The Finite Representing the Infinite- A Quote on the Adequacy of Biblical Revelation

December 4, 2008

As you can see by my box to the side, I am currently reading a book entitled Reforming or Conforming?: Post-Conservative Evagelicals and the Emerging Church. It is an interesting new release addressing the ideology of the current pomo-emergent mish-mash of new liberalism being observed under the guise of the Emerging/Emergent Church. The format is a collection of essays written by 13 contemporary Reformed scholars on various topics of interest such as the humanity of Scripture, living in community, and the doctrine of hell.

In reading through an essay entitled ‘Sola Scriptura’ as an Evangelical Theological Method? by John Bolt, I ran across as interesting exchange that I thought I would share with you.

Dr. Bolt, professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, cites a quote from emergent leader Scot McKnight in an article in Christianity Today where he says:

The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted, and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositions is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.

Dr. Bolt’s response to this statement (which, let’s be honest, is standard emergent rhetoric for denying certain clear, universal truths expressed in Scripture) is, in my opinion, one of the best replies to this sort of reasoning I have seen yet. He says:

[S]peaking of God with clear, thoughtfully-reasoned claims that are indeed intended to be universally true is not “linguistic idolatry” when it is rooted in biblical revelation itself. In fact, this self-celebrated epistemological humility — not making universal claims about God — when we do have revelation, should be seen for what it is: disobedience and a failure to give an account of the hope (and truth) that is in us (1 Peter 3.15). If one were to take seriously the objection that the finite cannot represent the infinite, then the incarnation is impossible. Furthermore, nothing that we humans do could then possibly fit the requirement that we image God. There goes the Word become flesh; there goes the imitatio Christi (p.90).

The major highlight in this for me is when he says that the emergent false-humility is actually “disobedience and a failure to give an account of the hope (and truth) that is in us.” That was a new thought which really struck me as timely, appropriate, and exceedingly true. If we believe Scripture is what it says it is (and what McKnight claims it is himself), divine revelation, then we must believe that what it says is adequate to convey what God intended for us to hear, and nothing less.

That said, 100 pages in I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in tackling the cogs and gears of the inner workings of the pomo-emergent brand of Christianity, particularly from a Reformed perspective.

Pry the Baton Out of Their (C)old, Dead Hands- An Opinion on Age Trends in the SBC

September 1, 2008

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” -1 Timothy 4.12

I am a Southern Baptist. I am also a young adult (23 to be exact). These two things alone put me in a declining population segment in American Christianity. Following this past years Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis the cat was officially out of the bag: the SBC is getting older (for discussion of this click here). Simply put, more and more young people are leaving Southern Baptist churches (as well as most other denominations in America) and the end result is that our congregations are getting overloaded with the grey-haired guys in three piece suits who sit in the front row and still use a King James Version of the Bible. Needless to say this is not a good trend.

Just today there is a book coming out by Lifeway Research director Thom Rainer entitled Essential Church? which focuses on dealing with the question, Why do so many young adults (18 to 22) leave the church, and what will it take to bring them back? I have a copy already sitting in front of me, though as yet I have not begun to read it. I do, however, have my own opinion on something that can be done to alleviate this problem.

Now, being 23 and not 53 I am not going to sit here and tell the middle-aged bulk of the congregation in our SBC churches what to do (though I think I may have insight, I don’t feel it appropriate to just throw them under the bus). Instead, the people I want to address are the target age group (18-22 year olds) as well as my population of young adults (23-35 years, roughly).

What is the cry that we hear coming up from the 18-35 year old “emerging” generations? Paint it any number of ways, what it basically boils down to is “I don’t like the way my church does things.” So, what are we doing about it? We’re dropping out of those churches and either roaming around on our own vague spiritual journey or starting new “avant-garde” churches which stick a thumb in the eye of our more traditional, orthodox roots.

Yet, why did we leave our original church in the first place? Did they teach a theology we disagreed with? Was the music boring? Did their modernist ecclesiology offend our superior post-modern sensibilities? The first question I think we need to ask is, What is a sufficient reason for leaving a fellowship? From where I stand there seems to be a lot of juvenile arrogance which comes into play when we assert our psuedo-justified reasons for dropping out of the congregation we grew up in.

