Friday, June 23, 2006

Viva La Revolution!

As I have been reading the book "Why I left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement" by Dan Lucarini, I have also been listening to teachings on worship by Douglas Wilson (So I've been getting a kind of 1-2 punch of worship reformation). I have really been impressed by Wilson's clear commitment to what the bible has to say about these things and not just doing worship the way we may see fit. The main thing that has had the most immediate impact is a message Wison gave called "A return to Psalm singing".

Just think about it, I mean I know the words to songs I heard in my teen years I don't even like (then or now) like Oasis' song "Wonderwall" Lisa and I were listening to the radio on our way home and the song was on and we started singing along ..."Maybe--your gonna be the one that saves me (echo)..." We both confessed that we never actually liked the song but just had it drilled into our heads when the radio stations and MTV decided that this will be a top 40 hit. Now how much better would it be to know the Psalms like that? That at will I could think "Oh yeah psalm 60 that goes...."? Sounds like a good idea right?

Well Paul seemed to think so too as he writes: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. " C0l 3:16

If we want to be obediant to this call and have Christ's word dwell in us RICHLY we will be Psalm singers (Actually Psalms Hymns and spiritual songs was all in reference to the 3 part division of the book of psalms in the Greek septuagent which Paul no doubt read). This is huge to me I have yet to be in a Church that gives attention to Psalms in worship like this, I think hymns and bible/God centered praise songs are fine, but how much better to sing the words of God back to Him? How much better to be obediant to Col 3:16 and have the word of Christ dwell in us richly?

So I am taking up the task of putting music to the psalms, the entire psalm, and try to not change the wording. It has been difficult but it is rewarding, in a week I know almost the first 3 Psalms by heart (Psalm1 for sure). That's why Paul (or rather God through Paul) thought this was a good idea.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Truth Exalters...Black Sheep?

And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil, to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD. (Jer 9:3)

In the passage above the Lord is laying out His charges against Israel through Jeremiah the prophet. One of the reasons why He was about to judge Israel was that they were not "valiant for the truth". I am somewhat struck by these words in 21st century American evangelicalism, where as David Wells says, "God rests lightly on the church." What Wells is getting at is that God and truth about God is not weighty in our minds. God is somewhat of an add-on, and talk of Him has become certainly flippant if not all together lacking a sense of the "Otherness" of God. God is often fashioned altogether like ourselves, He is buddy who is always there. God is not judgmental like many people we know, He is always accepting of us and all that we are.

Therefore when someone comes into this sort of context with a message with weight, a message describing the sinfulness of man, the wrath of God, and pleading for sinners to be reconciled by Christs blood alone, when someone comes with this sort of talk it simply is out of step with our casualistic "chipper" view of God. To speak the truth of God is to be weighty, to do so makes one not only a "black sheep" in our culture but a growing portion of evangelicalism.

Death of Reverence:

Yesterday a local radio show called "Crosstalk" had a show discussing the "Death of Reverence" in the church. To give some examples a church after completing a 40 days of purpose series had a giant balloon drop with the band busting out Kool and the Gang's "Celebrate Good Times Come On". Now full on secular music is acceptable in the church, no longer just the cheap "Christian" impersonation of it. Also a different church is building six all season domes in which 2 NBA sized basketball courts will be as well as a 12 lane bowling alley, a youth disco and kids playground. I mentioned before about a church shooting T-shirts into the audience like at a sports game with a canon (one of the shirts indicated a winner of an ipod). I could go on with the tawdry new bibles being produced...

The question is what does all of this have to do with church? Things in my mind seem to get put into perspective real quick as far as church conduct when I ask would Peter do this? Honestly when we read the book of Acts and Pauls letters can we honestly think that Paul would endorse a church building gigantic domes to bowl in? It is especially difficult to accept putting bowling alleys in when we put in context the global church many of whom don't even have bibles. How about secular music in church services? The church that gave away the ipod was having a series of messages on music, one of the songs played was a Nickelback (secular band) song, the worship service totally looked like a rock concert with lights, fog machines and a screen zooming in on the leaders rocking out.

