Mar 312014
 

RachelEvanswebRachel Held Evans has written an op-ed piece for CNN about her perspective on the World Vision debacle.

Saying that she watched in “horror” after WV reversed course on it’s decision to employed couples in same sex marriages, she goes on to say that the situation “put into stark, unsettling relief just how misaligned evangelical priorities have become.’

It’s those misalignments she delineates that I will address.

We simply can’t dialog or reach any place of understanding as long as both sides misrepresent the other.

 

“When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gays and lesbians helping to provide that aid, something is wrong.”

That’s not what I heard being said by those who were upset. This was about adopting a policy that was in opposition to sincerely held beliefs that they believed were also held by WV. All the people I saw comment that they were stopping support for WV also began looking immediately for other ways to help. No one…no one…was advocating withholding aid from people.

“There is a disproportionate focus on homosexuality that consistently dehumanizes, stigmatizes and marginalizes gay and lesbian people and, at least in this case, prioritizes the culture war against them over and against the important work of caring for the poor.”

I would agree that there is a disproportionate focus on homosexuality and I argued that on these pages all week. However, the vast majority of conservative Christians have no desire to  “dehumanize, stigmatize, or marginalize gay people..they simply affirm (often with compassion and pain) what they believe the Scripture is teaching about homosexual behavior. To them (and to me) to call holy what God has said is sin denies those in sin the very Gospel we believe. To posit this a war against gays and lesbians where we would willingly victimize the poor to win it is to dehumanize, stigmatize, and marginalize those who hold to the faith as it has been understood for two thousand years. Those things look like hell no matter who is doing them.

“Evangelicals insist that they are simply fighting to preserve “biblical marriage,” but if this were actually about “biblical marriage,” then we would also be discussing the charity’s policy around divorce.”

We have often overreacted and we are often guilty of hypocrisy in how we address these issues. I would suggest that you are doing likewise with these misrepresentations.

“Furthermore, Scripture itself teaches that when we clothe and feed those in need, we clothe and feed Christ himself, and when we withhold care from those in need, we withhold it from Christ himself” (Matthew 25:31-46).

Amen…and who was feeding all those kids? The very people you are scorning now…

Why are the few passages about homosexuality accepted uncritically, without regard to context or culture, but the many about poverty so easily discarded?

Many of us have read the progressive responses to the passages addressing homosexuality and examined them critically and with an open mind and heart. I’ve read many books and scholarly articles as I’ve wrestled with this issue. I still believe that the traditional position of the church is correct and I am called to acknowledge and obey it. To make the statement that those who do so are simply ignorant and that they discard those Scriptures about caring for the poor is simply a lie. The proof is that WV reversed its course because so many conservatives were supporting the poor through them.

This whole article was crafted to do exactly what RHE claims that evangelicals do… and that we also have been guilty of at times.

It uses rhetoric and misrepresentation to demonize and marginalize an entire group of people.

I do not agree with much of RHE’s theology and doctrine…but I do not doubt her heart, sincerity, or salvation.

Does that work both ways?

She ends the article with this;

“I’m ready to stop waging war and start washing feet.”

Me too…so when do we put down the rocks and pick up the towels?

Mar 312014
 

thinking_man_ape_wood_3d_sculpture_thinker_think-480x3251. Some commentators are writing that Mark Driscolls ministry career is necessarily over with all the scandals and the testimonies of so many former associates.

Not so.

 

Long time readers will remember the national firestorm around Skip Heitzig a few years ago.

He was excoriated in the local and national press, former associates spoke against him, and I was reporting almost daily on the situation.

Naturally, he hired a PR firm…

By some accounts, the church lost half of its enormous membership.

They’re back now.

He simply ignored the critics (other than releasing some well crafted PR statements), weathered the storm, and is now in an even greater position of power.

The people have the king they desire.

They always will.

2. The thing that scares me most about Driscoll is the knowledge that I probably would have done worse…

3. The moment I perceive myself as something greater than “one beggar telling other beggars where he found bread’ is the moment I become a self justifying Pharisee.

4. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18 ESV) Obviously, someone needs to inform Jesus that the situation is far more dire than He was aware of… or maybe we should be convinced He’s able to keep His promise.

5. I’d rather see “Capt. America 2” than “Noah”…. I read the “spoilers” on “Noah” when I was three…

6. Find a reason, any reason…to rejoice today. Rejoicing is a choice and enough choices become a habit. Despair is a choice as well… 

7. I don’t watch much baseball anymore but Opening Day is still the real beginning of the New Year for me…

8. The story that has been almost completely ignored in the World Vision brawls is the incredible amount of good that the church finances all over the world…

9. While  Jesus did say that the world would hate us, He was also pretty clear that we weren’t allowed to reciprocate…

10. If I believe the gates of hell are already defeated, if the end of the book is true, if Jesus is really Lord…then I can rest in that with joy, without fear, and with a willingness to risk all the love He commands. If I don’t really believe that… then the joy is replaced with anger and fear and an enemies list. I believe, help my unbelief…

