Posts Tagged ‘theology’
This post attempts to dismiss the angst many have over so-called ‘feminine’ theology. Much of the angst comes from those who are simply afraid that God might not fit into their pre-conceived ideas. Of special concern is the angst many have over The Shack’s presentation of God as a fat, African-American woman. (I suspect much of it comes, too, because people haven’t actually read The Shack.)–jerry
I read this:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)
Then I read this:
After looking at an increasingly androgynous Rob Bell in this video, I’d say Bell doesn’t seem limited to a gender either. Any time the feminine side of God is touted by religious leaders, support for homosexuality is never far behind. After all, the thinking goes, if man is made in God’s image, why would he/she be limited to a gender either, right? The goddess, feminine theology, introduced here by Bell and also by the recent Shack novel, will go a long way to push this thinking forward.
Then I thought, “Hmm….I’m an educated man (did very well in college thank you very much). I read a lot. I read The Shack. Strange that when I finished reading it I didn’t come away with even the foggiest notion of goddess worship. Strange that when I finished reading the book I came away with a profound sense that perhaps, yes, God is still very real even when stories don’t have happy endings. Strange that while I was reading the book I had a profound sense of humility that more often than not I have tried to create God in my image instead of allowing the Scripture to control my imagination and, thus, allowing God to be God in his own image. Strange that when I finished reading The Shack, I didn’t feel inclined to worship Aphrodite or Diana or even my wife. However, it was equally strange that I didn’t feel like worshiping an old man with a long white beard, or Zeus, or even myself.
“Strange that I, an educated man who reads, writes, and preaches for a living was not at all uncomfortable with idea that God might look more like Aunt Jemima than Arnold S, more like The Oracle (from the Matrix) than Charlton Heston. Strange that someone might think God purposely goes further out of his way to avoid our stereotypes and pigeonholes than we give him credit for. Strange that when I finished reading The Shack I suddenly believed that God was more powerful, more compassionate, more wise than even I had imagined. Strange, this God who delights in ambiguity and mystery.”
Then I remembered:
“I guess here is my real question in all this…why couldn’t you have made things clear? People go to the Bible and find all these ways to disagree with each other, even or especially theologians. Everybody seems to want to acquire their little piece of doctrinal territory and put fences around it so only those with the secret handshake can get in. Some find support for Universal Reconciliation; some find proofs for eternal torment in hell, and some find it just easier to annihilate everyone who doesn’t make it.” Now I am ranting, but can’t seem to help myself. “The Calvinists find all their verses to debate the Armenians, who find their list. Then there are the ones who believe in eternal security fighting with the ones that don’t. Every silly idea of eschatology finds its own proof texts and in the middle of all these debates it seems that love is all that gets left behind. We even find ways to fight about grace and love. Couldn’t you have just made it simple and clear; unambiguous?”
I look up and Papa has a big grin on her face, but I don’t return the smile. Without really understanding why, this question is suddenly important to me and I can sense that it has threads connecting many of my internal conflicts.
Papa simply let me tread water in my rant for a while, until some of the emotional residue subsides. “Do you think that all this has surprised me?” she asks gently? “Do you think that I thought, ‘There, they now have the scriptures; they will totally get this’? Human beings are very creative. They have an incredible facility to take some of the simplest and most obvious truths and make them ambiguous. If I didn’t know better, it would surprise even me.”
“But,” I am struggling to keep my question from becoming an accusation, “Why couldn’t you have made it clearer? How hard would it have been to just have one of the writers put truth down in such a way that there would be no confusion?”
I look up and she is still grinning, obviously enjoying the conversation more than I am. “Like a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) at the back of the Bible?” I roll my eyes, even though part of me thinks that might have been a good idea. Papa pauses to take another sip of her steaming whatever. “Have you ever thought that ambiguity, that mystery, might have purpose?” she posed.
The question actually surprises me and I begin to feel the uneasiness that usually precedes my paradigms being challenged. “Nope. I’ve never thought about that at all. I’ve spent most of my life so focused on certainty, that ambiguity and mystery have always been, sort of…the enemy. Are you telling me that ambiguity is a good thing?”
