Wednesday, April 30, 2008

All That Need Be Said About Jeremiah Wright

The following is from an article found at:

The article is about reactions to comments by
Sen. Barack Obama's minister:

Mychal Massie, chairman of Project 21, a conservative black think tank, said he finds Wright's remarks about the black church "vulgar."

"There is no black church," Massie told Cybercast News Service . "There is no white church. There's only the Christian church. And if it's not (a Christian church), it's an abomination to God."

Massie, who holds theological degrees, said he bases his opinion on the Bible, specifically Acts 34-35: "Then Peter opened his mouth and said, 'Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons. But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."

"I defy him to do a study of the word of God and produce anything that he has to say," Massie said. "It isn't in there."

Kent comments:

In this case, I don't have to comment. Mychal Massie has said it all.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Christian Unity and Institutional Mergers


April 21, 2008

United Methodist Church to Consider Full Communion with ELCA

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) will consider a proposal for full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) when it meets April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The proposal, "Implementing Resolution for Full Communion between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Methodist Church," has been years in the making.

Assuming adoption by the UMC General Conference, the ELCA Church Council requested that a formal proposal for full communion with the United Methodist Church be presented at its November 2008 meeting. The council will consider transmitting the proposal for action by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The assembly meets in Minneapolis Aug. 17-23.

The two churches have had a relationship of "Interim Eucharistic Sharing" since 2005. That relationship called for members to pray for and support each other, to study Scripture together and to learn about each other's traditions.

Full communion means the churches will work for visible unity in Jesus Christ, recognize each other's ministries, work together on a variety of ministry initiatives, and, under certain circumstances, provide for the interchangeability of ordained clergy.

[full article can be found at:]

Kent comments:

There are basically two views of Christian unity. One concerns itself with the institutional end of things, as described in the story above.

The other is about discovering what makes one a Christian, and then recognizing that all Christians belong to the one Christ, and are thus one - whether they like it or not!

There has always been a lamentable tendency for the church to become highly institutionalized, and then focus more on the life and workings of the institution rather than the Christian faith in the lives of people. I know that most of those caught up in the grinding wheels of the institutional church will claim that their institutional machinery is merely a means to the end of helping people live out the Christian faith. Sometimes, perhaps, they are partly right in that.

But the whole focus on Christian unity as something akin to a corporate merger is wrong-headed. Consider this: denominations can merge when there is no real unity, and true Christian unity can be had whether denominations merge or not.

A pioneer of Christian unity in North America, Thomas Campbell, once wrote, “the Church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one.” It is one in essence because all who belong to Jesus Christ are linked together in Him. It is one in intention because this is the grand plan of the Living God. It is one in constitution because the Bible is its final documentary authority.

I hope the Methodists and the Lutherans enjoy their “full communion” should it be realized. But I hope they don’t confuse that with the unity enjoyed by all the followers of Christ.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Of Apostles and Armed Men

News item:

Calvin Students Protest Armed Campus Security: Calvin College, a Christian school in Michigan, has recently passed a plan that would allow its three campus security supervisors to carry a gun. The move makes Calvin the first private college in West Michigan to allow armed campus security. However, several dozen of the school's four thousand students have marched in protest to the move believing that guns have no place on their campus at all. Even arming just 3 of the more than 40 campus security personnel is too much for them. (Grand Rapids Press, April 17, 2008)

Kent comments:

While this report says this is a “Christian school” and presumably many of the students there think themselves Christians, they don’t think like Christians should think. Not, at least, when you take note of the example of the Apostle Paul. The students at Calvin College object to armed protection, but the Apostle Paul invited it, welcomed it, and accepted it.

The account in Acts 23 tells us that when Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, a group of his fellow Jews hatched a plot to murder him. It was a plot to which Paul was alerted by his nephew. Had the Apostle agreed with the students at Calvin College, he would have done nothing. The use of armed men for his own protection would have been excluded by his tender conscience.

