03 April 2008

Coffee Klatsch

by Phil Johnson



ostmodernists aren't sure about much, but they work harder than Mormon apologists to maintain the few cardinal dogmas of their system. Of course, the first article of faith in the postmodernists' short canon is their belief that an impregnable fortress of ambiguity surrounds the very slippery notion of "truth." They can't seem to muster any settled conviction even when God Himself has spoken. But here's one thing they are dead certain about: Meaning is always elusive.

Meaning is at its most evanescent whenever someone disagrees with them. The more you labor to make your meaning plain, the harder the postmodern mind will labor to find a way to deconstruct your clarifications. And if you are stubborn enough to continue explaining yourself in the face of their determination to misread what you are saying, a devoted pomo will simply pretend not to be able to hear. If you persist anyway, prepare to be labeled either stupid or uncharitable.

The comment thread at Andrew Jones's blog today furnishes several fine illustrations of the kind of thing I mean.

Recapping the Conversation So Far . . .

First, let's review the issues ostensibly under discussion. I'll mostly cite verbatim from things I've recently posted here. (The previously posted material appears in bold blue typeface):

I've been raising some significant concerns about the way the term contextualization is being used these days to justify taking liberties with the Christian message. I've cited numerous real-life examples of contextualization gone awry—from relatively minor issues like "the changing of sheep to sea lions in Bible translations, to the revisionist treatment of Scripture practiced by Eugene Peterson. . . , to the unsanctified slogans and imagery used by the XXX Church, to Mark Driscoll's blasphemous description of Jesus as someone who 'needs Paxil,' to the argument set forth in [this] document."

I've also repeatedly said this: "I recognize, of course, that there's a valid necessity for the translation and illustration of truth across cultural boundaries. The problem with the average Fuller-trained missiologist's notion of contextualization, however, is that more often than not, this entails not merely translation and illustration of the truth but a wholesale deconstruction/reconstruction process where the point is lost in translation."

Moreover: "My objection to the popular notion of contextualization has nothing whatsoever to do with any phobia about context—either the word or the concept—properly considered. . . . What I object to is the utterly fallacious idea that something other than the biblical context should be the starting point for our understanding or application of spiritual truth."

And: "if contextualization entailed nothing more than translation and illustration, the word would be superfluous. It practically always means something more—and that 'something more' is what I object to, not the translation and illustration of biblical truths."

I summed up my position once more in an extended comment in reply to a couple of commenters who had utterly misconstrued what I was saying. I wrote:
Every sensible evangelist or missionary translates and illustrates the gospel using the native language and familiar imagery of whatever culture he is trying to reach. Nothing wrong with that. Its necessary.

But the term contextualization carries with it a lot of additional baggage beyond that—chiefly the idea of adapting the truth-content of the message with the aim of making it more acceptable or comfortable to the target society. Everything is wrong with that. It's the worst kind of perfidy for someone who is supposed to be an ambassador.

To illustrate: there's a huge difference between (on the one hand) illustrating what sheep are like by comparing their behavior to the mannerisms of sea lions, and (on the other hand) replacing the word lamb with walrus when you are teaching someone from the Bible. I applaud the former approach; execrate the latter.

The problem is that those who invented contextualization defined the word in a way that expressly affirms the latter methodology. Evangelicals who like the word generally try to pretend it involves only the former methodology. The two ideas must not be confused, and yet they are both often labeled contextualization nowadays.

I'm convinced there are people who deliberately foster confusion between those two ideas. They gloss over the important distinction between simple translation/illustration and full-bore contextualization, because no one really has a problem with good communication, and if we can make contextualization sound like nothing more than a simple, creative method for reaching various subcultures, certain preachers who like to use filthy language and others who want to deny essential Christian doctrines can both justify what they are doing by calling it contextualization.

Here's a simple matter of fact: if missional contextualization means what those who coined the term say it means, then it isn't simply the translation and illustration of biblical ideas.

So pointing out that this or that person has translated or illustrated some biblical truth with a particular culture's language is no proof that "everyone contextualizes."

Furthermore, I think it's sheer folly for evangelicals to try to embrace and whitewash a concept that has wreaked so much havoc. And to dismiss my point (especially after I've been so careful with definitions), with the "Everyone contextualizes (How naive can Phil Johnson be?)" argument hardly suggests that good communication is really the goal of those who find themselves on that side of the conversation.

I could go on quoting, of course, but the point here is that these are things I have said repeatedly.

Andrew Weighs In

So anyway, Andrew Jones, whom I like—but quite often disagree with—clearly isn't happy with my suggestion that post-evangelicals tend to employ high-sounding jargon like missional, incarnational, and contextual to justify outreach strategies that make unwarranted accommodations to worldly culture, alter the content of the Christian message, tone down the hard parts of the Bible, or foster man-centered religion. Andrew seems even less happy with my assertion that the Apostle Paul's ministry in Athens was fundamentally counter-cultural, and what Paul did in that chapter had nothing whatsoever to do with the kind of cultural accommodation the champions of missional-incarnational contextualization like to suggest the church must now employ lest the gates of hell suddenly prevail against her.

Andrew wrote a post last night in which he argues that I've misunderstood Acts 17. The post is titled "Context. Does it matter?" (My answer, once more: Of course it does. Whoever suggested otherwise? Remember, the question I have raised is about which context matters most—someone's cultural context, or the biblical context.) In that post:
  • Andrew indulges in some historical revisionism. (He says, "When some missionaries went to North America with complete disdain for contextualization, they took away their native dances and forced the converts to learn English so that they could worship God properly, in the correct language, and without their nuances of culture").
  • He insists that in Lystra, rather than being confrontive or countercultural, Paul was "being contextually relevant to the pagan animistic Lystrians" (which raises a fair question about why they stoned him and left him for dead).
  • He ignores the obvious connotation of Luke's observation in Acts 17:16 that Paul's "spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols," insisting that Paul simply gleaned from the myths of ancient Greece "redemptive analogies," and that the apostle embraced and adapted those myths. Our Tall Skinny friend furthermore claims "Christ is often pre-figured" in the imagery of those myths.
Andrew's whole post barely interacted with any actual point I have made in my five-or-so posts on this subject. He simply passed over all the emphatic clarifications I have quoted above. In fact, at the key points he so completely misrepresented my position that I wondered if he had read my posts at all. "Could it be that Paul knew nothing about Epimenides and the plague of Athens and just FLUKED it by either sheer luck or a prophetic burst of Spirit guided wisdom?" he asks with feigned astonishment—as if I were not merely opposed to blending Christianity with other cultures' worldviews; as if I were actually promoting deliberate head-in-the-sand ignorance about those worldviews.

Andrew's Commenters Weigh In

Still, what fascinated me more than Andrew's post was the freewheeling discussion he hosted in the comment-thread that followed. Here are a few typical samples, with brief replies from me:

Is there any such thing as a non-contextualized gospel anymore?

It depends on whether you define contextualization carefully and specifically, as I have tried to do, or whether you prefer a broad, hazy catch-all definition. See above for my reply to the simplistic assertion that "everyone contextualizes." Ignoring what I have said and merely repeating the same shopworn assertion once more is no answer to my point. Identify some aspect of contextualization that you think is legitimate other than translation and illustration. Then show biblically how and why you think this as-yet-unnamed aspect of "contextualization" is necessary. When you've done that, you'll have made an actual point against something I have said.

I agree. The sad thing is that both John [MacArthur] and Phil probably hunted Easter eggs a few weeks ago and thought that it was a purely "Christian" thing to do. It seems hypocritical to say that only their culture is Christian and somehow by incorporating other cultural practices into the worship of Jesus it is being diluted rather than strengthened

Was this supposed to be a serious comment? Do some of the TSK's readers actually think the point under discussion has anything remotely to do with easter-egg hunts? (I haven't participated in one since the '60s, BTW.) Does someone truly imagine my argument boils down to a jingoistic belief that one worldly culture is superior to another? Does anyone who has actually read anything I wrote seriously imagine I'm suggesting that the pleasure-mad culture in which I usually live and minister is any more "Christian" than cultures on the opposite side of planet earth (where I have also lived and ministered at various times)? How, precisely, is this fellow's comment germane to anything I have ever said?

I was first introduced to the concept of contextualization in grad school as I studied mission - at a very conservative evangelical school. . . . At the time I questioned why it was perfectly okay to contextualize to indigenous peoples, but not to our own culture. The somewhat racist response was that we are either above culture or have achieved the best culture, so contextualization isn't necessary for us. Are such assumptions still at play?

OK, again: Is this supposed to be taken seriously? Would this woman care to document her assertion that someone "at a very conservative evangelical school" told students that "we . . . have achieved the best culture"? In fact, can anyone cite any published statement even remotely resembling that claim from a single credible "conservative evangelical" source? That sounds for all the world like a bad caricature dreamed up out of thin air to justify this person's facile dismissal of the point under discussion.

As a matter of fact, in my experience, the more conservative an evangelical school is, the more uncomfortable they are likely to be with whatever culture they find themselves in.

Of course context matters. For starters, it is essential to speak the same language. Basic, but true. Try sharing the English version of The Four Spiritual Laws (or King James Version or whatever) to people who do not understand English!

But, see: I already said that. I started by acknowledging that. Does someone seriously imagine a comment like that somehow advances the discussion?

For all the talk about wanting to engage and interact with differing views, there really hasn't been any effort to do that. So far not one single commenter in Andrew's comment-thread has shown any willingness whatsoever to hear and reply to anything I actually said.

In fact, a couple of later commenters even suggested that because we use graphics to illustrate our posts, it's hypocritical for me to complain about contextualization.

. . . and so goes the Conversation. I hope the coffee isn't decaf. I think we're going to be here awhile.

Phil's signature

206 comments:

1 – 200 of 206   Newer›   Newest»
Carla said...

No big surprise to recognize some of the commenters there are some of the same folks that had monumental issues with anything that was ever posted at Emergent No.

It's an important subject, keep up the good work Phil, it really matters.

Gilbert said...

Great commentary, Phil. Spot on.

Ah, let's get to the heart of the issue: without the help of culture, Jesus and the Father's work through the Holy Spirit can't be effective, powerful, mighty. It's up to us. And those "old" farts like me in church, well, we can't worship without the music at 130 dB. Hey, I like hymns and true Christian contemporary rockin' music (harder to find these days). New! it must be new because the old is inadequate, insufficient, filthy rags. We need to spice up the Gospel for this generation! Nothing else will work. Change a few things here and there...it's all about contextualization, in the name of the Gospel. Bzzzt.

We're going to "be here awhile" because everyone is redefining everything and no one is sure what the original meaning nor the current meaning of contextualization or anything else is, so we're taking contextualization out of context, if it were possible.

And all of this---ALL of it---because we want to tiptoe around the very thorny "issue" of trying to reinvent a perfect "wheel" to make the Gospel sound good to others, and/or to mask our uneasiness in our gut telling us that we ARE indeed terrible people who desperately need the blood of Christ to have any hope of saving us from the eternal wrath and damnation we most assuredly deserve...and are trying to weasel out of *our* way.

Instead, here's contextualization in it's proper form: we are desperately wicked and desperately need to repent and turn to Jesus and trust Him and Him alone
alone for salvation. Nothing extra...no sugar, no cream, hold the vanilla...and reduce ourselves to nothing and get on our knees so that He may be lifted up. Translate the language by His power, and leave the rest to the Father to have it spread as He wills, occasionally through preachers and laymen fully dedicated to bringing us the bad...and the Good News. And I, for one, desire to do this instead of twisting, manipulating, or otherwise destroying the power of the Living God and His Word.

Run THAT through your Espresso and contextuailization filter and see what color your heart turns.

the postmortem said...

Phil must be drinking the strong stuff! I don't know how else he would have a full head of brown hair at his age. I'm 24 and I'm getting white hairs!

Gordon Cheng said...

Postmodernism. It's the spinach in the teeth of our conversations. Annoying. Obvious. Unavoidable. Of no more use to the content of our discussions than a bad case of halitosis, but very hard to ignore.

Doug McMasters said...

These excellent thoughts were contributed recently in a different forum (sorry, but cannot remember the author):

One thing that conservatives can't seem to grasp is the idea that liberalism (like rust, for many of the same reasons) never sleeps. While conservatism, when it spreads, often does so by revolution, liberalism prefers to extend its influence by corrosion: it needs the solid foundation of conservative belief to exist and feed off in parasitic fashion because, by itself, it is incapable of motivating the hearts and minds of men to anything of substance.

Liberalism is oddly enough the bane in the life of the Church that the Lord uses to teach His children to cherish the beauty of His Word's precepts and the necessity of correct doctrine. It seems almost as if we only learn well when the very core of our faith is threatened. Perhaps this is why every generation seems to encounter heresy in some form.

Ryan Donovan said...

Just a couple thoughts from a theological, missiological, ecclesiological "kid"...

Sometimes when I read the backs and forths of some of these kinds of blog posts, I feel like I'm a kid standing in the kitchen as Mom and Dad are yelling at each other in the living room. Neither are listening to the other, and neither are willing to give much or any ground.

And I suppose if the primary bloggers represent Mom and Dad in a rapidly dissolving marriage, then a good handful of the commentors seem awfully similar to the extended family members that come from each side, clearly holding a bias that isn't changing anytime soon.

So seriously, who's a kid supposed to listen to in this discussion? I mean, everyone is yelling, and everyone seems so sure they're right. And everyone can defend it all day long. Using Scripture, even. But all I hear is yelling and nobody seems to be truly listening to each other.

