Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Os Guinness on evangelicalism

This is good -- an interview with Os Guinness... "Where have all the evangelicals gone?"

He concludes part 1 with
...

So the collapse of the Religious Right has not led to the rise of a more responsible position, except for the minority, but to something which is horrendous. The trouble is, if this goes on, it will tarnish the church for a generation and that’s the tragedy.

I put it even deeper. If you look at Europe, Europe is the most secular continent in the world because of reactions to corrupt state/church powers in the past. America never had that problem because of the genius of the First Amendment until the rise of the Religious Right and the culture wars, and you can see that in the educated classes, a steadily rising equivalent of the European repudiation of religion climaxing in the new atheist. We have created the monster we dislike, and it’s our fault.


When asked what the greatest problem facing evangelicals today, he answers,

The biggest problem is not specific theological issues, like grace or Jesus or whatever, it is theology itself. In other words, modernity shifts theology from authority to preference. Karl Barth used to put it like this, “Theology once had binding address,” it addressed you and then bound you, so there was a link between belief and behavior. Now, that link between belief and behavior has eroded. So now, what people believe and how they behave, who cares?

Take Evangelicals, Evangelicals have never had a higher, sharper, clearer view of Scripture, things like statements of inerrancy. But Evangelical behavior on the ground is permissive chaos. The fact is, it’s just a matter of preference. And everyone describes their freedom, including the emergent church. As soon as you can say the views you don’t like, the uptight, stuffy traditional views, legalistic or whatever and you throw out what you don’t like, it’s just a matter of preference. And you get what social scientist call a cafeteria spirituality, or a salad bar spirituality. In other words, you can go down the bar, and decide you like cabbage not lettuce? Fine. You like radishes not carrots? Fine. You like love, not hell? Fine. Check out hell, take out love, that’s fine.






evangelicalism over the next decade

I've been contemplating Michael Spencer's blogs on the future of evangelical churches in America (iMonk blog). His three articles on his predicted collapse of evangelicalism are found here. It is important, I believe, to read all three articles. I find myself in agreement with much he has to say.

Here are a few quotes...

The determination to follow in the methodological steps of numerically successful churches will be greater than ever. The result will be, in the main, a departure from doctrine to more and more emphasis on relevance, motivation and personal success….with the result being churches further compromised and weakened in their ability to pass on the faith. ...

For some time, we’ve been at a point that the decision to visit a particular evangelical church contained a fairly high risk of not hearing the Biblical Gospel. That experience will be multiplied and expanded in the years to come. Core beliefs will become less and less normative and necessary in evangelicalism. ...

A small portion of evangelicalism will continue down the path of theological re-construction and recovery. Whether they be post-evangelicals working for a reinvigoration of evangelicalism along the lines of historic “Mere Christianity,” or theologically assertive young reformed pastors looking toward a second reformation, a small, but active and vocal portion of evangelicalism will work hard to rescue the evangelical movement from its demise by way of theological renewal. ...

But it is impossible to not be hopeful. As one commenter has already said, “Christianity loves a crumbling empire.” Christianity has flourished when it should have been exterminated. It has conquered when it was counted as defeated. Evangelicalism’s heyday is not the entirety of God’s plan.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

God given

Christmas means gifts.
In the wide, wheeling universe
There has been only one--
One gift once given,
One infinite, eternal, perfect joy--
One baby boy.

(Elizabeth Rooney)

O Simplicitas! (the folly of the Lord)

An angel came to me
And I was unprepared
To be what God was using.
Mother I was to be.
A moment I despaired,
Thought briefly of refusing.
The angel knew I heard.
According to God's Word
I bowed to this strange choosing.

A palace should have been
The birthplace of a king
(I had no way of knowing).
We went to Bethlehem;
It was so strange a thing.
The wind was cold, and blowing,
My cloak was old, and thin.
They turned us from the inn;
The town was overflowing.

God's Word, a child so small,
Who still must learn to speak,
Lay in humiliation.
Joseph stood, strong and tall.
The beasts were warm and meek
And moved with hesitation.
The Child born in a stall?
I understood it: all.
Kings came in adoration.

