Anthony Bradley: The New Legalism of Missional, Radical Christianity

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post by Anthony Bradley at the Acton Institute PowerBlog, entitled “The New Legalism: Missional, Radical, Narcissistic, and Shamed“.  In this post Bradley looks at the missional and radical movements in present-day evangelicalism and examines their roots.

Bradley contends that the roots of this phenomenon are largely cultural:  A generation ago, Baby Boomers pushed back against the safe suburban lifestyle that their parents’ generation had created for them, along with the moralistic preaching and emphasis on being good that was rife in the Christianity of that day.  Now, the Baby Boomers are in charge and the pendulum has swung the other way.  They have forsaken the suburbs for the city (Wasn’t Jesus all about cities?).  They abhor the idea of an ordinary life or an ordinary Christian life in the suburbs, and the antidote is a Christianity that is all about living in the city, loving the poor who live in the city, dreaming big and doing huge things for the glory of God.  No longer is it acceptable to simply live in the suburbs; you have to be living in the city, loving and serving with reckless abandon, and doing huge things for the glory of God.  The millennials coming up behind them heard all of this, and they may be pushing back.

Please read: “The New Legalism: Missional, Radical, Narcissistic, and Shamed” by Anthony Bradley.

Al Mohler and C. J. Mahaney

crowingAl Mohler is crowing.

To me, the sight of Al Mohler crowing is repulsive.  Repulsive like the sight of Florida car flags on the streets of Atlanta during the first week of November (a sight which, thankfully, I have not had to endure the last two years).

I have never exactly felt the love for Al Mohler.  Mohler first got my goat back in 2005 with a piece he did on why singles who don’t get married are out of the will of God.  He did not score many plus points last year when he did a piece critiquing Andy Stanley for not condemning homosexuality as sin.

So what exactly is Al Mohler crowing over?

Al Mohler is crowing because his friend C. J. Mahaney has just gotten off scot-free.  A Maryland judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by victims of abuse at churches in the Sovereign Grace Ministries network which claimed that he and other Sovereign Grace Ministries leaders permitted the abuse to occur in their organization.

This has been an ongoing scandal.  Some of you may be familiar with it.  Basically, sexual abuse happened in some Sovereign Grace Ministries churches and was covered up.  Victims were discouraged from reporting the abuse to the authorities.  And now the allegations of abuse and subsequent cover-up are coming to light.  That’s about all you need to know about this.  That’s about all I want to know about it.

When the lawsuit was dismissed Al Mohler, together with Capitol Hill Baptist Church pastor Mark Dever and First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Miss, pastor Ligon Duncan, issued a joint statement defending C. J. Mahaney in the strongest possible terms.  “We have stood beside our friend, C. J. Mahaney, and we can speak to his personal integrity.”

But those at The Wartburg Watch have a different view of things:  Not only is The Gospel Coalition committed to defending Mahaney, they are also willing to throw an alleged abuse victim under the bus in order to maintain Mahaney’s innocence, such as it is.

Maybe it is not right to speak on this until all the facts are out there.  But it sure looks as if Mohler is placing himself squarely on the side of a leader who, at the very least, has created a culture where sexual abuse was permitted to occur.  This does not look good.

John Piper Doesn’t Get It

piper

@JohnPiper: “Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house, and it fell upon them, and they are dead.” Job 1:19

@JohnPiper: “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.” Job 1:20

It did not take John Piper long to weigh in on the tragic events in Moore, Oklahoma this week.  When something tragic happens in our land, it does not take him long at all to hit the airwaves or the blogosphere with a ready explanation of what God is doing in the midst of it.  These two tweets came out on Monday, the evening of the storm.

Many bloggers criticized Piper earlier this week because they only saw the first tweet.  This was inappropriate and unfair because the second tweet supplies some needed context for the first, and it is never good form to quote selectively when criticizing someone.

There’s still a problem here.

The problem is this:  These two tweets, as well as other pronouncements from Piper in the aftermath of similar tragedies in recent years, proceed from a theology of divine sovereignty that is more at home in Islam than in anything remotely resembling biblical Christianity.

Did Piper speak too soon?  That is a common criticism, and one which is well deserved.  But would Piper’s words be necessary and appropriate after the nation and the victims in Oklahoma have had some time to heal and gain perspective, say, in a couple of weeks or a couple of months?