I think the reason some are afraid of a ‘feminine’ [and there's a big difference between saying 'feminine God' and 'female God'] God is because we haven’t been properly instructed in Scripture. Truth be told, those who think God looks (or acts or is shaped) like a man have a woefully inadequate understanding of God who is Spirit. Truth be told, those who think God looks (or acts or is shaped) like a woman have a woefully inadequate understanding of God who is Spirit. Truth be told, those who cannot imagine God as either, both, and neither have a woefully inadequate picture of the Holy God who will not be limited by the imagination that he built within us in the beginning. Why is this so hard to understand?
I suppose those who think God is one or the other are perfectly satisfied with their understanding of God and, thus, have nothing more to search for, nothing more to seek, no more reason to open their bibles, no more reason to pray, no more reason to even hope. Those who reject ‘feminine’ metaphors have no need for a mother; those who reject ‘masculine’ metaphors have no need for a father. But is aren’t we incomplete without both? Can we even exist if one is absent? I don’t want a god who is limited by my ideas of ‘male’ and ‘female’. I don’t even want a god who is limited by my ideas of mere ‘god’ and ‘goddess.’ I want a God who is strong and sensitive, masculine and feminine, burly and beautiful, willing and wonderful, purposeful and passionate. I want a God who is perfectly masculine and perfectly feminine and creates both to His own glory. I want the God of the Scripture who is perfectly shown us in Jesus.
Ambiguity is a good thing because it keeps us from becoming content in our misconceptions. Ambiguity is good because it keeps us from becoming careless with our caricatures. Ambiguity is a good thing because it keeps us from becoming conceited about our wisdom. Ambiguity is good because it chops us down to size, turns us all around, and makes us rely on grace all over again. I reject out of hand the idea that we will be saved because we have all the right answers to all the wrong questions. Ambiguity is good because it strips us of pride and causes us to cry out all over again, “God have mercy on me, a sinner!” Ahh, grace.
Then it all came together:
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
Now I understand why God gave me a mother and a father. There is a subtle ambiguity in this verse if both man and woman can be created in the image of the same God. Thus, this sentence is just wrong: “Any time the feminine side of God is touted by religious leaders, support for homosexuality is never far behind.” Wrong! That sentence is so wrong it could not be more wrong. It is beyond wrong. It is abysmally wrong. When both sides of the coin are presented, when they are held in tension, when the ambiguity is unresolved, we have a complete picture of God in whose image man and woman were created. I reject the idea that because both ’sides’ of God are present that a teaching about homosexuality is, and must necessarily be, close behind. Rather it seems to me that when one side is neglected, and only one side is presented, then will homosexuality follow behind closely. I wonder how many male homosexuals didn’t have a father? I wonder how many female homosexuals didn’t have a mother? Not all, mind you; but I wonder how many. In other words it is the absence of correct theology of the ‘feminine’ side of God that creates the problems for the church, not its presence.
I’m troubled by all this talk not because I feel a personal need to defend The Shack (although I do) or because I think there is a glaring omission of ‘feminine’ theology in the church (although there is). I’m troubled because in all our talk about God we are missing the greater point: The only real image of God we have is Jesus. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” Jesus said (John14:9).
And Jesus wasn’t afraid of feminine metaphors or masculine metaphors as images of God. Jesus was perfectly content, it seems to me, to allow that God would be the perfect standard of righteousness for both men and women. If God’s image is the image in which men and women are created, and God’s righteousness is the perfect standard for masculinity and femininity in the church (unless there is more than one God!), then it seems to me that exploring both ’sides’ should not only be encouraged, but it is also quite necessary for our understanding of ourselves and God. He gave us one image by which to explore ‘both sides’: Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Originally posted at CRN.info
I finally managed to find my CD copies of my manuscripts from The Dangerous God sermon series of which I have posted a couple of the mp3′s here. I will be posting more of the mp3′s, but for now I would like to provide you with the sermon manuscripts. These sermons are filled with quotes from authors like David Wells, PT Forsyth, Mark Buchanan, Philip Yancey and more. Expository sermons from the lives of Gideon, David, Joshua, the disciples and more. I hope they are a help to you.
