Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Disconnected Church

Congratulations to Dr. Mike Crudge on the successful completion of his PhD in communications on the disconnect between the perception of the church in society and the perception of the church in the church!

Go here to read the abstract  (Mike's blog)
Go here to read the thesis

The research is from New Zealand but I'm sure would be applicable to other western countries as well.

Fighting for . . . ?

 

There is a sad tendency for Christianity to become associated with belligerence and intolerance and to be know for fighting over issues which seem only loosely connected to the gospel. Perhaps this is inevitable when we insist on a morality which goes against the flow of mainstream society. But what if we could be known for fighting for other things too, like

an end to slavery
the dignity and worth of every human life
or an end to unjust and artificial systems of debt and credit

those three are just by way of example, but my fear is that it is easier to fight about things than for things. That we can easily spend a great deal of time and energy fighting about the correct view of marriage or something else, all the while the world goes to hell in a handbasket because God's servants have stopped doing their job in order to quarrel.

It is not that I don't think that these arguments are not important - they certainly are, but my observation has been that we find we have plenty of energy for fighting over who is right, but little for fighting for what is right. I suspect there is a powerful psychology at work here, a principle that needs to be stubbornly resisted. These fights need to be had, but they must not consume us, define us or distract us. The fights over should be minimised so that the fights for can be maximised.

Monday, November 25, 2013

quote of the day: Capon on Unnecessary Goodnesss




Food is the daily sacrament of unnecessary goodness, ordained for a continual remembrance that the world will always be more delicious than it is useful.
Robert Capon, The Supper of the Lamb, p 40 
cited in Michael Bull, God's Kitchen, p31

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Trinitarian Evangelism

A short and to the point video on why we need to reinvent our evangelism around the Trinity,

Video originally from http://321.revivalmedia.org/why-mention-trinity-in-evangelism/


And here is an example of such, I like it lots.


What do you think?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hermeneutics and Same Sex Marriage

There are (I think) three basic hermeneutic approaches for those who want to align a pro-same sex marriage view with scripture. And, let's be fair, they may have even arrived at these views from scripture through applying these hermeneutics.

The first is the no comment hermeneutic. It says "the Bible does not address modern homosexuality, i.e. a consensual loving monogamous relationship between equal adult parties." This is true and should be recognised as a reason for caution by both sides of the debate in how scripture is applied to contemporary categories. OTOH the implication cannot be, but often is, that therefore the Bible doesn't speak to this issue through its general teaching on sexual ethics. This is because (Christian) biblical ethics, properly understood, is not a list of doos-and-don'ts and then when those doos-and-don'ts fail to cover a situation we have to make it up. Biblical ethics give us an ideal, a goal, they are teleological more than deontological, and so we do not need every situation covered in scripture as any situation that falls short of the God given goal is in effect wrong.

The second is the trajectory hermeneutic. It runs thus: "the Bible presents us with a trajectory of increasing liberation, the NT is more permissive than the OT; slavery and patriarchy are affirmed in the Bible but Christian tradition has come to realise they were wrong in light of the deeper teaching of scripture. As we have recognised the rights of slaves and women we are on a trajectory that now must embrace homosexuality." I would not accept this hermeneutic for two reasons, 1) I do not believe it recognises the consistency of scriptures teaching on the dignity/worth of all humanity and in particular of women and the oppressed; 2) While the issues of women and slavery are often paired in the NT e.g. 1 Cor 7, household codes, etc, (not least because most women of that era had little more rights or status than slaves) there is no correlation between these subjects and homosexuality. So even if we allow for a trajectory of liberation (I don't) there is no Biblical reason to make homosexuality the next step up that ladder than anything else originally disapproved of by scripture.

The third is the slippery slope hermeneutic. This is in many ways the least credible, but in fact the one most commonly heard. It goes like this: "well the Bible says no divorce, but we allow divorce, so who is to say we shouldn't allow gay marriage. and anyway we used to think beer and dancing were bad and now we all drink Bud' and go line dancing." This shows how often those who missed out on the debates the first time round interpret a biblical position on a contentious issue like divorce or alcohol as a simple and inevitable loosening of standards and don't understand the sound biblical reasoning behind it. This is worrying as it means many Bible believing Christians do think a pick and choose approach to scripture is the common practice and do not understand the complexities of biblical interpretation and application. It does not seek biblical justification for the next step but merely points to a lack of biblical justification for the last step . . . so what the hell does it matter what we do?

