Wednesday, April 16, 2014


WHY Does This Require Discussion?

Some debates just should not be. MArk Tooley writing at Juicy Ecumenism looks at Flags in Church:
Last July 4 Christianity Today published an exchange on U.S. flags in church sanctuaries, with pastor/theologian Douglas Wilson arguing no and Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore saying yes. Moore has since become the new head of his church’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and his argument is compelling.

Wilson says churches have “absolutely no business displaying a national flag in the sanctuary” so as to avoid “unnecessary barriers to the worship of visiting Koreans, Russians, or Portuguese.” He’s also worried that the flag would imply “‘favored nation’ status,” exaggerate “claims of Caesar,” or meld “patriotism and religion.”


In response to Wilson, Moore admits “patriotism is dangerous…but that’s because it’s a strong natural affection that’s rooted in something good and right…akin to what God commands us to do in showing honor to our father and mother.” Moore notes:
When we honor our country, we are recognizing that we are not self-made or self-situated. We are here, placed by God in a particular plot of land because of the sacrifices of forefathers and foremothers we haven’t known. We have a responsibility to our neighbors of all faiths for the generations to come. Patriotism can become idolatrous, sure. So can family affection. But the gospel doesn’t evaporate family love. It just re-narrates it, and situates it in a right context, in which we seek first the kingdom of God. The same is true for the flag. Removing a flag doesn’t remove the tendency to idolatry or triumphalism; it just leaves such things unaddressed and untroubled. If a congregation already has a flag in the sanctuary, the first step might be for the pastor to use it as an object lesson in a right-ordered patriotism
I have been a part of such a debate in a congregation before and the whole thing frankly struck me as absurd. The entire argument is spurious. It is a battle between politic left and right and has almost nothing to do with church or worship. Virtually every argument put forth either pro or con is a red herring.

Will people from other nations be offended at a US flag in a church in the US? If they are its their problem, I have worshipped in churches around the world and was neither offended nor particularly inspired by the presence of the national flag of the nation in question. One has to decide to make such a thing an issue, and if they do it is for some reason other than the worship service before them.

As to the confusion of patriotism and religious devotion - well pretty much anything can serve as a fetish or idol - from worship music to computer solitaire. If people are getting confused about such a thing its not because the flag is there, its because the church is not teaching them the difference.

This is at heart a political argument, not a church one and by participating in it, we are giving it more credence than it deserves.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Kitty Kartoons

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Loving V Trusting

John Piper writes of the difference between love and trust:
Trust is more concretely demonstrable for children than love. A little child can be told to jump from the fourth step and daddy will catch him. “Trust me. I will catch you.” They can grasp that at two years old.

Similarly, a small child can grasp the application to Jesus: He will always be there to take care of you. In fact, he died once, to save and protect you. You will understand that more someday.

But what it means to love Jesus is not so easily demonstrable. Loving Jesus is more emotionally complex.
But I think Piper points himself out as someone who is outside the mainstream of society:Emphasizing a child’s duty to love Jesus more than emphasizing the need to trust him may cause a distortion of love into a set of deeds. Children are wired to translate all perceived duties into deeds.

But that is not what love is. It is before and beneath deeds. When Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15), he meant that love precedes and enables obedience, not that love is obedience.
When I look around today, I see a world that thinks love is pure emotion, without consequence in deed or action. I do not think that such emotion that does not produce action is a valid understanding of love either. These things are inextricable and indivisible. Love does not merely underlie obedience, it produces it.

Put another way (by James I think) the claim to love Christ, without obedience, is empty and void. They cannot be separated, nor can they be understood one from another. There is no sense in trying.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Maybe, Maybe Not

Reformation Theology quotes Martin Lloyd Jones from 'Preaching and Preachers:
"Why is it that you call people to repent? Why do you call them to believe the Gospel? You cannot deal properly with repentance without dealing with the doctrine of man, the doctrine of the Fall, the doctrine of sin and the wrath of God against sin. Then when you call men to come to Christ and to give themselves to Him, how can you do so without knowing who He is, and on what grounds you invite them to come to Him, and so on. In other words it is all highly theological. Evangelism which is not theological is not evangelism at all in any true sense. It may be a calling for decisions, it may be a calling on people to come to religion, or to live a better life, or the offering of some psychological benefits; but it cannot by any definition be regarded as Christian evangelism, because there is no true reason for what you are doing apart from these great theological principles. I assert therefore that every type of preaching must be theological, including evangelistic preaching."
There is a thing and then there is an understanding of a thing. For example - using a screw to attach two piece of wood. Most people can do that, but how many people can explain why, and most importantly, how the screw works. There is physics, material science, and horticulture involved in the process. Few people have knowledge in all of these areas.

While I agree with Lloyd-Jones that there is a cheap form of evangelism wherein psychological benefits is offered in lieu of a genuine confrontation with Christ, I think that such a genuine confrontation is quite possible without theology. I honestly cannot tell if this is an admonition to the preacher or the congregation. If to the preacher, then I will adopt it wholly. Too much preaching attempts to be empathetic without deep content.

If this admonition is tot he congregation, then I find it quite off-putting.

