Sunday, December 31, 2006
“The astonishing thing is that people can become religious without being converted. That is, they join churches and start reading the Bible and doing religious things with no change in the foundation of their happiness: It is still themselves. They are the ground of their joy.” - John Piper
What We Believe
When it comes to doctrine, culture, preferences, traditions, lifestyles, politics, behavior, etc., Mars Hill Church takes a “closed-hand/open-hand” approach. The closed hand hangs onto the non-negotiable tenants of Christian orthodoxy: sin is the problem, Jesus is the answer, the Bible is true, and Hell is hot.
The open hand, however, allows room for differences when it comes to secondary matters; we liberally allow freedom for conscience and wisdom to guide where the Bible is silent. The open hand fosters unity among the diversity of expressions found in the Mars Hill congregation: Democrats and Republicans, soccer moms and indie rockers, carnivores and vegans, trendy bohemians and Microsoft nerds.
Hence, Mars Hill Church is in favor of good beer (in moderation), great sex (in marriage), and even tattoos (Jesus has one). But our goal must always be love and concern for our friends so that we don’t enjoy our freedom at the expense of their faith.
In this way, we are seeking to simultaneously heed the Bible’s commands to have sound doctrine (1Timothy 4:16; Titus 1:9, 2:1), to love our Christian brothers and sisters (1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 4:7-21), and to avoid unnecessary divisions (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 1:10, 12:25; Titus 3:10).
Also, Mars Hill's doctrinal statement can be found here.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Please pray for us that we would see and savor the glory of God in everything we do this week.
LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. - Habakkuk 3:2
Friday, December 29, 2006
Be encouraged. Christ Jesus is gloriously sovereign yesterday, today, and forever.
Whether we are aware of it or not, most contemporary Calvinists are deeply indebted to Edwards. His defense of Calvinism in works such as Freedom of the Will have made a deep and lasting impact on Reformed theology. It did not take me long to realize that much of what I believe, much of what I have taught to others and much of what has been passed down to me originated with Edwards. A lifelong student of the Bible, he wrestled with the great doctrines of the Scriptures and expounded them for countless generations of other Christians. Truly his impact can hardly be exaggerated.
As I read about Jonathan Edwards, I could not help but draw comparisons to some of the great pastors and theologians who have lived since, but especially of John Piper who, in so many ways, is an Edwards to this generation. Piper has been so profoundly impacted by Edwards and, as I understand it, considers himself a teacher who brings before this generation the great work of men like Owen and Edwards. From what I know of his teaching and his life, he certainly does seem to exemplify the teachings and the ideals of his historical hero. Much of what has come from the mouth and the pen of Piper came first from the pen of Edwards.
Edwards is a towering figure in the history of the church and one whose impact will continue to be felt, I am sure, until the Lord returns. He lived a life that seemed both too difficult and too short. And yet he wasted scarcely a moment, dedicating his life to the great cause of defending and expounding biblical truths. This book surely presents Edwards as he was--a man who, though certainly flawed and sinful, was used greatly by God. Though he may have been brilliant in intellect, what makes Edwards such an important figure is his love for the Lord and his dedication to knowing Him more. These are ideals we can all imitate and all strive towards.
cc: Excerpts from Tim Challies review of George Marsden's biography on Edwards.
In December 2002 my time had arrived to Pastor and I came to The Village with all the ignorance and arrogance of a 28 year old with all the answers and few questions and immediately began learning that I was an idiot. Over the last four years I have been challenged, refined, chiseled and rebuked. And somehow in the middle of all of that Ned and I became good friends. It started over a cup of coffee (and I'm not speaking in code here. Ned does not and will never have a beer with me). I started learning some things about him over that cup of coffee. First of all, we are very different. He loves Sandy Patty records, has 5 icthus' on his car (one of each member of his family) and only watches the PAX network on television. As I learned all this about him I wondered how we could co-exist or honestly even have a conversation, but then the strangest of things happened we found some common ground. It seems that Ned and I have, as hard as this is to say, some similar passions. I found out that day that Ned loves both the church and Jesus very much. On top of that he wants with all his heart to see his neighbor, Homer, come to know Christ, and prays for him constantly. It was a shocking revelation to me. The problem that I thought plagued us wasn't the problem at all.
It's a strange thing to wake up and find out you are the very thing you hated and rebelled against to begin with. Judging men not by the content of their souls but by how they dress, talk and drink. I was expected when I came to know Jesus to wear a suit on Sunday, part my hair on the side and then hairspray it down, quit drinking completely and learn to speak "Christianese" fluently. If I did those things I was welcomed and loved if not, I was the outcast. I find it heartbreaking that I have tendencies to do the same to others. The expectations have changed, it's not a suit it's an un-tucked shirt, it's not your hair parted down the side it's messy hair that you spent 15 minutes making look messy. But it's the same madness, the same judgments, and the same sin that plagued my fathers before me. We think our methods are the methods instead of a method. So Ned and I are friends. We fight a lot, usually over philosophy of ministry and volume of music, but on weekends like last weekend when we baptize dozens and dozens of grown men and women I can see him back there, last row on the left earplugs in, surrounded by raw, gritty, authentic, and somewhat angry but not enough to be called sin, tattooed and rough around the edges people and he loves the place and I think he might even like me.
cc: Matt Chandler
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Southern Baptist pastor Dr. Jerry Vines:
"The case against the use (not just the abuse) of alcohol is easy to build. Physically, socially, domestically, influentially, and yes, biblically, total abstinence is the only way to go for a Christian who takes Bible [sic] separation seriously . . . To think that there are now pastors of churches, leaders of youth groups and members of boards of SBC entities who are promoting moderation rather than total abstinence shows just how far down the road to apostasy we have traveled."
