Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Postmodern Gospel (page 1 of 2)

What’s Important to Canadians?

A recent Angus Reid study has revealed some interesting (even if not surprising) things about what Canadians value. Here are a few highlights.

96 per cent of respondents say having enough free time to do what they want is very important or moderately important to them. Achieving career success (89%), volunteering (74%) and having children (72%) are also high on the scale of accomplishments. 

Following their religious beliefs (46%), being wealthy (53%) and tying the knot (55%) are not valued as highly by Canadians across the nation.

More men (58%) than women (53%) view marriage as an important part of life.

What to make of this? There are lots of things that could be said, but I’ll leave it at this for now: There is a profound irony here.

The trendy emergent crowd says that evangelicals are out of touch, fighting yesterday’s battles about things like marriage, feminism, and other family issues. Yet, these seem to be the very areas where our culture needs to be challenged and corrected.

The ironic twist is completed when we notice that most of the excitement in the emerging crowd is directed to issues like social justice (with a high emphasis on volunteering), not being a religious zealot, and fighting against the drive to be rich. Yet, none of these seem to be out of line with what secular people in Canada already think.

While the conservative evangelicals are accused of being out of touch, the hip emerging crowd preaches what the culture wants to hear–and what they already believe. Why would we expect anything else?

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry. 

How to React to the Fall of Rome – Part 2

In the previous post we saw that the ancient church’s view of a historical phenomenon (namely, the Roman Empire) shifted dramatically within the space of a few generations, on account of their particular experiences with that empire.

I would suggest that we have seen something somewhat similar take place over the past few generations up until our day–though not with an empire, per se.

I think it is particularly interesting to see how many Christians lament over the end of modernism the way Jerome mourned the fall of Rome. So many of us weep over modernism as if it was a Christian creation, designed for the spread of the gospel–God’s chosen means for reaching the world.

In reality, there is little that is further from the truth. In and of itself modernism was never a friend to the gospel. Secular modernist philosophers and scientists have always used modernism as a means of attacking and discrediting the claims of the Christian faith.

For all the ways that modernism has provided a platform for displaying the truthfulness of Christianity (text criticism, archaeological studies of ancient cities, much of creation science, etc.), it was never a ‘Christian’ view.

The trustworthiness of Christianity in a modern mindset boils down to little more than making a ‘case for Christ’ logically. The trouble is that Christianity, by its very nature, will not fit in these categories.

All that we are as Christians is based on the claim that Jesus Christ was entirely God and entirely man, lived a perfect life fulfilling God’s law, suffered and died to take on the curse of the law for us who receive his righteousness, and that God really did physically and literally raise him from the dead.

But here’s the deal: I can’t prove that to you in a scientific way. I can point to evidences, but that’s all. There is something necessarily personal and experiential (existential?) about the Christian faith. What we believe is not relativism, because our believing does not determine whether something is true or false, but our faith is what saves us.

In other words, it’s something personal, internal, ‘unprovable’ that makes all the difference in the world. That’s what our religion is based on. This is the kind of thing that modernists can’t grasp. They want something to touch, to examine, to test, to prove.

So what then? Do we rejoice over the fall of Rome? Do we rush off to align ourselves with the newest invaders who have come to expose Rome’s weaknesses? Do we embrace all that is postmodernism with open arms?

I suggest that we do what Augustine did. We use this opportunity to look around and evaluate from the perspective of eternity. What about modernism was evil and passing? What was good? What reflected God? How was modernism used for the spread of the kingdom?

And then, we ought to begin asking some careful questions about the ’empire’ that is coming upon us. How can we use its strengths and its weaknesses to further the cause of the kingdom? How does postmodernism provide ways for the gospel to go forth that modernism never would?

In the end we must remember that neither modernism nor postmodernism is ‘God’s perspective.’ These philosophical mindsets are of man, and they will pass. We need to examine the world around us closely so that we can see how to better hope in, trust in, and point to the world that is to come.

What About Other Religions?

I’ve gone back and forth a bit on this issue, so if you’ve thought about it, I’d love some input. Here’s the question: How much value is there in other world religions? How much time should we spend studying them? When we study them, how should we study them?

Before I went to college, I was of the mindset that there was very little value in getting to know other religions in a meaningful way. For good or for ill, by the time I was done at Heritage, I had come perilously close to being convinced that we needed to know other religions. Buddhists were asking better questions than Christians. Many Muslims are more devout than Christians. World religions like Hinduism, Sikhism, even the Bha’i people, had accumulated great wisdom over the centuries, and Christians would do well to learn from them.

Or would we?

Once out of that environment, I began to realize that there were some serious inconsistencies in the ways that I thought. My good friend Rielly had taught me some about the import of the noetic effects of sin (the effects of sin on the mind). My belief in the doctrine of original sin and mankind’s total inability also seemed to be at odds with finding wonderful positives in godless, man-made religions.

Today I was pondering a little bit more what exactly I believe with regards to elements of truth in other religions, and how we should react to / interact with them, and I got to thinking about the Bible.

