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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jeremiah Wright and Liberation Theology

The Jeremiah Wright-Barack Obama relationship has been absolutely dominating the world of politics over the last couple of months and specifically the last couple of days. Obama and his campaign have now completely distanced themselves from the Reverend after Wright rattled off a string of televised press interviews. From those press tapings, Wright alleged that Obama agreed with his views but was unable to publicly say so because "he is a politician." He also reiterated his views on the US government's responsibility in 911.

Having listened and watched Jeremiah Wright react to this now worldwide issue, my assessment of him comes down to simply this: He does not have much practical sense. I think at the very heart of Jeremiah Wright's message is the reality that God does not hold the United States in some glorious high esteem above and beyond all the other nations. On that point, I am in full agreement. Regular Lair readers know my uneasiness with the tendency for our churches to make an unhealthy mix of Christianity and Patriotism. I see Wright missing the mark in primarily two ways.

First, I remember two words of wisdom my father gave me before I preached my first sermon:
1. Always let your hearers know what a great privilege it is to preach the Word.
2. Don't do stupid things from the pulpit.
Well, you might think that those two little insights my father offered me were rather trivial and obvious, but I think they moved me quickly beyond where I would have otherwise been starting out, and still to this day resound with me every time I preach. It is a great honor to preach and the Word does not need my antics to change lives. I'm not sure Jeremiah Wright received the same advise. From what I have seen and heard, Wright makes his points in ways that are unduly inflammatory; the core of his message gets lost in the speech and manner in which he makes it. During the press tapings, he was being a "showstopper", providing animated musings to go along with a defense of his words. It is one thing to preach with a certain methodology to a specific congregation, it is quite another when the entire nation is your audience, especially when someone he is clearly supporting might suffer because of his actions and words. If Wright would invoke some practical sense, stop the animated charading, and speak respectfully about the issues, things could only be better. I should add here that although I think Wright's ultimate message of God's impartiality to the United States is right on, he has clearly said some things which go too far and destroy whatever good insight he might otherwise have passed on.

The second issue for the overall views of Wright is wrapped up in black liberation theology. Black liberation theology, like any other theology of liberation, is heavily focused on social action, the oppressed, and the poor. There is no doubt that much good has come from its teaching and preaching. Nevertheless, I am skeptical anytime a message dominates the pulpit or church other than the new creation that is found in Christ Jesus. Liberation theology places such a strong emphasis on realized eschatology and the immanence of God that much of God's transcendence and future coming glory is left unnoticed. Again, the theology of the Already/Not Yet is helpful here. We must maintain a proper balance between what God has done and is doing now on earth, that we are already redeemed and set free, but that there is a crucially important "not yet" apsect that is coming. For the most part, liberation theology fixates on the "already." This is not unique to liberation theology. I have the same concern with liberal theology and any movement that revolves solely around a social agenda.

I am curious to see what happens over the next few months. I can only imagine the inner turmoil this is causing Obama. Time will tell.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Student Ministry Construction

Here are a few pictures to update you on the construction of the youth worship facility at Graefenburg Baptist Church. The teenagers and I are very excited to be well on our way of completing phase two of the construction process. The first step was a complete remodeling of the youth fellowship space and this second step will allow us to not only worship together, but also have ample room for bible studies, special occasions, etc. I am thankful for the church, and in particular a few members, who have been so influential in catching on to the vision of the youth ministry, seeing the need, and helping us out so much. From the photos below, you can see the building of the firewall, the interior construction with wiring, and the outside paneling. We are getting close!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

You Will Laugh

The name of this video on YouTube is "If you watch this 100 times you will still laugh." Well, I have watched it about 12 times and I am still laughing. I don't know why, but it is pretty darn funny. Part of it could be that it is 4:09 in the morning and as usual, my days and nights are reversed. Oh well, if you watch this and don't laugh, go to the doctor because something is wrong.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Southern Baptist Bookstore - Are the Shelves Empty?

My attention has recently been drawn to a blog by Michael Spencer, aka "The Internet Monk", concerning the resources available, or more to the point not available, at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary bookstore. The main thrust of his argument, which can be read here, is that the SBTS bookstore contains "empty" shelves in the area of literature that would contribute to the "evangelical conversation." He cites two major topics of books, those being apologetics and spiritual formation, as the kinds of books not being written by SBC leadership. He does acknowledge that the SBC is writing books on "church growth, evangelism and the 'popular' level of devotional literature." I am a little confused how SBC leadership can be writing books on evangelism but not contributing to the "evangelical conversation." Finally, he says that "the Southern Baptist dearth of formative resources is a serious problem."