Dangerous God, pt 2: 1 Samuel 17:1-58, The God Who Does Greater with Smaller
Dangerous God, pt 3: Joshua 1:1-18; 5:13-27, The God Who Does the Impossible with the Improbable
Dangerous God, pt 4: Matthew 1:18-25, Revelation 12, The God Who Enters Chaos to Bring Order
Dangerous God, pt 5: Luke 23; Various, The God Who Saves in the Midst of Loss
Dangerous God, pt 6: Acts 2:22-36, The God Whose Life is Greater than Our Death
Dangerous God, pt 7: Acts 9:1-18, etc., The God Who Uses the World’s Rejects
Dangerous God, pt 8: Matthew 5-7, The Dangerous God’s Message to His People: A Radical Way of Counterculturally Living
Thanks for stopping by. Again, I hope you find these sermons helpful.
And, as always,
Soli Deo Gloria!
Here is part 3 of my current sermon series that coincides with The Bible in 90 Days reading program. In this sermon, which I divided into two parts, we begin looking at the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. In my estimation, the Exodus is one probably the single most significant historical event in the history of earth. In the event we see the complete work of God in miniature as he confronts the godless Egypt and the idols of Egypt as represented by Pharaoh. There are four main points that I will eventually make, and in this first part I made the first two points. First, I deal with prophets (Moses and Aaron). Here we see a discovery of who speaks for God. Ultimately, this works itself out in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). Second, I deal with the plagues where we see a declaration of who is God as YHWH systematically dismantles the the religious hierarchy of Egypt. Ultimately, I conclude this sermon by noting that what matters most here is that YHWH is known. Tune in next week for part 2 where I will deal with Pharaoh and Passover. jerry
You can listen here: Exodus 7-12, Freedom for God’s People.
Or use the inline audio below:
Print version available here: Exodus 7-12, Freedom For God’s People (or at Box.net)
Other download options are available through feedburner and archive.org.
Always for His glory!
I am always happy to share with you when I discover what so many others already knew about the www: There is more than can be imagined out there!
I’ll be adding this link to my side bar soon, but for now here’s a happy link to the Carl F H Henry Center for Theological Understanding.
I haven’t had much time to explore, but from some of the names I’ve seen associated with the actual Center itself, I’m impressed. The Center also has a podcast that can be downloaded through itunes. (I found it by searching ‘theological lectures.’) I downloaded about seven lectures tonight. I also came across this at their blog:
The Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is excited to announce that on October 9th, 2008 at 6:30pm, it will host a Trinity Debate at the TEDS Chapel featuring Drs. Bruce Ware (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and WayneGrudem(Phoenix Seminary) versus Drs. Tom McCall (TEDS) and Keith Yandell (University of Wisconsin-Madison) on the question:
“Do relations of authority and submission exist eternally among the Persons of the Godhead?”
This debate follows current argumentation in the academic sphere between the two sides. Though a theological exchange between expert scholars, this event will prove beneficial for Christians of all backgrounds. The doctrine of the Trinity is at the heart of the Christian faith and takes into account questions of scriptural interpretation, theological synthesis, and philosophical reasoning. Determining the identities and roles of the persons of the Godhead is thus of great importance not only to the academician, but to the pastor, the layperson, the student and all who would seek to probe and comprehend the beautiful complexity of orthodox Christianity.
The Center anticipates that the debate will be lively, informative, charitable, enjoyable, and, we trust, helpful to a wide variety of Christians and even non-Christians who wish to better understand one of the central realities of the faith. This event is not intended to be intramural, but rather to stimulate discussion that clarifies the Word of God in the life of Christ’s church. All should consider themselves invited and welcome to this free evening of debate and dialogue over theological issues that matter.
