The Cross and the ‘Occupy’ Movement

I read this in preparation for answering an exam question, and it reminded me why the ‘Occupy’ movement won’t have the far reaching effects it thinks it might…

[Penal Substitutionary Atonement] reminds us that God is concerned for justice. God saves sinners not by finding a loophole in high righteous law, but by fulfilling its demands… Secondly, penal substitution reminds us that God will one day put an end to injustice, for the crucial conflict with evil has been fought and won… Thirdly, penal substitution reminds us that the restoration of a righteous world cannot be achieved by mere human effort. It requires God’s intervention… Christians have a responsibility to stand against in justice in society, but we must never make the mistake of thinking that such efforts are the means by which God’s creation will be restored. It is the gospel that is ‘the power of God for salvation’ (Rom 1:16), and only this can ultimately transform the world.

Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey and Andrew Sach, Pierced for our Transgressions. Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution. (2007) IVP: England, p157-158

 

How a ‘Less than Godly Guy’ can attract and keep a ‘Godly Girl’

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WARNING: Strong satire and sarcasm ahead. Should any of this post offend you please feel free to ignore it (as well as the prophet Amos, parts of Isaiah, and 1 Corinthians 13 read in context). Should you feel that any part of this post is pointing directly at you please note: I haven’t used any names, that’s probably the Holy Spirit convicting you(!).

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So you’re a Christian guy. You’d admit that you’re not the most godly person in the world, heck, people probably wouldn’t use your name and the term ‘godly’ in the same sentence. Well, let’s be frank, you’re probably pretty immature in your spiritual walk (you might even be a non-Christian but let’s not get ahead of ourselves). This does not mean that you can’t get yourself a godly girl!

What are the benefits of getting into a relationship with a godly girl?

  • She’s single but already practicing submissiveness in preparation for marriage (Ephesians 5:22)
  • Her beauty and adorning are hidden, a heart of imperishable beauty (1 Peter 3:4), which means she’s not plastering make-up on or flirting with boys…
  • Really godly girls have been ‘trained by older women to love their husbands and children’ (Titus 2:4)
  • Furthermore, godly girls are ‘self-controlled’, ‘pure’, and ‘kind’! (Titus 2:5)

Do I need to convince you any further that finding a godly girl makes life so much more easier?

Now you’re probably wondering, ‘But I’m not a ‘godly guy’…so how can I get a girl like that?!’ Fear not, here are some expert tips that are sure to get the girl of your Christian dreams:

• Have a “passion for missions”. I don’t mean, ‘have a plan to become and/or support a missionary’. Having a “passion for missions” means that you’re really supportive of missions and other people going on missions. It helps if you’ve been on a short-term mission before. If you haven’t and you’re not keen on going some place and actually learning the culture, making new contacts, sharing testimonies and proclaiming the Gospel, try to pick a “mission trip” which can be described as little more than a holiday with a day or two helping to build a house or something (more points if it’s an orphanage). The key is to demonstrate a “passion” without needing to demonstrate any substance.

• Listen to ‘Reformed Rap’. It doesn’t matter that you don’t quite get the concepts being rapped about (like ‘Reformed’, or ‘Atonement’, or ‘Propitiation’), the fact that you’re not listening to Michael W. Smith gives you some extra masculinity points. And masculine men are very ‘in’ at the moment.

• Speaking of masculinity, drop the phrase, ‘I’m just trying to man up in this area’ into your conversations with your particular godly girl. It can demonstrate a desire for holiness without actually needing to change anything.

• Name drop guys you’re podcasting – especially the names ‘Mark Driscoll’, ‘John Piper’, and ‘Matt Chandler’. Like this, ‘I was listening to a Driscoll podcast the other day and it really spoke to me…’ When she asks you, ‘Oh – what did you learn?’, you can reply, ‘I really need to man up in my holiness.’

• Treat your godly girl like a princess. Take her out, pay for meals/movies/coffee, go for nice drives. Godly guys will always treat their girlfriends and wives in this way, but it’s something you can imitate without needing to be godly.

• Read the bible and pray together. Discipleship is sexy when it’s done between opposite genders. This one requires hard work, you might actually have to start reading your bible, but once you’re in you can start treating her like a princess (which takes up the time for bible reading and prayer together).

The goal: to demonstrate ‘potential’ rather than ‘actual growth’. Once you’re in it’s up to you. Tread carefully though as you may find her purity contagious.

His Holiness, and other divine titles of Jesus

I’m a day behind Masterchef. Life has been fairly busy of late and it’s been hard trying to keep up, especially when so much of the show annoyingly runs way overtime and my HDD recorder doesn’t get the full episode which then requires trawling through the Masterchef website to catch final moments of each episode. Ahem.

