Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Emergent Model: Baby, Bathwater, or a little of Both?

I read a very interesting article today which portrayed the various streams of thought within the emerging church.
The article is written by Mark Driscoll, and is entitled "A Pastoral Perspective on the Emergent Church".
Check it out, and let me know what you think. He uses a model developed by Dr. Ed Stetzer, and it includes three distinct type of emergent Christians:

1. RELEVANTS: theologically conservative evangelicals who are not as interested in reshaping theology as much as updating such things as worship styles, preaching styles, and church leadership structures.

2. RECONSTRUCTIONISTS: generally theologically evangelical and dissatisfied with the current forms of church (e.g. seeker, purpose, contemporary)

3. REVISIONISTS: theologically liberal and question key evangelical doctrines, critiquing their appropriateness for the emerging postmodern world.

Which of these do you see yourself aligning most closely with?
Or, do you reject any and all elements of the emerging church?

It seems to me that most "evangelicals" find some merit in the emergent model, though they disagree considerably on how far to identify with it.
"Fundamentalists" on the other hand by and large have denounced the emergent movement all-together and condemn anything affiliated with emergent theology/practice or postmodernism.

Like it or not, the emergent movement is picking up steam, and we as believers (evengelicals and fundamentalists alike) must become versed in it, and decide what we believe about it.

So, share away.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Think We Dropped the Ball (the ball that is our planet...)

Well, today is Earth Day.
And many fundamentalists around the globe are saying, So What?!
In fact, as I was growing up "Earth Day" had a hideous reputation (in my circles) of being some kind of "liberal" conspiracy to turn our planet into an idol.

Many conservatives (fundamentalist and evangelical alike) disdain any talk of caring for our planet. Whether it is the hot topic of global warming or the initiative to recycle, I have observed a deliberate apathy among many Christians.

This can be aptly illustrated by a comment I read a couple days ago posted on a blog which was discussing Bush's new global warming policy.
Here it is (and it's a doozie...):

"Imagine trying to save the Earth from global warming. The same Earth that God is going to destroy in His own time."

Not only is that really bad theology, it is really bad theology.

Which makes me wonder - How did we as the church get here?
Have we fallen prey to Biblical amnesia and forgotten about the very first commandment that God gave us as human beings?

Genesis 1:26-28
26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Genesis 2:15

15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

God created this earth, and said that it was good.
It is the amazing work of His hand, and He entrusted it to us!

Here in the pages of Genesis is a Creation Mandate - which simply means - it is part of God's fundamental design that we as image-bearers care for His earth in order to reflect our God's character. He keeps everything in balance, and we are called to do our best to tend to our planet.

Now, it is important to note that we are to subdue the earth - which means that yes, we as humans are superior to and in charge of animals and geological elements.
So, we should never make environmental causes our "god", and we should not be consumed with caring for the earth.

But, care for it we must.
The best we know how.

This is not a post to declare global warming as "the most pressing issue of our time" or "the greatest hoax of our time".
I am not a scientist, and I believe the scientific data is still coming in on this issue.

But I have studied the Bible a little, and I know what the Bible tells me. Whatever we conclude about global warming, we as image-bearers must be engaged in conserving our planet - graciously, realistically, and wisely.

Even if we have dropped the ball, it is time to prayerfully pick it back up.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Uncensored Prayer

What's the book say...?
Everyone Poops?
Well... not my newborn daughter for the last 3 days.
If you have ever had kids you know this is a big thing to watch when they are first born. Their delicate bodies need to begin processing food correctly, and the doctors usually want you to record how often this happens.
Which is why we started to pray as a family that little Preslie would be able to poop. (It just hit me that if Preslie ever reads this when she gets older, she is going to kill me...)

Anyway, last night as I tucked my two older daughters into bed, we all took turns praying. Little Quinn likes to make up prayers as she goes, and I usually have to reign her in or she will keep mentioning things that I am sure please the heart of God, but are designed by her to prolong her bedtime. So, as she was slowly praying, I encouraged her to pray that Preslie would be able to poop. She did without flinching or snickering. Then Avery prayed for Preslie.
That is when I realized that kids don't mess around when it comes to prayer. They pray for what they need, and they don't craft their words into some magnanimous display of spirituality. They are honest and transparent.

Oh, if we were only a little more like that.
Unfortunately, many of us get the impression as we grow up that prayer is as much about style as it is content. That God is impressed with creative vocabulary. Or at least others are.

And so some might be led to pray for their constipated daughter like this: "Ohh Father, We beseech Thee, O Gracious and Glorious God, that Thou Wouldst Move Your Mighty Hand, and loose the stools of this small child, that Thou mightest Receive all the glory and the power and the praise forever. Amen"

Or, others might be tempted not to pray at all about such mundane or crass things.

Not my kids - "God, help Preslie to poop."

I believe it all goes back to being real Christians. It is not about appearances, it is not about impressing others, it is about the real, flesh and blood relationship we have with God.

So, let us be real, and offer God prayer from our hearts... and not from our stages.

