Monday, July 31, 2006

What is Tony Jones All About?

Here are a few resources to help you understand what Tony Jones of Emergent is "all about."
Phil 1:10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;"

Tony Jones is in the process of getting a practical theology at Princeton Theological seminary. Previously, he was the Minister to Youth & Young Adults at the Colonial Church of Edina in Minnesota, the church where he grew up. Educated at Dartmouth College and Fuller Seminary, Tony is the author of Postmodern Youth Ministry (YS/Zondervan, 2001), Soul Shaper (YS/Zondervan, 2003), Read, Think, Pray, Live (NavPress, 2003) and Pray (NavPress, 2003). As well as the Emergent Leadership Team, he is a contributing editor for Youthworker, on the Emergent/YS/Zondervan editorial board, and on the Faith as a Way of Life national working group at Yale Divinity School.

Tony Jones on doctrinal divsions
...It becomes an obsession -- guarding the borders. That is simply not the ministry of Jesus. It wasn't the ministry of Paul or Peter. It started to become the ministry of the early Church, and it abated somewhat in the Middle Ages and blew back to life in the time of modernity. For the short duration of time that I have on this planet to do my best to partner with God and build His kingdom, I don't want to spend it guarding borders. I'd like to spend it inviting people into the kingdom. Statements of faith don't do they. They're a modernistic endeavor that I'm not the least bit interested in.

PBS Story on the Emergent movement.

Tony Jones, author of Soul Shaper:
"The first time I introduced this, the kids came in, and I had a candle going and a little incense burning and some Gregorian chant music on the CD player."

What Is Tony Jones Doing
To Teach Youth?

* Reads only Bible versions that have no chapter or verse numbers, such as The Message.

*Reinvigorates the process of catechism.

*Quite a big fan of lectio divina* Does more and more
ancient practices for corporate spirituality. *Stations of the Cross is one we've used several times.

This is what "ancient practices" links to:
In the mid-seventies three monks wanted to bring contemplative prayer to Christianity. This is how they did it.»

"They invited to the abbey ecumenically oriented Catholic theologians, an Eastern Zen master, Joshu Roshi Sasaki, who offered week long retreats on Buddhist meditation, and a former Trappist, Paul Marechal, who taught transcendental meditation. The interaction between these Christian monks and practitioners of Eastern meditation helped distill the practice of Christian contemplative prayer into a form that could be easily practiced by a diverse array of "non-monastic" believers: priests, nuns, brothers and lay men and women." by Joseph G. Sandman (America Magazine 9/9/00)

Zondervan, about Tony Jones' Soul Shaper:
If you’re unprepared for a book that makes faith come alive in practice, that makes past come alive in the present–and offers these gifts only if you’re willing to spend significant time learning about the church’s powerful, active spiritual heritage (and your place in it), then put this book down now.

Still with us? Good! Because we really don’t want you to miss this book.

Soul Shaper is hands-down the most comprehensive primer on the study and use of spiritual and contemplative practices for the benefit of your teenagers–and especially your own soul.

Inside, author Tony Jones gives wings to his critically acclaimed debut, Postmodern Youth Ministry, by lucidly explaining how you can put postmodern ideas to work by learning powerful disciplines such as–

Sacred Reading The Jesus Prayer The Ignatian Examen The Daily Office Stations of the Cross Sabbath Silence and Solitude Centering Prayer Spiritual Direction The Labyrinth Pilgrimage Service

…and eventually implement them into the life of your youth ministry!

But Jones cautions us all: “These are not gimmicks. This isn’t an Ideas book or a discussion starter book or a great-games-for-over-50-kids-in-a-gym book. This is a strange book. Although it’s about spiritual exercises and their application in the practice of youth ministry, please practice them before you implement them! You won’t come close to learning everything you need to know after reading this book. In fact, you may be a few years from utilizing any of these practices in your youth ministry. But if you find one or two that you incorporate into your rule of life, I’m quite sure that you–and the students God has put into your care–will be eternally changed as a result.”

Complete with unparalleled instruction, deep and rich resources, and a look into Jones’ research, travels, and personal journals as he bathed in the serene light of contemplative Christian spirituality, Soul Shaper is your next best step on the postmodern path.

Emergent and Youth Specialties:
It was only a week after and with no knowledge of that call that Mark Oestreicher of Youth Specialties flew to Minneapolis and met with Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, and me to talk about books and conventions. What Marko offered was basically a platform, the very thing that had been lost when the relationship with Leadership Network dried up. Marko came as a friend of the nascent Emergent -- that is, he has theological and cultural symathies with what we're up to -- and also as a businessman. Marrying those two aspects of himself, he said this would give Emergent a chance to get the message out through books and conferences, and we said yes.

