Monday, March 13, 2006

Tone and "Feelin' the Luv!"

Debates regarding theology in the church have always tended to be a bit rough. With the stakes so high, it is easy to see why. While most of us favor irenic discussions of issues for the most part, there are times when a sharper tone is needed. However, in the ongoing battleroyale over postmodernism and the Emergent Church movement, a sharp tone is guaranteed to provoke howls of protest (or whining depending on the person). That's unloving! Hate speech! Even unbiblical! Even unchristlike! Oh, the humanity!

Of course, those who really know their Bibles and believe there is really such a thing as context know better. But we're dealing with people who love to cherrypick and bunny trail. We are not told to mollycoddle false teachers. Quite the contrary. I know this will give some in the ECM fits comparable to the Gaderene demoniac, but I suggest a good reading of the Apostle Paul for starters. The letter to the church at Galatia is especially informative. I might even recommend a good reading of what Jesus had to say to false teachers. It was really rude of the Lord to call people whitewashed tombs filled with dead men's bones, wasn't it? Remind me to have a little chat with the Apostle John about his bad tude toward Diotrephes. He actually insinuated that Diotrephes had an ego problem. Shame on John for writing such unkind things!

Here's a real eye opener. Hell is not a popular subject with postmoderns and neither is the concept of sin. Never mind that Jesus talked about hell more than anyone else in the New Testament. I tend to think the concept many pomos have of Jesus is similar to that of Robert Schuller, who once famously said that the Lord went to the cross to "sanctify our ego trip." This kind of ludicrous statement goes down well with an unbelievably narcissistic generation. Sort of like Mary Poppins' spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down, except in this case it's not medicine - it's poison. Anyone care to join me for a nice cup of hemlock? Or is belladonna more to your taste?

You will find me dealing very gently with the untaught, ignorant and wayward. But to false teachers out there peddling doctrines of demons, I will not mince words. The Lord and His apostles didn't. In fact, Paul ordered Titus to reprove false teachers severely. The reason it ends up going to that level - severe - is because false teachers are notorious for not listening. Check out how Paul told Timothy to rebuke the recalcitrant in the presence of all so that others might be fearful of sinning. Fear? Oh, no! The mush god we worship would never countenance such a thing! After all, someone's self esteem might be bruised and we couldn't have that. Might make them leave the church and we won't be able to pay the bills for our espresso bar!

As I've said before, the ECM loves to criticize the evangelical church in rather scathing terms. They shouldn't wonder at the blowback. Didn't their parents ever teach them that relieving themselves on an electric fence isn't a good idea?


Rob said...

I think it's unfortunate you believe that the ECM is full of false teachers. If it were a matter of you just disagreeing, then the conversation could go on.

I think you're dead wrong in your assessment. I think questions make you really uncomfortable. I don't think the Bible has to be literal to be true. And that's I suppose where we part company.

I still say, don't create theological, propositional hoops for people to jump through. I don't think God's a huge fan of that kind of religion (or any religion come to think of it).

On the topic of hell, there's a lot of ways of looking at Jesus' statements. Ghenna was a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem (a literal place), Hades was the Greek term for place of the dead, Sheol (Old Testament) was translated incorrectly as Hell. It just means the grave.

I'm not saying it doesn't exist, I'm just saying its worth making sure we have all the facts. We also need to talk about it, whether it turns out it's literal or not, we need to run in the other direction.

On being harsh with people, I think it's crownring who admonished me on your site. Something about not being very Christ-like. The false teacher stuff is quite an accusation. I think I could say the same about John McArthur and other hyper-calvinists. But is that really helpful? What would that accomplish?

The EC, is working well reaching an unchurched (or post-church) generation. Frankly, doing what conservative Christians can't. We're following the Great Comission taking the message of Jesus Christ to all the people of the world.

I still say your issue is more about style than substance. McLaren is a lightning rod and I can understand why you disagree with him. Read Dan Kimball for a less generous orthodoxy. Even, the guy in Michigan, Rob Bell.

The last option is to stop talking about it. I have a desire to put up a site called Just to get you conservative types riled up. :)

Anyways, I've rambled on too long.



SolaMeanie said...

Hi, Rob...