So according to Dr. Vines, 100 years of Baptist abstinence trump 2000 years of Christian moderation? I'm not buying it . . .
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I've often wondered if children in school continue to read Huckleberry Finn. It is a truly great story by a master storyteller and is a book I enjoyed a great deal when we read it in the eighth grade. I can still remember my teacher, who also happened to be the school's principal, reading the story aloud to us and helping us understand it. While it is a great story, it is also one that has a certain word appear many times. It's that word that has only recently, I believe, come to be known as the "n-word." Just uttering that word these days is enough to end careers and destroy friendships. And yet, even a few decades ago, it was considered acceptable in a story. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that Huckleberry Finn is no longer read in schools simply because of that word.
Words come and go. There are thousands of words that have fallen out of use or have had their meanings changed as time has passed and the language has evolved. And, of course, many thousands more have been introduced into the language, some coined to express something very specific (i.e., "metrosexual") and some to describe a new object or technology. Sometimes it is good for words to pass out of common use, and the "n-word" is one of these words. Hurtful, derogatory and laden with bad memories, there is no benefit to maintaining this word. But there are other words that we need to maintain, we need to keep in our common lexicon.
One of these words, a word we need to hold onto, is "sin." This word is found only rarely now outside the bounds of the church, and sadly, almost as rarely within. In the past few weeks I've read several books which speak of errors, mistakes and bad judgment, but never of sin. All of these books are written by and about Christians. In his autobiography, Shawn Alexander writes about making many mistakes in his life, but never of committing sin. When writing about Joel Osteen, his biographer admits mistakes in Osteen's life, but never charges him with sin. Dr. Phil's wife, Robin McGraw, has done many dumb things, but to the point of the book I've read, has not sinned. And so on. Humans seem eager to admit mistakes and error, but loathe to admit sin.
There is something about this word, this little "s-word," that offends people. We are not offended by mistakes. We are offended by sin. The problem is that sin and mistakes are not the same thing.
I've thought about this for a while now and it seems to me that the reason we are afraid to admit sin lies in its definition. Where a mistake is something like "a wrong action attributable to bad judgment or ignorance or inattention", according to the Shorter Catechism, "sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God." Mistakes are inevitable in this life and, while they may be a product of the Fall, they are not necessarily sinful. I may make a mistake about the time I am to pick my son up from school and arrive fifteen minutes late. This is not sinful, but it is a mistake. I have made a mistake and my son has suffered just a little bit as he had to wait a few minutes. And so I apologize to my son and the situation is over. But when I sin against my son, perhaps by snapping at him when he is inquisitive and I am tired and grumpy, I have not made a mistake; I have sinned. I have offended both my son and God. I have offended my son but have ultimately offended God. David says in Psalm 51:4 "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." Of course David had also sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah and the whole nation of Israel. And yet he knew that his ultimate sin was against God.
And so it seems that we are afraid to admit sin because it requires that we admit we have offended God. And when we admit to offending God, we admit that we are deserving of His punishment. We are deserving of His wrath. We are deserving of hell. And who wants to admit this? To admit to this is to go against our sinful natures and all that we believe about ourselves.
When we refuse to utter the "s-word," and worse, when we refuse to view ourselves as sinners, we refuse to admit our need of a Savior. We tacitly suggest that we can remedy our own mistakes rather than relying on the Savior who has paid for sin.
The one and only Smith family.
The always incredible Alloway family.
The ever awesome Hughes family. (This folder will be continually updated until 12/31.)
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
*NOTE: This picture is awesome.
“The waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me. . . This God—his way is perfect” (2 Samuel 22:5, 31).
After the loss of his ten children owing to a “natural disaster” (Job 1:19), Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). At the end of the book, the inspired writer confirms Job’s understanding of what happened. He says Job’s brothers and sisters “comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). This has several crucial implications for us as we think about the calamity in the Indian Ocean.
1. Satan is not ultimate, God is.
Satan had a hand in Job’s misery, but not the decisive hand. God gave Satan permission to afflict Job (Job 1:12; 2:10). But Job and the writer of this book treat God as the ultimate and decisive cause. When Satan afflicts Job with sores, Job says to his wife, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10), and the writer calls these satanic sores “the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). So Satan is real. Satan brings misery. But Satan is not ultimate or decisive. He is on a leash. He goes no farther than God decisively permits.
2. Even if Satan caused the earthquake in the Indian Ocean the day after Christmas, he is not the decisive cause of 100,000+ deaths, God is.