I wonder if you who may be reading this are grieved by this at all. What I have been describing are symptoms of the disease, symptoms of the fact that God is now weightless, inconsequential, to be met on OUR terms. I think when we begin to truly grasp that God is HOLY, that God is infinitely valuable, we will begin to have zeal for His house. Until then we will worship God in a way that seems right in our own eyes.

Where is the fear of the Lord? I know you have probably heard a disclaimer every time some one read a verse exhorting us to "fear the Lord" saying "Now fear...that just means reverence, were not supposed to be afraid of God. Perfect love casts out fear..." I'm sorry but when Jesus says "Don't fear him who can destroy the body but after that do nothing, fear Him who can destroy both body and cast your should into hell." I think we get a better picture of fearing the Lord. Reverence is a big part of it but I think the part of the fear neglected is the fact that we answer to God, He is God and has the right to do with us as He sees fit. Thus it is a "fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God". This fear is missing because God, His character and His judgment are viewed in a cavalier manner.

God Centered Message Never Fits In:

The situations I briefly described is as I said mere symptoms of a larger issue, the fact that we would even have the gall to do church in a way that is not bible driven but rather consumer centered is a trait of the fact that we don't have a high view of God. Thus as I said the message of say a God centered Christian saying that God is to be feared and worshipped in the beauty of holiness is simply out of step. If we look at redemptive history such a message has frequently been out of step. All too often the ebb and flow of redemptive history mimics the passage from judges (relativism isn't new):

"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (Jud 17:6)

Messengers bearing a message in an objective sense are rejected or shunned. I've noticed that many don't really give a rip about theology, or care to really give thought to issues that people disagree on. We are called however to care about theology and doctrine, if we are going to be obedient to the word of God we will care about these things. We will strive to be valiant for truth. I'm not saying that everyone needs to be a Seminary level theologian, but if we are going to be obedient to God's word we will care about theology:

"Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continuing them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." (1 Tim 4:16)

I say this because in some circles to care about doctrine is frowned upon, and theological Christians are looked upon as judgmental and divisive. Well both those judgments may be true, doctrine does divide, it divides error from truth. Irregardless whether people may like us, the issue remains: are we going to be obedient to 1 Tim 4:16? Are we going to be valiant for truth in a "I want it my way age"?

The picture of valiance for truth is displayed well in Bunyans "The Pilgrims Progress" as he describes "Mr. Valiant for truth" who was found covered in blood, with a sword in his hand.

"Forget not Master Valiant-for-the-Truth, That man of courage, tho' a very youth. Tell every one his spirit was so stout, No man could ever make him face about." (Bunyan)

Valiant's heart and mind were so set on pilgrimage that nothing would turn him to the left or the right. May it be so of us as the spirit of the age of consumerism, relativism and love of the world threatens us, and begs us to compromise the weighty truth of God in exchange for a weightless God, a mere add-on.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Because He Says The Same Thing But Better...

Pop Goes Postmodernism
(By Michael Horton)

An advertisement has appeared in a number of evangelical magazines for yet another Bible translation. Looking smart and sophisticated, a woman stares intently at the reader. The caption reads, "If you want to attract me, you'd better watch your language." The ad goes on to relate how busy this young professional is these days, so the Bible needs to be suitably tailored to her lifestyle. In many respects, this captures the mood of mission these days: unswerving devotion to the adage that the customer is king. Furthermore, this woman is treated as the definitive norm and rule for ministry in a postmodern era. Are we postmodern? Should we be?

Naming "Postmodernism"

What is "postmodernism"? It depends. To an architect, sculptor, painter, or novelist postmodernism often refers to the specific artistic movement that reacted against the International Style and High Modern art and literature. To political theorists, it can refer to the end of utopian ideologies. To philosophers, it usually signals a transition away from a particular way of thinking about what we know and how we know that it is called "Cartesian foundationalism." And to economists, it may mean the shift from an industrial-age economy to an information-age economy in capitalism's current global phase. (For more on some of these uses of the term postmodernism, see D. A. Carson's article in this issue.)

