Jul 30 2010

Hate speech in action

Category: church,family,gay marriage,Group-think,left,ministry,missions,Scriptureharmonicminer @ 8:54 am

You tell me who is practicing hate speech here.

Imagine if the roles were reversed…

If the speaker was a gay minister, speaking gently of our responsibility to pray for our unfortunately confused brethren who don’t understand that Jesus was for gay marriage, saying that tactics of intimidation aimed at straight people are wrong, and the speaker was being shouted down by conservative bible-thumpers carrying signs saying things like “Gays hate God” or some such, you’d have seen this all over the evening news.

But the intolerant Left almost always gets a pass.

Jul 26 2010

Misusing Scripture #4

Category: church,liberty,religion,theologyharmonicminer @ 1:05 pm

The last post in this series is here.

I recently heard a Christian speaker saying, yet again, that the “public” thinks Christians are “judgmental” and that we should try not to project that attitude.  You’ll also read in books like unChristian that society in general sees Christians as “judgmental.”  The problem with this, of course, is that “the public,” which I take to refer to that segment of society that is relatively unchurched, gets its attitudes towards Christians from the media, movies, MTV, TV, some amount of reporting in the news (which always gravitates to what it sees as the most extreme examples of “religious people”), etc.  How many of those people with such low opinions of Christians have a relationship with a vibrant Christian who loves the Lord?

It is difficult for the church to overcome the attitudes of people who really have little experience with the church or serious Christians, and who get their information third-hand from biased sources.

I’ve written on this topic of “judgmentalism” before, but I feel the need to add a bit.

Stressing that Christians should not be “judgmental” seems often to mean, by implication, that Christians should not uphold high moral standards and expectations, should not strongly teach traditional moral standards, and so on.  It seems especially common to have this emphasis in the “emergent church,”, or the “emerging conversation,” or whatever they’d like to call themselves these days, especially among authors like Donald Miller, Brian McLaren, etc.  You’re more likely to hear concern about “judgmental Christians” being expressed from these authors than from more traditionally oriented Christian authors.  It seems to me that the “emergent” authors are more likely to be concerned about traditional Christians being judgmental on, say, sexual matters, than they are about “emergent Christians” being judgmental of traditional Christians’ supposed selfishness and social disengagement.  It would seem they believe that Christians should not be much concerned about personal sin and immorality (if there even really is such a thing), as long as people are “taking care of the poor” and are nice to the down and out.

In fact, the “emergent” seem quite willing to be “judgmental” about others whom they view as being “judgmental.”

Why is that?

I believe it is due to an almost deliberate misunderstanding of the Biblical texts dealing with being “judgmental,” a misunderstanding that denies historical context and the rest of the Bible.

“Judging” is not the same as “evaluating.”  To judge is to impose a penalty or outcome of some kind as a result of an evaluation, all done by a person who has the right to do so, or believes he has.  When Jesus told the Pharisees not to judge, he was speaking to people who, in that cultural context, did have the power to impose certain kinds of penalties on other Jews, based on their judgments.

John 18 – New International Version

28Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30″If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected. 32This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.

This shows that the Pharisees and Jewish leaders DID have the legal right to judge and impose various penalties, some quite severe, but they could not impose death as the Romans could.

John 3 – English Standard Version

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

This and other passages show that the power to judge was the power to condemn, meaning to carry out sentence flowing from judgment.  The good news was the the Son had entered the world to help sinful humans escape condemnation flowing from righteous judgment.  In the following passage, we also see the connection of judgment with the power to condemn, or punish.

John 12 – New International Version

47″As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.

On the other hand, there are many passages where Jesus speaks to people quite directly about their sin.

John 5 – New International Version

5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7″Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ “

12So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

I strongly suspect that the Donald Millers and Brian McLarens of the world would accuse any modern person who uttered the phrase, “Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you,” of being very judgmental, even if that person had just rescued the putative sinner in some way, or fed him, or clothed him, etc.

Jesus did not use people’s sin as an excuse not to associate with them, or to serve them…  but he surely was very up front about it, and there was no ambiguity in him about his position on their sin.

Jesus and the Apostles tell us not to judge.  That is, we don’t have the right to impose penalties on sinners because of our evaluations of their guilt.  We don’t have the right to punish sinners ourselves.

Matthew 7 – New International Version

1″Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Again, it is clear here that judgment potentially involves taking action against the judged.

