Monday, January 26, 2009

An Atheist Comments on Christian Missions

A few days ago, I stumbled across a fascinating article in the Times [of London] Online by Matthew Parris, former member of Parliament and an avowed atheist.

Parris apparently grew up in Africa. I don't know if his parents were diplomats or if they worked for an international NGO (non-governmental agency) or just why he was in Africa. He comments on his observations of the good that Christian missionaries do:

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution
that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of
secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone
will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity
changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is
real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical
work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is
part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal
the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of
secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be
better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate
missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn't fit the facts.

Read the rest of the article here.

Notice that he singles out Christian missionaries. (Don't be confused—there are missionaries of other religions out there. On my two trips to Uganda, I became acutely aware that Muslims have learned from the Christians and built schools and health clinics and dug wells-all with the intent of spreading their own brand of religion.)

If you read the entire article, you'll see his comments about how the African mindset is totally different from the Western mindset and how
Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct,
personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the
collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through
the philosphical/spiritual framework. . . That is why and how it liberates.
As one who has ministered in Uganda twice and who expects to return someday, I'm personally intrigued by this difference that Parris has observed. He notes that Christianity - real Christianity - is a totally different worldview than the typical African worldview.

But I'm just as interested in how to apply these same observations and the principles behind them to our current American culture. Although very different from the rural African mindset, American secular humanism is also a totally different worldview from Christianity.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Being like Edwards in a Finney Culture

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:2-5 ESV

When I was a child, I attended a small Southern Baptist church which was both very Baptist and very Southern. Though I hold to a different theology now, I still have very fond memories of that church. In the church's office and educational building (which also included the Baptist favorite-the "fellowship hall"), above every door there was a sign that read "YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE MISSION FIELD." As I'm sure I've mentioned before, my husband and I are committed to becoming career missionaries. Though we still have a few years before all the necessary degrees and ordinations are obtained, we often discuss our future on the "mission field" which will probably be overseas. Lately, I have been reminded that God's command to evangelize does not suddenly become applicable when all the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted. God requires me to evangelize now. But what does evangelism look like from a person who believes that the human spirit in it's natural state is totally dead and depraved? Francis Schaffer has much to say on this issue in his book, The God Who is There:

"Each person must be dealt with as an individual, not as a case or statistic or machine [p. 130]." "We must remember that the person to whom we are talking, however far from the Christian faith he may be, is an image-bearer of God. He has great value, and our communication with him must be in genuine Love. Love is not an easy thing; it is not just an emotional urge, but an attempt to move over and sit in the other person's place and see how his problems look to him. Love is a genuine concern for the individual....Therefore, to be engaged in personal ´witness' as a duty or because our Christian circle exerts a social pressure on us, is to miss the whole point. The reason we do it is that the person before us is an image-bearer of God, and he is an individual who is unique in the world. This kind of communication is not cheap."

The following are links to some very interesting videos about evangelism.

NOTE: I apologize that my title has disappointingly little to do with the actual content of the blog. I had intended to go in a slightly different (and believe it or not, more academic ) direction.

Harry Belafonte - The Voice of Morality?

I don't normally think of people in the entertainment industry as reliable spokespersons for traditional morality. However, I just came across the following comments by singer Harry Belafonte (biography here for those of you too young to recognize his name ;~) in a September 9, 1993 article in the New York Times:

"We're in a struggle for the soul of this country," he says. "We're in a struggle for America's moral center. And unless that can be made straight, I'm not too sure any of the other battles are winnable.

"How do you end racism in the midst of a place that is so morally collapsed? How do you end poverty in a place so spiritually poor? How do you end hunger in a place so driven by such greed and avarice? If one doesn't attend to this moral question, how can you lead this country if you're morally weak. . . "

Of course, Belafonte has also made plenty of controversial comments in recent years that I disagree with. But in this case, it seems he's recognized the connection between social justice and spiritual/moral strength.

Or has he?

One might ask just what Mr. Belafonte means by the terms moral center, morally collapsed, spiritually poor, and morally weak. Does he mean the same thing I would mean if I used those terms?

