Saturday, May 05, 2012
Leinil Francis Yu
Friday, May 04, 2012
We hear it all of the time in modern evangelicalism. “God is pure, and he cannot endure impurity.” Most skeptics I’ve come across dismiss such a god because (1) he must be some supreme perfectionist who just can’t stand impurities in his house (“Ooh, get it away . . . it burns, it burns); or (2) he would have to be the supreme grump who gets just plain irritated by it (“Whew—wow! Get that stench out of here . . . it’s stinking up the place something awful”).He goes on at great length, but the heart of the matter is this:
I don’t consider those characterizations to be irreverent, because I now believe they are byproducts of a well-intentioned but wrong-headed (sometimes wrong-hearted) evangelical idolatry, which I have long and enthusiastically practiced and preached. I came by it honestly enough, though . . . it’s ubiquitous in just about everything evangelical. Nevertheless, the consequence is a doctrinal malady in the Western church of which I’d like to argue it’s time we all repented, especially in our evangelizing, preaching, and teaching.
Christian faith is not about sin management, it’s about managing to love.
As with sin, so also holiness—we evangelicals can be just as prone to make holiness all about perfection, when it is actually entirely about intimacy. Accordingly, perfection is not what makes holiness holy—any perfection that would be holy is merely its symptom (as verb-sins are to noun-sins). The irony is that love is what makes holiness (and anything or anyone) holy.Excellent point, right on! But somehow this formulation sits wrong with me. By using phrases like "God is no perfectionist," Bubeck leaves the door open for the lazy, cheap grace Evangelical to drive through, often with a Mack truck. (A problem I find far more prevalent in Evangelical circles than the perfectionist strain - "self-help" is a different story.) God is in fact a perfectionist, it is how we get to His perfection that is at issue - something that Bubeck says, but way he says it appears to give permission to those that wish to not try so hard.
Just consider that sinless incarnation of the consummately holy God the Son. It’s not as if when he became a man, the Creator needed to avoid contracting some viral or genetic dispositions. Sin is independence from God; and God the Son, though fully in human form, cannot be independent from God . . . if for no other reason than that he himself was and is fully God. So it should follow that the reason Jesus would not commit (verb) sins was because he was not in the (noun) state of sin. The reason Jesus was perfectly sinless was because he was perfectly in love with the Father (and Holy Spirit).
The problem I think Bubeck would be better attacking in this manner is the problem of the self-help Christian. So much has been reduced to that. Such expressions seeks to help us overcome our psychological maladies more than our sin.
One of the hardest thing about being a Christian is that it is all encompassing, every point has a counter-balance. We need to be careful when we make points not to negate that counter point.
Thursday, May 03, 2012
REALLY Reaching Out
Years ago, studies circulated that showed that new churches tended to be more evangelistic than older, more established ones. The axiom followed, “The greatest form of evangelism is the planting of new churches.” The fruit of this has been the proliferation of new churches across America. The question in the West is this: Why hasn’t the number of new Christians increased over this same period of time? (compared to population growth)Brooks has a point there, what has primarily resulted is the employment of a lot more people in church work. Not to mention that much of what passes for church planting is just para-church work, but that is a different story all together. Brooks continues:
So what is the greatest form of Evangelism? Preaching the Gospel. What else could explain the overall growth of Christianity in history but the preaching of the Gospel? The reality is that it is being obscured. That explains our lack of impact in spite of all our energy and activity.Here I would change emphasis a bit. Changing lives in the context of a preached gospel is the greatest form of evangelism. Many are the ministries that preach themselves silly with the same sort of results as church planting. The preaching needs to be within a context that it creates. That context is one in which the truth of the words being preached is evidenced in the lives of both those preaching and those receiving the words.
