My Takeaway From the Past 7 Weeks of Seminary

I recently just finished a course at Moody Seminary called “Theology and Practice of Intercultural Ministry” which is a mouthful to describe a class on Missiology, or the study of Missions. I walked away with a lot from the class – but not the content itself. Rather, I found myself disagreeing with much of the content of the assigned reading (the world view of the anthropologist from Oxford, the presuppositions of the Christian with a doctorate in Missiology).

The text from the Oxford grad was quite illuminating in some respects (the text itself dealt with child prostitution in Thailand) by dispelling some of the common myths to the sex trade industry. However, even from the point of observational anthropology – you will undoubtedly catch propositions that reflect the author’s bias. In this, much of the heinous nature of what takes place is relativized in lieu of familial obligation, abject poverty, lack of education, etc.

In the end, this was no sin of the parents who willingly placed their children into prostitution, or of the children who all willingly went into the trade, nor even of the “suitor” who abused the children. In more plain speech, the necessity of the situation removed culpability – and though we would like to blame the “suitor” for having sex with innocent children, the conventional sense of innocence is precluded based on the cultural definition from the particular slum village in discussion. Thus, they did that which was right in their own eyes – and though the anthropologist was no fan of it, they could not pass judgment based on the complexities that arose from their destitute position.

The other book by the Missiologist spoke in great length of the merits to any missionary (or student of missions) to study sociological, psychological, and anthropological sources in conjunction with the scriptures. I believe one of the arguments in particular said this was needed just as much as an understanding of biblical and systematic theologies in order to speak gospel into a culture.

There were some excellent points in regard to utilizing language which would be understood, being a “cultural exegete” so as to understand the particularities of said culture, and the plea for a wealth of biblical knowledge. I wanted to like the book because points like these continually came up in the book – yet again; there was a heavy emphasis on the latter academic principles of sociology, psychology, and anthropology. It is not so much the understanding of these fields that bothered me – but the implementation of secular methodology that has no foundation or interest in the Lord and the scriptures.

Surely, the missiologist loved (and often properly quoted) scripture – yet many of his principles on reaching the unreached were founded upon secular methodology and he reflected nothing that I noted of studying such things with an extremely critical mind. The foundations of each of these fields are respectively built on Darwinian principles, and subsequently, are often antithetically opposed to what is revealed in scripture. This does not shock me in the least. In fact, I expect a mindset that is opposed to the scriptures from one who is not in Christ (just read Romans 1).

The class I was involved with was neatly split down the middle on these issues. Thus, meeting the physical needs of these families in Thailand were tantamount, if not paramount to their need for salvation. Alleviating poverty, educating them, providing jobs, food, and shelter, etc., would allow the church to be able to proclaim the gospel – and would subsequently make it valid.

Surely, James and Paul do not separate one’s faith and works – but do they make affluence and education man’s primary needs before a God whom they are alienated from? How much better is our “Christian Nation” for having an abundance of ease for most everything we have (including welfare, unemployment benefits, social programs, education, etc.)? I am not saying all of these things are bad – I am saying that they do not change the heart and will never possess that ability. The “betterment” of society in erecting these Babel-esk programs provides a means by which we often say, “Nothing is impossible for man!”

So what did I walk away with all of this? Sadly, that the broader church is in desperate need to be reacquainted with the scriptures – and a love for the things which the world declares to be foolish that the word calls the wisdom of God. Many have a sweeping, biblical illiteracy – and do not even seem remotely bothered by it. Many others read the bible year after year only to walk away with a complete misunderstanding of the text. Both of these camps either actively embrace or relativize heresies that the early church condemned, sweeping away doctrinal and theological differences under the rug of “love” because they don’t like division.

If we go to a biblically sound church – that is excellent! However, we often live in the bubble of our local church and relegate the unbelief of scripture to those who are outside of Christ. Far more damaging to the reputation of the Lord are those who claim to be in Christ, having nothing but disdain for what the scriptures teach. They are whitewashed tombs; having no love for Christ, they not only commit deeds deserving of death, but also approve of those who practice them.

The slide into this position is much faster than we all would like to believe – and it starts with a disposition to place the authority of God’s word under the authority of the teaching of men.

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You Love to Hate Mark Driscoll

driscoll1I hesitated to write anything on the whole Driscoll debacle. Largely, I do not necessarily feel that there is much more to say than what has been said. I never followed Driscoll that closely. I never listened to his sermons, read his books, visited the Mars Hill blog, or really paid much attention to him until recently. I was not crushed to see him fall.

