secularism and paganism

useful post from Challies on the six faces of paganism present today in our society. Go read his post for the details.

1. materialism
2. empiricism
3. determinism
4. secularism
5. secular humanism
6. post-modernism

see if you can tell which one of these six is not like the rest and tell me why it might be included on this list and in our contemporary society.

six flags over Jesus

compare and contrast this to this.

here is an excerpt from the first one:

Q: What can the church expect to gain from all the changes?

A: The transformation of our campus will dramatically increase First Baptist’s ability to minister to our city. It will make room for hundreds or even thousands more worshipers and Sunday School attendees and will vastly increase our capacity for weekday groups. The worship center in particular will also be an iconic presence in the city, standing boldly as a continuation of our legacy in downtown Dallas.

Q: What are the distinctive intent and features of the new campus design?

A: The design is filled with messages about our church. The glass, the water, the light and the spaciousness of the plan speak of openness, transparency and spiritual refreshment. In a way, the glass walls have an evangelistic effect: people walking by have a view in from the street and feel drawn in. The glass also unifies the architecture of the church by extending the aesthetic started by the Criswell Center, which was built in 2006, and thus capitalizes on our $50 million investment in that multi-purpose facility. As for long-term cost, modern technologies allow vast use of glass with surprising energy efficiency.

emphasis added.
just an unbelievably huge demonstration of the attractional church mentality. They are saying that we will minister to our city by making room for hundreds or even thousands more to assemble here in an even bigger [glass-walled] room. Isn’t there a better and more direct way to “minister to the city”?

Contrast this to the second one:

Convicted by the verse to “love your neighbor as yourself,” Chan showed up at the next board meeting with an agenda. In the early years, Cornerstone gave away 4 percent of its budget. Chan asked them to give away 50 percent. Cuts in staff salaries and serious sacrifices in programs would have to be made, but it only took a half hour for the board to agree.

Rick Utley, an elder, says that decision “has produced a heart in Cornerstone unlike any church I have ever been involved with. The blessings that have come with it are hard to quantify.” Utley says it would now be hard for him to worship in a church that didn’t make the adjustments and sacrifices Cornerstone made to give at this level.

In 2008 the church will give away 55 percent of its budget to the poor and hungry through various ministries, including a $1 million annual commitment to Children’s Hunger Fund and a sizeable contribution to World Impact, which plants churches in urban America.
….
Chan didn’t want any part of it. “I kept thinking about all those people I’d seen in third world countries and it made me sick.”

Chan thought he knew what Jesus would do. He’d say, “Meet me at the park.” That was what Chan wanted. Just a patch of grass where the church could gather.

The solution was an outdoor amphi-theater, a simple structure enjoyed by the community during the week and used as a gathering place for worship on Sunday. The plan would save tens of millions of dollars. Even the elders got behind the idea.

If it rained, they’d get wet knowing their money was feeding the hungry.

emphasis added.

just go read both and think for a few minutes about how we do church in this country. Do you want to be a part of something like the glass walled extravaganza or the outdoor ampitheater?

hat tip to Challies for the link to Jared Wilson and hat tip to Jared Wilson for the links to the comparison and the title above.

reality of marriage

Challies put up an article on Monday just after his eleventh wedding anniversary that was a very real look at marriage through the device of wanting to give his younger newly married self some counseling.

the whole thing is good, but I thought this part was especially helpful because so many people have unrealistic ideas of the marriage relationship:

Prepare to Hurt and Be Hurt!. One of the greatest ironies and the greatest tragedies of marriage is that a husband and wife have more opportunities to sin against one another than against anyone else in all the world. Over the course of eleven years of marriage, I have hurt Aileen more than anyone else and have sinned against her more than I’ve sinned again anyone else. I suppose this means that marriage also offers unparalleled opportunities to extend forgiveness and to choose to overlook sin. While Aileen and I have had our share of struggles over the years, I truly believe that we carry no bitterness toward one another. Through God’s grace we have offered and received forgiveness time and time again. And through his grace we have overlooked many an offense. Yet there have been many occasions when we have hurt one another and when we have let this wounds fester for just a little too long.