Many now breathlessly announce that we have entered a postmodern age. Yet few are willing to pause and define how the term postmodernism is being used. Most often, it is just a code word for something new, for a supposed break with the past and the dawn of a radically new era. Of course, given that the word modern means what is new, a more modern description of an era could hardly be sought. In many ways, much of postmodernism is little more than "most-modernism." For instance, it was the modern philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) -- and not postmodern philosophers Jacques Derrida (b. 1930) or Richard Rorty (b. 1931) -- who introduced the view that the "world" conforms to the knower's conceptual categories rather than vice versa. There is just too much of the modern in the postmodern to be able to speak in sweeping terms of a major paradigm shift in culture.

Suffice it to say for our purposes that there are two over-arching types of postmodernism: academic and popular. There is great variety among the former. On a host of points that we cannot pursue here (namely, notions of tradition, language, the critique of autonomy, progress, presence and absence, etc.), thinkers generally classed as postmodern in the academy today have a lot to teach us about the very dangers that so many popularizers of postmodernism embrace. Remarkably fruitful discussions and debates abound in these deep waters and I find myself among those who enjoy wading in them.

There is also great variety among the popular versions of postmodernism, but I cannot bring myself to acknowledge that they are either sufficiently distinct from modernism or that they are sufficiently coherent to place under one label. Much has changed since the storming of the Bastille and the invention of television, some of it for the better and some of it for the worse. But pop-postmodernist cheerleading for the idea that we have entered a radically new era -- a utopia of unprecedented opportunity -- fails to move me. This is not because I am a stodgy conservative. I just do not believe the hype. I think every historical period has its pluses and minuses. Typecasting them just leads to knee-jerk demonization or equally impulsive lionization, making it hard to conduct cost-benefit analyses in particular cases. History and Scripture remind us that no era can be regarded as either an unmixed blessing or an unmixed curse. Human sinfulness and God's common grace coincide throughout the ages between the fall and the consummation. Knee-jerk conservatism and breathless progressivism can both become cop-outs for serious evaluation.

Call me dismissive, but I cannot get beyond the notion that pop postmodernism is little more than the triumph of popular culture with its obsessions with technology, mass communications, mass marketing, the therapeutic orientation, and conspicuous consumption. Postmodernism -- or whatever one wishes to designate our brief moment in history -- is the culture in which Sesame Street is considered educational, "sexy" is the term of approbation for everything from jeans to doctoral theses, watching sit-coms together at dinner is called "family time," abortion is considered "choice," films sell products, and a barrage of images and sound bites selected for their entertainment and commercial value is called "news." This easily translates into hipper-than-thou clubs passing for youth ministry, informal chats passing for sermons, and brazen marketing passing for evangelism, where busyness equals holiness and expository preaching is considered too intellectual. It can account in part for homes where disciplined habits both of general domestic culture and of instruction in Christian faith and practice give way to niche marketing and where churches become theaters of the absurd.

If modernity is pictured as the crusty tyrant, wrinkled with the fatigue of old age and faded dreams, postmodernism's visage is that of a child who refuses to grow up and accept the challenges as well as the opportunities of wisdom, truth, righteousness, and having responsibilities as well as having a good time. Stated in such intentionally simplistic terms, one can hardly distinguish postmodern from boomer -- that post-war generation that has been so aptly described by David Brooks, in his Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, as one who insists on having his cake (the fruit of hard labor and genuine community) and eating it too (absolute freedom of individual choice).

This take on postmodernism is hardly new. Marxist intellectual Alex Callinocos's illuminating analysis of postmodernism concludes that it is little more than the result of the self-obsessed flower children of the revolutionary sixties now taking their place in the professional new middle class. In other words, postmodernism and boomer go hand-in-hand. There is no epochal change in Western culture, Callinocos insists. "Moreover, much of what is written in support of the idea that we live in a postmodern epoch seems to me of small caliber intellectually, usually superficial, often ignorant, sometimes incoherent."

Fatalism or Reformation?

