Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Emergents - Part One

I promised this post some time ago. Because of events beyond my control, it will be a series of posts as I have time. These events include, sadly, another death in the family which will necessitate my traveling out of town for a few days. This is the 10th death in my family this year. So, your patience will be appreciated.

When taking up a subject such as the Emergent Church (EC) movement, great care is needed. By now, most reasonably informed Christians have heard of the EC phenomenon within evangelicalism. Few subjects in recent years have excited as much controversy, or dare I say, conversation. What I hope to do in this and subsequent posts is to address some key theological, biblical and doctrinal concerns I have about this growing (or matastasizing) and increasingly influential movement that dislikes being called a movement. Other Christian leaders and theologians have expressed concerns both in print and the blogosphere. I hope to reinforce concerns that have been expressed, as well as make it clear to the proponents of EC (on the extreme end) that these concerns are not going to go away despite a concerted effort to squelch criticism.

To their credit, some EC supporters, pastors and authors have appeared to take the concerns raised very seriously and have called their followers not to abandon biblical doctrine in a well-intentioned effort to reach postmoderns for Christ. Sadly, others have been disdainfully dismissive of any criticism. Some ignore it outright while others respond in answering questions in a purposefully vague, imprecise fashion. To the committed postmodern, this is the standard MO.

The first thing I want to point out before I really get rolling in this series is to highlight some "givens." The EC is NOT monolithic. They do not all agree on every plank given in related authors' books, church programs etc. There are those on the conservative end such as Dan Kimball, and others such as Brian McLaren who are on the other end. In fact, some theologians I respect highly have called McLaren an outright heretic. Frequently, those in the EC often rightly identify problems within evangelicalism that need to be addressed, then proceed to take the wrong approach to deal with these problems. While much of their language is couched in "niceness" - if you read between the lines, the things they say about evangelicalism and evangelicals are little short of a kick in the groin. One example..the call to "authentic" worship. Am I to assume from this that my worship, and that of other evangelicals, is NOT authentic? Some EC authors confuse the issue of "proof texting." This is a common tactic cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses use, taking Bible verses out of context to "prove" one of their doctrinal aberrations. This is a FAR cry from citing biblical authority on core doctrine and orthopraxis. Some EC authors/pastors have even said they get nauseated when someone quotes the Bible to them. Hmmm. I imagine Satan got a little queasy when Jesus kept saying "It is written" to Ol' Slewfoot's temptations. Think about it.

The following are eight key areas where I think the extremes of the EC have problems, protest though they may. I will elaborate in future posts. I wish to commend my colleague JBW for reminding me of the eighth area, which was just added to this post (I had originally posted seven).

1. A Low View of Epistemology

2. A Low View of Scripture and Scriptural authority

3. A Low View of the Reformation

4. A Low View of the Doctrines of Grace

5. A Low View of Eschatology

6. A Low or Distorted View of Apologetics

7. A Low View of the Biblical Gospel

8. A Low View of Biblical Ecclesiology

A tall order for one you see why I will need a series. My comments will be based on both what I am reading from EC authors, and from direct communications with EC adherents.

One note of caution. I do not receive the idea being pushed by some in the EC that one must follow Matthew 18 in dealing with them. They seem to think that one must visit each EC service, talk to each EC author ad infinitum/ad nauseum before you can dare comment on the subject. Balderdash. They are amply published. If they can't defend their writings to criticism, then they had best not publish. Matthew 18 does not apply in this situation as we are not dealing with personal offenses or sins. It's doctrine, doctrine, doctrine!

More to come later. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Seventh Sola Takes a Christmas Break

I will not be posting for the next few days unless something really earthshaking happens. But the fun begins anew next week! Have a most blessed Christmas and Hanukkah, everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2005

As we approach the special day when we celebrate the birth of the Savior, I pray that your Christmas and New Year will be greatly blessed! Join me in thanking God for the precious gift of His Son, who purchased our salvation with His own shed blood. That is the real story behind Christmas - not just the Nativity but the reason FOR the nativity. Jesus came to redeem a people for Himself by taking the punishment we deserve for our sins. He died on the cross and rose again from the dead for our justification. This is the life-changing Gospel - the Good News. Eternal salvation results when this simple truth is believed. A person repents of their sins, placing their trust in the Lord Jesus and His finished work on the cross. The new believer is then indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who seals His people, regenerates them and helps them live lives pleasing to God. I encourage you to come to Him this Christmas season. His arms are open wide to all who will hear.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime!

