There goes that golden career opportunity

This morning I learned that it is dangerous for a pastor’s career aspirations to publicly record his convictions on a website. It seems that once people know what you believe it will limit the options for career moves that one might have otherwise had if they had not foolishly placarded their convictions for the world to see.

I’m not sure why a minister would want a pulpit that they gained by hiding their convictions but apparently that is what a wise person does these days. I guess that maybe it’s something like a political candidate running for a political office. A candidate may have their convictions but the last thing in the world they want to do is allow those convictions to be widely known for if they are widely known then the people who don’t have those convictions will be against them. Better to run a campaign where you keep everybody guessing about what you really believe, for in such a way you theoretically garner more votes. I think they call it being a ‘stealth candidate.’

Zoinks Batman… what has it come to when ministers are thinking of their careers in the way that politicians think about their campaigns?

The Church & Cultural Transformation

I’ve been pretty sick the past few days, and it may be that I am still suffering from fever induced delirium, but I woke up this Lord’s Day morning with ‘transformation’ on my mind. The Church’s drive for cultural transformation is quickly becoming the generational hobby horse du jour. It seems that large swaths of the Church wants to be part of bringing transformation to our culture. Many want to follow ministerial Hollywood types like Rick Warren who could say,

“I am praying for a second reformation of the church that will focus more on deeds than words. The first Reformation was about beliefs. This one needs to be about behavior. … We’ve had a Reformation; what we need now is a transformation.”

Obviously, Rick Warren is no theologian since change in behavior never comes without a prior change in belief. Also, Rick is no church historian if he believes that the Reformation only brought about a change in belief and not a change in behavior.

Still, despite Rick’s vacuous utterances, I am a believer in the Church’s role in cultural transformation. I believe that the church and the culture will be transformed as the Church teaches what its beliefs are. I believe that ‘as goes the Church so goes the culture,’ or ‘the Church is the leading cultural indicator.’ The problem the Church has though is that it must realize that not all cultural transformations are equally valid. The agenda for cultural transformation is one that is shared by almost all ideologies and psuedo-Churches. The Marxists, cultural marxists, feminists, homosexuals, globalists, the religious right, the religious left, libertarians, communitarians, all desire cultural transformation, and all work towards that end. Now as most expressions of the Church have become captive to the reigning ideologies of the moment what ends up happening is that many Churches put a candy coating of spiritual Jesus talk over their approaches to cultural transformation and call that Biblical transformation, and then pursue their pagan transformation agenda claiming that they have the authority from Jesus in their pursuits.

This is why Churches must know what they believe and why they believe it and what they don’t believe and why they don’t believe it. Pastor’s and Elders, being grounded in Scripture, must have the ability to critically examine the theological foundation upon which all cultural movements are based. If they fail to have the capacity to distinguish correctly they will inevitably seek to transform in a anti-Christ direction, all in the name of a foreign Jesus.

So, the first hazard in the Church’s role in cultural transformation is that the Church may start transforming, in a well intended but naive manner, on the basis of the doctrine of demons and not on the basis of the doctrines of Christ.

Perhaps, because of the prevalence of this first hazard a second hazard has arisen in the bowels of the Church. This second hazard seeks to eliminate the problem of the Church grabbing on to the wrong transformation agendas by insisting that the Church isn’t called to the work of transformation at all. M. Scott Horton, for example, can write,

“There is no call to cultural transformation in the New Testament. Yet if Christian churches are fulfilling their specific mandate and believers are being built up in the faith and practice through the Word, we can expect to see distinctive effects in the culture.”

One wonders what the difference is between cultural transformation and seeing ‘distinctive effects in the culture?’ Does Mike believe that it is acceptable for the Church to bring ‘distinctive effects in the culture’ as long as those distinctive effects don’t transform culture? The problem though is that any ‘distinctive effect’ that alters something in the culture that wouldn’t have been altered without that Church inspired ‘distinctive effect’ is transformation.

It seems at some level Mike understands that it is impossible for the Church not to be a transforming agent. Paradoxically enough, even if the Church were to succeed at not being a transforming agent it would at that very moment be transforming the culture if only because its refusal to bring its theology to bear on the culture would allow other theologies to gain positions of transformational ascendancy. A church that retreats from seeking to transform the culture is actively involved in transforming the culture in a non-Christian direction, if only because a theology that teaches transformational neglect allows room for pagan theologies that inspire pagan transformation.

