Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Archive for the ‘Preaching’ Category

Best Links of the Week

leave a comment »

Forbes, of all places, has a really interesting piece entitled, “The Seminary Bubble,” which points out some real weaknesses to the seminary model of ministerial preparation.

IMF forecast shows Chinese economy eclipsing the U.S. economy in 2016

Cold War era abandoned monuments in Yugoslavia – some pretty incredible photos of some fascinating pieces

Trevin Wax deconstructs a good number of widely promulgated but fictitious/dubious sermon illustrations/factoids – of note:  Gehenna as a burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem, the high priest rope around the ankle bit, NASA accounting for the missing day

Kevin DeYoung has a real nice piece on Business (Profit, Product, People, Principles)

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones weighs in on video preaching (in a way) – there is a certain metaphysics of presence that I think Lloyd-Jones is onto here – it may be empirically difficult to state what is lost, but there is certainly an opportunity cost worth weighing

California has over 100,000 illegal immigrants in it’s prison system at a cost of $34,000 per year per person (Texas spends an average of $12,000 per inmate)

Waiting times at a three year high in England for healthcare – still want a government 14 trillion in debt becoming your health insurance company and provider?  Diseconomy of scale!

Some beginning to call for Uncle Sam to raid your Roth IRAs for more tax revenue

Durham, NC man who sold fake “gluten free” products sentenced to eleven years in prison

David Brooks has a nice op-ed in NYT entitled “Creed or Chaos” giving some nice analysis to Africa

William Buckley interview of Hugh Heffner on Judeo-Christian Sexual Ethics (1966):

(HT: 22 Words)

Pretty intense video of Tuscaloosa tornado as it goes over University Mall:

When “Believing the Gospel” Doesn’t Work

leave a comment »

I wanted to re-post something that Chuck DeGroat wrote earlier this week on his blog, The New Exodus.  I think this is a pretty important discussion that needs to happen amongst the New Calvinism.  Reductionism is dangerous and it hurts people.  Legalism is dangerous and it enslaves people.

When “Believing the Gospel” Doesn’t Work

Maybe you’re like the many men and women who I’ve talked to.  Having been through Sonship (a fairly well-known discipleship program in conservative Reformed circles) or having digested the writings of Keller or Powlison or Tripp, your still struggling.  Or, maybe your version of “believing the Gospel” came from a preacher who told you that the answer to your lifetime of guilt was greater “Gospel depth” or deeper “Gospel transformation.”  And so, you searched high and low for that newer and better way, the Gospel way, only to try to believe better and repent better and be less guilty.  And that, too, didn’t amount to much.

Just recently, I was talking to yet another person whose digested all the writings and listened to all the sermons and read all the tweets, and ‘Gospel repenting and believing’ isn’t working.  He went through Sonship.  And each time he talked to his Gospel phone coach, he’d confess his latest idol.  “I’m justifying myself through my attempts to repent better, and repentance is now my idol.  So, I’m repenting of my repentance, but I’m still neck deep in feelings of guilt.  What’s wrong with me?”

“Gospel Tweeting” is the latest phenomenon.  The answer to all our problems is this:  Just believe the Gospel!  If it was that easy. This seems to me to be the newest quick fix, the most recent Christian cliche, and I’m growing weary of it.  I’ve counseled people who’ve done the full Sonship workout only to be more racked with guilt than ever.  They are repenting of their failed repenting and repenting of their failed attempt to confess their failed repenting.  They’re more twisted in guilt than ever.  And the ‘Gospel Twittersphere’ isn’t helping.

This is oversimplified Calvinism.  Period.  It doesn’t take the complexity of sin seriously enough, though it claims to in every way.  It doesn’t take it seriously because it oversimplifies the remedy, leaving troubled and struggling people feeling even worse.  Gospel counselors tell people that their troubles amount to a failure to believe the Gospel.  Freedom is available, we’re told.  Just repent and believe! Over and over, preachers are trying to boil this down to 140 characters on Twitter.  And I think it’s Gospel arrogance.

