Sunday, October 28, 2007

Childhood Memories...

I'm in Amarillo, Texas for the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas meeting. I went to church this morning at FBC White Deer and saw several people I haven't seen in 25 years--Garry and Jo Ann Gortmaker, who taught my Sunday School and Training Union classes, and in whose car I held the hand of a girl for the first time; Terry Simpson Grange, who my mom took to GA camp when she was young, and a few others. After church I drove to Schaeffer Camp, the collection of houses at the refinery where my dad worked. There's no houses left, and just a little of the plant. Here's a picture of the Camp from a distance; you can see the white tanks in the distance, move to the right and you can barely see the camp--note that there's absolutely nothing around...

So I drove out there, knowing that not much is left. Here's where our house once stood, best I can remember...

But check these next pictures out. The treehouses that my brother and I and some friends built 30 years ago still have boards up in the trees. I was amazed as the memories of bottle rocket fights and treehouse dreams floated in my head.

It just goes to show you that the things we think are made to last sometimes don't, while the stuff that makes you dream lasts forever.

Dang it, another close loss...

The Miners with another heartbreaker...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Okay, this is a little scary...

Check out Enemybook.

Here's a quote about their service:

"Enemybook is an antisocial utility that disconnects you
to the so-called friends around you.

Enemybook is a Facebook app that allows you to manage your enemies as well as your friends. With Enemybook you can add people as facebook enemies, specify why they are your enemies, notify your enemies, see who lists you as an enemy, and even become friends with the enemies of your enemies. Ever wanted to "enemy" somebody instead of friend them? Finally you can. This app remedies the one-sided perspective of Facebook."

I guess if you wanted to keep a list of all the people Jesus told you to love but you just have a hard time following through...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sincerity and truth in postmodernity

I'm still reading "No Man is an Island" by Thomas Merton for my morning devotionals. I say "still" because like most books I use for devotional stimulation I muddle through them. I'm nearing the end, though, and Merton has really been in my journals a lot, even though I haven't blogged much about it.

But today I wanted to through a few thoughts down on paper, or on a blog, as the case may be. Actually, it was both since I already journaled several pages on this topic. Merton is discussing sincerity, in particular in it's comingling with truth, or as he says "sincerity in the fullest sense must be more than a temperamental disposition to be frank. It is a simplicity of spirit which is preserved by the will to be true. It implies an obligation to manifest the truth and to defend it."

It has become too easy to lie in our culture. "Life has become so easy that we think we can get along without telling the truth. A liar no longer needs to feel that his lies may involve him in starvation. If living were a little more precarious, and if a person who could not be trusted found it more difficult to get along with other men, we would not deceive ourselves and one another so carelessly." Lying is interwoven into our politics, our work, our marriages, even our religious activities, and especially our self-talk. "...the whole world has learned to deride veracity or to ignore it. Half the civilized world makes a living by telling lies. Advertising, propaganda, and all the other forms of publicity that have taken the place of truth have taught men to take it for granted that they can tell other people whatever they like provided that it sounds plausible and evokes some kind of shallow emotional response." (Keep in mind that Merton wrote this in 1955!)

"Americans have always felt that they were protected against the advertising business by their own sophistication. If we only knew how naive our sophistication really is! It protects us against nothing. We love the things we pretend to laugh at. We would rather buy a bad toothpaste that is well advertised than a good one that is not advertised at all. Most Americans wouldn't be seen dead in a car their neighbors had never heard of.

"Sincerity becomes impossible in a world that is ruled by a falsity that it thinks it is clever enough to detect. Propaganda is constantly held up to contempt, but in contemning it we come to love it after all. In the end we will not be able to get along without it...

"The arguments of religious men are so often insincere, and their insincerity is proportionate to their anger. Why do we get angry about what we believe? Because we do not really believe it. Or else what we pretend to be defending as the 'truth' is really our own self-esteem. A man of sincerity is less interested in defending the truth than in stating it clearly, for he thinks that if the truth be clearly seen it can very well take care of itself."

This is exactly why I like living in the post-Christian, post-modern type of world. Because truth has been deconstructed, people don't think that there is absolute truth any longer. We debate people as to whether or not this is true (it is not), but we have an opportunity, a kairos moment, to learn how to state the Truth that is life in Jesus of Nazareth in a way that does not carry all the baggage of the past. And it can (and does!) speak for itself.

