Monday, December 26, 2005

Recovering the Essence of the Gospel Message
I've been mulling this topic over for some time now but haven't had time to write with my college finals and family and work taking up most of my time. This issue has been bantered about so much it almost makes people immediately turn away, I am talking about the problems in many of our churches today. It's Dec 26th and just for example a large number of churches across the nation opted to not have services yesterday, being Christmas day and all... Among the group leading the charge Rick Warren who seems to speak for all evangelicals in matters of faith these days said that the Saddleback church would be closed Christmas day so people could spend time with their families. Now my intent is not to go on a tirade against Rick Warren his mentality is simply an example of the pervading mindset in our time. Churches have grossly man (consumer in modern parlance) centered, that is the issue. The cry of many of our modern churches is not an exaltation of Christ and His glory and a bewailing of man and his fallen state, but rather a chipper "Find the champion in you!" (Joel Osteen) is the slogan of the church that boasts the largest congregation in America.
To get to my point I think that David Wells is right when he says "God rests lightly on the evangelical church today". This explains the casualness of much of our worship as well as our growing theological illiteracy. God has ceased to be weighty in much of evangelicalism and in the minds of many, He is irrelevant to our lives. The Hebrew word translated "glory" in the OT literally means weight. So that is the issue Wells is getting at God has ceased to be weighty and if that is the case He, and His truth may be treated in a cavalier manner. This no doubt has to do with postmodern views on truth influencing the church, for in the postmodern mindset pragmatism seems to be king. Whatever works best that is true. Thus we see again churches being consumer centered striving to satisfy baby boomers with slick marketing techniques (ex: one church will change your cars oil while you are in the service) . All of these cute things we may do whether it be plays and skits or free esspresso can never replace solid God exalting preaching. And the problem is that it seems impossible to do both marketing techniques and be God centered and God glorifying. Either it is man whom we seek to please or it is God, and I say that you can not serve two masters.
What then is needed today is a restoration of God's transcendence in our churches and mostly our lives. The theological work is there many great theologians past and present have written and magnificently defined orthodoxy for us, the problem is that modern man has ceased to care. What advances man's estate is what most interests him, thus theological precision is irrelevant. The transcendence of God is at the heart of this issue, the infiniteness of God and His glory. That's a staggering word, infinite, yet it rolls right by us so often. The fact that God is infinitely holy, and thus separated from sinful creatures should amaze us. God is not like us. God by nature is the very definition of perfection. Yet it is this transcendent righteously aloof God who stoops down to take the form of a servant in Christ. In Christ we see radical contrasts of status He is both King of Kings and the servant of all, He who alone deserves praise and He who made of Himself no reputation, judge of man yet judged by men, etc. In the life of Christ the infinitely detatched God draws near to fallen man and redemption is accomplished.
Why was this done? It was the conviction of Jonathan Edwards and my own that God does all things for His own glory. This is a long argument to explain and for a concise treatment I highly recommend "God's Passion for His glory" by John Piper the 1st half is John Piper the second is the complete writing of Edward's "Dissertation concerning the End for Which God Created the world" that book by pointing me to scripture after scripture has helped me to see the God centeredness of God. To give a brief explanation on how Gods glory is the most precious thing to God and how everything without exception He does is for his own glory will take a post of itself. But for the sake of argument I point anyone who may read this to (Isa 48:9-11) here we see repeatedly the motive behind God's reinstating of Israel, His glory. My point is that it is this vision of an infinite transcendent God centered God that is needing to be restored in the minds of believers today. Titus is exhorted to teach the young men to treat doctrine with gravity or seriousness (ch 2) how can we expect men to treat theological truth with seriousness when God is irrelevant to post modern minds? God is not transcendent He is our buddy who is there to enhance our life's travels.
It is no wonder why we can not stomach an honest examination of issues such as God's sovereignty, election, wrath, and human free will. All these issue offend the natural man, and with a man-centered God with no wrath but only love toward those who despise Him the aforementioned issues are completely irrelevant. My point is that our view of God directly effects our capacity to do theology. To me the "hell fire and brimstone preacher" is a myth but the talk of God's being love and His being worthless is a reality. It was this sort of preaching which led me to seriously pursue theology, I heard the most blasphemous sermon of my life, my wife walked out I stayed to assess the message. The man was directly pitting God's wrath and love against eachother wit love canceling wrath (this is classic liberal theology). To get back on topic I think the main issue is that we need a high view of God and all that He is in His character and attributes and thus become ourselves God centered. We need to be still and know that He is God.
To give a final example of the weightlessness of God here is a comparison of one of my favorite hymns with a modern "worship" tune:
"Long my imprisoned spirit lay
fast bound in sin and natures' night
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray
I woke the dungeon flammed with light
My chains fell off my heart was free
I rose went forth and followed Thee"-(Charles Wesley)
"I need you to hold me
like my daddy never could
and I need you to show me
how resting in your arms is so good
I need you to walk with me
hand and hand we'll run and play
I need you to talk to me
To tell me again you'll stay"-(Brenda Lafavre)
Wesley is clearly descibing the biblical truth that all believers know namely regeneration. Lafavre is describing the psychologized yearing for a father figure being met in I think God.
Another post on Christianity and psychology will be up soon.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Yesterday afternoon as I sat in my Anthropology class having post-modern ethics heaped upon me as usual at secular college I was struck to be frank by the arrogance in which the naturalistic world view was portrayed. Currently we are studying Islam and its effects upon culture and particularly women, good topic. What got my attention was the explicit manner in which the professor treated the validity of Islam, and all religion for that manner, she began to substitute the word "myth" for the word "religion" and showed quite clearly that at least in her estimation the two were one in the same. Are religion and myth synonymous words having the same meaning?

