Monday, March 26, 2012

Celebrity Pastors And The Gospel Of Grace

It may seem fitting that the mighty TBN ministry is in crisis right now, given the false prosperity gospel upon which Jan and Paul Crouch, undeniable the most celebrated ministers in the country, have built their empire. Given the current discussion of celebrity in the reformed church, it is timely, if nothing else to ask if this drift towards self-destruction is the direction that all celebrity pastors end up taking. All of the discussion seems centered on the celebrity of the Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald types, but is not limited to just them. They beg the discussion because of their current book tours, and their high profile at the last Elephant Room conference where they seemed to blur the lines between solid gospel understanding and heretical preaching by their inclusion of word/faith pastor TD Jakes in their very public conference, even though the conference was designed to bring different views to the table.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Still Mired In Clay?

So the conversation has begun. Just how much tolerance are we to have concerning questionable associations between pastors when one pastor has been thought to be in doctrinal error? Judgments abound about the controversies between the mega pastors, to the point where even just being a mega pastor has been frowned upon.

DA Carson, in his book, The Intolerance of Tolerance, points out that the very meaning of tolerance has changed over the years. It used to be that you could disagree with someone, even strongly, but not be accused of intolerance. This left the discussion open for civil discourse on what the differing issues are, and look for common ground where you can then proceed to explain/persuade your opponent of their possibly errant ways. He was mostly speaking of issues between the church and the secularized world. But the new definition of intolerance is that if you disagree with someone, you are intolerant. This causes the discussion to be shut off, and no further conversation is possible since each side of the argument has turned into condemnation of the other person, not just the issue. His book is worth reading!

So how does this affect the Christian to Christian dialog, which it certainly has? The reasonable discussion of issues is virtually stopping, and the possibility of understanding another’s point of view, with or without an aim to correct, vanishes. This cannot possibly be good. For instance, John Piper is still being condemned for inviting Rick Warren to speak at the Desiring God conference last year. Rick Warren is being condemned

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Christian Justice and National Security vs Freedom

"The NSA has become the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever" from Wired Science.

Many see the governmental take over of the health care system, with mandates for all to purchase insurance they can't afford, as a loss of freedom, just as is seen the imposing of health care rules on both religious organizations and people that find those rules to be against their morals, a loss of religious freedom, all of which is supposed to be protected by our constitution; and the jury is still out on where all of that will go. But there is no doubt that the current administration, including the congress, is making the largest power grab in history. 

The president has taken over the auto industry, the health care industry, the oil industry (preventing new leases), and countless other industries like the insurance industry by regulations and loans, and the housing purchasing industry by the same methods (note: when one has regulated something to the point that they are coming to you for money with strings attached, you have successfully taken them over), and now, as possibly the largest assault on privacy and freedom, the NSA will not just be scanning the internet "chatter" for terrorists anymore, and studying secret transmissions between governments, they will be reading, reviewing, analyzing, studying, and using as they wish, YOU.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Much More Like A Ball

How much grace is too much grace? You've heard the arguments. To say that it really is finished, to say that the Gospel of Christ really is the main thing, is to invoke the usual skeptics who insist that there really is a balance that needs to be struck between the Law and the Gospel. The result of this controversy, this tension between Law and Gospel as it were, has been a church awash in legalism, powerless evangelism, and saved Christians unprepared for the inevitable storms of life on one end, and on the other end, people seeking refuge in hopeless versions of the gospel that promise selfish rewards for faith (what the Gospel actually frees us from), as if grace were a commodity to be bought and sold. The church really needs to answer the question, "What is the Gospel?", and truly articulate that answer to all those who profess to follow Christ, and to those that need Him.

Fortunately, many authors are standing up to address this tension, and redefine the gospel in an understandable way that truly unleashes the gospel into the believing Christian's life. One such book is Jared Wilson's Gospel Wakefulness, wonderfully capturing the truth of the Gospel, how obedience is from the gospel, not our part in it. For instance, in his chapter Chief Spiritual Rhythms, Jared likens the Gospel to a ballroom dance:

    "The Christian not wowed in gospel wakefulness may move like the frightened victim in an old Western, shuffling his feet frantically as the law, demanding he "dance!" fires a six-shooter at his toes. There is compliance but no heart, no rhythm. But the gospel-wakened Christian dances because he's at the ball. He hears the music of the gospel and cannot help but dance!" 

Reading the book, it being totally comprehensive in approach, one can truly be awakened to the Gospel and all the real peace and blessings it contains, enabling the Christian to enthusiastically take part in the evangelism and mission of the church.

Jared incorporates the very interesting story of his pastoral move from a bible-belt southern church to a northeastern church, and the surprises and similarities he encounters preaching gospel wakefulness along the way. He is the author of several books, including Your Jesus Is Too Safe, another "must read". Wilson's blog, The Gospel Driven Church is parked at The Gospel Coalition, and should be one of your regular stops.

Friday, February 17, 2012

ER2- Enough Already!

Let's name her "Grace."

For those of you not familiar with the "Elephant Room Crisis," you might need to get caught up by reading one post from Vodie Baucham at Grace Family Baptist Church to ingest the whole controversy. In (very) short, Elephant Room founder and mega pastor James MacDonald invited controversial figure T.D. Jakes to join in their moderated discussion on church differences before a large online audience, thus presumably giving acceptance to his prosperity gospel ideas, and allowing him to weakly gloss over his differences on his Oneness Trinity beliefs. They did treat him as a brother in Christ, propelling James MacDonald to (behind the scenes) resign from his board position with the Gospel Coalition, before the event even took place, whether by force or consent. We don't know. The appearance was that it was a mutual decision. Needless to say, the internet erupted at the conclusion of the event condemning all who were involved, all who even knew any of the participants, and it still goes on and on.

The Gospel Coalition, a mostly Reformed group of church leaders, movers and shakers, in the current "gospel-centered" movement, were bludgeoned the most, for their seemingly slow response to the controversy, and now pastors even remotely connected with the group are being attacked for merely pointing out their friendship of, and support of, James MacDonald and his christian philosophies. In short, Christians are shooting Christians.

Here's how far this has gone, and my "quick take" on what is happening in this aftermath, using as few names as possible-

Mega church Pastor Matt Chandler, one of the most humble and honest men of God leading in the Body of Christ, recently tweeted that he was "baffled and appalled" that anyone would consider James MacDonald a "heretic", and hashtagged it under "crazytalk".

Friday, December 10, 2010

I Doubt It

Lately I have been dwelling on Thomas' doubt of the risen Lord. Hardly a Christmas story, I know. But since I can't get it out of my head, I must make the obvious observations. Many times this story has been used to explain our doubts about God. How much faith is still faith when we also harbor doubts? How can our doubt strengthen us? One can hardly go through church life without encountering these interesting discussion questions in a bible study.

But is that really what this story is about?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Gospel According To Me

Michael Horton pens "The Gospel and the Sufficiency of Scripture", a feature this month in Modern Reformation magazine. In it he quotes the best-selling Habits of the Heart, where Robert Bellah and fellow sociologists surveyed religion in the United States. They concluded that it is best described as "Sheilaism," named after one person they interviewed who said that she follows her own little voice. Bellah proposes that every American is the founder of his or her own religion, following the dictates of his or her own heart.

Horton's (very meaty) article wants to focus on the integral connection between the sufficiency of Scripture and the sufficiency of the gospel, but must begin with the reality that the American church is basically millions of different ideas of what scripture and the gospel mean. To the average Christian, Christianity is just the relative way they see Christianity.