Wednesday, April 30, 2008

what is he doing to the second coming? 3

Here is the main objection, the 'spin' if you would, that McLaren tries to put on the futurist's view of the end times. From page 144

Simply put, if we believe that God will ultimately enforce his will by forceful domination, and will eternally torture all who resist that domination, then torture and domination become not only permissible but in some way godly. The implications for, say, military policy (not to mention church politics) are not hard to imagine

...If we believe that Jesus came in peace the first time, but that wasn't his "real" and decisive coming...then we leave the door open to envision a second coming that will be characterized by violence, killing, domination, and eternal torture...This eschatological understanding of a violent second coming leads us to believe...that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion; no one should be surprised when those shaped by this theology behave accordingly.

I always like how, on the one hand, eschatological futurists, like myself, are accused of encouraging people to check out of earthly matters, but then on the other hand we're accused of encouraging people to domination and torture. Darned if we don't, darned if we do.

Chesterton had some interesting things to say about such situations in Orthodoxy, where he gives many and several examples of how the accusers of Christianity will often make the most raging charges against, but that they are often also contradictory, what he called "The Paradoxes of Christianity" (in a chapter of that name). He notes, for example, that while some accused it of being an instrument of gloom and pessimism, they would then turn around and say that it comforted people with false hopes in a fictition god (page 90), or that some accused it of making mankind weak in its teachings of nonresistence and pacifism, others accused it of having "deluged the world with blood".

"I had got thoroughly angry with the Christian, because he never was angry. And now I was told to be angry with him because his anger had been the most huge and horrible thing in human history; because his anger had soaked the earth and smoked to the sun." (page 91)

But his conclusion was that the accusers thought that Christianity was misshapen not because it really was misshapen, but because they were--those who accused it of excessive pessimism were themselves even more pessimistic, for example. The reason why Christianity looked so misshapen to them was that it was in fact shaped rightly, while the accusers were shaped wrongly.

Much the same thing has happened here with McLaren. We futurists have been accused at times even by the author of encouraging people to check out of the world, of telling them to be concerned only with going to Heaven and to not worry very much about the state of the world, and now here we are accused of being so concerned about the state of things here that we will use domination and torture to get what we want.

I would say, though, that in trying to make sense of these contradictions, that it isn't futurism that is wrong, but McLaren.

Consider this, from the quotes above...

This eschatological understanding of a violent second coming leads us to believe...that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion

...but this would only be bad if we are to believe that God is the commited pacifist that McLaren wants us to think He is. If He isn't, though, then the accusation doesn't stand.

If nothing else, one could look at pretty much the entire Old Testament as a refutation of that position. God tells His people many times to take up arms and fight, and even leads them in a campaign of conquest in the Promised Land. If McLaren's position is correct, then God was telling people to commit acts of evil, then God was commanding them to sin.

We looked in the last entry at Revelation 19, at a passage where much that is war-like is said about Christ--in righteous He judges and makes war, He treads the winepress of the wrath of God, an angel invites birds to feast on the slain flesh of those who fight against Him at His coming.

One could as well point out passages in Jude and Zechariah, which tell us that His coming will be a time of violence and wrath and judgment.

In other words, McLaren can insinuate, but he can't prove from the Bible that Jesus' second coming will not be a time of God pouring out His wrath on rebellious mankind. All he can do is paint little pictures of horror which have no basis in the Bible and little in reality, but which are probably more politically motivated then anything else.

Even if he goes the way of preterism, and wants to say that most of the wrath prophecies were fulfilled in AD 70, then it doesn't help him much, because the destruction of Jerusalem and the events leading up to it lead to millions of people being killed. If Jesus' return, literal or spiritual, was at the time that the Romans fought against Israel, it was still a time of war and violence, and doesn't fit his ideas.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

what is he doing to the second coming? 2

I want to deal a bit with something I made mention of in the last post, but in another context. It has to do with his ideas about Revelation 19. From page 145.

For example, they misread Revelation 19:15, where Jesus, in a blood-stained robe, "strikes down the nations" using a sword; they fail to notice that the sword comes out of his mouth--a rather unmistakable case of symbolism to a reasonable adult reader, I would think, unless he imagines Jesus actually thrashing his head around, slinging a sword between his teeth like a giant cigar of mass destruction.

...Jesus' "striking down the nations" with a sword "coming out of his mouth" has a different meaning. Jesus' word--the unarmed truth of the gospel of the kingdom--is the force that overcomes the "kingdom of this world", the dominant system, the suicide machine. It conquers not with physical weapons but with the message of justice (Revelation 19:11), and the blood on Jesus' robe is not the blood of his enemies, but his own blood (12:11, cf. 5:6).

Now, read the passage for yourself.

19:11 And I saw the heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True; and in righteous he doth judge and make war.
19:12 And his eyes [are] a flame of fire, and upon his head [are] many diadems; and he hath a name written which no one knoweth but he himself.
19:13 And he [is] arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
19:14 And the armies which are in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white [and] pure.
19:15 And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty.
19:16 And he hath on his garment and on his thigh a name written, KINGS OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
19:17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid heaven, Come [and] be gathered together unto the great supper of God;
19:18 that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses and of them that sit thereon, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, and small and great.
19:19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse, and against his army.
19:20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought the signs in his sight, wherewith he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and them that worshipped his image: they two were cast alive into the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone:
19:21 and the rest were killed with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, [even the sword] which came forth out of his mouth: and all the birds were filled with their flesh.

How...unlike...the McLaren jesus is the Jesus we are shown in this passage. And I hope I may be excused from being "a reasonable adult reader", but I don't think that one can cry "Symbolism!!!" over all of that.

I have to admit, it takes some...audacity (not an accidental word) try to spin this verse here...

19:15 And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty. mean what he wants it to mean. I mean, really, rod of iron, treading out the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, whodathunk all that really means...

...we have a poetic description of the way the gentle First Coming Jesus powerfully overcomes through his nonviolent "weakness" (cf. I Corinthians 1:18-25), a prince of peace whose word of reconciliation is truly mightier than Caesar's sword.

Or even how this verse...

19:11 And I saw the heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True; and in righteous he doth judge and make war.

...could come to mean, in his mind, this...

It conquers not with physical weapons but with the message of justice (Revelation 19:11)

..., but maybe that's his way of dealing with the idea that anyone, even Christ, can " righteousness...make war." He would, after all, have to try to explain it away, to preserve his ideas about such things being evil and wrong and how Jesus really doesn't do that type of thing, or at least his jesus.