Callinocos's appraisal fits perfectly with what I see in contemporary Evangelicalism. In contemporary Evangelicalism, postmodernism is the new code word for mission, a new way of enforcing not just change but particular changes that involve particular ideological assumptions. There is even a note of fatalism in these challenges that verges on bullying: "Get with it or get left behind." This is just the way things are now, so we had better adapt.

If a church still thinks that the means of grace appointed by Christ as the Lord of his church are sufficient for the conversion of sinners and the edification of the saints, then critics must show from Scripture why this is not still true although we have reached the dawn of space travel. Why must change in the faith and practice of Christians parallel change in technology? Is there any relevant connection between the patterns of ministry established in Scripture and the surrender of dial-up providers to broadband Internet? If there is, then I fail to see it.

Superficial appeals to "our postmodern era" too easily cause us to capitulate before that worst of all threats: obsolescence. Frank Kermode calls postmodernism "another of those period descriptions that help you to take a view of the past suitable to whatever it is you want to do." This is like references to the "Dark Ages," which -- in spite of their wealth of discoveries, advancing technologies, the founding of universities, and so forth -- were effectively nicknamed by the scions of the Renaissance. They thereby sold subsequent generations on the spin that they were in fact breathing new life into Western civilization.

In contemporary Evangelicalism, psychological categories overwhelm confessional ones; managerial models of ministry outstrip the pastoral; categories of consumption, sometimes brazen and at other times indirect, reign over a more discipleship-oriented paradigm. Furthermore, ministers are constantly told these days that they must be market-driven rather than product-driven. The pragmatic takes precedence over the deliberative, autonomy over authority, the individual over the community, and the new and improved over the tried and tested. All of these trends have their roots in modernity, even if pop postmoderns have uncritically embraced them.

It is not so much the modern versus the postmodern but the total capitulation to pop culture that John Seebrook identifies as "the culture of marketing and the marketing of culture." Evangelicals obsessed with family values in a vaguely moral context often reflect the opposite values in the practice of their faith as niche marketing breaks up the generations, entertainment drowns out catechesis, and the attraction of the customer edges out the communion of saints across all times and places -- and I am just talking about evangelical attitudes about what should happen in the youth group!

Pop postmodernism today assumes that "is" implies "ought"; that "the way things are" is itself neutral, benign, or perhaps even an unmixed blessing. We do not take the trouble to analyze the ways in which, for example, the culture of marketing is fraught with peril for both culture and church, because being "cutting-edge," "effective," "successful" -- or, in more pious terms, "missional," simply requires it.

C. Peter Wagner argues, "Traditional church models no longer work in our fast-changing world. A commitment to reaching the lost is driving new apostolic churches to find new ways to fulfill the Great Commission." In this outlook, "our fast-changing world" -- what the Bible identifies as this fading age -- becomes the norm and church models are viewed in thoroughly relativistic terms, as if the Lord had left the twenty-first century church to find "ways to fulfill the Great Commission" other than Word and Sacrament. Just how does a faith that is passed down "from generation to generation" survive being marketed by a pop culture that declares, "This is not your father's Oldsmobile"? According to George Barna, it is "critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message is sovereign." Is this the same evangelical movement that castigated the World Council of Churches for its slogan, "The church follows the world's agenda"?

A Different Typology

What if, instead of adopting the division of history into "modern" and "postmodern" in our evangelism and outreach, we followed the New Testament distinction between "the present evil age" and "the age to come" or between life "in the flesh" and "new life of the Spirit"? Jesus and Paul drew these contrasts (see Luke 18:30; Rom. 7:5-6; 8:5-9; Gal. 1:4). No matter what generation is currently rising, its members belong either to "this passing age" or to "the age to come." In fact, a good mark of being "conformed to this world" rather than being "transformed by the renewal of [our] mind" (Rom. 12:2) is that we think of ourselves and our generation "more highly than [we] ought" (v. 3).

