Friday, February 26, 2010

reviewing a reviewer 2; belief is important

A bit more on my take of the review from the previous post. True, the first was quite long, but I hope you will be patient.

Is it just a coincidence that the dominant story line we find in the Church today is one where God is furious with the created realm, places higher value on right thinking and belief over right action and living (we are saved, so the story goes, by getting our thinking right about God, irrespective of whether or not our physical lives change), where sharing the gospel is reduced to ideas and mental consent,

There are several things that make for sure signs of a cults, things that all pseudo-christian cults have in common. One of those is this--Christianity makes salvation far too easy, so they feel the need to add to it. For them, it is not hard enough to say that the defining attribute of a Believer is that they believe. They must also act. But it is not enough that they simply act, they must also act in ways that the cult leaders approve of, they must hold opinions that the cult leaders claim are right, and not question them lest they be cast into the outer darkness of those unenlightened.

So, for this particular blogger, for someone to say that they believe the Gospel is not enough--they have to act as if they do. It is, in essence, adding law to the Gospel. I do not say "the Law", but it is a law, one that he and other Emergents have made for themselves, and insist on others follow.

Of course, it is a complex situation. We know that simply saying the one believes God exists is not enough, "the devils also believe, and fear". The demons know very well that God exists, and rather than that knowledge leading to their salvation, it only adds to the certainty of their own damnation.

Yet the truth is, when it comes to salvations, belief is essential. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved", "Repent, and believe the Gospel". The mental consent this blogger derides and ridicules is one of the essential first steps.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

reviewing a reviewer

It is perhaps a testimony to my cheapness that I am here commenting on someone's review of a book, rather than reviewing the book myself. The truth is that nothing, not even a morbid sense of curiosity, has yet made a good argument for me to pass over what has to be almost $30 for McLaren's new book. I figure I must have much better ways of wasting my money than to purchase a book that I know is full of egomanical rot.

And, anyway, the review, by one who made not a few rather colorful comments here a few months back, has not a few bits of interest in itself. So saying, tally ho...!

The first thing that I think is important is to remind ourselves that McLaren is not saying anything new or radical here. He’s reminding us of something we need to be reminded of and urging us to conform our lives around right belief, but the meat of his argument is recognized and accepted by most everyone (well, almost). What’s the argument? Bottom line: Plato, a Greek philosopher from the 4th century BCE, looms larger than life in the minds of us Westerners. What did Plato teach nearly 300 years before the advent of Christ? Essentially that the physical, material world is an illusion and that ultimate reality, the things that really matter, are those that are spiritual and non-material. This body we find ourselves in is a prison, more or less, and the goal of human life, the greatest good, is to transcend the ugly, sick, doomed, perishing world of matter. One of the ways we can do that is through philosophy – by studying. The mind is a beautiful thing that operates on ideas and ideals – the best stuff of life.

These sorts of discussions (along with critiques by Aristotle, a student of Plato), was the life-blood of the Greeks and then the Romans. As philosophers abounded and debated the only things that really mattered (recall Paul’s visit to Athens in Acts 17) the Greek/Roman mind became accustomed to dualism. The mind would always see the world divided in two – the doomed, profane physical world our bodies are trapped in and the sacred, spiritual world of ideals, ideas and eternality (which, by the way, is unchanging. Change, they would argue, is weakness and something only material matter undergoes (e.g. flowers bloom, wither and die)).

From this dualism it is easy to see how a form of elitism would (and did) emerge. The Greeks/Romans saw themselves as superior to every other culture and saw it as their duty to bring the “peace of Rome” to other lands, graciously giving them a culture and knowledge that would help these “barbarians” transcend their dismal existences (One cannot help but overhear mission statements of the church when it comes to world evangelism. “Let’s save the heathens!” was a call to action disguised in racial and intellectual and cultural bigotry). The good life, the Greeks/Romans believed and taught, was one where the physical world was mastered and the spiritual world was preferred and accessed through the mind. Though you may never have heard of Plato there is no mistaking his grip on our minds even today.