Words have meanings—both denotations and connotations—and sometimes what I mean when I use a certain word isn't what the dictionary defines the word as. That's a key thing to remember whenever we read or discuss matters with someone with a different worldview than our own. It's easy to assume that we're "on the same page," or "speaking the same language" when in fact, we may be polar opposites.

And based on several of Mr. Belafonte's other comments over the years, it appears we need language lessons if we plan to speak with one another.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration Day and the Rise of Presidential Power

I have often wondered (sometimes aloud) why people tend to blame the president for any political actions they disagree with. I've thought "don't they remember ANYTHING from their high school Civics courses? Don't they realize that it's the legislative branch - aka Congress - who creates the laws that they don't like?"

The conclusion I have come to is that it's easier to point the finger at one individual and blame "the Bush" (or "the Clinton" or whomever) administration. After all, the president is in some ways a figurehead (but not quite like Queen Elizabeth is a figurehead in England). He is the public face and voice of America to the rest of the world. And in those nations without a representative government, an individual leader is all they have known, all they understand.

Then I came across an interesting confirmation of my theory - one I hadn't expected. In researching the two distinct - but related - concepts of "separation of powers" and "checks and balances" the other day, I came across an interesting discussion about the rise of presidential power:

It was Andrew Jackson, the seventh President, who was the first to use the veto as a political weapon. During his two terms in office, he vetoed twelve bills—more than all of his predecessors combined. . .

Some of Jackson's successors made no use of the veto power, while others used it intermittently. It was only after the Civil War that Presidents began to use the power to truly counterbalance Congress. . .

Grover Cleveland, the first Democratic President following Johnson, attempted to restore the power of his office. During his first term, he vetoed over four hundred bills—twice as many bills as his twenty-one predecessors combined. He also began to suspend bureaucrats who were appointed as a result of the patronage system, replacing them with more "deserving" individuals. The Senate, however, refused to confirm many new nominations. . .Cleveland's popular support forced the Senate to back down and confirm the nominees. . . Thus, Cleveland's Administration marked the end of Presidential subordination.

Several twentieth-century Presidents have attempted to greatly expand the power of the Presidency. Theodore Roosevelt, for instance, claimed that the President was permitted to do whatever was not explicitly prohibited by the law—in direct contrast to his immediate successor, William Howard Taft. Franklin Delano Roosevelt held considerable power during the Great Depression. . .

Richard Nixon. . . used national security as a basis for his expansion of power. . .

The rise of the presidency was also aided by the rise of a modern media establishment. In an era of limited attention spans and shortened time for television news, it was easier for journalists to focus on the actions of one centralized, decisive figure—the President—than on the actions of a loose, decentralized, milling chamber of equals, like the Senate or House. (emphasis added)
This article from Wikipedia not only confirms my theory that "it's easier to point the finger at one individual and blame 'the Bush' or 'the Clinton' administration" but also gives a further explanation: the media (specifically television) have led the charge in this overemphasis on the Executive Branch. As my friend Andrew Tallman wrote, "the things the news reports. . .are only a small slice of the truth. And if all we see on a regular basis is the most strange and shocking slices of the truth, in the process our picture of the whole truth has become badly distorted."

What will it take to bring back a "balance of power" and recognize that it's Congress and not the president that we should distrust the most? As James Madison wrote in Federalist 51, regarding the ability of each branch to defend itself from actions by the others, that "it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates." (emphasis added)

It might begin with each of us not pointing our collective (conservative evangelical Christian) finger at President Obama and blaming him for all the woes of the land.
  • Yes, he made lots of campaign promises that most of us probably didn't like - but it's Congress that will end up writing the laws that make those promises reality.
  • Yes, he appoints people to cabinet positions and other positions of power - but it's Congress that confirms those appointments.
  • Yes, he will probably propose new laws that aggravate most Christians - maybe even cause us to fear - but again, it's Congress that will create any new laws.
May we all remember the lessons learned so long ago in our Civics classes and recognize just who creates our laws. And more than that - may we remember that a sovereign God reigns over a nation's rulers. Just to refresh our memories, read
  • Prov. 8:15-16
  • Jer. 27:5-7
  • Dan. 2:20-21; 4:27-37
  • Rom. 13:1-2

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

In The Know

There are some issues that God wants us to be ‘in the know’ about. A study of these verses and the verses following might prove very fruitful and enlightening on God’s direction for us.