Now at least the conference aspect of that partnership with YS is ending. But in so many ways, Emergent is no longer in need of a platform. Brian is now among the "25 most influential Evangelical leaders in the U.S." and is selling truckloads of books. Others are getting lots of requests for book deals and conference speaking, and lots of organizations are waiting in the queue to help Emergent with events and publishing.

Confrontation, Not Tactics

David Wells explains the problem with undiscerning adaptation.
Seeing how this spiritual search is both contemporary and ancient is really the key to understanding how to think about it from a Christian point of view. To put the matter succinctly: those who see only the contemporaneity of this spirituality -- and who, typically, yearn to be seen as being contemporary -- usually make tactical maneuvers to win a hearing for their Christian views; those who see its underlying worldview will not. Inevitably, those enamored by its contemporaneity will find that with each new tactical repositioning they are drawn irresistibly into the vortex of what they think is merely contemporary but what, in actual fact, also has the pwer to contaminate their faith. What they should be doing is thinking strategically, not tactically. To understand that beneath many contemporary styles, tastes, and habits there are also encountered rival worldviews. When rival worldviews are in play, it is not adaptation that is called for but confrontation: connitive kind which holds forth "the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15)."
David Wells, Above All Earthly Powers (italics his, bold mine)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pointed Preaching

I've talked to Jeremy about frustrations with the status quo within the church. There do seem to be people who have sat in the pew for years and have not grown a bit. I, and you (I'm sure) are always in danger of entering this state, the status quo. And we look for answers to challenge this attitude. We look into music, programs etc. Something just struck me today. The reason people don't progress beyond the basic "don'ts" may be because of our preaching. I always hear people talk about Puritan preaching and its piercing ability to dive into the depths of ones heart and reveal the most remote stronghold of spiritual blindness. I don't think I've ever really realized what that would look like. What if our preaching cut the very core of our hearts? What if it was specific enough to accomplish its purpose? We're really not very good prognosticators of the deceits of our hearts, are we?

Thoughts from Nehemiah 8

Matt LaPine is my brother, and he invited me to post on the website. My husband, Will, is the pastor of Campus Baptist in Ames. I am a Faith grad and, at this stage of my life, am home with three preschoolers. I have enjoyed thinking about how modernism and the Enlightenment have influenced our "brand of Christianity." Recently, I have been considering how our preaching and teaching are affected. Obviously, to reach a culture influenced by Enlightenment thinking, it has been important to use methods that are understandable. However, sometimes I do not think we realize how much our Christianity, our theology, and our methodology are products of the Enlightenment. As our culture becomes more Postmodern, some of our ways of thinking and acting will need to change. The challenge, of course, is to stay true to the Word of God while being ready to interact with the people around us. Nehemiah 8 brought some interesting things to light this week. Here is a portion of that passage and some thoughts.
And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam on his left hand. Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them."

On the positive side...
1. This is one illustration from Scripture of how the Word was presented to people. Several things in this passage (the people standing at the reading of the Word, perhaps the podium, etc.) emphasize a high view of Scripture. I think our Baptist churches do a relatively good job of emphasizing the priority of the Word. This is something we need to hold on to tightly.
2. We desire to have people apply and respond to the Word (though we seldom know what decision they have made and are unable to hold them accountable).
On the other side...
1. Maybe we are products of the Enlightenment. Our preaching is mostly propositional. The pastor has an idea he wishes to convey to the inactive, non-participatory audience. He uses three points (sometimes alliterated) and a few illustrations to "prove" his point, and the audience "sits back" to consider how they will respond to his proposition. Our congregations are often postured as observers or critics instead of interacters. (Though we all know we should consider what we are taught as the Bereans did.)
2. The congregation (in our culture) has been conditioned to react unemotionally. The people in Nehemiah 8 responded to God's Word both emotionally and physically with their voices, their hands, their bodies, their postures, and their tears.
3. In this passage, there were many in "leadership" trained to immediately help the people translate, apply, and understand what they were hearing. It sounds to me like this was done in a relative "small group" format while the people were still standing. After the teaching of God's Word, these men were somehow positioned throughout the assembly to talk to the people about what they had just heard. Every time God's Word is presented, we should make a decision about how we will change our lives based on what we have heard (James 1).
4. I have seldom seen people in my churches filled with the kind of grief at disobedience or joyful response that these people demonstrated upon hearing and understanding God's Word. Holiness is generally associated with heaviness or thoughtfulness, not overwhelming joy.

