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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Should we call the prosperity gospel something else?: a subtle deception

money on the altarThe Gospel Coalition posted the first article in a series on the prosperity gospel. As I read through, 5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel, and I’ll get to these points in a minute, I couldn’t help but think that calling it prosperity might be a bit misleading. Why do I say that? Because in reality, proponents of prosperity teaching don’t refer to it as such. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that many proponents of prosperity teaching would reject the notion that the aim of our Christian existence is to get rich and would be quick to label the Creflo Dollars of TV fame as charlatans. So I think by labeling it “prosperity gospel” might have the impact of turning a deaf ear to it’s troubling foundation.

Herein lies the subtle deception of prosperity teaching. The premise of what is called a prosperity gospel is simply put: material blessings are a sign of God’s acceptance and favor. One does not necessarily have to believe that riches are the goal to buy into prosperity teaching. This is evident in looking at the five points outlined in the article. More than anything, I think that many people who buy into prosperity teaching are well intentioned about the Christian faith and strive earnestly to live that faith out. But I believe the main contributor to prosperity promotion is a lack comprehension of what material blessings meant in the Old Testament. It is evident in the teaching (which I myself embraced for many years, that prosperity teaching fail to consider that the whole theme of Scripture is rooted in God’s redemption of his creation in an elaborate scheme that involved calling out a people called Israel as his own. This only serves as the basis of how he will unite Jew and Gentile as equal heirs to his promises fulfilled in Christ.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll highlight a couple of the five points in relation to point I’m making that prosperity teaching is more about the material blessings as the basis of genuine faith. But I encourage you to read all 5 points; Continue reading

Acceptable worldliness in the Church

contemporary church service2Well, I’m going to say upfront that I might say some things that will rub some Christians the wrong way, especially those in the non-denominational world. I’m just putting it out there. In fact, it’s safe to say that this post might get a bit ranty. But I have observed a kind of worldliness that has been brought into much of contemporary evangelicalism that gets a pass.

No, it’s not having a hot band playing secular music or what some might associate with secular music with Jesus lyrics. Nor am I referring to sexual immorality with fornication and adultery going, although of course that can definitely be classified as worldliness worthy of some serious discipline.

I’m referring to the way we do church. And by that I mean, structuring church according to the philosophies of this world including borrowing leadership principles and techniques in the name of church governance. I’m talking about creating corporations with the senior pastor as CEO, elders as the board of directors, staff as the implementers of whatever vision was cast by “leadership” so the church achieves its outcomes for the consumers called the congregation.

I don’t know where it started. I don’t know when pastors/elders turned from being shepherds of Gods people with qualifications specified in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:7-9  into Jesus PR marketers, thought leaders, transformational strategists and vision casters. I don’t know when this informed the qualifications of leadership, with pastors being dismissed for ‘not being a good fit’ or ‘carrying out the strategies of the organization.’ I don’t know when it became acceptable to abandon the care of the visible church according to the vision Jesus already gave to come up with innovative techniques to run the company and franchising it out through satellite churches. I don’t know when pragmatism ran all over liturgy and kicked it out the door. I don’t know when the apostle’s teaching as specified in the NT, turned into storied, life principles and other cute methods to attract people, instead of boldly proclaiming the whole counsel of Scripture. Continue reading

We Really Do Need the Same Old Thing

I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. But it does seem to me as I observe the evangelical landscape today, that what is tried and trust and true gets overlooked for the ‘new’. So many in the church today are captivated by newness – new trends, new ideas, new innovations, new buildings, new predictions, new words from God, new movements, etc that the old seems irrelevant. But really its the old that we need – what God did through his Son, how the church has been established, what God has already spoken. This is how we are refreshed, by gathering according to what has already been established, by remembering what God has already said and what he has already done to gather a body of people to himself through the work of the Son by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. But somehow that gets too boring and we get antsy for something new. Why?

It reminds me of this portion of the Screwtape Letter #25. If you are not familiar with the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, they are instructions to Wormwood on how to frustrate God’s people and get the church off track:

But the greatest triumph of all is to elevate this horror of the same old thing into a philosophy so that nonsense in the intellect my reinforce corruption in the will…The Enemy loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? Is it prudent? Is it possible? Now if we can keep men asking ‘Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive and reactionary? Is this the way that History is going?’ they will neglect the relevant questions. And the questions they do ask are, of course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future to help them to make. As a result, while their minds are buzzing in this vacuum, we have the better chance to slip in and bend them to the action we have decided on. And great work has already been done. Once they knew that some changes were for the better, and others for the worse, and again others again indifferent. We have largely removed this knowledge. For the descriptive adjective ‘unchanged’ we have substituted the emotional adjective ‘stagnant’. We have trained them to think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain – not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.

Continue reading

Read’em and Weep . . . or not

computer yellingThe other day, a good friend gave me a gentle rebuke. The reason? I had articulated an opinion about a current event that I didn’t have a wealth of knowledge in.  Sure I knew the basic facts but not enough to spit out what I thought of the matter. Though it was tough to hear, I had to acknowledge that I had engaged in a bit of hypocrisy by doing exactly what I recommend that we don’t do – arriving at premature conclusions based on superficial information.

We live in an age of information overload, an embarrassment of riches that on the surface would support an incredible wealth of knowledge. And yet, it’s just the opposite – fragmented, de-historified pieces of media sound bytes that are designed to sway us towards a certain opinion. It doesn’t matter what the topic, whether current events, history or theology. We get lured with attractive titles and questions that appeal to our particular affinities, especially when it’s fueled by an particular image. If we are not careful, that biased slant with its emotional appeals can suck us right in.

When we propagate un-informed or poorly informed opinions through social media, it only adds fuel to the fire. In fact, this is where I’ve seen the down side even to blogging, which I love so much. It gives anyone who wants to say something the opportunity to do so regardless of how much is understood about the topic. Expertise has indeed taken a hit. I’ve become increasingly more cautious in my assertions because of this, though maybe not all that successful at times.

When it comes to the media outlet today, let’s not fool ourselves that you will read objective opinions.  Sure, there are some writers who strive to portray what they would deem “objective”. But that that object always has some question it is trying to answer based on some perspective, which may not be that objective at all.

I follow a variety of different news sources from various perspectives. Some are straight news, some focused on politics and economics, some economic perspectives from a Christian worldview, conservative, liberal, moderate. And of course my beloved theology! Regardless of what I read,  I strive to remember the ideology that pervades the thoughts behind each post to gauge where the author is coming from.  And yet, I am sometimes lured in by well-sounding arguments, especially where there appears to be some kind of authentic research or historical sketch. Continue reading