Friday, May 08, 2009

Mobile Truth

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hard Truth

John Piper says it so well...

". . . softening hard truth for evangelism in public undermines truth for the waffling believer in private.

I think in general this is what cultural adapters fail to realize: making the truth more palatable for unbelievers to help them make a step toward orthodoxy serves even more (it seems historically) to help loosely orthodox people feel how unpalatable orthodoxy is and move away from it."

(H.T. Ligon)

True (?) Prosperity Gospel

Michael has a great post over at imonk.
“I live in the same world as you do; a world with the same problems, the same questions and the same kinds of pain and failure. God doesn’t provide some kind of insurance or protection from this world, and Christians aren’t wise enough to understand or fix everything in this world. In some ways, you (atheists) may be wiser than any one of us. What we have to offer is the gospel of Jesus, and the truth of the gospel isn’t a pay off in this world. Whatever changes the Gospel makes in us, we remain human, fallen and in need of final rescue, redemption and resurrection. There is plenty wrong with us, and some of it is shocking and terrible. In this world, we’re on a pilgrimage to follow Jesus, to love neighbor and to live our lives in an authentically human way.”

What’s scary about that paragraph? It refutes the real prosperity gospel.

That’s why it scares me.

(H.T. Internetmonk)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

My Dad in Glory

Today we pay tribute and celebrate the life of my Dad. To many, who have been so kind to support us and who remember him fondly, he was a friend; a mentor; a teacher; a preacher; an uncle; a grand-father; a brother; a father-in-law; a father; a husband; and most importantly he was a man of God. This was an underlying bedrock foundation upon which his whole life was securely grounded.

On the 17 January 1931 he was born of the flesh. At the age of 21 he was born of the Spirit. On the 21 March 2008 his body ceased to live. However, reports of his death are wildly exaggerated, as he his now more alive than ever. Since he was a young man and responded to the grace of God he has always lived his life with a passionate goal of being faithful to his Saviour. From very humble and poor beginnings in Bowral to his earlier days of ministry and adventures in the primitive western highlands of Papua New Guinea to counselling hardened criminals and prisoners he has always acted selflessly and peacefully working to the best of his ability and beyond at the work that God had prepared for him. He thanked God for his family and felt privileged to care for them deeply, all the while so pleased that all his family individually shared a common faith. Over all the poor health he has endured and suffered over the past 35 years or so he has always considered his life a blessing and would not change anything. All the good and bad times have sculpted him into the man and father whom I loved dearly. He was not a man of opinion as these can often change over time or be swayed by fickle aspects and influences. He was a man of conviction. He always spoke and acted out of deep conviction of his belief in a loving faithful God. Nothing could change his God-given conviction. As G. K. Chesterton said, "If a man doesn't stand for something, he will fall for anything." No one could push over my Dad. My Dad was a larger than life character who stood strong and faithful and always humble to praise God. He could not do otherwise as he stood int he shadow of the Cross.

As kids growing up we did not have much also and Mum and Dad would often go hungry so that we could eat. We were pretty poor amongst our community – but we had a richness of life to which nothing could compare.

Not long ago at a church service one Sunday the preacher asked the congregation if anyone had seen an angel. Now the preacher was probably speaking rhetorically but my Dad, without hesitation, spoke out in his usual loud, bold voice of conviction - "Seen an Angel? I married an Angel !" He could not have been more true as my Mum really is an Angel. She has faithfully loved, supported, prayed over and cared for Dad and all of her kids all our lives and the last 12 months have been extremely taxing on her as she continued to care for Dad in all his terrible pain. The self-effacing angel she is, thanks God for all His blessings upon their lives and gives God the glory and thanks of upholding her through the tough times. I thank God for such wonderful parents.

John Bunyan describes how Christian enters the Kingdom of Heaven – and I can see my Dad walking along with Christian:

The King then commanded to open the gate, That the righteous nation, said he, which keepeth the truth, may enter in. Now I saw in my dream my Dad and Christian walk in at the gate: and lo, as they entered, they were transfigured, and they had raiment put on that shone like gold. There was also that met them with harps and crowns, and gave them to them -- the harps to praise withal, and the crowns in token of honour. Then I heard in my dream that all the bells in the city rang again for joy, and that it was said unto them, Enter ye into the joy of your Lord. I also heard my Dad and Christian, and they sang with a loud voice, saying, Blessing and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth Upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, forever and ever. Now, just as the gates were opened to let them in, I looked in after them, and, behold, the City shone like the sun; the streets also were paved with gold, and in them walked many men, with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden saxophones to sing praises withal. There were also of them that had wings, and they answered one another without intermission, saying, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord. And after that they shut up the gates; which, when I had seen, I wished myself among them.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

More like a close shave

than shearing season - but then again some people are just as dumb as sheep.

".. Hinn ... is a professional, so he and his minders have got this fraud game down pat. Book your own venue. Promote yourself on your own TV show. A few local churches will happily oblige with further publicity, even volunteers and would have prepared the suckers for a reaping with their own brand of prosperity gospel teaching (local churches like the Assemblies of God, Christian City Church and most independent pentecostal churches). And quickly weed out the imposters at the rally.

And note how it is done: after hyping up the crowd, then fleecing them, comes the promotional side show of "healing miracles". The minders screen those who claim they have been healed for the obligatory interview and fall down. Only the 100% healed get on stage.

But that is how Hinn "stays clean". It's because they say they are healed. And everyone in the auditorium believes them. Hinn just says "praise the Lord and pass me your cheque book".
H.T. Saint

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Soon - The Saviour

We all come with different personal feelings to the Christmas festival. One comes with pure joy as he looks forward to this day of rejoicing, and friendships renewed and of love. That is true of most children. Others look for a moment of peace under the Christmas tree, peace from the pressures of daily work. They want to dream of times and days long past. They want to forget all the unpleasant happenings around them and see the world only in the light of the Christmas tree, they want to hear the old Christmas carols. They long for this blessed forgetfulness. Others again approach Christmas with great apprehension. It will be no festival of joy for them. Personal sorrow is painful especially on this day for those whose loneliness is deepened at Christmas time. Human hearts feel things in the lights of the Christmas tree in so many different ways. And it is surely right that each of us should for a while look around at the outside world. Perhaps, this year, something wonderful will occur, that will help us to celebrate Christmas. Before our eyes stand the crowds of unemployed, the millions of children throughout the world in hunger and distress, the hunger in China, the oppressed in India and in our own unhappy land. All eyes tell us of helplessness and despair. And despite it all, Christmas comes. Whether we wish it or not, whether we are sure or not, we must hear the words once again: Christ the Saviour is here! The world that Christ comes to save is our fallen and lost world. None other.
Wonderfully have you dealt with me,
blends of bitterness and sweet to see.
Let me through the veil of death behold,
My people at their festival bold.
God, into your eternities going,
I see my people march with freedom glowing.
You who punish sin and forgive readily,
God, you know I have loved this people steadily.
That I have borne their shame and sacrifice
and seen their salvation - will suffice.
Hold, support me, I lose my stave,
faithful God, prepare me for the grave.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer - 21 December 1930

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The weight of waiting

Celebrating Advent means learning how to wait. Waiting is an art which our impatient age has forgotten. We want to pluck the fruit before it has had time to ripen. Greedy eyes are soon disappointed when what they saw as luscious fruit is sour to the taste. In disappointment and disgust they throw it away. The fruit, full of promise rots on the ground. It is rejected without thanks by disappointed hands.