I was recently at a conference where a church-planting pastor told us how he has every member of his congregation fill out a "Com card" (response card) at the end of the service. About ten minutes of time was built into the service for the people to answer a question he asked them in relation to his message. These were all turned in to the pastor, so that he (and the individuals themselves) could map spiritual progress. He also gives a tangible corresponding "thing" (bracelet, rock, etc.) to every member of his congregation for every series he does to serve as a memory tool for what they have learned. It may be that the way we present information and order our services needs to change to adapt to a Postmodern world. We may need more movement, more emotion, more visual illustration, and more interaction to communicate effectively.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day from Between Two Worlds
While men are talking, and writing, and studying about religion, and hearing preaching, it may be with great delight (as those in Ezek. 33:32), [but their] conscience, unless thoroughly awake and circumspect and furnished with spiritual wisdom and care, will be very well pacified, and enter no rebukes or pleas against the way that the soul is in. But yet all this may be nothing but the acting of that natural vanity which lies in the mind, and is a principal part of the sin we treat of. And generally this is so when men content themselves, as was said, with the notions of truth, without laboring after an experience of the power of them in their hearts, and the bringing forth the fruit of them in their lives, on which a decay must needs ensue."

John Owen, Indwelling Sin, chapter 14

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Three Thoughts

by Zach Dietrich (really he wrote it, but I had to move it because it was already on the bottom)

A special thanks to Matt and Brian for allowing me the opportunity to muse outloud. I appreciate your insights into contemporay and historic Christianity. Convicting and refreshing. As I read through your past posts I had three thoughts:

1) It is refreshing to find people who, rather than decrying the modern church for its failures, are actively engaging in a "conversation" to better the church they love. To put it another way, my former pastor wrote a paper called Conservative, But Current. I am whole-heartedly conservative, but I'm not sure what that looks like in 2006. I personally don't think that a few traditional institutions in the Southeast have a monoply on conservative Christianity. There's a growing number of people willing to speak up. Let's plow the way for the future.

2) The coming of postmodernism has revealed how deeply Christianity has bitten into the apple of Modernism. We see its effects in nearly every area of the church. However, we have not yet explored how much we are driven by contemporary thought and culture. In other words, even though I believe in absolute truth, etc. postmodernism is alive and well in me. How does it manifest itself in my thinking (Leeriness of labels, love the word "paradigm", addicted to media)? I'll explore this later.

3) As an outflow of 1 and 2, what does this practically look like in the church? Nearly everyone agrees that the modern, "cookie cutter" church is a far cry from the early church, but suggest something different and you'll be lynched. Even so, I think that preaching, biblical authority, conversion/salvation, church government, environmentalism, the government, etc. will be relevant in our circles in the near future. We ought to be prepared.

A year ago I met a Dr.
Jack Willsey at NBS. He wrote a paper entitled What's Good about Postmodernism? that has some excellent insights. Your previous posts reminded me of it.

So there's my first post. I'm currently working some practical thoughts from 1 Tim. 4:13.


Calvary Church's Statement on the "Emergent Church"

This post was actually on Mark Driscol's blog.

The following statement was released to 1,400 Calvary pastors and addresses some concerns about the Emergent church. I will not comment on the statement other than to say the concerns are real and shared by many including myself.
Mark Driscol

Key points:
The following is quoted direction from the Calvary Church statement:


We see a tendency toward this in what is commonly called the "Emergent Church" teachings. Some of the concerns that we have are with the speculations and positions that they are suggesting:

1. That Jesus is not the only way by which one might be saved. It seems that they are postulating a broader gate and a broader path to heaven, a sort of "all roads lead to heaven." That good people by every religious persuasion may be received into heaven. We feel that this goes against the plain teaching of the Scriptures and negates the need of the cross for the expiation of our sins. Paul wrote of those men in his letter to the Philippians and called them enemies of the cross of Christ. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man can come to the Father but by Me." This is not relative truth, but absolute truth.

2. The soft peddling of hell as the destiny for those who reject the salvation offered through Jesus Christ. There are suggestions of universalism in their teaching, that all will ultimately be saved.

3. We have difficulty in their touchy-feely relating to God. Where the experience of certain feelings become the criteria for truth rather than the word of God.

4. We have great problems with the use of icons to give them a sense of God or the presence of God. If they want to have a tie with the historicity of the church, why not go back to the church in Acts, which seems to be devoid of incense, candles, robes etc., but was filled with the Spirit.

5. We do not believe that we should seek to make sinners feel safe and comfortable in church. Is it right for me to speak comfortable words to a man who is going to hell unless he turns from his sin? If I fail to warn him of the consequences of his sin, and he dies and goes to hell, will God require his blood at my hand? When is godly sorrow and conviction of sin such a wrong thing?

