Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Purpose of Marriage

I found this tonight on Blogpipe - its from Tolstoy to his son.

The goal of our life should not be to find joy in marriage, but to bring more love and truth into the world. We marry to assist each other in this larger task. Though we should indeed love our spouse with true satisfaction, the most selfish and hateful life of all is that of two beings who unite merely in order to enjoy pleasures. The highest calling is that of the man who has dedicated his life to serving God and doing good, and who unites with a woman in order to happily further that purpose.

That's excellent. If the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then the chief end of marriage is for it to be a means to enabling both partners to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

No wonder the Roman Catholics laugh at Protestants

I shouldn't have done this but I did. What started as a five minute break from productive work turned into a 20 minute ride into the wilderness of chest-puffing, rhetoric spewing and name calling. Said five minute break was to take a quick look at a couple of websites. Somehow I followed a link to Andrew Sandlin's website at the Center for Cultural Leadership, where he had this interesting link titled "Response to Doug Phillips' Diatribe." Diatribe, you say, hmm . . . need to check this out. Intrigued, I headed over to Doug's Blog at the Vision Forum Website, where he is accusing Sandlin of all sorts of Tomfoolery. It seems that Doug says that Andrew said he is against stay at home moms (as well as hot dogs and apple pie). And this all came from an article he wrote in Razormouth responding to an article that R. C. Sproul Jr. wrote in Razormouth. Bummer, I now had to take another detour on the information highway, but that's ok - I really like Razormouth.

At Razormouth I found the article that Sproul Jr. wrote called Feast in a Box, in which he derides mom's who don't cook Thanksgiving dinner anymore. Actually, that was his word picture to use as an illustration of all that we are losing by encouraging moms to work outside the home. Jr. closes the article by saying "But then you should repent that we send them out to do so anyway." The thing that we should repent of is sending moms out into the workplace.

Now, back to Sandlin. Sandlin responds with his article Are Working Mom's Okay, in which he suggests that the Bible does not specifically and unequivocally call it a sin for a mom to work outside the home. And he says that to call working outside the home a sin comes perilously close to Phariseeism.

At this time all Hedoublehockeysticks breaks loose. A fine Christian lady responds to Sandlin's article with an article of her own titled "Blaspheming the Word of God," in which she gives an impassioned apologetic for the view that it is a sin for a mother to work outside the home. The quote which I believe best summarizes her position is this "It is not Phariseeism to proclaim homekeeping God's standard for women."

Now, back to Doug Philipps. Frankly his diatribe was too long to read the whole thing but he basically has a bunch of letters from folks who think that Sandlin is a dirty rotten scoundrel for attacking the institution of motherhood. In all fairness, it looks like Sandlin has written some other things that Doug and his readers are taking offense to. So, it appears that their concerns with Sandlin go deeper than this one thing.

Sandlin wrote another article in Razormouth called "Not Phariseeism After All," where he responded to the godly Christian mother who accused him of all kinds of nefariousness. He affirmed his love for stay-at-home moms and explained that he was calling no one a Pharisee - his comment was this:

"[O]nce we define sin in terms of extra-Biblical standards, we inch toward . . . Phariseeism."

Looks to me like he was just urging Sproul Jr. to watch the tendency to go beyond the Bible and that he did it in a friendly way.

My point in bringing all of this up is to show how prone we are to escalate controversy and division in the body of Christ. All parties involved are either in the camp or sympathetic to the theonomist or reconstructionist point of view. If you are unfamiliar with this position, in its simplest form it affirms the abiding validity of the Old Testament law. There are many variations of theonomy but all share this. The reconstructionists want to reconstruct society along the lines of Old Testament law.

But that is not my point. My point is that the Roman Catholics warned the Reformers that if you put the Bible in the hands of the masses you will have untold division in the church. The Reformers realized the risk of this but it was a risk well worth taking. Today, however, Protestantism has fulfilled the Roman Catholic vision (in all fairness to us Protestants, the RC'ers should acknowledge that there is quite a bit of division in their ranks also). This little debate is a good example of this. It seems that everytime someone takes upon themselves the mantle of "reformer," whether it is church reform, family reform, political reform, or whatever else, the tendency is to keep separating the wheat from the chaff till said reformer thinks that he is the only true stalk of wheat and everyone else (including his former friends) are chaff.

Although I am not a follower of Sandlin, I think that in this little debate he comes out ahead. His warning about avoiding extra-biblical commands is a worthy one. In our efforts to purify the church (family, society, etc.) we are ever prone to add a little extra to the Bible in order to maintain biblical fidelity. While we acknowledge that there are some legitimately disputable matters (cf. Romans 14), the range of legitimately disputable matters narrows to the point that there are no really disputable matters.

