Should the Church have Closed and Is It Time to Reopen?

My friends daughter said “dad why are they closing churches, no one gets sick in church” a simple child’s faith but it gave me pause so I can’t judge a pastor that has decided to keep their Church’s doors open during the Covid-19 Wuhan Flu outbreak in opposition to state orders.  I don’t know if the Spirit called him to stay open or not. God will judge and we may be able to infer something from the results.  If a word is from God one should expect the results to bare fruit.

I believe that the church is a miraculous place that God made for us. Yes God is everywhere and you can meet Him at home but the church is set apart and sometimes home for many can seem much less so, hence God created houses of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7, Matthew 21:13, Psalm 122:1, John 4:21, 1 Tim 2:8).

In the beginning while the world was getting a handle on this outbreak of the Wuhan Flu suspending some ministries and moving to online services makes sense. However I don’t know if the church should have completely shut its doors with the staff doing web streams from home. Jesus said “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations” This is a command which seems hard to fulfill if the doors are locked to everyone no matter the circumstance.   Scripture also command in Hebrews 10:25, “Do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.”  As part of our Christian witness and neighborly duty we need to be flexible to meet requests of those in authority to fulfill Roman’s 13. But at some point and some degree we also have to follow what Peter said “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide”.  There is a tension between Romans 13 and Acts 4.  Now after the recovery rate has been determined to be 99.6% and the at risk groups are more clear there should be ways the church could open up a bit more with safety measures while at risk groups watch from home or from cars in parking lot services.

The words in Hebrews 10:25 are the clear command from God to meet corporately.  The bible does say in Matthew 18:20 that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them”.  This is a wonderful promise but the word gather here is different from Hebrews 10:25.  In Hebrews 10 the word is episunagōgē which means the complete gathering where as the word in Matthew 18; sunagō  just means to gather.  Hebrews 10:25 clearly commands the regular gathering of the local church at its regularly designated location, not a subset but the complete assembly.  This also establishes places where Christian’s can still say with Psalm 122 “I was glad with those who said to me let us go to the house of the Lord”.  If there was no such place nor assembly apart from the temple in Jerusalem such passages would become devoid of meaning when Jesus prophecy about the diaspora in John 4:21 was fulfilled but the passage implies that worship and intersession would continue elsewhere.  At some point in the tension between Romans 13 and Acts 4 the church would find itself breaking this command if they continue under the authority of man.

With this in mind it has been utterly reprehensible that abortion clinics and liquor stores have been deemed essential while the church has not.  We can even see a targeting of Churches and Synagogues in New York by Mayor de Blasio while others have not been.  In John 4 Jesus is compared to bread and water and therefore just as important as these therefore the church is just as essential as food and water.  Below is a link to an article and two videos which I believe may be helpful to pastors and churches as they navigate the questions to reopen along with legal considerations that may need to be addressed.

Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You

The Bible, The Church and Psychology

This may be the first post where I don’t really draw a conclusion nor state a strong opinion. That is because it is one thing I have been struggling to get my arms and head around for years. I’m hoping this post may be useful to start some dialogues toward a better understanding. The issue is this. The bible talks about behaviors and also addresses why we misbehave. It even addresses extreme behaviors identifying spiritual and demonic causes. On the other hand psychology studies behaviors, mental and emotional states and also proposes reasons and solutions. This to me seems to be a large overlapping grey area.

Many churches and Christians now defer to psychology placing more faith in its “scientific approach”. But many fail to realize that as a science it lacks many of the rigors of physics, chemistry and even biology. For example in those struggling with depression they find a chemical imbalance in the brain. One would think, “Oh well there is the cause”, but it is really an assumption of cause. It could very well be the effect of something else. Because emotional states cannot be measured; they must be communicated. Therefore cause and effect relationships cannot be rigorously established.

In modern psychology the naturalistic paradigm assumes that all behaviors must have physical experiential causes and therefore physical solutions. From personal experience dealing with my own children struggling with ADHD, after years of denial and mistakes I had to accept the reality of such a mental disability having behavioral consequences.

Naturalistic psychology denies the metaphysical but as Christians we believe in the metaphysical. Though the metaphysical or spiritual cannot be measured it can and does often affect the physical.

innerbeing

In this diagram Christians accept what is both above and below the physical divide. Naturalistic psychology only accepts what is below the divide. In the past Christians may have tended to lean toward metaphysical causes for behavioral issues while giving less consideration to the effects of the physical which wasn’t the best course. Now many are leaning the other way. So then how are Christians to discern what is caused by that which is above the divide from that which is caused by the physical below the divide.