God claims power over tsunamis in Job 38:8 when he asks Job rhetorically, “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb . . . and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” Psalm 89:8-9 says, “O Lord . . . you rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.” And Jesus himself has the same control today as he once did over the deadly threats of waves: “He . . . rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm” (Luke 8:24). In other words, even if Satan caused the earthquake, God could have stopped the waves.
3. Destructive calamities in this world mingle judgment and mercy.
Their purposes are not simple. Job was a godly man and his miseries were not God’s punishment (Job 1:1, 8). Their design was purifying not punishment (Job 42:6). But we do not know the spiritual condition of Job’s children. Job was certainly concerned about them (Job 1:5). God may have taken their life in judgment. If that is true, then the same calamity proved in the end to be mercy for Job and judgment on his children. This is true of all calamities. They mingle judgment and mercy. They are both punishment and purification. Suffering, and even death, can be both judgment and mercy at the same time.
The clearest illustration of this is the death of Jesus. It was both judgment and mercy. It was judgment on Jesus because he bore our sins (not his own), and it was mercy toward us who trust him to bear our punishment (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24) and be our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Another example is the curse that lies on this fallen earth. Those who do not believe in Christ experience it as judgment, but believers experience it as, merciful, though painful, preparation for glory. “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope” (Romans 8:20). This is God’s subjection. This is why there are tsunamis.
Who suffers from this fallen world of natural disasters? All of us, Christians included: “Not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). For those who cast themselves on the mercy of Christ these afflictions are “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). And when death comes, it is a door to paradise. But for those who do not treasure Christ, suffering and death are God’s judgment. “It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).
For children, who are too young to process mentally the revelation of God in nature or Scripture, death is not the final word of judgment. God’s commitment to display his justice publicly means that he does not finally condemn sinful people who could not physically construe natural or special revelation (Romans 1:20). There is a difference between suppressing revelation that one can mentally comprehend (Romans 1:18), and not having a brain sufficient to comprehend it at all. Therefore, when small children suffer and die, we may not assume they are being punished or judged. No matter how horrible the suffering or death, God can turn it for their greater good.
4. The heart that Christ gives to his people feels compassion for those who suffer, no matter what their faith.
When the Bible says, “Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), it does not add, “unless God caused the weeping.” Job’s comforters would have done better to weep with Job than talk so much. That does not change when we discover that Job’s suffering was ultimately from God. No, it is right to weep with those who suffer. Pain is pain, no matter who causes it. We are all sinners. Empathy flows not from the causes of pain, but the company of pain. And we are all in it together.
Finally, Christ calls us to show mercy to those who suffer, even if they do not deserve it.
That is the meaning of mercy—undeserved help. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). Therefore, pray earnestly for Scott Purser and his team as they investigate the best way that the Global Diaconate can mercifully respond with the love of Christ to the calamity around the Indian Ocean.
In the merciful hands of Almighty God,
Monday, December 25, 2006
Old Saint Nick: Today's "jolly old elf," Santa Claus, is based on a real saint who lived in Turkey in the 4th century. Saint Nicholas was renowned for his generosity and love of children. According to historical sources, he would drop coins down the chimney to preserve his anonymity and the dignity of his recipients.
Gift Giving: Once frowned upon as a pagan custom dating back to the Romans, gift giving is an integral part of our Christmas tradition. Santa's alias, "Kriss Kringle," means Christ child in German, and referred to a medieval legend that the infant Jesus distributed presents.
Mistletoe Kissing: Remember the following Norse fable the next time you sneak a smooch under the mistletoe: Frigga, goddess of love and beauty, wanted to make the world safe for her son, Balder. Everything on earth promised to do him no harm except the one plant Frigga overlooked, mistletoe. Loki, an evil spirit, made an arrow from the mistletoe's wood and killed Balder. Frigga's tears became the plant's white berries and revived her son. In her gratitude, Frigga promised to kiss anyone who passed under the mistletoe, just as we do today.
Candy Canes: The striped confections we now love to crunch were once straight white sticks of sugar candy. In the 1600s, in Cologne, Germany, traditional folktales reveal that the candies were bent at the end to remind children of a shepherd's crook and to keep them quiet in church.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
DRI - /Directly Responsible Individual/
eater's coma - a condition characterized by sluggishness, sleepiness, and often a lack of motivation to do anything but rest/relax or sleep; a condition whose onset occurs shortly after a meal, usually dinner
glibido - all talk and no action
treeware - printed computer software or hardware documentation
yuppie food stamps - the ubiquitous $20 bills spewed out at ATMs everywhere, as when trying to split the bill after a meal; We each owe $8, but all anybody's got are yuppie food stamps!
"Slugs and Bugs and Lullabies" will captivate your little ones with delightful melodies and bombastic charm, and then quiet them down into dreams with tender lullabies. With 18 original compositions, Randall and Andrew have changed the landscape for kids music.
