Saturday, April 19, 2008


Comic Art

Heroes and Artists - Martian Manhunter

Tom Grummett


Eduardo Barreto


Alex Ross


Friday, April 18, 2008



A while ago I did a three part series on whether Christianity was becoming a brand. - I - II - III. Moody radio thought enough of it that they called and interviewed me and did two 5 minute segments on their equivalent to "Morning Becomes Eclectic." That's better success than most of my posts, so I was pleased. At my father's funeral one old friend mentioned that he had heard me on the radio and I starting talking about my semi-regular Hugh Hewitt appearances, and he was actually referring to the Moody piece. You never know, but frankly I thought the idea was dead after teh Moody broadcast.

That is until Jollyblogger turned me on to this piece which extends the comparison/metaphor of branding to merchandising - something I had not thought of. Think about it - the great branders in business make all sorts of unrelated products upon which they affix their brand, which serves the dual purpose of promoting the brand and creating new revenue streams. People confuse owning every branded product with living a lifestyle associated with the brand. So if I only own enough Nike crap, I will be as good a golfer as Tiger Woods.

And as the author of this post points out, we get a similar thought when it comes to "Christian" merchandise. But he also points out the futility of such things.
First, we should note that the primary purpose of brands and labels is to promote, while the goal of the Great Commission is to share the good news. We are called to share a deep, honest, and often times offensive truth in the Gospel. This kind of content is in stark contrast to the methods of conveying ideas found in advertisements, which are shallow, deceptive, and ear-tickling. Remember, we are not trying to dupe customers into buying our product over other products. Since the main purpose behind branding and labels is to promote, and we are not called to promote Christianity, on this point, at least, we should question the rightness of Christian branding.

Not only is “promoting” Christianity theologically problematic (at best), it is ineffective. When choosing a candidate, brand, or sports team, popularity is persuasive. But if you are trying to persuade people that they are morally depraved and need a savior, the amount of people who attest to this belief is not very relevant. The reason is that for most individuals, choosing a brand, sports team, or candidate is more a subjective matter of taste and preference than an objective seeking of truth and goodness. If a band appeals to the tastes of most people, than it is reasonable to assume that other people will enjoy the band, but it does not follow that if most people are Christians then Christianity is true. Thus, a shirt with a cross or scripture on it is not likely to influence someone to become a believer, while a shirt with a band name on it is likely to encourage people to listen to that band.
This may strike at the very heart of why the use of modern marketing technique in general is not all that applicable to the spreading the gospel.

But, as usual, my mind turns to the motivation of those that do still use it. You see, those techniques are quite effective at promoting and growing the congregation, church, whatever label you want to attach to the building and it's inclusive activity.

Again and again and again, we seem to confuse the message and the medium. The church is the medium, Christ is the message. If you need any evidence of how critical the difference is, I strongly recommend that you look at the breadth of programming available on satellite or cable television. So much medium, so very little content.

We always seem to forget that Christ measured His impact on the world in a very different way - not in the crowds He attracted, but in His humiliation and death. A lesson we all need to cling to.

Technorati Tags:, , , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator


Friday Humor

An Irishman, a Mexican and a Blonde Guy were doing construction work on scaffolding on the 20th floor of a building.

They were eating lunch and the Irishman said, "Corned beef and cabbage! If I get corned beef and cabbage one more time for lunch, I'm going to jump off this building."

The Mexican opened his lunch box and exclaimed,"Burritos again! If I get burritos one more time I'm going to jump off, too."

The blonde opened his lunch and said, " Bologna again! If I get a bologna sandwich one more time, I'm jumping too."

The next day, the Irishman opened his lunch box, saw corned beef and cabbage, and jumped to his death.

The Mexican opened his lunch, saw a burrito, and jumped, too.

The blonde guy opened his lunch, saw the bologna and jumped to his death as well.

At the joint funeral, the Irishman's wife was weeping. She said, "If I'd known how really tired he was of corned beef and cabbage, I never would have given it to him again!"

The Mexican's wife also wept and said, "I could have given him tacos or enchiladas! I didn't realize he hated burritos so much."

Everyone turned and stared at the blonde's wife. The blonde's wife said,

"Don't look at me. He makes his own lunch."

