Sunday, May 27, 2007

The sad truth about "old school" conservative Christianity

Two brief little event in my life recently illustrated the effects of what I call "stick in the mud" conservative Christianity. It should be noted that "stick in the mud" Christianity is where my roots are - I consider myself a recovering fighting fundy!

The first event was a simple and brief exchange between my oldest son and I.

While riding in the van in Indianapolis (heading home from Hannah's surgical check-up) we passed by a large and beautiful church building. It was just like a church building ripped from England - limestone, steeples, ornate stonework, stained glass - it was really beautiful. I happened to notice that it was Second Presbyterian church of Indianapolis and mentioned this to my wife. Noah (my oldest) overheard this comment and asked me what a Presbyterian was. I gave him a generic description that I thought would work for him. He then turns to me and asks:

Are all other kinds of Christians bad and just our kind good?

I could've died in the driver's seat! Apparently my moves away from the fighting fundy movement didn't happen soon enough. Praise God that I could answer him truthfully - "No, most of them are just different". Don't get me wrong - there are doctrinal distinctives that I think are worth standing up and holding one's ground. But I'm not going to declare those not like me "bad". That's the legacy of "stick in the mud" conservative Christianity.

Story two requires a bit of backstory first. I organized a church group a few years ago called GTO (Glory Through Outreach). After three years, I passed the baton on to another good friend (Don). He and I have both since moved on to other places. GTO was a constant struggle. It was a group designed to show God's glory in the community we live in. It never received much support from the majority of the congregation. Apparently since it wasn't directly "evangelistic" it wasn't good enough. As if the sole reason Christians exist on this earth is to "evangelize"! Anyway, GTO (under Don's leadership) had been working at the local park, cleaning bathrooms and such. I know for a fact that certain "power brokers" in the church saw this as, shall we say, frivolous. Then I read this in the local paper this morning:

CHEERS TO: Those from the GTO group ... for three different times volunteering for our community. Your efforts and those of businesses, small groups and others are how certain parts of our community shine while many people can't seem to see the benefits of giving time, energy, and/or resources on even a monthly basis -- probably a huge loss for those who have not developed a giving spirit. Thanks givers!

Again, the spirit of "stick in the mud" Christianity. It infuriates me, to be honest. And I suspect my reaction pales compared to that of Almighty God.

If you have kids, what sort of legacy are you leaving for their Christian heritage?

If you have a community (and you do), what sort of legacy are you leaving of your own Christian heritage?

Hard but worthy questions to ask, eh?


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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

On Christians and "Bad Language"

No, this isn't about cursing or "Christian cussing"! I read a blog post today that rightly moves the emphasis in the "bad language" debate to where it belongs. I'll give you the link in a minute - let me interact with what he says first...

What follows is the exact text of Eric Hogue's blog post, with my comments showing up in purple italics:


Christians tend to use 'bad language'; our words are vulgar to the hearts of those in today's culture. Hold on, he's not saying what you think he is.

We struggle to make ourselves worthy, we become self-righteous. We use clever words, phrases and references that we don't even fully understand. Somehow we think, if we can come off sounding intelligent about spiritual things, then that will convince people to come to faith in Jesus. Our audio of "forced rhetoric" accomplishes the opposite. How many times have I been more interested in sounding like a theologian than a caring follower of Christ?

What people don't understand, when we use our flowery language of 'Christianese' (This talk is nails down a chalk board), we actually condemn people. We push them to the edges of a relationship and in the process wear ego's performances over a love's sacrifice. We talk as if we are exclusive members of a religious social club, and the culture doesn't want a membership because of it. You mean relationship is more important than the Christianese?! Now he's starting to speak my language!

I've been associated with some conversations that include secret hand-shakes, ceremonial jesters and those wonderful self-righteous 'rolling of the judgmental eyes'. Who are we kidding? Sadly, I too have been associated with some of those kinds of conversations. They only serve to make us feel better about ourselves at the expense of broken people who need the LORD.

When we learn to talk for the purpose of relating in an real communication, then we can start to express our experiences with relational success. We need to focus on using 'real words', 'real phrases' and 'real adjectives' when we talk. It may involve some slang. Do we live enough inside of today's culture to know the language and communicate with ease? Here's where some of you might be getting uncomfortable. Yes, he's saying the actual words you use are vastly less important than the relationship. He's also saying we must strategically pick and choose our words not for their heritage, but for their impact.

