Saturday, February 21, 2009

On Being Evangelical
(being a somewhat rambling personal manifesto of sorts.)

It is really easy to bash Evangelicalism. To often Evangelicalism seems to go out of its way to invite the bashing it gets. I'm not talking so much about the antagonism of the unbelieving secular culture, I'm talking about how Evangelicalism gets bashed by those who are its friends and by Evangelicals themselves. And again, all to often, the criticism from within and from without is well earned and deserved.

Evangelicalism is a pretty broad spectrum. Just look at all the different theologs signed up as members of the Evangelical Theological Society. With that broad a spectrum, there is plenty of room for the oddball and the weired, and it is very little wonder that Evangelicalism seems to stumble all over itself. In the world of Blog, much has and is being said about the Evangelical crises and some have looked at the future of Evangelicalism and concluded the future is not very positive at all.

In recent years, one of those critiques of Evangelicalism has come out of the Emergent movement. Much has been written back and forth by both sides of that "conversation", and it is not my intent to bore you to death by rehashing all the nuances of that conversation.

I’ve verbalized before that for Christianity to remain authentic, it is and ultimately has to be counter-cultural, and that means being counter-cultural to both modernity and post-modernity. It occurs to me that what I hear missing in the emergent conversation is the witness concept of the church, and what it is the church is to witness to. The church is to bear witness to God and His redemptive acts in history. Evangelicals tend to lose focus on their role as witness when they get preoccupied with numbers and programs and whatever the latest evangelical fad happens to be.

But this also begs the question, how does being “emergent” bear witness to God and His historical redemptive acts; His breaking into time and history to work redemptively? How is “emergent” countra-postmodernity? If “emergent” is only countra-modernity, and not also contra-postmodernity, then I do not see how “emergent” can be bearing authentic witness to God and His historically redemptive acts.

Once upon a time I was in a church situation where I sensed that I was being forced to choose between the theological tradition of the movement this church was part of, and Evangelicalism at large. Whatever words or assertions to the contrary, the standard of reasonable doubt indicated otherwise. I could either be of tradition "X", or I could be Evangelical, but I would not be allowed to be both at the same time without becoming a major disruption to the peace of that church. What was really sad is the confessional standard of that tradition is, in the main, an evangelical document, but the mentality pervading the churches in that tradition refrained and shied away from embracing evangelical commonality with Evangelical groups that did not share that particular tradition. I ended up leaving. I found that first and foremost, before whatever specific church or theological tradition I would find myself in, I was and remain an Evangelical.

When I first became a Christan, the Almighty gracious God used a “modern” Evangelicalism to reach down and grab me by the scruff of the neck and bring me to Himself. The specific context was a "Four Spiritual Laws" presentation. God sovereignly used that Evangelicalism to bring me to Himself in spite of all of that Evangelicalism’s deficiencies and problems and scandals, and in spite of the weakness, theological or otherwise, of the evangelistic methodology used. For in spite of all that weakness and deficiency, at the foundation and kernel of that presentation was an authentic witness to God and His redemptive acts in time and space, -ie history.

A Jesus devoid of those historical redemptive acts is a Jesus not worth wasting my time or anybody else’s time on. That’s not just my assessment, it was the Apostle Paul’s assessment in I Corinthians 15. No physical bodily Resurrection of Jesus, no reason to believe at all.

I am an Evangelical. I do not fear for the future of Evangelicalism. Christ will, as He has been doing for 2,000 years, build His church. As such, there will always be some sort of Evangelical witness. Evangelicalism as we know it may fade away, and perhaps it should, but there will always be an Evangelical witness to the fact God is, and He has acted in time and space. To be evangelical is to to proclaim the hope of the Gospel; that God exists and He has acted redemptively in history to redeem a lost mankind from their fallenness and enstrangement from Him.

Come! Worship Him!

~ The Billy Goat ~
Upon Seeing "I Am Legend"

I remember years ago, my sister and I going to the theater and seeing "Omega Man". "I Am Legend" is reminiscent of "Omega Man" with human induced world wide catastrophe (judgement), of the survivors, the remnant of humanity bearing the scourge of that disaster, and the few of humanity who were immune to the disaster, and who were seeking to bring redemption to humanity by finding a cure. Of these two apocolyptic films, in my mind "I Am Legend" is the better.

“I Am Legend” is perhaps one of Will Smith’s finest performances. Towards the end of that film a woman and boy find him in decimated New York City just in time to save him from the “bad creatures”. In ensuing conversation the woman asserts “god” told her to go to NY and so on. Will Smith as the Dr. trying to find the cure for the man made disaster around him responds vehemently, “There is no “god”!”, but then latter near the very end of the film tells the woman there is a reason she is there and there is a mission she was sent to perform. I’d go on, but don’t want to spoil it for those who have not seen it.