Technorati Tags:, , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Science and The Heritage Foundation

The Heritage Foundation publishes a lecture by John G. West on the effects of materialism on our culture, society and governance. He opens this way:
"An age of science is necessarily an age of material­ism," wrote Hugh Elliot early in the last century. "Ours is a scientific age, and it may be said with truth that we are all materialists now."[1]

One does not have to look far to discover the con­tinued accuracy of Elliot's assessment. Scientific materialism--the claim that everything in the uni­verse can be fully explained by science as the prod­ucts of unintelligent matter and energy--has become the operating assumption for much of American politics and culture. We are repeatedly told today that our behaviors, our emotions, even our moral and religious longings are reducible to some combination of physical processes interacting with our environment.

In 1943, British writer C. S. Lewis wrote propheti­cally about the dangers of scientific materialism in a small, penetrating volume titled The Abolition of Man. There Lewis warned that "if man chooses to treat him­self as raw material, raw material he will be: not raw material to be manipulated, as he fondly imagined, by himself, but by mere the person of his dehumanized Conditioners."[2]
West then goes on to look at several implications of the encroachment of materialism into our public discourse.

It is in this last effect/section that West winds up to the heart of the matter.

A final influence of scientific materialism on public policy has been the suppressing of free speech and debate over the public policy impli­cations of science. This is surely one of the most striking ironies of the effort to enlist scientific mate­rialism to reform society.

In their own minds, proponents of scientific materialism were the defenders of enlightenment against superstition and rational debate against unreasoning dogmatism, but the rhetoric they employed against their opponents is often far from conducive to open debate. The repeated insistence that scientists know best and, thus, politicians and the public should blindly accept the policy views of scientists did not encourage critical scrutiny of sci­entific claims made in politics.

Even less conducive to genuine debate was the frequent playing of the religion card in policy dis­putes involving science. With the help of sympa­thetic journalists, proponents of scientific materialism portrayed every policy dispute as a bat­tle pitting the enlightened forces of science against bigoted religious extremists. Promoters of eugenics heaped scorn on Catholic and fundamentalist critics of forced sterilization. Advocates of Kinsey-style sex education demonized parents who raised objections as Bible-thumpers who were conspiring against democracy. Today, defenders of a Darwin-only biol­ogy curriculum similarly accuse their opponents of trying to insert the Biblical creation story into sci­ence classes, even when such claims are inaccurate.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of these attempts to frame policy disputes in terms of reli­gion versus science is the attempt to shift the focus from the content of the debates to the supposed motives of those who oppose any claim made in the name of science. Instead of addressing the policy arguments raised by critics of sex education or Dar­win-only science education, defenders of scientific materialism try to make the religious beliefs of their opponents the central issue, arguing that critics' real or perceived religious motivations somehow dis­qualify them from being active participants in the public square.
This is an excellent piece and I recommend it to anyone interested in science, religion, and public policy. Read the whole thing.

There are just two brief comments that I want to make. The first is one that I have made over and over and over again. The opening quotation, that science demands materialism is something with which I whole-heartedly disagree. Within the physical systems that science studies, materialism is necessary in order to conduct those studies. That is to say, we can only, because of the limitations of our senses, investigate the material, but that does not mean there is no immaterial or super-natural. Elliot's insistence is based on something other than science.

For this reason, I actually like the formulation used in this piece of distinguishing science (an activity or field of study) from materialism (a philosophical school of thought). Under this formulation, I can do science without the de facto acceptance of the philosophical stance. What is difficult, of course, is when being trained to do science, if one fails to take that philosophical stance, one's opportunities are often limited, but that is politics, not science.

Which brings me to the second point I want to make. West's last "effect" - the stifling of free speech is one that shames the scientific community on a daily basis - it is nothing short of SHAMEFUL. It is a tactic robbed from the admittedly misguided religious institutions from prior to the Reformation and Enlightenment and in adopting that tactic, the scientific community behaves in exactly the same fashion as what it pretends to oppose.

Which, by the way, may be the best evidence of our sinful nature I have ever encountered. And once one makes that realization, the gospel makes a whole bunch of sense.

Technorati Tags:, , , , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator


Illuminated Scripture

Technorati Tags:
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Tightrope Walking

Classical Presbyterian writes on the twin deadly errors:
Within every heart, especially those of Christians, there lie the possibility of two deadly errors--two false teachings that lie in wait to pull us into the abyss. We all know them well, for they are within every human heart: The two schools of false religion, Legalism and Antinomianism.