Yes, more and more of today's culture is bi-lingual, but very few own a second language of 'Christianese'.

What they do understand is the language of sinners; the 'real talk' that relates with a hunger for grace, a deep need for community in the midst of a creation of dismay and hope. What they do understand is their spiritual hunger for more; an inner-voice who's volume is turned up by constant, relational love. This is where the force of postmodern culture really becomes a good thing - our culture's increasing need for community and grace can be traced directly to the roots of postmodernity. Use the good for His glory; ditch the bad. It's a simple principle that fits postmodernity, too! If we speak in such a way that our words seem genuine, understandable, and powerful - look out! We will at last come alongside of God's work, rather than trying to be God's tactical invasion squad.

Often, when I'm attending a party, there will come a time during the night that the social drinking will take off some of the rough edges, and people will begin to get comfortable with each other. That's when the conversation really starts. I've been in some great discussions while attending a party, discussions that are blunt, direct and open about Jesus. If you're disturbed by the fact that he would be at a party with social drinking, you may as well stop reading right now - unless my reminding you of the places Jesus often went brings you back to your senses, that is.

One of the most popular questions, usually the first when someone knows you as a Jesus follower, is, "What do you think about homosexuality?" Relax, it's a great launching point, but it holds many dangerous results if you're not careful to speak the language. Each person is ready for the rote (empty) phrases, the quick religious replies of 'homosexuality is a sin', and the lack of any compassion in representation of Jesus - a man they tend to admire for his love. This is what amazes me: in our quest for 'love the sinner and hate the sin' we've clearly placed the 'hate the sin' part way ahead of the 'love the sinner' part. But isn't that backwards? Thank God that Jesus didn't follow our example with the woman caught in adultery, eh?

Here's a secret, don't address the question narrowly. Address it corporately, "We are all looking for an antidote of things that control us." It's not about the homosexual, or even the gossiper - it's about the grace of God for all of us called his creation, coming in a person called Jesus, who loves as we are and desires of In spite of ourselves. Excellent point! He's hit on a great way to keep 'love the sinner and hate the sin' and keep the priorities straight. Remember Jesus and the adulterous woman? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone; yet all to many of us when confronted with the 'homosexual question' are willing to start lobbing chunks of rock before we even grasp the context we're in.

If you desire to clear the room, and feel self-righteous over your orchestrated persecution, use your 'secret language'. If you care to communicate the situation of creation's sin induced decay, use real words with real meaning and understanding. But get ready, their will be more drinks served, and more people who crowd around to hear about love. Imagine that - people actually want to hear about love but are repelled by those that throw stones! It's so simple, yet we often just don't get it.

Paul talked about our language in his letter to the gang of followers in Corinth. In case you missed it, there's an example of using modern day language to make a point. He didn't say "his letter to the Corinthian church". I wonder what most people think of when they hear "Corinthian"? Leather, probably. Star Trek, maybe. A "gang of followers" in Corinith? I doubt it.

Paul told them that their spiritual language (I know we are talking about tongues here, but go with me) is confusion to those in the marketplace. He stated a fact, that if you really want to love people then you must communicate with people in a loving way;

"If you praise him in the private language of (confusing) tongues, God understands you but no one else does, for you are sharing intimacies just between you and him. But when you proclaim (in a real way) his truth in everyday speech, you're letting others in on the truth so that they can grow (to understand) and be strong and experience his presence ('realness') with you."

"So if you speak in a way no one can understand, what's the point of opening your mouth? There are many languages in the world and they all mean something to someone. But if I don't understand the language, it's not going to do me much good. It's no different with you. Since you're so eager to participate in what God is doing, why don't you concentrate on doing what help everyone..." (1 Corithians 13)

Not only should our lives be relevant, so should are language. You don't have to have all of the answers (we barely see through a glass), it's actually better to leave a few of the tougher questions of the table. Setting aside for the moment his poor exegesis of 1 Cor 13, he makes a good point. I think Paul would whole-heartedly agree with him on this point, just not on the basis of 1 Cor 13, eh?

The goal is relationship, to speak with an experience of love for those who are looking for the love that changes lives inside a ragamuffin relationship with Jesus. Speak the culture's language...and if you must, use some words. This relational approach to the Gospel is one of the fundamental differences between Missional and Traditional thinking. I'm not so sure we should be talking about "sharing the Gospel" anymore - we are the Gospel to people.

Or at least we should be.


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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Devil made him do it!

