Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Very Misused Scripture

Reading all of the blogs this week either defending or attacking Emergent folks, I heard a certain scripture quoted a lot. I am pretty sure most of the people using it as a sword to stab at others were unaware of its context, or even its reference.

"Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." They usually use the KJV, so it translates as "enmity". Using this scripture, certain folks would accuse Emergents of trying to be friends with the world, and therefore enemies of God.

It seems that they forget that Jesus was described by the Pharisees (the spokespeople for God in his day) as being a friend to the world. Jesus was described as "a friend of harlots, tax collectors, and sinners".

Did Jesus befriend the world but then later tell us not to? Were his behavior and attitude something he did not want us to emulate? Is there a contradiction here?

I don't believe so, and I think the way this scripture has been used is a textbook example of prooftexting (using a scripture to defend a point that contradicts its context).

The scripture that is referenced comes out of James 4:4. When you look at the rest of the chapter and, indeed, the entire book of James you get a different view. It becomes apparent that, to James, "the world" is a value system of self indulgence, judgment, pride, and grasping. Bigger, better, more, faster. These are all values that James refers to as "worldly", yet much of the Western church has embraced. James was never stating that this was an injunction to stay away from non-Christians; or worse, to use the dislike of someone from outside the faith as proof that you are on the right path. This attitude is in complete contradiction to the mission of Jesus.

Here is a little more context to that scripture:

1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

4You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?[a] 6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."[b]

Read the book of James. I think it is clear that James was speaking out against the world as a system of thinking. He spends so much time talking about how to deal graciously and helpfully with each other. I believe he would be disturbed to find how many Christians use his words to encourage antagonism from unbelievers.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The "wink" discussion continues....

I have been reading a lot of comments about Driscoll's use of the word heretic and other adjectives. I commented a little here and there, but the discussion below was long enough that I wanted to give it some more air time. I don't know the person I was trading words with but, overall, I felt it was a civil discussion (compared to some of the other stuff going on out there, whew!)

ryan said:

Maybe you all should start “winking” at Pagitt since he is doing the very thing you all are so up in arms about. How is it that no one has a problem with him calling Jonny Mac’s gospel “harmful” and “dangerous” but when Driscoll does it he is mean and a bully? Oh wait maybe I can answer my own question, because Pagitt right!

Andrew said:

C’mon Ryan, don’t be so partisan. If Driscoll had said, “I believe their views are harmful and dangerous”, then so be it. I may disagree, but fine, we can do that. Driscoll went into personal digs. If you go to any site on “bullying”, one of the suggestions is to turn the bully’s comment into a joke. Perhaps the better response would have been to ignore Driscoll. He may be a Christian bully, but the man is still a bully. A bully needs someone to pick on. Half his audience would be lost if he quit picking on people. It’s like watching a wreck. Various emergent folks could go on just fine without the likes of a Driscoll. Could he say the same? Does he need someone to be against in order to have a platform?

ryan said:

Andrew I think your comment is the one that is partisan. Truth is if you listen to the message Driscoll actually gave he did his best to muster up humility and grace. Was he perfect no. Did he use humor that could be interpreted as “personal digs” possibly. The point is Driscoll gave it an earnest attempt to address serious matters that he felt were important. Just because he is not as likable as McLaren does not mean he deserves to just be caricatured and turned into a joke. Funny thing is when Pagitt does something like this and you are content to make excuses for it, and not hold him to the same standard; it just shows that many in the EV have an attitude of we can dish it out but not take it. Conversation is fine but it involves more than a wink.

Andrew said:

Would any response other than “Gee, Driscoll is right and fair. How did we miss it this whole time?” be acceptable? Also, the dish it out but can’t take it doesn’t work. You are not dishing it out if you are responding. Without the initiator, there would be no response. The “truth” is that all of the anti-emergent people are running around the blogs complaining that they don’t like the way some emergents are responding to attacks. This sounds like some of my elementary students who smack someone and if that person has the audacity to smack them back, they run up and tell on them (conveniently leaving out the part of their instigation).

Driscoll’s likability has nothing to do with it. I know plenty of unlikable people who are civil.

Also, please address my point about Driscoll needing someone to attack. Again, I state that in these scenarios, anti-emergents are complaining about responses to attacks. How about finding a new target to kick and then responses will be immaterial.

