Archive | July, 2009

Open Discussion: No Music Allowed

This is taken from a church’s statement of faith concerning music:

“When Christians come together to worship God they are commanded to sing (Eph.5:19;Col. 3:16).We are opposed to mechanical instruments of music in Worship to God. The reason for this is because they are not authorized. No where within the pages of the New Testament will one find where the early Christians used the mechanical instrument of music in their worship to God. In every reference that is made in regards to the kind of music which God desires of His people it is always vocal music (singing), (Matt.26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 16:25; Rom.15 :9;1 Cor.14:15; Eph.5:19; Col.3:16; Jam.5:13). Paul said, “So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom.10:17). He also stated, “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom.14:23b). God has not given us the evidence (revealed it in His word) for the use of the instrument, therefore, to use such instruments is without authority and sinful.

The church of our Lord must not add to nor take away from that which God has revealed (Rev.22:18-19).Thus we will not use mechanical instruments of music in our worship to God.”

What are your thoughts?

"I Was Going to Preach this, but the Holy Spirit Led Me to This" . . . And other Stupid Statements

Does my title give me away? So much for being coy with my proposition. Let me say that this post is going to get me in trouble with some dear friends who preach God’s word every week. My message to them: Bear with my critique. I pray that my thoughts will be considered as “wounds from a friend”—a very fallible friend.

Here, let’s start this way. Have you ever heard someone (probably a preacher or teacher in the church) say something like this:

“I had prepared all week to teach on __________, but the Holy Spirit changed my lesson at the last minute.”

I have. Dozens of times. The idea it conveys is that the particular message that was prepared was not of God (at least at that time) and this new message was most certainly of God. In fact, the new message is miraculously of God! Why? Because I did not really prepare for it. It must have been God who prepared it. “I just step back when that happens and let God do his thing. Who am I to interrupt God?”

Can I say something? (Wait, let me hide behind something first . . .There.) That is a stupid statement!

My basic thesis is this: The type of assumptions required to adopt the occurrence of such homiletic detours is irresponsible both to yourself and to your audience and misunderstands the way God works in the life of the church.

Let me give you some characteristics that I see in such statements.  They can:

Neglect the Holy Spirit. The idea that is conveyed is that the Holy Spirit is not present in the sermon/lesson preparation process. Without God’s presence and guidance in the study, does he somehow show up at the pulpit? There is no justification for such thinking. In fact, I would argue that we are in more need of the Spirit’s guidance in the study than we are when we deliver. If the Spirit is not present when you are in preparation, how can he be there when you deliver? The delivery is simply the product of your life, study, preparation, and daily walk with God. If this is true, why would God miraculously change what he has been preparing you to present? Can he not make up his mind? Did some new unforeseen circumstance arise that caused him to adjust, shift, or compensate for? Be careful. Continue Reading →

When is Civil Disobedience the Right Thing to Do?

We had some friends over the other night. After some small talk, we got into some serious discussions on several issues. One of them was civil disobedience. One of the guests said, “When do you think it’s right for Christians to engage in civil disobedience?” He clarified his question by noting that under the present federal administration, a number of bills are being passed or are on the table that may have very strong implications for believers. For example, one of the health care bills being debated in Congress is known as “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.” That’s the title that the authors gave to the bill.

It hasn’t passed Congress yet. The reason is not Republican resistance (since the Republicans are such a small minority in the Congress now, they really don’t have the numbers by themselves to stop any legislation), but Blue Dog Democrats who are deeply concerned about how the government will pay for all the legislation being passed.

Some of the issues that have come up regarding this current bill, however, are ethical more than economic. Ironically, it has taken outsiders to point out these issues to Congress because most representatives have not read the bill! Even President Obama admitted last week that he had not read the bill, even though he has been promoting it heavily.

It is also ironic that one of the major reasons for rising health care costs is the built-in cost of litigation, something that generally is viewed favorably by liberals, less favorably by conservatives. (One physician told me several years ago that, even though he had never been sued for malpractice, he had to pay $100,000 in lawsuit protection insurance annually.) So, in one respect, the reason the health care costs are rising so quickly is because of liberal judges. The health care problems thus are somewhat created by liberalism, and now a liberal health care plan is supposed to solve these problems? Isn’t that like having the fox watch the chicken coop? Continue Reading →

Why I Think the Inspiration Process Should be Taught in Every Church

For many years as a Christian, I glossed over 2 Timothy3:16.  Particularly during my Charismatic days, it did not seem to have much bearing.  In fact, it was a yawn.  We we looking for a fresh move of God after all.  What significance did was this passage anyway?  I had always known the Bible as God’s word, but there did seem to be something so much more to get.  Even after I went through a theological paradigm shift towards a more reformed baptistic position, 2 Timothy 3:16 continued to be a glossed over passage.  All Scripture is inspired, says the NASB.  All Scripture is God-breathed, says the NIV.  Lovely.  What’s next?