But when modern writers tell us not to judge, they often use the word as if it means “to evaluate” or “to express an opinion based on an evaluation” or something of the sort.  This is simply not the Biblical meaning of the word.

If we were commanded by Jesus not to evaluate people’s behavior, nor to express our opinions of that behavior from a moral perspective, we would have no explanation for passages such as these:

Galatians 5 – New International Version

19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Matthew 15 – New International Version

19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’ “

Read Matthew 23. Doesn’t Jesus sound just a bit “judgmental” here? But he is not being judgmental. He is observing behavior, and predicting its consequences if the behavior does not change. He is not, in other words, doing the thing he instructed others not to do.

Mark 7 – New International Version

20He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ “

Even in the case of someone who refuses to end behavior that the entire church finds offensive, we have no right to directly punish, but only to shun:

Matthew 18 – New International Version

15″If your brother sins against you,[b] go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'[c] 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Clearly, evaluation is not judgment. Expressing an opinion based on evaluation is not judgment.

Be careful of those who tell you not to judge, when in fact they may be saying they don’t want you to evaluate someone’s behavior, nor to express an opinion about it.  In particular, I seem often to hear or read of emerging church authors encouraging us not to be concerned about immoral behavior…  as if our very moral standards, and publicly expressing those standards, are what drives people away from Christ.  Of course, they don’t directly tell us “not to be concerned about immoral behavior.”  Rather, they tell us to simply stop talking so much about particular sins that they don’t find particularly troublesome, or else people will say we are being “judgmental.”

I highly recommend I Corinthians 5, a passage from which quotes are rarely drawn by “emerging conversation” authors.

Jun 27 2010

Multi-culti theology at Claremont

Category: church,God,higher education,theology,universityharmonicminer @ 8:48 am

Incredibly, the Claremont School of Theology is getting ready to expand its offerings, just a tiny, wee bit:

In a bow to the growing diversity of America’s religious landscape, the Claremont School of Theology, a Christian institution with long ties to the Methodist Church, will add clerical training for Muslims and Jews to its curriculum this fall, to become, in a sense, the first truly multi-faith American seminary.

The transition, which is being formally announced Wednesday, upends centuries of tradition in which seminaries have hewn not just to single faiths but often to single denominations within those faiths. Eventually, Claremont hopes to add clerical programs for Buddhists and Hindus.

Although there are other theological institutions that accept students of multiple faiths, or have partnerships with institutions of other religions, Claremont is believed to be the first accredited institution that will train students of multiple faiths for careers as clerics. The 275-student seminary offers master’s and doctoral degrees.

“It’s really kind of a creative, bold move,” said David Roozen, director of the Institute for Religion Research at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. “It kind of fits, to some extent, California…. I think there will be a lot of us who will be watching that experiment.”

Claremont’s administration sees the multi-faith expansion as the wave of the future in American theological training. But it is straining relations between the school and more conservative elements of the United Methodist Church, which this year was expected to provide about 8% of Claremont’s $10-million budget. The church suspended its support for the school earlier this year pending an investigation.

I’m not sure just what is meant by the phrase, “the more conservative elements of the United Methodist Church.”  Would that mean the people who think Jesus was actually the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, who was born to the virgin Mary, died on the cross, and was bodily resurrected by the Father on the third day?  Whose sacrifice is the means for our forgiveness, who atoned for our sins by the crucifixion, who demonstrated the He alone has the power of eternal life, as demonstrated in the resurrection?

I suppose that these days only “conservatives” believe these things.  For all the rest, who think the “narrative” is what matters, that the “metaphor” of the resurrection is meant to apply in some analogical way to human life and society, nothing much is true enough to fight for.  Why shouldn’t Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc., get their innings?  After all, don’t they have a narrative, too?  Don’t they have some of God’s truth?  What are we worried about, anyway, if all truth is God’s truth?

In the meantime, I think it’s a safe bet that John Wesley, founder of Methodism in the 18th century, would be beyond appalled.  I can’t help but wonder what (few?) remaining United Methodists who believe in orthodox Christian teachings are thinking about this.  I would guess the response of the United Methodist Church to this decision is going to tell the tale.   I am not very optimistic about it, given its recent history.  Essentially, if the UMC doesn’t rise up as a body and resoundingly reject this out of hand, they should just give up, and change their name to Social Justice, Incorporated, or maybe United for Leftist Politicians (ULP).  Or they could just join the Unitarians, who don’t believe in Jesus either.