I won’t be able to get to it in person, so here’s hoping they podcast or transcript it for us. The Center has also made available two papersthat look very promising. One by Kirsten Birkett on “I Believe in Nature: An Exploration of Naturalism and the Biblical Worldview” (available as a .pdf download) and the other by Chawkat Moucarry on “A Christian Perspective on Islam”(also available as a .pdf). I haven’t read either, but for anyone interested in these two topics, the papers should at minimum provide good reading and perhaps stimulate thought and conversation. Looks like there is a lot of stuff available at this website. Enjoy.
|What’s your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com
|You scored as Evangelical Holiness/WesleyanYou are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God’s grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.
Just for the record, I do not believe that I am totally depraved. Nor do I believe anyone is totally depraved. I cannot earn my salvation, but I can make a choice. –jerry
David Wells has written some of the most important books I have personally read. (I referenced four of them on my ‘Books’ page.) Here’s an excerpt from an essay I found online:
The nature of evangelical theology is determined for it by the nature of that Word of which it is the exposition and application. The Word of God is the unique, written disclosure of God’s character, will, acts, and plans. It is given so that men and women who have come to faith through its teaching might learn to five [sic.] in God’s world on his terms, loving and honoring him in all that they do and seeking to make known to the world his law and gospel. That is the purpose of God’s revelation and the task of theology is to facilitate this.
This facilitation begins with the recognition of the bipolar nature of biblical revelation. Biblical revelation was given in a particular cultural context but it is also intended to be heard in our own context. This revelatory trajectory, then, has a point of origination and a point of arrival. It is the fact of inspiration and the contemporary work of the Spirit which secure a consistency between its terminus a quo and its terminus a quem. The work of the Holy Spirit was such that the responsible human agents who were used in the writing of Scripture were able to employ cultural materials and, indeed, to shape the revelation in terms of their own understanding, but what God the Spirit willed should be revealed was exactly what was written, and the content and intent of this revelation were alike transcultural. The biblical revelation, because of its inspired nature, can therefore be captive neither to the culture in which it arose nor to the culture in which it arrives. It was not distorted as it was given, nor need it be distorted as we seek to understand it many centuries later in contexts far removed from those in which it was originally given.
It may sound naive, but I think a lot of arguments that we have concerning Scripture could easily be settled if we remember the role of the Holy Spirit in the transmission of Scripture. This simple fact is all too easily forgotten or neglected.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Scientific Americanhas published the most ridiculous essay by Michael Shermer publisher of Skeptic. He has published 6 reasons why Conservative Christians should just accept Darwinian evolution. They are:
1. Evolution fits well with good theology.
2. Creationism is bad theology.
3. Evolution explains original sin and the Christian model of human nature.
4. Evolution explains family values.
5. Evolution accounts for specific Christian moral precepts.
6. Evolution explains conservative free-market economics.
He ends his work by quoting from Proverbs 11:29. I’d like to remind Mr. Shermer of another quotation from Proverbs: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).
I’m going to read his arguments carefully before I say anything else about them because he could very well just be acting like a smart ass in which case his ‘take’ is meaningless. He asks at the outset: “Can one be a conservative Christian and a Darwinian? Yes. Here’s how.” I want to state this out front: No, one cannot. (If you don’t believe me, ask Richard Dawkins.) There is simply no way, despite the efforts of many well-intentioned Christians and Darwinists to do so, to mesh the two philosophies.
The reason is as follows: Redemption is too closely, tightly knitted together with the God of Creation for there to be any compatibility between the two. I will explore this a little more when I comment on the specific points of his essay.
The President has said this before, but that doesn’t make it any better now.
Well, first of all, I believe in an Almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That’s what I believe. I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace. And I believe people who murder the innocent to achieve political objectives aren’t religious people, whether they be a Christian who does that – we had a person blow up our – blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City who professed to be a Christian, but that’s not a Christian act to kill innocent people.”
I have to say that I am very disappointed that the President said this. I am a big fan of George Bush. I support him personally and politically. But this is just bad theology. No Muslim would concede this. No Orthodox Jew would agree to this. And no conservative, Biblical, Evangelical Christian can agree to this. It may be politically expedient. He may well believe it. But it is in no way an accurate reflection of Biblical Theology.