Because aren't those ideas more important then what the Bible really teaches?

I can't say what it will look like that Jesus has a sword come out of His mouth. Even given that the sword comes from His mouth, that may not mean it stays there, but He takes it in hand for combat. At any rate, McLaren's reinterpretation, basically an attempt to make the text say the exact opposite of what it's saying, doesn't hold. To make a passage about God's wrath and judgment try to mean some kind of "poetic description..." is funny, but rather nonsensical.

Monday, April 28, 2008

what is he doing to the second coming? 1

Some of the most heated discussions I've had online have been about the end times. To an extent, I don't understand that, as I've tried to maintain the position that as a rule end-times views are not all that fundamental (with the possible exception of full preterism, which says that all biblical prophecies have been fulfilled, even those about the second coming of Christ).

But they are important, as even McLaren realizes in "Everything Must Change". From page. 143

Theologically, I think we could say, "Eschatology always wins."

I think that's an overstatement, and a pretty large one, but not completely without merit.

He has his strong feelings against a particular form of eschatology, and expresses himself against it in no uncertain terms (surprising for a postmodern, so we may say that he must be strongly against it indeed). From p. 144

This is why I believe that many of our current eschatologies, intoxicated by dubious interpretations of John's Apocalypse, are not only ignorant and wrong, but dangerous and immoral.

(I find it ironic that he considers an end-times view immoral, but waffles with all his might on real moral issues like homosexuality)

And even worthy of ridicule. From that same paragraph but on the next page.

(about Revelation 19:15)--a rather unmistakable case of symbolism to a reasonable adult reader, I would think, unless he imagines Jesus actually thrashing his head around, slinging a sword between his teeth like a giant cigar of mass destruction.

So, what is that view that makes even him fall into sarcasm? Although he doesn't explicitly make mention of Left Behind and Dispensationalism, there is little doubt such and similar views are what he means.

And his arguments are...

The phrase "the Second Coming of Christ" never actually appears in the Bible...

That someone who claims to be "a reasonable adult reader" would make such a statement is, well, ridiculous. It's a childish argument, on par with those who try to deny the Trinity because the word "Trinity" is not in the Bible.

I would go so far as to say it's a dishonest argument, meant to influence the reader to think that scripture says little about Jesus' second coming and that it's not really that important of an issue.

But the New Testament says much about Christ's return. In his book Christian Beliefs, Grudem has a chapter about the second coming, and makes mention of such passages as John 14: 3, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself...", and Acts 1:11 "who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? this Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven." And the closing of the Revelation, where Jesus says "Surely I am coming soon". There are other passages mentioned in that chapter, too, such as I Thessalonians 4 and II Peter 3.

Perhaps that latter passage, in II Peter 3, may explain why McLaren must downplay this teaching. Consider it, please.

3:3 knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts,
3:4 and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
3:5 For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the word of God;
3:6 by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
3:7 but the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
3:8 But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
3:11 Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in [all] holy living and godliness,
3:12 looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
3:13 But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Consider how much this doesn't support, even contradicts, much of what McLaren teaches. Consider this statement, on page 79

Purpose of Jesus: Why is Jesus important?
Emerging View: Jesus came to become the Savior of the world, meaning he came to save the earth and all it contains from its ongoing destruction because of human evil. Through his life and teaching, through his suffering, death, and resurrection, he inserted into human history a seed of grace, truth, and hope that can never be defeated. This seed will, against all opposition and odds, prevail over the evil and injustice of humanity and lead to the world's ongoing transformation into the world God dreams of.

And this, from page 296.

We believe the vision of the new Jerusalem, like all prophetic visions, seeks to inspire our imaginations with hope about what our world can actually become through the good news of the kingdom of God.

In this emerging view, the "new heavens and new earth" (Revelation 21:1) means, not a different space-time universe, but a new way of living that is posible within this universe, a new societal system that is coming as surely as God is just and faithful...

The new Jerusalem represents, then, a new spirituality, a new way of living in which the sacred presence of God is integrated with all of life and not confined to temples...We haven't evacuated teh dark earth for the light of heaven or eternity: no, the light of heaven has come down, come down to us, down to earth.

So, McLaren says that Christ is the Savior of the world in the sense of the literal earth, that we will somehow change the world (a fearful thought indeed). Peter says that the world is "stored up for fire" and "shall be burned up".

My money's on Peter being right.

There's more to McLaren's case against what I will here call a Futurist view of the coming of Christ, meaning simply that the prophecies about Christ's return and the event leading up to and surrounding it will be fulfilled in the future. But this entry is quite long enough, so I'll deal more with it later.

Friday, April 25, 2008

it's really not meant to be shocking and controversial, really

From another site, I found a link to this entry. My interest in it is not the same as the other's, though I'll admit that their point is a good one. Just in passing, here's what struck their eye.

Person after person that I have talked with have commented that this is the way church ought to be. Walking in the door there were smiling faces, tables of food, wine flowing, great live music. Right away you knew you were entering a party and you were welcome.

Certainly an interesting atmosphere for a church service, I must say. I haven't seen all of the movie "Dumb and Dumber" (a fact for which I have no regrets), but maybe from the snips I have seen or from somewhere else, there is the quote that comes to mind when I read that, "and the beer flowed like wine".

Seriously, the sheer shallowness of those statements is laughably pathetic. People the world over risk life and limb to meet with other Christians and worship God and learn about Him, and these over here say that church should be like a party. Sad.

But, that's not my point for writing this. My point has to do with this.

He asked Rob Bell to talk about his new book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians (Zondervan) coming out in Fall 2008 Everyone there loved his talk, so much to think about.

Quite a...provocative title. It reminds me of a couple of things, from that (in)famous interview he gave a few months back for Relevant Magazine.

One thing that it reminded me of just now is this.

Secondly, I have not set out to be shocking or controversial. That's a horrid goal--and, I believe, a very unredemptive one.

Well, it's all well and good for him to say that; however, if you're going to name your book Jesus Wants to Save Christians, then you probably just put paid to the idea that your not trying to be shocking and controversial.

(In fact, probably naming his last book Sex God showed how that statement really just doesn't hold water)

The second has to do with this statement, which is actually in that same answer.

...when followers of Jesus can think of nothing better to do with their time than to pick apart and shred to pieces the work of other followers of Jesus who are trying to do something about the world, that's tragic, and I don't owe those people anything...When a Christian can find nothing better to do with their time in the face of this much pain and heartbreak, you start realizing that some Christians need to be saved.

