April 28, 2009 at 4:16 am (Biblei-Octopi, Politic) (, , , , )

Obama has completed his first 100 days as President of The United States of American, congratulations. So, as art often likes to renown itself with an innovation of offense, we have the most recent poli-religious painting of note. What better time to have a religious/spiritual discussion as brought into the public arena via art and by the artist’s own declaration as a discussion of “truth”.

The object inspiring this post is the most recent messianic depiction of Obama (not the first, probably not the last), it brought to my mind a comparison of the accomplishments of Christ what might be perceived as the highest nature of the accomplishments of our President, Barak Obama.

In regards to the implications of this painting, I’d like to state that first of all, I hope that Obama does lead in a Christ-like manner. How amazing would it be that he would lead the nation to consider the laws of God, honoring the will and kingdom of God above all else? I pray that he would take to himself the words of Christ in saying, “My delight is to do your will, oh God.”

When you look at the historical cross, what imagery does it bring? I suppose that most would associate it with salvation, though even in Evangelical circles there would be some disagreement as to the definition, nature and extent of that action. If you look to the Biblical account of the cross, you find the culmination of the redemption narrative – in other words, this is a pivotal moment, a climax in the entire story of God’s salvation plan for mankind.

From the account of Adam, who did have a choice to sin or enjoy the full presence of God. Whom God gave every excuse not to sin but did indeed choose to disobey, chose to disregard a very simple and plain command and thereby calling upon himself his removal from the blessing of pure fellowship in the presence of God. Even in that account, there is the promise of the Savior to come, the One who will crush the serpent’s head, the One who will conquer the work of Satan, the hold of death and the bondage resulting from man’s sin.

The message of the cross is salvation, but when you see Christ upon the cross, from WHOM and/or WHAT is Christ saving us from? Who set the consequence for the disobedience of Adam and Eve? Who cast Adam and Eve out of the garden? Who made the promise of redemption? Who will we (you and I) face when this short life ends and to whom will we have to give an account to?

If Obama is in any sense a savior, whom and/or what is he saving us from? If Obama’s most ambitious goals are accomplished, will we be saved – saved from what? As intriguing of a historical figure Obama may be, do we really put that many of our chips in the ability of a single political figure to reshape our collective and individual paths? (Parenthetical sidenote: when one political figure is looked to as the lone figure to reshape a nation’s course, it historically doesn’t tend towards a positive end)

As a historical observation on the definition of the messiah, when Christ came many were expecting a political ruler, for that King of the Jews to rise and bring a sword to crush the Roman Empire (Herod feared this at Christ’s birth, going to great lengths to kill Him even as a baby). There were many in Jesus’ day that were severely disappointed that He came not for political rule upon this earth (something Satan offered Christ), but came to offer His life as a sacrifice for many. Now, in our current illustrations of “the messiah” the redemptive work is still seen as insignificant/trivial and reduced to a politicized imagery.

To be sure, Christ is THE Ruler of all, He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, do not confuse His patience for laziness/forgetfulness. In this artful or political search for a “messiah” perhaps one should account for the consequence of finding a political savior but meeting the end of life without an eternal one. Another job, a dent in the federal deficit, even the end of war are some of the highest political possibilities (stretch) but death is certain.

As a people who claim to follow Christ, take a moment to recheck your Christ against the Christ that Christ revealed. If you are a person who has never encountered Christ’s command to, “Follow Me.” Perhaps today is that day. The cross is a message of salvation, salvation in Christ alone.

Link to article that brought this painting to my attention – HERE

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FNB WIRe 3.30.09

April 6, 2009 at 6:53 pm (Biblei-Octopi) (, , )

Flesh & Blud :: Week In Review :: 3.30.09

::Items That Grabbed My Attention This Week

Looking back, the topics of this week had a lot to do with the Emergent Church, which is something that I have been discussing with others to some degree, but the points that grabbed my attention this week were those that addressed the nature of how we view and treat the Bible.

>>Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic (RMH) – From what I can tell this was officially coined and launched with the release of Willam J. Webb’s book Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis.

