Saturday, August 15, 2015
Friday, August 14, 2015
The Need To Reform
At the time when divine truth lay buried under this vast and dense cloud of darkness;Gee, I kinda feel that way now. The difference is in a world where there is a plethora of churches, somewhere there is a church that does not make me feel that way. That changes the rules of the game completely.
when religion was sullied by so many impious superstitions;
when by horrid blasphemies the worship of God was corrupted, and his glory laid prostrate;
when by a multitude of perverse opinions, the benefit of redemption was frustrated, and men, intoxicated with a fatal confidence in works, sought salvation anywhere rather than in Christ;
when the administration of the sacraments was partly maimed and torn asunder, partly adulterated by the admixture of numerous fictions, and partly profaned by traffickings for gain;
when the government of the church had degenerated into mere confusion and devastation; when those who sat in the seat of pastors first did most vital injury to the church by the dissoluteness of their lives, and, secondly, exercised a cruel and most noxious tyranny over souls, by every kind of error, leading men like sheep to the slaughter;
The problem today seems to be that the church that feels that way is winning - it's the church people are choosing. Does that mean I am wrong in what I expect the church to be, or does it mean that those of us trying to do the church genuinely are doing it wrong? Gioven history and that fact that I doubt God would change church so radically at this late date, I tend to think the latter.
Maybe the answer is to spend less tinme worrying about what they are doing and more time trying to do what we think should be done well.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
These are not small problems: there’s a reason these views were condemned by the early Church. So how are theologies condemned well over 1500 years ago finding a resurgence in contemporary Evangelicalism? The Christianity Today article suggests a failure in adult Christian education as one cause. Let me suggest another: these heresies are finding a resurgence because too many Protestants misunderstand the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura. Too many Christians mistake “Scripture alone” as if it were a license for them to read the Bible alone—to read it apart from other people. You know the idea: “All I need is me and my Bible.” But that’s not what it means. It means that Scripture is alone authoritative, not that your personal (“alone”) interpretation of Scripture is authoritative.Actually, I think the problem Block very rightly notes is a problem with Christian Education, perhaps even education generally.
There is the issue that any more any sort of educational activity, but especially voluntary ones like church school, have to be interesting and entertaining. A college Prof friend of mine called it "edutainment." It is pretty doggone hard to figure out how to make trinitarian doctrinal teaching entertaining and still develop genuine understanding in the student. The perennial question, "How does that affect me?" is another impediment to serious educational undertaking in the church setting. I know in my own educational life I learned a lot of stuff that seemed utterly useless until decades later. (Since I took up woodworking, it is amazing how much geometry I have had to dredge up!)
I think we need to find new ways to motivated our church students other than entertaining them with the lessons or trying to get them to focus on delayed gratification. May I suggest Christ-likeness? And by that I do not mean some sort of ethical purity, but rather the winsomeness that undoubtedly marked the Lord and his apostles. Maybe it is our relationships with students that can best motivate them to learn that which is inherently dull and not immediately useful.
The hard part is that is not a program or a curriculum. That's a challenge and a major commitment.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Culture and Culture
The fact is that God has chosen to make himself and his will known in the languages, beliefs, practices, and values of particular cultures. This is true of God’s self-revelation in Scripture, which comes through the writings of dozens of people representing various cultures and spanning many centuries. It is also true of God’s ultimate revelation in Jesus, the Word of God Incarnate, who came at a particular time in a particular place to a particular people, through whom he intended to save the whole world.Ever been to the Little Italy neighborhood of Manhattan? It is distinctly Italian. And yet it is nothing like the half-a-dozen or so cities I have visited in Italy. This is the tension Roberts is describing.
The good news of God’s communicating within cultures is that we human beings can understand what God is saying to us, because we cannot stand outside of human culture. The words we use, the ways we think, the things we do, the assumptions we make, all of these and so much more reflect our own cultures. So, it’s good that God speaks within culture, in words and ways that we can understand. The bad news is that we can easily become confused by what God meant to say in a given culture that is not our own, as well as by what God means to say today. For example, when Ephesians 6:5 tells slaves to obey their earthly masters, rather than saying slavery is an abomination contradictory to God’s intentions for humanity, is this telling us that God approves of slavery? Or is God speaking into a particular cultural setting, assuming the existence of slavery without endorsing it, and helping slaves in that culture shape their lives in a sinful world according to the gospel?
So how to resolve that tension? Our first citizen ship is in God's kingdom. Therefore, our neighborhood should be recognizable to anyone else whose first citizen ship is also there.
Now, think about the variety of Christian expression in this country and the world. Unless we are willing to say all expressions but our own are not really citizens of God's kingdom, then the commonality we seek must be somewhere other than in external trappings. So what are the commonalities that define the culture of the Kingdom of God?
I think it has more to do with character than anything else.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Young People and Church
Now, I will not deny the fact that community is part of what a church should be, but I also will not deny that part of being an adult is that you experience community in very different ways then you did as a youth. I also will not deny that granting responsibility is part of teaching people how to grow up, and they may be of majority age, but I know for sure I am far more of an adult at 57 than I was at 27. There are limits.
Young people today seem to be in a great hurry to enjoy all the benefits of older adulthood. I know I was. But there were people that gently said "No" to me. That sought to shape and refine me into full adulthood. I cannot help but think that if we older folks reached out to kids with that kind of care and concern, in real love and affection. They'd show up at church.
adulthood church young people
Monday, August 10, 2015
Exploring Reformed Faith
Why do you think it was important to write Deviant Calvinism?Forgive my cynicism, but Gee. Ya Think?!
I see a lot of misrepresentations of Reformed theology, among people both inside and outside the Reformed tradition. Many people think Reformed theology coalesces around five points or around the soteriological “doctrines of grace” rather than around historic confessions. And I see a lot of Calvinists who aren’t confessional, when in fact the Reformed tradition very much is. If you truly are a Calvinist, then you should be interested in Reformed confessions, I think. And when we look at the confessional tradition, it seems Reformed theology is broader than the more narrow five-point Calvinism.
Also, a number of people outside the Reformed community tend to associate the Reformed tradition with a narrowly dogmatic—in both senses of that term—way of thinking about the Christian faith. And they are rather disparaging about that. But not all of us are narrowly dogmatic. So I thought, Maybe the time has come to make a case for a more irenic, more sanguine, broad approach to the Reformed tradition, because there are great riches in the Reformed tradition that just don’t get reported.
Even though the book is more scholarly than popular, I think it addresses some hot issues in the air at the moment.
Someday we will learn to quite confusing jerks that misuse ideas with the ideas themselves, but then that would require study, and well....