Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: February 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Captain America Lives!

It was in March 2007 that I sadly reported the death of Captain America. You can read my post here. Well, Captain America has returned, although not really. Steve Rogers is still apparently dead, but Bucky has taken up the mantle to fight for freedom with the name Captain America.

Now, apparently the artwork for Captain America #39 is causing some interesting conversation. I have placed that artwork below. That is Bucky on the ground. So, who in the world is that standing above him? Great, now I have to re-instate my Cap subscription. :)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Southern Seminary Quote of the Day

From Dr. Wright, professor of church history.

"We don't place our faith in a republican. We don't place our faith in a democrat. We place our faith in the Lord."

He said this in a historical context that somehow we as voters have thought and continue to think that who we put into office determines if God is going to continue to reign and fulfill His purposes. Pretty simple quote, but I thought timely.

More From Dr. Tom Schreiner - Fundamentalism and the Already/Not Yet

In his NT Theology course, Dr. Schreiner continues to say things that not only challenge those of us in class to make practical application from NT theology, but also shatters the stereotypical understanding of what Southern is teaching and producing.

Yes, Southern is a school that holds strongly to Calvinism. I am currently writing a rather lengthy essay addressing this fact and the fuss it seems to raise in so many of our good Ariminian Baptist brothers and sisters. Put simply, what I see from our "heretical" Calvinistic professors is a passionate, all-powerful and all-loving view of God, a devotion to the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and a zeal for missions unlike any I have ever seen. This week is "great commission week" at the school. Here is just an excerpt from an email the school of theology students received from Dr. Russell Moore, the dean of the school of theology:
"I’m concerned about something, and I’d like to ask you to join me in prayer and action about it. It seems to me that too many of our churches—and too many of us—think of the Great Commission as little more than Jesus’ way of promoting a Christmas offering or of marketing an evangelistic video series. The problem, whenever the Great Commission is taken for granted, is the eclipse of Jesus. . .In the year 2008, I am challenging all of us in the School of Theology—faculty and students—to reinvigorate our place in this cosmic warfare by renewing our efforts at evangelism and missions."

A hyper-Calvinist? Ergun Caner and others can rant and rave all they want, but I have never met one and Southern Seminary had rather teach Hinduism than such a notion.

But anyway, back on point. Perhaps even greater than the Southern's high view of John Calvin is their high view of George Ladd! I am kidding, of course, but just barely. Ladd was a Baptist minister and theologian who taught at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Ladd ushered in the notion of "progressive dispensationalism", a nice middle ground between classic dispensationalism and covenant theology. Dr. Ware is a self-proclaimed progressive dispensationalist. But even the Southern professors who still consider themselves to be more on the lines of covenant theology, the "Already/Not Yet" of Ladd is clearly a driving force behind the understanding of the Kingdom of God at Southern. It has been incredibly helpful for me.

So, finally to the point of this post. Schreiner has been discussing some of the ways we can see the "Already/Not Yet" of the Kingdom of God played out in today's world. Examples such as "church hopping" when church members disagree and the ease at which couples are willing to divorce, he says, shows the overemphasis on the "Already." We expect too much perfection now. Then he said, "this is also why we must be weary of strict fundamentalism." Well, that perked us all up and we wondered where he was going. He then said this (and I am paraphrasing):
"One of the devastating problems with strict fundamentalism is complete isolation from others who think differently than us. We should not waiver from truth or compromise our beliefs, but we absolutely should be willing to work alongside others who think differently, who are Arminian for example, for the cause of Christ."

I emailed Dr. Schreiner when I got home to ask for more clarification about how to know when to unite and when to keep our distance. His response indicated that he believed there were "parting of the ways issues" and that we have to more narrowly draw the line when it comes to our churches and organizations with whom we unite. Nevertheless, "there are good people" he said "who we can learn from and work with who are different than us. Let us live by our convictions, Philip, but let us never think we have it all right."


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Movie Quote Trivia

I haven't done this in a while. Tell me if you can name the movie that these quotes come from. I have put my difficulty rating (which is completely subjective) beside each quote. 1 is easy, 5 is most difficult. By the way, you can google most of these, which is cheating of course, and that is not good.