The problem is that we’re far more complex and psychologically broken that we’re often aware of.  It’s not just “unbelief” that bears down on us.  It’s a whole host of things – neural pathways grooved by years of living a certain way, a “divided heart” that thrives on its habitual polarities, weakness of will, and the extraordinary brokenness manifesting in the systems we inhabit, whether in our families or workplaces or churches.  And if I’m not being pessimistic enough, consider John Calvin’s words:

“But no one in this earthly prison of the body has sufficient strength to press on with due eagerness, and weakness so weighs down the greater number that, with wavering and limping and even creeping along the ground, they move at a feeble rate. Let each one of us, then, proceed according to the measure of his puny capacity and set out upon the journey we have begun. No one shall set out so inauspiciously as not daily to make some headway, though it be slight. Therefore, let us not cease so to act that we may make some unceasing progress in the way of the Lord. And let us not despair at the slightness of our success; for even though attainment may not correspond to desire, when today outstrips yesterday the effort is not lost. Only let us look toward our mark with sincere simplicity and aspire to our goal; not fondly flattering ourselves, nor excusing our own evil deeds, but with continuous effort striving toward this end: that we may surpass ourselves in goodness until we attain to goodness itself. It is this, indeed, which through the whole course of life we seek and follow. But we shall attain it only when we have cast off the weakness of the body, and are received into full fellowship with him” (Institutes, 3.6.5 or pp. 1:689)

But the problem extends beyond understanding the complexity.  It’s the cure that is far more difficult.  Having counseled too many men and women who beat themselves up for not growing fast enough by repenting and believing, I’m convinced we do many people a disservice (and harm!) by oversimplifying both the problem and the cure.  Those fearful of modern psychology need to begin listening at this point, because what we’ve found is that growth and maturity isn’t found in a method or a discipline or a repentance exercise.  In fact, growth is harder, longer, more painful, and more puzzling than many of us care to admit.  People who we serve in the church would like microwavable strategies, but the fact is that growth and maturity isn’t microwavable.  It defies programs and methods.  It frustrates the most competent pastor or therapist or spiritual director.  And, it can’t be captured in a tweet, even a well-formed Gospel tweet.

I admire the hearts of my friends out there who attempt to tweet Gospel cures.  They mean well.  Most are pastors, and you know who you are.  And I really do like you a lot.  But, hear me when I say that people are suckers for your 140 word fixes.  Why do you think you get re-tweeted so much?  We’re suckers for remedies and methods.  We love a sound byte.  But I’m asking you to step back and consider the complexity.  Do you really see people growing that quickly in your churches?  Do you really see ‘Gospel transformation’ happening in a “repent and believe” moment?  I’m prone to think that this is where we need a good dose of those old stories, like Pilgrim’s Progress, that highlight the long and difficult journey.  Because most people I know don’t find that the methods work.  Most people I talk to struggle day to day just to believe, just to utter a one word prayer, just to avoid another outburst of anger or another deluge of cynicism. Most people find that it takes a lifetime to believe that they are the prodigal who is lavished with a Father’s prodigious love.

Gospel tweeters:  Relax.  You are far more screwed up than you think.  And your cure is far too simplistic to help.  This journey requires more than a 140 characters of Gospel happy juice.  A big and good God requires a long and difficult Exodus journey for real change to happen.

My Two Caveats for the Missional Church

leave a comment »

I recently attended the Advance 2010 conference on Contextualizing the Gospel in the New Urban South.  The content of the conference was excellent and the speakers were Gospel-centered and Christ-saturated.  In the interest of full self-disclosure, I would willfully self-identify as being a part of the missional church movement.  While steeping some of the teaching receieved, I am left with two potential pitfalls for the missional church movement.

I think the obituaries have already been written and the eulogies given for both the church growth movement and the emergent church.  Hence, my first concern for the missional church movement is that it will just be another fad within evangelicalism.  I’ve chronicled before the very fickle fadish-ness nature of American evangelicalism.  We have the strong inclination to let our pendulums swing wildly, rarely finding any semblance of balance.  If history is any predictor of the future, the missional church movement will gain steam, others will jump on the bandwagon, then the movement dies because many identified with the movement not for its intrinsic principles, but rather for its pragmatic ends.  Nothing will kill a movement like the evil trinity of inauthenticity, superficiality, and pragmatism.

