Luke 23:44 - "By this time it was noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o'clock."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Everyday Theology

This morning I just finished reading a book edited by Kevin Vanhoozer entitled, Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends. This book is a part of the Cultural Exegesis Series published by Baker Academic and it is a fine volume which I commend to you. The book's second opening paragraph reads,

"Everyday theology is the reflective and practical task of living each day as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Theology is not for Sundays only. Disciples must walk the Christian way the whole weekend and throughout the workweek. Theology is an everyday affair: to live to the glory of God is a full-time privilege and pursuit. Everyday theology is the mandate of every Christian who is actively trying to walk the way of truth and life [7]."

The opening chapter begins with Vanhoozer addressing the the "how" & "why" believers of Jesus Christ should not only care about culture but engage & interpret it. He makes a clear distinction between "culture" and "society." The former he propounds is the "human world that persons create by doing things not by reflex but freely as expressions of desire, duty, and determination." The latter primarily denotes "the institutional forms of organization within which and the norms or conventions by which a group of people live." Such a distinction ultimately moves this discussion forward to a definition of culture - a "lived worldview" or the "meaning dimension of social life."

Launching from this foundational chapter various authors examine a sampling of cultural "texts" from the grocery store line, the hip-hop milieu of Eminem, human rights, the movie Gladiator, concept of busyness, transhumanism, to the cultural scope and text of weddings. The last chapter sounds so much like the SS class on Biblical Theology which Rob Hall & I had the privilege to teach at Cornerstone recently. It was as if I had read this book prior to teaching it. I conclude with several statements from the last chapter.

"Understanding the text or trend from an explicitly Christian point of view reflects our belief that the gospel is the true story of the world. It is the real context in which all text and trends live and move and have their being [238]." His section on "Seeing the World through Redemptive History - Colored Glasses" emphasizes the critical importance that interpretation must happen through the creation-fall-redemption-consummation motif (i.e. the Story of the Scriptures). He argues that all believers must view all of life under the rubric of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. "Cultural agents" understand the ultimate goal of cultural hermeneutics is "to live redemptively in response to the cultural work." He continues, "We find ourselves in a world of decay and yet the shadow and promise of glory, a world that God is reconciling to himself. Part of our ambassadorship for Christ is to imagine how he should shape our lives in light of the influences of the text and trends around us. Only if we practice cultural agency have we truly done cultural interpretation and fulfilled our responsibility to acquire wisdom. Theological analysis of cultural work should already have prepared us for how to respond. Identifying signs of creation and the fall, and imaginatively reconceiving the text or trend in redemption, should yield concrete possibilities for wise living... Our mandate to live wisely as Christians includes all of life. Our response, therefore, should be holistic, encompassing hands and the heart, the individual and the group [242-243]."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Question of Radical Sacrifice

In light of our discussion in Acts regarding wealth, check out this post by Trevin Wax on the question of radical sacrifice in regards to wealth, poverty, money, & possessions. Some good stuff to think about.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Some killer art explaining the gospel. Check it out here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Social Psychologist Detects Liberal Bias

An interesting piece in the NY Times this week. Check it out here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Cosmic Disillusionment

Lately, I've been personally working through the issue of money, wealth, and possessions in my own spiritual journey. The Spirit has used numerous circumstances and events in recent days to help reveal subtle, yet stubborn idols hoarded within my heart. So in keeping in step with the recent revelations I picked up Tim Keller's "Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, Power, and the Only Hope that Matters."

In his second chapter, Keller focuses on the gaping emptiness contained in the world's definition of love. His chapter title, "Love is not all you need" is most revealing. In this chapter he talks about the "cosmic disillusionment" which captivates mankind's environment since the Fall. In all of human life there belies a "cosmic disappointment" which acts as a common denominator.

Let me expound. God in His creative genius placed within man an innate desire. This desire transcends love, passions, & even death. God has given each of us a desire for worship - a longing outside of ourselves. So men & women either choose to be satisfied from the Satisfier - the One who gave them the desire in the first place or a substitute of the Real satisfaction - a substitute that later is revealed as cheap, devastating, and even damning. So Keller tells of examples after examples of people (biblical & contemporary) who have sought after various counterfeit satisfiers.

Often, people don't even realize this underlying cosmic disillusionment exists. Yet Keller argues the sooner they understand it the wiser they will be in life. He states that every person in some way or another experiences this comic disillusionment and disappointment, "but we especially feel it in the things upon which we most set our hopes" (Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 39). He gives four possible responses to this issue:

1. You can blame the things that are disappointing you and move on to try better ones.
2. You can blame yourself and beat upon yourself (i.e. bouts of depression, self-pity, self-loathing).
3. You can blame the world and become hard, cynical, and empty.
4. OR you can reorient the entire focus of your life toward God as C.S. Lewis mused, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world [something supernatural and eternal]" (Keller, 39).

All of this leads me back to my own issues on my view of money, wealth, & possessions. The power of the Gospel has freed me from the constricting powers of this cosmic disillusionment and has given me hope & purpose from its devastating disappointments. Jesus, my Savior has given me a grace I didn't deserve, a grace I didn't seek, and a grace that I didn't appreciate! But that simply demonstrates how the Gospel affects every facet in life. The Gospel is not simply a story, a time I said a prayer, the Romans road, etc. The Gospel is totality of Jesus & His abiding Spirit in the world today!