Those of you that know me know that a personal pet peeve is when well-meaning Christian folk are constantly looking to blame the Devil for all of their woes. I've heard everything from "the Devil made me trip over that crack in the sidewalk" to "the Devil made my lawnmower not start" to other things I shouldn't put in print...

Here's a story that may take the proverbial cake: Texas Woman Blames Devil After Husband Burns Baby Daughter in Microwave. It's not a joke - that's an actual Fox News headline. Read the story for yourself, but here's are some of the mostly theologically astute quotes:

Said the wife:

"That was not my husband; my husband is a wonderful father," she said. "Satan was working through his weaknesses."

Or how about this one:

Satan compelled her 19-year-old husband, Joshua Royce Mauldin, to microwave their daughter May 10 because the devil disapproved of Joshua's efforts to become a preacher.

Just thought you'd enjoy wrapping your heads around this insanity, eh?

[Incidentally, though I couldn't find the actual MySpace page the article mentions, I did find this MySpace forum that is discussing the issue!]


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Monday, May 21, 2007

More on Missional

I stumbled across this blog post over at Crosswalk. The guy makes a fantastic point and helps frame the "what does Missional mean" question well.

Read it here and let me know what you think, eh?


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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Book Review: DaVinci Code - Fact or Fiction?

I know this isn't the hot topic it was a while back. I have an excuse - honest! I was cleaning up a big pile of books beside my bed the other day and found this one. I was given it as a gift about two years ago and simply forgot I had it. It's small and thin - easy enough to lose, eh?

Anyway, the content of the book proved worth reading even if the topic isn't as hot as it has been...

I won't bore you with the details of Dan Brown's silly story. In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I've not read it or any other of his works. I understand that he's a good writer - I assume he must be to have sold so many copies of the DaVinci Code (over 7 million, last I heard).

Hanegraaff's book is actually two books in one. Hank writes the second part - a basic defense of historical Christianity using his common methods (as frequently employed on his radio program, The Bible Answer Man). I merely skimmed this section, as I've heard his arguments dozens of times before (and agree with them, of course!).

Paul Maier wrote the first part of the book, a critique of the supposed "facts" and "history" the Dan Brown employs in his book. He treats the big issues in detail (like the hypothesis that Jesus married Mary Magdalene) and then goes through a litany of specific quotes that are inaccurate. One particularly good one - Brown apparently thinks that Constantine suppressed various alternative gospel accounts, but these were thankfully uncovered by the Dead Sea Scrolls that were dug up in the 1950s. [I don't have the book in front of me, or I'd quote it directly.]

The problem? Three: 1) Constantine wasn't in the business of suppressing any Christian texts (or supporting any either - that issue was largely resolved by the time of the Council of Nicea), 2) the Dead Sea Scrolls were unearthed in 1947 (not the "1950s" of Brown), and 3) [this is the biggest 'oops!'] ...

The Dead Sea Scrolls don't contain any gospels! They're all Second Temple literature and copies of the Old Testament. None of the "other gospels" are in the DSS! Silly, Mr. Brown. Very silly.

Anyway, this book is a short and easy read - but don't let that devalue it! If you know someone enamored with Brown or the DaVinci conspiracy theories, read this. You'll be glad you did.

My only real complaint, incidentally, comes at the end of Maier's section, in what's almost as post script. He basically blames Brown's problems on the theory that he must be a "post-Modern"! This is neither the time nor the place for that argument...


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Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Unasked Question

Having just gone through a church move, I thought I'd share a bit of wisdom given to me about that process...

I've long held that you should only become a member of the local church that the LORD leads you to. I've also therefore long held the opposite: you don't leave a church that the LORD led you to unless the LORD Himself leads you away.

While I still fundamentally agree with that second notion, I think it needs some careful articulation. What does it mean to say "the LORD led me away"? How does that work? Surely He doesn't audibly tell us. So what does this really mean?

A wise friend of mine once told me about the unasked question in these sorts of situations. We always look at the potential good our staying in a given local church might do. We look at the ministries we're involved in. We look at the things the LORD has been teaching us in that context. But we don't ask one very important question:

How much more might I bring Him glory in a different context?

