Archive for the ‘Postmodernism’ Category

The significance of Bell on Time Magazine

I have a free subscription to Time Magazine (thanks to unused air miles, bargain?). Mine usually comes on Saturday, so as of today I have not seen the new cover for myself. As you have probably heard, Rob Bell’s vision or lack there of, of eternal punishment is all the rage and it is the feature for this week’s Time. In my current edition of Wall Street (yes, also free) it tells me that Mr. Bell’s book is # 3 in non-fiction, the irony of the “non-fiction” label is not lost on me either. That does not mean that it is #3 in all the books on the subject but it is #3 in all books! That is what folks in the publishing world might call a “good day.” No actually, they are probably foaming at the mouth to sign Bell, if they haven’t already, to his next work of non-fiction.

When I watch phenomenons like this I immediately begin to think of the angles that no one is talking about, not even when the great minds get together. Being imbedded into the current culture does not always afford us the opportunity to see the big picture. So here is something to ponder when, say, fifty years from now folks look back at this week’s cover of Time.  In 1959, Paul Tillich made the cover of Time and some in evangelicalism blew a gasket. Then again in 1962, Karl Barth made the cover and some began to sell their livestock and move to the mountains. So, yes, Rob Bell’s teaching is damaging and it is error of the first order. However, in the big scheme of things, and I do mean big, it is nothing more than a pimple on history’s tan line. Is there any church, worthy of the NT designation of “church” that is growing and flourishing today because of Barth or Tillich? Are either of these heavy weights a threat to the Lord’s work in the world through His church? So what is the significance of Rob Bell today? If you live in the moment then there is probably nothing bigger, save who gets voted off Dancing with the Stars. However long-term, I don’t see anyone caring fifty years from now, just ask Mr. Tillich.

Maxwell’s Silver Sermon

Charlie looked at the bewildered victims of the crash on the beach and spoke for all when he said, “Guys, where are we?”

If you want to know how we got here (telegraph–television–blogs–Facebook–Twitter) I would highly recommend Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. The fact that a majority of blog readers will know the setting, time of day, and characters of the theatrical reference in the opening quote of this post tells us that Postman was on to something. The average consumer receives philosophical, theological, and cultural challenges through entertainment not through sustained conversation, study, or thinking. In fact what is usually passed off as “conversation” in today’s culture, and more to the point–today’s church,  is anything but. If nothing else, read Postman’s eighth chapter “Shuffle Off to Bethlehem” which surveys the televangelist scene of 1985. The players have changed but the issues are all still there. Here are a few choice quotes:

  • “The first is that on television, religion, like everything else, is presented, quite simply and without apology, as an entertainment.”
  • “If the delivery is not the same, then the message, quite likely, is not the same. And if the context in which the message is experienced is altogether different from what it was in Jesus’ time, we may assume that its social and psychological meaning is different, as well.”
  • “Though their messages are trivial, the shows have high ratings, or rather, because their messages are trivial, the shows have high ratings.”
  • “I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether.”
  • “I think it both and fair and obvious to say that on television, God is a vague and subordinate character. Though His name is invoked repeatedly, the concreteness and persistence of the image of the preacher carries the clear message that it is he, not He, who must be worshipped.”

I have only come here seeking knowledge

Philosophers have long marveled at the world. But that’s not exactly accurate. Some philosophers have marveled. Most have responded to the overwhelming weight of reality with pontification and soft-boiled verbiage. The rest have just whined about what a terrible, hard, godless world it is. The world hurts their feelings, and so they fire back dissertations full of insults– calling it an accident, pointless, a derivative of chaos, occasionally even going so far as to deny its existence. But the world doesn’t care. It has thick skin, and all the most important thinkers have become part of it.

[N. D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, 11]

Christ is muffled in ten thousand places

A number of years ago I heard a speaker quoting Eugene Peterson to the effect that there was something deficient in John Calvin’s theology, as evidenced by the fact that he was capable of writing all that high level theology in Geneva without ever once describing the glory of the Alps right out his window. This seems like a plausible objection as raised by pomo types, until we realize that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John never once described the azure sky above the sea of Galilee. What’s with that? Nor did they tell us what the lakeside zephyrs gently did to the long grasses on the slopes above the lake. I don’t know what the deal was. Maybe they had other things on the mind.

HT: Wilson

The Emerging Church from an economist’s perspective

Now for something completely different. I believe the whole Emergent/emerging church thing is one big train wreck not waiting to happen but has already happened. Some folks marginally associated with it in the past are still looking at the damage from the wreck saying, “see that wasn’t so bad.” I remember a number of us were discussing this here about four years ago and not a few of us said the whole thing sounds like warmed-over liberation theology mixed with a little java and jazz. I distinctly remember one fellow pastor looking at me like I was from Mars when I suggested that any ministry looking to expand the role of government for the sake of “social justice” would actually weaken the church.