Oh, and by the way - Preslie finally pooped last night - God answers prayers, especially the uncensored ones.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Life, Death and Darwin

The last couple of days I have spent countless time pondering the beautiful intricacy of life.
I know of few things more heart-pounding, more soul-gripping than watching your child come into this world.
Every part of the journey is absolutely spectacular - from the miracle of conception to the painful but awesome process of birth.
As each of my children were born, I couldn't help but wonder how so many people observe this miracle of life and yet their spiritual center remains unaffected, unmoved. Doctors. Nurses. Mothers. Fathers.
How can someone not be driven to an awe of a mighty, wise, beautiful God who creates us all?
How can someone believe that life in all of its wonder evolved over time by chance?

This lead me to consider Charles Darwin as I held my sleeping newborn the other night (I know, a little weird). I began to wonder if he had ever held a newborn baby on his chest. Had he ever observed the mystery of life?

As I researched his life briefly, I discovered the answer to that: yes.
Darwin had 10 children, and history tells us he was a devoted family man.
Yet my cursory study of his life also uncovered another interesting thing - Darwin knew the painful mystery of death.
Charles Darwin lost two of his children while they were infants, and another of his daughters died at the age of ten.
Many people believe that the deaths of his children pushed Darwin overboard into the sea of skepticism, and this was when the religious faith he had as a child dissipated.

It is no wonder Darwin continued to make sense of this world with only the tools of observable science, and he ignored the Biblical concept of a loving Creator God. How could God be loving if he allowed such atrocities?

Death is one of the many injustices we experience, one of the many cruel effects of the curse.
And yet we still bring our children into this world, knowing they will face pain and heartache.

That is why I am thankful there is a loving Creator God. A God who formed my little daughter. A God who gives us grace to navigate life and death.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Greatest Blow to Superlative Separation

This just hit me today -

I now realize and remember what it was that first blew gaping holes in the concept of separation as held by the majority of fundamentalists I grew up with:

Christ-like "non-fundamentalists".

What do I mean? Well, when I arrived at college, I started to meet Christians from different backgrounds then me, some who would never be accepted in fundamentalist circles. While my first instinct was recoil, I soon began to realize that there was just something about them that made it impossible for me to discount their authentic expression of faith.
They were like Jesus.
You can argue with theological positions, but it is hard to argue with fruit of the Spirit.

I was reminded of this because the doctor who delivered our baby yesterday (Preslie Taylor, who is inexpressibly beautiful...) is a faithful Roman Catholic. My wife and I have known her for a few years, and she has participated in the birth of all three of our daughters. We have had numerous conversations outside the medical context, often about Christ and faith. There is no doubt in my mind that she has a saving faith in Jesus, and it is evident to all who know her. She radiates with love, graciousness, and servanthood. She has become more a friend than a doctor, and we are so blessed by her.

But in the back of my mind when I first found out she was Catholic was - "Is she really a believer...?" I mean, she talks about Jesus, but she is Catholic???

Well, while there is no doubt we would disagree about many theological issues, she clearly says to people that she believes in Jesus Christ for her salvation. For her, it is all about Christ.

So, I ask... Do we have the right to second-guess someone's faith? If they claim to be trusting in what Christ did on the cross for their salvation, realizing it is all about Him... Who are we to argue?
Particularly when they evidence the fruit of Spirit as abundantly as those old starburst commercials (if you remember them... if not then just imagine fruit flyin everywhere.... :) ).

Friday, April 11, 2008

Isaiah 58: WOW!

So... my reading in the Bible this morning was from Isaiah 58.
As I was reading it hit me - what a perfect example of the kind of change that needs to happen in the church of our time!
Check out these verses:

2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.

3 'Why have we fasted,' they say,
'and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?'
"Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

How many times have we been guilty of this?

How many times do we perform our Christianity for ourselves rather than for the sake of others who are in need?
How many times has our "spirituality" ended in quarreling, strife and striking each other?

I know I have been guilty.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Origin of Fundamentalism

Here is some of what I have discovered while studying the origins of fundamentalism:

The movement of fundamentalism was born in the early twentieth century, and it defended several core doctrines:
1. The inerrancy of the Bible
2. The virgin birth of Christ
3. Christ's substitutionary atonement
4. Christ's bodily resurrection
5. The authenticity of Christ's miracles.

Here is the "Doctrinal Deliverance" of 1910, which spells out the original 5 fundamentals of the faith:

Some articles which explain fundamentalism and the fundamentalist-modernist controversy:

An online resource that includes the "The Fundamentals: A Testimony of the Truth" put together by R.A. Torrey:

The controversial sermon given by Harry Fosdick entitled "Shall the Fundamentalist's Win?":

A copy of "Shall Unbelief Win?", which was Clarence Edward MacArtney's response to Fosdick's sermon:

I find this response by MacArtney especially intriguing, because MacArtney himself shied away from the term "fundamentalist", because already in 1922 the movement had begun to be known for more than the original 5 fundamentals of the faith. It had now added the "pre-millenial" imminent return of Christ.

Many denominations were pulled into the struggle along the way, but the debate probably raged fiercest amidst Presbyterians and Baptists. Here is an article on how Fundamentalism took over among the Southern Baptists:

Fundamentalism as a movement has come a long way from its original roots. The questions that beg to be answered are: "Does the label "fundamentalist" even resemble what it meant when the movement first began? And if not should it be abandoned?
That is one of the reasons this blog was created - to explore and discover answers to these questions.