In summary, we must stop trying to make everything our everlasting satisfier - a savior in a sense. Rather we must acknowledge & understand that we already have the ultimate Satiator - a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why I Don't Like Christian Music

Michael Patton attempts to stir the pot in his recent blog post.

He states:

"Well, the title gives away my lack of passion for Christian music, so I am not going to do an inductive blog. There, I got it out. I don’t like Christian music. In fact, I think Christian music is theologically wrong. It is like saying “I like Christian cooking.” There is no such thing . . . or at least there should not be. I know that some of you are not going to agree with me, and that is cool. Your probably right. This is not that big of a deal. Nevertheless, allow me to express my odd passion here anyway.
Why don’t I like Christian music? That is a good question. I have often asked this of myself. What happens is this. I am driving down the road, listening to talk radio. The Renewing Your Mind broadcast ends, and is replaced by an hour of Christian music. I immediately change the station. I look for other music. Maybe something in the 90’s. The 90’s was a great decade for music. Here is my order of preference:
The Fray
Alanis Morresette
Smashing Pumkins
Matchbox 20
Pearl Jam
Oh, and (cover your ears boys and girls) . . .
Just about anything Country
That is my list. In fact, you can check my iPhone and see the same on my favorites list. I know what you are thinking. None of these are Christian groups. In fact, some have been thought of as anti-Christian. Even U2, Lifehouse, The Fray, and Creed, although they have Christian members, are not Christian bands. I like that. In fact, if they were to change and exist under the title of “Christian rock” I would probably bow my head in sadness and cease to listen to them so much. I would think to myself “They have caved to the pressure of the Christian sub-culture network.
It would take much more than one blog to explain my reasonings for this (especially since I do not completely understand them myself), but let give you some thoughts.
Broadly speaking, I don’t like the Christian mentality that Christians must create Christian sub-cultures in order to be truly Christian. We have a sub-culture for everything. When people come into Church they have to learn a different language, change the way they dress, only read Christian books, start liking the organ, and limit their cinematic entertainment to Fireproof and Facing the Giants. Why? Because we must conform to the sub-culture that says everything outside the Christian sub-culture is evil at worst and dangerous at best.
I especially don’t like a sub-culture in a genera that is a human genera—music. What does this mean? I believe that the Church is to exist as the Church, representing Christ in culture. This does not simply mean that we are out giving the Gospel to every person we see (as important as evangelism is), but representing Christ by being human. We are part of the culture, we are not a sub-culture. If a person feels musically inclined, he or she can honor God with their music, but this does not necessarily mean that every song they sing contains the words ”Jesus, “God,” or “saved” anymore than saying that every pancake they cook has to have Jesus on it.
Why is it that when people become Christian in the music business they feel pressured to only sing songs exclusively about Jesus?
Let me just say it. I think that most Christian music is fake. I would much rather hear about people’s real lives, real struggles, and real passions than the shallow stuff that I hear coming out of the Christian music industry. Transparency is the key. I would rather hear someone honestly wrestling with the difficulties of life than listen to those who act like they have all the answers when I know this is not really the case. I would rather hear someone honestly cursing God than hypocritically praising His name. Music is about touching the deepest part of the human soul, grabbing a hold of the passions in a way that no other form of communication can. One Greek philosopher once said, “You can have the government and education, but give me the music and I control the people.” Music is about meeting people where they are. For example, Disarm by Smashing Pumpkins asks more questions than it answers. Cumbersome by Seven Mary Three, while depressing, speaks to real situations where life is overwhelming and sad. Lead On by George Straight tells a short simple story about two people trying to work out their fractured relationship. You Found Me by the Fray is a muffled cry out to God for seeming to be absent when everything was falling apart. This is an essential component in music. It enters your struggles, joys, angers, frustrations and says ”This is life.” It should never put on a veneer of a sub-culture, but speak to people where they are. Didn’t David do this in the Psalms? Aren’t the Psalms music? Yet the Psalms are real. Some cry out to God in real anger, some praise his creation. Even the Song of Songs is about real life. It is about sex and it does not need to mention God once to honor him.
I am not saying that music should seek to normalize or glorify sin, but neither should it seek to avoid the real holes that we find ourselves in. Neither am I saying that the music that I have listed above necessarily honors God, but at least it is real. U2 sings real songs. Bono, the Edge, Larry Mullin, and Adam Clayton are all Christians, but they are not a Christian band. Why? Because they want to make an impact in the real world, speaking about real issues with honesty, openness, and transparency. If they were to enter into the “Christian music” genera, they would have to wear the same mask as all the others. They know this and they wisely stay out of the Christian music sub-culture.
There is no reason for Christians to create sub-cultures. In fact, this is a concession. God created music. He does not require you to mention His name in every song any more than He requires it in every email or conversation that you have. Real life can honor God without mentioning His name or acting like things are okay. Sometimes they are not okay. I am not against mentioning God at all, but let your music reflect the real world. He should be honored in all things. The same thing can be said about all entertainment. I don’t like the Christian movie industry for the exact same reasons, but that is another blog.
(I hope you also see that this is really about much more than the value of Christian music.)
Okay, let the roasting begin."