Legalism the the 'Pharisee trap'. Legalism is when we seek to please God, atone for sin and bring merit to ourselves by our own effort. Lifting human standards, human efforts and works to the level of salvific acts is at the heart of the deadly sin of legalism.


Now, the other error, that of Antinomiansim (anti-law) is just as deadly in its power. The antinomian is a person who is fun at parties! Life is one big version of Animal House for them. In their secular, boisterous versions, they fill frat houses and dance halls everywhere.

But in their Christian version, the antinomian takes on a more deadly form: They kill any church's efforts at reform. Claiming grace, they refuse to confront the sin that infects all of us and they offer no hope. Whereas the legalists offers the dead-end of personal and corporate moralism, the antinomian offers an alternate dead-end of chaos. The legalists offer effort to remedy sin, but the antinomians offer accomodation.
This is a really great blog post. Read the whole thing.

What struck me most as I read it is that being a Christian is about tension. It begins, I think with the Trinity, with the tension of one and separate. There is the tension of the "already, not yet." We are saved and yet in a sinful world. There is the tension between the thoughtful and the experiential - reliance on doctrine and reliance on the Holy Spirit.

In chemistry we talk a lot about equilibriums. Systems that exist in a kind of tension between reactants and product. Chemical reactions are not one way things. When there is abundance, the reactants are always reacting to make product, but some product is always breaking back down into the reactants. Equilibrium is that state where there is always the same amount of reactant and product hanging around in your reaction system, even if the dynamic exchange continues in both directions. I think that is how we Christians are supposed to live in these tensions.

In chemistry, as in our lives, it is very easy to upset an equilibrium, to push it towards too much product, or too much reactant. Sometimes you can alter the kinetics and the reaction proceeds explosively - you may end up with much more product than in equilibrium, but it is smeared on the walls and unrecoverable, and you are burned, bruised and otherwise injured - worse others in the lab may also be injured or even killed.

We must work to maintain the equilibriums in our lives, which means we need at least a slight excess of all of the reactants. We cannot limit ourselves to reading at the exclusion of prayer and listening. We cannot limit ourselves to evangelism at the expense of discipleship. We cannot keep our eyes on heavan and forget to right here.

What do you do to maintain the equilibrium in your life?

Technorati Tags:, , , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


For The Reading Pile

At CGO, Les Newsom reviews the book "UnChristian" by David Kinnaman He seems to like Kinnaman's analysis, but disagrees with his solutions. First some analysis:
Speaking from my experience as a campus minister for the last 14 years, I contend that the results are telling, but not surprising. First, Kinnaman reports that “outsiders” view Christians as hypocritical. Should we be surprised by this? After all, does anyone like to be told that they are helpless, hopeless sinners in need of a rescuing savior? On the other hand, Kinnaman accurately exposes the lingering problem in much Christian discipleship, namely, the tendency to define faith by my spiritual accomplishments and not by my dependency upon Jesus alone. This means that Christians are to lead with their limps (to borrow Dan Allender’s phrase) and not with their superiority.
I would gived a hearty "AMEN" to that concept and based on that alone, I intend to read the book.

In essence, what I hear is a need for integration, salvation and sanctification, evangelism and discipleship. But then Newsom turns to some of Kinnaman's solutions:
Kinnaman’s answer to this question throughout the rest of the book (chapters follow on how Christians are too politically minded and, finally, too judgmental) amount to little else than a simple charge of “can’t we just be a bit nicer.”

I, however, would like to argue that what is needed is a new model for defining how a Christian sees himself in the world. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus unfolds two great spheres of Christian activity. The Kingdom of God is the new realm of which he is king and his people are his vice-regents. God’s people are called to advance his lordship into every area of life.

The impetus for this charge is the Church, against which the gates of hell cannot withstand. That is, a people, called to be holy and distinct from the world, gathered together worshipping and praising their God, constitute the empowering means of God’s assault on the world. Here, the Word of God stands absolute and immovable.

Taken together, Christians are called to stand firm as the Church, giving themselves to her purity and life. They are equally called to take the Kingdom truths gleaned from their fellowship together and behave as salt and light to a dying world. For the Church, the Christian has great zeal and certainty. For the Kingdom, she allows freedom of conscience for those to pursue the advancement of God’s purposes in means that seem suitable to them.
I think Newsom is dead nuts on here and it is something I have said on this blog repeatedly. The church is our, as a fellowship of believers, place. We go out from the church to the world and be Christians in it. The church does not go out - we go out from it.