1. I told you to sit on it Tonto. (5)
2. The saddest thing in life is wasted talent. (4)
3. He won't come after me. He won't. I can't explain it. He would consider that...rude. (2)
4. I expected a little more from a varsity letterman. (1)
5. Only the penitent man will pass. (1)
6. I wish I had a million dollars. Hot Dog! (2)
7. I suggest we move the body in with the others. Why? I'm the butler, I like to keep the kitchen tidy. (5)
8. Cougar lost it, turned in his wings. (1)
9. I. .I . . I . .I want the knife. Please. (5)
10. If you take that many don't forget one thing. What? A good supply of body bags. (3)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Open and Closed Doors

One of the real privileges of ministry is the opportunity to stand alongside people who share their lives with you, lives marked with hurt, confusion, victory, and joy. Working with teenagers, I get the chance to council senior high students who are wrestling through their future decisions. They are not alone, of course, as many adults question their next step in life, whether it be a new job or new relationship. Whenever conversations about the future ensue, so also do the concepts of open and closed doors.

My purpose here is to point out the problem of relying too heavily on "open and closed doors" for future decisions of a believer. Having said that, I would be remiss if I failed to first acknowledge the biblical support for open and closed doors. The language of Paul comes to mind. "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains." Colossians 4:3. And, "because a great door for effective work has opened to me." 1st Corinthians 16:9. Make no mistake, if God closes a door to an opportunity, that door will not be opened. Therefore, we are right to pray for open doors, and we are right to look for them.

But we are not right for standing back and waiting for things to magically open up for us with no obstacles. I have found in 10 years of full time ministry that many doors God has opened for me might have actually been open half-way, or even cracked. In other words, God provided a way, but also in His providence and good care wanted me, with His great hand of help, to experience the trials of getting through the open door. It is not enough to think that God will always provide super wide open doors, with all the pieces perfectly falling into place. Blessed be His name when that does happen! But it won't always. Sometimes it will take work. Sometimes it will take tears. Sometimes it will take opposition. In fact, most of the time. We have a good number of good people who are still standing back and waiting. They keep saying, "God closed that door" when in fact they just saw some obstacles and dismissed it as an open door. Let's revisit the above Scripture from Paul. In 1st Corinthians 16:9, he writes that "a great door for effective work has opened to me. . ." Paul is referring to the church at Ephesus, where he was working while writing to the church at Corinth. But that sentence actually ends like this; "a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me." What Paul considered to be a great open door was actually some of the fiercest opposition he received in the NT. Paul reminds us that if God opens the door, whether it seems to be just cracked or halfway, it is in fact wide open! Therefore, instead of just skipping straight to the concept of open and closed doors, we should first pray. We should confess our sin and come to the Lord unblemished. We should then read Scripture and allow God's word to instruct us. Sometimes we look for doors that we already know are open or shut. We don't have to wonder if God is opening the door for us to be promoted at a job by lying. Nor do we have to wonder if God is closing the door for us to love our enemies. Next, we should seek wise council from devoted Christian people. The story of Rehoboam rings true here. Then, we should begin looking for open doors. We must not skip straight to that step.

So, does God sometimes close opportunities for us? Yes, absolutely. Does He sometimes open doors where all the pieces fall together perfectly? Yes, absolutely. He is a great God! But he also opens doors that might be difficult to walk through. And perhaps those are the doors most vital to us.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Giving Credit Back

Mike Ruffin, the author of one of my favorite blogs On The Jericho Road, was kind enough to mention my recent post on Tom Schreiner and Tony Campolo. His article "The Awful Truth" is a challenging word and is worthy of your time to read. Check it out.

Friday, February 22, 2008

My goodness this is funny

This one had me laughing hard for quite a while. If you are one of the few Lair readers who does not attend church regularly, this one will go over your head.

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Sunrise Christian Church’s worship team decided last Sunday to change directions a bit and avoid all known Matt Redman songs in worship.

"We realized that most of the stuff we sing was written by him, so we wanted to change up the spirit of things," says the worship leader. "You can’t let one songwriter dominate your song selection."

They successfully avoided better-known Redman songs like "The Heart of Worship" and the nearly ubiquitous "Blessed Be Your Name." They also vetoed "Wonderful Maker" and "Once Again," as team members shrewdly recalled that these songs, too, might have been written by the prolific Christian Brit.

Then things went off course. To end worship time, the band segued into "Let Everything That Has Breath" and "Better is One Day." "I didn’t know those were Matt Redman songs," said the guitarist sheepishly later. The band further erred by playing "I Will Offer Up My Life" and "Let My Words Be Few" while the offering was taken.

After the service, a somber mood engulfed them in the green room.
"It’s impossible to completely avoid Matt Redman songs during any extended time of worship," said the band leader dejectedly. "People may as well give in."
The pianist said she felt "Redman-handled by the whole experience."
"It’s humbling to realize that without Matt Redman, I wouldn’t have a worship music vocabulary," she said.