A dear friend of mine has often speculated if Paul McCartney's happy little Christmas ditty above was a purposeful counter to John Lennon's rather cynical (and even whiny) "Happy Christmas/War Is Over." Paul was always seen as the sentimental, most "normal" of all the Beatles, and John was known to look askance at some of Paul's sweeter tunes. John was the Bah Humbug while Paul tried to see the joy and love of the season. I wish John could have known the Lord, healing, and the true happiness that only comes from knowing Christ, the reason that we even have a Christmas to celebrate. And that brings me to my pet peeve of the week - the war on America's Christian heritage.

I am in fully in the corner of those who have had enough of secularists and Michael Newdow type atheists who want to censor and oppress the vast majority because of their bigotry and intolerance. Yet, I also find the atheist/secularist litigators laughable in an eternal sense. As if their frivilous lawsuits could hinder the Great I AM from accomplishing His purpose! What a hoot!

At this season of holiday cheer, let me have some fun. To borrow from the late Mr. Lennon, let's "imagine." What if Christians filed class action lawsuits against American Atheists, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the ACLU and their ilk for trying to deny our rights? Or for harassment. What if we litigated them into bankruptcy much like they're trying to do to us? What if there was an economic consequence for every lawsuit they file? In other words, what if Christians got mad and began to play hardball? We are citizens with rights, too. The tiny minority should not dictate to the rest of us. Tolerance is a two way street.

If I have to tolerate an vengeful incubus like Michael Newdow and his perverted, irrational view of American history, then he can tolerate my faith and the public expression of it. A creche at City Hall or the public library is NOT establishment of a national church such as the Church of England. Someone holding to such a view is either ignorant, or they might have more pernicious things in mind. One does have to wonder.

It seems to me that many of these people do not like our Republic as it was founded, so they want to change this country to something altogether alien to our founding fathers' vision. Would they prefer the bloody French Revolution, with their hearts palpitating every time they hear the swish of a guillotine? Do they long for the loving kind of rule Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse Tung perfected to a murderous art form? It seems that the far left never met a dictator they didn't like. Their constant incontinence over Christians beginning a theocracy is delusional and in serious need of electroshock therapy, followed by a full course of thorazine treatment. The very nerves of these people hum with hate. I could see many of them willingly working for Joseph Goebbels to spread his type of malicious, lying propaganda. Really, my tongue-in-cheek medical/psychiatric diagnosis of them has a better solution. They need to repent and trust in Christ as their Savior.

Quite frankly, I am tired of these malcontent chancres on the American body politic. I am willing to let them vent and spew (freedom of speech and freedom not to believe), but when they file a lawsuit to try to take MY freedom away, I will fight them tooth and nail - possibly even with a bit of relish. When I think of these perpetual litigators and their so-called deep angst over protecting "rights," I get nauseated. To the sane mind, it's a bit difficult to protect rights by taking them away. But who expects rationality from these harlequins?

Think of the great theatre we'd have if there were round the clock pickets and carol singing at Newdow's house? Just imagine if we began seeing large scale refusals to comply with the secularists. Imagine local school districts, parents and students across the country telling the courts to go pound sand. I believe President Andrew Jackson did that once, although I don't like the position he took on the particular issue at hand. (If you don't know what I am talking about, look it up) What if governors, mayors, county board chairmen, legislators, Congressmen and Senators got into the act and gave Christmas its historic place whether the ACLU or the Federal Ninth Circuit likes it or not. Perhaps we could take these judges' houses through eminent domain and turn them into tourist attractions centered on Christmas and Easter? After all, that is a great economic benefit to the community. How about if we had more men like Justice Roy Moore, who had the unmitigated gall to actually know American history and what the founders intended through the Constitution? I would like to see anti-Constitutional, Marxist fellow-traveler judges impeached and removed from the bench because they pervert the Constitution from its intended meaning.