Let us consider some examples.

In Mark 9:14-29 Jesus comes upon a boy who is mute, has seizures, and often tries to throw himself into a fire to cause personal harm. Jesus commands the unclean spirit to leave. The disciples ask why they couldn’t cast it out to which he says “this kind only comes out with prayer.” Today this child might have been diagnosed with epilepsy and self-injury disorder.

In Mark 5:1-2 Jesus comes upon a man living in a graveyard. The man is violent and when bound he breaks even chains used to bind him. Jesus talks to the unclean spirits and then commands them to come out. Today this man may be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or some other disorder. I heard of a middle school student diagnosed with spectrum disorder who is often agitated and violent and tore a drinking fountain off the wall.

Does Jesus response necessarily infer that these symptoms are always prescriptive of an unclean spirit? Maybe not necessarily, but then how are we to discern? If we always defer to a physical or mental cause then some may be condemned to a life of spiritual torment. These are some examples of extreme circumstances. Other less extreme ones include:

In James 1:13-15 speaks about temptation to sin. In Matthew 21:28-31 Jesus tells of a son asked to work who says yes but then doesn’t and a second son who says no but regretted and did the work. Jesus asked which obeyed to which they all agreed the second son. I’ve experienced this in Boy Scouts working with scouts having ADHD off to do what is asked and later found distracted by other things. The bible speak of discipline in Proverbs including both penal and verbal rebuke to dissuade bad behavior. But some schools of Psychology propose that all psychosis or tendencies to bad behavior are the result of past trauma. Therefore discipline such as punitive action is traumatic and only positive reinforcement and encouragement should be enacted.  However this is in direct conflict with scriptures statement that we are by nature sinful and that if sin isn’t punished our hearts will scheme to do more evil (Ecc 8:11).

There are more examples in scripture which may be compared to modern society and psychology. And in many cases there are contrasting views and responses between scripture and psychology. But many questions still remain how to discern spiritual from physical causes. How to discern whether punitive or positive redirection is required. How to discern spiritual causes for behavior along with or apart from those caused by mental disabilities. Its a difficult topic but one the church should address while not giving in to the temptation to defer to modern sensibilities.

Make a Defense – Origins Part 1 – Nature of God

Introduction

For the past several months I have been working on presentations which may be used with youth to prepare them to defend their faith.  I released an introduction a couple months ago and now I am releasing my first of two presentations on Origins.  Why am I doing this you may ask.  Well a recent Pew Research polls found that the number of professing Christians in America has decreased from 78% to 65% in the past 10 years.  Further one in three young adults abandon their Christian Faith soon after graduating from High School.  These are alarming trends.  Many young adults loose their faith while they attending college.  In this environment they are challenged to defend their faith and their reasons for belief are often questioned by atheist or agnostic professors.  This video is intended for use by inividuals or church groups, please feel free to watch and I hope it helps answer some questions.

Note: Clip of continental mega sequences taken from the Movie “Is Genesis History” as well as much of the verbiage for descriptions of the Naturalistic Paradigm and Creation Paradigm.

Inserted below are links you may use for further investigation.

Is Genesis History

Answers in Genesis

Institute for Creation Research

Case for a Creator <Book><Movie>

Expelled No Intelligence Allowed

Always Ready to Make a Defense

Introduction

For the past several weeks I have been working on presentations which may be used with youth to prepare them to defend their faith.  Recent Pew Research polls have found that the number of professing Christians in America has decreased from 78% to 65% in the past 10 years.  Further one in three young adults abandon their Christian Faith soon after graduating from High School.  These are alarming trends.  Many young adults loose their faith while they attending college.  In this environment they are challenged to defend their faith and their reasons for belief are often questioned by atheist or agnostic professors.  There are several professional curriculum for teens and young adults which churches may want to consider.

Journey Advocates by Awana

Answers ABC Bible Curriculum by Answers in Genesis

The resources I am working on are a bit more short term; covering only 5 sessions.  Sometimes churches have other topics and material they feel is important.  I am trying to make this a subset apologetic material to answer some of the most common questions and objections that young adults and teens face. Inserted below is the first video in the series.

