Off to College? Here's Some Help

Here's some resources for those who are either entering into college for the first time, going back to college, or are trying to minister to those in college.

Christian + University = ?

How to Think Your Way Through College

by Brian J. Walsh

"...What happens when we take a Christian and add him or her to the secular university? We'll end up with at least four possible equations..."

Navigating the College Transition
by Derek Melleby with Susan Den Herder

"...The transition from high school to college is a difficult one. Yet it is a transition often overlooked. College-bound high school students are often told that their time in college will be the "best four years of their lives," but the reality can be quite different..."

Making the Most of College (Comment Magazine, 2006)

Making the Most of College (Comment Magazine, 2007)

a series of excellent articles from Comment Magazine. Highly Recommended!

Worldview Formation on the College Campus

by Dawn Buckley

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Dispensationalism vs. the Rest of Evangelicalism on the Israeli/Palestinian Controversy

Dispensationalism is a theology that, among other things, believes that there are clear distinctions between Israel in the Old Testament and the church in the New Testament.

It holds that God has two distinct plans for the nation of Israel and for the church. God’s promises for Israel will be fulfilled through earthly blessings at a time in the future (in a "millennium" that is found in Revelation chapter 20 - interpreted as a literal 1,000 years when Christ will rule on earth).

God’s purpose for the church is different than that for Israel in that the church is promised to enjoy eternal life in heaven. Thus, before the final purposes for Israel begin to be fulfilled, the church will be raptured away from the world. So, contrary to the majority of Christians in the world and throughout history, Dispensationalists deny that the church is the “new Israel” or that all the Old Testament prophecies about Israel will be fulfilled in the church. They hold to the belief that these prophecies will yet be fulfilled literally in the ethnic nation of Israel.

I came to faith in a ministry heavily influenced by Dispensationalism. I still greatly admire a lot of Dispensational theologians (especially the progressive Dispensationalists like Darrell Bock, Robert Saucy, and Craig Blaising). Though I no longer hold to this theology, I have several friends whom I respect that do, so I am not here to bash this.

But there is one very disturbing consequence that flows from so many American Christians holding to dispensational theology: A seriously flawed political position on the contemporary nation of Israel.

John Hagee is one Christian leader that has taken Dispensationalism to its extreme conclusion: The advocacy of Christian Zionism. This radical form of Dispensationalism believes that Christians must support the nation of Israel against its enemies. Since Israel is God’s chosen nation, then Christians (and especially American Christians) must support Israel, no matter what. The most vocal in the Christian Zionist movement is the group Christians United for Israel. CUFI's main spokesman is Hagee, and among the board members are Gary Bauer and Rod Parsley.

To quote Hagee on the Christians United for Israel website,
“Why do Christians support Israel? Truth is not what I say it is. Truth is not what you think it is. Truth is what the Torah says it is; there’s the Torah way and the wrong way. Genesis 12 and 3 says I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. We believe those blessings are very real and those judgments are very real. Where are the nations that have persecuted the Jewish people? Where is Pharaoh and his army? Where are the Babylonians? Where are the Greeks? Where is the Ottoman Empire? Where are the Romans? Where is that goose-stepping lunatic Adolf Hitler and his Nazi hoards? All are historic footnotes in the bone yard of human history. Where is Israel? Where are the Jewish people? They’re alive and well; they’re thriving; they’re prospering; they’re growing - even on a day of adversity they’re still going forward. Where is Israel? Where are those who are scattered throughout the Diaspora? The mighty right hand of God has gathered them from the nations of the world and Israel was miraculously born May 15, 1948. Israel lives! Shout it from the housetop - Israel lives! Let every Islamic terrorist group hear it - Israel lives! Let every tinhorn dictator in the Middle East hear it - Israel lives! Let it be heard in the halls of the UN - Israel lives! Let it echo down the marble halls of the Presidential Palace in Iran - Israel lives! Let it ring in the terrorist camps of Osama Bin Laden - Israel lives! Israel lives! Israel lives!”

However, Hagee’s theology opposes that of a large portion of American Evangelical Christianity. A few weeks ago, a letter was written and signed by thirty-four top evangelical leaders and sent to President Bush. It stated that, in spite of the efforts of Christian Zionists to promote their viewpoint as the only evangelical or biblical stand on the issue of Israel/Palestine, very many evangelicals are in favor of a two-state solution.
“We...write to correct a serious misperception among some people including some U.S. policymakers that all American evangelicals are opposed to a two-state solution and creation of a new Palestinian state that includes the vast majority of the West Bank. Nothing could be further from the truth. We, who sign this letter, represent large numbers of evangelicals throughout the U.S. who support justice for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

The letter states that these Christians are willing to hold Israel accountable for acts of injustice toward the Palestinians.