The blessedness of waiting is lost on those who cannot wait, and the fulfilment of promise is never theirs. They want quick answers to the deepest questions of life and miss the value of those times of anxious waiting, seeking with patient uncertainties until the answers come. They lose the moment when the answers are revealed in dazzling clarity.

Who has not felt the anxieties of waiting for the declaration of friendship or love? The greatest, the deepest, the most tender experiences in all the world demand patient waiting. This waiting is not in emotional turmoil, but gently growing, like the emergence of spring, like God's laws, like the germinating of a seed.

Not all can wait - certainly not those who are satisfied, contented and feel that they live in the best of all possible worlds! Those who learn to wait are uneasy about their way of life, but yet have seen a vision of greatness in the world of the future and are patiently expecting its fulfilment.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer - 2 December 1928.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Chesterton Chestnuts

Some champion truth but have no mercy. Others dispense mercy at the expense of truth. But perhaps the greatest damage done by disconnected virtues is the skewing of our sense of humility. Modesty is no longer related to ambition, but to conviction. We were intended to doubt ourselves but not the truth, but humility now seems to imply that one cannot believe he possesses the truth.

Our day is marked by misplaced goodness, righteous sentiments which are all out of proportion. The danger we now face is the self-destruction of intellect. If there is no validity in human thought, then there is nothing to be gained by thinking. Reason requires us to believe that our thinking is truly related to reality, a conviction which the modern skeptic has lost. And this loss of faith reduces all thinking to a pointless exercise.

The role of religious authority was to defend reason, to keep mankind from spiraling into this nothingness of skepticism. The reason for the creeds and the crusades was to protect reason, not to obliterate it. Religion and reason are intimately connected because both are founded on a faith which cannot be proven. When the former was rejected, a dynamic was set in motion which would destroy the latter as well.

Current philosophy, then, is more than insane; it is suicidally insane. Even as it heralds the coming of free thought, it writes its epitaph. We cannot move on to a greater skepticism than that which questions our own existence and the reality of reality. This is not a beginning. It is an end, a dead end...

...Christianity offers us a rigid exterior which protects an inner core of joy and abandonment, whereas modern philosophy offers us all of the beauty of emancipation on the outside, but the inner void is deep and dark. Materialism finds no meaning or romance in the universe, for without limits there can be no danger. Adventure exists only in the land of authority, but never in the land of intellectual anarchy.

This brings us to a final but important thought. The great paradox of our faith is that we are not ourselves. Due to the Fall, our normal condition is not normal at all. We can appreciate this truth, however, only when we begin to recover our true selves. Orthodoxy leads us to that recovery, and that recovery leads us to joy.

Most men find happiness in little things but despair in the big ones. This situation, however, is all upsidedown. Joy should be the norm and melancholy the exception. When we embrace orthodoxy and find meaning in the universe, we also find joy. And once that joy is ours, we know that we are finally right-side-up.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


You will not hear about dark nights of the soul from the likes of Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen and Paula White (who, with her husband, is treating their divorce this week like a hiccup that doesn't matter much to their "ministry" aims -- which means keeping the gravy train running).
My money is on the business folding congregation being told that after 18 years, they've been milked dry and they should be all grown up enough to pay their own way in life.
You will not hear about the real world and the real gospel in response to it from these charlatans because they are afraid you might actually become satisfied in Christ and tire of their lies. They need you discontent so that you will still need them to pick you up.
And if you think this crap is limited to the name-it-claim-it crowd, you are mistaken. It has been creeping into our evangelical churches for years, and you see this discontentment with the Gospel every time you hear a message that treats the Bible like an advice column or a self-help quote book or that treats worship like a performance. Any time the purpose of worship is YOU, you might as well be getting the holy spirit pixie dust from Rod Parsley. It's the same false gospel, just packaged for a different crowd....
Dear God, make us crave the gospel, make us desire grace, make us satisfied in and with You alone for Your glory alone. Make us satisfied -- joyously, exuberantly, righteously satisfied -- in Your Son for Your glory.
(H.T. iMonk and Jared and Saint)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Pulpit Pimping for Prosperity

Mega-churches have spawned the inevitable rise of mega-pastors. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a large church or being the pastor of a large church. But the how and why are more important. A lot of churches are being constructed and run more like a business than a church and those in promulgation of the false gospel of prosperity pimping are tainting all evangelical preachers with a similar brush. Soon to be released by Reuben Armstrong is the book Snakes in the Pulpit who highlights four prominent pastors saying they are "deceiving true believers" and "..these four pastors are using the word of God to manipulate the true believers for fame and fortune..." The fame and finances generally don't travel far from the pockets of these style of pimping preachers. Now without trying very hard there are many more high profile names that could go on his list of preachers who are more obsessed with pimping their pulpit. Those pulpit sharing impastors who go on the lucrative preaching circuit (or is that circus - you be the judge) inviting such style of preacher to fleece their flock in return for the reciprocated opportunity to do likewise on prosperity promotion tours.

(H.T. Think Christian)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

True interpretation

My focus on NT studies has been largely historical and I have only approached theological questions well-after thoroughly engaging the historical horizon of the biblical texts. But what of theological interpretation and its value? I understand theological interpretation to be the model of interpretation that focuses on the ecclesial context in which Scripture was written and its utility for answering the theological questions confronted by its ecclesial readers, ancient and modern, when reading these texts. That means that one consciously approaches the NT not simply as a historical artifact as any other, nor as a source book for creating religious dogma, but as a document created by Christians and for Christians that speaks fundamentally a word from God and about God. A sympathetic reading of Scripture means that faith and theological perspectives can never be divorced from reading and research of the message of the Bible itself. That does not require jettisoning the historical horizon or blanketing them with theological issues, but theological readings are not ancillary to the task of reading Scripture in and for the church.

(H.T Euangelion)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

John Piper on the prosperity gospel

H.T. The Christian Mind

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Lost Gospel

I've been reading a bit of what Tom is talking and walking about - makes good sense - maybe others should be on the same page.
I am much more hopeful of those whose commitment to Scripture's authority is not mixed with political ambition or misguided bureaucratic loyalties. Honest evangelicals know that something is horribly wrong in our corporate life. Too many evangelical churches are spiritually unhealthy due to the extended neglect of basic biblical teachings, principles and practices. At the top of this list is the Gospel itself.