I think it is Pagitt who gets into the whole "platonic dualism" thing. My concern here isn't to deny that Plato may have been a dualist, in a sense it's something that doesn't even matter; rather, one must ask why we should assume that Plato is the father and author of all things dualism. Whatever else good or bad we may have gotten from the Greek philosophers, is it accurate to say that all instances of dualism in the Bible are to be blamed on the Greeks?

Now, if you're going to dismiss all dualism as brought in from the outside, you have to do some very interesting things with the Bible. You have to explain why God accepted Abel's sacrifice while rejecting Cain's, especially since we aren't really told why. You have to explain why God put all of the world under judgment, but "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord". You have to explain why God chose just one man, and not even all of his family, in order to found one people to be His chosen. You have to explain why God loved Jacob, a rather interesting character in his own right, and hated Esau. You have to explain why, out of all of the people in slavery in the world at that time, God sent only one of the them a Moses for them, and Himself worked miracles, many of a destructive sort, in order to deliver them.

And instances of dualisms in the Bible could go on for a long while, with the most important ones being the New Testament--sheep who are welcomed and goats who are cast out, wise virgins who are ready for the bridegroom and foolish ones who are left out, wheat that is kept and weeds that will be burned, the Pharisee whose prayer is self-praise and the publican whose prayer is for mercy. And most important of all, those who have been made Children of God and those who are children of wrath, those who belong to God and those who are still of the world, those who are believers in Christ and those who reject Him.

It is entirely too simple to look at every instance of dualism one can find, and expect that claimings "platonism" is an adequate answer.

Finally, I want to deal with his ridicule of missions at the end of that excerpt. As one who was in missions for a few years, and know people from many different countries and cultures who have been in missions in order to take the Gospel to people, I can only find this writer's words distasteful and disgusting. But having read the words of Emergents no small amount over the past few years, I can think of nothing more incongruous, nothing Emergents would find more distasteful themselves, than the notion of Christian missionaries trying to convert people from their false beliefs to believing in the true and living God. As one writer I recently read noted, there is nothing in Emergent theology worth giving one's life for, worth dying for, worth suffering persecution and martydom for. I would almost say that the whole point of Emergent thought is to avoid the painful necessities that make for persecutions and martyrdoms.

It would, I think, but most accurate to say that, if Jesus had been Emergent, He would not have died like He did. More likely, he would have been some kind of cultic quack who had a few followers, maybe caused a tad bit of trouble, but on the whole could be ignored.

And concerning missions, what message could an Emergent missionary give? "I'm ok, you're ok, let me go pray to Allah with you, and don't buy that car because you'll only be increasing global warming"? "I'm not concerned with you becoming a believer in Christ, I just want you to join my simply-living commune and eat nuts and berries the rest of your life"? "Yes, you live under an oppressive Communistic government that tries to keep Christianity from you, but you have to understand, we're leftists, too, and your place is actually much better than those freedom-loving, car-driving, oil-burning, meat-eating, Capitalistic countries in the West."?

Is it just a coincidence that the dominant story line we find in the Church today is one where God is furious with the created realm, places higher value on right thinking and belief over right action and living (we are saved, so the story goes, by getting our thinking right about God, irrespective of whether or not our physical lives change), where sharing the gospel is reduced to ideas and mental consent, where sharing the gospel in that way is more important than sharing a glass of water or a meal or a home, and where this world, in the end, will be vacated by a rapture and destroyed by fire while those of us with enlightened minds watch from the spiritual, pure, changeless heavens above.

Is this how Jesus would have read the Bible or how Plato would have read it?

Well, let's see...

We know a bit about how Jesus read the Scriptures of His day, because we have recorded instances of Him using them. He referenced the account of Noah in a way that suggests that He considered it to have really happened. He used Deuteronomy to answer Satan's temptations. He talked about Abraham as if he not only lived, but was still alive and even aware when Jesus came to Earth and was happy when He did. He even answers the Sadducees, who denied life after death, but pointing out that God was still the God of the Fathers because they still lived.