None of this is to say that I think this solves all arguments or deals with more philosophical and theological questions around the issue. I know that I would need to defend most of these assertions in more detail - this is just a blog post after all. What these hermeneutics illustrate to me is that we need to pull our discussion back from the argument in hand and actually have some basic discussions about what it means to faithfully interpret the scripture. It ceases to become gay marriage that divides us but a more fundamental issue of scriptural interpretation. Sloppy and slapdash approaches to biblical interpretation are not the sole preserve of the pro same sex marriage lobby but more conservative Christians are just as capable of being culpable on this. How sincere are we really about being biblical in this - or do we just want to be right?

Let me know what you think :-)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

quote of the day: Marshall on criticism


Honesty compels me to admit that there are times when exactly the wrong person at exactly the wrong time with exactly the wrong motives has nevertheless said exactly the right thing.

Tom Marshall, Understanding Leadership, 1991, p97

An important principle, not to discount what can be valuable criticism just because it's source is suspect, even a broken clock is right twice a day, provided it has stopped and is analogue not digital. (cartoon from here)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Same Sex Marriage and Baptist Ecclesiology

My friend and fellow worker in the Lord's vineyards of western central Auckland, Rhett, has a couple of good posts first before last weeks national assembly of the Baptist Union of New Zealand and then one reflecting afterwards. I like and respect Rhett, I'm grateful for his provocative posts as they help me formulate my own thoughts for coming discussions with my own church and the union.

Like Rhett, I do consider the biblical teaching on marriage being between a man and a woman and the wrongness of homosexual behaviour to be clear.

However, his posts alert us to some issues not around sexual ethics but how we fellowship with other believers who do not hold to the same sexual ethics we do. In Rhett's first post he compares the issue of same sex marriage to that of infant baptism. He suggests if a church changed their stance on infant baptism the honest thing to do would be to stop pretending they were baptists. I would agree with that. However, I do not see it as being analogous with same sex marriage. Credo baptism has clearly always been a feature of baptist life, it is a defining characteristic of being baptist - much more than models of church government, it is why we have the name. But even on this issue there is not homogeneity. Some churches - mine for instance - actually have constitutionally open membership so that we can have members who were baptised as infants in other denominations without requiring them to be baptised as adults. Despite this serious breach of what it means to be baptist it doesn't seem to be a problem within the union.

Now the issue of same sex marriage is quite different. I would want to distinguish between two groups on this issue. Those who do not care what Jesus wants or what the Bible says and so embrace same sex marriage as a socially necessary evolution and those who sincerely believe that Jesus wants and the Bible teaches them to to embrace same sex marriage as theologically required progress. While one group have cast the essentials of Baptist unity aside, the second group are still within our statement of faith. More importantly the second group are still able to work with those more conservative on this issue because discerning Jesus' will and applying the Bible to our lives is still our common goal.

My impression with the tiny number of NZ baptist churches that have even indicated a willingness to accept same sex marriage is that they all fall into the second group. This is important because although we disagree on a very serious issue we still agree about the centrality of Christ and the scriptures. We are still united by what we have in common.

For me Jesus is bigger than same sex marriage, so even though I am quite convinced same sex marriage is not his will I will still recognise anyone who is honestly following him as my family.

For me biblical authority is bigger than my interpretation of a particular issue, so even though I think (and I do) that they are very wrong I want to win that argument by persuasion not by exclusion.

I know that many more conservative Christians see me as being soft on the issue and cannot accept that this second group really exist - anyone who holds this viewpoint must just be in rebellion. I am not soft on this issue, it is just I am stronger on the sufficiency of Christ.

Baptists are in union, not a denomination, because our unity is not confessional but Christological. Baptist understand themselves first and foremost as disciples of Jesus, not as those who have correct theology. Because our unity is based around our desire to follow the master the tendency for us all to sometimes mistake what the master is saying is not a cause for disunity but humility and patience with each other.
 
Let me know what you think :-)