I find it interesting that many of the comments are people who seem like they have finally found someone to condone their obsession with "secular" music. Like little closet Christians who have hoards of "naughty" worldly music. Patton is now their hero. In one sense all music is secular, because all men are human and sinful. Patton acts as if he's just announced something revolutionary. Really? The Christian can now listen to secular music? Wow, that's insightful Mike. However, I do sympathize with him on his point about Christian sub-cultures. And why do people think that is biblical?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bonhoeffer's Deepened Faith

Metaxas records Dietrich's compelling experience that fundamentally shifted his life journey and work. Some historians have referred to it as his conversion, but Metaxas hardly deems this as an appropriate attribution due to the mass of opposing evidence. The experiential shift in Bonhoeffer's life during the year of 1932 was recorded in his letter which he wrote to the love of his life (whom he never married because of his life work/calling), Elizabeth Zinn. In January 1936 he wrote,

"I plunged into work in a very unchristian way. An...ambition that many noticed in me made my life difficult...Then something happened, something that has changed and transformed my life to the present day. For the first time I discovered the Bible....I had often preached. I had seen a great deal of the Church, and talked and preached about it - but I had not yet become a Christian...I know that at that time I turned the doctrine of Jesus Christ into something of personal advantage for myself...I pray to God that that will never happen again. Also I had never prayed, or prayed only very little. For all my loneliness, I was quite pleased with myself. Then the Bible, and in particular the Sermon on the Mount, freed me from that. Since then everything has changed. I have felt this plainly, and so have other people about me. It was a great liberation. It became clear to me that the life of a servant of Jesus Christ must belong to the Church, and step by step it became plainer to me how far that must go. Then came the crisis of 1933. This strengthened me in it. Also I now found other who shared that aim with me. The revival of the Church and of the ministry became my supreme concern...My calling is quite clear to me. what God will make of it I do not know...I must follow the path. Perhaps it will not be such a long one. (Phil. 1:23). But it is a fine thing to have realized my calling...I believe its nobility will become plain to us only in coming times and events. If only we can hold out" (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted by Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, A Righteous Gentile vs. The Third Reich, [Nashville: Thomas Nelson]: 2010, 123-124).

Metaxas elaborates upon the aftermath of his spiritual awakening. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a changed man. For the first time in his life Bonhoeffer became a regular churchgoer. No more wishy-washiness for this scholarly academician. Church became an integral part of his life as well as regular participation in the Eucharist. Church-going was now more than an interest, it was an essentiality. Suddenly, church began to take priority over his avid love for concerts, movies, museums, the arts, travel, & the "philosophical & academic give-and-take of theological ideas." Metaxas notes that this shift was largely influenced by his American exposure in the "negro churches" which he attended in Harlem - one of the few avenues where the Gospel was being proclaimed in the States in his estimation.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Excerpt from Bonhoeffer

"Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued" (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted by Eric Mataxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor Martyr, Prophet, Spy, A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich, [Nashville: Thomas Nelson]: 2010, 85).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Importance of Not Studying Theology

Wow. A powerful article from Carl Trueman in the most recent edition of Themelios. He nails the danger in loving the study of the theology rather than theology itself and the God of that theology. This post spoke to me as I find myself saturated in God's Word in biblical languages, semantics, & linguistics and theological vernacular, articulation, and debates. He states,

"The second way in which the study of theology for study’s sake can play out is the manner in which it can ultimately disconnect you from reality, an odd result of studying that should, in theory at least, ground you more firmly in reality than anything else. I often wonder, as I sit in church on a Sunday, of how much of the knowledge I have is truly significant for the people in the pews—the man who has just lost his job, the single mum struggling to hold it together, the teenager coping with all of the pressures that come with the transition to adulthood."

"The answer to such abstraction is not to stop making the study of theology our goal; it is rather to stop making the study of theology our goal. We have a tendency to make the chronological end points—what new things we learn each day—the most important. Yet this confuses the process of learning with the real order of things. The study of theology is not a chase after something or a movement beyond where we start our Christian lives; it is rather a reflection upon the foundations of where we already are. The end term is, strange to tell, the beginning. I start by confessing with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in my heart that God raised him from the dead, and I never actually go any further. All my theology, all my study, is simply reflection on what lies behind that. Thus, I never move beyond praise, never leave behind the beauty of adoration of the living God; I simply learn more and more about the deep foundations upon which that praise and worship rest, which all believers share from the most brilliant to the most humble.

We need to stop studying theology, or, perhaps to put it better, we need at least to stop thinking of what we do as study in the generic sense. It does not move us beyond our starting point; it merely helps us to understand that starting point better."

Read the rest here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Matt Chandler

Denny Burk posted a message given by Matt Chandler at SBTS's recent chapel. This message on Hebrews 11 & 12 struck a chord in my heart of my own wickedness and selfish "christian" lifestyle. He spoke with power and conviction and his thoughts hit me head on. Check it out.