Monday, September 29, 2008
I'll be honest: I think the prosperity gospel (God wants you to be rich) is a bunch of bullshit. God doesn't want you to be hungry. That doesn't mean he's interested in giving you a BMW and a mansion (at least, not yet). I'm very mindful of Chesterton's quote that we can have a very interesting discussion about whether or not Jesus believed in fairies, but we cannot have a debate about whether or not Jesus thought rich people were in big trouble. There's simply too much evidence that he did.
Still and all, it's important to listen to people who disagree with you. And Berger does have some good points, such as the power of teaching optimism (You can do it!) and a good work ethic (see: Proverbs) to impoverished people used to discouragement, and the way Pentecostal-ish churches tend to do racial reconciliation and integration better than anyone else. It is humbling to watch someone like Joel Osteen and see how diverse his church is compared to my own, which is mostly made up of white middle-class people with (or getting) graduate degrees, aged 18-35, or as Tim calls us, "the educated poor".
But this guy still has it coming:
Friday, September 26, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I asked the question there and I'll ask it here too: Do we have to announce any bad news before we announce the good news of Jesus? Most traditional evangelical evangelism (yeah, I couldn't think of a better way to phrase that) focuses on first convincing people that there is bad news, that they are a sinner in need of salvation.
But is that necessary? We have plenty of bad news in the world. Economic collapse brought on by greed, war, violence, sexual irresponsibility, the oppression of the poor by the rich, lack of reconciliation between racial and ethnic groups, lack of value for human life...people know, for the most part, what's wrong with the world. Probably, if pressed, they would chalk up many of the world's problems to evil or immorality (or, to use an old word, sin). Most people in our culture are not aware of any existential debt to God as a result of their own sin. Would evangelism be more effective (not to mention more faithful to the gospel) if we skipped over, for the moment, convincing people that they personally need Jesus, and simply announced the coming good rule of God redeeming all creation?
If we announced that God is bringing peace where there is war, reconciliation where there is racial bitterness, justice where there is oppression, life and health where there is sickness and death, AND mercy where there is guilt, and that He's doing it all through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and that Jesus is inviting all people to fulfill who they were meant to be by joining Him in that redemption...
Well, many would surely still be unconvinced. But at least we'd be answering the problems and concerns the world knows it's facing, instead of focusing on a karmic debt it doesn't know it has.
Friday, September 12, 2008
When I was young, growing up in (a conservative, evangelical, Southern Baptist) church I never really could explain why the church existed. Oh, if you were a Christian, you went to church. It says so in the Bible. And you do what the Bible says. So you go to church. 3 times a week, unless there was a revival. Or VBS. Then you were there every day.
Anyway, one time a friend said to me (giving his reason for not going to church as much as I thought he should, I suppose) that you could be a perfectly good Christian without going to church. You could read the Bible on your own, and pray on your own, and not have sex and that kind of thing. And I rebutted with the verse from Hebrews about not forsaking gathering together. You came to church because it's in the rules. You came to church because you were being obedient.
Now, obedience is better than nothing. We shouldn't forsake gathering together. And I'm glad it's laid down as a pretty firm command, because sometimes you need those. But I really, utterly, completely missed the point. I accepted as valid my friend's assertion that you didn't need to go to church. Because I took it as assumed that my salvation was as an individual only. Jesus died for me on the cross, I independently accepted his offer of salvation, and now it was my job to read the Bible and pray (in my own personal quiet time), not sin (thought of in terms of personal morality), and wait around to die so I could go to heaven. Oh, and evangelize others so they could also have their personal relationship with Jesus.
Now here's the deal: I strongly believe all these things still. I should pray to God on my own, read the Bible on my own, and introduce others to Jesus. But the context for these activities shouldn't be "just me and God". It's me as part of God's church, which I desperately need, and which desperately needs me, if it's going to be what God has called it to be. This isn't to say we're like cogs in a machine, interchangeable and of little worth. It's more like being (hey, what do you know?) parts of a body.
