Imago Dei - The Image of God in Man

In our small group community, oasis, I've been teaching about the all-important doctrine of the "Image of God." In doing so, I've adapted the chart from Michael E. Whitmer's excellent book Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God.

This over-arching understanding of the purpose of our humanity should drive all that we do--from our worship to our relationships to our work.

Check it out here:

Image Dei-The Image of God in Man

Why Sing a Song?

Check out what Bill Arnold wrote about living the Christian life right here and now:

Why Sing a Song? "You don't sing to get to the end of the song."


Top 5 Books I Read in 2004 (#3)

Finding Faith: A Self-Discovery Guide for Your Spiritual Quest by Brian McLaren

Each year, I re-read this incredible book. For anybody who wishes to better communicate the Gospel to the unchurched, this is the first Apologetic Book specifically targeted at the postmodern person.

I enjoy reading McLaren's authentic and engaging style as he builds the case for Christ in a new way, a way that better connects with people in the 21st Century. Through reading McLaren's thoughts, I've found myself better able to articulate my faith to people who have yet to meet Christ. It's like being an apprentice to a great evangelist--watching him do it so masterfully and learning the art and science of sharing your faith.

The great apologists of the modern era (Geisler, Schaeffer, Guinness, Kreeft, Lewis, Habermas, Zacharias, etc.) are still helpful, but to reach a new postmodern culture, I think McLaren's style will go a lot farther.

I've probably given away over 2 dozen copies of this book to friends with whom I have conversations about faith in Jesus Christ.

Top 5 Books I Read in 2004 (#5)



The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

A Conference from Evangelicals for Social Action

"Whether the issue is divorce, materialism, sexual promiscuity, racism or physical abuse in marriage, the polling data point to widespread, blatant disobedience. The statistics are devastating. This scandalous behavior mocks Christ, undermines evangelism, and destroys Christian credibility." -Ron Sider

Assessing the Scandal - Mark Noll, Professor of History, Wheaton College, Wheaton IL
What Went Wrong - Randall Balmer, Professor of Religion, Barnard College, Columbia U.
What Can Be Done - David Neff, Editor, Christianity Today
Panelists: Andy Crouch, Chris Hall, Ellen Charry, Jo Anne Lyon, Wallace Smith, Bill Borror, Dean Trulear, Mark Noll

Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary Chapel
Wynnewood PA
Sunday 7pm (Registration at 6) March 6th, Monday 9-4 March 7th, 2005

For more information:

Register with ESA online at
http://www.esa-online.org/ or phone 610-645-9390, 800-650-6600
$75 ($65 before Feb. 5), Students $30
Each registration includes a complementary copy of Ron Sider's book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. Read an excerpt from the book at CT's
Books and Culture website.


Top 10 Myths of Disaster Relief

Aid groups address public stereotypes about overseas disasters

I thought this was a very helpful article from World Vision.

SEATTLE – As they fight to save lives in the wake of the Asia disaster, aid workers also must address myths about disaster relief among the American public. Rich Moseanko, a relief director for World Vision, the Christian relief and development organization, explains the truth behind the top 10 myths of disaster relief.

1. Americans can help by collecting blankets, shoes and clothing. The cost of shipping these items – let alone the time it takes to sort, pack and ship them – is prohibitive. Often, those items are manufactured for export to the U.S. from these same countries. It is far more efficient to purchase them locally. Cash is the better solution.

2. Helping the living always has priority over burying the dead. In refugee camps and epidemic situations where people die of diseases, it is essential to dispose of the bodies within a short period of time. If they died of other causes such as drowning, they are less of a health risk but pose an impediment to relief efforts and delay the mourning process.

3. The United States must airlift food and medicines to the disaster site. Food is virtually always available within a day's drive of the disaster site. Purchasing the food locally is more cost-efficient, and it ensures that the food is appropriate to local residents' tastes and religious requirements. Medicines are often available within the country, too. India, for example, has a large pharmaceutical industry. Because medicines are high-value, low-weight commodities, in some cases they can and must be airlifted in to save lives.

4. If I send cash, my help won't get there. Reputable agencies send 80 percent or more of cash donations to the disaster site; the rest goes for administration, operating expenses and monitoring the efficiency of their own operations. Donors have a right and a responsibility to ask aid groups how they will be using those donations, and what will be done with donations raised in excess of the need.

5. Once someone survives the immediate disaster, he or she is safe. The immediate catastrophe kills quickly; survivors can face a slower death from hunger, disease and even criminal predators. While emergency medical teams certainly are needed for people injured in a disaster, the best way to keep survivors healthy is to provide clean water and adequate sanitation. Cholera and dysentery can result from drinking contaminated water; malaria-spreading mosquitoes breed in standing water.