6. Should we seek to condone what God has condemned, such as the homosexual lifestyle? Should we tell them that their problem is a genetic disorder rather than a blatant sin that God condemns over and over in the Bible? How long before they tell us that they have discovered that rapists, pedophiles, and adulterers have a genetic disorder and need to be understood rather than condemned?

7. Should we look to Eastern religions with their practices of meditation through Yoga and special breathing techniques or repeating a mantra to hear God speak to us? If this is needed to enhance our communication with God, why do you suppose that God did not give us implicit instructions in the Scriptures to give us methods to hear His voice? Is it the position of my body or my heart that helps me to communicate with Him?

8. The great confusion that exists in the divergent positions of the Emergent Church results from their challenging the final authority of the Scriptures. When you no longer have a final authority, then everyone's ideas become as valid as the next person's, and it cannot help but end in total confusion and contradictions.

There are those who say that Emergent movement has some good points, but so does a porcupine. You are better off if you don't get too close!

It’s no longer cool to be a Christian – Go figure

Apparently some Christian bands don’t wish to be Christian any more. In a report about a band called "Mute Math," Christianity Today discusses those bands which have “built a bridge” to the world and have crossed over.

A perfect example is the lawsuit recently filed by the band Mute Math against its Christian label, Word, and the label's owner, Warner Brothers Records. Some Mute Math members were formerly in Earthsuit, an "unabashedly Christian act," according to Billboard. Mute Math has sold most of its albums in the Christian market and played Christian festivals. Band members maintain they are all Christians. Yet they say they expected Warner to release the album, not

So they sued, complaining that the Word release damaged their brand. Keyboardist and cofounder Paul Meany tells Billboard, "I had no desire to be the Christian version of a real band." Meany complains, "They [Word] were going to market it the exact way we didn't want."

So apparently it’s not cool enough to be a Christian rock band anymore. The scandal of the cross has become too much for some of those riding the wave of This movement seems to have begun to make a stronger dichotomy between those who sincerely want to worship the Lord and those who would rather flirt with the world.

It's an established trend. Entertainment executive and author Mark Joseph says that the concept of Christian music is "in the middle of a quiet collapse" as a younger generation realizes that to be taken seriously outside the Christian scene, a band must stay far, far away from that scene. This conceptual collapse is breeding not only confusion, but also litigation.

Of course, there is also another movement within CCM to sincere worship. Even the Newsboys have been changing their tune a bit. No one denies that contemporary Praise and Worship has made a huge presence, some of it bringing bubble gum pop tunes with its theologically starving lyrics. However, it has also brought the likes of Stuart Townend and Sovereign Grace. The later seems to be gaining strength and as the posers cross over their bridges could we be seeing a positive trend to sincerely Biblical and God honoring worship within the CCM ranks?

Mixed Metaphors?

Zach, if you have time, I’d like your feedback on this one. In Chapter V of Above All Earthly Powers by David Wells, he mentions a metaphor he cites from Robert Wuthnow. Wuthnow is talking about postmodern spirituality and how it views its spiritual progress as a “journey” with no established end. He compares that to the metaphor of a home which he equates with enlightenment “religion.” David Wells explains Wuthnow's metaphor this way:

A home is a fixed place with clear, unmistakable outer boundaries, and established internal routines, roles, and expectations. The spirituality of the home – what has here been called religion – is one that includes public worship, a set of doctrines, a fixed worldview in which God is unchanging, and in which truth and morality are unaltered by time and circumstance. Wuthnow saw this as a metaphor of an older kind of spirituality which, he believed, described what Christian faith was in the 1950s. What pertained then was ‘the clinging to safe, respectable houses of worship in which a domesticated God could be counted on to provide reassurance.’ Security was purchased at the price of depth. The truth is, of course, that the image of the house also captures some of the ideas essential to biblical faith, even though Wuthnow uses it only of times when that truth was superficially grasped.
David Wells, Above All Earthly Powers, pg. 120

David Wells goes on to explain why the metaphor of a journey is very appropriate. He points out that John Bunyan used this metaphor and discusses how in Bunyan’s book we see what many emergents miss, namely that regeneration is at the beginning of the journey and gives one the “right” to enter the “Gate,” and that the Christian journey rightly has a glorious end at the gates of this “Celestial City.”

It seems to me one of the weaknesses of the modern church is that people see the Christian life as a realization of their destination at salvation. People in our churches are largely content to remain in a position which avoids the “don’ts” of life as long as they are “secure.” Perhaps understanding the journey metaphor is a key to comabating this attitude? Clearly, the some emergents (maybe most?) are minimizing foundational doctrinal truths, but maybe postmodern thought can add to the church a healthy balance of humility and a recognition of its own ignorance and weakness?

