Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

One of the problems with contemporary dialogue about Christianity is the difficulty with terms. It has always been a problem, but it seems much worse lately. Here are a couple of issues.
  • There is often a spectrum of beliefs that uses the same title. Fundamentalists shade from the wacko, KJV-Only, to those essentially indistinguishable from those called Evangelicals. Evangelicals range from those like the Fundamentalists to those who barely hold to the essentials of the Evangel. The Charismatic title includes some who just want to worship in a free-er style to those who hold views that historic Christianity regards as heretical. ETC. etc.

  • Those who use a term as an insult will often focus on the worst, while those who defend a particular group will choose its best exemplars.

  • Some people who use a label, use it because they associate with only a part of the Theology that marks that group. Those who are critical may be criticizing a portion of the system that a particular individual not only doesn't hold, but of which he is unaware.

  • Then there is deliberate distortion, in both directions--maybe more.
John Piper recently posted a thought. Rather than say I am a _______, why not say this is what I believe. You tell me what I am. It is a little unwieldy but what we have is a mess.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Paul's word to Timothy is crystal clear. "Preach the Word!"

Schuller['s] enterprise is filing for bankruptcy on more than one front. . . .
Schuller was only leading the parade of those who believe they are responsible for making the gospel relevant. . . . The lesson is that our attempts to find and exploit a point of cultural contact inevitably end in bankruptcy.

I have always had a problem with the attempt to make the Gospel or the Bible relevant. It is like making water wet. God's word, especially the message within it related to forgiveness and eternal life, is supremely relevant. What is important is for us to not muck it up, so we in some way hide the relevance of the message. Our attempts to be trendy often do just that.

The Christianity Today editorial quoted above does a pretty good job of job of pointing out that what has gone wrong at the Crystal Cathedral was not just a matter of a lack of Windex, but of the very foundations of that ministry and many others. "Today both the Crystal Cathedral and the theology that undergird it seem woefully inadequate buildings in which to house the gospel." Several times the editorial refers to Schuller's theology as Evangelical. Perhaps it started there, and maybe in the formal categories of different kinds of belief-systems his "gospel of self-esteem" belongs in the file folder labeled "Evangelical." I'll leave that to the categoriticians. Clearly, though, a message that avoids the "Woe is me of Isaiah, the Damascus Road of Paul, the "Unless you repent, you too will all perish," of Jesus, and cuts out the first two and a hlaf chapters of the Book of Romans, is not based on the Evangel of the New Testament. I am encouraged that there is a growing group of conservative Evangelicals, moderate Fundamentalists, just plain Bible believers and proclaimers--call them what you will--who are rejecting this kind "relevance."
Os Guiness has some good things to say on attempts at relevance-making that end up making our message totally irrelevant--Prophetic Untimeliness. (I'm not trying to sell books for Amazon. I only include the link so you can get a taste of the book.)

It seems to me that Paul's word to Timothy is crystal clear. "Preach the Word!"