Let me clarify that last statement. I am saddened to see a prominent face in Christendom fall in such a hard way. I am saddened to read of the persistent sin that was never really addressed and confronted in a biblical manner (even by Acts 29 and his Board of Elders). I am saddened that no one heeded the early warnings that were offered up by people like John MacArthur. I am also deeply burdened for those who have been affected by this whole thing – yet namely, for the damage this has caused to the gospel, as it seems Mark continues to avoid repentance.

However, I am not crushed. I wish him well and hope to see repentance, but the writing was on the wall for years. We are now simply seeing the hidden fruit of all of this incredible baggage.

I am not surprised in any of this because I see this to be indicative to the nature of many within the church. We really want to be relevant, edgy, sexy, and hip. We want that rough pastor who speaks ignominiously of the Songs of Solomon. The young, restless, and reformed crowd loves controversy. Heck, one of their favorite trademarks is their ability to argue unceasingly over topics they are largely ignorant to.

It is these people in particular that I write to today. I have seen pastors and layman alike use demeaning and domineering language in the midst of a debate with one another – and then post on Mark Driscoll.

I have seen a call to observe the Sabbath (“…because you can say a big ‘F-you’ to everyone who asks you to do something, even your professors!”); young men call old men fools; old men argue right back with the young man; people outright lie about a circumstance in order to gain the empathy of total strangers; people complain that their wife isn’t having sex with them enough – yet in the next breath asking for prayer because they “struggle” with porn or speak crassly of their wives; people who admittedly troll a thread just to be divisive; people using Facebook groups as “sounding boards” because they can’t speak to their elders about such things – because what they are wanting to teach is false doctrine…

You see: if you are bearing these qualities, you love to hate Mark Driscoll – but you are just like him. You play these silly little games that are antithetical to what being a Christian is all about, claiming “grace upon grace,” all the while trampling upon the blood of Christ. You offer a tripe commentary on how he should have been removed from the pastorate long ago (to which you are absolutely correct) – yet take little time to examine yourself in sober judgment to see how easy it is to ascend to the same place and fall just as hard. Big tree fall hard.

I am disappointed in seeing a theologically rich, historical resurgence to the Reformed faith filled with punk kids who think they need “an edge” because the gospel has an edge. No. The gospel is edgy enough as it is – and it isn’t sinful. You won’t need to add salt and pepper to that bad boy in order to get people upset – all you must do is preach Christ crucified.

Calm down and reform – into a grown man. Let the Word cut. If you do the cutting, you’re just going to slice an ear off.

10:10 Life to the Fullest

LifetotheFullestWhen I set out to read 10:10 Life to the Fullest, I assumed this would be one of the myriads of books that proselytizing “having your best life now”. While I will say that I am pleased that this did not seem to be the case, I am no more thrilled with the content of this book.

Daniel Hill sets out to expose what is missing in the Evangelical realm. Namely, he dictates three auspices, which we ought to be found living out: Faith and (conquering) Fear, Faith and Intimacy (with God), and finally, Faith and Missions. On the surface, these seem like very commendable things to dive into – but what I found instead was a lack of clarity and depth to each of these topics.

To be charitable, there are some excellent statements made by Hill in regard to the necessity of transparency in our relationships within the church. However, how he treats this is problematic at points when the overarching theme is honoring one another’s humanity. Humanity is ignoble at best; therefore, it would seem more prudent to honor God’s design for humanity in the midst of such relationships.

I wondered how deeply Hill thought on the sinfulness of man, considering I read statements like the following:

“I am afraid a lot, and if it were a sin to be afraid, then I am certain I would be in a near constant state of sin” (pg. 76).

  • Is it indicative or imperative when we are told, “do not fear” or “be anxious for nothing”? (Luke 12:7, 1 Peter 3:14; Phil. 4:6-7).
  • Are we not in a constant state of sin – meaning, it is not only conditional on everything you do, but everything you are?
  • Does fear of something other than God not expose an idol problem?

In regard to Adam and Eve:

“This is the God I remember being taught about growing up – the God who cannot be in the presence of sin; the God whose holiness and wrath are like a burning fire that must be addressed before we can ever come near. But is that what happens? No” (pg. 134).

  • His holiness and wrath is addressed in the garden, specifically, in the curse of death. Even giving them clothes as they leave the garden would be indicative of slaughter taking place in the garden.
  • Death and futility was brought upon all creation – yet also the promise of redemption. They were cast from His presence, given curses (childbirth, endless toil, death), and the first physical spilling of blood took place.
  • It is impossible to meet God without His provided means by which His holiness and wrath are meted (Christ).

“The lie is that God has rejected us. The lie is that God is distant from us. The lie is that God is punishing us for our sin” (pg. 134).

