Friday, April 25, 2008

Nothing More Than Feelings...(Part 2)

So I've finished "Blue Like Jazz" and I think this is the most telling quote of the entire book:
"Believing in Jesus is something that you feel."

That pretty much sums up my major problem with the book.  He never treats the kingship of Jesus Christ as a fact, but something that you either do or don't feel.  If you feel it, then you're probably not a Christian.  If you feel it, then you are a Christian.  Obviously, he deals with major issues of doubt, as do most of the other Christians he knows.  He's always trying to drum up these feelings that are really very temporal things.  He places his entire eternal salvation on a feeling.

He had one other illustration that I really appreciated.  It accurately represents our culture today and why I couldn't identify with him, or with the fundamentalists that he left.  He said that Christians in our culture used to be part of the game, but now they're sitting on the sidelines.  He's upset at the fundamentalists who have gotten angry, taken their ball, and gone home.  He believes that we should sit "humbly" on the bench, waiting to be put back in (so who's the coach here?).  I disagree with both.  We should be asking ourselves why we were trying to play this game in the first place.  We should repent of even attempting this secular game with pagan coaches and obeyed our Lord instead.

One other note on his aversion to fundamentalists.  I did a bit of internet research on his church, Imago Dei in Portland, Oregon.  Their theology is very similar to our local emergent church, Vintage Faith.  It's surprisingly orthodox and faithful, with basically Baptistic theology.  In fact, most "fundamentalist" churches would have exactly the same theological statements.  What this rejection of fundamentalism really amounts to is disliking the un-hipness of fundamentalism.  They've taken the same theology, and then gotten tattoos and cuss.  It's fundamentalist theology that looks cool.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What is Emerging...Exactly? (Part 1?)

So after seeing how many friends and acquaitences rank the book "Blue Like Jazz" among their favorites I decided to give it a try.

The book is definitely easy to read, and interesting.  It also reinforces my opinion that the new "Emergent Church" really only relates well to people who were raised in the church and become disillusioned in some way.

The biggest plus, I would have to say, so far, is how he sees clearly problems that exist in the modern church.  I haven't read many of this solutions yet, but I'm not sure that I'll like them.

I think the most worrying thing is the Christianity he presents seems emasculated.  I can just imagine him saying everything he does while wearing a tight, pink shirt and jeans that he had to sew himself into (Emo-Style).  He's like a man who's trying to stay a man, all the while everything he thinks he's supposed to love is feminine.

Most clearly this can be seen in his evangelism.  He definitely goes after unbelievers with the gospel, even when he's not sure that he believes it.  Yet he always has a hard time "convincing" himself that he really believes this stuff.  He even says that he has a hard time not making it sound like believing in Santa Claus or the Easter bunny.  It's like you have to drum up this feeling of "belief" or "faith" that's really just an emotion.  When it's gone, you have doubt.

If Jesus is king, then it doesn't really matter what you believe about it, but you had better obey it!  I don't always "feel" like George W. Bush is my president, but what I feel about the matter doesn't really make any difference.  He is the president and if he exercised his power I would have to respond.

Christ functions in the same way.  He is King of kings and Lord of lords.  We don't have to drum up a feeling of "belief" in him, because He IS.  Our job is to submit ourselves, not work ourselves into a feverish emotion that will get us to evangelize.

An merely emotional savior is an emasculated savior.  He can plead and hope and wish, but in the end He can't really do anything.  He has to wait for His creation to convince themselves, emotionally, to believe in Him.  When their emotions fade, His authority disappears over their lives.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Church Leads the World...And They Both Fall Into a Ditch...

Most of the time you hear from Christian culture warriors that we need to work on taking back Hollywood (was it ever ours?).  We need to be in music and movies and all sorts of media to be a positive force in American culture.  The surprising thing, though, is that the church is everywhere in Hollywood.

Both Hollywood and Bel Air have some of the most faithful churches in all of the greater Los Angeles area.  First Presbyterian in Hollywood has been historically faithful (until very recently) and Bel Air Presbyterian is also a bastion of conservatism within the PCUSA.  Both of these churches are huge--having thousands of members and clearly millions of dollars in tithe money.  Bel Air Presbyterian alone has at least 4 different services between Saturday night and Sundays to accommodate all the worshippers.

We often hear about the popularity of bizarre cults among the Hollywood elite, like Scientology or Kabbalism, but many of the most popular stars in music and the movies come straight from the church.  Jessica and Ashlee Simpson's father was a long-time pastor in a Southern Baptist church before he pushed his daughters into show business.  Lindsey Lohan's father is one of the leaders of Teen Challenge, a Christian drug and alcohol rehabilitation ministry.  And the biggest bomb, Britney Spears, is from a Baptist family in Louisiana.  She regularly attends Bel Air Presbyterian and her mother was recently offered a contract with the Christian publishing company, Thomas Nelson, to write a book on parenting!

Do we really need to treat Hollywood like a foreign land, full of pagans?  Will that help us "take it over?"  The land is ours.  God gave it to us and He is there.  The only Christian work in Hollywood that would be blessed is one clothed in humility and repentance, starting in the churches that we already have, the pastors we already have, and the members we already have.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Planets and Art

Some more things on the art subject....