We focus on the present situation and potential, which is good. But we forget to at least entertain the idea that the LORD might have even greater things in mind somewhere else. I admit this is a sensitive issue - I'm certainly not advocating that everyone constantly ask themselves whether the grass isn't greener somewhere else! But we all know that sometimes you simply feel like maybe a change is needed. Sometimes it becomes obvious that we should at least consider leaving. At times like these, we need to first ask and then pray for wisdom regarding this too-oft unasked question. It keeps the focus off of us and places it squarely on God and His glory. Hopefully it will keep us from making the decision to leave a church based upon silly, trivial, or even down-right stupid reasons.

Don't leave a local church unless the LORD calls you to do so. But just be aware that He might reveal His will only when we're willing to ask the unasked question, and accept His answer.


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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wanted: God's Clear Direction

As most of you know by now, I've officially graduated! This means, of course, that I'm actively pursuing vocational ministry opportunities. I'm considering a number of different pastoral options - Senior pastor of a more rural/suburban congregation, specialized Family Pastor or Small Group pastor, or the traditional (general purpose) Assistant pastor.

I've sent my resume out to various churches seeking these various positions. I'm not sure yet which specific type of ministry the LORD's calling me too.

To that end, I'd appreciate your prayers: for wisdom, for guidance, for clarity - and mostly for His glory throughout this process.

And if you happen to know of a church looking for a pastor, feel free to direct them to me or me to them.


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Friday, May 11, 2007

You should watch this

Once in a while something pops up on YouTube that really makes you think.

Once in a while something pops up on YouTube that is artistically outstanding.

This is both. [Warning: this will probably scare young children.]

Let me know what you think, eh?


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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Am I the only one that sees this?

I'm getting tired of defending this position. Maybe I'm nutty! I don't want to be the poster-boy, nor do I want to swing my personal pendulum too far one way as a reaction to the other...

The standard position is well-represented on the internet. I found this (typical) quote from a website that is apparently no longer with us:

The most prevalent and destructive heresy plaguing the visible Church today is the notion that “all truth is God’s truth.” This false belief, which is the philosophical kin of postmodern relativism and pluralism, has spawned a new way of Christian thinking that embraces world-proven “wisdom” as a source in which to direct the Church’s teaching and activities. Whether it is through the Purpose-Driven Church, Emergent Church or other current evangelical movements, the focus is to utilize these supplementary “truths” to create newfound success in evangelism and discipleship.


It is our belief, therefore, that professing Christians must “unplug” themselves from these postmodern influences of relativism, pluralism and ecumenism, and return to the biblical model of faith. We advocate a return to spiritual discernment that only comes by God's grace through a thorough interaction with the Truth of God's Word. We must study, reflect upon, and understand the theology it represents and the doctrines it teaches; and we should ground this noble pursuit on the confession that God, through His divine power, “has granted to us EVERYTHING pertaining to LIFE and GODLINESS, through the true knowledge” of Christ" (2 Peter 1:3).

Okay, so what am I actually talking about, eh?...

There are other things in the quoted text that I could pick on, but for the moment I want to camp out on the implicit notion that Postmodernity is the cause of moral relativism. I know I keep harping on this issue in other posts. I know you may be tired of me saying it. I know there's some truth to such statements. But it's beginning to drive me crazy.

Let me (once again) state the issue as clearly as I can.

Relativism is the belief that truth is "relative" to certain variables, not "absolute". More specifically, moral relativism claims that beliefs about morals or ethics are merely personal - no moral code is absolutely true in all circumstances.

As should be obvious to any Christian, moral relativism is bad. Very bad. I'm not here to defend it. What I'm here to do is demonstrate (again) that we cannot blame Postmodernity for relativism. It's not fair or accurate, and it leads down some dangerous paths. First, the paths...

Those that hold this view (that relativism comes from Postmodernity) tend not to leave such a view in a vacuum. They tend to go from this view to statements like the text I quoted in the beginning. Things like 'spiritual discernment only comes when you dump Postmodernity'. Which is tantamount to saying that one cannot be both Postmodern and a mature Christian. Which is tantamount to saying that all Christians should be Modern (and not Postmodern). In other words, this view (that relativism comes from Postmodernity) has consequences. It basically erects a straw-man by which to prop up the (relative) virtues of Modernity.

Let's say you don't like something about Postmodernity. It doesn't matter what aspect or nuance; just pretend that you want to discredit Postmodernity and prop up Modernity for some reason. It's easy. It goes like this.

Postmodernity created Relativism.
Relativism is evil.
Therefore Postmoderntiy is evil.

Or you could use this one:

Postmodernity believes truth is relative.
Chrisitans believe truth is absolute.
Therefore one cannot be a Postmodern Christian.

