Embattled cleric cites ancestor’s example – PittsburghLIVE.com

I have read somewhere about the impact that Jonathan Edwards has made simply through the family born out of his home.  So many “successful” children have come from the Edwards family.  However, there is one child (a sixth-granddaughter) that Edwards would likely consider an embarassment.

The Rev. Janet Edwards is defending her officiating of a homosexual wedding by likening it to Jonathan Edward’s preaching to the Mohicans.  To her, they are both equivalent in their countercultural ends.

I could not disagree more.  If you are desirous to take the gospel and preach it to homosexuals calling for repentance, that would be more of a parallel, but her actions have nothing to do with the gospel.

I am in favor of reaching out with compassion to homosexuals, but I am not in favor of legitimizing their sin.  For, I believe the Bible is clear that the nature of their lifestyle is contrary to God’s plan, and is therefore sin.  I am not one to champion some cause specifically against homosexuality, because I do not believe that it is the greater in a list of sins.  I believe that we need to counter the acts of those among us that have taken harsh, hateful, and unBiblical attitudes against homosexuals.  They are not outcasts from the gospel, Christ died for them as well.  He does not want them to continue in their sin; but we must preach the message of compassion along side the message of repentance.


Precritical naivete

February 25, 2006

I learned a new term today, precritical naivete. Marcus Borg uses this in the first chapter of his foundational book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. [Before proceeding, I want to mention to any who might be reading this from googling somehow, that I do not agree with Dr. Borg’s theology; however, I am interested in the journey he has taken to arrive to his conclusions.] Borg borrows this from Paul Ricoeur, and defines it as “that childhood state in which we take for granted that whatever the significant authority figures in our lives tell us to be true is indeed true.”

This is my first introduction to any of Borg’s writings. I am fascinated by the journey that has taken him from holding to the basic tenets of the evangelical faith to a “closet agnostic” (pg. 8) to a “closet atheist” (pg. 13) to [what he describes as] “Beyond Belief to Relationship” (pg. 17).

My own journey has led beyond belief (and beyond doubt and disbelief) to an understanding of the Christian life as a relationship to the Spirit of God — a relationship that involves one in a journey of transformation (pg. 17).

I am fascinated, already, by Borg’s theology [again, not in agreement]. Take this statement as an indicator of what is to come:

John’s gospel is a powerful testimony to the reality and significance of the post-Easter Jesus, the living Christ of Christian experience. John’s gospel is “true,” even though its account of Jesus’ life story and sayings is not, by and large, historically factual. My journey for the childhood state of precritical naivete through the critical thinking of adolescence and adulthood now led to hearing John (and the Bible as a whole) in a state of postcritical naivete — a state in which one can hear these stories as “true stories,” even while knowing that they are not literally true (pg. 17).

I love Half Priced books

February 22, 2006

My wife doesn’t understand it, but I have a slight obsession with Half Price Books.  The difference between this bookstore and others is that the stock is always changing.  The stock changes as someone comes in and parts with their old books for a price.

This is a great place for kids books, because it is that type of book that people would realistically want to part with after their child reaches a certain age.  Kids are going to abuse books anyway (no matter how hard we teach them); so why not get the “gently used” versions at a cut-rate price?

My favorite section is theology.  This is not always the greatest section, because who would want to give up good books.  However, inevitably, people part with these.  My most recent find was a copy of Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart.  This was amazing, because I had just looked for this book at the local Christian bookstore with intent to buy.  Barnes and Noble had a copy, but they wanted cover price.  At HPB, I got it for $7.  That was a steal.

I have seen many other worthwhile options at my local HPB, but many of these options include books I already own.  I highly recommend checking this store out whenever you are in the neighborhood.  You neve know what you might find.

Founders Ministries Blog: What should we discuss for an encore?

The above post is a follow-up to a blog entry by Tom Ascol over at The Founders Blog, concerning the possibility of Johnny Hunt being nominated to the SBC presidency, and subsequently what characteristics should we look for in a Convention president.

One comment in the original post introduced the suspected “anti-Calvinist” stance of Pastor Hunt.  This snowballed into a debate of Calvinists vs. non-Calvinists (forgive the labels, they are adoptive from the debate), that exceeded 240 posts.  Much of the debate was not on the merits of either position, but ended up being attacks of one group on the other.

