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Archive for the ‘Emerging Church’ Category


I predict ...

I predict ...

Lack of funding.  They need another $2.8 million to complete the project.

It’s actually a funny interview– what with Steve Taylor and Donald Miller involved.  The target audience of the movie doesn’t have the money to invest.  And those who do have the money have never heard of the book.

I like this part:

Both men say they won’t invest any of their own money into the project.

“Writers don’t make much money anyway,” laughs Miller. “Like Obama says, it’s above my pay grade.”

Angst Personified

Angst Personified

Taylor took out a sizeable loan against his home to help make The Second Chance a few years ago, and says he’ll never do it again.

“I should have called that move The Second Mortgage,” he says. “I made a deal with my wife back then that we’d only use that strategy once.”

Miller and Taylor both say they’re sure the film will get made.

“I’m convinced it’s going to happen,” says Miller.

Asked if there was any chance the project will die, Taylor quipped, “Not unless I die first.” But when pressed for a timetable, he added, “Are you pre- or post-millennial?”

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I’m continuing to work my way through McLaren’s book A New Kind of Christian.  I would sum it up as increasingly frustrating.  Neo keeps getting further and further out there.  And the strawmen he argues against are increasingly obscure.

This is an incredible nit-pick, but World Cup soccer is played by national teams.  DC United wouldn’t play, much less win, that competition.  Yep, this is fiction but try to keep the connections to reality there to make it believable and in the spirit of being missional- being ignorant of such matters means you lose street cred.  Okay, off the box.

Neo’s sermon contains a section from C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, one I have a particularly difficult time with.  But Neo uses it to teach truth, not illustrate truth.  This would be because the truth he’s trying to illustrate doesn’t exist.  Kind hearted muslims (or pick your religion) are not serving Jesus unknowingly.  In Scripture you find that people forsake their worthless idols to worship the true God.  That’s a bit different than what Neo is trying to encourage.

I’ll give McLaren the credit for reminding people that the church exists to expand the kingdom, benefiting the world.  How he and I understand that is a bit different.  Yes, some Christians reduce the gospel to personal salvation, ignoring the cosmic implications.  Is it possible to make too much of the cosmic implications?  Yes, if you minimize what Scripture maxamizes.  Scripture addresses the need for personal salvation far more than the cosmic implications of redemption.  Jesus and the Apostles do show a great deal of concern for the people’s fate.  His first “sermon”, “repent and believe for the kingdom is at hand.”  “Repent and believe” is conversion talk.  “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins” is conversion talk, and the point of Peter’s very first sermon.  So this notion that “it’s none of your business who goes to hell” is not in step with Scripture.  If modern evangelicals are to be chastized for importing  modern notions onto the Scripture (and they are at times), so should McLaren be chastized for importing notions foreign to Scripture and deny notions prevalent in Scripture.  He also takes some Scripture completely out of context to make his point.  He mentions Jesus’ words to Peter as though we should not be concerned with anyone else’s eternal destiny.  But Peter is asking how John will die.  THAT is of no concern to Peter.

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On the right, where he doesnt want to be!

On the right, where he doesn't want to be!

Feeling quite behind the times, I borrowed a friend’s copy of A New Kind of Christian.  I have been unable to get to it the last few weeks.  It was as if I just didn’t have the mental energy.  Oddly, I was able to make some significant headway today on the plane and relaxing in the backyard.

I am sympathetic to the concerns often raised by members of the emergent church movement.  I don’t often like their answers to the problems.  As I read Brian McLaren’s book, I experienced that same strange conflux of thoughts.

As I read the book I would be considered one of the modernist Christians McLaren is trying to ‘convert’.  I guess I feel like a non-Christian would feel when reading one of those poorly written novels intending to convert you to Christianity.  Not completely- I’m not angry with McLaren though I take exception with some of his conclusions.  Thus far anyway.

McLaren does point out that the extremes in popular American Christianity are problematic.  He comes off a bit reductionistic to me.  He does this by neglecting the good things that those modernistic American Christians have contributed to society.  He thinks we should do more than we preach- showing the gospel with our actions.  Yes, and many do this.  Many American evangelicals reach out to the poor and oppressed.  They are often very generous.  And it seems less than generous to ignore this in his gentle diatribe against enculturated modern Christians a.k.a. organized religion or the institutional church.