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"Living Evangelistically"

Pure Church: Things I've Learned at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (#7 - Live Evangelistically)

What does Thabiti Anyabwile mean by "Living Evangelistically"?

The Rejection of Enlightenment Thinking

This from David Wells, Above All Earthly Powers. What do you think spefically of the part I've bolded.
There are, of course, two sides to this rejection of the Enlightenment outlook and the search for an alternative way of thinking to take its place. The collapse of the Enlightenment ideology is long overdue and the disappearance of its coercive humanism is no small boon. In science, for example, the embargo on mentioning God when discussing the origins of the universe has been lifted. The narrow humanistic confines in which Enlightenment reason chose to work have been overthrown and the world has been opened up to what is unpredictable and maybe even miraculous. In the Christian domain, this could well mean that the disintigrating Enlightenment will take down with it much of the critical apparatus that has been developed in biblical studies, which would open the way for more fruitful methodologies. The rejection of the idea of progress means that earlier developments in the Christian story, such as those of the patristic period, take on fresh currency since they can no longer be seen as intrinsically inferior to the present. There are new prospects for Christian thought.

Monday, July 24, 2006

What's Rob Bell All About?

I just finished watching the "Rain" nooma video found here. I like it... in one sense... But what about Bell? What is he all about?

Rob Bell
“This is not just the same old message with new methods. We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life.”

Mars Hill Core Beliefs
Mars Hill is devoted to joining the God of the oppressed in the restoration of all creation.

We believe the Bible to be the voices of many who have come before us, inspired by God to continue to speak to us today. God calls us to immerse ourselves in this authoritative narrative and to continue to faithfully live out that story today as we are led by the Spirit.

God, the author of all things good, created humans in his image to live in fellowship with him, others, our inner self, and creation. God is in a communal relationship with himself and his creation and he created us to be relational as well. Sin entered the world and our relationships with God, others, ourselves, and creation were broken and distorted.

We believe that God did not abandon his creation to destruction and decay, rather he promised to restore this broken world. God chose a people to represent Him in the world. This people started with Abraham and his descendants. God promised to make them into a mighty nation. In time they became enslaved in Egypt. They cried out to God because of their oppression and God heard their cry. He brought them out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. He brought them to Sinai where he gave them an identity as his treasured possession, a Kingdom of priests, a holy people. The story continues, revealing God’s refusal to give up on his people through their frequent acts of unfaithfulness to him.

God brought his people into the Promised Land. They were blessed to be a blessing and called to put God on display to the nations. They made movement toward this missional calling, yet they disobeyed and allowed foreign gods into the land. In Israel’s disobedience they became indifferent and in turn irrelevant to the purposes God had called them to. They were sent into exile, yet a remnant looks ahead with longing and hope to a new reign like David’s where peace and justice would prevail.

We believe these longings found their fulfillment in Messiah Jesus, born of a virgin, mysteriously God in the flesh. Jesus came to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the broken hearted and set captives free. He lived a perfect life proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom. He was rejected by many, crucified, buried, and rose again. His death and resurrection bring hope to all creation. Through Jesus we have been forgiven and God is reconciling us to himself, each other, ourselves, and creation. Jesus is the only mediator between God and humans. For all who accept his sacrifice he gives the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth through a communal life of worship and a missional expression of our faith. The church is called to put the resurrected Christ who lives in and through us on display to a broken and hurting world.

We believe the day is coming when Jesus will return and reclaim this world, the earth’s groaning will cease and God will dwell with us on a new and restored creation.

And what does he believe about the Authority of Scipture? N.T. Wright's article which is recommended on Bell's Mars Hill website may give us a clue.

But, once we say that God’s authority is like that, we find that there is a challenge issued to the world’s view of authority and to the church’s view of authority. Authority is not the power to control people, and crush them, and keep them in little boxes. The church often tries to do that – to tidy people up. Nor is the Bible, as the vehicle of God’s authority, meant to be information for the legalist. We have to apply some central reformation insights to the concept of authority itself. It seems to me that the Reformation, once more, did not go quite far enough in this respect, and was always in danger of picking up the mediaeval view of authority and simply continuing it with, as was often said, a paper pope instead of a human one.
NT Wright

Or what authority does a story have?

