What do you mean by that?

Leave a comment

I was recently at a training conference for my niche ministry as a pastor. I met a Canadian pastor from rural Ontario and we sat next to each other for the duration of the conference and in the process chatted about a great many things including his country’s politics and ours. It was his perception that his country was ever further down the road than we are in losing a Christian influence in the market place of ideas. He then wondered out loud why, if 45% of Americans claim to be “evangelicals” do we have so little influence in our country. My answer was it’s because 45% of the country is not truly evangelical. He nodded as it to say, I guess that’s obvious.

Apparently, there is great confusion regarding terminology but it’s not limited to the term “evangelical.”

William Wilberforce was a British politician and a evangelical Christian. After many years Great Britain abolished the slave trade largely due to Wliberforce's influence.

William Wilberforce was a British politician and a evangelical Christian. After many years Great Britain abolished the slave trade largely due to Wliberforce’s influence.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wilberforce

I’m going to state the obvious but bear with me. We live in a culture that is largely self-defining when it comes to a great many things but especially identity. Identity politics are the rage, gay, straight, white, black, brown, liberal, conservative, Tea Party, Democrat, Republican and so forth. And when it comes to religion one only has to list the number of denominations that identify themselves as Christian.

What people mean by “Christian” varies a great deal.

For example, there was a time in my life when the term Christian simply meant I was baptized into a certain denomination, educated in that denomination (grade school) and attended its services although that declined when I could make the decision for myself.

I also had a vague sense of right and wrong because of the denomination’s teaching. I believe that some of that served me rather well although it was a law orientation based on the Ten Commandments. But, having said all that, I was what you might call a cultural Christian and  a nominal one at that! In fact, at one time I would have defined myself first as an agnostic and second a Christian. Try to figure that out!

These days the term “Christian” can mean anyone who does not claim atheism as their creed or Islam (or another world religion).

The term “evangelical” is also sufficiently vague to mean different things to different people. At one level it simply means one that claims a “born again” experience. As a result the term cuts across a dizzying array of denominations, non-denominationals and even what orthodox Christians would call cults. To sort through them all and list distinctives would probably require a large number of books!

Evangel simply  means “good news” while the term “evangelist” means one who delivers the message of the good news.” The good news is the gospel. The apostle (a messenger of the good news) put the good news succinctly:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, [Peter] then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5 ESV)

Therefore, to be “evangelical” in the historical sense would mean one who believes the good news and is a disciple of Christ who is the good news as well as the gospel’s chief messenger.

Header

One of the many difficulties associated with self-defining Christians is disagreement over the content of the good news. It’s one  thing to affirm intellectually 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 but quite another to unpack the content and ramifications of what Paul is talking about. The biggest divide is between those who believe that salvation is through grace alone, by faith alone in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9) and those that would mix works into the process of salvation.

281819102_640

Another great divide would be what it is called the “social gospel” and it’s in that area that politics gets involved. The politics are derived from how one reads the Bible and how one interprets it if indeed one chooses to read and study it!

President Obama for example, for good reason, has been accused of buying into what’s called ” black liberation theology” through the now infamous Jeremiah Wright who Obama threw under the bus when things got hot. The President sat under Wright’s Liberation Theology for over 20 years. To say Wright’s teaching has not influenced or even directed a good part of the President’s politics is to ignore the obvious. Liberation Theology has a great deal in common with Marxism and not a great deal in common with sound biblical interpretation.

An apt graphic for Liberation Theology, except that the cross is meaningless in a historic gospel sense.

An apt graphic for Liberation Theology, except that the cross is meaningless in a historic gospel sense.

The Bible does inform a self-defined Christian’s politics but as we’ve seen how one reads and interprets the Bible varies a great deal for a great many reasons.

A great tool for a conservative, Protestant evangelical would be Wayne Grudem’s Politics-According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture. 

I’d recommend this book to my liberal Protestant and Catholic friends as well if they are interested in how a conservative Protestant evangelical perceives how the Scripture speaks to politics.

