Friday, December 28, 2012

Answering Monax

I'm dedicating this post to answering questions from a commenter named David, who goes by the handle "Monax", who recently commented on a post titled Neo-Calvinism In The Rear View Mirror.

I'm anxious to read more of your thoughts on this conservative segment of the reformed church. I have swam in these waters too.
Monax, I've written much here on my blog about this circle of people.  And, I'll be writing much more in the future, hopefully.  I'm not sure if you caught my update to the post on which you commented, but I think there is somewhat of a misnomer in the mix. I should probably refer to "New Calvinism" rather than "Neo-Calvinism."  Neo-Calvinism is a form of Dutch Calvinism influenced by Abraham Kuyper, where New Calvinism is the animal I'm talking about here.  In recent years it has become popular to use the term "Neo-Calvinism" to speak of the "New Calvinism" movement. I provided links to Wikipedia articles on each view in the previous sentence.

What is interesting about the list of people I gave in my recent post is that only after I updated for the misnomer did I compare it with the list in the Wikipedia article on New Calvinism.  Pretty similar.  One thing I would say about these people, is that they take certain Reformed distinctives, such as Reformed soteriology, the five solas, the five points of Calvinism, the tenets of the Protestant Reformation, and glean from Reformed writers from the past, including the Puritans.  But, what they don't do, necessarily, is take covenant theology, infant baptism, Reformed polity and many other points traditionally associated with Reformed theology into their beliefs.  They also add an emphasis on being "missional", that is, they make a priority of domestic church planting.  They want to reproduce their ideology.  Also, some of these groups can be plain Baptists or generic evangelicals that adopt the core beliefs of Calvinism.

One key difference, I believe, between these "new" Calvinists and a more traditional outlook, is the heavy emphasis they place on church authority.  Most of them hold to an "elder rule" view of church government.  And unlike congregationalism or Presbyterianism, where the elders are in a checks and balance system being held accountable to the congregation or to a presbytery, the elder rule system has very little accountability built in.  Thus all the authoritarianism and church abuse stuff we've all been reading about.  I have abandoned an "elder rule" system in favor of a "Christ rule/elder servant" system, which I think is more, uhm, if I may use the term, "biblical."

I’d be curious to know why Keller’s considered a “neo-calvinist,”

If you want my opinion, it's rather simple.  He holds to some similar teachings - although to Presbyterian polity - but he's a success.  He has a Reformed church in a big city that has a lot of people going there.  It has grown, rather than remaining stagnant.

Also, why I’m here. Do you consider yourself a layman? I think this layman / clergy distinction is one of those things that skews the proper understanding and working out of the Body of Christ.

Glad you're up front.  The answer is no, I don't consider myself a layman.  That's why I use the term in quotes at the top of my blog margin.  Traditionally I'm considered a layman because I'm not an ordained clergyman.  But, my blog subtitle comes into play here as well: "Because Theology Is Everybody's Task."  I don't care for such a clergy/layman distinction, either.  I believe there are some special responsibilities given to elders that aren't given to all others (such as being held responsible for the care of each individual's soul, teaching is a must for an elder, etc.) It is often held that it is the pastor's job to do theology and we just sit and listen to learn.  But I'm under the conviction that 45 minutes a week from a sermon is not nearly enough to learn everything you need to know.

I could probably write much more on all this, but I hope it answers some of your basic questions.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Question of Authority

Recently it was suggested to me rhetorically that I don't think we should submit to church leadership, based on a point I was trying to make about the church.  This raises a question.  What is the extent to which a church leader can exercise authority and I be expected to "submit"?

It comes down to a question of authority.  Really it does.  What authority do church leaders have?  Do they have the authority to tell me what I can eat and drink?  Do they have authority to dictate to me what movies I can and cannot watch, or even if I am allowed to watch movies at all?  Do they have the authority to dictate to me which translation(s) of the bible I may read?  Do they have the authority to tell me just how much I need to give, and how much I need to give to the church - their church?  And do they have the authority to demand to see my paycheck to make sure I'm giving the correct amount?  Do they have the authority to demand that I believe every jot and tittle of their church constitution, confessions, creeds and by-laws before I am allowed to attend?  Do they have the right to have control over the who, what, when, where, why and how of using my spiritual gifts in the edification of others?  Do they have the authority to tell me I cannot blog about theology?  Do they have the authority to determine whether blogging about theology is biblical in the first place?  Do they have the authority to tell me what kinds of cars I'm allowed to drive?  And, do they have the right to not be questioned about such things?

If they demand certain of these things, and their demands are beyond the authority given to them by scripture, may I act contrary to them?  Is there a higher authority over my life in these areas than church leaders?

No matter how absurd any one of these questions may seem - or all of them together - they are real questions that a great many people have to deal with on a daily basis.  Sometimes discernment on these issues may take a great deal of time.  Sometimes people notice over time that "submitting" to these things as put forth by church leadership results in bruises, aches and pains in life.  Then they start to question.  They may actually search matters out for themselves and come to the conclusion that they have been led astray all along.  Did Jesus or the disciples submit to all the teachings of the religious leaders of their day?  No?  Then why expect it from the rest of us?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Neo-Calvinism in the Rear View Mirror

For a number of years, I referred to myself as a cross stream swimmer in the John MacArthur/ RC Sproul/ John Piper/ DA Carson/ Michael Horton/ Wayne Mack/ Jay Adams/ Tedd Tripp/ Paul Tripp/ Martha Peace/ Joshua Harris/ CJ Mahaney/ Mark Dever/ Alexander Strauch/ Tim Keller /insert your favorite here/ ecosystem.  Then, I realized that I was done with my cross-stream swimming and had reached the other side of the stream, as opposed to going with the flow and being swept out to sea.  I was still in the ecosystem, mind you, but was standing on the opposite shore watching the stream flow.

Now I'm no longer in the ecosystem, but am still keeping contact with those who are, and keep up with some of the trends by way of internet.  And, I'm no longer coming to conclusions about the ecosystem all by myself, but have connections with people who critique it both from within and without, including former ecosystem critters.

What I should say at this point, is that the names I listed above are by no means people who I am enemies with, or who I disagree with most of the time, etc.  What I do have against the above mentioned ecosystem is that the teachings of these people are placed front and center in the particular brand of Calvinism in which I was immersed (to use a baptism term), and are looked at as blueprints for Christian living.  Each expert has his/her body of work that comes to be viewed as "the" biblical way to live.  It is turned into a formula for godly, biblical living.  Deviation from the formula is the root of all problems in that particular area of life.

What we learned... uhm, I mean, what God providentially revealed to us in His divine sovereignty, was that these formulaic ways of living have serious limitations, and it's quite possible to have God-ordained circumstances that place individuals or families outside of the boxes that circles of people create with these teachings.  And if you're outside the box, it's probably your fault.  But that's okay, because if you believe in God's sovereignty (as opposed to other people's sovereignty) you know that you're the one who knows more about your own situation than anybody else does, and that God had more to do with that situation than other people did anyway.  And God will have more influence on you learning to deal with things the best way than other people would (if you pay more attention to God, that is).