That the Bible requires that wives be "workers at home" is indisputable - see Titus 2:5. How the woman fulfills her calling to be a worker at home may look different in different situations. Even the Proverbs 31 woman buys real estate, has "earnings" and plants vineyards (v. 16). She is engaged in the production and distribution of linen garments and belts (v. 24). While all of these can certainly fit into the category of home based business it appears that she is outside the home at least part of the time. Having done all of this, her husband praises her and calls her blessed.

It would seem that, if we compare Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 that it is the husband and children who are the judges of whether or not she is fulfilling her calling as a "worker at home." What do we conclude if a mom works outside the home and yet the husband and children are satisfied that she is doing a good job of being a "worker at home." Whille others may object to her lifestyle, who are we to say she is sinning if the ones to whom she is accountable say she is not. I realize that those who have their knickers in a wad on this issue will say this is impossible, especially if she is sending her kids to the government schools and is working simply to earn extra money to support a lavish lifestyle. But, Romans 14:4 comes into play here.
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

It seems to me that if you are not in a position of authority over a particular woman then you have overstepped your bounds to call her work outside the home a sin, if her husband and children do not. Hence, in doing so we have gone beyond the Scripture and have inched closer (not become) Phariseeism.

BTW - my wife does not work outside the home, and I would caution women strongly not to work outside the home. All of the dangers that Sproul and Phillips warn us about are very real. Many women who work outside the home do end up shirking their homekeeping responsibilities in pursuit of the American dream. However, blanket condemnation of all working mothers seems to go beyond the Bible.

It seems so politically correct and wimpy to not plant a stake in the ground on issues like this. We have to recover a sense of proportion. There are some doctrines that are more important than others. We have to plant stakes and take stands on issues like the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the nature of justification, the Trinity and other doctrines of similar weight. Such issues are issues that we should be happy to divide over. But, when we give the same weight to every doctrine we end up in a never ending cycle of stake planting and stand taking against Christians. Those, like the theonomists and reconstructionists that were mentioned earlier, who want to extend the dominion of Christ in this world neglect their greatest tool for accomplishing this - the love of the brethren. I know that many stake planting and stand taking Christians think that John 13:35 is for sissies, but it is still true
"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Continual division over an ever expanding list of non-negotiable issues will thwart all of our attempts to influence the culture for Christ. There will be no need to shoot ourselves in the foot, our brothers in Christ have already driven stakes through each others feet.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Testing BlogJet

I have downloaded and installed an interesting application - BlogJet. It's a Windows-client for my blog tool (as well as some for other tools).

Actually, it was not me who wrote this text: when I launched BlogJet for the first time, it's edit window already contained this text and the program asked me to click Post and Publish button to post this text to my blog in order to test the connection (yes, and the text above is not mine too! :-)... So, I did.

Now I'm gonna learn all that cool features of BlogJet (don't ask me, there are too much - go to their website and read).

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

G. K. Chesterton, the Blogger

In his entry of 1/20/04 George Grant says that if G. K. Chesterton were alive today he would be a blogger. And, the good news is that some wag has started a G. K. Chesterton blog of thoughts from his writings. Gotta love it!

Spiritual Gifts vs. Natural Gifts

Here's an interesting thought on the idea of spiritual gifts vs. natural gifts. It has been my experience that, in the church, whenever we talk about spiritual gifts we distinguish between them and natural talents. The stuff in I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 are spiritual gifts, as opposed to natural gifts like the ability to sing, cook, dance, play a sport, play a musical instrument, etc. Of course we always tell people they should use their natural talents to serve the Lord, but our very nomenclature seems to suggest that these natural talents come from within, not from the Lord.

I read Exodus 28:3 this morning and it puts a different spin on this. In building the wilderness tabernacle it says:

You shall speak to all the skillfull, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill . . . (ESV)

Sooo . . . the skills of the skillfull come from the filling of the spirit. For me, this puts a whole new spin on things and tells me we shouldn't be so quick to distinguish spiritual gifts from natural gifts, as if man has any ability that has not come from God. All gifts, talents and skills are from God and are a means of praise and thanksgiving to God.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Wisdom from Laurence

Laurence Windham is an associate of R. C. Sproul Jr.'s at the Highlands Study Center. I got to know him in seminary and he is a great guy, full of wisdom, ergo, this stimulating thought:

If you ever want tangible evidence of God’s common grace to man, you needn’t look any further than garlic. Garlic, wonderful garlic.

Amen, Laurence, Amen.