But it appears that the Apostle did not agree with the students at Calvin College. Instead of sitting back and being “non-violent” Paul had his nephew report this to the Roman commander. This caused the Roman commander to transport Paul with two hundred and seventy heavily armed soldiers.

Not only did Paul not object to this, he clearly welcomed it. Otherwise he could have kept his mouth shut and allowed himself to be murdered.

But Paul didn’t see the world that way. He recognized that some actions made one “worthy of death” (Acts 25:11) and he wasn’t only talking about spiritual death.

So if the students at Calvin College agreed with the Apostle Paul, they would want all their security guards armed. This just goes to show that being a student at a “Christian college” does not necessarily make one think like an Apostle.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Differences Don't Matter - Do They?

Here are the results of a recent Christianity Today Poll:

Do you think the barriers between Catholics and evangelicals should be lowered?

No. The Catholic Church doesn't facilitate true discipleship. 15%
No. Evangelicals aren't part of the true church unless they join the Catholic Church. 2%
No. The traditions on both sides should be preserved as they are. 2%
No (other) 11%
Yes. We're all Christians, after all. 17%
Yes. We need to work together to shape the culture for Christ. 21%
Yes, we should be on good terms so that Catholics/evangelicals can come to the true knowledge of God. 26%
Yes (other) 6%

Total Votes: 1267

Kent comments:

I begin with a couple of qualifications. First, this is one of those self-selected polls. Only people with internet access who decide to take the poll are included. So it is not representative - obviously. Second, my point here is not to discuss evangelicals vs. Catholics. I consider myself neither.

What is interesting is how many readers of CT who decided to take the poll reflect our dominant cultural prejudice about religion. That prejudice is this: religious differences don’t matter.

It is not reflected only in the answers. You can see it in the way the question is worded: “Do you think the barriers between Catholics and evangelicals should be lowered?” That makes it sound like this is something parallel to a drawbridge over a river. If someone would just pulls the correct lever, evangelicals and Catholics could flow back and forth at will.

If I am a Roman Catholic and I desire to become an evangelical of some stripe, what’s to stop me? If I’m an evangelical of some stripe and decided to become a Roman Catholic, that can be done, too. The recent president of the Evangelical Theological Society - of all people - recently did just that! See details here.

Notice that the largest percentage of all respondents chose the answer “Yes, we should be on good terms so that Catholics/evangelicals can come to the true knowledge of God.” Consider what both those who selected this answer and the people who composed it for the poll seemed to have in mind.

“So that Catholics/evangelicals can come to the true knowledge of God”? Why do they have to be on “good terms” to do that? Has no one in either group done that yet? What on earth could this mean? If nothing else, this shows how much confusion reigns within Christendom.

At some point religious people need to realize that logic demands a limited number of options when there is disagreement. If two people agree on their religious views, either both can be right or both can be wrong. If two people disagree regarding religious views, either both can be wrong, or at best only one can be right.

But many will read the preceding paragraph and think, “It’s not a matter of right or wrong.” But if religious views cannot be true or false, they end up being pointless matters of psychology.

For many today, this is exactly what religion has become, except they don’t want to admit the pointlessness of it all. In fact, in a world where my feelings, my inner thoughts and struggles, my personal psychology are the ultimate reality, anything that makes me feel better about myself becomes of utmost importance.

But in such a world, truth - as an accurate description of reality - simply evaporates. For those in pursuit of truth, where Roman Catholics and evangelicals (just to take this example, it applies across the religious board) disagree, they cannot both be right.

If differences really don’t matter, then truth becomes a disposable category. But if truth is not disposable, then the only way differences between religious groups can be “lowered” is to work hard to discover who is right, and who is wrong.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Do Something More Than Just "Remember"

Today I received this message:

Moment of Silence in Remembrance
Of Virginia Tech Victims TODAY at Noon

The Northern Kentucky University campus community will have a moment of silence today at noon in honor of the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech tragedy. NKU President James Votruba will begin his Spring Convocation with a moment of silence. He invites all NKU faculty, staff and students to join him at noon in honoring all those affected by the shootings.