When we interview perspective church members, we always ask them to give us a brief explanation of the Gospel. Some of the answers that we have received--even from long-time members of conservative evangelical churches--have only confirmed in my mind that the Gospel has been significantly neglected in much of American evangelicalism over the last generation. If you want to liven up your next Sunday School party, ask people to take 2 minutes and write down a simple statement of what the Gospel is. Then collect those papers and read them aloud. It will be better--and potentially more profitable--than pictionary! It will probably also be very sobering.

The Gospel is all about Jesus Christ. I teach the people I serve to think of it simply like this: It is the message of Who Christ is, What He has done, and Why it matters. Answering these questions from the Scripture will provide an outline of the biblical Gospel.

Here is a summary of my concerns about spheres in which we have lost or are losing the Gospel in our day.

1. In preaching
I took several hours last spring to listen to a number of SBC seminary chapel sermons. I heard lots about leadership, commitment, courage, faithfulness, sheep, shepherds, prayer and devotion, I heard very little of Jesus Christ. Often Christ was mentioned almost as an afterthought. I realize that this is far from a scientific study (but if you are interested in one that corroborates my concerns about Southern Baptist preaching, see Marsha Whitten's All is Forgiven) but the sermons were preached by well-known and highly respected Southern Baptist pastors. It is not unreasonable to expect that their sermons to seminarians would be carefully prepared. Assuming that to be the case, I came away from my exercise rather discouraged.

Here is an experiment that I recommend. Get a simple outline of the Gospel in your mind and listen to the sermons preached in your church (even if you are the preacher!) or other churches and try to determine to what degree the Gospel is the basis of them. Too often only some facts related to the Gospel are tacked on at the end of a message in order to justify some kind of altar call, but the Gospel itself is not foundational to it. If a sermon would play just as well in a Kingdom Hall or Jewish Synagogue as it would in a Baptist church, you can be sure it is void of the Gospel.
2. In Christian living
Very often the Gospel is viewed only as the threshhold into the Christian life by which one must enter the kingdom. Once in, however, the Gospel loses its importance. Where this happens in conservative churches moralism tends to gain preeminence and Christianity tends to be conceived in terms of rules and requirements. In moderate and liberal churches sentimentalism tends to reign and attitudes and actions are evaluated in terms of how "loving" they feel. Do not misunderstand--the Christian life includes both rules and especially love (rightly understood, of course), but the Christian life is based on neither. It is based on Jesus Christ--who He is, what He has done and why it matters. That is why we are called to live by faith. Faith in what? Or whom? The person and work of Christ. This is also why Paul could write, "For to me, to live is Christ." Christ was life for Paul because the Gospel had come to him in power. Read the ethical portions of the New Testament to see how the Apostles exhorted the early church to holy living. It wasn't by moralistic teaching. They teach the law on the basis of the Gospel. I see very little concern for the relationship between law and Gospel in Southern Baptist life today. The reason, I believe, is due to the removal of the Gospel from the heart of Christian living.
3. In our churches
The Gospel is the power of God to save all who believe. Churches are to be comprised of those who testify to having experienced this saving power. Of all the sectors of evangelicalism, Baptists most certainly should stand firm on this point. Yet, simply take an honest look at our churches--even good, "Bible-believing," "flagship" SBC churches. What do you find more often than not? Bloated church rolls with twice as many members as regular attenders. The overwhelming majority of our churches have neglected Gospel order, taking cues more from the marketing world or corporate America or therapeutic professions than from Scripture. John Dagg, the first writing theologian among Southern Baptists put this in his Treatise on Church Order, "When discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it." If he is correct, then how many Christless churches might we have within our ranks? Read Revelation 2 and 3 to see that Jesus Himself warns of this possibility. If the candlestick has been removed from a local church then the Gospel has been taken with it.
So, have we lost the Gospel? I think we have, in many ways. I know this seems like a harsh judgment, but I do not make it with any joy or intent to harm or even embarass. Neither am I suggesting that every church or evangelical (or denominational) entity has lost the Gospel. Rather, I am suggesting that the Gospel has been forgotten, misunderstood, undervalued and marginalized by many churches and ministries that consider themselves evangelical. We can no longer assume that we know the Gospel and prize it as the transforming power of God that saves all who believe. Such assumption, I fear, has contributed to the Gospel's demise in many churches.

Why even raise this question, knowing that it will inevitably provoke the angst of some brothers and sisters whom I respect and tempt them to dismiss me as a crank or some kind of helpless malcontent? I do so because it is simply too important to leave unaddressed. Too much is at stake. The glory of God in the salvation of sinners is at stake. So is the eternal destiny of many who may think that they are right with God but who are merely religious (Matthew 7:21-23).

If I am right in my suspicions, then all of the many other issues that are clamoring for our attention right now in SBC life and beyond are minor in comparison to this. If we have lost the Gospel, or are losing it, then nothing else matters.
H.T. Founders

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Watching Closely

Here is an excerpt of an interview of Dr Tom Ascol - worth the repeating and worth the application to all of our lives. See this also for similar theme.
What practical steps should be taken by preachers to "watch their life and doctrine closely"?

Recognize that this admonition is given to us for a reason. Every preacher should remember that better men than we will ever be have fallen into grievous sin and error. Ministers need the gospel as much as anyone and we must learn to live by the grace of God in Jesus Christ every day. We need to deal with our sin daily and trust Christ for forgiveness daily. We must fight against every tendency to resign ourselves to professionalism in ministry. As Robert Murray M'Cheyne said, my people's greatest need is their pastor's personal holiness. Dealing daily with our hearts before the Lord is not optional. This work does not compete with my ministry, it is a vital part of my ministry.

Using trustworthy catechisms and confessions can help guard our doctrinal commitments. Such documents are not infallible, but they provide guardrails which we should overrun, if ever, only with great caution and clear biblical warrant.

The New Testament warns us about the subtlety of error. If false teaching isn't always obvious how can we keep ourselves from being deceived?

The best way to avoid being deceived is to be well-grounded in sound doctrine. Becoming vitally connected to a good church is the means which God has provided to provide this.

Why does God allow his church to be troubled by false teachers?

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 indicates that one purpose false teachers serve is to provide a test for the devotion of God's people. Paul makes a similar point in 1 Corinthians 11:19 when he indicates that factions (heresies) within a church are necessary to prove the faithfulness of genuine followers of Christ.

Have you been surprised that the point of attack in evangelicalism over the last fifteen years has been over doctrines that are central to evangelical orthodoxy?

No. Evangelicalism lost its center long ago in its pursuit of relevance and acceptability to the popular and academic cultures. When the gospel has been forgotten and theology has been marginalized, we should not be surprised to fundamental doctrines attacked and discarded.

