Theological Thoughts

Oversimplification…

John’s narrative in chapter nine is a clear case of oversimplification. The disciples asked a question about the correspondence between sin and suffering. Their answer was partially correct, but they failed to see the complexity of the issue; to put it simply, they had an oversimplified theology. Here is a rule: if you can fit your theology in a bumper sticker, it’s wrong.

Thoughts on the disappearance of the family table…

Whatever happened to the family table? Why are families no longer eating together? Why are sons allowed to take their dinners to their rooms without consulting dad and mom? This is a terrible trend. It is my unscientific conclusion that much of this forgotten familial gift stems from the evangelical church’s abandonment of the Lord’s Supper as a frequent/weekly meal. If the church–as God’s eternal family–establishes a model for the biological family, then the abandonment of the Lord’s Table leads to the abandonment of the family table.

My friend and mentor Randy Booth summarizes it this way:

We begin each week gathered around the Table as children to be instructed and nourished, just before we are sent out to live. And so too, we go to our homes and gather around smaller tables to be instructed and nourished, and from there we also fan out to live and to love. The liturgy is practice for life.

Responses:

Rev. Brian Nolder wrote in response:

Uri: possible, but doubtful. It more has to do with the “pace” of modern life (and probably the flourishing of restaurants to accommodate that pace), esp. our desire for constant entertainment. There is a great contrast in the movie Avalon where the 1st generation is feasting around the table, talking and joking, and later, the 2nd generation are sitting together, not talking, b/c they are all watching the television. I think mass media (including social networking!) is more the culprit.

Hannah Roorda wrote in response:

Maybe the media is allowed to take this role because the church is not filling it/the family is not living in the church. So the consumption of media rather than participation in family life is a symptom of the problem Pastor Brito is pointing out?

Omens and Anti-Christ superstitions…

Peter Leithart in DC references the absurd belief in the ability of oracles to predict war outcomes. For Maxentius, it was an exodus-like disaster. Likewise, David Garland’s Literary and Theological Commentary on Matthew observes similarly that in the first century,

Omens from the stars were nothing to be brushed aside. The appearance of comets, for example, were assume to portend the birth or the death of someone of great consequence. Suetonius tells us that when a comet appeared over Rome for several nights, Nero took the precaution of having several Roman noblemen executed, so that it would have augured their deaths and not his (26).

A better way:  “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Yahweh our God.”

Ascension (s) in Luke 24 and Acts 1

There is some level of debate over whether Luke 24 records The Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father (as in Acts 1) or whether Luke 24 records a pre-figuring of The Ascension in Acts 1. Advocates of the latter argue that the account in Luke only gives us an example of Jesus disappearing in the post-resurrection days. Simply, Jesus–after the resurrection–goes from heaven to earth continuously.

It appears, however, that the accounts are the same. The Ascension account in Luke marks the end of Christ’s earthly work (it is finished!) In this case, the Ascension is tied to the Resurrection, which is tied to His death. In Acts 1, the Ascension is mentioned again because it marks the beginning of a new work; the mission of the Church. The Church’s missiological task works on the basis of the Ascension and exaltation of the Son at the right hand of the Father (Psalm 110).

Through New Eyes Interview: What is New Covenant Theology?

On this second episode, we continue our discussion of New Covenant Theology with Baptist author Richard Barcellos.

Hebrews and Warnings

In preaching through Hebrews I am constantly confronted (Chapters 2,3,6 & 10) with the idea that these Jewish believers are actually true “brethren” and not just some folks pretending to be Christians. These are actual members of the household. Thus, this makes Hebrews’ warning much more severe and real. The warnings are not merely empty threats.

Theology of Cross and Glory

Luther’s categories seem to be equally appropriate to Covenant Renewal Worship.  The first part of the service is meditative and introspective. There is a confession of sins where we kneel, followed by private confession of sins. There is an initial aspect of the CRW that is very cross-centered, and it is argued that most of our lives are to be lived cruciformily.  Nevertheless, the bulk or the majority of the CRW is to be lived in light of resurrection and glory. It is joyful and celebratory, even triumphant. We are members of a new creation; a new society of worshipers. In this new creation we worship mostly under a theology of glory. We sing aloud the praises of Yahweh, we hear the preached Word, we feast at Christ’s table, and we lift our hands to praise Father, Son, and Spirit. In the end, we are commissioned to glorify and beautify the world through the gospel of the cross and glory.

Laughter as an Art

I have long been fond of laughter. If you have met me you know that I do not fear laughing. When things are funny, laughter is the necessary response. G.K. Chesterton criticizes those who do not know the art of laughing at jokes about “bad cheese”. Chesterton’s critics did not laugh at “bad cheese” jokes because they were looking for something foolish and ignorant to laugh at, but in reality “bad cheese” stood for a more subtle and philosophical idea.

Chesterton writes:

Bad cheese is funny because it is (like the foreigner or the man fallen on the pavement) the type of the transition or transgression across a great mystical boundary. Bad cheese symbolises the change from the inorganic to the organic. Bad cheese symbolises the startling prodigy of matter taking on vitality. It symbolises the origin of life itself.

laughter_1925_10_a0Bad cheese like symbolic criticisms of an economic or political system deserves great laughter. If we train our minds to laugh only at that which is simple, then we will never truly laugh. Laughter is an art; it must be cultivated and encouraged.