I found Wayne Grudem’s review of this publication to be very helpful. Here’s an excerpt:

At the heart of Webb’s system is what he calls a “redemptive-movement hermeneutic.” He says that some may prefer calling his approach a “progressive” or “developmental” or “trajectory” hermeneutic and he says “that is fine” (p. 31). Webb explains his hermeneutic by what he calls “the X→Y→Z Principle.” The letter Y indicates what the Bible says about a topic. Webb says, “The central position (Y) stands for where the isolated words of the Bible are in their development of a subject” (p. 31). The letter X represents “the perspective of the original culture,” and the letter Z represents “an ultimate ethic,” that is, God’s final ideal that the Bible is moving toward.

Therefore in Webb’s system, what evangelicals have ordinarily understood to be “the teaching of the Bible” on particular subjects is in fact only a point along the way (indicated by the letter Y) toward the development of a final or ultimate ethic (Z). Webb says,

The X→Y→Z Principle illustrates how numerous aspects of the biblical text were not written to establish a utopian society with complete justice and equity. They were written within a cultural framework with limited moves toward an ultimate ethic (p. 31).

In addition to this new paradigm for looking at the Bible, Webb also proposes 18 hermeneutical criterion for understanding Biblical passages. From what I can discern, the underlying themes leading to these conclusions are:

1) A problem with Sola Scriptura (readily admitted by many emergents, though probably not by my definition) – a fundamental shift, rather than starting with Scripture as the guide for how we understand the culture(s) and engage people with the gospel, Scripture becomes a part of the equation, often verbally esteemed, but in reality culture has more of an effect on interpretation than does God’s own revelation of Himself.
2) An incorrect understanding of the flow and nature of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.
3) A problem with the perpescuity (basically the clarity) of the Scriptures, Webb’s work improperly complicates a clear understanding of The Bible and has at its roots a belief that Scripture is insufficient to answer all of our questions relating to life and practice (which is the heart of Sola Scriptura).

>>A panel discussion on the topic of The Emerging Church with Kevin DeYoung, Tony Jones, Scot McKnight, Alex and Brett Harris.

One of the most encouraging things that came from the discussion was a comment from one of the Harris brothers where he states that if on the one hand you are arguing for an orthodox faith that is grounded in Scripture and on the other side you are calling for an active faith, grounded in love and engaging social issues, the youth we are meeting with are asking, “Why do I have to choose between the two?” He commented that they youth they are meeting want to dig into the truths of Scripture (mentions them leaving conferences with Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology in one hand and their book Do Hard Things in the other), want an active and loving faith as well as being involved in social issues.

>Resources to discover more about the The Emergent and/or Emerging Church:

::Kevin DeYoung’s book Why Were Not Emergent by Two Guys Who Should Be, as well as his blog (clever title)

::Scot McKnight’s blog; he mentions in the panel discussion that he has been writing articles in Christianity Today for the last 3 years to help explain and answer the critics of the Emergent Church

::Mark Driscoll would be another voice in the conversation, Driscoll has said that he is not Emergent but Emerging. I’ve referenced his church’s blog (Mars Hill in Seattle, WA) The Resurgence earlier; and he wrote a book Confessions of a Reformission Rev.: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church (which I recently ordered, so perhaps there will be more on that later)

Out of this, I didn’t realize that younger Harris brothers (you may remember Josh Harris from his most popular book Why I Kissed Dating Goodbye, he has continued writing on other topics since) existed or were having such an impact. Their book Do Hard Things is basically young authors speaking to their generation about battling the low expectations society/church has placed upon them, inspiring a movement that lives out the heart of 1 Timothy 4:12.

>>Reformed Theological Seminary has made available through iTunes an extensive course on Systematic Theology. Technology meets theology, it’s like a theological drive thru.

>>Started reading through Hebrews and found that James White is preaching through Hebrews, he’s posted his sermons on youtube.

>>Some great details on the heart and effects of Calvin’s teachings in Geneva (quick read).