Mar 292014
 

To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism

SALVATION

1. What is the Gospel?

The Gospel is the good news of God loving and saving lost mankind through the ministry in word and deed of his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Romans 5:15; John 1:12; 1 John 5:11-12)

2. What is the human condition?

The universal human condition is that, though made for fellowship with our Creator, we have been cut off from him by self-centered rebellion against him, leading to guilt, shame, and fear of death and judgment. This is the state of sin. (Genesis 3; Romans 3:23)

3. How does sin affect you?

Sin alienates me from God, my neighbor, God’s good creation, and myself. I am hopeless, guilty, lost, helpless, and walking in the way of death. (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 6:23)

4. What is the way of death?

The way of death is a life empty of God’s love and life-giving Holy Spirit, controlled by things that cannot bring me eternal joy, but that lead only into darkness, misery and eternal condemnation. (Romans 1:25; Proverbs 14:12; John 8:34)

5. Can you mend your broken relationship with God?

No. I have no power to save myself, for sin has corrupted my conscience and captured my will. Only God can save me. (Ephesians 2:1-9; John 14:6; Titus 3:3-7)

6. What is the way of life?

The way of life is a life directed toward loving and responding to God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, in the power of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, and leading to eternal life. (John 14:23-26; Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 5:1-2; Romans 12:9-21)

7. What does God want to give you?

God wants to reconcile me to himself, to free me from captivity to sin, to fill me with knowledge of him, to make me a citizen of his Kingdom, and to enable me to worship, serve, and glorify him now and forever. (1 John 5:11-12; 1 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 2:19; 3:19; Colossians 1:9)

8. How does God save you?

God saves me by grace, which is his undeserved love given to me in and through Jesus. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

9. Who is Jesus Christ?

Jesus is my Savior, fully divine and fully human. He bore my sins, dying in my place on the cross, then rose from the dead to rule as anointed king over me and all creation. (Colossians 1:15-26)

10. Is there any other way of salvation?

No. The Apostle Peter said of Jesus, “There is salvation in no one else” (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the only one who can save me and reconcile me to God. (1 Timothy 2:5)

Mar 282014
 

Well, we’ve divided again.

We stood on the truth of Scripture and defeated the enemy and the ground we hold is once again pristine, if a tad bit smaller in size.

We may have lost more than we won.

Some of the “enemy” in this case were our own.

Now, we can make the case that they were woefully in error theologically and this was an absolutely necessary battle.

We needed to clarify and defend the Scriptures, because at the end of the day, this was really all about the Scriptures.

Except…it wasn’t…not entirely.

When I read the best of the “progressive” Christian writers I read people who are wrestling with Scripture and tradition they see as being in opposition to compassion and grace for people who are created in the image of God and worthy of both…regardless of sexual orientation.

It’s a dichotomy for many… but for some, compassion and grace trump the Scriptures.

That, of course, is unacceptable to those of us who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, who believe the whole book was God breathed.

The problem is, (in my opinion) that we haven’t heard their hearts, so they can’t hear ours… and all we can hear is the sound of loading up for another round.

The reality is that it’s a false dichotomy, because the kingdom of God is about both the truth of Scripture and the grace and compassion of God toward those created in His image.

When you divide those, you divide the Body and only have part of the truth and dwell in the outskirts of the Kingdom.

We don’t give the appearance of wrestling with these issues, despite the fact that our convictions (while true) have very real consequences for those our doctrines effect.

Like stern but solid parents, sometimes we forget that people need to see see expressions of love as well as words of discipline.

We can choose to believe that some are squatters in the Kingdom of God and fervently hope for their eviction…or we can try to restart the conversations with the recognition that we’re family.

Maybe they just need to see us sweat.

Make your own application…

Mar 272014
 

WorldVision-LogoPhxP note: I found this compelling and asked if I could reprint it and Pastor Hawkins graciously agreed.

World Vision is on everyone’s mind. They stepped into the middle of the most volatile religious-political conflict on the planet. Offering a neat self-exhonerating explanation of a new policy giving tacit endorsement to gay marriage they threw their conservative constituency into frothing confusion. 48 hours later, an apology and a recanting of their avant-garde policy put them back in step with their constituency.

What they gave us was a glimpse into the future. What they failed to anticipate was collateral damage. I write this because that piece of the problem has been so overlooked. When multitudes complained and many promised to withdraw pledges it changed the scenario. Suddenly two issues arose. One got all the attention the other is my focus. The first was of course the benefactors of World Vision dollars, specifically the children supported by pledges.

Overlooked in all of this was the pending demonization of World Vision’s constituency by untold numbers of people who spoke up for the children. Most of those who spoke up were condemning people for withdrawing pledges while they themselves had not been donors. To be fair many new pledges were garnered but where were all of these concerned and compassionate souls before this political hot potato? Where were these morally outraged people before WV tossed their hat into the ring of political correctness? Doesn’t it seem odd for people who were on the sidelines to condemn people who had been in the game, many of them for years? It was the height of hypocrisy for people doing nothing to condemn people who were doing something.