Make a Defense – Introduction from Devin C Adint on Vimeo.

 

The Law is Part of the Gospel

Over the past year Andy Stanley has made headlines calling for the church to “unhitch itself from the Old Testament” and now more recently stating that the ten commandments do not apply to Christians (Commandments Don’t Apply).  Many of us scratch our heads wondering how he has come to these conclusions.  Apparently much of this comes from an interpretation of Act 15 in which the early church leaders met to discuss circumcision and dietary commands and there application to gentiles.  Emergent authors have also pointed to this passage.  In his book Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell references Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 in which Jesus talks about the authority to loose and bind granted to the apostles and further he references this passage, Acts 15, as being an example of church leadership in community exorcising their authority to loose and bind.

Not Come to Destroy the Law

“Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. – Jesus, Matthew 5:17-18

So what is going on here?  If Jesus in Matthew 5:17-18 said that he didn’t come to do away with the law are the apostles then in Acts 15 doing away with laws?  Also in Matthew 19: 8-9 Jesus states that the permission for divorce in Deuteronomy 24 was actually a concession or an exception but was not God’s original intention.  Is Jesus doing away with the law after He said that he did not come to destroy the law?  When Jesus talked about loosing and binding was He stating that we could do away with some requirements of the law as long as we all agree on it?

I’m going to suggest something here which is very dangerous and so it will come with many warnings and qualifications.   The law of God or the commands in the bible are first comprised of or proceed from God’s immutable created and intended purposes and principles.  These set boundaries as to what is right and what is wrong, what is permissible and what is not permissible, what is required and what is not required and stand until heaven and earth pass away.  Now here comes the dangerous part; secondly the law defines penalties and protocols the objectives of which are to be more specific consequences, requirements and restrictions to align us with God’s purposes and principles or to meet the needs of a particular time and set of circumstances.  These may be some-what mutable.  For example we don’t stone unruly children,  fornicators or homosexuals, because the penalties for the children of Israel were stiffer since the promised messiah was to come from them.   The exception allowing for divorce in Deuteronomy 24 was identified by Jesus as a concession to our hard hearts and therefore was a protocol probably to avoid other more destructive sins such as domestic abuse but the optimal response is to remain married.  A contemporary example of loosing and binding may be seen in the roaring 20s with all its decadence many churches forbid drinking and dancing and over time though not specifically prohibited in scripture this started to hold the weight of orthodoxy.  At the time it was likely a reasonable response to the social problems and a good use of a binding protocol but over time became legalistic and over-bearing like the dietary laws addressed in Acts 15.

The danger here is the question; how do we tell what is a mutable protocol and what is a immutable principle?  Therein lies the rub, which is highly susceptible to abuse, misuse and destructive ideas and responses.  Some of us are getting excited… wow I always wanted to try this out and now I can because if I want to do it and I don’t really see how it hurts anyone else then it must be a protocol which we can set aside.  I would suggest that it is probably better to err on the side of caution especially since a wrong judgement could impact ours or someone else’s eternity.  Where the bible itself has specifically identified something as a protocol such as dietary requirements, circumcision, head coverings, and penalties that we recognize those as such but its better to stick with tradition and consider it a principle than to wrongly identify a command as a protocol which may be loosened resulting in negative consequences that could even impact someone’s eternity.  If Jesus did not come to the destroy the law then it behooves us even more so to do like wise.

The Law is More Necessary Now then Ever

But we need to do more than just refrain from damaging the law.  Paul made it clear in Romans that the law is necessary and even a part of the gospel.

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” – Romans 7:7

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;  – Romans 3:19

We see in the passages Romans 7:7 and 3:19 that the law is part of the gospel and actually probably the first part, for there is no good news without the bad news of our sin…  We must inform the world that sin exists and that God exists and therefore we all have a responsibility to our creator. This must of course be done in a compassionate way.  Many quote Matthew 7:1 “judge not” and say that the compassionate thing to do is to not talk about sin or point out sin, but this ignores the rest of the passage which calls us to address our own sin and point out sin and help others overcome sin.  Some also assert that Jesus only pointed out the pharisees sin and therefore its only relevant to those that are religious or Christians.  This however ignores all the prophets and judges some of which were sent to confront foreign rulers and Jonah who was sent to confront Nineveh.  In Luke chapter 3 we see John the Baptist calling out from the hills and water ways for people to repent

He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? …  – Luke 3:7

This group referenced in Luke 3:7 included Jews and Pharisees but it also included gentiles and tax collectors and soldiers.  John even rebuked the King, Herod, for adultery; having taken his brothers wife and for other sins and he was put in prison by Herod.  After which scripture says Jesus went on to continue John’s ministry; in other words calling people to repent and pointing out sin of not just the “religious” but everyone.  He even sent his disciples out to towns to call people to repent.

Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
He told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.”
Some soldiers also questioned him: “What should we do?”
He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation; be satisfied with your wages.” – Luke 3: 12-14

But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him about Herodias, his brother’s wife, and about all the evil things Herod had done, added this to everything else — he locked John up in prison. – Luke 3:19-20

In the past you could assume that people believed in sin but now we just have natural feelings which are “dancing to our DNA” and environment as Dawkins puts it… So now we tell people you need to be saved and Jesus can save you to which they respond what do I need to be saved from… Therefore making the world aware of God’s law is probably more important today then it ever was in the past. 

Migrant Caravan Reaction

To be honest I don’t know what to think about a caravan of thousands of people from Honduras and Guatemala. I’m wondering how something like that gets started, how they are getting resources to travel and how so many people are drawn together. When I think about 1909-1916 when my family came over to Ellis Island there was economic depression and the spread of communism and people heard that America was looking for immigrants to work in factories. Many sold everything to buy passage on ships and came over and I remember seeing pictures of poorly hand made American Flags because they were excited about becoming an American. Many others were turned away by the shipping companies due to sickness.  There was little to no government assistance so my great grandparents went to the church who housed them and helped them find employment.  My grandparents had to take immigration and naturalization classes and take an oath casting off all other allegiances. Leviticus 19:34 definitely calls us to treat sojourns as one of our own and Mal 3:5 says that God is against those that refuse to help immigrants. But the bible also says in Num 15:16 that there will be one law for everyone indicating that naturalization is also expected.

With this in mind there are things that bother me with the current state of immigration in the US. For example my parents live on the South Side of Chicago and many undocumented immigrants live by them. They are friendly people but my parents are bothered by the fact that many of them do not up keep their property and its actually causing damage to my parents property. Its not that they don’t have resources but many send their money over to Central America to maintain homes they own there or buy/maintain homes for their relatives. Further when my mother went to vote back in 2012 an undocumented immigrant came in to vote just yelling a candidates name and they rushed her over to a booth and helped her vote in Spanish without asking for any ID.  My niece saw the same thing in the November 2018 elections at her polling facility. 

My cousin is a Chicago police officer and he says several times a week he gets called in where an undocumented immigrant has wrecked cars and property while drunk, or gotten into drunken brawls and assaulted someone and what bothers him is that because Chicago is a sanctuary city they just let the guy right out the back of the police department and he is told to keep his mouth shut… They say that there is low crime rates related to immigrants but its hard to tell how true this is when so many sanctuary states aren’t filling out police reports and are just letting them go. When I saw pictures of the caravan I saw many flags from these other countries which seems to be in contrast to the Ellis Island pictures of people with hand made American Flags. They say it takes long to go about immigration legally, I’m not sure how true that is as I work with a guy from Mexico who just got his citizenship which took him 3 years after working here on a visa, I suppose it might be related to coming over with some kind of working skill set versus not.  But it would seem that there should be some expectations for immigrants to meet some requirements and make a shift in their allegiance.  It seems to me that one side is painting this as all rainbows and butterflys while the other-side seems to paint it as a march of terrorists and plague carriers; the truth is probably somewhere in between.

Emerging Concerns Part 5 – Society / Kingdom

Post Modern Cycle - Society / Kingdom

We have laid the foundations and have come to the last stage in the cycle of post-modern or emergent thought. The culmination of the efforts of community and role models, leaders, activists.  When we bring together our culture and the communities living in the culture along with the role models and leaders we establish a Society. This section will follow a similar format to previous articles.  It will present the views of secular leaders of post-modern thought followed by views of emergent church leaders evaluating how post-modern thought has been integrated into the church as well as the concerns and problems this entails.

