Post-modern Pietism and the Bible

woman eating healthyI came across the term “post-modern pietism” in a twitter exchange regarding this article from Stephen Altrogge, God doesn’t care what you eat. The thrust of the article is how we can create spiritual elitism out of food preferences, most notably the Daniel Diet. Altrogge states,

Jesus’ point is that food in and of itself is not spiritual. It goes in the mouth and comes out the other end. Eating a particular food does not make us more or less spiritual. Vegetables are not more godly than meat. Organic is not more godly than processed. Oreos and Cheez-Whiz are just as holy as homegrown basil. An Eden diet is not more pleasing to God than a Paleo diet or South Beach diet. All foods are clean and can be eaten and enjoyed.

Why does this even matter? Do I care if you are on The Eden Diet or The Daniel Diet or The Maker’s Diet? Nope, not one bit. If a particular diet helps you lose weight, great! But, we Christians have a tendency to moralize our preferences and create artificial spirituality. If we say that God wants us to eat a particular food group we are on the verge of creating spiritual cliques in the church. The most godly people follow a particular diet, the less godly people eat processed food. A diet can become a stumbling block to the gospel and a source of spiritual elitism.

He strikes to the heart of something that has bothered me about how we treat the Bible, especially the Old Testament, as a prescription for life principles today. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do believe that the Old Testament instructs us in the right character that we should have. But it does something so much more. When Jesus indicated that all Scripture is about him (Luke 24:27), he was pointing out that everything that occurred prior to the Incarnation was about him. As Paul notes in Col. 1:16, all things were created through him for him. Continue reading

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One thing seminary can’t teach you

pupit w bibleRecently, I’ve been a bit unsettled over some observations. I’ve heard a few different stories, all revolving around seminary graduates. There were the stories of newly installed pastors, who after going through a rigorous “calling” process involving strenuous scrutiny, presented themselves and their beliefs as something different than in that process. There was the pastor who proclaimed heresy in front of the congregation despite earning top grades in seminary on that same topic.

But it also reminded me of some of my experiences during the six years I spent in a conservative evangelical seminary – conversations I overheard and took part in, observations of students, and even grads, endorsing teachers with questionable theology and in some cases, flat out false, other-gospeling teaching. I’ve also encountered inability to articulate core doctrine of the Christian faith or discern when something is just flat out wrong despite it’s attractive flavor. No, not everyone. Of course not. But enough to be concerned about the attention that was being given to how Christian belief is being articulated and lived.

Seminary is a tricky animal for it can create a false sense of accomplishment and arrival. While there are varying motivations and life experiences that lead people to seminary, at the core is to, in some capacity or the other, serve as a minister to the gospel. And seminary does provide very useful tools and education for serving in a ministerial capacity bolstered by wonderful, pastoral oriented professors and building strong relationships. So please don’t misread what I’m communicating or think I’m down on seminary. I am not and am grateful for my experience. Continue reading

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Prophecy today vs. New Testament prophecy – are they the same?

early church-peter preachingI just finished up teaching a class on a topic I’ve had my teeth in for a good while – God speaking. In fact, I wrote my master’s thesis on it as I described in this post here.

Naturally, a component of how God speaks today depends on how you consider New Testament prophecy. Just on the surface, when reading though the New Testament, especially Acts and 1 Corinthians, it does seem reasonable to conclude that we should expect that people would deliver prophecy just like they did in the Bible. In fact, I have spent much of my Christian life in churches where delivering prophecies was quite normal. Prophecies would range from exhortation to rebuking to foretelling what was in store for the church. It was also no uncommon for people to give private prophecies to individuals that typically included some type of foretelling, “look out for _____” or “in this season God is going to _______.” If you were to ask someone how did they know this was from God, a typical response would be “I just felt in my spirit.” In other words, there was some type of strong feeling that whatever words were being formed in one’s mind was God wanted to communicate.

However, the more I examine the New Testament, and specifically 1 Corinthians 14, the more I question this methodology of evaluating prophecies. I use this particular chapter as an example because I think it provides the clearest picture what transpired in the early church regarding the practice of prophecy to the body of Christ. In this regard, I think it can present the biggest challenge to a cessationist position that concludes that prophecy no longer exists, or at least the office of prophet no longer exists.