Spiritual Gifts:
(1 Corinthians 12:1 NKJV) Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:

Confidence in God:
(2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NKJV) For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.

Future Events:
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-15 NKJV) But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.

Salvation of the Jews:
(Romans 11:25 NKJV) For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

Promises of God:
(2 Peter 3:8-9 NKJV) But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Winning Souls:
(Romans 1:13 NKJV) Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.

(1 Corinthians 10:1 KJV) Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

There is something I would like to have you “in the know” about concerning worldview and the Christian mind.

“The search for a Christian perspective on life - on our families,
our economics, our leisure activities, our sports, our attitudes to the
body and to health care, our reactions to novels and paintings, as well
as our churches and our specifically Christian activities - is not just
an academic exercise. The effort to think like a Christian is rather an
effort to take seriously the sovereignty of God over the world he created,
the lordship of Christ over the world he died to redeem, and the power
of the Holy Spirit over the world he sustains each and every moment.
From this perspective the search for a mind that truly thinks like a
Christian takes on ultimate significance, because the search for a Christian
mind is not, in the end, a search for mind but a search for God.”
Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, page 253.

The assessment of any issue in our everyday walk is important. I share the above comment by Noll as an encouragement in evaluating the issues. It encourages me in my struggle and hope that I can have a Christian mind.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Christophanies Part 4

I was going to continue the series I am doing by going through some of the clear prophecies that can only be about Jesus Christ. I changed my mind due to some passages that I recently read in Genesis. I titled this post christophanies but that is a little misleading because what I really want to look at are some sneak peaks of the trinity in the Old Testament. Let me pause for a second and explain some of the terms I am using. A christophany is a fancy term that theologians like to use to describe an appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament before he became a man. The trinity is the word used by Christians to describe the nature of God as three persons and one essence; there is one God and the Father is God, the Son (Jesus) is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. The New Testament offers clear revelation of God as trinity that is not seen in the Old Testament. The concept of the one God as more than one person, however, is not entirely foreign to the Old Testament. Since my overall point of these series is the consistency of the Bible as a whole I thought it might be useful to point out some of these passages. I had just decided to post about this instead of the prophecies of Christ this morning so I am only going to focus on the passages I came across recently. I did mention that my focus is not specifically Christophanies, but if anyone is interested in more passages along the lines that I am talking about, googling Christophanies is a good way to lead you in that direction. In Genesis chapter 21 Hagar (she is the bondwoman that Sarah gave to Abraham for a child earlier in Genesis) is sent away from Abraham's camp. So Hagar leaves with the son she bore Abraham and after all their water is gone she puts him under a bush and goes a little way off because she does not want to see the boy die. Then we come upon this encounter with God

And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is."Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation." Gen 21:18-19

Here is an example where "the angel of God" starts out speaking on behalf of God "...for God has heard the voice of the boy..." and then in the next breath promises he [the angel of God] would do something that only God can do "...I will make him into a great nation." It seems to me that there are only two ways to deny that the angel of God is God in this case: 1.) argue that beings other than God can make Abraham a great nation 2.) somehow make a disconnect between the angel of God and the pronoun I in the passage. If anyone would like to argue these things I would be interested to read the comments. I also would like to offer one more example. God told Abraham to take his only son Isaac and offer him as a burnt sacrifice. Abraham takes his son and tells him that God will provide the lamb. Just before Abraham is about to bring the knife down on his son, the angel of the Lord appears.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." Gen 22:11-12

We once again see that the angel of the Lord speaks about God " fear God..." but then makes himself out to be God "...your only son from me." Again, if someone wants to argue this, they would have to make a case that I am not following the pronouns correctly.

I would love to hear what everyone thinks.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Imagine All the People. . .