Welcome to what's going on inside the hearts of a lot of people in my generation.

I can almost imagine that someone's internal, if not expressed, response will be "See, look how they've confused the kids". And of course, that will be coming from both sides pointing toward the other.

Like I said, I am a "kid" in all these discussions.

Daryl said...

Wow, the commenters on that thread didn't ever read your post did they? Seems to me that all the thoughtful points were points that you yourself made...and all the...other points...reinforced the trouble with contextualization as you described it.

Just once I'd like to see EC folks say something like "well if that's how your defining it, then yes...but I define it like this..."

Frank Turk said...

(sigh)

I always take a week off from the blog at the worst moments.

hosea46 said...

So Ryan, what then is your solution? You know, one parent has to be wrong here (or both), but both can't be right.

I would say that Phil has well been attentive to what has been said, to the point where he states his position quite clearly and quite antithetically against what actually has been said. I think he even goes as far as looking beyond the mere words. But that may well be just the biased me...

Not to rain on your parade, but the solution to unity is not that we just all agree, especially on points that are somewhat exclusive to each other.

What you are saying is true of many arguments, when people just stand and blindly defend their position because they are not able to imagine it to be different ... agreed.

In this case though we are not defending our notion/idea of "contextualizing" but rather the fact that the Gospel is unchangeable, no matter who you talk to, its saving premises are always the same, in all ages, for all people, forever.

The Gospel itself is already antithetical, on a "take it or leave it" basis. I cannot water it down for the sake of people who can't bear to hear it unveiled. This is not a question of notion or "our idea" but of essentials.

If you need an example look at how Christ evangelized. He was "contextual" but never changed the message. And most of the times it was offensive too (oh dear).

You asked "who should i listen to in this discussion". I would say the ones that use the Scriptural context, premises and all (e.g. that it IS God's Word, form start to finish).

Ryan, i think many of us young folks are so confused because they have been listening to voices that try to nail jell-o onto our church walls. Maybe rather stand for something (even if it is against those that say that Scripture is all sufficient, because it is an all sufficient God).

[/rant]

greglong said...

Phil, thank you for this series. It is very helpful.

(Don't know if you saw Michael Patton's response)

steve said...

Ryan, it's not fair to characterize this interaction as taking place between two sides who refuse to listen to one another. If you take time to read today's post--and past posts--it becomes patently clear that one side is listening, and one side isn't.

Nor can we characterize this as a "rapidly dissolving marriage." Postmodernism's stance on the whole matter of certainty regarding truth is violently incompatible with the biblical Christian worldview. So there's no marriage here to begin with.

The conflict here is of the same nature as the conflicts found in the New Testament between the apostle Paul and false teachers. The conflicts occurred not because two sides were unwilling to listen to one another, but because Paul realized that error was entering the church and causing confusion. Out of his love for the purity and health of Christ's own church, Paul was willing to confront error. He knew that to let error go unchallenged would do great damage among believers.

Every Christian today should likewise have such love.

donsands said...

"this entails not merely translation and illustration of the truth but a wholesale deconstruction/reconstruction process where the point is lost in translation."

The Gospel is powerful. It is the power that saves a soul, when preached through a servant of the Lord, and Holy Spirit uses the Word to convict, to bring to faith and repentance, and to reveal Jesus Christ is the risen Lord of heaven and earth.

People need to be fearful of watering this down, but they are not. Why? Because they think God cares more about people, than He does His Gospel.

The Church today is overwhelmingly human-centered, and God is simply a God that doesn't demand, but longs to be accepted. Please accept me is what this age think God is saying.

In Acts 17:30-31 Paul says, "God ... now commands all men every where to REPENT: Becasue He has appointed a Day in which He will Judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained".

Excellent post.

Rick Frueh said...

"if contextualization entailed nothing more than translation and illustration, the word would be superfluous. It practically always means something more—and that 'something more' is what I object to, not the translation and illustration of biblical truths."

That must continaly be made clear so no one can legitimately use some straw man about explanation, illustration, and translation. And the "something more" is changing the essence of the truth. Rick Warren referred to redemption as a "mulligan" (golf), that is not just illustration, that is contextualization or in understandable parlance - a substantive change.

It misrepresents the redemptive truth to such a degree as to be false. That is what I mean when I say "contextualization".

Fred Butler said...

Our Tall Skinny friend furthermore claims "Christ is often pre-figured" in the imagery of those myths.

Holy smokes. If this is true, does he realize how close that sounds to the atheist claim that Christianity has been cobbled together from ancient mystery religions and other myths?

Honestly. There is typological truth pointing to Christ in the dismemberment of Osiris and his being revived by Isis? Come on.

Jason Alligood said...

I didn't read this in the earlier post,

"What I object to is the utterly fallacious idea that something other than the biblical context should be the starting point for our understanding or application of spiritual truth."

but I read it in today's. Spot on Phil!

SolaMeanie said...

I am reminded of what John MacArthur said about a nation/culture abandoned by God. They lose the ability to think.

If one of the products of being born again is a sound mind, one has to wonder about people whose thinking has become so juvenile. Over at Ron Gleason's blog, there is another pomo-type pastor who posts comments such as these. He refuses to actually engage the issue at hand biblically. Instead, you get non sequiturs, childish taunts, and what Scriptures he does cite are generally non applicable to the issue or are out of context.

Aggravating.

Puritan said...

Doug McMasters wrote: "liberalism (like rust, for many of the same reasons) never sleeps. While conservatism, when it spreads, often does so by revolution, liberalism prefers to extend its influence by corrosion:"
---Brilliant!

Daryl wrote: "Wow, the commenters on that thread didn't ever read your post did they?"
---Exactly. Take Andrew Jones' first link "- Contend Earnestly has problems with MacArthur's understanding of contextualization." CE has written an article based on four words, "contextualization is a curse" of a sermon which the writer had not even listened to, and is taking out of context what little he's seen quoted. As I responded to the writer: " please give the whole quote brother. What you've done there is like someone claiming the Bible supports Atheism because it says "there is no God" :
JM's larger quote:"the modern cry for contextualization is a curse, its a curse, because people are spending all their time fussing around with tryin to figure out whether they should have holes in their Levi's and a skull and crossbones on their t-shirt, as if thats a means to drawing in the elect""


What we need to understand is that in the main, the reason for attacks on Phil and John MacArthur on this, have nothing to do with theology, but the root motivation is they are virtually all fans of Mark Driscoll the 'infallible Pope of relevantism' and so anything he does must be defended.

DJP said...

If nothing else, this post does answer a question I've had for awhile:

"How are we going to use those graphics?"

Now I know.

Johnny Dialectic said...

I do feel a little sorry for Ryan, for growing up in a time when clear thinking is not being taught in our schools anymore, when blog rants are considered of equal import with carefully constructed arguments, and so on (not a slam on Ryan personally, BTW, but his comment hints at this failure to distinguish).

In the "old days," debates had very specific rules, and judges, to keep the speakers "on point."

But blogging has made it possible for anyone with an ax to grind it loud and long without ever looking up from the wheel. And the sound is grating.

Phil, IMO, has been a model of clarity here. Over and over again. But there are those who simply do not wish to engage the actual point being made.

And when one suggests to the grinders that perhaps they need to stop what they're doing, and listen, and respond with relevant material, often the reaction is to get louder and whinier.

So, Ryan, I would not say it is Mom and Dad yelling at each other. One side is more like the teenager who wants the car, but has been putting dings in it all week. And when that fact is pointed out by the parent as the reason he can't have it tonight, responds with, "You NEVER let me do anything!"

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Phil, I'm frustrated for you. You are truly treading in the land of knee-jerks and non-sequiturs!

DJP said...

PostmortemI don't know how else he would have a full head of brown hair at his age

I hate Phil for his hair.

Tell no one.

Little Shepherd said...

"if missional contextualization means what those who coined the term say it means, then it isn't simply the translation and illustration of biblical ideas."

If contextualization meant what those who coined it meant, then there wouldn't be a problem. It's an actual word, with an actual meaning, that has been in dictionaries much longer than the pomos and emergents.

They didn't coin it -- they absconded with it and redefined it. I think it's an important difference.

SolaMeanie said...

By the way, I note with interest that Phil used the term "evanescent."

There is a band from Little Rock, Arkansas, called "Evanescence." Some media refer to them as a Christian-influenced band, despite occasional profanities and obscenities. Hmmmm.

I will now have to do a little research to see if Evanescence songs are on the worship and praise lists of EC congregations.

Andrew Jones said...

Andrew Jones here. Hey . . Phil, thanks for the response. I guess there is more to what you have been saying and the background to your post is helpful in seeing that you do accept a level of "contextualization"

sorry if i jumped in too soon and if i sensationalized the argument by reducing it too much.

I will blog again and take your thoughts into consideration.

its great to have a Biblical passage to fall back on and discuss rather than a theological concept (contextualization falls short also) because we both affirm the truth of the Scriptures and we can both be judged by it.

talk at you soon .. . when i get a chance. painting right now and getting ready for a mission team of 15 who are driving 700 miles to work with us this weekend.

hope they will be sensitive enough to realize their ministry will be in a different CONTEXT.

peace

Mike Riccardi said...

::Sigh::

More zip code ministry, as MacArthur put it.

This is why it's so important to have missionaries committed to the doctrines of grace -- a biblical soteriology and ecclesiology. Because if all that's going on under the name of "missiology" becomes the norm any time soon, world missions isn't going to have anything Christian left about it in about 150 years.

So, Ryan, I would not say it is Mom and Dad yelling at each other. One side is more like the teenager who wants the car, but has been putting dings in it all week. And when that fact is pointed out by the parent as the reason he can't have it tonight, responds with, "You NEVER let me do anything!"

This is brilliant, Johnny. I hope Ryan interacts with this. This really captures and illustrates what it is that's going on. Bravo.

Oh, and you mentioned debates with rules and judges. Can't have those anymore. Rules are for legalists, and as far as judging... what are you a Pharisee or something?

Frank Turk said...

If there are any indications that Phil is bound to apostacize and start a charismaniac church in Tulsa, these would be the ones:

[1] He is actually from Tulsa.
[2] He has Televangelist hair.

Dan's not the only one who's jealous, and I realize it is ugly. My God forgive me.

steve said...

Dan and Frank, you can covet Phil's hair all you want.

As one whose living is by the pen, I covet Phil's ability to articulate difficult issues with clarity, and to do so with wit.

Billy Rhythm said...

"Sometimes when I read the backs and forths of some of these kinds of blog posts, I feel like I'm a kid standing in the kitchen as Mom and Dad are yelling at each other in the living room. Neither are listening to the other, and neither are willing to give much or any ground."

I sometimes feel that way, too. Maybe it's because I'm a casual reader, who comes here, well, every other day or so. And, though I'm visiting here, I'm not visiting the other blogs that are being discussed. So lots of times, these long posts with lots of included background just leave me confused. And sometimes I think, "Let's talk about Jesus, and Him crucified."

I think, though, I'm firmly in Dan's camp. If I'm trying to explain sheep to someone who doesn't know sheep, but does know sea lions, I may try to relate the gospel using sea lions. But, I don't change the text to SAY sea lions, just because I don't sheep. I don't have behemoths, leviathans, denarii, or coneys all over my neighborhood, but I can understand those things based on elephants, crocs, pennies, and badgers. (Of course, most of those aren't running around my neighborhood either.) Am I getting the gist here?

Jugulum said...

Phil,

Here's a question for you. In your first post, you said,

"Listen closely to the typical missiologist or church planter who champions the idea of contextualization—and what you’ll usually hear is someone trying desperately to make the gospel more palatable."

I'm wondering...Is there a healthy form of trying to "make the gospel more palatable"?

I agree that it's unhealthy if it involves adjusting the gospel to fit the values of the target culture. That's a destructive trend that you rightly decry.

But it seems healthy if it involves clearly preaching the true value and glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that can benefit from more awareness of the target culture.

1.) By allowing better translation/illustration.
2.) By helping us to notice places where the target culture's values are in line with the gospel, to give us a starting place. So, if they value justice, you can start with, "See how God's justice is upheld in the Law. See how our sin means that, for justice's sake, we must pay the penalty. And now let me show you the amazing way that God has shown mercy on sinners while upholding his justice."

So, could this be what some contextualizers mean when they talk about palatability?

For example, I heard Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason talk about making the gospel "palatable", but I would be very surprised if he meant anything like adopting the values of the culture, or adjusting the content of the gospel.

DJP said...

SteveAs one whose living is by the pen, I covet Phil's ability to articulate difficult issues with clarity, and to do so with wit.

Yeah, but Frank already has that.

SolaMeanie said...

Dan and Frank,

Being follically challenged myself, I offer this to you today.

I hope the trip down memory lane cheers your heart.

Mike Riccardi said...

But jugulum, that message of God's justice and mercy needs to be proclaimed whether or not those people's cultural values lines up with the Gospel. (That's a funny statement anyway, since no worldly culture's values actually line up with the Gospel. They may pay lipservice, but when they say 'justice,' they do not mean God's justice. So I think it's already a little disingenuous to say that any culture's values line up with any of the Gospel.)

But back to my main point. We shouldn't have to ask ourselves whether or not this culture is open to thoughts about justice and mercy, because we have to preach it anyway whether they do or not. And -- like I was saying above -- they don't.

