Alastair on Pentecost

Alastair is running a series on Pentecost right now over at his blog Alastair at Adversaria, in which he will explore the prophetic role of the Church and the meaning of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The big idea of this series is that the events of Pentecost set the Church apart as a prophetic community; in the course of the series Alastair will unpack the relationship between the role of prophet in the Old Testament and what the Church was doing in the New Testament.  As I write this part 1 and part 2 are up; perhaps there will be more to come.

In part 1 Alastair looks at the ministry of Jesus and the prophetic anointing of the Church, concentrating on the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.  The ministry of the Church is intimately connected with the ministry of Jesus, and there are ties between the ministry of Elijah and Moses and the ministry of Jesus.  In part 2 we see the Church as a community of prophets, and we see that there are ties between Pentecost and the receiving of the Law at Sinai.

Everything which Alastair writes is very good.  It does require a good bit of effort to get your head around the things which Alastair says, but it is well worth it.

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Les Miserables 14: To Trust is Sometimes To Surrender

Okay, last time we broke off from Jean Valjean’s story and went to Paris, where we saw how four young Parisian guys played a rather nasty trick on four girls.  One of the girls involved in this was the young lady Fantine, who will play a major part in the action to come.

When we first met Fantine, we saw that she was ravishingly beautiful, with stunning blonde hair and gorgeous white teeth.  We saw that she was a child of unknown parentage; she just showed up one day as an orphaned toddler walking the streets of Montreuil-sur-mer.  She had no family name; no one knew who her parents were and no one cared to even try to track them down.  She had no baptismal name; the Directory was in power then and the Church was not performing baptisms then.  We touched on this in my earlier post about the spiritual element of Les Miserables.  At any rate, she grew up working out in the fields as soon as she was old enough, and then she made her way to Paris to “seek her fortune”.  There she met and fell in love with Tholomyes, and that is what got her into this double quartet.

We kind of breezed through their little outing and the surprise, but I wanted to come back and hit on a couple of things before we move on. Continue reading “Les Miserables 14: To Trust is Sometimes To Surrender”

Another Michael Spencer Post: Does the Gospel Change the Way You Look at the People the Culture War Tells You to Fear and Dislike?

Today:  another post from Michael Spencer.  This one continues in the ongoing theme of evangelism, the culture war, and our interaction with those outside of evangelical Protestant-dom.  He begins with an illustration of how he used to play Daniel Boone with his friends when he was growing up, but they needed somebody to be the bad guys, so they enlisted one of the families down the street to fill this role.  It’s the same idea in culture war-obsessed evangelicalism, except that the enemy isn’t some family of kids down the street.  It’s militant gays, radical atheists, Muslims, progressives, the mainstream media, liberals and supporters of the president…you get the idea.

But in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, Paul makes it clear that if we are controlled by the love of Christ, then we don’t look at people in the same way that we did prior to becoming Christian.  If we look at other people in the light of the Gospel–as people who are invited to be reconciled with God–then that leaves no room for us to look at them as enemies because of their politics, sexual partners, religion, attitude towards Christianity, etc.

Read Michael Spencer’s post Does the Gospel Change The Way You Look At The People The Culture War Tells You To Fear and Dislike?

Another Michael Spencer Post: Who Will Dominate the Culture?

Since we are currently on a theme of how we as evangelicals engage with outsiders, I would like to direct your attention to a post by Michael Spencer about the culture war and its implications on our approach to evangelism.  It starts off with a Youtube video about the increasing Muslim population of Europe, which is extremely alarmist and based on questionable data.

This leads into a discussion of the culture war and its implications for evangelism.  You see, the video is based on several unspoken assumptions:  That Muslims are a dangerous group who must not be allowed to gain influence in any society if the people of that society are to have any hope of living in peace and freedom.  That Christianity cannot survive in any culture which is not a Christian majority.  That the primary goal of Christianity is, and should be, to produce a culture where the majority of people are Christian–by any means necessary.