The old sermon story of the pastor's notes that reminded him that a particular point was weak, so he should raise his voice and pound the pulpit to emphasize it comes to mind. This is what our telling of the Jesus story becomes without sincerity. It becomes pulpit-pounding, and people often see it for just what it is: an insincere attempt to manipulate someone into the truth instead of a clear telling of the Truth--what Jesus called lifting up himself to the world--and letting that Truth draw people to it.

While I admit that pomos take this idea too far and throw out any sense of "truth", to me this is the epitome of authenticity.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Recently read book reviews

I finished two books last week--"Who is My Enemy?" by Rich Nathan, a pastor in Columbus was a decent book, written by a conservative pastor encouraging a more neighborly approach to those we think of as enemies of the church. It would be a good practical read to give someone who is having a hard time believing that God calls us to love people in close proximity, building relationships with them, whether they are postmoderns, homosexuals, or new-age believers (the categories Nathan) discusses.

A better book was Ted Dekker's nonfiction work, "The Slumber of Christianity." His main point is that we have missed the best that this life has to offer precisely because we have focused too much on ONLY this life. We have lost our sense of heaven. If we truly have a living hope for the next life, the pleasures of this one become that much more real, that much more satisfying, because we're not looking to them for ULTIMATE satisfaction. They bring pleasure in their proper context, in the way that God intended for them to.

He describes catching a glimpse of heaven as being like in a dark room where you can't see anything. You have to fumble around and find food and drink, but since you can't see it, some of it is good and some of it is bad. Then one day a brick falls from the ceiling and a shaft of light penetrates the darkness, and you realize that your dark room is not all that exists in life. There is something outside, something beyond the walls. Unfortunately, you get used to this shaft of light, and it too becomes just something to help you see better inside the room, instead of pointing to what will come when the walls fall completely down.

Dekker also talks a lot about the role of imagination in our relationship with God, something that is spot-on. He recommends 3 disciplines: meditation on the hope God offers, reading on the hope of heaven, and the corporate discipline of encouraging the hope of eternal life, especially through singing.

All in all, I like Dekker's book. In my opinion he comes close to throwing the baby out with the bath water with his focus on eternal life after we die, because eternal life begins now and here, in this world. But he's right in this sense: the evil that is real in this current existence makes us only see darkly the truest pleasures of etneral life in the kingdom. There is something to the idea that after death--or maybe better to say after resurrection--the walls fall down and we're living in the light, instead of in the darkness.

Here's his four point summary of the book:

1. We should intentionally set our minds on heaven.
2. We should enjoy pleasure as it was intended because it draws us to heaven.
3. We should allow the pain that comes our way to push us into our Creator's arms.
4. Because our hope is made real by a fully fleshed vision of a reality that awaits beyond this one, we shoudl fan that vision to life through songs and reading and meditation.

This is how I sometimes feel about people who stay in good shape...

John MacPherson is a great cartoonist. Or at least he catches what I think is funny on a pretty consistent basis.

My 6'5" frame carries my 300+ bills well, but man, I need to lose some serious weight. I wish it was as easy as getting a "row meter".

Friday, October 19, 2007

And from the shameless self-promotion category...

From the UTEP vs. East Carolina website last week...

All-Around Attack
The Miner offense was clicking on all cylinders in the win against Tulsa. Marcus Thomas rushed for 134 yards, Trevor Vittatoe passed for 319 yards and Jeff Moturi led the receiving corps with 174 yards. It marked the first time since the 1987 campaign that the Miners had a player pass for 300-plus yards, register at least 170 receiving yards and rush for more than 130 yards all in the same game. The feat came on Nov. 7, 1987 at Utah, in which John Harvey rushed for 202 yards, Pat Hegarty threw for 340 and Arnie Adkison recorded 200 receiving yards.

Maybe I should have a 20-year anniversary party on Nov 7...

Haven't you dreamed of doing this?

Seems that 75 year old Mona Shaw was a little disappointed with Comcast's customer service, so she took a hammer to their office stuff. I had the same fantasy with Time Warner Cable recently...

Read the article here...

Colbert Announcement NOT in liberal NY Times...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I know who I will vote for!

"I am not ready to announce yet - even though it's clear that the voters are desperate for a white, male, middle-aged, Jesus-trumpeting alternative. "

- Stephen Colbert, in a guest column in Sunday's New York Times. Colbert then announced his candidacy for the president of the United States on his Tuesday show.

