Thursday, September 25, 2008


...On the one hand, he (Neo) didn't seem to give the Bible the same place of absolute reverence and authority I had been trained to give it. On the other hand, he wasn't simply giving up on the Bible, nor was he shopping it, picking and choosing what he would buy and what he wouldn't. He really seemed to care about what God's will was, and I wondered, isn't that all that really matters?
McLaren, A New Kind of Christian, p. 51

Is that all that really matters?

For example, if you had asked a Scribe or Pharisee in Jesus' day, wouldn't he have told you that he cared deeply about God's will? If you were to at this time ask a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness, or even a Muslim, wouldn't they tell you that they care deeply about the will of God or Allah?

To return to something said a few entries back, didn't Paul say in Roman 9 that his people Israel had a zeal for God? But how much good did that zeal do them, because they did not have a zeal that was founded in true knowledge of God?

The subtle way McLaren in his writings denigrates the Scriptures can only lead to bad theology and bad decisions in life (like opening supporting and trying to elect a presidential candidate that is not only pro-abortion, but pro-infacticide). He undercuts the source of our faith by continually referring to bad theology from the past as reasons to question sound doctrine.

So, no, caring about what God's will is isn't all that really matters. Many people can make that claim who have no idea what God's will really is. It is through the Scriptures that we can know God's will, and denigrating them does not make one apparent care for His will any more real.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

what's wrong with being right?

Jesus at one point claimed to be "the way, the truth, and the life". Jesus was not making claims about one religion being better than all the other religions. That completely misses the point, the depth, and the truth. Rather, he was telling those who were following him that his way is the way to the depth of reality.
Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, p. 21

John 14
14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also.
14:4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
14:5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

So, let's see...

Jesus is talking about going away to prepare a place for the disciples, but returning for them and us so they can be where He is. Thomas basically says he doesn't understand, but Jesus explains that He is the way, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.

In saying He's going away, Jesus is talking either about His death or more likely about His ascension. His words about coming again are much the same as the angels' at His ascension, "this same Jesus...shall come in the same manner as He has gone into Heaven".

In other words, Jesus tells this to His disciples, giving them hope concerning the things they were to soon experience.

Bell clouds the issue somewhat, by making it about religions. It's may not be about any religion that calls itself Christianity (as Mormons may try to sell themselves), but it is about people being true Christians.

Perhaps a better question than who's right, is who's living rightly.

No, it's about believing in Christ, which does have to do with who's right. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, all would have said they were living rightly. In a sense, it wasn't their attempts at moral living that were wrong, it was that they didn't know Him when He came.

As Paul says, in Romans 9
10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
10:2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
10:3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

Strange, that Bell says it's not about being right, but Paul says that his people's problem wasn't their zeal for God, but that they didn't have or didn't exercise the knowledge they needed for the zeal to be good. Paul as Saul was zealous, but he was wrong, so it's likely he knew a bit of what he was talking about.

The question is still "Who's right", because it's only when that question is answered that one can determine who's living rightly. It make the question "Who's living rightly" presupposes that one has already determined what are the standards for 'living rightly', that one's standards are in fact the right ones, or to put most plains, that one is right.

Friday, September 19, 2008

undermining the Bible

He (Neo) continued, "What if the real issue is not the authority of the text on this line, but rather the authority of God, moving mysteriously up here on a higher level, a foot above the ground? What if the issue isn't a book that we can misinterpret with amazing creativity but rather the will of God, the intent of God, the desire of God, the wisdom of God--maybe we could say the kingdom of God."
McLaren, A New Kind of Christian, p. 51

The error here is subtle, but it is there.

On the one hand, McL wants to leave open the idea that we can know "the will of God, the intent of God, the desire of God, the wisdom of God...", but on the other, he wants to call into question the authority of Bible, which would be the means by which we would come to know those things.

As such, then, McLaren seems to undermine his own argument. He wants to make it about those things, but in calling in to question the Bible as authoritative, he calls into question whether we can rely on it to be the source for us to know and understand those things.

But then, maybe that's the point, or at least has become the point. The book is, after all, several years old, and McLaren has moved on and into other things, one of them being the current comtemplative and mystical movement.

Whether such statements of his as are above were made intentionally by him to leave the door open to mysticism, or if such ideas left him open to them, at the least that does seem to be where they go--when the authority of the Bible is undermined, then man will look elsewhere for authority. Even into the mystical, which has to be one of the most subjective and dangerous things people can get involved in.

making the old new, but not in a good way

In Moses' day, the way you honored and respected whatever gods you followed was by making carvings or sculptures of them and then bowing down to what you had made. These were gods you could get your mind around. Moses is confronting people with an entirely new concept of what the true God is like. He is claiming that no statue or carving could ever capture this God, because this God has no shape or form.
Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, p. 23

Perhaps Bell can tell us, please, when Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob made carvings and sculptures of God. Maybe he can tell us when the people who were in slavery in Egypt had taken up build such sculptures and statues.