But what is it that makes this arrogant? It is because we are in effect saying “I know a better way to do it.” That’s the rub. We are unhappy with our churches because they are unappealing to us and because we think we could do it better. This then leads to a youth exodus from traditional churches and a massive influx of new emerging congregations. Yet what do these look like? The emerging churches are composed of young (typically white, but that’s another post) believers who are experimenting with doing church their own way. And the traditional churches they left? They continue doing business as usual only without as many youth and young adult members as they had before.

So, we are left with this general picture: an emerging church with all youth and no experienced senior leadership and a traditional church with no vibrant, idea-filled young underbelly. The end result from this is that our traditional churches get stuck in their ways, moving further and further into legalism and ritual instead of authentic worship, and the emerging churches spin-off with all types of liberal theologies which are more of reactions to felt injustices and less of seasoned observations from a lifelong pursuit of the Truth in God’s Word. This is not good on either end.

Then what is the solution I propose? Simply this. Young adults, if you don’t like the way your church is being run and you have a biblical conviction to this extent, do something about it in your church! (This goes particularly for SBC members who have a congregational polity). What does this something look like? It looks like going to church meetings, working to rise up in leadership and making your voice heard.

But, you object, the old people won’t listen to me? Well of course they won’t. Look at Timothy in Ephesus. He was put in leadership by Paul as a young man and all of the older church members looked down on him, saying he was too young and disavowing the things he said because they thought he was rash and immature. But what does Paul tell him? He says, strap it up, live the way you know to live from Scripture, and go out there and show them what it really looks like to serve Christ (1 Timothy 4.12). Now of course, this doesn’t mean to disrespect people (1 Timothy 5.1-2), but what it does mean is to show them that when it comes to making a difference in the kingdom of God, there is no age requirement, only a passion and righteousness of life lived.

If as young adults we are dissatisfied with our church we have to step up and step into leadership in the congregation. And if the old guys on the deacon board refuse to pass the baton of leadership to you, you have to wrestle it from their hands. It is up to those generations to fix any flaws they may have in their service of the Lord in the local church, but what we need to do is not sit back and blast their failings, but instead aggressively pursue change. The church is meant to contain a spectrum of ages. Older men and women have as much to give to the younger people as the younger ones have to give to them. If either population is missing in a church then it will not be able to function completely as God intended it to.

I know this is hard. I understand that it is easier to just go off and start your own church instead of going through the frustrations of struggling for a leadership voice. But at the end of the day, God desires for us to take that torch from the older generations, using it to light the church for many more years to come, and not just letting it die out with them. To steal from a couple of youths who are vocal about this cause as well, we must buckle down and realize that God will be most glorified when we “do hard things.”

Looking Back, Turning Back- An Apology for Previous Words on Dan Kimball

August 26, 2008

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” -James 1.19-20

A while back (January 4, 2008) I posted this which was a critique of some issues I had with a statement written by Dan Kimball in his book They Like Jesus but Not the Church. The excerpt in question dealt with Kimball’s personal feelings towards homosexuality and my post covered a few exceptions I took to the things he said. I attempted to do this with as much fairness as possible while still expressing my particular misgivings for what was in the quote.

However, several months removed from this, I have taken time to reevaluate what Kimball said and more importantly the larger body of what he was saying and would like to offer an apology for my quick judgment. Though I do believe that the critiques I had are valid issues with some people inside Christian circles, I no longer feel that they apply to Kimball and would like to admit this for future reference on my blog.

In all actuality, though I still have some uneasiness at the title of a few of his works, I am finding Kimball to be a welcome voice of reason inside the ranks of emerging Christianity. His boldness and devotion to teaching the Word of God over the philosophies of man are wonderful traits which God has graciously blessed him with and has led him to use in reaching Christians in the postmodern context. Unlike certain peers such as Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, I find Kimball to be committed to finding the truth in the Scriptures and sober-minded enough not to be swayed by the all powerful arm of culture and stardom which has gripped so many of these teachers.

I pray that this apology can be accepted by any who I have displaced by my comments and I thank God for leading me back into seeing the work that Kimball has done for the Church and how God is using him in our culture today. I would also like to recommend his book They Like Jesus but Not the Church to you guys because, even though I find the title to be less than desirable, the contents reveal a very necessary insight into emerging culture which all leaders of the church in America can benefit from reading.