Christ and the apostles did miracles to add credence to their words. The greatest miracle of all is the miracle of a life that in the modern world is lived in humility and contentment. Such will grant deep power to the preaching.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
In my 1995 book, Augustine and the Limits of Politics, I describe a few of these wild misreadings that tend toward the psychologically reductive: Augustine was sex-obsessed; Augustine was warped by a monumental Oedipus complex; Augustine’s was an immature personality; and the coup de grace, Augustine was a narcissist. I taught my precocious 4-year-old granddaughter about narcissism recently by coming up with a ditty about an iguana: “I’m an iguana/I like what I see/I’m an iguana/looking at ME!” She now uses the word correctly much to the astonishment of adults and the utter bewilderment of other children her age. But Augustine never “looks at Me”: he looks to God; he offers a long discourse against self-esteem, an unwarranted, overinflated celebration of the self. His heart goes into labor, he tells us, and gives birth to humility. I wish Wills had spent a bit more time on this, on the multiple loves that constitute the Self, loves framed by the love of that alone which is immutable and does not pass away.Consider for just a moment that we live in a world that considers it "immature" not to be properly self-focused. If one must encapsulate what is wrong with our society, I think that just about does it.
Primarily, however, what Wills seeks to do is to justify the presence of the final three books of the text that stand outside Augustine’s stirring narrative of the self coming to love rightly—an exegetical exercise on the opening of Genesis.
And here we see one of the father of the church with the solution to the problem = we learn, in fact that the church has the only solution, and yet by-and-large the church follows the cultural norm rather than the historical solution. All in the name of outreach.
Somehow, the church needs to find a way to stop appealing to the worst in us and find a way to appeal to the best we were created to be.
We are ot so lost that we will fail to recognize the good when we see it.
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Known A Few Of These In My Day
- Every decision ultimately goes through the leader…
- Dreaming is limited to the pre-determined boundaries of the leader…
- Waiting for the leader to make a decision becomes awkward and wastes time…
- There is no clear vision or direction for the organization…
- The leader never delegates…
- Potential leaders aren’t recruited…they are controlled…
- Everyone waits on the leader to make the first move…
God has made us all for ministry and that means leadership to one level or another. Part of maturity in Christ is having the freedom to take on things. not the mention the freedom to fail when we try - after all, we might succeed the next time.
This type of leadership breeds immaturity. I know, I know, it always seems like no one is capable so you HAVE to pick up ball. Hogwash! God has the ball and they are more capable than you think.
Besides - is your job to make them capable.
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Monday, April 30, 2012
Why Must It Be Either/Or?
God Commands Compassion, Not EvangelismReading a little further he comes to the heart of the matter as he sees it:
Christianity is not about praying in a certain way, or believing a certain thing, or making converts, or building a nice cabin at church camp.
Recently, I attended a Southern Baptist church in America's heartland. The service was typical: about half an hour of praise music, a lengthy sermon, an altar call, and an offertory. The choir and musicians were skilled and enthusiastic. The sermon, drawn from Psalms, centered on our call to praise God at all times, not just on Sunday morning. During the hour and a half service, a charitable appeal was made in connection with the 200-bed vacation cabin the church wants to build at the state youth camp. The price tag for this state of the art facility, I was informed, was seven million dollars, cheap for a building that will help bring youth to Christ.
The larger message of the Bible is about participating in the reality that God wants to bring into being to replace the sinful mess we have made, and a large part of that participation is about reaching out to those who are in need.OOOOOOH, So close. Christianity is indeed about much more than evangelism, it is indeed about being transformed out of our sinful mess, but that "large part" quip is just substituting one bandwagon for another. It is assuming a "zero sum" game when if we are truly transformed in Christ we can draw upon the infinite resources of the Creator and do BOTH, and much more.
I really do not like this competition for dollars in the church - it's unseemly. Now, a word of caution here. I resigned a ruling board over a "faith budget" one that did not recognize the financial limitations of projected revenue and just spent like a sailor on shore leave. That church is till paying the price for that one year. No, reality is reality and we live in reality.
What I am talking about is using rhetoric in our stewardship of those resources that forces us to battle about what God ordains. The fact of the matter is, God ordains all of it - we create the limitations, not Him. Our rhetoric should reflect that.