01 October 2014

The Jesus Part

by The late Frank Turk

What you never expected here is more than one post on something topical, but this subject is, frankly, one where a lot of people become unhinged in order to even consider it -- that is, first they become unhinged, and then they consider it.

I have actually already explained the reasons why -- and some of you (the faithful few, the ones who missed me while I was on hiatus) understood what I had to say.  Two weeks ago, it was the necessary idea that you had better deal with actual human beings in your approach and not exploding watermelons of some other iteration of 3/5th of a person -- you have to deal with the people who are actually involved in a way where you can demonstrate you know they have been injured in some way.  It's a topic I have dealt with before, but because we always forget it I have dealt with it again.

Last week, I exposed you to our common dirty little secret -- which is that we love to have enemies.  We love to hear other people run down our enemies, and to think that somehow we are not our own worst enemies in all situations.  It's actually the other side of the coin of dehumanizing other people -- it gives us the means to not only think less of what happened to them, but to insidiously think more of ourselves, to think more of our way of seeing the  problem and our cost of doing business with them.

But if we find ourselves realizing that the other guy is actually a human being and in the larger scheme of things -- that is, God's scheme of things, the way things run right now until Christ returns -- the person whose motives we ought to question first in not the other guy but you personally, now what?  I mean: what would be different in Ferguson, MO, if that was the way people were reacting instead of the way they have actually reacted?  And when do we get to the Jesus part?

Well, I fooled you.  I've been back for weeks now, and I fooled you because that's who I really am, and frankly that's who you really are.  You forget the basics of the Christian faith all the time, and sometimes you even find yourself rejecting them in spite of being as reformed and protestant and evangelical and biblical as possible.  This here is the Jesus part.

Look: The Jesus part reads like this when Paul tells it:
Put to death ... what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
"Oh Frank," some of you are warning.  "Oh Frank Frank Frank.  You have mistaken the Gospel for the Law, Frank.  You have swapped the indicative and the imperative, Frank.  Chris Rosebrough is going to podcast you, Frank.  You should have stayed on Hiatus."

Well, hogwash. The Gospel is not merely what Christ has done, but what Christ has done for us.  Jesus is not a metaphysical performance artist or merely a spectacle: Jesus is a Savior.  Jesus does something to us and for us which, if it is real, changes us in the world.

Yes, that's right: I said, "if it is real."  What Jesus did is not real if it doesn't result in something here where we can see it.  That's what's hidden in the ellipse in the quote from Col 3, above: that world-affirming word "THEREFORE."
If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 
See: the Jesus part is not merely that He did something, but that it is done for us and it changes us and it makes something so true that when we set our minds on it and its final reward, THEREFORE this world changes for us.  We change in this world.

Just imagine a Savior who does something
and then nobody is actually saved, nobody
is moved or changed in status or position.
What kind of "savior" is that?
So the first piece of the Gospel which overcomes racism is that what Jesus has done solves the problems of culture by putting to death what is earthly about you.  In the idiom of W.E.B.DuBois, the Gospel ends the question of whether or not any man can impose a double consciousness on another, or whether any man ought to accept it as he recons himself.  All false consciousnesses as defeated by Christ.  All anger, wrath, slander, and obscene talk must be put away before him.  All evil desires.

And the one in whom this must be true first -- if it is true -- is not the other guy.  You are not waiting for the other guy's salvation and then sanctification before you start glancing at your moral shortcomings.  You personally (you say) will appear with Him in Glory because you have died and are hidden away with Christ in God.

For those who missed it, this is the MLK message in a nutshell.  I know Dr. King did NOT say anything about Jesus directly in the "I Have a Dream" speech, but he did say, explicitly, "We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."  That is: whoever we are, if we are going to defeat the indignity and evil of racism and discrimination, we must go first and meet it with how we have changed.

Therefore: it must be you first if Racism is to be defeated.  It must be you first if there is still an enemy in this world -- because I promise you, it is you first for whom you will be accountable to God when Jesus does return with his winnowing fork and his great Fire.  You will wish it had been you first when he asks you about it, I am sure.

You first, and then my last post on this topic next week.

30 September 2014

The category-error dodge (NEXT! #43)

by Dan Phillips

Challenge: "God"? What God? I've never seen any God. Real things weigh something. What does your Imaginary Friend in the Sky weigh? I'll just stick with reason and science.