Actually, Laurence thinks much deeper thoughts than this (not to say that ruminations on the blessedness of garlic aren't "deep"). You can find his blog here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Archie Bunker Christians

It's been a while since I last blogged - been a little busy. Here's an article I just couldn't resist sharing with anyone who happens to read my blog - its from The Internet Monk, and it deals with Christians who just have to argue and press their positions. It's titled: The Little Brothers of Saint Archie Bunker - How to argue theology till no one but the cows come home. Here's just a smidge to whet your appetite for the rest of the article:

I've decided that Archie Bunker is the patron saint of Christians who can't stop making their point. Christians who love to argue. Christians who can't stand it that someone somewhere disagrees with them. Christians who are caught up in theological controversy like University of Kentucky basketball fans are caught up in defending their team. Christians who have to correct everyone the way obsessed Lord of the Rings fans must correct any deviation from the Holy Canons of Tolkien. Christians who can't rest easy if someone somewhere is not understanding, reading, or getting "it," whatever "it" happens to be.

I love it - that's priceless - the rest of the article is priceless. It's priceless because it is me, circa 1983-1996. I once told my best friend that I wanted to go into the ministry while we were driving down North South Drive on the campus of the University of Florida. He was driving and nearly lost control and drove into one of the frat houses. He said something along the lines of this "you've got to be kidding - there is no way you should ever go into the ministry. You always think you are right and always share your opinion - no one will ever take you seriously." At the time I sloughed it off - he obviously wasn't a spiritual giant like myself. Now, I see that I was the spiritual pipsqueak - the one who thought he was something hot. I was a little brother of Archie Bunker.

Now, if I can just get over this tendency to be judgmental and argumentative toward Archie Bunker type Christians . . .

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Follow-Up on Fundamentalism

My friend Terry Pruitt sent me a response to my January 4 post on fundamentalism He has pointed out to me that people often confuse Christian (doctrinal) fundamentalism with Muslim fundamentalism and it is important to distinguish the two. Terry has greater knowledge of the Muslim world than I do and I thought his insights were helpful and worth sharing.

Dear David,

In your blog you mention the three following types of fundamentalism:

I. Doctrinal Fundamentalism.
II. Behavioral Fundamentalism
III. Attitudinal Fundamentalism

There is a fourth type of fundamentalist that people often confuse for the three you have mentioned. It is
not uncommon to hear people correlate fundamentalists, Muslim and Christian as if they were the same thing. A Muslim fundamentalist is sometimes called Muslim extremist to distinguish them from the common Muslim. Most of the time, Muslims believe in the fundamentals of their faith but that does not make them a fundamentalist as is spoken in common usage. So he is not of the first type. This is quit different for the forms of Christianity where there are both liberals and conservatives as who the church divided at the beginning of the twentieth century. Likewise, you will not find moral issues as a big dividing point in Islam, which is not to say that there is no variety of behavioral practice. The distinction that a Muslim fundamentalist has from other Muslims is their views on government and the ideal ways of achieving that ideal state. Their view of government is very different from how many people in the West would conceptually think of the relationship between religious institutions and the institution of the
state. The ideal state is Muslim in that it is ran by Muslims and is under the rule of Muslim law called the
Shair’ah. While Christians believe the Bible, few of the Christian fundamentalists whome I know want the
laws from the Old Testament to be enforced today. For the Muslim fundamentalist, the way that this ideal is to be achieved is through holy war, Jihad. While common Muslims will advocate Jihad but merely mean
struggle, Muslim fundamentalists advocate violence as a means of change. Not only as a means of change but also as a means of obtaining ceremonial righteousness.

I can see that people say that there is common attitude with the type three fundamentalist and the
Muslim fundamentalists, I really do think there is a distinction between those who advocate terrorism and
those who are merely fervently supporting their cause, be they Muslim or otherwise. We must be extra careful to not lump all Muslims into this same category because there is a great deal of difference between
those who practice Islam and those who want to establish an Islamic state through the use of
violence. So I would propose what most people mean by Muslim fundamentalist is more accurately described as Political Islam. The politics of terror has little to do with the mainstream forms of Islam. It also has little to do with people who believe in the fundamentals of Christianity, have a more conservative
view on what constitutes moral behavior or are simply contentious. There is a big difference between being
narrow in attitude and advocating violence. So the fourth way people use the word fundamentalism is to
mean Political Islam.

Yours in Christ,
Terry Pruitt

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Tim Keller Quote on the Gospel and Community

In the Redeemer Fellowship Group Handbook Tim Keller says the following:

The context for a gospel-centered life is never merely individual. The gospel creates a new community, a unique community. "One of the immediate changes that the gospel makes is grammatical: we instead of I; our instead of my; us instead of me." (Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder). This kind of new community is not an optional thing, an "extra" for the Christian; instead it's part of the overall purpose of God's kingdom.