The Emergent Invitation to War- What Post-Modernism Does to Christianity

August 7, 2008

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” -1 Peter 3.13-16

I first became a fan of Natan Sharansky after reading his widely acclaimed book The Case for Democracy in early 2005. The unashamed way in which he spoke right to the heart of the matter of fear and freedom in our societies greatly influenced my outlook on the practices of governments around the world. Thus, when he released his most recent book, Defending Identity, I knew that I would eventually want to read it, regardless of the subject matter. However, when I began reading the reviews I saw that this was a book I would be interested in even if Mr. Sharansky had not been the author.

Why is that? Because, in this book which focuses mostly on the need for strong identities to coincide with strong democracies, I saw a deeper message pertaining to the struggle between strong identities and strong Christianity going on within the Church in our present emerging culture. Go onto any emergent blog, read any emergent book (say the upcoming Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell for example), or engage any emergent thinkers in your congregation, and you will see this idea of a strong Christian identity being the cause of great travesties throughout the world and a drive to neutralize that identity and try to appeal on a broader range of issues which seem more agreeable to more people and thus promoting more “peace”. This all comes from the “perfectly compelling” syllogism of post-modernism, namely: identity causes conflict; conflict is evil; therefore, identity is evil. It is this false argument which I believe leads emergent Christianity down many a dangerous path in its theology and application, and it is that which Sharansky’s book, when read with a properly discerning eye, argues wholly against.

Below are a couple of quotes which I found particularly striking. In reading them, try and cast the ideas of war and totalitarian forces into the mold of religious conflict and Satan, and see for yourself if you can find the parallels which I was drawn to:

“Post-identity (post-modernism) weakens identity to decrease tensions between people, but doing so leads to vulnerability, threats, blackmail, and ultimately to an inability to defend against aggression. That is why post-identity is an invitation to war.” (Natan Sharansky, Discovering Identity, p.205

“People are willing to make sacrifices when the choice is clear, when they know what is right and what is wrong. yet, if nothing is right, if no value judgments can be made, then nothing is wrong. Post-identity has created a world in which there is no right. But if there is no right, why fight?” (ibid., pp.100-101)

“It should be obvious that wagging a struggle against totalitarian forces first requires moral clarity. Unless you recognize evil, you cannot begin to fight it. But this is where the champions of post-identity have done the greatest damage.” (ibid., p.221)

Impressions from the Word- Jeremiah 13 and 14

July 16, 2008

(This post is the next in a series of posts containing my first blush reactions to passages I come across in the reading of Scripture. I am currently going straight through the book of Jeremiah and will be sharing with you which verses the Spirit causes to jump out at me and the unrevised, unpolished feelings which they invoke.)

“I myself will lift up your skirts over your face, and your shame will be seen.” (13.26)

There is so much shame associated with sin. I do things and have done things willingly, sometimes eagerly, and yet afterwards was so ashamed and fearful that anyone would find out. Why do I do such things? I especially see this when I lie to perfect strangers. I am so concerned about how people perceive me that I put my image before God’s command. I set myself up as an idol, that obedience to God is secondary to serving my own interests. What great shame it would be to see all of my sins replayed in front of people! Knowing this, why would I provoke God in such a way? If the Spirit is convicting otherwise then why am I not terrified to just do my own thing? A lack of fear is such a dangerous thing to suffer from.

“How long will it be before you are made clean?” (13.27b)

There is so much frustration in feeling like I have utterly killed a sin and then stumbling over it again. I fear losing the connection I have with God. I fear wasting all of the amazing things he has revealed to me and that I see he has planned. How long will it be till I no longer fail? I know I will not attain perfection (Philippians 3.12) but there must be certain sins that I should rise above eventually, right? And yet I feel as if I fall into sins which I should have killed off years ago! I can never stop, it is never complete. Owen is right that mortification is a constant process. I must not lay off actively seeking to kill certain sins or else they will bounce back to hinder me once again.

“Why should you be like a man confused, like a mighty warrior who cannot save?” (14.9a)

We get so angry when God does not protect us from hard times and sufferings. We run from him endlessly and yet when we stumble, fall, turn around, and see he’s not there, we cry foul. Why do we think we’re so good that God should always protect us? Our appeal should be for forgiveness and restoration, not that God has been faithless. Of course, God answers where he is in verse 10: “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet; therefore the Lord does not accept them.”