Are the denials of eternal punishment, penal substitution, and justification by faith alone the "unpaid debts" of the church? Are they a sign that
evangelicals did a bad job of teaching these doctrines or is there some other dynamic at work?

I think they are an indication that we have too long assumed that we know what we believe and why. Attacks on such core doctrines as these are a call to reexamine our convictions in the light of the Bible and to decide whether or not we really do believe what we have professed and too often assumed. Of course, while we can never shirk our responsibility in this we must also remember that we have an enemy who is the father of lies and loves to deceive people.

How do you pray for those in error?

I ask the Lord to open their eyes and show them the truth.

Is there a point of no return for those who embrace heresies? What are the signs that this line has been crossed?

I operate on the conviction that as long as there is breath there is hope. If the Lord can save me then I have no reason to believe that anyone is beyond the reach of His grace.

H.T. Against Heresies

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Real Orthopraxy

G. K. Chesterton once said that “heresy always affects morality, if it is heretical enough.” It is true to say that any form of error, and not just heresy, will show itself in some form of deficiency or delinquency in the life of the church and the Christian.

But there is a danger with Chesterton's statement. The danger is that we will form in our minds a narrow and set idea of what that immorality will be. And, based on that assumption, we will expect those moving into theological compromise to be immoral only in that particular way. If we follow the logic of Paul in the pastoral epistles we will expect false theologies to produce ungodly behaviour.

Yet in the history of the church there have been those who clearly and definitely embraced and taught error who were known for their personal moral integrity. In fact men as notorious as Pelagius and Faustus Socinus we respected in just this way. You would expect the opposite to be true wouldn't you? But there is more to it than a simple, straightforward, personal moral failure.

In recent writing on orthopraxy there has been a stress on the outworking of orthodoxy in terms of changed Christian behaviour along the lines of the fruit of the Spirit. Sometimes this has been married with an affirmation that this kind of orthopraxy is in fact what orthodoxy is really all about. What has been neglected, in my estimation, is the stress on orthopraxy at the very point where it connects to orthodoxy. This is the kind of orthopraxy that values guarding the good deposit, of being found trustworthy with the mysteries of God, of rightly handling the word of truth, of keeping the faith, of holding firm to the trustworthy word as taught. This also is included in biblical orthopraxy.

Holding to orthodoxy involves more than affirming certain things to be true. Holding to the gospel includes being found faithful and trustworthy is receiving and passing on the gospel as revealed in Scripture. This is genuine orthopraxy.

(H.T. Against Heresies)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A World Split Apart

Solzhenitsyn's warning of Western decline is as relevant today as it was twenty-five years ago.

Harvard's motto is "VERITAS." Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it. This is the source of much discord. Also, truth seldom is sweet; it is almost invariably bitter..

The split in today's world is perceptible even to a hasty glance. Any of our contemporaries readily identifies two world powers, each of them already capable of destroying each other. However, the understanding of the split too often is limited to this political conception: the illusion according to which danger may be abolished through successful diplomatic negotiations or by achieving a balance of armed forces. The truth is that the split is both more profound and more alienating, that the rifts are more numerous than one can see at first glance. These deep manifold splits bear the danger of equally manifold disaster for all of us, in accordance with the ancient truth that a kingdom ---- in this case, our Earth ---- divided against itself cannot stand.

There is the concept of the Third World: thus, we already have three worlds. Undoubtedly, however, the number is even greater; we are just too far away to see. Every ancient and deeply rooted self-contained culture, especially if it is spread over a wide part of the earth's surface, constitutes a self-contained world, full of riddles and surprises to Western thinking.

But the persisting blindness of superiority continues to hold the belief that all the vast regions of our planet should develop and mature to the level of contemporary Western systems, the best in theory and the most attractive in practice; that all those other worlds are but temporarily prevented (by wicked leaders or by severe crises or by their own barbarity and incomprehension) from pursuing Western pluralistic democracy and adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in that direction. But in fact such a conception is a fruit of Western incomprehension of the essence of other worlds, a result of mistakenly measuring them all with a Western yardstick. The real picture of our planet's development bears little resemblance to all this.

The anguish of a divided world gave birth to the theory of convergence between the leading Western countries and the Soviet Union. It is a soothing theory which overlooks the fact that these worlds are not evolving toward each other and that neither one can be transformed into the other without violence. Besides, convergence inevitably means acceptance of the other side's defects, too, and this can hardly suit anyone.

A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elites, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society. There are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.

Political and intellectual functionaries exhibit this depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in their self-serving rationales as to how realistic, reasonable, and intellectually and even morally justified it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And the decline in courage, at times attaining what could be termed a lack of manhood, is ironically emphasized by occasional outbursts and inflexibility on the part of those same functionaries when dealing with weak governments and with countries that lack support, or with doomed currents which clearly cannot offer resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.

When the modern Western states were being formed, it was proclaimed as a principle that governments are meant to serve man and that man lives in order to be free and pursue happiness. (See, for example, the American Declaration of Independence.) Now at last during past decades technical and social progress has permitted the realization of such aspirations: the welfare state.

Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and in such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the debased sense of the word which has come into being during those same decades. (In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to this end imprint many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to carefully conceal such feelings. This active and tense competition comes to dominate all human thought and does not in the least open a way to free spiritual development.)

The individual's independence from many types of state pressure has been guaranteed; the majority of the people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about; it has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, preparing them for and summoning them toward physical bloom, happiness, and leisure, the possession of material goods, money, and leisure, toward an almost unlimited freedom in the choice of pleasures. So who should now renounce all this, why and for the sake of what should one risk one's precious life in defense of the common good and particularly in the nebulous case when the security of one's nation must be defended in an as yet distant land?

Western society has chosen for itself the organization best suited to its purposes and one I might call legalistic. The limits of human rights and rightness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in using, interpreting, and manipulating law (though laws tend to be too complicated for an average person to understand without the help of an expert). Every conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the ultimate solution.

If one is risen from a legal point of view, nothing more is required, nobody may mention that one could still not be right, and urge self-restraint or a renunciation of these rights, call for sacrifice and selfless risk: this would simply sound absurd. Voluntary self-restraint is almost unheard of: everybody strives toward further expansion to the extreme limit of the legal frames.

I have spent all my life under a Communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society based on the letter of the law and never reaching any higher fails to take full advantage of the full range of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relationships, this creates an atmosphere of spiritual mediocrity that paralyzes man's noblest impulses.

And it will be simply impossible to bear up to the trials of this threatening century with nothing but the supports of a legalistic structure.

Today's Western society has revealed the inequality between the freedom for good deeds and the freedom for evil deeds. A statesman who wants to achieve something highly constructive for his country has to move cautiously and even timidly; thousands of hasty (and irresponsible) critics cling to him at all times; he is constantly rebuffed by parliament and the press. He has to prove that his every step is well founded and absolutely flawless. Indeed, an outstanding, truly great person who has unusual and unexpected initiatives in mind does not get any chance to assert himself; dozens of traps will be set for him from the beginning. Thus mediocrity triumphs under the guise of democratic restraints.