There is another side to this story. There are those who are immature at laughter. They are so self-centered that they do not allow themselves to be humbled by a joke. They are so isolated that they do not allow themselves to be entertained. This latter point is worth stressing. Ecclesiastes 10:19 says that ” a feast is made for laughter.” If laughter is to be encouraged and if in a feast we get to practice it, then why is there so little feasting? Christians have become virtual gnostics. They adore the theologizing and philosophizing, but they stay away from the feasting. They find little pleasure in a funny story or the jokes of a 10 year old. These Christians have created a “funny” status and if one does reach such level, then they must be kicked out. In the words of a theologian who knows the art of laughter, ” this is not only unChristian; it is inhuman.”

Not all laughter has to be sophisticated! Some times simple jokes are the most effective in producing laughter. Still, Christians must train themselves not to be caught with simple and unnecessary laughter. Crude and unwholesome jokes are an abomination. If we find greater laughter in the seat of scoffers than at the feasting table of saints, then we have sold our souls to misery, for only the wicked find consolation in the jokes of the wicked.

Dawkins and Education

Note: This is part of a weekly note sent to members of Providence Church.

Richard Dawkins–the militant anti-christian atheist–declared that he is starting a summer retreat. What will they learn at this retreat? They will mix tug of war with philosophical arguments against the existence of God, scientific proof that evolutionary theory is valid, and of course, instead of the traditional kumbaya melody, these little, open-minded children and teenagers will be dancing to the tune of John Lennon’s atheistic utopia Imagine. This reveals a sort of change in tactic for the atheists; a return perhaps to their Stalinist and dictatorial history when evil triumphed by polluting the minds of the children. Atheists thrive in demonizing the Christian faith for its crusades and violent ecclesiastical history, but the reality is that ultimately it is the atheistic impulse that leads to violence and death. Think about it. In what worldview can you affirm that life begins at conception or that man bears the image of His Creator? Certainly not atheism. Atheism teaches that life bears no ultimate meaning. This is all there is. At least Dawkins now realizes that education begins at the early stages of life. But what hope can he offer these impressionable little ones? This is probably Dawkins’ attempt to leave a legacy; ultimately, a legacy of hate and meaninglessness.

On the other hand, blessed are we who teach our little ones to awake with the sounds of the gospel and to end the day with the sounds of the gospel. May our little ones grow up with the full assurance that life is full of meaning for those who trust in Yahweh.

Fundamentalism and Separation

I have added Mark Dever’s 9marks podcast to my iTunes list. Pastor Dever and I would agree very little with ecclesiastical issues (sacramental matters included). Still, I find his interviews helpful. One interview that caught my attention was his interview with Fundamentalist pastor Mark Minnick.

Pastor Minnick is a pastor in Greenville, SC and professor at Bob Jones University. As a Reformed minister, I listened attentively to the discussion. I grew up in a fundamentalist home. I lived four years in Greenville while my father attended Bob Jones (even wrote a book defending the principles of fundamentalism) and I, was the model fundamentalist in my college days ( I attended Clearwater Christian College; in many ways a daughter of Bob Jones University). Mark Minnick lives in a unique fundamentalist culture. Greenville is replete with fundamentalist churches of all sorts; in fact, even the Free Presbyterians find their home there. In light of his many years in this culture, he seems to be completely unaware of how evangelicals view fundamentalists. He was shocked to hear Dever’s stereo-type of Fundamentalists as “men wearing suits.” Yes, wearing suits is part and parcel of that culture, as Minnick affirms. The conversation would have been much more profitable if Minnick did not sound so ignorant of the way fundamentalists are viewed by outsiders. Though he asserts that fundamentalists are deeply aware of evangelical issues, he showed little familiarity with them. As a former fundamentalist, I sincerely doubt that to be the case.

But the central point of the discussion was over the fundamentalist doctrine of separation. For the Fundamentalist, it is common to hear the idea of second degree separation. First degree separation is the obvious biblical separation from unbelievers.  Second degree separation is a doctrine that affirms that Christians ought also to separate from fellow believers.  According to Minnick, it is legitimate to separate from believers if they are associated with false teachers, that is, those who do not hold to the fundamentals. Unfortunately Dever never asked for a list of these fundamentals. At one point Dever mentioned his friendship with Ligon Duncan, a paedobaptist. He asked Minnick if that was ground for separation. Minnick said no. I waas pleased to hear that, but I wished Dever asked the following question: “What about those who do not hold to Premillenialism? ” One of the fundamentals is a belief in a premillenial view of eschatology.

As the interview continues one gets the sense that Minnick is trying to prove that his version of fundamentalism is not as radical as the schismatic fundamentalists he condemns (KJV only, etc.). Throughout the interview he attempts to build a Biblical case for his form of separatism from Galatians and an OT example. Those passages prove that associations are significant, but the passages do not prove that his form of disassociation is Biblical.  The Bible indeed emphasizes that we are to diassociate from unbelievers (do not be unequally yoked), but it is not in any way concerned about disassociating with fellow believers who share the same Nicene faith. Minnick observes that there is a Biblical imperative of unity, but this is unity in truth. Agreed. But truth is apostolic truth, not some ethereal, non-objective  truth. Minnick mentions that the fundamentals are the truth, but his interviewer Mark Dever agrees to these fundamentals, yet the interview ends with Minnick denying the opportunity to minister at Dever’s Souther Baptist Church.  Dever presses him in the end for what kinds of things would be necessary for his church (Capitol Hill Baptist) to give up in order to have him (Mark Minnick) speak there. Minnick never gives an answer, except to say that the Southern Baptist Convention needs to give more attention to this matter of separation.

Minnick is clearly different from his forefathers (Jack Hyles, John R. Rice, etc.). In fact, he seems bright, slightly calvinistic (if there is such a thing) and articulate. Yet in the end, he ends up as divisive as his forefathers and the fundamentalist movementof which he is a part of suffers for it.