To the above I would emphatically say no. The difference between the two is that religion claims to based upon a revealed truth where as mythology is man made explanatory story. The difference may seem of no significance to the secular humanist but I think this is the root difference. Although I am not a Muslim Islam claims to be an inspired world view, Islam claims to exist by God's revealing Himself. Whereas in Greek mythology we read tales of Hercules, and Ares yet none of the tales make the claim that God revealed these truths. The same can be said for much of the Native American stories, they are stories bereft of any claim of divine inspiration explaining reality (ex: where trees came from). On the other hand men like Muhammad and Moses claimed to have truth about reality that was revealed to them by God.
The real problem is that upon subscribing to a naturalistic evolutionary world view anything having to do with God is categorized into myth and wish thinking. It becomes more evident in each of the classes I attend my Anthropology professor shares the view that the world would be a far better place if we cast off the carcass of religion and went with the objective truths of science and evolution. Not only would we have truth (that we came from slime that spontaneously generated billions of years ago on rocks from a mixture of UV rays and H2O wherever those 2 elements came from) but we would be even more moral without all these bents religion creates in devotees. The problem is that without God in the picture you can't have an absolute objective truth of any category, this is glaring in the realm of ethics and morals. Are there such things as right and wrong and where do they come from? The common humanist response is "yes they are social constructs" which only begs the question that if they are mere products of culture can they not be easily dismissed as irrelevant? If right and wrong are simply what society agrees to adhere to and it is subject to change as society changes, then there really is no such thing as right and wrong in an objective sense.

In a lot of ways it is becoming more apparent to me that science and the scientist have become a sort of god to many. If you can believe that the universe just popped into existence yet think it absurd to claim that a God created it you simply are not a rational person. Any and everyone that questions the idea of evolution is dismissed as an unscientific dogmatic wish thinker. While it appears to me that the believers in a "big bang theory" are at least equally dogmatic and wishful if not more because at the very outset of their theories God is rejected. I guess my this is my final point about the original issue of myth an religion and my professors' cavalier dismissal of all non naturalistic evolutionary worldviews. It seems every chance a professor gets to jab at Christianity they take it all I have to say is why? If it is so stupid and irrelevant to real life why does it need to constantly be berated? I think this brings us full circle to the reason why Christianity is still around to be bashed, and that is because it not only claims to be divinely created but unlike all of the other religions it claims that if a specific event did not occur Christianity needs to be dismissed as just another nice moralistic system. That event is the resurrection of Christ.