I agree with some of the observations Michael points out. There is, in fact, a void of thought provoking, non-hokey spiritual formation resources from SBC leadership. One great exception is Southern's own Dr. Don Whitney. I am sure that there are even more topics besides the two Michael lists where the SBC is not producing as much work as in other areas. Nevertheless, I don't share his same concern as this being a "serious problem" and am surprised he would think it as such.

Michael refers to himself as a "post-evangelical." What is that you ask? Well, no one knows for sure, these kinds of modern terms are still working themselves out, but based on Michael's own definition in a blog titled, "what do I mean by post-evangelical", he says that post-evangelicals understand that it "emerges from a matrix of the text of Holy Scripture, the history of interpretation, cultural and sub-cultural presuppositions, the use of reason, the place of experience, the wisdom of the teachers of the larger church and the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing more light." Based on this partial definition, which makes me uneasy at best, it is surprising that he would view a lack of sources within a single area or two from the SBC as a serious issue. His foundation seems to be built on the teaching of the "larger church" and the merger of many ideas and concepts. Why, then, should the SBC feel pressure to be the leading producer in every field of study? Usually, the argument against the SBC runs in the opposite direction, that it tries to keep all things Christian underneath its own umbrella and operates as a monopoly from which churches and individuals cannot escape. Surely it is a good thing for SBC members to be reading formative material from Godly people outside our convention. Surely it is a good thing for non-SBC'ers to know that we actually believe God uses people who are not Southern Baptist. Surely it is a good thing to remind ourselves that, as one person aptly put it, the SBC is not "God's gift to Christianity."

So, I think Michael is right in his observations and has some good things to say. I don't share his concern that this issue is a serious problem for the SBC. I agree that the SBC needs to produce more leaders who can contribute meaningful works in some of these areas, but we should be thankful for the good material that is out there, even from people who are not Southern Baptist.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Southern Seminary Quote of the Day

From Dr. Schreiner on the quickness and ease which we argue against a biblical interpretation:

"Before we begin critiquing our brothers and sisters, it might help to actually know what they are saying."

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Peter Enns Controversy

Peter Enns is a professor of OT and Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. In 2005 he wrote a book titled "Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament." As soon as the book hit the shelves, conversations ensued about the potential controversy that could arise from Enns' conclusions. Those conversations proved to be true. On March 27, the Board of Trustees at Westminster Theological Seminary announced that professor Peter Enns would be suspended from teaching at the conclusion of this school year.

I have not yet read the book (I still have plenty to read for this semester of classes, not to mention the 5 parenting books that are on my list for the summer) but I have kept myself somewhat up to date on the responses to the book's claims. In short, from what I have understood, the book asks questions that are not new to the issue of Scripture. Questions such as how the OT uses myth as “an ancient, premodern, prescientific way of addressing questions of ultimate origins in the form of stories.” Critics have wondered if Enns allows for the historicity of the OT accounts. He also asserts that the Bible's portrayal of Jesus and other events were "culturally clothed" in the time which they were written. Again, we have heard these things before.

The somewhat unique flavor that Enns brings to the discussion is his parallel of the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the inspiration of Scripture. Apparently, Enns makes the point that we as 21st century Christians tend to de-emphasize the humanity of Christ and lean heavily on his deity. I don't disagree with him on that point. Since, then, we understand Christ to be both fully human and fully divine, he concludes that Christians should have a similar view of Scripture, that it is conceived through an equal outpouring of the divine and humanity. With a proper understanding of the impact this human emphasis places on Scripture, Enns argues we can better understand the way it is wrapped in 2nd century culture and would have been interpreted through the lens a 2nd temple literature hemeneutical style. Therefore, when the gospel writers apparently make blatant "mistakes" in their use of OT Scripture, we understand that through the human, cultural lens.