Of course, the only reason I know that bit about the parts of the body is because of the church I was raised in. So I don't intend to knock it too hard. They practiced the truth about community, even if they didn't teach it (or to be more fair, even if I never learned it there). And the truth is that we learn our faith communally. We are communal creatures--it's how God made us. We are not simply individuals. We are part of a family.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Anyway, the BBC also just has good programming. Like this wacky scheme, in which they've rigged one of those big cargo containers with a GPS tracker, just to see where it goes in the course of a year. Reading the BBC's webpage also lets you enjoy British spelling conventions, like "globalisation", "defence", and of course, "colour". I personally like to use "grey", which is less common stateside, rather than "gray".
So get your head out of just the American media, all of which is owned by like 4 media conglomerates, and see what else is out there. After all, it's a globalized (or globalised) world.
Monday, September 8, 2008
The News & Observer has a decent article on it.
I hope to God they sentence him to life without parole. He murdered a woman, and I have no problem with him being locked up forever, but he is the father of 2 sons who deserve some kind of relationship with him.
I am amazed by the graciousness of the victim's son.
"The eldest, Jason Fox, now 25, said Friday he was happy with the jury's decision, although he opposes the death penalty. 'I didn't want him to die, but I didn't want him to get out,' Fox said. 'I don't believe in trading death for death.'"
This is a guy who's been through much worse than I have, but he knows that violence and retribution will only beget more violence. May God's grace rest on him and his family as they continue to mourn their mother's death.
May God's grace rest on the jury as they make their decision. May they choose life, and reject vengeance.
May God's grace rest on Charles Dickerson, who has committed great sins that are inexcusable, but thank God, not unforgivable. May he find a way to be a true father to his boys.
And may we all learn something about how to love our enemies.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Excerpted from Miracles:
"Why are many people prepared in advance to maintain that, whatever else God may be, He is not the concrete, living, willing, and acting God of Christian theology? I think the reason is as follows. Let us suppose a mystical limpet, a sage among limpets, who (rapt in vision) catches a glimpse of what Man is like. In reporting it to his disciples, who have some vision themselves (though less than he) he will have to use many negatives. He will have to tell them that Man has no shell, is not attached to a rock, is not surrounded by water. And his disciples, having a little vision of their own to help them, do get some idea of Man.
But then there come erudite limpets, limpets who write histories of philosophy and give lectures on comparative religion, and who have never had any vision of their own. What they get out of the prophetic limpet's words is simply and solely the negatives. From these, uncorrected by any positive insight, they build up a picture of Man as a sort of amorphous jelly (he has no shell) existing nowhere in particular (he is not attached to a rock) and never taking nourishment (there is no water to drift it towards him). And having a traditional reverence for Man they conclude that to be a famished jelly in a dimensionless void is the supreme mode of existence, and reject as crude, materialistic superstition any doctrine which would attribute to Man a definite shape, a structure, and organs.
Our own situation is much like that of the erudite limpets. Great prophets and saints have an intuition of God which is positive and concrete in the highest degree. Because, just touching the fringes of His being, they have seen that He is plenitude of life and energy and joy, therefore (and for no other reason) they have to pronounce that He transcends those limitations which we call personality, passion, change, materiality, and the like. The positive quality in Him which repels these limitations is their only ground for all the negatives. But when we come limping after and try to construct an intellectual or 'enlightened' religion, we take over these negatives (infinite, immaterial, impassible, immutable, etc.) and use them unchecked by any positive intuition. At each step we have to strip off from our idea of God some human attribute. But the only real reason for stripping off the human attribute is to make room for putting in some positive divine attribute.
In St Paul's language, the purpose of all this unclothing is not that our idea of God should reach nakedness but that it should be reclothed. But unhappily we have no means of doing the reclothing. When we have removed from our idea of God some puny human characteristic, we (as merely erudite or intelligent enquirers) have no resources from which to supply that blindingly real and concrete attribute of Deity which ought to replace it. Thus at each step in the process of refinement our idea of God contains less, and the fatal pictures come in (an endless, silent sea, an empty sky beyond all stars, a dome of white radiance) and we reach at last mere zero and worship a nonentity."