A Generation Lost in Itself

There are many things in pop-culture that often leave me confused, but I tend to ignore it. After all, I’m not someone who really keeps up with those aspects of American culture. I don’t generally read celebrity gossip, who’s dating or who’s breaking up, what a musicians favorite food it, and so on. When I see someone has his own reality show I tend to think, “Well that person must be famous for something.” So when I saw the Kardashians had a reality show, I figured that one of the daughters or someone did something that displayed talent. Turns out, the Kardashians are simply famous for being famous; they’ve done nothing, except work as an OJ Simpson defense lawyer. The most famous one, Kim, is famous for a sex tape and for being friends with someone who is famous (who was likewise famous for being friends with people who were famous). In other words, the Kardashians didn’t save a Haitian village, raise money to help the poor, or drop a few coins in the Salvation Army pot around Christmas time in order to garnish this fame; they simply existed.

There’s nothing wrong with being famous. Some people come into fame by accident and not searching for it. But often we find people seeking fame. They want to be famous and not always for the wealth that comes with it or invites to exclusive parties. They want to be famous because it means they’ll be known. To be famous plays to the fountain of all human sin, it plays to our pride. But like any sin, while it might bring pleasure in the moment, such pleasure is temporary and will soon subside and fade away.

For instance, ask anyone under the age of 15 about Macaulay Culkin or Kurt Cobain. While some astute youth might know who they are, most of them wouldn’t recognize the names or know what each one is famous for. But if you ask them about Justin Beiber or Paris Hilton, they’ll know exactly who you’re talking about and can say quite a bit about them. Most kids and adults can name the celebrities of their time and culture without hesitation. Generally, those celebrities are famous for being able to play a sport very well, perform music very well, or act very well. In American culture, some people are famous for existing very well.

How many teenagers can recount the lives of Jason Durham or Michael Monsoor? Most will never recognize the names, much less what they did. Both of these men earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for diving on grenades to save people in their squads. They both did this in Iraq (they are 2 of 4 winners, all of whom died for their actions of sacrifice). These men epitomize the idea of self-sacrifice – to die so that someone else might live – yet are completely unknown. How many know Vernon Burger who with his wife has established orphanages in Sudan? He didn’t just go on a telethon to raise money for Darfur; he went there and established orphanages for the people there, putting money into action. There are many more people who had given up their lives in the service of others, either by dying or by sacrificing their dreams and desires in order to serve other people.

Yet, we don’t make these people famous. We don’t lift up the founders of orphanages or the champions of the homeless on pedestals. Our role models aren’t those who sacrifice themselves for others, but those who sacrifice others for themselves. When we model ourselves after selfish people, we become selfish and lose our identity. Continue reading


A Reformed Roman Orthodox Catholic?

There is little doubt to both insiders and outsiders of the Christian faith that the Christian faith is undergoing a significant event. That is, after almost one thousand years of a sharp divide between Christians (leading to war in some cases), the divide is no longer between “Presbyterian” and “Methodist,” but between theologically orthodox and theologically heterodox. This divide has arisen over the last twenty years, with Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants aligning themselves more closely together on issues of politics and theology. Such unification has occurred for both theological conservatives and theological liberals, with each respective group seeking out like-minded believers in other denominations.

But what is truly interesting is the direction many young evangelicals are heading and that is where we see a distinct change occurring. It seems that many evangelicals are making drastic changes in their belief systems and heading in one of five directions: they’re becoming Reformed, they’re becoming Roman Catholic, they’re becoming Eastern Orthodox, they’re becoming “spiritual,” or they’re leaving the faith.

The last two are almost one in the same for very little differs between one who says there is no God and one who has no idea about God (or creates a god of the mind and subsequently worships him/her/it). Evangelicals are becoming discouraged with the action – or lack of action – found within their churches in caring for the poor, showing love for nonbelievers, or building a Christ-centered community and therefore apply their disenchantment to the Church itself. Others, unfortunately, cannot accept God as He revealed by the prophets and reject the God of the Bible and opt for a version of God mixed with pagan ideas of God. Either way, some evangelicals move towards a more pluralistic outlook on the world where all religions are essentially equal and God saves everyone regardless of their beliefs. In other words, the only criteria for salvation is simply to exist. This is a very postmodern faith that doesn’t have any absolutes other than to deny all absolutes and conservatives. Some do leave the faith, but many opt for a more “open spirituality,” where their relationship with God is on their terms and in fact, the attributes of God are the attributes they love. Rather than conform to God, they conform God to them, who is then no God at all. For many, they lack the moral fortitude to be orthodox, but also lack the intestinal fortitude to be atheists.