Grudem has also written a systematic theology that is well thought of by conservative Protestant evangelicals titled Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Bible Doctrine.

One of the strengths of this work is that Grudem gives as the end of each chapter links to other works that disagree or are different his own systematics.

A third helpful resource would be Greg Allison’s Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine.

This is an important work because it explains how doctrine developed historically and what that could mean to different Christian groups.

And finally there is this, The Changing Face of Christian Politics from Atlantic Magazine. The author is Michael Ware. Michael led faith outreach for President Obama’s 2012 campaign. I doubt there is much I would agree with him on but his observations are interesting.

Pope Francis has spoken into political issues. The picture is from the Atlantic article referenced below.

Pope Francis has spoken into political issues. The picture is from the Atlantic article referenced above.

I want to conclude this brief survey be referring to William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a British politician and a conservative, evangelical Protestant. He was involved in what could have been called in his day the “social gospel.” For years and years Wilberforce spoke out against the evils of slavery. It was not a message that was received graciously in a nation nominally Christian. Yet, Wilberforce persevered and slowly his message gained momentum and Great Britain abolished slavery well before the US had to fight the Civil War to get rid of it. The political tide is well against a conservative, evangelical Protestant’s views on a wide range of social issues (not to mention economics) and like Wilberforce our message is rarely popular. Yet, we should speak out understanding that our sovereign God is fully capable of changing the king’s heart.

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;  he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1 ESV)

Advertisements

Exhibitionist Civilization

Leave a comment

I do believe he hits the nail squarely on the head.

Mere Inkling

realitytv We live in an exhibitionist era. It’s evident everywhere, but reaches a revolting crescendo in some of the extreme “reality tv” that’s become a standard feature of what passes for “entertainment” in a decadent society.

Not all reality programming is inherently vulgar. Some is potentially beneficial. For example:

Cops

Provides reinforcement for staying on the straight and narrow.

Deadliest Catch

Teaches us that whatever we’re doing, there are some jobs we could have that are even worse.

American Idol

I don’t watch it, but my impression is it basically revolves around decent entertainment and at least one prima donna judge.

The Apprentice

Teaches us the worst boss we ever had may not have been quite as bad as we recall.

So You Think You Can Dance

I don’t watch this either, but understand it’s pretty innocuous, aside from occasional humiliation.

Survivorman

Learn how to survive in the wilderness, from a…

View original post 606 more words

A Fable with a Biblical Point or Two

Leave a comment

Mere Inkling

Before I get to my comments I want to give a shout out to Mere Inkling, an enjoyable blog where the writer writes about C.S. Lewis and his works. Mere Inkling posted the The Kingdom and the Lion from Aesop’s Fables.

The Kingdom of the Lion

The beasts of the field and forest had a Lion as their king. He was neither wrathful, cruel, nor tyrannical, but just and gentle as a king could be. During his reign he made a royal proclamation for a general assembly of all the birds and beasts, and drew up conditions for a universal league, in which the Wolf and the Lamb, the Panther and the Kid, the Tiger and the Stag, the Dog and the Hare, should live together in perfect peace and amity.

The Hare said, “Oh, how I have longed to see this day, in which the weak shall take their place with impunity by the side of the strong.” And after the Hare said this, he ran for his life.

The Moral: Saying something does not make it so. (Aesop’s Fables).

My first thought after smiling at the hare’s wisdom was trust but verify. There are some circumstances that I deal with in the counseling office that require forgiveness; that’s not optional.

Trust is something else entirely. A man that beats his wife may be forgiven but rebuilding trust takes a lot of time and much accountability. As a point aside, domestic physical violence always, let me repeat always, gets worse. There is no backing off a little at a time. It is a sin that requires radical amputation. It must stop now! But I digress.

My second thought got me to the Book of James:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. James 1:22-24, ESV

In the fable the hare does not trust the lion’s words because he doubts some predators can change just because a King makes a proclamation.

