Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What is truth?

[In this post I am pulling together, editing and expanding on some comments I made to a recent post on another blog. ]

"Right now, Christianity is seen as a set of beliefs. Believe the right stuff, and you are Christian. Step in this box with its bounded sides, and you are “in.” Step out of line, and you may be outside of the realm of what we consider ‘orthodox’ or right belief. We live and work out of a bounded set constraint.

But there is another way.

A centered set paradigm places Jesus at the center and asks that we move toward him."

When someone distinguishes between "moving towards Jesus" and "Christianity as a set of beliefs" they are presupposing a false dichotomy.

I don’t have to choose between a belief set and “moving towards Jesus”. How do I know the Jesus I must move towards? Yes we must indeed move toward Him, in becoming more like Him. But the Jesus we must move towards is not a Jesus we imagine in our consciousness, but Jesus as He is objectively presented in the Gospel accounts. (I know I just used a “trigger” word post- modernity takes issue with.)

My question for our Emergent friends is who is the “Jesus” you are moving towards? How do you put content and context to who this “Jesus” is? How do you know the “Jesus” your are moving towards is the Jesus you should be moving towards? For that matter, how do you even know you should be moving towards “Jesus” at all? You can’t even speak of these things at all without context and content, and as soon as you have context and content, guess what? You have a belief set box!

It’s not “either/or”. It is “both/and”. I need a belief set to know who the Jesus is that I desperately need to be moving towards. And that box is not one of my making. God has spoken in time and history and He has spoken objectively about what reality is. We did not draw the box. He did. We can only recognize what He has already drawn. That is what something as basic as the Apostle’s Creed is all about; recognizing the box God Himself drew.

“As Pete Rollins suggests, we know about God and we know much of God, but we don’t know all of God. ”

My Emergent friend, I can accept and agree with this statement taking it at face value. The question that remains is are there things we do know of God that we can know with an unchanging, unwavering certainty that such “God facts” remain true in all times and in all cultures? Is there a box of “God facts” that God Himself has drawn that all, in all times and in all cultures, must believe and accept in order to know God rightly and savingly? If Jesus is in that box, then what are the facts about Jesus we need to know in order to really know Him?

Yes, to know someone involves more then just knowing facts about that person, but at the same time without some basic facts about that person, I can’t really start knowing him or her.

I am freely willing to confess that even after several thousand years in glory, we will still have to say we don’t know all of God and as finite beings never will know all of God. What I resist is a notion that what I do know of God I can not know with unwavering certainty. There are many lesser points of theology I am willing to hold with a loose hand. But I also see some core fundamental issues that I need to hold with a tight fist if I am to truly be in the faith.

Is it asking to much to ask of our Emergent friends that they clearly define those things they would hold to with a tight fist? Is it so wicked a sin to insist on and ask for clear and precise definitions? After all, what is truth?

"Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Blog Find: New Mexico Backroads

Jake Quinones is driving around the back roads of his native New Mexico with his camera in hand. He just recently started publishing his pictures via blog. Some nice scenery as well as other good photos...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Of This And That

The days are getting longer. We are getting closer to Spring, 55 more days to go. In Michigan it very easy to get weary of the snow and cold. Our "winter" actually started in November before Thanksgiving Day. In the midst of it all I am thankful for my Toro snowblower. We've had it for 7 years and the 2 cycle engine runs like a champ. I have little problem getting it started, and I credit it with saving me from a multitude of heart attacks.


The day after President Obama's Inauguration, my friend Roger commented, tongue in cheek, that we were one day closer to a new president. I suppose that's one way of looking at it positively. I can't believe the amount of vindictive venom that has been directed towards now former President George W. Bush. To hear some folks and to read some pundits you would think there is more hope for the devil then for GW. GW may not have been a "saint", but objective history will treat him kinder then the current pundits. GW was not the worst President we have ever had. In my life time Jimmy Carter holds that distinction. There is a reason Carter was only a one term President.