My 100th Post...and Surprise! It's about the Church

Thanks to Victor for pointing me to this blog on CT's blog site today. The past few years I have attended some or all of the Willow Creek Association's Leadership Summit, mostly because my local church here in SA hosts the satellite feed party. But I didn't go this year. It looks like I missed Bill Hybels big confession...

The church is about making disciples of Jesus. And megachurches don't do it any better than anyone else, they just do it bigger and costlier.

Dismantle the machine, and go back to living life together. It's cheaper, and it actually works.'s newest...

Jews and Christians together?

Here's a great article about "The Christian and the Pharisee", a new book out written by a pastor and a rabbi and the friendship they have developed.

Now this is funny!

From The Onion, one of my favorite parody news outlets...

I wonder if Richard Land is jealous...

Yikes! I agree with Paige Patterson on something...

In an article in Towers Online, published by Al Mohler's Southern Seminary, Paige Patterson calls the current Baptist practice of baptizing younger and younger children one of the greatest challenges of Southern Baptists today. Here's the link to the full article...We've talked about this before on this blog.

It's so rare to find something that Paige and I would agree on, I just had to take the opportunity to note the momentous occasion. I can't totally buy into his conclusions on the mandate for regenerate church membership, but that's mostly because I don't think there's much biblical basis for the way Baptists emphasize local church membership and congregational rule. But clearly we've got to stop baptizing young kids in droves, or we're throwing away a key biblical distinctive we've long held.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

These are children for crying out loud!

One of the bloggers I read each week is Big Daddy Weave. He will forever be remembered in my book as the guy who outed Richard Land's man-crush on recent presidential hopeful addition Fred Thompson. I'm not usually one for blogging too much about politics, but the whole SCHIP thing with Bush's veto, well, I disagree with the President to say the least. But the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (misnomers galore) headed by Land agreed with the President on this. And on the war in Iraq. And on virtually every other neo-con point.

Where's the prophetic nature of such a commission? Well, to the shame of Southern Baptists, BDW points out that the voice of the prophet is coming from a Methodist. Specifically from the Rev. Joel Hunter. Apparently in a recent sermon he had this to say:

"There are people in this country - Children - and I hear these arguments all the time about these dirty filthy immigrants, these illegal immigrants who come into this country. And they are getting all these benefits because their kids get sick enough to get into an emergency and go to an emergency room. And somehow those children don't deserve care because they come from another country and they are not like us and maybe they don't believe what we do and maybe they don't speak the same language we do. And we want to deny those children healthcare? God would say "what are you doing?" I don't believe health care is a right. But I believe healthcare is the test of our character as a nation. And I believe that any nation that does not take care of the children among us is not much of a nation, is not much of a people, is certainly not much of a Christian......And I gotta tell ya, what are we doing?!? These are children for crying out loud! God would say - there are 100,000 in the city who don't know their right hand from their left, and you would ignore them and not give them what they need because they don't happen to have what you have. If you're a nation that don't take care of your own children, you're not much of a nation, as a matter of a fact you're not much of a people, let alone much of a Christian. These are Children! Here's what we have to understand. We gotta know that God cares for the vulnerable. This is a message to us all. We are to love the ones that we might not love naturally but God does. We are to love according to his standards not according to ours. And I know I may have just made some of you really mad. But I don't care. It's what the word of God says and I will always tell you what the word of God says. Pray with me."

Press on!

Monday, October 15, 2007

East Carolina Outlasts UTEP In Overtime, 45-42

Another close Miner game, this one they couldn't pull out.

First conference loss.

How about South Florida #2 in the BCS?

Hawaii and Africa, Hawaii and Africa

For some reason I'm really obsessed with the little map that appears in the left column of this blog. Yes, scroll down to see it. I'm about to hit 1,000 "hits" on this blog. And you can look and see that not all 1,000 of them are just from me here in San Antonio, Texas. Unless I'm traveling the world and logging on to my blog just to show that people come from all over...

But no one from Hawaii or Africa has ever looked here. I mean for goodness sake someone from Mauritius has been here, why not Hawaii or Africa?

So I thought I would just write about Hawaii and Africa to see if that helps.