But he likely doesn't want to think that Jesus took the story of Noah seriously. How unscientific of Jesus!!

The question of how Jesus would read the Scriptures, then, depends on if they teach the things the writer lists. Is God furious with the created realm? Not sure where he got that, but there are reasons in the Bible to think that God is angry with the unrepentent-- "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness" Romans 1:18; "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" John 3:36 "Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the might and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" Revelation 6:15-17

Are right beliefs and thinking more important than right actions and living? Well, let me put it this way--how can you know what are the right actions and the right way to live if you do not have right beliefs and are not thinking right? The fact is, right beliefs and thinking are the things the help us determine right actions and right ways to live. As Christians, we are saved by grace through faith, not by works. We are saved by repenting and believing in Christ, a belief that must mean some measure of right beliefs about Him. But we are saved to do good works, and our works show our faith. But the right beliefs come before the good works.

And the idea that Christians who truly believe do not share with others is simply abject nonsense on this writer's part, a baseless accusation that is refuted a million times over by believers who share what they have with those around them, and give even when it strung a little. It is the sign of a bad argument when it has to tastelessly accuse Christians (I won't say "fellow Christians" because one making such an accusation needs to show something to even be considered worthy of that noble title) of what they do not do.

Finally, the rapture and the end of the world. I'm not sure how one cannot say that the world will one day end, given that the Bible is clear that "By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungoldy men", II Peter 3:7, and "...The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the everything in it will be laid bare", II Peter 3:10.

Whether Heaven will be "changeless" or not, or whatever that may mean, is something that cannot be known except by being there.

The God of Israel, Elohim, looks very different from the god we Greeks/Romans have made. Elohim delights in his creation, is perfectly happy with change (even instigating it!), is forgiving and full of mercy to a fault and his punishments are not to destroy or inflict eternal misery but to correct, discipline, encourage and redeem. This is a God who looks a lot more like Abba (Daddy!) than the Greco/Roman god we descendants of Plato created.

Some of this may be biblically obvious, but others are puzzling. The God of Israel doesn't punish to destroy? Perhaps Achan and his family could say otherwise, or the ones who stood up against Moses and God opened the ground to swallow them. Or how about those who occupied Canaan before God sent Israel to claim it for themselves. Even Israel could testify against that, for they no doubt remember the times God sent the armies of Babylon and then Rome to destroy the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.

we have stolen Elohim from the Jews and turned him into Theos (the greek name for “God”)

This is one of those things that simply doesn't make sense. We stole Elohim from the Jews? Really? When and were? Does the fact that the Jews of Jesus' day and in the time of the Apostles largely rejected Christ not come into the picture?

But even more puzzling are these last statements.

I once heard Dr. J. Kameron Carter, professor at Duke Divinity, say that we Gentiles are getting the story right only insofar as the Jews who are listening can nod in assent. To put it another way, to the extent the Jews disbelieve our Jesus as the Messiah of the world is the same extent to which we have butchered the story. Given that most Jews doubt our Jesus as Messiah gives me reason to think we need to rethink the narrative we have been telling and living.

This is such an absurd criterion that I doubt he's even thought how it could be implemented. Are we suppose to take a random survey of Jewish people and see what they think of a what the Gospels tell us about Jesus, and the ideas with the most votes are ok? Shall we gather a focus group of Jewish people together and let them discuss Jesus' life? What if they don't agree on things? What if we get several focus groups, and they all have disagreements? What kinds of Jewish persons are acceptable--actively practicing religious Jews, largely secular Jews who don't practice any religion, Messianic Jews who believe in Christ? Are half-Jews ok, or quarter-Jews acceptable?

And the topper, that last sentence. If that were really a sound criterion, we would be left with the conclusion that since most of the Jews of Jesus' own day doubted that He was the Messiah, than He should have rethought the narrative He was telling and living.

But then, what can you expect from a Blue Devil but nonsense.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

mclaren--a new kind of oliver stone

Interview with Brian McLaren About ‘A New Kind of Christianity’

Keeping up the Sojo tradition of supporting every book of questionable theology out there so long as it supports their leftist agenda, here we have Sojo interviewing Brina McLaren about his new book. Here are some excerpts, with comments.