And that's where this thing gets taken in to the Calvinist-Arminian thing (pulling from yesterday's thread). The notion that any part of a worldly culture is in any kind of alignment with the Gospel is patently false. Even if someone says, "We love justice and mercy and love and grace and kindness and peace, etc." they have no category of understanding for these things as they actually are. Because they're totally depraved. So where contextualization gets an Arminian coloring is where it does what it can to appeal to unbelievers via aspects of their fallen nature (whether that be UFC, spiked hair, or notions of justice).

The only God-honoring way to preach the Gospel is to just preach the Gospel as it is. ... In its own context, if you must have a qualifier. Just present the text. Appeal to the unbeliever like: "Repent, otherwise you will likewise perish." You're a sinner whose sin offends a holy God whose anger is hotly and justly kindled by your persistence in your unbelief and self-worship. You're rightly assigned to be expelled from His presence forever, but Jesus has paid the debt for the sins of those who believe. Empty yourself of all claims to your life and all claims to righteousness, and trust Jesus for your righteousness before God and trust Him to be the Lord and Master of your remaining life on earth, as you continue in a life of loving, willful service to Him in His name.

I can preach that message to anyone on the planet, given I know their language or they know mine. I don't have to change that anywhere for anyone, because that's everyone's context. That's the biblical context.

Phil Johnson said...

I wrote, "The more you labor to make your meaning plain, the harder the postmodern mind will labor to find a way to deconstruct your clarifications. And if you are stubborn enough to continue explaining yourself in the face of their determination to misread what you are saying, a devoted pomo will simply pretend not to be able to hear."

See the comments from our friend dac over here for a stunning example of what I was describing. My thanks to Jugulum, who does a lot of heavy lifting in the "Reclaiming the Mind" comment-thread. He obviously gets what I'm saying, and he explains pretty clearly why my argument is nowhere near as complex or naive as those who have de-contextualized my position have tried to make it. Jugulum is patient, explaining (once more, and then yet again) what I've said about the obvious necessity for translation and illustration. He quotes me in numerous contexts to show that what I have consistently objected to is all the other nonsense that's typically justified under the rubric of contextualization, and he also cites my own words to remind dac why I think that term is unnecessarily broad, confusing, and ill-conceived by those who first coined it.

To sum up: My actual point is not that the word is somehow inherently evil, but that it's been ill-defined, sloppily applied, and buttressed by a lot of questionable logic ("Hey, you have to translate the words of John 3:16 into Malayalam from someone who speaks only Malayalam, so it's got to be OK to adapt gospel truth to fit the way postmodern people think."). And since those who most frequently use the term seem to love the ambiguity (and usually take unfair advantage of the haziness of the term), it would be better to employ more precise language.

Much less am I suggesting that because certain trendy evangelicals love to refer to all kinds of translation and illustration as "contextualization," therefore all translation and illustration are evil. I've said that repeatedly; Jugulum provides several quotes to prove it.

But at the (current) terminus of the comment-thread over there, dac's summary of my position is this: "To Phil all contextualization is bad. It is the starting point for all of his posts on the topic. Based on his definition, no contextualization is acceptable."

See what I mean?

Incidentally, the post by Michael C. Patton that spawned that comment-thread is yet another iteration of the "everybody contextualizes" argument. As if I had never actually replied to that claim. Arrrgh.

But I appreciate the commenters over there (especially Jugulum) who tried to help Dr. Patton out of the slough his caricature made of my position. Read the post and comment-thread over there if you want to be amazed and appalled.

Jugulum said...

Mike said,
But jugulum, that message of God's justice and mercy needs to be proclaimed whether or not those people's cultural values lines up with the Gospel.
I agree. But you don't have to start in the same place every time you proclaim the Gospel. And you don't have to spend the same amount of time on every aspect.

Knowing your audience helps you to know what needs more explanation.

Different aspects of the Gospel may be stumbling blocks to different people.

A similar phenomenon happens with for Christians. I have a Christian friend who has no trouble with the idea of God-as-judge. But he wrestles with the idea of God-as-Father. If you're explaining Biblical truth to him, knowing that will help you be more clear.

(That's a funny statement anyway, since no worldly culture's values actually line up with the Gospel. They may pay lipservice, but when they say 'justice,' they do not mean God's justice.
I agree. I didn't say that they have a full, healthy conception of justice. I'm talking about where they have half-truths.


Hmm...A pitfall occurs to me. If you're trying to identify their "good" values to use as a starting point...You absolutely must ensure that you're using it to help you present a full-orbed Biblical presentation. Else we have syncretism/compromise.

Matt said...

Phil said:Of course, the first article of faith in the postmodernists' short canon is their belief that an impregnable fortress of ambiguity surrounds the very slippery notion of "truth."

Beautiful. You are truly a wordsmith!

Meaning is always elusive.

What exactly does that mean? :-)

Phil Johnson said...

Jugulum: "I'm wondering...Is there a healthy form of trying to "make the gospel more palatable"?"

You'd have to be more specific about precisely what you are asking. When the apostle Paul spoke of becoming "all things to all men," the context reveals that he was trying to avoid adding unnecessary stumbling-blocks that got in the way of people's hearing the gospel, which is already enough of a stumbling-block in and of itself. When the issue is framed as "making the gospel more palatable," that seems to be an exactly backward way of thinking. Paul wasn't the least bit concerned about adjusting the gospel message to the tastes of any culture; he was simply trying to keep himself out of the way as the gospel advanced.

By contrast, today's avid contextualizers generally take the exact opposite approach: they are trying to make themselves and their culture-savvy coolness a kind of buffer that blunts the hard edges of the gospel.

No one but the most naive or obtuse post-evangelical would seriously argue that one of the besetting sins of evangelicals in ours and our parents' generation hasn't been their tendency to water down the gospel by glossing over and/or eliminating its hard truths. What's needed most of all today is not a "more palatable" gospel but more clarity and biblical accuracy in our proclamation of it.

Let me put it onother way: does anyone seriously think the apostle Paul would have approved of the way the XXX Church tries to make Jesus sound like a porn aficionado? If that's what someone means by "more palatable," then, no. There's no legitimate place whatsoever for that in any biblical approach to ministry.

Jugulum said...

Phil,

I'm glad to help.

I'm curious--what do you think of my small expansion to "translation & illustration"? I asked CMP:

"When you talk about good contextualization, would you define that as awareness of your audience's culture & language to allow good translation and illustration of the gospel message?"

So, I added "awareness of your audience's culture & language to allow".

dac just posted something from one of CMP's other posts--a description of the cultural analysis that a good missiologist will do. What do you think of this list of questions? Would you classify them as part of translation & illustration, or as part of bad-contextualization?

"The missiologist will ask many questions:

1. What is the history of this culture?
2. How do they think?
3. What are their norms?
4. What are their taboos?
5. What is their communication style?
6. What is the best way to get the message of the Gospel across?
7. What is the best context to transition into so that our message is incarnate?"



Note: I don't know what he meant by number 7.

NothingNewUnderTheSun said...

I often view postmodernism more of an ‘insurgency’ than I do a true successor to modernism.

The postmodern 'insurgency' will only end once it has successfully dismantled modernism, and supplanted it with something entirely different.

What ever it is, it won't be new.

Jim Crigler said...

Seems to me that "contextualizing" is just what the folks in Lake Forest and South Barrington did, no less than the rather more obvious examples everyone has mentioned so far. (NB: Please forgive me if I have missed a comment here and there.)

Mike Riccardi said...

Jugulum,

I'm glad we agree on many points. I'm also glad to see your awareness of a possible pitfall that you write about at the end. There's one thing, though, that I wanted to bring up that I think misses my point a little.

I didn't say that they have a full, healthy conception of justice. I'm talking about where they have half-truths.

My point is that they have no such half-truths. In fact, they don't exist. It's either what God means by justice (or any of the other words) or it's not. There is only a full, healthy (i.e., biblical) conception of justice or there is no conception of justice at all. To say, "Yeah but that's not real justice," and then use the term "justice" is inconsistent and confusing. That again is where the whole syncretism thing can creep in. "They're not totally depraved. They still have some conception of justice."

But they don't. And the way that the glory of the Gospel is preserved is by the maintenance of its otherness. They don't have to improve their definition of justice. They have to realize that whatever they think is justice is words apart from what justice actually is.

When we don't maintain that otherness, we call the Gospel less glorious than it is. This is what the missional folks' contextualization does. At it's core it betrays the glory of the Gospel -- and of Christ -- by compromising on its otherness.

Tim Bertolet said...

When the apostle Paul spoke of becoming "all things to all men," the context reveals that he was trying to avoid adding unnecessary stumbling-blocks that got in the way of people's hearing the gospel, which is already enough of a stumbling-block in and of itself...Paul wasn't the least bit concerned about adjusting the gospel message to the tastes of any culture; he was simply trying to keep himself out of the way as the gospel advanced.

That is a great line, I hope you use that one again in this series of posts. I really hope you spend the time to work through 1 Cor 9:19-23 in the series, just like you did for Acts 17. These two passages seem to be the most used and abused in the whole debate.

SolaMeanie said...

I believe a clear indicator of the problem can be seen when you examine the various things/practices that ECers embrace in order to make the Gospel more "palatable." I am not in the least concerned with making the Gospel "palatable." I am concerned with making it understood.

I'll try to illustrate something here. All of us know certain individuals who are hard to deal with. Sometimes they need to be told something unpleasant, but because we are afraid of a blow up, or argument, or hurt feelings, we try to couch what we say in soft language. We might try to drop hints. We might try a whole host of things to make the point without triggering the person's usual hostile or dismissive reaction.

We can't approach the Gospel like that. Sooner or later, no matter how gently we might try to bring up the salient issues, we are going to have to confront human sin, the need to repent, etc. It can't be softpedaled.

That is putting the best possible face on the intentions of the EC. On the worst end of it, they know full well what they are doing. The leaders are attempting to smuggle in the same old liberal theology and social "gospel" that's been such a disaster all along. The followers find it a noble excuse to do what they want and put churchy clothes on it.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Phil Johnson: "But I appreciate the commenters over there (especially Jugulum) who tried to help Dr. Patton out of the slough his caricature made of my position. Read the post and comment-thread over there if you want to be amazed and appalled."

I totally agree that Jugulum is doing a fine effort at P&P. Bill Honsberger, whom I lauded yesterday, also does a fine job. I have challenged CMP on occasion as well, but I grow weary of dealing with the nonsense spouted by his liberal and emerging commenters. So I give a big clap to Jugulum for his patience.

Also, I don't know if C. Michael Patton has a doctorate.

Jugulum said...

Mike,

A couple thoughts.

1.) What I mean when I talk about "half-truths" is like the kind of awareness of the Law that Paul was talking about in Romans 2:14-16. That is, whatever he meant is what I'm trying to address. If "half-truth" is the wrong term, you're free to suggest another. But, as far as I can see, that kind of awareness fits into the point I was trying to make when I mentioned half-truths. If you replace "half-truth" with something you think is in line with Rom. 2:14-16, you'll get what I was aiming for.
2.) "There is only a full, healthy (i.e., biblical) conception of justice or there is no conception of justice at all."
Meh. You have a valid point, but putting it that way seems silly to me.

Right now, I do not have a full-orbed understanding of God's love. I have a true, partial understanding. What you're saying sounds like the postmodernists' kind of false antithesis between exhaustive understanding and true understanding.

If a non-Christian has a perverted understanding of justice, in some respects that's as bad as having no conception of justice at all. Yes. But their partial understanding is still partial! If we're going to explain biblical justice to a person with a partial understanding, there's less to explain.

On a similar issue, total depravity doesn't mean we're as bad as we could, it means every aspect of our being is tainted.


At any rate, I'm not persuaded that "half-truth" is inaccurate. But I'll continue to think about it.

Rick Frueh said...

"He has Televangelist hair."

He would do all right with a wide angle lense! :)

Strong Tower said...

"What is the best context to transition into so that our message is incarnate?"

Jugulum- I think this is just a way to say make it culturally relevant. The term (Oh boy not another one!) incarnate refers to incarnational preaching. I seen it around and from what I can tell, it means, basically, that the Gospel takes on flesh and bones in identification with the target culture, as in, Christ became like his brothers putting on flesh. I've seen this in relationship to Liberation Theology where the Exodus story is incarnated in the class or race struggles of the target group.

Again, one of the major problems with incarnational preaching, if I am understanding it properly, is syncretism.

RememberPolycarp said...

Love this post Phil... and love the series!!! However, I must add something to the opening sentence (of which you already know actually, as demonstrated in your posters): the postmoderns, and "youth culture" in general, are very certain about one thing--THEMSELVES! I teach this generation of college students every day, and it never ceases to amaze (shock) me how so many in this generation can have such a low degree of ethos and/or credibility/experience, yet register so high on the confidence/arrogance scale. At least the generation of rebellious baby-boomer, college students in the sixties knew what it meant to at least earn their "right" to be arrogant through demonstrated academic rigor and proven displays of intelligence, or at least hard work. I doubt there were as many students then--or at any time in history for that matter-- who so frequently answered every question about how they arrived at their rationale in a paper or within an arguement with: "huh?" or "I don't know". I often wonder how so many in this generation of college students, at least in my circles, can simultaneously maintain such boasting in their severely deluded sense of superiority (and disregard actual authority), yet be capable of looking me right in the eyes and admit they did not bother to follow directions, complete basic assignments, or even lift a finger towards fulfilling obligations to which they willfully committed; they believe "participation" in the classroom means sitting there, checked-out, texting on their phones, and gracing the room with their mere presence. I suppose many of them do not have a rationale for the arguments displayed in their papers because cutting and pasting large amounts of text from the web and submitting them as their own, or buying their essays online, does not very well accomodate such analysis. But...they are not lacking confidence in themselves nor their generation, and that's very important to them. After all, they have been taught how important it is to believe in themselves. Now, what has this to do with Christianity? I do not teach in a Christian institution, so I'm fully aware of the fact that only a few within my classes might be professing followers of Christ; therefore, I should not be surprised at the behaviors I've just described because they are perfect examples of unregenerate sinners in a sinful society (I should be deeply troubled, but not surprised). But, what do we say when these postmodern, generational characteristics of ignorance, delusion, and arrogant self-glorification exist under a supposed Christian banner? The remainder of your post answers this question with excellence Phil...thank you.