Keeping my response to a minimum since I do not have a full reading of Enn's argument, it seems that the foundation of his thesis, that the inspiration and the incarnation should be understood together, places too strong of a distinction between the humanity and deity of Christ. Yes, we affirm the full humanity and full deity of Christ, but we affirm them in the one person of Christ. The reader should remember that if we make such a parallel between the humanity of Jesus and the humanity of the biblical authors, the fruit of Jesus' human life was perfect, he was without sin. That was, of course, possible through his humanity and deity being in the one person of Christ, not separate persons, a reminder of the Nestorius heresy. So, if we take seriously the Chalcedonian definition of Christology as we make the parallel Enns suggests, his argument should actually cause reflection on how the bible has come to us in a perfected form, not how we can understand it's strange and culturally clothed imperfections.

Regardless, the issue of inspiration remains vital for the church. I am currently dealing with a long time Christian who just simply does not believe parts of the bible that are difficult to grasp, such as why God would ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. That, she said, was misunderstood by whoever wrote Genesis. God would never do that. Well, perhaps she would find comfort in a potential reading of Enn's approach - the story of Abraham and Isaac needs to be understood from the human authorial perspective which can help us understand its mythological approach, shortcoming, or what have you. The problem is that once you start down that road, how do we know what parts of the bible should be viewed through human side of authorship or divine side? How do we know the resurrection was not just another "impossibility" of God that was used to be interpreted by the 2nd century methods? This is what continues to worry me about any position other than inerrancy. Once you establish that any one part of the bible might be in error, you then must have a set of criteria to establish the error from the truth. Unfortunately, no one has that definitive set of criteria because it doesn't exist. I do want to note here that after some criticism of Enn's approach surfaced, he did express regret for not emphasizing the divine source of Scripture enough in his book.

We can have full confidence in Scripture for the very fact that man was never acting alone in its writing. Scripture is "God breathed" and the men were "carried along" by the Holy Spirit as they wrote. Although we get to enjoy the human personalities and writing style for each author of the bible, we never experience those authors completely on their own terms. Rather, they are always united with the purposes of God's intended revelation and His guiding inspiration. Such, we hope, is the case for each of us. That we as followers of Christ have ceased to live on our own terms, but have crucified our flesh for the gain of being united with Christ. Blessings to you today!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Major News for RexandtheBeast.com

Exciting News at RexandtheBeast.com! (my theme park enthusiast site co-founded with Rex) We have just purchased a ride in the first seat in the back row of Led Zeppelin--The Ride on the charity auction conducted by Hard Rock Park. Due to scheduling issues, Rex will be going to Hard Rock Park to take the ride; I can't make it. Rex will be flying out of Denver into South Carolina to take the first ride and enjoy a sneak preview of Hard Rock Park. Of course, RexandtheBeast.com will have pictures, video and other information regarding the ride and the day. All of this happens on April 15. Awesome!

So, RexandtheBeast.com and Rex specifically will be going down in history as the first person to ever ride this new coaster. Thanks to seminary, I can't make it. :( Oh well, at least Rex will be representing us!

To watch our latest Dollywood Trip Video, click here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sorry for the lack of posts

Hello everyone, sorry for the lack of posts lately, I am just swamped at the moment. This is currently my spring break, but I am a taking a week long course during my spring break, so I am in class all day long. I will see you next week. Blessings.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Annunciation, Christmas, and Abortion

My cyberspace friend and fellow minister Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer has written an article concerning the inter-relatedness of the Annunciation and abortion. He makes some interesting points I have not considered on the whole "when does a fetus become a person" argument. It is worth taking a look.

The Beast will be a Father.

I am letting my friends here at the Lair know the good news that Andi and I are expecting! Last week I was able to accompany Andi to her doctor and we were both able to hear the baby's heartbeat! Wow, talk about an amazing experience. Having the blessed opportunity to experience all this excitement with my wife has, once again, reminded me of God's great power and love. When you hear that little heart beating so fast and you begin to read and understand all the amazing little details that have to fall into place for this baby to grow and develop, it is undeniable that God is a great creator. What a leap of faith it takes to not believe in God!

We are both so excited and appreciate your prayers for us and our baby. We are currently working on names with not much success. Apparently, my suggestion of Jedediah for a boy's name just isn't going to happen. But hey, we still have some time to figure it out! Andi is doing well, she is not really fond of odors right now, either good or bad, but the excitement and joy of being parents is almost too much for us. I will keep you posted!