I am afraid we can get to the point in "conversation" where everyone is talking and no one is listening. Yes, I disagree, but the points of disagreement deal with what I and many others consider false, unbiblical doctrine. We are hardly talking about mode of baptism here, or whether one should have wine or Welch's grape juice at communion. When we're dealing with soteriology, the substitutionary atonement, sexual issues etc..we are dealing with VERY important matters here. I am not willing to argue endlessly with people who are insistant on leaving orthodoxy behind. I think you are a good person to chat with and obviously have a heart for ministry. But I think that your theology will only hamper you in the end.

As I said, questions do not make me uncomfortable. The implication is that I can't answer them and they make me squirm in my chair. God is not afraid of honest questions and neither am I. There is a difference between someone who honestly wants to learn and is confused versus someone who really knows better and is intent on overthrowing orthodoxy. The root of it all is unbelief and rebellion. They really don't like what God's Word says and they have to go to any length possible to try and twist out of it. So they dispute, unpack, deconstruct, redefine or reject it outright as true and authoritative.

When you say the Bible doesn't have to be literal to be true, I am amazed because I really don't think you see the implications of what you're saying. As we've covered before, yes..there are symbolic areas, anthropomorphisms, etc. in Scripture. Those are fairly clearly evident from the text. However, where are you going to stop seeing things as not literal. Is hell not literal? (I'll deal with that in a moment) Is the Second Coming not literal? Was Jesus' death on the cross a fairy tale? See what I mean? Once you put the Bible into this ethereal la-la land, you totally undercut its authority in life, doctrine and practice. At that point, why bother? The Bhagavad Gita would do just as well.

I am fully aware of what Gehenna was. Jesus and the apostles said it's real and I won't argue with them. This is not allegorical. The text doesn't allow for that. If hell is not literal, then why worry about "running from it?" When I have a nightmare, I wake up and laugh after a while because it wasn't real. It was merely the pepperoni from the night before playing havoc with me.

Perhaps I am not certain of what you mean when you say literal. Maybe you could clearly define what you mean there.

As to who admonished who, whatever. The truth of what I posted stands. I don't think the Apostle Paul, Peter, James, John and even Jesus would have appreciated you telling them their harsh words were counterproductive. I am NOT advocating being sharp as a matter of routine course. The need for it is evident by the circumstance and is set forth for us in Scripture.

Is the EC working well? I appreciate what you say about Dan Kimball and even Mark Driscoll who is even more conservative. I can't put Rob Bell in the same category. If a person never hears the word "sin" and doesn't know they need a Savior, then they cannot be saved. The very idea of being saved means they're being saved from something. The current understanding of the Gospel is that "Jesus just wuvs yew" and has a "wonnerful" plan for your life!" The prospective convert says, "Well, of COURSE He loves me! Who wouldn't? I've got eternal life coming to me and the Lord had better cough it up or there'll be a devil of a row!"

No, it's not style vs. substance. The issues are deep and serious. One has to adopt an entirely different hermeneutic with this type of theology and it is biblically unacceptable.

Finally, I am afraid someone beat you to John MacArthur no. :) There's a site I discovered yesterday by a really fundamental Baptist that calls MacArthur a false teacher. If you think I am Attilla the Hun, wait till you see that one! It even makes me wince, LOL.

You're always welcome here, Rob. God bless.

SolaMeanie said...

Oops..just caught a little mistake in my post above..or at least an unclarity. When I was talking about Gehenna, I meant to say that I understood the symbolism of it and the historic fact of the Gehenna Garbage Dump and Landfill, but HELL is literal as indicated by the Lord and others in Scripture. I didn't communicate that very clearly.

crownring said...

Greetings, Rob.

Well, actually I was irritated with you because you called me "paranoid", based on nothing more than your own biased view of of a single post of mine. Do you really believe telling people they're mentally ill (paranoid) facilitates dialogue? Would you dare walk up to a stranger you'd overheard and say that to their face? Is this the true face of the EMC, people lurking in the shadows of the internet and pouncing on strangers who happen to disagree with their opinions?

BTW, Rob, you might be surprised to learn I'm not Sola's "Stepford Wife" (metaphorical) or anyone's "sheeple" and that he and I disagree on a number of issues, including the role of women in the Church. You might also be surprised to learn I'm a Charismatic Protestant who found her way to God primarily through Catholic friends. However Sola's and my love of Christ "covers a multitude of sins" and allows us to regard each other as brother and sister in the Lord in spite of our differences. Sometimes I think he goes a little overboard with the EMC thing, but it IS a genuine concern to a great many people, including some of our most respected evangelical voices. We see the EMC as edging ever closer to the brink, falling for the world's siren song that has never been louder than it is today. If the EMC is solidly built on The Rock and is a genuine movement of the Holy Spirit, it has nothing to fear from us. However if the EMC is built on religious sand, it will be washed away in the coming storm, along with a lot of sadly deceived souls. It is my hope that you will not be one of them.

