Monday, October 27, 2008

Schuller Removes His Son for Too Many Biblical References

I never thought I'd hear this. The preacher for the Hour of Power has been removed for too many references to the Bible. Robert H. Schuller removed his son Robert A. Schuller from the Crystal Cathedral's Hour of Power broadcast. An L.A. Times article inferred that the preaching style of the younger Schuller could threaten the market for Hour of Power because he referred too much to the Bible. The article states,

Schuller built his worldwide ministry over a half century on the psychology of positive thinking and appealing to people turned off by the formality of traditional faiths. In contrast, his son's sermons have been full of direct references to the Bible.

The elder Schuller stated, "I was called to start a mission, not a church, there is a difference. . . . You don't try to preach . . . what is sin and what isn't sin. A mission is a place where you ask nonbelievers to come and find faith and hope and feel love. We're a mission first, a church second."

So let me get this straight. When you are trying to reach non-believers, you don't refer to sin? Pastors who want to reach nonbelievers shouldn't refer too much to the Scriptures? A mission is a place where nonbelievers can come and find faith and hope and feel love...with as little mention of the Bible as possible?

The Crystal Cathedral has long been an example of a completely man-centered ministry. Robert H. Schuller has championed the self-esteem gospel which refuses to offend man's sensibilities with any mention of sin or judgment. Salvation is equated with regaining one's self-esteem and living up to one's potential. The biblical gospel has replaced with Schuller's own version. With this latest development, we see how consistently Schuller is sticking to his game plan.
This reminds me of the famous statement by H. Richard Niebhur in his critique of the optimism of liberal theology. Niehbur characterized liberal theology like this: "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross." One can only conclude from the elder Schuller's statement that we might add to Niebhur's critique, "...and sermons without Scripture."

How sad that Schuller continues to shield his viewers and listeners from the very thing that could actually bring them faith, hope, and love - the Word of God.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pluralism and the Enthronement of Man

Religion News Service ran this feature article on a pluralistic "church" in New York. The church called Faith House is led by Samir Selmanovic, a Seventh Day Adventist who describes himself as an "atheist Muslim" who converted to Christianity while doing military service in the former Yugoslavia. The church has three women who co-lead programs for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. According to the Harvard University Pluralism Project, these kinds of multi-faith gatherings are on the rise across the U.S.

After a recent lecture on "The Blessing of Atheism" the group was asked to scribble their thoughts about God on pieces of paper. Candles were then lit and their thoughts about God were burned. The ashes were placed in small baggies for the participants to take with them. Selmanovic commented, "when you are sure about anything at all, you can put your hand in your pocket and touch it."

It seems to me that the acceptance of such pluralism is an assault on meaning itself. If one can accept theism and atheism as equally viable "faiths" then words seem to have no meaning at all. Theism and atheism are polar opposites. A person must abandon any sense of logic to accept all the fallacies and contradictions involved in viewing the two as equally tenable. It is very postmodern of Mr. Selmanovic to have the participants at his gathering burn their concepts of God and cart the ashes off in a bag. It was a symbolic gesture suggesting that we need to abandon time-honored theological categories and open the door to our own, new formulations of who God is.

This kind of pluralism is an exercise in the enthronement of man. It is an invitation to make God in your own image. To suggest that Christianity would be a compatible partner in this pluralistic dance is to ignore the founding documents of Christianity altogether. The New Testament writers were quite insistent on the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as the unique Son of God and only Savior. This would no doubt be viewed as rigid and narrow to pluralistic "Christians." Yet, it is the clear testimony of the Apostles and of Jesus Himself (John 14:6).

Christianity is not a wax nose to be shaped and formed into whatever we decide it should look like. It is bounded by the revelation of God recorded in Holy Scripture. It is a faith "once for all delivered to the saints." One may disagree with it. One may reject it. But it is intellectually dishonest (and spiritually dangerous) to reformulate it so as to make it compatible with other world religions.

It is certainly right for Christians to dialogue with those of other faiths or no faith. It is essential that Christians carry out this dialogue in a respectful way (1 Peter 3:15). Yet, Christians must not dilute or distort the truth about Christianity in an attempt to assuage the offended sensibilities of a pluralistic culture. We must never be offensive in our presentation of the Christian gospel. But we must understand that the Christian gospel has elements that are central to it which will be offensive to those who are not Christians (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). If we edit the gospel so as to appease our culture, we offend God, enthrone ourselves as arbiters of truth, and find ourselves declaring a false gospel.

Scaling the Heights When the Market Plunges

We are living through some of the most turbulent times in recent memory. Long-trusted names in the banking industry have gone belly up. The stock market has seen historic losses. I’m sure that many of you, like me, have watched your retirement fund go down, down, down. The government is stepping in with a 700 billion dollar bail-out plan. And all of this is taking place during a presidential election which is shrouded in political uncertainty. It makes us want to sing, “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…”

The prophet Habakkuk was living in such times. He watched in dismay while wickedness ran rampant and justice was perverted. In addition, God told him in no uncertain terms that a ruthless enemy invasion loomed on the horizon. These conditions would lead to economic collapse. Habakkuk described his response to such news in these terms:

I heard and my inward parts trembled, at the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us. (Habakkuk 3:16)

In the process of his dialogue with God about these issues, Habakkuk was reminded that Yahweh is in control of history. It is God who raises up nations and brings them down. It is God who is moving all things toward His ends and in accordance with His purposes. In the process of telling Habakkuk all these things, God makes a statement that is repeated three times in the New Testament. He tells Habakkuk, “The righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

Between chapter one and the close of the book in chapter three, a change becomes apparent in the attitude of the prophet. He moves from fear to faith. Habakkuk closes his brief prophecy with one of the highest expressions of faith in all of Scripture. He says:

Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds feet, and makes me walk on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

In an agricultural economy, this was the equivalent of a stock market crash. Yet, the prophet says that in spite of the economic collapse, he will rejoice and exult in the Lord Who is his salvation. A hind is a female deer which was known for its sure-footedness on the rocky crags of the wilderness. This was an expression of confidence and trust in the Lord in the midst of political and economic turmoil.

