Archive for the 'Theological Musings' Category

Evangelicalism 101(a)

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

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This quarter’s Theology News and Notes from Fuller Theological Seminary is an excellent overview of the Evangelical Movement. It is well worth the read for anyone serious about trying to get their arms around the background and contemporary status of this important historical stream in the Protestant tradition.

Demons and “Place”

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

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The demonic is real.

Some people have gifts in discerning such spiritual realities. I’m not one of them. Nevertheless, I have no doubt as to the existence, the influence, or the power of such beings and have had numerous experiences over the years where the demonic has manifested itself.

One such manifestation that we see in scripture and in reality is that demons can be attached to people, objects and places. Recently, I have been in situations where we took seriously the issue of “place.”

John and Deanna Hayes who lead InnerCHANGE, the order among the poor within CRM, have moved with their two girls to Tower Hamlets, a borough in the east end of London. The flat they are renting is part of “estate housing”—the British term for tenements—that house an amazing and wonderful cultural menagerie. Their immediate neighborhood is predominantly Bengali Muslim.

Along with John, Deanna, and the girls, Patty and I spent time praying through, and cleansing, their new digs. We went room by room, anointing each doorway with oil, commanding, in the name of Jesus, any residual spirits to be gone, and then asking the Spirit of God to fill each room with his presence, making it holy ground. We also prayed for the function of each room to be sanctified and empowered by the Spirit in every respect.

I would do this as a matter of course for any new home or lodging. I frequently do the same thing when I enter a hotel room for a night. Who knows what’s gone on in such a public place!? At least while I’m there, I would like it to be filled with the presence of God and be a safe island of rest.

While I may not necessarily see the overt results of such prayer, others may. A few years back, we were traveling and another couple stayed in our home. The wife has definite gifts of spiritual discernment but the husband doesn’t—he’s kind of thick like me. Nevertheless, both of them, apart from one another, had visions in the middle of the night of demons trying to scale the walls and parameters of the property but with no success. It was “protected” and holy ground.

I’ve also seen what happens when these realities are not taken seriously. For example, when CRM first sent people to serve and minister in Russia after the fall of communism in the early 90s, they stepped unprepared into a spiritually dark and profoundly oppressive setting. When demonic appertains began appearing overtly in their apartment, they thought they were loosing their minds.

While our rationalistic western world-view makes it hard to buy into such supernatural goings on, it’s very real. It’s unfortunate that sometimes this whole thing gets sensationalized and consequently dismissed. But we do so to our peril.

End Times Obsession

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

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The LA Times reported today that dispensationalist pastor John Hagee’s 2006 book, Jerusalem Countdown, has sold an amazing 1.1 million copies.

The fascination with such end-times speculation by the masses is absolutely stunning. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since it is the same type of phenomena that the Left Behind series generated and is consistent with the array of apocalyptic demagoguery that has plagued the Christian movement since the days of the early church. What’s so pathetic about this is that people who are supposedly so biblically committed would be tantalized by such useless guesswork.

The fact is that in every passage where Jesus describes the end times, he draws the same conclusion and admonishes us toward the same application: “Be about the Master’s business.” And he repeatedly cautions against trying to determine timetables or dates.

If only a percentage of the energy, time and resources that gets misplaced into such meaningless pursuits were really focused on “the Master’s business,” what a difference it would make in a hurting world!

It’s ironic and sadly revealing that a volume like Hagee’s has sold 1.1 million, and a volume like John Hayes’ excellent work, sub-merge: Living Deep in a Shallow World: Service, Justice and Contemplation among the Wo rld’s Poor, has sold about 4,000 since it was released last month. I have a strong bias about which one really encourages those who follow Jesus to be about the Master’s kingdom business. Those numbers alone are a dismal commentary on the state of western Christianity.

Critiques of the West

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Qutb

Sayyid Qutb is considered the father off modern Islamic radicalism. An Egyptian writer and poet, he was executed by Gamal Nasser in 1966. Yet what he wrote still reverberates throughout the Islamic world and profoundly affects Muslim perceptions of Western culture. About the U.S. (where he studied as an exchange student), he wrote in a famous polemic,
The America I have Seen:

“This great America: What is it worth in the scale of human values? And what does it add to the moral account of humanity? And, by the journey’s end, what will its contribution be? I fear that a balance may not exist between American’s material greatness and the quality of its people. And I fear that the wheel of life will have turned and the book of life will have closed and America will have added nothing, or next to nothing, to the account of morals that distinguishes man from object, and indeed, mankind from animals.”