  • God has rejected the unbeliever on the basis of faith (Pro. 11:19, Matt. 25:46)
  • God is distant from the unbeliever (1 Peter 3:12, Pro. 28:9) and even will turn his ear from the believer if they hold sin in high esteem (Ps. 66:18)
  • There is certainly punishment for sin to the unbeliever (Rom. 6:23) and the believer (Heb. 12:7-13). The distinction is that for those truly in Christ, there is no condemnation. This is vastly different from being punished.

In regard to a women’s story of doubt on the love of Christ:

“It tells them that they are second-class citizens in the kingdom of God and that they will never deserve the love and grace of God” (pg. 136).

  • We don’t deserve the love and grace of God; we deserve Hell. This is specifically what makes grace so radically wonderful.

Beyond this, there are appeals to emotional decision-making (such as feeling the call of God, listening to the voice of God, feeling the heart burn, etc.), removing precedence on the basis of biblical decision-making (read Kevin DeYoung’s: Just Do Something).

This book has many “truisms” that are not biblically true – and some nuggets of biblical truth packed away in the midst of a poor hermeneutic, misapplied scriptures, ignored scriptural context, and ad-hominem arguments on the nature of man, sin, God, missions, faith, intimacy, fear, etc.

Hill never addresses a proper fear (reverence of God) and the impact this has on the Christian, nor does he address the dimension of finding corporate identity as the body of Christ in order to derive self-identity. Even Hill’s aim to find self-identity in Christ as an individual is lacking, as he appeals to many other things than “every spiritual blessing” we have inherited as Christ followers (Eph. 1:3).

His stance on Missiology involves being a “sent one” for various other things than sharing the gospel. He argues for a holistic missiology rather than looking to Romans 10. Surely, there is nothing wrong with ministering to the poor and needy – but what all men desperately need is the gospel. There is no “preach the gospel; if necessary use words” – the gospel cannot be preached without words.

On a whole, 10:10 lacks depth and clarity, confuses many scriptural truths, and ignores the meaning of many passages in order to suit the author’s premise – yet most of all falls short of addressing the true need of the Evangelical church in America. We do not need psychosomatic approaches to define what is missing – we need a firm call to obedience in faith to the scriptures. We need clear exposition of the Word in order to understand our amazing ability to excuse away obedience, yet cry for a lack of intimacy with God and wonder what’s missing.

 

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers http://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

True Religion

This will be the final post in this series. In the last post, we briefly examined the destruction that the tongue is capable of. While James does not limit destructive speech solely to that which is spoken in unrighteous anger, we must see that all that is said in unrighteous anger is destructive. Our words have power to build up the church or to lay waste to it. We shall either love our brethren, or we shall tear them to pieces and consume them. For those within the church – we have no excuse to remain indignant toward one another, nor to exhibit a lack of self control. Remember, our actions and words will build the testimony of our faith. Can we say, “Come follow me as I follow Jesus?”

Even if the angry man can recite sound doctrine, he still lacks the necessary self-control to protect the church, his family, and his own soul. As James puts it, he lacks “true religion”. As Proverbs 25:28 shows, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” The sheer lack of protection from invading forces leaves all those within his wake to be devoured, not only by the angry man – but Satan, as he is a lion constantly seeking whom he may devour. The wise man continually builds up those around him, hedging protection through the proclamation of the Word of God – yet also abiding in the Fruit of the Spirit in order to evidence “true religion”.

While it is natural for the carnal man to abide in sin, it is not natural for the one following Christ. He is no longer dead in his sins due to the redemption found in Christ. Not only this, but through the power of the Spirit, we are able to put sin to death in our lives. For the sake of unity within the body of Christ, we ought to pursue peace. This is not some psycho-therapeutic ritual in which we count to ten, go for a walk, or perform any other outlet in order to calm down. No. We strive to walk in the Spirit because the law of the flesh no longer binds us.

Quite simply, it is a matter of obedience to do what we are called to do.

Obedience may not always be easy, for we know that it does not come naturally. We are sown in sin and inclined to perform sinful deeds. However, we are new creations in Christ if we have called upon Him for salvation and submitted to His Lordship. We know that He is faithful. We know that He alone gives power where we are weak. We know that it is His will that we repent from our sins and turn to Him each day for fresh mercies.

If you are an angry person, you cannot do it alone. This is specifically why we gather with the elect: that we might know our sin and come to repentance, having faced rebuke and correction. Where there is a broken and contrite heart; where there is remorse and godly sorrow, there is pleasure in Him to forgive us in Christ.

Lay aside all pride and come to the One who can make the crooked straight. Lay aside all pride and receive the correction of the saints who desire earnestly for your repentance and continued faith, hating even the garments tainted with sin.