But I think you can make this very fragile generalization: before the Enlightenment, authority resided not in books, but in divinely ordained people.

First, if a 'generalization' is 'fragile', is it really worth making? And is it really worth anything?

Second, one of the aspects of the Bible is that it was based on what was recorded and written, not on the divinely ordained people (which I guess he means a pope, perhaps among others). Moses gave the people the law, but he did not create the law. When Jesus confronted Satan's temptations, He asnwered with statements beginning "It is written...".

McLaren's 'generalization' is so much 'fragile' as it is a lie.

Protestants, at least, dispensed with the divine right of popes and cardinals, and we shifted our authority to constitutions — doctrinal statements and systematic theologies — which we claimed were derived from and legitimized by the Bible.

Again, wrong. Doctrinal statements and theologies were around long before the Catholic Church and popes and other such things. One can find them in the New Testament and in the writings of the Ante Nicene church writers.

My proposal is that we’re moving from courtroom to quest as a primary metaphor.

Sure, because when you're losing in the courtroom, nothing seems better than to go on the lam. And when the Bible is so against all the things you want to be true, than you have to keep going until you find a way to make the Bible agree with you.

Monday, February 15, 2010

of course, sojo WOULD support this book

What if the Church were Christian?

And since the book isn't yet in general circulation, here's what's available at the publishers for reading...


Reading through his interview at Sojo and what I've read of the book, it reminds me a lot of another book I've written a bit about here, "Saving Jesus from the Church" by Robin B Meyers; for example, look at the title of the first chapter--"If the Church Were Christian...Jesus Would Be a Model for Living Rather Than an Object of Worship". In the few pages we have of the chapter at the browser, we learn that it is silly to believe that Jesus had really been virgin-born, and it seems to be working up to saying that believing in miracles is equally foolish. Not unlike Meyers, who wanted us to stop worship Jesus.

And this is the type of book Sojo recommends on their blog for us to read. If they get Jesus wrong, how much are they getting the other things wrong, too?

Perhaps a better title for the Sojo blog would be "What if this author were Christian".

Thursday, February 11, 2010

if i wanted a circular god, i'd find a fat buddha

Theology after Google

Theology after Google does not divide up the world between the “sacred” and the “secular,” as past theologies so often did. All thought and experience bears on it, and all of one’s life manifests it. Thus the distinction between one’s “ministry” and one’s “ordinary life” is bogus. All of one’s life as a Christian is missional.. The great 15th-century theologian and mystic Nicholas of Cusa imagined God as a circle whose radius is infinite and whose center is everywhere. It only takes a second to realize that Cusa’s picture wreaks havoc on all geometries of “inside” and “outside.”

This is hardly a new idea. I was hearing this from people in the missions organization I was in several years ago. I think it's something that could be debated. For example, when God spoke to Moses in the wilderness, He called where they talked "holy ground". Wherever that perameters of that "holy ground" was, it was different than the normal ground Moses had been walking on before, and so he was told to remove his sandals. A similar thing happened later, when Moses and the people of Israel were at the mountain and God came down to them. The mountian was not to be treated by them as another mountain--the people were not to approach it, and any animal that touched it was to be killed. The Tabernacle and later the Temple were not common buildings, and even in them there was a place that was entered only once a year by the High Priest, the Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant was not to be touched at all, and God killed a man who touched it, even for the theoretically good reason of keeping it from falling. The tribe of Levi was different than the others, they were not given land, but were the priests and keepers of the Tabernacle and Temple.

It's an interesting idea, perhaps not without merit, depending on what is meant by it. I think the last sentence of the paragraph quoted above gives an idea of what he means--that in trying to do away with the concepts of "inside" and outside", he's essentially sneaking in, though not so subtly, universalism. Perhaps not surprising, since TheOoze is Spencer Burke's site, and Burke has claims to be some form of universalist.

