Prepare for the Firestorm

Oh, brother, has Boundless put their foot in it this time!

It seems that, whenever anyone wants to hold believers to a biblical standard, and suggest that they live their lives in a godly way, accountable to their local churches, a whole bunch of folks get their knickers in a twist in a big hurry. But, undaunted by this potential criticism, Boundless has started a series of articles on Biblical Dating, calling into question the whole system of dating that the church has just latched onto unquestioningly.

Check out the article, and see if you can imagine the kinds of emails they're going to get from cranky readers trying to defend their late-night one-on-one time with their significant others, or their "serial dating" habits.

Good times.


If I do this 35 more times...

... my blog will look like Craig's.

Attention Tassie:

Who is still using Internet Explorer? Stop it immediately!


"A bit scary" and "opinionated."

-- Mike's description of me.




(or, "oh, brother, i really am a lefty.")

in honor of my church's name, which is all in lower case, i'm posting with no capitals today.

yesterday, my ethics professor asked how many of us were, in general, in favor of the death penalty. most of the class raised their hands. then he asked how many of us generally opposed the death penalty. nick nye and i, the sojourn contingent in the room, raised our hands. and maybe one other person. it was at that point that i realized i'm probably not in the mainstream of southern seminary students. oh well. c'est la vie.

this last week was sojourn's final sunday meeting at highland christian fellowship, the building where we've had our gatherings for a few years. next sunday will be our inaugural gathering at 930 mary street, our first very own building. i was there monday night, and let me tell you, it does not look ready to receive guests. there's still a lot of work to be done before our "grand opening" on december 3. but God (jeepers, i have to capitalize that!) is faithful, and has kept all the workers and volunteers safe throughout the process.

i'm going to miss hcf -- silly, isn't it? the building we've been meeting in, to me, represents comfort, hospitality, simplicity. but that's not what the church is all about (well, except for maybe hospitality). this building project has been tough -- we've cancelled normal community groups to encourage folks to come work at 930, encountered numerous setbacks in the schedule, hired new staff members, come to a standstill with funds, etc. but we're pressing ahead, believing that this building represents incarnational ministry, ministry that goes where people are, and meets their need for the transformative power of the gospel authentically. 930 mary street is where the Lord wants us to be.

so pray for us as we make this important transition. pray that we would not succumb to complacency, thinking that we're done with God's work now that we've moved into germantown. pray for the details of the work, which will take several more months to complete (the building is absolutely enormous). pray for erin (especially!) and dominic and john, who are bearing much of the stress of this transition, and for michael and mickie and laura beth who are sorting out the details of the galleries and shows. pray that the Lord will provide financial resources through the generosity of his people -- that other churches will help us to shoulder the burden. pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to stir up our passion for the lost. pray for the preaching of the word. pray that God will continue to draw people to himself through our ministry.


Fellas, what would you think if...

... a girl referred to you as a "sweet guy"? Would you take offense?


Who is Purchase, NY?

Quote of the Day

Church people, by and large, are more than willing to avoid major changes regardless of how many people are dying and going to hell around them. We have confused church culture with church calling, believing that the way we “do church” is what Jesus died to save.

---Marty Duren



At least say hi, visitors, even if you don't comment on the topic! I now have StatCounter!

Also, the show at Sunergos tonight was great: Jamie Barnes, Nick Nye, Brooks Ritter (isn't that a cool name?) and... oh, dear. Someone else, but I didn't know him. Sojourn artists represent!


Statements of Faith: Part One

Hillsong's Statement of Faith:

We believe that the Bible is God's Word. It is accurate, authoritative and applicable to our every day lives.

We believe in one eternal God who is the Creator of all things. He exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. He is totally loving and completely holy.

We believe that sin has separated each of us from God and His purpose for our lives.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ as both God and man is the only One who can reconcile us to God. He lived a sinless and exemplary life, died on the cross in our place, and rose again to prove His victory and empower us for life.

We believe that in order to receive forgiveness and the 'new birth' we must repent of our sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and submit to His will for our lives.

We believe that in order to live the holy and fruitful lives that God intends for us, we need to be baptised in water and be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables us to use spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues.

We believe that God has individually equipped us so that we can successfully achieve His purpose for our lives which is to worship God, fulfil our role in the Church and serve the community in which we live.

We believe that God wants to heal and transform us so that we can live healthy and prosperous lives in order to help others more effectively.

We believe that our eternal destination of either Heaven or hell is determined by our response to the Lord Jesus Christ.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back again as He promised.

First off, I don't find anything necessarily heretical in this statement of faith. I do, however, see quite a few gaps and places where people could, with good conscience, join themselves to this body while holding to heretical or unorthodox beliefs. The problems:

1. It promulgates, intentionally or not, the dangerous Word-Faith/Prosperity "gospel" with its use of terms associated with that movement: "successful," "prosperous," "achieve," "empower," etc.

2. It over-emphasizes the actions, needs, goals, and choices of humanity, over against the sovereignty and purposes of God.