Maybe one of these days if I have the guts, nerve and unction, I'll write about how some of these people's teachings fall short in dealing with real life.  Real life like the one I have to live.

[Correction: I accidentally wrote Johnathan Harris, when I should have written Joshua Harris.  D'oh!  Thanks, JA, for catching it!]

[Update 12/27/12: I may have a misnomer here.  I should probably refer to "New Calvinism" rather than "Neo-Calvinism."  Neo-Calvinism is a form of Dutch Calvinism influenced by Abraham Kuyper, where New Calvinism is the animal I'm talking about here.  In recent years it has become popular to use the term "Neo-Calvinism" to speak of the "New Calvinism" movement.]

Monday, November 19, 2012


Yesterday, our eleven year old son was baptized, along with seven others at our church.  We were excited to see him go into the waters of baptism, as would any parent.  Our church was in a festive mood as we celebrated the broadening of God's kingdom.  Blessings, son.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Do You Know Your Pastor's Faults?

Here's an odd question: do you know your pastor's faults?  By this question, I mean to ask if you know your pastor's everyday personality flaws, even if minor.  Not necessarily the kind of faults that would disqualify one form being a pastor, just faults and flaws that all of us share to one degree or another.

Do you know what riles your pastor up?  Do you know which buttons to push to get a rise out of your pastor?  What are the hot topics, the points of theology that cause him to flinch, the political ideas that run cross grain?  Do you know what issues he keeps pressing?  What are his hobby horses?  Where does he fail in communication, organization or ability to lead?  Is he less than perfect in how he treats his wife and children?  Okay, I could go on here, but I hope you could supply your own extended list.

In short, what I'm getting at is this: Is your pastor human? Or is he a spiritual robot?

If he is human, and you are able to get to know him well enough to know his flaws, then he's probably got a good chance of being a decent pastor.  Is he perfect, never showing the slightest instability?  Does he have all the answers?  Is he always right? Does he refrain from showing his human side?  Do others praise him in ways that go beyond the realistic?  Does he relate to people in ways that they can't easily learn his flaws?  Is he the center of attention at your church?  Then you should probably run for the hills.  Greater flaws lie beneath the surface.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Secret Post On Being Biblical

There is a secret blog post that you can't let anybody know about (and I won't either) about being biblical.  Some secret blogger named Dan Allen (psst...don't tell anybody either), says this about how to use the bible to make people believe you're right:

A biblical view is a view that you can defend with Bible verses. The real goal is not to learn from and develop an understanding from the Bible, but to use the Bible to defend whatever it is that we believe. If you don’t like secular music tell people that it is biblical to only listen to Christian music, I mean, obviously Psalm 1:1 states that “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,” but if you think it’s ok, you go to Matt 15:11 and remind someone that Jesus said that “it is not what goes into the mouth … that defiles a man.” (but in this case we apply it to the ear).

All this reminds me of all the biblical beliefs I have been taught by the various teachers, churches and books by Christian(TM) authors throughout my Christian life.  You may know some of these.  Like that person who wrote that book on biblical child rearing.  His way of rearing children is biblical because he uses the bible to defend his views.  Never mind that his followers use the book as a rigid formula and never seem to understand that there are a great many children and families that fall outside of the small box the author constructs, and whose methods simply don't work for them.  Or that book written by that one author that tells wives how to be biblical wives, not just regular wives.  Should I call my husband at work to ask his permission to call him at work?  Hmmm. Life is full of questions.

One of the things you can do with biblical teachings is to collect one book that addresses each area of life, and put them all together and claim that you'll have a beautiful life if only you follow everything written in all of them.  That way you'll be living a biblical life, not just dreaming about one.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Asking Why

Many times in life we ask "why" of God for the circumstances we face or see in the world.  Is it wrong to do so?  What about the Psalmist who asks why often?  What about Jesus himself who asks why God has forsaken him on the cross?

Bill at The Billy Goat Blog looks at this question, and asks why it seems necessary to act in any other way than to be honest in asking God why because God already knows our thoughts.  By the way, Bill points out that it is not wrong to ask God why.

I used to struggle with why Jesus says on the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"  as we see in Matthew 27.  I had always assumed - mostly due to the way I was taught about this - that Jesus was merely quoting Scripture.  He was quoting a messianic psalm to show that by quoting a messianic psalm he was the messiah who was being referenced in the psalm.  David was really not asking God why about something, but was simply supplying something that the messiah would quote sometime in the future to show that he was the messiah.  Kind of a self-fulfilling prophesy by way of quotation resulting in a proof text.  (Kinda cool, huh?)

But then I started wondering if Jesus could really have asked why God had forsaken him because he believed that God had forsaken him.  In other words, I started wondering if Jesus were honest and human.

I've since concluded that Jesus asked why because he meant it.  He was human, and really did experience being forsaken.  That's what the atonement was all about after all, right?  He was forsaken of God so that we wouldn't have to be.  So he really was forsaken and really did ask God why.  And, as we know from other points of theology, Jesus was without sin, so we know that asking God why he was forsaken wasn't a sin.  It wasn't a sin for Jesus, so why would it be a sin for us?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 35) - Confusion Over Church Membership

Wanda "Deb" Martin (known better as simply Deb) over at The Wartburg Watch is jumping into the church membership and church covenant topics head first with back-to-back posts, one on each.  In the first post - titled Confusion and Ignorance Over Church Membership? - Deb links to a study by Grey Matter Research that concludes there is "widespread confusion and ignorance on the subject of official membership in a place of worship."

At the end of that post, Deb wonders why the study was done - hmmm - and the next day continues with Are Covenants A 'Yoke of Bondage'? , outlining some of her own experience with church covenants and the unintended - or otherwise - results.

What is just as interesting as what Deb writes about is the comments sections of both posts.  People write in with their own stories about church membership and covenants.  Every time I see something on these topics, I am amazed by the fallout caused by the law of unintended consequences.  Give each post a read.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Tebowmania: The Reason Behind It

I have started about a dozen posts on the Tim Tebow phenomenon, but each one has ended in not being able to finish, until now.  One thing I learned from other areas of life, in the mean time, is that it is not always in the heat of the moment that we can get any kind of point across.  Not that I will this time, either, but I have an opinion as to why Tebowmania was such a big deal.  I'll share it here.

It has to do with the well established sub-culture of evangelicalism.  In the evangelical world view, there is no greater thing than personal evangelism.  It has been exalted to the highest position on the Christian duty list.  It has become not merely means to an end, it is the end itself.  An end which justifies its own means.  And it is revered over and above all other things.  It has become almost a form of worship itself.