I've noticed over the years is how some films have this sense of some kind of guiding hand that transcends the material existence of the people in the story. It is often a vague pantheism of sorts. In our hearts we know there is something bigger then ourselves. As a fallen humanity we try to sooth that angst with meaning, but resist going to the One in whose image we were made, even as that image, as broken as it is, testifies to the reality that image was intended to point to.

As an aside, at the end of "I Am Legend" I realized I had watched a film markedly devoid of crude language and cursing. The restricted rating was do to intense action scenes with some pretty scary creatures. The absence of F words and D words and S words was refreshing.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Puzzling Faith of Abraham Lincoln

"Where was God in this brutal national war? An unbaptized non-churchgoer came up with a profound answer." by Mark A. Noll | CT, 1/01/1992
"The end of the Civil War in the spring of 1865 began a national discussion that has not stopped 125 years later. What did the war mean? What was its significance to the nation? More momentously, what was its significance to God?"

Whose side was God on? Lincoln recognized it was neither the Union nor the Confederate. God was and is and always has been on His own side; contra Beecher (Union) and contra Dabney (Confederate).

Monday, February 02, 2009

Rambling Words Upon A Page

[The following was a sort of "creative stream of consciousness" exercise. As such it is something of a departure from the normal run of things I post here.]

Words chasing words; following after one another, flying here and there seeking to make some meaning out of meaningless blather and bluster.

The death star shot its beam of destruction into the un-suspecting planet killing all, destroying all, leaving nothing but debris, rocks and boulders barren of life tumbling through space. In that blast, the gravitational balance of the star system was suddenly unhinged. The effect of that un-hinging rippled through the galaxy and beyond untill the whole universe was gyrating violently as it began to collapse in on itself, becoming a universal cosmic black hole. On the death star, the dark lord stood astonished and dismayed. He was still pondering the gravity of his mis-calculations as he watched his body disintegrating into the oblivion said mis-calculations had wrought.

The goat stared coldly at the troll as it vaunted itself in its own pomposity astride the bridge. The cold stare reflected the steel resolve, determination and hatred the goat had towards the troll and all the troll stood for and all the evil the troll had done. The goat did not wait for the troll to advance. Head lowered, he launched into a deliberate and ferocious charge. The troll roared in anger. The goat paused not a whit, and in the force of the charge hit the troll square in the gut and with a up thrust of the head tossed the vile beast of a bully over the side of the bridge into the deep, swiftly flowing current below.

The bugle sounded the call to arms over the vast bivouac of the dead. The earth trembled and shook as those who had long rested from the toil and fury of battle were roused to arms. Up they came from there resting places. Some in revolutionary dress quickly begen to fall into place behind the white wigged man astride the horse . Officers came riding up beside him and in one voice cried, "General Washington! Your orders Sir!.

And others came. Soldiers of the 1812, and the Mexican War. The Blue with Grant at their head, and the Gray behind General Lee. Grant and Lee rode up together, side by side and cried, “General Washington Sir! What are your orders Sir?” Pershing came with the doughboys of 1918 out of the stillness of Flanders Field and the Argonne Forest. Marines from the Pacific theater of WW2, Army units roused from their sleep near Normandy's beach. All assembled.

Washington then drew his sword. With that sword he pointed to the enemy swarming down over the land. As one, all the mass of the Brigades of the Dead moved into battle array and formation. The color bearer came to the front holding aloft the Stars and Stripes at which sight all in the Army of the Dead found tears swelling in their eyes; tears quickly replaced by steel determination and cold resolve.

General Washington, with Grant and Lee and all the other Generals of all the other wars beside him, lifted his sword aloft once more. Then with a sweep of his arm, he again pointed and the charge began.

"Yes, my son?"... "No. Now is not the time."... "Patience my son. The time will come soon enough... Patience" .... "Watch and listen... When it comes, you will know."

Words swirl and spiral. Whisking about were 'er they will...... What do you mean by this word "word"? What story doth this word "word" tell?

The barren wilderness stretched out before him, stark, dry, and seemingly lifeless. He knew better of course. Life was there, and could be found if you knew where and how to look. But you would only find it if you treated the land with respect. You must pay attention, be observant, and think clearly. He knew that more then a few men had perished in this place. Even if he was careful and observant and was able to keep thinking coherently, the odds were not exactly in his favor, but there was a chance, and that chance was better then the alternative. He looked about getting his bearings. Fixing his eyes on a distant landmark, he set out...

Where will the words go? Oh where, Oh where will they go? Words! Words! Flighty as birds, Oh where, Oh where will they go? In the ear and out. In the eye and about. Hither there, everywhere, Oh where will the words go?

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Christianity as Counter-Culture

“Christian culture” is always a counter-culture, not a consumer culture, an entertainment culture or a political lobby. “The Church” is a gathering of people loyal to Jesus who believe certain things, but it is a movement of people who apply the gospel to those issues in their midst that demonstrate the meaning of the Kingdom of God.
"Gospel Relevance = Gospel Application", Michael Spencer, Internet Monk