So, does this mean that Bell and Co. are finally going to drop the facades? Does the title of his book imply that he will tell us straight-out that he thinks us orthodox evangelical types who are more concerned about beliefs then nice feelings and know that the Bible tells us there is a hell and that salvation is found by grace through faith in Christ and don't say that the Dalai Lama is all that holy and don't think that diapers are an assault on the earth, that people like us are really not even really Christians?

I'd welcome it. From a confirmed and dedicated postmodern as him, I would so welcome such a clear statement.

Of course, that's a lot to take from just a title. Still, there does seem to be a trend.

One other concern of mine is, has the Vineyard been hijacked by these people? I've visited one in Lexington a few times, and while it seemed ok, their small book section did have some things by Bell and a few other questionables in it. I hope not, I know some people in the Vineyard, in fact I went to a Vineyard church in Perm, and have a good bit of respect for them, and I'd hate to think they've either succumbed to this crap, or are fighting it in their own fellowship.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

looking at mclaren's misinterpretation of judgment verses

Some will be quick to note that Jesus also used strong language of exclusion--being thrust into "outer darkness", for example, where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth". But in any irony that is so powerful it can hardly be overstated, Jesus applies that language to the typically exclusive (religious scholars, Pharisess, etc.), and asserts that the typically excluded (prostitutes, sinners, even Gentiles) will be included before them (Matthew 23:13; Luke 13: 28-30; Luke 4: 24-27). Clearly, Jesus is deconstructing the dominant system of exclusion--not fortifying it
McLaren, Everything Must Change, p. 126

Interesting thoughts. Here is one place where such things are said by Jesus.

Matthew 8
10. When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!11. And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.12. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

For one thing, it must be scandalous to McLaren that Jesus would say these words to man of war. After all, he was a cog in the whole Roman Empire "suicide machine", to use a phrase McLaren uses, and why Jesus didn't try to sell him on peace and love and Woodstock instead of praising his faith and doing what he asked is, well, one of those things that must be deconstructed until it can be explained away and spun to fit their preconceived notions.

The only thing that might support his contentions in this passage has to do with the phrase "sons of the kingdom". But just as likely, if not more so, that has to do with Israel as a whole, especially in contrast with the "many (who) will come from the east and west..."

Here is another place, again in Matthew.

Matthew 22
11. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.12. So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless.13. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'14. For many are called, but few are chosen."

The context is one of Jesus' parables, about a man throwing a wedding party for his son, and when those invited did not come and even abused his servants, he destroyed them and invited others, those in the "highways and hedges". Apparently, someone got into the party who did not have a wedding garment, and when found out, he is kicked out.

First, you'd find a much better parallel between the religious leaders of Israel (if not Israel as a whole) between those who despised the invitation to the wedding, then between them and the man without the garment, especially if the king sending people to destroy the abusers and murderers of his servants and burn down their city is connected with what happened in the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem.

But I don't think you'll find much support for what McLaren wrote.

A third is in Matthew 25, and is in the parable of the servants and the talents. The one who simply hid his talent is cast into outer darkness. I'm not seeing much of a connection between that guy and the Pharisees.

Here are the three passages he uses to support his claims. Two have added context, the Matthew 23 one doesn't because it pretty much stands on it's own.

matthew 23
13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye shut
the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye enter not in yourselves, neither
suffer ye them that are entering in to enter.

luke 13
22 And he went on his way through cities and villages, teaching,
and journeying on unto Jerusalem.23 And one said unto him, Lord, are
they few that are saved? And he saidunto them, 24 Strive to enter in by the narrow door: for many, I say untoyou, shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25 When once the masterof the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to standwithout, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, open to us; and he shallanswer and say to you, I know you not whence ye are; 26 then shall ye
begin to say, We did eat and drink in thy presence, and thou didst teach in
our streets; 27 and he shall say, I tell you, I know not whence ye are;
depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be the weeping
and the gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and
Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and yourselves cast
forth without. 29 And they shall come from the east and west, and from the
north and south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold,
there are last who shall be first, and there are first who shall be last.

luke 4
14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and a fame
went out concerning him through all the region round about. 15 And he
taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. 16 And he came to
Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom
was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And
there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he
opened the book, and found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit
of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to
the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And
recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the
synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them,
To-day hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears. 22 And all bare him
witness, and wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of his
mouth: and they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? 23 And he said unto them,
Doubtless ye will say unto me this parable, Physician, heal thyself:
whatsoever we have heard done at Capernaum, do also here in thine own
country. 24 And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is acceptable
in his own country. 25 But of a truth I say unto you, There were many
widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three
years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land;
26 and unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only to Zarephath, in the
land of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. 27 And there were many
lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was
cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian. 28 And they were all filled with
wrath in the synagogue, as they heard these things; 29 and they rose up,
and cast him forth out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill
whereon their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong.
30 But he passing through the midst of them went his way.

Matthew 23:13 was addressed directly to the scribes and Pharisees, though it does lack the exclusion language he seems to want to emphasize. But let's at least say that Jesus was not happy with them, and that He calls them out by name.

But in the others? Who is He addressing?

In Luke 23, all we are told is that a person, called "one" or "a certain one", asked the question. We aren't told it was Pharisee or Sadduccee or any other kind of religious ruler. It seems to have been simply a person, normal or not normal is unclear.

Luke 4 is certainly interesting. A synagogue was a place of public worship, so it's very likely that people of all kinds were there, formal religious teachers and common people.

Is Jesus deconstructing--a word I am coming to hate, because it is essentially meaningless but used to play politically correct games by those who need such supposed support--no, let us use a different word, a word with meaning and accuracy. Was Jesus setting right the dominant system of exclusion? Perhaps. As He said elsewhere, He did not come to call the righteous (or those who thought they were righteous), but sinners (those who knew themselves to be sinners) to repent.

So, when Jesus "hung out" with tax collectors and sinners, did He do it because He approved of their way of life? Or did He want them to repent and trust in Him?

One could point to the account of Zachaeus, who in encountering Christ changed his ways in a quite interesting moment of repentence. He may have remained a tax collector, but if so, he became an honest one, who collected what was required but no more.

One could point to the woman caught in adultery. Jesus' response to her is both a statement of forgivenss ("Neither do I condemn you.") and a command to not continue in her sinful ways ("Go and do not sin like this any more").

