Archive for September, 2004
Posted by LT in on September 30, 2004
The tyranny of the scribes and the rebellion of the saints
A little more Tozer.
The error of textualism is not doctrinal. It is more subtle than that and much more difficult to discover, but its effects are just as deadly. Not its theological beliefs are at fault, but its assumptions.
It assumes, for instance, that if we have the word for a thing we have the thing itself. If it is in the Bible, is is in us. If we have the doctrine, we have the experience. If something was true of Paul it is of necessity true of us because we accept Paul’s epistles as divinely inspired. The Bible tells us how to be saved, but textualism goes on to make it tell us that we are saved, something which in the very nature of things it cannot do. Assurance of individual salvation is thus no more than a logical conclusion drawn from doctrinal premises, and the resultant experience wholly mental.
Then came the revolt. The human mind can endure textualism just so long before it seeks a way of escape. So, quietly and quite unaware that any revolt was taking place, the masses of Fundamentalism reacted, not from the teaching of the Bible but from the mental tyranny of the scribes. With the recklessness of drowning men they fought their way up for air and struck out blindly for greater freedom of thought and for the emotional satisfaction their natures demanded and their teachers denied them.
The result over the last 20 years has been religious debauch hardly equaled since Israel worshipped the golden calf. Of us Bible Christians it may truthfully be said that we “sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.” The separating line between the Church and the world as been all but obliterated.
Aside from a few of the grosser sins, the sins of the unregenereated wolrd are now approved by a shocking number of professedly “born-again” Christians, and copied eagerly. Young Christians take as their models the rankest kind of worldlings and try to be as much like them as possible. Religious leaders have adopted the techniques of the advertisters; boasting, baiting and shameless exaggerating are now carried on as normal procedure in church work. The moral climate is not that of the New Testament, but that of Hollywood and Broadway.
Many evangelicals no longer initiate; they imitate, and the world is their model. The holy faith of our fathers has in many places been made a form of entertainment, and the appalling thing is that all of this has been fed down to the masses from the top.
A revival now would be a moral tragedy
Try to guess who wrote this and when. I’ll reveal the answer in the comments
A religion, even popular Christianity, could enjoy a boom altogether divorced from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and so leave the church of the next generation worse off that it would have been if the boom had never occurred. I believe that the imperative need of the day not simply revival, but a radical reformation that will go to the root of our moral and spiritual maladies and deal with causes rather than with consequences, with the disease rather than the symptoms.
It is my considered opinion that under the present circumstances we do not want revival at all. A widespread revival of the kind of Christianity we know today in America might prove to be a moral tragedy from which we would not recover in a hundred years.
Here are my reasons. A generation ago, as a reaction from Higher Criticism and its offspring, Modernism, there arose in Protestantism a powerful movement in defence of the historic Christian faith. This, for obvious reasons, came to be known as Fundamentalism. It was a more or less spontaneous movement without much organization, but its purpose wherever it appeared was the same: the stay “the rising tide of negation” in Christian theology and to restate and defend the basic doctrines of New Testament Christianity. This much is history.
What is generally overlooked is that Fundamentalism, as it spread throughout the various denominations and non-denominational groups, fell victim to its own virtues. The Word died in the hands of its friends. Verbal inspiration, for instance (a doctrine which I have always held and do now hold), soon became afflicted with rigor mortis. The voice of the prophet was silenced and the scribe captured the minds of the faithful. In large areas of the religious imagination withered. An unofficial hierarchy decided what Christians were to believe. Not the Scriptures, but what the scribe thought the scriptures meant became the Christian creed. Christian colleges, seminaries, Bible institutes, Bible conferences, popular Bible expositors all joined to promote the cult of textualism. The system of extreme dispensationalism which was devised, relieved the Christian of repentance, obedience and cross-carrying in any other than the most formal sense. Whole sections of the New Testament were taken from the church and disposed of after a rigid system of “dividing the Word of truth”.
All this resulted in a religious mentality inimical to the true faith of Christ. A kind of cold mist settled over Fundamentalism. Below, the terrain was familiar. This was New Testament Christianity, to be sure. The basic doctrines of the bible were there, but the climate was just not favourable to the sweet fruits of the Spirit.
Posted by LT in on September 28, 2004
Was it really the church that hurt you?
There are a lot of hurting Christians out there because people in the church can be very nasty to one another. A lot of the fuel in the emerging church is the intense dissatisfaction with the church as it is because the church hurt them. I can’t deny that some of my thoughts and perceptions of the church are shaped by negative experiences.