I've been to Hawaii 3 times. Benefits of playing football in the old Western Athletic Conference. Never there longer than a couple of days, but still, how many of you can say that you've been to Hawaii 3 times? Hawaii is a beautiful and exotic place, just like they say. On a couple of the trips, I tried to surf. The surfboard won. The mahi mahi is excellent, you wouldn't believe how good the fruit tastes, and luaus are all you imagine they are. Plus you can make stupid college guy jokes about getting leied by a beautiful woman while there...

I've never been to Africa. I know that the maps in the US don't do Africa justice--they are nortocentric and make the continent look the same size as North America, when it's really 1/3 larger. There's a lot of fighting there, for lots of different reasons. I have a friend, Nodji, from there, and another friend, Jim, who lives in Paris but goes to Africa a lot. I read Texas in Africa just about every day and learn a lot about the politics of Africa. Desmond Tutu is a Christian leader there. Philip Jenkins says that Africa is on track to soon have more believers than North America, if it doesn't already.

I'm sure I know more, but I'm starting to bore myself at this point. Let's just leave it at this and see if someone from Africa or Hawaii will come by.

Accomodation and Naturalism

FYI, this is a continuation of a discussion started at You might want to catch up there if something here doesn't make sense...

The 7-foot ninja is not a fan of poor thinking of inconsistent reasoning. And he's certainly not going to let me or anyone else get away with our own constructs. Here's a quote from is post:

What about the idea of accommodation, which Gordon invokes and you do as well? The idea that God withheld the whole truth from the ancient Israelites and just adopted the common cultural outlook to somehow express his word through is by no means a new thought. As a formal theory it goes back at least to J.S. Semler well over 200 years ago. The idea that we today have reached the maturity and intellectual capacity to really grasp what God has to say smacks of the chronological snobbery that C.S. Lewis so disdained. This is not postmodern, but thoroughly "modern".

I make no claims that we have "reached the maturity and intellectual capacity" to speak accurately for God. I would go so far as to say that 1,000 years from now those alive then will be questioning our understanding of both Science and Theology on various aspects. They will have progressed in the accumulation and sharing of knowledge in ways we can't imagine, just like we have in the previous 1,000 years. But any smarter? I doubt it. And certainly not any more mature, especially in the things that matter, like practicing the things that the Bible calls "wisdom" or avoiding the things of "fools."

I do however think that there is some merit to the idea of progressive revelation. God did not reveal the whole picture to those who lived before Jesus. And while I fully believe that Jesus' sacrifice was complete for our redemption, I don't think we know everything today that there is to know about that either.

Yes, God accomodates his communication to people for the situation that they are in. He speaks in their language, within their cultural limits, in ways they can understand. Does this mean he accomodates his message? No, not necessarily. And it certainly doesn't mean he waters down his message. Does it mean that we sometimes hear our own voices--whether our own wishes or our cultural norms or whatever--and attribute God's voice to them? Absolutely not. We do this both inside and outside the church, speaking for God or in the name of God in such definite terms on issues that we may have simply made up or we may be crazy or whatever. Do pomos often go overboard and throw out the baby with the bathwater on this accomodation idea? Sure they do.

Then he says, quoting someone who wrote on another blog I referenced:

Gordon says, "If the purpose of the Hebrew creation story was not to provide Israel (or us) with accurate scientific knowledge about the cosmos, why then do so many Christians reject any version of natural history that fails to conform to the Hebrew account?" In response I ask you, "If 'natural history' and 'science' by contemporary definitions automatically exclude God and his intervention in the world, why then do so many Christians accept the presuppositions of such theories and the slanted results that they produce?"

I do not think that "natural history" and/or "science" do automatically exclude God. Every human being has levels of constructs by which they view the world. As you have often pointed out, we rarely examine these constructs, or what Lesslie Newbigin called "plausibility structures" in his great book "The Gospel in a Pluralist Society." I on the other hand, in the proper contexts, love to deconstruct my own and others constructs. I'm wrong (probably a lot) in my assessents. I do it way too much for most of my Christian friends, including my own wife. But I think I do it BECAUSE I'm often proven wrong on things, not because I think I'm right on things. Perhaps I'm getting off point here, but I have come to see at least one aspect of maturity as being a healthy self-criticism. When I was 22, there were 4,208 things I knew to be true about theology, science, philosophy, etc. They were black and white. Now there are only 4 or 5 that I'm willing to stake my life on being true. I think that I have matured, but I certainly don't think that means I can speak for God with his authority on hundreds of topics and viewpoints.