And that is where this writer's version of "no sacred or secular" falls apart. I doubt the New Testament could be more plain that there is a very real difference between those who believe and those who don't, between those who are children of God and child or wrath, the sheep who are welcomed and the goats who are condemned, the wheat and the tares, the wise virgins and the foolish ones, those in Abraham's bosom and those in Hades, those whose names are written in the Book of Life and those whose names aren't.

One can point to divisions people have made that have been silly or even stupid. But pointing those out does not mean that all divisions are wrong. And when the Bible plainly says there are those who are pleasing to God, and others who are subject to God's wrath, then it is not wise to try to dismiss those divisions simply because one doesn't like them, and simply because they do not most kind "picture".

Finally, a bit on the difference between the symbol of the circle and the more obvious Christian symbol of the cross, from Chesterton's "Orthodoxy", toward the end of chapter 2.

As we have taken the circle as the symbol of reason and madness, we may very well take the cross as the symbol at once of mystery and of health. Buddhism is centripetal, but Christianity is centrifugal: it breaks out. For the circle is perfect and infinite in its nature; but it is fixed for ever in its size; it can never be larger or smaller. But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox in its centre it can grow without changing. The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travellers.

Monday, February 8, 2010

tell you what, shane claiborne...

...when you let the government regulate your freedom of speech, making it so that you have to get a license to exercise it, I'll let you do the same to my right to keep and bear arms.

One More Gun Death Too Many–and Three Things You Can Do About It

Some things to keep in mind about this article...

Criminals were killing victims long before the gun was invented.

I wonder when he'll start blaming car dealerships for drunk driving deaths.

A person with a gun may kill a person physically, but a person with a bad theology will kill them spiritually. The first is a tragedy, the second is eternally worse.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

picking who to listen to

The new Christian leader is a host, not an authority who dispenses true teaching, wise words, and the sole path to salvation. I first really got the host idea in a conversation with Spencer, and it has turned my understanding of Christian leadership upside down. Today, the leaders who influence our faith and action are those who convene (or moderate or enable) the conversations that change our life — or the activities that transform our understanding of ourselves, our world, and our God. It could be an older Christian who convenes discussions at a church, a house, or a pub. It could be Shane Claiborne leading an activity at The Simple Way on Potter Street in Philadelphia, say a time of gardening in the communal garden that gives you a sense of community that you’ve rarely had but always longed for. It could be a website or a blogger that you frequently go to, where you read others’ responses and add your own thoughts. Christian leadership is about enabling significant community around the name of Jesus, wherever two or more are gathered in His name.

Be very careful when people start talking about the end of authority, because very likely all their really saying is that they don't like the current authority figures, and merely want to set up their own (themselves, if possible, but if not that, then their own approved ones).

I would dare say there is no one who is really anti-authority or anti-establisment. They may be anti-the-current-authority-or-establishment, but they are not against ALL authority or establisment. So when this man says that "The new Christian leader is...not an authority...", I think we can say that he is wrong. It may not be intentional, but it is so.

In fact, a previous point rather goes counter to some aspects of this one. About a list of emergents, he says that they "say things that ring true to us", which seems to me to be saying that he thinks they are "dispensing true teaching" and "wise words". And why else would he have listed them favorably, or recommend them to others favorably? It could be doubted he would do so if he thought they were dispensing false teaching and stupid words.

So it's not so much a case of his "new Christian leader" not being an authority, but of him or her being an authority whose teachings and words are to him true and wise. With the assumption that most of those teachings would be different from what was considered true and wise by people before.

Which seems to bring us to one of the real cruxes of the matter, the issue of "the sole path of salvation". One may, I think safely, think that this writer's approved "new Christian leader" will be one who does not say Jesus is " the sole path of salvation", but is either one of many paths or that there are many paths to Jesus. Considering that that is the teaching of Burke, and seems to be the teaching of McLaren (maybe Jones, though I'm less certain of that), then it is no wonder that a man who thinks that they "say things that ring true to us" would say that the "new Christian leader" would agree with them, too.