Response: Really? What color is "reason"? How much does "science" weigh? Was that supposed to be an argument? How many millimeters was that argument? What atomic number is it on the periodic table? Does it taste like chicken?

(Proverbs 21:22)

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28 September 2014

Different by design

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Morning and Evening, September 11.
"The Christian, while in the world, is not to be of the world."

He should be distinguished from it in the great object of his life. To him, “to live,” should be “Christ.” Whether he eats, or drinks, or whatever he does, he should do all to God’s glory. You may lay up treasure; but lay it up in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, where thieves break not through nor steal.

You may strive to be rich; but be it your ambition to be “rich in faith,” and good works. You may have pleasure; but when you are merry, sing psalms and make melody in your hearts to the Lord. In your spirit, as well as in your aim, you should differ from the world.

Waiting humbly before God, always conscious of His presence, delighting in communion with Him, and seeking to know His will, you will prove that you are of heavenly race. And you should be separate from the world in your actions.

If a thing be right, though you lose by it, it must be done; if it be wrong, though you would gain by it, you must scorn the sin for your Master’s sake. You must have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Walk worthy of your high calling and dignity.

Remember, O Christian, that thou art a son of the King of kings. Therefore, keep thyself unspotted from the world.

Soil not the fingers which are soon to sweep celestial strings; let not these eyes become the windows of lust which are soon to see the King in His beauty—let not those feet be defiled in miry places, which are soon to walk the golden streets—let not those hearts be filled with pride and bitterness which are ere long to be filled with heaven, and to overflow with ecstatic joy.

26 September 2014

Some here, some there — September 26, 2014

by Dan Phillips

Here's your spankin'-new collection, which should be expanded throughout the day:
  • There is a lot of discussion of corporal punishment at present. 
  • First, on my birthday (anniversary of my first spanking?) Jonathan Merritt arrogated to himself the position of lecturing Christians in general (and Bible scholars in particular!) on what the Bible means, and what Science says.
  • Denny Burk alludes to an earlier post of his on the Bible and spanking.
  • In that post Denny cites an article by Andy Naselli on child training.
  • In his article, Andy refers here and there to material from my book on Proverbs (also in Logos). So just to tell you: Chapter Eight in that book is titled "Skill in Godly Child-Training," and there is a lengthy appendix on the oft-misunderstood Proverbs 22:6. Here's a snippet from chapter eight:
We should see “the rod” is emblematic. That is: the rod is a literal object representing a metaphorical reality, larger than (but including) itself. It is similar to “the sword” in Romans 13:4, which denotes government’s legitimate punitive power, not limited to but leading up to and including the death penalty. The rod represents the parent’s God-given authority to enforce house law, not limited to corporal punishment, but including it and everything leading up to it. Standing in a corner is a legitimate use of the rod; writing sentences or doing chores is a legitimate use of the rod; a spanking is a legitimate use of the rod.
[Dan Phillips, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs: Hearing God’s Voice in Scripture (Woodlands, TX: Kress Biblical Resources, 2011), 274.]
  • Yesterday, David E. Prince responded to Merritt from a Biblical perspective.
  • In other news...
  • This will resonate with pastors:
  • My birthday-brother Mike Riccardi found an interesting evangelistic video concerning the Islamic dilemma, asks whether those evangelizing Muslims would find it useful. (I think Cripplegate may have broken that part of the intrawebz; the video hangs at 4:20 for me.)
  • Lyndon Unger addresses an open letter to newly-converted celebrities. Every bit of it's good. I, however, would have chosen a different first item: 1. Become a baptized, involved member of a Biblically-faithful church with a membership of no more then 200, maximum, where you will be pastorally overseen and discipled, and in relationship with mature, growing Christians. Attend every meeting you can, faithfully. Then everything Lyndon said, except perhaps for one other book recommendation, one that relates the Gospel to a complete paradigm-shift in worldview.
  • Aside: apparently Stephen Baldwin shows up in the meta, and is displeased with Lyndon's thoughts. Lyndon, in response, is not bovvered.
  • Relatedly: I just concluded what was really a single sermon, preached over four Sundays. It was called The Good News Path. The fourth was titled What Does Jesus Say to Do Now? It was addressed to the new convert. I packed and aimed it best I could, but was agonizingly aware of a dozen could-have-said's.
  • Charismatics have been working so hard to show why Strange Fire was so necessary, and you've got to love them for it. Today's edition of What Charismatics Do Instead of Study the Bible is brought to us, natch, by Charisma Magazine, and it is titled: Prophecy: Posture Your Hearts to Receive Power at 5:55.
  • See, this is why we need Sufficient Fire. The best argument against fake steak is the real thing. Do come!
  • Until then, maybe you could use a little altar call self-defense:
  • Okay, one more:
  • Janna Darnelle writes a very thoughtful and thought-provoking piece on the other side of the giddy new world of same-sex mirage. She focuses on the harm done to abandoned and disenfranchised spouses and/or parents, and to the children. It's a fine blend of substance and passion, born of the fact that she is one of the victims. Only one thing is missing: the Gospel. She believes her husband should have kept his vows and commitments and stuck it out; but she doesn't provide either a transcendent Why?, or a reason for hope. Both are found in the Gospel, with much more. (h-t The Aquila Report.)