"Parents won't want to stick a fork in their eye when they've heard it for the 10th time in a row." -- Randall Goodgame
"It's the first time I've been glad that my music can put people to sleep." -- Andrew Peterson
Buy "Slugs & Bugs & Lullabyes" here.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
In a nutshell, my view of the English language Bible translation enterprise is that the goal should be to preserve the ambiguities in good English that are present in the original language. Paraphrasing these ambiguities in English to "clarify" them is the role of the preacher and commentator, not the role of the translator. So "Jews" should not be paraphrased "Jewish leaders." The "obedience of faith" should not be paraphrased "faith and obedience." "The freedom of the glory of the children of God" should not be paraphrased "the freedom and glory of the children of God." "Bears all things" should not be paraphrased "always protects." "Who hopes for what he sees?" should not be paraphrased "Who hopes for what they already have?" "Saints" or "holy ones" should not be paraphrased "God's people." "We are being killed" should not be paraphrased "we face death." "Choosing to show his wrath" should not be paraphrased "although choosing to show his wrath." And the word "because" or "for" should not be omitted 30 times in the book of Romans.
Many of the changes in gender language are also problematic. As stated in the Statement of Concern, "The TNIV makes significant changes in the gender language that is in the NIV. The TNIV raises more concern in this regard than previous Bible versions because, riding on the reputation of the NIV, the TNIV may vie for a place as the church's commonly accepted Bible. We believe that any commonly accepted Bible of the church should be more faithful to the language of the original."
Zondervan, chief among Bible-mongers, has released the TNIV. This (new! improved!) Bible is notable for two things, the first being some of the places they have been advertising it—Rolling Stone, Modern Bride, The Onion, and MTV.com. The second thing is the gender-neutral language, which they are pleased to hawk as "gender-accurate."
Of course this means they have to market the Old New International Version (ONIV) as being the gender-inaccurate version. :)
World Magazine has now started a new blog solely devoted to the TNIV controversy. I encourage you to check it out.
Concerning the TNIV:
One of the rationales for the controversial TNIV (Today's New International Version) is that it is more understandable and more accurate for today's generation--especially those in the 18 to 34 year olds. The publishers of the TNIV tell us we need a translation they can understand. But who in the world--besides politically-correct academicians--speaks this way?
Genesis 9:6 "Whoever sheds human blood, by human beings shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made humankind."
Example: Jake is either grafted to the couch, the back yard hammock, the lounge chair, or the lazyboy... or still in bed.
Whitey's Guide to Ebonics: A guide to learning ebonics, translated for middle class white people.
For those of you who may not understand what is meant by the term "Ebonics," let alone da wordz dat make up dis krazy language, I'm givin you a few simple definitions. The definition you can most relate to will determine how "not-so-black" you are, and will serve as a good indicator of how much work you will need to do in catchin' up with the rest of us. (The "not-so-black" quote comes from muh man, Voddie Baucham.)
The “You Be White” Definition: African-American slang which is not usually readily understood by caucasions.
The “You’za Cracka” Definition: A version of english made up of a variety of slang words. Stands for ebony and phonics. Widely spoken among the African-American culture.
The “You Be Mo’ White Than a Powduhd Donut in a Glass o’ Milk on a Paypuh Plate in a Snow Storm” Definition: A "variation" of English entirely made up of slang and southern word shortenings. It is generally spoken in the "hood" (neighborhood) and has almost no defined syntactical structure. Also of note is the almost complete lack of conjugation of verbs ("I be", "she be", "thems be", etc) and the mixing of pronouns. When spoken in any educated circles, its usage usually screams "I am illiterate."
Below is a list of wordz to get you started . . .
Christmas creep - A phenomenon where the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier each year. If they don't keep the Christmas creep under control, the season will start in June before we know it.
compunicate - to chat with someone in the same room via instant messaging service instead of in person.
dandruff - a person who "flakes out" and ditches their friends.
ringtone DJ - an annoying person who shuffles through all of their ringtones incessantly.
ginormous - the combination of gigantic and enormous
I be spittin mo ebonica in deez comin dayz. Stay wit me now . . .
Friday, December 22, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
I had to fight back the tears in watching this trailer.
In February of 2007 a film titled Amazing Grace will hit theatres, though only in limited release (Warren Theatres in Wichita should be showing this film). The movie deals with the life of "the world's greatest reformer," William Wilberforce.
Wilberforce was a main influence in the abolition of slavery in England. As a Member of Parliament, he navigated the world of 18th Century backroom politics to end the slave trade in the British Empire.
Interesting Fact: John Newton, former slave-trader and the author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace,” was a chum of Wilberforce who inspired him to pursue a life of service to humanity.
Interesting Fact II: The singer you hear at the beginning of the trailer is Christ Tomlin.
If you’re interested in learning more about William Wilberforce, check out DesiringGod. In the link provided, you can read or listen to this seminar Piper gave in 2002 .
BENTON, La. — A woman jailed after four of her infant daughter's toes were gnawed off says the family's pet ferret did it, not their pit bull pup as police had said.
Read more here.