It was not until I began a study of theology proper, that I began to understand the significance of this verse.  The NIV, I believe captures this significance better than the NASB, since it translates theopneustos as God breathed, rather than inspired.  The english word for inspired can create confusion as we assign our contemporary meaning that as something that happens from within us, that motivates a particular action.  But that does not quite capture the meaning of theopneustos, which the greek-english lexicon renders as inspired by God. Therefore it is something that comes from God rather than us.   So 2 Timothy 3:16 is the proclamation that Scripture, the divinely sacred writings, are motivated by God and breathed out by Him for us.

But what was God’s motivation? Scripture is replete with the idea that God had something to communicate, which I believe is succinctly demonstrated with Hebrews 1:1-2,

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.”

God speaking references His self-disclosure otherwise known as revelation.  God wished to reveal Himself to His creation, which we see unfold progressively starting with Adam and consummating with the return of Christ.  I hear the word revelation tossed around so frequently in Christian circles, but I think it does a disservice to God’s revelation, since it is all about His disclosure and not our comprehension.  Yet clearly, what He has revealed is meant for us to understand (Deuteronomy 29:29).

This verse also demonstrates that God has spoken through specific channels, most notably recognized in 2 Peter 1:20-21: “…No prophecy is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”   Prior to Christ, it was through the prophets.  But His revelation in Christ, the testimony of Christ was transmitted through apostolic authority, hence the significance of why the apostle Paul was always trying to defend his.  Holy men being moved by God also gives credence to the fact that God not only spoke, but superintended the entire process concerning transmission of His revelation.[1] It is also important to note that the authority of Scripture rests on God’s approved mechanisms, which is why redaction theories are destructive to Scriptural authority.

So this gets to what the inspiration process is; God breathing out His authoritative word, through the prophetic and apostolic agency to communicate His revelation.  There have been various theories proposed of the specific mechanics of inspiration to explain how this happened.  For the sake of brevity, I am going to assume the verbal plenary model, since I believe it is consistent with Scriptural formulation concerning God’s communication, that does indeed produce inspired, or God-breathed writings.  I think Lewis Sperry Chafer sums it up nicely

By verbal inspiration is meant that, in the original writings, the Spirit guided in the choice of words used.  However, the human authorship was respected to the extent that the writer’s characteristics are preserved, and their style and vocabulary are employed, but without the intrusion of error.  By plenary inspiration is meant that the accuracy which verbal inspiration secures, is extended to every portion of the Bible so that it is in all its parts both infallible as to truth and final as to divine authority. (Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, pg 71).

This stresses the significance of language, that God’s authoritative communication concerning Himself, would be transmitted in a propositional format to disclose Himself and His intentions.  I believe this is further supported by Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, where he is emphasizing that the process of divine communication in 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 by which he received divine inspiration so that spiritual thoughts could be transmitted into spiritual words (vs. 13).  This also points to the fact that God was very intentional concerning the accuracy of His communication, so that we could understand what He wished to reveal.

The determination of how writings were determined to be inspired to incorporate them into a single tome, is a rather lengthy discussion and for the sake of brevity, will not be discussed here.  However, I think it is significant to note that canonicity involved the discovery of what God had already determined, thus ascribing the compilation of books to the inspiration of God rather than the efforts of men.  But this too, I believe is essential for bibliology curriculum.

So we get to why I think this process should be taught in every church.  Because it explains how we got our Bibles; it is bibliology 101.  I find it interesting that we would engage the discipleship process and tell people to read God’s word without an understanding of why and how exactly it is God’s word.   I personally think we do a great disservice to God’s precious word by telling people to read it and do what its says without a fundamental knowledge of what exactly we are reading or why we are reading it.

Moreover, I believe that engaging this topic in churches would prevent the magic book syndrome that I believe is so common amongst Christians today.  The Bible did not just fall out of the sky or so neatly packaged, delivered to us all at once so that all we have to do is just open it up and let it work its magic.  I think that without an understanding of how we got the Bible can promote a reader response hermeneutic to apply whatever passages speak to us personally to whatever situations we deem reasonable.  It can promote the ‘what does this passage mean to you’ philosophy that does not do justice to a thorough and adequate understanding of what we are reading, or moreover God’s intentions for why we are reading what we reading.