In separate news, a remote tribe was discovered in the mountains of New Guinea, and despite their complete isolation from the modern world, the tribe was already familiar with the gospel of Jesus Christ and with several Matt Redman songs which the tribespeople say angelic beings taught them. Missionaries gave the tribe Bibles, a crank-powered CD player and a Matt Redman’s greatest hits CD.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Goodbye HD DVD

Toshiba has announced that they are dropping all products related to HD DVD, leaving the door open for Blu Ray to dominate the market. This is exactly why I have not yet made the move to purchase a HD player (well, and because I can't afford it!) The battle, which has been brewing for several years now, is not unlike the classic VHS vs. Beta battle so many years ago. Of course, VHS won that battle, and it appears that Blu Ray has won this one.

Andi and I have made the move to High Definition this past Christmas. It was our gift to each other (cleverly disguised as Santa I have to say on Christmas morning, one of my better moments) and we love it. The HD channels really are something to behold and from what I have seen, the Blu Ray disks make watching your favorite movie an entirely new experience. The quality of standard definition that your current DVD player offers is nothing compared to the HD of Blu Ray.

Unfortunately, Blu Ray players are still super expensive, as are the movies. However, one of the cool things about these players is that they will "upconvert" your regular DVD's into a simulated HD viewing. They won't look near as good as the Blu Ray disks, but they will look much better than what your current DVD player presents. So, that is one positive, your old DVD's will still play on the Blu Ray players and look even better than before.

Time will tell what happens from here. Circuit City and Best Buy have already dramatically dropped the prices of their HD DVD Players, but unless you are willing to build your library of HD DVD titles very fast, I would wait and get a Blu Ray player. I think it is going to be with us for a while to come.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thundarr the Barbarian

Over the last several weeks, I have re-discovered my love for the early 1980's cartoon "Thundarr the Barbarian." I have written elsewhere about my love and devotion to the cartoon "Dangermouse." (Be careful, my wife will tell you that one of the few things to really set me off is to confuse Dangermouse with Mighty Mouse). Thundarr is special for a couple of reasons. Here are a few:

1. When you re-watch old He-Man cartoons (and I was a huge fan of the He-Man action figure collection, but I will save that for another day), you really just can't make it through an entire episode. Looking back now, they are just so hokey, partly because of the character "Orko" which really ruined the otherwise good vs. evil situation. Skeletor remains one of the best cartoon villains of all time. Thundarr, on the other hand, remained fairly dark and "serious." There was of course humor in every episode and hokey moments, but for the most part the episodes took themselves seriously.

2. It showed the action. Whereas most cartoons up to Thundarr would "shoot away" when the explosion or fighting would happen, Thundarr was the first to really show what was going on and in that way it was somewhat revolutionary. You can see this clearly in the intro (see below). A massive tidal wave destroys San Francisco.

3. They storylines were actually somewhat complex. They did a good job of making the cartoon fun and interesting for an 8 year old, yet still enjoyable for an adult. For example, the episode I watched last night entitled "Island of the Body Snatchers" involved the transference of Princess Ariel's soul with that of the cursed witch in order for the witch to break her curse yet still keep her soul.

4. The characters are just so likeable and they have personality. Thundarr is not the smartest guy in the world, but he is a brilliant warrior and super loyal. Ariel is the practical one of the group and Ookla the Moc is a "Chewbacca-like" character in that he loves Thundarr and would do anything for him. I also love that Thundarr has classic lines that he uses in every episode, like "Lords of Light" and "Demon Dogs" and "Ariel, Ookla, Riiiiiiiiide."

5. I can remember when I was 8 year old watching Thundarr that I was obsessed with his "sunsword" which is really just a rip-off of the Star Wars light saber. Nevertheless, I loved how it clicked onto his wristband and I love the noise it makes when he puts it back on his wrist.

6. The soundtrack is incredibly addictive. Andi is probably going crazy from me humming this thing constantly the last month.

So, although the cartoon is heavily influenced by Star Wars, it remains one of the best cartoons from the 80's and I am so glad that the Boomerang Network is airing it. In case you don't know, the Boomerang Network is part of the Cartoon Network, but what makes it so great is that they have the slogan "Right back atcha." Thus, it is called Boomerang because there are no commercials during the cartoon episode. Awesome.

So, check out the intro to Thundarr the Barbarian below and pay attention to both the great soundtrack and the "heaviness" of the subject matter. The Beast recommends it!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tom Schreiner and Tony Campolo

Dr. Tom Schreiner is brilliant. He is an expert on Pauline theology and is respected by most evangelical scholars as one of the best interpreters of Romans. I have been blessed to learn under him in two classes, New Testament I and New Testament Theology (which I am currently taking).