No.  Piper’s words would be just as inappropriate then as they are now.

Piper holds to a view of divine sovereignty which says, as R. C. Sproul put it, “There are no maverick molecules”.  In this view, every single molecule in every storm on the earth is set in its path by God.  Every decision made by people that brings misery and heartache into the lives of others who are affected is ordained by the God who holds the hearts of all men in His hands.  The pious response may be to shut up, fall down and worship (Job 1:20), but it doesn’t take much to get to seeing such a God as a cynical, dispassionate being who plays dice with His creation and is untouched by the grief and misery of His people.  Even worse–a God who is not above fucking around with nature, politics, the economy, or whatever, just to score a theological point or two.  Is such a God really worthy of worship?

But Piper misses the larger point of the book of Job, and it is this:  There are no explanations.  In the face of God Himself, all attempts at explanation prove to be woefully inadequate.  Even the view that “There are no maverick molecules”.

You don’t have to understand.  You don’t have to explain.  You can’t even begin to.

For a more detailed explanation of how the theology of God’s sovereignty expressed in Piper’s tweets is at odds with the message of the book of Job, read “John Piper, Miserable Comforter” at internetmonk.com.

Les Miserables 78: Enchantments and Desolations

lesmiserablesBefore we ease back into the story, I would like to leave you with one quote from the section on argot:

Let us have compassion for the chastened.  Who, alas! are we ourselves?  Who am I who speak to you?  Who are you who listen to me?  Whence do we come?  And is it quite certain that we did nothing before we were born?  The earth is not without resemblance to a jail.  Who knows whether man is a prisoner of Divine Justice?

Look closely at life.  It is so constituted that we feel punishment everywhere.

Are you what is called a lucky man?  Well, you are sad every day.  Each day has its great grief or its little care.  Yesterday you were trembling for the health of one who is dear to you, today you fear for your own, tomorrow it will be an anxiety about money, the next day the slanders of a calumniator, the day after the misfortune of a friend, then the weather, then something broken or lost, then a pleasure for which you are reproached by your conscience or your vertebral column; another time, the course of public affairs.  Not to mention heartaches.  And so on.  One cloud is dissipated, another gathers.  Hardly one day in a hundred of unbroken joy and sunshine.  And you are of that small number who are lucky!  As for other men, stagnant night is upon them.

Thoughtful minds make little use of this expression; the happy and the unhappy.  In this world, clearly the vestibule of another, no one is happy.

Here we see a couple of essential truths from the Christian foundation of Les Miserables laid out clearly:  that there is another world coming, and that this world is broken and fallen.  Why else would everyone, even the luckiest among us, endure a life where every day is filled with some great trouble or little care?

After the section on argot, Victor Hugo eases us back into the story:

The reader will remember that Eponine, having recognized through the grating the inhabitant of that Rue Plumet, to which Magnon had sent her, had begun by diverting the bandits from the Rue Plumet, had then taken Marius there, and that after several days of ecstasy in front of that iron gate, Marius, drawn by the force that propels iron toward the magnet and the lover toward the stones of his loved one’s house, had finally entered Cosette’s garden as Romeo did Juliet’s.  It had even been easier for him than for Romeo; Romeo was obliged to scale a wall, Marius had only to slightly push aside one of the bars of the decrepit gate, which was loose in its rusty socket, like the teeth of old people.  Marius was slender and easily slipped through.

This led to Marius’s first meeting with Cosette.  He then visited her in the garden every night for several weeks.  They talked of anything and everything except for anything and everything.  They were so enraptured with each other that they lost all awareness of anything else, including an outbreak of cholera that swept through the city during that month.  Hugo describes all of this in full detail.

Hugo bookends this section of the story with Eponine.  Eponine led Marius to Cosette, and in a poignant scene Marius meets Eponine again one night as he is on his way to Cosette’s garden:

He looked up and recognized Eponine.

This produced a strange effect on him.  He had not thought even once of this girl since the day she brought him to the Rue Plumet, he had not seen her again, and she had completely gone out of his mind.  He had grounds for gratitude toward her; he owed his present happiness to her, and yet it annoyed him to meet her.