Every generation since the Fall (just think of Cain's proud city and Babel's tower) has sought to "conspire against the Lord and against his anointed" in spite of God's declaration that he has "set [his] king on Zion, [his] holy hill" (Ps. 2:2, 6). Neither modernity nor postmodernity comes out a winner in that contest. To all our kings and kingdoms -- read, the "experts" and the imaginary "generations" that they have created for niche marketing -- the King in heaven still laughs, charging all those who pride themselves in breaking their chains to "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled" (see Ps. 2:4, 12). Whether modern or postmodern, the truth is that "the present evil age" is fading away and the truly new age that is dawning is the kingdom that comes down from heaven in the glory and power of Christ's resurrection. "Blessed are those who take refuge in him" (Ps. 2:12).

If "the age to come" is breaking into even "the present evil age" through the preaching of the cross and resurrection, we really are in the presence of the One who has the power to disrupt our vain plots, to "rescript" us and take us "nowhere" people -- we "aliens and strangers" -- and give us a place around the Lamb's table with Abraham and his children from every time and place. No longer confined to the narrow vision of the modern or the postmodern, we are "raised... up with [Christ] and "seated... with him in the heavenly places" (Eph. 2:6) from where we announce the new creation that has appeared in these last days. For those who have been filled with God's Spirit there is no need to be bullied by the spirit of this age, whatever its form.
The agenda of the church in postmodernity is its task in every age: to tell the story, be written into it ourselves through Word and Sacrament, and to live that story in the power of the Spirit who incorporates us into its unfolding plot. Thus are we made participants in and living witnesses to the in-breaking age-to-come that relativizes all of our failed plots, all of our ages, and all of our eras, as they spin out under the sun.

Michael Horton (Ph.D., Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and the University of Coventry) is associate professor of apologetics and historical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in California (Escondido, California), and chairs the Council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. This article has been excerpted and revised from a contribution to a collection of essays edited by Leonard Sweet, to be released soon by Zondervan.
Professor Horton has quoted from Frank Kermode, History and Value (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 132; John Seebrook, The Culture of Marketing and the Marketing of Culture (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000); C. Peter Wagner, "Another New Wineskin," Next volume 5, number 1 (January-March, 1999), p. 3; and George Barna, Marketing the Church, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1988), pp. 41, 51.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hey It Says: "JUDGE NOT!"

The most quoted and well known bible verse in our day is not the clear salvation message of John 3:16. Rather, the most often cited words of the bible are "Judge not..." (Matt 7:1) This is used by both non-Christians and Christians alike, but usually it is touted in our culture as a catch all to shield us from having our sin exposed basically. Where I ask do all the pop phrases that we hear so often in dialogues with non-believers come from? such as: "I prefer to see God as a God of love", or "That's just your truth." or"My opinion is valid."

All of these phrases come from a post-modern handling of truth. It is truth that is the issue, truth about God, truth about morality, truth about the nature of truth itself. Post-modern relativistic handlings of the truth see themselves as "tolerant" and all inclusive. This all inclusiveness is the natural outworking of being in a mixed culture where there are hundreds of different philosophies, and religions all different. It would seem the height of arrogance to stand up and say "You are all wrong...X is the truth!" and indeed that would be arrogant if truth is relative.

So what are we left with? We are left with man to make God in the image he likes, maybe borrowing from Christianity, a little New Age, a dash of Pagan philosophy and we have our God. It will be different for all of us, because we are all on our own journey with God, no ones journey is inherently wrong because no matter what we are on the journey. Above all no one has the right to stand up and say that what we are doing is wrong. So our "spirituality" becomes a private matter (individualistic), something I engage in on my terms.

In such an environment moral judgment is impossible. It is impossible to stand up and say that homosexuality is wrong, that is judging. All morality is reduced to the will of the people 51%, what may be wrong in our culture today may not be 20 years from now. More importantly is the indivualism of morality. If we treat truth and "spirituality" in a to each his own fashion the natural outworking is to do the same morally. The pop phrase I hear is "Who cares about "X" action as long as you aren't hurting anybody." this is individualistic morality to the T. Just don't hurt people and all is permissible.

