Friday, December 29, 2006

My Leisure Reading

Over the holiday, I reread Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer. It is a non-fiction tale of a tragic 1996 Everest expedition that ended in the deaths of several climbers. It is recommended reading. I picked up the book again after following the Mt. Hood incident several weeks ago; I suppose I needed to remind myself why I do not mountain climb. Tennis seems to be a better bet, although be careful playing doubles.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Christmas Unveiling

This is the big unveiling! As you can see, I am donning my antler hat and my bow tie, although not at the same time. Both make a fashion statement. As far as the bow tie, nerdy or eccentric?

A Very Doggie Christmas

We didn't take any photos of ourselves, but we took photos of our dogs with their presents.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Quote of the Day

"To live out of control means that we do not assume that our task as Christians is to make history come out right." - Stanley Hauerwas

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Theological Clarification

Because it is nearing Christmas and all, a discussion ensued at church Sunday about the Incarnation. It was evident that several people were confused over theological terminology. Being rather anal about these issues, I thought I should clarify some terminology. The term 'Incarnation' refers to God becoming man, that is, Jesus Christ. The term 'Annunciation' refers to Gabriel's announcement to Mary that she would give birth to the Christ. The 'Virgin Birth' refers to the scriptural testimony of Mary's conception of the Christ (by the Holy Spirit) even though she was a virgin. The term 'Immaculate Conception' does not refer to the Virgin Birth. It is a Catholic theological term that refers to Mary's sinlessness from her own conception (she is without original sin). Obviously Protestants reject this. Just a bit of nit-picky clarification.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Cantata

Here is a picture of Cornerstone's choir as they practice for their cantata. The cantata went well and BreAne had a fine solo. This photo was taken during her solo (she is on the right). The wonderful cantata was followed by a trip to the emergency room; BreAne had a gallbladder issue. She seems to be fine right now. Other than that, our Sunday went just fine!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Taking a Rest

While we were doing some housework and listening to Christmas music, Midnight was resting her weary bones. Sunshine is in the bundle below her.

Friday, December 15, 2006

What Are Men to Be, Part II

Although I thought Murrow's book, Why Men Hate Going to Church was off base theologically, Murrow raises a good point: what type of Christianity are many of our churches selling? I fear Murrow is correct when he states that many churches are selling a feel-good, comfortable, self-help, fix-your-marriage, make-your-life-better Christianity. I agree with Murrow on this point, although I disagree with his solutions. A better solution: our American churches must regain the radical Christianity that is portrayed throughout the New Testament and early church history. True Christianity, as Jesus tells us, is a call to a persecuted life, a life of an alien in a foriegn, a life of a sojourner. A radical Christian is counter-cultural, speaks the Word, and stands up against injustices, yet bears the punishment (willingly) for standing out from the crowd. Bascially, true Christianity is not comfortable and will not make your life easier. It is only for the tough. To follow Christ is to face death (Luke 9:23).

I think this is how our churches can regain some of the lost men. Portray Chrisitianity as it should be, as it is shown in Scripture and throughout history. This is how men will come back to the church: when the Word is preached faithfully and true.

Monday, December 11, 2006

What Are Men To Be?

I read this book, which is primarily about what men are supposed to be. While Murrow has some good evaluations of some churches, his theology and history stink. Murrow describes Moses, David, Peter, Daniel and Paul as “lions, not lambs – take charge men who risked everything in service to God. They fought valiantly and spilled blood. They spoke their minds and stepped on the toes of religious leaders…All of these men had two things in common: they had an intense commitment to God, and they weren’t what you’d call saintly.” Interestingly, in Scripture Jesus is always referred to as the Lamb, except for one passage in Revelation.[1] While looking at the lives of biblical men is helpful, our model should be supremely Jesus. Our ideal of masculinity must come from Jesus, not from what our culture tells us masculinity should be (Murrow reads the masculinity of biblical men through the lens of contemporary culture).

Murrow makes the argument that manhood is best understood through the lens of what he thinks a man should be, not what Scripture says a righteous man should be. The most glaring omission of this book is the lack of biblical exegesis for understanding manhood. Furthermore, when exegesis does occur (rarely) it is done in a superficial and haphazard manner.