America is first and foremost the land of freedom. Central to that freedom is the freedom of conscience. The freedom to determine the dictates of ones’ own heart. Freedom to live by conscience without coercion. At the root of religious liberty is a respect for individual conscience. World Vision created a  perfect storm. They set the grid for future suppression of conscience. In the middle of it all? The lives of children. The discussion of our cultural conflict over homosexual marriage was obfuscated behind a wall of kids. You would think that the WV donors were literally throwing kids into the abyss by all the hue and cry that was raised. You would think the donors were terrorists hiding within a schoolroom.

World Vision cannot hide their guilt in this. They put children at risk and they put their donors in a conundrum of conscience that they knew could not be easily solved. They forced people to choose between conscience and children. The left, secretly could not be more pleased. Even in losing this round they won again. They were able to portray Bible believing Christians as bigots, hate mongers and murderers of children. Witch hunting has found a new definition in America but the school text books will never tell you the unvarnished truth.

Compassionate people all over America are now marked as hateful and murderous. It is easy to dismiss those that you consider evil. World Vision has retracted and apologized but they have inadvertently  labelled their own constituency as enemies of virtue. WV leaders were careless stewards of the people who support them. This sad chapter will have endless implications. However, it is not the faithful donors who should account for this mess. It was conscience that drove them to support WV and a crisis of conscience that cause them to be endlessly condemned. We must not hate conscience. We must not destroy it. We must find ways to solve our cultural dilemmas without harming innocent people whether they be donors or benefactors. We must find better means to wage our wars.

Mar 262014
 

christ-pantocratorThe big controversy in the 8th century was over icons.

The early church was not adverse to images at all… the catacombs and recently uncovered places of Christian worship that date to the third century show a rich history of art in the church.

As art flourished in this time period, it flourished in the church and among Christian who decorated both the churches and their homes with symbols of the faith.

There came a growing concern among some bishops that the paintings and sculptures were becoming objects of worship themselves, thus leading the people into idolatry.

However, many in the Eastern churches believed that a church was not a holy place unless it was adorned with images and icons as an aid to worship.

To the iconoclasts it was a violation of the second commandment to depict Christ in art…a painting could not capture His glory as God and thus was a caricature of who He was.

The Emperor Leo III commanded the destruction of icons in 726 against the desires of the Pope, many local priests…and most of all the people.

Thus, the battle turned into not just one over a doctrinal issue, but of a clash between church and state.

In 787, the Second General Council of Nicaea was convened and it proclaimed that while it was unlawful to worship images, it was necessary and good to venerate them.

Today icons and images are vital parts of both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox worship.

This became a controversy again during the Reformation…while Lutherans maintained an appreciation of art in the church without the veneration of icons or images, the Reformed branch stripped their churches bare to walls.

The basement of St. Pierres in Geneva is piled high with all the things Calvin had removed in line with the rest of the Swiss Reformers.

I think they took it a tad too far…

What do you think of icons and images in the church?

Names You should Know

Boniface: A British monk/missionary who carried the Gospel through Europe and into Germany.

John of Damascus: The spiritual leader of those who supported the use of icons, he remains a major theologian of the Eastern church and influential in the West as well. He has a very interesting take on hell..

Much of the material here was taken from “Heroes and Heretics” by Iain D. Campbell

Mar 262014
 

1426163_10152538970789156_1955504315_aOn Wednesdays we remember that a brother languishes in a foreign prison.

We do more than just remember, however…we stand with him by using our social media to advocate for his release.

We ask that you change your Facebook profile picture to his and that you “like”  the “Free Saeed” Facebook page and participate in some of the activities that promote his cause.

Mar 262014
 

“Gay marriage is the turning point for Christendom. There is finally a lever that will cause the rockslide to cover us. The hatred of those who oppose this disunion will foment until revenge has made dissent silent. Christianity will be hated over this matter or it will lose all resemblance to the historic faith.” A comment from Babylons Dread.

The announcement yesterday that World Vision would hire people involved in same sex marriages drew a swift and very negative response from traditional Christians all over the media.

The blogosphere in particular exploded, with scathing commentaries on World Visions stance from many well known evangelical leaders.

The backlash to those commentaries from liberals and progressive Christians has been intense.

This snippet of conversation represented the feelings of many I follow on Twitter;

Screenshot 2014-03-26 08.53.33

What is interesting to me is how the debate has been framed and how it is morphing today.

Yesterday, it was about “Christians” who “hate” gays and lesbians vs. children in need.

This morning the target has been narrowed and “evangelicals” are in the crosshairs.

Overnight, over 2000 children have lost World Vision sponsorships.

I have questions…

Could we have taken a stand on this issue (now and from the beginning) that was more Gospel centered and avoided much of the anger and enmity we are receiving now?

How much of our moral authority have we forfeited by not holding to our own standards so very often?

Is this the tipping point culturally that brings persecution?

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