19 August 2007

The Trouble Is...

This cartoon by david hayward (who by his own confession is an artist trapped in a pastor’s body) says what's been on my mind lately. I have been doing my monthly cruise of blogs, and I am somewhat disappointed by the battle that is being waged in the name of Christ.

Way back when, when I was a wee one in Christ, the battle lines were clear: It was the Fundies against the Liberals, we knew who the enemy was, and what they believed, and how they were a threat to those of us who took the bible seriously.

Well, I've gotten over a lot of that nonsense, but the battle still goes on, and only the names of the guilty have been changed so that we know who to gnash our teeth at and bash.

One is either a target or looking for a target. Take for example, this web page from the blog Critical Issues Commentary. The purpose (oops, sorry) raison d'etre for this blog came about because the writer of the blog...

"...met regularly with a group of local pastors, often presenting position papers on timely doctrinal issues. When he found that the messages were accepted by only a few of the attendees and rarely reached the pews, he chose to speak directly to the people by initiating a bimonthly newletter."
The writer of this blog took the scriptures from the various bibles that Rick Warren uses in the Purpose Driven Life and laid them out alongside the same scriptures from NAS Bible. I'm not sure why he did this. Maybe it was to show that even with all the different versions, the word of God still says the same thing?

Or, how about this one from Extreme Theology, where they write
"Those of you familiar with Rick Warren’s writings are aware that this man is a scripture twister. He constantly rips passages out of context, exegetes bad paraphrases and generally proof texts his own ‘made up’ doctrines."
Then there is this article from USA Today that points out that
...Warren is part of the ultra-conservative Southern Baptist Convention, and all his senior staff sign on to the SBC's doctrines, such as the literal and infallible Bible and exclusion of women as senior pastors. Yet Warren's pastor-training programs welcome Catholics, Methodists, Mormons, Jews and ordained women (emphasis added).
Critics of Warren have latched onto this article as ammunition for their assault on Warren, especially the line about welcoming Mormons and Jews. I find it interesting that they lump Catholics, Methodists, and ordained women in with Jews and Mormons. The last I checked, Warren does not offer a special session for Catholic, Jews, or Mormons, everyone goes to the same sessions. So, if Mormons, Jews, and other are attending this training, they are hearing the gospel, no punches pulled. So what is so terrible about that?

I have some issues with Rick Warren, but I think it comes out of my own arrogance, believing that I am more on track with the truth than Warren. I forget that I can at best impact 15 or 20 people a month for Christ, and he has the attention of 10's of thousands. So, how would you present the gospel to that many people? If I did it, the fire marshal would close the place down because of the fire hazard from all the dry material in the place, or at the worst, a repeat of Acts 20v9.

And just so Rick doesn't feel alone, here is a blog that does a take on the theology of Rob Bell in his book Velvet Elvis, or this one about what Rob believes about hell.

Actually, I've read the book, and I am impressed with his handling of scripture, and the insights that he shares, but that doesn't seem to be the view of his commentators.

Then of course, we can't let the day pass without taking out our theological rulers and rapping Brian McLaren's knuckles. Truth War Central has a list of quotes by McLaren, including this sample of "outright heresy":
"I don't think we've got the gospel right yet. What does it mean to be 'saved'?.... I don't think the liberals have it right. But I don't think we have it right either. None of us has arrived at orthodoxy."
As a voracious reader (when my attentions spans allows it), I've seen a lot of this material in it's original context. And I am disappointed by what I read on these posts and blogs. I have no doubt about the sincerity of the writers, but there are some things that bother me. Let me list a few things that I think writers and bloggers need to be aware.

1. Guys (and gals), try to be a little more discerning as you read. Take for example this quote from McLaren that is put forth as unorthodox:
"What if Jesus' secret message reveals a secret plan?".... What if he didn't come to start a new religion--but rather came to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world?"

––Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 4

I've read the book, and I remember this quote quite vividly, because I thought McLaren was right on target. The way it is presented in the blog makes is look like McLaren is saying something completely different from what he says in the book.

So, try to be a little more discerning. Make sure that you are reporting what the writer/speaker is actually saying, not what you think you hear through your filters and presuppositions.

2. This brings me to the next point. Let's try a little more charity when we discuss things that someone has said or written. Isaiah reports God as saying "Come, let us reason together." God had brought a charge against his people, and now he was calling them to discuss and defend themselves before him. He was calling them TO judgment, not pronouncing it. Don't we owe the targets of our posts the same courtesy?

3. Related to this is the reality that we are our own worse enemies. These attacks do more to debilitate the cause of Christ than any broadside we get from our adversaries. Muslim apologists, for example, take these attacks and arguments as illustrations of the unworthiness of Christianity, and that so much disagreement must prove that it is not true. Let's not give them ammunition for their Dawa.

4. I am also appalled by the ad hominem arguments used in many of these articles. Attacking the person never has a place in the life of the Christ follower, so please, stick to the issue.

5. There is also the practice of impugning motives for the subjects of our posts. It is easy to paint with a broad brush, and it is a good way to vilify someone as well. Be more careful in this area.

6. Finally, a professor once told me (a LONG time ago) that it is easy to attack and tear down, but how will you rebuild it so that it is more viable? I think we need to look at the issue in this context, in order to sort out what really needs to be done. Instead of shelling and bombarding indiscriminately, how do we work to reach out to those whom you think are being lead astray. What about those who have not heard the message of the gospel, or not taken the step of faith that turns them to follow Christ?

Throwing out punches through a blog is not going to be taken seriously by those who do not follow Christ. I use bloglines to track my favorite blogs, and quite frankly, based on the subscriber numbers given when I add a blog, most of us don't have much of a following inside the camp either. So perhaps a little perspective is in line?

We also seem to forget that the Roman Empire was not transformed by a long list of bloggers and writers, but by people, one by one, who lived the Christ life and witnessed to others through their lives the reality of the one they followed and served. Open proselytizing was frowned on, and criticizing the Emperor wasn't the best idea either.

John says that "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (John 21v25)." Well, we are still writing about what (we think) Jesus did or didn't do, but we've move out of the libraries and now piling it up on the internet.

Let me finish with another cartoon by david hayward. I once had an old saint tell me that we Christians not only shoot our wounded, we often bury them as well.

I have no doubt that I will get some feedback and flack about this post, but that's okay. I like a good discussion as much as the next person (after all, I've been to bible school, right?).

But don't come after me waving the bible in my face saying how we are supposed to do this or that to defend the faith. I agree, we are to be ready to give a defense of the hope that lies within us, but we are not called to bludgeon others based on some general command Paul gave to Timothy or whomever.

So do your homework, and come, let us reason together.

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1 comment:

  1. Hey Howard,

    We are back. Nice post here. Looking forward to talking about all this over some coffee.