In the evangelical sub-culture, "personal witnessing" is pretty much equated with the first great commandment itself; loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.  So much so that the second great commandment - loving neighbor as one's self - is optional.  If you "witness" for Jesus, it doesn't matter how tacky you are in bringing it, or who it offends, or who else it puts off, who it walks over in the process, or even if your boss is paying for it instead of the work you are supposed to be doing.  It doesn't matter if the waitress gets a good tip for her service, or even any tip at all, as long as she gets witnessed to before you leave.

And this is where Tebow comes in.  He publicly announced last year that the media would be his platform for his personal evangelism.  And there's no greater exposure for this type of thing than a nationally televised football game combined with a post-game interview, especially when a last-minute comeback victory is seen as being directly tied to God.  Nevermind taking into consideration Jesus' words cautioning against practicing one's religion to be seen by others.  No.  There is no such consideration in the evangelical subculture.  Forget that "Well, I'd like to thank my personal Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" didn't answer the reporter's question.  Witnessing is witnessing.  All this was an explosive combination.  But this is less about Tebow than about his giddy followers.

Tebow was ranked as the worst quarterback in the NFL before they tanked their last three games to obliterate any chance whatsoever of making the playoffs.  Outside of a complete Oakland Raider meltdown and complicated tie-breaker situation, of course.  And when the Denver wide receiver took a relatively moderate pass from Tebow and made a stunning 60 yard run to beat the Steelers on the last play of the playoff game, you'd never know from my Facebook page that the receiver had anything to do with it.  I mentioned this on Facebook, and a friend who lived in Denver asked me what in the world I was talking about.  The receiver's name was all over the Denver media.  Real football fans in Denver knew what happened but evangelical facebookers didn't.  But the following week, Tom Brady gave Tebowmania a mortal wound by slicing up the Denver defense in a very short amount of time.  No kneeling and praying for Tebow in the end zone.  No post-game interviews.  Nothing but silence.  It was in an instant like Tebowmania never happened.

I'm no stranger to the exaltation of personal witnessing myself.  I've been within evangelicalism almost 20 years now.  One church I attended passed out bible tracts by the millions.  Quite literally.  People there would spend 8 hours on Saturdays at shopping centers and train stations passing them out.  When asked to leave by management, they considered it hostility toward the gospel.  Really?  With annoyed patrons and thousands of tracts littering the ground?  I never heard of a single convert by using such means, either.  Another church I went to had a prayer meeting every week, and one of the items of prayer was for the non-Christians.  People recounted in detail all the conversations they had the previous week with unbelievers in failed attempts to "steer the conversation toward spiritual things."  Imagine talking to somebody who tried to change the subject after every sentence you spoke.  Would you want to convert to their religion?  Do they care about you or their own agenda?  It was even frustrating for me as a Christian because I didn't feel free to talk about the weather or what I did for a living because everybody else had an agenda of changing the topic.  Yet another church I frequented had door-to-door evangelism.  We were all instructed on what to do before we were sent out.  Keen observers asked what to do in case we encountered "no trespassing" or "no solicitors" signs.  The answers were "trespassing is against the law" and "we'll leave it up to your conscience" respectively.  Dude?  You have to appeal to the civil law in one case, and you allow your church members to disregard the wishes of a homeowner in the other?  The kingdom is at hand for sure.

Before I go, I'll just say that I'm a baseball fan and don't pay much attention to football until after the World Series.  I saw a headline a few minutes ago that said Tebow was booed in New York.  I have no idea what that's all about.  They would boo Santa Claus in New York.  No, wait.  That's Philly.

Friday, September 07, 2012

King David: Blues Singer

Originally posted September 30, 2005 and modified today:

Ever notice how many of the Psalms were written when the author was in anguish over life's terrific problems? The old adage, "you can't sing the blues unless you've lived the blues" applies here. Since the Psalms were all set to music, that would make King David (and maybe Asaph as backup vocals) a blues singer, to use an analogy from today's world.

David made complaints about all kinds of things.  There are some who would look upon people today who make the same kinds of complaints that David did and label them as complainers, whiners, malcontents, people who won't "man up."  Yet if you look at the Psalms, David even complains against God.  He wonders where God is, and why God has forsaken him. 

Some would answer this claim by saying, "Yes, but if you read on to the end of the psalm, David praises God in some way.  Look at how many people who walk away from the faith start out.  They start by complaining.  So you're missing a big point here."  Not necessarily.  When people write music about their experiences, as David did, they may be looking back over a long period of time.  They may have had an extended period of questioning God.  Only later on do they come to praise him.  The song is simply a summary of a longer story.  The person who questions or is struggling doesn't need to be dismissed as somebody who is damaged beyond repair, even if it is viewed as self-inflicted.

Would God have us sing like David?  If not, it seems odd that such a human element of David's experiences would not be expected for us.

Monday, August 27, 2012

How The Wrong Foundation Excludes Christians From Christianity

I'm taking a side point here and making an issue out of it.  Carl Trueman, an admitted complimentarian, writes a post at Reformation 21 (HT to Tim Challies here) about his bewilderment that the egalitarian/complementarian debate is making such waves at The Gospel Coalition.  Quoting:

Given that the issue of complementarianism is raising its head over at The Gospel Coalition, it provides an opportunity to reflect on an issue that has always perplexed me: why is the complementarian/egalitarian debate such a significant bone of contention in parachurch cobelligerent organisations whose stated purpose is to set aside issues which divide at a church level but which do not seem to impact directly upon the gospel?
He then compares this attention to how little this organization is giving to such essentials as baptism and the Lord's Supper - issues the church has wrestled with for centuries.  He then reasons that an egalitarian could possibly believe in inerrancy but hold to a "wrong" interpretation, and applies such a paradigm to Baptist ecclesiology - where Baptists could invite a Presbyterian to preach at their church and subsequently deny him the Lord's Supper.  His rabbit trail winds up at this precious gem:

This is not the only awkward question one might ask: for example, which is more unacceptable to a Baptist - a woman preaching credobaptism or a man preaching paedobaptism?
Although my post here is not about the egalitarian/complementarian debate, I do note that I have labored in great pains on this blog to show the inconsistency of foundations and applications of the doctrine of baptism by both paedobaptists and credobaptists.

But to my main point.  Allow me to continue off-road from Trueman's path for him, and force his side note into the forefront.  I could add to the toxicity by pointing out that there are churches that have formal memberships and a "closed" communion, restricting the Supper to members of their own church.  So, then Baptists could invite another Baptist to preach at their church and subsequently deny him (or her?  LOL) the Lord's Supper.  Truly septic.  Many Baptists don't accept the baptisms of their own members if they were baptized as infants in other churches, especially if they were baptized in the Roman Catholic church.  Then there are paedobaptists who rail against anabaptists (re-baptizers) for forcing rebaptism of their former members when they switch to a Baptist church, when they themselves don't recognize an infant baptism that occurred in the Roman Catholic church!  They then rebaptize former Catholics, just like the Anabaptists of the radical reformation did.  Anti-anabaptist anabaptists! At least the Reformers recognized the baptisms by the Roman Catholics.  And don't even get me started on all the various views on marriage, divorce and remarriage that people hold to that affect how people can serve in churches and in leadership.  I could go on forever here.