The comment "Christian leadership is about enabling significant community around the name of Jesus" has a nice ring to it, and maybe have a point or two, but one still should be leary of it. I've been around far too many Charismatics who use phrases like "in JESUS' name" as a kind of mantra or magic cure-all for whatever the issue is. I know of cults that have incorporated a construct named Jesus into their beliefs, though their Jesus may be very different for the Jesus of the Bible. I know a man who claims to have been healed (and I have no reason to doubt his sincerity that he was healed) through a belief in the Christian Science Jesus, a Jesus who taught that this world is merely an illusion and that if you have enough faith you will never be ill. A Jesus, btw, very different from anything emergents and progressives believe, so far as I can tell, so how much fellowship they could have with CS followers is rather unclear.

So I doubt that merely inserting the name Jesus into something really means what was on Jesus' own mind when He said "where two or three are gathered together in my name". Not having lived under a monarchy, I can mostly only imagine this, but if I were the servant of a king, and were sent to do something in the king's name, then I think in doing that I am doing something that the king sanctions and approves of, and wants me to do. If I were to do something that the king didn't want me to do, it would not really be done in the king's name even if I were to say it was.

A while ago, I read one of David Weber's Honor Harrington books, a series of sci-fi futuristic military books in case you're not familiar with them--think Star Trek meets Tom Clancy. Two star-nations had been at war, but have reached a tentative peace and are trying to negotiate a real truce. The leader of one of those nations sends missives to the other about those meetings, but one of the people involved in sending those missives makes changes in the wording of a few of them, unknown to his leader, designed to offend and anger the other leader. A resumption of the conflict was the result.

The point is this, that while that person was appointed to office to act in the name of that nation and it's leader, his actions were not approved by that nation or leader, and were in fact detrimental to both.

And the point of that point is this, that we should be wary of those who claim to be acting in Jesus' name. And while emergents may claim to do so, much of what they say and do and support is rather plainly contrary to what Jesus said and taught in the Bible.

Friday, February 5, 2010

tipping the hat

For all that I (rightly) get on Sojo's case at times here, though far less I suppose than they deserve, I will give them a bit of respect for this article.

Tim Tebow’s Pro-Life Super Bowl Ad Brouhaha

The whole article makes for an interesting read, and I will respond to the last question by saying that Colts will gallop away with the trophy, though corny analogy aside, it will be a pretty good game.

Critics point to the pro-life message as being inappropriate. Really? You may disagree with it, but how is it inappropriate? The commercial is running during a game in which very strong, grown men tackle each other, sometimes to the point of injury, while boisterous fans, some in various stages of inebriated behavior, scream encouraging words using colorful language while grown women wear clothing small enough for small girls shake their pom poms in order to create team spirit. Yes, let’s talk about what is inappropriate and question where our values are.

And apparently there is a flurry of investigative reporting happening as well because questions are being raised about whether or not Pam Tebow’s story is true. (She got pregnant in 1987 while on a Christian mission in the Philippines and got sick. Doctors told her that the pregnancy was risky, but she chose to go through with the pregnancy.) Some headlines are declaring Tebow’s story a “falsehood”. Have those writers and critics taken a look at some of the boobs (male and female) out there? There is plenty of falsehood to go around. Buying expensive but really cool shoes won’t make you cool, but that falsehood is what sells those shoes. My goodness, advertising wants you to buy into a falsehood – if you buy this product you will be happier, more attractive, more successful, more this and that.

The first paragraph is a good point. I think the second is a bit iffy, since if the story didn't happen as Tebow and him Mom say, it takes away from the point being made. Sorry, but this isn't "I, Rigoberta Menchu".

So, a bit of a kudo to Sojo, for what it's worth. Don't read more into it than that, though.

the cuteness was overwhelming

funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures

I couldn't help it. Far...too...cute...!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

the internet doesn't have pews

Theology after Google

Theology after Google is not centralized and localized. Likewise, the church cannot be localized in a single building. We find church wherever we find Jesus-followers that we link up with who are doing cool things. This point is huge. Denominational officials and many pastors have not even begun to conceive and wrestle with what it means to work for a church without a clear geographical location.

