Recently, I was in a business meeting in which I represented the organization I work for in a collaborative project with other organizations. The collaborative involved a grant application and therefore was contingent upon receiving those funds to be implemented. While we were putting the application together, at times others involved would assert positive declarations about receiving the funds under the premise that this would happen if we just declare it…in Jesus name.
These folks were acting on a strain of teaching that has infiltrated evangelicalism, that is positive declarations are needed to make circumstances happen. In Positively Powerless, Laura Martin, DTS grad, addresses the foundation and fallacy of this teaching as it contradicts the premise of Christianity. She sketches the historical development, which is built on the Positive Thinking movement that considers the mind a force in which we can “will” events in our favor. She notes this is not found in Scripture but rather has its foundation in Eastern Mysticism (I would have loved to see this built out a little more).
She then provides a snapshot of what Scripture does provide regarding the reality of sin and how that has impacted us. More importantly, Christianity is not built on positive declarations but rather submission to the lordship of Christ. In Jesus’ upside down kingdom paradigm, “success” from a kingdom perspective will sometimes result in our lives not looking successful or at least as the world sees it. We will see complete reversal of the Fall’s effect in the new heavens and new earth, but not entirely now. I love that she brings up Joni Erickson Tada because she is a prime example of what successful Christianity looks like from a Christian perspective, which does not jive with the proclaimers of positive thinking.
The chapter entitled A Christian View of Self is particularly noteworthy. Fueled by the the prominence of self-esteem that took root in Christian teaching in the 20th century, positive thinking places an emphasis on the power of self to create reality in contrast to the emphasis on Christ. She concludes, “When the church came under the power of this movement it had the significant consequence of distracting us from Christ, shifting our priorities, and creating a different gospel entirely.” Indeed, this movement has created a great distraction and emphasizing the wrong things! Continue reading
If you recall the 1980 movie, The Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood being determined to save the orphanage where they grew up, peppered their hijinxs with “we’re on a mission for God”. They remained undaunted by all the obstacles in their way, they were to achieve their mission at all costs.
It occurs to me that Christians adopt this mentality, also. Now, I don’t mean just mean being determined to live a good Christian life, follow Jesus and be obedient to his will. But it’s finding this one particular aspect of dogma that turns into a crusade.
I was reminded of that recently after a conversation with a friend about a topic that I’m a bit passionate about – God speaking. He was telling me of this conversation with a young lady who gave little interest in the Bible, exclaiming that the Holy Spirit can just tell her what she needs to know. Anyone who knows my passion for this topic, can imagine all the sirens that were going off in my head. It fueled that already existing desire to help people be thoughtful about how God has already spoken which is compatible to how he has revealed himself. I am convinced that the main reason the Bible is treated as a secondary means of communication is because it has been treated in a very fragmented way that provides little snippets for life principles and a guide to hear more words from God instead of being the very voice of God. The 66 books must be considered holistically for the redemptive narrative that it is.
It is precisely this desire that reminds me of Christians that I’ve encountered that become so fixated on a particular area, where passion for the dispensing of knowledge has turned into a crusade. I know first hand that it’s a pretty easy line to cross, if we are not careful. It’s usually accompanied by some kind of warning or danger that the church needs to know, whether it be a particular leader or ministry, some point of doctrine or Christian practice. Continue reading
My friend Karen sent me this article that really resonated with me, The Arrogance of Mutually Assured Destruction in the Church. It’s a pretty short post, so I’ll post it in its entirety;
During the Cold War between the United States of America and the former Soviet Union, the build up of nuclear arms became a standard practice. If one side built a weapon of mass destruction the other side countered with ever increasing numbers of more powerful and destructive weapons. The idea behind this proliferation was simple: if both sides knew that the other had weapons that could ensure total destruction, it functioned as a deterrent to go to war. This became known as the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). As long as either side continued to equal or escalate armaments “peace” was maintained through “strength.”
Looking back on the Cold War, there was a kind of arrogance in this “peace.” Each side wanted to show that it was better and more powerful than the other, and if war would break out, victory would be assured in the destruction of the enemy. Ironically as long as victory over the other was the implicit goal, no peace was achieved!