A new community is both the end of the gospel and also the means of spreading the gospel. God's promise in salvation is to create his "holy nation", a people that dwell with him forever. I will be your God and you will be my people." (Lev. 26:12, Jer. 30:22). So Christians, who are eternally united to Christ, are therefore eternally united to one another. Since our culture knows very little about true community, we will have to work hard at following a biblical vision.

What is the biblical vision, what does the true community look like? We are to be:
1. an accepting community that reflects the grace we've been given from Christ.
2. a holy community that urges one another to lead God-pleasing lives.
3. a truth-telling community that is free to repent, and free to allow others to repent, because of the gospel.
4. an encouraging community that builds one another up.
5. a sacrificially generous community that spends its life and wealth on the needs of others.
6. a suffering community that loves and forgives others even when it harms us.

The beauty of this is that Keller has grasped what it means to be a Christian. Being a Christian is not about being merely an individual who grows more and more into the image of Christ, it is about being a member of a group that grows more and more into the image of Christ. In fact, if "they will know us by our love for one another," we cannot be known as a Christians without being in relationship with one another.

This also means that the church does not exist for my benefit, I exist for it's benefit. In our consumer culture we evaluate and stand in judgment of churches. We evaluate the church in terms of what it can do or has done or hasn't done for me. This goes against everything in the Bible.

However, in the "whats-in-it-for-me" department, we often fail to realize that our greatest blessings and greatest growth in the Christian life comes as we die to self, and give our lives to Christ and His bride.

For a provocative look at the importance of the community, check out the sermon "Public Worship to Be Preferred Before Private," by David Clarkson. The title of the sermon is his thesis - public, communal worship is more important than our private worship. The two are not at odds, but the public worship of the church is more important. This cuts against the grain of modern individualistic evangelical Christianity where "private quiet times" and "independent Bible study," are deemed to be of greatest importance. But, it is true Biblically - if one's private exercises of spiritual discipline have not made them a greater contributor to the community, then they didn't take.

Food for thought about technology and culture

David Wells, in his book No Place for Truth

Technology per se does not assault the gospel, but a technological society will find the gospel irrelevant. What can be said of technology can also be said of many other facets of culture that are similarly laden with value (p. 11).

The necessary heart attitude for revival

In the preface to his book "The Calvary Road," Roy Hession speaks of the necessary heart attitude of the one who would experience revival.

He must be possessed with a dissatisfaction of the state of the church in general, and of himself in particular - especially of himself. He must be willing for God to begin His work in himself first, rather than in the other man. He must, moreover, be possessed with the holy expectancy that God can and will meet his need. If he is in any sense a Christian leader, the urgency of the matter is intensified many times over. His willingness to admit his need and be blessed will determine the degree to which God can bless the people to whom he ministers. Above all, he must realize that he must be the first to humble himself at the Cross. If a new honesty with regard to sin is needed among his people, he must begin with himself. It was when the King of Nineveh arose from his throne, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes as a sign of his repentance, that his people repented.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

A Tale of Two Critiques (of Fundamentalism) Warning - Long

I was saddened, like many, to hear of the recent passing of Mike Yaconelli, founder of Youth Specialties and The Wittenberg Door (now simply called The Door) magazine. I never met Mike, but as a former youth minister, I have been impacted by his life and ministry.

I used to attend the Youth Specialties National Youth Worker Convention and half the fun of it was to see what Yaconelli would come up with this time. He was a loose cannon - he used to tell youth workers that if your church has never made a new rule in response to something you have done then you aren't doing your job very well. One of my favorite memories is the time he had Jerry Falwell speaking at the convention. This was during the Clinton administration, about the time that Falwell was selling all of those anti-Clinton videos, you know the ones detailing all the people he had caused to get dead. Yaconelli got an actor posing as Bill Clinton, to introduce Falwell. The guy was dead on for Clinton's southern drawl and he gave this long winded monologue about the ups and downs of his relationship with Jerry Falwell. The Clinton impersonator closed his introduction of Falwell by saying "Jerry, I know we've had our differences, but . . . I love ya man." Falwell then came out shaking his head and said "Bill, you're still not getting my Bud Light." Then Falwell said something to the effect of "only Mike Yaconelli could come up with something like this."

When he wasn't busy planning conferences, speaking to youth groups and leaders, dreaming up gags and skewering evangelical icons, he wrote some pretty provocative material in columns and in books. To my mind, one of his more provocative columns is his diatribe against Fundamentalism, which he calls A Monumental Waste of Time. In reading through this I couldn't help but be reminded of another, more famous critique of fundamentalism - the sermon "Shall the Fundamentalists Win," preached by Harry Emerson Fosdick at the First Presbyterian Church of New York City, on May 21, 1922.

