Byron Harvey at A Ticking Time Blog has begun The Laodicea Chronicles. The first installment is called "Selling Jesus," asking when it is appropriate to charge money for Christian ministry.
Bill Arnold at Poet in Motion has been running a series discussing N. T. Wright's somewhat controversial take on Biblical Authority.
Rick Bennett at Cheaper Than Therapy has begun to write his own "creed" which is both personal and theological, and stimulates my thinking about what I really believe.
Andrew Jones at TallSkinnyKiwi has an excellent response to the critiques of Al Mohler and D. A. Carson concerning the Emergent Church.
After being a political conservative most of my adult life, I began to feel quite uneasy with many of the things the conservative politicos were saying. I had assumed, as an evangelical, that in order to be a good Christian, one must rally around the conservative movement all the way across the board—I was “conservative” when it came to biblical interpretation (holding to orthodox views about Jesus, sin and God’s provision of salvation, miracles, etc.), and everyone I was around in my church were convinced that evangelicals must also be conservatives when it comes to political policies (especially economic policy and foreign policy) as well.
But when I began to realize that there really was not a whole lot of compassion for the poor in conservative economic policy (in spite of the rhetoric otherwise), I began to have my doubts. Also, the idea that the USA must be “hawks” rather than “doves” in the world when it comes to international affairs disturbed my Christian sensibilities as well.
Let me be clear: In every election until 2004, I voted mostly Republican. In 2004, I felt I had to shift away from this simplistic way of seeing issues and begin to seek if there is a better way.
Therefore, I voted for George W. Bush in 2000, and voted against him in 2004. Why? Mainly two reasons: His Foreign Policy did not line up with what my Christian conscience was telling me was ethical, and his economic policies disturbed me as well.
So, as one who is in process—having understood the arguments from the “inside” from the Religious Right, and now seeking to hear other voices from the Left and from Moderates, I feel that I am free!
I no longer have to “tow the party line,” and I can be critical of the Right, while still being critical of the Left. On this blog, it may sound like I come down hard against the Right a lot, but that is only because I am convinced that American Evangelicalism has becoming syncretistic: We have conflated economic and social conservatism with biblical Christianity to the point that we think they are one-and-the-same.
Of course, the Christian Left does the same with liberal ideas…
But here’s the rub for me: In evangelicalism (of which I claim to be a member), political conservatism has ruled the day for the last 2 decades (the time I have been an adult). It is time for my generation (and the generation to come) to re-evaluate this in light of the Bible.
It seems to me that our “purpose” is tied directly to our being created in the image of God. Look at Genesis 1:26-28, especially these three aspects of our “purpose:” “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him” (we were created by God to relate to God); “male and female He created them” (we were created to be in relationship with fellow humans); “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, subdue it; and rule...” (we were created to create ourselves—God gave us the raw materials of the earth to subdue, to rule, to take care of).
So, our purpose can be simply stated as this: To glorify God as His image-bearers. When we allow ourselves to reflect God’s image more and more through the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work, we ourselves become more and more glorious. We were meant for glory! (Not our own glory, but a derived glory, as we fulfill our purpose as God’s image-bearers.)
God is teaching me how to live this out—and it looks like this…
In the Beginning: We were created in God’s image, which is defined in Genesis in terms of relationship (1) with God, (2) with each other, and (3) with the creation. As Adam and Eve reflected the glory of God as His image, they were glorious themselves. But the Fall has marred and tarnished that glorious image. It has created a rift in the relationship with God; it has caused hostilities in our relationship with others; it has caused our work to be a burden and we have warped work for our prideful gain. We are no longer glorious—in place of glorifying God, we seek to glorify ourselves.
Christ Was the Perfect Image of God: “He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). He fulfilled in his pure humanity what we could not because of our fallenness. When we place our trust in Him, we receive from him the ability to begin living out the meaning of life—the image of God is restored to us as we become Christ-like.
Our Christian Lives Today: How are we to live our lives? “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). The Westminster Catechism got it right: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” This is our purpose in life. This is what Christian discipleship is all about—seeking out the means toward living out the purpose of life!
Personally, I’m seeking to live this out in the following ways: (1) worshiping God in deeper relationship, (2) loving fellow human beings in shalom peace, and (3) being a good steward in and of the creation and being proactive in making cultural change. Each day I’m discovering in new ways that a personal walk with God is a walk that glorifies God in all three of these aspects of being created in His image. And this is not a rewardless endeavor, for "we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18).