Jugulum said...

Strong Tower,

Hmm... Makes sense.

At its best, that sounds like it's motivated by an effort to make the Scripture sing and sting in our preaching.

The problem, as you say, is syncretism.

Anyway, let's not be too quick to judge what CMP meant... which would be no better than drive-by derogatory comments, or dac's misinterpretations.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

RememberPolyCarp: "But, what do we say when these postmodern, generational characteristics of ignorance, delusion, and arrogant self-glorification exist under a supposed Christian banner?"

How about having them reading the following blog post over at OldTruth?
http://www.oldtruth.com/blog.cfm/id.2.pid.834

It's titled "Christianity without Doctrine?"

I think it's also useful for Ryan Donovan who analogizes the dispute to two parents arguing.

dac said...

...but I grow weary of dealing with the nonsense spouted ...

TUAD, you have no idea how funny that is.

Ryan Donovan said...

So Ryan, what then is your solution? You know, one parent has to be wrong here (or both), but both can't be right.

Does one parent have to be 100% right and one 100% wrong? Could it be that the answer is somewhere in the middle? I mean, maybe it’s 70-30, or maybe 60-40, or maybe 30-70 in the other direction. I am really trying to not take sides. I just haven’t heard a lot of “Hey, that was a good point” sort of talk. And it’s not just this particular blog post or this particular blog. But the standard operating procedure seems to be to not give any ground. But we are on the SAME team. Really. We are.

I’ve been married for a grand total of almost 8 months, so I’m probably gonna be a little low on the marriage expert totem pole, but from what little I have learned thus far, it doesn’t seem like too many disagreements are won by digging in the heals and refusing to admit any wrongness.

You asked "who should i listen to in this discussion". I would say the ones that use the Scriptural context, premises and all (e.g. that it IS God's Word, form start to finish).

Thanks, but I know that. It’s the same answer you get when you ask about who’s right between the Arminianist and the Calvinist. Perhaps a little easier said then done, since we’re all looking at the same text and often drawing different conclusions. It’s tough. And perhaps that’s at the crux of my struggle with these kinds of conversation. We all want it to seem like we are the ones coming to the text without any bias. Just me and the text. But in reality, we’ve all been shaped by those around us and that influences our reading of the text. You don’t see many Nazarenes becoming Presbyterians or vice versa, though both are genuinely trying to be faithful to the text. And you don’t see many fundamentalists becoming ECers (except for their kids) or vice versa. And another important point on this is that, while I might think that everything that shaped me is great and everything that shaped the person I disagree with is less great, there’s probably some good and bad in both “shapings”. Does that make sense?

Ryan, it's not fair to characterize this interaction as taking place between two sides who refuse to listen to one another. If you take time to read today's post--and past posts--it becomes patently clear that one side is listening, and one side isn't.

Again, I want to believe this. And I can accept that one “side” (man, I hate saying that. Sides. Might as well start talking like we’re on other teams. But again, we are not.) has done a better job of giving counter-points to the other’s argument. But in every argument or discussion we have things to learn from the other side, at least if we listen closely. And it doesn’t seem like either side has done a particularly good job at that, although kudos to Andrew for his comment saying that take these thoughts into consideration. Let’s hope it happens. Have his thoughts been taken into consideration and sifted for the truth? Or is he just plainly wrong, so there’s no need?

I do feel a little sorry for Ryan, for growing up in a time when clear thinking is not being taught in our schools anymore, when blog rants are considered of equal import with carefully constructed arguments, and so on (not a slam on Ryan personally, BTW, but his comment hints at this failure to distinguish).

Well, I appreciate the attempt to soften the blow at the end, but it’s really unnecessary, though I take the blame because I made myself sound less than scholarly, which is a fair characterization of me. I’m no scholar. But I’m also not unlearned or anything. I’m not in the deep end without a clue how to swim. I just don’t want to speak like I’m some sort of expert, because I’m not. I’m pretty biblically literate and theologically up to the task. I even have opinions. I would just call myself a “kid” because I’m young and still trying to discover where I stand on a lot of these issues.

One side is more like the teenager who wants the car…

See, this is a fairly uncharitable way to talk. (I’ll avoid using the word ungenerous, because that’s got some pretty serious connotations these days.) Sounds like a pretty serious disrespect for another group. That doesn’t go very far to opening a dialogue. It seems like a very passive aggressive slam.

I don’t have time to respond to everything that was said to me. Sorry if I missed responding to some of the more important points. And more importantly, I apologize if, in my responses I’ve misrepresented anyone or misunderstood anyone. Didn’t mean to. And for the record, I still think the two sides of a marriage analogy is valid, whether it’s liked or not, because this is the church, and we’re all a part of it. There is no Church Jr., even if some would like for there to be.

Oh, and to respond to RememberPolycarp’s comment that was just made, thanks for making young guys like myself feel welcome in this discussion... My what a big brush stroke you’ve taken there… You did make a whole bunch of good points about the younger generation, but the whole thing felt a bit like a punch in the mouth. We (young people) aren’t all what you’ve described.

Ryan Donovan said...

Sorry I didn't put quotes around eveything. My bad. Realized it as I was sending it. Hope everyone can figure out where I was quoting and where I wasn't. I won't fix and repost the whole thing because that seems like overkill. Sorry again.

dac said...

Phil, I am confused.

You have said this in the comment section of one of your early posts on the topic (not the mars hill series:
"I’m suggesting that contextualization was a bad word and a bad idea from the start..."

and this:

"To sum up: My actual point is not that the word is somehow inherently evil.."

I may not be the sharpest person in the world, but that sounds contradictory to me.

Is it a bad word and a bad idea, or is it "not evil" ?(faint praise indeed, but it seems different than a bad word and idea)

Matt Foreman said...

But my problem is - I like the word "contextualization". Is it wrong to "plunder the egyptians" on this one and use it with a good meaning?

Jugulum said...

Phil,

P.S. My questions in my last comment to you (timestamp 8:55am) weren't for the sake of fulfilling curiosity. I'm trying to get a better handle on the extent to which people are actually agreeing. That is, how much people are agreeing on what makes contextualization-in-general bad, and on how it differs from contextualization-as-in-translation-and-illustration.

Jugulum said...

dac,

You could take the second quote as contradicting the first. Or, since he starts it with "My actual point is...", you could take it as a clarification--something aimed at correcting the misconception someone could get from the first quote.

dac said...

two different posts at two different times Jug - The quotes are both about contextualization but made at different times.

"I’m suggesting that contextualization was a bad word and a bad idea from the start..." came first, and this forms the basis for my understanding Phil's view point.

Jugulum said...

To the extent that you won't listen when he clarifies?

dac said...

His second comment was not made as a clarification of the first.

If it is a clarification, then fine.

Jugulum said...

You're correct that it was not explicitly aimed at clarifying the first quote in particular.

But it came after a bunch of people reacted to Phil's posts. After he saw how people were taking his words. Hence, the need for clarification.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

[Incomplete excerpt] "...but I grow weary of dealing with the nonsense spouted ..."

DAC: "TUAD, you have no idea how funny that is."

DAC, here's the whole quote: "I have challenged CMP on occasion as well, but I grow weary of dealing with the nonsense spouted by his liberal and emerging commenters."

DAC, you're right. I do think it's funny, but I don't know exactly how funny it is to see and read nonsense spouted by mainline liberals and postmodern emergers.

BTW DAC, do you consider yourself a liberal postmodern emerger?

RememberPolycarp said...

Ryan:

If you look at my comments, you will nowhere find the words "all" or "every" or any other broadbrushed term used to describe a generation. However, I think I made it clear that I am speaking from my experiences of teaching in a public institution of higher education (for over a decade), and I simply describe what I have seen far too often...and something that increases every year in my observation. I'm afraid there is nothing I can say to unoffend if you see yourself more as a product of this generation instead of one called out of it...perhaps to speak to it? One cannot effectively speak to their own generation for Christ if they are absorbed in it too deeply. Christ pulls us out of the mud, albeit still while still muddy. Also, whenever I go to conferences and hear the gurus of education and/or my discipline likewise talk about reaching this generation (like like the ecm), they recognize all of the same things I've described...as an epidemic problem because it fundamentally challenges their very profession. The difference? Well, I cannot help but chuckle when I hear these folks in breakout sessions--many of whom are the baby-boomer rebels of the sixties themselves--discuss this problem, yet attempting to do so without coming across as people who are "too serious" or who recognize the need for authority structures, discipline (w/regard to classroom behavior or plagiarism), or....absolute truth (what a concept). Of course this is not all students, but the frequency is unbelieveable frankly. I've also noticed in my observations that even those better students, who do not display such behaviors, as soon as they step out of the room, are essentially no different when they become influenced by their friends who are all of the things I've described. Only time will tell. Again, the connection to the church in all of this is quite the same, as even those young people today who do not necessarily display such overt postmodern characteristics may very well do so tomorrow because they are far more concerned with fitting-in and being accepted than they are in holding fast to truth, declaring truth, and dealing with the subsequent rejection by the masses for doing so.

Chris Hemmelman said...

Dac,

Do you take into consideration that when Phil mentions the word "contextualization" that he is holding up two different approaches to the word?

One is the common sense concept of translation and illustration, the other is the convuluted pomo method. So when he says contextualization isn't inherently evil he is refering to the common sense concept, when he says its a problem he's referring to the mess postmodernism has made of it.

Reading his comments in the proper context would alleviate your confusion.

dac said...

TUAD

Fe

Phil Johnson said...

Dac: "I am confused."

Yes, I can see that.

But this is really very simple: The coiners of the term had a completely different idea in mind than the evangelical faddists who like the word because they think it sounds cool and forward-thinking. The WCC strategists who first applied the term to missions strategy were advocating something tantamount to inventing a whole new version of Christianity to suit each distinctive culture. Syncretism was deliberately built into the original idea, and it was a bad idea from the start.

That's not to suggest that every idea proposed by every evangelical who now wants to use the term is therefore an evil idea. Some of what people CALL "contextualization" is self-evidently necessary, i.e., translation and illustration. (And to give a short answer to Jugulum's question,yes, that implicitly recognizes the importance of being aware of a culture's idosyncracies, which in turn presupposes the reasonableness of paying attention to culture.)

Anyway, dac, given the dubious origins of the word contextualization, it was a bad word and for evangelical missiologists to try to legitimize, and a bad choice of words to apply to legitimate endeavors like simple translation, because it originally described a bad strategy and still more often than not carries that connotation.

If you can't see the difference in saying that and saying something is "inherently evil" in the sense that adultery is inherently evil, I'm prolly not going to be able to help you.

Jugulum said...

dac,

P.S. Even if you think he was unclear originally, look at it this way: Phil has said that I was correct in my explanation to you. And he wrote his "to sum up" paragraph pretty clearly. So... You should accept that as his explanation of what he's trying to say.

At this point, it would be far better to talk about that explanation--the issues--than to get bogged down talking about whether he was clear. I think he was. You apparently don't. But it doesn't matter. Whether or not he was perfectly clear is of little significance.

What matters is the issues of clearly communicating the Gospel, avoiding compromise, what to think of current trends in how people try to communicate the gospel, and how to communicate clearly about communicating clearly.

dac said...

You know guys and gals, before being called out by Phil on his blog (rather than at the blog that I actually commented on), I have refrained from commenting on this series about Mars Hill/Acts 17, with one exception, when I AGREED with Phil as to his view of Vintage Jesus.

If you know that I am an emergent liberal postmodern hack, and you need to take me to task, feel free to read the actual blog post I was commenting on, and my comments there, and then, if you choose, respond there.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

dac:
TUAD

Fe

10:58 AM, April 03, 2008


As I said before, "... I grow weary of dealing with the nonsense spouted by his liberal and emerging commenters."

;-)

wordsmith said...

I, too, do some teaching at the college level, and I could echo many, if not most, of rememberpolycarp's observations. Of course they are generalizations, but generalizations are necessary to function in life on a daily basis. The current crop of college students ("current" being within the past 15 years, at least) hasn't a clue as to how ignorant they are on the vast majority of topics, but that doesn't seem to stop them from spouting off their nonsequiturs and inanities. I suspect that despite all the edutalk about "critical thinking" and "analysis," the younger generation uncritically and unthinkingly accepts whatever their gurus (college profs, Hollywood/entertainment elite, et al) tell them.

Jugulum said...

dac,

Hmm... Well, I got into it with you at Parchment & Pen.

Phil Johnson said...

". . . and if you are stubborn enough to continue explaining yourself in the face of their determination to misread what you are saying, a devoted pomo will simply pretend not to be able to hear. If you persist anyway, prepare to be labeled either stupid or uncharitable."

Exactly.

Rick Frueh said...

