Thursday, June 30, 2005

Grab-bag Thursday

A few links to posts that hit home with me this week...

Russel Moore at Mere Comments posts on the value of friendship - even with non-believers. Reading this made me miss my old Saturday morning cigar shop gang back in Arlington - pagans all, but a great bunch of guys to hang out with nonetheless...

Andrew Sandlin on intellectual sanctification and "changing one's mind". I could spend an entire post on how this has the story of my Christian life. I still just might do so...

John Armstrong steps up to the plate on postmodernism and Evangelical epistemology. Armstrong used to be on my "outs" list when I was in my TR phase. Now its frightening how much sense he's making...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Two sides of the same coin...

These two articles come at a similar problem (interpretation of Genesis 1) from different perspectives - philosophical/cultural, and hermeneutical...

"The Mindset of the Culture War" by Joel Hunter

"St. Augustine on Biblical Interpretation and the Essential Bond Between Truth and Brotherly Love" by Tim Enloe

Two great posts that taste great together.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Which comes first - the doxy or the praxy?

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends..." Henry V, Act III, scene i

One of these days I'm going to stop getting into theological arguments. One of these days I'll stop breathing, too - and it's an open question which will precede the other.

My latest misadventure starts with this post at Phil Johnson's blog. The ostensible target is Ron Sider - admittedly a tempting target at that. Being of a conservative bent myself, I tend to be suspicious of political liberalism (especially in its modern forms) - but it seems the target is only partially Sider, and that's where I felt compelled to jump in.

Where the real problem lies, according to Phil, is bad theology...

What I disagree with is Mr. Sider's diagnosis of the underlying malady. He thinks the problem is merely hypocrisy—that people just aren't living up to what they believe. Therefore he simply repeats the same mantra he has been chanting for thirty years: what evangelicals need most is a lifestyle change. (But) it seems to me that the trouble with today's evangelical movement runs much deeper than that. The real problem is that many self-styled "evangelicals" don't truly believe basic evangelical doctrine anymore. Large numbers of them couldn't even explain the gospel in the simplest terms. Many flatly deny the relevance of God's Word and its authority over their lives. Leaders like McLaren and Campolo have fostered these problems and now are openly challenging our right to believe anything with any kind of certainty or conviction. What kind of behavior would you expect to be the fruit of such thinking?


There are several problems with this line of thought.

1) I can't say I've read much of Campolo, but I have read a bit of McLaren, and I have to say that Phil is being somewhat unfair to McLaren's line of argument. He's not the total epistemological relativist he's made out to be here. I doubt Campolo is either. And in any event, Sider has been making the same arguments for three decades, and McLaren's only been around for one at most. Laying the blame at their feet is hardly fair. This train's been a long time a'coming, and leaders can't lead where the flock won't follow...

2) Several of the churches in my personal experience that I would consider most guilty vis-a-vis Sider's accusations are *not* doctrinally washed-up. On the contrary, they are bastions of (r)eformed Gospel preaching and teaching. Watered-down theology (at least as officially taught and preached, in the accepted standards of their conservative denominations) is not the root of their problem in that regard.

This leads to Phil's central argument...

(A)uthentic good works flow from sound doctrine; not the other way around. Orthodoxy is what gives rise to orthopraxy. It never works in reverse. This, after all, is the basic message of Christianity: good works are a fruit of genuine faith. Faith, not any kind of work, is the sole instrument by which we lay hold of justification (Romans 4:4-5). And the practical righteousness of sanctification follows that (Hebrews 11:6; Galatians 5:6). Genuinely good works do not—and cannot—precede faith (Romans 8:7-8). In other words, orthodoxy does take precedence over orthopraxy. That is an essential ramification of true biblical and evangelical doctrine. Orthodox doctrine really is more important than social action.


I have a slight problem with this. *Orthodoxy* - right belief about Christ as the Bible instructs us - is not exactly the same as *Faith* - trust in Christ and His Gospel. The two are joined at the hip, but somewhat distinguishable. A person can be slightly unorthodox - perhaps "heterodox" is a better term - and still have true faith. Having orthodox beliefs, on the other hand, is *no* guarantee that one has faith - James made that painfully clear (2:19). So, is there some magical component of orthodoxy that would reverse all these evils? What doctrine, for example, is being neglected at those model churches that makes them such tempting targets of Sider's criticisms? (And would Phil agree it *is* a "doctrine"?)