For example, Murrow writes, “God made men for adventure, achievement, and challenge, and if they can’t find those things in church, they’re going to find them somewhere else.” Murrow supplies no biblical basis for this statement. According to Scripture, this is not what man was made for, or intended to pursue. Man was created for relationship with God and with others (Gen 1:26-25). As Christians, men are called to suffer and to serve, to imitate and to follow the path of the Suffering Servant and Slain Lamb (Eph 6:5-9; Phil 3:10-11; 2 Cor 1:5, 4:10; 1 Cor 10:33-34; Col 1:24). This is a true ‘manly’ calling, not for the weak of heart, but for the most resilient people on earth, followers of Jesus Christ. This, not “adventure, achievement, and challenge,” is risky, dreaming big, and pushing the envelope. This is why Christ and the apostles and the early church were put to death; this is why Christians all over the world continue to be martyred. This is how the Christians of the early church viewed their Christian witness, not by adopting the Greco-Roman cultural view of “risk taking, power, aggression, and heroic sacrifice.” It is because the early church was and we are counter-cultural, aliens; the world knows we are different and that we refuse to accommodate their culture.

The biblical mandates for men are the Beatitudes, Christ’s life, grace and peace, service, and suffering. Personally, I don’t care if some men don’t like the word ‘gentle’ or ‘meek,’ because Christ calls us to be both and live both. Unfortunately, Murrow seems to see the issue as either/or. Either you are culturally ‘manly’ or you are a Christian wimp. Christ was neither.

Murrow is scathing when it comes to contemporary Christian leadership: “Most paid leaders in America’s churches are either teachers or musicians who may have never been trained in leadership, nor do they possess a vision for leading a congregation.” Again, this is personal anecdote by Murrow. Scriptural leadership is a far cry from the leadership that Murrow, or the rest of the world, seeks. First, while ‘vision’ is helpful for church leadership, it is not primary. Scripture says nothing about having ‘vision’ for the church; this is again the influence of the CEO mentality upon the church. Note Murrow’s remark: “[Churches should] Look for leaders in corporate America, not necessarily in seminary…Laymen may respect such leaders all the more because they possess real-world experience.” I would argue that it is this very CEO mindset that is leading to the downfall of many churches. What Scripture requires for leadership is a calling by God and a godly character. The goal of Scriptural leadership is spiritual transformation, not vision, or church growth, or anything else that Murrow claims. Painfully telling, Murrow mentions nothing about prayer or the leading of the Holy Spirit when it comes to leadership. Furthermore, leaders throughout the Bible are by no means uniform. For instance, Moses didn’t want his job (notice how Moses reacted when accused by Miriam and Aaron), Gideon was rather indecisive and weak, Timothy struggled to keep order, and Paul didn’t get along with John Mark.

In summary, the last thing we should want men to do is to embrace what comes naturally to them. Everything that Christ wants us to be is not natural; it is against our fallen nature. Our understanding of manhood should come from what Jesus portrayed and what a redeemed and sanctified man looks like, not what men look like in the world or before conversion. This book could have been better if Murrow had stuck to his original question of why men hate going to church instead of straying into his own theology of manhood. P.S. Don't read this book or John Elridge's Wild at Heart, because they are nearly identical in theology.

[1] Revelation 5:5. Even in this passage, Christ is heard as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but actually seen as the Lamb. For more on this, see R. Bauckham, Theology of Revelation.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Lookin' Out My Backdoor

It snowed today, for the first time this season. For those of you who have never been to our house, this is a picture from our front porch as the snow fell very lightly.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Prayer is never the first word, it is always the second word. God has the first word. Prayer is answering speech; it is not primarily 'address' but 'response.' Essential to the practice of prayer is to fully realize this secondary quality." - Eugene Peterson

Christ and the Movies

All the new "Christian" movies that have come out recently make a pastor stop and think (Passion of the Christ [not new], One Night with the King, The Nativity Story, Facing the Giants, etc.). Why do Christians make these usually bad movies? Are we attempting to reach out to unbelievers? Are we attempting to tell a story that has already been masterfully and divinely told? The argument could be made that these movies are reaching people that Christians would not normally reach. Possibly, but unlikely; the people who are attending these movies are Christians already. Furthermore, I have found that these type of movies stunt conversations with non-Christians, not aid them. Even if we are reaching unbelievers, what are we reaching them with? Are these movies acurate portrayals of true Christianity? Some might be; most are not. If we simply want to make people think, there are better movies available (Lord of War, Thank You for Smoking, Dr. Strangelove, etc.). Are we declining into mere entertainment? Who knows, maybe it is okay to make movies like this as entertainment.