It is feasible and easy everywhere to undermine administrative power and it has in fact been drastically weakened in all Western countries. The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.

On the other hand, destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society has turned out to have scarce defense against the abyss of human decadence, for example against the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. This is all considered to be part of freedom and to be counterbalanced, in theory, by the young people's right not to look and not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

And what shall we say about the dark realms of overt criminality? Legal limits (especially in the United States) are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also some misuse of such freedom. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency ---- all with the support of thousands of defenders in the society. When a government earnestly undertakes to root out terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorist's civil rights. There is quite a number of such cases.

This tilt of freedom toward evil has come about gradually, but it evidently stems from a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which man ---- the master of the world ---- does not bear any evil within himself, and all the defects of life are caused by misguided social systems, which must therefore be corrected. Yet strangely enough, though the best social conditions have been achieved in the West, there still remains a great deal of crime; there even is considerably more of it than in the destitute and lawless Soviet society.

Here again, the overriding concern is not to infringe the letter of the law. There is no true moral responsibility for distortion or disproportion. What sort of responsibility does a journalist or a newspaper have to the readership or to history? If they have misled public opinion by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, even if they have contributed to mistakes on a state level, do we know of any case of open regret voiced by the same journalist or the same newspaper? No; this would damage sales. A nation may be the worse for such a mistake, but the journalist always gets away with it. It is most likely that he will start writing the exact opposite to his previous statements with renewed aplomb.

Because instant and credible information is required, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors, and suppositions to fill in the voids, and none of them will ever be refuted; they settle into the readers' memory. How many hasty, immature, superficial, and misleading judgments are expressed everyday, confusing readers, and then left hanging?

The press can act the role of public opinion or miseducate it. Thus we may see terrorists heroized, or secret matters pertaining to the nation's defense publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion into the privacy of well-known people according to the slogan "Everyone is entitled to know everything." (But this is a false slogan of a false era; far greater in value is the forfeited right of people not to know, not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life has no need for this excessive and burdening flow of information.)

Hastiness and superficiality ---- these are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century and more than anywhere else this is manifested in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press; it is contrary to its nature. The press merely picks out sensational formulas.

Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within Western countries, exceeding that of the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. Yet one would like to ask: According to what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible? In the Communist East, a journalist is frankly appointed as a state official. But who has voted Western journalists into their positions of power, for how long a time, and with what prerogatives?

There is yet another surprise for someone coming from the totalitarian East with its rigorously unified press: One discovers a common trend of preferences within the Western press as a whole (the spirit of the time), generally accepted patterns of judgment, and maybe common corporate interests, the sum effect being not competition but unification. Unrestrained freedom exists for the press, but not for readership, because newspapers mostly transmit in a forceful and emphatic way those opinions which do not too openly contradict their own and that general trend.

Without any censorship in the West, fashionable trends of thought and ideas are fastidiously separated from those that are not fashionable, and the latter, without ever being forbidden have little chance of finding their way into periodicals or books or being heard in colleges. Your scholars are free in the legal sense, but they are hemmed in by the idols of the prevailing fad. There is no open violence, as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to accommodate mass standards frequently prevents the most independent-minded persons from contributing to public life and gives rise to dangerous herd instincts that block dangerous herd development.

It is almost universally recognized that the West shows all the world the way to successful economic development, even though in past years it has been sharply offset by chaotic inflation. However, many people living in the West are dissatisfied with their own society. They despise it or accuse it of no longer being up to the level of maturity by mankind. And this causes many to sway toward socialism, which is a false and dangerous current.

A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human personality in the West while in the East it has become firmer and stronger. Six decades for our people and three decades for the people of Eastern Europe; during that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. The complex and deadly crush of life has produced stronger, deeper, and more interesting personalities than those generated by standardized Western well-being. Therefore, if our society were to be transformed into yours, it would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but also a change for the worse on some particularly significant points.

Of course, a society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness, as is the case in our country. But it is also demeaning for it to stay on such a soulless and smooth plane of legalism, as is the case in yours. After the suffering of decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today's mass living habits, introduced as by a calling card by the revolting invasion of commercial advertising, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.

All this is visible to numerous observers from all the worlds of our planet. The Western way of life is less and less likely to become the leading model.

There are telltale symptoms by which history gives warning to a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, a decline of the arts or a lack of great statesmen. Indeed, sometimes the warnings are quite explicit and concrete. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.

But the fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their decisive offensive. You can feel their pressure, yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?

How has this unfavorable relation of forces come about? How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present debility? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. The West kept advancing steadily in accordance with its proclaimed social intentions, hand in hand with a dazzling progress in technology. And all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.

This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very foundation of thought in modern times. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world in modern times. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was born in the Renaissance and has found political expression since the Age of Enlightenment. It became the basis for political and social doctrine and could be called rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the pro-claimed and practiced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of all.

The turn introduced by the Renaissance was probably inevitable historically: the Middle Ages had come to a natural end by exhaustion, having become an intolerable despotic repression of man's physical nature in favor of the spiritual one. But then we recoiled from the spirit and embraced all that is material, excessively and incommensurately. The humanistic way of thinking, which had proclaimed itself our guide, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man, nor did it see any task higher than the attainment of happiness on earth. It started modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend of worshiping man and his material needs.

Everything beyond physical well-being and the accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtle and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any higher meaning. Thus gaps were left open for evil, and its drafts blow freely today. Mere freedom per se does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and even adds a number of new ones.

And yet in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God's creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding one thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose, simply for the satisfaction of his whims.

Subsequently, however, all such limitations were eroded everywhere in the West; a total emancipation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming ever more materialistic. The West has finally achieved the rights of man, and even excess, but man's sense of responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistic selfishness of the Western approach to the world has reached its peak and the world has found itself in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the celebrated technological achievements of progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the twentieth century's moral poverty, which no one could have imagined even as late as the nineteenth century.

As humanism in its development was becoming more and more materialistic, it also increasingly allowed concepts to be used first by socialism and then by communism, so that Karl Marx was able to say, in 1844, that "communism is naturalized humanism."

This statement has proved to be not entirely unreasonable. One does not see the same stones in the foundations of an eroded humanism and of any type of socialism: boundless materialism; freedom from religion and religious responsibility (which under Communist regimes attains the stage of antireligious dictatorship); concentration on social structures with an allegedly scientific approach. (This last is typical of both the Age of Enlightenment and of Marxism.) It is no accident that all of communism's rhetorical vows revolve around Man (with a capital M) and his earthly happiness. At first glance it seems an ugly parallel: common traits in the thinking and way of life of today's West and today's East? But such is the logic of materialistic development.