It is a mistake to suppose that passion, when it is fortunate and pure, leads man to a state of perfection; it leads him simply as we have said, to a state of forgetfulness.  In this situation man forgets to be bad, but he also forgets to be good.  Gratitude, duty, necessary and troublesome memories, vanish.  At any other time Marius would have felt very differently toward Eponine.  Absorbed in Cosette, he had not even clearly realized that this Eponine’s name was Eponine Thenardier, and that she bore a name written in his father’s will, that name to which he would have been, a few months earlier, so ardently devoted.  We show Marius just as he was.  Even his father was disappearing somewhat from his soul beneath the splendor of his love.

With some embarrassment. he answered, “Ah, you, Eponine!”

“Why do you speak to me so sternly?  Have I done anything to you?”

“No,” he answered.

Certainly, he had nothing against her.  Far from it.  Except, he felt that he could not do otherwise, now that he had whispered to Cosette, than speak coldly to Eponine.

As he was silent, she exclaimed, “So tell me–”

Then she stopped.  It seemed as if words failed this creature, once so reckless and bold.  She attempted to smile and could not.  She began again, “Well?”

Then she was silent again, and stood with her eyes cast down.

“Good evening, Monsieur Marius,” she said all at once abruptly, and she went off.

Marius’s love for Cosette had a dark side.  In this poignant scene, Eponine caught the full brunt of it.

But note that Marius’s character flaws are not due to moral failings, as is the case with Thenardier and the other villains in this story.  Rather, his flaws are due to youth and inexperience.  This is the first time that Marius has ever experienced the state of being in love, and he doesn’t yet know how to do it right.  He thinks that faithfulness to Cosette requires him to be cold toward Eponine.  Worse still, he is unaware that he is under any sort of obligation toward Eponine, or that Eponine is tied to the will of his father whom he had earlier idolized.  This is all because he allowed his first experience of being in love to wash over him and push him to the point of forgetfulness.  Also, recall that in his first love letter to Cosette, he displayed views of love that were informed by youthful naivete, namely that love was such a pure passion that no corruption could taint it, any more than a nettle could grow up on a glacier.

Even so, we are not yet done with Eponine.  Stay tuned to see what she will do for Marius.

Pat Robertson: Adultery Is Natural For Men

Another one to file under “He didn’t just say that, did he?  Oh snap, he did”.

Honestly, if I can just set up some kind of Google feed on Pat Robertson, this blog would write itself.

So what did Robertson say this time?

Seems a female viewer of Robertson’s TV show “The 700 Club” was having some trouble with the fact that her husband cheated on her.  Robertson’s response:  “…Stop talking about the cheating.  He cheated on you.  Well, he’s a man.  OK.”  He then went on to suggest that she focus on why she married her husband in the first place and ask herself if he provided for her needs and those of her children.  “Is he handsome?  Start focusing on these things and essentially fall in love all over again….Males have a tendency to wander a little bit.  And what you want to do is make a home so wonderful he won’t want to wander.”

You can read all about it here on CNN’s religion blog.  They also run down a handful of Robertson’s more memorable quotes from the past decade.

And in case you just can’t believe Robertson actually said that (understandable), here is the video evidence:

Les Miserables 77: Argot

lesmiserablesLast time Victor Hugo showed us Gavroche up close and personal.  We saw him unknowingly care for his two younger brothers, and then we saw him unknowingly care for his father by helping him out of a jam as he was trying to escape from prison.  Hugo left us on a cliffhanger, with Thenardier and his gang fresh out of prison and plotting possible criminal mayhem against the place on the Rue Plumet.  (We know that this is the place where Valjean and Cosette are presently staying.)

And now, Hugo breaks off into another aside.  Get used to it; this is the pattern of the story.  Hugo takes us right up to a climactic or semiclimactic moment, and then breaks off and heads in a different direction.

A few rules about the nonfiction asides in Les Miserables:  First, remember that this is part of the pattern of the story.  Hugo will bring us right up to a climactic moment, then break off and launch into a nonfictional aside, then ease us gently back into the story.

Next, remember that Les Miserables is more than just a high-action thriller about Jean Valjean and friends attempting to negotiate the Parisian underworld.  Victor Hugo is one of the finest plot fiction writers ever to walk the face of the earth, and even if that was all there was to the story, it would still have a lot to recommend it.  But Les Miserables is much more than that.  It is an attempt by one of France’s leading citizens to speak prophetic truth to his country at a pivotal time in its history by shining a light on people whom his country’s society had forgotten and the horrific conditions under which they lived.  Argot, the subject of this aside, is a significant part of these people’s lives.

