Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Jars of Clay & Teapot Tempests

A few days ago the lead singer for “Jars of Clay” tweeted the following: 

Not meaning to stir things up BUT… is there a non-speculative or non “slippery slope” reason why gays shouldn’t marry? I don’t hear one. 

I’m trying to make sense of the conservative argument. But it doesn’t hold up to basic scrutiny. Feels akin to women’s suffrage. I just don’t see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage. No societal breakdown, no war on traditional marriage. ?? Anyone? 

I don’t think scripture “clearly” states much of anything regarding morality . . . 

I think the vast interpretation has left room for people to deal inhumanly and unlovingly toward others that don’t fit their guidelines . . . I don’t particularly care about Scriptures stance on what is “wrong.” I care more about how it says we should treat people. 

Not meaning to stir things up…Anyone buying that? 

Of course he means to stir things up! (He’d probably be disappointed if he didn’t.) But while I have many thoughts regarding the illogicality of his remarks, I want to focus instead on why his remarks create any stir whatsoever. 

Why do some folks care about Dan Haseltine’s views on marriage or anything else?  

I think the primary reason is this: He’s a moderately famous entertainer and enquiring minds like to believe that they know the goings on in the lives of popular performers. 

Still, there’s a little more to it than this. This particular tempest in a teapot is the result of his being an entertainer within the Christian Entertainment Industry (hereafter CEI).  

Please understand: There is a distinction between being a Christian entertainer and participating within the CEI. One may be a Christian entertainer and not be in the CEI and one may be in the CEI and not be a Christian entertainer. (And no…this isn’t a commentary—veiled or otherwise—on Haseltine.) 

The fact is, were Haseltine merely a Rock star and not a member of the CEI, his tweets would be met with yawns instead of yelps. But we expect higher views of morality from “Christian Rock” stars than plain old Rock stars.  

And why wouldn’t we? Plain old Rock stars religiously offer vapid odes to sex, drugs, and more sex; while “Christian Rock” stars unrepentantly serve insipid tunes of the “Jesus is my boyfriend” variety. 

**The one peddles garbage; the other pablum. 

Nevertheless, while I certainly recognize the usual differences of content between the two “Rocks,” I sometimes wonder about the moniker Christian Rock. Is there such a thing? If so, what exactly is it? Can a non-Christian perform Christian Rock? Can a Christian perform non-Christian Rock? 

I tend to think of Rock as a style or genre of music. It isn’t Jazz or Country (then again, Country isn’t Country anymore). But what is it about Christian Rock that renders it specifically Christian? For example, I’ve heard of Christian “Death Metal.” (I know…that was my initial reaction too.) 

In the midst of these perplexities one thing is certain: We’re doing something we’ve not done in quite some time—we’re talking about Jars of Clay.

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**I do not mean to suggest that this is universally true. There are truly creative artists to be appreciated in both Rock fields.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

4 Point Atheism

Below is to a four-pronged attack on a straw-man version (a strategic mischaracterization) of the “Christian” faith and my brief responses. For clarity, the atheist’s words are bold and italicized. 

May God bless your reading. 

************************** 

“1. God did not make salvation available to anyone until 2000 years ago, effectively condemning the 200,000-ish years of humans that came before Jesus.”  

Question: Have you ever heard of a collection of books called "The Old Testament"?  

(This is a compilation of books in "The Holy Bible" which predate and prefigure the coming of Jesus Christ.) Christians firmly believe that Old Testament people (folks who lived BEFORE Jesus Christ was born) are indeed recipients of salvation. Thus, your first claim is wildly misguided and false. 

“2. God does not make salvation available to those who haven't been reached by Christian proselytizers.”  

Obviously, this is untrue. (Having now been introduced to the Old Testament you can surely see this.) 

“3. The Crucifixion of Jesus is fundamentally unnecessary. If the Christian God is real, he could have granted us salvation without torturing anyone to death. The death of Christ is, at best, purely symbolic, and choosing torture for your symbolic gesture is the act of a psychopath--not a loving exemplar of morality.”  

The Christian faith isn't about what God "could have" done (or what you or I think He should've done); but rather it concerns itself with what God actually did or does. (I find the argument, "There is no God because if there was He would be more like me," to be non-compelling.) 

“4. Point 3 is made even worse by that symbolic gesture's apparent lack of efficacy. Well over half of all the humans who have ever lived (more than half, even, of the humans who are alive today) have not accepted Jesus as their savior and either did not or will not receive salvation as a result.” 

This statement is based upon sheer ignorance. How can you possibly know—or even imagine or guess—how many or what percentage ("well over half" you said!) of humans past, present, and future are or will be saved? 

********************* 

The four “points” are quite telling. It seems to me that many atheists have grown so accustomed to their caricatures of Christianity that they confuse fabrications with realities.
 
Thus, while certain atheists fancy themselves to be “Brights,” when it comes to the actual content of the Christian faith, it seems many, if not most of them, are rather dim.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Us vs. Them

It’s discouraging to see what should be in-house conversations (disagreements between sincere, intelligent, self-identified “Bible-believing” Christians) being framed within an “us vs. them” mentality. 

