Thursday, March 31, 2005 

Anglicans at LifeWay?

Today was a first for me. Here I was minding my own business at LifeWay and I run smack into an Evangelical Episcopalian. And not only was she an Evangelical, she is the president of the American Anglican Council for Kentucky and a huge supporter of the Anglican separatist movement in the U.S. To say the least, I left enlightened and encouraged about the future of Evangelical ecumenism.

First of all, it is strange to see an Episcopalian buying books at LifeWay -- especially Beth Moore's books. When she told me what church she was with, I immediately asked her about the recent conference held at the church which featured Alistair Begg. He is a Baptist pastor in Cleveland, OH who is known for his expository preaching and vigorous defence of Evangelical theology. It suprised me that they welcomed him to the church in the first place, so I was glad to finally get some answers about their intent. What she shared with me over the next 20 minutes was gold, pure gold.

She told me about how the laypeople of the Episcopal church as a rule are much more conservative and orthodox in their theology than are the clergy and that the battle that has been ensuing over the last three stemming from the installation of a practicing homosexual bishop is taking place not only within the dioceses, but within the individual churches as well. She also informed me that those involved in the separatist movement tend to be the only ones growing and having any influence in their communities. She pointed out that the largest Episcopal church in the nation, located in Plano, TX is led by an Evangelical pastor. Her pastor is an Evangelical as well, who has actually being mentored by Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary here in Louisville.

As we ended our conversation she pointed out to me the great heritage of Anglicans -- men like J.I. Packer and C.S. Lewis who represent a past that is marked by orthodox theology and Evangelical engagement. I thought about our conversation for hours and couldn't wait to tell a couple of my co-workers about it. It is a great encouragement to see men and women standing for truth in a denomination trying so hard to run from it. At one point she likened the struggle the Episcopal church is having now with the conservative resurgence which took place before her eyes here in Louisville at Southern Seminary. As I thought about that I felt a certain amount of camaraderie with my Anglican brothers and I couldn't help but think that this was what Jesus had in mind when He prayed that His people would be one. We might not agree about everything, but at least we can appreciate one another's struggle to uphold Biblical truth, which is the only way we can be united -- in truth.

I hope that we as Evangelicals can continue to draw close to one another so that we might truly fulfill Christ's prayer for unity. In a religious world that calls us to false unity by throwing out our Biblical convictions, it is wonderful to be able to see how truth can really bring us together from different traditions. I pray that in the future days we will all see more of this fellowship and be able to praise God for it.

Until Christ is formed in all of us,
D.R.

Thursday, March 24, 2005 

Faith and Conflict

Mention the word debate to any ordinary Joe on the street and they might envision the recent election or a radio show or even an episode of "Hannity and Combs" on FoxNews. But mention debate to a student of theology and immediately names like Athanasius and Arius, Augustine and Pelagius, and Luther and Erasmus come to mind. If you are a Christian and you aren't familiar with these names, then you are in need of a crash course in Church History. These are the men that have impacted Christianity in ways theologians and pastors only dream about. But, how did they do it? Through memorable acts? Through great literary works? Through innovative evangelism techniques? No -- they all impacted Christianity through a suprising means -- controversy and debate.

From the beginning of Christianity, what we know now as orthodox theology and practice has been forged in the fire of debate. When the first debate took place we don't know. Maybe it was between Paul and Peter or Paul and John Mark or Barnabas. But what is certain is that conflict has always been a part of Church history. So why are we suprised that it is still a certainty in contemporary Christianity?

What got me to thinking about this subject was an interaction I had with an acquantance a little over a week ago. While trying to compliment a local pastor's sermon to this man (who was a friend of his), I inadvertantly started a disagreement. The man I was speaking to didn't agree with his friend's views and vehemenantly opposed his Biblical exegesis. One thing led to another and before I knew it we were embroiled in a deep-seated debate. As the smoke cleared, we sought to reconcile our views and embrace one another in Christian fellowship realizing that our passion indicated our love of Scriptural understanding. But, then he made the comment that debate never solves anything. As I said in an earlier blog, I respectfully disagreed again.

Debate does solve some things. Many times it is the vehicle that God uses to break down our pride and show us that we have not thought deeply enough about a subject. At other times it may be used by God to keep His sheep from taking the path of one who has strayed from Biblical truth. Sometimes, the one straying may be us. In any case, debate does not have to be negative and it can be looked at as exhortation for the Church.

First of all debate always involves seeing a different person's point of view. We can tend to be egocentric in our thinking when we are not exposed to differing beliefs. Solomon tells us that, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17, NIV). We constantly need to be reminded that Christianity is not meant to be lived on an island. Christianity is designed for communal engagement and mutual exhortation. We must use that community to keep us within the frame of Biblical theology and practice.

Secondly, debate make us dig deeply into the Scriptures in order to make our arguments. Those who believe strongly in the authenticity and authority of the Bible will find themselves seeking to understand the Scriptures better in order to show the correctness of their arguments. Often times, this leads to a rejection of superficial readings of the Bible or even to changes of viewpoint by those involved in the debate.

And finally, theological debate reveals our own character flaws and presuppositions as we see ourselves confronted with conflict. We can then tweak our characters so as to become more sanctified through the course of the debating process. In the end, it teaches us patience, critical thinking, and even humility.