Which is where the whole integration thing comes back into play. If the church goes out - then all it does is evangelism, but if the church is the place where we do discipleship, then disciples go out from that place and bring back new disciples. The current model where the church goes out cannot build disciples, it never gets that far. If the mission is integrated, so will be the church.

Are you integrated?

Technorati Tags:, , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator


Kitty Kartoons

Related Tags: , , ,

Monday, April 14, 2008



My buddy Joe Carter is putting together a Symposium for Christian Bloggers:
If the medium affects the message, how will the Christian message be affected by the new media?
Business, personal, and blogging commitments do not permit me to address this question to the depth that it richly deserves, but let me encourage you to take a look at the symposium and the prizes and join in the fun. And having said that, let me throw out some bullet points on what I think and encourage Blogotional readers to perhaps take them up as theses for their entries in the symposium

Technorati Tags:, , , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator


Oh Darn Part II

Classical Presbyterian looks at the latest trend in the gay ordination argument in the PC(USA) No longer trying to parse that which is forbidden by scripture as other then sin, it seems the argument is shifting to a warped form of Evangelicalism, salvation without sanctification.
The progressive/liberal cause still wants us to believe that certain acts that are clearly sin, according to Jesus and his Word, are not sin, but they have failed. As Jim Berkley once pointed out, they lost that debate in the church decades ago, so they have moved on to a more subtle approach for their agenda. Having failed to convince the church with this line of thought, there is another approach to achieving the revision of the church: Attacking holy living.

Within the revisionist stream of reasoning we are now starting to encounter a more subtle and more deadly error: That no one can live in a state of continual repentance against their own sins.


Witness the assault on our fidelity and chastity standard. What are the arguments against it?

“No one can live up to them. We all sin, don't we?”

“They single out some sins over others.”

“There are many sins that the confessions list and we don’t care about them! Why these?”

Do you hear the subtle message of these kinds of arguments? It’s this: “Sin cannot be addressed in the life of a Christian, therefore we don’t need to call our leaders to ongoing sanctification.”

Frankly, we all know that all Christians can and do continue to sin, willfully and constantly. But the new lie being told in this argument is that Christians can’t effectively address sin in their lives. And that, my friends is a deadly error.
There are two levels on which to attack this argument. The first is theological, which the CP has begun to do a very fine job of, but the other is practical.

On a political level, the argument that “There are many sins that the confessions list and we don’t care about them! Why these?” is particularly devastating because of the undeniable truth of its premise. Whether it is conducting marriages of couples that have been living together for years ("Well, it is better to get it fixed than allow it to continue" - Yeah, but don't you think some months apart in a sort of protestant penance might not be a bad idea?) or the continued ordained and/or staff level service of people whose marriages are in separation, pending divorce (I seem to recall something that Paul wrote to Timothy about that whole thing), the fact of the matter is the standards have slowly been ratcheted down over the decades why stop now?

Three quick comments. One, all prior liberalizations were at least arguable in scriptural interpretation, homosexual behavior is inarguably sin.

Secondly, I would argue for undoing some of the prior liberalization, and I would start by enforcing the chastity rules for heterosexuals. I live just a few miles from Fuller Theological Seminary, and the number of students there living together, or simply sleeping together is extraordinary - candidates for ordination to the Office of Minister of the Word and Sacrament. If we are not going to be serious about heterosexual chastity standards, there really is no reason to be about homosexual ones either.

Finally, as ordained, lay Presbyterians we have got to get serious about our jobs. Politically, liberalization occurs when Sessions do not take seriously their charge to examine candidates and to help shape their lives. Example, ever had a ministry candidate under your Session care that was not chaste? Ever tried to broach the subject in a Session meeting, even with laying all sorts of groundwork, including approaching the individual on a private personal level? If you can get the job done, you are met with horror at even discussing such a thing - not horror at the behavior mind you, horror at the discussion. On a Nominating Committee, have you ever been pressured to accept a candidate for Deacon or Elder that was sub-par because of pressure to fill the slate? "We have too much to get done this year, we need a full Session...."

This problem cannot be top-downed. Yeah, we need to fight on the floor of Presbytery and the GA, but we also need to fight on the floor of Session and Nominating Committee.

Technorati Tags:, , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Sermons and Lessons

This week' sermon is by link. John Piper on "Who Are The Elders?"

Technorati Tags:, ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Feed


eXTReMe Tracker

Blogarama - The Blog Directory