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25 September 2014

"For the sake of the children"?

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Frank back in October 2007. Frank addressed the idea of leaving a fellowship "for the sake of" one's children.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Because almost anyone will do almost anything if they think their kids' health, welfare, freedom, prosperity, PlayStation, comic books, or whatever is in jeopardy – we tend to lose our perspective on things when we think our kids are involved. And let me say that we are actually responsible for our kids in a way that most of us are not at all responsible for anything else, so I give everyone a gold star for at least understanding that there's something serious at stake when our kids are involved.

But let's be serious about something else, too: doing something "for the sake of the kids" is not hardly a trump-card moral precept. You shouldn’t break up your marriage "for the sake of the kids." You shouldn’t rob a bank "for the sake of the kids." You shouldn't run up your credit card debt "for the sake of the kids."

But should you leave your church "for the sake of the kids"?

Listen: I want us to start answering this question by understanding something first. At some point, we have to grapple with the statement "I joined a church." To "join" a church doesn't mean I started coming on Sunday morning, and occasionally I drop by for the second-shift service on Sunday night, and I have my name on a roll in a Sunday school class. "Joining" a church doesn't mean "you can find me there from time to time". It means that you are part of the life of that church.

Here's what it says in Acts 2:
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
And before anyone takes this post off-topic, I haven't highlighted all the things this passage says, but I have highlighted the ones relevant for this topic.

And let's also make sure we note that this isn’t the be-all and end-all of passages on ecclesiology – but how about if we did at least this much before we went to the spiritual nuclear option of "leaving" churches because we think the pastor is a pawn of Satan? You know: what if we joined our churches for the sake of the kids before we started expounding about how we must leave our churches "for the sake of the kids"?

So if you're going to come across with the packaged objection, "I'm leaving for the sake of my kids," make sure that one of the things inside that package was that you actually joined for the sake of your kids, and that somehow your joining was demonstrating your spiritual responsibility to your kids.

Is it really an either/or situation? I mean, do we make church life reductive down to our doorstep where our doctrine and practice never has a chance to rub up against someone who might have some kind of spiritual maturity advantage (let alone spiritual authority) over us – so we only pastor our kids and we call that "church"? Isn't it both/and where we (the Moms and Dads) have one kind of spiritual authority, and then we participate in another kind of relationship outside of the home where we ourselves are held responsible for being inside the boundaries of orthodoxy?

24 September 2014

The Enemies List

by The Late Frank Turk

So last week I put it to you that before you start talking about race and the Gospel, you better first start talking in ways that humanize this issue or else (to be blunt), shut up.  The reasons seems pretty self-evident to me, but I'm sure there are some who are still wondering why I would come back from hiatus in order to say such an inflammatory and unkind thing.

Hey: that's not the hard part yet.  That's the obvious and easy part.

This next part should also be part of the "easy part" of this topic and discussion, but it's not at all.  In fact, I think that after the problem of being insensitive to the people involved is at least admitted into the discussion, the next impossible error to overcome is the problem of creating enemies.  That is: the ability to take a tragedy and to leverage it to make innocent people into contemptible villains is big business in our nation, and we love it.