I made some initial comments in that post (not, I think, as clear as what I've posted here), and got some feedback on them - and the reviews were mixed at best. I tried to point out that focusing on orthodoxy as the shining path to orthopraxy had not always yielded the desired results in *my* own life. To which one of the respondents said...

I'm having a little trouble following your argument, perhaps because you didn't respond to the distinction Phil made between sound teaching and sound belief, but went right back to talking about "orthodoxy" anyway, as if one aspect of orthodoxy were just the same as the other.

Are you suggesting that when someone shows a pattern of disobedience to God, something other than a deficient faith might lie at the root of their problem?

If so, what is the remedy? A bath? A sacrament? Hypnotism? Flagellation? Beer and skittles?

"I've been down that road, Phil, and that dog don't hunt..."? You appear to be saying you have given up on the sufficiency of Scripture because it didn't work for you.


So, what does the "sufficiency of Scripture" mean here? Scripture itself teaches us that knowing God's commands is no guarantee of obedience (Rom 7). Scripture itself teaches us that obedience and exhortation to righteousness is not just a matter of individual effort and doctrinal learning, but corporate discipleship (I Cor 12). Is my admitting that my actions aren't up to my beliefs, and that therefore my beliefs are not guarantees of good actions, an attack on the sufficiency of Scripture? Again, where is the "magic-bullet" doctrine that makes obedience and a change of heart work? Knowing God is one thing - *trusting* Him, another. Reading about God's love is one thing - seeing it embodied in His people, another (John 13:34-35).

If orthodoxy *is* the guaranteed root of orthopraxy, why do many Christinas I know in my home church, who are not as theologically "accurate" as I, more loving, giving, and accepting of others than I? And why are those staunch theologically conservative churches I know of so blind as to the poverty of their earthly wealth? Why are many Third-World churches (who often lack our theological resources) bearing up grandly under persecution, and sending missionaries to *us*? Might it have something to do with their having faith and love, which we seem to be lacking?

I'm sorry, but if orthodoxy were a guarantee of orthopraxy, we wouldn't be in the mess we are in. There'd be no place for people like Sider and McLaren - who I probably disagree with politically and philosophically to a good extent - to call us out on the carpet like they have done. Yes, there are theologically-starved churches out there - I've seen examples of them, too. But let's not kid ourselves by thinking that a wave of Reformed teaching will be an automatic panacea. If there's any hope to change things in our churches, it's not just sound theology - it's revival. And revival, in Biblical terms, is linked not primarily to emotional hysteria, scheduled appearances by "revivalists", or canned programs. It *is* linked inseparably with recalling the covenant God has made with His people - our Covenant in Christ's blood (yes, orthodoxy). But it is also linked inseparably with *repentance*.

We in American evangelicalism have got a lot to repent of - myself first and foremost.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bach on Pipes - not the Organ types, either!



Edifying Thoughts of a Tobacco Smoker

by Johann Sebastian Bach

Whene'er I take my pipe and stuff it
And smoke to pass the time away
My thoughts, as I sit there and puff it,
Dwell on a picture sad and grey:
It teaches me that very like
Am I myself unto my pipe.

Like me this pipe, so fragrant burning,
Is made of naught but earthen clay;
To earth I too shall be returning,
And cannot halt my slow decay.
My well used pipe, now cracked and broken,
Of mortal life is but a token.

No stain, the pipe's hue yet doth darken;
It remains white. Thus do I know
That when to death's call I must harken
My body, too, all pale will grow.
To black beneath the sod 'twill turn,
Likewise the pipe, if oft it burn.

Or when the pipe is fairly glowing,
Behold then instantaneously,
The smoke off into thin air going,
'Til naught but ash is left to see.
Man's fame likewise away will burn
And unto dust his body turn.

How oft it happens when one's smoking,
The tamper's missing from it's shelf,
And one goes with one's finger poking
Into the bowl and burns oneself.
If in the pipe such pain doth dwell
How hot must be the pains of Hell!

