Archive for November, 2008

The Secular Message of American Christianity

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Michael Horton (Christless Christianity, p. 49ff) mentions sociologist Marsha Witten’s analysis of the secularization of American churches (All is Forgiven: The Secular Message in American Protestantism).  Ms. Witten recalls listening to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, when the mail arrived with a promotional flyer for a new church: “Why not get a LIFT instead of a letdown this Sunday?”

Witten uses this juxtaposition — St. Matthew Passion vs. the flyer — to frame the conclusions of her study.  As Horton summarizes:

While the former is fed by a rich sense of God’s majesty, holiness, and mercy, as well as the genuine struggle of faith, the latter is “optimistic, untroubled, purely mundane,” like any other advertisement for a product.  American Christianity today lives in this contradiction between “the spiritual and the psychological, the transcendent and the pragmatic.”

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Favorite Pictures

Monday, November 17th, 2008

I’m no professional photographer, but every once in a while I get a photo that I think is really cool.  So, just because, here are my favorites!  (Click the fullscreen icon — the last icon in the viewer controls — to take a better look.)

If you’re reading this in Facebook, you probably need to click the link to view the original post.  Otherwise you’re missing out on the images.

Diagnosing the Illness

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

I recently started reading a new book by Michael Horton called Christless Christianity, in which he lays out the case that the church in America is in captivity, having given in to a secularizing trend that excludes Christ:

Over a century ago, Princeton theologians Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield observed that according to the system of revivalism associated especially with Charles Finney, God was not even necessary. If conversion and revival are “simply the philosophical result of the right use of means” rather than a miracle of God’s grace, all you have to do is find the right techniques, procedures, and methods that work across the board: in business, politics, and religion. A lot of the church growth literature of the past few decades assumes the same outlook. Could evangelicalism grow and experience success even if God didn’t exist?

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What to do now?

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Obama won the election, mostly fair and square, and is obviously the choice of the people.  So what do reasonable Christians do now?  (Fleeing to Canada, or any other place, was never really a reasonable option!)  Says Doug Wilson on BLOG and MABLOG:

Christians should pray for the new president (1 Tim. 2:1-2), giving thanks for him. We should speak of him respectfully, rendering true honor as we do (1 Pet. 2:17; Rom. 13:7). We should pray for his true conversion to Christ (1 Tim. 2:1-2), wishing him the best as we do so (1 Tim. 2:4). At the same time, we must oppose the very bloody idolatries he will seek to advance, and we must do so with clarity and outspoken courage (Acts 26:29). We must identify all lawless thrones for what they are (Ps. 94:20). Only the grace of God can teach Christians how to honor the emperor, while at the same time considering him as one of the heads of the beast (Rev. 13:4). This is what the first century Christians had to do with Nero, one of history’s great lowlifes, and this is the kind of thing we obviously need to learn how to do.

Comment by Michael Hutton on the same post:

Where we go wrong is in thinking that any system, any institution, any bunch of laws can uphold godliness when the people no longer want it… What Americans have now is the will of the people. Christians need to preach and pray that that will might be submitted to the gospel of Christ. Only when the people are regenerate will the government be reformed.

Doug Wilson also has a great list of Ten Things to Keep in Mind After the Election, written before the results started coming in.

Slippery Slope

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

So the current fight in California and elsewhere to get marriage redefined to include homosexual relationships begs a real question in my mind. If you remove the true foundation of marriage, that is its institution by God himself, and his moral commandments about it, and replace it with some concept of human “love,” where does that take us?

Using the same reasoning that opens the door to gay marriage, why doesn’t it also open the door to these other relationships:

  • Polygamy. What consenting adults do in private is their own business, right?  And the marital structures they choose to participate in are defined only by “commitment” and “love,” so what reason is there to stop at only 2 people?  Why not 3, 4, or 10?  Monogamy is clearly an outflow of Judeo-Christian biblical morality, so how can we justify the illegality of polygamy in this new world?
  • Incest. Again, two consenting adults.  If we remove biblical injunctions, what legitimate basis do we have to prevent or discourage all kinds of incestuous relationships?  Sure, you might argue the possible deleterious genetic effects on offspring, but doesn’t that delve in the privacy realm of the woman and the man?  It is claimed that the state can’t dictate nor prohibit reproductive sexuality, so why would that stop incest?

From the Wikipedia article on incest:

In Slate Magazine, William Saletan drew a legal connection between gay sex and incest between consenting adults. As he described in his article, in 2003, U.S. Senator Rick Santorum publicly derided the theory of the Supreme Court ruling to allow private consensual sex in the home (primarily as a gay rights move). He stated: “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery.” However, David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign professed outrage that Santorum placed being gay on the same moral and legal level as someone engaging in incest. Saletan argued that, legally and morally, there is essentially no difference between the two, and went on to support incest between consenting adults being covered by a legal right to privacy.

In a world where there is no normal, no standard, everything (at least between “consenting adults”) becomes permissible.  If I were a judge in a place where gay marriage was legal, there’s no way that I could in good conscience unfairly apply the law to all kinds of other situations.  Just my thinking.

The Story of Simeon

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Yesterday we celebrated All Saints’ Day, probably for the first time ever in my “traditional” Baptist church.  I told the story of the martyrdom of Simeon, from The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe, which is readable online at Google Books.

Albrecht Durer, Martyrdom of 10,000 Christians

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)
Martyrdom of 10,000 Christians

In the same country of Persia, about this time [A.D. 343] suffered under Sapor the king (as recordeth Simeon Metasphrastcs) divers valiant and constant martyrs, as Acindynus, Pegasius, Anempodistus, Epidephorus, also Simeon, archbishop of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, royal cities of Persia, with other ministers and religious men of that region, to the number of one hundred and twenty-eight. Of this Simeon thus writeth Sozomen:

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