Lewis says that evil cannot succeed in being evil the way good can being good. Evil is not original, it can only exist as a corruption of good. Evil needs good, but good does not need evil. In the Harry Potter series, Harry could go on fine in life without Crabbe and Goyle (Malfoy’s two thugs), but they could not go on without Harry (or someone like him). Their nature requires an enemy, someone to be against, or better yet - someone to beat down. Without someone to shove below them, Crabbe and Goyle would not know what to do with themselves.

I think emergent folks could go on fine without anti-emergents, but without emergents the antis would not know what to do with themselves.

ryan said:


Wow you just don’t get it. This is not about changing your mind or making you agree with everything that Driscoll says. I honestly do not care at the end of the day, and that is not meant to be snotty. My point simply remains that when critique comes it deserves more than a “wink.” Like Driscoll or not his talk was civil, and addressed concerns that he sincerely held about the theological errors of some prominent Christian leaders. And yes the dish it out but can’t take it does work, when Pagitt calls another prominent Christian leader out on his understanding of the gospel, it is strangely silent from the emergent crowd, and double standardish, that he is not being labeled a bully for doing so. And the conservative blogs I have read have chosen not to wink at Pagitt’s comments but instead engage them. Sooner or later Emergents will have to decide if conversation means more than agree with us or we will just mock you and say you are being mean.

As to your point about Driscoll only being an antagonist, I suggest you do a little more research. What the guy is about is clear, Jesus. The guy preaches Jesus every week at this church and points people toward Jesus. Thousands of people have been pointed to Jesus by him in Seattle and seem to be able to figure out what he is for. Or how about one of the fastest growing church planting networks in the country that he founded. I think they know what he stands for; planting churches and seeing people’s lives changed by Jesus. Maybe it is really easy for you to cynically dismiss this, but the guy stands for a lot. You just have to read something else than Adam’s blog.

Last, to compare Driscoll and “anti-emergents” to evil is just absurd. First because I do not know what an “anti-emergent” is, and second because comparing people to evil is to miss that our enemies are not flesh and blood. I get that you are trying to say that Driscoll, just like Malfoy needs an antagonist to exist, but as I pointed out above that hardly seems to be the case. Because while many emergents continue to wink at one and other Driscoll just keeps planting churches, giving money to start churches in India, and point people toward Jesus. Andrew I truly hope that you would understand my intent here is not to say Driscoll has it all figured out, there is a lot you can critique him for. But to just dismiss and mock him is below any group who claim to be progressive and open minded. I am simply asking you to live by your values of possibly believing that Jesus might, just might, be working through those you consider to be antagonists.

Andrew said:

I can appreciate that, and I appreciate your attitude. My one contention would be “how about one of the fastest growing church planting networks in the country that he founded.” I really, really wish we could stop using that as a barometer either of success, or lack of it. If Driscoll is in the will of God… he is simply a servant in the will of God. No more or no less than the guy or gal who is stumbling through a church plant that can hardly get off the ground. Or better yet, let us remove the pastor as celebrity altogether. If numbers are the indicator, we should all be heading to the next Benny Hinn crusade.

I suggest you do a little more research.” The thing is, I have heard him… and every time he has a rip for somebody. Even many of his supporters say he runs off at the mouth, but they balance it off with everything good he does. He has a reputation in this regard, and it is not a good one.

The thing teaching for 16 years has shown me is that the only difference between 10-12 year olds and adults is their height and weight. I have a bully in my class right now. There is this kid the bully does not like, and yet the bully cannot stay away from this kid. He sidles up next to him to pester him every chance he gets. I tell my students that they do not all have to be best friends, but that every student has a right to feel safe in our room.

Driscoll doesn’t have to like Mclaren and his crowd. No one is asking them to be buds. I think though that it is bullyish behavior to behave how Driscoll behaves. He reminds me of the bully in my class who cannot stay away from the kid he claims not to like.

I don’t care for Driscoll, but I am not registering a domain. I simply don’t buy his books or listen to his preaching. If he doesn’t like Emergent… QUIT LISTENING. By saying the things he says, he just prejudices people against Rob Bell who have never even heard of him. I think we should let people hear and make their own judgments. If you read a Bell book and you don’t care for it… great! Move on to something else that helps your walk with Jesus. But you are nothing more than a bully if you then choose to follow Bell around and through rocks at his head. And if an emergent pulls the same stunt, I would be calling him on it too. And if I do it, let me have it.

I am simply asking you to live by your values of possibly believing that Jesus might, just might, be working through those you consider to be antagonists.” I don’t argue that point at all. I do not doubt that God works through clay vessels. I just believe that when he quit talking about Jesus and started attacking his brothers in Christ with heretic and deep shi*, it was time for him get off the podium and have a time out. And if he cannot get into a podium without using it as a bully pulpit, he needs to stay out until he can.

