Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wolves and Sheep

So, I have a thought about how we, the Church, deal with false teaching. It seems that we have a few options when false teaching comes out:
1. We can calmly confront the false teacher and try to bring him/her back into orthodoxy
2. We can vigorously and publicly confront it and correct it
3. We can ignore it
I am sure that there are more options, but I am just thinking of these three right now.

But let me ask this: Is there a time and place for each of these?

Let's think, for instance, about a pastor who begins to preach universalism. It seems, at least to me, that the Christian community should proceed with option #1, and confront him privately. If he repents, he could then publicly correct his own error. If he does not repent, then something would need to be done publicly so that the Christian community could be led. That would be option #2. In this scenario, option #3 does not seem adequate.

Does it ever seem adequate, however? Is there ever a time to simply ignore?

I want to suggest that there may be. And here is my reasoning.

Recently this book called "A New Earth" made a big splash because Oprah has promoted it. The book deals with self-awakening. It uses the Bible, and also a lot of Buddhism and other religious writings, to support the idea that each person must awake within, and that this awakening will bring about (for lack of a better description) the next great step in the evolution of mankind. I super-skimmed the book yesterday at Borders because it has been in the news and all over the book stores.
Now, let me ask a question: Is this book false teaching? Are Oprah and Eckhart Tolle false teachers?
Some of you may feel like this is a silly question. You are thinking, "Of course they are. What they teach is clearly false. In that sense, yes, they are certainly false teachers.
Let me ask another question: Should we rail against Oprah and Tolle from our pulpits? Again, some of you may think that we should, and I respect your opinion. Here is mine: Oprah and Tolle should not be the main targets of the Church correcting false teaching publicly. Why not? Because they are not claiming to be part of the Church. They are not claiming Christ. I am not saying that I am not alarmed at their teaching, or that I don't totally disagree with it. I am alarmed, and I do disagree. But then I think, "What do I expect? They aren't Christians. Why am I surprised?" Oprah and Tolle are not wolves in sheep's clothing. By that I am not saying that they are not wolves. I am simply saying that they aren't wearing sheep's clothing. It should not be hard for us to see them as wolves.
Why would we be surprised when unbelievers put forth a worldview that is contrary to the Christian worldview? This should be expected.
So, who should be the main target when the Church seeks to correct false teaching and false teachers? Well, it certainly seems to me that the target should be those who claim the name of Christ. These are the true false teachers. Tolle is saying that the church (and the apostle for that matter) have totally misunderstood Jesus' teaching. This puts him in the category of an overt non-Christian. Other people are teaching falsely, but claim to be orthodox. This is where the real problem is.
Now, some of you are going to say, "But Christians are being led astray by Oprah and Tolle." I am not unaware of this. This is a problem. But my question is, Whose fault is it if Christians are led astray by overtly non-Christian false teachers? I say that it is the fault of the Christian, and the fault of the Church. Oprah and Tolle will answer to God, and they have some culpability. But frankly, we should know better. If Christians are looking to Oprah for guidance, then the real problem is not Oprah. The real problem is us. Our message should not be: Oprah has gone off the deep end with this one. Our message should be, Why would you be listening to Oprah? She is not presenting a Christian worldview. If you are going to watch her show, watch with the recognition that she is not presenting reality at the Bible describes it to us.

So, should we warn Christians against this book and others like it? Sure. Especially if certain people seem to be straying toward these books. I just think we have a bigger problem than exposing individual books and people who present false teaching from outside the Church. Our bigger problem is to learn and teach how to discern and how to look in the right places for guidance.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Feel free to let me know about yours.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Easy Rider

So, here are some fun videos of Matt riding his bike.

The first one is of him riding the whole length of our cul de sac.

Fortunately, there was grass.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tim Russert, 1950-2008

Tim Russert died this past Friday. He had a sudden heart attack, and medical personnel were unable to resuscitate him.
Some of you may know who Tim Russert is. For years he hosted the show "Meet the Press," which aired on Sunday mornings. For the past six months of so I have received the "Meet the Press" podcast. It became part of my Sunday afternoon routine to watch it on my computer. I was able to stay up to date with political issues through it. I grew to greatly appreciate Russert's demeanor, and his (in my opinion) fairness toward the issues and candidates. I felt that he was fair in that he sought to hold all candidates responsible. Anyone going on the program would know that Russert would take them to task. They would have to answer for their votes, their policies, and their past statements.
Watching the "Meet the Press" podcast this last week, which was a tribute to Russert, was very powerful to me. It was a powerful tribute to someone who loved what he did, and who sought to contribute to the country in a positive way.
Anyway, because I had sort of grown attached to Russert, with my weekly "Meet the Press" podcast, I had to give him a special mention. May his family and friends be comforted during this time.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Politics and Prophecy: The West Wing