Kent comments:

Many universities are probably doing the same today. The Virginia Tech episode was a tragedy. But in what is an even worse tragedy, universities around the nation stubbornly refuse to do the one thing that would make any repeats of that episode much less likely. Here at NKU, and at campuses around the nation, we should do more than just ‘remember.’ We should take constructive action.

At NKU, as at many (most, all?) universities around the nation, legally armed citizens may not legally carry concealed on campus. Some probably do anyway. But the law-abiding do not, and that leads to a dangerous situation.

Those signs that announce a campus as a “weapons-free zone” are a kind of perverse invitation for those who might want to go on a killing spree such as the one last year at Virginia Tech. Campus security officers cannot be everywhere at all times. That leaves students on campus targets ripe for would-be mass murderers.

States that have very sensibly put into place concealed-carry laws should do one more life-saving thing: they should require state universities to allow concealed-carry permit holders to carry on campuses. The presence of armed citizens is a statistically proven way to reduce the likelihood of armed criminal wrong-doing.

If a state has decided that it is appropriate for legal concealed carriers to be armed in public at other places, why not on campuses? Irrational prejudices against firearms and their users should not be allowed to diminish public safety, and the right of people to defend themselves - even on campus.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Of Loaded Questions and False Theology

Recently, while perusing the Christian Standard website, I ran across an interview.

The interviewer was Brad Dupray, who is senior vice president with Church Development Fund, Irvine, California, seems to be the regular interviewer for the Christian Standard.

The interviewee is Lynn Anderson, who is touted in the interview introduction as “one of the most respected authorities on church eldership, not just in the Restoration Movement, but in the evangelical world.”

In the course of the interview came this exchange:

Q: Is a church missing out on a large pool of potential leaders by not having women as elders?

A: I believe, first of all, the issue needs to be addressed locally and contextually. Even if your theology allowed for women in leadership, it may not be a prudent thing to do if your church culture is not ready for it. If your congregation's hermeneutic/theology makes room for women to fill a church leadership role (preaching, teaching, etc.), then yes, we are obviously missing a great deal having only male elders. The yin is missing from the yang.

Q: What if a church’s hermeneutic doesn’t allow for women as elders?

A: Then, of course, this is a moot question. This issue must be addressed in the context of the local church. However, again, even if your theology/hermeneutic allows for women in leadership roles, that does not necessarily mean it is the prudent thing to do “at your place” and “now.”

Kent comments:

It seems fairly clear that Brad Dupray is enamored with the idea of women elders. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, Mr. Dupray will ask questions to “make a point” about the value of women elders. You can see this in his interview with Eleanor Daniel.

Notice how the “question” here is more than a question. How much more loaded and leading could words be than “missing out on a large pool of potential leaders”?

I was a bit surprised by the answer that comes from a supposed “expert” on eldership. Placing women in a position that contravenes the teaching of scripture - wouldn't that be a great idea if only “your congregation’s hermeneutic/theology” allowed for it?

Notice how the interviewer picks up on this kind of talk when he asks, “What if a church’s hermeneutic doesn’t allow for women as elders?” What if the clear teaching of the Apostle Paul, whose writings are scripture, doesn’t allow it?

Is this not strange language for people who supposedly claim the Bible as the sole rule of faith and practice? If “your hermeneutic” can so easily distort what the Bible says about this, you need a new hermeneutic. If “your theology” allows for women elders then it is faulty theology.

According to Lynn Anderson, “we are obviously missing a great deal having only male elders.” What we are “missing” is disobedience to scripture - and that’s a good thing to miss!

The only reason we might not want to have women as elders is if it is not "
the prudent thing to do 'at your place' and 'now.'" But, as we all know, places, times, hermeneutics, and theologies can change, so perhaps soon, women elders will be coming to a congregation near you! (Far be it from us enlightened ones to be trapped in something unchanging like the very words of God.)