SolaMeanie said...

A "Stepford Wife," crownring? :)) Yeeks! I never thought I'd ever read The Seventh Sola to the sound of Tubular Bells in the background. Oh, wait..that was the Exorcist!

I think Rob and I understand each other a bit better than we did early on. We've had some interesting discussion here. He might make a good candidate for our other site. I'd like to see how he and Muz would get along..probably pretty well. Then they could both gang up on me!

Rob said...

Very nice,

As always I'm honoured to be included in the conversation. Sola, I agree that often we talk so much we don't listen! Ask my wife, she'll say that's my biggest fault.

I think we absolutely have an understanding. We have 2 different worldviews but I think at the core we love Jesus and want to reach the world with His message.

I'll respond to your other stuff later. I'm taking the kids to Disneyworld tomorrow (flying from the cold Tundra of Canada to your warm Floridian climate)! So I've got to go back to work now.


Joe B. Whitchurch said...

Solameanie as 'electric fence' or in that role anywy, is outrageously funny. I also appreciated the line about the "need" for someone to speak with the apostle John about his 'tude'. Laughing outloud for discernment with gusto. Thanks Joel.

Rob said...

Hey Sola,

I have a little time sitting at the Buffalo Airport.

Literal to me means that it has to be absolutely factual in every regard. I think with many conservative Christians it has gone beyond just literal in the original text to it has to be how I interpret it as well. That's where fundamentalism gets particularly scary for me.

I look at Noah's Ark, and conservative Christian's penchant to assume it's a world-wide flood. I don't deny there was most likely a devastating flood (there's accounts of a world flood in other religions as well). But I doubt it spanned the entire world. Most likely it was the world Noah knew (or whomever the story began with).

Let's look at other stories as well. David killing 10,000 philistine's. I think that was exaggerated to make a point. David was a great warrior.

Solomon with 700 wives and 300 concubines. Are we sure it wasn't 701 or 699? Again, I think the point is he had a lot of women.

Now you're going to bring up the Hittites, or some other nationality. I don't doubt the ancient Hebrews ability to know about their neighbours. But that's not proof of the literalness of scripture.

Now some will say I have a low view of scripture. I don't think that's fair either. In fact, since I've abandoned my conservative Christianity my love for the scriptures has increased. The Bible talks about hiding it in your heart. I love that idea.

Now the question comes, how do we know what's literal then and what's not? In order to do this I have to keep these 4 hermeneutical check points (for lack of better words):

1. The scriptures are the lense by which I view everything else.
2. My own reason and experience.
3. Those great thinkers and theologian's who have come before me.
4. It has to make a difference in my life.

When I can't reconcile all 4 points I'm happy to say I don't know.

A great example of this for me, is Paul talking about predestination. I don't know how to reconcile that to us having free will. So I've left it up to God knows what He's doing and I'm not sure how to reconcile the 2. But I'm certainly not going to get angry with the predestinationers for their beliefs.

I'm sure these 'answers' will be unsatisfactory for many. I don't know how to follow Christ any other way at this point in my life though.


SolaMeanie said...

Hey, Rob..

Sorry for the delay in answering..and even this will be very brief. I am still fighting bronchitis and I am just wiped out. I sent you an email today on this neat item I found in the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web" citing USA Today. Apparently some astronomers are positing the idea that the Big Bang resulted in the stars being ejected as far away as light years in a matter of moments. Sort of backs up an idea I had believed for some time being a non-scientist. Perhaps it wasn't "millions and billions" of years after all. Remember what I said about data changing?

When I am feeling better, I'll respond to your post above as it deserves thoughtful comment.

God bless!

contender said...

Solomon (King Shalomo) may have had exactly what the Scriptures say he had. It comes down to whether we are going to give the benefit of the doubt to our specualtive thinking, coming from our own minds, or yield to the authority of the Scriptures in trust. We don't know about his wives from any other source than the Bible. Do we choose to give deference to the Word of God or to a human authority? Paul said in Romans 3:4 ". . . . Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: "That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged." We will sit in judgment on God's word, doubting it, or we will let it judge us —which includes our own speculations.