So, just to gave a disclaimer, the purpose of this post is in no way to support a candidate for president, but simply to give credit where credit is due. Some credit is due to The West Wing.
If you have ever watched the show (it is no longer on), you know that the story revolves around the president and his staff. The final two seasons of the show (seasons 6-7) chronicle a presidential race after the main character (Martin Sheen) has completed his two terms as the president. Karina and I did not watch the show while it was on, but we got into it later on DVD. When we watched seasons 6 and 7 (about two years ago), I looked at the two candidates that they had running for president and I said to Karina, "They are running Obama against McCain." Allow me to make my case:
The Overview
On the West Wing, the Republican candidate was Arnold Vinick, played by Alan Alda. Vinick was an aging, well-respected senator who swept the Republican primaries. Vinick's age was brought into question over the course of the campaign, but he had some strong things going for him. He had great crossover appeal and had successfully worked with Democrats in the past. Working against him, however, was the fact that his pro-life stance was less than impressive. The far right had problems with Vinick because they wondered whether or not he would appoint pro-life judges.
The Democratic candidate was Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smitts. Santos was the first minority candidate ever to be nominated by a major political party. He was a young hispanic congressman who came out of nowhere to win a closely contested Democratic nomination. Santos was young and energetic, with two young children in the home. His youth attracted young voters, but his inexperience was brought up as a major issue.
Not Convinced?
Maybe that was enough to convince you. Maybe not. Here are some other factors:
1. When Matt Santos announced his candidacy for president, his speech centered on one buzzword: Hope. You may know that Barak Obama splashed onto the scene with his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The title of the speech was The Audacity of (wait for it) Hope.
2. Matt Santos, although he was a Democrat, had an easier time talking about his Christian faith than did the Republican, Arnold Vinick. Vinick struggled to communicate with evangelical voters.
3. Santos' wife got dragged into some media issues and he sent a clear message that the press was to stay away from his wife. Have you been keeping up with current events with the Obamas?

Anyway, in case you are wondering, on The West Wing, Santos won an incredibly close race. To be fair, though, on The West Wing, by and large, the Democrats are the good guys, so Santos' win has to have that taken into consideration.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Kid Stuff

Well, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what is going on with the boys. Here is a brief video of Jack as he grows in his crawling ability. Pretty fun stuff.

Matt got his kid bike. If you know the facts, then you know that this means that he is potty trained. He is doing great on his bike (with training wheels, of course). It is pretty fun to see him go for it.

This picture has very little to do with Jack's development, but I think it is a fun picture.

Both boys are sick right now, so that is a bummer. It is so fun, though, to see them grow and learn and develop. Hope you enjoy the pics and the video.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Emerging Church Books