In the mad dash to be a better exemplar of “diversity” than the other guy, look for other (especially denominationally untethered) seminaries to follow Claremont’s lead.  One can only wonder where they’ll draw the line.  Why not mix in a little Hopi Indian tradition, some voodoo, and a dash of Shintoism?  And these multicultural days, what about Zoroastrianism, or, for that matter, cannibalistic fertility cults of the south Pacific, or African tribal rites?  Who is to say where some slice of God’s truth may not be found?

When Claremont starts building Aztec pyramids in the parking lot on Foothill Avenue, I’m going to begin sticking to the 210 freeway whenever I drive through the area (well…  if the freeway sniper doesn’t make a reappearance, anyway).  I don’t think I would be an acceptable sacrifice to appease the Sun God (who, to the surprise of the eco-pagan Cult of Gore, seems to be unusually quiescent this year), but I don’t want to find out the hard way.  Hey…  maybe the new religion of eco-pagan EarthWorship could get a department at Claremont, too!  Oh, I forgot….  they already have one at most universities.  They just need to move it into the School of Theology, where it belongs.  So maybe Claremont will be ahead of the game.

When this whole Aztec-sacrifice-in-the-parking-lot thing really gets up in high gear, it’s going to do a number on the restaurant trade in the city of Claremont.  Talk about eating meat sacrificed to idols….

Jun 14 2010

Submerging truth in emergence

Category: churchharmonicminer @ 10:12 pm

I’ve had other comments to make about the “emergent church” or the “emerging conversation” or whatever they are calling themselves these days.  (Funny how much they care what they are called, when words with specific meanings are so post-modernly passé.)

So I think I’ll just let Mike Adams say his piece without much comment.

Apr 26 2010

What if YOU had a close encounter with the seemingly incredible?

Category: Bible,church,God,Iraq,theologyharmonicminer @ 10:23 am

How would you convince anyone it had happened?

Consider: if you were dropped off by a time machine a couple millennia back, and you witnessed the events leading up to the Crucifixion, and then saw incontrovertible evidence of the Resurrection (like, you took a walk with Him, or had dinner with Him, or even touched Him), what would you do in order to convince other people, and posterity, of what you had seen yourself?

You might tell a lot of people.  And you’d be fearless about it, because you’d KNOW what you saw, and with Whom you had talked.  People wouldn’t be able to shake your faith in what you’d seen, for the simple reason that you wouldn’t doubt what you had personally experienced.

You might start to connect up small groups of people with whom you’d shared your experiences (and some teachings that would flow from it), to keep alive the memory, and simply because you’d be so excited about it all that of course you’d follow His instructions….  which were basically to tell lots of people about Him, to love each other, to teach each other and remind each other what He had taught, etc.

You’d probably write some letters to people you hadn’t seen for awhile, to keep in touch, and remind them of the truth of what you’d experienced and what He taught, about the Father and Himself.

Some of your friends with similar experiences would write other letters, some would write biographies and histories, etc.

You’d be convinced to your dying day that what you saw really happened, that He had risen from the dead, just as He prophesied.

You would know, by the time you’d told a few people, that it was going to be very hard to convince people of the truth of what you’d seen.  And you would learn to recognize that, for reasons only He understands, some people will respond to hearing the truth, and some won’t.  But you would know that you should not give up, and that some people may respond later, so you’d keep trying.

You would wonder how future generations will respond, when the original witnesses are no longer on Earth, so you’d be careful to keep the books and letters they wrote intact as long as possible, and put them in faithful hands for safekeeping to the next generation.  You’d be concerned, though, because knowing the history of how one generation is faithless in keeping to the teaching of the previous one (since you read the Old Testament), you know that it will take absolutely faithful people, with Divine insight and motivation, not to utterly corrupt the whole thing within a generation or two.

You might be surprised at how much effort subsequent generations have put into keeping the teaching intact….   and if you knew about it, you would count that fact as evidence of something in operation in people’s hearts and minds all that time, since, having read the Old Testament, you know it wouldn’t have happened any other way.