People so inclined can come up with a multitude of excuses to ignore the word of God, especially when it conflicts with the prejudices of our culture. But it is amazing that someone claiming to be an expert in church eldership would so glibly sidestep the teaching of the Bible about elders.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Cultural Schizo


the Cincinnati Enquirer
Friday, April 4, 2008
page A3

Atlanta judge sorry for ordering whites out

Atlanta - A black judge says he was wrong to evict whites from his courtroom so he could deliver a stern lecture to black defendants, but says he meant no harm.

“I wanted to have a fireside chat,” Fulton Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington said Thursday. “And my grandmother said years ago that if you’re going to fuss at black people, you don’t need to do it in front of white people.”

He added, “I probably made a bad judgment call and I probably won’t do it again. It was not ill-intended. My heart was in the right place.”

Last Thursday - sentencing day in his courtroom - Arrington asked all white people to leave the room before he lowered the boom on the defendants, telling them that bad behavior in poorer black neighborhoods drags down black advancement.

Kent comments:

Our society has a very serious underlying problem: public opinion prejudice. I think it is more serious than racism (which remains a problem, of course) because it is like a disease that a person refuses to acknowledge he has.

This little episode from the news story above probably is not a tragedy of epic proportions. But it reveals and illustrates a festering problem in our culture.

If this judge had been anything other than black, and had ordered blacks out of his courtroom, all hell would have broken loose, so to speak. Our culture is ultra-sensitive about real or perceived affronts to blacks, but we have a strange silence about affronts to any other group.

Candidate Obama and his “minister” - the details of which we will not recount here - is another example of this. Any non-black minister saying the things about blacks that this “Rev.” said about whites would be denounced by everyone who had a platform to do so.

In my opinion, it is the collective memory of black slavery that underlies this cultural schizophrenia. Because the ancestors of living blacks were brought to North American as slaves, many of those who came under much better conditions have a bit of inherited psychological guilt that we attempt to assuage by giving blacks a pass on all sorts of misbehavior.

What everyone seems to forget is that blacks living today were never slaves here, and that most Europeans who came to North America were the decedents of serfs. Under feudalism, most people were serfs, and they had almost no control over their lives and labor. For some reason, we seem to have forgotten this significant fact.

If the fact that your ancestors were slaves is an excuse for bad social behavior, then almost everyone in the United States has the same excuse.

It is well past the time, as a culture, to deal equitably with everyone, regardless of race. If public opinion would not tolerate a white judge removing all blacks from his courtroom - no matter how “innocent” the motive - then it should not tolerate a black judge doing the same thing.

If we truly want to get past the illogical idea of judging people by “the color of their skin” then we are going to have to stop issuing these cultural excuses for bad behavior to people of only one color.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Misgivings Concerning "Open-handednesss"

This post consists of comments on:

An Open-Handed Gospel
We have to decide whether we have a stingy or a generous God.
Richard J. Mouw (Richard J. Mouw is president and professor of Christian philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary.)

Kent will comment in bold. The rest is excerpts from this article. You can read the whole thing at

and I will say up front that the author says much that is not quoted here. Also, I am not attempting to defend any group of evangelicals, of which group I am not a member. I want to comment on only some of the ideas presented. Away we go.

Richard J. Mouw:

Many evangelical commentators these days insist that salvation is closely tied to doctrinal clarity. Here, for example, is how one prominent evangelical leader criticized those of us who have endorsed the various "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" documents: "What those signers … are saying is that while they believe the doctrine of justification as articulated by the Reformers is true, they are not willing to say people must believe it to be saved. In other words, they believe people are saved who do not believe the biblical doctrine of justification."

I am passionate in my agreement with Martin Luther on justification by faith alone. But do I believe that a person can be confused about this doctrine and still be saved? Absolutely.

I sympathize with the plea to avoid thinking that everyone who doesn’t understand all of Biblical teaching is headed for hell. My gut instinct is to want to throw the gates of heaven wide open to everyone who wants to come, no matter what they think or do. But my instincts do not count for anything here. There are beliefs, according to the Bible, that we must hold in order to be saved. For example, the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:9 informs us that one belief required for salvation is that “God raised Jesus from the dead.” Many people simply do not believe that, and if they do not, I can offer them no reassurance about salvation.