We are having an Iftaar dinner tonight – I say, ‘we’ – it’s my wife and I,” Bush told Nakouzi. “This is the seventh one in the seven years I’ve been the president. It gives me a chance to say ‘Ramadan Mubarak.’ The reason I do this is I want people to understand about my country. In other words, I hope this message gets out of America. I want people to understand that one of the great freedoms in America is the right for people to worship any way they see fit. If you’re a Muslim, an agnostic, a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, you’re equally American.
“And the value – the most valuable thing I think about America is that – particularly if you’re a religious person – you can be free to worship, and it’s your choice to make. It’s not the state’s choice, and you shouldn’t be intimidated after you’ve made your choice. And that’s a right that I jealously guard.”
This after it was reported yesterday that Muslims in Nigeria killed 10 Christians and burned down several church buildings. I’m sorry Mr. President, but we do not worship the same God–not under any circumstance.
Some folks are fond of saying that we need to be ‘open-minded’ when discussing certain things and exploring certain ideas. Check out this short post at Jason Goroncy’s blog. I think you’ll be surprised.
A brief advertisement for those of you who have spent any time at all reading my ‘Theology of Suffering’ page. I have now begun my sermon series at the church. As such, and as I promised in an earlier post, the first sermon has been posted. You’ll have to scroll down the page a bit to find it, but it is there. I have also enhanced the page by including links to most of my references and illustrations. Thanks for stopping by.
I just cannot resist. I have heard of some stupid things before, but this one takes the cake. Here’s a new way to learn what common sense and the ability to read should already do.
The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) will offer this fall an undergraduate program with a concentration in homemaking, aiming to prepare women to model the characteristics of the godly woman as outlined in Scripture, according to the course description.
I can’t believe I agree with the following statement:
Patsy Eastwood, who describes herself as an emerging evangelist, couldn’t disagree more with the wives.
“A seminary degree in homemaking. I cannot imagine a bigger waste of money,” she wrote on her blog. “Wives need to be their husband’s closest ministry partner.”
“We are moving against the tide in order to establish family and gender roles as described in God’s word for the home and the family,” Patterson said at the meeting, according to Parham. “If we do not do something to salvage the future of the home, both our denomination and our nation will be destroyed.”
I don’t necessarily disagree that it is a good for the family for the wife to stay home and tend the children. For some families, this can be done; for others, like mine, the wife works outside the home and it benefits greatly the family that she does. But that’s not really my issue with this story. My real issue is in this line: “…aiming to prepare women to model the characteristics of the godly woman as outlined in Scripture…”
Now, I think if a woman wants a degree, she should go to college, work hard and earn a degree. My issue here is not with women, women working outside the home, women getting an education or anything of that sort–so please don’t accuse me of those things. (My wife works outside the home and contributes a substantial amount to our family budget–especially as far as insurance is concerned.) My issue here is with this college because this has nothing to do with preparing women to model…Scripture. A woman can learn that by having a godly mother and father, by reading Scripture, by using her mind, and by regularly attending a worship service or bible study. She doesn’t need a college education to learn how to be a woman and frankly, I can’t see anywhere in Scripture where it says that a woman should do all the cooking, sewing and cleaning anyhow. Is a college degree really requied to know how to wash dishes, make a bed, take a child to baseball practice? And, furthermore, I would be offended if I couldn’t participate in those things. I have two thoughts about this. One is, admittedly, cynical, the other is more of a challenge to men, and churches.
I think this is about money. This is the cynical comment. Why would a woman go into that much debt to learn how to cook and sew when she can learn it for free by studying with her mother at home, or by reading, or by watching the Cooking Channel? (Unless the mother isn’t home because she has to work.) The ‘emerging pastor’ above is right: It’s a waste of money.