This does in fact speak to hermeneutics, in how we read and interpret Scripture.  If we understand Scripture in terms of the process and God’s motivation of self-disclosure, certain distinctions will be much clearer, such as Israel’s history vs Old Testament prophecy, the gospels vs. the New Testament letters and generally how God has revealed Himself progressively throughout Scripture.  I especially believe that the way we read the gospels particularly hinges on the identification of God’s self-disclosure.   John aptly points to this in his opening words “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God….and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1,2,14).  Jesus was showing God to us and came to initiate a new way that people would relate to God.  So all of his words and works have to be considered in context of this revelation.  Outside of this context, the tendency will be to employ Jesus’ words and actions as models for individual actions as the infamous WWJD without reconciling them in context of His redemptive purpose.  It is why I believe you get extreme teachings that rest soley on Jesus’ words, indicating that we can do exactly as Jesus did, blowing John 14:12 out of proportion and out of context.

Therefore, an understanding of the inspiration process will promote the necessity for Scriptural reconciliation.  It helps us to recognize that as God breathed out his word through the pens of 40 authors, there was something He had in mind.  And what He had in mind was conveyed in various literary styles and according to the author’s personality.  So when the authors wrote, they had something they wished to convey as they were moved by the Spirit and they did this in a complete literary device, that must be understood in its historical, grammatical, and cultural context.  I can’t imagine that there is anything more grievious to God, who condescended to reveal Himself to us, seeing fit to inscribe this revelation through the compilation of 66 books, than for us to rip meaning, words, and intents out of their proper context.  We would hate for somebody to do that us.  Why would we not think it doesn’t matter to God.

In conclusion, I think it was quite unfortunate that I did not gain this understanding in church and why this topic is reserved for the study of theology proper.  I am aware that there are some churches who incorporate basic bibliology into their Christian education curriculum, such as the class called You and Your Bible that a good friend of mine used to teach and was required for membership at his church.  But overall, I would say it is a fairly untaught and unrecognized topic amongst discipleship training.  And the tragedy is that without a good understanding of why God’s word is God’s word, we might want to read it any kind of way we want that ignores the very intentions behind God and the authors He spoke through.  But if our hearts passion is to know God and love Him with all of our hearts and souls and minds, it seems to me that we would first start with how He has communicated Himself to us.  And that is why I think the inspiration process should be taught in every church.

[1] According to A.T.B. McGowan, Divine Authenticity of Scripture, 2 Timothy 3:16 indicates that Scripture was inspired, but not the agency, which I affirm.  However, I reject his assertion that the product of divine inspiration must be separated from the agency since 2 Peter 2:20-21 indicates this is the mechanism through which divine speech is communicated.

Does Sex Need to Be "Demystified"?

I read a very interesting post on which I am going to reserve judgment for the sake of some discussion. Really, I want to know what you think.

The author makes the argument that there is very little spoken about sex in the Bible. Well, very little compared to the amount of “counter” sex education that evangelicals are used to. He says, “We live in a sex-obsessed culture, to be sure. But the evangelical culture I grew up in was equally obsessed. The way I grew up, you’d think that at least 30 percent of the Bible is about sex. Turns out it’s more like 0.3 percent. And what it does say hardly gives us a one-two-three model for relationships.”

He wants to demystify sex so that it is not that big of a deal. His proposal seems to suggest that we lighten up on the idea that premarital sex is wrong. While it may be wrong, he argues, it is not as wrong we make it seem. He believes that this coming out of the closet with regard to sex will put it in its proper place and maybe kids won’t be so intrigued by it.

I will let you read it yourself here.

Oh, one thing I will be proactive about right now by strongly objecting to . . . I would not choose the ice cream cone! Sorry brother, you lost me there. (You will have to read to understand.)

Let me know what you think.

Can Christians Doubt?

I have been in a conversation recently about doubt. Most specifically, the question that has risen is, “Can a true Christian doubt God at the most fundamental level.” A girl just wrote to me and said that she often envies Christians who don’t ever doubt. I told her that there is really no such thing. All people doubt!

Let me be clear (for this is something that many people would disagree with me on): I don’t think that belief should ever be conceived of as “black and white.” No, don’t go there. I am not talking about some form of relativism with regard to the nature of truth (i.e. there is no such thing as truth). What I am saying is that people vary with regard to the strength of their beliefs. And I am saying that this can vary from time to time. Belief can go up and down. In other words, belief is not something that you either have or you don’t.

I have already revealed my proposition (i.e. a truly born again believer can doubt). Let me define “fundamental level.”  What I mean is that a Christian can doubt to such a degree that they even doubt the very existence of God. Yes, I am assuming that you have done the same. I have and sometimes still do.