Now economist William L. Anderson (Frostburg State University) is weighing-in on the emerging church saying what many theologians have observed for a number of years. “If one wishes to get at the core of the ‘Emergent Church’ theology, as loose as it might be, one finds that state action, and especially the government-led welfare state, is the earthly theological manifestation of Christianity. In other words, Christianity is not complete without the welfare state, as the welfare state is the essence of Christianity.”

Anderson goes on, “As one reads not only the Sojourners literature, but the works of Brian McLaren, Wallis, and others who are influential in this whole movement, one realizes that this is a theology (if one can call it that) which is grounded in the state engaging in welfare and distribution. If they are united in anything, it is not in Jesus Christ, crucified and raised again, but both in hatred of capitalism and the ascendancy of Barack Obama and the re-making of U.S. society.”

See the entire article here.

True Preaching

David Wells, in his new book The Courage to be Protestant:

“Preaching is not a conversation about some interesting ideas. It is not the moment in which postmoderns hear their own private message in the biblical words, one unique to each one who hears, and then go their own way. No! This is God speaking! He speaks through the stammering lips of the preacher where that preacher’s mind is on the text of Scripture and his heart is in the presence of God. God, as Luther puts it, lives in the preacher’s mouth.

This is the kind of preaching that issues a summons, which nourishes the soul, which draws the congregation into the very presence of God so that no matter what aspect of his character, his truth, his working in this world is in focus, we leave with awe, gratitude, encouragement, and sometimes a rebuke. We have been in the very presence of God! This is what great preaching always does.”

(David Wells; The Courage to be Protestant; p 230)

Happy Valentine’s Day from Mark Driscoll

I wrote a short article for ET on Mark Driscoll back on January 10th.  Because it dealt with such a controversial and complicated Pastor/ministry it was of course a well read and commented on blog post.  Overall my article did not do much to advance the conversation that has already been had at various Christian blogs around the http://www.   Honestly, I do not know how much more can be said on this topic by way of dialogue.

I watched Mark’s recent interview on CNN this morning and to no ones surprise it was much of the same.  I read the comments of professing Christians (post CNN interview) and guess what?  It was much of the same.  Please check out the video for yourself here at 

Now for those who are not already “in bed” with Mark (excuse the CNN video play on words friends) it only served to confirm some of my growing concerns.   I know from listening to other Pastors talk I am not alone in this.  By the  way, the group I am speaking of here is not a bunch of Driscoll “haters” or “Hyper-critical-Fundies”.  It is a group of Biblical pastors who appreciate the gospel that is being preached at Mar’s Hill but who share common concerns about some of the other “baggage”.  Those concerns have been discussed here and elsewhere so their is no need to go down that path again.  I simply add that the cutting words of Jesus in Matthew 23 do not remind me of the controversial words of Driscoll in videos like the CNN one.  I guess John Piper (others) and I disagree on this point or

If you would like to dialogue more about the CNN video do so at “Between Two Worlds“.

In fairness to Mark I need to say that it appears Mark tries to answer questions on CNN the same way he would at Mars Hill.  Everyone is grateful when Christian Pastors don’t act like chameleons.   Mark is who he is.  He and others sincerely believe this style of ministry and his choice of words are appropriate; whether at church on Sunday AM or on CNN during an evangelism conversation. 

Perhaps some of the principles that the Apostle Paul discusses in Philippians 1 could and should be applied to this conversation.  Happy Valentine’s Day E.T. readers!

The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first. That is how revival comes. That must also be true of us as individuals. It should not be our ambition to be as much like everybody else as we can, though we happen to be Christian, but rather to be as different from everybody who is not a Christian as we can possibly be. Our ambition should be to be like Christ, the more like Him the better, and the more like Him we become, the more we shall be unlike everybody who is not a Christian.

D.M Lloyd-Jones, Intro to the Beatitudes

Biden on Abortion

In an interview yesterday on “Meet the Press,” Roman Catholic Joseph Biden said this about the abortion issue: “I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society.”


Can you imagine someone saying this about slavery in the 19th century? “I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that black people are created equal and should have the same rights as everyone else. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society.”

What we’ve all been thinking

Since most of us lack the British ability to say things this way, Carl Trueman has delivered a witty piece of prose that says what many of us have been thinking.

Weekend Fun: “How NOT to be missional”

Whatever “missional” means, I’m pretty sure this is not it.

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