In the passage James does not trust someone who merely ‘hears’ the Word of God but does nothing with it. It’s probably where the saying ” the words fell on deaf ears” came from.

James says that such a person is deceived, meaning they have severely miscalculated. The Word of God is meant for Christians who are serious about the gospel and gospel change. If the Word falls on deaf ears there is no change and therefore, it is doubtful that the person understands the gospel of grace in the first place.

As a biblical counselor I’ve learned to trust, but verify.

20140217-074152.jpg

How to Fight the Culture War

Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking on writing this post for a while. Most recently in regards to Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and his remarks to GQ magazine regarding homosexuality and the resulting bru-ha-ha.

I’ve read a fair amount of blogs, articles and news reports regarding the incident and have concluded some things.

1) Many people including Bible-believing Christians are tired of being bullied by the left and their pc whining and fake outrage every time someone states what the Bible says. This has been made clear by the public’s reaction to Phil’s dismissal from his own show (and later reinstatement) as well as the reaction of people supporting Chick-fil-A last summer when they were under fire from the gay lobby. In both these cases people were saying enough is enough and we really don’t care about your pc whining.

2) Some Christians have pointed out and many reasonably so, that it’s not about US versus THEM and that we must love the sinner while hating the sin. This reminder is often accompanied with the idea that we are sinners too saved by grace just as Phil Robertson pointed out, although that part received scant attention in the media. This is most certainly true. We fight best when we fight from the position of humility and not the position of self-righteousness that some Christians portray as in like they never have sinned!

3) I think that what needs to be understood is that 1) we are in a culture war and 2) sometimes you have to fight a battle even if you’d rather not and 3) when forced to fight a battle it should be thought through as to how to do it.

All that to say I think the Robertson’s thoughtful response to a battle that was forced on them was spot on.

Phil said nothing hateful to GQ and was quick to point out his own rebellious past. He had nothing to be sorry about and nothing to apologize for and certainly nothing to retract to appease GLADD. He didn’t. That’s an appropriate response to a battle he did not start.

The family also made it clear that they would not accept Phil being taken off his own show. The message was clear, no Phil, no show. That was appropriate.

A & E backing off and reinstating Phil imo is not real relevant. A & E simply assessed the  economic impact offending Phil’s supporters versus offending GLADD’s supporters and rather than killing the goose that laid the golden egg they decided to offend the group with the lesser economic impact, the GLADD bullies. They made a business decision, not a biblical one.

Since my original draft of this blog (it’s been sitting a while) the Robertson’s have decided to leave A & E. Having been thrown under the bus once by A & E it would suggest they really do not trust A & E nor need A & E. I think that’s appropriate as well.

It is clear that the left and the pc crowd only value free speech when they agree with it. When they don’t, everything and anything is labeled “hate speech” even if it’s nothing of the sort. The only way to really counter this is to confront them in the way the Robertson’s and their supporter’s did. A & E’s intolerance cost them something. Perhaps that will cause them to rethink their position. We can only hope.

A spokesperson for GLADD was surprised by the huge of amount of support the Robertson’s received. Apparently, he must have thought that crying wolf would have been sufficient to brow beat people into not only pc acceptance of homosexuality but the endorsement of it. The spokesperson went on to say that it just showed that GLADD had more work to do meaning that they will not be satisfied until any and all critics are silenced into submission. GLADD’s point of view seemed to reflect what the majority of gay activists believe.

But, in order to be fair, many did not mean all for some gay activists examined the case and came away with the opinion that it was a free speech issue and there was nothing hateful about it. Phil Robertson using graphic terms was simply stating the obvious and why would that be considered hate speech unless your agenda was something other than simple live and let live? It means that there are fair-minded individuals among the gay community and that I find helpful in our supposed pluralistic society.

The apostle Paul was no stranger to conflict or persecution. His reaction to it was not  hate but this:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. [15] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. [16] Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. [17] Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. [18] If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. [19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” [20] To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” [21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21 ESV)

 

 

Heroin Usage on the Rise

2 Comments

I have to confess that I did not recognize the name Philip Seymour Hoffman when I learned that he died from a heroin overdose. By all accounts he was a talented actor and beloved by many. Celebrity addictions is certainly nothing new as this link illustrates.