Thus o'er my pipe in contemplation
Of such things - I can constantly
Indulge in fruitful meditation,
And so, puffing contentedly,
On land, at sea, at home, abroad,
I smoke my pipe and worship God.


Poem originally posted here. HT to Cultural Savage at the iMonk discussion page.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Everybody, Pile-on Robbins!

One thing I've noticed in the blog-world is how ideas get spread from blog to blog - and how people thereby get piled-on as a consequence. In that portion of the blogosphere I haunt, the target du jour happens to be John Robbins of the Trinity Foundation. It appears that somebody finally noticed this little gem in his April commentary:

Divine propositional revelation is the indispensable axiom, the starting point, the first principle of Christianity. If that first principle is perverted or twisted, then all theorems – doctrines such as election, salvation, covenant, and church – derived from it will be perverted or twisted as well.


Among the "pilers-on" are Andrew Sandlin and several of my fellow Tavernites. Now, I suppose that it is in poor taste to pile-on somebody when he's already down, but having been where he is philosophically, I can't let this pass without some comment.

I do still happen to think that there are propositional truths in the Bible. I can think of any number of them right off the bat ("I AM the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt..."). But the pilers-on are right in several respects. The Bible is NOT a logical collection of such propositional axioms. The foundation of the Christian faith is not just propositional, but relational. The proposition I quoted above is predicated on the relation ("*I* brought *you* out of Egypt..."). To apply the very terminology that Robbins uses ("axioms", "theorems") to theology implies a mathematical level of exactitude and certainty - something that one does NOT get from a straight reading of the Bible itself.

To all this, I would add that we ought to exercise a lot more humility and caution about the "axioms" we derive from the propositions. God may not contradict logic, but He does transcend it. And our own fallenness ensures that we cannot be *too* sure of our deductions, as the capacity for human sinful self-deception is frightening. Not to mention the fact that our Subject Matter in theology is Infinite and we ain't...

So yes, I guess I am going to join the pile-on against Robbins. But I hope I can land on the pile a little bit gentler than the others - because I've been where he is, both philosophically and personally. And I hope he eventually sees that while the Faith *is* propositional, it is also so much more than that as well.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Our Problems are Solved!

The problems of Christianity in America have been solved. Evidently, what we needed was a new flag and a new Pledge of Allegience. (Link here) (HT to Kent at BHT)

This is almost enough to make one wish that our government WOULD start persecuting us. Then, at least, we could shake ourselves free of the delusion that the Kingdom of God and the United States have a "special relationship"...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Love, Injustice, & the Christian Way

I really struggle with issues like the ones raised in this post by Tim Challies. Things like this I find heartrending, maddening, and convicting all at the same time.

It's heartrending to read how some Christians are called to suffer for Christ's name. I can't - no, I DON'T - want to imagine what she went through.

It's maddening to see the injustice in the world. I am an American, a victim of bullying, and an ISTJ. I therefore do NOT suffer bullies and evil men gladly. My instinct is not to love enemies, but to call down JDAM strikes on them. I have little compassion for Muslims, criminals, and the "rebels" described in the story linked above. Had I been there, I not only would NOT have submitted, I would have died - while trying to take one of the @Q#$!#s with me when I went. Phrases like "Let's roll!", "Ride to ruin and the world's ending!", and "Let justice be done though the heavens fall" resonate deeply with me.

And it's convicting, because I know that's NOT how we are called to react. God calls us to suffer with Him in Christ. I don't like that. But I don't recall God ever asking me about my likes when He set the universe up (ref. Job 38-41). This truth - the theology of love and suffering under the Cross - is the TRUTH.

My life has been one long exposition on Romans 7. All I can say is, if that passage does NOT describe normal Christians, then I ain't one.

You Gotta Know When to Hold'em, Know When to Fold'em...

The fighting instinct dies hard. But it gets easier as one sees the futility of most arguments.

The question becomes, when do you give up? When the argument shifts from one level to another, when points don't get responded to, when at the very end of the line all you get is, "You're 100% wrong"...

That's the real killer for me. How can Christians end up like this?

"The head cannot lead where the heart will not follow."