In the Future: Our discipleship process in this life is preparing us for the future God has for us. All the good, bad, and ugly things that happens in our lives are being used by God for our good so that he can bring about his purpose for our lives. “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). What is God’s purpose for us? What is the good God makes all things work together toward happening? It is this: God wants us to “be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (v. 29). What does that mean? Look at verse 30! We will finally and ultimately fufill our purpose in life: to be “glorified.” It is our destiny to finally and ultimately fulfill what we have been experiencing in part in our present experience: we will be fully human, fully the image of God.
The “purpose driven life” is to shine forth as the image of God!
See a helpful chart on the image of God in man.
“For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
What was he talking about? It is the cup of God’s wrath that Jesus is speaking of. Jesus submitted to His Father’s will—it had been determined that Jesus would be the bloody sacrifice—taking on the wrath of God on the part of us sinners.
“For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s wrath against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.” (Romans 3:25a)
Jesus told his followers:
“No one can take my life from me. I lay down my life voluntarily. For I have the right to lay it down when I want to and also the power to take it again.” (John 10:18)
So, who killed Jesus? Some say the Jews did it.
The theological answer to “Did the Jews kill Jesus?” is this:
God killed Jesus. Jesus killed Jesus. He laid down his own life—nobody took it from him. Jesus was no helpless victim—He laid down my life voluntarily.
And he did it because of his love for us.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Jesus chose to give up his life for me. And for you.
"Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:7-8)
Jesus said to each one of us:
“Greater love has no one than this: that one lay down his life for his friends...You are my friends.” (John 15:13-14)
Do you know that kind of love?
Have you experienced it?
I have, for I believe in what Jesus did—and that has made all the difference in my life.
Let me encourage you to open your heart to God’s love shown to you in the person of Jesus Christ on this Good Friday.
A FINE MESS
Pushing the decency envelope isn’t cheap. Here are some of the biggest fines handed down by the FCC.
Obscured nudity, spanking and a man licking whipped cream off a stripper’s breasts earned Married by America the FCC’s largest TV fine ever.
Isn’t it ironic that FOX can, on their network, dish out crap like this, while on their News Channel they can sound all “moral” and “conservative”? I’m amazed that they can get away with this clear hypocrisy.
Of course, maybe it’s just brilliant marketing. On the FOX network they are extremely “liberal” with their programming (trying to jack up the ratings) and thus causing an uproar among “conservatives” as they watch FOX NEWS rail on about the liberal media (again trying to jack up the ratings).
And since FOX NEWS reports what conservatives want to hear, they let the hypocrisy of what the Rupert Murdoch financial empire does off the hook.
The best book helping us to develop a Christian worldview I’ve read in years. An insightful biblical analysis on the Image of God and how that effects who we are and what we are called to be.
Wittmer (Professor of Theology at Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary and Director of the Seminary's Center for Christian Worldview) makes the case that our lives in the HERE and NOW is a calling to fulfill who we are as God's image-bearers. He also reminds us that we are designed for EARTHLY existence, not heavenly existence (in other words, Wittmer calls out our pseudo-Gnosticism that puts our hope in an ethereal heaven, and argues for the "goodness" of the earthly creation and the fact that humans are created for life on Earth. Earth is where we are put, and Earth is where we will always be (when Christ comes back, we will forever be where He is--and He will be here!)
This book is very practical, urging us to ask what it means to be fully human, what it looks like to be a disciple of Christ, and how our vocation to follow His Lordship in all things shapes our lives here and now. Our eternal hope puts us back into the creation, in order to take up the three mandates of the Imago Dei—(1) to reflect God back to God through our worship, (2) to reflect God out to others through our loving relationships, and (3) to reflect God in the culture/creation through our working for His glory.
To see a chart based on his book, check out Imago Dei, The Image of God in Man
The rest of the Top 5 Books I Read in 2004
(#1) Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God by Michael E. Wittmer
(#2) Reimagining Spiritual Formation: A Week in the Life of an Experimental Church by Doug Pagitt
(#3) Finding Faith by Brian McLaren
(#4) Mustard Seed Versus McWorld: Reinventing Life and Faith for the Future by Tom Sine
(#5) The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups by Joseph R. Myers
Best Lecture from 2004:
Creation & New Creation in the New Testament by N.T. Wright by NT Wright
Check out MSNBC’s “Comedy Movie Madness,” in which they list 64 movies in brackets, just like the NCAA tournament. You can select your winners to come up with your own Final Four and Tournament Champion.