The interrelationship is such, moreover, that the current of materialism which is farthest to the left, and is hence the most consistent, always proves to be stronger, more attractive, and victorious. Humanism which has lost its Christian heritage cannot prevail in this competition. Thus during the past centuries and especially in recent decades, as the process became more acute, the alignment of forces was as follows: Liberalism was inevitably pushed aside by radicalism, radicalism had to surrender to socialism, and socialism could not stand up to communism.

The communist regime in the East could endure and grow due to the enthusiastic support from an enormous number of Western intellectuals who (feeling the kinship!) refused to see communism's crimes, and when they no longer could do so, they tried to justify these crimes. The problem persists: In our Eastern countries, communism has suffered a complete ideological defeat; it is zero and less than zero. And yet Western intellectuals still look at it with considerable interest and empathy, and this is precisely what makes it so immensely difficult for the West to withstand the East.

I am not examining the case of a disaster brought on by a world war and the changes which it would produce in society. But as long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we must lead an everyday life. Yet there is a disaster which is already very much with us. I am referring to the calamity of an autonomous, irreligious humanistic consciousness.

It has made man the measure of all things on earth ---- imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now paying for the mistakes which were not properly appraised at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility.

We have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. It is trampled by the party mob in the East, by the commercial one in the West. This is the essence of the crisis: the split in the world is less terrifying than the similarity of the disease afflicting its main sections.

If, as claimed by humanism, man were born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to death, his task on earth evidently must be more spiritual: not a total engrossment in everyday life, not the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then their carefree consumption. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become above all an experience of moral growth: to leave life a better human being than one started it.

It is imperative to reappraise the scale of the usual human values; its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance should be reduced to the question of how much money one makes or to the availability of gasoline. Only by the voluntary nurturing in ourselves of freely accepted and serene self-restraint can mankind rise above the world stream of materialism.

Today it would be retrogressive to hold on to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Such social dogmatism leaves us helpless before the trials of our times.

Even if we are spared destruction by war, life will have to change in order not to perish on its own. We cannot avoid reassessing the fundamental definitions of human life and society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities should be ruled by material expansion above all? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our integral spiritual life?

If the world has not approached its end, it has reached a major watershed in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will demand from us a spiritual blaze; we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life, where our physical nature will not be cursed, as in the Middle Ages, but even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon, as in the Modern Era.

The ascension is similar to climbing onto the next anthropological stage. No one on earth has any other way left but ---- upward.

Abridged version of speech 8 June 1978 by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

(H.T. Orthodoxy Today)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

You have the right...

To happiness..? Or do you..? Do I..? Do we..? There are so many people soapboxing about their entitlements to rights or the lack thereof that it is becoming so passé. But where did we get the idea that we have a right to be happy. What if you have had a wonderfully charmed life of blessed existence and prosperity – was that a right that you were entitled to or a right that you earned or a right that other people were supposed to allow you to have? Who says we have any rights at all let alone the right to happiness? And what of the poor wretched tormented soul surviving a tragic existence who can’t even call it a life – do they have a right to be happy?

We have no right to happiness. If we said we have the right to good luck – we would think that strange. If we said we have the right to sadness – even stranger. Do we depend a great deal for our happiness or sadness on circumstances beyond human control? A right to happiness doesn’t make much more sense than a right to be 6’ tall, or to have a millionaire father, or to get good weather whenever you go on a picnic.

A right is a freedom guaranteed to me by the laws of the land and society I live in. I have a right to travel along the public roads because society gives me that freedom; that’s what we mean by calling the roads ‘public’. I can also understand a right as a claim guaranteed me by the laws, and correlative to an obligation on someone else’s part. If I have a right to receive $100 from you, this is another way of saying that you have a duty to pay me $100.

Does one have the right to pursue happiness? Of course man is not entitled to pursue this happiness by any and every means – including murder, rape, robbery, treason, fraud etc; etc. Man is expected to live according to societal laws and within boundaries of legislature – which provides our freedom. Man in his pursuit of happiness has a right to do whatever they have a right to do. Whatever means of pursuing happiness are lawful for any should be lawful for all.

What then is the definition of lawful in this context? What methods of pursuing happiness are either morally permissible by the Law of Nature or should be declared legally permissible by the legislature of a particular nation? Surely people don’t have the unlimited right to happiness?

If we establish a right to happiness, which supersedes all the ordinary rules of behaviour, we do so not because of what it professes to be while we are in the grip of it. Hence, while bad behaviour is real and works miseries and degradations, the happiness - which was the object of the behaviour - turns out again and again to be illusory. The fatal principle seeps through our whole lives. We advance towards a state of society in which not only each man but every impulse in each man claims carte blanche. And then, though our technological skill may help us survive a little longer, our civilization will have died at heart and will be swept away.

Adapted from C.S. Lewis written shortly before his death.

Friday, May 11, 2007


" the word for truth commonly used in the Christian scriptures ("I am the way, and the aletheia, and the life"; "You shall know the aletheian, and the aletheia shall make you free"), is a lived experience rather than a correspondence function of propositions. Aletheia is an event (actually, we should probably speak of "truthing" rather than "truth") that unconceals Reality or Being. It is a moment of disclosure, of unveiling, of revealing. The Reality unconcealed in an alethic event is God. So truth is God's act of unconcealing or unveiling. When we experience this unconcealing, we experience Truth.

There are three moments in the alethic experience. Aletheia refers to the gracious event of divine unconcealment, to the bringing-forth of that which was concealed, and to our response to that which has been brought forth. Unconcealment is a grace, a revelatory moment in which the doors of spiritual perception are thrown open. It's an outburst of divine invitation which ruptures the ordinary. Bringing-forth is this invitation's disclosure of that which is ultimately Real, the unveiling of the great I AM in our midst, of the Presence whose absolute plenitude defies the mind's usual strategies of classification and definition. Accordingly, our response to the bringing-forth can frequently be one of initial panic (there's a good reason why angeloi, messengers from God, are always telling people "Be not afraid!"). But panic is either swiftly or slowly replaced with a lived sense of the Mystery and Beneficence of the unconcealed Reality. A lived sense, not merely a head or intellectual one. As Soren Kierkegaard wrote, "Christianly understood, truth is obviously not to know the truth but to be the truth." Truth in the alethic sense doesn't just add another item to your cerebral inventory. It suffuses your fiber and transfigures your life. It nudges you toward deification."
(H.T Subversive)

Monday, April 30, 2007

Heaven without Christ?

"The critical question for our generation - for every generation - is this:

If you could have heaven,
  • with no sickness
  • with all the friends you ever had on earth
  • all the food you ever liked
  • all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed
  • all the natural beauties you ever saw
  • all the physical pleasures you ever tasted
  • no human conflict
  • no natural disasters
------------------------could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?"