“And the LORD said to me: ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.’” (14.14)

How many prophets are out in the Church today who are prophesying lies in God’s name? This is so dangerous. Their lies pull the hearers away from the truth, their deceit inhibits repentance which will lead to restoration. We must be vigilant against such speakers. We must search the Spirit to test the validity of those who preach in our presence (1 John 4.1-3). This is such a burden on my heart. When I see these false prophets I want to scream. I get so angered at how they manipulate God’s Word and use it as a weapon of destruction, facilitating lies and guiding men safely to hell. We have to be responsible and well educated in the Word so that when these wolves arise we can beat them away before they ever take hold. Titus 1.9 is so necessary here.

“And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them- them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.” (14.16)

The hearers of lying prophets are not safe either, for they should have known to test the message they received. Thus they are guilty and will be punished alongside the deceiver. That is why we must not tolerate the crap that people want to publish and preach about these days!

The Laodicean Project- Malachi Speaks to Our Emerging Bretheren

May 30, 2008

It never ceases to amaze me at how while reading the Bible you can come across certain verses that seem so appropriate for our modern/postmodern context that you almost forget they were written over 2000 years ago. It is such a reminder of how the problems we deal with today are problems that the people of God have always had to deal with. This is both comforting, because it helps you know that the things that are being said today have already been tried and argued and God has already come out on top, and frustrating, because you see that the church has really not come all that far in the 2000 years since Christ’s death.

The verse which spoke so heavily to me can be found in the book of the prophet Malachi in his prophecy to the Israelites as they continue working on rebuilding Jerusalem.

You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2:17)

This verse seems so pertinent to me in light of our last post concerning the emerging church and how they tend to struggle with losing their saltiness while out in the world. The reason why I think this is so is because in this one verse we see two claims that the emerging people are so frequent to make and we can see how God responds to them.

Working in reverse, the first statement we see is the question “Where is the God of justice?” So many are want to rail this claim against God, that he is unjust because he appears to be sitting idly by while people suffer and die in poverty and obscurity or from painful sickness and disease. He seems to sit by while families are torn apart by drugs and cheap cons. Emerging leaders such as Brian McLaren are so concerned with injustice that it becomes the focal point of who they are and what their ministry preaches, like his book The Secret Message of Jesus. Bart Ehrman wrote a book on this called God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question-Why We Suffer. Rob Bell is writing a book concerning social justice to be released in the fall called Jesus Came to Save Christians. The Emerging Church views God’s inability, or the inability of God’s people, to end suffering and promote social reform as the primary concern of the Church today. And yet, how does their evangelism prosper when they do such things? How does it help Brian McLaren’s ministry when he is arrested for protesting the federal budget?

The second statement made is that “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” This takes on various forms in the emerging church, but probably the most obvious is in their promotion of homosexuality. For whatever reason, the emerging church and gay rights have become inextricably intertwined. Whether it be the out-and-out acceptance of it by leaders such as Tony Campolo, or if it is the tacit acceptance by McLaren and his slippery line of “Frankly, many of us don’t know what we should think about homosexuality.” To me this type of response is beyond disingenuous. With the current climate of moral and social living in America, there should not be any person going into the ministry who is unsure where they stand on homosexuality. Go to the mountains like Jesus, or take three years out to study like Paul. But whatever you do, don’t go stand up in front of the people you are supposed to shepherd and tell them you don’t know what to do with probably the single most pressing moral issue of our time! It is the same with abortion, sex outside of marriage, alcohol and drug use, and manner of speech. The emerging church has decided that there are a set of things that they want to do, either out of their own desires or out of a desire to appease the world, and instead of calling things black and white as stated in the Bible, they hide under a cloud of cultural relativity and freedoms in Christ to maintain these behaviors. They pronounce what is evil as being good in the sight of God, even to the point that some consider God as being a universalist!

So what does the passage say is God’s response to all of this? “You have wearied the LORD with your words.” God says through Malachi that he has been wearied by these statements made by his people. To weary means to make jaded or exhausted. With their words, the people of God, and I believe the emerging church as well, have exhausted God. Not that he is tired, but that his patience and his exercise of mercy have been exhausted on them. And honestly, the last place I want to stand is on the brink of God removing his mercy. It is like when your mom says, “You’re getting on my last nerve,” only it is the most powerful being in the universe who is about to unleash his cosmic discipline upon you!

Of course, we may discuss the merits of these claims and argue over whether the things mentioned above are really sin, but as far as I see it, the emerging church needs to refocus their efforts on being the Salt and working to preserve God’s goodness and turn away from the attitudes which God has warned before lead to his weariness with them.

The Laodicean Project- And Add a Pinch of Salt

May 29, 2008

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:13-16

In our first post concerning the above passage we discussed how the evangelical church has tended to fail in the way in which they behave as a light to the world, hiding that light under a basket and burning the skin of the ones whose path they need to illuminate. Today, in the second post on this passage I wish to discuss how the emerging church fails to do its job as the Salt.

Though I imagine we are all mostly familiar with this by now I think it is important that we review what salt meant to the people during the time of Jesus’ ministry. Today we view salt only as a seasoning for our food, and possibly (depending on your climate region) a substance used to keep roads from freezing. However, salt in First century Rome held a slightly different meaning. At that point in history there was no such thing as refrigeration, and since it wasn’t exactly practical for people to slaughter an animal every night and eat it in its’ entirety before the heat spoiled it, the people had to find some way to preserve food. They did this by using salt. With the salt as a cure for the meat they could then keep it for longer periods of time, allowing them to save both work and money on dinner. Salt also worked as an antiseptic to pack wounds with and keep them free of infection (Ouch!).

But, another thing that the ancient world lacked, besides fridges, was manufactured table salt. Instead, the people of that time used salt extracted from the sea. And one inherent problem with sea salt is that it does not retain its capabilities as salt forever. This is what Jesus is alluding to in saying the salt has “lost its taste.” That means that the salt no longer worked as a seasoning, and more importantly, it no longer worked as a preservative or antiseptic.

So, with this understanding, let’s look again at what this passage means. If we are called to be “the salt of the earth” then this means that we are to act as both a preservative and an antiseptic for the world. Christians should act both to preserve the world in keeping away evil, encouraging people away from evil deeds and in general promoting holy living, and as an antiseptic by helping to cleanse out evil and remove the infection of sinful living in various aspects of the culture.

Thus, my claim against the emerging church is that they have lost their saltiness. They are effective at getting out into the world, being wrapped around environments which need preservation or being packed into situations that need cleansing, but they have lost their saltiness and so their presence does not make a difference and does not keep things from going bad or getting worse. I see the emerging church as very effective at being the Light that we desired of the evangelical church; at engaging the culture, at getting down into the gritty places where many Christians have trouble reaching, and relating to sinful people on a level where they don’t burn them. However, at this level, I don’t see much preservation or cleansing. Sure, they are able to pull people into the church, but are they really preserving them from the corrupting influence of the world? I don’t believe so.

Instead, I believe that we see too much association with the sinful world on behalf of the believers in the emerging church. So much so that they lose their own saltiness and instead of influencing the culture they are letting the culture influence them. This can be clearly seen in the decidedly liberal bend of most emerging congregations. Congregations which have traded in standing on Biblical truth for being acceptable to the general population. Congregations which have decided that the Cross was too offensive and so have decided to remove the offensive parts on their own without ever getting God’s permission to do so. They have fully accepted their role as being Salt to pack the culture in, but because they have lost their taste they are of no more good to the culture than if they were just thrown out into the street and trampled on.

If the emerging church is going to have a lasting positive impact on “Christian” societies I truly believe that they need to try and regain their saltiness, regain their preservative and antiseptic abilities, so that in their myriad interactions with the world they can be an effective agent for removing and keeping away the corruption of sin. It is real encouraging to see the passion which so many in the emerging movement seem to bring, and to see their excellence at engaging the secular culture of our society. But, at the end of the day, if they stand in a position where Jesus says they are just as well off being trampled under foot, then their connections with the culture are going to make no more difference for the kingdom than if they had never even tried.

Mr. Christian Man, It’s Okay to Rock!- Doing What God Has Approved

April 20, 2008

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” -Ecclesiastes 11:9

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” -Ecclesiastes 9:7

There are many Christians of the old cloth who teach that the only way for a Christian to live is by denying themselves of any pleasure which comes through the things of the world. They make such vain declarations as “It is a sin to dance” or “Rock’ n’ Roll is Devil music.” I personally came across one of these anachronistic restrictions when my wife and me were preparing for our wedding. To be honest, we did not plan on having dancing at our reception, but even if we had it would have been forbidden by the contract which we had to sign in order for our church to perform the service. This came as a surprise to me that our church, which had so frequently taught against the evils of legalism, was itself guilty of such of propagating such a meaningless rule.