Both are straw man arguments, because they are predicated on a half-truth. As I've argued before, relativism was birthed by Modernity. The Enlightenment, for example, led scads of people to categorize moral/religious stuff as "non-scientific" and therefore purely subjective. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the jump to moral relativism was a short one. Soon we had the now time-honoured and decidedly Modern dichotomy between Faith and Reason. "Reason"able stuff could be "proven" and must therefore be accepted as absolute truth - gravity pulls stuff to the ground, for example. "Faith" issues could not be "proven" and thus one's moral code increasingly became the subject of personal opinion, not absolute truth.

Modernity created Relativism.

Don't read too much into that. I understand that Postmodernity has taken Relativism to places Modernity never thought it would go. Postmodernity has run with the ball that Modernity brought to the game, as it were.

This is not the time nor the place to discuss the failings of Postmodernity with regard to Relativism. I'm against Relativism; I'm in favour of God's standards. Don't label me a Relativist based upon this article.

But the straw man has got to go. Unless you're willing to change the syllogisms above to look like this:

Modernity created Relativism.
Relativism is evil.
Therefore Moderntiy is evil.


Modernity believes truth is relative.
Chrisitans believe truth is absolute.
Therefore one cannot be a Modern Christian.

Now we can't have that, can we?


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Sunday, May 6, 2007

What's a Postmodern, anyway?

Those of you that read me regularly know that I self-identify as a Postmodern. Some of you know what I mean by that; many might think they know but actually not know as much as they think!

I've been struggling lately with what sort of information to put into my cover letters as I send out my resume to various churches. I want to be clear about who I am and how the gears of my head turn, but I don't want to use words that will entice people to prejudge me too easily. "Postmodern" is just such a word. To that end, I'd like to officially declare why I call myself a Postmodern...

In the spirit of traditional theology, let me start by defining what I don't mean - the things that sometimes spring to mind when I say "postmodern". These things (that I don't believe) would include:

1.There's no such thing as absolute truth. Many, many people think this is what I mean when I say "postmodern". Since this is so common, it bears some discussion.

Let's be honest - there are some people that say "postmodern" and mean "I don't believe in absolute truth". But these people - at least in my world - are few and far between. Generally what they really mean is "I don't believe in a universally true religion" or some such. When you push the guy who says he doesn't believe in any absolutes, you usually find that he does, in fact, cling to some - namely:

- Murder is wrong.
- Tolerance is always the best way.
- Imperialism is wrong.
- Inclusion is always the best way.

...and the biggest absolute truth of all (for an American Postmodern):

The individual is king.

[Also, to be philosophically honest, they'd admit that their own truism ("There's no such thing as absolute truth") is self-defeating.]

It is my contention, then, that even when a self-described Postmodern says he doesn't believe in absolute truth, he doesn't really mean it absolutely.

2. Everything is relative.

[I remind you, this is a list of things I don't believe.]

The whole notion of Relativism needs to be defined more closely. There are those that contend that Postmoderns (since they don't believe in absolutes) are nothing but Relativists. While this is largely true, it still bears further scrutiny.

If the truth be known, Modernity brought us Relativism before Postmodernity did. In the world of Modernity, Relativism crept in because of Modernity's insistence that Religion/Morality was not a subject fit for "scientific/rational" inquiry. Since you couldn't test it in a lab, these subjects could not be empirically proven. Since they couldn't be empirically proven, they must be merely subjective determinations. Hence, Modernity proved fertile grounds for the now well-accepted dichotomy between Reason and Faith. This worldview basically encouraged people to keep their faith, but to keep it separate from the rest of their life. It became a Sunday-only phenomenon. Modernity's evil sidekick - Compartmentalization - did his bit and people could believe (for example) in both the Bible and macro-Evolution.

Not that I want to let Postmodernity off the hook! Postmoderns are even more guilty of Relativism than Moderns are/were. But there's a difference. Postmoderns reject the notion that "science" (or any metanarrative, for that matter) is on a different playing field than "religion". So the Modern way of looking at these two no longer works for them. But since Postmoderns hold tightly to the mantra that "there's nothing outside of the [con]text" (to paraphrase Derrida), they believe that no one can absolutely know right from wrong in all contexts, cultures, times or places. Hence, they too are Relativists. But I hope you understand that they are so for very different reasons - on different (and, frankly, more humble) grounds.

