to whatever set of goods is packaged best” (p.325). That is, much of evangelicalism has not gone after profundity in their lives, rather they prefer to skim the surface and produce large amounts of converts. Mass production of sedans has translated into mass production of disciples. We roll them out through large productions of an Easter pageant, ask them to sign a card, and call them converted. We have settled for little more than hypocrisy. By settling for a scratch-and-sniff faith we have made actors out of people in deep need of cleansing. Jesus and his disciples become Willy Loman’s who pawn their wares in just the right light to get the buyer and close the sale. Yes, Christians have mastered the art of mass media, but we are still novices when it comes to life-on-life community living – filled with accountability, rebuke, exhortation, Scripture.

3. Cult of the Self: “Beyond the obvious example of the health-and-wealth gospel, the degree to which evangelicals have become consumed with the self is evidenced by the predominance of self-help manuals on the shelves of every evangelical bookstore, the trend toward pop psychology and analyzing the ‘inner self’ in evangelical radio programming, and, unfortunately, in the underlying framework of many evangelical ministries” (p.326). Ouch! This edition came out in 1993 and Lints didn’t get to experience the Jabez out-of-context-and-molded-to-a-comfort-fit-on-your-obese-foot prayer, Test-a-Mints (breath mints that make your breath smell good, make you feel like you are righteous, but does nothing for the heart problem from which your grotesque speech flows), Bible diet clubs, Christian Step-a-robics, etc – all to form our own sub-culture rather than diligently applying the Gospel to “Broke Back Mountain,” teletubbies, and Oprah (all of which have received cursing but not a reasoned response with Gospel-saturated living). Our Christianity has become more about me than about radical Kingdom expansion. The King of kings has been relegated to a bumper sticker. We love our slogans, but can’t stand to be around sinners…

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The Love of Sloth

Alex Chediak writes a thoughtful piece for all those who have been or are in college ministry. Those who are in college might be a little upset that I have directed this toward their neck of the woods. But an immature view of life is what so many universities are cultivating.

It is in the university where we were taught to embrace diversity, and relinquish any decisiveness to attain truth – since all paths lead to the same dumpster. It is in the university where flirting is seen as being true to who you are, rather than a glaring example of why you feel that empty hole in your heart. It is in university where we are taught that if you don’t like class, don’t go – you can always pull the claim ticket that you have a right to extra credit. It is in the university that we are taught all those things that seem to be anti-thetical to the primary purpose of university: to train men and women to be good citizens in society.

But it is not only in university, is it? We see that these twenty-somethings have grown up in pant size, but their pants still seem a little big for them. They still like to suck at the breast of theological milk. They still are pandering to sin that should have been killed long ago.

At the root of Chediak’s article, I believe we see that laziness is at the root of this immaturity. Specifically, folks have been too lazy to do their homework – both in the classroom and in their own lives. They have left their study of the Bible to the professionals. They have not spent time thinking long and hard about how can a good God permit evil things to happen. They have not pondered that if God created the world, doesn’t he have the right to do as he pleases in it? They have not stopped to think. Rather, images have entertained their eyes to the detriment of their brain.

This is not just a problem among university students. Don’t be so quick to write this off. This is a larger problem in the Church. People just want to be told what to believe rather than nourishing their own thoughts by the Word of God. The shed blood of the saints seems to have been poured out on ungrateful people. The great doctrines that we won at the teeth of a saw and the wood of the cross have been pawned off in order to buy the latest game.

I don’t want this to be thoroughly negative. I do believe there is hope. There are splinters of light that shine through this darkness. Yet, we have to open our eyes first, in order to see the problem.

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Banned Video

Mark Driscoll shot an 8-minute video to be used at a conference in Florida. It was shown and well-received among the audience. But it was not distributed, although the Acts 29 fellows brought several copies to hand out (per an agreement that was made with the leadership at the conference). I think you would benefit from watching this video. Some of the things Driscoll says are raw, but I like the way he puts contemporary garb on the message so that it might be understood. He mixes satire and sarcasm to get his point across. Enough said, just go to the link and let me know what you think. I will admit, the graveyard setting seems a little hokey to me.