Lately I have had the privilege of reading a number of books related to the subject of the emerging church. In case the term "emerging church" has no meaning to you, it is a catch-all phrase to refer to churches that are adjusting in some way to speak to the emerging, postmodern culture. The emerging church is not a denomination with creeds, spokesmen, and doctrinal statements. It is simply a descriptive term for some things that are happening. Because of that, there is no central voice, and very few things are matters of consensus.
I thought it would be fun to give some thoughts on a few of the books I have read on the subject.
Disclaimer: I am aware that it might seem strange for me to toss out compliments and criticisms of these authors and pastors. They do not need my approval. They are certainly not sitting around waiting for my review. These are all just my opinions as I process some different things.
I'll start with this book because it was the first one that I read on this recent spree. Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches is one of those "five views" books. Each author writes a chapter, and then the other four write responses. So, this one has multiple authors. I have to admit that when I first read Mark Driscoll in this book, I was not crazy about him. I did not disagree with much of his objective theology, but I did not like his presentation, and he came across as very dismissive of those who disagreed with him on points that I thought were disputable within evangelicalism, and certainly within Christian orthodoxy. I also was not sure that Mark should be considered a voice within the emerging church. I don't mean that as an insult. I don't think everyone needs to be part of the emerging church, whatever that means. I then read a full book by Driscoll (more on this later), and my opinion of him has gone up (again, not that he is awaiting my thumbs-up).
The two authors that I loved in this book, though, were John Burke and Dan Kimball. Both hold firmly to biblical truth, both have a great perspective on how we re-evaluate how we have lived out and presented Christianity and how we need to. If you are interested, you can check out John Burke in his book No Perfect People Allowed (I haven't read it yet, but I hope to soon), and you can get the podcast of his church, Gateway Church (I now subscribe).
Karen Ward's chapter was tough to read. It was not very coherent. I had problems with her and Doug Pagitt because both of them have a vague (at best) view of Scripture. They like the Bible, but they both are dismissive of using the Bible as primary revelation from God. They vaguely talk about how it is good and how we should use it, but talk about how we have overused it. There is not a real solution given, unfortunately.
While our theology of Scripture is, truly, only one area of our theology, it impacts all other areas. Pagitt (along with McLaren) is weak on bibliology and it leaves him largely rudderless. It saddens me. As all our churches seek to minister to the postmodern culture, I hope that we can emulate Bruke and Kimball more than Pagitt and McLaren (although Pagitt and McLaren have some GREAT contributions to the overall discussion).
I was so thrown off my Mark Driscoll from this first book that I decided to read his book Radical Reformission. I also subscribed to his podcast at Mars Hill Church in Seattle (not to be confused with Rob Bell's Mars Hill). I now understand why Driscoll is included amongst emerging voices. I thought his book was great (and very humorous). He is interesting because he teaches theology hardcore at his church. He is uber-reformed (almost militant at times). He is brilliant in my estimation (although sometimes he annoys me because he makes fun of others). He has some great stuff in this book about, amongst other things, the difference between culture and worldliness. I think his book is a great contribution to the discussion. He is not pro-postmodern. I think this makes his voice unique. He thinks postmodernism and modernism both have issues. He is not attached to either.
Just a note, his preaching style does not seem like it would appeal to a postmodern culture, but here are a couple of interesting things:
1. He is blunt. There is no BS with Mark Driscoll. He just puts it out there. I think that connects well with people of a postmodern mindset (although it also offends many people of a postmodern mindset).
2. He has lots of Q & A times. This allows for major interaction, which I think all our churches should do more of.
3. In the Q & A times, he will answer questions on forbidden topics. He unblushingly answers questions about masturbation, oral sex, and abortion. He contributes by helping these topics not to be off-limits.
I liked Dan Kimball so much that I just had to read his book The Emerging Church. Also, if you see a picture of Dan Kimball, he has the coolest flat-top ever! I loved this book, and Kimball has lots of helpful charts to contrast modernism and postmodernism. Kimball is more favorably disposed to postmodernism because he sees problems with modernism. At the same time, he focused his main problems with modernism on consumerism (which, hopefully, we could all agree is a problem to be combatted). Kimball also does great work in demonstrating that ministering to the emerging culture means more than just "refluffing the pillows" by bringing in candles and growing goatees. I really recommend this book. Great stuff, and very thought-provoking.

Okay, so I have issues with Brian McLaren. To be honest, it saddens me that he is one of the chief voices for the emerging church (although many who are identified within the emerging church have expressed major concerns about him). At the same time, to talk about this issue and not talk about McLaren would be like talking about civil rights without talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. McLaren has great contributions to this discussion. I think he often does a great job diagnosing some major problems in our churches today. At the same time, I think some of his solutions don't move us forward. Again, as was the case with Pagitt, McLaren's bibliology is very poor. It puts him off-base at some major points (in my opinion). At the same time, his book Everything Must Change has some great thoughts on how we as the church serve the world and become advocates for justice and for the needy. Good stuff. Major discernment is needed, in my opinion.
I also read Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church by D.A. Carson. This book is sort of conservative evangelicalism's response to the movement. The difficulty is that there is not a creed, denomination, doctrinal statement, or spokesman for the movement. This is where I think Carson's book is not entirely productive. He is not all-critical with the emerging church, but I think that he is dismissive in some ways that are not helpful (again, my opinion). I have no issue with him being dismissive of certain values, or even certain people. But when the reasoning is, "The emerging church is like this, and that is bad," Carson falls short of recognizing the diversity within the emerging church. I also think that he falls short in really understanding some of the very real problems with modernism that are being positively addressed by people who are associated with the emerging church. It may be arrogant for me to critique D.A. Carson, but, hey, this is just my two cents on my blog. Also, I am a Master of Divinity now, so that must count for something :).
Well, I am impressed if any of you actually read this whole thing. Have a great day.