To recap where we have come from and where we are at now; The Renaissance ushered in the age of reason. People always believed that communication and understanding were possible but the idea that more of the world followed a natural order that could be understood combined with the invention of the printing press blew the doors open for Rationalism. The next step was Naturalism further expanding the idea of natural order into a closed system where only natural law could explain the world. Some people of “faith” embraced Deism, the idea that God got the ball rolling with an innate discernible ethic and cause, and then left it to run on its own. Others rejected faith altogether and embraced Evolution and a world without God. But without God what were people to believe in; we are to believe in ourselves said Secular Humanism. With a failure to reach a consensus even among like minded individuals and discontentment with hard theoretical thinking Secular Humanists became somewhat disillusioned with rationalism leading to the rise of post-modernism.  Post-modernism rejected the narratives of the past and rather than hoping in the future the focus became on the hear and now. This world view can be seen in the works of post-modern philosophers, artists, and spiritualists.

Do you think that I count the days? There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk. – Jean-Paul Sartre

“All you really need to do is accept this moment fully. You are then at ease in the here and now and at ease with yourself.” – Eckhart Tolle, Practicing the Power of Now

Read more of this post

The Dissolution of Man

Boys are asking the question “Do I have what it takes?” The development from a boy to a man requires the answer to this question to be something which differentiates boys and men from everything else and is fundamental to the development of confidence ahiking_trail_life_usa_350x219nd perseverance in a man. With the trends in society where women require participation in every role and activity in life, out of the mistaken belief that roles and activities define a person’s significance and determine equality, as well as the recent redefinition of gender these have contributed greatly to the dissolution of what it means to be a man. Now as men have no place to differentiate themselves, no place to answer these questions I’m amazed at how so many wonder why more men leave home and do not fulfill their responsibilities, why more men are unemployed middle aged living at home with mom and dad, why more men are getting charged with violent crime…

I have been a cub scout leader for the past 4 years and my son and pack just crossed over to Boy Scouts a couple months ago.  I am very disheartened by BSA’s lack of perseverance as well as the complacency of its members and leadership which have failed to stand up against these trends.  Starting with allowing charter organizations to determine acceptance of homosexual leaders and followed by the acceptance of transgender behavior within scouts under the guise of “being more inclusive”.  Saying we want to be inclusive is really an “Ad hominem” argument or character attack asserting that those opposed are practicing discrimination.  We can accept and include people without accepting and including their behavior.  Behavior is not the same thing as race.

Worse yet the recent legal and social transgender movement is now reaching down to our elementary schools and other organizations for children.  These changes in society are promoting gender confusion in children.  In the transgender community there is a high rate of suicide, 40% have attempted suicide.  Further studies are showing that the hormone treatments and gender alteration surgeries result in a decreased life expectancy.  And of course they would… God made us male and female, fighting against God’s design for us will always have negative consequences.  To provide children with education resources or to teach children that there are other gender options is child endangerment.  As scout leaders, as public school teachers such participation is immoral even if it has been dictated by polices and laws.

https://www.onenewsnow.com/culture/2018/05/02/scouts-mixing-of-genders-highlights-other-groups-boy-focus

Christian Response to Cake for a Gay Marriage

Christian Baker Under Fire for Refusing Wedding Cake for Gay Marriage

A Christian bakery owner is under fire for refusing to make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple participating in openly gay marriage ceremony.  The couple alleges that the bakery owner told them “they were abominations to the Lord”.   Scripture tells us that Jesus was full of both grace and truth. If this statement with the term abomination was used then that wouldn’t have been with grace, however the baker has indicated that he didn’t make such a statement. There are many issues here:

1. For Christians there is no separation of faith and life. We are not to have a public business face and private Christian face.
2. Eph 5:11 “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”  We are to take no part in deeds contrary to God’s moral standards and purposes.