From God is the Gospel - John Piper

We should never separate what is heaven, what is in heaven and Who is Heaven. So often we think and are told what heaven is or will be like - but the fact is we don't truly know and we won't know till we get there. Our focus, our passion, our desire should always be only Christ. Our rewards or treasure - whatever they may or may not be - can never compare to Christ.

Many people will think that their dear departed loved one who has (we presume) gone to heaven is looking down upon them left here on earth in pain, suffering and grief and is aware and even concerned with how they continue living their lives. This is probably just a sentimental coping mechanism invented by man to comfort one's grief. Surely to look down upon earth would cause pain and heartache seeing mankind in their current condition and if in heaven we have no pain, suffering or sadness then how could that be so? Surely whilst in heaven the last place they would be interested in would be our fallen planet - especially with the wonder and rapture of seeing and being with Christ.

Too often we focus on the 'message' of the Gospel - yes it is good news - yes it is great news - but not enough focus that the Gospel is Christ and our preaching should also focus and centre on Christ. There are many sermons preached that can only be described as pep talks - may we avoid the Christless preaching and return to the One and only Truth and worship Him whom God has lifted up.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


According to the acrostic What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) which is now so obsolete and abused we all thought that campaign was history then out came again the similar What Would Jesus Drive which seems to resurface every time a manufacturer brings out a new car and especially when they are now eco-friendly.

Now not to be outdone nor to offend the two-wheeling chopper loving soft-tails I have discovered the next big thang - What Would Jesus Ride?

(H.T. Think Christian)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Book Review: Living Spirituality

Robbymac does a great review of Living Spirituality by Dr. Greg Laughery. Here's a taste:-
Greg's depiction of impoverished spirituality includes a rather accurate, if stinging, assessment of churches that have become "institutionalized":
"This is partially due to the fact that Christians often seem to be primarily interested in themselves: propogating their programs, building their churches, even manipulating some of their own in order to achieve social status and accomplish their goals and aims. People are left behind in the wake of promising words that give the pretense of care and concern, but translate into intolerable levels of neglect and inconsistent waffling." (page 15)
Many people suffer emotional and spiritual abuse by such self-centred; navel gazing; churchtainment; wealth chasing oriented businesses dressed up in church clothing.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Post-Charismatic - Post-Hype

In the tradition of Charismatic Defects One and Two.

The more discerned and aware Christians or Jesus-followers (depending on how emerging/missional your persuasion) will recall a good essay written by Robbymac of which below is a sample. Keep a look out for it in book form by Kingsway Publications in a bookstore soon in 07 - should be a good read.
"In some ways they are very akin to the postmodern people I meet who are open to God but indifferent or hostile to church. These self-described post-charismatics are open to the working of the Holy Spirit, but due to excesses and abuses that they have seen or experienced, they are skeptical and even wary of ministries that are charismatic. Further, there are some who have come to a place where they overtly reject – or passively neglect – the more obvious supernatural workings of the Spirit.

It would probably be more accurate to call these people “post-HYPE”. They are tired of hearing great stories about the good old days, jaded from hearing too many prophecies about the great move of God that seems to always be just around the corner, fed up with exaggerated or even fabricated stories of healings and miracles, and disillusioned with a view of spiritual formation that is lived through a weekly crisis moment at the front of the church.

Broadly speaking, there are four major areas that come up repeatedly as reasons for post-charismatics pulling away from their Pentecostal, Charismatic, or Third Wave roots. The four areas are:

1. Abuses and elitism in prophetic ministry, coupled with a “carrot and stick” approach to holiness that many find legalistic, manipulative, and repressive.

2. The excesses of Word Faith teachings (health and wealth, prosperity doctrine) which clash with the emerging generations’ concern for a biblical approach to justice and ministry with the poor.

3. Authoritarianism and hierarchical leadership structures that exist more to control people than to equip the saints for works of service.

4. An approach to spiritual formation (discipleship) that depends on crisis events – whether at “the altar” in a church service, or in a large conference setting – but either neglects or deliberately belittles other means of spiritual maturation (ie. spiritual disciplines)

A saying that I have come to use a great deal in recent years is: “We only deconstruct in order to reconstruct”. As much as postmodernism is a critique of modernism, and the emerging church is a critique, but hopefully much more, of the modern church, I am hoping that a post-charismatic understanding of how the Holy Spirit works in individuals and communities of faith will serve as a critique of charismania excesses and questionable teachings, and lead ultimately to a more mature and balanced understanding, expectation, and functioning in the Spirit of Christ."
(H.T. Next-Wave)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Stretching the Truth

H.T. David

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Circus Pentecostalis

This keen observer obviously talks from experience:
Among Pentecostals, with whom I’ve fellowshipped for 17 years, I have seen the very best and the very worst evangelical Christianity has to offer. I’m not quite sure why we seem to have such a monopoly on the extremes, but for the individuals I know who were instantly delivered of drug addictions, alcoholism and serious illnesses through the power of the Holy Spirit, there were also the freaks and flakes who thought they deserved pulpit time to showcase their dubious gifts and messages. And I mustn’t neglect to mention the innumerable “shakers and fakers” who made public displays of themselves during services by hollering, yelping, jerking and even trying to throw a punch at someone — all at wholly inappropriate times, and all under the guise of being “moved” by the Holy Spirit.
And she is also not blind to the elephant in the room either:

But we have got some big-time problems.

I know from my own observation that sexual immorality is widespread among Pentecostal clergy, and in many cases no church governance structure exists to do anything about it. Church leadership is frequently passed down in families as though salvation is acquired through DNA.

Prosperity teaching — which, when taught responsibly, can extract people from the mire of poverty mindsets — has degenerated into unabashed greed and charlatanism, with preachers shilling for multilevel marketing schemes that will never benefit the vast majority of the peons who buy into their promises of easy money.

Well-known ministers flaunt the trappings of wealth while Pentecostalism draws in more and more of the desperately poor in the developing world, and believers follow Jesus Christ in jeopardy of their lives in hideously repressive places such as Saudi Arabia, the Sudan and Pakistan while we believe God for a tricked-out Crossfire.

Bible Girl then concludes with:

The recent scandals among Pentecostals have shaken me. I struggle to understand how people who’ve come into contact with the very presence of God through worship, who’ve seen the power of the Holy Spirit at work in miraculous ways, can get involved in such craziness.
The problems continue and will continue to be problems when they pursue such wrong teachings as prosperity doctrine; the inherited church franchise system; the multi-level marketing schemes; the lucrative speaking circuit; the self-grandizing; the spiritual abuse; the lack of financial and ethical accountability; the nepotism; the selective out of context abuse and distortion of scripture verses to self-justify their position; etc etc - the list should never be this long for people who claim to be modeling their life on Jesus and His commands.