Here’s my final results:
How about you?
Sine, acting as an evangelical prophet, offers perhaps the most thorough and startling analysis of where we are today and what tomorrow may look like in a world that increasingly is being shaped by the empire of power-economics. The new globalization of western economics has allowed unchecked multi-national corporations to do whatever they want to whomever they want whenever they want.
Sine offers strategies, real-life stories, and solutions to the problems Christianity faces in a globalized world. He takes issue with what he calls "dualistic Christianity"--he believes there are too many Christians who separate their church lives from the rest of their lives, especially in the realm of social justice.
In a postmodern world, in which we are becoming more globally aware by the day, Christian missional involvement will have to think both locally and globally. Sine offers a roadmap for the future of how evangelicals can engage in the new issues arising in the world, and how we can allow the Kingdom of God to address them. He contends that if Christians embrace God’s “Mustard Seed” agenda, we will be able to make a difference in the rapidly approaching one-world economic order of “McWorld.”
This past weekend, major news sources were reporting that the National Association of Evangelicals has scheduled meetings this Thursday and Friday in Washington, where more than 100 leaders will discuss issuing a statement on global warming.
Rich Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the NAE said, "I don't think God is going to ask us how he created the earth, but he will ask us what we did with what he created."
This concern for the environment is an outgrowth of the excellent milestone document the NAE passed in October 2004 on public engagement called For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility, which includes the statement, "Because clean air, pure water and adequate resources are crucial to public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation."
The New York Times reports, “Mr. Cizik said that Mr. [Bill] Ball [of the Evangelical Environmental Network] ‘dragged’ him to a conference on climate change in 2002 in Oxford, England. Among the speakers were evangelical scientists, including Sir John Houghton, a retired Oxford professor of atmospheric physics who was on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a committee that issued international reports. Sir John said in an interview that he had told the group that science and faith together provided proof that climate change should be a Christian concern. Mr. Cizik said he had a ‘conversion’ on climate change so profound in Oxford that he likened it to an ‘altar call,’ when nonbelievers accept Jesus as their savior.”
It’s too bad that the Religious Right within evangelicalism cannot see the importance of the issues concerning the environment. Tom Minnery, President of Government and Public Policy at Focus on the Family wasted no time with issuing a statement:
He said that Focus believes that “the protection of marriage, the sanctity of human life, and the related issue of judicial reform as paramount,” and that “any issue that seems to put plants and animals above humans is one that we cannot support.”
This is simply sloppy theology and warped reasoning. Is not the protection of the environment (and plants and animals) the mandate given to humanity in Genesis when we were formed in the “Image of God?” And does not the destruction of the environment endanger the very human lives that Minnery wants to protect? The Sanctity of Life is, of course, primarily the sanctity of human life, but not just the sanctity of human life (all of God’s creatures should be seen as sacred). And human life is endangered when the world’s environment in which these humans live is endangered.
Also listen to this past weekend's NPR "Weekend Edition" interview of NAE's Rich Cizik.
Stan Grenz's family are pictured with a message at StanleyJGrenz.com
Jan Bros, Brother Maynard, Ron Carucci, Jordan Cooper, Jason Clark, Mark Closson, Paul Fremont, Dwight Friesen, Len Hjalmarson, Tony Jones, Jen Lemen, Sivin Kit, Nancy Murphy, Doug Pagitt, Wes Roberts, me, Will Samson, Stephen Shields, Mike Todd, More, More, and Even More
Brian McLaren Remembers Stan Grenz on the emergent-us blog
StanleyJGrenz.com, Biography, Grenz Best Selling Books listed at Amazon
For a quick insight into Stan Grenz's ideas about Jesus, community, evangelism, postmodernism, and the Church, check out:
Se7en Questions with Stan Grenz from Ginkworld (Jan 2002)
Listen to the end of the interview:
any closing thoughts?
"Many people rightly point out that we are living in perilous times. Yet these are interesting times, challenging times. I believe that as Christians we can take heart, knowing that the Holy Spirit is active not only in our lives but also in our world. Let us therefore pray for wisdom and courage so that we might live as Christ's disciples and serve our generation to the glory of God."
Wow. I am genuinely shook up about the news of Stan Grenz’s death.