There is a place online where I have been a member for years. I don't think I would be wrong if I said I am now the longest-running member there, or at least among them. I joined in 2002, very early in that year. It was actually under another name at that time, and has gone through a few incarnations, though I have kept the same user name and other information throughout.

It somehow actually has several names. I think the official name is Crosswalk, though I usually go to it as the forums. And I've found it under other names, too.

It's been an interesting time, being there. I've been in some really good discussions--the really eye-opening and intense exchange with a follower of Christian Science, the many and varied debates with Partial and Full Preterists, a couple of private conversations with followers of another world religion that led to discussions of Christ, a few humorous discussions, a lot of political jaws. Oh, and the occasional heated debate about Benny Hinn, and lately the ones over emergents.

I've learned a lot, and given my own few cents worth more than a few times. There are people I've gained a bit of an acquaintence with for whom I have respect, and once or twice something like friendship.

But it's not a church.

I'll be among the first to say that there are many good things about the Internet. But the Internet is not a church.

Just as TV and radio preachers are not really good substitutes for local pastors. And even if we acknowledge that some people have problems, like health or injury or lack of transportation or work hours, which keep them from attending a church in person, the things they substitute in for that are still more like using crutches to more around rather than walking on one's own. In the same way, listening to podcasts of sermons--one own pastor's or someone a thousand miles away--may be helpful, but it isn't church.

I do not think it is an accident that Paul tell us to not forsake the assembling of Christians together, and especially warns against it as the end draws near.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

a humorous fix

A secretary to be feared!

Monday, February 1, 2010

lords of the rings?

Theology after Google

No institutions, and very few persons, function as authorities for theology after Google. Ever since Jesus’ (often misunderstood) statement about Peter that “on this rock I will build my church” (Mt. 16), the church has had issues with authority. The point is too obvious to need examples. The pastor standing up in the pulpit in the early 1960s was still a major authority. Of course, pastors still stand up in pulpits today, and some still view themselves as indispensable purveyors of truth.

But the world is changing around us. Those of us who speak in pulpits are having to rethink our relationship with the audiences we address. Most people today shrug their shoulders at those who claim to be authorities in religious matters. (For many of us, scripture continues to be an authority, but the way in which it’s an authority has changed massively over the last 30 years. More on that topic the next time I write.) Theology today means what some number of us find plausible about our faith or are convinced of. Our leaders are people like Brian McLaren or Tony Jones or Spencer Burke — people who say things that ring true to us, so that we say, “Yeah, I think that guy’s got some important insights. I’m going to read his blog or find a way to talk with him, and I’m going to recommend to my friends that they do the same.”

One thing I anticipate, though with a sense of "here we go again", is this writer's promised take on his views of scriptural authority. I think I know what it will be like, but I can hope not.

Anyway, what about the above?

Well, first, what is being said? He says that pastors and churches and denominations are not how the authorities they once were. He even hints at a questioning of biblical authority, or at least how his version of it is different than what people thought in the past.

He gives a small list of 'usual suspects', but why are they "our leaders"? What does it mean that they "say things that ring true to us"?

A crooked salesman can say things that a person may say "rings true". Anyone who has followed a cult leader will say how that leader says things that "rang true". Someone who thinks that Al Gore is anything other than an agenda-driven charlatan may say that his claims about global warming "ring true".

"Rings true" is a poor way of determining if something is true or not. If anything, it says more about the listener than the speaker--perhaps it simply rings true to a person because it is what he or she wants to hear, it doesn't so much "ring true" as it "agrees with me". Which is why the fact that we now know that much of the data behind global warming was bad data, that the scientist behind it were playing fast and loose with the facts, does not effect those who truly believe in it and want to continue implementing changes based on it, no matter how much damage those changes will do to society. It is why people who are in a cult or a false religion will sooner kill others who tell them the truth than themselves listen to the truth and believe what is true.

Which is why this statement of his seems cultic to me.