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Skinny and the Gospel

April 4, 2009 at 8:34 pm (Biblei-Octopi) (, , )

I walked into Starbucks the other day, to purchase a hot caffeinated beverage for my wife. Apparently I had quite the look of consternation as the attendant, correction-barista, commented that I looked as though I were concentrating and trying to remember something. We laughed and I made the order, “Grande, nonfat-no sugar-Carmel Macchiato.”

Macchiato & Contextualization

Macchiato & Contextualization

She was very gracious and permitted me temporary access behind the veil, enlightening me with an excerpt from the top secret Starbucks glossary . She said that it may simplify things to order a, “Grande-skinny-Carmel Macchiato.” Marvelous. I expressed my deepest gratitude as this indeed does simplify my journeys into the depths of corporate evil (much sarcasm – the only thing more evil than Walmart is Starbucks, right?).

My benevolent barista was quick to qualify stating that the beverage wasn’t truly “skinny” as the final carmel topping isn’t non-fat/non-sugar. This is a surprisingly consistent qualification as near every time that I make the order there is some casual comment either to me directly or between baristas as to the true nature of “skinny”. I admire that there is a consistent clarity amongst baristas on this Starbucks truth.

As I was leaving Starbucks today, a pit stop on the way home from a meeting in which we had several discussions pertaining to matters of the church, so the two experiences were blending in my mind. My experience at Starbucks is a fitting example of what we face in communicating the gospel within our current cultural environment(s). The baristas had a firm understanding of the deeper truths of the Starbucks menu as well as an understanding of practical terminology and were joyous in enabling me to function with a better understanding that simplified my experience without sacrificing a standard of truth.

Though I am exaggerating a point, I believe the discussion touches on a real task of the church in every generation, meeting people where they are at, being diligent to present Christ and His Word in a manner that people can understand without sacrificing truth or undermining/countering His own revelation of Himself. Culture does not create the context for understanding the Bible, but the Bible must wisely be contextualized to engage the culture. This distinction is far from merely a matter of semantics, how you view and apply the Bible is foundational truth; core truth that should not be compromised.

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The Sheep Dog Perspective

April 3, 2009 at 5:34 am (Biblei-Octopi) (, , , , , , )

Our former pastor (Reverend Clifford F. Howery) had frequently referred to himself as a sheep dog stating that the church has but one shepherd, Christ, and as a pastor, his calling was to be as a sheep dog serving the sheep under the direction of the Shepherd.

I appreciate this attitude as it recognizes the True/Primary Shepherd (Christ) and places the role of the pastor (as well as leaders/overseers) in accountability to the role of Christ.

Sheep Dog At Work

Sheep Dog At Work

Christ clearly casts Himself as The Shepherd of His flock, the church, and nowhere is that more clearly expressed than in John 10. In John 21:16 Christ gives the command to Peter, “Shepherd My sheep,” which is further expounded in passages such as Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2-4.

The duties of the pastor do not derive their authority from the pastor himself but from Christ. Scripture is adamant that there are clear and certain character requirements that must be met to be even considered for leadership (note 1 Timothy 3), but the pastor’s role and authority is founded solely in Christ.

Pastors are therefore accountable to be diligent to look to The Shepherd for their instructions and in the integrity of that accountability to uphold the commands of Christ for the flock (church).

When the pastor conducts Himself in submission to Christ, His Word and Holy Spirit, then he does and must operate in authority to teach, encourage and reprove the flock.

As a sheep dog, the pastor should be tenacious in protecting the sheep: 1) To protect them from themselves, from wandering away from The Shepherd; 2) To echo The Shepherd and ensure that His commands are being obeyed; 3) To guard them from assailants, external as well as internal, that seek to lead them astray or devour them.

The New Testament is full of instructions and examples for ministers, pastors, leaders and the church as a whole. This discussion is in no way exhaustive on the topic of the pastor, but I believe that the humility and accountability of what we will call the sheep dog perspective serves as a valuable encouragement to pastors and the church.

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