So, yes, ones like those would get in before such as the Pharisees, because they were changed by Jesus, repenting and being forgiven by Him, while such as the Pharisees trusted in their works and keeping of the law.

I'm not impressed with his argument. A look at the places where "outer darkness" and "weeping and gnashing of teeth" are used, as well as the three references he makes when taken in their contexts, do not support his claim that such rhetoric was directed exclusively at those he calls "typically exclusive".

Monday, April 21, 2008

movie review--the forbidden kingdom--almost all I could have expected

I've been looking forward to this movie since hearing about it. After all, any movie with both Jet Li and Jackie Chan in it already has a lot going for it.

And I was pretty well satisfied with it. It delivered pretty much what one can expect, and it did it well, with only a few real snafus.

If you're familiar with the Narnia story, particular "The Silver Chair", or George McDonald's fantasies such as "Lilith" and "Phantastes", you'll find the basic plot to "Forbidden Kingdom" to be similar--boy from modern times is sent to a kind of historical-fantasy realm where he must complete a quest, then is sent back to modern times where he sets some things right.

For Chan, it's probably the best movie of his that I've seen for a while. He is given an absolutely perfect character for his style of acting, a master of drunken fighting, and he doesn't spend much time trying to be a dramatic actor that he really doesn't do very well. His character quite makes the movie.

For Li, he actually has two roles. One is such that if you have seen "Hero" you will be familiar with, the quiet and stoic warrior (actually a monk) who says little and lets his actions speak for him. The other, as the Monkey King, is a definite switch, a free-spirited and humorous character that is much different from anything I've seen him play before.

The other two that round out the gang of misfits is our hero, the south Boston boy misplaced in time and space, and a Chinese girl named Sparrow who is out for some reckoning against the movie's big bad guy.

One thing the movie relishes in, and for which I approve it, is the one fight scene between Chan and Li. I think it goes on for at least 5 minutes, and is pretty much everything one can want from it.

Of course, there are things in it that can be complained about, to more or lesser degrees. Although religion is not a big part of the movie, it isn't completely absent either. Chan's character is called at one point something like a "Daoist immortal", though the immortal part is a bit problematic at one point, and Li's seems to be some kind of Buddhist monk. The idea of humans who have become immortal through some means is a main thing in the plot. When teaching our hero his kung-fu, there are scenes where the teachers, Li and Chan, are giving various philosophical nuggets that seem to have a kind of Buddhist twist to them.

I may not have liked that, but I can accept it. What else can I expect, really? It's a part that is questionable that goes along with the good in the movie.

Perhaps most disturbing for me, though, was that the main modern-day thug, the one who leads the gang that robs and shoots an old man, has a necklace with a cross on it quite well-displayed around his neck. What am I to think of that? In a movie of carefully-crafted martial arts choreography and elaborate set and costume designs, am I to think that giving the thug a cross necklace was not intentional? That it was maybe overlooked, or not meant as a slam against things the cross represents? Or even that it was meant to say that the thug epitomizes what the cross represents?

Am I reading too much into it? Maybe. But I have a hard time believing that, though. To the best of my knowledge, few things are left to accident in such a movie. If the thug wore a cross, it was because someone in the making of the movie wanted him to wear it.

That's the one thing that really tarnishes what was for me a very enjoyable movie.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

a few more thoughs about journey and destination

I thought this afternoon of a song from several years ago, by the Christian singer Steve Taylor. The song was called "The Finish Line".

I'll not put the lyrics here, I doubt it would be right to do that anyway, but the song went roughly like this...

It was in the form of a story. In the first verse, we are introduced to an unnamed man who was just "born for the second time", he is beginning his life as a follower of Christ and it is given the metaphor of a race. He is confident, sure, ready for the race, and as the verse ends he is "out of the block" and off.

Verse two finds him in a situation that could be described as like in the parable of the sower and the seeds, where cares and troubles of this world threaten to choke him and render his life of little eternal value. He fights (and sometimes fails to) compromises and temptations, and stumbles and grows weary.

In the third and final verse, he is "bloodied but wise", and his eyes are set on the finish line.

It's a good song, and it illustrates again the importance of keeping our eyes on the destination, as that is what is truly important.

Paul uses the analogy of a race when he tells us to "lay aside the weight and the sins which beset us, and run patiently the race set for us. Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and despised the shame."

Even here, we see how with Jesus it was the destination, the joy that was set before Him, that was the main thing, that was the reason that He endured that most painful and shameful and truly unjust part of His race, the cross.

Understand, please, I do not want to denigrate the importance of the journey, the race, and how we run it. Paul doesn't, he gives us some guidance on how we can best run it. And in the passage from II Timothy mentioned in the last entry, he tells how it was through his fighting the good fight, finishing his course, and keeping the faith in that race that will lead to his reward.

But the journey is meaningless if the destination is bad.

I can point to Jesus' own words to support that idea. He tells us that "broad is the gate and wide the way that leads to destruction, and many travel that way". Does the fact that way is broad and there are many people on it negate the fact that the destination is destruction? If people have some good experiences on that way, will they remember it when they reach the end of that road, and find that it was for nothing?

And there are more of Jesus' words, such as "What has it profited a man, if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?" Such a man's journey may be pleasant, but in the end he will have lost his soul, and the pleasant journey will have been for nothing.

Can you see how misleading, how ignorant, even how evil it is to say that we should not worry about the destination that the journey or the race of our lives is going towards? I invite anyone to correct me, but I can't think of any place in the Bible where even the inference that the journey is more important then the destination, or that the destination is unimportant, can be made.

In truth, perhaps nothing is more important then our eternal destination.

And there is only one way, and Jesus Himself is that way. There is no other way.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

what bell said at soc

For links to the video excerpts and transcripts, which seem to be accurate from my own viewing and listening to the videos, go here

There are three video excerpts on that site to things Bell said, mostly in answers to questions given to him.

The first was a kind of "tell us a bit about yourself" type of thing, and his response is in answer to a question of that sort, so I'm willing to give a bit of a pass on that one, even credit him a little with a decent insight.

The second is, well, weak. He's answering a question from someone, I think a kid, about how to not be so hard on oneself when one has made a mistake.

Bell makes this observations...

Rob Bell: I think, I think that many people, ah, are—pick up along the way that life is about destination. So they’re taught it’s about arriving; it’s about having all the answers, it’s about creating a nice box that you sit in and defend.

But my fundamental understanding is that life is journey. And journey, is a fundamentally different way to understand life, than destination.