My favorite line in the video is with about a minute ten seconds left. He says our culture thinks Jesus is “a marginalized Galilean peasant hippie in a dress rocking out to the Spice Girls driving around the Middle East in a Cabriolet hoping to meet nice people to do aroma-therapy with while drinking herbal tea.”
What he says about the guys who are our age is spot on. I see it all the time at work and see the need to get in their faces a little to confront them with genuine life.

Banned Video

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“In God We Trust”: A Dialogue

I like the way that Webb has used such an Americanized term and turned it on its head. I have seen a couple of state license plates with this phrase. I have seen a bumper sticker that says “Keep God in ‘Bless America.’”

My first question is: “What God do you trust?” or “What God do you want to bless America?” The name God is taken in vain because people use his name but do not have any content to fill it. They have made his name as hollow as a chocolate easter bunny. So many people speak as though they know God, but when you get into the mess you find out that their ‘god’ is themselves. He makes no demands on anyone. He is not worthy to be obeyed. He is here to make me feel good about myself. Etc. May the triune God have mercy on us!

Now for the song:

in God we trust
and the government is on His shoulders
in God we trust
through democracy and tyranny alike
in God we trust
He uses both good and evil men

An indictment, perhaps, on the fact that so many people who claim they believe in God’s complete sovereignty fall into the mire of fatalism. That is, good things will happen, bad things will happen. God’s in control. Therefore, I don’t want to be an activist. I feel the angst Webb is feeling, but I think it is misdirected just a tinge. In other words, there are those who think that their god is giving them the thumbs up no matter what they are doing. In the name of God they think it is alright to blow every foreigner they see. They think it is alright to shoot the people whose culture is unintelligible to them. They think that the western culture is the messiah of the world. They cry freedom – but it is a freedom that Adam desired in the Garden. They cry for the right to do as they please and claim they are right based upon nothing other than their desire to rule others.

in God we trust
so we fight for peace and He fights for us
in God we trust
even when He fights us for someone else
in God we trust
even when He looks like the enemy

Again, Muslims cry that Allah is going to grant them eternal life while Redneck Rick says that his god drives a bigger truck. For a decent commentary on our plight where god is made in man’s image read Talladega Nights Jesus. I don’t think Webb believes that Allah and the Christian God are the same – as so many naive people do. If he does, then I must adamantly disagree. One would have to claim that God is schizophrenic to say that he has revealed himself in both religions. You cannot have triune God and a transcendent tyrant. The revelation in the two religions are diametrically opposed to one another. Rather than a far off, whimsical god as the Muslims claim, Christ revealed the Father and is, in fact, God. We worship three persons, equal in essence.

in God we trust
even though our hearts are bankrupt
in God we trust
for more than just the value of our dollar bills
in God we trust
but there’s no gold behind these notes of reserve

Oh, I really like this flip. We certainly do have the appearance of religion, but our hearts are far from the Lord. We wear our Sunday outfits, but have never taken a shower. What kind of God does someone worship when they say they want to give him praise for te record album that just glorified fornication, blasphemy, and sloth? What kind of god is this? Our god is too small . Did you notice the flip? We trust in God more than the value of our dollar bills…but they are not intrinsically worth ANYTHING. Sure our wallets are full, but we are too full of ourselves to know what it means to carry a cross.

in God we trust
even through our great presumption
in God we trust
even though He favors no nation-state
in God we trust
even when the blessing is a curse

“Guard me from presumptuous sins” (Psa 19.13). We have winked a blind eye to sin and presumed that God has done the same all in the name of love. Blasphemy. It is slander against his name of justice. For anyone that thought otherwise, let me tell you plainly, the United States of America is not a Christian nation. It is not merely by the fact that it is replete with gross sin. It is due to the fact that there never can be a biblical nation-state as we live in the City of Man.

May we never forget that the blessings that have resulted from a feigned Christianity, actually Deism, are blessings. However, such hollow autonomy without retraint is a curse. During the time of the judges in the Old Testament, everyone did as they saw fit. It was a curse, though they had unbridled passions. Those passions quickly threw them off before 8 seconds ticked. They were trampled by the rodeo clown. And so all those who mistake the blessing of freedom as a license for sin without accountability will be trampled as grapes…making the wine of God’s wrath complete.