Church leaders then wonder why there are so many people who drift in and out of churches, go church shopping, or stop going to church altogether because just trying to find one that they can attend proves futile.  People are discovering that trying to fit into a church isn't merely falling in the right place on a spectrum.  They need to conform to a 12-dimentional matrix more complicated than the RGB color mapping on their computers.  And if one does not conform, they are cut off from the Lord's Supper, church membership, baptism, ability to serve according to the gifting God has given them, help from the benevolent fund, etc.  So, holding a wrong doctrine as one's foundation can exclude others from one's view of Christianity.

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.   Matt. 23:13
Maybe Jesus could shed some light on the situation.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 34) - Why Is The New Covenant Not Enough?

Alan Knox at the assembling of the church does a re-post of something he did two years ago, and re-asks the same question: Why is one covenant (the new covenant) not enough?

He adds this very good question at the top of the re-post:

In Christ, we are all already part of the new covenant. Because of that covenant we are all now children of God and, therefore, brothers and sisters with one another. That covenant alone covers how we should interact with and treat one another. So, why do so many feel that we still need more covenants, i.e. a church covenant?

I'm not sure what Alan's intended scope is when he refers to "church covenants," but I'm assuming he also means - and if he doesn't mean it, I will add it to the list! - to include church membership covenants.  Either way, he hits the nail on the head.

What can an extra-biblical church covenant do that the new covenant cannot?  After examining this question in several paragraphs, Alan concludes with:
If we use a “church covenant” to include some believers and exclude others, then we are dividing the body of Christ and making distinctions that only God can make. We are trying to choose who to love and who to serve. (Of course, this makes life much easier, but it doesn’t make it a life that [is] lived according to the gospel.)

I also note here that I have dealt with the same concept in different ways in Part 21 and Part 27 of this series.  Please make an effort to read Alan's recent post.

Read the entire series here.

Part 33.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

"Re-Thinking Church Membership" Series Is Back

One of my all-time favorite series here at From the Pew is back on my blog.  Yes, I have re-posted all the posts in the "Re-Thinking Church Membership" series.  I have also added the link to this series in the "Blog Series" header, as well as to the "Ongoing Blog Series" links in the right margin.

This is another of my "Re-Thinking" series that I took down (I'll go into why this happened at a later date) and planned to re-post after some re-working. Well, this one is now back! This series had reached over 30 posts at the time I took it down.

I look at a common doctrine of church membership as is widely taught in conservative evangelical circles today. I show how this particular doctrine misses the mark biblically, how it is widely supported by many well known evangelical leaders, and I have proposed a solution for the unintended consequences it fosters, all to the disbelief of its adherents. Stay tuned as this series grows.

Please read it in its entirety to get the overall flavor of what I'm saying about church membership.  If this is too much, I plan to sometime in the near future re-post each of the posts one at a time, every few days, over the course of a couple months to allow an easier time in following along.  I hope this series provokes its readers to further thinking about this important topic.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pastor Loses Suit Against Blogger

A pastor who sued a former church member over comments she made on her blog has lost his case.  I posted about the case here, and now the judge has dismissed every single claim in the defamation suit against Julie Anne Smith and four others.  The judge has also awarded costs and attorney fees to the defendants, including for two defendants who were dropped from the pastor's suit after it was filed.

You can read about it from Julie Anne herself here.

I am grateful for Julie Anne and the others for the judge's decision.  Hopefully, this case will help to further illuminate God's people on the existence of authoritarianism and spiritual abuse within the church.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Let's Actually Pray During Prayer Time

Note to all future mid-week bible study/home group fellow attendees, whoever you are at whatever church you are:  I'd like to encourage us all to actually pray during prayer time.  Okay?  I'm not exempting myself here, I'm just making observations.

It is strange, but there seems to be a rigid blueprint for mid-week evening church gatherings.  It doesn't matter what church, denomination, or belief system.  Or at least the ones I've been associated with.

First, there's "fellowship time."  You know, that 15-30 minute period where we have cookies and punch and chat that also serves as a buffer to allow fashionable lateness.  Then there's the "teaching time," or similar.  That's when we look at the bible, or teaching, or whatever book written on whatever topic by whatever author, and discuss or answer questions

Then, last - and actually least! - is "prayer time."  You know.  It's that last 15-20 minute period before the scheduled end time of the mid-week group.  You know?  The time where the first 10 minutes minimum of it is spent wrapping up "teaching time?"  Yes, you know.  Then, out of the 10 minutes remaining in "prayer time," 15-20 minutes of that 10 minutes is spent listing our prayer requests in detail.

Then, once we go 10 minutes past the end of the mid-week group and people start gathering up their bibles and other belongings and the kids are fidgeting, the leader of the group states that we are out of time and throws up a blanket prayer like, "Lord bless everybody. Amen"  and we never actually pray. You know?  You know.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gossip, Slander and Divisivness

The words "gossip," "slander," and "divisive" are all words that appear in the bible and are strong words that are used to describe very bad behavior.  Over my 20 years within Christianity, I have heard these words used many times and in many contexts to describe behavior, call out behavior, warn against such behavior.  I have also heard multiple definitions and descriptions of these behaviors.

It is the description of such behavior that I will attempt to write about here in the near future.  I have wanted to do this for quite a while, and in the heightened attention given to the topic of spiritual abuse recently I think now is a good time to do so.

One reason for this is that I have seen these words used in a context where they are applied to behavior where it is not warranted, and used to flip-flop the places of the guilty and the innocent; the terms don't fit the behaviors.  I will try to show examples of what these behaviors are not, in order to give a better idea of what they are.  Coming soon.  Hopefully.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Expectations, Agenda, and Just Being A Christian

Chaplain Mike over at Internet Monk digs through the archives to find what he's been wanting to say.  His post is about agenda identification, and how he comes to the conclusion that it's OK to just be a Christian.

In my circles, very rarely did I hear the full-blown “God told me to do this” account that was more prevalent in charismatic or pentecostal churches. Still, that was the impression, even in our more theologically conservative groups. Whether it was defining a preaching series, implementing an element of worship that the pastor thought the church should practice, organizing an outreach program, expanding staff, building new facilities, using a certain method of teaching or training in the educational program or youth group, or designing the way the church should be overseen by its leaders, these ministers had a way of making it sound like these were directives from God himself. And the corollary to that, of course, was – if you are a truly dedicated, committed Christian, you will participate. 

Over and over again, I watched as the pastor’s agenda became the church’s agenda, because the pastor was able to persuade people that it was God’s agenda.
As some of the readers of this blog know, I am a fan of the San Francisco Giants baseball team.  Their colors are orange and black.  A promotion the team has put forth over the last several years in known as "Orange Friday."  Each Friday home game, the Giants wear orange jerseys and the fans are encouraged to wear orange articles of clothing or accessories.  Bright orange Afros, painted faces, you name it. 