What I find most amazing is that a blog dedicated to Calvinist thinking would think the salvation process is dependent on what or how we think about anything. After all, God saves us, not our thinking.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Comic Art

"No, Really" Edition 

Airhead -
Airhead could cause her head to inflate with something lighter than air causing her to float. Her upward force was strong enough that she could lift heavy things (such as her teammate Brute). She was also able to control the direction she floated. Apparently she deflated her head by exhaling.
I think I may have dated her many, many years ago.

I honestly cannot think of anything to out-silly this comic creation. It was Power Pack, a group of superhero children (not teens mind you - CHILDREN!), but come on does that mean the creators have to think like children. Besides, wouldn't "Hot Air Balloon Head" have been not only more descriptive, but more childish. Airhead - really?

Now, if you want to make this character genuinely funny, when her head gets big, she needs to become scattered, disorganized and peevish. Not to mention if she inflates her head for too long she turns into a curvy blonde in a pink car.

I should write comics, don't you think?

Friday, April 11, 2014


The LIne Between Innovation and Fundamental Change

As I read about church leadership, I read article after article like this from Todd Rhoades:
One of the biggest questions right now, whether it be personal or business, is how to innovate and move past what has come before. In fact, whole companies have grown up around the idea of innovation and fostering it within staid organizations. But really it comes down to a single question.

What If?
This is vitally important stuff in business. When a product moves from the new thing to a commodity, profit margins drop, markets stagnate and growth slows to a trickle. That is a deadly formula for a business.

Churches have come to follow this model on the reasoning that the church should be forever growing in pursuit of the Great Commission. The problem is such is not the church's only role. Yes, it should grow, but it must also preserve. The university finds itself in a similar dilemma. Universities, by definitions are institutions of research - that is to say the growth of knowledge, but they are also institution of education. Education is a means of preserving that which we already know and passing it on to the next generation. When growth become the sole pursuit, much is lost.

Churches, when they seek to innovate to grow, must also ask themselves what it is they are to preserve and what it is they are to pass on. The desire to grow is of itself not enough. The church does not seek to evolve, it seeks merely to be a bigger church. Business innovation, conversely often evolves a company from growing hay to making bricks - there is some sense to it, but it fundamentally changes what the business is.

I grow weary of discussion of innovation that do not at the same time discuss what must be preserved.

What must be preserved?


Friday Entertainment

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Dreadful Deformity

John Piper writes on "The Failure of Christless Tenderness":
The grotesque is part of what this fallen age is. Seeing it and seeing God with clear, uncompromising eyes of faith keeps us from making gulags or gas chambers.

When sentimentalism separates the grotesque from the sovereign goodness of God, we are on our way to Auschwitz. It is a great irony that in rejecting God, in defense of a less grotesque humanity, we become hideous as we cleanse the world of imperfections.

The tender-hearted souls who cannot bear to look on the deformed, and thus impute their distaste to God, so as to discredit him, sever the only sure root that can keep them from the “final solution” of mercifully ridding the world of the grotesque.
He goes on to quote quite effectively Flannery O'Conner. I think we can readily see the Nazi model, but I wonder if we can see the same in own modern desire not to admit to our sinful state? Do we note that efforts to be egalitarian destroy more excellence than they elevate the lesser? Piper puts it this way, "If you try to cut down the grotesque, you may sacrifice the trees on which much good grows."

An understanding of sin leads us quite naturally to faith - faith that allows us to see the good, the God-image, in all, even the deformed. As Piper says, "A gain in sensibility may be a loss of vision, and without that vision, the gain may be ghastly."

We simply must grasp our horrific nature - our sinfulness. Failure to do so will result in only more horror.


Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Group Thinking

Dan Edelen argues:
A reader wrote recently to say that my previous post (No ‘I’ in ‘CHURCH’–How American Evangelicalism Gets Its Pronouns Wrong) mirrored the collectivist thinking found in error-ridden cults and the teachings of New Age gurus. While I would argue that the actual teachings of such people are, in fact, largely about self-actualization rather than group actualization, if there is any guilt here, it is by association alone (ha, ha).

Here is truth: The entire narrative of Scripture is geared to a group. The story of God working is a story of Him working among a people. If anything, the words of Scripture should disabuse us of any notion that at the heart of it is the individual. What God is doing in the world has always been a “group project,” and if anything, the individual finds his or her truest expression of fullness only within a group.
I think Dan is right in his distinction of self-actualization and group actualization. I wonder what lies at the heart of it? I have been thinking on this a lot lately, about why groups, particular small groups work, and why they don't. One must start by asking just what they are. Some act like confessionals, some like educational groups and many like psycho-therapeutic groups.

Certainly there is a place for confession in the church, it is much needed. But if that is the purpose of a small group, then the members ought be trained on how to receive a confession. Too often we hear a fellow group member confess and we respond in a psycho-therapeutic model when we should respond in a spiritual one.

Likewise, there is a need for serious Christian education; however, that means the group needs to have a designated educator. Too often, in an effort to be egalitarian, the group had no designated leader and everyone just ends up feeding off of everyone else's ignorance.

Finally, psychotherapy is a wonderful and useful thing, but it should be practiced, even int he group setting by professionals. Amateurs do it amateurishly. Then there is the fact that psychotherapy, useful as it is is a human based means of healing, not a spiritual one. It can impede the operation of the Holy Spirit.

Dan's right, but we have a lot to learn about what it means to be in a group.

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