Before addressing Yaconelli's article I want to address Fosdick's sermon and will then compare some of the issues they have raised. Before looking at both of them I want to describe some of my personal observations of fundamentalism.

It seems to me that fundamentalism can be talked about under three headings. The first heading would be doctrinal fundamentalism. This kind of fundamentalism is rigid adherence to a particular set of theological statements. The second kind of fundamentalism would be social, or behavioral fundamentalism. These are terms I use to describe those who couple their doctrinal convictions with certain behavioral expectations. For example, many early fundamentalists were deeply involved in the temperance movement. Some modern fundamentalists are known for behaviors and social issues which they are against. These may be issues like drinking, movies, women wearing pants or makeup (one man was asked if it is ok for a woman to wear makeup - he said it depends on her face), dancing, smoking or many others. Another way of expressing this type of fundamentalism is by quoting the wag who said "I don't drink, smoke, cuss, or chew, or run around with girls that do." The third kind of fundamentalism would be attitudinal fundamentalism. Such fundamentalism is characterized (and I think often caricatured) as being intolerant and condemning. These types of fundamentalists might be criticized for what appears to be a "holier-than-thou" attitude.

It seems to me that Fosdick is primarily speaking out against Type I fundamentalism - doctrinal fundamentalism. Yaconelli primarily speaks out against Type II fundamentalism. Both implicitly complain against Type III fundamentalism - attitudinal fundamentalism.

In his sermon, Fosdick's loudest screams are against the intolerance of fundamentalists (Type III). He pleads for a church that is “inclusive enough to take in both liberals and conservatives without either trying to drive the other out.” Fosdick distinguishes between conservatives and fundamentalists. In his mind the conservatives hold conservative theological opinions but are willing to live alongside of liberals. Fundamentalists, on the other hand, can't live with liberals, and this makes them the bad guys.

To demonstrate the intolerance of fundamentalists Fosdick concentrates on three key fundamentalist doctrines - the virgin birth, the inspiration of Scripture, and the second coming of Christ. He acknowledges that there are those who hold to the historical reality of the virgin birth, the inerrancy of Scripture and the literal, bodily, second coming of Christ. He does not call these positions wrong in and of themselves, but says that there are other ways of looking at them (this reminds me of the modern evangelical propensity to say "that's just your interpretation" when confronted with Scriptural commands we don't like). He argues that to say someone was born of a virgin was a literary convention for describing a great man, and some think that such attribution is to be taken figuratively, not literally.

He accuses fundamentalists of believing in the manual dictation theory of inspiration where God speaks to the Biblical writers as if they were stenographers. He is error here - few conservatives or fundamentalists believe in the dictation theory of inspiration - most believe in organic inspiration, the idea that God made full use of the human personalities of the writers. But that is neither here nor there in this case - those who believe in organic inspiration believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, and it is this inerrancy view that Fosdick argues against. In response to this, he says that some believe in progressive revelation (conservatives and fundamentalists believe this also, but not in the way Fosdick proposes - conservatives and fundamentalists believe in progressive revelation that climaxed with the final revelation in Jesus Christ, which ushered in the closing of the canonical Scriptures). For Fosdick and liberals, progressive revelation continues on to this day, thus leading and enabling us to go beyond the Bible.

Finally, Fosdick takes issue with the fundamentalist view of a literal, bodily return of Christ. He acknowledges that many believe this, but that others believe that Scriptures that speak of such things are figurative ways of expressing hope for the victory and triumph of God.

These three doctrinal issues are representative, not exhaustive as Fosdick complains against those who demand adherence even to a certain theory of the atonement.

Fosdick, anliberalsls associated with him were answered in 1923 with the publication of the book Christianity and Liberalism, by J. Gresham Machen. In this brilliant book, Machen showed that Christianity is altogether doctrinairere religion. He pointed out that we do not see Jesus face to face as His disciples did. Our relationship with Him is not face to face, it is mediated through a message. The message of Jesus is found in the New Testament. To believe in Jesus and have a relationship with Him today is not to know Him face to face. That comes later. Today, we believe the message about Him and in so doing come to know Him. Which brings us to the crux of the matter. How do we know if we are believing in the correct Jesus? The only way we can know if the Jesus we believe in is the correct Jesus is to know that the message we believed in is the correct message. This is the substance of doctrine - if we do not understand the (doctrinal) message correctly, we can not be sure that we are believing in the true Christ.