OK, my friends at another blog say that they agree that any "contextualization" that changes the original truth is bad. However, they disagree on which examples, illustrations, cultural identifications, object lessons, etc. actually do change the original truth. So when all the dust settles about the entire contextualization melee you are left with the same subjectivity with which you began.

The disconnect is alive and well.

Jugulum said...

Truth,

I think dac was making an ironic comment. ;)

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Phil Johnson states: "If you persist anyway, prepare to be labeled either stupid or uncharitable."

Well, I would humbly offer a minor correction to Phil Johnson. There's a third possibility. You could be labeled as BOTH Stupid AND Uncharitable.

Also, there are other substitute words used for "uncharitable". You could be labeled as mean-spirited, harsh, divisive, judgmental, pharasaic, hard-hearted, etc....

Stefan said...

Isn't it wonderful that the Bible provides its own context? It's rich in context! An agrarian society in the ancient Near East that God chose as the nation to whom He would give His Law and His promises; and that He would prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ through the institution of sacrificial atonement.

Through the context of atoning sacrifice, we can understand that the incarnation, righteous suffering, atoning death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the sole means of reconciling sinners (all of us) to a holy and righteous God. Through the ancient theonomy presented in the Bible, we can learn of God's grace and mercy, and have hope of salvation!

And what's more, the Bible is couched in the context of a specific time and place, but transcends it and takes on a universal context as well. Salvation is for Jews and Gentiles alike: all those who are redeemed by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. God enacted His redemptive plan before the foundation of the world, and will bring it to fulfilment when the new heaven and the new earth are created. His eternal Son, the transcendent Christ, was His agent of creation, and will be the Judge on the last day.

It's all as foreign to us 21st-century westerners as it is to anyone else, but by the grace of God, the Holy Spirit helps us to make sense of it. Is the Holy Spirit insufficient to illuminate the Gospel? What contexts outside of Scripture do we have to look for, exactly?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Jugulum,

Was Dac trying to make reference to "iron sharpening iron"?

If so, I'm not really sure that's applicable. Honestly, I think it builds up another attribute. How to be gracious towards the deadly combination of hardened hearts guided by willful stupidity.

I readily identify that as a growth area for me. I can tolerate a certain amount of postmodern and liberal stupidity, particularly if it's all they've ever known. After that's been exhausted, then I leave it to others who are more patient and who are willing to grind on in the hopes that it's not a case of diminishing returns.

Bryan Riley said...

Phil, in fairness, many of Andrew's commenters probably only read what Andrew wrote and commented thereon. You still appear to be doing some stereotyping and pointing fingers.

Ryan Donovan, way to go with some of the wisest comments of all... even if you are a "kid." you don't show it. Keep seeking more intimacy with the Father.

Rather than ramp up the heat of the discussion, why couldn't the response be... wait, I said almost all of that, your readers clearly didn't read my post and I'm not sure you did either, or at least you misunderstood it. It sounds like we are agreeing about a lot here. Here's where we may disagree. A.B.C...

BTW, missionaries do often find Christological imagery in other cultures... go figure... Christ is revealed through all of creation. It really isn't a crazy idea.

Jugulum said...

Truth,

Of course, just because we're talking to emergent pomos who are determined to misread what we say and who toss out the "uncharitable" label at the drop of a hat, doesn't mean we're not actually being mean-spirited, harsh, divisive, judgmental, pharasaic, hard-hearted. :)

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

TIME OUT! Rewind! Let's go over this statement by Phil Johnson one more time, and analyze more deeply about what's really happening.

". . . and if you are stubborn enough to continue explaining yourself in the face of their determination to misread what you are saying, a devoted pomo will simply pretend not to be able to hear. If you persist anyway, prepare to be labeled either stupid or uncharitable."

My thesis is this: If the devoted pomo labels you as both stupid and uncharitable, then it's actually S/He who is really the one who is stupid and uncharitable!

(1) They are stupid because they have a "determination to misread what you are saying" as Phil wrote.

(2) They are uncharitable because they are labeling you as "stupid" and "uncharitable".

-------

Actually, a persuasive argument could be made that the non-Emerger is stupid when s/he is stubbornly persisting in trying to wean the liberal pomo emerger away from a false doctrine which the emerger refuses to give up on.

Mike Riccardi said...

It's all as foreign to us 21st-century westerners as it is to anyone else, but by the grace of God, the Holy Spirit helps us to make sense of it. Is the Holy Spirit insufficient to illuminate the Gospel? What contexts outside of Scripture do we have to look for, exactly?

Amen.

Strong Tower said...

Ah the cry of the emerganism-

"Don't pigeon-hole me!" as he disappears in to his rabbit hole.

Not all voices are worth listening to...

If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me...therefore...As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen... or...

How might we descibe the impertinence of this generation but as those who have forgotten: If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions,

FeO2, there you go...

And we hear from the depths of the rabbit hole, "Come down here guys, you gotta see this, there's light at the end of this tunnel....

See what I mean---> ...Christ is revealed through all of creation...

The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation...

No Brian Riley, Christ is not revealed in creation...nix, naught, never, uhuh..., that is a crazy idea, instead he is only revealed through through the Word preached...

Oh oh, someone doesn't know the Gospel!

Bryan Riley said...

Strong tower,

I've read Romans 10 and understand. I also know that God is revealed through creation as is told in numerous places in scripture and as I have observed. One example, as you know, is Romans 1.

"since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."

Jesus is the Word revealed. John 1. Jesus is also the creator Himself. Colossians 1. His image is all over creation.

dac said...

Jug

TUAD still doesnt get it, no matter how much you try to give it away.

Mike Riccardi said...

So Bryan... just curious... can anyone be saved apart from the preaching of the Word of God? That is, is creation sufficient to save someone?

Bryan Riley said...

Creation saves no one.

Strong Tower said...

But, Christ is not revealed by it, He is revealed in the incarnation and declared in the Word and it manifest in the flesh and nowhere else...

You said---> Christ is revealed through all of creation...

Never...

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "...and if you are stubborn enough to continue explaining yourself in the face of their determination to misread what you are saying, a devoted pomo will simply pretend not to be able to hear. If you persist anyway, prepare to be labeled either stupid or uncharitable."

With DAC, it's pointless to be stubbornly persistent.

dac said...

Phil
Was your comment on running away or being called stupid and uncharitable directed towards me?

Bryan Riley said...

ST, Fair enough, although perhaps I meant all biblically. :) i was a bit loose with the apparent breadth of my statement - an easy mistake in a comment on a blog... I mean, I still think Phil was overly broad in this post and the preceding one.

jodiraeofsunshine said...

Thank you Phil for actively standing up and defending Biblical truth! It saddens my heart that other Christians truly believe that the bible is redundant or monotonous in trying to reach the lost for the sake of Christ. Does it not hold its value to them in their lives? The evidence suggests that it doesn't. If they are so quick to dismiss it in its true context, here in our culture or around the world, it strongly suggests that they dismiss it in their very own personal lives.

So many want their ears to be tickled and not their hearts to be truly repentive. It is easier to conform to this world to try to reach the lost. But is that the way that God has taught us to speak of the Good News? Not hardly.

Thank you for the encouragement and the teachings.

Strong Tower said...

Okay- fair enough.

There is significance to that perspective within the pomo camp...

Sorry to toss you down the rabbit hole so quickly...

Bryan Riley said...

ST,

Understand that to many in the pomo camp the reason they have concerns with the evangelical camp is because they feel like evangelicals play the rabbit hole card every time. Now, having said that, they in turn do the same thing by making that judgment. Both make speedy judgments of people in part in laziness but, worse, to give a feeling of superiority. Kinda like the pharisee praying thanks to God that they are not like that sinner...

Bryan Riley said...

This is why we absolutely are called to walk in the opposite spirit of love.

RememberPolycarp said...

So Brian, may I ask you a question? Does one sound like a Pharisee if he/she opposes the emerging chaos and encroaching liberalism within the church today and thus prays: "Thank you Father for the leading and discernment of your Holy Spirit in which to indentify truth from falsehood, and for not letting me become persuaded nor influenced by the lies of this movement that attack the very Truth of your Holy Word"?

RememberPolycarp said...

sorry for typing your name incorrectly : )

Bryan Riley said...

RC,

Are you really asking or is that supposed to be a funny. It is kind of funny. :)

Here's my response if you were being serious: If you get life from making the judgment and comparison then it is unloving and therefore wrong. If you are giving life and making a judgment for the purpose of speaking truth and life into another with the hope of lovingly and graciously helping them reconcile with the Father, then you are doing well.

thanks for noticing the name, but I am used to it. For all - it is Bryan with a Y. :) But I'm not too literal... ha.

RememberPolycarp said...

I'm sorry, but I'm not following your thesis/antithesis construct. But yes, I was being quite serious...as serious as the book of Jude for example.

Raffi Shahinian said...

Some two thousand years ago, a young Jewish prophet traveled along the dusty byways of Galilee telling a story by which He sought to illustrate the indescribable breadth of God’s grace. The story was about a young man and his quest to find fulfillment. Tired and bored of the humdrums of life tending to the family business, he asked his father for his share of the family inheritance so that he might see what the world had to offer. His father agreed, and off he went to start a new life, to stake his claim in the world.

Two thousand years ago in the Middle East, that young man’s actions would have been considered scandalous, even unforgivable. In twenty-first-century America, it sounds like the start of a small town boy’s coming-of-age tale. A lot changes in 2,000 years.

The indescribable breadth of God’s grace isn’t one of them.

Grace and Peace,
Raffi

dac said...

Phil- re: my last question

I am curious. I don't believe I have labeled anyone as, say a liberal, pomo emergent. I haven't questioned anyones ability to be a theological commentator based on lack of a degree. I have not even mentioned "stupid and uncharitable", nor any used any other type of insult. I have used some sarcasm, but I assumed that was an acceptable tool here at Team Pyro (although I have to admit I didn't make a poster out of it)

As to the running away - you dragged me in here. I didn't come in, at any time in this series before, and begin posting away. I commented, at a different blog, in regards to a blog post by someone else, about an issue they brought up.

There really are two options. We could continue here, talking about snippets of my comments at another blog and your reaction to them, about a post at that blog, or we could go to that blog, were people could read the actual post (which is the basis of my comments), read my comments (and others) as a whole, and then respond there.

So - read the original text at RCM, or read the commentary here. I would of thought more of your commentors would be up for reading the original text rather than just a commentary, but, again I was wrong.

RememberPolycarp said...

Brian:
You used the example of the way in which the Pharisee and the humbled sinner prayed to God. My question asked you if praying what I put in quotes above--between myself and my God--was being more like the Pharisee or the humble sinner? I get this "funny" feeling that you would define that sample prayer as being more like the former than the latter. Why? Because it involves critical discernemt. It involves thanksgiving to the Lord for "leading me not into temptation" or "delivering me from evil?" What if the thanksgiving for "delivery from evil" happened to be a prayer of thanksgiving to God for not becoming a casulty on the battlefield in Iraq? In spiritual terms, I'm saying the same thing.

Bryan Riley said...

Remember Polycarp... it would be so easier if i had a real name for you...,

What I'm getting at is what is the difference between appropriate judgment and inappropriate judgment. We all know (and sometimes grow weary when people quote from) Matthew 7 and Romans 2 (and less often from Romans 14 and James 2) about judging not. But we also know that we are to teach, confront, etc., (and as Jude says snatch them from the fire) and it is hard to know what in the world we can do if we aren't going to judge at some point.

I'm saying the difference is the motivation behind our judgment. If we are judging to gain life or fulfillment for ourselves, then it is what is proscribed. If we are judging to give life (or to teach, disciple, encourage, etc.) to another, then that is loving and against such there is no law.

As for more on Jude... this verse describes well what I'm trying to say... "These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage."

RememberPolycarp said...

arghh...I did it again BRYAN (what an idiot I am with names!)

RememberPolycarp said...

fair enough...good answer Bryan.

Bryan Riley said...

RP, I don't see anything in your prayer that indicates you are comparing yourselves to others for your own fulfillment, so I would think you are praying honestly to God, but I don't know yoru heart - He alone does. Just as you don't know mine, yet you suggest I have made a judgment about you. why?

Bryan Riley said...

Thank you. I'm going to watch a video with my wife now and it's 9:30 here in England. Thanks for a great discussion and for not throwing me out with the bath water.

Stefan said...

Jodi's comment got me thinking...

I wonder if this search for context is at least partly rooted in "New Testament" Christianity—that is, overemphasis on the New Testament at the expense of the Old Testament. (In other words, not even reading the Old Testament because it's somehow no longer "relevant" to us as Christians saved by grace.)

I know that I couldn't make any sense of the idea that Jesus died for our sins—I couldn't understand Him as my Redeemer—until my Bible study group spent a year walking through the letter of the Hebrews, showing how much Jesus Christ fit into the—ahem—context of the Old Testament, with its concepts of vicarious atonement, the anointed offices of prophet, priest, and kind; and so on. That exercise grounded the abstract concept of what Jesus did 2000 years ago in concrete, tangible terms.

Stefan said...

Erratum: "...prophet, priest, and king..."

Strong Tower said...

Stefan- who wants a king when we can have a kind :o)

sf said...

Excellent post and comment thread.
Stefan, your comments are brilliant.

Stefan said...

"Note then the kindness and severity of God...."

Stefan said...

SF: You're too kind (no pun intended!).

jamey said...

will the Lord find Faith?

Phil Johnson said...

Bryan Riley: "Phil, in fairness, many of Andrew's commenters probably only read what Andrew wrote and commented thereon. You still appear to be doing some stereotyping and pointing fingers."