If I could go back, I would prepare myself to be hurt and, even more, would seek to emphasize kindness and forbearance and grace so that I could hurt my wife far less often.

that is why I Peter 4:8 says “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

I can tell you after 20 years of married life that in a marriage there are many many sins that will need to be covered by fervent love. It is when you let your love grow cold that bitterness grows. Once bitterness takes hold of your heart, it is very difficult to uproot, so that love can flourish again.

The writer of Hebrews warned against ever letting the root of bitterness grow and prescribed the grace of God as the preventative. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”

the Death Penalty

Challies has reviewed The Death Penalty on Trial by Ron Gleason.

It sounds like a interesting and useful book for Christians who have trouble with the Death Penalty as a possible punishment by the State.

Go read the whole review and see what you think. I thought this part was a particularly interesting bit of perspective:

A theme that runs throughout the book is this: all murder is killing but not all killing is murder. Thus a person who murders another can be justly executed by the governing authorities without multiplying the evil. To kill a murderer is not to commit another murder. Rather, terrible though it is to have to take a life, it is an act of justice and a fitting penalty for one who would destroy a person made in God’s image.

are you or am I emergent?

Challies quotesKevin DeYoung’s test of whether we are emergent or not. Kevin says that “if all or most” of these apply to you then you are emergent. So let’s use 75% as a threshhold.  Look at my answers below and you tell me.  Am I emergent?  I think not, but they have some good points.

You might be an emergent Christian:

if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt (sometimes in church)–I love all three, but only U2’s “40” in church.  It is the Bible after all
use sermon illustrations from The Sopranos–never seen it
drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings–hmmm I love lattes and the occasional Guinness (or 512 Pecan Porter), but not every day on either one as this implies
and always use a Mac–yep. love my Macs
if your reading list consists primarily of Stanley Hauerwas, Henri Nouwen, N. T. Wright, Stan Grenz, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, Jim Wallis, Frederick Buechner, David Bosch, John Howard Yoder, Wendell Berry, Nancy Murphy, John Franke, Walter Winks and Lesslie Newbigin (not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.)–read a bit of Newbigin and liked it. read Velvet Elvis and really liked it. don’t care for the rest
your sparring partners include D. A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem;–Love D.A. Carson and Martyn Lloyd-Jones
if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu;–Yes on Mother Teresa. the others, not so much
if you don’t like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity;–love W, don’t like institutions or big business much, but I love capitalism. I really am growing to HATE “Left Behind Christianity.”
if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage;–abortion is tops. rest of them except poverty aren’t really on the radar. poverty only to the extent that capitalism could lift them out. love the whole micro loan business concept of the IMF.
if you are into bohemian, goth, rave, or indie;–not really. but I do like some indie and a lot of alternative
if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty;–violence does solve some problems and if certainty is a myth, we are all doomed. DOOOOOMMMMEEEEEDDDD, I say.
if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways modernism has ruined your life;–mmmmm, I love modernism
if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant;–I love the Bible as the inspired, inerrant word of God and from God.
if you search for truth but aren’t sure it can be found;–oh yes, He is very findable
if you’ve ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk-drawings, couches, or beanbags (your youth group doesn’t count);–never, but it sounds interesting
if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine,and hierarchy–I live for the linear, rational and propositional. it is the way the world makes sense. Why are machine and hierarchy on this list?
and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintage, and dance;–I like jazz, mosaic, missional, matrix and dance. not so much ancient-future and vintage.
if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems legalistic, naive, and rigid;–legalistic yes, but not naive or rigid
if you support women in all levels of ministry,–nope. complementarian all the way
prioritize urban over suburban,–nope. love them both
and like your theology narrative instead of systematic;–love narrative to illustrate the systematic.
if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular divide;–hmmmm. will have to ponder. I think most of us have too much of a divide
if you want to be the church and not just go to church;–oh yes, do I ever!
if you long for a community that is relational, tribal, and primal like a river or a garden;–yes relational. the rest sounds like gobbleygook
if you believe doctrine gets in the way of an interactive relationship with Jesus;–true doctrine as the foundation is how we can have a right relationship with Jesus
if you believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway;–I believe God is in charge of this question, and we should share the Gospel with everyone. Obviously, Hell will be significantly overpopulated.
if you believe salvation has a little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker;–Romans 8 tells me its both. The price had to be paid for our guilt, and creation groans for redemption
if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way;–wrong wrong wrong
if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us;–never bothered about this. Postmillenialism has virtually no scriptural basis, but the kingdom of heaven is both present and future.
if you disdain monological, didactic preaching;–love preaching. hearing it and doing it. Think it could be less of a monologue most of the time.
if you use the word “story” in all your propositions about postmodernism—Story is a powerful tool in the expositor’s arsenal. in this age and culture in which we live, story is a very important connection tool. It shouldn’t be poo pooed or dismissed so cavalierly.