6. Developing countries depend on foreign expertise. While specialized assistance is always welcome, most relief and recovery efforts are accomplished by local aid groups, police, firefighters and neighbors before international teams arrive. Also, in recent years most governments have established disaster preparedness plans.

7. Relief needs are so intense that almost anyone can fly to the scene to offer help. Professionals with specialized skills and overseas disaster experience are often deployed to disaster sites. Volunteers without those skills can do more harm than good, and siphon off critical logistics and translations services. Hiring qualified disaster survivors is much more cost efficient and provides much needed employment.

8. Survivors feel lucky to be alive. Shock, trauma and the mourning for loved ones who died are common among disaster survivors. Often, they wish it was they who died instead of their loved ones. Treating these emotional needs is an essential component of relief efforts.

9. Insurance and governments can cover losses. The vast majority of the world's population has never heard of an insurance policy, let alone are able to purchase one. Further, governments of poor countries can barely meet ongoing social service needs, let alone provide a safety net like FEMA. Disaster survivors must bear these costs alone.

10. People are helpless in the face of natural disasters. The United States is proof that tougher building codes, early warning and disaster preparedness can save lives. Even in poor countries, communities are taking steps to mitigate the loss of life in future emergencies.

For more information on World Vision's response, or on ways the public can help, please click here or phone 888-56-CHILD.

I'm Glad to Be a Part of Planet Emergent

This new blog is a gathering place for emergent-type people. When they write a new post on their individual blogs, these posts get reposted at Planet Emergent.

This way, you can read and interact with a wide variety of people as they log their thoughts on the web.

Check it out here:


Further reflections on Brian McLaren, Steve Camp, and D.A. Carson

In my discussions with Steve Camp about Brian McLaren, I found that what Steve objected most to was McLaren’s re-tooling Calvinism’s TULIP doctrine (you see, his review at audienceOne was specifically about those pages in McLaren’s new book A Generous Orthodoxy in which McLaren came up with a new TULIP).

Having studied under D. A. Carson at Trinity (and listening to his lectures from Cedarville) and having had this discussion with Steve Camp, I believe that what they find troubling about Emergent is the openness to reconsider Calvinism. They are convinced that Calvinism is the purest form of Christianity, and they reject the notion that it is a theological framework that arose from a specific cultural context—a context of modernity, the enlightenment, and the rise of the city-state. To the Reformed Evangelical Christian, the Reformation is the single most important event in the history of the Church, the event that correctly defined the Gospel.

We need to do a better job of explaining how the Gospel of Atonement has been re-articulated throughout history in thoroughly biblical ways (including the Reformers). We need to explain that we are very indebted to what those great men did in the 1600s, just like we are indebted to others throughout Christian history—the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been able to speak to all people in all times.

We also need to convince these brothers in Christ that we are entering into a dramatically new and different age—what we are calling “postmodernity” for a lack of a better name. We need to work on articulating a biblical gospel that fits this era of time. To do so, we must exegete the Bible AND the Culture, seeking to figure out which of the many ways the Bible explains the grace of God in Christ best speaks to what people in our age will understand and respond to.

With lots of respect for Carson and Camp, I feel that if this means coming up with a new TULIP, so be it.

Read my conversation with Steve Camp here.

Top 5 Books I Read in 2004 (#5)

Matt Mitchell, the administrator of the yahoo forum for the Evangelical Free Church Allegheny District, asks each year for ministry-related book reviews to be posted. I offered the top 5 books I’ve read in 2005.

Here on the blog, I will do a countdown of those top 5.

At Number 5...
The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups
by Joseph R. Myers

For those of us who have been banging our heads against the wall trying to figure out how to get small groups to work, this book is a breath of fresh air.

Myers contends that there are actually four "Spaces of Belonging": Public, Social, Personal, and Intimate. He says it is wrong to try to force people into Personal and Intimate relationships, that these must arise out a process of friendship-building and individual choice. And we do people a disservice in churches when we place too much pressure on these two and do not legitimatize the first two as important as well.

He recommends we see our pastoral ministry as creating "environments" in which people will feel that they belong 100% in Public Space and Social Space and in which people can choose for themselves with whom they want to enter into "Private" and "Intimate" relationships.



Christian "Moral Values" and Bush's Choice for Attorney General

Now, I know that a lot of us evangelicals voted for George W. Bush on the grounds of "moral values." That story has made all the news. Okay.

That’s why I am troubled. I wonder why I have not heard more evangelical Christians upset about the way the Bush Administration reinterpreted the rules for the use of torture. The Bush team departed radically from convention when it loosened long-standing rules governing the interrogation of prisoners. This change is something that’s been known since last June when the Justice Department memo from Attorney General designate Alberto Gonzales was sent to Bush describing aspects of the Geneva protocols against torture as "quaint" and "obsolete." The man that Bush has nominated as the top prosecutor of American law played a large role in orchestrating, if not actually drafting, a change in our country’s stand on torture!