After you account for inflation, the price of gasoline today (about $2.26/gallon) is 67 cents cheaper than it was in 1922. It's 69 cents cheaper than it was in 1981. The record average was set in March of 1981: $3.12 per gallon.24 oz. bottles of water often go for about $1.29. That's $6.88 per gallon.Pints of "premium" ice cream run for about $3.39. That's $27.00 per gallon!Yet if you ask people which costs more--gasoline, water, or ice cream--gas always wins.20/20's
John Stossel writes:
We should marvel at how cheap gasoline is--what a bargain we get from oil companies. After all, it's easy to bottle water, but think about what it takes to produce and deliver gasoline. Oil has to be sucked out of the ground, sometimes from deep beneath an ocean. To get to the oil, the drills often have to bend and dig sideways through as much as five miles of earth. What they find then has to be delivered through long pipelines or shipped in monstrously expensive ships, then converted into three or more different formulas of gasoline and transported in trucks that cost more than $100,000 each. Then your local gas company must spend a fortune on safety devices to make sure you don't blow yourself up. At $2.26 a gallon (about forty six cents of which go to taxes), gas is miraculously cheap!Remember that the next time the media complains about record high gas prices!
John Stossel, Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel--Why Everything You Know Is Wrong, p. 22. [NB: All the figures from above come from this book.]
cc: Between Two Worlds
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I've been told that these books were a helpful criticism and good point of reference into Openness Theology:
Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity
Their God Is Too Small: Open Theism and the Undermining of Confidence in God
God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism
I hope these are helpful for those who are interested in pursuing this further.
24 is the greatest show ever. Ever. Period. Ever.
You need to know this.
With the fifth and arguably best season of the hit television show 24 now concluded and season six ready to explode TV screens worldwide come mid-January, Jack Bauer can take a much needed shower, get something to eat, and power up his cell phone battery (which magically lasts forever). At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I would like to offer the suggestion that perhaps 24 is incredibly popular because Jack Bauer is a lot like Jesus, as the following correlations indicate:
- Jack and Jesus are both dudes who worked in construction.
- Jack and Jesus have disciples and Jack's disciples have names like Chloe, Michelle, Bill, and Tony.
- Jack and Jesus do not lie and can be trusted to accomplish whatever they promise.
- Jack and Jesus both oppose evil and seek to bring forth a glorious shalom world, free of tyranny and evildoers.
- Jack and Jesus were both betrayed by a close friend who ended up dying as a result of his sin.
- Jack and Jesus are both saviors willing to lay down their life for those they love.
- Jack and Jesus were both resurrected from death; Jack was essentially put to death to fool the Chinese government and then resuscitated.
But the show works for the same reasons it could have failed. And it is also a great case for expository Bible teaching. While that may sound like a leap, think about it. Expository Bible teaching requires going through a book of the Bible to tell its story over the course of many, many weeks so that characters, setting, theme and such are established just like 24. Expository Bible teaching requires a masculine dude named Jesus to be presented each week as the hero/savior who is willing to risk His own life to defeat evil and rescue those He loves. And expository Bible teaching should be long, let's say 42 minutes on DVD, around an hour if seen live, and take the time to show the horrors and complications of life on the earth under the curse with wildly unpredictable storylines that God inspired to be told.
cc: Mark Driscoll
Epistemological and Hermeneutical Implications on Preaching
Note: This graph is taken from achapter in Driscoll's forthcoming book, Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, edited by Robert Webber and co-authored in a debate format with Doug Pagitt, Karen Ward, Dan Kimball, and John Burke.
cc: Mark Driscoll
adminisphere - the rarefied organizational layers beginning just above the rank and file. Decisions that fall from the adminisphere are often profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant to the problems they were designed to solve.
Batmobiling - /from the retracting armor covering the Batmobile/ putting up emotional shields
chips & salsa - chips = hardware, salsa = software; Well, first we gotta figure out if the problem's in your chips or your salsa (See previous post: chips & salsa, the Church, & Open Theism)
Dilberted - /derived from the experiences of Dilbert, the geek-in-hell comic strip character by Scott Adams/ to be exploited and oppressed by your boss
egosurfing - scanning the net, databases, print media, or research papers, looking for the mention of your name (C'mon, you know you've done this.)
more to come . . .
The Holy Baby
Written by Ron Block
We’ve heard it hundreds of times - the Bible story of the Redeemer’s birth. The Baby in a manger, Silent Night, the angels and the shepherds, the wise men following the star. As a boy I grew up knowing Jesus came to save me from the consequences due my sins, that He came to shed His blood for me so that I could go to heaven. I didn’t learn until 30 that that was only half the reason.
In the Messiah’s birth, God struck a tent of human flesh and entered our human situation. He set aside his omnipotence and took on the feebleness of an infant; He laid down his omniscience and accepted the absorbent, blank consciousness of a baby; He gave up his omnipresence and localized himself in a human body. Why?
Adam and Eve had taken the wrong road, the way of self-effort, the path of false independence from God; Eve, rather than believing God, believed the lie of the Serpent that the human itself could be like God, knowing good and evil, and not die; the implication was that she could choose good and gain eternal life apart from God. Instead of eating of the tree of Life, which is Christ, they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and so became infected with “..the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.” (Eph 2:2). This spirit of independence, of self-effort, self-actualization and self-improvement, is at the heart of the world system; performance-based acceptance is the fuel the Matrix runs on. Every world religion is steeped in it, and even much of Christendom is tainted by what Jesus called “the leaven of the Pharisees.”