(With apologies to John Lennon; I obviously plagiarized the title!)

I recently saw an article in Good magazine that claimed "solving our current planetary crisis could lead to an unimaginably good future."

And although I disagree with much of the eco-fanaticism sentiment of the article, there were some points that could be applied to those of us who desire to serve God with our whole lives.
The author said, "If we want to avoid that (ecological) catastrophe, we need to not just do fewer bad things: we need to do different things altogether."

And that's what living out a Biblical worldview is all about - doing different things altogether - not just ecologically and not just in a moralistic sort of way...but thinking about the whole counsel of God's Word as a system, then living by it. It's doing "different things" than the rest of society.

The pull quote after paragraph two

[Pull quote: In newspaper and magazine publishing, a brief excerpt from the main text, enlarged and set off from the text, often in a box. Used to add emphasis and interest.]
says it well: "We need people who change their thinking and not just their light bulbs."
The focus of the article was summed up in this one sentence. And it sums up what Christians SHOULD be doing as well: changing our thinking.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your
mind. . . (Rom. 12:2
- ESV).

If we all genuinely did this, I believe we could have that "unimaginably good future" - at least as good as it could be in a fallen world. No, it won't hasten Christ's return, and it won't eliminate all evil in the world. But just for a moment, close your eyes and imagine a world where every Christian believer was truly "transformed by the renewal of [his] mind." Wouldn't that indeed be a good future?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Preconceived Notions

I had no reason to read The Shack, by William P Young; in fact I resisted the urging of a family member who is a consummate counselor. I had some ignorant preconceived notions, which seemed to settle it for me. Do not read!!

“I’m not asking you to believe anything, but I will tell you that you’re going to find this day a lot easier if you simply accept what is, instead of trying to fit it into your preconceived notions.” The Shack, page 119. Just about what my family member said. I read the book.

The novel is an anatomy and physiology of a crime victim/survivor. It is the classic story enhanced by a constant victimization since childhood and later the murder of his child, a daughter. As a professional victim specialist I have heard and reheard the story, ‘The Great Sadness”, the great sad rehearsal. That sadness always has the statement “my life has been changed forever”. This book is vicarious for me and as one who ministered to, prayed for and counseled murder victim/survivors. I was there again. The pain is enormous for these folks. If you want a ministry, come along side these victims and you will know their pain. Young does a splendid work. If I were speaking again on this subject, as I did for four years, The Shack would be emphasized reading for those being trained in victims work.

The theological part (that which had my preconceived notion) of the novel is another issue; God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Well, how would you expect God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be? Enjoy the read. Your theology will be challenged on several levels. Mine was! God is a loving black woman, Jesus a small Jewish male, and the Holy Spirit an Asian women. Putting this all into perspective is a push. I think you will have a lot to teach and a lot to learn. Why did Mack believe this way?

There are issues of how Christians interact with people. Do we really know your church friends? Do you know who beats the wife and kids? How about who is mean? Who is silently hurting from the loss of a loved one due to a trauma?

I hear,” Christians should not read this stuff.” Yes, again our own personal “Index”. But how do you minister to people with the different ideas, the different theology and the different worldviews unless you become acquainted with story and beliefs of those who do not know God, the living God of the Scriptures. Also, get to hear their pain and love them, whether or not they believe.

“Come, ye disconsolate, where'er ye languish.
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
"Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot cure."

Here see the bread of life; waters flowing
forth from the throne of God, pure from above.
Come to the feast of love; come, ever knowing
earth has no sorrow but heaven can remove.” Thomas Moore


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Insomnia and the Heidelberg Catechism

The Sunday School class I attend at our church is currently reading and reviewing the Heidelberg Catechism (a slightly more updated interpretation of the original 1563 version). Recently, our class has been discussing questions 3, 4 and 5 of part one, Lord's day two. Question 3 asks, "Whence knowest thou thy misery?", and of course the answer to that question (according to the Bible and the catechism) is from the law of God. Logically following question 3, question 4 begs "What does the law of God require of us?". Jesus' reply to this is recorded in the book of Matthew: Matt. 22:37-40, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and the great commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Question 5 of the catechism is the real kicker: Canst thou keep all these things perfectly? This question always stings a little because the obvious answer to this question is an infinite no. Not only can we not keep the law of God perfectly, but as humans who are subject to evil nature, we are prone to hate God and our neighbors.