(H.T. 4:14)

Believe or Belief in God

Now belief in God is not the same thing as belief that God exists, or that there is such a thing as God. To believe that God exists is simply to accept a proposition of a certain sort - a proposition affirming that there is a personal being who, let's say, has existed from eternity, is almighty, perfectly wise, perfectly just, has created the world, and loves his creatures. To believe in God, however, is quite another matter. The Apostle's Creed begins thus: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth..." One who repeats these words and means what he says is not simply announcing the fact that he accepts a certain proposition as true; much more is involved than that. Belief in God means trusting God, accepting Him, committing one's life to Him. To the believer the entire world looks different. Blue sky, verdant forests, great mountains, surging ocean, friends and family, love in its many forms and various manifestations -- the believer sees these things as gifts from God. The entire universe takes on a personal cast for him; the fundamental truth about reality is truth about a Person. So believing in God is more than accepting the proposition that God exists. Still, it is at least that much. One can't sensibly believe in God and thank Him for the mountains without believing that there is such a person to be thanked, and that He is in some way responsible for the mountains. Nor can one trust in God and commit oneself to Him without believing that He exists: "He who would come to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek Him"(Heb 11:6)
Alvin Plantinga - God, Freedom, and Evil.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was—a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability. For this she got herself abused roundly by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has given over the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers. So today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven.

Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God. Many churches these days have become little more than poor theatres where fifth-rate ”producers” peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders who can even quote a holy text in defense of their delinquency. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it.

The great god Entertainment amuses his devotees mainly by telling them stories. The love of stories, which is a characteristic of childhood, has taken fast hold of the minds of the retarded saints of our day, so much so that not a few persons manage to make a comfortable living by spinning yams and serving them up in various disguises to church people. What is natural and beautiful in a child may be shocking when it persists into adulthood, and more so when it appears in the sanctuary and seeks to pass for true religion.

Is it not a strange thing and a wonder that, with the shadow of atomic destruction hanging over the world and with the coming of Christ drawing near, the professed followers of the Lord should be giving themselves up to religious amusements? That in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood and clamor for religious toys?

Aiden W. Tozer
Even though this was written by Tozer in 1955 - how relevant [or prophetic] are his words of wisdom.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Church - a good walk spoiled

Following along the points from Charismatic Defects 1 and 2 are the far too common results of not being the church that Christ wanted us to be. With good and noble intentions churches start their walk with God but the main problem - people! (and all their self grandizing egos and hunger for power, control and money etc etc) Grace has also posted on this subject and is very worth your while the trip over to check out "How to Ruin a Church".
It is difficult for people to grasp that the reality is drastically different from the idealistic picture that they want to believe is true.

Now it has become more of a pseudo-community. The teaching emphasizes the necessity of unity and being likeminded. The corporate ideal is promoted, and anything threatening corporate unity is challenged. Disrupting corporate unity will hurt one's social standing in the group.

This produces the attitude that in order to be accepted, you must get with the program. The fear of losing relationships silences questions and keeps people in line. They have seen that if you disagree or leave, then you will lose your friends.

Flattery is used to nurture people's feelings of inclusion and importance. Prophetic words are given to reward those who perform well and to lure back those who appear to be wavering.

New titles and positions have been fabricated to reward those who want to move up in the organization. These positions add requirements and standards of commitment to prove who really is a team player. Compulsory meetings keep the members involved to the point that most of their time and relationships revolve around the church.

This creates an environment where people are eager to prove their commitment to the leaders and afraid to be seen as disagreeable. One way of proving loyalty is to be an informant to the leadership, letting them know of anyone who is questioning or struggling. Often thoughts shared in deepest confidence are reported to leadership...

..Elitism is another subtle form of control. When a group claims to have a better understanding of truth, it is implied that to leave the group will cost you your opportunity to be successful in what God is doing. The evidence that this is at work is in the attitude taken toward those who leave. Are they still viewed as brothers, or is it implied that they have fallen away?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Liberty from the fear of death

Who is the man who does not fear to die? I will tell you - the man who is a believer. Fear to die? Thank God, I do not. The cholera may come again. I pray to God it will not, but if it does, it matters not to me. I will toil and visit the sick by night and by day until I drop If it takes me, sudden death is sudden glory.

And so it is with the weakest saint. The prospect of dissolution does not make you tremble. Sometimes you fear, but more often you rejoice. You sit down and calmly think of dying. What is death? It is a low porch through which you stoop to enter heaven. What is life? It is a narrow screen that separates us from glory, and death kindly removes it!
C. H. Spurgeon

(H.T. Sunshine)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Athanasius contra mundum

We were made "in the likeness of God." But in course of time that image has become obscured, like a face on a very old portrait, dimmed with dust and dirt.

When a portrait is spoiled, the only way to renew it is for the Subject to come back to the studio and sit for the artist all over again. That is why Christ came--to make it possible for the divine image in man to be recreated. We were made in God's likeness; we are remade in the likeness of his Son.

To bring about this re-creation, Christ still comes to men and Lives among them. In a special way he comes to his Church, his "body", to show us what the "image of God" is really like.

What a responsibility the Church has, to be Christ's "body". Showing him to those who are unwilling or unable to see him in providence, or in creation! Through the Word of God lived out in the Body of Christ they can come to the Father, and themselves be made again "in the likeness of God."

IF... it is by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ That death is trampled underfoot, it is clear that it is Christ Himself and none other Who is the Archvictor over death and has robbed it of its power. Death used to be strong and terrible, but now, since the sojourn of the Savior and the death and resurrection of His body, it is despised; and obviously it is by the very Christ Who mounted on the cross that it has been destroyed and vanquished finally.

When the sun rises after the night and the whole world is lit Up by it, nobody doubts that it is the sun which has thus shed its light everywhere and driven away the dark. Equally clear is it, since this utter scorning and trampling down of death has ensued upon the Savior's manifestation in the body and His death on the cross, that it is He Himself Who brought death to nought and daily raises monuments to His victory in His own disciples. How can you think otherwise, when you see men naturally weak hastening to death, unafraid at the prospect of corruption, fearless of the descent into Hades, even indeed with eager soul provoking it, not shrinking from tortures, but preferring thus to rush on death for Christ's sake, rather than to remain in this present life?

If you see with your own eyes men and women and children, even, Thus welcoming death for the sake of Christ's religion, how can you be so utterly silly and incredulous and maimed in your mind as not to realize that Christ, to Whom these all bear witness, Himself gives the victory to each, making death completely powerless for those who hold His faith and bear the sign of the cross? No one in his senses doubts that a snake is dead when he sees it trampled underfoot, especially when he knows how savage it used to be; nor, if he sees boys making fun of a lion, does he doubt that the brute is either dead or completely bereft of strength. These things can be seen with our own eyes, and it is the same with the conquest of death. Doubt no longer, then, when you see death mocked and scorned by those who believe in Christ, that by Christ death was destroyed, and the corruption that goes with it resolved and brought to end.