Where did this come from? I had a different conversation today when a lady, whom no one would ever expect, came to me in confidence expressing her inner pain. “I have recently been doubting the existence of God,” she told me with much trepidation. I think that she was most surprised that I was not surprised (well, maybe a little). Continue Reading →

About Me in 50 Q/A

1. What time did you get up this morning? 7:30AM (went to bed at 2am)

2. How do you like your steak? Medium rare

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Terminator: Salvation

4. What is your favorite TV show(s)? LOST, Battlestar Galatica, Prison Break, 24, and Smallville

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? Not too much for travel. I just like home wherever it is.

6. What did you have for breakfast? Cinnamon Toast Crunch

7. What is your favorite cuisine? Yuk.

8. What foods do you dislike? Onions and Rye Bread

9. Favorite Place to Eat? Any place with a good steak

10. Favorite dressing? Ranch

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive? Nissan Sentra (32 mpg)

12. What are your favorite clothes? Have not bought my own clothes since high school. My sisters buy all my clothes. Whatever they get me is fine.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance? Credo House

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full? Depends on the day

15. Where would you want to retire? Frisco, TX

16. Favorite time of day? Late at night

17. Where were you born? Okla City

18. What is your favorite sport to watch? Football (aka OU)

19. Who will care most about this survey? For all, equally boring

20. Who did you want to be when you grew up? Lee Majors (Steve Austin, Six Million Dollar Man)

21. What are you going to do after you are done with this? Put my son, Zach, to bed

22. Bird watcher? Bird shooter

23. Are you a morning person or a night person? Night

24. Do you have any pets? Rocky was my dog. I will never have another dog like him so I don’t bother

25. Anything you would like to change about your body? My legs are too short and hands too small

26. What did you want to be when you were little? Car salesman (like my dad)

27. What is your biggest personality weakness? Compulsive

29. What is your biggest personality strength? Compulsive

30. Always wear your seat belt? Yes

31. Been in a car accident? Yes. About fifteen years ago

32. Any pet peeves at church? Too many songs

33. Favorite Pizza Toppings? Hamburger

34. Favorite Flower? What is that? There is more than one?

35. Favorite ice cream? Coffee

36. Favorite fast food restaurant? Chick-Fil-A

37. How many times did you fail your driver’s test? 1, the written (cried and the person felt sorry for me so she allowed me to come back the next day—they did not used to do that)

38. From whom did you get your last email? Probably Facebook

39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? Oh no . . . I should say church or something, but it is Best Buy for sure

40. Alcohol drinker? Not much. I will have a beer every once in a while. Had a Jack and Coke during an OU game last year. It was good.

41. Do you blog? Yes, here :)

42. What do you hate about blogging? (if you blog) When the blog sucks and you wish you would not have posted it . . . Oh, and when you post something you think is great and no one says a thing.

43. Do you snore? My wife says I do, but I think she is lying

44. Last person you went out to dinner with? Kristie probably . . .

45. What have you been listening to on your MP3 lately? Shinedown and Johnny Cash (“Personal Jesus”)

46. What is your favorite color? Green

47. How many tattoos do you have? None

48. When did you get your first grey hair? When I was 34. Kristie spends her time picking them out now. I think I have about 30 or so.

49. Where did you meet your spouse? At the Dugout (Sports Bar)

50. Have you ever been on a game show? No, but my wife was on Wheel-A-Fortune

On Authenticity, Condemnation and Community

I love Michael Patton’s authenticity.  The way he exposes his faults and failures in such a public forum is both refreshing and encouraging.  In fact, when I was writing my personal statement for my seminary application, I was so  strongly encouraged by his openness that I wrote it in a way I would not have but for his influence.  His exposures gave me courage to tell my story and expose cracks, showing how that can used in ministry.  It did make for a much richer personal statement, even though I recognized the crooked path I was painting.  It was exposing but I was relieved.

I don’t think I am alone.  For I have noticed an interesting phenomenon whenever he pours out his soul in a post such as this recent one, Uncle Lord. People began to open up.  You can almost hear the sighs of relief through the internet, sighs that have come from weary souls burdened with life’s pains, bottled up with angst over the possibility of exposure yet suddenly uncorked to reveal authentic expressions.  The relief echos “You too, Mike? Man I’m glad you said that because here is what I have going through…”  The relaxation soon turns to ministry, as people chime in with encouragements and prayers.  In some sense, I find myself surprised not only by Michael’s openess but more so by the unveiling of others.   And then I have to think about why I am surprised.

I believe the fall of man has much to do with our unwillingness to expose ourselves.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they immediately looked at each other and were embarrassed prompting the covering up of themselves (Genesis 3:7).  Then the unthinkable, they heard the rushing wind of an upset God coming towards them.  They ran for cover (Genesis 3:10).  They did not want to be exposed. Continue Reading →