Christians don’t see eye-to-eye on many things, and sadly much of our contention is utterly toxic. (I’ve certainly participated in more than my fair share of debates and have given and received not-so-friendly-fire.)  

Consider how we often go at each other: 

“You would affirm Young Earth Creationism if only you trusted God.” Or, “You would know the earth is old if only you weren’t so stupid.”  

“You don’t speak in tongues because you’re too busy worshiping your Bible.” Or, “Have you always enjoyed the gift of gibberish and its interpretation?” 

“If you don’t believe in free-will then your God is the devil.” Or, “5 Point Calvinism is the Gospel. You can believe it or go to hell.” 

“You’re not a Dispensationalist? Have you always been anti-Semitic?” Or, “You reject Postmillennialism. So tell us again why God’s a failure.” 

“Don’t hate your children. Baptize them.” Or, “Baptism is for believers. It’s called ‘sola scriptura.’” 

And on and on 

Naturally, most of us don’t say such things in so many words; but the divisions are obvious, shall we say, “for all the world” to see.  

What to do?  

Should we abandon our distinctives, pretend they don’t exist? Certainly not. But we should, nevertheless, try to keep our distinctives in perspective. 

The point, rather, is in right humility to put those distinctives into proper theological and pastoral perspective, to not make any of them more theologically significant than they are, and to do everything possible to prevent them from serving as unnecessary obstacles to peace and unity. (Christian Smith, “The Bible Made Impossible,” p. 138) 

Brothers and sisters, when Bible-believing Christians disagree, it’s not “us vs. them.” It’s really not. 

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me (John 17:20-21).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Let’s Disagree To Agree


One of the things Christians are disagreed about is the importance of their disagreements. ~C.S. Lewis 

Upon reading Ken Ham’s “Six Days,” a friend opined, 

I share in Ken Ham's passion to call leaders of the church today back to a historical narrative . . . Ham deals with all the old earth views persuasively. . . . It is SAD how so many Christian leaders today have allowed historical science to persuade them to interpret [the] creation week and the flood in a most abnormal way. . . . Old earth creationist's will not be persuaded by this book . . . they have to understand Genesis 1 in a rather unnatural way of reading it. 

My friend’s jeremiad is exactly the sort of thing Christian Smith speaks of in his book, “The Bible Made Impossible.”  

Smith observes:  

Appealing to the same scriptural texts, Christians remain deeply divided on most issues, often with intense fervor and sometimes hostility toward one another. (p. 25) 

Who honestly disagrees with this?  

Smith continues:  

. . . the Bible as a whole is exponentially more multivocal, polysemic, and multivalent. As a result, church history is replete with multiple credible understandings, interpretations, and conclusions about the Bible’s teachings. (p. 48) 

Thus we have sincere, Bible-believing Christians clashing over important issues such as creation, the atonement, free-will, baptism, spiritual gifts, all things eschatological, salvation, the law, and on and on—and each credible position professes to rightly understand, believe, and submit to the authority of scripture. 

Smith is pointing out what is painfully obvious (but largely ignored in its implications regarding scripture itself): Sincere, Bible-believing Christians—who claim to adhere to the same or very similar hermeneutical methodology—come to vastly different conclusions in many, if not most, areas of theology; all based upon the same text. 

Smith's book is quite challenging. Many disagree with his conclusions but none (to Smith's mind) have successfully dealt with the central thesis of his work: Christians are largely united in believing the Bible but utterly divided in interpreting it. In my estimation, Smith's observations are spot on.

Despite our manifold differences, are we united in Christ? I believe so. Of course, many, many Bible-believing folks beg to differ.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"Noah" Isn't Himself

I bit the bullet and watched “Noah” yesterday. And yes, the rumors are true: It’s a train wreck. One is tempted to say it’s a catastrophe of biblical proportions. But…that’s entertainment! (Unless you live in Egypt…Egypt has banned “Noah.”)  

Was I disappointed in the movie, you ask? No. Thanks to Matt Walsh’s excellent and entertaining review I knew exactly what I was in for and my expectations were mercifully low. 

Please understand: “Noah” does not take artistic license with the biblical story. Artistic license is always to be expected. In fact, a movie-length treatment of the biblical account would require such license because scripture’s script is scant on the details. But “Noah” isn’t in the least concerned with Noah. 

I do not consider “Noah” to be based—not even loosely based—on the biblical narrative. Yes, “Noah” has a big boat and lots of animals and water, but that’s about the extent of any correlation to scripture. 

As was suggested on The O’Reilly Factor: Why not call the movie something other than “Noah”? Why not name Russell Crowe’s character “Jim”? Or how about titling the flick after the “Harry Potter” girl’s character? She’s sort of the real “hero” anyway. Or should I say “heroine”? (One doesn’t want to make feminists angrier than they already are. But it’s just so hard to tell with these gals.)  

Anyway, the point is a flood of confusion and controversy could have been avoided here. Then again, when it comes to faith and the Bible, when has Hollywood ever wished to avoid such things? 

Perhaps good can come from this: The movie is generating discussion. Maybe Christians can navigate from “Noah” to Jesus Christ.