While a good number of fans take part in this, many, like me, are content to dress just the way I would at any other game.  And even though I'm not much of a fan of these type of fads, I am content with thousands of other fans wearing orange.  Even though it is an official promotion, my lack of participation doesn't provoke others to wonder why I'm not participating in the way they are.  I've never been asked why, nor have I felt the expectation to wear orange.

Can the same be said of how our churches view our participation?  What if I use some other book on child rearing?  Or maybe none at all?  What if I never listen to sermons of the pastor's favorite preacher?  What if I want to have my kids with me in the service as opposed to in Sunday school?  What if I prefer to invite other people over to my house for lunch instead of signing up for the church program that places people on a list to come over to my house for lunch?  Is it OK to just be a Christian?  I hope so.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pastors Really Aren't So Evil

Dan Allen brings us a post on his rather black and white blog, Some Church Stuff, about pastors being evil.  Or not.  He implicates all of us and none of us at the same time.

I don't know how many minutes or years Dan took to compile these zeroes and ones, but I think there is a whole lotta truth to his five short paragraphs.  Truth hurts, and in many cases it is good for us.  John Cougar - or was it John Cougar Mellencamp? - or was it John Mellencamp? - wrote that song we all like to sing along with in our cars as we drive, Hurts So Good.  Can we sing along here?

He pretty much sums up a lot of what I think about the state of the church.  What has taken me seven years of blogging to do, Dan did in five paragraphs.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Evangelicalism: Government Programs vs. Church Programs

It has been my observation in almost 20 years of exposure to conservative evangelicalism - and if your observation and experience are different, good for you and those you have observed - that there is a tendency to hold opposite practices in the church that one believes in for society.  It's a strange phenomenon for which I don't have an explanation.

Example.  Government programs.  Many conservative evangelicals (CE's) are not only conservative in their theology, they are conservative in their political and civil beliefs.  They will talk about the Christian values that made America great.  Freedom.  Freedom from civil tyranny.  Freedom of speech.  Freedom of religion, economic freedom, freedom of association, etc.  They despise government programs.  Red tape.  Bureaucracy.  Micromanagement, top-down nanny state.  They don't like the power the politicians have.  They hate socialism, communism and third world dictators.  They want small government with little interference.  They like private solutions to society's problems.  And although they don't really have a problem with people who work for others, they do have a special place in their hearts for the entrepreneur.  The innovative spirit.

But oddly enough, when it comes to the church, many of the things they despise about civil matters they adopt for the church.  They hate government programs, but love church programs.  Problem in society?  Let people work things out for themselves.  Problem in the church? Appoint a committee.  They hate when politicians cry for a tax increase, but will love when the pastor calls for a tithe and offering increase.  They don't like government red tape, but are just fine with numerous layers of church committees, micromanagement from leaders.  They can't stand despots, but the pastor?  He's da man and what he says goes.  They always point out when a politician is an elite that has never worked a real day of work in his life, but are perfectly fine with a pastor who spent years in seminary and has never worked a real day of work in his life either, and holds a full time paid position behind a desk in an office.  This kind of politician is "out of touch" with ordinary people, yet this kind of pastor is just what the church needs.

If the government were to engage in censorship, banning or burning of books, the CE would not only protest but call for getting those politicians out of office.  But in the church?  Well, the leadership needs to spend an extra amount of time reviewing all the books in our bookstore so nothing with questionable theology will be available to the congregation.  And what about spiritual entrepreneurs?  Freedom of speech in the church?  Freedom of religion in the church? (I'm assuming all hold to the Christian religion here, of course)  Do something out of the church program and you're a suspect.  To dissent in regards to a politician is a divine right, but to dissent in regards to a pastor is being divisive.

Again, these are my general observations.  Yours may vary, and I hope they do.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Elders Behaving Badly: Matthew 18 Isn't The Only Way To Deal With Sin

Amidst all the commotion over bloggers who have aired their complaints against so-called abusive leaders, there is the belief that those who have done so have failed to follow the prescription set down in Matthew 18 for confronting their offenders.  This perceived failure to follow the black and white teachings of Jesus on the matter [or red and white as the case may be] have led many to dismiss out of hand any stories told.  Nevermind whether those stories are true, it's that they are told in the first place that is the problem.

Well, there is a flaw in this line of thinking.  The flaw is the assumption that Matthew 18 is the one and only way to deal with sin, even when - or especially when - church leaders are involved.  A good look at Matthew 18 will reveal an important assumption that Jesus makes when he gives this method.  Actually there are a number of assumptions - and I will look at these here - but the overarching assumption is one of accountability.  The sinning offender will be accountable to you, to witnesses and to the church.

First, "If  your brother sins, go and show him..." This first step assumes that the offender is approachable.  Then, "...Show him his fault in private" This makes the assumption that the offender is willing to listen.  Following, "If he listens to you [i.e. agrees with you and decides to repent], you have won your brother"  makes the assumption the offender might just do so.  This first step of confronting one who sins is a step of optimism.  There is the hope that this will restore the sinner.

Next, the second step, "If he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed."  Again, there is the assumption that the offender is even now open to listening further to your argument - open enough to listen to witnesses that further your claim.  The third step is key here.  "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church."  This is a huge assumption.  This assumes the church will be agreeing with you.  Not with the sinner, but with you.  Not only this, but "and if he refuses to listen even to the church..." makes the assumption that not only will the church take your side, but the church as a whole will be confronting the offender.  Each step in the process, Jesus is making optimistic assumptions about the results.

This brings me back to the bloggers who tell the stories of authoritarianism and spiritual abuse.  Their stories are completely different than the optimistic picture Jesus paints about confronting those who sin.  In these cases - and the big stories come to mind; Mars Hill, CJ Mahaney and SGM, Beaverton Grace Bible Church; but there are many, many more small stories - in these cases the church leaders are outside of accountability.  They are unapproachable.  They won't listen, and they don't listen.  In many of the cases of authoritarianism and spiritual abuse, the church leaders hold to systematic sins.  Sins that are taught to their churches as a way of life.  These churches have many people who lack discernment and swallow the teachings of these leaders.  They've already drank the KoolAid.  These churches can't recognize that the offended people realize that the offense really is sin.  These churches won't confront their leaders because they don't see the sin.  Or if they do, they are so afraid of what their leaders will do to them that they keep silent.  This makes it difficult or even impossible to get two or three witnesses to confront somebody who is unavailable in the first place.  In addition, these leaders have peers who have bought into the same system and have taught their churches the same things.  Their peers will not hold them accountable either.

Then to make matters even worse, they use their power to attack the offended people in any way they can, to discredit them, to slander them, to call the church to shun them.