Tony Campolo is a well known pastor and social justice leader in the Christian community. He has self-proclaimed liberal political and social attitudes and calls for progressive thinking among Christian on living the words of Christ. He has the unique position of being the only living evangelical leader to experience a heresy trial. The trial was convened primarily for comments made in one of his books where he writes that Jesus is present in every person regardless of if they are a Christian and "Jesus is the only Savior, but not everybody who is saved by Him is aware that He is the one who is doing the saving."

So why do I mention these two men in the same post? From day 1 of our New Testament Theology class this semester, Dr. Schreiner has been encouraging us to keep our minds open to learning, even from sources that might get a majority of things dead wrong. For theology, famous names like Bultmann and Kasemann will usually strike a nerve for conservative evangelicals. Schreiner says that we should be open to learn from these men because they might have some good things to say among a lot of bad things to say. His expression he uses time and again is to not throw the baby out with the bath water.

This remains a work in progress for me. I believe we must as Christians be prepared to properly discern the dirty bath water. Nevertheless, there might very well be crucial lessons for us to hear even from people whom we would not normally align ourselves with.

Such is the case with Tony Campolo. I have never been a big fan of Campolo because he has always come across to me as trying to do the "shock and awe" thing in order to motivate Christians to take action. Plus, he just says a lot of stuff I don't agree with. But, yesterday I watched a sermon of his from the New Baptist Covenant on the advice of a friend. I was watching the sermon to get a view of Campolo's take on the purpose and emphasis of the NBC. God providentially brought all these things together because he said something that has been haunting me all day.

He said that when it comes to our children, we will preach the importance of the bible all day long, but then actually raise them from a contemporary cultural standpoint. He says with conviction:

"Raising children is a divine and holy calling and we are so busy trying to get enough money to buy stuff we don't need that we don't have time to raise our children. We drill into the minds of young people the values of the culture instead of the values of Jesus. . . we tell them to get a good education so they can make a lot of money so they can buy a lot of stuff. It's all about stuff."

I could become so "anti-Campolo" that I would have missed this good word from him. Lord willing, I will be a father one day. Nothing will be dearer to my heart than raising my child in the ways of Christ. That might very well mean not only raising my boy or girl in ways that seem strange to the culture, but changing my own lifestyle to more closely resemble the tough message Christ brings us.

I am going to make sure that baby does not go out with the bath water.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New Baptist Covenant

Due to several factors, not the least of which was a packed schedule and tuition, I was unable to attend the New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta, GA. I had hoped to attend the meeting. You can read my good friend and former colleague Mike Ruffin's thoughts here.

A fellow student of mine at Southern, he is a Ph.D. Candidate named David Roach, did have the opportunity to attend the meeting. Upon his return to Louisville, he wrote an insightful article for the SBTS community. His comments I think are right on and are pertinent not just to the NBC, but to any kind of situation where good meaning people are involved in differing organizations. Here is some of what David had to say:
"The New Baptist Covenant is certainly right to insist that professed Christians treat one another with love and kindness. However. . . some groups, by their very natures, cannot partner with certain other groups in cooperative ventures. Yet that lack of cooperation does not necessarily make those groups either unloving or unkind.

I think that is an important point for both SBC supporters and CBF folk to remember. I affirm the NBC's call for unity in spreading the Gospel and appreciate their zeal for social justice. As a Christian first and a Baptist second, any kind of unloving or unkind attitude toward my fellow brothers and sisters should clearly be set aside. But that does not mean that I, even though a Baptist, should necessarily unite with the NBC (should there be something to unite with) just because I am a Baptist and I am called to love. Roach goes on to quote Pastor Gerald Durley from Atlanta who was the leader of one of the break-out sessions. My suspicions I think were validated by this kind of teaching:

"[he] said that Baptists need to get over the desire to convert everyone to faith in Christ and appreciate the beauty of religions like Islam. He compared the religions of the world to vegetable soup that is flavorful because of its diversity, saying, 'In a vegetable soup you've got carrots, you've got potatoes, you've got tomatoes, you've got all these vegetables and when they come together, I've never seen a carrot say, "Boy, I think I'll become a potato this evening."

That's pretty rough. Even if he is going to argue for pluralism, surely he can come up with something better than that. I don't want to fall into the fallacy of thinking the NBC as a whole holds this view because this one pastor was teaching it, but I do think it serves as a general idea of the theological mindset of the group. That is something I just can't be a part of. Not because I am unloving or unkind, but because it goes against a crucial part of Scripture that I believe is non-negotiable.