Without going too in depth and explaining in a cursory way, what I argue in my thesis and further developed in preparation for this class is that New Testament prophecies were proclaiming what the testimony of the apostles meant for the church. Keep in mind that during the New Testament accounts, the church had the Old Testament Scriptures, the testimony of the apostles and the word of the prophets. There was not a completed Bible. However, a holistic understanding of God’s self-revelation to humanity will see that the foundation of Old Testament provided the basis for what would be fulfilled in Christ, who completely and ultimately expresses the mind, will, character and plan of God. All New Testament activity portrayed in the epistles must rightly find their place in what God has done through the Son.

In light of this connection between Old and New Testaments, John Child, professor of New Testament studies at George Whitfield College in South Africa, states this in a fabulous essay entitled Towards an Evaluation of Charismatic Prophesies;

Since prophets claim their prophecies are from God and should be heeded, we should expect them to be tested under the new covenant We should expect the theological test to reflect theological development from old to new covenant; not just a fidelity to Yahwey but to Jesus Christ, not just to content in keeping with the Torah or Old Testament but in keeping with the progressive revelation or full revelation in the New Testament.
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Christian, you cannot read the Bible any old way you want – Part I

I am often confronted with the strange ways the Bible is interpreted. I don’t mean the deviations in various interpretations, such as baptism, spiritual gifts or eschatology, but interpretations that subject the meaning of the Bible to standards that are disconnected from it’s nature and purpose.

I came across this hilarious video from the new Family Feud game that is hosted by Steve Harvey. Take a listen;

Funny and yet sobering, reminding me of ways in which some treat the Bible as if we can make it be whatever response we want AND get excited about it! I find so often that this brother’s “Texas” can be our approach to the Bible. By that I mean, employing methods that have nothing to do with the Christ-centered theme of Scripture. I’m talking about reading definitions into the text or extracting meaning out of the text that is not even related to what the author is trying to communicate or even connected to God’s redemptive narrative of what he is accomplishing through the Son.

Over at The Gospel Coalition, David Schrock has provided both a fine example of how we can disconnect passages from their intended meaning. In Jabez and the Soft Prosperity Gospel, Schrock indicates that the primary reason for interpretations that result in a sub-Christian or anti-Christian paradigm results from making personal applications of Scripture and not considering how passages relate to the overall theme of Scripture. Continue reading

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So you think you believe the gospel, huh?

Despite the increasing opposition to Christianity, let’s face it, in western civilization it’s pretty easy to proclaim Christianity as one’s established religion.

What is the gospel? It is God’s rescuing his creation from the ownership of sin that happened at the fall through his work in the Son. It is recognizing the fact that something went terribly wrong in Genesis 3 that disconnected all mankind from eternal communion with God and subjected creation to futility (Romans 8:19-21). The gospel is the good news of redemption, forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with the Father and hope of enjoying him forever (See Eph 1:3-14). The gospel is sourced in God’s work through the Son, whose sacrificial atonement on the cross nailed the debt of sin for those who believe and whose resurrection forever expunged the condemnation associated with that required payment. (The first 8 chapters of Romans pretty much sums this up.)

I think its safe to say that if you’re a Christian, you might automatically nod or even get a little smug since you probably would rattle off different iterations of this description. You wouldn’t hesitate to say, yes I believe the gospel because I believe that Jesus died for my sins.

arrogance1-2But do you really believe the gospel? See it’s one thing to know facts about God’s work through Christ in rescuing what was lost. But it’s quite another to live as if that is true. It’s one thing to say that it took the work of God by the Holy Spirit to bring us into union with Christ completely on his work, but quite another to put assurance in that work and not on ourselves. It’s one thing to verbalize that you were dead in your trespasses and sins, cut off, unable to even respond to God without his intervention, it’s something else all together when we act like we can qualify the gospel with our contributions.

Here’s a little test…

1) Do you feel like you’re a good Christian because you haven’t committed any egregious sins?

If you’re proud of yourself that you’re not like those who have fallen into error, chances are you believe that you had something to do with your righteousness. That’s not believing the gospel but our own works

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one my boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9) Continue reading

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