Second, a challenge. It think there are two reasons married women work. One, they have ambition and interests and a genuine desire to improve the world in which they live.; they want to work, they enjoy it. Two, they have to because their husband doesn’t make enough to support the family. So, here’s the challenge. If we are talking about men who work for churches, then the churches need to pay the preacher more so his wife doesn’t have to work if she doesn’t want to. A homemaking degree in hand won’t help put bread on the table if the husband isn’t making enough money. And where else can such a degree be used? If we are talking about a woman with ambition, then let her earn a degree in something useful–that is, let her spend her money more wisely. But the other challenge is this: Churches, Preachers: Start preaching the Gospel! Give up all the purpose garbage, give up relevance, give up your best life now, and preach the unfiltered, unadulterated Gospel, the Cross of Christ, and see if it doesn’t make a difference in your congregation’s families.
Don’t you think that the best way for a woman to learn about how to be a godly woman is to go to worship, study the Scripture, practice? I can’t believe this is a serious offer by Southwestern. I can’t believe women will enroll. I can’t believe that this is what a theological seminary is offering to train people. Shouldn’t they be a little more concerned about teaching Scripture? The problem is not that families are falling apart. The problem is that there is no reason for families to stay together because they don’t know what Scripture says. I’ll explain.
This does not start at the seminary level. That is not where the church is losing the battle for godly sex roles or biblically defined families. That battle is being lost at the congregation level. That battle is being lost in every town where the preacher won’t preach the Gospel. The battle for these things is at the smallest level: the Church. And as long as preachers are content with status quo, are content with a ‘culturally relevant’ gospel, as long as preachers are content with their own ideas, there will nothing any seminary can do to stem the tide. David Wells, is so right, “The reason theology is disappearing has little to do with the technical skills of the fine tuners and much to do with the state of the Church. So it is not with the technicians that I begin but with the Church. It is not with the prfessionals in the learned guild that I start but with the whole people of God” (No Place For Truth, 6)
If Southwestern Baptist Seminary wants to save the family, they should train better preachers, better theologians, men and women, who will rightly divide the Word of Truth for the next generation. All the cross-stitching, crotcheting, knitting, and darning will not save the family but I suspect that a good theology, bolstered by sound biblical exposition, might help.
ps-this is a ‘rant’ against the college, not women. Please, ladies, don’t jump down my throat with accusations of misogyny or anything of that sort. I’m on your side!
22Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.”
I’d like to take this text in a direction that perhaps is not entirely obvious or necessitated by the context. Jesus made these statements to opponents (which in itself is revealing!), but he also made them to the Church which reads this Gospel according to John. We do well to pay close attention to the manner in which he speaks to his opponents, but we do much better to pay attention to the words he spoke to them. So, I may not be entirely within the scope of context, but I don’t think I have abused the text to make my point.
Isn’t that the problem with most people: You tell them plainly who Jesus is and they simply refuse to believe. There are a lot of reasons why people say they don’t believe, but it still boils down to unbelief. But there is no other way. They asked; he answered. He is the Christ, the Messiah. The onus, thus, is on them: they are the ones who don’t believe. Those who do believe hear his voice and listen to him. The benefits are great: Eternal life, no perishing, no one can take us from Him and wreck our salvation. We cannot be taken from Him because we are protected by the Father. Then: I and the Father are one. Right there is the single most plainly spoken statement about Jesus’ self-understanding, about His complete identity: He is God.
The implications of this statement are astounding, nearly incomprehensible. It is staggering, astonishing, and yet absolutely comforting and reassuring. The implications are quite revealing, not least because we are told that Jesus is the head of the Church (which necessarily means he is the head of every Christian). This means that the church, if the church functions (I realize that is a rather simplistic choice of words) with Christ at the Center, as the Center, defining the Center. We do not operate apart from His sovereignty or His governance. It also means that Jesus’ interest in the church is not some mere passing acquaintance. It means that his association with the church is the Father’s association with the Church. It means that His intentions for the Church are the Father’s intentions for the Church. It means that He and the Father are in complete accord when it comes to Church and those who belong to the Church. It means that we are answerable to Him, to Him alone, in our conduct as Christians and our membership in His Body. There is no other way but Jesus.