While it sounds a bit harsh, I don’t make up these rules, I just report them. Does this make God "stingy"? It makes God a God of truth. Beyond that I will not venture.

Richard J. Mouw:

And the truth is that we evangelicals often give the impression that we have decided to be a spiritually stingy people. A recent Barna Group survey, for example, offers evidence that many young people in the larger society think of evangelicals primarily as "judgmental" types, hostile toward folks in other religions and mean-spirited in our attitudes about homosexuality. Even many young evangelicals share some of these assessments of the older generation. A leader at an evangelical college said it this way: "A lot of our students worry about typical evangelical attitudes toward people who have different belief systems and lifestyles. It's not that they don't take the Bible's teachings seriously. It's just that they have gotten to know Muslims and gays, and they are embarrassed by the harsh spirit toward such folks that they see in the older generation. If we don't do something about this negative image soon, we could easily lose them for the evangelical cause."

Let’s not worry about Muslims just now. This matter of how Christians (or other people in our society, for that matter) should deal with “gays” is something that some Christian “leaders” have been harping about for some time now. (Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are worried sick about this very matter.)

Project with me for just a moment. Suppose those who enjoy the sin of having sexual relationships with animals suddenly decided to demand social recognition. (It will happen - it’s just a matter of time.) Suppose if you took your family to Cape Cod, instead of seeing men walking around draped around other men, you saw men (or women) and their “animal partner” of choice, the human now and then kissing or showing signs of affection/perversion to the animal. (I’m not sure how the animals might react, so I won’t explore that!)

Suppose the beastiphiles (yes, I made that one up) were all very sincere. Suppose they believed they were “born that way” and that their actions were something everyone else should “respect.” Suppose most public figures and media outlets began to treat the beastiphiles as a persecuted minority deserving some special legal protection. Suppose the beastiphiles began to demand that their employers cover their “significant animal other” under a healthcare plan. Suppose the beastiphiles began to demand legal recognition for human-beast marraige.

How should a Christian react to all that? Would not a bit of an it’s-time-to-draw-a-line-in-the-sand attitude be justified? The only real difference between this senario and the current matter of “gay” things is that the “gay” propaganda has been force-fed to everyone in almost every venue (see a sample from the New York Times) for many years now. (And anyone who says otherwise simply has an anti-beastiphilia prejudice.)

I will stop there, but you get the idea.

Richard J. Mouw:

I have spent a lot of time trying to promote convicted civility. I have to confess, however, that I sometimes get a little nervous about that project. It is so easy . . . to err on one side or the other; holding both up simultaneously takes constant effort. And I would hate to have assisted the cause of a freewheeling sense of divine generosity that does not maintain vigilance in protecting and defending the truth of the gospel.

But the effort to keep this marriage together needs to be made. The proper antidote to relativism and universalism is not a retreat into a stingy spirit. We must be clear in telling others about the hope that lies within us, the apostle Peter teaches; but he quickly adds that we must always do so "with gentleness and respect" (1 Pet. 3:15–16).

We need to be careful not to read into “gentleness and respect” things the Biblical writers did not intend. For example, some anti-Christian assertions make the one who makes them worthy of “condemnation” - this according to the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:8. (For other examples, examine the public pronouncements of John the Baptizer.)

Because we live in a culture that itself condemns any view that does not pretend to tolerate every view, almost anything Christians try to say or do is going to be falsely branded as “intolerant” and thus lacking respect. “Respect” has come to mean that we must never seriously critique anyone’s view of anything.

So while some Christians can be overly vitriolic, what we lack more than anything today is a clear statement of truth in a world wedded to relativism. In that context, charges that we lack “gentleness and respect” will often mean that we are stating some truth some members of our culture would rather not hear.

Sometimes, perhaps often times, the problem is not with what we are saying or how we are saying it. The problem is with listeners who needs to repent.