It's not clear what standard of "fairness" you're working with, there, Bryan. Because in addition to the comparatively mild things I quoted and replied to above, the comment-thread at TSK was filled with not only "finger-pointing" but also cheap-shots (". . .he says the stupidest things. This is characteristic of macarthur..."); insulting condescension ("Have these guys ever heard of William Carey, Hudson Taylor, E Stanley Jones, etc? Do they believe in the Incarnation? What planet are they living on?"); utter misrepresentations ("he's basically saying where Descartes failed MacArthur succeeds"); and assorted random insults ("I'm struggling to understand the context in which Johnny Mac and his sidekick, Phil, operate. . . . Perhaps if I did understand their context, I'd have more Grace for them.")—none of which was based on actual quotations from or honest interaction with anything I ever wrote.

Apparently you think that because those remarks were rooted in ignorance of my position I ought to see them in a better light?

I couldn't help noticing that you didn't make a post over there scolding any of those people for "ramp[ing] up the heat of the discussion." How come?

Bryan Riley: "why couldn't the response be... wait, I said almost all of that, your readers clearly didn't read my post and I'm not sure you did either, or at least you misunderstood it. It sounds like we are agreeing about a lot here."

Well, because:

1. I actually said hardly any of that.
2. I don't think we are agreeing about a lot, here. I think we have a pretty fundamental disagreement.
3. One of my main points is that clarity and precision are a million times better than a sloppy postmodern notion of artificial "charitableness." (I'll get to that point before this series is over.)

Notice the predictable irony here: the very people who are most prone to think of themselves as striving for epistemological humility never seem to have any qualms whatsoever when it comes to delivering condescending lectures on "How You Should Answer Your Critics" to people whom they completely disagree with anyway. And it always seems that in order to achieve a "tone" that will be acceptible to them, the one thing we are always supposed to do is concede "almost all" of the argument at the outset and allow a postmodernized epistemology to govern the "conversation"? I've made that point before, but here we are again. I'm curious: Am I the only one who thinks that kind of incessant finger-wagging is a thousand times more arrogant and every bit as irritating as the unshakable certainty of a Christian's settled belief must be to those postmodernists who claim not to know much about anything and not to care a great deal for propositional truth-statements anyway?

And how is it that Andrew's commenters get to be as nasty as they want, even though you acknowledge that they probably have not even read what I have written and they certainly haven't quoted a word I have said? Their performance garnered not a peep of protest from you (except the scolding you aimed at me when I complained about it). But even though I wrote an extremely long post filled with quotations from both here and there, you insist (without a single shred of evidence or quotation from anything I said) that I "still appear to be doing some stereotyping and pointing fingers"?

Physician, heal thyself.

dac: "you dragged me in here"

What happened? did your baggy shorts get caught in my electric mobility scooter or something? You'll have to forgive me; I'm hard of hearing, too, and didn't realize I was dragging you.

dac: "We could continue here, talking about snippets of my comments at another blog and your reaction to them, about a post at that blog, or we could go to that blog, were people could read the actual post (which is the basis of my comments), read my comments (and others) as a whole, and then respond there."

On the other hand, dac, since that blog was talking about posts and snippets of comments from this blog, we could round them all up and drag them here by whatever means you were forced to come against your will, and then we could introduce them to the business end of some frozen-beef-chub nunchucks.

Or is there someone out there who would prefer a serious discussion about these things?

Ron said...

Phil,

Once again you have clearly presented that we must strive to study and throughly learn God's word in order to be able to share and apply it how He intended. My thanks to you, Dan and Frank.

dac said...

Phil.

In this multiple post fantasmagoical trip though all things evil with contextualization, I am still curious - am I a coward that runs away or someone who has thrown baseless accusations that you are stupid and uncharitable?

Phil Johnson said...

dac:

Are those my only two choices?

Bryan Riley said...

Phil,

You are right to chide me. But in answer to your question of "how come (Why)?" I have to confess I didn't make a call for toning down the rhetoric over there because I didn't read much of the comments over there. I hope that I would have asked them to think about the judgments they were making had I waded through their comments.

Does anybody realize how often we react to sinful behavior with the same exact sinful behavior? (judgment for judgment; anger for anger; self-centered argument for self-centered argument; bragging with bragging; etc.) Oh that we would all learn to respond in love.

I read your post and Andrew's post and very little of the commentary - I think I read some of what was written before I commented over there mostly because I got to the post early on. When I came here I think you were on comment 74 or something like that and the first thing I saw was a sarcastic comment.

I did, however, note what you are talking about in this comment stream in my discussion with Polycarp, with the below:

Understand that to many in the pomo camp the reason they have concerns with the evangelical camp is because they feel like evangelicals play the rabbit hole card every time. Now, having said that, they in turn do the same thing by making that judgment. Both make speedy judgments of people in part in laziness but, worse, to give a feeling of superiority. Kinda like the pharisee praying thanks to God that they are not like that sinner...

I suppose I would like to understand where you think Andrew and you agree.

Strong Tower,

I love the fact that the King of all kings also is my friend. Amazing grace and amazing love! I love the fact that God is an incredible mix of binary truths that go beyond my ken.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Phil,

I'm not coffee klatsching, but I've popped in with my metabolism churning enough to keep alert. I have been very curious about this entire conversation (in the dictionary definition) because of one particular point. I happen to be way on your side on this one Phil. I believe you are absolutely nailing it.

However, and that is a big however. I can understand why heavy duty criticism comes. Please take this into consideration. That whole due process thing.

You are essentially with discernment drawing lines on what is culturally unacceptable and worldly in the way of contextualization. That's what I'm hearing from the other side. I think we should be drawing lines. These things in culture do have meaning. This is what David Wells is saying in his books if I'm reading him right. This does impact the gospel in a bad way, a negative way, and sometimes the gospel is just downright changed to fit into something, as you would say, "uber-hip."

Here's what I notice though. You totally pooh-pooh people who do the same thing, if they are at the right of you. You mock them, ridicule them, in your own inimitable way. Now if Spurgeon is to the right of you, you don't do it to him, but you do it to living, breathing people. In one recent article, for instance, you bring up how that some woman got after you when you were in college at a fundamentalist college, probably Tennessee Temple, and she told you your wire rim glasses were worldly, or something like that. You threw all cultural separatists under the bus with your very, very strange example. It is an example of a rhetorical device, a kind of broad brush. You will likely deny it, but it is true.

However, you don't like the line (and neither do I) that Mark Driscoll crosses and many others that are either emergent or very fond of them. I agree with you.

The big HOWEVER is that it comes off as very subjective because of the way that you accept your social and cultural standards but you don't accept theirs. I agree that theirs are wrong, but why are yours right?

I'll put on my asbestos jacket and coffee shield to ward off hot coffee.

Bryan Riley said...

Oops, my own laziness, sloppy writing, and sloppy reading (which explains much of your well-asked questions) missed your last question - to which I would say this.

I was in part referring back to the comment I made on the original Mars Hill post challenging some of what you said there. I dont'know if you read it at the time becasue it was way late in the game; however, I rewrote most of it over at Andrew's post and I am guessing you read it then.

As to finger pointing/stereotyping in this post - try your entire first paragraph. When we lump individuals into a group of people (and it happens to be a group that we hold in disdain - prejudgment for any individual so labeled and rabbit holed), clearly we are taking a great number of individuals and stereotyping them to fit the mold we want to believe about them so that we can easily dismiss them.

and yes, the some of the people you label as pomo do the same thing of people they label as conservative, or fundie, or evangelical, or whatever label they desire. I don't like labels much, but I also don't have an alternative answer.

Phil Johnson said...

Kent: "I think we should be drawing lines."

I don't. I think we should observe the lines God draws for us in His Word. That's pretty much the answer to all the questions you asked.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Phil,

Very succinct. Let's assume that I meant draw lines at God's Word. So what is "fleshly lust" and "worldly lust" and "be not conformed to this world" and "the attire of a harlot" and "strange apparel" and "uncleanness" and "inordinate affection." Do you make applications there or are we UNCERTAIN about how to apply Scripture. I used caps to help you understand one of my points.

Bryan Riley said...

Kent,

I am obviously not Phil, but I think the answer to your question lies in the fact that we are in a spiritual war and the enemy greatly desires to distract us from keeping our eyes on Jesus and His commands with whatever works for each individual. We get into this vicious cycle of judgment, condescension and argumentativeness all the while forgetting that God has called us to reconciliation, unity, peace, and love. Now, we justify that with all righteous "contention for the faith" and doctrine and the like, but it is human justification, not righteousness. Satan does a good job of turning what is evil into something that looks and sounds good for the religious folk.

It's not limited to Phil or to those who oppose him in these arguments. It's both sides. And, what's sad is that both sides are filled with individuals who are brothers and sisters in Christ. There are those who aren't, on both sides, but many are.

Bryan Riley said...

I agree with line drawing with God's word, but boy to people pick and choose their hermeneutic to fit their paradigm.

Some great writing on this recently can be found at Alan Knox's Assembling blog in his post, "A Completely Biblical Church.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Scripture, for instance, doesn't tell me that I can't have a Ronald McDonald-like clown dance around and sing the gospel like a Gilbert and Sullavin musical? So that means it's fine?

Phil Johnson said...

Kent:

My complaint with postmodernists and Emergents is that they tend to treat Scripture like nothing in it is clear and certain. My complaint with you is that in practice you tend to treat all your opinions and personal preferences as if they had unshakable biblical authority. Virtually everything is clear and certain in your mind. The pomos' pathological uncertainty is in part a reaction to the unwarranted hubris of the rigid fundamentalist perspective you represent, and vice versa.

Your argument starts with the same presupposition as the postmodernists, but you turn the conclusion on its head. They seem to think if we can't understand and be certain about every point of truth, we can't really know anything for sure. You likewise treat certainty and understanding as all-or-nothing propositions, but come to an opposite conclusion, loathing to admit that there's any uncertainty or ambiguity about anything you believe. I reject the presupposition, as well as the erroneous (albeit opposite) extremes that both you and the postmodernists' take it to.

I would stand instead with Peter: "Some things in [Scripture] are hard to understand" (2 Peter 3:16). And I stand with the Westminster Confession: "All things in scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them" (1:7).

...and if you can't find principles in Scripture that clear up the question of clown church for you, even in the absence of any explicit statement on the issue, you need to study Scripture more and seek a fuller understanding of it. There are scores of questions like that (some more subtle, some less so), and the answers to the various questions range from crystal clear to not quite so clear. We're not all going to agree on the answers to every question, but that should not preclude our discussing them carefully, and it certainly doesn't mean the person with the most rigid ideas should be the person who decides for everybody else, just because is perpetually cocksure that he is always infallibly right.

Bryan Riley said...

Phil,

I've tried to quickly put some of my thoughts on the debate between you and Andrew in a a post of my own.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Phil,

That was an absolutely rhetorically loaded few paragraphs. And you're dead wrong. You have brought up the point of due process. Due process deals with the point, but you instead say these things, inventing most of what you wrote:
"you tend to treat all your opinions and personal preferences as if they had unshakable biblical authority"---(name one, I mean it)
"unwarranted hubris"
"cocksure"
"the person with the most rigid ideas should be the person who decides for everybody else"
"rigid fundamentalist perspective"
"infallibly right"

I repudiate as strongly as possible every one of those rhetorical techniques. Also you intimate that I have some predetermined standard and then look for principles later to back them up. I've preached expositionally for twenty years now through most of the Bible exactly because I don't believe in that.

You intimate in the first paragraph of your comment that it is people like me ("fundamentalists") create pomos. No way. Look at Sally in the comment section here who says that it is your church that caused her to be who she is. I don't believe her. I don't read fanatical Islamists to find out what's wrong with America either. I think pomos are created the same way we see false teachers in Scripture are created. They won't hear His voice (John 10).

You say that you draw the line at the Bible. Beautiful. But yet you know that my Ronald McDonald example is wrong when the Bible says nothing about it. How? Principles. Which is exactly how we draw our lines. You can't have it both ways. You are drawing lines. You are getting criticized for it. God does expect us to judge culture. And we can be sure that it is wrong, despite the fact that some things are hard to be understood (in the context Paul's eschatological passages, which you can understand being difficult to Peter still). Some culture is going to drag down the name of Christ, to blaspheme Him and consequently affect the gospel. Do you understand that you are saying that those to the left are uncertain and I'm rigid because I'm on the right of you? You are perfectly balanced. How about let's just see what is Scriptural? I'm all for that.

Not everybody to the right of you is some kind of raving, knee-jerk, with one blood shot eye in the middle of the forehead. Do you understand that this sounds just like what you are name-calling me and us? I call that carnal weaponry. Let's be all for using Scripture to judge the culture, eschew ourselves of some and hold on to the other.

Now about wire rim glasses and flared pants....

Rick Frueh said...

"Scripture, for instance, doesn't tell me that I can't have a Ronald McDonald-like clown dance around and sing the gospel like a Gilbert and Sullavin musical? So that means it's fine?"

If that's all the post modern emergent types did and the gospel they "sang" was Biblical and clear we wouldn't have near the problem with it as we do because they don't wear a clown outfit (usually) and they don't dance around (usually) and sadly they don't preach the Biblical gospel message (usually).

Bryan Riley said...

If we could speak less in terms of us and them we would go so much further in our work with God.

Daryl said...

"If we could speak less in terms of us and them we would go so much further in our work with God."