Obviously, things are pretty clear in the Old Testament. God was straight-out against his people having anything to do with the godless nations around them. But much of the crowd at my college seemed (if not always with words, then with attitudes and hermeneutics) to dislike this ‘God’ and this ‘ethic’ of the Old Testament and were very happy to proclaim that we have advanced far beyond that type of thing now.

So what about the New Testament?

This is where I got stuck. We have Paul’s interaction with the pagan philosophers on Mars Hill in Acts, which seems to be the thing that everyone seems to appeal to in order to make their point on this topic. Remarkably, everyonse seems to have their own take on his this interaction should impact our interaction with other religions and our apologetics today. I’m wondering: what other New Testament texts do we look to here? What texts have you found helpful?

What about Jesus? Many emerging-types like to claim that they are ‘red letter Christians’, not ‘Paulians’, so we should deal with Christ. They claim that his harsh words were always for the religious hypocrites (Pharisees), never for anyone else. But it seems to me that Jesus would often use the ‘Gentiles’ / ‘nations’ (ie. ‘pagans’) as a negative example. In other words, ‘Don’t worry, because that’s what the pagans do.’ Or, ‘Don’t just love your brother, because that’s what the pagans do.’

Am I wrong? It would appear that Jesus felt free to hold up the false religions as examples of godless ‘morality’, whose standards and thoughts ought to be avoided at all cost. As I said, I’ve gone back and forth on this, so I am open to being wrong again. If you’ve thought about this already, please advise.

The Abandonment of Christian Atonement

Christians never cease to amaze me. In our contemporary ‘conversation’ we find people rejecting the idea of penal substitution, the imputation of righteousness, justification by grace alone, through faith alone, etc., etc., etc.

The thing that really bothers me about this is the arrogance with which such historic Christian doctrines are tossed aside in such a cavalier manner. We are told that these ideas of God being ‘angry’ and desiring to make his Son pay the ‘punishment’ as a ‘substitute’ to give us a ‘forensic’, ‘legal’ righteous standing before God are western, modern, and un-nuanced. We are told that for hundreds of years we’ve been reading the New Testament through the eyes of Luther, rather than first-century Judaism.

Bogus.

Below is an excerpt from the Epistle to Diognetus, written in the second-century AD, one of the earliest extant apologies for the Christian faith outside of the New Testament. In this section the author discusses the nature of the atonement, as taught in the New Testament. What this is an attempt to show is that the abandonement of penal substitutionary atonement which accomplishes justification (including the imputation of righteousness) by grace alone through faith alone is not just an abandonment of modern, western Christianity, but is an abandonment of historic, biblical Christianity at its very core.

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But when our iniquity was fulfilled and it had been made fully manifest that its reward of punishment and death was awaited, and the season came which God had appointed to manifest henceforth His own goodness and power (O the exceeding kindness and love of God!), He did not hate us or repel us or remember our misdeeds, but was long-suffering, bore with us, Himself in mercy took on Him our sins, Himself gave up His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for the wicked, the innocent for the guilty, “the just for the unjust”, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for mortals. For what else could cover our sins but his righteousness? In whom was it possible for us, wicked and impious as we were, to be justified, except in the Son of God alone? O the sweet exchange, O work of God beyond all searching out, O blessings past our expectation, that the wickedness of many should be hidden in one righteous Man and the righteousness of the One should justify many wicked!


— Taken from The Epistle to Diognetus, IX.2-5. The is one of the earliest extant apologies for the Christian faith, written in the second century ad, within decades of the death of the apostle John.

The Catchphrase That Can’t…

Much has been made in other places about the cheesy PoMo quasi-evangelical catchphrases such as ‘dialogue’, ‘story’, ‘journey’, ‘romance’, etc. I would like to comment here on the term ‘conversation.’

A ‘conversation’ is apparently when more than one PoMo gathers, and they begin to speak. They pile up one non-descript cliché (see above for some popular choices) on top of another, each describing their own ‘authentic experience’ (their story) which becomes, to each of them, uniquely authoritative for their own journey.

Perhaps the reason why these ones are so quick to devalue language and its inherent meaning is because they simply have chosen to create a dialect of their own, in which each one of the seven (7) words they know becomes entirely defined by its own context (the word’s story??). Interpretation, then (and thus, meaning, as well), is entirely in the ear of the hearer.

No wonder they can connect and have such wonderfully meaningful ‘conversations’… Everyone tells me my own interpretation of their story… which I interpret the way I do because of my own story… how wonderful!

All that, however, is simply by way of introduction. The reason I wanted to write about the term ‘conversation’ is because I feel it has been violated, perhaps worse than the others.

It is often stated that the truly ‘missional’ Christian will not seek to win ‘converts’, but rather to make ‘relationships’ which will lead to truly ‘meaningful’ and ‘mutually beneficial’ conversations. Only mean old moderns want converts. Hip missional Christians know that conversations are much better.

