Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chirst-Exalting Poetry

I believe that God is exalted in art. It is a gift from Him and should be given back to Him. Art is essentially worship and is a great way to express the glory that has been revealed to us. I would challenge you to not view art as a waste of time. Many of us live in a very goal-oriented environment where only practical, result-driven activities consume our day. Lay them aside for a few moments and pursue the Lord through Christ-exalting art in your life.

Here's a place to start. I found this poem posted on the Desiring God blog. It's called Luke 18.25. Enjoy it. I believe God is glorified in it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Christian Bookstores

Once every 4-6 months I build up enough patience to venture into a Christian Bookstore. And it takes approximately 7.4 minutes for me to lose all of the patience that I had accumulated. Why you ask? Heed the following observations/ frustrations/ questions/ warnings.

  1. Christian Bookstores are petri dishes of false humility. Every 4-6 months when I walk into one I feel like I see an exponentially greater number of faces slapped on book covers. I'm not talking about a postage size stamp picture on the back next to the author's bio, I'm talking about massive, airbrushed, well-positioned, self-exalting pictures. Consider for a minute why, when (or should I say if) their message is Christ, an author would feel that it is necessary to plant their mug on the cover of their book.
  2. Christian Bookstores celebrate celebrity as much as the world. There are whole sections of books that dedicated to athletes, presidents, and their wives. Do these people have something spiritual to say to us? Maybe. I won't say that they never do. But the pressures of being the first lady or Brett Favre's wife pale in comparison to the single mom raising three children one of which has down syndrome. Does that mom need to hear about a celebrity's climb to the top or does she need to hear about Jesus Christ?
  3. Be wary of books with "you" as the subject in the title. Why? It's not about you. Get over it.
  4. Christian Bookstores are full of conspiracy. Russia wasn't Babylon. Iraq is looking less and less like it is Babylon. Why are we so worried that Iran is going to turn out to be Babylon? I know Ahmadinejad is sympathetic with Islamic extremism and is down with bringing about the apocalypse as he sees it, but do we need to devote a whole section to this at the Christian book store? Besides we have no need to live in fear of this. Jesus is coming back. He will take care of it. Don't be afraid.
  5. Where are all the books by the faithful servants that went before us? I can't find any books by men like Charles Spurgeon or Jonathan Edwards. This baffles me. These men served Christ faithfully and lived lives worthy of their calling. Why are we abandoning their work?
  6. Christian Bookstores like to be trendy. Trendy can be fun. You can have a nice up-to-date cover on your book or a cool modern art piece with a Bible verse on it. But how about we steer clear of letting it seep into our content, shall we? I am shocked by Teen Magazine Bibles or whatever they're called. What the heck. It looks like a magazine and has a new testament in it plus a bunch of garbage articles like "how to get a Christian boy." What is that? It's pretty hard to justify tying in an article about getting Christian boys with the book of Acts. Just don't do it.

Probably what frustrates me the most is that I see very little difference between a secular book store and a Christian one. Disagree if you like, but Christianity is about following Christ, not reading watered-down, self-enhancement manuals that mention God in a few out-of-context Bible verses. So let's follow Christ and not the Christian Bookstore trend.

Friday, February 22, 2008

You Decide 2008: Mars Hill Candidates

Rob Bell
Mars Hill Bible Church
Grandville, Michigan

Bell is the founder of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan. He is also a well know author, speaker and developed the widespread NOOMA video epidemic. He has been coined the "next Billy Graham" by the Chicago Sun Times and cracked the top 10 of TheChurchReport.com's "Top 50 Most Influential Christians in America." Bell obtained an undergraduate degree from Wheaton college, and upon realizing that he had the ability to teach, enrolled in Fuller Theological Seminary and graduated with a Masters in Divinity.

Bell's theology tastes a lot like little open theism as indicated by Greg Gilbert's review of the latest NOOMA video. The Mars Hill homepage states their theology like this: "When we begin to describe what we believe about God, we discover that he's been writing a story of hope and redemption for all the world, and we have a role to play in this story." In response, I prefer to agree with Scripture which portrays God as an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent being that doesn't require my help "writing" a story. The story is written. And it's about God and His glory.

These stances are not surprising in the least. Bell has been wishy-washy at best when it comes to the authority of Scripture and Sola Scriptura. He also calls into question the virgin birth of Christ in his book Velvet Elvis. Immediately this seems harmless enough, but when one takes a closer look one sees the tremendous impact and follies of this poorly thought out hypothetical. If Christ were the Son of a man, not conceived of the Holy Spirit, he would have been born into sin therefore making a perfect life impossible and ultimately left Christ's death ineffective and unable to justify anyone or anything. This does not bode well for redemption. At least he is consistent. If he questions the authority of Scripture then by all means question the virgin birth. And in a theology where the virgin birth is irrelevant it is probably true that God does need us to help out in "writing a story of hope and redemption for all the world."

Mark Driscoll
Mars Hill Chruch
Seattle, Washington

Driscoll is the co-founder of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. He also co-founded the Acts 29 Network and is a major contributor to the missonal resource website, The Resurgence. He graduated from Washington State with a degree in communications and is continuing his education at Western Seminary in Portland. Driscoll has been characterized as a new kind of fundamentalist and a maverick. Personally, he refers to himself as a "charismatic Calvinist." He received criticism in 2006 from friend and mentor John Piper. Joshua Harris recounts this in his blog: "As if he (Piper) were speaking to Mark, he said (and I paraphrase), 'A pastor cannot be clever and show Christ as glorious. Mark Driscoll, you’re clever. You have an amazing ability to turn a phrase and make statements that draw people back week after week. But it’s dangerous. So many pastors will see you and try to imitate you and then try to watch all the movies and TV shows so they can try to be like you.' In essence, Piper was bringing correction to certain aspects of Driscoll’s style and delivery, while stating that they agreed on the most important issues of doctrine."

Driscoll's theology is essentially Reformed. He has called himself a 4 1/2 point Calvinist. Very early in his career Driscoll associated himself with the emergent movement; however, he has become a major voice against the camp which is inhabited by influential evangelical thinkers like Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, and, his Michigan Mars Hill friend, Rob Bell.

What separates Driscoll from Bell? First, the authority of Scripture. Bell wavers while Driscoll is unwavering. Scripture is uncompromised at Mars Hill Seattle through exegetical preaching while Bell shows us that he is not so sure in Velvet Elvis. Secondly, Jesus. Driscoll emphasizes Christ as risen Lord, ruling over all of creation, sovereign and unchangeable, perfect in life, glorified in death, and in his resurrection reigning from His seat at the Father's right hand. Bell emphasizes Jesus and his life on earth and the mission that He had. According to Bell, Jesus came to spread love and invoke a redemptive process by jump starting efforts to bring His kingdom to earth.

Both of these gentlemen have "effective" ministries; both have an impact in their communities and are doing wonderful things in their respective cities. Both of these men are my brothers in Christ. However, are both men preaching Christ and him crucified? That's an important question to ask and the question I will leave you with.