Finally, remember that Victor Hugo is one of the finest plot writers ever to walk the face of the earth.  If he includes something in his story, then we can rest assured that there is a reason for it.  We may not know the reason right away, but we will see as the story progresses.  For example:  The story begins with several chapters describing the bishop Monseigneur Bienvenu, whom we never see again after those early chapters.  Why?  Because Monseigneur Bienvenu makes such a huge investment in Valjean in their encounter that it is important for us to know who he was and how he got to be who he was before we continue with the story.  His act of grace toward Valjean becomes much more powerful because we have the context that leads up to it.

Other examples:  The Waterloo aside.  In spending several chapters describing the Battle of Waterloo for apparently no reason, Victor Hugo sets the mood for what will happen on the battlefield that night.  He also provides us with examples of true heroism at Waterloo to contrast with the actions of Thenardier, who claimed to be a hero at Waterloo.  Later on, Hugo takes several chapters to describe the history of the convent at Petit-Picpus and monasticism in general, because this place is where Valjean and Cosette would spend the next several years of their lives.  Later, Hugo takes several chapters to describe the July Revolution of 1830, because this event and its aftermath would impact the world in which the characters of the story lived and drive them, each in his or her own way, toward the story’s ultimate climax.

This brings us to the section on argot.  What do we do with this?

Argot can be loosely defined as the in-house language of any trade, profession, sport, hobby, activity, or other field of human endeavor used by those who are insiders in that particular field.  No doubt you have heard the term used this way before.  But that is not what Victor Hugo is talking about here.  What he is talking about here is much more specific: it is the semi-distorted French used daily by criminals and others living in the Parisian underworld.  The closest present-day equivalent to this would be ebonics.

Hugo begins with a brief defense of the use of argot (as he defines it) in literature and the arts.  Argot is a fact of life in the Parisian underworld.  Those who lived in polite French society did not want to have to deal with characters who spoke argot in their books or plays, because they considered it impolite.  But Hugo shows no shame about taking his readers right up to this particular aspect of French life, unseemly though it may be, and shining a light on it.

Here are some phrases Hugo uses to describe the argot of the Parisian underworld:

Argot is nothing more nor less than a wardrobe in which language, having some bad deed to do, disguises itself.  It puts on word-masks and metaphoric rags.

In this way it becomes horrible.

…Argot is the language of the dark.

…Each syllable looks branded.  The words of the common language here appear as if wrinkled and shriveled under the red-hot iron of the executioner.  Some seem to be still smoking.  A phrase affects you like the branded shoulder of a robber suddenly laid bare.  Ideas almost refuse to be expressed by these substantives condemned by justice.  Its metaphor is sometimes so shameless we feel it has worn the iron collar.

…Being the idiom of corruption, argot is easily corrupted.  Moreover, as it always seeks disguise as soon as it feels understood, it transforms itself.  Unlike all other vegetation, every ray of light on it kills what it touches.  Thus argot goes on decomposing and recomposing incessantly; an obscure and rapid process that never ceases.  It changes more in ten years than the language in ten centuries.

Hugo then goes on to wax eloquently about how society is evolving toward progress and enlightenment.  All up to the eighteenth century there were the rumblings of a possible revolt of the under classes, but the French Revolution released the tension.  Now (that is, at the time at which Les Miserables was written), the ignorance of the past appears to be resurfacing, but let us not give heed to that for it is a powerless monster.

Here Hugo shows himself to be an idealist, who sees society as automatically and of necessity evolving toward a better state.  All of history is a progression from ignorance to enlightenment, from corruption to virtue, from hatred to love for all.  We who live on the other side of World War I, World War II, the Cold War, etc. would heartily take issue with this, but remember that this way of looking at things was quite common back in Hugo’s day.  They had not lived through World War I, World War II, the Cold War, etc., so we can’t totally blame them for their unguarded optimism about humanity’s capacity to create a better world.

Now, what purpose might Hugo’s little discourse on argot serve in the story?

In all probability, this indicates that there is a significant event coming up in the story in which argot will play a part.  We got a hint of this with Thenardier and his gang’s discussion of a possible attack on the Rue Plumet house.  We will have to wait and see what transpires.