Bryan, that sounds great on the surface, but the difficulty we have with the EC is that the kinds of things they want to enter into the "doubt" column, make it clear that we need to seriously consider whether the movement as a whole is in the "us" column or the "them" column.

When you reject thae basis of the gospel (penal substitutionary atonement)as outdated and when you reject the idea of the Bible being inerrant as a modernist construction, how much on the same side are we, really?

So while the us vs. them thing is regrettable on one level, on another level it is entirely unavoidable and makes these kinds of discussions actually part of "our work with God" or at least God's work within those who call themselves the church.

It seems to me that this whole "contextualization" thing centres on one thing. The term in it's origins and the way the EC crowd is currently using the term both mean pretty much "watering down the gospel so people in a given culture like it more". And the only way one can honestly think that's a good idea is to first put oneself at least on the edge of the camp, if not completely outside of it.

So...while it would be nice if we could work together instead of being at odds over this, it is clear to me at least that this whole thing IS God's work because God is a concerned about keeping his church pure as he is about bring more sheep into the fold.

dac said...

Phil:

Those are the two you put forth earlier - coward or baseless accuser.

I am just wondering which of the two you meant at that time?

Certainly, feel free to add any others of your liking. But it would be a favor to me to clarify your first statement

greglong said...

Bryan, do you see any examples in Scripture of "us" vs. "them"? In the writings of Paul, for example?

Mike Riccardi said...

The first one that comes to mind is 1 Corinthians 11:19.

For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.

The idea of coming together with hugs and kisses and singing kumbaya hand in hand is a nice thought. But we can't just say, "Hey, I'm a sinner; you're a sinner. We're both probably wrong about a ton of things anyway. Let's just forget it and come together." That's the abandonment of principle for the sake of false unity. That's refusing to guard what has been entrusted to us.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. So let's love, but let's speak the truth in love. And when one speaks falsehood in love, let us rejoice in the truth (=love) to such a degree that we confront that error with the truth.

Rick Frueh said...

Being somewhat of a literary minor in college, and enjoying a creative, edgy, and with a Cheshire cat smirk style of communication, I have isolated a number of Mr. Johnson's most literary edifying phrases in this thread.

I really do enjoy being on the receiving end of a creative, twisted, and arresting mind who can communicate effectively while adding some "Cracker Jack prize" type of phrases that remove the usual boredom. Here are some recent offerings:

pathological uncertainty
unwarranted hubris
artificial "charitableness."
frozen-beef-chub nunchucks.
evangelical faddists
rubric of contextualization
the slough his caricature made of my position.

Thanks, Phil, even when I do not agree I can count on being edified simply by the imaginative and erudite literary style that adds another demension to the exchange. In short, I love this game!

To everyone else - enjoy the ride and smell the coffee!

(The posters - not so much) :)

DJP said...

"Evangelical jargonauts," while not on this thread, was another gem

And the posters are genius

Brian said...

Phil wrote: "The pomos' pathological uncertainty is in part a reaction to the unwarranted hubris of the rigid fundamentalist perspective you represent, and vice versa."

Phil, you are onto something here. I am often appalled at just the advertising approaches of many of the "fundamentalist" conference offers I receive. It is the same "let's try to beat the world at its own game" mojo. The fundamentalist, of course, will not feature a "pop concert" worship photo as a highlight of the conference as the pomo/emergent conference offer would do, but there is the same of plundering of pop culture phrases and imagery as you see in hyper-seeker/pomo "Christian" events. Many of the emergent leaders are sons/daughters/ or grandchildren of fundamentalists. Where did some of the emergents get their methodology from? Sorry, in many cases they are simply taking fundamentalist horse and pony shows to more outrageous extremes. They certainly reject the hubris of certain aspects of their fundamentalist heritage.

Rick Frueh said...

Brian - you have made a connection in me that is an epiphany of sorts. Being a one time independent baptist in the Jack Hyles mode we would do some of the following to draw crowds:

swallow goldfish live
dunk tanks
boxing matches
McDonald's hamburgers
church olympics
And many, many more gimmicks.

Now after reading your comment it occurred to me that not only were they church growth tactics, but some of the next generation have, as you suggest, just made them more sophisticated and post modern. Same show - different dog and pony.

Thanks, this is something I will continue to think about.

Phil Johnson said...

Dac: "Those are the two you put forth earlier - coward or baseless accuser. I am just wondering which of the two you meant at that time?"

Not sure what you are talking about. Read the start of the post again. The category you seem to fit most comfortably in is this one: the "devoted pomo [who] will simply pretend not to be able to hear."

In the wake of your determined refusal to accept Jugulum's clear (and correct) rebuttal to your charge that I was contradicting myself, I personally gave you a careful and dispassionate explanation of why I think contextualization is a bad choice of words for whatever legitimate strategies ecvangelicals want to signify by the term. I further pointed out that my saying the word is a "bad" one in that sense is not the same thing as declaring the word itself "inherently evil."

Although you could hardly stifle your taunts about my supposed "contradiction" before I meticulously explained that to you, you didn't even acknowledge the fact that I did answer your question about it. You simply dropped that line of protest and announced that you were going back to a different blog—presumably one where people aren't so stubborn as to persist in explaining themselves after you have alrady summarily declared them self-contradictory.

Rick Frueh said...

"baseless accuser"

Is that as opposed to factual accuser?

dac said...

Phil

I did not so much as drop it as left CMP's comment (at RCM) as the last word. There was really nothing more to add.

CMP said (to Jug)
"Jug, good question. And this has been part of my confusion here. I have never heard it used in a bad way outside of Phil’s post. It is missiology 101. I use it quite a bit in the Introduction to Theology course. Have been doing so sense 2001. It was in all my missions’ courses at seminary (DTS—not a postmodern institution—although one that has some combative history with JMac). Training with Global Missions Fellowship, we used it. Our training for pastors to go on Mission India with Stonebriar Community Church used it. Mark Young, missions professor at DTS and Associate pastor with me at Stonebriar Community Church used it continually. Chuck Swindoll was on board.

In other word, it was never anything new.

I have seen it used by both Evangelical and emergers. I have never seen it defined in the caricature that Phil uses.

I am not saying that Phil is wrong, but I have been very surprised by this series and the way that it has painted the picture."


I obviously misunderstood your characterization of the dreaded "c" word. Based on the posts around the blogosphere, I was not the only one.

Why was it misunderstood?

Option 1 - we are stupid.
Option 2 - you picked a target that many others don't see as an issue and were confused by your vitriolic opinion on the topic.

As a general rule I see no need to always jump on board with various "attaboys" like some pedantic lap dog to others blog posts or comments I agree with, but just to make it clear, CMP's view is also mine.

Phil Johnson said...

dac:

Option # 3: Lots of devoted contextulizers around the Web have reacted without actually reading anything I have written about the subject. Like this and this.

Phil Johnson said...

Andrew Jones has responded in a gracious and thoughtful way to this post here.

My brief reply at his blog:

_____________________________

Andrew: Did you think I was too stupid to know what a eugoogooly was?

Seriously, thanks for this post.

I have a wedding to perform in Palm Springs today and an ordination council in Fresno tomorrow (and those are at least 2 hours each in opposite directions from where I am now), so I can't respond in great detail.

But let me try to sum up my central point by referring to your closing pint:

Rhett Smith's blogpost perfectly epitomizes the sort of backward thinking that I'm most concerned about. Blond-haired, blue-eyed images of Jesus in Mexico are not signals that someone has insufficiently contextualized the message, but precisely the opposite. The blue-eyed surfer Jesus is a product of contextualizing the message too much for Amercan culture. Jesus was middle-eastern, not Californian or Swedish.

And the solution for an over-contextualized Hollywood Jesus in Mexico is not now to invent a Jesus dressed in a Mariachi costume, along with a black Jesus for the Africans, and an Asian Jesus for Asians, a cockney Jesus for East Londoners, and a punk Jesus for Seattle.

See, here's my central point, which I have reiterated over and over: The one context that should concern us most is biblical context. But biblical context is often utterly ignored by the very people who throw the term contextualization around most liberally. They seem to use the term to mask a narcissistic obsession with their own culture. And the blue-eyed Jesuses of Mexico are a symptom of that, not a red-flag suggesting we somehow need a more culturally contextualized Jesus.

Rick Frueh said...

"And the solution for an over-contextualized Hollywood Jesus in Mexico is not now to invent a Jesus dressed in a Mariachi costume, along with a black Jesus for the Africans, and an Asian Jesus for Asians, a cockney Jesus for East Londoners, and a punk Jesus for Seattle."

In short, an earthly Jesus.

Daryl said...

That whole blue-eyed blonde haired Jesus thing really gets at the issue doesn't it?

As has been said so many times, the EC has often identified a real problem but has had no clue as to what is causing the problem or how to fix it.

It seems to me that the whole contextualizing issue is very similar to the modern/post-modern thing they like to go after. In the one case they misidentify biblical ideas as modern ideas (absolute truth for instance) and in the other they misidentify the need for contextualisation as a need to cut out biblical references instead of the real problem, western references (blonde Jesus vs. hispanic Jesus)

Funny thing...in both cases the problem can be solved by simply asking "what did the Bible say" explain that clearly and stick to it.

Remember, by far most Westerners are not farmers, let alone sheep farmers, and yet we get the biblical shepherd/sheep images because someone took the time to explain it. Why do we think other cultures are so stupid as to make those explanations useless?

We've accepted the lie that education fixes everything. People wouldn't be racist if they just understood why it's counter-productive. Just so, we think, if people can get a feel for the Bible, they'll believe it. So we water it down to our version of the lowest common denominator because if they're rejecting the Gospel it's because we haven't adequately educated them.

Trouble is, education is not the problem. So we're back to where we started. Be faithful...let them walk away...God will save his own...a biblical sheep is a sheep, not a sea lion.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Is hearty laughter that emanates from the belly and makes your stomach muscles sore, and which may also cause you to fall out of your chair in a hysterical fit allowed in the coffee klatsch?

This whole contextualization series along with Paul in the culture of Mars Hill is just hilarious when you read of the gross unhappiness with Phil from the liberal and postmodern emergers.

If laughter is not allowed, then I shall immediately stifle any laughs.

Bryan Riley said...

Clearly He who is not with Me is against Me. That is an us and a them. I understand that. But I think we often forget that that is from Jesus' perspective not ours. So much of the "EC" (your term) protesting of traditional protestantism is a reaction against spiritual elitism. Some who react react with the same spirit of elitism, but not all. And many are very biblically sound.

We also must remember what is God's job and what is ours. I think He will do a fine job of keeping Himself and His church pure. My job really is to love first and foremost. Does loving include correction and teaching? Absolutely. But it still must be loving and must not be for selfish gain or personal notoriety. It must be for Him and Him alone.

Daryl said...

"It must be for Him and Him alone."

Are you saying that that's not the case here?

Stefan said...

Daryl:

Are you suggesting that in watering down the Gospel, we're...patronizing people? Gasp! Shock! Horror!

Mike Riccardi:

We're going through 2 John in church right now. Thanks for showing an application of that (consciously or unconsciously) in...er...this context. (Although our Pastor was already exegeting along the same lines.)

Brian (with an "i") and Rick:

I don't know Kent; I've never met him; and I ain't never been no IFB. But before we get carried away, let's give him the benefit of the doubt and not lump him in with the worst excesses of neo-Arminian soul-winning.

(Kent has one of the best blog profiles ever, too, by the way.)

Strong Tower said...

Our perspective: But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

Jesus's perspective: Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

And that is why Paul makes this appeal: I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment...

And that is founded upon: But we have the mind of Christ.

And why? The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one...

Lots of us/them divisions, even among the brothers: Remind them of these things, and charge them before God...(they)...only ruin(s) the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God...But avoid...(their)...irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus...(who have) swerved from the truth.... They are upsetting the faith of some. But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

Yep, seems that those who want their own ways are those who are the: Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

There are clean cups and dirty, gold ones and wood, and we are called to distinguish them from us by making ourselves a distinction among the profane.

Bryan Riley said...

Daryl, If I were to direct a comment toward someone I would do so and do it privately. I wouldn't be cryptic or try to bring shame on someone publicly. Why is it that people often feel they are being attacked? Is there a reason to be defensive? I apologize if there is anything in the way I've written to suggest that you need to be so.

Daryl said...

Bryan,

You misread me. I'm not offended at all, but your comment clearly implied that you thought people around here were just out to slam other people's ideas.

Otherwise, why say what you said?

Stefan said...

...Re my last comment, and if I were ever in Kent's neck of the woods, I'd probably sooner go to his church than any number of mainline, charismaniac, seeker-sensitive, or emergent alternatives.

Rick Frueh said...

Bryan - in order to avoid any confusion as to who is being attacked let us preface any attacks with the phrase:

" (Place name here)I electronically slap you with my imaginary glove across your wretched face in a direct challenge to your cyberspace excuse for integrity".

Then continue. :)

Daryl said...

Rick,

LOL...if that was a rule it'd certainly take the edge off...how could it not??

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Stefan: "...if I were ever in Kent's neck of the woods, I'd probably sooner go to his church than any number of mainline, charismaniac, seeker-sensitive, or emergent alternatives."

Yeah, me too.

Andrew Jones said...

yes, thanks phil. the post is up. thanks to those of you who came over and read my stuff.

nice to see some helpful banter going on, and a lot of material to think about. no nasty stuff from either side. well done!!!

Kent Brandenburg said...