But there’s a major problem with human effort - it doesn’t work. The end result of it is either self-condemnation or self-righteousness, both springing from the same source - false independence from God. The entire history of humanity is one of fallen dreams, dashed hopes, unreachable utopias. We’re not meant to run on our own effort, our own vision, our own ways and means of coping, because really there is no such thing as human independence from God. “He that is not with Me is against Me.” This is an either-or situation. We are either in union with Christ through dying with Him on the Cross, or we are still powered by the mindset of the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.” Self-effort or inner reliance on Christ are the only two options available to us.
Jesus said, “Only God is good.” The perfect Man said of His humanity, “I can do nothing of Myself,” and “The Father in Me does the works.” He claimed that the only source of righteousness in the entire universe was God Himself, that at the heart of His humanity was the God who had created humans to be expressions of Himself. God in the flesh He was, and is - yet He set aside everything to become a human being indwelt, directed, and empowered only by the Spirit. “I do as I see My Father doing.” Though He was God, He lived as an ordinary man who had to trust the indwelling Spirit.
The holy Baby was born to become what we are meant to be - a vessel, a cup, indwelt by the Wine of Spirit. He “learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” As our representative He came to take our place in life, and having done that He traded places with us in death as if He were the sinner. The angel told Joseph in Mt 1:21 “...you shall call His name JESUS; for He shall save his people from their sins.” Jesus came to save us from being a sin people - not merely saving us from the consequences due our sins, but from being the kind of people who commit them. I came to the point in my Christian life where I realized I didn’t want God’s forgiveness anymore if He didn’t change my behavior; the hamster wheel of self-effort, of try-sin-repent-try-sin-repent ad nauseum had done its holy work. I was utterly spun out on self-effort, and came to the place in my consciousness where I began to agree with God, in spite of appearances, that I was ‘dead with Christ’ and ‘raised with Him to walk in newness of life’; it was at that point I began to see real life change. The old “I”, the old union with the prince of the power of the air, had long ago died in Christ, and the new union with Him became operational the moment I put my faith in Him. It took years for me to see that fact, and I’m just now beginning to appropriate it.
The Baby of Bethlehem was born so I could become right with God - and not only right with Him, but indwelt, directed, and empowered by Him. That infinite inheritance is available in the here and now - Christ is now our peace, our patience, our holiness, our love, our life. He is our all in all. But in order to access that inheritance, we have to let go of the mindset of self-effort, of self-improvement, of self-actualization. I don’t at all mean our actions shouldn’t be good actions - but what we must recognize is at the heart of our inner being, Christ lives, and we are complete in Him, holy, and acceptable to God. We don't start at the bottom of the mountain of holiness and start the climb; God has put us at the top in Christ. All that remains is to rely on the indwelling Overcomer. That is why Paul could say both, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” and “I press forward to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” “When I am weak, then I am strong,’” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We are to trust violently in the indwelling Spirit, always reaching to trust more fully. We “cease from our own works” but “labor to enter His rest.” We move over from self-effort to putting our concentration on inner reliance, from trying to be good to living from His indwelling righteousness.
He was born in a common stable filled with the dirt, manure, and junk of animality. God is still striking tents in the dirt and grit of human flesh; He is still entering the messy human situation. Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, but through Him by grace we become His brothers and sisters; the Spirit of Jesus Christ washes, enters, indwells, directs, and empowers His people. Eze 36:27 says, “...I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” That’s why the holy Baby was born.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
I say all of this because a great friend of mine, Ryan Brumbaugh, just left my house. We had a great time: chips and salsa, chatting with my beautiful sister, laughing at Conan O’Brien, and a great conversation about some of the challenges we see facing the Church in the 21st century. One of these challenges is Open Theism. Sadly, many of us involved in Church have little or no knowledge of this topic. Hopefully this blog will serve as a primer to the discussion of Open Theism and Openness Theology. As well as...serve as another reminder that all good and lasting conversations revolve around chips and salsa.
Open theism is a relatively new doctrine that has only gained popular prominence since 1994 with the release of the book The Openness of God which was written by five evangelical scholars and edited by Clark Pinnock. What began on the fringes of scholarship has quickly gained a popular following, in part because of the publication of entry-level titles such as Gregory Boyd's God of the Possible and in part because of the acceptance of the doctrine by various popular authors. While many evangelicals do not embrace this doctrine themselves, they may regard it as an optional doctrine that remains within the pale of orthodox evangelicalism.
This is a definition that has been adapted from Monergism.com: "Open Theism is a sub-Christian theological construct which claims that God's highest goal is to enter into a reciprocal relationship with man. In this scheme, the Bible is interpreted without any anthropomorphisms - that is, all references to God's feelings, surprise and lack of knowledge are literal and the result of His choice to create a world where He can be affected by man's choices. God's exhaustive knowledge does not include future free will choices by mankind because they have not yet occurred."
One of the leading spokesmen of open theism, Clark Pinnock, in describing how libertarian freedom trumps God's omniscience says, "Decisions not yet made do not exist anywhere to be known even by God. They are potential--yet to be realized, but not yet actual. God can predict a great deal of what we will choose to do, but not all of it, because some of it remains hidden in the mystery of human freedom ... The God of the Bible displays an openness to the future (i.e. ignorance of the future) that the traditional view of omniscience simply cannot accommodate." (Pinnock, "Augustine to Arminius, " 25-26)
Open theism is characterized in several ways:
- God's greatest attribute is love. God's love so overshadows His other characteristics that He could never allow or condone evil or suffering to befall mankind.