Our faith is not in Bernanke, Obama, or McCain. Our faith is not in the oval office. It is not in the halls of congress or the bench of the judiciary. It is not in military might or in the strength of the dollar. Our faith is in the God of our salvation who is with us through times of suffering and loss. When the market plunges, we can still scale the heights because our God reigns. Rejoice in Him!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Value of Propositional Truth Claims

I've been reading a collection of essays called Reforming or Conforming? Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church edited by Gary L.W. Johnson and Ronald N. Gleason. It has been a stimulating read to say the least.

In a chapter called Sola Scriptura as an Evangelical Theological Method, John Bolt is discussing the validity of expecting sources other than the Bible to contribute to the task of doing theology. Bolt concludes that there are indeed other sources which contribute to theological method since all truth is God's truth. However, Bolt takes issue with the current postmodern trend to denigrate historic evangelicals for insisting that truth can be stated in universal propositions. He quotes LeRon Shuts who said that the desire of some evangelicals to "capture God in our finite propositions is nothing short of linguistic idolatry."

Bolt responds that evangelicals agree that though we cannot know God absolutely (only God knows Himself perfectly) and though language is always a culturally constructed form of communication, it does not follow that propositions about God are idolatrous. Bolt states:

"...speaking of God with clear, thoughtfully-reasoned claims that are indeed intended to be universally true is not "linguistic idolatry" when it is rooted in biblical revelation itself. In fact, this self-celebrated epistemological humility - not making universal claims about God - when we do have revelation, should be seen for what it is; disobedience and a failure to give an account of the hope (and truth) that is in us (1 Peter 3:15)."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Devastating Critique of Obama's Position on Life

Justin Taylor has posted this article on Obama's extreme pro-abortion position. This is not a critique from an "evangelical extremist" but from a highly respected intellectual. The critique is devastating in my opinion. It is a must-read. As we prepare to go the polls in a few weeks, this is the kind information we need to understand.

Here is one excerpt from the article by Robert P. George which Taylor cites:

What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be? Barack Obama’s America is one in which being human just isn’t enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin. It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights. In Obama’s America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the laws. In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: “that question is above my pay grade.” It was a profoundly disingenuous answer: For even at a state senator’s pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty. His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling: human beings have no rights until infancy—and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.

In the end, the efforts of Obama’s apologists to depict their man as the true pro-life candidate that Catholics and Evangelicals may and even should vote for, doesn’t even amount to a nice try. Voting for the most extreme pro-abortion political candidate in American history is not the way to save unborn babies.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Church Is Not My Church

Jamie and I spent a wonderful weekend in Scranton, KS with Cross Road Community Church and my dear friend Don Herren. It was a blessing to spend some time with the Herren family just catching up and visiting together. It was a privilege to preach five times over the weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed the time in Scranton.

As a pastor of a local church, I don't often get to venture beyond my own pulpit on Sundays. Of course, I like it that way. I love Country Acres and consider it a privilege beyond words to open God's Word week by week with our congregation. However, it is helpful to periodically spend some time with other congregations. It reminds me that my church is not the church. When you spend month after month immersed in the context of your own ministry, it is easy to get tunnel vision. The kingdom of God can seem smaller and smaller as the people and issues you deal with every day consume you.

When you spend a little time with another church family, it reminds you that God gathers His people and works through them all over the place. You meet others who love the Lord Jesus and are passionate for His Name. You worship with others where the style may be different but the substance is the same. You also discover that other Christians struggle with the same kinds of issues you struggle with. And you sense the oneness of heart that the Spirit of God generates among His people wherever they are found.

The church is the theater in which the glory of God is displayed for all to see (Ephesians 3:20-21). Whether those believers gather in places surrounded by subdivisions and wide thoroughfares or gravel roads and corn fields, they are the people of God in whom the glory of God is being demonstrated. It is good to remember that my church is not the church.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Five Solas Conference in Scranton, KS

In my last post I mentioned that I would be speaking at Cross Road Community Church this weekend. Well, my buddy Don Herren, pastor at Cross Road, informed me today that he will be blogging on this conference at his personal blog Magnifying Christ. You can check it out to get Don's comments on the conference this weekend.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Semper Reformanda

This weekend I will have the privilege of speaking at Cross Road Community Church in Scranton, KS. My dear friend, Don Herren, is pastor at Cross Road. Don served with me in Wichita for nine years as our Pastor of Student Ministries. The theme of the conference is Reformation. We will be looking at how the five "solas" which characterized the Reformation still transform our lives today.

The idea behind this conference is reflected in another of the Latin phrases which flowed from the Reformation - semper reformanda, always reforming. The church is to be always reforming as the truths of sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, and soli Deo gloria shape our lives. These are not museum pieces or theological artifacts. Though they shook the landscape of Christianity in the 16th century, the aftershocks of these truths are still influencing our lives today.

It will be my privilege to spend the weekend with the folks at Cross Road Community Church exploring how these truths continue to influence us. When you think about it, pray for me and for the conference. Find out more here.