But what might this appropriate response look like? Let me offer you a possible model, which is not in fact simply an illustration, but actually corresponds, as I shall argue, to some important features of the biblical story, which (as I have been suggesting) is that which God has given to his people as the means of his exercising his authority. Suppose there exists a Shakespeare play whose fifth act had been lost. The first four acts provide, let us suppose, such a wealth of characterization, such a crescendo of excitement within the plot, that it is generally agreed that the play ought to be staged. Nevertheless, it is felt inappropriate actually to write a fifth act once and for all: it would freeze the play into one form, and commit Shakespeare as it were, to being prospectively responsible for work not in fact his own. Better, it might be felt, to give the key parts to highly trained, sensitive and experienced Shakespearian actors, who would immerse themselves in the first four acts, and in the language and culture of Shakespeare and his time, and who would then be told to work out a fifth act for themselves.
Consider the result. The first four acts, existing as they did, would be the undoubted “authority” for the task in hand. That is, anyone could properly object to the new improvisation on the grounds that this or that character was now behaving inconsistently, or that this or that sub-plot or theme, adumbrated earlier, had not reached its proper resolution. This “authority” of the first four acts would not consist in an implicit command that the actors should repeat the earlier parts of the play over and over again. It would consist in the fact of an as yet unfinished drama, which contained its own impetus, its own forward movement, which demanded to be concluded in the proper manner but which required of the actors a responsible entering into the story as it stood, in order first to understand how the threads could appropriately be drawn together, and then to put that understanding into effect by speaking and acting with both innovation and consistency.
NT Wright
If we really engage with the Bible in this serious way we will find, I believe, that we will be set free from (among other things) some of the small-scale evangelical paranoia which goes on about scripture. We won’t be forced into awkward corners, answering impossible questions of the “Have you stopped beating you wife?” variety about whether scripture is exactly this or exactly that. Of course the Bible is inspired, and if you’re using it like this there won’t be any question in your mind that the Bible is inspired.
NT Wright

"Belief Statements Create Harmful Borders"
Tony Jones, a member of the group Emergent (others, Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt)"Belief Statements Create Harmful Borders."

...It becomes an obsession -- guarding the borders. That is simply not the ministry of Jesus. It wasn't the ministry of Paul or Peter. It started to become the ministry of the early Church, and it abated somewhat in the Middle Ages and blew back to life in the time of modernity. For the short duration of time that I have on this planet to do my best to partner with God and build His kingdom, I don't want to spend it guarding borders. I'd like to spend it inviting people into the kingdom. Statements of faith don't do they. They're a modernistic endeavor that I'm not the least bit interested in.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Oh Glory

"I see myself now at the end of my journey, my toilsome days are ended," said Bunyan's Mr. Stand-fast, as he stood halfway into Jordan's water, "the thought of what I am going to, and of the conduct that waits for me on the other side, doth lie as a glowing coal at my heart....I have formerly lived by hearsay, and faith, but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with him, in whose company I delight myself."

Knowing God, J.I. Packer, pg. 218

International Christian Retail Show

From Between Two Worlds
This will make you think.

What do Miserable Christians Sing?

Carl Trueman mentioned something very interesting in this interview. He asks the question, "what do miserable Christians sing?" The question often elicits uproarious laughter from those who hear it. Trueman's answer is that they can sing the Psalms. His suspicion is that the American church does not sing the Psalms because they are about the sad, unhappy, tormented, and broken. He asserts that these emotions do not have credibility in the church today. To admit to these emotions is to admit failure. But he says the Psalms give a voice "that allows us to express even the deepest agonies of the human soul in the context of worship." By excluding them, "we exclude those the voices of those who are lonely, disposessed and desolate. He says, "only in the Psalms do you have a full range of human emotions, that allows you however desperate you feel to go in, and offer praise to God."

Find this article in The Wages of Spin. Or listen to the interview with Mark Dever here.

This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse

Ben Wright at Paleoevangelical has tipped us off to this. If you're wondering it is Tressel speaking in a Cedarville chapel on the "fundamentals." As another person said, this just confirms that the GARBC made the right decision... Although as another mentioned, it is fishy that the conference was in Michigan. Talk about mixed feelings on this one...

Go Blue.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

He Shall Be Like A Wave of the Sea

From: LaPine, Matthew A
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2006 1:34 PM
To: Dare, Brian S

From: Dare, Brian S
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2006 1:50 PM
To: LaPine, Matthew A
Subject: RE:

I see some valid points in this article. The whole idea that we simply don’t know the true condition of anyone’s soul seems to be the theme here. I wonder however, how they work this out practically. Do they question a new believer, or struggling believer’s salvation vocally? Even Paul told some to make their, “calling and election sure.” So sometimes this may be necessary, but at other times this can be detrimental to the tender heart. In contra distinction to a hard heart, a sincere soul would be better to be pointed to the cross then to practice unhealthy introspection. If their mentors also question their salvation, this leads to doubt rather than faith - doubt’s antitheses. For example I wonder what George Whitfield meant when he said this: "it will never do a sincere soul any harm."