We ALL need new hearts.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Theological Engineering

I am an engineer.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: I am a nerd/geek/whatever the current slang is.

Engineers come in all stripes and specialities. Mechanical. Electrical. Traffic. Software. Network. Sociological. We live in the Age of the Engineer. Everything is engineered. We expect that everything can be engineered. With enough elbow grease and midnight oil, we can figure out the natural laws that apply to our problem, formulate a solution based those laws, and just run the application from that point on whenever the problem arises.

The problem is, some things can't be engineered. Some things can't be boiled down to predictable laws and formulaic answers. But there are those who don't recognize this. And there is no greater area where this mistake can be made than in theology.

All this started percolating in my mind when I read the latest iMonk piece - on Christian assurance. An excellent piece as usual. But what caught my attention in the response thread was the battle between those wanting to confront calloused souls who have a "false assurance", and those seeking comfort for troubled souls who see their imperfect sanctification as a sign of hypocrisy and false faith. Several of the responses seem to fall into the category of emphasizing one or the other - but the most militant seemed to be on the side of "uprooting assurance". There are times and places for both. Both sides can marshal biblical support. But what is needed is wisdom - to know which ought to be applied to a given situation. And what is needed for *that* is a personal knowledge of the people involved. And what is needed for *that* is a true worshiping community, with mutual service and accountability.

But alas, it's so much easier for many to constantly advocate either excruciating (pun intended) self-examination - which can lead to the Puritan/Neo-Puritan caricature of "uproot 'em all, let God sort 'em out" - or to advocate preaching only grace and love - which can lead to the easy believism caricature ala Joel Osteen. The neat thing is, with either method you don't need to do the hard work of figuring out where your own church really is. Just pick the right "application", and "run" it whenever the topic comes us. Why not? We've got the formula down. Theological engineering.

I've quoted this article before, but because it's where I got the idea of "theological engineering" to being with, I'll do so again...

Presbyterian/Reformed churches are sometimes not marked by sweetness but harshness, especially in those branches that have not jettisoned their historical theological base. Doctrine is the big thing, approached with the precision of an engineer. Here is what I mean. Let’s say that an engineer is going to build a bridge across the Mississippi River. He cannot afford to care what people think of him or how he comes across. “Hang it all, Man, we must be correct. I don’t care what you think. I’ll not have this bridge collapse because of your idiotic opinion. I have a moral obligation to ignore your ignorance.”

That is the one vital thing when it comes to building bridges of steel and concrete; it is different when it comes to the bridge between a holy God and sinful man. The gospel ministry is not only a science, it is an art(.)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Adventures in Missing the Point?

Lifeway has just released the results of a survey in which they chronicle "the Top 10 Issues facing the church today". (HT to iMonk at BHT.)

All I can say is, Oh. My. Gosh. No wonder we're in so much trouble.

I was going to do a long, multi-part rant on this, but it's not really worth that amount of effort. I'll just throw a few observations concerning the issues raised, and the methodology of their "solutions".

10. ABORTION
9. HOMOSEXUALITY
7. MARRIAGE

Abortion is still legal and common. Acceptance of homosexuality is on the rise. Marriages are falling apart. Keen observations. But the fact of the matter is that these are just the symptoms - the roots (self-fulfillment as the reason for existence, loss of any sense of human dignity and value as an image of God, and the blunt fact that humans are born sinful anyways) go deep, and I think it's too late to expect society to greatly change its mind about these matters apart from a massive revival and reformation. Our best hope to change the culture is to be changed ourselves. Hence to the next issues...

8. RELEVANCE
6. APATHY
5. DOCTRINE/WORLDVIEW
4. EVANGELISM

One reason there's so much confusion on these issues is there is so little clarity even in our own circles about these things. (broadbrush)We either tend to play fast-and-loose with doctrinal content and emphasize cultural "relevance", or we're doctrinal maximalists who couldn't sing any tune less than 100 years old. Evangelism campaigns and techniques have been multiplied almost ad infinitum in America - and church attendance overall is still flat or declining. Preaching runs the gamut from theological lectures that would put seminarians to sleep, or moral/self-improvment exhortations that would fit right in on Oprah or Dr. Phil.(/broadbrush) I would suggest that what is needed is clear Gospel preaching. What is more relevant than Christ's life, death, and resurrection? What message possibly has the power to awaken the apathetic, if not the Gospel? What doctrines are more important than the teaching of who Christ is, what He did (and is doing), and how we are related to Him and our brethren? And if we have all that, how can we not tell the world?

3. LEADERSHIP
2. DISCIPLESHIP
1. PRAYER

Coming full circle, the root problems of our age (aggrandizement of self) show up here. Showing leadership is not easy if your flock can just vote with their feet (or vote you out of a job). Discipleship requires submission to the Body. Prayer requires submission to God (and sorry, I don't think Prayer of Jabez exemplifies that. "Expand my boundaries" doesn't quite match up to "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done...") Leadership, discipleship, and prayer require biblical patterns and models - leaders as servants rather than CEOs, discipleship as mutual confession and accountability, prayer as reverent and corporate.

There are some good things to be said for the points they raise. But the "solutions" that follow each point just illustrate *why* they have become problems in the first place. More heaping helpings of books, testimonies, gadgets, canned programs, ad infinitum ad nauseam. If we could spend, write, or manage our way out of these messes, we would have done so already. We Americans are great at such things. So what is needed now? I'm not 100% sure anymore - but I doubt that "more of the same" is going to cut it.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Grab-Bag Tuesday (UPDATED)

Item 1 - Coffee Conversations has been removed from the link list for the time being. The scuffle between Coffee Conversations and Triablogue is getting annoying, and exemplifies the exact sort of name-calling and nastiness I'm sick and tired of. If things improve later, I'll re-add them.

Item 2 - For a real example of how those who disagree ought to dialogue, try the conversation between Andrew "TallSkinnyKiwi" Jones and Michael "White Horse Inn" Horton. The links to that conversation, with a witty and insightful commentary by JollyBlogger, are here. I can't let this quote from JollyBlogger go by, though...

But there is something else going on here that deserves some attention. The fact is that most of us don't have time to delve deeply into any particular controversy...

So what happens when a controversy arises which you don't have the time to investigate thoroughly enough to form your own solid, well grounded opinion? You listen to people you trust. You depend on their opinions to form your own opinions. So, if you are in a group that thinks that N.T. Wright is a wolf in sheep's clothing, the TNIV is the devil's bible, and the emerging church is the apostate church, then by golly, it's time to form up lines and resist all of these wolves, devils and apostates. My point is that it is the opinions and actions of our trusted leaders that usually guide us in our responses to these controversies, rather than our own investigations...

I think some of us have a fear that, if we dialogue (rather than preach at) with those with whom we disagree that this is the equivalent of endorsing their perceived errors, or even exposing ourselves to contamination. Some of us are very insecure in what we believe. We are afraid our beliefs won't hold up under cross-examination so we stay away from those we disagree with and talk about them rather than talk to them. I know I have been guilty of that. But I'm also of the opinion that a belief isn't much worth having if it can't stand up to examination or criticism.

And, sometimes our critics turn out to be friends after all. So, with that, I think it's safe to say that we traditionalists have permission to dialogue with the EC folks, after all, if Mike did it, so can we.


Item 3 - Part II of the NRO article I referenced yesterday is online (link here). While he paints a happy picture of the growth of "conservative" denominations (theologically conservative), I think the points the mentioned yesterday should give pause. Also, I have to wonder, how much of the growth he mentions is simply from those who are abandoning the mainlines? And how much is from new converts - or simple demographics if you take paedobaptism into account? ;-} And given the poll numbers about who believes what he mentioned yesterday, I still wonder. If a theologically muddled person leaves an apostate church for a market-driven church with 10-steps-to-improve-this-or-that-facet-of-your-life-with-handy-prooftext preaching, is it really an improvement? Check out the recent posts at Internet Monk on the role of Christ in our preaching to see where I'm coming from.

UPDATE - This is how things ought to work. A bishop in Uganda refused to confirm 62 of his congregation because they couldn't answer basic bible and creedal questions. (HT to iMonk)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Spiritual Junk Food and Its Effects

So, what happens when you get several decades of Christ-less preaching and marketing practices instead of theology and worship?

This is what you get. In this NRO article, Dave Shiflett explains why secularists have little to fear from American evangelicals. Sadly, he's right.

Yet one finds little of the crusading spirit of religious certitude even among the dread born-again Christians and Evangelicals. Pollsters, including the much-quoted George Barna, have instead divined widespread heterodoxy and a live-and-let-live attitude.

Born-again Christians simply aren’t as generally advertised. Consider their view of Jesus, once regarded as the Sinless One. Twenty-eight percent agree that “while he lived on earth, Jesus committed sins, like other people.” That is far from a crusading belief. Even further afield, 35 percent of these supposedly hard-core believers do not believe Jesus experienced a physical resurrection, a belief shared by 39 percent of the general population (85 percent of Americans say they believe that Jesus is “spiritually alive,” whatever that may mean. One recalls that many Americans believe their deceased pets are now ghosts, which may also qualify as being spiritually alive.)

In this same spirit, 52 percent of born agains believe the Holy Spirit is merely a symbol of God’s presence or power but is not a living entity, not much different than the general adult population (61 percent). Nor does the devil find much support. Nearly 60 percent of American adults say Satan does not exist as a being at all, but is merely a symbol of evil; 45 percent of born again Christians agree.

These supposed storm troopers of the religious right have surprisingly little interest in bringing non-believers into the fold. Over one quarter — 26 percent — think it doesn’t matter what faith a person has because religions teach pretty much the same thing, while 50 percent believe a life of “good works” will get you into heaven.


Reformed crusaders will argue that this is a clarion call to get out there and fight for Reformed theology. Maybe so. I'm more inclined to think that we ought to learn to crawl before we start talking about running marathons. Right now, I'd settle for a simple revival of Nicene/evangelical orthodoxy!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Blowing Smoke

One does not get hit with dazzling bursts of insight every day. I understand the draw of blogging, and the "pressure" one feels to, as it were, "publish or perish". The fact is, some days are just ordinary days, and I'm content to let them go by.

On ordinary days like this, there is nothing like a good smoke to ease the mind and relax the body. While I go off to the carport to enjoy my bowlful, I post several links here on the benefits of pipesmoking, and the battle that has raged between Christians over the permissibility of tobacco use...

What Does It Mean to "enjoy" Smoking a Pipe?

Spurgeon's Love of Fine Cigars

Tobacco and the Soul

Trischmann's Paradox: A pipe gives a wise man time to think, and a fool something to stick in his mouth. (And for those who are curious - I've been both in my time.)

Friday, June 03, 2005

Defining "Fundamentalism"

John Armstrong raises the ante in his series on "fundamentalism"...

This kind of fundamentalism creates the same old schisms through what I call "hyper-orthodoxy." What is stressed by this emphasis goes well beyond the core of Christian faith. The way disagreement is processed invariably leads to schism. The truth of the matter is this–few who think and lead ministries as fundamentalists will ever admit that they are actually fundamentalists. Most who hear the label used will deny that they ever get that close to the reality of the thing itself. I find that my own admission to having fallen into this trap, via very conservative Reformed Christianity, has been good for my mind and soul.


Taking this quote as is, I thought to myself, "If those who are targeted by the term wouldn't accept the label, what good is it?" Setting the term "fundamentalist" aside, what is J.A. describing here?

Those who do not make distinctions between core, secondary, and peripheral doctrines.

Those who make total or near-total doctrinal agreement (or submission) a test for friendship and orthodoxy.

Those who have a surety that everything they believe is TRUTH.

Those who act, even if they don't say they believe, as if those who do not agree with them are willfully rebellious against God, and are deserving only of contempt and scorn.

Put this way, there are plenty of these folks to go around, and not just in Reformed circles. However, IMHO, the emphasis in Reformed circles on rigorous theological systems, having an intellectual faith (or at least the appearance thereof), and a milieu of sharp criticism of the wider culture (Christian and pagan), makes the Reformed tradition very susceptible to attracting this sort of animal. And like John, I can speak from personal experience with this. I was one.