Funny how we don't see that among them. Funny how we see the fathers building alters, but never statues. Maybe it's like they didn't see the need. God spoke to them, God called them, God made promises to them, God even consults them at times, but they don't make images of Him.

Maybe the people did kind of want a god they could see, kind of like in Egypt. Maybe that's one reason they made the golden calf. But that was the new idea, not the old one.

As such, then, Moses isn't confronting them with "an entirely new concept", but rather with an old one, one that goes back to the founders of their nation. If anything, such things as the golden calf represented new ways, things they likely picked up in Egypt, things they had to unlearn and set aside in order to return to the truth about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Monday, September 15, 2008

don't bother about if it's really real...

Quotes from McLaren's "The Secret Message of Jesu", p. 62

The language of demons and devils seems to many people outdated and primitive, mythical and superstitious.


Does one have to believe in a literal devil and demons in order to understand Jesus and his message?


Or is it possible to read the exorcism stories with a kind of intentional naivete,...

Does that mean "like fairy tales"?

...suspending judgment long enough to see what insight may come if we don't dismiss them or explain them away too quickly?

Oh, it may be possible. I've no doubt McL and others have tried and will try to do some such thing.

Now, whether something is 'possible' and whether it is 'good' are two different things.

So, why not stress that these things really happened? Does it really matter that some people are dense enough to think their is no devil?

No, what matters to McL is that he needs room to reinterpret those accounts to fit what he wants them to say.

Remember his spin on the temptations of Christ? How the Bible in the accounts of the temptations say nothing about the things McLaren says they are about? Watch out for that same trick in regards to the accounts of Jesus' encounters with the demonic.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

relevance in prophecy

If Revelation were a blueprint of the distant future, it would have been unintelligible for its original readers, as well as the readers of all succeeding generations, and would only become truly and fully relevant for one generation--the one who happened to live in the one period of time it is prognosticating about.
McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 177

I think one can look at biblical prophecy, and see very quickly that quite often the fulfillment of it takes place quite some time, generations even, after the prophecy is initially given.

For example, God promises to make Abraham a great nation and the father of many nations. It's roughly twenty years after that promise is made that Isaac is born to Abraham and Sarah. Abraham has other children, but none of those are of that promise. Isaac has twins, Esau and Jacob, but only Jacob is a part of that promise.

Two generations, Abraham is dead, and the promise of him being a great nations comes down to--a generational line that is essentially a stick.

How relevant, then, was the prophecy and promise to Abraham? After all, he doesn't live long enough to see his offspring become a great nation.

Or God's prophecy and promise that Israel would process the whole of an area of land, which to date they still haven't had the entirety of?

Or the prophecy to the King Ahaz, not a shining example btw, that the virgin would conceive and give birth to Emmanuel? A prophecy that wasn't fulfilled for a few hundred years, until Christ was born.

Or all of the times God promises Israel that a time of peace and prosperity would come to them, which promises and prophecies have still not come to pass?

I think you can see now, that a prophecies relevance has to do not just with the generation that sees it fulfilled, but also with the ones that anticipate the fulfillment.

In regards to His return and the events of it, Jesus tells us that He does not know the day or hour, but that we are to watch and be ready. The relevance, then, of the prophecies of the end to those who were not around when they are fulfilled is that they are to be ready for them to be fulfilled, because the fulfilling may begin at any time.

So, McLaren's statement above does not hold water. The Revelation is relevant to all those generations who came between its being given and its fulfillment; rather, his attempts to water down it's prophetic meaning makes it either irrelevant to us because it's already been fulfilled, or simply another vessel for him to pour his liberal agenda into.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

jumping ahead

...First, those committed to nonviolence based on the teaching of Jesus--if they are wrong now--wil someday be right. If God's dream is to come true for planet Earth, someday we will not "learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4 ESV). If we disagree with people presently committed to nonviolence, we should at least appreciate them for their foresight...
McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 155

To really make this work, I have to go into slacker-Cali-surfer-dude mode.


I was, like, you know, just look through this, you know, book, and saw this, you know, thing he said here. And I'm, like, so into that, you know, cause if I had, you know, like, go be a soldier, I couldn't, you know, stay here on the, like, beach, and surf my life away.

Duuude, that would be, like, so ungnarly, you know.

But then I thought, whoooooa, duuuude, take a look at this.