“As evangelical Christians, we embrace the biblical promise to Abraham: ‘I will bless those who bless you.’ (Genesis 12:3). And precisely as evangelical Christians committed to the full teaching of the Scriptures, we know that blessing and loving people (including Jews and the present State of Israel) does not mean withholding criticism when it is warranted. Genuine love and genuine blessing means acting in ways that promote the genuine and long-term well being of our neighbors. Perhaps the best way we can bless Israel is to encourage her to remember, as she deals with her neighbor Palestinians, the profound teaching on justice that the Hebrew prophets proclaimed so forcefully as an inestimably precious gift to the whole world.”

And, contrary to the Christian Zionist claim that only Israel has the right to this portion of land in the middle east, the letter says,

“Historical honesty compels us to recognize that both Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate rights stretching back for millennia to the lands of Israel/Palestine. Both Israelis and Palestinians have committed violence and injustice against each other. The only way to bring the tragic cycle of violence to an end is for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a just, lasting agreement that guarantees both sides viable, independent, secure states. To achieve that goal, both sides must give up some of their competing, incompatible claims. Israelis and Palestinians must both accept each other’s right to exist.”

The New York Times reported that John Hagee responded to the letter with ridicule:

“Bible-believing evangelicals will scoff at that message…Christians United for Israel is opposed to America pressuring Israel to give up more land to anyone for any reason...The Palestinian people have never owned the land of Israel, never existed as an autonomous society. There is no Palestinian language. There is no Palestinian currency. And to say that Palestinians have a right to that land historically is an historical fraud.”

Among the signatories of the letter are:
Ronald J. Sider, President of Evangelicals for Social Action, Don Argue, President of Northwest University, Raymond J. Bakke, Chancellor of Bakke Graduate University, Gary M. Benedict, President of The Christian & Missionary Alliance, Gary M. Burge, Professor at Wheaton College & Graduate School, Leighton Ford, President of Leighton Ford Ministries, Vernon Grounds, Chancellor of Denver Seminary, Stephen Hayner, former President of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, David Neff, Editor of Christianity Today, Glenn R. Palmberg, President of the Evangelical Covenant Church, John Perkins, President of the John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation & Development, Leonard Rodgers, Executive Director for Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, Jim Skillen, Executive Director of the Center for Public Justice, Glen Harold Stassen, Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, Richard Stearns, President of World Vision, Clyde D. Taylor, Former Chair of the Board for World Relief, Harold Vogelaar, Director for the Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice, and Berten Waggoner, National Director for the Vineyard USA.

You can join me by going to the website of Evangelicals for Social Action and adding your name of support to it, which will be sent to the White House.

To read more on the Christian Zionist movement, I have a section here at Vanguard Church on this issue, with several links to articles.

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A Shrunken Gospel in an Individualistic, Self-Centered Society

Len Hjamarlson over at Next Reformation has an excellent post on why the gospel in the West is weak and ineffective.

He writes,
"We in the west shrunk the gospel in response to an increasingly individualistic, self-centered society. The good news of the kingdom went from a sweeping story of God’s mighty acts, His plan to reconcile all things to himself and restore creation, to personal life insurance...
...it reduces salvation to a spiritual exchange divorced from life in this world. It makes salvation and God irrelevant to daily life. In a world increasingly aware of the interconnection between all things, this sacred-secular split is nonsense...
...Rediscovering the nature of the gospel and the covenant God and His purpose in history is the only solution for our world, our only hope for some measure of justice, and the only possibility of peace, both inner and outer..."
Len quotes Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy a couple of times (including this priceless quote: "The gospel of sin management produces vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else."), and asks if our metaphor to describe Christ's work on the cross needs to shift away from penal substitution toward the metaphor of Christus Victor.

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Forgiveness: The Way of Deliverance from Evil

This past weekend, my dad and I watched a speech from Archbishop Desmond Tutu that he had recorded.

Tutu was the chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, created by Nelson Mandela’s Government of National Unity in 1995 to help South Africans come to terms with their unjust and violent past. It was established to investigate the violations that took place between 1960 and 1994, to provide support and recompense to victims and their families, and to compile a full and objective record of the effects of apartheid on South African society. It is a tremendous testimony to the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ that apartheid did not end in a bloodbath, but rather with reconciliation and forgiveness.