My second concern for the missional church movement is actually legalism.  This may actually come as a surprise of anyone who saw/listened to any of the Advance 2010 material.  Rightly so, Tyler Jones, Tullian Tchvidjian, Ed Stetzer and others railed against the quaint moralism (or think of Michael Horton’s, moralistic therapeutic deism) of the South.  Here is how legalism could creep into the missional church movement… and it is really subtle and nasty.  In your call to missional movement and mindset, create an implicit caste system within your church.  In this caste system reward those who are ‘more on mission’ vs. those who are ‘less on mission.’  In this caste system the way to earn God’s favor is by doing the works of the mission of God.  I don’t know if this kind of legalism is better/worse than any other form of self-salvation.  Remember that legalism is one of those nasty sins like pride, that can literally manifest themselves in even the most counter-intuitive or even contradictory places (ie. one can be proud in one’s humility).  We must be careful to still remind ourselves and others that our standing with God is not changed by even our greatest Gospel efforts or lack thereof.

In my view, we must guard the missional church movement from those who would see it as the next “it” way to grow your church (after shaving their soul patch and ceased showing movie clips).   We must also guard against guilting people into being on mission.  They must desire to be the church because of the Gospel not because it is the new way to rise in the legalistic caste system in your church.

Your thoughts?

Best Links of the Week

with 4 comments

Al Mohler reflects on the life and death of former atheist turned theist, Anthony Flew.

Norway makes “Most Humane Prison.”  Flat screen TVs.  High end design…

22-week Italian baby survives abortion and lives for two days.

Christian preacher arrested for saying that homosexuality is a sin.

Inflation up 2% in March 2010.

Fascinating BBC reader write-in article on 40 ways people still use 3.5″ floppy disks (including the Mexican, Romanian, Panamanian, and British governments).

Ligon Duncan’s  6 exhortations to the pastors of the next generation. (HT: JT)

All of the audio from last weeks Advance 2010 conference.

The Supreme Court might be “Protestant-less” for the first time ever.

Dollar re-designed by a graphic designer… its pretty awesome.

How to Survive a 35,000 Foot Fall.”

Find out how wealthy you are compared to the rest of the world.

We are Wall Street and We are More Vicious Than Dinosaurs.”  Well-written, pardon the authors triumphalism.

Infographic about where all our tax dollars go.

MIT Unveils Solar Cells Printed on Paper

Iconic photos from the Vietnam War. (HT: Challies)

12 most awkward family photos Mother’s Day edition. 5, 6, 8, and 9 are particularly awkward… and what is that animal in #8?

Tim Keller Responds to the Big 5 Questions Facing the Western Church

leave a comment »

Earlier, I posted on Tim Keller’s analysis of the “big 5 questions facing the Western church.”  To summarize Keller, those 5 issues identified were:

1.  The opportunity for extensive culture-making in the U.S

2.  The rise of Islam

3.  The new non-western Global Christianity

4.  The growing cultural remoteness of the gospel

5.  The end of prosperity?

Keller has followed up on these in an excellent little post well worth your reading.

Your thoughts?

Best Links of the Week

leave a comment »

Quite simply one of the most amazing stories I have ever read.  Perseverance squared.

First Things on G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy as an anti-dote to modernity.

NY Times article on a Polish Neo-Nazi converts to Orthodox Judaism

Russian President Medvedev calls for Russian Olympic officials to resign.

USA Today article on USPS proposed 5 day delivery week… is this the beginning of the end for the USPS.

NASA reporting that the Chilean Earthquake shortened the day and shifted the earth’s axis.

Amazing photos from the Indian/Hindu festival of Holi.

Image Journal’s, Top 100 Books of the Century.

Rep. Stupak on Abortion Funding in ObamaCare 2.0.

For those with book/library lust, check out video of R.C. Sproul, Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, John MacArthur, and C.J. Mahaney’s personal libraries.

Ice found on moon.

The new face of the 2nd Amendment is an elderly African American man.

Why a Salad Costs More Than a BigMac.

Interesting article on why to not use PowerPoint when preaching.

%d bloggers like this: