I'm fascinated by these.
Markie said this
I've had points of disconnect when I've talked to people who've grown up PK's or their whole lives in the church. They don't understand where I've come from through the RLDS and the lostness in college, etc.And you know what? He’s exactly right. That "lostness in college" is the authentic thing. And I'm not saying you have to have experienced it to preach to it: I'm saying that you have to understand it's there to preach to it. Somehow, you have to know something about it.
You know, to get through the cracks of (for example) an LDS guy, you have to find out what he believes about his own so-called faith and church. Because if you come at him with the Way of the Master -- which is 100% a legit method of evangelism and a clear presentation of the Gospel -- he'll tell you that he agrees in principle, and amen. Man should obey God's law, and when he doesn't, Jesus will fill in the gaps. (the sharper readers, of course, see the problem immediately) There's a context for the Gospel which must be approached in talking to the Mormon, and it's different than when you approach an atheist or a run-of-the-mill secularist.
That is missiology. That is how you reach people. And that's not about how many arguments you can memorize: it's about what the Gospel says, and how it contrasts to what the false religion of something else says. It is about engaging what is there, on both sides of the coin.
You know: iMonk is very bent out of shape that I have called most of these so-called "missionals" "dumb" -- and the irony is that he's mad because I didn't name names and he wants me to say that Joe Thorn is dumb so I can fit into his stereotype of a TR blogger.
Joe Thorn is not dumb; Joe Thorn is not who I am talking about. I'm talking about people who got whatever paper credential they got, set up shop in a "missional" venue, and then criticize a guy like John Piper for having an "ahistorical" view of the Gospel. I'm talking about guys -- and they exist by the gaggle -- like the ones Voddy Bauchman has criticized for being very entertaining and informed on young adult fashion, but completely vacant in terms of the Gospel. I'm talking about youth pastors who never open a Bible up in front of teens. I'm talking about Campus Ministry guys who spend a lot of time on "spiritual disciplines" but never seem to get around to Acts 2 or 1Cor 15.
Those things are dumb, and guys who do them are dumb for doing them.
Now, here’s one of the real integrating points of this matter: the truth is that this is how the SBC practices youth ministry right now. It’s missional in this dumb, superficial, non-practical, non-theological, non-scriptural way. And the truth is that the SBC recognizes – in theory anyway, and in statistics – that this methodology has not only not worked, it has backfired. This alleged “meet people where they are” strategy has created thousands of youth pastors and tens of hundreds of youth centers and teen satellite churches – and has resulted in more lost kids coming out of SBC churches than ever.
So when the rest of the missionals get together to form an intervention for the SBC and say, “dude, you have a problem,” the SBC says, “’dude’, you are my problem – and I want something else which actually works and in which I can have some confessional trust.”
In saying that, it doesn’t mean Joe Thorn is a jerk. Joe Thorn is not a jerk. But Joe Thorn is not representative of the movement. Sorry! I wish he was. I wish Tim Keller was representative of the movement. But factually, it’s the guys who think the Message is a good Bible to use from the Pulpit who are representative of this movement. It’s the guys who characterize Baptists as people who reduce the book of Romans to four propositions who are characteristic of this movement. It’s guys who want to call what they are doing a “reformation” when in fact they are undoing the work of the actual reformation who are characteristic of this movement.
Ed Stetzer’s point – that if the SBC is to have any influence in the 21st century it has to stop being mono-cultural (the subtext is that it is also mono-racial) – is over-the-top good. It’s Turkey with all the fixin’s. But his other point – that in allowing a multi-cultural mix we must still contend for the essentials and be counter-cultural rather than culturally-submissive -- carries equal force, and cuts deeply into both sides of this debate.
And for emphasis, you should read this post from a while back in which I make this point in another way as clearly as I can.
Have a nice Wednesday.
In this quote, Stetzer puts the challenge simply: can we cooperate with those who LOOK different? Not those who believe differently. Not those with a different confession, but those who simply look different.I am one of those blogs, iMonk. I admit it, and I’m really not ashamed of it. Here’s why it’s an object of ridicule: while you might be able to find a handful of these guys for whom this “look” is missionally necessary, it is by-and-large a Seminar student fashion statement akin to people in MFA programs who keep hand-written journals, or music majors with black hair, or even SBC pastors who still wear corporate suits everywhere and have, as you have astutely pointed out, 1950’s corporate haircuts.
I am reminded of how often I've read reformed blogs make fun of the physical appearance of twenty-something emerging type pastors, or how other non-confessional, non-gospel aspects of emerging churches will be mocked as being "trendy, faddish, etc."
It’s a lemming mentality. It’s the idea – the impulse – to follow the outward appearance of some thing which is happening without actually pursuing the thing itself. If there’s any guy on the face of the earth which proves this doesn’t have to be this way, it’s John Piper.
Piper doesn’t show up at Passion dressed like, well, Louie Giglio – and I have a lot of respect for Giglio. But there’s Piper, speaking to thousands of college kids, dressed like he always dresses – like a 1980’s college professor. He’s 60 (more or less) and he doesn’t have to pretend he’s hip, or relevant, or cool, or informed. He opens up the Bible, and preaches exactly the same way he preaches at Bethlehem Baptist every single Sunday.
And I bring that up to say this: if that’s what was happening even 7 times out of 10 in so-called “emergent” and “missional” churches, I think there’d be almost no fight. There’d be some fight – but it would be far less anathemacious than what is happening right now.
Seriously: think about what is happening in SBC churches for the most part. Most of them have transitioned to some more-contemporary form of worship, or at least what is called a “blended” style. That’s more than half-way to a “missional” concession. Most pastors who have the facilities are using multimedia – Powerpoint, video, multiple sites receiving one pastor’s preaching via some kind of local media loop. Many, many pastors are streaming their Sunday message via church web sites.
Guys like me – and others who you would associate with me – aren’t wigged out about using the means at our disposal. We’re wigged out that some kid with a bible college degree, or maybe an M.Div., and about 2 years of understudy at some middle-sized church is going to go ahead and take on the trappings of a culture which neither you nor I would say is God-honoring and somehow, through his hair products and his skater layered look – and for the hard-core, a tat – teach people that Jesus commands repentance. You’ll excuse me for asking, but “with what?”
I have an anecdote which will be useful to demonstrate what I am talking about here. When I was working FT at the bookstore, one day this beater Pontiac pulled into the lot, and this biker guy climbed out – very ZZ Top after about 100 miles of dirt road. We greet everyone the same as they walk into the store: “How are you today?” I did exactly that, and he didn’t even look over at me.
He went straight back to the Bibles. I give everyone about a minute to get their bearings, and then I walked back and I asked him, “Anything I can help you with?”
He doesn’t say anything, but he’s looking intently at the Bibles. After about another minute, he asks me, “You work here?”
Well, yeah. “Can I help you with something?”
He commences to tell me that he was saved in prison, and that he just recently got out, and he’s now in prison ministry, and he needs “prison bibles”. I told him honestly (I was still a rookie) that I didn’t know what a prison Bible was, and he told me it was a Bible with a paper cover with big print. I had one by accident, and he swiped it up – and so I don’t forget this part, I gave it to him for free for teaching me what a prison Bible was.
Anyway, big, hairy guy, covered in tats, terrible teeth, hair like dirty rope – completely insane for Jesus. We spent an hour talking about his testimony and his ministry to prisoners and his approach to ministry. I didn’t count, but I remember thinking that he didn’t have any words bigger than 2 syllables, except “resurrection” – and he said it “res-RECK-shun”. He left with a free bible, and came back several time over the next year to get more Bibles, and to get equipment for the Lord’s table, and other books.
The question, as I think about this in the terms you have positioned, is whether this guy needed to get a haircut and a daily bath and shave to be an acceptable minister of Christ – and I think the answer turns out to be “no”. And that answer is really points at the question I asked above about the kid with the fashion statement. With what will this guy – the ex-con in prison ministry – preach the Gospel? With actual authenticity and not make-believe authenticity.
But if that is the right answer, should some middle-class kid who, after bible college and an internship at Respectible Community Church, grow out dreadlocks, stop shaving, stop bathing and “down size” to one set of clothes in order to follow a call into prison ministry because my anecdotal brother in leather is clearly OK that way?
See: it turns out to be a question of authenticity. I know the missionals get all “Annie Armstrong” at this point, but there’s a massive difference between being an indigenous missionary to a completely foreign people and being a transplanted person inside one subculture who speaks a common language.
If the legitimate example is Tim Keller – and he’s a brilliant example, the one everyone else ought to be studying – then open the other eye and look at him. He’s not a stinky bohemian even though he is ministering to the stinky bohemians of NYC. If the missional prototype is Tim Keller, then it seems to me that “authentic” doesn’t mean “clothes by Aeropostale”, a paper cup of half-latte decafe glued to your left hand, and the Garth Brooks wire mike stuck in your ear. It means being personally authentic rather than branded. And to bring this parenthetical to a close, someone who dresses like a biker but has never really lived that life is kidding himself if he thinks people will accept him as a biker when he’s obviously a middle-class kid trying to prove something. He’d be better off by far to wear his usual clothes and demonstrate the love of God and declare the Gospel to dying men.
Southern Baptists have long struggled with their reputation as a stereotypical Southern denomination, right down to the suits, KJV Bibles, Sunday School pins and hymnals. Stetzer is asking us to see that culture and set it aside as a norm or a stereotype. He brilliantly emphasizes that Biblical faithfulness, cultural relevance and counter-cultural are NOT opposing characteristics.I agree with this. There’s no question that this is what he’s calling us in the SBC to do. None.
The question is if having some kid from North Little Rock dress like he’s from Compton will make him a credible witness to anything in actual Compton. See: if he’s willing to lie about who he is really, why wouldn’t he be willing to lie about his so-called “Good News”?
Is Stetzer right: a church can be faithful, relevant AND counter cultural? Or is he wrong? Does cultural relevance- even in an intentional counter culture- always mean compromise on the Biblical message?It’s the last question there which intrigues me. I think I answered the other two, above, but if I missed something, please take a free redirect on me.
That last question – does cultural relevance always mean compromise on the Biblical message – is such a double-edged sword. There’s no question that it drops an anvil on the Wile E. Coyote of SBC stoginess – but it also drops an equally-weighted anvil on people who are doing the exact same thing on the other side of the fence. Because the question is not “should we be ‘relevant’?” The question is: in what way is the Gospel relevant? That is: in the 1920’s, man was still sinful and Christ still died for sins, but what was the context in which people would receive that?
Do I need to dress like Chappell for people to listen to me? Or maybe like Brad Pitt? Or maybe like Justin Timberlake? Is it really true that there’s no way to communicate with people unless you dress like them and hang out in the same dives they hang out in? Do you really need a beer to break out the Gospel – is the Gospel like asking someone out for the first time?
See: I think I get the Tim Keller thing – because Keller is on about answering the questions people actually have, not the questions we wish they would ask. Keller is on about demonstrating the results of the Gospel today to these people here rather than as if you were doing a set piece from the 1840s. But If Keller is the missional guy, why are so many so-called missionals not like him? Why are they so phony in their authenticity? Why are they plainly dumb (and for the sake of peace, I’ll not list any blogs I think are in that category on either side of the missional divide)?
I think it’s a fine point that in many cases, as Michael Horton said on this week’s WHT, people are afraid of “otherness” – and some of what is happening right now in the SBC is a fear of “otherness”. But the reality is that the so-called “missional” side of the bridge is simply awash in theologically-questionable people with non-transparent motives.
And let me close this answer with this, from your last response: you say you want trust to be the watchword in cooperation. Paul says, “it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy”. When he says this to the Corinthians, he is chastising them for elevating themselves above the apostles when they are themselves unworthy to be called stewards – they can’t even discipline a guy who’s sleeping with his step-mom. But in that, trust cannot be taken for granted: trust has to be earned and it has to be serviced in some way – there has to be a way in which trust can be fortified over time. It is not a given.
Given the state of the “emerging” movement – and that it is not filled with Kellers or even Driscolls but with fellows who are far less grounded and focused – the question of whether the trust can just be granted is a completely fair question.
Two key bits from Stetzer:I agree. No question -- and we face a terrible problem in this because we live in a post-Christian culture. We are going from a place where the context of Christianity is evident in the culture to a place where Christianity is seen, in the best case, as having jumped the shark, and in the worst case, has been disproven by some quack with a couple of stone ossuaries bearing the most common names of the day.
1) Missional refers to the specific activity of the church to be a counter-culture, building the Kingdom in ALL settings where its members find themselves, not just to build the church and its programs, facilities, etc.
So given that we need to be kingdom-building, what does that look like? Is it programs and daycare centers and baseball leagues and 10,000 member communities which are aping the external culture -- or is it something else?
2) There can be no doubt that any church that is true to its calling is thoroughly, consistently and unapologetically missional by the above definition.I think that this is a relatively-new insight. Maybe that's the wrong word: this is a truth about the church which was lost sometime after the third century (paint with wildly-broad and careless strokes).
My widdoo heart went pitty-pat when Dr. Stetzer cited the letter to Diognetus -- because that letter was a foundational document for me to start blogging. When I read it for the first time, I realized that there was something mostly-wrong about how we, the Christians, view our churches. The idea that the people who changed the world for Christ -- who faced down Rome, and then saved the West from becoming a wasteland when it fell -- were people who, in the end, weren't trying to imitate the culture.
In fact, they were really trying to live without the culture yet inside the culture, if that's possible. All the things the culture held dear were wrong in the face of the cross and the Christians described in that letter behaved as if those things were wrong. They didn't picket them, or protest them, or try to stop other people from drinking alcohol: they lived as if Christ died for sin, and that this message was so important that it should change them. Stable marriages, love of children, unquestionable work ethic, kindness to strangers -- think of that: in an age when people couldn't make reservations at the Holiday Inn, and the rule of law was only applicable if you could find the bad guys quickly (meaning the bad guys worked hard to stay mobile and were usually strangers wherever they went), they were kind to strangers.
But in that, they were winning people over to what they believed because it was obvious they believed it.
And in saying that, let me agree and disagree with something you said in your last answer. On the one hand, I agree that the great reformed minds of the last 25 years, um, pass by the issue of missions and missiology in the way we are talking about it in this exchange. But I disagree that they were not missional at all: there's a context for what they did -- and frankly, they were fighting (and are still fighting) against the second or third generation of heresy and evangelical unbelief from the end of the 20th century. The missiology of that age was (and is) overtly polemical -- and frankly, I'm a child of that school. So I have a great degree of respect and sympathy for these men who have spent their lives on that mission field.
But the truth is this: that field, by their work, has changed. They have won some, and the terms of engagement have changed. Man has not changed; the Gospel has not changed; God forbid that we say that Christ has changed. But the people to whom we have to get this message to have changed.
In the same way it is not profitable to use the KJV anymore because people can't read it, it is not profitable anymore to start a fight in order to win a man to Christ. I'm not saying it never works, but I think it rarely works. Christ didn't die to win an argument -- and He didn't die to make us clever debaters who use words of worldly wisdom to win men to an argument. Christ died for sin, and, as Paul noted to the Corinthians, that puts all wisdom to shame, and catches the clever man in his own cleverness, but it also calls us to be saints, and enriches us in all our speaking and all our knowledge.
So to bring this back to your statement, I think we make a mistake when we try to downplay to roll of those who came before us -- even if they only came 5 years ago. They brought us the church we have, and frankly they brought us the Gospel. Now it's our turn to honor them by bringing the Gospel to the world we have, to treat them both like fellow workers and fathers in the faith. That doesn't mean we have to steal their schtick -- but it means that we will bring the Gospel with the same zeal to this world which is dying.
Is it possible to say that THIS aspect of missionalism is one on which we can (indeed, must) thoroughly agree, and whatever disagreement we have must be about methodology and not mission?I think it cuts both ways, as I have said to some extent, above. It's somewhat stupid of us to demand that Dad allow us to have a beer (one beer, and maybe not finish it) when we are somewhat critical that he's willing to smoke a cigar or have extra gravy on his taters -- that is, if we want missional freedom, we have to agree that there is missional freedom for all the contexts, including the ones where (and it kills me to admit this) the megachurch seems to work, and LifeWay seems to work, and the Pastor-as-CEO seems to work.
But in that, these models don't work everywhere. In fact, there are a lot of places they can't work. And in those places, the Gospel is still needed -- not a satellite church with a Jumbotron to project the Pastor's face on the wall to save on ministerial staff, but the Gospel. The fact of a personal Christ who died for sin to glorify God and make disciples is far more important that whether it's 12 people on folding chairs in the back room of a bar or 30 people in a park or two families who meet in alternating garages and prayerwalk for their neighborhood.
And all of these are missional expressions. The question is if we can bank on only one of them. If we do, we better start reforming the IMB -- because they definitively still use more than one model to reach the lost in the non-English world.
I thought Dr. Stetzer was quite kind to some people who need a smack up sida da head, frankly. So let me be blunter: One morning, the SBC denominational types woke up, and networks like Willow Creek, Rick Warren, Acts 29, etc had showed up uninvited to the party.Those networks being effective, but not necessarily yielding a certain quality of results, if I may comment for the SBC.
These networks, unlike the SBC, don't insist on high levels of denominational loyalty, duplicate programs, a Director of Missions handing you a box of new materials every week or identical haircuts. These networks use technology savvily, [sic] focus their conferences on actually helping you do the job instead of asking you to support the denominational emphasis of the year, and so on. It's not hard to see why so many young missionals look at the majority of their interaction with the current SBC as something like a trip to the principal's office for a "talk," or why they relish and value their participation in these parachurch networks. These younger leaders are missionally focused, busy and looking for help now for their churches and ministries. The newer networks are helping them, and asking for little.I think there’s some value in your view here, iMonk, and you’re right about something which you sort of point at but do not name here: there’s a big problem inside the SBC when it comes to how we view our internal culture.
The SBC sees itself as sort of having arrived, spiritually. It doesn’t see itself as needing any reform because, by Memphis, we’re the only denomination in the history of the world to recover after having a lapse on inerrancy (yourself notwithstanding). And in that, conventionally-speaking, it thinks it has a mandate to shape the culture in its own image – it’s a sort of non-Presbyterian, pre-trib knock-off of theonomy, except it’s somewhat short on “theo” and awfully full of “me”.
But there’s also the problem of the networks in many ways being “effective”, but that their “effect” is not really any better than the standard SBC megachurch. A lot of nice people gather in a place which grows to multiple campi (the plural of “campus”, not clones our favorite completely-Reformed worship minister), and they have a community which is, itself, a little insular. That’s true to a greater or lesser extent depending on the network you are being specific about.
And in that, the SBC would like a slice of the network pie – and in my less-cynical moments, I think its because they’d like to see a network develop which also demonstrates the ability to keep men who are pastors inside some kind of orthodox bounding box. Because, as you know, the SBC is the keeper of orthodoxy. Genuflect as you walk past.
But all of that editorializing said, yes: the networks have a model which allows young pastors to get resources at low- or no-cost, and allows them to focus on “ministry”, whatever that means. I will accept the premise at face value.
Does the current leadership of the SBC realize what happened?In what way? Do you mean that they ought to diversify LifeWay to make it more Biblical and less rigid? I think that’s funny coming from a guy who likes the church calendar year of the more “high church” denominations.
I also think it’s a little, um, dismissive of the fact that (as examples I am informed about) Willow Creek and Saddleback produce their own curriculum. The major difference would be that there’s no “convention” leaning on anyone to use or not use those resources.
But that said, I think they “realize” what has happened in that it is impacting SBC growth. What I do not think they realize is that they are enablers of this migration away from the SBC.
Do they get the "network megashift" that has made Tim Keller more important than almost any SBC pastor?I think the answer is “yes”, but it’s like understating US Football when you only have 40 years of European soccer under your belt. They involve having the same number of players on the field, and a ball, and two halves, but if you rely on kicking the ball in US Football, you’re probably going to lose.
I think that the SBC is accustomed to kicking the ball, and sees some ball-kicking, and thinks it’s able to step up. There’s a paradigm shift which they are going to have a hard time working through.
Will our leadership respond? Can it? Or is it just too late? Stetzer should have kicked the door down with this issue, but I'll bet he knows exactly what I mean.They have to respond in some way. The irony is that Rick Warren, if you think Rick Warren is doing good, is SBC. And the SBC rolled out PDL and PDC – so in some ways they were in on the cutting edge of the “network” phenomenon.
I was interacting with Dr. Stetzer over at the Baptist Center blog a few weeks ago, and he had made some comment about what the BFM means to us, and whether we are a denomination. He said [I paraphrase here] he thought the distinction between denomination and convention was somewhat not important – but I disagreed for this reason: a denomination is a top-down hierarchy in which the confession is enforced and the real practical power lies at the top; a convention ought to be guided by its confession so that independent churches can agree to cooperate, and therefore the role of the convention is serving rather than mandating.
The SBC will have a hard time being a service organization in the sense I mean here.
iMonk's Q2 from me is found here.
Somehow the Jews in Jerusalem could never find this cave, but James Cameron did. Astounding.
James White, of course, has all the apologetic fire power to wave this one off. However, keep in mind that a lot of people will give you "waddabout" on this one. I'm sure Paul Owen will embrace this as a co-valuable tradition, but you should be of sterner stuff.
AND OTHER SOURCES:
iMonk emailed me this link to William Lane Craig on the resurrection, in case you want a non-Baptist opinion on the matter.
AND YET ANOTHER:
iMonk also finds this link at the Jerusalem post which called the "documentary" "complete nonsense". For the record, mind you.
JAMES WHITE TREASURE TROVE:
James White has opened up its own category on the topic of this so-called evidence. Worth bookmarking.
Check in in the comments ...
I'll be posting his questions here with my answers; he'll be posting my questions at his bloggy with his answers, so there'll be enough outrage for everyone.
I'd like to thank Frank for the opportunity to dialog over Ed Stetzer's significant contribution to the conversation regarding current developments in evangelical ecclesiology and missionary strategy, i.e. the "missional" church. If our readers don't know, Ed Stetzer is a missiologist at the SBC's North American Mission Board, has two earned doctorates, and is a respected author and speaker in missional, emerging and evangelical circles. I've long cited him, along with Tim Keller, as the "go to" guys for a reliable analysis of what is happening among conservatives church planters and innovators. Stetzer's talk at the Union University conference on Baptist Identity is, in my opinion, a great step forward in articulating what is happening in current Southern Baptist life, and I would plead with all of those who, like me, love the SBC to hear Stetzer's message, "Toward A Missional Convention."Two things as we get ramped up:
 I am stunned to hear that iMonk loves the SBC. When did that happen?
 Since this is bound to be a long answer, let me address something briefly for those who will be inevitably creeped out over this chat. It is very rare to have an open and civil discussion with someone with whom you disagree about every other word -- and yet, in spite of the occational street fight, iMonk and I have the ability to discuss issues from what I consider pretty radically different points of view. So if you want to find out what a fan of Emergent thinks of the Stetzer thing, and then what I think of the Stetzer thing, and whether either one of us is completely off the chain, stay tuned. This thing will go back and forth for about 5 questions.
First Question: Stetzer boldly says that the current SBC leadership represents a leadership culture that has reformed the denomination confessionally, but failed to produce the expected corresponding evangelistic results because of their refusal to grasp and encourage missiological principles crucial for church growth in a diverse contemporary American culture. In fact, Stetzer says that only 11% of SBC churches are experiencing conversion growth and there are no reasons to expect a reversal. Can conservatives in the SBC accept and respond to the fact that their project of theological uniformity has only been half a reformation, and the problem is not a lack of conservative conformity, antimissionary Calvinists or innovating church planters?I think Dr. Stetzer identified with gusto the problem (singular) the SBC faces -- which is the disaster which follows success. He also was pretty plain-spoken about what kind of self-deception is going on in the SBC (for example, the transition from inerrancy to sufficiency, as if you could have the first without the second and it mean anything).
But that said, I think he was also very hard on liberals. Because there aren't many in the SBC, he didn't dedicate a lot of bandwidth to the problems, but he was clear that one reason the SBC has the problem it has is that it doesn't want to be misunderstood as associating with disreputable people, theologically. In that, rather than robustly defending the right use of words (like "missiology"), the SBC tends to pull further into its shell, into its safe culture. While that feels pretty good, that's exactly wrong.
What happens when liberals (or anyone) start corrupting words like "Gospel" and "Trinity" and "Eucharist" -- not to mention "Marriage" or "I'll split a beer with you"? Do we just toss it in on those, too? Dr. Stetzer's answer is that we -contend- for those truths, and you know I agree with him. The question, unfortunately, is "how to do that and win brothers in Christ rather than create bogie men" -- because Dr. Stetzer himself admits that he's sick to death of the fighting. I'm a fighter and I'm sick of the fighting. But the fight must be pressed -against liberalization- without telling the lost people who are watching, "and you're next, bub. Know your roll!"
It's more than a gut check: it's a gut-wrenching fact that the SBC had better decide that it is really about missions, and missions means more than sending people to deepest, darkest not-America: it means (as I have confessed at my blog) going across the street to the trailer park and telling those people right there about Jesus in a way they can understand what I'm saying.
Can the status quo see this and admit that they have a problem which someone else has to help them fix? I dunno -- you think they can admit that they have demonized good men for no reason other than convention politics? I sorta doubt it.
two words: grass roots. It's still a convention, and on the floor eventually -- if people show up -- the majority has to win. And let's face it: I think the majority is a very conservative, very concerned "third generation" resurgence crowd who want the liberty to -- and I know it's shocking -- reach the people they have in their home towns without becoming pariahs in their Daddy's convention. With the Gospel, mind you: not with a program or entertainment or whatever. With the news that Christ died for sin, as Scripture said he would, and was buried and raised from the dead, just like Scripture said he would. But if they don't use a Gaither vocal band third-string team and a canvass tent with no A/C, let's not start checking confessions of faith and baptism certificates.
As a footnote, I'd like to eventually check some of Dr. Stetzer's math and stuff. For example, he cites Barna on church attendance -- but ironically Barna thinks people are dropping conventional church for some kind of revolutionary church model -- not becoming unchurched. Dr. Stetzer says the opposite in citing Barna, and that threw me for a loop.
iMonk's first answer is here.
So you SBC taxi drivers who were thinking about this, you better choose your friends wisely. How close to the Gospel are you, really, if you can stand this close to Muslims and agree with them?
Do you find it somewhat troubling that Resolution #5 places us closer to these guys than it does to right-minded Presbyterians?
Add your own punchline or pointed question in the meta.
That’s the refrain right now – waddabout my example? Waddabout my example? Waddabout my example?
I have 6 examples from the New Testament that I want to cover briefly, and in doing that I want to underscore a few things which a lot of people are not getting – people, btw, who are not just commenters in this and the TeamPyro thread.
BTW, there’s a great brief piece of advice at GTY.org which some have already pointed me to on the topic of leaving a church. Because so many people have pointed me to it, and because I hold Dr. MacArthur in the highest esteem, I am using it for the basis of this post – because I want to point something out which seems to me to be missing in all the references to this “Issues & Answers” paper.
The page lists some circumstances (not all) in which it is “necessary to leave a church for the sake of one’s own conscience, or out of duty to obey God rather than men.” The list includes the following:
If heresy on some fundamental truth is being taught from the pulpit (Gal. 1:7-9).Amen, yes? There’s no question that one shouldn’t even join in fellowship with such a place in the first place. Seriously: if you move to town and the church across the street happens to be a Mormon temple, should you just join in and have a covenant relationship with rank pagans as if they were the house of God?
If the leaders of the church tolerate seriously errant doctrine from any who are given teaching authority in the fellowship (Rom. 16:17).
If the church is characterized by a wanton disregard for Scripture, such as a refusal to discipline members who are sinning blatantly (1 Cor. 5:1-7).
If unholy living is tolerated in the church (1 Cor. 5:9-11).
If the church is seriously out of step with the biblical pattern for the church (2 Thess. 3:6, 14).
If the church is marked by gross hypocrisy, giving lip service to biblical Christianity but refusing to acknowledge its true power (2 Tim. 3:5)
But that’s a far cry, for example, from joining a church which says “SBC” or even “IFB” on the sign out front only to discover, after 6 months or 2 years, that the pastor is sliding off the apple cart because he was never equipped to deal with post modern apostasy and now he’s denying the virgin birth or the exhaustive foreknowledge of God.
In that latter case, you joined in what we must assume is good faith to a church which we must assume has a sound active confession, and an elder (or the elder) of the body is denying these things which are the basis of fellowship in good faith.
In that, how do we view the admonition of Gal 1?
- I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
It is the latter – it must be the latter. And in that, the command from the apostle – or perhaps it is a declaration – is that this man with a false gospel must be turned out of fellowship. The apostle doesn’t think that some person ought to devastate the believers and cause the church to scatter: he believes that this person ought to be considered an unbeliever.
“Yeah, but waddif ... ?” says the guy in the back. Hang on with your “waddif” until we get to the end of this short list, if you please.
The next example from Dr. MacArthur is from Rom 16:
- I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
So you avoid this person – whoever he is – not by breaking up a church but by actively being a church. That is, you “avoid” this man by being the church without him. You shun this person – and not you personally (that is, you singular) but you collectively -- you plural. You who are brothers stick together as brothers and do what is right as brothers. Paul is exhorting the faithful not to act as points of light but as a family against an intruder.
The next example is in 1Cor 5:
- It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
That is, you the church -- not each one of you as you see fit, or when you come to a person conclusion about it. When all of you come together, all of you deliver this guy to Satan. You are not to become your own personal church: you are to act as if you are called to be saints together.
This is exactly the same thing regarding the sexually immoral [1 Cor 5:9-11]: “purge the evil person from among you.” Don’t leave the church -- be the church! The same is said of the person who disregards the commands of the Bible: “have nothing to do with him” [1 Thes 3]; The same with all kinds of sinners [2 Tim 3].
So now the question: “Yes, but what if one of these things – or all of them – are happening inside the leaders/elders/pastors of my church? For example, what if my pastor suddenly preaches on why homosexual marriage is compatible with the Christian life – shouldn’t that be my last day there?”
No – no way. And it’s not because this person is doing well: it is precisely because he is doing wrong. Let’s assume the worst case – that this is happening, and there is not one elder or trustee or whatever who will bring the matter to him. What do you do? You must follow the Biblical path – which is not separation and dismantling God’s church, but praying for and personal intervention toward the one who is doing wrong.
So what do you do? If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
If the church will not act, it is not a church – it is not doing what Paul said to do by any means. But in that, how often is a man Luther in the face of all of Christendom? In these examples, we are talking about the most gross violations of what is right and wrong, and we are talking about the worst case where the church will not act to even see if there has been wrong-doing. If they throw out your case, they have thrown you out – taken away your place at the table.
It is in that which we ought to seek some other place with other believers. And it is in that which I agree with Dr. MacArthur’s statement:
There is certainly nothing wrong with moving one’s membership just because another church offers better teaching or more opportunities for growth and service. But those who transfer their membership for such reasons ought to take extreme care not to sow discord or division in the church they are leaving. And such moves ought to be made sparingly. Membership in a church is a commitment that ought to be taken seriously.Many people are reading and have read this statement this way:
There is certainly nothing wrong with moving one’s membership just because another church offers better teaching or more opportunities for growth and service. But those who transfer their membership for such reasons ought to take extreme care not to sow discord or division in the church they are leaving. And such moves ought to be made sparingly. Membership in a church is a commitment that ought to be taken seriously.When in fact, this is provided in this way:
There is certainly nothing wrong with moving one’s membership just because another church offers better teaching or more opportunities for growth and service. But those who transfer their membership for such reasons ought to take extreme care not to sow discord or division in the church they are leaving. And such moves ought to be made sparingly. Membership in a church is a commitment that ought to be taken seriously.I think it also would serve a lot of people well to read the additional comments GTY provides in this brief article on how to select a new church:
Now look at yourself and ask, Are there opportunities here for me to serve and exercise my spiritual gifts? Does this local body have a need that by God's enabling I can meet? Am I willing to get what the church can do for me, but also what I can do for the Lord as I serve Him in this church? Am I willing to give of my time, money, energy, and prayers to contribute to the success of this church (Mark 12:30; Rom. 12:1)?I am optimistic that this addendum has answered a lot of question people have been e-mail and otherwise sending in. And I am sure there are still some “waddabouts” I haven’t answered, either.
A house is not a home until all the members of a family contribute to its success. The same is true of a church home. Only when each member in the family of God exercises his or her God-given gifts will God's children feel at home in His church.
The decision you make about what church to attend will greatly affect your spiritual life and the lives of your children. In fact, the decisions you make now will affect your descendants and the generations to come. That's a sobering reality.
Remember that no church will ever perfectly fulfill all these criteria. There is no perfect church. Also, remember that every church is going to have its own special blend of the characteristics we have examined. The key is to find a church that has them in proper balance, not overemphasizing some or de-emphasizing others. A balanced ministry is a Spirit-controlled ministry. If you find a church that possesses most but not all of the characteristics we've mentioned, don't immediately disregard it. Consider whether God wants to use you to help improve that local body as you exercise your own particular spiritual gifts.
Choosing a church home is one of the most significant decisions you will ever make—one that reaches into eternity. May each of us spend at least as much time and effort making that decision as we do deciding on our earthly dwelling.
Feel free to comment here.
You'll need it in the immediate future. Details to follow.
The larger question is this: what about my poor local church which I am more than sick of? What about a church which is about to take sides and split over something like how often and what kind of Lord’s Supper is presented, or whether the deacons can drink alcohol ever, or over a sort of popular makeover to appeal to a broader demographic?
What do I do then?
Listen: let me tell you that your problem is not a new problem. Your church’s problem is not a new problem. And the solution is not a solution which no one has ever heard of before. But the question is whether your church is going to follow its advice.
That is: are you personally going to follow that advice?
Here’s the advice, btw, which I cited in part yesterday:
- I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
... According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
Now, it might be useful for you to review Acts 18 in order to remember how Paul reached the Corinthians. But think about this: Paul, the apostle, is telling the Corinthians, “listen: you are called by God (1 Cor 1:2) to be saints, and to that end you are enriched by God with the right words and right knowledge. So when I hear that you are trying to follow men instead of Christ who saved you, I wonder what it is you think you are doing.”
And in all of Chapter 2 and all of Chapter 3, Paul is all over the litany of examples of people with circumcised flesh but uncircumcised hearts, and how men think they are wiser than God until God makes fools of them.
But Paul doesn’t end his concern with a sort of “you knuckleheads” dismissal of the Corinthians: he ends this section with what I would call a beautiful image of who they are if Christ has saved them: they are temples of God, a place where the Spirit “dwells”. Think about that: it’s the same word Paul uses a little later in 1Cor 7 for what a wife ought to do with her husband – that is, to make a home. The Greek verb actually comes from the noun “oikos” or “house”.
And think on that: what we are doing when we take up sides against our brothers and sisters in a local church is reproaching the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit.
Now, I hear the objections already: “Cent, these guys want to use a fire truck for a baptistery”, “Cent: these crackers want childrens’ church to be a fraud”, “Cent: these people want to let a woman speak from the pulpit.”
I hear you. I know what you’re objecting to because I object to these things. I reject those things.
I do not reject those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells who, in my local church, do not reject those things. That doesn’t mean they get a free pass and a piece of the budget to enact their ideas, but it does mean that I will approach them as if they have the Spirit of God living inside them.
Because you know something: the Bible tells me so. If my church starts siding up saying, “I’m on Pastor’s side” or “I’m on the Deacon’s side” or “I’m with you, cent,” or “By Gawd I am on the BUY-bul’s side,” that’s all trash. That’s self-important hogwash – it’s jockeying for position, which is ultimately what Paul is condemning in this first part of this first letter.
What Paul says here to the Corinthians is that what is critical is not to elevate yourself by association but to elevate others by association. That last part of this passage – “all are yours, and [all of] you are Christ's, and Christ is God's” – simply sends out a trumpet blast of clarity which you have to put into your theological orchestra. The question is not “am I part of Christ and a dwelling-place of God” (which is a high honor – a humbling honor, yes?), but “Aren’t all of us in Christ and a dwelling place for God?”
All of you. Even that person who can’t tell the difference between “oikos” and “oinos”. Even those of us who can. There is a dignity which is required in the house of God, and if we cannot demonstrate it, we condemn ourselves.
I have some more on this which I will turn out tomorrow. Until then, take care of yourself as you are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
- Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge-- even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you-- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. [ 1 Cor 1:1-9 ]
1000 posts. Where did I ever find the time?
Thanks all of you for reading and encouraging my habit here.
Spend the Lord's Day in the Lord's house with the Lord's people, and tell them cent sent you. They will have no idea what you;re talking about, but I think it would be funny.
And I told you about the guts of the Democratic 'leadership'.
I'm just sayin'.
And then I'm done with the Barth thing.
OK. There are two things to say about Karl Barth which (I think) are somewhat important:
 Karl Barth lived in one of the most intellectually-challenging ages of all human history, and he lived in what has to be the epicenter of the "chaos", for lack of a better word. Living as we do today, in the aftermath of that age of intellectual calamity -- that is, the age between 1900 and the end of the second World War -- we take it for granted that it's somewhat simple to identify "liberalism" and "conservatism" and "the Gospel" and "heresy". However, if you were born in an age where nothing was that certain, and all things relating to the Christian faith were frankly in question historically, sociologically, escatologically and politically, you might turn out like Karl Barth if you loved Jesus enough.
There's no question: Francis Schaeffer and Cornelius Van Til both thought Barth was a problem (and they're not the only ones). But we have to ask if Barth wasn't actually the solution which bridged the gap between rank German liberalism and reform to a better way.
 In that, however, is Barth a station on the historical subway line, or is he the place where everyone ought to get off the train -- a terminal? It seems to me to be extraordinarily shallow to read Barth and then say, "oh boy: that's where we have to buy 40 square and settle down." Van Til called Barth "poison" -- that's not just some guy with a blog and his two buddies declaring who is and isn't a heretic. Barth clears some of the ground that the German liberalism of his day had covered with a briar patch -- but he's hardly the end point. We ought to read Barth and understand what he was talking about and against, but we can't imagine that he's the tonic for all ills in all ages. I think Van Til's criticism that Barth is inherently synergistic (that wasn't VT's word, but that's the word the blogosphere uses to mean what he meant) is very perceptive. It's a first generation against pure 20th century humanism, but it's a half-breed generation still harboring the idea that man has some peer-like relationship to God.
So as some quarters of the blogosphere gush over Barth and give Zwingli and Calvin low grades because they don't write in a style which keeps one on the edge of one's seat, let's try to keep things in perspective. Let's not over-react against their fan-like cheering of Barth, but let's also not make Barth into some kind of pure antichrist when the problem is not what he said, but how some people are willing to use (or abuse) what he said.
Let's be honest: there are probably quite a few approaches to reading any text that you could apply to reading the Bible. Seriously -- why not? We live in a relatively-enlightened age, right? We don't have to read the Bible in any way differently than people read Margaret Atwood or Maya Angelou or John Milton -- which is to say, the reader ought to choose the way he sees fit to read any text, and booyah -- that reader gets what he brings, right?
Right? Anyone with me?
Yeah, I thought so. The Catholic apologists are sharpening up their version of "see: I told you so," the liberals won't touch that with your hand and blame it on LaToya Jackson when you put it that way, every teacher of critical reading is ready to hit "next blog" for the rank ignorance of such a thing, and the conservatives reading are split between the fundies who never imagined that there were more than two ways to read any text (literal and figurative, which is to say, as if is was true and as if it was false) and my friends who are again worried that I have split the difference with non-conservatives and am about to say something they will have to chastise me for.
So if everyone repudiates the idea that the reader sets the terms of engagement with the text, why worry about whether iMonk or anyone thinks the Bible is "inerrant"?
Here's why: the way you read the Bible dictates the kind of truth you can get from it.
You know: Hemmingway never wrote anything but fiction, more or less. Even his autobiographical stuff was fictionalized -- so if you want to take truth away from Papa, you can't take factual truth away from him, because there's no way to read what he wrote and distinguish the "rote historical data" from the "whimsical authorial license". None. If you take truth away from Hemmingway, you have to take allegorical truth away from him -- what he writes has to come across in some way other than as example or anecdote. If it means anything, it means something by talking around the things it means.
And some people will read the Bible that way -- and they come to the conclusion that things like the resurrection are themselves analogical truth and not something which happened on calendar days to people with (so to speak) birth certificates and dirty sandals. And their conclusion is honest insofar as their approach is honest.
Which is to say, what exactly do you expect to get from the Bible if your major premise is that it is not a story by witnesses about something that happened on the streets of Jerusalem and in the Roman courts and on a filthy wooden cross?
See: the problem with the idea that there are "quite a few" ways to read the Bible is that it makes the intention of the writers of the Bible a non-determining factor. It actually inverts the bogus Fundie dichotomy that the text is either "true" (and therefore woodenly literal) or "false" (and therefore some kind of subjective buffet). It says that because the text is "true", we can use all kinds of techniques to extract that truth. We can read John like fantasy literature or a poem and extract the truth; we can read Psalms like they are newpaper reports and lament the "barbarity" of Psa 3 with its call for God to break teeth, having extracted truth; we can look at Adam interpret him as a cool-ective metaphor rather than a person that both Jesus and Paul said was a real guy.
While the Fundie may ignore the fact of genre types in the text and read everything as if it was just blank statements of fact, the buffet reader is doing exactly the same thing with just as bad results: he is ignoring the demands a genre makes on the reader as expressed by the writer. You know: the word "authority" has, as its root, the word "author" for a reason: something has "authority" based on its source, based on who the author is and whether he has can give to the text what he intends to give to the text.
So sure: go ahead and brush up on the many, many ways people have, in the past, read the Bible, and the ways some people today are trying to "read" the Bible. But then ask yourself this straight-up question: isn't the first person we should ask about what this text means the author of the text? If yes, how does he tell us this?
Post a review if you find it helpful.
Atheist or not, Ayn Rand was right: "We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force. "
I am sure they are very proud. That's beautiful -- just in time for TeamPyro to open up on Monday ...
The boys at Fide-o have been ransacking iMonk over his (sorry, Michael) somewhat amateurish attempts not to say, "The Bible is inerrant", and I have a couple of things to say about that topic.
The first thing is this: any philosophical description of how we read the Bible is like trying to describe how you ride a bike. You know: you just ride. There's an extraordinarily complex set of interactions between physical laws and bio-mechanical and bio-sensory systems, but in the end you peddle the peddles and the bike rolls forward. I am sure it can be described mathematically. I am equally sure that the math equations will not assist my son in going without the training wheels.
The second thing is this: a text is what it is. The Bible is a text in translation, and unless you can read the Greek and/or Hebrew, you had better understand what the translators did and intended to do to the text before you crack it open and just peddle the bike. For example, why does the ESV use the word "talents" in Mat 25, but the NLT says "bags of silver"? Is one mistaken? Is one better than the other -- or do we have a situation in which you have to do more than stare at the words to understand what is being said?
The next thing is that the source of the Bible is, by an excessive amount of its own internal testimony, the "word of God". The metaphors: all God's. The poems: all God's. The straight-up assertions: God said that. The reports of other people's lies and sin: God made sure we received them. And in that, it's the Holy Spirit who makes sure this is happening. Paul says it's "God-breathed"; Peter says it is "wisdom given"; the Prophets say, "thus saith the Lord"; Jesus said, in reference to what Moses wrote down about the 6th day, "he which made them at the beginning made them male and female ... said, 'For this cause shall a man leave father and mother'" -- meaning what Moses wrote, God said. Whatever is in the Bible, that's God's communication. So listen up -- that speaks to authority and truth value if nothing else.
And the last thing to be said about that is that God isn't careless about His publications. What we have is sufficient to equip, clear enough to be understood, and reliable regarding its representation of what God had put dow the first time. You can cite Scripture on that, or you can check the historical record which points to an extraordinarily-clean record of transmission through archeological evidence.
If you don't like the words "inerrant" and "infallible" and "unbreakable" and "inspired", go fly a kite. Don't pretend you have a more-informed view when what you have is an objection to what some people do with the informed view. I'll agree with anybody that an inspired Bible which is unread and unobeyed is a useless Bible -- and for many Babdists, that's what their Bible is. But just because people use the doctrine of inerrancy to hide their ignorance of what is inerrantly taught by Scripture, or wield inerrancy as if it was the way to flush out drunks and post-millenial semi-presbyterians, that doesn't give us a license to invent a new doctrine which muddles the issues.
Whoever you are -- TR, Rc, rC, rc, RC, BHT, TP, PhD, or LL Cool J.
I’ve been thinking lately that one of my problems (besides hovering just this side of a belief-system reboot, waiting patiently for it to happen) is that, while I don’t actively believe in much any more (nor actively DISbelieve), I do believe in a Jesus that:The Merton stuff aside (maybe another day ...), let's be serious for a moment: the statement rigney makes here is either the first step in a great journey to and in the light of the face of God, or the last mile of evangelical off-roading into the jungle of surreal, wrongly-metaphysical theology abstracted from the Christ who touched the leper, the Jesus who wept at the news that Lazarus had died, the man who died on a cross forgiving those who were killing Him.
* Is hopelessly “out of touch”;
* Is tragically unhip;
* Is largely irrelevant;
* Is ultra-uncool;
* Is completely uninterested in most of what we think is important.
Some of that may sound disrespectful, but it’s not. I love that Jesus. To me, it’s the only way the whole Jesus belief works. Otherwise we have a shape-shifting socially relevant human mirror, about as easy to grab hold of as Jell-o.
But I’ve found that belief is either unpopular or baffling to both types of people around me: believers and unbelievers.
I suppose this sounds like I’m trying to be some kind of postmodern Elijah (”I’m the only one!”) or participating in that annoying form of snobbery disguised as spiritual poverty. I assure you that is not true.
And I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of this post was. Oh yeah, I was admiring Merton, who seemed to believe in the same Jesus. It’s one of the reasons I love him.
Let's pray for rigney as he waits for his "beliefs" to "reboot". God willing his new life will be as a new creation.
What we’re really concerned about, in the end, is the Catholic Catechism, particularly the passage which we have previously seen:
839 "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways."In these two paragraphs, something interesting happens: the admission that those who maintain the Jewish faith have not received the Gospel (they are “Those who have not yet received the Gospel”, yes?) is very quickly translated into those who have a viable understanding of the Messiah. Somehow, “the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus” is equated with the Christian hope of the return of the risen Christ as Lord – equated not as identical, but as “similar”, which this paragraph implies (let’s admit it doesn’t come out and say this explicitly) is enough to save them.
The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, "the first to hear the Word of God." The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ", "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."
840 and when one considers the future, God's People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.
That’s interesting in light of 1 John 2’s explicit statements that the only way to know God and to have eternal life is to confess the Son. And what is certain is that Jews do not confess the Son but deny the Son.
I had a team of reasonable people review this essay before posting it, and while none of them are theologians, all of them are reliable people. The common concern they had about the first working draft was that my point about what has happened here is unclear, or esoteric. Let me make it as boldly as possible at this point.
What has not happened in this place is that the CCC has denied that Rome recognizes the savior: what has happened is that Rome has allowed that the Jews, who do not recognize the Messiah, these men do not deny the Father: they simply know Him in another way -- what they say is perhaps an older way, as it is the "Old Covenant" way.
That's the hinge of the problem here: it is not the confession, "I do not need Christ to know God" which is defaming John's letter: it is the confession, "You do not need Christ to know God," or "they do not need Christ to know God" that stands against what John wrote in his first letter.
The CCC continues:
841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."Now, think on that: The Koran explicitly denies that Jesus is the Son of God. Sura 4:157, 4:171, 5:74, 6:101 and 19:90 all explicitly deny the relationship of Jesus to the Father. But here the CCC says that because they make the claim that they worship the God of Abraham, they are included in the plan of salvation.
Consider it: the CCC is not affirming that Jesus Christ is not the Son of God. There’s no question that it does affirm that Jesus is the only Son of the Father. But what it promulgates here is the idea that God the Father can be seen apart from Christ, and in spite of openly denying Christ. When John says (as we reviewed last time), "No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also", John has provided a scriptural litmus test for how the Father can be known, and how the Father is actually known. And he classifies the statement that Jesus is not "Christ" a "lie".
Listen: the matter is not "is Jesus Christ for me?" The matter is whether Jesus is Christ for all men. If I have Jesus as Christ, and you have Moses as Christ, and this other guy has a man named Tom Cruise as Christ, and another fellow has a fellow named Mohammed as Christ, and I say to all of them, "those are all ways of coming to know the Father," I have lied to them. The only way to know the Father is by the Son -- and if you reject the Son, you have rejected the Father.
Anything else, says John, is a lie. There's no family resemblance between the Gospel and Islam; there's no family resemblance between modern Judaism and the Gospel. To say that these in some way reflect the truth about God in spite of their open rejection of Christ is a false hope, a false witness to the uniqueness of Jesus.
This is what fulfills the criteria Kaffinator was so generous to highlight for us. That is, John’s warning here is against those who deny that the Son proclaim a lie – and these paragraphs do exactly that to the Muslim and the Jew: these passages demonstrate a clear affirmation that those who deny Christ have a part in eternal life.
“Now cent,” comes the reasonable objector, “you haven’t finished up here. The next 7 paragraphs expound deftly on the matter of ignorance rather than base rejection. You need to be fair about that these other paragraphs say before you can get this monkey here to dance.”
On the one hand, I think that objection looks past the ways the CCC expresses itself in the previous paragraphs – because it doesn’t say that “ignorant” Jew or the “confused” Muslim: it says “the Jews” and “the Muslims”. But I’d also say that objection is exactly right – the rest is crucial to whether or not what I have just said is true or false:
842 The Church's bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race:In this passage, the CCC says that all religions prepare men for God. That is, in Islam, Allah who never offers a savior is preparing men to receive God. In the underlying document to these brief paragraphs, (Nostrum Aetate) the notion of Buddhists attaining higher knowledge of their own accord or by a higher power is seen as a “holy truth”. It is a plain statement of Christless access to the Father, which John has already deemed a “lie”.
All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city. . .
843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."
And that's the problem I want to big home here: the question is not whether the Roman Magisterium has simply affirmed something which is philosophical or extra-biblical: it is that they have affirmed something to men which is a lie that turns them away from the promise of everlasting life.
844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:We are about to tip into the key affirmation of this passage, but before we do, think about this explanation which is leaned up against Romans 1 in order to prop it up. What is at stake here is whether men can have the Father, and accept the Father, unless they accept the Son. Yet here the Son is not mentioned as the Ultimate matter: the church is. That is: what gets substituted for the Son – that to deny the Son is to deny the Father – is the church as the ultimate expression of salvation.Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair.845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. the Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. the Church is "the world reconciled." She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood.
In fact, that’s what they say in the very next part:
"Outside the Church there is no salvation"Gosh! It’s not the denial of Christ which makes one not able to be saved: It’s the denial of the church which makes one not able to be saved. It’s not even subtle.
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
And think on that: the hope they are extending to all men here is that if they are Muslim, but they allow that the Roman church offers salvation, they are fine Muslims - they have a part in the plan of salvation. But if they are Muslims which deny that the Roman church offers anything to men, they are hell-bound -- can not be saved.
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:What we come upon here is a complete inversion of what 1 John 2 affirmed: it is not that we come to the Church by confessing Christ: we come to Christ by confessing (as well as we can – some of us have the impediments of ignorance and innocence) the church.Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”
What concerns me most about this, in spite of my protests when we started, is the implications to FV and the relationship FV says we ought to have toward the Catholics church based on the objective nature of baptism. See: it seems to me that the RCC here makes a pretty complicated denial of Christ in key respects – a denial of confessing Christ as necessary for the Jew and the Muslim, among others. And because FV is a highly-nuanced system of theology, they ought to be careful regarding the nuances of others which they overlook.
Foundational to the FV position of objective baptism is that the baptism administered has to be a baptism in the Trinitarian form -- and affirmation of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the Athanasian sense. But it seems that the Athanasian sense of who Christ is to all men is, in these passages, overturned -- He may be a good way, or the best way, but He is not the only way to the Father in the CCC. That's a serious charge, and a serious problem in the light of 1 John 2.
Doesn’t John’s definition of denying the identity of God point directly at this writing and say something about whether those who advance it are Trinitarians? Isn’t the inspired definition of acknowledging God’s identity here pointing us to a fraudulent teacher?
Listen: you don’t have to point me to the dozens of places where the Father, Son and Spirit are listed as co-equal in the Godhead in all the Vatican publications. The problem – and the challenge – is to justify the violation of the Trinitarian definition John gives us made by the CCC in these paragraphs.
Please: be with the Lord’s people in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s day this weekend. You need it. It’s been a long week.
I'm sure it was grueling.
And that’s not really very controversial – any decent Catholic will tell you that you ought to read Scripture. They agree that it is useful for Spiritual formation – it is in fact listed as necessary for the right formation of conscience by the CCC. The question is: what do you do with what you read there?
While I have used Deu 6 as a jumping-off place to sort of position the rest of this discussion, my main text for this meditation or series or whatever you want to call it is actually in 1 John 2:
- I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?
- This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us--eternal life.
See: John here, in a few short sentences, defines the right way to see God. One must see the Father through the Son in order to see the Father at all. It’s not a matter of degrees. It’s not a matter of general revelation. It’s a matter of whether or not one denies the Father when one speaks of Christ.
And it’s not even just a matter of whether you “deny” the Father, but a matter of whether, as John continues, you will receive eternal life. If you are in Christ, you have God’s promise of eternal life; if you are not in Christ, you are not given that promise.
Those who deny Christ are liars, John says – the kind of liars which are not given a certain promise of salvation, but denied the promise of salvation. It’s a goats-and-sheep dichotomy; it’s frankly left or right. There’s no fence left to sit on in John’s theology. And it hinges on the identity of the son relative to the Father.
So as we go to review the section of the CCC in the next post, think about that: John is clear that denying Christ is not an act of ignorance but an act of deceit or lying – and doing it denies the identity of God the Father. You can’t be talking about the Father unless you accept the Son.
This is the Scripture’s view of how unique and necessary Christ is. Think about that as we move to compare it to something else.
That is: are both of these things anti-catholicism? It's an important question to answer because I promise you: when we get through parts 2 and 3 here, somebody is going to try to tar me with that epithet because it's a glib way of not dealing with what I am about to say.
Here's the litmus test, as far as I'm concerned: in the set of people consisting of "me" and "Amanda Marcotte", one of us is trying to demonstrate the error of another for the sake of reforming or saving them and the other is venting screed and vulgarity for the sake of villainizing someone they see as socially dangerous. Ironically, I'm not the latter. I'm not trying to villainize anyone.
And my track record points that out. Consider my review of Prayers for the Assassin. In it, I said this:
you read it here first: his portrayal of Catholics is shameful. Whether you're a hard-reformed advocate or not, to read Ferrigno's description of Catholics as the cause of moral decay in the sense he presents it is simply far-fetched and somewhat insulting to what they represent sociologically.And when John Paul II died, I said this about him:
Let's make sure that I say this as clearly as possible: Wojtyla was a player in world politics. He had the ear (and in some cases, the consciences) of major world leaders, and the hearts of hundreds of millions -- and perhaps billions -- of people of all faiths. He campaigned against materialistic excesses, denouncing both the totalitarian effacement of human rights under communism and the libertarian effacement of human dignity under capitalism. He was instrumental (even before he was Pope) in political dissent against Soviet Russia, and was an ally of Ronald Reagan in the end of the Cold War.That's hardly calling for the formation of Catholic ghettos or the fear-mongering screed of someone who thinks a moral objection to contraception leads to a Margaret Atwood novel.
Wojtyla was also a voice of moral reasoning who commanded the most-bully pulpit of them all. He split no hairs, and gave no quarter. There was no one who didn't know where he stood on the matters of the sanctity of life, marriage and human sexuality, the morality of war, and the authority of his church. Wojtyla never shied away from controversy when he believed a critical moral principle was at stake.
And in that, I reject the idea that active Protestant apologetics which focus on the factual comparison of Scripture to Doctrine is "anti-catholic". You have to do more than break out the ink pad and stamp people on the forehead when they tell you that you have made a mistake -- otherwise, you are simply doing what you say they are doing: acting in a bigotted and biased manner without regard to the facts.
If you need more about that, you can read this.
So now I jump in with both feet to internet apologetics focused on a group which is high-profile, and who already holds me in ill-repute, having been banned by Envoy forums and having been placed in Dave Armstrong’s Museum of Anti-Catholic villainy for pointing out to him that the term “anti-Catholic” is a term which denotes sociological bigotry and not merely Protestant dissent and rejection of Rome as a valid church. How’s that not going to leave the same bad taste – especially given the topic which can be rightly rebutted by the avid Catholic advocate, “dude: Rome never once openly rejects the Trinity. You’re full of it”?
Here’s why this is important: this discussion goes directly to the matter of where authority comes from. That’s the top-of-mind issue today for many non-Catholics who look at Rome and ask ahistorical, acontextual questions like, “if I were in church 1500 years ago, where would I be?” It seems to them that because some questions were not (and perhaps could not be) asked until about the 14th century, that Rome is itself a long-standing authority, a long-standing institution, and must therefore have something which (for example) Zwingli-ist Baptists don’t.
That concern gets raised to the highest levels when, for example, the question of whither the Bible is raised. I mean: isn’t the trump card of Catholic apologetics the affirmation that the church assembled and then ultimately canonized the Scriptures, thereby making the Bible a function of Magisterial authority and the right-minded office of the church to teach what God has ordained? I mean: how’s a Baptist supposed to overcome that example – with the Trail of Blood? It seems like it’s the end of the line for any Protestant when it comes down to authority – it’s some kind of unanswerable question. At least, that’s how those who turn up in Catholic apologetics frame it – nobody could answer my questions about authority and why it seems Protestants don’t have any, so I had to follow my conscience to Rome.
So there’s this problem that seems ridiculously common – people who are not Catholics find themselves faced with the most basic claims of Catholicism, and they don’t have any answers. And in the lack of answers, they think they have a logical or spiritual obligation to do what the guy who says he has authority tells him to do.
Well: OK. So where do we start, especially using the ground rules which we have adopted from Dr. Piper’s DGM? I’d like to start at a place where we can talk about Scripture – and one passage of Scripture in particular – in the way which Scripture presents itself.
So, for example, when Scripture says something like this: ):
- You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you--with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant--and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you, for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God, lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.
Let me be somewhat bold about something: the average Catholic and the average Baptist have the same basic problem – that is, there’s nobody reading the Bible to them and telling them what it means. There’s a lot of chatter elsewhere in the bandwidth about the “liturgical” context of Scripture and how that’s the proper basis for developing a hermeneutic, but frankly that idea has the massive problem that not one of the books of the NT was written for the primary purpose of being read during the liturgy. And even if that objection can be overcome, this view of Scripture has the problem of reconciling passages like Deu 6 or Psa 119 which both imply and demand that people read, memorize, and consider the Scripture at all times and not compartmentalize Scripture to some liturgical event.
But in that, the problem that people do not have someone educating them about the Scripture is rather large. For the Protestant, it’s large because that’s a rather central part of the reason we are not Catholics, historically. Sola Scriptura was (and is) a precept which says, in effect, that man does not live by bread alone (speaking of liturgical implications) but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. We should have more concern about what Scripture does say so that when someone comes around with something Scripture doesn’t say, we can at least post-up the first line of defense against error.
For the Catholic, this problem is large because it’s what the Magisterium is allegedly supposed to be doing. If we lay aside (for the moment) the issue of whether the Magisterium is itself the mouth of God, there’s this huge book God has given for the equipping of the faithful, and it appears that Rome doesn’t have any authoritative affirmations about that book. For example, there’s Genesis 1 and the matter of Creation. Without any question, the Catholic affirms – every Sunday – that God created the Heavens and the Earth, right? We believe in one God, the Father, creator of Heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen. But can the Catholic read Genesis 1 and say, “The church has taught me, without any room to doubt it, that Genesis 1 is about the creation of the world by God”?
The answer is “no”. There are no infallible teachings to that matter – so the Catholic may read Genesis 1, and may, by his own power and learning, come to the conclusion that Gen 1 is about how God created the Heavens and the Earth, but that’s not an infallible belief: that’s a fallible belief. A homily this Sunday doesn’t fix that, either: only the Magisterium or the Pope may address the issue infallibly, and if they don’t, the Catholic has to muddle through as best he can until they do.
And I say that to say this: the authority problem cuts both ways, if it makes a cut at all. If it is required that there is some human person who can clear a matter up by means of his position or office, the Protestant is somewhat hung as he is without such a fellow, and the Catholic seems to have a guy who might have such an office but refuses to use it in that way.
So the question of human authority cannot decide for us what a passages of Scripture says. But it also seems, as we look at Deu 6 or Psa 119, that this question is not in the mind of the writers of Scripture. They escape the question by framing the matter in a significantly-different way.
You know – Deu 6 says what is says (above). Think about that: God is here issuing the Mosaic law, with its priesthood and its sacrifices, and the command to all of Israel is not, “and since I tell the priests special things, listen to them first”, but “these words that I command you today shall be on your heart”. Use all manner of means to never forget them – because in the good times ahead, you will be prone to forget them and turn away from me, God your Savior.
See: it is God’s word which the faithful must cling to – not God’s word interpreted, but what God said. God’s word is what will keep one from turning to idols and abandoning God. And what’s at stake here is whether you will do it for you.
So as we turn to Scripture, and then one group’s affirmation about who God is and how He relates to people, let’s remember that Scripture is given to us for our sake. It glorifies God, and proclaims what He has said, and while it does many things greatly, it instructs us about who God is and how we will know Him.
Anyone who wants to take that off the table is trying to take something precious away from you. If you want them to do that, I can’t stop you. I can only tell you it’s a bad idea.