In the end, Relativism is Relativism I suppose - the net effect on society is the same. But please don't blame Postmodernity alone for Relativism (or it's evil brother, Pluralism).

3. What the church needs is revolution!

Lots of Emerging Church (EC) guys talk this way. As if all the work and toil of countless generations of Christians should be scrapped simply because those folk had the audacity to be ... Moderns! Say it isn't so! This sort of idle talk is foolishness, really. The EC folk bring up some excellent points. But when they wander off into the back alley of "Revolution" they've let the pendulum swing far too far.

Okay - that's the short list of things I definitely don't mean when I say I'm a Postmodern. So what exactly do I mean?

1. Rugged Individualism must die.

Far too many American Christians have this very Modern, and very silly, notion in their heads that they control their own destiny, that they can't count on anyone but themselves, and that they can do/be anything they want to be. At the risk of sounding rude, this is nonsense! Please, you Rugged Individualist reader, show me from the pages of God's Word where these ideas come from!

They're not there! The truth is that the entire text of the Bible is over and over again a manifesto for ... Community! We're in this thing (life) together, says the Scripture. We are to be co-dependent upon one another as we are all utter dependent upon God. We need each other. We must be passionately committed to deep community.

I recognize that this almost uniquely American trait has, in large part, been responsible for getting America to the lofty technological and economic pinnacle upon which she stands. I understand that without this trait America might never have become the America we know and love today.

But that was then. This is now.

To be Biblically honest in an increasingly shrinking world, we have no choice but to reject the "I" and embrace the "we".

2. Foundationalism is not true.

'What the heck is foundationalism', you ask? Basically, Foundationalism was another of Modernity's sidekicks. It taught that there is a magic black box (metaphorically, of course) that - if you put in the right data and logic - would spit out the absolute answers to life's questions. Whether mathematical, philosophical, psychological, or whatever... Mankind can ultimately get to the foundational truth (hence, Foundationalism) of every issue we put our minds to.

It's not true. And it's arrogant. We must therefore abandon it.

Here I could talk about the Noetic effects of sin - that is, the fact that the Fall of Adam and Eve effected not only our souls and our environment, but our minds as well. I could note that the sinful mind is inherently incapable of coming to foundational truth as a regular practice. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again, but not often!

But I could just as easily talk about how we all bring baggage to everything we analyze. We have biases, we have preconceived notions, we have presuppositions, we have acculturation, we have - in short - far too much subjectivity to be truly objective.

Before you label me as a heretic, hear me out. I do believe that mankind can know foundational truth. I just don't believe mankind can get to it on his/her own. It's only by the amazing power of God's Word that we can, in fact, know truth foundationally. To be honest, I might be able to argue that this (Postmodern-influenced) view of Scripture is higher (and humbler) than what Modernity gave us (Foundationalism). In fact, I think I can make that argument.

3. Experience is underrated.

In the 1980s, I don't think any conservative Evangelical or Fundamentalist church in America ever preached about the Holy Spirit. This is of course a bit hyperbolic, but there's a lot of truth to it! The great fear was that we be labelled "Charismatic"! For those of you not there (in the 1980s, that is) this was the functional equivalent of being labelled as a "Liberal" in these same churches today. It was bad stuff. Nobody wanted to be so accused or labelled. So the pendulum swung to the complete opposite and we virtually gave up any mention of one third of the Trinity. Silly, wasn't it?

Sadly, the same sort of things continues to happen in many Traditional model churches. [Incidentally, see this old post of mine for more on what I mean by "Traditional".] Clinging to both Modernity and the fear of Charismatics, these churches denounce any desire on the part of Christians to experience their faith. For them, knowing Jesus is pretty much strictly a phenomenon of the head. It's mental assent and mental faith. An occasional "warm and fuzzy" feeling is okay, but it's not to be sought after.

Thankfully men like Dr. Piper have blazed a trail through this nonsense. Postmoderns would widen this trail. To them (and me, I should note) the arts are a wonderful and fitting way to embrace and actualize one's faith. Whether its music, poetry, drama, video, painting, sketching, etc... these are all good and honest avenues to both express and deepen our faith. The Christian life is meant to be experienced! Who wants a merely mental faith? Nobody, really. Modernity and Traditional models have wanted to so strictly monitor what passes for an acceptable level of experience that they have literally stifled and suffocated Postmoderns right out of their churches.

Okay - I suppose now that I'm rapidly approaching the 1,600 word mark I should wrap things up.