My wife and I have realized in recent weeks how much of our thinking is impacted by the consumer oriented society mentality. The issue came up with regards to TV stations changing from analog to digital signals on February 15. We do not have a HD TV. Neither do we have cable or satellite. We discussed the pros and cons of cable versus dish. We talked about how nice it would be to have a 32" flat screen HD TV.

But the bottom line is, if we are honest, we should not be spending money on a new TV, nor on the monthly fees for cable or dish. We don't have to have either, and we really need to do a whole lot better at saving money then we are. To make a long story short, we went out this afternoon and plunked down the cash for the converter box.

I have to confess that listening to Dave Ramsey is wearing off on me and I look at these things more seriously then I would have even a few months ago. Why do we think that when ever we get a little money saved up, we have to go out and get "things"? Why? I enjoy the finer things in life as much as anyone, but the truth is that way to many of us are only a few short pay cheeks away from financial impoverishment. Yes, we are on top of our bills, and we manage to stay away from a lot of unnecessary debt, credit card or otherwise, but if the bottom falls out, we would very quickly be in a world of financial hurt.


I finished reading For Whom The Bell Tolls. For me this is Ernest Hemingway's best novel. Back in college, many ages ago, I Had to read The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway's first novel. I hated it. What was worse we had to write a paper about it. The Lit' Professor hated my paper about as much as I hated the book. I took my D- and let it go at that. I now think that if we had read Farewell To Arms or For Whom The Bell Tolls first, I would have understood and maybe appreciated The Sun Also Rises a little more then I did at that time. I have it in mind to do a more extensive post at some point, so will save the analysis and review for then.


Question: Are you "X", or are you "Y"?
Answer: Yes....

So much for the fallacy of the false dichotomy...

Assertion: If you are "X", by logical extension you must be "Y".
Response: Pure 100% unadulterated bull manure.

So much for the fallacy of logical extension...



~ The Billy Goat ~

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Some Excerpts from The New Evangelical Scandel
by Matthew Lee Anderson, The City
(A publication of Houston Baptist University)

...The rejection of partisanship by younger evangelicals is part of a broader deterioration and rejection of the institutions that shaped the identities of our parents. While younger evangelicals may claim to be above the partisan fray politically, they are increasingly segregated into self-selected niche communities from which they derive—or better, create—their respective identities. Despite its claims to reject modernity, this communitization suggests the triumph of western liberalism over the evangelical mind....

...This principle of self-control and self-realization undergirds young evangelicals’ consumption of media. The new mantra of cultural engagement provides young evangelicals an effective cover to consume the same media as their peers. They are deeply convinced that such media has no effect on their lives—remaining confident they are carefully protected from the bad effects of consumerism by their flawless decision-making abilities.

This is one of the deep ironies of the young evangelical ethos. While vehemently rejecting the consumerism of 20th century evangelicalism, young evangelicals have adopted a new consumerist mindset under the guise of engagement with culture—a mindset that earns them access into the social standing they desire. The consumerism that has infected the core of evangelicalism has not been eradicated in the younger generations—it has simply been subsumed under a new teaching. Young evangelicals aspire to be urbane, sophisticated, and not appear judgmental or harsh—they want to be cool. And being cool means tossing aside the social mores that many of them grew up in, and transforming themselves into faith-soaked libertines....

...Young evangelicalism, then, is not so different from previous iterations. It shares the same contours, the same pursuits, and even the same human propensity to self-deception as previous generations. But it is different in its expression, and in this it presents new opportunities and challenges for the Church in America.