As we see God uses these debates for the exhortation of the people involved in the debate, but He also uses these conflicts for the purpose of helping us to understand Him better and to stay within Biblical boundaries. Three of the men mentioned above (Arius, Pelagius, and Erasmus) advocated positions that were leading the church astray and causing a rift with the people of God. They needed to be rebuked. In the end, the Church became stronger and more effective when these controversies were settled.

Today, we still have controversies that rock the Church. New theologies pop up everyday that need to be examined and at times rebuked through debate and conflict. We are sinful people. We need the whole community to come alongside of us and keep us in the fold. Paul did this with his converts and urged Timothy and Titus to do the same with the people they led. We should learn from Church history not to despise conflict, but to embrace it to the glory of God.

Soli Deo Gloria,
D.R.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005 

Apologia

I am sorry that I will not be able to write a new blog today, but it is too late. I have spent the evening answering comments made about my previous blogs and so I am spent. I do want to apologize if I offended anyone with the tone of my comments, but I stand by my views expressed in the blog. I have changed the final paragraph of "Open Theism and the Emergent Church" to express my feelings a bit better. Please check it out. Further as I said above I have answered the new comments made earlier Tuesday. Please examine these as well. The thread is over, but anyone can email me directly (as most of you know it anyway) if you have more to say on this matter. I again appreciate the comments and suggestions made and I hope we will continue to grow as a community as a result.

Until Christ is formed in us all,
D.R.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005 

Emergent Church 2

I want to say thanks to all that posted comments about the Emergent Church Blog. I took them all to heart. I have responded to them by posting a comment alongside of them. I hope that those who wrote in will take the time to read my response, though it is lengthy. And please don't stop commenting simply because I don't hold to your position or because I don't seem as though I really listen to what you are saying. I take every criticism to heart and I try to evaluate it properly. Most of you who are reading this know me well enough to know that I think deeply and take hard line positions, even if I don't always have all the facts. But as J. Greshem Machen wrote in his book, Christianity and Liberalism, "Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith." I refuse to be indifferent because Jesus never was.

One issue that was brought up in the midst of this was the place of theological disagreement in the community of faith. Recently, I found myself in disagreement with an acquantance (imagine that!). His response was that arguments never help the body of Christ. I once again respectfully disagreed. Tomorrow, God willing, I am going to break down why I think God has decreed that arguments occur within the Body and how these tension points have actual led to more spiritual growth.

Until Christ is formed in us all,
D.R.

Monday, March 21, 2005 

Open Theism and the Emergent Church

First of all it is good to be back writing. I have missed the opportunity to put into print my thoughts. My wife has graciously agreed to let us subscribe to broadband internet service and I couldn't be happier. She is such a wonderful woman for that. Ok, now let's get down to topic.

I have been greatly distressed in recent days concerning a movement that was once very appealing to me, but now seems to have gone terribly wrong. The movement is known in most circles to be that of the "Emergent Church." At one time, Dan Kimball's book, The Emerging Church was to me a breath of fresh air in the stench of new church ideologies gone wrong. He advocated contemplation and reverence instead of blaring music and high-tech smoke and show in order to attrach young, postmodern Americans to the Church. His idea of authenticity over glitz and glamour seemed to me to sound a new trumpet for a coming revival for college students and young adults. But, as the saying goes, "something went wrong on the way to heaven." Terribly wrong.

I first heard of this wayward move a couple of years ago when I picked up Greg Boyd's book, Is God to Blame: Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering. I did so with one intention, to see how ludicrous it really was. You see Greg Boyd holds to a position called Open Theism. You can read a critique of this by John Piper by clicking here. But basically it is the view that God does not know what will happen in the future and He never has. Jesus Christ's incarnation and atoning work was "Plan B." God is still out of loop as to how this whole "Project Earth" thing is going to turn out. Like I said -- ludicrous. But back to the Emergent Church connection. It seems that on the back of the book there is an endorsement by Erwin Raphael McManus, who is not a Ninja Turtle, but rather one of the major players in the EC movement. As I have recently seen, he and Dr. Boyd are good friends and seem to share a common kinship in their view of theology -- not a good thing for our young adults.

But as if that was not enough of a problem for the EC, just a few weeks ago the Kentucky Baptist Convention revoked a speaking invitation given to Brian McLaren to its State Evangelism Conference. It seems that Rev. McLaren noted in his book, A Generous Orthodoxy that those who have never accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ could still indeed enter into eternal life with the Father. Additionally, McLaren when asked in a national interview about his position on homosexual marriage, stated he would not comment because either way it would hurt someone's feelings. I don't ever remember Jesus making such a comment when it came to how he viewed a position. This is no way to teach a generation how to have Biblical courage.

Knowing all of these recent events, I now declare myself not to be an Emergent Church advocate. In the past I told people that this sounded both appealing and encouraging. Now I am completely unsure what will happen if this theological shift in the Emergent Church movement is not directly addressed and rebuked. I do believe that the movement can recover if those who stand for Biblical truth will rise up and for the sake of the Gospel call these men on the carpet for their unBiblical views and be ready to show them that they are preaching a different Gospel. May the true Gospel continue to be preached and may God move in the hearts of His people to display courage in dealing with these unScriptural beliefs.

Until Christ is formed in us all,
D.R.

About me

Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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