So, what we have established so far is that church inspired cultural transformation is an inescapable category and that many Churches are transforming in a non-Christian direction, all the while claiming Jesus are their inspiration.

I Said, Hey Babe… Take A Walk On The Wild Side

“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful.”

C.S. Lewis

Why should anybody be surprised by this? I would be surprised if it didn’t happen.

We make girls without scruples and expect of them virtue and modesty. We laugh at sexual propriety and are shocked to find teenage whores in our midsts. We morally lobotomize and then bid little girls to be morally thoughtful.

Secondly, you have got to know if it is going on in Dallas it is going on all over the place.

Look, we communicate in our government churches (schools)

1.)That sex is no big deal

2.)That if education has a primary purpose its primary purpose is to make money.

These girls were just being consistent with the presuppositions that they were taught in school as reinforced by our culture.

What I don’t understand is why the sheriff is so mystified.

From The Mailbag

Coming off a really bad Good Friday service. Your criticisms of the therapeutic nature of the modern gospel were wonderful – and dead on. I would love for you to expand on this in another post – revivalism is something that has poisoned so much of our mind space, so much of our church – in other words, I know it bothers me, I believe I know when I see it, but articulating it is quite another story.

A few good books to get on this subject is, “Revival & Revivalism’ by Iain Murray,’Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism’ and ‘Fundamentalism and American Culture’ by George Marsden, ‘The Democratization of American Christianity’ by Nathan Hatch and finally ‘The Methodist Revolution’ by Bernard Semmel.

First, we should note that Revivalism finds its origin just about the time that Romanticism / Transcendentalism as philosophical schools are starting to wash across American Universities and American Culture. Romanticism, as a belief system, emphasized the emotions, in correction to what it believed to be the arid rationalism to which it was responding. In my estimation Methodist Holiness Revivalism (and later its cousin Pentecostalism) in its American expression partakes of this emotional based Romanticist school of thought. So one sign of Revivalism is that it is emotionally based. Now, of course, this is not to say that emotions have no place in the Christian life (I heartily recommend J. Edwards ‘Religious Affections’),but classic mainstream revivalism cannot survive without large dollops of emotionally driven energy — emotionally driven energy that most often gets associated with ‘The work of The Holy Ghost,’ and sometimes gets labeled as ‘Feeling the Holy Ghost.’

This emotionalism, in its more deleterious forms, I can’t imagine looking a great deal different then what Elijah saw on Mt. Carmel when the Priests of Baal were whooping and hollering trying to get Baal’s attention.

This characteristic trademark of Revivalism then has a few implications. First, it tends to practice sentimentalism to an absurd degree. It is said that one of the ‘come down to the altar’ songs for one of the 20th century revivalist (I think Moody but I can’t remember for sure) was ‘Mother I’m Coming Home.’ The context would be that the Revivalist would hit heavy on how sinners had left their parents teaching and how Mother was in heaven, and wouldn’t it be nice for Mom if you accepted Jesus. After that type of message then the Revivalist song master would take up ‘Mother I’m Coming Home.’ I was exposed to an instance of sentimentalism recently when attending a funeral everyone was asked to hold hands and while singing the closing song in the memory of the deceased. Upon reading that sentence it doesn’t sound like much, but if you had been there with me you would have likewise seen the sentimentalism. We still see that type of sentimentalism today from your garden variety Evangelical. As before, there is nothing wrong with proper sentiment but it is this syrupy sentimentalism that is characteristic of revivalism. Second, emotionalism also drives anti-intellectualism which is a hallmark character of Revivalism. If you attend a Revivalistic Church don’t count on Sermons or Sunday School classes teaching on things like ‘the nature of the Atonement,’ or, the history of the Creeds, or, a Christian theory of knowledge or anything like that.

This brings us to the therapy angle. When a Church is driven by emotionalism and is anti-intellectual then the means of solving problems in the congregation is therapy — the goal of which is to make people feel (there is that emotional angle again) good. Further if you know anything about modern Christian versions of Christian counseling (therapy) you know that one could fill dump-trucks with the sentimental bilge that comes out of that context. Seeking to avoid the danger of being extremist, I will mention again, that I suppose there are times when therapy is a good thing (though I am far less sure about that than I am about the proper place of emotion and sentiment in the Christian life) but the problem is when therapy is used as an avoidance technique to do the heavy lifting of thinking God’s thoughts after Him, or when it is used as a means to lock people out of leadership positions because they don’t have enough emotion or sentiment.