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In simplifying a few things, I am dropping the Book Reviews page since I use posts to do that now (they were reviews done on my first blog, which I didn’t want to lose).  So here are the old ones from there.  They are fairly short.  Enjoy!

The Doctrine of God: A Theology of Lordship by John Frame.  A few years in the reading.  This is a tome, not a book.  But it was well worth the investment of my time over that period.  Frame is not the most exciting author, but he is able to open my eyes to some of the more profound truths of Scripture. 

Particularly helpful is his exhaustive understanding of Lordship (presence, authority & control).  If this is all you get from the book, you have done well.  It really changes how you view Scripture, and seek to apply it to your life.

The section on the Trinity was probably the weakest- but that is because there is so much mystery surrounding it.  Our faith seeks understanding, but that exceeds our mental faculties.  Still, invest your mental faculties on this book, er.. tome.

Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald May.  May passed away recently.  He spent time looking at the works of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila.  He provides a flawed but helpful book.  First, John and Teresa seem to be complete Pelagians.  If May is accurate, they believed that we all are already united to God and people merely get themselves in the way of enjoying God’s delight.  I also have an issue with mysticism.  Since the Scriptures are my sole authority of faith and practice, I find no basis for the contemplative prayer as expressed by the mystics.  We meditate on God’s Word which reveals His character, works and promises.  This is very different from essentially emptying your mind to experience His love.

Despite the terminology, discussion of the 3 ’spirits’ of the Dark Night is helpful for us.  We struggle with the lack of pleasure we experience.  At times, all our attempts to find pleasure are thwarted.  We are then tempted to rage against God.  Lastly we experience great confusion.  We are uncertain what to do, and what lies next.  This is not a one-time experience, but often a continuous process that ebbs and flows.  This happens to wean us from our various idols that we might find our joy and hope in Christ and Him alone.  This section of the book, the last, is most helpful for the average Christian.

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I forgot Iain Murray’s book at home so my post on Revivalism will have to wait.  But while checking a few blogs I ran across this recent interview with Mark Driscoll.  In this section he addresses the question of revival and the remarkable growth experienced by Mars Hill and some other Acts 29 churches.

JV: Do you have a theology of revival? I guess many would see the rapid growth at Mars Hill (and some of the Acts 29 work) as taking on revival proportions. Is this how you would see it, or are you looking for something further (or do you even see revival as a helpful category)?

MD: I do. I have read both Jonathan Edwards and Iain Murray on this, for example. I have also studied many church movements such as the Methodists and Jesus Movement. I do believe that revival is akin to Nehemiah stacking the old stones that had lain unused for many generations. My city (Seattle) is still pre-Christian so technically I would say that we are more of a missions movement than a revival movement. But, as we spread through our campuses and church plants around the nation and world, I guess that is possible.

By God’s grace, we are multi-denominational and having what seems to be a positive and helpful influence on many churches, denominations and networks for which we praise God. In the end, we’ll see what God does. We’re off to an encouraging start but the game is far from over and maybe one day when I’m dead someone can write the report of what happened and see if it qualifies as something akin to a revival. For now, I’m just trying to follow Jesus, love my wife, enjoy my kids, pastor my church, preach my Bible, confess my sins, write my books and have my fun.

JV: Given your vantage point, what would you predict for the development of evangelicalism in the West over the coming 20 years?

MD: I would hope to see a robust gospel, love of church planting, and call for dudes to act dudely.

I appreciate his humility.  Unlike a revivalist, he’s not claiming he’s got a revival going on.  He is waiting for the test of time to reveal if what is happening is genuine.  It may be this humility that has opened the door for even more growth.  Earlier this year Mark publicly repented of the pride he saw charactizing his ministry, and by extension that of the church.  After the Resurgence conference he shared how Piper & C.J. Mahaney had a heart to heart with him.  And the gospel seems to make progress in this “missions” setting.