A tall order on short notice and I doubt seriously it will happen, but it would be fun to watch. It might also send a clear signal that we aren't going to allow our country to be stolen any longer. If I am in Saudi Arabia, I must respect their traditions and laws. If a Saudi is here, he needs to respect ours. And when immigrants come here, they need to understand. They are free to believe as they wish. No one is forcing them. But they have no right to sue to demand that traditional American belief be shut down. We'll tolerate you if you tolerate us. Everyone is free. Governments are made up of people also. They are free to express their beliefs. And again, a school putting on the Christmas story is NOT ESTABLISHING A NATIONAL CHURCH. PERIOD. GET OVER IT.

(Edited below 12/20/05)

I should point out..I know what Jesus said about not returning evil for evil. My tongue-in-cheek daydreaming aside, I have no real wish to be ugly or malicious, even to radical activist atheists. While I really wouldn't push so far as conjectured above, I do believe that Christians should be more aggressive in defending their rights. In Bible times, the people lived under dictatorship or absolute monarchy. In our Republic, We the People have rights. If we don't exercise them, we'll lose them.

In closing, a very blessed Christmas, Hanukkah etc. to all. And for the atheist/secularist litigators out there, I guess you all don't have anything better to do than go tie one on. Maybe in your collective hangovers and hissyfits, perhaps you will receive a preternatural visitor that you don't expect. I'd wear some Attends before bedtime. You might need them.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Coming Soon: A Look at the Emergent Church Movement

The controversy is raging. Many have commented and so have I on other sites such as Emergent NO. But I have yet to post something here besides my earlier thing on "What is Truth" and postmodernism. Stay tuned. I hope to aggravate as many people as possible (in Christian love, of course!)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Another Look at Forgiveness and Reconciliation

The following is a link to an interview with David Augsberger, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. It chimes with what I posted earlier about apologies and relationships between Christians. It also has much to say about forgiveness and when such forgiveness is appropriate. Being willing to forgive is just as important as being willing to apologize. I don't necessarily agree with all his conditions for forgiveness. For instance, Professor Augsberger thinks that one should not ask for forgiveness, likening it to a type of blackmail. I have to render a qualified disagreement. If the request is indeed for evil motives, that is one thing. But in general, I see no harm in asking someone for forgiveness if you have wronged them. Perhaps the request (if the offense was especially egregious) could be "I hope and pray you will be able to forgive me in time" or something like that as some wounds do take time to heal. But forgiveness is not optional. If someone continues to hold a grudge, then that will eventually need to be rebuked.

I am increasingly amazed at the number of broken or damaged relationships among Christians that I have encountered lately. This really seems to be a festering sore/issue with loads of implications for our effective witness as Christians. I am seeing it especially in abusive church situations where leaders are ruling over their flocks in an oppressive, confrontational, domineering way — which is unbiblical. May God in His mercy help us to love one another as we ought.

Here is the link:

Monday, December 12, 2005

Tookie and the Needle

As I write this brief post, a convicted killer and co-founder of the Crips gang, "Tookie" Williams, is just hours away from lethal injection at San Quentin Prison in California. Of course, the usual talking heads and protesters are making a loud noise both outside the prison and on the talk shows.

I am not going to comment on the merits of this case or the lack of them. What concerns me is a mistaken idea being purported in many churches and by clergymen on these talk shows - a claim that Christianity teaches against the death penalty. It does no such thing. Quite the opposite.

If God is anything, He is consistent. Among the 613 Laws of Moses instituted by God, the death penalty was among them for several different offenses. The method of execution was by stoning. Not the easiest way to go, is it? A far cry from lethal injection, which resembles putting a pet dog or cat down. Well, that's the Old Testament. What does the New Testament say? Check out Romans 13:3-4, which reads:

"For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil."

There you have it. The last time I checked, a sword wasn't used to spank or to give a love tap. We also have a more correct view of what the criminal justice system should be about, but our society is too afraid and too politically correct to say it. We have a "rehabilitation" mindset, when punishment should be the mindset instead. Punishment of evil. I am not against rehabilitation of those willing to be rehabilitated, but you don't ignore or sweep the concept of punishment out the window. Until we quit weeping so many tears over convicted killers who are brutally unrepentant of their crimes and begin weeping over the victims, this subject will always be skewed on the scales of justice.

No truly innocent person should be executed. But if they are indeed guilty and there are no legitimate grounds for mercy, then the sentence must be carried out. Justice demands it. The state does not bear the sword for nothing.

Friday, December 09, 2005

“SORRY . . . The Hardest Word?”