The above excerpts are from a lengthy essay by Matthew Lee Anderson. Please use the link above to access the full essay.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Interview with Tim Stoner 1: Emerging’s False Dichotomies

Trevon Wax interviews Tim Stoner, author of The God Who Smokes: Scandalous Meditation on Faith. Stoner helpfully provides a list of what he sees as the Emergent Church's "false antinomies (driving a wedge between concepts that only appear to be opposites)", and "Its false synonyms (equating concepts that only appear to be similar)...". Here is the excerpt from that part of the interview:

First off, there are the Emerging Church’s false antinomies (driving a wedge between concepts that only appear to be opposites):

1. The Gospel is about a person, not a message.
2. The Gospel is an event to be proclaimed, not a doctrine to be professed.
3, The message and its interpretation is fluid, not static and solid.
4. The Gospel is about behavior, not belief.
5. The Gospel is primal/elemental (ancient), not European/sacramental (antiquated).
6. The Bible is a human book, not an utterly unique, divinely inspired revelation from God.
7. The church is for the lost, not the found.
8. Life is about searching (pioneer), not finding (settler).
9. Evangelism is about saving the world, not individual souls.
10. The Bible is about stories (indicatives that describe), not prescriptions (imperatives that prescribe).
11. God cares about the boardroom, not the bedroom.
12. Jesus came to set an example, not appease the wrath of God.
13. God is a God of love, not judgment (because He loves He does not hate).
14. Those who teach or believe other “stories” need to be respected, not converted.
15. We are to love the “world”, not hate it.
16. Our posture toward culture is to affirm it, not critique it.

But then, as if to counter its imbalance, it careens off track by over-compensating, for it brings together things that are not the same.

Its false synonyms (equating concepts that only appear to be similar):

1. Anger with abuse.
2. Authority with authoritarian.
3. Confidence with smug.
4. Fundamentals with fundamentalism.
5. Judgment with judgmentalism.
6. Correction with criticism
7. Power with oppression.
8. Fervor with fanaticism.
9. Militancy with militarism.
10. Uncertainty (ambiguity, doubt) with humility

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Why Does It Matter: Theological stances

What's the big deal? You have a theological stance and they have their theological stance. You both believe in Jesus, so why argue so much?"

Our young friend lamouriaam at the Image Bearing blog talks about why in the discussions of emergent theology, the failure to maintain a holistic theology that encompasses all of revelation, is fraught with danger.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Jesus Is Not A Brand
Why it is dangerous to make evangelism another form of marketing.
By Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (CT)

"...The difficulty with the pro-marketing arguments, however, is the failure to recognize that marketing is not a values-neutral language. Marketing unavoidably changes the message—as all media do. Why? Because marketing is the particular vernacular of a consumerist society in which everything has a price tag. To market something is therefore to effectively make it into a branded product to be consumed...

So, given this cultural setting, any salvation that needs a sophisticated sales pitch is a salvation that won't really do anything. It will make you holy the same way a new pair of Nikes makes you athletic—which is to say, not at all. It only changes your religious brand. Yet this is the only kind of evangelism possible when we separate salvation from life in the redeemed community, because it's in the redeemed community that God has ordained the enduring demonstration of his power, against which nothing can prevail (Matt. 16:18)....

The problem with implicitly salesy evangelism is bad theology, not bad technique, and it requires more than a simple change in method. If you feel like a used-car salesman talking about Jesus, the solution to the perceived lack of authenticity isn't a smoother pitch—it's a renewal of the church. The potency of personal evangelism is, as it has always been, the simple and earnest retelling of what God has done in the lives of his people. Of course, this requires a community to back up our claims...

In other words, people who respond to church marketing approach Jesus as another consumer option. This is first and foremost a problem because it is blasphemy: We are talking about the incarnate Logos, not a logo. Additionally (in case blasphemy isn't bad enough), this should concern us because of the problems it creates for discipleship. Consumerism isn't just a social phenomenon—it's a spirituality. And it comes with spiritual habits and disciplines that conflict with the particular practices of the Christian life.

There are many such conflicts, but let's look at four key ones.

1. "I am what I buy" vs. the lordship of Christ...

2. Discontent vs. the sufficiency of Christ...

3. Brand relativism vs. the supremacy of Christ...

4. Fragmentation vs. unity in Christ...

Click on the link above to see the whole complete article.