In his book Machen showed that what the liberals were proposing was not a new form of Christianity altogether. In so doing, he showed the disingenousness of the positions of Fosdick and the like. Fosdick gutted Christianity of its substance and still dared to call the carcass Christianity. In some ways an infidel is better than a heretic. At least the infidel is honest enough to deny the faith outright. With the infidel one knows where the battle lines are drawn, he declares himself a wolf and doesn't care who knows. The heretic is the one who seeks to abandon the faith while remaining in the fold. This is the wolf who wears sheep's clothing, and who is far more dangerous because he roams within the sheep pen.

Even a great social liberal like H. L. Mencken could see through the opinions of Fosdick and his followers. In a memorable obituary of J. Gresham Machen he acknowledged that though he disagreed he had great admiration for his strength of conviction and for the consistency of his theological position. Mencken's disdain for Machen's position is seen in the following:

I stand much more chance of being converted to spiritualism, to Christian Science or even to the New Deal than to Calvinism, which occupies a place, in my cabinet of private horrors, but little removed from that of cannibalism.

Yet, Mencken found Machen's character and the strength of his arguments to be far better than liberal Christians and Machen's fellow fundamentalists.

Dr. Machen himself was to Bryan as the Matterhorn is to a wart.

Mencken could see what many liberal Christians could not:

It is my belief, as a friendly neutral in all such high and ghostly matters, that the body of doctrine known as Modernism is completely incompatible, not only with anything rationally describable as Christianity, but also with anything deserving to pass as religion in general. Religion, if it is to retain any genuine significance, can never be reduced to a series of sweet attitudes, possible to anyone not actually in jail for felony. It is, on the contrary, a corpus of powerful and profound convictions, many of them not open to logical analysis. Its inherent improbabilities are not sources of weakness to it, but of strength. It is potent in a man in proportion as he is willing to reject all overt evidences, and accept its fundamental postulates, however unprovable they may be by secular means, as massive and incontrovertible facts.

That, it seems to me, is what the Modernists have done, no doubt with the best intentions in the world. They have tried to get rid of all the logical difficulties of religion, and yet preserve a generally pious cast of mind. It is a vain enterprise. What they have left, once they have achieved their imprudent scavenging, is hardly more than a row of hollow platitudes, as empty as [of] psychological force and effect as so many nursery rhymes. They may be good people and they may even be contented and happy, but they are no more religious than Dr. Einstein. Religion is something else again--in Henrik Ibsen's phrase, something far more deep-down-diving and mudupbringing, Dr. Machen tried to impress that obvious fact upon his fellow adherents of the Geneva Mohammed. He failed--but he was undoubtedly right.

Fosdick's diatribe against Type I fundamentalism falls woefully short - it substitutes a non-Christianity for Christianity and still has the nerve to call itself Christianity. As such, Fosdick does not carry the day in his diatribe against Type III (attitudinal) fundamentalism. It seems that Fosdick it is a great sin to for one to believe that if his position is right then an opposite position must be wrong. This is just fundamental, grade school logic - the law of non-contradiction - A cannot be A and non-A at the same time and in the same sense. Jesus can not be born of a virgin and born of a non-virgin, the Bible cannot be free from error and full of error, and Jesus cannot be coming back and not coming back. Certainly, there are many who usintemperatent language in arguing their position, and they should be warned. But, if Machen is correct, such truths are foundational to the Christian faith and to introduce them into the church is to introduce that which leads to the destruction of the faith. It is no more mean and intolerant ttoto bar theological error from the church than it is to bar one's children from playing hopscotch in the middle of the interstate.

Unfortunately, though Mencken and others believe that Machen dealt a death blow to liberalism, it seems that Fosdick's vision for the church has carried, or is carrying the day, at least in conservative evangelical circles. Fosdick and others viewed Christianity as a life to be lived, not a set of doctrines to be believed. There is a smidge of truth in that - correct belief, if it is correct, will lead to right living. But Fosdick divorced right living from right doctrine. He and the liberals of the day were mostly concerned with the social implications of following Jesus. For them it was not important if you believed in the substitutionary atonement of Christ, what was important was that you lived like Jesus lived. In fact, one of my seminary professors pointed out that the Christian classic, In His Steps, was a manual for classic liberalsm. In this book Christianity is all about imitating Jesus, not believing in him. Christianity is not portrayed as being about what Christ has done for you, as the Bible portrays, it is about what you must do for him.

As a pastor, many of the things I hear people say in the name of Christ sound much more like classical liberalism than biblical Christianity. Many are bored with doctrine. I have heard people say "I don't care about doctrine," or "why are you so wrapped up in theology?" What matters most is that you live like Jesus. Harry Emerson Fosdick couldn't have said it any better.