In many ways I’ve moved beyond the hurt. One of the things I needed to do was stop blaming the church and face the fact that it was individuals within the church that hurt me. Blaming the church as a whole is easy to do and trendy. It also let me off the hook. I can be bitter and there is no one I need to forgive and I can ignore the specific hurts.
It wasn’t the church that hurt me. It was the friend who thought I was deceived because I was thinking about leaving his church. It was the pastor who thought God spoke to him and was reckless with his “prophetic words”. It was the institutional president who tried to intimidate me when I called him on his lies. It was the people who gossiped about me and ruined my reputation. It was the people that mocked me behind my back.
The new testament writers didn’t ever say this journey was going to be easy. Jesus warned us of the cost of following him. We have a choice. We can stay bitter, or we can be courageous and forgive one step at a time. It took me many years and I did avoid “church” for a long time but I did get better.
Posted by LT in on September 26, 2004
Used car shopping with my dad
It’s time I sold my old gutless Cutlass Ciera. I’m not in any hurry but I am looking for another car. My father has been a mechanic of 30 years. He knows his stuff. Not only is he a great mechanic but he is also a fine negotiator. Normally I’d be a little upset that my dad does most of the talking making me because it makes me look like a little kid. He is just so darn good at it the hundreds of dollars I save is worth a little bit of humiliation.
The car I drive now cost me two thirds of the asking price because of his skills.
A couple of days ago I went to check out a Grand Prix. We showed up 10 minutes early which was very strategic. We caught the guy trying to boost the car just before we got there. We aren’t afraid of cars with problems. A mechanical issue usually devalues a car far more than it costs us to fix it. It just makes the car really cheap. Unfortunately the Grand Prix didn’t pass the most important test of all. The size test. I’m 6′ 6″ and I just don’t fit in to a lot of cars. I think it disappointed my dad because it looked like he could have had a field day with this guy.
Yesterday I checked out a car at a dealer. The guy didn’t smell that good and he didn’t look much better. I took the car for a test drive over to my dad. I detected the feint clicking noise cv joints make when they are about to go. My dad detected far more problems. The negotiation ended when we started talking about how cars from a dealer have 30 days warranty. The dealer said “It’s not for sale.” It didn’t matter, because we weren’t going to give him anywhere near what he wanted for the car. He would have much better luck getting money out of people who don’t know what to look for.
Oh well, I’ll keep looking.
We have a saying in Saskatchewan. Happiness is Manitoba in your review mirror.
Anabaptism on the rise and decline
One of my friends just returned from Prague. He is doing a Ph.D. through a seminary out there. One of the observations he made was about how popular anabaptist thought was out there. It is weird because most of the Mennonites of Canada have been absorbed in to conservative evangelicalism. If they have changed in any direction they have become more pragmatic. In Saskatoon two of four of my denomination’s churches are hard core Saddleback. So much so that their logos have diamonds in them. I was looking for some design inspiration so I visited every church website in my denomination and found a number of churches advertising for the 40 days of purpose.
It is sad that my faith tradition has forgotten it’s tradition even as it is gaining interest from unlikely places. I wear the lable Postmodern/Emerging but the label I’m the most comfortable with is Anabaptist. I imagine there are a lot of people that could find incredible richness in the traditions and theology of their denominations. Would Wesley recognize the Methodists? Would Luther recognize the Lutherans?
Mean Girls is a great movie
Scott and I were wondering what to do last night so we picked up Mean Girls to entertain ourselves. I was pleasantly surprised at this non-formulaic, well written movie with depth. It is an almost frightening glimpse in to “girlworld”. The movie was inspired by the book Queen Bees and Wannabes which is more of guide for parents on how to help their daughter through adolescence.
Posted by LT in on September 21, 2004
Let us be honest, we don’t know how to fix the church
All over western society we see the church in decline in numbers and in influence. There are a lot of answers but not a lot of progress. The Willow/Back churches can point to numbers, buildings and dollars as a sign of their success. Even though Warren and Hybels have had a tremendous influence on the church George Barna tell us that the church is losing its influence on society year after year. The “Emerging Churches” I’ve experienced have detoxed church but the reconstruction hasn’t resulted in much change. A cursory glance at the discussion will reveal that so many of us want church without the stuff we don’t like. What seems to matter is what we want out of church, not what Jesus wants out of His church.
Maybe it will take another 10 or 20 years of decline before we become humble enough to actually admit we don’t know. Many of us have reached the point where we admit things aren’t as they should be. When we begin to think of why we only dig down a level or two and we never get to questioning our foundational assumptions. I think we have to be brave enough to do that.