Sadly, much of evangelicalism in facing this cultural onslaught of spiritual pluralism has chosen to cater to it rather than to confront it. This is seen in the "seeker-sensitive" movements where big churches are built by basically mimicking the world through entertainment and preaching an all loving God with no wrath or hatred of sin. Messages from pulpits are made to make people feel good about themselves, give them therapeutic/psychologized techniques (usually 12 steps) to enhance their lives (journey). This is in contrast to the message of the cross which calls sinners to repentance to trust in the crucified Jesus alone for salvation, this message is a message of repentance and life change not life enhancement. The seeker-sensitive stick with the enhancement message (may even use the bible) because it really is what the culture wants in the age of "spirituality". After all a message "repent of perish" sounds judgmental doesn't it?

Christian reply to the spirit of the age:

I think in light of the to each his own kind of relativism we need to maintain a true and false, black and white, right and wrong message. By doing so and proclaiming the gospel message in such a way we are being counter cultural. We need to do the very thing that seems so unnatural in our culture...tell people they are wrong. We don't need to be nasty about it, but if we are to be biblically counter cultural we will do this. To do so is to make a judgment, a righteous judgment.

So what is up with this "judge not" stuff anyway? Lets look at the whole passage:

"Judge not, that you be not judged.
For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye
." (Matt 7:1-5)

Clearly the judging Jesus refers to is as v5 says hypocritical judgment. So we must be conscious of our own sin before we call a person on theirs. Paul said a similar thing as he says in Romans as he says:
"Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. " (Rom 2:1)

We need to realize that we do the same thing, we see a bad attitude in a friend we need to remember we do the same before we say anything. We see homosexuals championing their sin, we need to remember our own sexually sinful deeds or thoughts (gay or strait) before we judge. Christ who Himself judged (see Matt 23!) goes on to say after we check our prone to hypocrisy hearts then we can remove the speck in our brothers eye (which requires judgment that there is a speck there). This is what is going on here, not some statement rendering moral judgments to be wrong. If that were the case then the statement "Judge not" would be self contradictory, and it is in the way people use it exp:
1) It is morally wrong to pass moral judgment on others
2) Therefore statement 1) is wrong because it is passing moral judgment saying it is wrong to judge.

So for those who like one liners...When you say that somebody's behavior is sinful and they say its wrong for you to judge you can say...that's an interesting judgment. Greg Koukl has a funny story related to this as he writes about how while giving a lecture on relativism a young lady in the Q&A asked "Who are you to Judge?" of course she didn't expect an answer this was one of tose post-modern trump cards. Koukl responds:

"I certainly do have a right to make moral judgments. I am a rational person who is aware of certain fundamental principals of logic and reasoning. I think I am qualified." At this point the girl is shocked, continuing, "Your claim that I have no right to make judgments is itself a judgment about me. Your claim, therefore, is self refuting." (Relativism, Koukl p.12)

Rather than cave in to the pluralism and relativistic spirit of the age that is dominating the culture, by appealing to felt needs and the journey mentality of "spirituality" which is a kind of eclectic gumbo, we need to speak in a different way. We need to speak in a way that cares about truth, that will call sin sin, call a spade a spade, and God God. A type of proclamation that will not buy into "We're not that bad and God's not that mad." but one that is sold out for the truth that "There is no other name under heaven by which men may be saved except the name of Christ Jesus." (Acts 4:12)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Being a Culturally Relevant/Urban Christian

Tim Keller has a pretty interesting article in Christianity Today, on what it really means to be relevant culturally and the need for authentic urban ministry. Pretty good stuff check it here.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Most Calvinistic Passage In The Bible?

"And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." (2 Tim 2:24-26)

Repentant slave trader turned abolitionist and writer of "Amazing Grace" John Newton said of this passage that it was to him the most Calvinistic passage in all of the bible. I don't know if I would agree completely but it definatly is blatantly incompatable with any synergistic view of salvation. In an Arminian view of salvation repentance really is something that we do, it may be influenced by "preveniant grace" (which is working on every non-repentant sinner) but ultimatly we have to make the decision. Upon repenting we are born again and forgiven for all our sins by being united with Christ, we also choose to continue to be united with Christ and can if we so will turn our backs and turn in our "born-again membership" I guess.