But that is a lie. This catchphrase simply doesn’t work the way they want it to work (which is quite sad, really, because it does sound very pious of them).

The trouble is that conversation is not the goal of a Christian. Conversion of sinners is. While I understand that many emergent types are reacting against the old ‘crusade’ style of evangelism, they are throwing not just the baby, but also the mother, out with the bathwater.

To be a Christian means that I love God. It is to God’s glory to see sinners saved. That’s why he sent his Son… that’s why we’re called to go to every nation and make disciples. We’re not told to go to the ends of the world to stake our share in the marketplace of ideas.

To be a Christian means that I love others. I love because God first loved me. Being saved, I know that it is to the benefit of any man, woman, boy, or girl to be saved. To know Jesus is the most eminently wonderful joy the soul could ever know. Why would I want to deny to someone that I really want them to know the greatest, truest, only absolutely sovereign joy the world will ever know? So that we could ‘have conversation’?

What a joke.

Either you desire sinners to be saved, or you’re not a Christian because you obviously haven’t understood that it’s to the glory of God and for the good of the person for them to be saved!

So one of two things is happening here. Either these wonderfully conversational emergent types are really seeking conversions through conversations (which seems awfully deceptive… why not just say what you mean? Tell them what you really want!) or else they really think that the world has as much to offer them as they have to offer the world.

If the latter is their mindset than I would argue it is true. The world does have as much to offer as they do… which is absolutely zero. Only a heart that has never experienced the true grace and love of God in the forgiveness of Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit could ever think that the world has anything to offer them.

Going Deep

God is big… infinite, in fact. It only makes sense, then, that a finite being like me can’t understand everything about God. One thing the emergent *cough*neo-orthodoxy*cough* crew likes to point out is that we can’t put God in a box. Generally it’s phrased in a ‘witty’ sarcastic statement intended as a ‘humble’ rebuke of some ‘fundamentalist’ that goes something like this: ‘Well, I’m glad that some of you have God all figured out, but for those of us who think God is too big to fit into a little box (or sometimes ‘book’), we prefer to think that he is free to act as he sees fit.’  

Sure. But no one was denying that. In fact, we would argue that the Scriptures themselves teach that God is free to act as he sees fit (even in spite of what we might choose).

The idea of God being ‘really big’ should not effect the basic doctrines the way emergents often quote it. Infinity does not negate perspicuity. When deep sea diving, it can get dark. When snorkeling, there is plenty of light to see where we’re swimming. You could very well be in the same ocean either way, but in one place the water is murky and in another it’s clear.

The same is true of God. Just as he has claimed to have not revealed everything to us, neither do we claim to know everything. But the things that God has revealed, we can and must know! The fact that God is bigger, deeper, more profound, complex and wonderful than me should not discourage me from ever knowing anything about God, but rather, should inspire to look into the mystery of his revelation all the more.

But the complex does not complicate the simple. Some aspects of God are plain. He is holy and righteous and he hates sin. He will not compromise, change his mind, or give his glory to another. He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. He will accomplish his purpose in history, despite sinful man’s every effort to thwart God’s plan (as pictured in the cross). God will always be victorious (as pictured in the resurrection and ascension). He requires propitiation of his holy wrath, and he provided it for all his sheep in the person of Jesus Christ. He will one day raise all the dead from all time to face judgment: either unto eternal life or eternal punishment. This much is plain.

When Christ returns, I want to be able to say that I used the ‘talent’ he left us (his word) to get to know him and that I’ve spoken his truth to others, not that I buried it in the ground in order to ‘ask questions,’ because I was afraid to conclude anything about him because he’s too ‘big.’

Spurgeon vs. Emergent

Words of wisdom from Spurgeon, writing against (ironically enough) proponents of ‘modern thought’ who would ‘fiddle’ with doctrine, always looking to change the theology of the church.

Our ‘modern thought’ gentry are doing incalculable mischief to the souls of men, and resemble Nero fiddling upont the top of a tower with Rome burning at his feet. Souls are being damned, and yet these men are spinning theories. Hell gapes wide, and with her open mouth swallows up myriads, and those who should spread the tidings of salvation are ‘pursuing fresh lines thought.’ Highly cultured soul-murderers will find their boasted ‘culture’ to be no excuse in the day of judgment. For God’s sake, let us know how men are to be saved, and get to the work: to be for ever deliberating as to the proper mode of making bread while a nation dies of famine is detestable trifling. It is time we knew what to teach, or else renounced the office. ‘For ever learning and never coming to the truth’ is the motto of the worst rather than the best of men.
 

Something like this helps me put my finger on exactly what it is (at least one of the things) that bugs me so much about emergent. The more time we spend re-inventing the wheel, the more people live and die without ever hearing the plain gospel truth from a Christian. The more Satan keeps Christians busy arguing over how seriously we should take warnings of hell for all who don’t consciously put faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, the more people die convinced they are fine because even a Christian wouldn’t tell them their sin is sin.

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