To combat this massive exodus from the evangelical community, many churches are attempting to become “relevant.” They offer better worship bands, more atmospheric auditoriums (even changing the title of the auditorium from “sanctuary” to “worship center,” as though worship is produced in a factory), and shy away from the absolutism that so may young people seem to be fleeing. While they still believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, they won’t openly admit that and instead water down the Gospel into something that is nice and applicable; instead of offering a life-changing force that turns princes into paupers, they offer a life accessory, something that enhances the life you already lead, but doesn’t really interfere too much with your day-to-day interactions. Is it any wonder why such events are failing? Continue reading

The Inherent Failure of the Autonomous Church

Though I’ve written on many things controversial, this might be the one that ends up getting me in trouble. However, I simply cannot keep my beliefs a secret any longer.

Though I attended a Southern Baptist college – champions of an autonomous church model – I am not only against their idea of the autonomous church, I think such an idea dooms a church to failure. Whether Southern Baptists are willing to admit it or not, it seems they’re starting to agree (at least in action).

First, in explaining how an autonomous church is doomed to failure, let me first say that the argument, “Well of course it is, we’re all fallen” is not a legitimate response. While all churches will have problems due to the fallen wills of the congregates, not all are prone to failure.

By “failure,” I am referring to church splits, church politics, lack of depth in teaching, and so on. I am not referring to diminishing congregations or churches that aren’t growing. Numbers are not an indicator of the success of the church; whether or not the church is splitting or the overall spiritual depth of the congregation, however, speaks volumes on whether or not a church is successfully following Christ.

With the above in mind, the evangelical model for an autonomous church will always lead to failure as a whole. I could summarize multiple reasons, but it ultimately boils down to one reason: There is no accountability in the autonomous model. If a church has elders, this can help with the autonomy, but if those elders are unwise in the doctrines of the faith then they can be led astray to heresy. But most autonomous churches still hold to the “Pastor/CEO” model where the staff holds the authority, the deacons advise, and the ultimate say-so goes to the pastor (who acts as a miniature Pope). In such a situation, there is very little accountability for the pastor involved. Let me give a few examples: Continue reading

“Christianity is a White, Middle-class, Western religion”

Often times people attempt to discredit Christianity, or at least its more evangelical forms, by pointing out that it’s predominately white, middle-class, and western. Of course, the people generally lambasting Christianity for being white, middle-class, and western are often “New Christians” who are white, middle-class, and western.

Regardless, the claim is the wrong claim to make for two reasons:

1) So what? Even if it were true that Christianity was predominately composed of white, middle-class, western Christians (and when you consider world-wide figures, such a demographic only makes up a minority percent), how does that make it wrong? Do we say that Hinduism is wrong because it’s composed of brown, poor, eastern people? Is Islam wrong because it’s composed of middle-eastern, poor to upper class, mid-Eastern people?

To point out that a group caters to one racial group or tends to be unwelcoming to other racial groups is one thing (which American Christianity is guilty of doing). To bash a group and assume it’s wrong solely because of its perceived racial make up and socio-economic make up is flat our racist and classist. What if we said Jeremiah Wright’s church was wrong because it was full of black people? That would be racist, would it not? So isn’t it equally racist to say, “Well that church is just full of white people, so it can’t be right”? Continue reading

The Ecumenical Plea of St. Basil the Great

At the close of the Arian controversy, the Church found itself in a new crisis: She was fighting herself. The Church leaders had become so accustomed to fighting that when the Arian crisis began to die off, they turned on each other over small matters. This, unfortunately, began to resurrect the Arian crisis. The Church leaders were too busy fighting amongst themselves to combat the heresy that was creeping back into the Church. This led St. Basil the Great to write “On the Holy Spirit” to defend the Trinitarian concept of God.