It's sad, so sad
It's a sad, sad situation
And it's getting more and more absurd
It's sad, so sad
Why can't we talk it over
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word
(Elton John/Bernie Taupin 1976)

I am not generally given to quoting secular artists to make spiritual points, something that seems to be a growing practice these days. I am not necessarily opposed to the idea, as long as it is occasional and does not take the place of Scripture in forming our viewpoints. I will share several Scriptures in a moment. However, Bernie Taupin’s lyrics to this old hit seem to sum up a problem we have in the Christian world, specifically in relationships with those we are SUPPOSED to love. How often do we hear people bemoan the state of the culture, specifically the way it seems to be coarsening ever worse as the days go by. Often, young adults are the targets of the complaints. So rude, so proud, so arrogant, so selfish, so uncaring, so hardhearted, so vulgar, so promiscuous, so immodest (and these are CHRISTIAN young people) The list goes on. But it’s not just young people. Those a bit longer in the tooth act the same way. I expect it with unbelievers. But in a Christian, it’s unconscionable. And before I begin this, I am not referring to “offenses” that occur when false teachers are corrected. Let’s get that out right now. Okay.

One thing I have seen over and over again is that one brother or sister in Christ will say or do something to offend or hurt another. The one who has been offended does the right thing in confronting the issue. But rather than say that they are sorry for offending the one they are supposed to love in Christ, they come out swinging with a host of defense mechanisms and excuses. They go on the attack and try to berate the other person into silence. Often, they try to twist the issue around to somehow make the issue the offended party’s fault. They’d rather be tortured to death than humble themselves to apologize for causing offense. Their pride is too great. Still others play the ignorant card. “I just don’t understand why I should say I am sorry. I didn’t mean to offend, so you shouldn’t be offended.” And they dig their heels in, no matter how much pain it causes their brother or sister, who then begin to question whether the oft-expressed love of the other is genuine or meaningless. To put it more clearly, the offended party is hurt even more deeply because they can see the other person doesn’t appear to love them enough to even be sorry for causing hurt or offense, even unintentionally. This spiritual problem goes a lot deeper in a refusal to take responsibility for our actions and admit fault where fault is due.

What does God’s Word say about what our attitude should be? And does something done unintentionally get us off the hook?

If a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them . . . then let him offer to the Lord a bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed (Leviticus 4:2-3).

Now if anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and becomes guilty, if his sin which he has committed is made known to him, then he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without defect, for his sin which he has committed (Leviticus 4:27-28).

We can see from these passages that the person was still held accountable even if the offense to the Lord was unintentional. And if you study Scripture and take God’s Word as a whole into account, it is clear that when we sin against (or offend) a brother or sister in Christ and refuse to make it right, the Lord Himself is the ultimate offended party. Matthew 18 is often quoted by those who are offended. It’s the steps to be taken when someone who feels they have been wronged go to another brother to address the problem. But there is another side to the coin where the offender is the one responsible.

Therefore if you are presenting something at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother , and then come and present your offering (Matthew 5:24).

As you can see, the Lord doesn’t even want your offering or worship until you straighten things out with your brother or sister whom you have wounded, EVEN UNINTENTIONALLY.

And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ (1 Corinthians 8:21).

In the immediate context of this verse, it is dealing with causing sin in another whose conscience might not allow them to eat meat to idols etc. However, that is not the only application and it does not always involve a “weaker” brother (a Scriptural idea often abused by using it to look down on others from our own superiority). There are numerous other passages about how when we offend a brother or sister, we offend the Lord. All the more so when we refuse to do what it takes to make it right.

To paraphrase King Solomon, I have seen a great evil in my lifetime, more so lately than ever. It goes hand in hand with this prideful refusal to say “I’m sorry” in love to one another. Even dare that someone has offended you, or God forbid that you use the term, “hurt,” the one you are confronting will often mock you in tones and terms of derision. “Ohhhh…did poor wittle baby get his feelings hurt? Awwww.” And then laugh. It’s not funny. There are people who have tender hearts and along with that tender heart, tender feelings. I am not talking of those who look for excuses to be offended. We all know people like that. What I am talking of here is a general hardness, classlessness, ungraciousness, ingratitude, and selfish contempt for the feelings of others.

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth I hate (Proverbs 8:13).