Here is the flip side. Those who are loyal to the SBC, the more conservative lot, should not make the mistake of thinking the good people over CBF churches are just liberal, unloving idiots. We can argue our cases, we can cite Scripture, we can debate. But if they decide to not partner with the SBC because of their own conviction to their belief structure, then we must respect that and continue to love. I am glad the often labeled "conservative resurgence" happened. However, from what I have heard, many involved in the desire to move the convention back to a more conservative position were less than loving and kind in the process. That is unfortunate. Nevertheless, I have no problem with people of faith standing firm in their convictions of matter of importance. We are blessed with a long history of men and women who have done exactly that, even at the cost of their own lives, so we can discuss these issues today.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with actively living a life of love to all who we come in contact with, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, even those who do not share our views. But it always leaves us with the understanding that we might not all fit into one group, fellowship, convention, or covenant together.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Beast Salutes: Roy Scheider

Richard Dreyfuss was the funny guy. Robert Shaw was the man of mystery. But Roy Scheider really held the movie together. I am referring, of course, to the 1975 masterpiece known as Jaws. Scheider starred in many films over his career, including the classic "The French Connection" but it was Jaws that made him a household name. There is just something so endearing about his role as Police Chief Martin Brody and his character never grows stale. Even after 10 viewings of the film, you are still captured by his performance. Scheider was made famous from his line "We're going to need a bigger boat." But even greater still is his line on the beach, while anticipating something terrible happening, "That's some bad hat Harry." The creators of the hit television show "House" knew this, and have made an animated closure to the television episode that is a tribute to Scheider, even though the majority of House fans have no idea. So, here is a final farewell from The Beast. I will see you around the bay of Amity Island sometime soon.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

When Conservatism Is Not Enough

I am a conservative. If you have been a regular reader of The Beast's Lair, this should not be a jaw-dropping statement. (Incidentally, my conservatism is at time masked for those who do not know me as well because I have long hair.) I have many friends who would consider themselves "moderates" and even some who would call themselves "liberal" in their theology and approach to Scripture. (I recognize that the terms conservative, moderate, and liberal can mean many things to different people, but for the purposes of this post, these labels will suffice.)

Historically, one of the pivotal issues to determine where a person falls along this spectrum of conservative to liberal is in the area of Scripture. For the most part, and again I am speaking in generalities so I can quickly get to my ultimate point, if you are talking with a moderate, you will hear words like "infallible" crop up in the conversation. If you are talking to a conservative, the more likely word will be "inerrant" coupled with "infallible." Scripture doesn't really ever come up in conversations with liberals.

That last line was supposed to be funny.

When someone uses the word "infallible," they typically lean on an "at the end of the day" argument. At the end of the day, the bible will accomplish all it was designed for in faith and practice and we can have complete confidence in its overall message. When someone uses the word "inerrant," they typically mean that the bible is without error or contradiction in every way, perfectly inspired by the Holy Spirit and penned with the personalities of the biblical writers. That is a ridiculously simple explanation of those terms and much more should be said to do justice to those positions. But, here is what I am getting at:

This year will mark a decade of having the privilege to serve in the local church. God has blessed me in tremendous ways and I have learned a great deal about many things. Here is one that concerns me. Conservatives like me in the church are real quick to jump on the "inerrant" bandwagon. (And we are right to do so). We don't take kindly to those blasted moderates telling us that the bible is trustworthy for faith but not necessarily without error on some issues. We will stand our ground and hold forth the banner of inerrancy.

But then comes time to live it.

When is conservatism not enough? When we as conservatives proudly proclaim the inerrancy of Scripture but pay little attention to its sufficiency. In other words, we hold tight to the absence of error in the bible, but then brush to the side its teachings that interfere with our own worldview. The topics are endless. Divorce, church discipline, evangelism, worship, personal growth and on and on. Many are not even convinced of the sufficiency of Scripture to accurately portray God's self-revelation of Himself! But hey, it's inerrant! Something is wrong here. I have had a couple, and will continue to have more, conversations with a dear lady in my church concerning the nature of God. Among many issues, her biggest roadblock, and there are many right along with her even among evangelicals, is that God would never send anyone to hell. This is not the place to defend the judgment of God, but she will say to me in every conversation, "I know the bible is without error, but I just don't think God would do that."

Listen friends, the bible is tough. And we are inconsistent. My dear sister in the faith does not believe God would judge a person to hell, but yet has no problem believing God would joyfully crush His son to save a wretched sinner. The former is deserved, the latter is undeserved. Which is more difficult, the doctrine of God's judgment or the doctrine of God's love? His love.

So, we can and should hold fast to the inerrancy of the bible. But we Christians need to grasp the power of its sufficiency and seek it out in all matters of life and faith. For the glory of God.