Adrian Warnock has Mark summing up Holy Week like this:

 “Something broke this weekend, spiritually. I’m not sure how to explain it, but God’s favor was evident everywhere. We had 8,070 people attend on Sunday, plus however many could not make it into the Eastside Campus or stand up outside the building to listen on speakers because there was no room in the parking lot or on the sidewalk. We had 3,648 for Good Friday services plus however many hundreds got turned away from the 7 p.m. service at Ballard. We had at least 11,718 people altogether this weekend, somewhere near 200 baptisms yesterday alone, and are still trying to figure out how many people got saved. . . .Yesterday, while singing with the congregation at each of the five services I preach live, I could not stop weeping. People were singing loudly with their hands in the air. They cheered all day as people came forward to give their lives to Jesus and be baptized. The pastors were up front laying hands on people, praying over them, and leading them to Christ by the dozens at every service. I stood off to the side during the singing to watch what God was doing, and multiple people walked up to me weeping and asked me to pray with them to become a Christian.”

Being a student of Edwards and Murray, I have a hard time thinking they are using the typical manipulative techniques advanced (but not invented) by Finney which fit in with his rejection of depravity, substitutionary atonement and other biblical teachings.  It will be interesting to follow this over time.  Hopefully Mark will remain humble, indeed increase in humility, as he watches God changes lives thru the gospel of His Son.

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No, I have not yet read this one.  Lots of people are.  I see it on people’s blogs.  Some rave about it, and others are less enthralled.  Peter Jones has a good critical review of Pagan Christianity at Reformation 21.  What seems to be the problem with the book?

First, Peter mentions that the book does not seek to explain paganism proper.  Viola seems to use it merely to describe a non-Christian influence that is to blame for everything he doesn’t like about the “modern” church in the West.

 “This unexamined term is used as a whip to drive out of the present temple all the money-changers and their godless activities. In addition to “dressing up for church” and Sunday School (“swelling the cranium” 199), such pagan activities include: the notion of a “personal savior” (190); the liturgy (even the hymn-prayer-hymn sandwich); the sermon, the ordained, salaried ministry or “pastoral office” (136); robes; youth pastors; elder directed communities; baptism; the Lord’s supper (“a strange pagan-like rite”197); taking an offering and tithing; denominations; Bible Colleges and seminaries; instruments; hymns and church buildings, and choirs. For its all-knowing pretentiousness, one statement is mind-boggling. (Alas, it characterizes so many of Viola’s generalizations.) Dismissing the place of the sermon in Christian worship, Viola reveals: “…the truth is that the contemporary sermon preached every week…is often impractical…[and] has little power to equip God’s people for spiritual service and functioning” (98-99). He also “knows” that “the Sunday morning service is shamefully boring” (76). How does he know? If these judgments have Barna polling data to support them, they are not mentioned!”

Second, Viola’s book is yet another that traces all the problems to the church back to Constantine making Christianity a legitimate religion.  Okay, it isn’t quite that reductionistic.  But it sounds like all those books that only talk about what is wrong with America (similar to Obama following the stichk of many college professors).  It flattens out reality.  I went through that phase briefly after the Iran-Contra scandal (I was disillusioned by the end of Reagan’s 2nd term).  What happens is you only see what is wrong, and don’t acknowledge what is right.  Yes, Americans have done some horrendous things.  But we hardly have a market on that.  And Americans have done some fantastic things (and are currently doing them in places like Africa).

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Finished up Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution by Jeffery, Ovey & Sach today.  Between being sick and adopting, I went slowly.

I covered the first main section of the book in a previous post.  The rest of the book focused on the objections that are being raised to penal substitution (Jesus suffered God’s wrath in our place).  It spelled them out, including various variations on a theme, and then responded to them.  Some were very easy to respond to- all you do is essentially point to the biblical data in an earlier chapter to show they objection has no merit in fact.  Some show gross misunderstandings or they are only concerned with setting up strawmen.  Some were much more difficult.  Here is some of the main objections, and answers.

Penal Substition is not the only model of the atonement.  I can’t ever remember reading a book that said it was.  The atonement is far more rich, and has many aspects (like a diamond in A.A. Hodges’ words).  But penal substitution is essential to any biblical and meaningful explanation of the atonement.

 Penal substitution diminishes the significane of Jesus’ life and resurrection.  Jesus entire life was part of his atoning work.  His perfect obedience was essential to his saving work.  His resurrection is also essential to his saving work, not just an add on.  It declares that he is the Son of God, and we were raised up in union with him.  He now enjoys the power of everlasting life so he lives forever to intercede for us.  Apart from his substitionary death, he could not rise as the firstfruit of the recreation.

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