So back to the matter at hand--just because (some, most, even all) materialistic scientists say that the theory of evolution denies the existence of God does not mean that evolutionary theory isn't a plausible scientific theory, anymore than just because Tim LaHaye says that the Bible clearly teaches a pre-trib rapture, premillenial eschatology means that if he's wrong (I think he is) Jesus isn't coming back at all (which I believe him to be).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Unscientific or non-scientific? Reply to BWolf30 #2

Here's another quote from the 7-foot ninja:

Next, there is a big difference between "'inaccurate' scientific facts" and non-scientific statements based on a phenomenal point of view. The Bible never does claim to be a scientific manual, but to acknowledge this and then claim error by contemporary "scientific" standards, albeit purposeful error, doesn't follow. Non-scientific doesn't mean unscientific.

I almost didn't make a post to reply to this, because I wasn't sure it was that vital to the discussion. But then I changed my mind. I'm going to assume that by "phenomenal point of view" you mean that because of the point of view of an ancient Hebrew--i.e. without microscope, telescope, advanced mathematics, geological understanding of plate tectonics, etc.--they make non-scientific statements that to us, if viewed as scientific commentary, would be inaccurate, but they are really just points of view based on the available information to that ancient Hebrew. In other words, when I wake up and say "Look at the beautiful sunrise" instead of "Look at the viewing of the sun as the earth rotates on its axis" you don't judge my first statement as a scientific inaccuracy. If that's what you mean, I think I agree with you.

But if that is what they are, non-scientific statements, then why do so many Evangelical Christians today take them to mean scientific things?

Scientific facts should be used carefully in situations of philosophic and theological discussion. Today's "understanding" of the human genome could become tomorrow's earth-centric solar system.

My main point is that the whole creation-science movement (of which I was long a part, at least in my belief) tries very hard to make the Bible say scientific things when it isn't. And even more egregious is that they make belief in these scientific biblical statements mandatory for being a True Christian.

Another Chinese toy recall...

The Christian Subculture

My friend Keith Giles over at Subversive Underground published part 2 of his article on "Destroy the Christian Subculture", first seen over on Keith and I agree pretty much wholeheartedly on this issue. I've been in trouble with some of you before by refering to the Christian subculture as a self-imposed ghetto system. Keith hits the heart of the issue with this quote:

it's not the people who are evil. It's the system we've created which generates money in the name of fear. We retreat from the world we were born into, and called to have an impact on, and we create our own Christian-version of the world which is sanitized and drained of power, impact, relevance and meaning.

Generates money in the name of fear. Wow. When I read that thought earlier I knew Keith had hit a home run. We retreat, we run away, we create the "safe and fun for the whole family" atmosphere and the world becomes hell in a handbasket. We become weak and soft and irrelevant. In the name of fear. In the name of money.

But perfect love casts out fear. The love of money is the root of all evil. Love for the Way of Jesus will take us into the world, into the place we fear, and will anoint us with power from on high.

Protecting my son...

At the risk that someone in my family is among the 4 people who might read this every few weeks, I wanted to tell a story that happened over the weekend that really struck me as funny. We had a family boys weekend. My dad, two of his brothers, one of their sons, my brother, my sons and me went to my cousin's ranch for a couple of days of shooting birds and bull. It was a ton of fun--I don't get to see those guys near often enough.

To say that I'm the most "liberal" person in the family is to make the understatement of the week. My dad and uncles wonder if George W is getting a little too liberal with the size of government these days. So when the conversation around the campfire turned to politics, I had vowed to mostly keep my mouth shut, since every adult male had a firearm holstered on his belt or within close reach.

I have yet to make any call on who I would vote for in the presidential election anyway. The conversation was about Fred Thompson's "acting" conservative, Rudy G. taking away people's guns, Hillary being--well, the same conservative punching bag she always is, when my 9 year old son pipes in this this gem:

"I think Hillary should be the president."

The air was still and quiet, like the "Tombstone" scene where the Earps and Doc Holliday faced off the Cowboys. Eyes flitted from one face to the next, searching for some sign of who would blink first. Fingers twitched. The tension was thick.

Then someone made a joke about her, and the anxiety faded. Fortunately, my son didn't press too hard. He'd done a report on Hillary for his class last year, and he really does think it's time for a woman president.