As it is common for true followers of Christ to do, people in the Sunday School class began to talk about their former non-believing selves and non-believers they currently know who believe/ed that doing "good" things and living a "good" life is sufficient to merit the saving grace of God. The fact that humans in their natural state hate God and can never be truly good apart from God is a hard truth. It makes sense that non-Christians and even Christians sometimes conveniently forget the glory of God in their works and begin to feel prideful. Of course, for a Christian to do this is sinful. However, to be too far on the other end of this spectrum is sin as well. This is where much of my struggle lies.

Don't get me wrong, I'm am in no way trying to self-righteously imply that I am so wonderful that I never feel prideful. On the contrary, I am admitting (in a highly public and probably less-than-interested forum) that I struggle less with a love of self and more with a love of...well, hating myself. Nearly any time I am alone, I am literally haunted by memories of when I have done wrong or made mistakes or said something stupid or done something embarrassing. Many times, I struggle with why God would even bother with me because I am so unworthy. At the age of seven, I developed anorexia as one of my many forms of self-punishment. I had anorexia and bulimia for over 13 years. I didn't believe that I deserved food or nourishment or comfort or happiness or a normal life. I have had insomnia for weeks at a time because of a mistake I can't forget or someone I upset.

It really wasn't until I got married that God, through his Word and the love of my wonderful husband, showed me that my focus on my faults was just another form of sinful pride and self love. When I spend all my energy and brain power on me, I am not focusing on loving God and my neighbor. I know now that what others call low self-esteem is Satan and my nature trying to pull my focus from honoring and serving God with all my capacity. My life is not about what I deserve or what I am because I deserve nothing and I am nothing apart from the magnificent grace and glory of the Father. My one true desire is that God is glorified and lifted up in my life. As a Christian, I must be made less so that Christ can be made more evident in me. If God will still use me and be glorified in my far from perfect life-praise Him. My goal is to take my eyes off me and put them back on Christ, the ultimate prize. My job is to keep running and trust that God will take care of all the hurdles I've knocked over.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Worldviews on Parade

This comes from an article about Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana and his "extremism."

Perhaps most disturbing in broad policy terms is his support for teaching intelligent design in public school. Jindal's position on creationism and intelligent design reveals a colossal break with reason that we cannot accommodate again in our elected officials. Bush was a disaster we dare not repeat, but Jindal appears to be nothing but W with Indian ancestry. Denying the validity of evolution is no different than claiming atoms do not exist or that the DNA is not genetic code, or that al Qaeda was in Iraq before our invasion. Jindal's position is untenable.
Perhaps a bit of hyperbole??

The author then goes on to add this:

Evolution has been proven beyond any doubt by paleontology, embryology, molecular biology, island biogeography, microbiology and cell physiology. Yet in spite of evolution's unprecedented success in explaining the living world, in spite of the fact that evolution is one of the greatest triumphs of science, creationism and intelligent design have crept into the mainstream of American thought and into public school curricula in several states. . .

Science and religion can never be brought under one roof without sacrificing intellectual honesty. . .

We are told in Genesis that all life, everything that ever existed on earth, was created in six days. Evolution proves that wrong. The fossil record proves that wrong. Evolution in a Petri dish proves that wrong.
He accuses Bobby Jindal of extremism using his own brand of extremism. Yet he tries to sound reasoned and civil with phrases like this:

Science searches for mechanisms and the answer to "how" the universe functions. Religion seeks meaning and the answer to "why" the world is as we know it. . . . The two seek different answers to separate questions using fundamentally and inherently incompatible methods.