Several problems with the video and the assumptions on which it is based:  First, the numbers which it makes reference to are derived from questionable data.  Second, the unspoken characterization of Muslims as a menace to any civilized society smacks of racism which ought to at least make the conscience of any Christian extremely uneasy.  Third, Christianity has existed–and thrived–for centuries in places where it was strictly a minority religion.  And finally:  Did Jesus ever sound like the narrator of this video?  I don’t think so.

Next, the article discusses the implications of the culture war upon evangelism.  Nowadays, evangelism is simply not happening in many places in evangelical Protestant-dom.  The reason for this is that, because of the dominance of culture war priorities and interests in the world of evangelical Protestant-dom, evangelism has become predominantly culture war-centered.  Which means that it consists chiefly of asking “them” to join “our” team.

When evangelism becomes an exercise in asking “them” to join “our” team, most people simply don’t want any part in it.  The ones who do tend to look at those whom they are evangelizing as “the enemy” and to adjust their tactics accordingly, which all but ensures that those who are being evangelized will not respond favorably.

Alastair on Missions Redux

Today I would like to mix things up a little bit and direct your attention to a post which I linked a couple of years back.  This post is over at Alastair at Adversaria and it is part of a series having to do with his thoughts on the denominational church.  We think denominationalism is a bad thing, and it is, but God is using it to shape His church in ways which we can’t even imagine.  In this series Alastair offers some ideas about this.  Here is the post on denominationalism which gave rise to this series.  Here is part 1 of the series, part 2, and part 3.

About a third of the way into this post (which is part 2 of the series, by the way), the subject turns to cross-cultural missions, and Alastair has this to say:

It is incredibly sad to see the absence of cross-cultural theological dialogue in many parts of the Church when we have so much to gain from such dialogue. There are some who believe that missionary efforts merely involves transplanting our cultural forms of Christianity into foreign settings. The goal of missionary activity, for instance, becomes that of getting African Christians to think in terms of the Westminster Standards. The idea that our form of the Christian faith, deeply culturally conditioned as it is, might have a lot to learn from humble dialogue with more indigenous African forms of Christianity never seems to occur to us.

For instance, the Westminster Standards are the sort of documents that one would expect seventeenth century northern Europeans, trained in Western forms of logic and rhetoric (their Anglo-Saxon background muted by the academy), living in a culture where the Christian faith is pretty well established, to produce. They are deeply culturally conditioned. I imagine that if the Christian Church were faithfully to express its faith in terms of an African tribal culture, it would look surprisingly different, without ceasing to continue significant similarities. I firmly believe that God desires that we encourage the development of such indigenous declarations of faith and that we learn from each other as we engage in cross-cultural dialogue within the new culture that God is creating within the Church.

Let the record show that I am in agreement with Alastair on this one.  I’ve said it many times before on this blog and I’ll say it again:  We who live here and now in present-day American evangelicalism are NOT the end-all, be-all of what God is doing in the world!

It is unfortunate that much of our evangelical approach to missions has involved bringing not biblical Christianity to the peoples of the world, but biblical Christianity filtered through the grid of Western culture.  And it is particularly unfortunate, in light of the fact that many who live outside of Western culture can see the spiritual emptiness which has come with our vast wealth and technological superiority.  A quote from Mother Teresa which speaks to this:  “You in the West have the spiritually poorest of the poor.”

Perhaps we would do well to rethink our approach to missions, to think that the people and cultures which we evangelize have something worthwhile to contribute to our understanding of God, and at least listen to them.

Another Michael Spencer Post: The Sin We Love to Hate

There’s still more floating out there on the issue of homosexuality this week.  So let me direct your attention to another Michael Spencer post on the subject.  This one is called “The Sin We Love to Hate”, and it is all about some controversial comments which retired NBA star Tim Hardaway made about gays a couple of years back, and about how many evangelicals will come uncomfortably close to saying the exact same things that Hardaway said.  Whenever something like this comes down the pipe, many evangelicals will unfortunately feel a greater compulsion to use the occasion to denounce the sin of homosexuality than to distance themselves from the bigotry expressed in such statements.

Read Michael Spencer’s post “The Sin We Love to Hate”