I’m a day behind, so it came as interesting reading tonight that I learned Kate, one of the final seven contestants in the competition (and, admittedly, one I haven’t been rooting for) had a bit of a run-in with the Dalai Lama. Apparently protocol dictates that his official title be used when addressing him, that is: His/Your Holiness. Kate, revealing for the first time that she is a Christian, refused the title on the grounds that she believes God is the only one we can call ‘Holy’ and instead opted to simply refer to him as ‘Dalai’.

Many of the comments on the various news sites which have run stories on this issue reveal how deeply misunderstood Kate’s actions were. So while I haven’t actually seen the show, nor read enough of her specific comments on her actions, let me offer up some observations.

First, in direct answer to a comment which seems to keep coming up: biblical Christians will not be offended if others do not refer to our leaders by their title. Nor would biblical Christians use the titles often given to the Pope – such as ‘Great High Priest’ or ‘His Holiness’. So it’s not just a matter of saying, ‘Well if the shoe was on the other foot things would be different.’

Secondly, this issue isn’t new. In fact, this issue of Christians clashing with men who use these sorts of titles stems back to the first century church. The Caesars of Rome, since Augustus, consistently used terms that Christians reading the New Testament would be familiar with. For instance the titles ‘Son of God’, ‘Saviour’, ‘Great High Priest’, and ‘[bringer/giver of] Peace’ were often used by the Caesars and can be found in many inscriptions (I did a lengthy essay on this issue in first year bible college for those interested in reading). The pressure to conform, and the temptation of escaping persecution, pushed most to either join the Imperial cultic worship or, at least, pay lip service. But Christians, choosing to honour the One worthy of these titles, chose not to participate under the pressure of persecution.

Third, no matter what everyone says, we are living in an increasingly intolerant world. I’m amazed at some of the comments and the questions being asked in polls on this matter – particularly whether or not Kate should have simply followed protocol no matter what she believed. This clear betrayal of the fundamental right to express what one believes is staggering. Beware of the Thought Police.

‘Love Wins’ roundup

Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Michigan (just to be clear once again, completely unrelated to Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church, Seattle), has been skirting controversy around Evangelical circles for a while. Now he’s creating controversy outside of Evangelical circles…

It all started with this rather provocative video…

Let’s be fair, there’s both something and nothing in this video to be worked up about. Bell doesn’t answer any of the questions in the video, instead it raises some fair questions. However, meaning in spoken language is never purely conveyed by content but also by body language and tone. In that regard there is plenty in this video to get worked up about…

Which Justin Taylor did. Lots of people accused Taylor of jumping the gun and judging Bell on the trailer alone… at this point Kevin DeYoung posted up some very helpful thoughts in answer to some of the criticism Taylor received.

Shortly afterwards advanced copies of the book were passed to some for review. Here, again, is Kevin DeYoung in a lengthy and devastating review. Here is a shorter, but just as devastating, review by Tim Challies.

Bell has since appeared lots to promote the book. This interview with Martin Bashir has gone viral in Christian circles…

There’s also been some debate about the manner in which this interview was conducted, so here is my take to throw into the mix:

  • I think Bashir’s opening dichotomy given to Bell regarding Japan is both a false dichotomy and a very good question for Bell. It’s false because there’s so much more to the issue of natural disasters and suffering than just what is presented. But it’s a good question because Bell is given a chance to correct this in his response…which he doesn’t. I think the answer to such a question reveals so much about ones theology, and I think Bashir knows this as well which is why he framed it the way he did.
  • Bashir has been accused of being repetitive and badgering in this interview. I disagree because I think Bashir’s consistent question reveals the inconsistency in Bell’s position. Is it important how you respond to Jesus in this life? Bell says it’s really important, yet his book strongly suggests it doesn’t matter…love wins.

Here is an interview with Bashir which reveals quite a lot about Bashir personally as well as some of what went on in his interview with Bell. Lengthy, but highly interesting listening.

Last year I wrote an OK essay on the Emergent Church. If you’d like to read it give me a bell (!).

Cult vs Denomination

I recently found this video which is beginning to go viral. Despite being filmed in 2007 the video contains music and synthesizers from the early 90’s and a dance routine from the decade earlier. But the dance solo from 2:00 onwards is probably the highlight.

A little digging online and I discovered that the producers of this clip ‘The Way International‘ is a cult. Further digging on their website and Wikipedia confirmed this. But then I asked myself, ‘What’s the basic difference between a ‘Cult’ and a ‘Denomination’?’

Tim Challies has a helpful look, but to summarise here are his four points of a cult: Add, Subtract, Divide, Multiply.

Add – Cults add to the Bible. And what they add is seen as authoritative. So while a Denomination like the Presbyterians holds firmly to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Anglicans have their Common Book of Prayer these are not given the same authority as Scripture. However, groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their ‘Watchtower Organisation’ and the Mormon’s ‘The book of Mormon’ are both seen as just as authoritative or more authoritative than the Bible.