And I thought, hey, dude, doesn't, like, the Bible say that, like, in heaven there is no marriage? That people will be, like, you know, not married?

So I thought, whooooa, duuuude, if that's so true, then maybe I should, like, be like those people this, like, guy is talking about, you know? I mean, it's not, you know, like he's making a bit deal out of if they're, like, you know, right or not, only that they're, you know, ahead of their time or whatever.

So, dude, I think I'm ahead of my time, too, so, you know, maybe I can, you know, be like them.

I mean, if someday we're not going to have, you know, marriage, then, you know, maybe I should worry about it.

Duuuude, I so like that way of thinking, you know!! I can, you know, sleep around as much as I want, and, you know, all I'm being is, you know, like, ahead of the times, see.

Ok, enough of the slacker dude act, thankfully.

Hopefully that little bit of an attempt at humor will show how dangerous McLaren's thinking is here. Mention has already been made of his attempts to read his extreme pacifism into Scripture, and for him to try to make such people "ahead of the times" seems rather a stretch.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

redefining prophecy

...So what we find in the Bible and the teachings of Jesus are not determining prognostications or schematic diagrams of the future but instead something far more valuable: warnings and promises
McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 173

I think this is far too simplistic a view of prophecy. Yes, prophecy may contain elements of warning and of promise, but one does not need prophecy to warn or promise.

Rather, when Jesus says that all these things will be fulfilled, we're getting beyond simply giving warnings into "determining prognostication". We must accept the fact that Jesus is telling us that those things will occur, and not skate around the issue by watering it down. When Revelation begins by tells us that those things "must shortly come to pass", then any hint that they may be averted is lost.

Warnings tell us that if we make foolish or unjust choices, bad consequences will follow. Prophets from Moses to Jesus frequently give these kinds of warnings. Their purpose is nto to tell the future but to change the future. In warning the people about future negative consequences of bad behavior, the prophet's greatest hope is that his predictions of calamity will not come true.
McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 173

I must give him roughly half a point here, maybe not quite that much but not far below it, either. There is at times an element of warning to prophecy, as he points out later in regards to Jonah. I think it is in Ezekial where God says that if, for example, a man receives a prophecy of ill and he repents and turns from evil, then it may be that what is prophecied will not come on him.

But saying that all prophecy is like that is going too far. Jesus' prophecy about the destruction of the Temple was not one that left open the possibility that such wouldn't happen. His statements to the disciples about His coming death were equally certain.

Promises also differ from prognostications. If I tell my children, "I'll always be there for you," I'm not making a prediction, because I will eventually die, and my statement won't be true. But taken as a promise, the statement is true.
p. 174

I remember the first time I read that, a bit ago, and being rather stunned. Taken as a promise, a false statement is true??? What kind of...?????

Consider Jesus' statement, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." If I took McLaren's criterium, and applied it to Jesus' statement, I'm left with Jesus' promise being "true" even if He isn't really with us now.

But then, I've seen full preterist say that Jesus isn't with us now, that that statement is no longer applicable. And since McLaren has gone over into some form of preterism, perhaps even full, maybe that is what he means. It's something to look in to, maybe.

At any rate, the truth is, his promise to always be with his children is in the end a bad promise, because it's one he can't keep. Even now when he is alive, he is not always with them. And to make God's prophetic promises like that is insepid.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

going too far

In other words, he (John the Baptist) says, "Being a soldier gives you extraordinary power. Don't abuse that power by extorting money or falsely accusing people." Through Christian history, most Christians have chosen to take a similar approach regarding war. It's not that Christians should be pacifists, they say, but we shouldn't abuse power--including the power of weaponry. We may still have to go to war, but we should be just and restrained in the way we conduct ourselves.

Others, though, have not been satisfied with this approach. they have looked at Jesus' kingdom manifesto, and they have felt it is impossible for a person to simultaneously put Jesus' teachings into action and participate in war.
McLaren, 'The Secret Message of Jesus', pp. 150-151

That, in a nutshell, summarizes the whole problem with emergents (though to be fair, they are not the only ones who are not 'satisfied' with the Bible's words and try to add to them).

You will not find any place in the New Testament were a radical (I hate that word) pacifism is either commanded or encouraged; in fact, in the three instances where John the Baptist, Jesus, and Peter had dealings with military personnel (John giving advice to soldiers, Jesus healing the centurion's servant, and Peter at Cornelius' house to open the door to the Gentiles for the Gospel), we see no condemnation at all of the military. John does not call them 'brood of vipers', Jesus commends the centurion as having more faith then any He had seen in Israel, and Peter is send by God to Cornelius.