I only spent two days with him as he led a seminar at last year’s Emergent Convention, but it was a significant marker in my life. His books have helped me tremendously in understanding my faith and the direction evangelicalism needs to go in the 21st Century. At the convention, he spent some time with me, helping me consider options for doctoral work, and inviting me to look into pursuing my doctorate under his leadership. He graciously shared his e-mail address and I have been playing with the idea of one day working on such a degree with him. He did not know me from Adam, but he showed genuine concern and offered real advice.
Stan's incredible mind and humble spirit was a blessing for anybody who came in contact with him. We have a lot of work to do as Emergent thinkers and practitioners; and I’m afraid that the loss of Stan will make our work that much more challenging. He had a lot to say. I pray that we who were influenced by him will carry on his legacy in a way that honors the man and his dedication to His Lord.
Faith is more than beliefs to be learned; it is bonds to be lived. Faith is more than holding the ‘right’ beliefs; it is holding the ‘right’ (that is, the ‘least of these’) hands. We are judged by the world not on the basis of how ‘right’ we’ve gotten what we believe but on how well we’re living it—on how we love God and people…The test, according to Jesus, is that his disciples are known not by how well they defend orthodox propositions, but by how well they ‘love one another.’
--Leonard Sweet, Out of the Question…Into the Mystery (WaterBrook, 2004), p.21
This week, Michael Horton’s radio broadcast, “The White Horse Inn” discussed the emergent movement, with soundclips from the San Diego convention and “on-the-street interviews” with attendees of the convention (next week promises an interview with Brian McLaren). Thanks to Bill Arnold for the heads-up on this. After listening to this broadcast, I was initially struck by these thoughts:
1. Personally, I am Reformed in theology. I was drawn to Reformed Theology in seminary when it appealed to me more than the fundamentalism/dispensationalism in which I had recently come to faith. As I studied under the likes of Wayne Grudem and D.A. Carson, I realized that I had found a system that better articulated what I was already finding in the Bible (though, like Grudem and Carson, I did not need to walk in lock-step with all the Calvinist ideas in order to be “Reformed”). And, during my church planting experience, I even subscribed to Modern Reformation magazine (which Horton edits as the magazine extension of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals [ACE]). Anyway, I say this because I truly believe that it is my Calvinism that attracts me to the Emergent conversation. I think the two can co-exist, for they share more in common than not (you can hear this many times in the affirmations from the panel on this broadcast). I get frustrated as I read some Emergent folks and listen to their rhetoric at the conventions because they are intentionally trying to make this a "whole new thing," rather than confirming that people like Francis Schaefer, Carl FH Henry, and members of the Jesus Movement were saying similar things years ago. They are creating some of the tension themselves by drawing too dark of a line between now and then. Perhaps a little "generosity" toward the Calvinists is needed within Emergent.
2. Orthodoxy is defined by the Bible, yes. But... Brian McLaren was asked at the convention by the White Horse Inn’s producer how we can define orthodoxy. McLaren replied that postmodernism has awakened us to the fact that this is usually framed by those in power (this, by the way, is best articulated by Michel Foucault, who correctly observed that every influential interpretation is put forward by those in power, and that power often corrupts the interpretation for the benefit of those in power). The solution to the power problem is Virtue and Christ-likeness. We need Virtue first, which leads us into Community, and Orthodoxy flows out of Community. The commentators on the radio show took issue with this: they insisted that knowledge of God’s Word comes first (i.e., Doctrine). And the Word (Doctrine) creates Community. They warned that the view endorsed by McLaren edges toward either Roman Catholicism or the teachings of Schleiermacher. But in fact, it is more one of the ideas of postmodern philosophy (as best articulated by Richard Rorty)—the fact that what we believe is very much a product of the community in which we find ourselves. Therefore, since community shapes ideas, we must seek to be a truly Christian community (which comes from reconnecting with God’s Word and Spirit and results in Virtue and Christ-likeness), but we must also realize that the community in which we find ourselves will shape what we believe (thus the importance of understanding this dynamic and embracing it and also listening to voices outside of our community). It’s almost like the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” When one reads the books of Stanley Grenz or the latest book from Leonard Sweet, you see that they are stressing the importance of seeking orthodoxy for the sake of developing a Christ-like community. But they are also very cognizant of the fact that our community often shapes the way we seek orthodoxy. It’s a symbiotic dynamic that the commentators too easily dismissed.