Perhaps it was absurd:
A stable set apart,
The sleepy cattle lowing;
And the incarnate Word
Resting against my heart.
My joy was overflowing.
The shepherds came, adored
The folly of the Lord,
Wiser than all men's knowing.

(Madeleine L'Engle)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

like every newborn


"The Lord is King, and hath put on glorious apparel;
the Lord hath put on his apparel, and girded himself with strength." (Psalm 93:1)

Like every newborn, he has come from very far.
His eyes are closed against the brilliance of the star.
So glorious is he, he goes to this immoderate length
To show his love for us, discarding power and strength.
Girded for war, humility his mighty dress,
He moves into the battle wholly weaponless.


(--Madeleine L'Engle, A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Judah's Lion

Where does the lion, Judah's golden lion walk?
Stealthy under star by winter night his soft paws stalk.
Out on lonely hills a cold wind howls and darkness scowls;
Shepherds shiver -- danger in the dark! --some wild beast prowls.
Suddenly up springs a light; a voice rings like a bell:
"Joy, O men of Judah! Come and see! Noel! Noel!"
Where lies Judah's longed-for lion? "Come and see the sight!
Fear not--your golden one is couched among the lambs tonight."

(--Keith Patman, from A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation)

too much to ask

it seemed too much to ask
of one small virgin
that she should stake shame
against the will of God.
all she had to hold to
were those soft, inward
flutterings
and the remembered sting
of a brief junction--spirit
with flesh.
who would think it
more than a dream wish?
an implausible, laughable
defence.

and it seems much
too much to ask me
to be part of the
different thing--
God's shocking, unorthodox,
unheard of Thing
to further heaven's hopes
and summon God's glory.

(--Luci Shaw, A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

snow

A friend sent me Luci Shaw's poem, "Mary's Song", and I posted it on the blog. We remembered we had that poem and others in a book entitled, A Widening Light: Poems on the Incarnation, Luci Shaw, ed. We enjoyed reading through them today. I plan to post some of these poems between now and Christmas. Here is one called "snow" by Keith Patman:

Was it a cold awakening Christmas morning
In a wooden trough,
In spite of straw and swaddling clothes and angel songs?
That was not to be the last time
You'd be laid upon the wood.
(There were Herods, Judases from the start
Among the stars and shepherds).
And did they smile, those simple folk,
And kiss your tiny hands and weep delight?
They'd touch those hands again someday,
Believing you through cracks and scars.
Then oh! the million Christmas mornings
When you'd lie, a babe again,
Beneath a million million trees
And hear the countless tongues chanting your name.
And oh! the white snow on black shingles
Where icy crystals capture windows
And fires glow and mistletoe is wreathed and strung.
But ah... will they remember crimson
Dripping from the iron nails
And will they pray, and will they know
A whiter white than
Snow?

(--Keith Patman)


Friday, December 18, 2009

Mary's Song, a poem

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest . . .
you who have had so far
to come.) Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled
a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by doves’ voices, the whisper of straw,
he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
all years.
Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

[by Luci Shaw, from A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation, 1984]

Sunday, December 13, 2009

only he can fulfill the promises

I'm enjoying Colin Smith's advent blog. He's taken several days to cover the biblical theology of the OT, the narrative of redemption promised. It's definitely not your typical advent meditations.

But in so doing he shows the story line behind the incarnation, and thus the reason for the season:

In the blog this week, we have looked at the broad sweep of God’s promise.

* To create people in His image.
* To deliver His people from evil.
* To bring people from every nation into His blessing.
* To reconcile people to Himself through the sacrifice offered for our sins.
* To establish the Kingdom of His Son forever.
* To cause His people to walk in His ways, and now,
* To give new life from the grave.

Those who question the uniqueness of Jesus underestimate the promises of God. Who else could accomplish what God has promised?