How is Matthew 18 even possible in situations such as these?  I've already gone long here, so discussing other means to address sin - especially the sin of leaders - will have to be left for another post.

Monday, May 28, 2012

About Me

Finally.  I have updated the "About Me" page in my header after quite some time being blank.  Feel free to read it.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Divided Church: Wrong Applications of Theology

I've been thinking over the last few years about the differences between the "visible" church and the "invisible" church, as well as between the "universal" church and the "local" church.  These distinctions have been made numerous times in various systems of theology for a long time.  And these distinctions have some problems when we try to apply them to real life.  Let me explain.

The word "church" (ekklesia in the Greek) has or has been given a number of meanings.  Whether or not the use of each meaning has support from the bible, we try to reconcile the various meanings in our theology.  For example, we know from the bible that not all church attenders/professing Christians will be true Christians.  Most of us are also willing to concede that there will be those who are true believers that we never thought so!  Man can only see the outside, while only God can see the heart.  Thus the distinction between the "visible" and "invisible" church.  The "visible" church is the visible assembly of people who claim to be believers.  We can see them.  The "invisible" church is the group of people who only God can see are His and who will be finally gathered together in the eternal kingdom.

But because we are man and only God is God, we must leave this point of theology as just that: theology.  Trying to make an application of this distinction can only result in problems.  If we try to determine who are God's true believers using the only means available to us - outward expressions and appearances - then we open up the door to abuse of those who don't fit our ideas of correct outward expressions.  I will try to say more about this in an upcoming post.

Similarly, the distinction between the "local" and "universal" church can cause problems when we try to apply it.  The "local" church is the gathering of believers in one location, say Corinth or First Baptist Church in Houston.  The "universal" church is, in one sense, all the believers in the entire world, and in another sense, all beleivers in the entire world who have ever lived.  But we being men, we can be tempted to, say, apply a rigid distinction and decide that a local church is made up of only those who regularly attend that local church and doesn't include other believers who happen to be in town and attend only once.  I will try to say more about this in an upcoming post.

Then, there can be problems when all four distinctions - visible, invisible, local and universal - are mixed together and applied.  An example would be a church that decides that its members (visible church, local church) are only those who meet certain man-made requirements and sign on a dotted line for membership, and those who don't but attend anyway, cannot be part of either the universal or invisible church distinctions either.  They, according to this church, aren't true believers because of it.  I will try to say more about this, too, in an upcoming post.

Hopefully I will try to make sense of the artificial, theological constructs in future posts.  I also have an idea on how to deal in reality with the scope of the church.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pastor Sues Woman Over Church Comments

A woman who made negative comments about her former church on Google Comments is being sued (along with several others) by the pastor for defamation.  This woman, whose name is Julie Anne, found that her comment mysteriously disappeared from the site, and when repeated comments were erased, she started a blog (Beaverton Grace Bible Church Survivors) addressing the legalism and spiritual abuse present at the church in Beaverton, Oregon.

Now if this story wasn't interesting enough, the pastor met with an elder from John MacArthur's church to receive counsel.  He then claimed that the elder advised him to go ahead with the lawsuit.  Phil Johnson was dragged into the fray and Grace Community Church is denying they gave this advice, pointing to their wide and staunch teaching against Christians suing other Christians in civil court as proof they would not do such a thing. (I believe Phil Johnson, by the way)

Subsequent to all this, many more people who have attended BGBC have come out and backed Julie Anne in the matter.  So here we have a pastor who denies being legalistic and abusive by suing those who think so?

There are many more bizarre details than what I have outlined here, so you could follow the story at Julie Anne's blog, or sort through the last several weeks of posts at The Wartburg Watch (site temporarily down for maintenance as of this post). This case will have some far reaching effects in how social media interacts with religion.  It is also yet another example in an increasing number of internet stories of authoritarianism and spiritual abuse reported by people who have been harmed by churches and their leaders.

Friday, May 11, 2012

How Do Missionaries Plan for Retirement?

Abu Daoud at Islam and Christianity has asked a very good question.  Well actually, he states a fear. In his post Missionary Secrets 1 -- Retirement worries us, Abu discusses how "retirement" in the [recent] Western tradition looks for missionaries.

Honestly, I haven't had too much contact with "missionaries" because, well, they're "over there" most of the time, and when they're home on furlough, it's expected that they will be fundraising in order to go back.  They don't seem to have much rest.  I once attended a church that suddenly had an elderly couple show up and attend regularly - a couple that were life long missionaries who had returned from the mission field.  For me it raised a whole new set of questions about missions.  Do you know missionaries that have returned?  Were they treated well by their brothers and sisters?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Be Faithful Until Death

Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days.  Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.  Revelation 2:10 (NASB) - Jesus Christ to the church at Smyrna

What if you received a letter from the Lord that said the same thing?  Uh, things will pretty much suck for ten days, then you will die.  But don't fear.

What would you do?  Write your will?  Eat as much of your favorite food as possible before it starts?  Me?  I'm sure that I wouldn't be perfectly calm, but if I knew this was directly from God, I could see how one could take this with an increase in faith.  Here's where the rubber meets the road of faith.

I think many things in life are analogous to this.  You learn or train for something, then you face it with much anticipation.  Yet, when we are immersed in it and past the point of no return, we are quite able to handle the situation.  Even when we face death.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Elders Behaving Badly

The following is taken from a Facebook comment by Kevin Johnson, who blogs at  Kevin responds to two FB commenters who state that speaking publicly of one's spirutual abuse stories amounts to the blemishing of the good name of Christ, soiling the reputation of the church, aiding the enemy, and other such things.

Johnson has a much different view and responds to the commenters in what I think is a reasonable fashion, and calls attention to some things not routinely addressed in the blogoshpere over such matters.  I think his comment is valuable for us to read in the light of the many recent stories of authoritarianism and abuse coming out on the internet.  Kevin graciously allowed me to post his comment here on From the Pew.


It is a mistake of course to pretend that passages like 1 Timothy 5:19 and 1 Corinthians 6 woodenly apply to particular situations involving spiritual abuse when no real justice is available for the offended party via traditional means. Really, though, when does the Law of God ever woodenly apply without recourse to godly wisdom? While I agree that we should not go to secular law courts in general to solve Christian-only issues, there are times when such is required as a result of spiritual and/or physical abuse. In our society, aside from civil charges, criminal charges are brought by the State anyway and not by individuals. In the case of sexual and physical abuse on the part of ministers any such activity should be reported and brought to the authorities because that is generally required by law. So, we can't just quote 1 Cor. 6 and say that's the end of the story.

In America, freedom of religion makes real discipline in any Reformed environment absolutely voluntary and well beyond the sort of environment where all parties are able to receive justice at the hands of an ecclesial court. Denominational loyalties also generally preclude any sort of fair trial for laymen when brought against an elder and therefore one should think long and hard before going down that road. Sometimes the only right recourse is just to let people know what happened.