- Man has libertarian free will. Man's will has not been so effected by the Fall that he is unable to make a choice to follow God. God respects man's freedom of choice and would not infringe upon it.
- God does not have exhaustive knowledge of the future. Indeed, He cannot know certain future events because the future exists only as possibility. God is unable to see what depends on the choices of free will agents simply because this future does not yet exist, so it unknowable. In this way open theists attempt to reconcile this doctrine with God's ominiscience.
- God takes risks. Because God cannot know the future, He takes risks in many ways - creating people, giving them gifts and abilities, and so on. Where possibilities exist, so does risk.
- God learns. Because God does not know the future exhaustively, He learns, just as we do.
- God is reactive. Because He is learning, God is constantly reacting to the decisions we make.
- God makes mistakes. Because He is learning and reacting, always dealing with limited information, God can and does make errors in judgment which later require re-evaluation.
- God can change His mind. When God realizes He has made an error in judgment or that things did not unfold as He supposed, He can change His mind.
The best-known proponents of open theism are: Clark Pinnock & Greg Boyd. John Sanders & David Basinger are also known for their work in Open Theism.
I hesitate to put John Eldridge on this list, but I think I need to. Though Eldredge denies he is an open theist, the evidence does not support his claim. Time and time again he speaks of God in ways that can only be explained if you hold such views. While the following quotes are taken from Wild at Heart, similar beliefs are expressed in at least one of his other works (The Sacred Romance). "God is a person who takes immense risks" (p. 30). "It's not the nature of God to limit His risks and cover His bases" (p.31). "As with every relationship, there's a certain amount of unpredictability. God's willingness to risk is just astounding. There is definitely something wild in the heart of God" (p. 32).
My chief concerns with open theism are as follows:
- A Denial of Omniscience. While men like Greg Boyd deny that open theism denies God's omniscience, this is simply not true. Even if it is true that the future exists only as possibilities, something that is not adequately proven by open theists, we are still putting a limit on God's knowledge when we state that He cannot know these possibilities. This view of God's knowledge of the future is unique in that it is at odds with every other Judeo-Christian tradition.
- God's goodness, greatness and glory are at stake. The God of the Open Theists is, in the words of Bruce Ware, too small. He is not the all-knowing, all-powerful God revealed so clearly in the pages of the Bible. Christians need to always be concerned that both they and God are making poor decisions based on inadequate information. Thus we cannot always count on God to do what is best, because even He does not always know what this is.
- The Christian's confidence in God is at stake. If open theism is true, the Christian cannot put his full trust and confidence in God. "The God of open theism will always want our best, but since he may not in fact know what is best, it becomes impossible to give him our unreserved and unquestioning trust" (Bruce Ware, Their God is Too Small, page 20). When hardships arise we will have to ask if God anticipated these, or if He is as shocked and distressed as we are.
My Two Cents
Needless to say, I find this doctrine wholly incompatible with our knowledge of God as presented in His Word--Jesus Christ. Open theism contradicts the understanding of God in every Judeo-Christian tradition, undermines our confidence in God and erodes our trust in His promises that He always has our best interests in mind. It is a dangerous, malignant doctrine. Unfortunately, with it being subtly taught by popular teachers like John Eldredge, it is being introduced to millions of Christians who may come to accept the view of a risk-taking God without understanding the consequences of such a view.
NOTE: This is not meant to be a personal reflection on any one person, or group of persons, merely an insight into Openness Theology.
But, please take special notice of this, especially you who tend to keep God at arm's distance from your emotions. According to Hosea 2:16, God does not want you to return to him and say, "Yes, Sir," and set about your duties. He wants you to come into the wilderness, to listen to him speak tenderly, and to respond to him, "My husband." God wants your heart, not just your hands, because if he has your heart, he has everything.
Now go read Hosea.
The baptism issue is a little different. It’s very hard to have it both ways because when an infant is born in a church, you either baptize the infant, or you don’t. So it’s much more difficult to say, “Let’s just all get along on this.” Well, fine, we all get along. But do we baptize this new baby or not? A church can’t have it both ways. When I wrote my book, Systematic Theology, I was more hopeful that a compromise might be possible in which churches would allow individual pastors and individual families to make this decision for themselves. That is what the Evangelical Free Church of America has done, and it is a strong, healthy denomination in the United States that holds fully to the inerrancy of Scripture. But after many decades, no other denomination, to my knowledge, seems willing to follow them in this position.
The problem is what such a “compromise” implies about the views of baptism of the people who adopt it. For people who hold to infant baptism, they have to be able to say that it’s OK for believing parents not to baptize their infant children, which seems to them to be disobeying a command of Scripture as they understand it. How can they really say this?