But we Christians are not saying a thing during Gonzales’ confirmation hearings about this. And the Democrats are being creampuffs on Gonzales as well; in the words of Time Magazine, “Gonzales is certain to be confirmed as John Ashcroft's replacement, especially because Democrats are wary of opposing a Hispanic when their hold on that constituency was weakened in the last election.”

You’ve got to be kidding! You won’t call a guy out for putting the American stamp “OKAY” on torture because he’s Hispanic? You’ll let politics get in the way of truth? (Why am I surprised?)

The hearings did offer a few interesting tid-bits, however:

Senator Patrick Leahy got Gonzales to admit that he had consulted with the Justice Department's office of legal counsel about the torture memo. There were meetings in his White House office. Techniques like waterboarding—when they strap down a prisoner and make him believe he's going to drown—“may” have been discussed. Gonzales admitted that he did “generally support” the thrust of the Justice Department's decision to severely constrict the definition of torture. (In other words, since they wanted to torture people, they simply redefined 'torture' more narrowly, so that they could say, “We didn’t 'torture' anybody.”)

Senator Herbert Kohl got Gonzales to admit that the Bush Administration policy on torture had "migrated" to the CIA and Pentagon and from there to Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. (In other words, the atrocities at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib were at least an indirect result of the Bush Administration’s tinkering with the definition of torture).

Senator Richard Durbin asked a question that should have Christians who hold to “moral values” infuriated with the Bush Administration. Durbin asked whether or not, even after all the pressure to change our stand on torture back toward the Geneva conventions, United States personnel today could legally engage in torture under “any circumstances.” Gonzales answered, "I don't believe so, but I'd want to get back to you on that and make sure I don't provide a misleading answer."

What?! You’ve got to be kidding me! Why is the nominee for Attorney General waffling on this? Is it because he is still trying to redefine our nation’s definition of torture?

Don’t get me wrong; I think that in the war against terrorism, the use of aggressive, nonviolent interrogation techniques is often appropriate to get the information we desperately need to battle the evil of terrorism. But that is a far cry from what the Bush Justice Department has been advocating. Time reports, “In the summer of 2002, the CIA and Gonzales asked the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for an opinion on the definition of illegal interrogation methods. On Aug. 1, 2002, Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee sent Gonzales the following guidance: the President is within his legal limits to permit his surrogates to inflict ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading’ treatment on prisoners without violating strictures against torture. For an act of abuse to be torture, the interrogator must be inflicting pain ‘equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death.’ The definition of illegal torture had been significantly narrowed, which meant that anything short of that was O.K.”

Where’s the moral outrage from Christians over that?


Green Ears, a Bow Tie, and an Inerrant Bible

Check out my friend Byron's interaction with some Emergent Church folk about the inerrancy of the Bible.

Again, I implore us to keep the Bible as our central authority.

We can articulate theology in fresh, and even radically different, ways. But please, please, prove it from the Bible!

To quote Byron, "What is the Bible?" Is the Bible God's Word TO us, or is it man's word ABOUT God?"

When we decide that the Bible is nothing more than man's testimony about God, and not the God-breathed Word from God, then we are relying on the best ideas of men (which is nice, but nowhere near as great as relying on the very WORDS OF GOD!)

Byron Harvey's "A Ticking Time Blog"


Theological Responses to the Tsunami Tragedy

Here are two ways of dealing with the tsunami tragedy theologically. Both of these responses are from theologians I highly admire, yet one seems to make more sense to me (I won't say which one, please comment and tell me what you think I like better, and tell all of us which one makes more sense to YOU!)

John Piper: Tsunami, Sovereignty, and Mercy

N. T. Wright: Meanings of Christmas: In the new world there will be no more sea


The Battle Against Emergent Begins

Recently on Doug Pagitt's blog, he wrote "A number of us have been suggesting for years that at some point the people who are not so pleased with the suggestions of theological and methodological changes people within Emergent are suggesting would start to express their opinions and start causing trouble. And that when it happened the accusations would become personal and relentless. I think it is fair to say that 2005 will be that year."

He cites some recently written books and presentations and websites that are attacking Brian McLaren and himself and the others of Emergent.

But then he says, quite appropriately,
"So, it is time to take up battle positions.
I suggest these Battle Positions:
A Smile
A Wink
A Prayer
A friendly Email
Offers of hospitality
Invitation to Friendships"

A great reminder.

I followed the links he offered and found Steve Camp's website "audience One," on which Camp gives an unfavorable review of McLaren's new book A Generous Orthodoxy.

I wrote to Steve Camp, offering my opinion of his critique of Brian McLaren. He graciously replied via e-mail, and we went back and forth a few times. You can read the e-mail conversation here.

Read other's reactions to Doug Pagitt's call for gentle battle stations here.