While many, like Hoffman sought recovery from time-to-time, many others do not or frequently relapse, the party lifestyle driving the destructive behavior. Perhaps Hoffman’s high-profile death will help with the understanding that heroin addiction is still a major problem and the Hollywood crowd will do some soul-searching.

Until fairly recently I had thought heroin not a major problem since it didn’t seem to be in the news as much as it was when the movie The French Connection (1971) put the drug on the front page.

Gene Hackman in The French Connection (1971) as "Popeye" Doyle. Hackman won an Academy Award for his performance.

Gene Hackman in The French Connection (1971) as “Popeye” Doyle. Hackman won an Academy Award for his performance.

What changed my view was listening to our local talk radio guy Mark Belling. Mark has mentioned on more than one occasion that heroin has made a comeback and is a popular drug of choice not only for the rich and famous but also for middle America and among the young. This link verifies Mr. Belling’s reporting.

I’ve done some addiction counseling (alcohol) and so was curious as to what heroin was all about and why it was particularly addicting. This link will give an overview but the following paragraph explains much as to why the drug is so addicting:

“Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from morphine, which is obtained from the opium poppy. It is a “downer” or depressant that affects the brain’s pleasure systems and interferes with the brain’s ability to perceive pain.”  The Partnership at Drugfree.org

Heroin is derived from opium. The plant from which it is made is a highly profitable cash crop in Afghanistan. From there it is exported to western Europe and the US. We might call it the Afghan Connection.

Heroin is derived from opium. The plant from which it is made is a highly profitable cash crop in Afghanistan. From there it is exported to western Europe and the US. We might call it the Afghan Connection.

A few years ago I had a surgery associated with a great deal of pain. For a short time I was on a morphine drip. I liked it.

I liked it because it interfered with my brain’s ability to perceive pain. It didn’t cure anything but I really didn’t care because it made me feel better, even a bit high which I liked too. Having been briefly on morphine and lesser pain meds over the years I clearly recognize the attraction of feeling better and getting a little high in the process. At the very least these drugs are an escape mechanism from reality whereby the user checks out and feels good.

Ed Welch a biblical counselor that I admire describes the addictive experience in terms of being a banquet. Imagine if you will your favorite expensive meal along with your favorite expensive wine along with your favorite  people. It’s a good time, even a great time and you wish you could do it more often because it’s so darn pleasurable.

The difference though between a great banquet with fine wine and a heroin addiction (or other addictions) is death. The desire to “do it” more often becomes a demand and the person will go to every length possible to feed the desire. In short order they are addicted and come to believe they cannot live without the substance that gives them what they most desire.

My idea of a fine banquet featuring a great cut of steak, a glass of fine Merlot and my wife, family or friends for great company!

My idea of a fine banquet featuring a great cut of steak, a glass of fine Merlot and my wife, family or friends for great company!

Welch notes is his excellent book, Addictions, A Banquet in the Grave that addictions of all sorts are choices that feel like diseases because the addicted believe they have no control over the addiction.

In biblical counseling circles addictions to various things, be it alcohol, drugs, pornography or even shopping is called idolatry. The idol is a false god that saves the user by giving the user the pleasure the user demands. The user believes they can control the idol but in the end the idol controls the user and it can as we’ve seen lead to physical death especially with the hard drugs.

The most popular addictions in America. Although the consequences may vary with each addiction the bottom line is they all represent destructive behavior.

The most popular addictions in America. Although the consequences may vary with each addiction the bottom line is they all represent destructive behavior.

Ed Welch in Addictions a Banquet in the Grave provides a viable alternative to the disease\recovery model that dominates our culture. He provides a genuine hope that rests on Jesus Christ. I highly recommend the book for anyone struggling with an addiction or if you know someone who is.

The book can be found at Amazon.