Andrew said:

One last one, cause this was your main point but I got lost in my pontification. “My point simply remains that when critique comes it deserves more than a “wink.

Agreed, but I think that was just the catalyst. This response page alone has generated tons of discussion. In total, the written discussion on this topic the past few days over the net has created volumes. Probably though, most folks have the same opinion they started with, but perhaps there was some movement. I am not nearly as attitudinal toward Mark as I was yesterday. ;)

ryan said:

Good remarks and thanks for taking the time to engage, plus after your line how could I not enjoy your response. Truth is I think we just have a different view on the nature of what it is to confront teaching that we view to be harmful. It seems your approach is one of live and let live, while mine might be more proactive. Now I do not know for sure which is right, maybe neither is. But I do believe and I think you do to, that these are serious matters that deserve serious consideration.

And another way to look at Driscoll that I think is worth consideration is not as bully but as untactful spouse. Truth is as a married fellow, I often do dumb stuff that frustrates and exasperates my wife. When she comes to confront me, I can either find one little thing in her approach or tone as a justification to dismiss her valid complaints. Now even if a spouse lacks tact and does not say things as well as they would always like, we still are obliged to listen carefully to their comments. All I was saying is that this whole winking thing reminded me of the times I dismiss what someone has to say just because of their delivery, even though I knew they were trying hard and they had some points worth considering.

Just one last point. It was not my intent to equate Driscoll’s success with God’s blessing or signs of his rightness. I could not agree more with you that numbers are not the only or primary indicator of the working of God. I simply listed the profound impact his church planting organization was having because it is a clear indictment of what the guy is about. It shows fruit that is not related to simply being an antagonist, but actually being for something.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Religious Conformity

I spotted this video over at Progression of Faith. I have stated before on this Blog that I am concerned about being able to raise my children with a knowledge of Faith, without indoctrinating them with it. One acquaintance of mine, when she heard me state my concern, said "What is wrong with indoctrinating your children when you know you are right?"

Whew! I could go on for two pages just on that statement. Watching this video should give us all pause about our spiritual practices. There is a lot of emphasis in faith circles about community, but even that can have its downside. The need to be affirmed and included is a powerful thing.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mark Driscoll = Robert Conrad?

Here I date myself. Yes, I remember Robert Conrad. He was a 70's tough guy actor. He did a battery commercial where he called all the other batteries wimps, then dared you to knock a battery off his shoulder... while he glared at you through the screen.

I don't know Mark Driscoll's preaching very well, but every time I do hear him I get Conrad flashbacks. He seems to glory in a tough guy preacher attitude and has made it his call to dare everyone to knock theology off his shoulder. I think this is behavior he will be embarrassed by when he gets older.

Doug Pagitt has offered a good response to personal attacks from Mark.... smile, wink, and walk away.

Here is your wink Mark (and here are a few others), I wish you well. I hope your heart changes soon; both to prevent your own scars and those you inflict on others.

I confess to having inflicted many scars. Even as I glance over most of my posts, I see that they are critiques... how to change?

I wrote this in response to something else on another blog, but it kinda fits here:

I have been a follower of Christ for about 24 years. My upbringing in the faith was within a church that was very focused on personal righteousness and drawing clear lines between, not only us and non-Christians, but also Christians who did not measure up. Due to years of bible quizzing, I had a lot of scripture at my command and did not hesitate to use it to point out the failings and shortcomings of others.

A friend of mind was heading off to a Christian college, as were a number of us, so we had a last get together. When he was leaving he shook my hand and held my gaze for a moment.

“Andy... You wound people”, he said.

“What?” I said defensively.

He smiled and left. There was no malice. He said it with complete compassion. He probably had wanted to say it for a long time.

It took years for what he said that night to sink in, but by the grace of God, it did. I have learned since then that Jesus didn’t just love people. He liked them. He really, really likes them.

I do not doubt my Christianity back then. I had been born-again. I had turned from a life of rebellion to a life of surrender. But like Paul said...without love, I was nothing but an irritation and pain to those around me.
I was a modern day Pharisee. I was passionate for the things of God. But somehow, my contempt for non-Christians (and Christians who did not measure up) did not seem inconsistent to me. In fact, I used scripture to justify my attitude.