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“A King & A Kingdom”: A Dialogue

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Following off some comments I made on the last post we come to my second favorite song (yes, “Mockingbird keeps slipping on the charts!). In our cushy culture we have grown accustomed to our Christian pundits giving Christian commentary with their Christian jargon. Problem is, it has lost sight of the spreading of the kingdom of God. It has opted for political issues here on earth – policies rather than pure hearts. We can write millions of papers of legislation, but it will not usher in the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells. 1)That is done by the Father; 2) We are to be vessels carrying the news of change with us.

Much of the current cliquey talk in my generation of believers has revoloved around the words “conversation,” “kingdom,” “social justice,” etc. What has happened is the kingdom of God has been reduced to social gospel or watered down to a nebulous talk of something that exists out there. Eternal life is to know the Father and the one who he sent. I fear that with the skepticism in the air with groups such as the Emergent church we are missing the basics of Christian faith. The motto rings: “Question everything.” We should question, but we don’t need to (nor should we) re-formulate the historic foundation the Church has been built on – namely, on the Word of God.

Since there is nothing new under the sun, our task as Christians is to tell the old,old story in new songs and language. Oh, that we would not be archaic and esoteric in our verbiage!

Now the song…
—————————
(vs. 1)
who’s your brother, who’s your sister
you just walked passed him
i think you missed her
as we’re all migrating to the place where our father lives
’cause we married in to a family of immigrants
—————————

We are pilgrims on a journey home. We have not arrived until the new heavens and new earth arrive here. We press on against the Pit of Despair and the Giant and Sloth and Gluttony, battling the old man that we have crucified with the Christ. I am speaking of Christians, of course.

Too many times lovely language sacrifices true words. If Webb means here that we are passing by the poor man on the street or the man in prison without seeking to give a cup of cold water to him in the name of Jesus, then he is right. However, if he universalizing Jesus’ phrase to say that every person on the street should be seen as a Christian, then he is wrong. Those who are not in Christ are enemies of God and we should be at the plow tilling the soil and sowing the seeds of truth and grace so that a harvest of righteousness will sprout up for the glory of the King of that harvest.

This is why when I meet people I do not call them “brother” or “sister” until I hear their allegiance to Jesus. I will call them “friend” or “buddy” or “pal” or man” or…but not “brother.” This is because they are not my brother until they come under the Lordship of Jesus. I used to be lax in my usage of these terms, but I want to be accurate with what I say and not be the cause of confusion to people who think that Jesus being alright with them is okay with me.

—————–
(chorus)
my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it’s to a king & a kingdom
—————–

AMEN. Have we abandoned the resolve of our forebears? Christians were burned like candles in Nero’s courtyard because they would not pledge allegiance to him. Our president is no Messiahe. He will not usher in roghteousness no matter how bad he or we want it.

The United States is not the Garden of Eden. It is east of Eden, brothers and sisters. We, like Jacob, must wrestle to enter into it.

The second line is a little more racey. I believe that democracy is more Christian than say forced communism. However, I cannot say that democracy is Christian. I do live in between two cities and must succumb to the structures of the one where my feet are planted – thus, conceding democracy. But in the new heavens and new earth, there will be a Monarchy recognized and obeyed and served. Heaven is not a Buddhistic utopia where all are equal. Christ will have all things under his feet in submission and joy.

Due to the structures God has blessed us with, and due to indwelling sin, and pagan worship we must let the majority balance the rest. However, my ideal would be to have Christians share all things in common. Would this be a mix of democracy and communism? What do you think? For the record, I do not believe that a totally free capitalistic society is the answer – for the same reasons above.

——————
(vs. 2)
there are two great lies that i’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him
(chorus)
——————

Whoa. Great lines though if he used the superlative I could not agree with the second. The danger of being pithy is not being true. While there are people out there who equate Christian with Republican, this would be a broad generalization for those who vote Republican because they are Christians. Many who do so are voting due to one issue alone – abortion. I might be swayed to a different position if they worked for justice for the unborn. Enough said.

