Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Words of warning from a liberal theologian

This quote comes from someone you don't want to be associated with, one of the proponents of “post-liberal” theology. Here he is offering a critique of the way modern Evangelicals think about the Cross of Christ. I have inserted some expanatory notes in [brackets].

Our increasingly feel-good therapeutic culture is antithetical to talk of the Cross, and our consumerist society has made the doctrine a pariah. A more puzzling feature of this development as it has affected professedly confessional churches is the silence that has surrounded it. There have been few audible protests. Even most contemporary theologies of the Cross fit the pattern of Jesus as model. But justification itself is rarely described in accordance with the Reformation pattern, even by conservative Evangelicals. Most of them are conversionists holding to Arminian versions of the ordo salutis [the order of events in the salvation of an individual], which are further removed from Reformation theology than was the [Roman Catholic] Council of Trent. Therefore, where the Cross once stood is now a vacuum.
— George Lindbeck

About the Council of Trent: Follow the link, then look at the Canons (laws) that follow the heading “ON JUSTIFICATION” about two-thirds of the way down, starting between the markers [Page 44] and [Page 45]. Pay special attention to Canons IX, XI, XII, XXIV, and XXV (that's 9, 11, 12, 24, and 25 in English). If you agree with what these canons say, go make your confession to a priest, because you are already functioning as a Roman Catholic.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Leadership and decisions

Okay here's a quote that's too long to be one of my email signatures. Enjoy and comment:

Our polity, that is, how we structure making decisions, whose authority we recognize, reflects our theology. If you have a higher view, a deeper view, of the falleness of man, you will tend to want more diffusion of authority. You will not trust authority being so concentrated in the hands of a sinner, regardless of whose parents that sinner may be, or how rich or educated that sinner may be. On the other hand, if you tend to have a lower view of the depravity, don't think the fall affected mankind that badly, think people are basically kind of good, you'll probably feel more more comfortable with power being more concentrated in peoples' hands, believing that they can do better. You see this in politics; you also see it in the Church.
— Mark Dever

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Meat vs milk

A friend sent an email to several folks wondering whether it's more important to live a particular way or to learn doctrine. (It was a bit more involved than that, but I don't want to quote the entire thing, and I think you'll get the drift anyway.) Bits where you see “quotes” around the text are where I am quoting his phrasing. Let me know what you think.
I'm finally getting around to replying to your email from September. I'm truly sorry for the delay. Here're some random thought about what you wrote, guaranteed to be out of order. BTW, for those of us who still check your blog every day (!), this would have been good fodder in that trough.
  • The degree to which I consider the Gospel to be good news is directly proportional to my perception that I am a sinner justly condemned by a holy God.
  • The notion that what Jesus focused on was “loving others and changing lives” seems odd when you read more of the Sermon on the Mount than the Beatitudes. The most frightening words in the whole New Testament are in Matthew 7. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, Jesus said most of the hard stuff, and Paul said most of the comforting stuff. Somehow we've gotten it backwards ...
  • The notion that the Gospels and the Epistles can or should be set in opposition to each other is hard to believe when you read all of either.
  • Setting “changed lives” above “knowledge” really means the Law (usually a weakened, non-crushing version of the Law) has become more important than the Gospel of free forgiveness. Setting “knowledge” above “changed lives” is just making an excuse for being puffed up (at best) or neo-gnosticism (at worst).
  • The problem with the preaching of justification isn't that it is done too much (vis-a-vis life-changing), it's that it's done badly. “Life-changing” messages just give me something to do, and all too frequently, they tell me it is actually possible to do it. Everything God requires of us is impossible for us to accomplish.
  • When we do accomplish something good, it's like this story (which is told by the son as true): There was a father who did all his own work on his car, and never took it to the shop. Mike, his son, was a klutz. But the dad loved Mike, and once when the dad was just finishing up, he called Mike over. The wrench was already sitting on the nut, and the dad told him, “Turn that wrench a quarter turn clockwise.” The son did so, then they packed up the tools and went inside, where the dad told the mom, “Mike fixed the car.”
  • I wonder what proportion of Christ's teaching was actually about “love and forgiveness”. Has anyone actually compiled the real data on this? Surely John 6, for example, leans toward doctrine rather than practice.
  • In the end, both the “meaters” (doctrine) and the “milkers” (love and forgiveness) have the wrong goal: They are both trying to pick and choose from the Bible what they're interested in rather than learning from the Scriptures (the “apostles' teaching” from Acts 2:42) what is there, in the proportion it is there, and in the order it is there. (BTW, trying to achieve “balance”, whatever the heck that is, is another way of picking and choosing. Working through the Bible passage by passage is the only way I know of to avoid hobby-horsing around.)
  • Finally (can you believe I'm gonna stop?), there are ways in which we can never be Christ-like. Here's a partial list, all obvious things, but when we talk about being Christ-like we must never forget them.
    • We are not the creators of the universe.
    • We do not have as our mission dying for the sins of the world.
    • We are not sinless. If we are honest, we are the exact opposite. (Added March 28, 2008) In fact, we are the exact opposite even if we aren't honest.


This blog is named after a silly sign my (unidentified) employer has installed. (Photography is not allowed in the facility, so the image you see in the header is a mock up, not a photograph. Rats.) The wording so ridiculous because without knowing the context it is impossible to tell what it means.

  • Are hand held devices ever allowed?
  • Are hands free devices allowed when not driving?
  • Is any non-driving activity ever allowed?

These questions — and this sign — have no real bearing on this blog. This is not, for example, a Dilbertesque blog of the foolishness of corporate America. (We have newspapers for that.)

What I intend to do here is post some (short) things I have written and open them up for comment to friends and other interested parties. I will also (probably weekly) post a quote from someone for open comment. All are welcome, though I will read comments and delete any with inappropriate content.

Oh, I almost forgot: If I'm not talking about corporate foolishness, what is the subject? Most anything in Christianity — theology, practice, foibles and kudos — will eventually be included if the Lord tarries. But I'm not in any hurry to cover everything. Once in a while, I may talk about politics, but I don't plan for it to be often.