Not that thinking systematically, intellectually, or having a critical eye to the spirit of the age are bad. Far from it. But it is all too easy to make these things the defining forces of our faith, rather than Christ. As Calvin said, the human heart is an idol factory. And as C. S. Lewis said, the closer the idol is to the altar, the more subtle and dangerous it is.

Note to Phil...

RE:Your threatened whuppin...



Bring.

It.

On. ;-}

A Toast to the Low-Minded Christian

Fellow BHTer Judson Heartsill posted this at the BHT. I just had to repeat it here to preserve it for posterity - and for my own sake.

I want to celebrate a character who has the dubious honor of sometimes getting kicked around not only by people like the BHT, but also by people like the Totally Reformed.

I'm talking about the low-minded Christian.

Everybody knows one. Or two.

They send you chain blessing emails. (Send this back to me and 5 other people, or you're a mean pud who doesn't like God). They send you emails PURPORTEDLY by Andy Rooney about how there's pictures of the 10 commandments everywhere in Washington D.C. on buildings.

They probably believe the earth is 6,000 years old.

They're Christians primarily because they don't want to go to hell.

They want to go to heaven primarily to see their grandma.

They watch some TBN occasionally.

They gave you a copy of The Purpose Driven Life.

They're threatening to give you a copy of Your Best Life Now.

If they even know what apologetics is, they probably think it's demeaning to Christians.

They read certain portions of Ephesians and tell you, "Now, I just can't believe that Paul really means what he's saying here on election."

Know the type?

Here's some other facts about some of them.

They believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead -- something only God could have revealed to them.

They watch their tongues.

Singing hymns or praise songs makes their heart leap upwards.

They read their bible every morning at 5:00 AM.

God is using them, right now, to make his will be done on earth.

God bless them.

High-minded Christian: You know a lot. Are you putting all that knowledge to use to serve your Master and your fellow slaves? Or are you using it to stoke your ego? It pleases God to use the weak. Just how weak are you? As weak as your low-minded brethren? I sure hope so.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Sacramentalism & Spiritual (Un)employment

Phil's blog is up and runnning, and the sparks are already flying (pun intended).

His first topical post - on the dangers of Internet calvinism - is pretty fair (even if he paints BHT and IMonk with a broad brush). His second post is more puzzling.

He quotes a bit from one of MacArthur's forthcoming books that he's editing (nice bit of advert, Phil ;-} ...)

Human instinct seems to tell us that what we do is more important than what we believe. But that is a false instinct, the product of our fallen self-righteousness. It is a totally wrong way of thinking—sinfully wrong. We must never think more highly of our works for Christ than we do of His works on our behalf.


Good so far as it goes (but I would say that our beliefs should shape our actions, and that to place primacy on one against the other is wrong). But certainly, Christ's works on our behalf are more important than our own in response.

Now, comes the problem. Phil's commentary on the above paragraph states...

That pretty much sums up the whole gist of my concerns about the drift of modern evangelicalism—including evangelicals' obsession with political remedies for moral maladies, the rise of sacramentalist doctrines, the various attacks on the doctrines of imputation and the active obedience of Christ, and the general tendencies of "purpose-driven" and "seeker-sensitive" philosophies (where methodology is stressed and the content of the gospel message is neglected).


Ooooo-kay. Some of this I can track with - the political and methodological criticisms, for example. They too often do spring from a focus on our actions without due consideration of the beliefs and motivations that drive those actions. I may even buy into the same criticism about non-imputational views of the atonement (it depends on who he's criticizing and why). But sacramentalism? The whole point of sacramentalism is that it is not US doing the "work" in receiving God's offered mercies - it is Christ and the Spirit. It is God in Christ meeting with us at the table, it is the Spirit who unites us to the covenenat body in baptism. Do we work in the process? Yes, but only in the sense that we also "work" in faith - we *do* believe when we have faith, even if that faith is itself God's gift. Our work is passive, and secondary to God's work which must come first.

It is the non-sacramentalists who see baptism and the eucharist as merely something WE do.

So, what is Phil talking about?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

If you think having a "This Car will be Unmanned in Case of Rapture" bumpersticker is witnessing...

...you might be an evangelical. ;-}

Check out the list here - and add to it!