Rob Bell: And on a journey, [Roshi Joan Halifax: That’s right] all I have, am responsible for, is the next step. And that’s all I’m ever asked for—is the next step. [Roshi Joan Halifax smiling and nodding in agreement] I don’t have to have it all figured out; I don’t have to defend it all—I don’t have to have it all nailed down.

And if you can shift from destination understanding, to em[brace]—to journey; it frees you to take life as it comes. Let it be what it is, and then do the next right thing.

For a while, in my signature area at the forms, I had a phrase which went something like this, "To say that the journey is more important then the destination is nonsense. A road's sole value is that it takes you where you want to go".

I think that Bell's idea about life being about journey rather then destination is nonsense on a grand scale.

Consider when God called Abram, and told him to leave Ur. What did God promise to him? That He would lead Abram to "a land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). God told Abram about the destination, that was what He wanted him to focus on, not the journey itself. The journey wasn't the end, it was the means to the end.

If fact, it's in Hebrews, where the author talks about the OT faithful, where mention is made that Abraham was destination-oriented, that he "look for a city...whose builder and maker is God".

Consider when God lead Isreal out of Egypt in Exodus. What did God have Moses tell the people? God told them about "a land flowing with milk and honey". God didn't tell that their freedom from Egypt was only about the journey to the Promised Land, but that it was about getting to and taking charge of the land God promised to them. The journey wasn't the ends, it was the means to it.

Consider when Jesus' disciples asked Him to show about the way to the Father. Jesus' answer was "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, except by me". What Jesus didn't say was that their desire was off, that should be more concerned about the journey to see the Father rather then actually seeing Him.

In II Timothy 4:7-8, Paul tells this to Timothy

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day: and not to me only, but to all those that love his appearing.

One may note, and rightly I think, that Paul does view his life as having been like a course. In that way, viewing life as a journey is not a bad way of viewing it. My problem with Bell, though, is that he uplifts that journey, and denigrates the idea of destination.

Paul doesn't. He looks toward to destination, what awaits him, and encourages Timothy to also look to that destination, that crown of righteousness, and perhaps more then that to the Lord who will present it to him and whose appearing he is to love and look forward to.

The journey of Paul's life wasn't the ends, it was the means to the ends.

What could Bell have said? He could have pointed to Christ, to His death for our sins, to the need for repentence and forgiveness. He could have said that there is forgiveness for sins, not in denying them and not in striving to do better, and not even in getting over them and taking further steps along an unspecified road, but that in Christ is the forgiveness that this kid was looking for.

Instead, he fed that kid garbage.

But why denigrate the idea of destination for the idea of journey? What does it mean that Bell completely disregards where whatever road one is journeying on is leading? Could it be because he thinks that which road one travels on, be it Muslim or Buddhist or Christian, is unimportant? He is one of those, after all, who has poo-poo-ed the idea of hell. If in his mind there is no hell, then it follows that whatever road one is on is irrelevant. There are no real consequences, except maybe in this life and to this planet and physical plane, to what we believe.

The third one is in response to a question about responding to evil acts.

Rob Bell: Ah, when somebody wrongs you; when they commit and injustice, when they do evil—whether it’s something petty or whether it’s the oppression of millions—it’s as if they have handed you this injustice, or evil.

And so you can hand it back, that’s called revenge, that’s when you take the wrong, the evil, the injustice, the hurt, the betrayal, and you simply respond in kind. There is, next to revenge, another option, which is not to hand back the pain, which means that you’re going to have to bear that pain.

And when you choose not to respond with revenge or retaliation, but you choose to respond with forgiveness—and you choose to take it and bear that pain—it is going to be heavy, but it is going to lead to your freedom. It is going to feel like a death, but it is going to lead to a resurrection. It’s gonna feel like a Friday, but a Sunday is going to come.

And I think what we see [motions toward the Dalai Lama] with Archbishop Tutu, and his Holiness, is when people choose not to hand it back, but to bear it, it will always lead to suffering and it will—you will unavoidably become a better person on the other side. An’ I think that’s what we respond to; is that is what changes the world; when somebody chooses not to hand it back.”

If one were stretching, one may almost think that Bell was trying to sneak in something Christian when he talks about resurrection and Sunday coming. I don't know, maybe he was. If so, it was weak, but what the heck, let's give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he was.

Some people have made a big to-do about him calling the Dalai Lama "his Holiness", and they should. The Dalai Lama gets a pass because of Tibet's situation with China, but we are true Christians, let us not put on blinders. Buddhism is a false religion which leads people to hell, and while we may sympathize with DL and his people, we shouldn't let their troubles cause us to say that their religion is ok.

So, for Bell to call the lead man of a false religion "his Holiness" is inexcusable and borderline blasphemous.

Friday, April 18, 2008

seeds (or even the blossom) of compromise

A few months ago, I made mention of an magazine's interview of Rob Bell. One of the more disturbing and puzzling statements he made in that interview was this one.

The central Hebrew prayer, Deuteronomy 6, says, "Hear O Israel the Lord your God, the Lord is One," so we live with the awareness that all of reality is one. We are connected with all thing everywhere...

Some people object to the idea that he is giving some kind of pantheistic notion of God here by relating the Shema to the idea that "all of reality is one".

So, a bit ago, it was learned that the right reverand Bell was invited to something called Seeds of Compassion, a kind of interfaith dialogue involving people from Buddhism, Judaism, Sikh Islam, and Christianity so-called. In this event, Bell participates in a Q&A session, where one of the Sikh speakers makes this rather curions statement.

Guru Singh,
The Sikh scriptures start with a word Ik Oncar and that is “God is one”. And I think that’s the core thing, we are all children of the same god. It is universal. So when we recognize that feeling that we all are from, whether we believe in a formalized god or an infinite being or a spiritual sense that pervades humanity or cosmos, does not matter.

The transcipt and video can be found here,

The similarities between the statements Guru Singh and Rob Bell are rather striking. Both use a similar phrase, the Shema and the statement "God is one", to refer to some kind of universal connectedness, that to Bell all of reality is one and to Singh we are all children of the same god.

No doubt there is some difference to those conclusions, but are they not similar, too?

And if they are so similar, then does it not follow that Bell probably has quite a bit in common with the ideas of the SoC group? Seriously, why else was he invited to their shindig? Do you think they would invite just any old country preacher in to talk about a Christianity so-called that would mesh with what they wanted to hear? Would they risk having a true "Jesus is the only way" Christian speak at an event meant to pimp for the notion of religion pluralism and the idea that all religions are ok?