When Tutu speaks on forgiveness, he speaks from a deeply personal and practical application of this central Christian doctrine.

He writes,
“When I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. You can move on, and you can even help the perpetrator to become a better person too. But the process of forgiveness also requires acknowledgement on the part of the perpetrator that they have committed an offense.”

Forgiveness and reconciliation are so central to the Christian message. According to Miroslav Volf, God summons us to repent, forgive and embrace those who have sinned against us. In order to do so, the evil and the evildoer must be named and confronted (what Volf calls “exclusion”). The “embrace” of the one who has deeply hurt us delivers us from the bondage of resentment, bitterness and hostility. Volf writes, “If you are ultimately after justice, you must ultimately be after embrace,” and, “Actions against injustice must be situated in the framework of the will to embrace the unjust.” (Exclusion and Embrace, Abingdon Press, 1996).

Desmond Tutu’s book is entitled, No Future Without Forgiveness (Image, 2000). Forgiveness is a central characteristic of the Christian message. As we live out this in the present, we testify to the promise of the future eschaton of God that is invading into our present circumstance. The Christian gospel is manifested in our willingness to embrace those who have wronged us (whether it is in one-on-one relations, in societal relations, or in international relations) by fully forgiving them of the evil that we have clearly identified as such.

Peace and justice are not found without the removal of the deep bitterness that naturally flows out of being a victim of evil, injustice, sin. We are free to love when we are freed from our hostility toward our enemies.

N.T. Wright says, “When we forgive someone we not only release them from the burden of our anger and its possible consequences; we release ourselves from the burden of whatever it was they had done to us, and from the crippled emotional state in which we shall go on living if we don’t forgive them instead of clinging to our anger and bitterness. Forgiveness, then…is a central part of deliverance from evil.” (Evil and the Justice of God, IVP, 2006)

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Understanding the New Perspective on Paul (by Scot McKnight)

This past month's cover story of Christianity Today was, "What Did Paul Really Mean? 'New perspective' scholars argue that we need, well, a new perspective on justification by faith" by Simon Gathercole.

It is a good overview of the main issues involved in the New Perspective theology from scholars like E.P. Sanders, James D.G. Dunn, and N.T. Wright.

Scot McKnight is another scholar in the New Perspective camp (having studied under Dunn). As an insider on the subject, he offers his perspective on the new perspective.

With Scot's blessing, the series is offered here at Vanguard Church as a pdf file.

Download it here: Understanding the New Perspective on Paul by Scot McKnight



The Results are In…

…for the latest Vanguard Church poll.

This poll sheds some light on the types of Christians that read this blog. I asked you to finish this sentence:
“In order to reach those in a postmodern culture, the story of the gospel I tell is about...”

45.8% - KINGDOM: God’s Justice and Shalom restored to all Creation

41.7% - COMMUNITY: Relationships with God and others restored

37.5% - REDEMPTION: Called into God’s work of taking back the broken world

33.3% - NEW CREATION: Entering into God’s current re-creation of the cosmos

29.2% - RESTORATION: The image of God restored in humanity

25.0% - SALVATION/DELIVERANCE: Freed from our bondage to sin/evil/death

20.8% - LIFE: Born from above / born again - into a new, abundant, and eternal life

16.7% - JUSTIFICATION: Being right with God / wages of sin paid for by Christ

8.3% - ADOPTION: Chosen in love to be in God’s family

4.2% - HELLFIRE and DAMNATION: Turn or burn

In the Christian world in which I came to faith and in which I first pastored, the top answers would probably had been “LIFE,” “JUSTIFICATION,” and “ADOPTION.” But these three are at the bottom of the choices selected here. This is a fascinating thing to me.

The new poll is a little less serious.

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Motivational Posters for the Emerging Church

Phil Johnson over at TeamPyro posted some satirical graphics of what he calls "Motivational Posters for the Emerging Church Conversation Chaos." Phil, with great satirical wit, has issued a very creative way to criticize us. I found some of the posters quite good and spot-on. Others, not so much.

Here's a few of them:

The author of the Emerging Grace blog has posted some of her own motivational posters in response, she calls them "A More Generous View."

Here are a few of these excellent posters:

HT: Steve Knight, Emergent Village Weblog