——————-
(bridge)
but nothing unifies like a common enemy
and we’ve got one, sure as hell
but he may be living in your house
he may be raising up your kids
he may be sleeping with your wife
oh no, he may not look like you think
——————-

Look in the mirror, this is where you need to start. Look to your family, this is where you need to be faithful in shepherding and raising up a tribe of Christ-treasurers. It is true that enemies unify us. Could this be due to our desire to have a scapegoat for our own problems? It keeps us from looking to ourselves and our culture to be changed. What’s more, evangelical culture at large has made enemies out of a lot of ur neighbors. Bumper stickers that slap people in the face; Slogans that alienate others; pastors who have not preached the WHOLE counsel of God; t-shirts and candy bars and testa-mints and fun/stupid trinkets that set us apart as…holy blazing idiots.

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“Mockingbird”: A Dialogue

Hanging On
_________
(vs. 1)
there are days i don’t believe the words i say / like a life that i’m not living / a song that i’m not singing but to you / there are times that i believe i’m satisfied / like an intimate connection / despite this bad reception with you

__________

Webb’s honesty hits us right in the face from the get-go. This is one of the things that I appreciate about his work and lyrics. The things that we think (or should think) are brought out into the open and we are made to file these things in our drawer of conviction or avoidance. How many times have you felt dry early in the morning with your cup of coffee and Bible or late in the evening in a Bible study and wondered what in the world you are doing? None? Oftentimes I have felt the inertia of sin keeping me from moving forward, from being so convinced that nothing could hold me back from declairng the Truth.

Call it fear of man, sometimes it’s just laziness and darkness in my own heart. There are days…there are weeks…there are lifetimes when Christians don’t grasp the pervasiveness and repercussions of their worldview. God became flesh and dwelt among us – this has implications for the entire world of sinners. I am writing a paper on Pluralism now and have found it amazing that even John Hick believes that IF the Incarnation (as defined by Orthodoxy) is true, then the entire world must swear allegiance to this King.

As a Christian, I know that God took on flesh to redeem for himself a people. Because this is true my life should be utterly different than before. I look around and see so many Christians whimpering in a corner and tucking their tale in their legs and scampering away from intellectual battles and philosophical conundrums. The Creator of logic, philosophy, and reason has revealed to us all that we need in his written Word…we must be fully convinced. There is no 99.999% sure that the things we profess are true.

This is one of things that led to my conversion. I claimed to be a Christian and was hit with the fact that this Truth had no bearing on my life. I spoke but did not live by action. What a farce!

How whimsical and fickle are we finites. There are other days when we feel warm and fuzzies… how do you sift through all these emotions save through the Word of God.

__________
(pre-chorus)
because i can’t afford to pay / for most of what i say /
so it’s a lucky thing / that the truth’s public domain /
(chorus) 
and i am like a mockingbird / i’ve got no new song to sing / and i am like an amplifier / i just tell you what i’ve heard / oh, i’m like a mockingbird

__________

Here it seems that Webb believes his words are truth. What a haughty claim…unless it is true. So it is with us, Christian, we have nothing new to offer the world. Evangelicalism speaks of a ‘relationship with Jesus,’ ‘contextualizing’ the Gospel, ‘meeting people where they are,’ and the like. This is fine to a point. But when we start to add things to what has alreayd been stated by our Maker we rebel. We may not add a thing to his Word. So, in truth, we are mockingbirds.

It is a shame that much of what we echo is not God’s Word but slogans and pithy statements that don’t amount to much in light of eternity.

__________
(vs. 2)
and yes, it’s true that i need this more than you / like one whose name is many /
have mercy, please don’t send me away /
(pre-chorus) 
and i’ll do all i can / to be a better man / oh i’ll clean up this act / and be worse than we started / (chorus)

____________

What a beautiful turn of phrase around the pivot of God’s sovereignty. In reference to Revelation and Isaiah where Messiah is attributed with a myriad of names -signifying his Rule over all – Webb recognnizes that the One who has plucked him from the fire is the One who will keep him in his good pleasure. None of this, I left the faith. There is a hand that holds you, dear Christian. Be real. Be frail. Know that you are a sheep who responds to the Voice of the Shepherd.

What happens if you try and fix yourself rather than plead for mercy? You become a white-washed tomb. It is not by you might alone that you are cleansed from sin. It is the Lord’s hand who takes the coal and purifies your mocking lips. We work harder than anyone, but it is not us but the grace of God that empowers us and gives us the desire to obey (1Cor 15.10; cf Phil 2.13).

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