How often in the church do we seem to practice an arrogant doctrine of MAD, seeking for personal or theological victory rather than peace and reconciliation? How often would we prefer a build up of arms rather than humility and grace? How often do we promote a Cold War between doctrinal camps, between rival theological perspectives, even between members of our own churches and families rather than make every effort to keep the victory of unity and peace already won in Jesus? (Eph. 4:3, Col. 2:15) The gospel calls us to unity and peace, but this can only be achieved when we put down our arms and in the humility demonstrated by God in Jesus Christ reach out to our “enemies.” This can only be done when we give up our own victory and arrogant plans and embrace the humility of Christ found in the gospel. Without this self-denial and sacrificial step, there is no chance of peace and unity. However, with the humility of Jesus we can put down our armaments, repent, forgive, and find peace.
I am becoming increasingly aware that sensitivity within Christian circles tends to be met with disdain. There seems to be this notion that we should be able to address things with complete objectivity. First, no one is without sensitivity on some level. This is part and parcel of our humanity. We are not devoid of history, experience or personality that will create sensitivity in different areas. We have these sensitivities because we are human. We will have reactions to past and present hurts, either experienced directly or collectively identified with a particular group such as ethnic or gender groups.
The idea that we can be purely objective is a myth. I love what John Frame says about that taken from this post;
Sometimes we dream fondly of a ‘purely objective’ knowledge of God–a knowledge of God of freed from the limitations of our senses, minds, experiences, preparation, and so forth. But nothing of this sort is possible, and God does not demand that of us. Rather, He condescends to dwell in and with us, as in a temple. He identifies himself in and through our thoughts, ideas, and experiences. And that identification is clear; it is adequate for Christian certainty. A ‘purely objective’ knowledge is precisely what we don’t want! Such knowledge would presuppose a denial of our creaturehood and thus a denial of God and of all truth.
While he is referring to the knowledge of God, it is nonetheless applicable to how we see our world. There is no way we can be purely objective. Now of course, we can be more objective to areas that don’t give rise to sensitivities with us. This is why 3rd party objectivity is valuable, especially when settling disputes. But that does not mean we are without some type of bias that will inform our perspective. And let’s be clear, when it comes to some topics, whether it be race, gender or life experience, there is this tendency to treat it from our own perspective and why it is important to step outside of ourselves and see the other ala Philippians 2. Continue reading
Well, this is kind of cool. It’s the first full year of my blog. I was a bit surprised to learn that I wrote 87 posts in 2013. That’s an average of 7.25 a month! Yikes, that’s a lot and doesn’t even include contributions to Parchment and Pen and Reformed African-American Network. So why not follow the trend and list the top views. A couple of them are from 2012 but since they didn’t get a full year, why not throw them in;
1. The Strange Fire brouhaha generated so much internet attention, that no surprise my 2 cents, Cessationism, Charismania and Criticism, had the most hits in 2013, primarily because Michael Patton (Parchment and Pen) pointed it out.
2. Because I wish the church in general would recognize that young, never-been-married singles are not the only singles in the church, Church and the Other Single .
3. I rather liked Wendy Alsup’s modified complementarianism and thought it was honest to Scripture so I highlighted her points in My Kind of Complementarianism.
4. If you treat the Old Testament God different than the New Testament, have integrity like Marcion and cut all references out from the NT in Integrity Doesn’t Stay in the Closet.
5. For those who read the Bible to squeeze out the blessings, How to be Blessed by the Lord draws on this attraction and kind of corrects it.
I was actually surprised that Church and the Other Single was not the most popular since it was the one with the highest shares. It was definitely one of my personal favorites and apparently struck a nerve with many others. Here are some other personal favorites even though they didn’t generate as many hits, in no particular order:
Walking the Tightrope of Sovereignty and Hope
Deliver Us From Deliverance: Magic Wands and Maturity
The Smallness of Doing Big Things for God
5 Signs We Might Take Ourselves too Serious
Well let’s see what pops up in 2014
Happy New Year!