I, myself, commented over at Friesville in response to Micah’s take on this entire ordeal, and I felt as if I should migrate some of those thoughts here, as well:

I like Johnny Hunt, he has a tremendous testimony, and he has made a
phenomenal impact on his community. He has an exceptional love for
young pastors and a desire to help them. Certainly we disagree
theologically; and if I thought he would try to use his two-year term
as a polemic to abolish “Calvinism” (another label I am not entirely
comfortable with) from the SBC, I would likely be spurned to more
action against his election. However, I highly doubt that is the case.

I have other thoughts on who I would like to see nominated. In the end,
the majority will win, and I think that is fair and right. I hope we
[the SBC] can continue to champion the autonomy of the local church,
agree on the commission (“make disciples”), allow for variety of
methods, and accept theological differences (to the extent that the
gospel is still proclaimed).

Am I naive to think that Johnny Hunt would not destroy the SBC?  Is it foolish to think that in spite of my theological differences with him, that I think his dynamic personality and love for pastors will make him an exceptional nominee?  There were those who have worked for him that commented in Ascol’s original post as to why he may not be perfect, but I would have to agree that they are likely biased (I can’t say all good things with respect to all the pastors I have served under).  I am concerned with his character and his positions in reference to Reformed theology, but certainly, as Ascol points out, the latter of those concerns is not going to bring the end to Reformed thinking among many SBCers.

Up to this point, we are not comparing nominees.  We have just seen those who want to attack the current (anticipated) nominee.  I know of nothing that would necessitate anything less than my full-support for Johnny Hunt as President of the SBC.  Until another candidate is presented, I believe he is the best man for the job (if he’ll accept it).

Must argument preced experience?

Over at another post, as Warren and I deliberate among the comments, I have introduced the experience vs. argument debate.

When I was once more grounded in cessationism, I had a discussion with a rather charismatic continuationist (is that redundant?). I was more versed in the Scriptures surrounding the theology of the gifts than this young man was. I presented my framework to him in such a way that he was incapable of denying the validity of what I had to say (although I question it now). His response to me was simple, “Well, you are a man with an argument, but I am a man with an experience.”

Today, I am on the fence. I am certainly not convinced by the arguments of cessationism; however, I am not thoroughly convinced by the argument of continationists (although I do recognize now that they have an argument). You know what would be the clencher? I would be overwhelmingly convinced if I just broke out into some tongue-speak right now. Is that possible? (please forgive any irreverancy)
The Assemblies of God website shares this insight:

The believer must (1) have a clear understanding of the biblical base for promised gifts; (2) be touched in his heart with a desire for the gifts to flow; (3) be willing to submit to the inner sense that the Spirit is seeking expression; and (4) offer to the Holy Spirit his heart, emotions, will, and voice by which those gifts may operate. The key is obedient availability coupled with a sincere desire to please God. (link) (previously referenced here)

For them, it seems obvious, argument must precede experience. You cannot experience it until you are thoroughly convinced of their validity for practice today.

I have recently sought the gifts and have prayed earnestly for them, but my prayer has always been prefaced with “if.” I never thought I would come this far in my journey. I am not sure I can go any further without experience. I don’t want to miss out on a greater spiritual experience if such is available to me. I also don’t want to manipulate something in my life that is not real. Where do I go from here?

What has discouraged me is that I have yet to find many Charismatic Calvinists, or more moderate cessationists write about their experiences. I don’t want a how-to, or step-by-step process, but tell me about your experience.

Some helpful links:
Part 1 of an interview by Tim Challies with Cessationist Dr. Samuel E. Waldron
Part 2 of an interview by Tim Challies with Cessationist Dr. Samuel E. Waldron
Part 1 of an interview by Tim Challies with Continuationist Dr. Wayne Grudem
Part 2 of an interview by Tim Challies with Continuationist Dr. Wayne Grudem
Are Miraculous Gifts for Today
? Part 1 by Dr. Sam Storms
Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Part 2 by Dr. Sam Storms
Are Prophets the Foundation of the Church? by Dr. Sam Storms
Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Part 1 by Dr. Sam Storms
Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Part 2 by Dr. Sam Storms

I want to share some thoughts on this article.

The Evangelicals who deny that the gifts of the Spirit are for today are living in a false world, like Ostriches with their heads in the sand.

That is a bold statement, but said with conviction. I am undeniably reformed. I am surprised that there is so much literature available on Charismatic Calvinists; that is, Reformed thinkers who are also continuationists. Such is the author of the above statement.

To say that a person, who clearly praises the Lord, and who uses the spiritual gifts is demonic is coming very close to the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Remember if there is a counterfeit there has to be the real thing too.