3. Mt 5:19 says that if we ignore God’s law and teach others that its OK to ignore Gods law we shall be considered least in the kingdom of heaven. We are not to act in such a way that we leave any impression that any part of God’s law is something to be ignored. While everyone coming for cakes has some sin in their life this is a step further because the cake itself would be participating in an act of open rebellion to God’s law and design for marriage and therefore its creator would be doing so as well. Such a participation would constitute an infraction against the commands from God in scripture and here in Mt 5:19.  I have seen this justified by comparing it to a gun shop owner being responsible for the murder committed by a customer who bought a gun.  However just because someone buys a gun doesn’t infer that they are going to commit murder.  It is not the same thing as providing services for an event in direct opposition to God’s word since you know how it will be used beforehand.  Another example would be if I am a contractor and a gentleman’s club wants me to build their stage I would have to refuse; participation in or enablement of behavior contrary to the Word of God is not justifiable.
4. We are to extend grace and avoid enacting a judgement against others. The word judgement has two meanings; it is either a statement indicating a determination regarding correctness or it can mean a prescription of action to be taken, a prescribed penal response. We are to avoid penal responses and we are to avoid coming to our own determinations regarding correctness. But we are not to remain silent about God’s already stated “judgments”, His statements about whether something is right or wrong. Telling someone, making a public statement or taking a public action in line with God’s commands and design is not making a judgement our-self it is informing someone of God’s judgement. It might not be received well as people want to rebel and don’t want to have God’s word point out that they are in opposition to God and that God considers their actions wrong. But it is necessary because Romans 7:9-13 shows us that the law is part of the gospel. The good news is not so good unless we are aware of its contrast with the bad news of our sin.

It is clear from the law in Genesis 2:24 and reiterated by Jesus in Matthew 19:5 that marriage is between a man and a woman.  Further 1 Cor 6:9-11 indicates that those practicing homosexuality will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  I have people in my life that fall into this category and they are people I love very much.  Problem is since the law acknowledges same sex marriage and many in society either are indifferent or now are in support of this those practicing feel as if this “life style” is now legitimate and they will never think twice about it.  This if frustrating because it encourages those I love to continue on a path which puts them at odds with God and His law and under the penalty described in 1 Corinthians 6.

I suppose if it comes down to a judicial ruling or specific legislation compelling Christian’s to render services in support of such an immoral practice, as long as no one is physically in danger, than I believe the moral responsibility would transfer to those forcing compliance. Until such time or circumstance we are compelled to follow God’s principles and policies first.

Emerging Concerns Part 4 – Role Model

Post-Modern Cycle Role Model As we have looked at postmodern thoughts and how it has influence the church we have laid the foundations of culture and community. We see that in this view culture has given us language and even the very meaning it wishes to ascribe to sounds and words as well as the practices or ways we approach life. Community gives postmodernism way to interpret language and practice a way to re-adapt. How life should work should not be unchangeable in this view. But as these communities arise there must be something that brings continuity and conviction. There must be someone who can bring things together and drive them forward. If not then things will just stay the same.

Why do all anarchists groups have to have a leader? – Ravi Zacharias

Looking for a Hero

You will find these ideas in various forms, however the goal is the same. Something or someone is needed who can make the ideas or enact the ideas from culture and community practically. These new ideas need a leader, a role model, someone pragmatic to drive change. But it must be understood that the concept of a leader, role model or hero in post-modern thought is not the same thing as what we traditionally think of. In post-modern thought what is achieved is more important than how it was achieve.

The man of action views the issue of means and ends in pragmatic and strategic terms. He has no other problem; he thinks only of his actual resources and the possibilities of various choices of action. He asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work. To say that corrupt means corrupt the ends is to believe in the immaculate conception of ends and principles. (Alinsky 1972: 24)

He who sacrifices the mass good for his personal conscience has a peculiar conception of ‘personal salvation’; he doesn’t care enough for people to ‘be corrupted’ for them. (Alinsky 1972: 25)

Spread Anarchy - don't tell me what to doThese quotes from Saul Alinsky are a somewhat radical example of post-modern thought and we can see these ideas in the church in “Liberation Theology”.

As the church progressed in the 20th century it looked for ways to appeal to the “unchurched” public. In this “Church Growth Movement” churches adopted methods from the business world which were used in marketing. Some examples would be branding and talk-show style services. These tend to be more stylistic choices, however care must still be taken as styles can come from underlying attitudes and values or lack there of. For example the use of coarse joking or potty humor may entertain the children but can step beyond the bounds of style to a disregard for acceptable decorum and becomes inconsiderate of others senses. The bible says that we should avoid coarse joking (Ephesians 5:4). Some good ideas did proceed from this as the church made its appeal it tried to be more practical with biblical teaching focusing on application and useful systems and methods taken from scripture. The inclusion of methods from behavioral, social and psychological studies furthered this practical focus. The problem is that often it seems that the bible started taking more of a back seat.