Apr 25 2010

African-Americans against abortion-on-demand

Category: abortion,church,college,higher education,societyharmonicminer @ 8:35 am

African American Advancing the Culture of Life

Dr. Johnny Hunter, founder of Life Education and Resource Network (LEARN). He and his wife Pat Hunter are pioneers in the pro-life movement and provide instrumental leadership, coalition building, networking and research for the Movement.

Elder Dr. Levon Yuille, National Director of the National Black Pro-Life Congress, and pastor of The Bible Church, Ypsilanti, MI A pioneer in the pro-life movement and the most visionary speaker in the nation today. Highly anointed.

Rev. Dr. Clenard Childress, Founder & Director of LEARN Northeast, Assistant National Director of LEARN, Inc. and pastor of New Calvary Baptist Deliverance, Montclair, NJ -The prophetic voice in the pro-life movement who is used by God from coast to coast.

Stephen Broden, Pastor of Fair Park Bible Fellowship, Dallas, TX. Chief strategist of the black pro-life movement. Appeared on TV and challenges the argument of moral equivalence used as excuse by some clergy to avoid confronting womb-lynching.

Day Gardner, founder of National Black Pro-Life Union. Day is a news anchor woman, commentator, columnist and researcher on issues impacting marriage, life, family, education and community.

Bill and Deborah Owens, founders of Coalition of American Pastors and Education for All. Bill and Deborah are seasoned educators and policy makers who provide significant solutions for educational issues of the day.

Dr. Alveda King, Founder of King for America, and an associate of Priest for Life, Atlanta, GA Her father was Dr. MLK’s brother and she walks in the legacy of the true leaders of the civil rights movement.

Jenny Hodges, President of Pro-Life Unity – literally a vanilla chocolate sister who is determined to recruit Georgia state legislators to support life agenda.

Dean Nelson, Director of NPAC – Network of Politically Active Christians, Washington, DC. Keeps organizations informed of national legislation which affects life, family and the church.

Walter Hoye, a minister in Oakland, California, hauled into court and convicted for holding a sign offering help to pregnant moms going into a “clinic” to get an abortion.

Jesse Lee Peterson, Founder of BOND, Brotherhood of a New Destiny, Appeared on national TV networks when he boldly intervened in the Los Angeles riots. Has boldly challenged other national leaders including Jesse Jackson to return to the pro-life position.

Star Parker, Founder of CURE, Coalition of Urban Renewal and Education, author of Uncle Sam’s Plantation and syndicated columnist. Previously based in Los Angeles, now in Washington, DC uses her testimony to bring black women from making a bad choice and encouraging people to escape the bonds of the welfare state. Expertise includes knowledge of public policy.

Arnold Culbreath, Director of Protecting Black Life, Brought attention to and helped individual cases of injustices while working to get more pastors involved. Excellent musician on the saxophone, too.

Dr. Ron Myers, MD, Founder of the National Juneteenth Festival Memorial service. “Maafa” is a Swahili word which refers to the black holocaust which includes the middle passage, the plantation beatings, lynching, gang violence. He calls abortion the present day maafa!

Dr. Haywood Robinson, MD, and/or his wife Dr. Noreen Johnson, MD, medical doctors who took a strong <stand> for life after Christ came into their lives.

Dr. John Diggs, MD, a medical doctor who developed much of the abstinence material you see. Testified in formal state legislative committee hearings. Addresses abstinence and other issues from biblical and medical viewpoints.

Sylinthia Stewart, NC LEARN Office Administrator and a confidential counselor for post abortion healing ministry.

Catherine Davis, Director of African American Outreach for Georgia Right to Life. Post Abortive civil rights advocate speaks to general and youth audiences.

Angela Stanton – mother, author, motivational speaker. Author of Life Beyond These Walls. Ministers on life after abuse, prison and other life issues.

Sonya Howard – author, post abortive motivational speaker.

Richard Lane – Catholic Evangelist, founder of Qorban Ministries whose mission is to” REVIVE your Parish and YOUR FAITH by bringing back the power and courage of the HOLY SPIRIT!”

There are many African-American Christians who are very strongly pro-life.  I would invite ANY church or Çhristian institution to consider having one or more of these people as speakers and workshop leaders. 

Apr 13 2010

New life

Category: church,music,religion,societyharmonicminer @ 8:01 am

And despite the comment of the talking head at the end, this reborn musician did not “save himself.”