If Fosdick's criticisms of fundamentalism are off the mark, what of the criticisms of Yaconelli. In Yaconelli's short article, he seems more concerned with Type II (social or behavioral) fundamentalism. My favorite paragraph from this article is one that I think all fundamentalists should read and take to heart.

I can honestly say that after twenty-two years in the ministry, I have never met nor heard of anyone who said, "I was going to give my life to Christ until I saw you (pick one) a) dancing, b) smoking, c) drinking, d) coming out of a movie, e) swearing." I have had a number of fundamentalists suggest that my (pick one or all of the following) a) dancing, b) smoking, c) drinking, d) coming out of a movie, e) swearing was "causing them to stumble." That did bother me for awhile until I realized what they were saying was that my behavior bothered them. It made them upset. It wasn't, I discovered, causing them to question the validity of their faith.Itit was causing them to question the validity of mine.

That's good stuff. Stumbling in the Scriptures is something that weaker brothers do. In Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 we see examples of believers engaging in behavior that causes other believers to stumble. These passages show us several items of interest.

1. The behaviors in question were not evil in and of themselves.
2. The behaviors in question had sinful connotations to some.
3. Those to whom the behaviors had sinful connotations were denoted as weaker.
4. The behaviors in question had the potential to damage the faith of the weaker brothers.
5. Weaker brothers may have been tempted to engage in the same behaviors.

What Yaconelli is railing against is the fundamentalist tendency to play the "weaker brother" card. What he points out is that those who were accusing him of causing them to stumble would not have perceived themselves as weaker brothers. In fact, in their minds they were stronger than he was because of their convictions. Further, none of those who criticized him were in danger of losing their faith - as Yaconelli says - "they weren't questioning their own faith, they were questioning mine!" Furthermore, none of these fundamentalists would be tempted to engage in the same behavior.

Please be aware that I am leaving open for now the question of whether or not smoking, drinking, dancing, etc. are sinful in and of themselves. If they are sinful in and of themselves then one should cease them immediately, whether a weaker brother is present or not. However, when one plays the "weaker-stumbling-brother" card that is a tacit admission that the behavior in question is not sinful in and of itself, at least in the card player's mind. If it were, then they could point to clear Scripture declaring such behaviors sinful and the issue could be settled.

The problem that Yaconelli points out should be taken to heart by fundamentalists. Such Type II fundamentalism is often closely akin to Galatianism. In the book of Galatians Paul was dealing with a group of people who added extra-biblical commands to believers. In Galatians 6:13 Paul speaks of those who demand circumcision for believers:

For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. (NIV)

The "circumcision party" could gain points in the religious community by pointing to the number of people whom they had talked into receiving circumcision. To get a believer to receive circumcision was the equivalent of a three-pointer for these guys - they scored. Some fundamentalists "score" when they get believers to adhere to their extra-biblical standards of behavior.

An athletic team is superior to other teams when it has superior athletes, scores more points and wins more games. Galatianizers and some fundamentalists often like the sense that their team is better than the other Christian teams in the league. They are more pure, they are tougher than these panty-waist Christians who don't have such rigid standards of behavior.

Such fundamentalists often fail to claim Romans 7 as their own experience. They accept it intellectually as a part of the Bible but they don't embrace it as their own experience. They say "what a wretched man you are (or "he is"), not "what a wretched man I am." They don't mourn over sin as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, they cry down thunder and lightning on sinners. If they were to mourn, they would mourn over the sins of others, not their own.

This is Type III fundamentalism at its worst. These fundamentalists would do well to pray and ask that God open their eyes to show them the Romans 7 in their own heart.

I think that Yaconelli is reacting against Type II fundamentalists that display a Type III attitude. Although he didn't say it in his article it is useful to point out that not all Type II fundamentalists have a Type III attitude. Furthermore, those who criticize fundamentalism, like Yaconelli and myself, should heed our own advice. One of the problems of Type III fundamentalism is its tendency to judge. Critics of fundamentalism like myself are guilty of judging the judgmentalists, thus falling into the pit we have dug.

Which brings me to a few concluding thoughts.