The idea is taken further when the church brings in secular business leaders, motivational speakers and other public figures to speak and teach. Some churches will even go so far as to limit the amount of scripture used in services and even remove crosses and other christian symbols from their church even to the extent of limiting the use of Jesus name during services. As churches progress down this path one has to ask, “Do we believe that the Bible, the cross and Jesus are sufficient and compelling?” Jesus chastised the pharisees for “teaching as doctrine the principles of men” and in many ways the church has been doing the same. Sure we can learn things from others outside the church but how much should we be asking the congregation to sift through worldly ideas to find what is useful and biblically acceptable? Apart from the fully devoted child of God living under Jesus Lordship this is often done to appeal to those outside the church. Emergent thought takes it a step further focusing on what can be accomplished through these methods whether or not anything spiritual or moral is sacrificed. It should be clear from scripture that the end doesn’t justify the means. Also the warning from A W Tozer below highlights the problem with this thinking.

How eagerly do we seek the approval of this or that man of worldly reputation. How shamefully do we exploit the converted celebrity. Anyone will do to take away the reproach of obscurity from our publicity-hungry leaders: famous athletes, congressmen, world travelers, rich industrialists; before such we bow with obsequious smiles and honor them in our public meetings and in the religious press. Thus we glorify men to enhance the standing of the Church of God, and the glory of the Prince of Life is made to hang upon the transient fame of a man who shall die. – A W Tozer

Reinventing Christ

The church then moves from looking for heroes to redefining Jesus and His role in the world. You might see John 14:16 “I am the way, the truth and the life” taught as Jesus teaching not that He Himself is the way but that how He lived his life is the way. The picture then that is painted of Jesus focuses on his interactions with people and particularly those that are deemed more compassionate and less confrontational unless of course the confrontation was with leadership. We like to focus on what Jesus accomplished helping others and its impact. There is value in this but the post-modern or emergent view takes this further to the point that it paints Jesus as a hero just like Gandhi or Martin Luther King.

I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts … rather than resolving the paradox via pronouncements on the eternal destiny of people more convinced by or loyal to other religions than ours, we simply move on … To help Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and everyone else experience life to the full in the way of Jesus (while learning it better myself), I would gladly become one of them (whoever they are), to whatever degree I can, to embrace them, to join them, to enter into their world without judgment but with saving love as mine has been entered by the Lord (A Generous Orthodoxy, Brian McLaren, 260, 262, 264).

More value is placed on how Jesus changed the world practically than on how he changes our relationship to the Father and gave us hope for eternity.  The early church placed a priority on holding eternity in high esteem and rather than stepping back from impacting the world this propelled them forward and brought about irresistible change.

You might also see someone question the virgin birth and whether it should have been translated virgin in biblical prophecy. If Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin then he was just a man and the objective is the same; to see Jesus as just a man. It is much easier to deal with a hero or activist than it is to deal with the fact that our rebellion was so heinous that the Author of Life Himself had to become a man to make up for our debt.

Jesus was not a moralist who came to make bad people good; Jesus is a savior who came to make dead people alive – Ravi Zacharias

Not only is Christ reinvented as a social hero but the gospel may be redefined. True the bible talks about how God deals with those that never have the opportunity to hear the gospel but the outcome seems somewhat ambiguous. It is probably ambiguous because we are commissioned to go into the world and spread the gospel. But even this idea of spreading the gospel is being questioned. You may hear questions or comments such as, “People can find the way Jesus lived in other religions and remain in that religion”. This is called inclusivism which essentiall states that though we are saved through Jesus Christ as the only way to the father one doesn’t have to have knowledge that it is Jesus they are believing. You can follow the path you are on and believe you are worshiping God XYZ and then find out you were really trusting Jesus in the end, at the final judgement. They are not saved apart from Christ but saved without knowledge of Christ. Another view takes it further and just asks them to see the way Jesus lived and just pull from that as they continue on in their native religion. Again this puts the focus on the way Christ lived and takes it away from the work which He did on the cross. I have heard renowned Christian leaders whom I respect greatly make similar statements. Paul’s talk in Acts 17 at Mars hill should make it clear that the early church taught that other gods where not gods at all and that faith in Jesus was the only way.

In the next article I will bring it all together into the final stage of the post-modern or emergent perspective and take a look at the end of it all. The final article will take a look at post-modern focus on society and society building or in emergent christian movements on uses of the term “kingdom”.