It is not enough to love God and be passionate for him. That was the mistake of the Pharisees. Over time you become jaundiced. Jesus said that loving your neighbor was like loving God. He was not willing to separate the two. They work in tandem. Jesus' love for people confounded the Pharisees. His love for people kept them from seeing who he really is.

A Pharisee is someone who loves God, but has contempt for people. I believe they are all over the church and I believe they are still God’s people. God just wants them to start over flowing with love for everyone like he does.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

PLEASE stop using THAT word THAT way!

Survivor: China premiered last night and one of the castaways is Leslie Nease, a Christian talk show host (New Life 91.9 in Charlotte, NC).

After refusing to partake in a Buddhist ceremony she explained:

"I’m not a religious person, but I have a relationship with Jesus Christ"

Oh does that give me flashbacks! I still hear that ridiculous statement occasionally, but when I was growing up it was practically a part of our "non-liturgical" liturgy. The statement makes NO sense and sounds completely mental to anyone not raised in right-wing church environments. Some people feel that they get spiritual brownie points for making such statements in the public square.

But if you take it apart, besides being nonsensical, it is completely arrogant (not a Christian value). It has the same humility that Lucy has when she talks to Charlie Brown.

Also, it makes the term "religious" sound negative, something that the Bible certainly does not do.

It is a demonstration of the "Us vs. Them" language that has been allowed (and encouraged) to flourish within the western church. I don't believe it pleases the heart of God at all.

And statements like hers make me want to run screaming from the room! :)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Truth Project? Part 1

I learned an important lesson recently. Never sign up to teach a curriculum that you have not reviewed. I know, that sounds self evident. What can I say?

The curriculum I signed up to teach is called "The Truth Project". It is a 12 part series produced by Focus on the Family and it is designed to teach the Christian worldview.

I do not think that "Christianity" can have a worldview; people have worldviews. Since Christianity is made up of people, and since people have various perspectives of worldview, then worldviews within the community of Christianity will vary. If you were to probe the various views within my church alone you would get a cacophony of perspectives. If one were to take into account Catholic, Lutheran, Greek Orthodox, Charismatic, conservative, liberal, traditional, progressive, liturgical, emergent, etc.; you would have to conclude that one voice alone may not speak for the Christian community. Many voices must be heard.

The Truth Project is a response to a decline in basic knowledge of scripture and doctrine amongst evangelical Christians. A Christian pollster concluded in 2005:

"Although most people own a Bible and know some of its content, our research found that most [professed evangelicals] have little idea how to integrate core biblical principles to form a unified and meaningful response to the challenges and opportunities of life."

Stephen Prothero in his book, Religious Literacy, says:

"Ironically,the United States became a nation of forgetters at the same time it became a nation of evangelicals. Believing in Christ became more important than knowing about Christ. To evangelicalism, therefore, we owe both the vitality of religion in contemporary America and our impoverished understanding of it."

Having only watched the first hour teaching, it seems the Truth Project is attempting to GIVE the answers to Christians so they can have "a response". The presenter states that there is no area where God has not given the answers; and that these answers will be presented so the Christian will know what is "True" and what is "False".

What first came to my mind was that this premise was in contradiction to Paul who said that we only know and prophesy "in part". Paul seemed to feel there were aspects of our story that we would only know after death. (1 Corinthians 13:9-12).

In addition, the approach of the video may have unintended consequences. If the Christian community lacks education about its own theology, the solution is not to "give" them the answers. Teach them to study. I have taught for 16 years and each year I have students whose only interest is the right answer. They have no interest in understanding, comprehension, or application. They just want to know if they got it right, so they can be done. Christians need an education, not a list of answers.

I am going to list some of my disagreements in the order that they occurred in the video.

One of the first things the presenter does, and continues to do throughout the video, is refer to culture in a negative light. Culture is portrayed as "anti-God". I do not tend to agree with Mark Driscoll, but I think this quote by him is apropos:

"Fundamentalism is really losing the war, and I think it is in part responsible for the rise of what we know as the more liberal end of the emerging church. Because a lot of what is fueling the left end of the emerging church is fatigue with hardcore fundamentalism that throws rocks at culture. But culture is the house that people live in, and it just seems really mean to keep throwing rocks at somebody's house."

In addition, I think culture needs to be critiqued and looked at objectively, but it is neither good nor bad on its own. A demonizing of culture leads to an unhealthy view of those outside of the Christian subculture. This creates a fear response and often paranoia amongst many of the Christian populace. Yoda said:

"Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering".

A fictional character, but I think the quote is valid. It could be argued that the Christian fear of people outside their subculture has often led to hate. This is never a Christian response.