Is it incumbent on the wronged party to forgive and not hold a grudge? Of course it is. The Bible is clear there too. However, there does come a time when a line gets crossed and for a Christian relationship to go on, there has to be an accounting. Being reconciled is a command, not an option, and a little loving humility will go a long way with both sides. In some cases, reconciliation is not possible until the offender recognizes and makes his/her offense right. All the more so when the refusal to apologize is an ingrained pattern of behavior.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35). And also, love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10).

So what will we do? Obey the Lord or disobey him? Be reconciled to one another, or continue to nurse our pride and arrogance? We have a world watching us. May we all remember Who it is that we are supposed to be representing. And that when we wrong each other, we wrong Him.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Eric Pement on "Christian Cursing"

A highly recommended, thought-provoking article, and good reminder of how Christians ought to conduct themselves.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Clarity and Postmodernism

Tonight, I happened to be reading from the book of Ephesians, specifically Chapter 4:29-5:12. It's not too terribly long, but it is terribly telling. A few key points . . .
"Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption....But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper for saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks . . . Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience . . . Do not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret."
Pretty clear, isn't it? It doesn't take someone of Mensa intelligence to get it. Unless you are a postmodern...or worse yet, a so-called postmodern Christian (an oxymoron in my view). What is the postmodern mind? Phil Johnson, executive director of Grace to You (Dr. John MacArthur's ministry) puts it very well:
"Postmoderns don't like authoritative definitions. Try to define something clearly, and they will nitpick endlessly over every ambiguity, every exception to the rule, and every supposed paradox that challenges your definition. They will exploit every generalization to try and make it appear absurd. They like to blur the line in every dichotomy . . . They would probably call me irresponsible for even trying to simplify and explain something as "complex" as postmodernism (quotes mine). Then they would quibble about every sweeping statement I might make. They would use pettifogging arguments to try and overthrow every definition I give and every dichotomy I make."
It is one thing when such mental and linguistic gymnastics are bandied about by and among unbelievers. I can remember when former president Bill Clinton (supposedly a believer, open to question) famously told the grand jury, "it all depends on what the meaning of 'is' is." He knew perfectly well what "is" meant and so did everyone else. The media might have thought Mr. Clinton was clever, but such games won't fly before the judgment seat of the Lord. As Romans 3:19 says, "that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God."
However, when those who are supposed to be Christians (after the Lord who bought them with His own blood) engage in these types of mind/word games and cast question on the very Word of God itself, it is grotesque evil..and that is the nicest word I could use to describe it. Most evil of all are the so-called teachers who ought to know better...teachers and authors who are misleading millions through their books and lectures. This mindset permeates our culture today, especially among younger people, and it threatens to gut the evangelical church, which was built on the foundation of Christ and the Reformers, who gave their lives to put the church back on a foundation of biblical truth.
As grim as this sounds, I believe in the Lord who wrote the end of the story from the beginning. "Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?" And later, "it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
I will not play games with Scripture, nor quibble endlessly hunting for loopholes and exceptions. As far as this believer is concerned, "God said it..I believe it..and that settles it."
Introducing the SolaMeanie

My name is Joel, but on line I am known as SolaMeanie. Welcome to my blog - The Seventh Sola. Sounds like a movie title, doesn't it? Not quite.

If you are familiar with the Protestant Reformation, you'll know what the five Solas are. Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus and Soli Deo Gloria. Where's the sixth? There isn't one. I didn't want to use the Sixth Sola as the number six has all sorts of nasty allusions to it. Seven, however, is the number of completion and can symbolize the Lord's perfection. So in honor of Him, I have titled this blog accordingly.

I was formerly on another blog site very briefly, but I didn't like it too much. Various reasons. I think it was really more a site intended as a glorified chat room instead of a blog. I like it here much better.

I will comment quite a bit on theology and trends in the Christian world as I post on The Seventh Sola. I will also be looking at a number of geopolitical and cultural issues through the prism of a Christian worldview. I look forward to the discussion.

Oh, before I forget. Where did "SolaMeanie" come from? Well, a friend at another message board gave me that name when I was teasing him rather unmercifully. I immediately thought of the "Blue Meanies" from Yellow Submarine and nearly laughed myself sick. I liked it and I kept it.

That's all for now. Look for other posts soon. And again, welcome!