Factor in, then, the Old Testament, and we can say that the pacifists must add to what the Bible says in order to support their position.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

random thoughts from caputo

Taken from "After the Death of God"

One important thing we mean by the death of God is the death of the absolute center, of inhabiting an absolute point of view.
p. 117

A statement for radical relativism, something not even he can live up to. If there were no 'absolute center', he would have no basis on which to say the things he says.

I want to reference this quote first...

I reached a point where I could not stand this "essential thinking" anymore. When it comes to politics, essential thinking is essentially stupidity.
p. 121

Before pointing out this one...

As for myself, I would be perfectly happy if the far left politicians in the United States were able to reform the system by providing universal health care, effectively redistributing wealth more equitably with a revised IRS code, effectively restricting campaign financing, enfranchising voters, treating migrant workers humanely, and effecting a multicultural foreign policy that would integrate American power within the international community, etc., i.e. intervene upon capitalism by means of serious and far-reaching reforms
p. 125

Because I want to do something that, frankly, he cannot stand, and say that what he is advocating here is essentially socialism. Universal (read: badly done) health care, redistribution of wealth through taxation (socialism to the core), and trying to weaken US sovereign.

Thus ends my political screed.

What I want everyone to believe is that there is no one thing for everyone to believe.
p. 128

Outside of being self-contradictory (like saying that the only absolute is that there are no absolues), it's another thing that he cannot live up to nor accept in himself.

In the end, for me, I speak of the death of God in a restricted sense, in the sense of a critique of ontotheology, of the God of metaphysics, and, in particular, the God of sovereignty and power and omnipotence
p. 147

Plainly put, if nothing else.

But when reading (of the Bible) becomes literalism and when literalism ecomes a politics, it becomes dangerous.
p. 155

Like a non-literal reading would be less dangerous. If anything, a non-literal reading opens the door to all manner of mischief, because then anything goes.

What is so much more compelling about Jesus than about institutional, ecclesiastical Christianity, Catholic or Protesant, is the figure of someone who was crucified not as part of a grand divine design but unjustly and against his will, and if he returns we would crucify him again for meddling in the affairs of the Church.
p. 160

Plainly overlooking the biblical passages where Jesus says not one takes His life from Him, but that He lays it down. Probably some of those passages we shouldn't take literally, Caputo may say.

Caputo is probably right about one thing, though. He would likely be one to crucify Him. Jesus would probably not be happy with someone de-Godifying His Father, saying He's weak and powerless and isn't someone we should pray to. Such a radical fundamentalist as Jesus would eventually have to be silenced by those who think they know better.

Monday, September 1, 2008

example of pomo 'love'

Yes, I am a Dilbert fan. That's why I've linked to a few before this one.

Seriously, though, read this comic, and tell me that it doesn't sum up the whole pomo virus idea of 'love' and 'compassion' to a tee.

the Y2K of theology

From Caputo's essay in the book "After the Death of God".

An event is not precisely what happens, which is what the word suggests in English, but something going on in what is happening, something that is being expressed or realized or given shape in what happens; it is not something present, but something seeking to make itself felt in what is present.
p. 47

The event is always already ahead of us, always provoking and soliciting us, eternally luring us on with its promise. The truth of the event is its promise to come true. Events make promises that are never kept by any actual occasion.
p. 55

How we would use the word 'event' is not how Caputo uses it. We would use it to refer to something has happens, while he uses it to refer to something that does not happen, probably cannot happen, promises in some way to happen but never happens. For him, then, an event is actually a non-event.

What does this mean, then, to how he refers to God?

We might even say, to put all this a bold and simple stroke, that in postmodern theology what happens to us is God, which is why we call it postmodern theology. Or, to couch it in slightly more cautious terms, in postmodern theology what happens to us is the event that is harbored in the name of God...
p. 50

In the Scriptures the covenant is a promise or a covenant cut by God--that is why I speak unabashedly of theology--where the name of God is the name of an event, of something that stirs within the name, something I know not what, some sacred spark or fire.
p. 53

Having already established that Caputo does not believe in God (there is no one out there to whom we pray), we see him making God, or rather name of God, one of his non-event events.

So, to do a Chestertonian "in other words", his god is not all of the things the Bible says God is. When we pray to his god, we pray to a nothing. We long for a Messiah who will not come, even though the Bible promised He would come and He has come and will come again. His god does nothing in the world, does not work miracles, did not create and does not keep, and does not love us or care for us.

His ideas remind me of a Bible verse, which gives a list of things indicative of how things will be "in the last days". Among them will be people who will "have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof".

And the next words are an injunction to believers in regards to such people, "From such turn away".