Anyway my point is that in 2 Timothy it clearly states that it is God who grants repentance... how on earth can that be? I thought repentance was something we choose to do? Well it is, however God must free us from being captives of the devil because we are bound to be doers of his will. Jesus said in John's gospel of the unbelieving Jews:

"You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me
." (John 8:44-45)

So being captives of the devil is a willfull thing we desire to do the will of our father the devil, we are willfully sinners. Our will is directed by our desire to sin, we will always choose between 2 options that which our desires long most for. Thus being born in sin our desires will be sinful. Jesus cites these mens being of their father the devil as to why they reject the truth, because He (Jesus) is of the truth and they are of the father of lies they will not recieve the truth. So if we are so radically bound to sin and blinded to the truth how on earth can anyone come to the knowledge of the truth?

God grants an eye opening grace that we might see the truth and Christ as precious and sin as ugly thus resulting in repentance. By this grace we may see the truth and be drawn to the gospel message to be kept by the Holy Spirit until the redemption of our bodies. This grace is particular, not given to all:

"And he answered them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given." (Matt 13:11)

This is what it means for God to grant repentance, He opens our eyes that we might see Christ as lovely and have a desire Him above sin resulting in faith and repentance. Truly then God is the author and finisher of our faith, faith is truly a gift of God NOT something we do. I write this partially in response to a debate I have been in on the "Mass Theology" blog. It is a good debate and I genuinely respect Henry and those who disagree with me on this as my brothers in Christ.

I put it to the Arminians on the page asking: "Why did you accept Christ while so many reject Him? What made you differ?" I don't think I got an answer, nor do I expect to from Arminians. Henry said something along the lines of the fact that he chose and that he realized he needed Jesus. But this is to beg the very question, why? Why did he choose? Why did he realize he needed a savior? Surely it wasn't the grace of God because the same grace was working on somebody else and they rejected the gospel. Are we Christians because we are smarter than the heathen? Are we Christians because we had softer hearts? Are we Christians because we had an acute sense of guilt others did not choose to have? It must be something within US that made us to differ in the Arminian scope.

I as a Calvinist have an answer, people may not like it but I can answer the question for why I differ from the non-Christian...GRACE. God out of His grace opened my eyes that I might see Christ as lovely, He granted me to repentance. God gave me a thirst for spiritual things through the new birth where left to myself I would just think things like the bible, prayer, and worship were stupid or boring. It is because of the eye-opening grace of God that I chose Jesus, and because of His grace to keep me that I will continue to choose Jesus to the end of my days. All glory for my salvation from begining to end really does belong to God.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Puritanwife on "Teaching Children Sound Doctrine"

This Sunday I'll begin teaching the 2-3 year old Sunday school class and continue through the summer. I have a bit of the same feeling of trepidation I often experienced before teaching a class of young adults. A healthy fear of misrepresenting the Word of God and speaking falsely.

Perhaps some would think that teaching toddlers is easier than teaching young adults but I think the same caution is necessary. Maybe even more so. Children, even very young children, ask doctrinal questions, such as: why did God make me? And we should ask them these questions and teach them the correct answers. We have a very important responsibility to these young theologians - to teach them correctly; to pass on the sincere faith that dwells in us. (2Tim 1:5) If we fail to teach our children sound doctrine we simply allow them to feed on lies and be led away by the ways of the world. Earlier this week I read this powerful quote by Robert Murray M'Cheyne: "If you do not worship God in your family, you are living in positive sin; you may be quite sure you do not care for the souls of your family. If you neglected to spread a meal for your children to eat, would it not be said that you did not care for their bodies? And if you do not lead your children and servants to the green pastures of God's Word, and to seek the living water, how plain is it that you do not care for their souls!"