Compare that perspective and the striking similarities with these passages from Pope Benedict XVI in his 1990 book, In the Beginning:

Pope Benedict Xvi

“The good and the moral no longer count, it seems, but only what one can do. The measure of a human being is what he can do, and not what he is, not what is good or bad. What he can do, he may do . . . And that means that he is destroying himeslf and the world . . . [The question] ‘What can we do?’ will be false and pernicious while we refrain from asking ‘who are we?’ The question of being and the question of our hopes are inseparable.”

Both works are biting critiques of the bankruptcy of Western culture. It is not unlike the extensive treatment that Protestant theologian, Os Guinness, produced 30 years ago entitled, The Dust of Death, which articulately dissected the same spiritual poverty. Or consider the works of Alexander Solzenitzen which do the same.

While intellectually understanding such critiques, the emotional impact was driven home to me on my first visit to Beirut several years ago. Particularly jarring was the visual displays of wealth, materialism, sex and sensuality that were everywhere in the so called “Christian” enclaves. I saw, and actually felt, for the first time what devout Muslims must see and feel when confronted with the decadence of Western culture. It is a decadence that I suspect I have become numb to because it is the social and moral ocean in which I swim.

Perhaps it takes a Benedict, a Guinness, or a Solzenitzen to jar us to reality. Or a Sayyid who helps give us insight into the passions that motivate devout young Arabs to strap explosives around their waists and blow up soldiers from Western nations.

(The comparison between Sayyid and Benedict are based on an article by John L. Allen Jr. in the 11/16/06 Op Ed section of the Los Angeles Times).

Ralph Winter on Holism

Monday, November 13th, 2006

 Acm Images Winter
“The most shocking, tragic and incredible delusion built right into contemporary Evangelicalism in many areas is the idea that we are here on earth simply to get more people fixed up for eternity.

That aspiration is basic, of course. But it’s preliminary to a life lived 24/7 in an all-out battle against those things that dishonor God: evil things, disease germs, corruption, dishonesty in industry and government. I John 3:8 says, ‘The Son of God came for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the Devil.’ And, as the Father sent Him, so He sends us!

In fact, glorifying God by fighting evil is the best way to win people to Christ. Jesus Himself, fought evil, dishonesty and greed—and disease. He did this to reveal to us the character of our heavenly Father.

It is no merely a case of overcoming evil with good, as when we run up against ‘flesh and blood.” We must also deliberately seek out and destroy evil in order to defend and confirm the character of our Father in Heaven.”

In Mission Frontiers, November, 2006.

The Gospel of the Kingdom

Saturday, July 15th, 2006

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He looked frail and walked unsuredly. But when he stood up to speak, – without notes and with only an open bible – there was power not limited by advancing years and failing heatlh.

When I sat in George Eldon Ladd’s (1911-1982) class on New Testament Theology, I had no idea what I was being exposed to or to whom. I really didn’t get it. I was in my mid-20s and had no idea of the definitive theological work he was doing that would serve as such a needed corrective to evangelical protestant theology in the 20th century. Ladd’s exploration of the “already/not yet” concept of the kingdom of God forced both covenant theology and dispensationalism to rethink their systems.

I was naive to a biblical understanding of the Kingdom of God and how that theme should shape so much of our perspective on life and ministry if we are truly the biblical people of God living under Jesus’ kingdom rule. Even now, thirty years later, I’m still struggling to “get it” and how it broadly applies to all that I do.

His titles include: The Blessed Hope; Crucial Questions about the Kingdom of God; The Gospel and the Kingdom; I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus; Jesus and the Kingdom; The Last Things: An Eschatology for Laymen; The Meaning of the Millennium; The New Testament and Criticism; The Presence of the Future. His major work, that is a broad summary and is used widely today is: A Theology of the New Testament.


“A Theology of the New Testament” (George Eldon Ladd)

the Imago Dei

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

From the Scopes Monkey trial to the present day, it is discouraging in North America to see followers of Christ choosing battlefields and going to war culturally on the wrong turf. Lines get drawn in unfortunate places and the Christian faith suffers from self-inflicted wounds.

Regarding this issue of origins, what really makes a difference is the understanding and commitment to the Imago Dei (Genesis 1:27). Contrary to lots of the populist and emotional rhetoric, the real crux of the matter is not how creation happened, but the fact that humanity’s origin is not a matter of time, plus, chance plus matter but that we are created and have our genesis in the very being and essence of the triune God.

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It’s when the Imago Dei goes that humanity inevitably descends into the nihilism of a Nietzsche, the hopelessness of a Camus and ultimately the practical consequences of an Adolph Hitler. Without the Imago Dei, the whole basis of morality and ethics in Western culture simply evaporates. It’s the image of God that really counts and where historic Christianity has always drawn the line.

One of the best elaborations of this theme that I have found over the years is the treatment given it by Francis Schaeffer in his little, often overlooked volume, Genesis in Time and Space. It’s worth the read.

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Genesis in Time and Space by Francis Schaeffer