why are we so fat?

via challies, I discovered and read a very interesting article from Elizabeth Kolbert at the New Yorker about obesity in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

During the next decade, Americans kept right on gaining. Men are now on average seventeen pounds heavier than they were in the late seventies, and for women that figure is even higher: nineteen pounds. The proportion of overweight children, age six to eleven, has more than doubled, while the proportion of overweight adolescents, age twelve to nineteen, has more than tripled. (According to the standards of the United States military, forty per cent of young women and twenty-five per cent of young men weigh too much to enlist.) As the average person became heavier, the very heavy became heavier still; more than twelve million Americans now have a body-mass index greater than forty, which, for someone who is five feet nine, entails weighing more than two hundred and seventy pounds. Hospitals have had to buy special wheelchairs and operating tables to accommodate the obese, and revolving doors have had to be widened—the typical door went from about ten feet to about twelve feet across. An Indiana company called Goliath Casket has begun offering triple-wide coffins with reinforced hinges that can hold up to eleven hundred pounds. It has been estimated that Americans’ extra bulk costs the airlines a quarter of a billion dollars’ worth of jet fuel annually.

Such a broad social development seems to require an explanation on the same scale. Something big must have changed in America to cause so many people to gain so much weight so quickly. But what, exactly, is unclear—a mystery batter-dipped in an enigma.

Go check out the article for a variety of explanations from the darwinian to the malevolent for this phenomenon.

suffering as a tool to edify the church

Challies has another great post today. This one discussing Ligon Duncan’s exposition of how God uses suffering in our lives to build up the church. Go read the whole thing.

So I guess this is something we ought to keep in mind in those times that God calls us to suffer. Our suffering is not pointless; it is not meaningless. At least in part, our suffering is mandated by God so we can strengthen and edify our brothers and sisters in Christ so that they, and we, may strive toward Christian maturity. “Your suffering does not just belong to you. You are members of a body. Your suffering is for the body’s maturity as much as it is for yours. Your suffering is there to build up the church of Christ. It is there for the people of God to be given faith and hope and confidence in the hour of their trials. Your suffering is also the body’s suffering because one of God’s purposes in suffering is the maturity of the whole church.”

Jeff Mangum talked yesterday at the Austin Stone from I Corinthians 15 about the hope of the resurrection being a sure hope. As a result of the certainty of the resurrection and heaven to come we can endure any hardship that this temporary world has to offer. He talked about how the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation emphasizes that following the way of Christ is fraught with uncertainty and difficulty. Nonetheless, we are called to suffer for Christ in this life. He talked in particular about invitational suffering and how the American Church as a whole refuses to acknowledge this aspect of God’s plan for us.

The idea that God would call us to suffering in order to bring glory to His name is completely alien to the modern American church where the Godly live prosperously and comfortably without pain and illness. In the modern American church job loss, illness, poverty, rebellious teenagers etc. are proof of poor choices or worse God’s judgment on the sufferer’s life.

Ligon Duncan and Jeff Mangum might actually be onto something. Maybe God can actually be magnified in our weakness. Maybe when we mature through suffering we can help the whole body become more mature at the same time. Maybe………

or maybe they are reading a different Bible than the rest of us and God really wants us to be healthy and happy all the time with all the toys and distractions that our selfish hearts desire. Maybe we should just name today’s desire and claim God’s power to make it so and forget all that stuff about suffering for the Name of Jesus, about no student being better than his teacher, about denying self taking up the cross and following. Yeah, that’s right…. Where’s the remote?