This is why I am careful not to take a dogmatic position against the “sign” gifts being exercised today. I cannot be confident that they are not manifested in the power of the Holy Spirit; so I therefore simply remain silent (at least until now).

This article was not as in depth and as exhaustive as others, but I was thankful for its list of links and resources to both cessationist and continuationist positional documents.

Until this year, I had felt very secure in my cessationist positions (meaning that the “sign” gifts such as tongues and prophecy had ceased).  I had studied this previously, and fairly in depth; however, I always came to the text with my cessionist views in mind.  It was not truly inductive study.

Today, I have come across 2 astounding facts that have shaken the foundations of my theological positions.  The first was finding out that C.J. Mahaney was not a cessationist.  I highly respect Mahaney and his contributions to the kingdom and modern evangelicalism.  I would have thought that surely, as reformed as he is, that he would hold a more puritanic view of spiritual gifts.  Besides, the circles that he runs in with the group from Together For the Gospel, include the likes of John Piper….

This brings me to fact number 2.  John Piper is not a cessationist.  I am a Piperist.  Just as Piper is a Calvinist.  In the past 7 years, I have read more books by Piper than any other single author (except maybe John Grisham).  My theological framework has been developed much on my study of the Word through the lens of Christian Hedonism and the theology of John Piper.

Never in any of his writings can I remember him addressing spiritual gifts, so I was surprised when I discovered that he was a continuationist.  This is apparently not a new position for Piper.  I read a sermon of his from 1984 today that clearly articulated this position, then there is the paper on Spiritual gifts that is found in the Desiring God topical index.

I am always rethinking my theology.  There are certain things that I will not budge on, but others that I do not yet fully understand (nor do I ever anticipate to).  Mark Driscoll speaks of this as the two-handed theology.  One hand is closed, and represents the things that you are dogmatic about (e.g. The Trinity, inerrancy of Scripture, Total Depravity, Virgin Birth).  The other represents the positions that are not convictions (e.g. spiritual gifts, worship style, women deacons).

One of my goals for this year (as of today), is to know what I believe in relation to all the gifts of the Spirit.  I seek to not only know what, but know why.  So that I might “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [me] to give the reason for the hope that [I] have; but do this with gentleness and respect.” (I Peter 3:15 NIV)

EDITOR’S NOTE: At the time of this notation, this post is pushing 5 months old. Because of recent comments, I feel it is necessary to clarify the context of this post. As you read this post, please note that I have only visited Turtle Creek Community Church once, and that was for their very first (launch) service. There has been no attempt to typify what TCCC’s ministry looks like today. If you have questions or concerns about TCCC, please contact them directly and do not use any comments made here as an excuse to not worship with them. The majority of this post is just opinion and is not intended to distinguish between a right way and a wrong way. I continue to have concerns with TCCC’s doctrine, but this is assuming that they hold to similar doctrines as the denomination that they have aligned themselves with. None of the comments thus far, however, have ventured into this disucssion. With that, I invite you to read and respond as necessary.

This is a belated post. Last Sunday My family and I visited Turtle Creek Community Church. This was their “launch” Sunday. They had some Christmas related services in December, but this was the official kick-off. As we are on our “sabbatical” we really wanted to see what other churches are doing. Since I am interested in church planting, I was very interested in how they pulled off the first service.

We received a very nice mailer that told us of the event. We arrived in a hailstorm at the elementary school in which the services were being held. It was actually rain when I dropped the family off at the curb, but by the time I looped the parking lot, “all hail broke loose.” It was confusing finding the nursery for lack of signage and guidance, but we eventually dropped both kids (1 and 3 years old) in the same classroom (We were slightly disappointed at this point that they had nothing more stimulating for our 3 year old, but our expectations were likely too high anyway.). We found a few friends to sit with that we had not seen in a while. They have been in the area for a few months and have yet to find a church home in which they would be happy.

The service was ok. I hate to be judgmental, because I doubt I would do it any better in foresight. However, the pastor was not as smoothe or polished as I had hoped. The music was good, but there was no interaction. The congregation did not sing at all. I recognize that they are trying to reach unchurched people, and unchurched people might not yet feel comfortable in participating, but I still think this was a poor choice.

The message was poor (in my not-so-humble opinion). It was 20 minutes into the message (after having incorporated 2 movie clips) before the Bible was even opened. Again, I am in favor of the multimedia, but the Bible has to come out strong, because it is the gospel (found in the Word) that is our only hope at change.