From: LaPine, Matthew A
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2006 3:27 PM
To: Dare, Brian S
Subject: RE:

“If their mentors also question their salvation, this leads to doubt rather than faith - doubt’s antitheses.”

Good point.

Seems to me though, when we speak of doubt, what one is doubting is important. People always have faith in Christ’s ability to save, but doubt whether they’ve “done” what is necessary for that gift to apply to them. That’s maybe what we need to be much more clear about. The problem with the Calvinistic position, is that technically (from an external perspective) God initiates it, and man responds having been regenerated… How can I know if I’ve been regenerated?

“What are you trusting in for Salvation?” What do you think of that question?

From: Dare, Brian S
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2006 3:51 PM
To: LaPine, Matthew A
Subject: RE:

I think that is a very good question. The issue here is faith. Like you said, most of those who are doubting are not doubting the sufficiency of the cross but rather if they have “done” the right thing in regards to the cross. Whether they have true faith, true repentance, true confession etc… Here lies the problem of doubt all together, you are tangled up in introspection concerning weather or not you have “done” the right thing to be saved. Doubt looks inward, Faith looks outward. The illustration from John 3 concerning the bronze serpent was a real help to me when I was experiencing doubt. The promise in Rom 1:16-17 really sealed the deal for me. Meditating on these verses brought a refreshing assurance of faith.

If regeneration is a work of God which comes by no merit of our own than all we must do is respond in faith - stripped of all else. A line from a song that really helped me once I came to assurance was “Nothing in my hands I bring, only to the cross I cling.”

Monday, July 17, 2006

Above All Earthly Powers by David Wells

This is an excerpt from David Wells new book. Very interesting...
Piper's conference is based on this book.

If it is the case that contextualized theologies have all too often become a doomed enterprise, the reason, the most self-consciously biblical believe, is that the project itself is unnecessary. And there is something to be said for this argument, too. For it is certainly the case that the Word of God, read or preached, has the power to enter the innermost crevices of a person's being, to shine light in unwanted places to explode the myths and deceits by which fallen life sustains itself, and to bring that person face to face with the eternal God. It is this biblical Word which God uses to bring repentance, to excite faith, to give new life, to sustain that life once given, to correct, nurture, and guide the Church (Jer. 23:29; II Tim. 3:16; Heb. 4:12; Jas. 1:18). The biblical Word is self-authenticating under the power of the Holy Spirit. This Word of God is the means by which God accomplishes his saving work in his people, and this is a work that no evangelist and no preacher can do. This is why the dearth of serious, sustained biblical preaching in the Church today is a serious matter. When the Church loses the Word of God it loses the very means by which God does his work. In its absence, therefore, a script is being written, however unwittingly, for the Church's undoing, not in one cataclysmic moment, but in a slow, inexorable slide made up of piece by tiny piece of daily dereliction.

These objections to undertaking this kind of study are not, however, fatal. Indeed, not to proceed would be an unhappy outcome because theology, if it is true to its own nature, must be missiological in ins intent...
from Above All Earthly Powers, by David Wells pg. 8-9

In an older but telling novel, The Ugly American, the reader early on is introduced to Louis Sears. Sears has been a popular U.S. Senator for eighteen years but loses his bid for reelection. His preference, after his loss, is to receive a judgeship but since there are no openings, he finally settles on becoming the United States' ambassador to the fictional Asian country of Sarkhan. However, he neither learns the language nor the customs of this country. Indeed, he forbids his staff from becoming too involved in Sarkhanese society. the problem which arises, of course, is that he does not know what is happening, since he cannot read the papers, and in Sarkhanese society, etiquette does not allow for translators to pass on bad news to the person for whom they are translating. Furthermore, he cannot communicate American interests to most people since he does not speak their language and they do not understand his.

The haplessness of this situation becomes evident early on when a shipment of rice, carried aboard American ships, and driven inland by American trucks, is presented to the people with smiles by American officials. Unbeknownst to them, however Communists have stenciled onto each stack the words, "This rice is a gift from Russia." Yet the words are written in Sarkhanese, which none of the Americans there can understand. This ignorance is such a boon to the Soviets, who are attempting to penetrate the country, that their Ambassador sends back a dispatch shortly after this event worrying that the English press, which has become quite critical of the American Ambassador, might succeed in having him recalled. The Soviet Ambassador proposes that a biting critique of Sears appear in the Soviet journal, Pravada, as a way of building up his importance in American eyes and thereby preserving his place in Sarkhan!1

Perhaps, then, we might say that on the one end we have those theologies which have learned Sarkhanese, learned the local culture and habits, but have lost touch with the country whose policies and interests they are supposed to represent as ambassadors. Instead, having cut themselves loose, they have come to see their role as simply representing their own agendas and policies and passing these off as if they were those of the country whose ambassadors they supposedly are. On the other end, we have those theologies which are self-consciously ambassadorial but which fail to learn the Sarkhanese language and customs. Thus they are hobbled in their ability to communicate both the content of, and the reasons for, their country's policy decisions.
1. Wells cites William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick, The Ugly American (New York: W. W. Norton, 1958).