 

Closing Prayer: Father, forgive us this day for our sins. We thank You that You were so utterly pleased to crush your Son for us – that as a church we may stand before You, pure and blameless through Christ alone. Father, our hearts know greed, envy, strife, maliciousness, backbiting, slander, and lust. Father, our hearts know hatred, deception, lies, murder, and covetousness – for we once practiced these things. Your word says that those who make a practice of such things cannot inherit the kingdom of God; that we cannot obtain the crown of righteousness.

Remind us of the sacrifice that Christ has made, that we not act as the Pharisees who sat and boasted of their cleanness, but may we beat our breasts as sinners. Cause us to draw near through Your Son, by Your Spirit, that we might be sanctified in truth and know graciousness, patience, kindness, forbearance, and longsuffering – for against such things there is no law. Fulfill in us Your promises in Christ that we might walk in an upright manner representing the gospel and the fullness of the deity of Christ – that He has come and conquered sin; that He has come to set the captive free. Cause us to rejoice in the cross of Christ and the everlasting hope we have in His resurrection, and by this, put the sin of anger to death. It is in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Disciplining My Father

I drove to my parent’s house asking only one thing: that I would be blameless and approach my father in humility. I was recalling the advice of my pastor whom I had met with just two days previously. After reading emails and listening to my explanation, he advised that I firmly and swiftly deal with it, reminding me to approach my dad in respect, love, and even temperament, yet unflinchingly in dealing with his sin.

I pulled into the driveway and what ensued was an hour and a half of angry and accusative speech at me; he didn’t have any problems with sin and how dare I judge. I came home in a blur and vomited as soon as I walked in the door.

Over the next several weeks, I would talk with him briefly. Each time I did not let the issue of his sin die. He would not repent; therefore, I would not relent.

That’s when he had a heart attack.

I vividly remember seeing my father lying in the ICU; my mother and sister in tears assuring him things would be ok. He looked at me but couldn’t speak, though his look almost assured me that he didn’t want me there.

My mom pulled me aside and begged me to let things be. “Time will heal all wounds,” was the conventional wisdom given. She told me that life is too short. My grandparents called and also begged that I would let things go. “We are to love one another,” was the wisdom given by them.

What both my mother and grandparents never realized was that time does not heal anything. Time only allows the heart to grow hardened and for sin to go unchecked. Secondly, better is open rebuke than hidden love (Pro. 27:5); at some point you have to stick the knife in (Pro. 27:6) and exercise discipline to those in the faith (Matt. 18:15-20). It is never easy nor joyful, but utterly necessary.

I spoke to my father again a few times after his hospitalization. He understood that there was still a rift in our relationship because I did not bring my children or wife to see him. Within the week of his hospitalization, I called to wish him a happy birthday.

We spoke for about 2 minutes before the conversation went back to the issue of sin. He had asked that we come to visit, and I told him still that we needed to reconcile and he needed to repent before that could happen. He yelled at me again, called me a fool once more, and told me, “I hope you have a nice life. I wouldn’t even expect Christmas cards in the mail for you or the kids.”

Two days went by and I didn’t hear from either of my parents. On the 17th of December, I worked as usual and received a phone call from my mom. I ignored it, thinking that it was just too much for me to handle while working. Immediately, I got another call that I answered hesitantly.

My dad had died from a massive heart attack.

I remember my anger bubbling when looking at my father’s corpse on the floor. I wasn’t mad at God, I was mad at him. Here was a dead man that I couldn’t reconcile with. Here was my father who willingly went to the grave clutching tightly to his sin.

Yet what I remember more was the great love poured out from all the members of my church. I remember being gently rebuked by my pastor as I confided in him, thinking wrongly that there was no redemptive moment in everything that happened. He and the elders affirmed what I had done, as I made nothing secret through the process. I remember the sovereignty of God in the midst of my heartbreak; He was not surprised by me not finding reconciliation with the man whose affections I so desperately wanted restored.

Few things in my life have been as hard as the day I went to confront my father. The details of his sin are not necessary, nor all the interactions we had during the confrontation, but the story itself is vital. It was vital in seeing church discipline worked out personally; it would work wondrous things within my own heart to conform me into greater likeness to Christ.

It would confirm in me the immediate demand for repentance when being confronted. It would draw the dividing line of the gospel and confirm how I view God and His church. It would be one of the most agonizing things to have transpire in my life – yet it would also truly exhibit how great our sovereign Lord is.

It was the day that I stepped out in faith to obey God’s Word and I did not find the blessings of reconciliation I expected and coveted. What I found was a blessing all the more wonderful.

What I found was the supreme love of Christ displayed in the hope of the gospel in a hopeless and utterly devastated world. What I found was the supreme love of Jesus Christ in His church as they ministered to me through sharing in my sufferings. The foremost of those in His church, which blessed me beyond measure, was my wife who lived up to the meaning of her name, “faithful.”