I have labeled this post “Another ‘Community Church,'” because this is the 3rd “Community Church” that we have visited within a month’s time (see prevous post). I must reiterate here that you never know what you are going to get. In this case, the plant is part of the Church of God (Anderson) denomination. This is a major strike mark against them from my perspective. Here are some of the beliefs from my COG brethren (I would disagree with the majority of these statements):

The Church of God, as well as other Holiness Churches, as well as the Methodist Church they came out of, teach a salvation by grace thru faith in the Lord Jesus Christ initially, but one must maintain good WORKS and remain faithful to the Lord in order to remain saved, as do all other Holiness Churches. Thus many outside observers would say this is a salvation of grace plus works. Instead of receiving the free gift of Eternal Life, Holiness Churches teach one receives PROBATIONARY LIFE when one trusts Christ as Saviour.

The Church of God, as other Holiness Churches, believes that a person who has been saved and born-again can achieve SINLESS PERFECTION in this lifetime. In an act subsequent to trusting Christ for salvation, which some call the Baptism of the Holy Spirit or SECOND BLESSING, one is said to be cleansed at that moment from ALL inward sin…and it is ‘eradicated’ when one is baptized with the Holy Spirit.

The Church of God and other holiness churches believe that once a person has become a born-again Christian that he can ‘Sin willfully and SEVER his relationship with Christ’. Thus, the Church of God believes that Salvation can be LOST after one has been truly saved, and that person can end up in hell after all. Wesleyans reject the doctrine of Once Saved, Always Saved, otherwise known as ‘Eternal Security’. All other Holiness Churches, as well as the Church of God itself, believe Salvation can be LOST and reject the Baptist doctrine of ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED teaching of Eternal Security. This is known as ‘Arminian theology’ and is a tenet of Holiness Churches.

The Church of God also sees a third ordinance as FOOT WASHING. They believe Jesus’ example of washing the disciples feet was meant to be repeated as an ordinance in local churches today amongst believers, but none of these ‘ordinances are considered mandatory conditions of Christian experience or fellowship.’

The Church of God does allow and ordain WOMEN PREACHERS. In fact, the first women preachers in America began in the Holiness Movement of the later 1800’s.

(these quotes were excerpted from http://www.gospelcenterchurch.org/churchofgod.html, this site is not related to, nor sponsored by the Church of God. It is a church’s site that shows the difference from Baptist’s and other churches’ beliefs.)

I can hope that God will use Turtle Creek to reach some with the gospel, but the gospel is not good news unless it is eternally secure. This will not cause me to cease from fellowship with these brothers and sisters in Christ. I can only lovingly encourage them to the truth. However, it is unlikely that I would revisit this new plant.

Ancient-Future Evangelism

January 28, 2006

ancient-future ev.jpgThis book was a worthwhile read.  It is not so much about evangelism (as the title would indicate) as it is about “Making Your Church a Faith-Forming Community” (subtitle).  It is more aboud discipleship (as if evangelism does not include discipleship.  This is not my first Robert Webber book, and it will not be my last.  Dr. Webber is probably around 72 now and he is still using his mind for the glory of God and the betterment of the kingdom.  You will find the “Ancient-Future” theme throughout much of his thought and writing.  Specifically, take a moment to drop by Ancient Future Worship.  There is certainly many articles on the web that are a better introduction to what ancient-future really means (such as the aforementioned site).  I will deliberately be brief in my description.

In this current volume, Dr. Webber responds to the International Consultation on Discipleship and a statement published by them in 1999.  He uses the premise of what evangelism is and what it should be as a means to point us to the past.  The future of discipleship should be a gleaning of the ancient practices.  What is laid out is a possible structure to be used in a church in the process of spiritual formation.  The actual curriculum is not presented as much as recommendations.  The structure can be adapted to each church’s unique situation.

I do not believe that I would be ready to convert entirely to his methodology, but I would consider incorporating many of the ancient traditions as far as they were useful in the context I found myself.  I do not see myself adopting the liturgy of the church calendar; however, I would on occasion use it as a guide.

I would recommend this book to anyone involved in planning a church’s worship or discpleship.  There are many good ideas and tools within this resource.  Furthermore, Dr. Webber (or his editors and research assistants) does a fantastic job in adding charts and conclusions.  One can tell that the author is an experienced teacher and that he wishes to maximize your learning.