Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We're Moving

Friends,

Ecclesiophilist is moving to a new address. The archives will be there as well. Soon, this site will not be active any longer.

Our new address is:

www.ecclesiophilist.wordpress.com

See you there!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Evangelicalism the New Mainline?

This editorial from Christianity Today suggests that evangelicals are becoming a sort of new mainline in Protestantism. Studies show that some people who once nominally identified with Christianity are beginning to reject that label. In addition, evangelicalism is showing larger influence in traditional mainline denominations. I appreciated the closing words of the editorial:

Spreading the gospel, not seeking social or political relevance, is the heartbeat of evangelicalism. More often than not, cozying up to the culture has been a ticket to later embarrassment. To be sure, we also must remain engaged in the larger culture. We cannot afford to become consumed by our own theological distinctives and subculture. That too would be a compromise.

We are not called to identify with any culture or subculture, whether that be America or evangelicalism. Our future as a movement depends on that which is in our name, the evangel, the good news of Jesus Christ. If we keep that focus, we never have to worry about becoming the new sideline.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Interesting Bible Study Method

I came across a Bible study method called "arcing" which is new to me. It is a method recommended by John Piper. I haven't had time to really interact with it yet. However, it does seem to be similar to a method I learned in seminary called block diagramming. It is a way to demonstrate the primary thrust of a biblical text and also show the supporting statements which relate to the primary clause. I am anxious to research this method further and perhaps incorporate it into my own study.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Great Commission Resurgence

Recently, I posted about Dr. Danny Akin and the twelve axioms of a Great Commission Resurgence. Well, the GCR has been published in a formal document. Many people are signing this document to voice their agreement with its principles. I encourage you to read it.

Of course, there is already opposition to the document coming out on the web and in Baptist Press articles. Certainly there are details of the GCR which will have to be hammered out in order to implement its principles. I am sure the framers understand this well. Yet, I believe there are things here which, if pursued, could catalyze needed change in the SBC.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Horton on Osteen

Michael Horton has written an insightful critique of the message of Joel Osteen. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the fundamental problem with Osteen's message and ministry. Here are a couple of samples to whet your appetite:

As community philosopher Karl Marx said of a consumer-driven culture, "All that is solid melts into the air." Religion, too, becomes a commodity—a product or therapy that we can buy and use for our personal well-being. Exemplifying the moralistic and therapeutic approach to religion, Osteen's message is also a good example of the inability of Boomers to mourn in the face of God's judgment or dance under the liberating news of God's saving mercy. In other words, all gravity is lost—both the gravity of our problem and of God's amazing grace. According to this message, we are not helpless sinners—the ungodly—who need a one-sided divine rescue. (Americans, but especially we Boomers, don't take bad news well.) Rather, we are good people who just need a little instruction and motivation.

If God matters, it is for the most trivial concerns—or at least those quite secondary to the real crisis that the gospel addresses. One could easily come away from this type of message concluding that we are not saved by Christ's objective work for us, but by our subjective "personal relationship with Jesus" through a series of works that we perform to secure his favor and blessing. God has set up all of these laws and now it's up to us to follow them so that we can be blessed. I can think of no better illustration of what sociologist Christian Smith has identified as "moralistic, therapeutic deism": the gospel of American Religion.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Rob Bell on the Gospel

This post over at Nine Marks mirrors my concerns about Rob Bell. In an interview with Christianity Today, Bell was asked how he might present the gospel on Twitter. In other words, if you had a limited number of words, how would you present the gospel. Here is Bell's answer:

I would say that history is headed somewhere. The thousands of little ways in which you are tempted to believe that hope might actually be a legitimate response to the insanity of the world actually can be trusted. And the Christian story is that a tomb is empty, and a movement has actually begun that has been present in a sense all along in creation. And all those times when your cynicism was at odds with an impulse within you that said that this little thing might be about something bigger—those tiny little slivers may in fact be connected to something really, really big.

That is the gospel? It sounds Oprahesque. Where is the cross? Where is Jesus? Where is sin? He does mention the empty tomb. I'll give him that. But seriously, Bell's answer is vague and misleading. He insists that there is reason for hope but he gives little or no ground for why our inward impulses toward hope are reliable. In typical emergi-speak Bell seems to want to talk around the gospel instead of stating clearly what Scripture says about the gospel.

Here is Paul's summary of the gospel:

For I delivered to you as of first importance that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas and then to the twelve.
(1 Cor. 15:3-5)

I would point out that even Paul the Apostle did not presume to craft some fresh summary of the gospel which sounded cool to the culture. He passed on what he received. It was a matter of being faithful to the gospel which was revealed by God, a gospel built on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to deal with the problem of human sin.

The interview in CT suggests that Bell is "reframing" the gospel he inherited for his generation. After comparing Paul's summary to Bell's summary, could you honestly say that Bell has reframed the gospel? I think it is more than reframing. It sounds more like redefining. There is no gospel in Bell's retelling.

Read the CT interview and decide for yourself.