On the other side, those who hold to believer’s baptism (as I do) have to be willing to admit into church membership people who have been baptized as infants, and who did not, of course, make any profession of faith at the time they were baptized. But these people (such as myself) who think that genuine baptism has to follow a personal profession of faith are then put in position of saying that infant baptism is also a valid form of baptism. And that contradicts what they believe about the essential nature of baptism – that it is an outward sign of an inward spiritual change, so that the apostle Paul could say, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)
I don’t think I realized this difficulty when I wrote my Systematic Theology. I had been in an Evangelical Free Church for about four years and it seemed to me to work well enough. But now I’m beginning to realize that admitting to church membership someone who has not been baptized upon profession of faith, and telling the person that he or she never has to be baptized as a believer, is really giving up one’s view on the proper nature of baptism, what it really is. It is saying that infant baptism really is valid baptism! If we didn’t think it was valid baptism, we should be telling people who were baptized as infants that their “baptism” was not valid baptism and they should be baptized now, after their personal profession of faith. They would need to do this in obedience to Christ’s command.
So I have been re-thinking my position on this issue, and I have been considering sending a change to the publishers of my Systematic Theology book, at least explaining that there are more difficulties to my “compromise” view than I had initially realized.
In short, I don’t think the baptism issue is going to go away any time soon.
Finally, I’m thankful that believers who differ on the issue of baptism can still have wonderful fellowship with one another across denominational lines, and can have respect for each other’s sincerely held views. . . .
Monday, December 18, 2006
We never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something ore“advanced.” The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not justthe A-B-C’s of Christianity, but it is the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel isnot just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but theway we make all progress in the kingdom.
We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience but the gospel is the way we grow (Gal. 3:1-3) and are renewed (Col 1:6). It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier (Rom 1:16-17).
It is very common in the church to think as follows: “The gospel is for non-christians. One needs it to be saved. But once saved, you grow through hard work and obedience.” But Colossians 1:6 shows that this is a mistake. Both confession and “hard work” that is not arising from and “in line” with the gospel will not sanctify you—it will strangle you. All our problems come from a failure to apply the gospel. Thus when Paul left the Ephesians he committed them “to the word of his grace, which can build you up” (Acts 20:32).
The main problem, then, in the Christian life is that we have not thought out the deep implication of the gospel, we have not “used” the gospel in and on all parts of our life. Richard Lovelace says that most people’s problems are just a failure to be oriented to the gospel—a failure to grasp and believe it through and through. Luther says (on Gal. 2:14), “The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine… Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.” The gospel is not easily comprehended. Paul says that the gospel online does its renewing work in us as we understand it in all its truth. All of us, to some degree live around the truth of the gospel but do new “get” it. So the key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel. A stage of renewal is always the discover of a new implication or application of the gospel—seeing more of its truth. This is true for either an individual or a church.
Tim Keller is a stud. You should check out the link provided in this post.
This is an incredible oppurtunity for anyone who has the ability to attend. Below is the statement of faith the staff has adopted. I happen to think it is very well said and an extremely important step in spearheading a great conference. If you're interested, check it out.
"We want to provide a statement that portrays the sense of an intelligent conservative theology that people of different denominations can feel comfortable coming together for a week of camp. Let us know what you think. (Adapted from Vertical Ministries)"
We believe that the Bible is God's written revelation of Himself. These Holy Scriptures are perfect as originally given by and from God ("God-breathed"), and are the eternal, inspired, inerrant, infallible, verbal, and plenary Word of God for man. They are the sole authority and truth for all men for all times for all matters of faith and practice. Properly interpreted, it supports and supersedes all that follows.
We believe that there is but one living and true God, perfect in all His attributes, one in essence, eternally existing in three persons--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the Creator, Sustainer, Controller, Judge, and Ruler of all things and beings. He rules and reigns in absolute sovereignty for His divine purposes and glory alone.
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God and God the Son, both fully God and man, was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, crucified, dead, buried, bodily resurrected and ascended into heaven, and is now seated at God the Father's right hand. He is literally coming again to gather His prepared church to be with Him forever, to judge the world, lost men, Satan, and his demons, and to finally and completely establish His kingdom.
We believe that man was directly and immediately created by God in His image and likeness. Man lost his original innocence and freedom in Adam's sin of disobedience to the revealed will and Word of God, incurred the penalty of spiritual and physical death, became subject to the wrath of God, and became inherently corrupt and utterly incapable of choosing or doing that which is acceptable to God apart from divine grace. Sinful in our natures, depraved and corrupt in all our parts as a result of the original sin and our natural beings, mankind is hopelessly lost apart from God's divine grace. The purpose, happiness, and success of all men are ultimately found only in God's plan and design, for His glory alone.
We believe that salvation is wholly of God by grace on the basis of redemption of Jesus Christ, the merit of His works and shed blood, and not on the basis of any human merit or works. This salvation of man from deserved spiritual and eternal death and wrath is by God's grace alone, through His gift of faith alone, and because of the Person and work of Jesus Christ alone. The ongoing process of sanctification and the future state of glorification are likewise provided and received by grace through faith.
We believe in the doctrinal principles and positions taught, implied, and expressed in the reformation theses of "Scripture alone" (sola Scriptura), "Christ alone" (solus Christus), "grace alone" (sola gratia), "faith alone" (sola fide), and "God's glory alone" (soli Deo gloria).
(More information on this conference will be posted in due time.)