No, they knew Bell's ideas, they knew he agreed with them, they knew he would play nice and not go Old Testament on them. They knew he wouldn't call them idol-worshipers who needed to repent and turn to the living and true God.

I actually entertained a tad bit of a hope that they would be wrong, that he would say something worth saying, that he would turn out to be a strong witness to Christ there. Sadly, that hope was dashed. At least it was only a small hope.

If anything, we can see how his ideas mesh with those of these anti-Christ teachers, such a with Guru Singh.

Added note, here's a bit of some similar thinking, from another participant of that discussion. It can be found here...'_InterSpirituality_Talks_Raise_Flags.htm

"We say we are created by one god. We say we are all the human family. That makes us interdependent. That is the basis of compassion because it is the basis of the morality of the world," said Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Catholic nun.

Monday, April 14, 2008

random ramblings

I remember watching "Godzilla vs The Smog Monster" (also called "Godzilla vs Hedorah") when I was pretty young, and liking it pretty well. I'm watching it now again, and I'm wonder "What was I thinking?"

Granted, it's still Godzilla, so it's not all bad. But still...

For example, Godzilla's theme music in this movie is different. In fact, it's silly. Then, there're the people, like the psychic-kid who seems to be the only one who knows what's going on. Maybe.

Heck, I haven't even noticed Godzilla being attacked by tiny tanks meant to look full-sized. What kind of Godzilla movie can it be if that doesn't happen?

I know, this is one of those "Godzilla is a nice good guy" movies, thus the non-threatening music, and I'm fine with that, as far as it goes. After all, I did like the movie as a kid, and I probably wouldn't like some of the more modern anti-hero Godzilla ones back then, so it's ok.

Ah, never mind my complaining. Its fine. A bit silly, but ok enough.

And I wouldn't be surprised if it will be re-made sometime in the near future, as something like an anti-global-warming movie.

(Oh, but here at the end, it's just gotten ridiculous--Godzilla's actually using his fire breath to propel himself like a rocket. Come on, stop it, please, I want to like the movie, but that's too much)

There are times when I really wish I had cable tv at my place, and the coming NBA playoffs is one of them. Really, this could be wild, and great.

Of all of the chess defensive systems I could have wanted to study, why oh why did I choose the Sicilian Dragon?

Baseball has only just started, so it's too early to say how it's going to turn out, but I was finally able to listen to most of a Cincy game this afternoon, and it was not a good one.

But really, it was only one game, and sometimes in baseball you lose ugly. There're too many games if the season for that to not happen every so often. Just so long as it's not a regular habit.

Haven't watched any movies for the past several weeks, just hasn't been much out that interests me right now. Had hoped that, for example, 'The Forbidden Kingdom' would be out by now. Any movie with Jackie Chan and Jet Li in it has be worth at least one viewing.

Sometimes revisiting the past is just...funny.

Listened to bit of DC Talk's "Free at Last" a couple of days ago. Wow, and to think we thought that was so cool at the time! Actually, it's ok, but it's so obvious now that those three were a bunch of twenty-something guys who were single and looking for girls. I think about half the songs on that album were about love and romance and such.

To be fair, at the least they treated the topic as it should be treated.

Still, they weren't completely without depth. For example, "Socially Acceptable" is probably as pertinent now as it was then. You can take a bit of lyric from that song like this one...

Times are changing with morals in decay
Human rights have made the wrongs ok

...and see ways in which that is still going on. For example, a book called "The New Christians" that I've been reading relates how a woman in a certain kind of church had the audacity to wear a shirt to that church with this message...

Straight Chrisitians for Gay Rights
(My Bible Teaches Social Justice)

...and we can put that front-and-center to show what kind of whacked-out thinking DCT was talking about. And I'd dare say it's only gotten worse since then.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

being set up for a betrayal?

I remember back in college a friend doing a bit of a comic routine to a song, a funny one, which had to lyrics "we always hurt the ones we love". Looking at it from another direction, it was CS Lewis who made the observations that "To love is to become vulnerable...".

The only person who can truly betray us is the one whom we think is on our side. If an enemy or a stranger acts against us, we may not be so surprised, but if one who is a friend or an ally does so, then we are surprised and what they have done is a betrayal.

Is there a betrayal going on now? Perhaps. At the least, to my mind, it looks like one. Read here...

Orthodox rabbi David Hartman, concerned with the perennial conflict in Jerusalem, insists that different melodies of one God must be cherished: “Each group feels that its way is the only way: there is one God, therefore there has to be one truth. Christians build their story on the Jewish story and therefore feel they are inheritors of Judaism. Muslims built their story on the Bible, and therefore they feel that they are the perfect expression of monotheism. Now, we’ve got to get out of each other’s story. We can’t feel that in order for me to tell my story, your story has to end. . . . In other words, affirmation [of my story] does not require that I demonise those who are different from me. I don’t have to build conviction out of hate and fear.” If my identity depends on annihilation of other stories, I cannot really sing all four songs of God.

I suppose to understand what is meant by "four songs of God" (later the phrase "four stories" is used), one need only look at the logo for that organization. It's found at the top of the page. In it, under a bent line that I suppose is meant to represent something like to roof of a house, are four circles. In three of those circles are symbols representing three different religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The fourth is empty, whether it represents skepticism or athiesm or maybe all other religions is unclear. One may notice under their (NEW) Advisory Council, on the left side of the page, there is one person on it who represents Hinduism.

The four whatevers, then, are these religious views (since the entry seems to deal more with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, at least for the moment I will consider whatever the fourth one to be unimportant). The four songs of God, then, are most likely those four religious views.

So, is what this person said true?

For example, does being a Christian mean that I must also consider the followers of Judaism and Islam brothers? Does it mean that I must think of them as being equally related to God in the same way that I am?

If so, what does that mean?

Consider, then, that at this moment there are in the world many Christians who have dedicated at least a portion of their lives to reaching followers of Islam with the Gospel of Christ. Do they really need to do that? If Muslims, after all, are really a part of God's song, then maybe they shouldn't be evangelized? Then those Christians, perhaps with good hearts and good wills, are actually not doing what God wants them to do? Or maybe they don't even have good hearts and good will? Maybe they are merely tools of cultural dominance and should be soundly rebuked for thinking that any god worth following would condone their actions?