I call myself a Postmodern because I am hard-wired by God to desire Community (not Rugged Individualism), to humbly (not Foundationally) approach Scripture, and to both know and feel my faith and my Saviour. There's more to it than that, to be honest. But these are three of the biggest worldview differences between me and you, if you're a Modern. I've couched them in sometimes emotional language, but the truth is that for the most part Modernity worked just fine for about 400+ years.

Just not any longer.


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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

"Ask the Pastor" #1

Hey, look! Our first question from the "Ask the Pastor" link:

You mentioned in a post on the blog...somewhere...(albeit indirectly) that your views on drinking alcohol have changed somewhat over time. What (if I'm actually interpreting correctly) changes in your view of this issue have you experienced and what was the motivation/reason for those changes. What did you feel previously and what do you feel currently is the Biblical view of drinking (alcohol, that is)?

This one came to us from one of my best friends of all time (which is code for: he and I have been friends since I was about 10).

Anyway, my thoughts...

First of all, yes - my view on consumption of alcohol has changed some since my earlier days. I was taught in the "drinking alcohol at all is sin" model. I was schooled in all the reasons why "wine" doesn't really mean "wine" in the NT. Total abstinence was the only way to be sin-free.

My views now are different on the theological level, but not the practical. Theologically, I do not believe that the Bible speaks with sufficient clarity on the issue so as to say that 'all drinking is sin, period'. As a result, I have learned to allow people the freedom in Christ to hold a different opinion than I was taught.

On the practical level, though, I've not changed. I don't drink at all. Period. Unless you count NyQuil! My reasons for this are threefold:

1. The Bible is clear that "Wine is a mocker and strong drink is a brawler; whoever goes astray by them is not wise" Prov 20:1. Why would I voluntarily choose to associate myself with a mocker or brawler? While being in their company is not sinful of itself [though clearly being drunk is], surely wisdom would have me avoid them altogether.

2. I've come to believe that the best way to give my kids the best shot of not having an issue with alcohol down the road is to be sure that it never crosses my lips. A survey done some years ago concluded this: the only way you have any chance of your children abstaining from alcohol [which, as I've said, seem wisest to me] is to never drink alcohol yourself. Am I guaranteeing that none of my children will ever struggle in this area? Of course not; I'm just trying to set them up for success and not failure.

3. I have a family member that's an alcoholic. I've seen what it does to relationships. I want no part of it.

Rubber meets the road: if your church uses real wine for communion, that's fine with me. If real wine were presented to me during a communion service, I'm sure I'd drink it. If I come to your house and you offer me a beer, I'll politely say 'no' but have no problem with you drinking one - unless my children are with me. I prefer, for the reasons discussed above - to keep them away from that until they're old enough to talk through the issue.

Picture it this way, if you will. Imagine that the front yard of your house represents non-sinful living. The road out front represents sin. If you choose to spend significant portions of time playing on the curb, you are not in sin but are probably acting without wisdom. I'm not telling you to stay on the front porch, nor am I the final arbiter of who is and who isn't playing on the curb, nor would I tell you to get off the curb if I happen to see you their now and again. If I observe a lifestyle of what looks to me like curb-playing and I'm your friend, I'd likely talk to you about it.

Make sense? Think I'm crazy or off-base in some way?


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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Book Review: Ladd's Theology

Officially it's A Theology of the New Testament, but calling it simply Ladd's Theology is both easier and more descriptive. This was a book that I had to read for class. Not that I didn't want to read it - I just don't recommend reading an entire Biblical Theology straight! 'Tedious' comes to mind...

Ladd's theology is fairly user-friendly. He organizes (I should say "organized", since he's gone on to be with the LORD) his book in a way that allows the reader to zero in on what they're looking for pretty quickly.

I really don't have much to say about Ladd's theology, or his Theology. He's fairly mean-spirited toward Dispensationalists (which would include me). I respect his take on a great many issues. I don't completely agree with him on much. He's not nearly as awful as Berkhof, but not nearly as useful as Erickson.

I do appreciate his 'already/not yet' paradigm. Progressive isn't my favourite flavour of Dispensationalism, but I can see his point in many cases.

Having said all that, Ladd's Theology is a classic. It's well-regarded by everyone that's anyone in the Evangelical marketplace of theology. If you're a Dispensationalist looking for a different point of view, but not one that'll drive you insane, Ladd is probably your guy.


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