God makes promises so great that only God Himself can deliver them. So God took human flesh. The Creator entered His own creation. God came and stood with us, acting for us, to fulfill His own promise. The Word who was with God, and was God, and by whom all things were made, became flesh and made His dwelling among us. (John 1:2, 14)


Saturday, December 12, 2009

essentials, non-essentials, chart included


Michael Patton has written an interesting article on essentials and non-essentials in Christian doctrine. And with a chart, that's a bonus! These lines aren't infallibly drawn. But this is a good introduction to a subject that many Christians should think through.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Saying "Merry Christmas" 33 ways...

Afrikaans - 'n Geseende Kersfees en 'n voorspoedige Nuwejaar
Afrikander - Een Plesierige Kerfees
Albanian -- Gezuar Krishtlindje
Arabic - I'D MIILAD SAID OUA SANA SAIDA
Armenian - Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand
Azeri - Tezze Iliniz Yahsi Olsun
Basque - Zorionstsu Eguberri. Zoriontsu Urte Berri On
Bengali - Bodo Din Shubh Lamona
Bohemian - Vesele Vanoce
Breton - Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat
Bulgarian - Tchestita Koleda; Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo
Celtic Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda=13=DF
Chinese -
(Mandarin) Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
(Catonese) Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun
(Hong Kong) Kung Ho Hsin Hsi. Ching Chi Shen Tan
Cornish - Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth
Cree - Mitho Makosi Kesikansi
Croatian - Sretan Bozic
Czech - Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok
Danish - Gladelig Jul
Dutch - Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!
English - Merry Christmas
Esperanto - Gajan Kristnaskon
Estonian - Roomsaid Joulu Puhi
Farsi - Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad
Finnish - Hyvaa joulua
French - Joyeux Noel
Frisian - Noflike Krystdagen en in protte Lok en Seine yn it Nije Jier!
German - Froehliche Weihnachten
Greek - Kala Christouyenna!
Hawaiian - Mele Kalikimaka
Hebrew - Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova
Hindi - Bada Din Mubarak Ho
Hungarian - Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Icelandic - Gledileg Jol
Indonesian - Selamat Hari Natal
Iraqi - Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Irish - Nollaig Shona Dhuit
Italian - Buone Feste Natalizie
Japanese - Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
Kala Khristougena kai Eftikhes to Neon Etos
Korean - Sung Tan Chuk Ha
Latvian - Priecigus Ziemas Svetkus un Laimigu Jauno Gadu
Lettish - Priecigus Ziemassvetkus
Lithuanian - Linksmu Kaledu
Manx - Nollick ghennal as blein vie noa
Maori - Meri Kirihimete
Marathi - Shub Naya Varsh
Navajo - Merry Keshmish
Northern Sotho Matlhatse le matlhogonolo mo ngwageng o moswa.
Norwegian - God Jul Og Godt Nytt Aar
Pennsylvania German - En frehlicher Grischtdaag un en hallich Nei Yaahr!
Papiamento Bon Pasku i Felis Anja Nobo
Pig Latin Errymay ristmaskay nday appyhay ewnay earyay
Polish - Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia
Portuguese - Feliz Natal
Rapa-Nui - Mata-Ki-Te-Rangi. Te-Pito-O-Te-Henua
Romanian - Craciun Fericit
Russian - Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva i s Novim Godom
Serbian - Hristos se rodi
Slovakian - Sretan Bozic or Vesele vianoce
Samoan - La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou
Scottish - Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur
Serbian - Hristos se rodi!
Singhalese - Subha nath thalak Vewa. Subha Aluth Awrudhak Vewa
Slovak - Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok
Slovene - Vesele Bozicne. Screcno Novo Leto
Spanish - Feliz Navidad!
Swahili - Krismasi Njema!
Swedish - God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt Ar
Tagalog - Maligayamg Pasko. Masaganang Bagong Taon
Tamil - Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal
Thai - Sawat Dee Wan Kritsamas
Turkish - Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Ukrainian - Srozhdestvom Kristovym
Urdu - Bara Din Mubarak Ho
Vietnamese - Chung Mung Giang Sinh
Waray Maupay nga Pasko ngan Mainuswagon nga Bag-o nga Tu-ig
Welsh - Nadolig Llawen
Zulu: Nginifisela inhlanhla ne mpumelelo e nyakeni.

From Brigada.