This is the betrayal that I see coming, that soon such as these will be condemning Christians who seek to do Christian evangelistic and missions work in Muslim parts of the world, and no doubt they will eventually condemn those in Hindu and Buddhist places, too. If we are all ok with God in reality, if one can be a Muslim or Buddist or Hindu or even a humanist and athiest and none of it matters, then what is missions work and evangelism but methods of cultural dominance and signs of egoism and superiority over those other cultures.

Here is some of how I see this heading. Missionaries of the past will be lauded, praised for their faith, and held up for respect, even as phrases like "they did what they thought best according to their understanding" are used. Perhaps some examples of cultural abuses, whether real or not, will be brought up, even though yes there were real missionaries who really cared for the people and tried to teach them rightly.

The rhetoric will emphasize, though, how we today are changing, how our understanding of God and of the various sacred texts is changing, and how we through our new lenses can see that in reality this emphasis on people needing to have faith in Christ alone was really not what Christ meant. We need to be more inclusive, more accepting, see the truth and beauty contained in other religions (referred to as "the other"), not be so pushy that they have to believe exactly as we believe. Will God, after all, not accept a just Muslim (at least as we judge one to be just) simply because he or she has not heard of Jesus or even if he or she has has chosen to stay in Islam and follow Allah and the Koran? Really, is the Bible all that much more inspired in the Koran? Aren't they both sacred texts, and both say many good things as well as things that we simply can't agree with nowadays?

Missionary emphasis, then, will change. They will emphasize more the doing of good things then the preaching of the Christian Gospel. They will say that we should push more for their ideas of 'social justice' and not try to force our religion down other people's throats. They will say (are now saying) that it isn't our job to worry about who is going to heaven and hell, and that really our main focus should be on how people live now rather then on where their souls go. Anyway, those old dualistic notions of some kind of far-off heaven and hell may not be right anyway, and we should worry more about bringing heaven to earth then about getting people to heaven.

So all of those evangelistic types of people, preachers and missionaries and soul-winners and street-preachers with bullhorns, they just really need to stop. No doubt they've had good intentions, but their way hasn't really worked. Instead of emphasizing the differences, we need to gather around the things we have in common. Instead of shouting at those other religions to repent and follow our own creeds, we need to shut up and listen and maybe learn something from those others. Instead of insisting on conversion, maybe all we really need is a conversation.

So, if those people, those missionaries, start getting into trouble because of their work, maybe they've been asking for it. After all, they've been disobeying the laws, and while we may not really like those kind of restrictions, we can't really condone the missionaries either. After all, missionaries have done some pretty bad things, and since most of them are focusing more on evangelism and conversion then on 'social justice', maybe they just need to get their act together and get with the program.

Is this far-fetched? Read this, from the link above.

So I find it hard to “give a testimony” today without offending people of my own religion whose identity depends on a divided and conflicted world. As a follower of Christ, I have grown to believe in a world that is larger than Christianity. Jesus called this larger world the kingdom of God...

...In the kingdom of God, these four stories are all really my stories—all at the same time—woven together, giving meaning and life to each other.

Who are these "whose identity depends on a divided and conflicted world"? Is it not those who believe that Christ is the only way, that people must repent and believe in Christ and confess Him as Lord? Is it not those evangelist and missionaries who take the Gospel to other people and other cultures? Is it not these whose "egoism" and "certainty" (so called) make them think that they must preach to those who in reality are already a part of God's song or God's story?

This is what I see happening, and what I see coming. And I think I have good reason to think this. This compromise is coming, and in the name of good things that will be abused by them, they will turn on and devour those who gave up much to take the Gospel to those who had not heard.

That is the betrayal.

Oh, and by the way...

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, except through Me."

"For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved"

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

"He who believes in the Son is not condemned, but He who does not believe is condemned already."

"For those times of ignorance God winked at, but now commands all men everywhere to repent."

Those are what the Bible says. I'd trust it before I'd trust the feel-good ungodly nonsense of Faith House.

But for those who do believe what Faith House is saying, read this, and be warned.

"For in the last days they will not endure sound doctrine, but will take to themselves teachers who will tell them what they want to hear."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

vague vacation vagaries

Travel tips:

As you value your sanity and soundness of mind, never schedule two overnight layovers in an airport in one week. Especially if you are too poor to get a hotel. Really, airports are designed to drive you CRAZY!!! and should be entered only under extreme circumstances.

As you value your sanity and soundness of mind, never schedule two 12+ hour flights in one weeks time. While being very glad that airplanes can take us lots and lots and lots of miles very quickly, one still must essentially sit in one place for most of that time, and watch whatever movie (good or bad) is shown, and eat whatever food (good or bad, and to be fair the food was ok) they have stocked.

You know you've been in a dry place, when for all that you can complain about the over-nighter at the airport on the return trip, you are glad that the airport is humid so that your mouth doesn't feel parched anymore.

Never confuse a stone forest with a dehydrated forest.

Wonders really do never cease.

For example, me, an avowed and committed coffee drinker, went for several days drinking mostly...


Oh, sure, there was some instant coffee, and that's fine. But really, all that time without something or anything coffee? And even when I got to the coffee shop in the airport in the morning after the second overnighter, what do I get but a...

green tea latte.

I seem to have been knocked for more then one loop on that vacation.

How can such a tiny lady have such a huge smile?

I question a bit when people tell us, especially as a display, that the people of certain racial group or nationalities live and dress and dance in the ways being shown.

It's not that I think it's false information, very likely it's correct, but I suspect that it's incomplete.

It's not that I don't think that those people don't every wear such nicely-made outfits, they probably do, but not all the time. It's not that I think they never do those kinds of dances, but that it's not an everything thing. Such nice clothes and dances are probably done on occasions and for events.

I can imagine that their common days are, well, rather more prosaic. They do what they must to grow or catch and prepare food, to trade for things they want or need from others, to raise and care for families, and basically do the kinds of things we all do to some degree. No doubt their regular clothing looks more work-in and not a nice and shiny. And that's fine.

Maybe I'm wrong, though. Really, all of that is merely speculation, it's not something I've researched. It's only thoughts.

And I hope that such musings don't seem to take away from my appreciation for where we visited. It was a nice place, very unexpected, very interesting. I guess I'm just not wanting to confuse it with what the real lives of such people may be like.

For it being such a few days, it was filled, and I'm glad I was able to go.

What did I take from it, though, or maybe a better way to put it, what did I learn and what do I need to do about what I learned?

I think that the thing that I learned, in a personal sense, could best be expressed in this way, that some things need to change in and with me.

A bit ago, there was a time of self-examination, but I think this trip put some accent on things that are not right in me.