In the case of elders behaving badly and participating in spiritual and other abuse, the church needs to take care of the real widows and orphans caused by such men in the life of the church and not pretend that double honor is due only where an office exists and no real performer of that office is found except in the manifest ways he can display and model wickedness in the community of the faithful. The most severe punishment in the Scriptures is reserved for those who knew better yet still violated the term and intent of their office.

The warnings in Matthew 23 do not appear to be cushioned with the sort of statements wanting to preserve the good name of Jesus Christ, the reputation of the church, or the right of the local church to handle the problem contra making it so public. Rather, Christ matter-of-factly calls out men by name -- those sitting in the seat of Moses -- in a rather small community of people who undoubtedly knew who he was talking about. Furthermore, Christ makes clear to show the community that the system is broken and only prophetic rebuke and his coming is left to fix it. So, there is no need to think this could even be handled by local church discipline as John 9-10 make quite clear. And, the sort of descriptive terms our Lord used generally outweigh any sort of invective we've seen in the likes of testimony against people like Mark Driscoll in the links above.

The prophets of the Old Testament mirror similar concerns in passages like Ezekiel 34 where the messianic promise of Christ is wrapped up in freeing men and women from oppression at the hands of pastors and ministers behaving badly. In other words, the behavior displayed by those who practice spiritual abuse and ministerial malpractice is directly opposed to the mission and work of the gospel in and among the community of the people of God. Paul, too, has no problem excoriating certain men by name when found to be in opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ even to the point of wishing them emasculated.

In Reformed circles, we are happy to eject men both out of the ministry and the church on what may seem the smallest of theological technicalities (cf. Frame, "Machen's Warrior Children") but we will not take similar action when similar men abuse their ministerial authority and use the leadership they have in ways that are unfaithful to God. This is a huge inconsistency that shows us where our real loyalties lie as Reformed church men and women. Often, we demonstrate that we care for our doctrines and our pet leaders more than we care for our fellow believers. And, that's just idolatry.

The Reformers of course had no problem speaking against ministerial corruption and naming names. Sometimes, they even used anonymous and very drastic means to do so in ways that would make even the strongest among us today wince. For example, I haven't seen anyone draw a cartoon where Mark Driscoll is ushering demons out of his posterior and other sorts of lambasting sixteenth-century divines had for those who supported the papacy. That's hardly an objective and fair rendering of the truth sufficient for us to make a qualified decision on the matter (as if the real reason for making things public is so we have the right to decide)! Somehow the Reformers knew they were telling the truth and had authority to speak prophetically in the community. Christians have not lost that today either in spite of what [commenter #1] or [commenter #2] might argue. For all their interesting methods, the Reformers valued transparency and consistency in calling a spade a spade and that was most certainly true in exposing ministerial corruption. Why we can't do the same is beyond me.

Telling the truth is not a scandal and does not hurt the name of Jesus Christ. If that were true, the Bible would be so much more bland than it is--filled with the details of corruption prophetically confronted even in the highest of sacred places in both the Old and New Testaments. It is only when we attempt to hide the truth that real scandal comes and continues to be enabled. Providing the truth on the Internet does not aid the enemy. The enemy is aided by works of darkness which elders behaving badly do in spades and under cover of their title and work because many congregants don't take their fellow believers seriously over and above their devotion to their pastoral leaders even when presented with irrefutable evidence from a variety of reliable sources or witnesses.

And, to tell people to be quiet when they speak against their leaders when you have no basis to judge the veracity of their comments can be just as damaging to the truth as not. Since you don't know what the truth is, speaking against outspoken voices can work to unduly silence those whom God has moved to make certain things public quite outside normal means. Rather, we should let anyone speak as they feel led and then the church and community can work to take action as required. After all, how many witnesses did Nathan bring to David? Or, Elijah to Jezebel? Yet, would it not be a mistake to have been there and spoken against God's prophets and his word to David or Jezebel? We have to realize that the call to silence a voice is as much a judgment as one that raises a concern in the larger community of the faithful -- and that's the hypocrisy of the position presented to us by [commenter #1] and [commenter #2] even if they haven't personally come to such conclusions.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. - Rom 12:9-16 NASB

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Least of These

We have a blog link chain here.  Alan Knox posts "The more least or the less least?" in response to Dan Allen's "Making the least the least" at his new blog Some Church Stuff.  I read Dan's post before Alan linked to it, and as prompted as I was to write about Dan's post, Alan's kind of put it into action.

I admit, it's not been very often that I've heard the least speak, or play music, or be allowed to contribute in great ways.  When that has occurred, the results have been amazing.  Consequent encouragement to make this the norm, however, has fallen on deaf ears and normalcy returns.  Getting to know the secrets of the least and to be blessed by them have been almost limited to private conversations.

So what's wrong with somebody born and raised in the projects playing "Amazing Grace" on his harmonica to a large church gathering?  Or what's wrong with the "least theologically trained" among us being allowed to speak about what they've read in the bible?  Well, nothing, actually.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blogger's Bottleneck?

Several months ago I wrote a short post titled, "Blogger's Cramp...and What To Do About It?"  It occurred to me that one reason I may have been having blogger's cramp is due to "blogger's bottleneck."  Blogger's bottleneck would be not being able to write because there is too much to write.  It all gets stopped up at the very point of coming out.  Maybe?

Friday, April 06, 2012

Why People Blog Their Spiritual Abuse Stories

I've noticed an increase in the number of people who have blogged about their experiences with spiritual abuse in the church and problems with authoritarian leadership.  I think I know some reasons why. 

Often, people who blog about such things are criticized for doing so, sometimes harshly.  After all, if you have a problem with somebody, aren't you supposed to go directly to them to deal with it? Well, not exactly, and that's where an explanation can be useful.

You see, there is a big difference between one person sinning against another in ordinary things and people using positions and systems of power (with the supposed backing of God and the threatening of excommunication or hell for dissent) in accomplishing the sin.  In the first case there is a much easier path of recourse; in the latter there may be none at all.  Try confronting a friend who dealt you a minor insult.  The whole thing might be solved and over with in a couple of minutes.  Your friend may not want to insult you because he is your friend, and he will realize his pettiness and the greater value of God and friendship.  Now try confronting a group of church leaders who view the confronting of church leaders as one of the most heinous things one can do.  How far do you think you will go with that one?

With nowhere else to go, and with no real way of getting the problem solved, telling others about the story may be the only way to go.  And this isn't merely the airing of dirty laundry.  This is the exposing of evil deeds that are purposed in the heart of those who commit such things.  Look to the example of Jesus and the bible to see how these types of problems are dealt with.

What did Jesus do with the ruling religious leaders of his day?  Where are the examples of private, personal confrontation?  Rather, Jesus spoke openly and publicly about the evil deeds of the religious leaders.  His concern was for those who might be affected by their teachings and deeds.  Where is the concern for "protecting their good names?"  And what did the Holy Spirit think about all of this?  Well, he decided to inspire four gospel writers and several apostles to write these things in a number of books and a church to collect those into one larger book!  And what did Zondervan think about all of this?  Zondervan, without consulting descendants of these religious leaders to see if exposing these deeds would tarnish family images, decided to print millions of copies of the book!  And what did you and I think about all of this?  We bought the book!