Richard J. Mouw:

[regarding some kind words exchanged between a Jewish rabbi and the king of an Islamic country]

As an evangelical Christian . . . I believe with all my heart that the God I worship, the God of Abraham, looked down on that scene, where a descendent of Isaac gave a blessing to a descendent of Ishmael, and smiled and said, "That's good! That's the way I want things to be!" I'm not entirely clear about how to work this into my theology, I confessed, but I'm willing to live with some mystery in thinking about that encounter.

I find I need to live with some mystery about what God is doing in the Abrahamic religions. At the same time, I cannot fail to proclaim the John 3:16 message that God has sent a Savior, and that those who believe on him will not perish but have everlasting life.

We serve a God whose generous ways with others are beyond our capacity to grasp. But that same generosity has been clearly displayed in the marvelous grace that sent our Savior to Calvary—an abundant grace that is greater than all of our sin. The proclamation of that overwhelming generosity must not be muted, even as we live in the presence of mysteries we cannot comprehend.

There is a pervasive and perverse tendency for those who want to avoid coming to any definite conclusion to hide in “mystery.” In Biblical terminology, what God has revealed is no longer a mystery. There is no “mystery” about “what God is doing in the Abrahamic religions.” He has done and is doing the same thing there as in every other religion. That program is nicely summarized by the Apostle Paul who said (by the way, to a hostile audience whose religious views, Paul had just informed them, were incorrect):

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." (Act 17:30-31 ESV)

Need I say more?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Unintended Consequences

Recently I was working on a column for the Restoration Herald in which I am responding to the idea that we must do “whatever it takes” to bring people to Christ. In the usual American, twenty-first century scheme of things, this means doing “whatever it takes” to get people to come to a church service. In fact, getting people to come to church services is usually associated with “reaching people.” Many interesting things are done in order to “reach people” in this sense.

Churches have become more like shopping malls or entertainment complexes in the name of “reaching people.” Churches have moved away from gathering together on the Lord’s Day in favor of “Saturday services” or even “Friday services.” This is done because, in our culture, Sunday has become a “day off” which must not be violated by things like church meetings. It has become a day for youth sports. It has become a lot of things, all of which involve people not meeting with the church. So to “reach” this culture, we adjust the church accordingly.

Then there is the matter of church music. Our culture loves rock concerts, where people can get “excited” by having a driving beat shake them to the depths of the large intestines. So churches transformed singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another into the “praise band” whipping the crowd - I mean the congregation - into a spiritual frenzy. Well, it doesn’t always go that far, but churches have definitely made a turn toward music that entertains people. While we do call this “reaching” people, there is no doubt that part of what is “reaching” them is entertaining music performed for them in a rock concert style.

So there has been a lot of cultural accommodation by the church in the name of “reaching people.” If you accept the premise that anything that is not overtly evil is appropriate for “reaching people” then some very interesting things might come up in the discussion. Back in 2006 I wrote a column in which I had a bit of fun with a church that was giving away a home entertainment center to one lucky attendee during the run-up to the Superbowl. In that column I joked a bit about giving away cash prizes instead of gift items. After I wrote the column I read about a church that did just that!

It all made me think about the sociology and economics of giving away money to entice people to attend church. It certainly could be done, both for older congregations with declining attendance as a problem, or new churches that need something to get them up and running quickly.

Now, of course, a church would need money to do this. But all churches need money for various things they do. So for now let’s just assume that the funds are available. Clearly, if you made it known that everyone who attended a certain church on a given Sunday would receive, let’s say, $100, you could get a nice crowd. But in the spirit of Charles Murray, who has been busy for decades analyzing the dynamics of welfare state giveaways and their unintended consequences, we would not want to enter into cash-for-attending schemes uncritically.

For example, the size of the prize would determine more than just how many people you might attract. Not only would smaller pay-outs probably attract fewer people, they would probably attract mostly lower-income people. If you believe that the gospel is for everyone, that kind of result would never do.