3. Should we not always be reforming? As I listen to Michael Horton and others of conservative Calvinsim, I feel that we who are both “Reformed” and “Emergent” must make very clear is that a hallmark of Reformation Theology is “semper reformata” (“always reforming”). This slogan needs to be trumpeted more and more, especially as Emergent is criticized more and more by Reformation Theologians. It seems that, for the ACE-type Christians, semper reformata stops at the point where it begins to step too much on cherished ideas within their Calvinist camp. I can't help but think that if Calvin had lived for the last 400 years, his theology would have continued to reform and, yes, change (simply looking at how it changed in his lifetime is evidence of that). Again, the call to always be reforming is why I (as a Calvinist) am drawn into the Emergent conversation.
by Doug Pagitt
(UPDATE: In September 2005, this book was re-issued with a new title... Church Re-Imagined : The Spiritual Formation of People in Communities of Faith.)
Pagitt is a leading spokesperson in the “Emerging Church” conversation, and this book captures his vision for the 21st Century church. Pagitt’s vision of holistic spiritual formation is challenging to anyone who seeks to create genuine Christian community.
Though Solomon’s Porch (the church he pastors in Minneapolis) is not perfect, it serves as an important work-in-progress for everybody to watch and learn from…a cutting-edge model as to how a faith community can function.
Pagitt’s extremely thoughtful words triggered more of those “that’s the kind of church I want” moments than most other books on church health I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot!). The insights of the side-bar contributors from Solomon’s Porch create the feeling that this church has indeed been a collaborative effort.
Even though this is written from a small church perspective, the concepts articulated in this book can (and should!) be applied to small group/adult ministries in the larger church context, and across the spectrum in any Christian faith community. An absolutely excellent book.
The rest of the Top 5 Books I Read in 2004
(#3) Creation & New Creation in the New Testament by N.T. Wright
(#3) Finding Faith by Brian D. McLaren
(#5) The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups by Joseph R. Myers
In our small group community, oasis, we’ve been studying 1 Peter. Here is a great passage:
“Dear ones: I encourage you, as aliens and temporary residents, to abstain from sinful desires which war against your soul. Keep your behavior excellent among unbelievers so that, even though they accuse you of doing wrong, because they observe your good deeds they will glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11-12, my translation)
In my studies, I came across this great quote from I. Howard Marshall, commenting on this passage—
“Although Peter says nothing directly about social and political change, we can surely claim that his stress on doing good in society should not be confined to personal, individual acts of kindness but should include participation in communal efforts to change and improve the structures of society. Christians should be in the vanguard of social reform.”
--I Howard Marshall, 1 Peter, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, (InterVarsity Press, 1991), p. 83
Her address to the conference was based on Isaiah 58.
Isaiah recounts how the people of God were fasting and looking very righteous in their religiosity. And they say to God, “Why have we fasted, and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” (Isaiah 58:3)
Their point of view was that they were doing their part, but God seemed to not take heed.
Then Isaiah shows them God’s point of view. God says, “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers… Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (vv. 3-7)
Elaine’s point: Our Christian worldview is seen more by what we do than by our religious words and rituals. When we work for social justice—seeking to eliminate poverty, champion for the oppressed, feed the hungry, to see all of humanity (even those that our nation might call ‘enemies’) as human (our own flesh and blood)—we are living out the Gospel.
This is whole-life discipleship. The Gospel is holistic—it is the good news of how God seeks to bring a people into relationship with himself through Jesus Christ so that they can be on his team to make a difference in the world. It’s not just about getting your ticket into heaven. It’s about being a part of God’s Kingdom, and participating in His Kingdom work in the world around us.
I attended the Coalition for Christian Outreach’s Jubilee Conference this past weekend. Wow. Quite an experience. There were well over 2,000 college students in attendance from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and Michigan. Jubilee’s purpose is what attracts me to serving with the CCO:
"We help students see that God has called us all to live under a new set of assumptions—Kingdom assumptions. We cannot be satisfied with business as usual; we strive to live out the principles embodied in the year of Jubilee (as outlined in Leviticus 25), because in a very real sense, the great and forever year of Jubilee has begun with the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.”
I watched as these young adults were inspired to take their faith and put it into action—in their studies, in their future careers, in their lifestyles. They were called to not only live their faith from their hearts and to speak of their faith with their mouths, but to engage issues with their minds and live out their faith with their hands as they show compassion and seek justice.