This excerpt from Above All Earthly Powers, by David Wells pg. 10-11

Thursday, July 13, 2006

C.S. Lewis on Writing

From Between Two Worlds

On June 26, 1956 C. S. Lewis responded to a child's letter that asked for advice on how to become a better writer. Here were the principles that Lewis suggested:

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the clean direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing, don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us the thing is “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please, will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Letter from June 26, 1956, quoted in Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root, eds., The Quotable Lewis (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale, 1989), 623.

Stop Test Driving Your Girlfriend

Great link.
Stop Test Driving Your Girlfriend

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


"First dentistry was painless.
Then bicycles were chainless,
Carriages were horseless,
And many laws enforceless.

Next cookery was fireless,
Telegraphy was wireless,
Cigars were nicotineless,
And coffee caffeineless.

Soon oranges were seedless,
The putting green was weedless,
The college boy was hatless,
The proper diet fatless.

New motor roads are dustless,
The latest steel is rustless,
Our tennis courts are sodless,
Our new religion--godless."
(Arthur Guiterman, "Gaily the Troubadour")

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don't hurt anyone,
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy is OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything is getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there's something in
horoscopes, UFO's and bent spoons;
Jesus was a good man
just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher
although we think His good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of
creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied,
then it's compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Khan.

We believe in Masters and Johnson.
What's selected is average.
What's average is normal.
What's normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors
and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It's only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth

excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.
We believe in the rejection of creeds,
and the flowering of individual thought.
Steve Turner

Sunday, July 09, 2006

To the Unknown God

To the Unknown God: Why Theology is so Crucial to Worship
Theology is like walking into an enormous arena which is enveloped in suffocating darkness. While our eyes are adjusting we can only barely make out what seems to be a large object at the center of the room. As we feel for some way to gain our bearings in the blackness, we stumble across a massive panel of switches. We flick just one on, and watch in awe as the spotlight illuminates just one small section of this large object. From what we can see we obviously are impressed at the magnitude and the quality of this fixture. Eager to discover the rest of the object, we begin to flick on the switches. Each bears to light a new impressive facet which had not been uncovered from the shadows. In this way we learn of the glory of the Holy One. Oh that we could see with perfect illumination, not as in a glass, nature of the glory of God. But alas, everyone who is born of God has some facets of the glory of God uncovered for the awe and recognition, but none all. We all are spectators of God’s nature; but each of us has only a partial knowledge of it. Even with only four or five spotlights turned on, we all acknowledge the unsurpassable greatness of his glory. Yet, partial knowledge, as awesome as it is, is the root of our problem. We in our immaturity are either prone to be ignorant of the multifaceted nature of God or to under appreciate the weight of the glory of God’s theology in our lives. Both sins characterize our day. It has been said, that every problem is a theological one. The imperative for every Christian then, is to “see him as he is.” This means to both grow in knowledge and awareness of the very personality and character of God and to recognize his claims. The danger as always is that we might overemphasize one aspect or dimension of God’s character at the expense of another.

Every Wednesday inevitably, our youth group at Slater Baptist Church sings a chorus song that extols the impeccable holiness of God. While I appreciate and encourage the fervor of the song I can’t help thinking how hollow the words ring coming from our mouths. I can’t help but wonder at the dreary and restricted view that we have of that particular aspect of God. And we wonder why sin seems so jocular and trite in our eyes. We know nothing of King Agag, or children with their mothers dashed in pieces. Have we forgotten to teach of David’s curses or of Elisha’s holy wrath? Or has the godless religion of tolerance and liberalism so invaded our hearts to leave us spineless with the deception that God merely winks at sin. How I hate the thought. To rob God of his wrath, robs the very glory from his grace. I cannot know the glory of the cross except through to furor of his wrath. It is my prayer that the church of today would continue to be strong in his word so that it may know the God it worships. We all worship him as we know him. Oh that the church would know and fear… and then it could love his mercy.

1Cor. 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

Matt LaPine