Some of it is stuff that I have half-hearted worked at, but that I now know need to lose the 'half' part of that.

There are other things that I have only taken a passing interest in, perhaps for good reason, but that perhaps they need a bit more focus now. There are things about myself that are not complete, are not right, are in a word disappointing, and that can and should be better.

There is much to consider, and perhaps after that much to work at and plan for, and God's guidance and wisdom will be needed by me so very much.

As a preacher remarked a bit ago, in situations like this, there are often obstacles a guy needs to overcome. From my view at the moment, they seem to be high obstacles, and I'm not sure how to overcome them. I can only pray for God's help and favor.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

a bit of quietness

A bit of a note that I'm taking a bit of a vacation for the next several days, and one thing I'm vacationing from will be the blog. Things have been a bit quiet here anyway for a few weeks, so I doubt that'll be much of a thing. Still, for any interested, that's what's going on, and that's why there will be little to no activity here for a few days.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

why what they believe is important

In an exchange in another place on-line, someone made this comment as part of a reply in regards to the suggestion that emergents finally do something like give a statement of what their beliefs are.

It may look like this:
Hope, Reconciliation, Love, peace, and Unity as the central themes of the Bible, and thus the Christian faith. We believe in the historical person of Christ, and are called to respond accordingly to his ministry and impact in this world, before, during and after his incarnation. We believe that God is continually revealing himself by the work of the Holy Spirit though creation. We believe we are called, as God's creation, to love others, fulfill their needs, and focus on bringing the Kingdom of God into whatever situations they are in in their lives. We believe that The Kingdom of God transcends space and time, but is both "at hand" and "coming". We believe the overall goal of our lives is to become the person into whom God is making us, and all the response and responsibility that goes along with that!

with a later edit in the next comment

In that statement it should say..."believes in both the Christ revealed in the Bible as well as the historical Christ." or something like that...I'm sure someone else smarter will word all of that better!

There is quite a lot that could be made of this "statement", and it should be kept in mind that this is one person's idea, not necessarity something all in that 'movement' would agree with (for good or ill).

Still, it does give rise to some thoughts.

For example, it begins with a list of five words that are suppose to be good, nice, positive. Essentially meaningless words, though, outside of any context.

Take the word hope. A 'hopeful' word, one would say, but what kind of hope? Hope in what? And reconciliing, reconciling who to who? Let me give a reason why that troubles me.

From "The New Christians", p. 78

A generation or two ago, defenses of Christianity that focused on human sinfulness were potent: a common metaphor showed God on one side of a diagram and a stick figure (you) on the other; the chasm between was labeled 'Sin', and the only bridge across was in the shape of Jesus' cross. But emergent's asked "What kind of God can't reach across a chasm? Chasms can't stop God!" Indeed, many emergents will concur that we live in a sinful world...But they will be inclined to attribute this sin not to the distance between human beings and God but to the broken relationships that clutter our lives and our world.


Jesus' message and ministry are ultimately about reconciliation: bringing those on the margins back in the center of God's relationship with the world. And the crucifixion, when seen as an act of divine solidarity with the suffering and broken world, becomes the event of reconciliation...But when seen as an event of beauty and reconciliation, even in its tragedy, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the impetus for healed and healing relationship in a world that desperately needs them.

When emergents speak of 'reconciliation', we have reason to question whether they are referring to people being reconciled to God, or people simply being reconciled to each other in some kind of New-Agey,'holistic' idea. The author makes reconciliation between people the main thing, even saying that the main thing about sin is not how it either causes or effects our relationship to God, but how it is caused or results in broken relationships between people in the world.

And this is why I do not trust emergents, and do not consider them worth trusting.

This whole "we don't need a statement of beliefs" idea of theirs has gone on long enough. They've gone far too long with people buying into their "let's play nice and have a conversation which resolves nothing and answers nothing" shtick, and it's getting old.

We can see the problem when we look at the concept of reconciliation above, that if we accept the author's definitions and explanations, when they talk about reconciliation, they mean something different then "be reconciled to God". It is this kind of amorphous, undefined, slight-of-hand refocusing of attention that a statement of beliefs on their part would hopefully make less problematic.

Because if there are problems with the one word, what about the others? Certainly few words are more problematic then 'love', and how we define acts of godly love or charity would well be determined by our beliefs. If we believe that those in other religions needs to know about Jesus so they can repent and trust in Him, then evangelism and missions work can be seen a works of godly love towards them. If we believe that knowledge of Christ isn't really necessary and people simply need to live rightly in their own cultural contexts, that concepts of heaven and hell are really too divisive and give a judgmental view of God and need to be put behind us, then evangelism and missions works may well be viewed as unnecessary and even unwelcome intrusions based more on concepts of cultural superiority then love of God and others.

And peace? If we consider that emergents seem to be attracting the detritus of pacifism, then we can understand a bit what they mean by peace. And unity? Read this

So I find it hard to “give a testimony” today without offending people of my own religion whose identity depends on a divided and conflicted world. As a follower of Christ, I have grown to believe in a world that is larger than Christianity. Jesus called this larger world the kingdom of God. It is the symphony made of all stories, individual and communal, our magnanimous God is involved with in this world.

Only God is God. And Christianity is not. Nor Judaism. Nor Islam. Paradoxically, this realization about the greatness of God is a deeply Christian, Jewish and Muslim teaching.

When I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I begin with the first word, “Our . . .” (see Matthew 6:9) and I stop and ask myself, “Who do I include in this Our?” I remind myself that the story of God is bigger than my personal story, bigger than the story of my religion, bigger than the story of all humanity, and bigger than the story of all creation. In the kingdom of God, these four stories are all really my stories—all at the same time—woven together, giving meaning and life to each other.

You can see the tactics used--those who believe that Jesus is the only way are those "whose identity depends on a divided and conflicted world". The 'kingdom of God' is to this person's mind 'larger than Christianity', meaning it included people in other religions who worship idols and false gods.

God is loving, and is involved in this world, yes. And our message is clear, to tell people to "be reconciled to God", to repent and trust in Christ, not stay in their false religions worshiping devils and false gods.

This is why the opening "statement of beliefs" is hollow and meaningless. It may read nicely, but underneath is the potential for the misleading and unbiblical ideas to find root. That is why they must put aside this perceived need to feel nice and PC, and give us the cold hard facts. Yes, if they follow what those quoted above have said, they will be openning themselves up to controversy (like that's not already happening), but at least they would be being honest.