Subtract – Cults take away from Jesus. It’s always something – for JW’s Jesus is not the Son of God, but Michael the Archangel. For Mormon’s Jesus is not the pre-existent Son of God, but a created being. For Oneness Pentecostals Jesus is just a ‘mode’ of God. Whatever the case, the Jesus of Scripture is diminished.

Divide – Cults divide the loyalty of believers. Each cult believes it has exclusive revelation and understanding of the truth and ensures that its followers are just as exclusive. No-one outside of their cult will be saved. Denominations will disagree on important (but secondary) matters – such as the mode of baptism – but denominations will never argue that the believers in their church are the only ones who are saved.

Multiply – this is the most pernicious mark of a cult: they multiply the requirements of salvation. Salvation in a cult is never ‘by faith alone’ – but always in addition to some human effort. Thus every cult rejects the heart of the gospel.

A cult doesn’t need all of these marks to be ticked in order to be classified as a cult – though most major cults usually have all marks. And by these definitions one could logically argue that Catholicism is also a cult since the Church includes ‘Tradition’ and the ‘Pope’ as authorities alongside the Bible and multiplies the requirements of salvation (to include good works). I have good friends who believe so and I find it hard to argue against – suffice to say that the usual term ‘cult’ is a lot more restrictive and specific in common usage so as to not include Catholicism.

So what about denominations? Well, having been at a Presbyterian Bible College now for the past year and a bit I’ve now become a lot more educated as to the inner workings of the Presbyterian denomination. I’m no expert, nor do I intend to take any Presbyterian specific classes in the course of my degree, but I know I have a much better insight than I did prior to beginning my studies. So here’s a short list of things I think each denomination differs on:

Church Governance – each denomination has a slightly different methods of governing their church. Some have a strong hierarchical, ‘top-down’, system of governance where power lies in one main person. The Anglicans follow this system and it works well if the person at the top is a strong biblical leader (like the Sydney Anglicans) and is a disaster when the persona at the top is theologically liberal (like the Brisbane Anglicans).

The Presbyterian model of church governance vests its power in a Board of Elders which means there is greater theological accountability within the church. The only downside (as far as I can tell with my limited knowledge) is that things tend to move very slowly in this system and if Elders on the Board are not as theologically literate as others it can cause problems.

The final model of church governance is usually termed ‘congregational’ – where the power of decision making is vested in the congregation. Most independent churches and Baptist churches follow this form of church governance. The positives are that this system appears to be the most democratic, but the major negative of this form of governance is that not only is decision making painfully slow, but Pastors are often under the authority of the congregation. This has led some Pastors in some congregational circles to move towards a more ‘theologically light’/prosperity laden gospel in order to seek approval of members.

No system of governance is perfect nor is one more biblical over the other. Each have positives and negatives.

Baptism – each denomination has generally one of two views: believer baptism as a Sacrament of Faith, or infant baptism as a Sacrament of Grace.

For Baptist, Methodist and most Independent churches baptism has been viewed as a Sacrament of Faith – an act performed by those mature enough to understand the Gospel and profess Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

For Anglican, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches baptism has been viewed as Sacrament of Grace – an act performed on infants as a symbol of the free gift of grace each Christian receives (for the infant has done nothing to deserve this Grace). Evangelical churches which practice infant baptism stress that this Sacrament of Grace is not a means of salvation and must be coupled with the proclamation of the Gospel and an affirmation from the believer at some point.

Catholic infant baptism is different on its own. In Catholicism baptism washes the stain of sin from the infant – and if that infant should grow, perform good works/penance/confession and attend Mass regularly then they will have done enough to receive (or earn) salvation.

In conclusion, these differences play an important part in church life. But while these differences mean apparent separation and distinctiveness, we should be careful to note that at the end of the day each denomination (not counting Catholicism as I think Catholicism is a different animal altogether) is divided over ‘secondary issues’, that is to say that no core issue of the centrality of the Gospel is being fought over. Secondary matters of baptism, church governance and other non-essential issues of interpretation have given rise to various denominations globally. But the unity of the church remains.

Check out ‘The Gospel Coalition‘ and ‘Together for the Gospel‘ for two organisations/conferences built upon this idea of unity within diversity.

Deleted post

I recently posted up some thoughts regarding Fundamentalist Christians and Fundamentalist Muslims. My words were not as clear as I would have liked as evidenced by some of the comments made in response.

So I have deleted the post in order to think through some of the implications which have been raised regarding the first of the two points I had previously made, however I stand by the second point which was:

2. When a Christian is called to lay down their lives for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel they do so knowing that Jesus laid down his own life for His people. When a Muslim is called to lay down their lives for Allah and Islam they do so knowing that Allah has not done the same for them.

My sincere apologies for any words which were unclear in my prior post. With God’s grace I will endeavour to clearer in future :)