I hope in all the hoopla surrounding the stories that expose such things we remember that the pain and hurt caused by power and systems are a different animal and warrant a different response than that of personal offenses.  More to come.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Commenting Issues

Trying to comment here at From the Pew?  Several commenters (myself included while trying to comment on my own blog!) have had a difficult time commenting.  It seems that Blogger has made some people try to prove they aren't spambots before allowing a comment.  Wordpress is having issues, too, as they apparently require logging in with an already existing Gravatar account.  What is going on in the blogging world?

If any of my readers can try to comment on this post (or send me an email to fromthepew [at] yahoo [dot] com if you are unable to comment) I would appreciate it.  Thanks!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Book of Revelation: A Very Different View

Kevin Johnson at Reformed Catholicism proposes a very different way of viewing the book of Revelation in his most recent post, The Meaning of Revelation for Today.  He notes that many different ways of understanding this book have existed throughout history, and one's applications of its truths to the current day will vary accordingly.  He dispenses with the common interpretations that Revelation is a condemnation of world empires, a blueprint for worship, or a wild eschatological ride consisting of rapture, tribulation and destruction.  Johnson then counters with a simpler motive:

Rather, the main purpose of Revelation is wrapped up in its original witness to the first century church. In short, Revelation exists to encourage, comfort, and signal for believers that God is sovereign and in control and that all things will ultimately be transformed in and through Jesus Christ. Revelation then is a retelling of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a working out of its fulfillment through the ages. The church as a whole then is encouraged to be faithful in obedience to God’s Word in anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s reconciling work.

The most fascinating point to me is that he dispels the widespread notion that the great city Babylon is a reference to Rome, and offers in its place the idea that Babylon is a reference to - of all things - the city of Jerusalem.  If you have an interest in the book of Revelation, please give Kevin's post a read.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Friday Night Potpourri

Well, it's about time.  Without further adieu:

  • There's several sets of new tires in our family.  Those couldn't have come at a better time.  The thinning treads wouldn't have made it through the wet spell we're enduring.
  • My first St. Patty's Day Guinness came in the wee hours.  Working late swing shift certainly helps that.
  • St. Patrick used the three leaf shamrock to teach the Irish people about the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I'll celebrate that!
  • I'm at least part Irish, one eighth.  My mother's grandmother was Irish and she married a Lithuanian man.  I'm not sure how much Irish, if any, is in either of my grandfather's lineage.
  • I wore a green shirt to work last night on the chance that I would work past midnight.  Did it work?
  • It was really nice to jog in the rain yesterday.  It started sprinkling just as I left and by the time I got to the park, it was raining.  Mrs. Scott always remarks that I bring a fresh smell back home with me.
  • It all goes together very well.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Does Your Church Honor the Less Honorable?

But now there are many members, but one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.  1 Corinthians 12:20-26

Paul is saying here that the weaker, the uncomely, the unseemly, the less honorable (or whatever other words used by the various English translations) are not only necessary in the body of Christ, but are given more honor than the rest.  Not only is this to be the case with us, but this is the way God designed it to be.  Do we really carry this out in reality?

Our natural tendency is to honor the strong, the acceptable, the ones with the bible degrees, the rich, the good looking, the refined, the ones who have the best jobs.  And we tend to neglect, ignore or marginalize the weaker.  But note what Paul says about the result of bestowing more honor upon the weaker: "...our less presentable members become much more presentable."  Much more presentable?  If this is so, why not make it a point?  When one is weaker and not presentable, being neglected sure is felt and a pattern of neglect can make weakness permanent.  Who wouldn't want a more presentable body?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why Should I Trust You If I Don't Know You?

Alan Knox takes a stab at debunking the popular idea - yea, even lament - that "this generation" has a problem committing to church and a problem with respect for authority.  He doesn't buy it.  Instead, he simply makes a point that "this generation" has figured out that:

"people are not trustworthy simply because of their position or because they say that they are trustworthy."

While I do think that "this generation" has some problems of its own, I also think Alan has a very good point about trust and commitment.  I think the opposite can be at least as true, in that previous generations maybe had too much trust of authority and committed to church maybe a bit to a fault.  Either way, Alan's post is thought provoking.  And yes, I do trust the authorities that I know much more than those I don't.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Adding The Wartburg Watch

I am adding a new blog to my links.  See The Wartburg Watch.  The Wartburg Watch, to paraphrase their basic description, is a blog authored by two women who are dedicated to the discussion of disturbing trends in the realm of Christendom.  This includes the topics of spiritual abuse within churches, authoritarianism, legalism and other such things.

I occasionally visited TWW upon finding a link there, but the recent news over the church discipline case at Mars Hill prompted me to add TWW to my links (it can be found under my "Notable and of Interest" section).  The authors have personally experienced mistreatment from church leadership and have decided to write about their own experiences as well as the experiences of others.  I would encourage anybody with an interest in such things to check out The Wartburg Watch.

Monday, February 13, 2012

On Authoritarian Church Leadership

Recently the disturbing story about "church discipline" at Mars Hill church broke.  Mark Driscoll was in the spotlight again, and a new conversation about authoritarian church leadership started. (I will provide links in another post) Numerous other people commented and responded with blog posts of their own.  All of this came on the heels of the less popular topic of problems with CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries not long before.

One of the more interesting things to me as I read the story of "Andrew" and how he was treated by his church is that there are many more very similar stories out there about Mars Hill, SGM, and other like-minded churches.  I am no exception to this myself as I have attended my share of what I would call authoritarian churches.  The attitudes and treatment that others have received are similar to what I have experienced, both by myself and others I have known.

In upcoming posts I hope to comment on authoritarian churches, deal with some of the theological issues behind their ideas, and maybe relate my own stories.  I hope also to look at Andrew's story and the reaction to it that comes from all sides.  Authoritarian leadership has been a problem for God's people for ages.  Understanding it is a first step for Christians in dealing with it head on.

Monday, January 02, 2012

A Reformed Drinker Gets A Pub To Change Its Name

A reformed drinker named Jason Nota uses the internet to change the name of a pub! What may seem like a successful venture into social activism is merely a play on words here.  You see, Jason Nota is a beer drinker who holds to Reformed theology, and he changed the name of his blog from PILGRIMS PUB to Reformed Drinker.

Jason has been on my blogroll for years and I will shortly change that name and web location in my margin.  Jason writes about drinking beer in moderation, lists all the beers he drinks, rates all the beers he drinks, and often takes head on the false modernist American religious beliefs of prohibitionism and abstentionism. If you enjoy beer or care to know why it's okay for a Christian to drink it, check out Jason's blog, Reformed Drinker.