And we still all ended up having a great weekend. Too bad real politics isn't that easy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Letters from Kamp Krusty

Someday I hope to be as funny as the dude who does the "Letters from Kamp Krusty" blog. This may be the most hysterical post on the "evils" of Halloween ever. Please read it!

Postmodernity and the Emerging Church

BWolf30--otherwise known as the 7-foot ninja and the golfer-who-wishes-he-could-beat-me posted a response to my entry. I thought I would create a new discussion on his thoughts.

7-foot ninja is extremely brilliant, probably too much so for his own good. And that's my first response to his post--this blog is much more (for me) about pop issues among Jesus followers and their impact on the world than it is about intellectual arguments for or against postmodernity. Personally, as much as I hate to admit it, I am probably not a great thinker or philosopher at the top level, the level that BWolf likes to read. As I've admitted before, I have only dabbled in the academic readings of postmodernity (sometimes referred to below as "pomo"), and BWolf is far more down that road than I am. So, even though he hates it when I don't argue with him, there are times where I just need to defer to his wider reading at the academic/philosophic level.

But having said that, he asks some great questions, which I want to take a few posts to discuss. I'll try to break them up enough that each post isn't massively long-winded, a trait that both BWolf and I have a propensity for. Let me start with his quote:

you start out ambiguously by saying "Did the writers of the Bible follow the stories and worldviews and cultural values of their time?" This needs some serious clarification before further discussion - does this mean that the Bible is inevitably written in the current language and with reference to contemporary cultural understandings, which in and of itself is not a profound or threatening position? or does it mean the much stronger (and currently trendy) claim that all expressions of meaning are internal to their specific cultural situation and can't be adequately expressed or transmitted to other times or places, which is a subtle cultural relativism? or that the Bible is basically unoriginal and arose simultaneously with contemporary religions through borrowing, modifying, etc., which is basically a postmodernized historicism?

Yes, I believe that the Bible was written "in the current language and with reference to contemporary cultural understandings" of the writer. I don't think that inspiration requires the overcoming of cultural inaccuracies in the biblical writers. Christian scholars of most stripes have long recognized the importance of understanding culture to understand the Bible, something BWolf says later. I would not dispute that. His second question asks if I mean that (in light of my leaning to postmodern thought) do I think that the meanings and expressions of the biblical writers cannot be "adequately expressed or transmitted" in today's language and culture. No way! I do still believe that the message of the Bible is primarily the message that God intended to convey in that time and place, and there isn't this freedom of reinterpreting everything that many in the pomo and emergent church (EC) crowds can be guilty of.

The truth is that each of us has the propensity to make the Bible mean what we think it means, whether we are modern, postmodern, premodern, unmodern, antimodern, hypermodern, whatever. So modern Evangelicals (whatever that animal is--I'm obviously generalizing) take their interpretation of the Bible and evaluate all other interpretations and philosophies and theologies next to their own. EC believers do the same. We all fall into the same trap of comparing everything to our own beliefs and rejecting anything that is different, sometimes without consideration.

There is some value to this. No one wants to fall down the slippery slope of saying that all viewpoints are valid. But we are usually most blind (by definition) to our own blind spots. There should be a healthy self-critique of our own theology and practice. Have some EC/pomo christians taken this too far? Absolutely. Have some Evangelicals not considered their own positions adequately enough in light of EC/pomo criticism? Absolutely.

As to BWolf's final question in the quote above--if the Bible borrowed certain stories from the culture at large, is that a problem? In the days described in the early Bible books, most things weren't written down, they were told. The creation and flood stories were told for centuries before someone wrote them down. Does that mean they were uninspired or plagiarized when the biblical writer wrote them the first time? I don't think so. God inspired the writers to write down the oral histories that he wanted to use to convey his message to them, and eventually to us. I believe wholeheartedly that that message is still the same message for us as it was 4,000+ years ago, which makes me out of step with pomo thinking. I also believe that many believers today have missed parts of that message because they canonize the interpretation of their favorite pop Christian leaders and turn it into a rote, homogenized, pasteurized theology that lacks some of the life God intended.

More to come.

UTEP alone at the top of C-USA!