I came across an interesting view on this one time when listening to a pastor speak on similar verses. He talked about how there are parents who just make rules like don’t listen to rock music, don’t dance, don’t see R-rated movies, and don’t do drugs, without giving justification. So then, the kids in typical teenage rebellion, decided to start testing the barriers which their parents tried to construct. First they go to a rock concert and, surprisingly, nothing bad happens. Next, they attend a school dance, and again, nothing bad. Then they go out to see an R-rated movie on a Friday night. So far it is 3 for 3 on the parents rules being pointless. Finally, one day after school they go over to a friend’s house and decide to try some drugs, since before all the other rules had done was delay the enjoyment that they eventually had in those activities. However, this time the drug use winds up leading to addiction and their whole life falls apart as a result. In the same way, the people in the church, by creating laws against things which God doesn’t himself forbid, can wind up creating more sin than preventing it. Thus, it is important to just stick with the things which are actually scripture, such as the above verses.

But, there is also the temptation to swing to the other extreme. It is this fault which I believe many emerging leaders fall into when they promote people into unabashed pleasures and self-indulgence as an alternative to the legalism which they were brought up with themselves. In doing this they have a propensity to throw out things which God actually cares about (such as sexual purity or self-control) alongside with eschewing the false laws of their parents.

In the end, it is a balancing act. We don’t need to be self-flagellating monks who eat burnt toast and sing only in chants, but at the same time it is not advisable to live “however the hell” we want. Instead, for those which God has truly “born again to a living hope,” in whom God has “remov[ed] the heart of stone” and given “a heart of flesh,” they continually need to “be conformed to the image of [Christ]” and keep “press[ing] on to make [salvation]” their own, just as Christ has made them “his own” (1 Peter 1:3, Ezekiel 36:26, Romans 8:29, Philippians 3:12). Those who God has truly changed should strive to live an abundant life while staying within the righteous restrictions which God has laid out, so that, as John Piper has said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” including in the wonderful things which he has provided for us!

What Does Your Jesus Look Like?- Balancing the Incarnation and the Exaltation of Christ

April 18, 2008

“In the more modern churches, the triumph of the resurrected Jesus was stressed to emphasize victory…. What they overlooked was the incarnation of Jesus…. This oversight allowed people to triumphantly parade their victory over sin and sinners but failed to call them to humbly incarnate as missionaries in culture to effectively reach lost people.

Conversely, many other churches more akin to the so-called postmodern churches focused almost exclusively on vegetable-munching hippie Christ’s humble incarnation in culture to hang out with sinful lost people…. What is lacking, however, is the understanding that when we next see Jesus, he will not appear as a humble, marginalized Galilean peasant. Rather, we will see the exalted, tattooed King of Kings coming with fire blazing in his eyes and a sword launching from his mouth, with which to make war upon the unrepentant.” -Mark Driscoll, Confessions of a Reformission Rev. (pp.42-43)

The above quote by Mark Driscoll is one which I believe points out a major theological flaw that is unrealized in both the modern evangelical and the postmodern emerging churches, that being the need to balance the incarnation of Christ along with the exaltation of Christ. As Driscoll further details in his sermon from John Piper’s National Conference in 2006 (linked below), it is this issue which leads to the two common stereotypes of these opposing camps: the evangelicals as being holier-than-though thought nazi’s who rain condemnation on all that is sinful in the world, and the emergents as limp-wristed pacifists who live a little too liberally to actually be saved.

Moreover, I believe this omission is the cause of other major problems which Christians in America face today and which I have tried to address in prior posts. In the evangelical camp I belive that this glorious triumphalism leads to a teaching of works justification and their legalism towards sin. As for the emergents, I feel that their underemphasis on Christ’s exaltation leads to the acceptance of multiple means of salvation and a deadly theological misunderstanding of what Christ achieved on the cross.

I encourage you to analyze this yourself and see where you fall. We are called to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, but in order to do that we must make sure that we are also loving all of the Lord as well.