A great contemporary example of what I’ve mentioned here was Promise Keepers. Since, when the circus comes to down, one always needs to go once to see the Elephant, I attended a PK conference. Emotionalism, Sentimentalism, and Anti-intellectualism were on parade. The Gospel proclamation was just plain stupid, as was most of the other presentations.I had people whooping and hollering all around me while I was calmly sitting in my chair reading a book. They looked sympathetically at me like I was someone who was missing out on the Holy Ghost.

So the first character of Revivalism is emotionalism which then brings to fore both sentimentalism and anti-intellecutalism, and the three of them together go a long way towards explaining our Therapeutic culture.

The Next entry we will look at Revivalism and the Cross.

Kibitzing With The R2Kt Guys

And the Apostles get martyred…hmmm. Does a transformed society really string up those to whom they owe all this wonder?

One doesn’t get to transformed without going through transforming Zrim my friend. So, yes, on the way to transformed people may very possibly get ‘strung up.’ It’s the postmillennialists, because of their advocacy of Christ’s Lordship who are persecuted for the Kingdom. I’m never quite sure why anybody would want to persecute an a-mill person unless they somehow were mistaken for being post-mill — I mean, why would anybody find an a-mill believer to be threatening enough to want to persecute?

Does your prebytery know you are really a Methodist?

Does your Session know you are really a cultural relativist?

Seriously, theonomy (hard and soft) is the propserity gospel of statecraft. “Transformation” is the power-word of the spirit of this age: transform your inner-being, your society, your relationships, your health, etc. There are just so many versions of “health and wealth.”

Seriously, Radical two Kingdom theology is the cultural anti-nomianism of the Church. R2Kt is the means by which a-millennialism thinks it can achieve self-fulfilled prophecy. “If we don’t engage the culture, then it will get worse and worse and that will force Jesus to come back.”

Oh, and by the way, it was the Holy Spirit who used your, so called, ‘power word of this age.’ “Be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Guess the Holy Spirit should have checked with you R2Kt guys before inspiring that word.

You should get your own show on Christian TV.

Will you be my Vanna and turn the pretty letters?

R. Scott Clark asks,

Why should Christians engage the culture? Because it’s a creational law. We were commanded to name things. We are commanded to steward creation.

And what does Redemption accomplish except to Redeem ALL of Creation? Now if Redemption has that effect on Creation by what standard will creation, upon redemption, live if not from God’s revealed word?

This is why Theonomy is just like Barthianism. Neither one of you folks believe in nature. You’re both quasi-gnostic. It’s no surprise that both groups have trouble with the covenant of works and you end up confusing law and gospel. Barth did. You guys do it regularly. You’re both making fundamental theological mistakes.

This is nothing but a series of unsubstantiated assertions. You’d think a Ph.D. at one of the flagship Reformed Seminary’s in America could do better then making unsubstantiated assertions.

First, Barthianism holds that God is so other — so Transcendent — that his Word doesn’t really have meaning unless one has some kind of mystical encounter with the Word. How Bob can associate that with an expression of basic Christianity that holds that all should be governed by God’s revealed Word just reveals how desperate Bob is to do guilt by association.

The fact of the matter is that it is R2Kt that is quasi gnostic. God is concerned about the Spiritual realm of the Church but He is, at best, only indirectly concerned with the ‘yucky material realm.’

Bob is making the fundamental hermeneutical mistake of gnostically divorcing Redemption from Creation. God likes matter Bob — he made it and he has determined to Redeem it. According to Bob’s hermeneutic the Old and Worst covenant found God more engaged with the Creation realm then he is in the new and better covenant. In the Old Covenant God was concerned with gross ceational things like laws, and parameters for magistrates, and just weights and measures. However in the new and improved covenant God is glad to be done with the yucky material creational realm.

Great hermeneutic Bob.

The pattern for our life in this world is not Israel. They were the pattern for the CHURCH not for civil life. The USA isn’t Israel. No civil entity is Israel. That’s the point of WCF 19. That’s why we confess “general equity” and not “the abiding validity….etc”

And you know as well as I do that there is a raging debate over just what ‘general equity’ means. Clearly Israel was a pattern for the Kingdom, which has the Church at its center but the Kingdom includes every area over which Jesus reigns.