Here's how I know that's true: both John Stewart and Bill O'Reilly make a lot of money doing it every day.  Glenn Beck and Al Sharpton would be utterly unknown and penniless if this were not true.  Ann Coulter and Rachael Maddow need each other in a way which borders on criminal conspiracy.  But the only reason it's not actually criminal is simple: we pay them to do it for us.

Look: this one doesn't require a lot of unpacking here.  It doesn't require you to review the tapes or read the weekly columns -- because you are already doing that.  These people are famous because they are polarizing figures who visibly flourish when they are taking their best shots at the other side, and they make tons of money by identifying classes of enemies and calling them out by name.  And we love it - we can't get enough of this opportunistic and execrable form of entertainment.

Last week I reminded you that MLK thought that there were 3 barriers to the political freedom of black in America in 1963, and that we ought to consider that today he would likely add a fourth (desensitizing to violence).  Today I am saying that if MLK is the gold standard of political thinking here, this sort of villianization of people we disagree with actually violates the final objective of MLK's great dream for America, and it's time we started thinking in terms of the strategic end of this conflict rather than in terms of the tactical and economically-profitable short game which allegedly moves the ball along for our side.  Moving the ball out of bounds rather than to the actual goal line isn't strategic: it's sloppy and weak.

But there's a deeper problem with this for those of us who say we are Christians, and that's why I called your attention to W.E.B. DuBois in this space a few weeks ago.  The problem is not that we oppose what we perceive to be evil or unjust and say that something is evil or unjust: it is failing to remember that the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  It is failing to remember that our goal is not to destroy our enemies with the weapons of this world, but to destroy their sin and the power of death over them with the Gospel.  DuBois, of course, did not really express this the way a white Reformed guy would, but his point is clear: somehow, Black people have a self-perception problem due to the fact that they have a double consciousness -- one which they aspire to, and one which they see as the way the world sees them and treats them.  If DuBois were alive today, I wonder which consciousness he would say is winning out?

If you are a Christian, and you do not come to the table with this in mind when discussing this question, maybe you don't really understand what it means to be an ambassador of reconciliation. An ambassador is one who comes with the primary concern of making friends and allies out of people, not enemies.  In fact: an ambassador will come to Enemies with the express goal of making peace with them -- even if it turns out that the terms of peace are non-negotiable.

Whatever advice it is you think you have to give here, if you really want it to somehow have the Gospel in it, it has to reproach the power of sin and death in the lives of the people you are speaking to -- but not out of a sense of partisan righteousness, or a belief that somehow we are defending civilization.  Reproaching the power of sin and death will certainly make some people see us as enemies.  But we need to not see them as our enemies - because they are not our enemies.  And we must be certain we are treating others in a way which seeks to defeat the power and effects of sin which they have experienced.

You know: when Stephen the deacon declared the Gospel in Jerusalem, and those men there were offended by the Gospel, his final words to them were not, "I knew you filthy haters would do this eventually.  I can't wait to see God take his wrath out on you because you definitely deserve it."  He last words were this: "Lord, do not hold their sins against them!"

A few weeks ago, when I posted MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech, you didn't hear him say that anyone who was his enemy deserved death or even infamy: he said specifically that even the worst of his enemies ought to repent for their own good, and that they could be part of a future which was greater than the oppression they carried out in that day.

You need to consider this, if you're wondering how the Gospel and Race are related: if you can make a list of the people who are your enemies in this conflict, you are doing it wrong.  You had better realize that your name needs to go at the top of that list as your own worst enemy, because that's a truth deeply rooted in the meaning of the Gospel -- and it's a truth which ought to make you a little more humble when attempting to build a bunker to protect the things you think you love. After that, you need to rethink the whole conflict from God's perspective.  In Christ, God is reconciling the world -- the world full of those who are His enemies -- to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

You had better humanize this issue before you think you want to talk about it, and you had better decide whether or not you're thinking about this the way God does -- because God is not trying to make anyone his enemy.

With that said, next week we will start getting to the items which are not as rudimentary and crude as these have been.  It will not be for the faint of heart.

23 September 2014

The Reason, Not Religion Dodge (NEXT! #42)

by Dan Phillips
Challenge: Prove that Christ is ultimate truth  without quoting Bible verses.

Response: First, prove that reason is ultimate truth — without giving reasons.

(Proverbs 21:22)

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