Well this is, frankly, astonishing because there are many nowadays who are quite convinced that, in fact, they run the church. So important people convene a meeting and begin discussing this subject or that subject. I suppose they pray and listen to position papers too. They do so gather in the Name of Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of the Holy God. So how do they come up with the idea that Jesus Christ, who is One with the Father and the Head of the Church, would tolerate sin in His body? To what God are they praying when they conclude that sin is A-OK in the Church and those practicing shall not be punished? Don Carson rightly asks how we think God ‘feels’ about the sin that cost the life of His Son. “How does rebellion appear to One so incomparably transcendent that even the superpowers appear to his eyes like the fine dust in a balance? How does rebellion appear to One who measures our sin by the death of His Son?” (How Long O Lord?, 86). I wonder: Christ died to make a people unto himself, pure and holy, a Kingdom of priests who will declare his praises and many in the church have turned the church into a place where any and every kind of sin is validated, justified, practiced, and applauded.
Jesus’ intentions for the church are no different than God’s because Jesus is, indeed, God. There is no difference of opinion on how things ought to be done: Jesus’ Way. There is no other way for them to be done: Jesus’ Way. There are no two ways about it: Jesus’ Way. Well, how do we know this? David Wells, in that lecture I mentioned in another post (The Disappearance of Evangelical Theology, pt 2) makes this point clear: For us to be Christ centered is to be begin by understanding the Scripture. Our Center, he says, is Christ: Understood theologically: Biblically Mediated, Biblically defined. In other words, we don’t have a right to redefine Jesus, or His Scripture in the way we wish that it looked. We have no right to challenge the Biblical Witness. We have no right to ‘re-imagine’ Jesus, or ‘re-imagine’ the Church. We have the Scripture: Our sole Rule of Faith and Practice. This is what Jesus said: My sheep listen to My Voice.
So we must understand His Voice. We must listen to His Voice. We must be careful to discern His Voice. We must be cautious not to stray from what is written. Again, Wells, “The Christian life is Christian only to the extent to which it is constituted and defined by the Word of God.” I submit to you that the Church, in her efforts to be ‘relevant’, has altered this and we thus have a disjunction between Scripture and practice. The Church has decided that it can do away with certain doctrines as antiquated, or irrelevant. The Church has decided that one must not be hastily or harshly judged for heretical teachings (on which see Albert Mohler http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=987). The Church must be tolerant, even of those who are openly practicing sin because we don’t want to offend them or drive them away from God’s love (with their wallets firmly squeezed between the material on their slacks!). After all, we are told, God loves the sinner and hates the sin. And who are Christians to judge! (But in the Church we are to judge!)
But at what expense? What is the cost of listening to man centered theological extracts, heresy at best, and diminishing the Word of Christ? What is the cost to the Church, to the Gospel, of such a tolerance for sin and such an intolerance for the faith once delivered? What price will the church pay for it’s incomprehensible tolerance and justification of sin and heresy? Funny thing is, and I don’t know where I heard this, but the Word of God includes all the Scripture, not just the words in Red. In other words, it’s all binding on the Christian, on the Church. What has taken place in the Church is that people figure they can meddle, correct for culture, make adjustments on the fly as if God’s Word were not sufficient. Even the popularization of the Gospel in the form of ‘Christian fiction’ or ‘Christian psychology’ or ‘Christian (insert popular ism here)’ is a bastardization of the Gospel which was given to us that we might believe in Jesus and have life in His Name alone.
Much of what goes on in the church is shameful and embarrassing. It is disgraceful and an abomination to a Holy God. David Wells makes an important statement at the end of his lecture concerning the Gospel in the Church. He perceptively says, “Where would we be if there had not been men and women down through the ages who insisted on handing down the teachings of the Apostles in tact to the next generation? We wouldn’t be here!”
But he doesn’t leave it there. “Where,” he asks, “will the next generation be as we hand this truth on to them?” One wonders. What will be the theological legacy this generation will leave to the next generation? We have only one choice: We must, as His sheep, listen to His voice. I think it is safe to say that we can ignore the cacophony of voices we hear clamoring about the rights of this group and that group. There is only One Body. But which voice will we listen to? Which voice will we hear? Whose sheep are we, anyhow?
Soli Deo Gloria!