3. There is no effort to define terms. For instance, what does "God's word" mean? Or "loving" or "holy" or "new birth"? A statement of faith shouldn't have to be encyclopedic, but it should try to ensure that the majority of readers will understand the terms in the way that the authors understood them. This is why I don't think a single creed is sufficient as a body's statement of faith.

4. While brief and pithy, it lacks precision. Does God exist eternally in trinity? It doesn't say. Does our response move God, or does God move our response? Do we salvifically need to be baptized, or only as an expression and symbol of salvation? Must a believer speak in tongues or have a post-conversion experience of the Holy Spirit in order to be truly saved? It dances around these issues, but in the end, doesn't say.

5. It fails to support its assertions with Scripture. 'nuff said.

6. It omits numerous major theological points. Where is the discussion of the sufficiency of Scripture? Sure, it's "applicable," but is it enough? What about the character of God? Or the effects of the Fall on creation? Or the virgin birth, for pete's sake? Or the ascension? Or the authority of Christ? Or the role of the Holy Spirit? Or the nature of salvation?

7. In connection with #4, it leaves room for serious theological error. One could assent to the entire statement of faith and still hold to open theism, for instance, or reject the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection of man (or of Christ, for that matter, since it doesn't say "bodily" or even "from the dead").

I'll continue to look at good and not-so-good statements of faith over the next few days, and try to post something more next week. Tuesday is Liberation day for me, since I have three papers due that day and then nothing else until finals. Hooray!


Taking an old joke maybe just a little too far in the direction of obscurity...


Prosperity Heresy

I've always thought that the passage about the rich young man who came to Jesus asking how he could have eternal life was the death-knell for prosperity "gospel" preaching, so I was interested to see a preacher on some TBN-like channel shouting at his congregation about it today. I watched for a few minutes to see how he would deal with the words in verses 23-25 about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

First, I thought he did a good job explaining the concept of the "Kingdom of Heaven" to his congregation: that it's God's way of doing things, and that it involves seed (God's incorruptible word), soil (human hearts), a farmer (Christ), and harvesters (believers). All right! I thought. Maybe this guy isn't so bad! That's a pretty good definition, and consistent with the testimony of the Gospels! I guess I can also say that he carefully (well, maybe not SO carefully) worked through the passage, which is always a good technique, however ill-applied in this circumstances. From there, however...

He grossly misinterpreted the rest of the passage, starting with verse 26. The disciples are amazed, he said, because "they ain't broke." Apparently, if they were broke, they would have been excited that it was tough for rich people to inherit the Kingdom! (This to a chorus of "Amens" from the audience.) The real reason they were astonished is that Jesus, in saying that it's hard for rich people to enter the kingdom, was ringing the changes: the Jewish people themselves were caught up hopelessly in the idea that wealth proved God's blessing and poverty proved God's curse. Look at the ministry of Jesus, the classic iconoclast, throughout the Gospels. He continually called into question the accepted ideas of the day about who possessed God's favor -- not necessarily the Pharisees (the religious elite, or as my pastor calls them, "the religious right"), or the wealthy, or the prominent, because they trusted in their wealth or position, but rather the childlike, the poor, and the humble, because they saw their desperate need for God.

Then, he claimed that verse 27 proved that "with man (it) is impossible" for rich people to be saved, "but with God, all things are possible," so everybody should have confidence that God wants them to be rich, since he likes to do things that are impossible for men. Whoa, whoa! What did Jesus just finish telling the rich man? "Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come follow me." To assert that God wants us to be rich based on a verse just millimeters away from Jesus' radical command for a person obsessed with wealth to break free from wealth is not only foolish, it's misleading and irresponsible. Let John Gill explain it:

(God) can so influence and dispose (a man's) mind, as to distribute his riches cheerfully among the poor, and largely, and liberally supply their wants, and even part with all, when necessity requires it: he can change his heart, and cause the desires of his soul to be after true riches of grace and glory; and bring him to see his own spiritual poverty, his need of Christ, and salvation by him; and to deny himself, take up the cross, and follow him, by submitting to his most despised ordinances, and by suffering the loss of all things for his sake; and he can carry him through a thousand snares safe to his kingdom and glory

Then this guy, who as I'm watching the program seems increasingly nutty, goes on to verses 29 and 30, which is where he really gets riled up. Everyone who gives up houses and brother and all that will receive it back a hundredfold in this life, he says, and Praise The Lord!! With persecutions? I'm already being persecuted, and so are you, he says, so tell the Lord to bring on the persecutions, because people are talking about you behind your back anyway, and wouldn't you rather have a hundredfold of money and houses and lands (That you never gave up in the first place because you're so obsessed with them, I thought) in addition to the persecution you're already receiving? I'd rather have money than persecution any day! At this point I got so disgusted that I dove across the couch for the remote and changed the channel.

Oh, man... I hardly know where to start, this is so wrong. *Wading into the fray*

1. The passage says nothing, I repeat, nothing about money. Extrapolating from verses 29-30 that God wants you to have a hundredfold of money you never gave up shows that you may, in fact, be illiterate.