1. Type I fundamentalism is essential to the Christian faith. At its core, the Christian faith is a doctrinal religion. To abandon rigid adherence to certain tenets of the faith is to abandon the faith. Yes, I agree that not every tenet of the faith is as crucial as every other tenet of the faith. But to allow for differing opinions on such fundamental matters as the inerrancy of Scripture, the Virgin Birth, the Substitutionary atonement and the Second Coming is to allow wolves in the sheep pen and will lead to the destruction of the faith.
2. Type II fundamentalism is dubious at best. The true weaker brother will need to avoid certain behaviors and others will need to avoid them for his sake. But, to use certain extra-biblical social and behavioral convictions as evidence of superiority is misguided at best, dangerous at worst.
3. Type III fundamentalism is a scourge and it is a scourge that is not limited to fundamentalists. Fundamentalists who feel superior to non-fundamentalists are guilty of this as are non-fundamentalists and ex-fundamentalists who feel superior to fundamentalists. We would all do well to heed the example of Jonathan Edwards in his "Resolution #8":

Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

All who name the name of Christ must stand with those fundamentalists who stood (and continue to stand) against the doctrinal errors of Fosdick and those like him. Furthermore, we must stand with Yaconelli against fundamentalism that goes beyond the word of God. May we all stand with the apostle Paul, whose only boast was in the cross of Christ.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ - Galatians 6:14a (NIV)

Saturday, January 03, 2004

The full "Jolly Beggar" quote from C. S. Lewis

This site takes it's name from a quote in the book, The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis. My friend Ernie Jennings from Jacksonville, FL used to be a member of a reading group called the Jolly Beggars - I've loved the name ever since. Thanks Ernie.

It is easy to acknowledge, but almost impossible to realize for long, that we are mirrors whose brightness, if we are bright, is wholly derived from the sun that shines upon us. Surely we must have a little-however little - native luminosity? Surely we can't be quite creatures.

Grace substitutes a full, childlike and delighted acceptance of our Need, a joy in total dependence. We become "jolly beggars."

Hence, the title of this blog - it is devoted to things of interest to Jolly Beggars, particularly the topics of Biblical studies, theology, and Christian living. Oh yeah, I'm an alumni of the University of Florida and rabid Gator fan so I won't be able to resist posting some thoughts on the goings on in there, as well as goings on in the sports world in general.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Check out Prunepitts Communications

Check out my friend Terry Pruitt's web page at PrunePitts Communications. In addition to several stunning photographs of himself climbing Ha'iku Valley Ladder in Hawaii he has some good essays on baptism, speaking in tongues and place names in the four gospels.

I guess the guy at is doing ok now

My last post regarding Gatorstuff was in praise of Ron Zook and took a shot at the guy at the webpage. I guess Ron's fortunes went south in the Outback Bowl and is doing just fine, thank you very much. Oh well, I tried to be a loyal fan. has a t-shirt out already that says "Outback - Australian for FireRonZook." Funny, but I don't think he will get fired, Steve Spurrier's availability notwithstanding. I am sure the good folks in the U of F athletic dept will give him at least one more year to prove himself.

Leadership development and church growth

Here's an interesting little bit of dialogue from Francine Rivers' book And the Shofar Blew.

In this, Stephen is a "young buck" deacon at centerpiece Community Church who has been brought in as a part of a youth movement by the pastor. He is all for growth and change in the church. Samuel is a wise old elder who has some reservations about all of the growth at the church.

Stephen leaned back "Do you think we should keep the church small?"

"Depends on how you define small," Samuel said.

Paul (the pastor of the church) had complained about the elder's caution several times over
breakfast at Charlie's. "Say fewer than three hundred."

Samuel looked at him. "God has never been concerned with numbers, Stephen. He's concerned
with the focus and the heart. Growth in numbers is a blessing as long as spiritual growth and
maturity come along with it."

Stephen nodded. "I agree, but sometimes growth comes fast. Remember, the church gained
three thousand members in one day during Pentecost."

"Yes--" Samuel smiled--"and Christ had reared 120 individuals for leadership. They had lived with
Jesus, heard His teachings, seen what it meant to live by and practice faith. The Holy Spirit came
upon them as they were praying together in that upper room, and it was through the Spirit of the
Lord that hearts were stirred that day. It wasn't because of a good show."

I disagree with Samuel that the Lord isn't concerned with numbers. It seems to me that the emphasis on reporting numbers in the book of Acts was there for a reason. The large numbers signified a major move of the Spirit.

On the other hand I think old Samuel here has it right about the strategy. Growth was the work of the Holy Spirit, but the followers of Christ had a work to do also. The work was to pray and to train leadership. The preparation for growth was not the preparation of an outreach program. The preparation for growth was training leaders. Jesus' ministry was almost exclusively devoted to training the leaders who would feed the flock that came in with the extensive growth of Pentecost.

This reminds me of something John Maxwell said - "those who focus exclusively on developing followers will never develop leaders, but those who focus on developing leaders will never lack for followers."

That's good advice to follow for all those trying to grow a church. Concentrate on leadership development and prayer and watch the Holy Spirit work.