Sporting their all-orange outfits, UTEP came from behind for the second straight week to beat Tulsa 48-47 and go to 2-0 in the conference. It's great to see them win, especially to beat Tulsa, where my good friend Kevin Harlan once played tight end, and where his nephew Garrett Mills was all-everything there a couple of years ago. In fact, I once made Kevin wear a UTEP sweatshirt at a public FCA meeting after a victory over Tulsa as a loss to a bet...wish I had a picture of that to put up here.

Fox Faith and today's Christian movies

Christianity Today online has a new article today about Fox Faith, the movie production company Fox began to target the Christian niche. It's no secret how I feel about ventures such as this, and I'm not alone. Here's a past CT commentary about Biola's Media Conference, with comments from all sides of the issue.
Several issues are at play here. First, there's the question of art. We've dealt with that a lot in this blog--see the "Christian Art" blog and a bunch of others here... In summary, I love art, I think Christians ought to be doing art, and they ought to be doing it well. I don't like art that is mediocre (or just bad) in the name of "evangelism"--what I often call propaganda art.
Second, there is the question of entertainment. This is a trickier question for believers. Is entertainment a valid reason for doing something? Our culture is so hooked on entertainment, would avoiding pop entertainment choices be a valid counter-cultural movement for us? I personally don't think so, it sounds too much like the fundamentalists who don't "dance, drink or chew, or go with girls who do." But there is no doubt that entertainment shapes our world significantly here in the US, and rather than give up entertainment altogether or do the hard work of figuring out where the good entertainment is, we would rather create the bubbled sub-culture that is "safe and fun for the whole family" and that way we can "escape" the dirty entertainment of the world and still feel good about ourselves. And does "entertainment" need the same standards of quality applied to it as "art" does?
Finally there is the question of money. Fox Faith (and others) have recognized that there are fewer and fewer Christians opting out of entertainment, and more and more that are willing to give up being "in" the world in order to live in the bubble. To be fair, I have no doubt that there are folks at Fox Faith that really want to produce quality art and entertainment. But I also think that major companies would not be jumping into such ventures if they didn't now believe there is a good chance to turn the profit they want, and there are some people who are there only to turn that profit. Believers need to be careful that in creating a "safe" bubble for "Christian" art that we don't create a whole generation of entertainment-addicted Christians, even if that entertainment is "safe and fun for the whole family."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Where are all the saints?

Okay, so I have lots of favorite authors. It happens when you read a lot. But another one of my favorites is Gordon MacDonald. Gordon first said something in my life when I was still in college and David Kemerling gave me a copy of "Ordering Your Private World." But it was when I read "Rebuilding Your Broken World" after he was caught in an immoral situation that I really started to like Gordon's writing. He writes periodically for Leadership, which I read on the Chrstianity Today website. Today he started with this quote:

"A walloping great congregation is fine and fun, but what most communities really need is a couple of saints. The tragedy is that they may well be there in embryo, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be emancipated from the cult of the mediocre." Martin Thornton

I don't know who Martin Thornton is or where Gordon got this quote, but it's spot on. Gordon then writes briefly, but in his own generalization, edgy sarcastic way (his words) this thought: the modern Evangelical church sucks at mentoring mature Christians.

What does it mean to be mature? Gordon rightly acknowledges that a definition doesn't just leap out at you. But you know it when you see it. Here's his thoughts...

"The marks of maturity? Self-sustaining in spiritual devotions. Wise in human relationships. Humble and serving. Comfortable and functional in the everyday world where people of faith can be in short supply. Substantial in conversation; prudent in acquisition; respectful in conflict; faithful in commitments."

The only thing I would add to this list would be something about an appropriately serious but playful joy about life.

Gordon is also right when he diagnoses a main part of the problem as our propensity for programming everything. Since a certain kind of evangelism (the kind where you convince someone that they are going to hell without Jesus if they die tonight; true enough, but hardly the whole gospel message) can be programmed somewhat, and since "infant-level discipleship" can be programmed somewhat, plus worship, preaching, etc. all of which seemingly can be programmed, maybe we've just forgotten that maturity only happens when life is placed alongside life, and the apprentice learns from the master. It only happens in real situations, not in sanitized sanctuaries or Bible studies. It happens when people who are apprentices of Jesus spend time with other people. They succeed together and fail together and learn together and serve together and eat together and cry together and drink together and worship together and smoke together and play golf together and wait for their kids to get out of football practice together and have dessert together and lose weight together...okay, I'm sure you get the point.

It's together in all its messiness.