At the beginning the presenter poses the question "Why did Jesus come into the World?" His "class" gave varied answers, many of which could be justified scripturally, but he stated that they were wrong (he might argue that they were wrong in reference to his particular scripture reference, but he never made that clear). He uses Jesus' statement in John to build his case.

"In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." John 18:37b

The video seeks to prove to the listener that Truth is the point of everything God ever did and that one is either for or against it. Much of his argument throughout the video relies on proof-texting. Henry Neufeld gives a good definition of proof-texting:

"By proof-texting I mean the use of individual scripture texts to produce apparent support for a doctrinal position without adequate regard for the contexts of the individual texts which may indicate differences and nuances."

To discuss the scriptural reasons of why Jesus came would not have helped his argument. He wanted to divide everything into black and white terms. Therefore, other reasons were not mentioned and the answers of his class were dismissed.

Here are a couple of other reasons Jesus came: (these are just a few of the more blunt ones; inferred would be much longer)

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:17

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst." 1 Timothy 1:15

"Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Hebrew 10:9-10

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me."John 6:38

These scriptures, and others like them, do not lend themselves to drawing a line in the sand. As I will get into in my next post on this topic, the purpose of this video was to bifurcate (his word) humanity to those who follow the Truth (by his definition) and those who do not.

I simply do not believe that is the way of Jesus. More later....

Read Part 2

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Brian Mclaren -Everything Must Change Part 2

Sorry for the spread between comments on the book. My school year has started, so for the past couple of weeks the only reading I have done involved curriculum.

I was peeking at another blogger's review and he captured the tone of this book for me so far. Brian's previous books, in many ways, dealt with ideas and I would sit back and say, "That is what I have been thinking (but he articulates it so much better)". This book has many ideas as well, but there is also a strong sense of, "Now what are you going to do about it?!"

In the section I am reading right now, Brian is laying out a comparison between the conventional and emergent views of various aspects of Jesus and Christianity. I appreciate that he does not try to shred conventional views, rather he points out that they tend to deliver unintended consequences. I like this approach because it allows someone with a conventional view to ask, "What does my belief say about God?"

I wrote a lot of thoughts and highlighted a fair amount in this section, but for brevity's sake I will just comment on one quote.

"...the emerging view sees Jesus as a medicinal cure to a lethal infection that plagues humanity (diagnosing and treating individual and societal sickness called sin), the conventional view sees Jesus primarily as the legal solution to a capital infraction against God (legally resolving the capital offense of imperfection and the eternal punishment it demands). By framing Jesus in this way, the conventional view relegates Jesus to practical irrelevance in relation to human social problems in history; his message is about the soul, its guilt before God, and its afterlife, not about our world and its crises."

I have to confess that I have a certain level of ambivalence toward the poor. I work in an inner city school and I have compassion, but it is very easy for me to relegate everything to theory and do little practicum. The conventional view Brian describes would make it easy for me to distance myself from this active part of Christ's mission. By framing everything about Christ in legal terms, the burden on me is simply to fine tune my theory and be on the correct side of the law. This reminds me of my students who ask me "what they HAVE to do" in order to "be DONE". They miss the point of the learning.

The emerging view forces one to join the work team. God calls for an active cure - so I can no longer remain on the sidelines content to hold the right beliefs.

Another point Brian brings up that hits home for me is his reminder that God blessed certain people groups so that they could be a blessing to others. However, it usually played out that those who were blessed lorded it over others. People have a tendency to grab a blessing and use it as a dividing line for "us" and "them".

I live in Utah, where the dividing line between "us" and "them" can be more easily distinguished than in other areas. "Gentile" is a word Mormons can use to describe anyone who isn't Mormon. I don't think it is used as much as in the past, but still, I hear it occasionally and it is not a compliment. Bad behavior is "gentile" behavior.

On the other end, the word "cult" gets thrown at Mormons. I never realized how demeaning that word is until I moved here. I promised myself that I would not let that word cross my lips again.

I think the emergent view wants to shine the light on all the times in Scripture that Jesus broke down the walls of "us" and "them". He repeatedly talked to people he shouldn't have, encouraged and accepted those that others condemned, touched those who should not be touched. In the Kingdom Jesus is building, there is no "them"; he accepts all of us. If we are to be Christ followers, there can be no dividing lines.

More to come....

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Have trouble getting your kids to bed?

If you have a child who will NOT go to bed... if you are feeling overwhelmed by the constant tuggings and whinings..... this song is for you.
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