Seems like the author might be a speechwriter for outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins < or> in his spare time — so vehemently anti-religious that he doesn't even recognize his own prejudice.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Doing Church

Two essentials of my “doing church” have been the authority of inspired Scripture and the centrality and necessity of Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross. There are more, but these I have not departed from in my life. These essentials are not original to my thoughts as David Wells in “The Courage to Be Protestant” names them as the essentials held as the core of the evangelical movement, which began circa 1950.

As I read through Wells and I still am reading through Wells work, it is as if I were watching “Mr. Holland’s Opus” The plot of the picture paralleled my teaching journey, much as the evangelical movement parallels my church journey, each having aspirations and events that were similar.

My teaching time was spent in one venue, but my church journey encompassed many congregations. Most of these changes in congregation were due to moving. What I wanted to be sure of was keeping the essentials of my “doing church”.

There were encroachments on my others essentials which slowly came into play. My concept of congregational church polity, believer’s baptism, women’s involvement, millennial absolutes and mercies were challenged and I adjusted to the situation in as much peace as I could put forth. Well’s points out that diversity does not keep the central essentials in tact. Some things are lost and this lose permeates erosion. I might say that it can also strengthen a resolution.

From time to time I examine the possibility of change, to “doing church” in another venue. I am ever cognoscente of what I must give up and what I might take on. There are many tags out in the search area, such as: liberal evangelicals, charismatic, emergent, seeker friendly, missional, house church, etc. I am amazed at the hybrids and the “morphs”.
Juliet:"What's in a name? That which we call a roseby any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

What is in a name or a tag? A new spin, a gimmick, a smell, but not church. What should be considered should you need to “do church” anew?

Consider this:
Acts 2:42
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

I did not consider as a believer that I would pass through the number of changes that I have in changing churches, again most unintentional. I also stand disappointed at the hybrids and morphs and the confusion they engender.

Therefore, remember the essentials and beware the gimmicks?


Friday, January 2, 2009

The Two Adams Part 3

If creation is the foundation, then the fall of man is kind of like the frame. Creation is the foundation because there is no part of the Bible that does essentially rest upon the fact that we are responsible to a creator and that creator has revealed Himself to man. The fall of man is like the frame because it unifies the overall Biblical story. However, before we examine that further I think it would be beneficial to define what I mean by the fall of man for any who are not familiar with theological language. When I say the fall of man I am refering to the time as recorded in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve (the first people) knowingly disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Christians refer to this as the fall because it is when Adam and Eve (and therefore all men after them) fell from a right relationship with God because sin i.e. disobeying God was now a part of their lives and God is perfect. As a result of the fall God pronounced judgement on man which can be found in Genesis, but perhaps the most important judgement in regards to this post is that of death. The fall unifies the overall story of the Bible, because the overall story of the Bible is about God bringing about salvation; salvation is meaningless if there is nothing to be saved or anything to be saved from. The very first promise we see of this salvation comes shortly after man fell in what theologians like to dub the protoevangelium (first gospel) which is found in Genesis 3:15. In this passage we see a promise that there will be someone who will not be an offspring of the serpent or the fall, and who although his heel will be bruised (he will be hurt) he will have the power to crush the head of the serpent. As we move through the Bible we continually see the problem of sin, but more importantly the actions of God to bring about salvation and foreshadows of Christ. God saw fit to destroy the world in a flood, but he graciously provided an ark. God confused the languages and scattered mankind, but then he called a man named Abraham out from his people and purposed for the savior to come from his line. God struck the land with famine, but he raised up Joseph to store food for when that famine came. God has to withold a generation from the promise land, but he gives it to their children under the leadership of Joshua. The list could go on and on God raising up nations in judgement against Israel and then sending a judge to overthrow their captors. God sends the Jews into exile and then calls a remnant back. Ultimatley though, behind each judgement and each gracious action we see that everything is leading up to when God Himself will enter into his own creation as a human in order to save His people. Where is the rightness of judgement, and what is the need of salvation if there was no fall that brought sin which corrupts every part of man? Paul makes it clear in Romans five that there are two Adams. The first Adam is the one that fell and all who are in Adam have no hope. But the second Adam was Jesus Christ and he kept the law perfectly and all who are in Christ by the grace of God will have eternal life.