Consider this problem: if the goal of the giveaways is to attract new people, how long are people considered “new” and therefore eligible for the cash? Each congregation could pick its own number, but whatever the number, it wouldn’t just motivate people to come to one church. It would give people a motive to compile lists of churches in their area doing this, visit each one for the number of Sundays they are considered “new” and then move on to the next giveaway church.

Here is another problem: we could assume that committed Christians and even very sincere seekers would not need the cash payment motive to attend church. But if a congregation paid people to attend until they became Christians, but not thereafter, people would be motivated to attend but never become members of the Body of Christ.

These are but a few of the unintended consequences that would rear their ugly heads in any attempt to give people something for attending church. No matter how well-intentioned such an effort might be, it would probably end up producing results that most churches would not desire.

That very thing also happens when the church takes any approach that views cultural accommodation as a tool to make Christians. Some of culture is always part of what the Bible (especially the Johannine sections) refers to as “the world.” In the Bible “the world” is not a good thing. It is, rather, something that is opposed to God and is passing away due to its corruption. So when you attempt to make the church attractive to culture, you are inviting “the world” into the church. No matter what your goal when doing that, it will always have unintended, and very negative, consequences.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Immoderate Faith

Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish at (March 23, 2008)

I certainly don't believe anyone should vote for or against Obama - or anyone - on the basis of religious faith. But I have long felt the quiet power of Obama's doubt-filled, socially engaged, moderate Christianity. It is a great cultural salve against Christianism and fundamentalism.

Kent comments:

We will not discuss Barry Obama here primarily. Instead, I want to comment on this thing which the author feels “the quiet power of.” If Obama has this, then he is in as bad shape as Andrew Sullivan. Let’s examine what passes for powerful, as Christianity goes, in the twenty-first century. What must this ‘Christianity’ be?

It must be “doubt-filled.” While I will probably be branded as a “fundamentalist” for this, the Bible has some interesting language for doubters. They are said to be “double-minded” - and that isn’t a compliment. The doubting person, according to James 1:8, is an unstable person. Those who find religious “power” in instability are often people who don’t really like religion at all. Real Christianity begins with a God who has spoken. Such speaking settles many things and leaves room for little legitimate doubt.

But doubting has somehow become a virtue in the postmodern world. That is one of many reasons why Christianity cannot, as some of its proponents contend, be adapted to postmodernism. Postmodernism revels in instability, and that fact alone points to an inherent bit of insanity.

It must be “socially engaged.” While Christianity has always been about truly helping others (not enabling bad behavior, as has sometimes been the case) we must not mistake “socially engaged” for helping others. Social engagement, as it is usually defined by its proponents, typically involves trying to change society by force. Since the agent of force is the state, this usually means lobbying the state to get your idea of the perfect world imposed upon everyone else by force.

Again, this concept is foreign to the faith founded by Someone who said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” This shouldn’t imply that Christianity is not interested in helping people. But it does mean that you cannot rightly help people by force! It is amazing how the same people who are so willing to be double-minded about the content of the Christian faith can at the same time be cocksure that their ideas of how to remake society should be imposed by force - and immediately if not sooner!

It must be “moderate.” In a time when many bad things are labeled “extreme” (think “Islamic extremists”) anything moderate is thought to be good. For those who like things moderate, the feature which makes ‘moderate Christianity’ moderate is an unflinching conviction that good faith leads to no unflinching convictions. For moderates, moderate Christianity challenges nothing except those horrid fundamentalists and their ilk

But because of the content of the true Christian faith, it is difficult to think of it as moderate. What is ‘moderate’ about Jesus’ claim that no one can come to the Father except through Him? That’s about as immoderate as one can ever hope to be.

So what we find is that this “great cultural salve” that so enamors this writer at is not really Christianity at all. It is, rather, some postmodern idol painted to look something like Christianity. Under that paint, it is nothing like the real thing.

If this is in fact the faith of Obama, so much the worse for Obama. But if recent revelations about Obama’s church reflect his faith, it is not moderate at all. It is, rather, a version of liberation theology - that attempt to make a hybrid of Marxism and Christianity. While it is not Christianity, there is nothing moderate about that.