However, it is at the end of this book that he offers up a plea for those who are likeminded on the basics of the Christian faith. I happen to believe that his plea is extremely appropriate for today, especially in Protestant circles where we divide over things like a person’s view of predestination or use of tongues. This plea specifically applies to the Southern Baptist Convention, who after fighting off liberalism in the 1980’s is succumbing to infighting. Men will bash other men in order to advance their position at a seminary or church. St. Basil’s plea needs to be heard in such an environment: Continue reading

Four Types of Heresy – Rejection of Biblical Morality

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The rejection of moral codes is nothing new for Christianity, but instead has occurred since its foundation. Since the beginning there were people who would manipulate or simply ignore passages of Scripture in order to live in the way they desired.

St. John refers to a group known as the Autoproscoptae (‘offenders against themselves’). These people cut themselves off from communion with the Church and did away with priestly accountability. Though they kept doctrines, they did not live appropriately, leading John to summarize them as such:

“Thus, they openly cohabit with women and maintain them privately in their homes. They are addicted to business and profit-making and other worldly affairs. They live unreasonably and neglect in deed those things which in word they profess to maintain, so that by the judgment of the Apostle they are transgressors. For, although they are monks and organized under a clergy, they honor God in word but in deed dishonor Him.”

Under moral heresies, we see that the first type of moral heresy is the type that claims one thing, but then does another. We can think of the multitude of fallen pastors who would rail against homosexuality while the entire time engaging in homosexuality. We can think of Christians who talk about how Christ came into the world to save the world, but then use their money and time to better themselves rather than helping others.

We think of Christians who go and worship Christ on Sunday, but their bank accounts and time spent helping others don’t reflect that they’re disciples. We think of Christians who rail against other Christians, but then do the very same things they rail against. This is a heresy that is not limited to a conservative or liberal Christian, but rather infects all Christians and is the most common heresy in existence.

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The Centrality of the Trinity in the Hope of Humanity

Too often in evangelical Christian circles salvation is thought of as a pit stop rather than as an invitation into a relationship with the Triune God; the Bible is quite clear that humanity has salvation from Christ on the cross, who died in order to open a way for humans to be adopted by God. Paul lays out an incredible summary of salvation in Galatians 4:3-7. Paul’s summary shows that without Christ both natural revelation and written revelation were inadequate to open a relationship to God. All either revelation did was open humanity up to condemnation. However, since humanity’s sins were committed against God, He sent His Son to become a human, live under the human curse, and serve as a sacrifice. Once Christ raised from the grave, God then sent His Spirit to indwell the new believers, not so that they would be robots, but instead that they would act like children of God. Paul’s intention in Galatians is to show that salvation is much more than saying a prayer (though a prayer is a beginning), but rather salvation is an invitation into a family.

Paul’s summarization of the Christian faith, found in Galatians 4:3-7, reads as such:

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.[1]

In order to understand the passage, one must first understand the immediate context of the passage in the book of Galatians. Paul was writing to a diverse group composed of both Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians. Galatians stands out as almost unique among the epistles as it was written to an eclectic congregation made up of both Jewish converts and former pagan.[2] The main theme of Galatians, however, was to combat some who were saying that Christians had to be circumcised in order to truly be saved. These false teachers were saying that one had to obey the Law of Moses even after one came to Christ. Galatians 4 serves to combat the belief that the Law was still necessary for salvation, with Paul using imagery of slavery and sonship, indicating that those under the Law are slaves while those under grace are adopted sons of God.

Paul’s concern for the Galatians is found in the first chapter of Galatians, where he expresses how upset he is that some in the church were already turning away (Galatians 1:3). The entire first chapter of Galatians speaks of the dangers of pursuing a Gospel other than the one taught by the Apostles. He follows his teaching by relating a story in the second chapter of how the Apostles had given him the charge to go to the gentiles. What is interesting is that he points out that when Peter and other prominent Christians began to act superior to the gentiles, Paul chastised them for justifying themselves by works rather than by faith. In the third chapter, Paul puts an emphasis on the fact that Christians are saved by faith and not by the works of the Law, with the fourth chapter serving to show more of the dangers of following the Law. Both the fifth and sixth chapters of Galatians state that Christians live in liberty and that though they struggle against their sinful desires, they should still seek to please God by loving Him, avoiding sin, and doing good to others.

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