Mark Driscoll- “The Supremacy of Christ and the Church in a Postmodern World”

Throwing Out Jesus with the Bathwater- No Kind of Christian

April 15, 2008

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” -Romans 10:9, 13

“Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is full of forgiven people. Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for. Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for. The difference is how we choose to live... Jesus measures their eternal standings in terms of not what they said or believed but how they lived, specifically in regard to the hell around them.” -Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, pp.146, 148

Rob Bell is not a Christian!  Okay, that may be too emphatic and I honestly cannot say that nor would I want to give the impression that I think I can.  Sure, most people consider Rob Bell to be a Christian minister in a Christian church who writes Christian books.  In fact, Rob Bell is listed as one of the 50 most influentuial Christians in America (#10).  However, I do not believe that we can rightly call his ministry or teachings Christian and feel comfortable with that, since more often than not he appears to be shooting his ball at the wrong basket.

But why would I say such a thing?  Well, first we should just look at what it means to be a Christian.  The name “Christian” comes directly from the name “Christ”, which means “the anointed one,” and is taken to be a person who is a disciple of Christ and his teachings.  The term first appears in Acts 11:26 saying, “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”  In light of this we see that a fundamental motivation behind attaching the name “Christian” to something is that it is somehow associated with discipleship to Christ.

So, how does this affect Bell’s work?  Well, if we look at the above quotes (as well as past posts) I believe that there is no honest way to say that Bell is advocating any sort of discipleship to Jesus Christ in his teachings.  We see, as we read through Bell’s popular book Velvet Elvis that he gets off on the right foot saying, “While we were unable to do anything about our condition, while we were helpless, while we were unaware of just how bad the situation was, Jesus died. (p.145)”  And then, Bell states, “Jesus died … for everybody” and that “[e]verybody’s sins on the cross with Jesus.”  This may or may not be contentious, but we’ll deal with that later.  The truly contentious part is what comes next:

“So this reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody….  This reality then isn’t something we make true about ourselves by doing something.  It is already true.  Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making.” (p.146)

Do you see it?  Do you see the problem?  What’s happened?  Why now are we able to choose for ourselves which “reality” we live in? (And what’s with all this Matrix, rabbit hole mash-up language anyways?)  If before Christ died on the cross we were “unable to do anything,” why is it that now we are?  Or, if we are all now free from the burden of sin (which I believe is what Bell would say), how is it that we can still “cling to a reality of our own making,” which would itself be sin?  Either our sin burden and God’s wrath have been removed for good or they haven’t.  There must be a solution.

But, instead of solutions, we get more of the same.  Looking at the above quote we see Bell state that “Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is full of forgiven people. Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for. Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for. The difference is how we choose to live.”  But this is ridiculous.  How possibly could a forgiven person wind up in Hell.  What bit of good did God’s forgiveness do if it didn’t keep them from being damned?  Charles Spurgeon puts it best in saying,

“He has punished Christ, why should He punish twice for one offence? Christ has died for all His people’s sins, and if thou art in the covenant, thou art one of Christ’s people. Damned thou canst not be. Suffer for thy sins thou canst not. Until God can be unjust, and demand two payments for one debt, He cannot destroy the soul for whom Jesus died.”

God is no god at all if he kills his son on the cross, “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3:18), and yet does not remove his wrath and condemnation from us as he said (1 John 4:10, Romans 8:1).

And to top it off, Bell spits directly in the face of Romans 10:9 when he says that the people will be judged “in terms of not what they said or believed but how they lived.”  The Bible clearly states, through Paul in the book of Romans, that confessing with the mouth and believing in the heart are the necessary requirements for salvation.  Yet it is this proclaimation which Bell fully (and I would claim purposefully) denies.

So, in summary, to Bell we have a God who sent his son to die on the cross to forgive us of sins, the burden of which we were unable to do anything about beforehand, and now that everyone is forgiven we have the ultimate responsibility in determining our fate, and that being not through anything we believe or say, and not even about following Jesus, or relying on Jesus, or anything to do with Jesus, but solely upon whether or not we do “good” or “evil”.  I must say that this is the most contrived load of horsecrap I have ever seen put together in one book, nevermind a book which the Christian community raves about and longs to “learn” more from.

I may not be able to judge whether or not Rob Bell is a Christian, but I can say that I am seriously concerned about the souls of the people who turn to his ministry for their spiritual guidance.  As a Presbyterian pastor I read put it as eloquently as I could have ever imagined, “People will go to hell over this.  You just don’t get up in front of ten thousand people on Sunday and play around with the Word of God.”  Amen.