2. Jesus never promises his disciples, or us, worldly prosperity. Ever. Gill interprets this as a sweetening of our enjoyment of the temporal things that we do have, and a metaphor for the "house" of God -- the mother and father and siblings we inherit in Christ. For crying out loud, do a word study of "house" and "land" in the whole of Scripture. They do not refer to a building with four walls, or a tract of geographical territory, but rather to the offspring of Christ (the chosen people), and the Kingdom of God in almost every instance! Duh!

3. Having people gossip about you is absolutely, incontrovertibly not persecution. Read about the violent deaths of believers under Nero and other brutal Roman emperors, and then you'll have a taste of what persecution really means. Or study Darfur, Iran, or China. Or read the biography of Jim Eliot, or learn about the thousands currently in prison for their faith. But to say that you're being persecuted when people talk bad about you is to spit on the testimonies of the millions who have suffered and died for the sake of the name of Christ.

4. The verses in this passage drive the reader inexorably toward the final phrase: "and in the age to come, eternal life." Houses and lands and money will turn to dust, but the believer's true inheritance is eternal life in the age to come!

All this craziness is just a glimpse of the problems with the prosperity "gospel." Don't be suckered into believing this nonsense, nor into believing that it's a true likeness of the Gospel of Christ.


Random Thoughts, Again (Now With Links!)

1. Mike is really tall. And handy to have around when one needs to put a picture into one's profile. And jealous of my laptop.
2. I can sing right in Chris Thile's range when I have a cold.
3. This and the above are declarative sentences.
4. This one isn't, right?
5. No two snowflakes are alike, except in a book of snowflake stamps.
6. I have linked Mike on my blog, but he hasn't reciprocated. What the?
7. Nikki's old blog is still as funny as ever.
8. Afton is a cool name for a girl. Can you tell I'm listening to Nickel Creek?
9. Apparently, some folks from Tassie are confused when first visiting my blog when they discover that it's not all about prayer. Whoops. It USED to be...
10. I'm incredibly glad that the ratted elections are over so the TV can get back to normal and stop showing ads every commercial break with politicians trying to shout each other down. Seriously.
11. I've traveled "heaps," apparently: 30 states and Mexico, Hong Kong, Thailand, China, Germany, Belgium, England and Ireland.
12. Hold on, is there someone in Koln, Germany who has looked at my blog? Crazy! I've been there! Don't lurk, worldwide visitors! Comment!


"I'm blogging obsessively," she said.

Link here for Mark Driscoll's excellent advice, on the occasion of Ted Haggard's public sin, that every pastor (and every congregation member, frankly) should read!

Ode to ClustrMaps

Leslie's got folks in Japan and Johannesburg
I haven't got quite so many, I fear.
One who's in London and someone in Louisville --
Where is Phil's Oz hit? My brother's? Oh dear!

Someday quite soon I shall have dots aplenty, friends.
Someday I hope to show red orbs galore!
But till that day I'll have no notoriety.
Please, ClustrMap, I want hits! Give me more!


Not Sure How I Feel About...

The impassibility of God.

It's a classical doctrine that basically says that God the Father is unaffected by passion* (in the old-fashioned way, i.e., suffering), because passion indicates a lack of something -- the church fathers called this a privation. That's just dandy, since Scripture gives us no indication that God needs or lacks anything.

But is God emotionless? People who hold firmly to this doctrine say that when Scripture talks about God as having extremes of emotion -- regret, sorrow, vengefulness, etc. -- it does so metaphorically. But we can't really get around God's wrath at sinners, can we? Or His hatred of evil? So why would we want to get around His sorrow?

I may write more about this as I read farther (or is it further, Dave?) in the book I'm slowly working through -- too slowly, alas, since I have to finish it and 4 or 5 other books by the end of the semester. Argh.

Any thoughts or brilliant insights?

*obviously, when Christ was on earth, He suffered. Duh. But we're talking about the Father, here. Which makes me think of another question: if the Holy Spirit "intercedes for us with groans," does that mean that He suffers or feels sorrow with us? Scripture also speaks of the Holy Spirit as being "grieved" by our sins. Huh. More thought required on this topic, evidently.


Late-night Poetry Jam

We talked about you tonight,

Sat around a crowded table and sorted you out

Put together our few years of experience

And fewer of wisdom with our very small sense

And devised a sure course of action for you

Then wiped the slate and assured each other

That no true rule existed. That we mustn’t box you in

Or make your plans for you, that every circumstance

Is quite different, really, so there’s just

No way of knowing. And we said

Just what our mothers said, that we would

Just Know

When it happened. Wisely we nodded,

Concurring that no two people are just alike

And no two courtships should be, either.

We chafed under our wisdom, though, and we wanted

Nothing more than for you to be the man

At the next table with the very straight nose

And very blue eyes. But that wasn’t you.

Probably that was a good thing, since we spent

The next hour talking about you some more.


Haiku for today

Hangs a matchstick blind

with harsh lines that split the sky --

Pixilated view

(I don't like the word "hangs." Suggestions?)