We need to be careful that we teach our children the true truths of the Bible. I have been astounded and grieved by some the material in some Baby Bibles. I call them "Bible Lite" - less taste, less filling. When I was looking for a Bible story book for Geneva, my first test was to see if the book even included the cross. Isn't that horrible? There are many of these books that do not even mention the cross! In my opinion they are no more worthy of the title "Bible" than books like "The Gardner's Bible" or "The Slow-Cooker Bible." Most of these Baby Bibles may not be laden with heresy but they often leave out very key details. Didn't your mom teach you that telling a half-truth is the same as lying? I'll give a few examples. The Baby Blessings Bible says that Jesus "came to teach us how to live and love and pray." Now, yes, Jesus did teach on those things but if that's all we have to say about Jesus, how is that any different than the New- Ager who says, "Jesus was a good moral teacher. He's all about love, man" ?

I read an example of a Bible story tape which taught that God created Adam so that He would have someone to talk to. It is very dangerous to think that it is harmless to teach children such things. This specific example implies that the Almighty God is not sufficient in Himself; that He has a lack that only man can fill. Such a concept would glorify man as the God-satisfier. Am I wrong to call this blasphemous? Why did God create Adam? Why did He create me? For His own glory. Is there any other answer that is biblical?

One final example: all Bible story books include Noah, but how many tell why God sent the flood? I get so upset about these things because they illustrate the state of mainstream American Christianity. I have heard of too many pastors who do not preach the gospel. There is no mention of sin. No mention of wrath. Therefore is there any need to mention the necessity of the cross, repentance and forgiveness? Many have chosen to ignore key details and erect a golden calf - the god who is only love, who winks at sin.

While children's Bibles can be a helpful tool in communicating God's truth to our children, we must use caution to ensure that the Bible is accurately represented. We have been entrusted with the important task of passing the truths of God on to the next generation. As Paul instructed Titus, let us "teach what accords with sound doctrine." (Titus 2:1)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Golden Rule of Apologetics (Or Theological Disagreements in General)

The often touted words of Christ "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." have real meaning. Christs words aren't just a pseudo-deep way of saying "be nice to people" in order to get to heaven, as it is often used in non-Christian culture. One of the practical applications I want to address is in doing theology, philosophy and apologetics.

The late Bob Passantino, coined the phrase "The Golden Rule of Apologetics", saying that before we disagree with somebody and their ideas/world view we really need to know what they are saying. I have heard it said by some, "You have no right to disagree with me unless you can present my view in a way that I would agree with." I think that is a pretty good standard to go by (particularly among Christiand doing theology), and it is consistant with Christ's teaching on doing unto others. I know I really am disapointed when I find people's writings on something I agree with (Calvinism is a frequent example) where what is called my view is barely reckognizable to me and then it is shown to be false. Now I don't think this means we need to be experts on all the ins and outs of every bizarre ideology that comes down the pike, but when we encounter somebody we really sould try to understand what it is that they think before we explain that they are wrong (I'm thinking practically in evangelism).

I mentioned the failure to do this in the area of the predestination debate b/w calvinists and arminians. Lets face it 21st century evangelicalism is majority Arminian (I was Arminian by default for most of my Christian walk). Because of this consensus much of the apologetic against calvinism is to be nice pretty poor. Many arguments are reduced to calling God a rapist and human beings robots, which are based on complete misunderstandings of calvinism. These sort of straw-man arguments are used by apologists Dave Hunt and Norm Geisler (both of whom I genuinely respect in other areas, but their grossly unscholarly treatment of Calvinism in their books has caused me to question the merit of their other writings) The disappointing fact is that this is all that a lot of people will understand about calvinism because they will not research the issues themselves.

I only use this as an example, the point is that we should know what it is we disagree with before we disagree with it. We all hate it when unbelievers say things like, "You Christians think that your better than everybody else!" because in actuality I don't think any geuine Christian really will think that at all (being saved by Christ's death). So that being so we really sould try not to mis-represent other people's views. Oh by the way nothing in particular triggered this post, I've been talking about calvinism on the Mass theology blog with some arminians and they really are for the most part walking in the golden rule of apologetics.