Mar 18 2010

False connections

Category: church,justice,left,media,politics,religion,right,societyharmonicminer @ 8:22 am

Article and picture from CNN: Evangelical leader takes on Beck for assailing social justice churches

An evangelical leader is calling for a boycott of Glenn Beck’s television show and challenging the Fox News personality to a public debate after Beck vilified churches that preach economic and social justice.

The Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, a network of progressive Christians, says Beck perverted Jesus’ message when he urged Christians last week to leave churches that preach social and economic justice.

Now here’s what’s sad/funny about this article.

First, the United Church of Christ, as a denomination, is “pro-choice.”  So they’re for “social justice” for everyone but the most innocent among us, who apparently do not deserve legal protections of any kind.  And as a member in good standing of the National Council of Churches, they never saw a South or Central American socialist/communist dictator they didn’t like.  Which means, of course, that they weren’t for “social justice” for the people in political prisons (or dead) in those places.  I mean, how bad can a communist dictator be if he has national health care in his country?

Second, when they show a United Church of Christ sign, and quote “evangelical” minister Jim Wallis, they create by association the notions that the United Church of Christ is evangelical, and that evangelicals as a whole have any serious disagreement with Mr. Beck.  Both are false.

Third, “social justice” is a euphemism for statist solutions to “social problems.”  Otherwise, churches that use the term would be talking about Christian charity, love, mission and service, which are wonderful, old and uncontroversial ideas, not “social justice.”  And, of course, the origin of the term “social justice” had nothing to do with any church, being an artifact of Marxist thought and its intellectual descendants.  (And isn’t Mr. Beck taking heat for pointing that out.)

It’s interesting that by pointing that out, Mr. Beck has become the subject, instead of the perversion of the concepts of Christian charity, love, mission and service into “social justice” that is preached by the “Christian Left.”

Fourth, the United Church of Christ is shrinking, fast.  It is simply dying out.  Along with most of the rest of the “mainline protestant” groups.  That’s what happens to Christian groups that abandon their central teachings and moral values to appeal to the world.  So in a few years or decades, it’s likely that no local congregation will be around to maintain the sign above.

Some churches are converted to skating rinks when they’re sold due to lack of interest, or lack of surviving members, if the building is big enough.

That sign looks big enough to list prices and hours of operation.

Feb 17 2010

McLaren’s “new” ideas?

Category: church,religion,theologyharmonicminer @ 11:19 pm

Christianity and McLarenism: a review of McLaren’s new book by Kevin DeYoung

Brian McLaren’s latest book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith, is two steps forward in terms of clarity and ten steps backward in terms of orthodoxy. A New Kind of Christianity, more than any previous McLaren project, provides a forceful account of what the emergent leader believes and why.

I think McLaren has strayed quite far from anything recognizable as “historic Christianity”… a fact of which McLaren seems quite proud.
Continue reading “McLaren’s “new” ideas?”

Feb 09 2010

Evaporating faith?

Category: church,religion,theologyharmonicminer @ 9:08 am

A Response to Christians Losing Their Faith

As many of you know, I have written much about the epidemic of people losing their faith. It is not only a concern, but an obsession of mine. Because of this, I engage with quite a few people on the issue. I often feel as if I serve as a last chance stop for many who are in their darkest hour, heading out the door of Christianity.

Thus begins a very thoughtful article with many useful links, which is worth reading completely, and saving, for that dark day when you realize your own faith has waned.

Many people suffer through periods where they question everything they ever believed.  This includes people who have done great things in service to the Kingdom (whether or not they are recognized as such by the world or the church).  Some of the greatest saints of history have had to endure this, and some have been in this state for years, or decades.

I think one of the most difficult aspects of this may be that it is difficult to be open with other Christians about it.   It’s easier to hide and pretend than to put up with the people who try to argue you out of it, or don’t take it seriously, or just tell you to pray about it.

Nevertheless, I think it’s crucial for Christians in this position to find someone with whom they can share the entire thing.  The person with whom they share needs to be someone they respect and trust, someone who has a decent background in scripture and apologetics, though professional training isn’t required.

I think the very worst aspect of this for the suffering Christian may be the crushing sense of being alone, of being unable to share it with someone.

I think that means that we should probably be talking a bit more about the fact that this DOES happen, and is not evidence that the sufferer is a bad person, a failed Christian, or whatever. 

We should bear one another’s burdens.  And we should not create a church-culture where expressing doubts, even very deep ones, is not acceptable.

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