I recently "read" (more like "skimmed") Michael Ward's book called Planet Narnia.  In it he argues that Lewis used each of the 7 medieval planets as inspiration for each of the books in the Narnia series.  He says that Lewis did this because he believed that each of the mythological characterizations for the planets represented an aspect of God's character.

If we took this standard idea than we would have 7 major characteristics of God (well, 6 really because the Moon is the border between the sinful world and the unfallen worlds), and if these followed the planets we would have:
Sun = glory, majesty
Mercury = messenger of the Word
Venus = beauty, creativity, life
Moon = separation from God
Mars = War
Jupiter = joy, cheerfulness (joviality)
Saturn = God of Ages/Time, Ancient of Days

It seems as though the goal of any good art project would be to accurately reflect God's character in any of these individually or combined.  All of the stories in the Bible also reflect these characteristics, so that if you were to say, write a story that imitated the life of King David (with different characters and situations, of course), that could potentially be a great story.

This seems to open up creativity in a way that doesn't stifle the idea of taking one or two of God's characteristics and setting them up as supreme.

Don't Know Much About...

Art.  But that won't stop me from saying something about it anyway.

It seems as though a lot of evangelicals are thinking more about art.  This is probably mostly due to the great work of Francis Schaeffer, and others who took up his mantle in dealing with culture.  It also seems as though a lot of evangelicals, especially the highly-learned, educated, and respectable ones, have come to a conclusion about Christian art that it should all reflect a particular aspect of God's character.  I have heard them advocate that all art should reflect God's creation week, since our human creation is a reflection of God's creative ability.  I have also heard that all art should reflect a Trinitarian inter-relationship, so all good art is relational art, or dealing with issues between people.

What seems to flow from these particular opinions is more of a stifling of creative ability then an outpouring of such.  I can think of many stories that follow the theme of the creation week (rising action, climax, falling action), but aren't very edifying or uplifting stories.  I can think of lots of movies about relationships between people (scads of them, in fact) that lie more than tell the truth about human character.

What seems to be the best dividing line between "good" stories/art and "bad" is the story that it tells.  The best stories present true reality.  How do we know what that is?  It is defined in the pages of the Bible, which would ultimately be a reflection of all of God's character.  How do we know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are?  We should look to the pages of Scripture and let that define it for us.  

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I've been thinking a lot about our commands to thankfulness.  Romans 1 seems to be clear that a lack of gratitude opens the door to all sorts of heinous sin.  Saying "Thank you" to God for even the most difficult of providences is the only way that we can deal with those trials.

Giving thanks is really the ultimate way of humbling yourself.  Have you ever met the type of person who describes all the wonderful things you did for them, but somehow refuses to say the words, "Thank you"?  When you thank someone you really are humbling yourself, realizing that you are in debt to that person.  When you thank God you realize that all things ultimately come from Him.  He is a good God and will give you good things, if you are His child.

There are many "good," moral people in the world who aren't religious at all.  There are many religious people who lead miserable lives.  What's the difference?  Why is the "good" man damned without Christ?  He never says "Thank you" to the One that he owes his entire life.  That's frightening.

Chesterton on Eugenics

I love G.K. Chesterton.  Apart from his popery, that is.  

He has a great paper entitled "Eugenics and Other Evils" where he takes to task the new social Darwinists of his time and the initiation of England as a Eugenic State.  I'm not sure what year it was written, but it's before the World Wars.  He's quite insightful and sees where that mess is headed.  

One of my favorite descriptions is where he is describing what has occurred to our system of law.  All laws have been "flattened out" to cover nearly everything.  He says the problem with modern child abuse laws is that they have made Herod's act of the Slaughter of the Innocents on the same level as Mary and Joseph's act of leaving Jesus behind at the temple.  Reading today about the attempt (once again) to pass anti-spanking legislation in California, the point really made itself clear!

I haven't finished the article yet, but I can say more later... 

Terrorists and Asbestos

I recently watched a documentary showing conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11.  I'd heard a few of these before, but their most troubling explanation for the destruction of the World Trade Center was their insinuation that it was to save the government $1 billion in asbestos cleanup. 

I don't buy the explanation, however, the fact that something like this could even be suggested is troubling.  We once had some friends who were evicted from their home because their landlord found out that they had asbestos in their insulation.  They and their six children had to leave town with nowhere else to move to.

This is ridiculous!  Most of what is called asbestos by the EPA and NIST is not even so.  The majority of it is mineral fragments that don't do harm to anyone (and also aren't fire retardant like real asbestos--those Twin Towers sure burned)!  Even if it is asbestos it does nobody any harm to leave it in their insulation, packaged away.  Removing asbestos is now a multi-billion dollar a year industry!

This is also why I don't buy the over-arching governmental conspiracy surrounding 9/11.  There may be some small cover-ups, but nothing on the scale suggested by the documentaries.  Our government is just simply not competent enough to pull something like that off.