Saturday, February 22, 2014
Friday, February 21, 2014
A Limited Understanding of Superheroes
If you woke up and the world had been transformed into a super-nerd dystopia where a demigod-Patton Oswalt forced you to choose only the best superhero to preserve from 100 years of American comics, you would choose Superman.Not sure Severson gets it. He claims "nerd=palate," but Batman is still pretty pedestrian. Now I don't want to say he does not have a point in this piece, he has several very good ones. What I want to say is I do not think he did enough research into the whole superhero thing.
Sure, the more educated nerd-palate prefers a hero who is less of a boy-scout. (Batman is my pick.) After all, Superman is a little goody-goody. He ALWAYS does the right thing. He has the most complete set of powers: flight, x-ray vision, super strength, etc. He’s invincible, except for the whole kryptonite thing.
You would not tell demigod-Patton Oswalt that the ideal superhero for cultural preservation was Jesus Christ. Being honest, Jesus is actually a terrible superhero.
Pretty much ever superhero if consequence has died and been resurrected in the last couple of decades. I will agree with Severson that they rarely do so as meekly as Jesus did, they all do it. In the end the sacrifice is what makes them heroic, not the power. There is something deeply ingrained in us that knows that sacrifice is necessary for true heroism. The rest of it is, if you think about it, just a matter of style.
The difference is that the comic book heroes never resurrect to glory - they come back to a world where the battle may have been won, but the war still continues - they pick up more or less where they left off. Jesus came back glorified and He had changed everything - because if we let Him, He has changed us.
Jesus did not win the battle, He won the war and that makes Him far more the hero than any comic icon.
Jesus sacrifice superhero
Thursday, February 20, 2014
A Christian is oneDefinitions are important, I know. Without them words mean nothing. But they are also constraints. That not only tell us what something is, but they also tell us what is not something. For example, by this definition someone who acknowledges Christ as Lord, but not in a Trinitarian sense, and even lives their lives in the same fashion as a Trinitarian Christian would not be a Christian. But I wonder, is God more interested in our theology or our behavior?
who recognizes Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, as God manifested in the flesh, loving us and dying for our redemption;
and who is so affected by a sense of the love of this incarnate God as to be constrained to make the will of Christ the rule of his obedience, and the glory of Christ the great end for which he lives.
Doesn't that limit God? Who are we to place constraints on God? Cannot God have in His fold those whom He chooses? What constrains the almighty constrainer?
I know that without such definitional constraints things become so indistinct as to be meaningless. At some point everyone would end up Christian. That's no good either. I think the key is not our definition, but how we hold them. Are we willing to understand that they are not set in stone? Can we use them, but not abuse them? It is at that point that God moves from our heads to our hearts - and our hearts is where He truly wishes to reside.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Cultue Context and Meaning
All churches love certain things. Some love fellowship, some worship, some prayer. Those are good loves. Some are neutral loves. Some are not. Other churches love their building, their history, or their strategy.OK, I get the point, but the whole thing seems to be a bit overstated. Let's look at number 1. Sometimes It is pretty hard to tell the difference between culture, context and message. Sometimes a message is definitively counter-culture. At what point does tailoring the message to the culture compromise the message. These is not easy stuff to deal with just telling people they have to be "relevant does not do a thing towards wrestling with those questions. This has become a trope.
Those can be good or bad, depending on what we mean by love and how we value those things. But, some things churches love that hurt their mission and hinder their call. Here are three I've observed from my work with thousands of churches.
1. Too many churches love past culture more than their current context.
2. Too many churches love their comfort more than their mission.
3. Too many churches love their traditions more than their children.
Number 2 is an absolute truth. Medium and small churches have deeply rooted familial structures. They take on a clubish feel and this is not a great thing. But breaking up the club does not mean you change EVERYTHING. The problem is political, not cultural.
And 3, if you will pardon me, is just BS. Children should be taught tradition. Not all traditions will survive a generational shift, agreed, but that is a decision the next generation should make only after it has come to thoroughly understand the tradition. That is just a false dichotomy.
New and novel is a way to attract attention and court fashion. It is a short term fix for a long term problem. Christianity is not a matter of fashion, it is a matter of truth. Until we can carefully delineate between tot he two, we should not off the tropes.
fashion mission truth
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
How About Stupid Lists?
As I look at the world today, and especially the church, the problems are all "out there." "We need to change the paradigm." "We need to structure a new organization." "Six Steps to Being God's Man." You know that part of scripture where it talks about the Holy Spirit interceding for us with groans too deep for understanding? We've even externalized that and made it about tongues.
The real thing is hard, hard work. We build a hard shell around ourselves and make it very difficult for genuine change to happen. And yet the church seems to be trying to find ways to accommodate that hard shell rather than finding ways to break it. I like the hard shell analogy here. It emphasizes that sometimes the Holy Spirit is in fact a bull in a china shop - He crashes the party enough to break the shell. We act like everyone is made of eggshells.
God help us with our unbelief!
genuine Christian maturity
Monday, February 17, 2014
Who Do You Worship?
The real problem with being full of yourself, is not that it is tacky, rude, or boorish, but that it is deadly idolatry. It is a kind of self-cannibalism, really, for your own insatiable appetite for yourself will simply consume you from the inside-out, piece by piece. The god of yourself can never fill you up; you cannot add an inch or an hour to yourself or your life; you cannot bestow more than you already have, but, instead, you are emptied of everything you were given, by devouring yourself, one bite and one breath at a time.As I read that I could not help but reflect on how many idols we do worry about - money, fame, social media - but that those idols reflections of the idol that is really the problem. The idol of self.
But the problem is worse than that - we in the church cater to that ultimate idol. We worry about "turning people off" if we emphasize sin too much. We cater our worship times and services to people's schedules (we serve them instead of them serving God.) In an effort to bring people into the church, we feed the beast that keeps them out. Sometimes it seems as if Joshua won the promised land not be conquering it, but by moving in and sacrificing to Baal and telling people about Yahweh. Isn't that why they had to wonder the wilderness for so long? Are we in the wilderness know. Daniels friend goes on:
When the Lord demolishes the idol of yourself, He does so not to shame, embarrass, or humiliate you, but rather to be your God and give you life. He tears down, in order to build up. He wounds, in order to heal. He kills, in order to make alive. His goal is not to get even or get revenge, nor to teach you a lesson, nor to punish you, but to save you from yourself, for life with Himself.There is an interesting circles within circles thing here. The church, interested in its own survival, feeds the beast of self-idolization. Has the church become so self-interested that it can no longer save individuals from themselves? And yet, the news is as good as it gets:
The Lord does not "put you in your place," as you deserve for your hubris, but He has taken your place in humility, and emptied Himself, and made Himself nothing, in order to raise you up, to fill you with Himself and His good Spirit, and to give you His own glorious place with the Father.What I find most disturbing is not that we fail to spread this good news - but that we do so because we fail to comprehend it ourselves.
church idols self