Brian, (not Bryan)

You are correct about the promotion and marketing methods that dovetail with contextualization---whether it is professing fundamentalist or evangelical. I believe it all comes from the same unscriptural vat, and it is poured out to guarantee tangible success, but at the expense of the gospel.

"Rigid" is a loaded word. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When we love Him, obeying and honoring Him isn't burdensome. It feels rigid only to someone walking in the flesh. The conversation shouldn't be loose or rigid when it comes to these cultural issues, but whether it is Scriptural based on application of biblical principles.

SolaMeanie said...

Phil,

How can one contextualize Florence Foster Jenkins?

I nearly got fired from a radio station for playing her.

Mike Riccardi said...

We also must remember what is God's job and what is ours. I think He will do a fine job of keeping Himself and His church pure.

Bryan, it is indeed our job... at least in part. Obviously, it is ultimately God's job. And God does purify His church -- just ask Annanias and Sapphira. But God does not pull an Acts 5 of a Leviticus 10 every time the church deserves it. The way he does His fine job of keeping Himself and His (visible) church pure is done through the means of His people (those who belong to the invisible Church).

I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. -- 1Tim 6

We are to keep the commandment without stain or reproach. That means not letting people preach "strange doctrines" in the name of Christ, and claim that it's what God has said.

Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. -- 2Tim 1

We are to retain the standard of sound words, and thereby guard the treasure that has indeed been entrusted to us. It has been entrusted to us to guard the truth.

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. -- Jude

Seems like we'll have to do some discerning to figure out who it is we're contending with. We're contending for the faith -- which means there are those from our own number who have sprung up and are vying for the term "Christian" or "orthodox" or "biblical," and they're (at least) missing one of those. We're to contend.

Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. 2 John 10-11

I imagine it doesn't seem loving on the face of it to deny someone who comes in the name of Christ entry into your household, and also to deny Him "Godspeed," but that's exactly what we're commanded here.

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. 1 Cor 5

And here, we actually see that it's our business to act the way you suggest with the world, knowing that God will judge those outside the church. But we're called to judge those who are within the church. We're charged to remove the wicked man from among us.

Of course this is God's job. But God does His job by making this His people's job.

Rick Frueh said...

Can a totally decieved sinner be deceived further?

Rick Frueh said...

"Can a totally decieved sinner be deceived further?"

And as anyone can see, I meander in and out of spelling deception!!
:)

Bryan Riley said...

I agree with what you say, Mike, but what were those things that we are to keep and teach? The faith. the gospel of the kingdom. Christ and Christ crucified. the teaching of Christ (Matthew 5-7 comes to mind as an excellent example of that). That we are to bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness....

And then there's these kinds of things....which, as you will see, are hard to do if you are demeaning, sarcastic, unkind, or superior. (And again, before people ask if I'm telling them they are these things, don't ask me, ask God what He is saying to your heart.)

Dan, sorry for the length, but it is just scripture.

1. LOVE ONE ANOTHER John 13:34-35
2. BE DEVOTED TO ONE ANOTHER Romans 12:10
3. LIVE IN HARMONY WITH ONE ANOTHER Romans 12:16
4. LOVE ONE ANOTHER Romans 13:8
5. STOP PASSING JUDGMENT ON ONE ANOTHER Romans 14:13
6. TEACH ONE ANOTHER Romans 15:13-14
7. GREET ONE ANOTHER Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
8. AGREE WITH ONE ANOTHER 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? . . . For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
9. SERVE ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE Galatians 5:13
10. BE HUMBLE AND GENTLE AND BEAR WITH ONE ANOTHER Ephesians 4:2
11. BE KIND AND COMPASSIONATE TO ONE ANOTHER - FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER Ephesians 4:32
12. SPEAK AND SING TO ONE ANOTHER Ephesians 5:19
13. SUBMIT TO ONE ANOTHER Ephesians 5:21
14. BEAR WITH AND FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER Colossians 3:13
15. TEACH AND ADMONISH ONE ANOTHER Colossians 3:16
16. ENCOURAGE AND EDIFY ONE ANOTHER 1 Thessalonians 5:11
17. SUBMIT, DON’T SLANDER, BE PEACEABLE AND CONSIDERATE, AND SHOW TRUE HUMILITY TO ONE ANOTHER Titus 1:1-2
18. DEVOTE YOURSELF TO DOING GOOD TO ONE ANOTHER - Titus 1:8
19. AVOID ARGUING AND QUARRELING ABOUT THE LAW WITH ONE ANOTHER - Titus 1:9-11
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
20. ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER Hebrews 3:13
21. SPUR ONE ANOTHER ON TO LOVE AND GOOD WORKS Hebrews 10:24
22. MEET WITH AND ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER Hebrews 10:25
23. DO NOT SLANDER AND SPEAK AGAINST ONE ANOTHER James 4:11
24. LOVE ONE ANOTHER 1 Peter 1:22
25. LIVE IN HARMONY WITH ONE ANOTHER, BEING SYMPATHETIC, LOVING, COMPASSIONATE AND HUMBLE 1 Peter 3:8
26. OFFER HOSPITALITY TO ONE ANOTHER WITHOUT GRUMBLING 1 Peter 4:9
27. CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH HUMILITY TOWARD ONE ANOTHER 1 Peter 5:5
28. FELLOWSHIP WITH ONE ANOTHER (by walking in the light) 1 John 1:7
29. LOVE ONE ANOTHER, LOVE ONE ANOTHER, LOVE ONE ANOTHER, LOVE ONE ANOTHER, LOVE ONE ANOTHER…. 1 John 3:11; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:11-12; 2 John 1:5

Bryan Riley said...

Rick, I'm sorry again that it came across that way. It really was just an encouraging word to all and a reminder to me as much as anyone that we must always be loving. It is hard at least for me to do that sometimes when I blog. perhaps I alone needed that comment.

Rick Frueh said...

Hey, Byan, no problem. All good and I believe humor can disarm as well as help us not to think too highly of ourselves!

rick

Bryan Riley said...

Dan, gracious response to Andrew's latest post. Thanks.

Cheers to John 17. :)

Bryan Riley said...

Rick, thanks... that's not a tame lion - be careful.

Mike Riccardi said...

Bryan,

I never said it wasn't our job to do those things. You said it wasn't our job to "keep the church pure." I think the passages I posted show you're wrong.

Unity is essential. It's not something that we should dispense with. But people laying aside their convictions and confessing they can't really know who's right or wrong is NOT unity. It's ignorance. And it's blissful ignorance... which is foolishness.

The command to contend for the faith is not negated by the command to love. And neither vice versa. The contending IS loving. Pursuing unity with the brethren is not negated by the commands to expel the wicked brother from among us. So... I see no contradiction in what you wrote in your more recent post and what I wrote immediately before. It sounds like you do.

The bottom line is that the Bible teaches something. In fact, it teaches many things. And God's people -- to whom He's given His Word -- have also been given the mind of Christ and the Holy Spirit to illuminate that Word to our hearts and understanding. When somebody puts the name of Christ on their forehead and claims to speak in His name, and yet teaches things contrary to the Word of God, it is not only our duty in regards to guarding the trust, but it is LOVING to tell them they're wrong, and if they persist in their error, not being teachable or desiring instruction, to eventually expel them from among us. That's the furthest thing from unloving.

So don't set up a false dichotomy that presents Jesus wearing a tie-dye shirts a happy face and a headband vs. stodgy old 'fundies' with belts of ammunition around their chests.

Rhett Smith said...

Phil,

I don't agree with you much (if at all)....

but I want you to know that I can appreciate, and do appreciate the conversations you and Andrew Jones are having.

rhett

Fusion! said...

Great post. I'm currently reading jones' new book and hope to have a review up in my blog soon. However, I have one question: what do we call ourselves? New Reformed is the closest I can think of. I have a few others on my blog. It's been driving me crazy.

Daryl said...

"(And again, before people ask if I'm telling them they are these things, don't ask me, ask God what He is saying to your heart.)"

I'll try and not be too cynical, and maybe this is different, but generally when I've heard people say things like that, it's a veiled accusation.

I'll just say that, while opinions around here are strong, and error is not borne lightly, "those things" are not things I've often seen here, and rarely without reason.

That said...I've appreciated what you've had to say Bryan, you're right, of course, we must conduct ourselves with love and patience, but sometimes rebuke must be sharp and a little painful.

Daniel said...

Phil: I'd love to add that Pyromaniacs T-shirt to my wardrobe. (?!)

B. E. Wheatley said...

You quote my question:

"Is there any such thing as a non-contextualized gospel anymore?"

and firstly let me apologise that I did not make myself very clear (as I rushed).

Secondly with some more thought (and keep in mind I need to give this more thought) I think I am more interested in de-contextualizing than contextualizing. Not in adapting the Gospel to a given culture in any way but in limiting what we have added to the Gosple from our own culture.

Does that make sense?

From your comment above about Paul and “all things to all men” I think we agree more of less on this point.

Again I don’t think I’ve done my argument justice but I am in the middle of writing an essay for college on the meaning of the term ‘Kingdom of God’ and can’t give any more time.

I appreciate your thought on this issue.

Phil Johnson said...

Rhett Smith: I don't agree with you much (if at all)....

That's OK. You just need to get out of the Emergent ghetto and read a little more broadly.

Andrew Jones said...

"Great post. I'm currently reading jones' new book "

Fusion has me worried . . . i havent written any books. what on earth is he reading?

Bryan Riley said...

Mike,

I didn't create a false dichotomy. I didn't say it was either/or. And, you are correct to say that I often don't write in reaction to or against what someone has written. I often write hoping to edify, add to, or bring unity with people.

however, I also write to clarify. And, I believe it is true to say that if you contend for the faith in an unloving way (in other words I believe you can contend in an unloving way or may be contending for something other than "the faith" that Jude intended), then you are doing nothing - acting in vain. Consider this:

....If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

One could say: "If I contend for the faith, but have no love, I gain nothing."

Add to that this: Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be ["do not stop contending for the faith"], are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

I still say it isn't our job to keep the church pure. Call me emergent for saying this, but I dont' think we, as frail humans, can do a proper, objective, loving, just and merciful job of doing it. I think we will necessarily use our subjective and overly self-inflated views and end up making bad decisions - no matter how godly, smart, wise, etc. we are. we absolutely MUST submit to the Holy Spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to do His job. He is the counselor, convictor, comforter, etc. Not us. God is God; I am not. I am versus I am not.

When someone calls for unity it does not mean what you say here: "But people laying aside their convictions and confessing they can't really know who's right or wrong is NOT unity. It's ignorance. And it's blissful ignorance... which is foolishness." That is yoru characterization. I didn't write that at all.

At the same time, what is Romans 14 all about if it isn't laying down PERSONAL convictions from tiem to time??? Now, this isn't talking about Christ, or Christ crucified, or the resurrection (the basics - the true gospel), but it is talking about much of what people argue about claiming to be contending for the faith (whether it be gender roles in the church, spiritual gifts, playing "hard rock music," or even padding on the pews (my two favorite memories as a child in a small SBC church)).

The hang up between us, I think, is very narrow, honestly. I think it is that I am assuming (which is wrong and I confess it here) that you have a lot of "doctrine" that you include in your contending as part of the faith. you have a lot of stuff that you know you know about the Bible and believe it is as plain as the nose on your face and that all of that gets wrapped into what you can proclaim as truth. Because of that judgment that I shouldn't be making, I'm putting a lot of words on this page. I just want us to keep the main things the main things and accept that there really are a lot of things that arent' the gospel that are legitimately disputable, even if they aren't in our minds.

As to your last paragraph - I like tie dye. especially on my kids. :)

Johnny Dialectic said...

Mike:

"When somebody puts the name of Christ on their forehead and claims to speak in His name, and yet teaches things contrary to the Word of God, it is not only our duty in regards to guarding the trust, but it is LOVING to tell them they're wrong."

Very well put. This is the responsibility of "overseers" as Paul makes so plain in so many places. God has chosen to entrust the oversight of his church to spiritual men. That's just the way it is. We can either step up and obey, or let the theological and disciplinary chips fall where they may. I'm pretty certain (am I allowed to be certain?) the former is biblical, while the latter is not.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Bryan Riley: "I still say it isn't our job to keep the church pure."

I really don't see how you can exegete both the Old Testament and the New Testament and make such a bold assertion like this. The examples and commands from Scripture are quite numerous.

"Call me emergent for saying this, but I dont' think we, as frail humans, can do a proper, objective, loving, just and merciful job of doing it. I think we will necessarily use our subjective and overly self-inflated views and end up making bad decisions - no matter how godly, smart, wise, etc. we are. we absolutely MUST submit to the Holy Spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to do His job. He is the counselor, convictor, comforter, etc. Not us. God is God; I am not. I am versus I am not."

Yes, we will occasionally make mistakes. And please, don't get me wrong, I'm in no way advocating for a Grand Inquisition and a burning of heretics, but I am saying that a mark of the church is loving biblical discipline. And that the church has, by and large, not exercised biblical discipline nearly enough. In fact, my thesis is that the Adversary can penetrate via both extremist errors: Too much discipline and a severe lack of discipline.

And I would further go on to say that the Evangelical Church has tilted far, far too much in the direction of a severe lack of discipline. And the rotten fruit that's coming forward from a gross lack of biblical courage and action in biblically disciplining false teaching and false teachers has really hurt the Evangelical church and its charge to carry out the Great Commission.

Bryan Riley said...

"but I am saying that a mark of the church is loving biblical discipline. "

I don't disagree and never have. And I'm amazed at how my words get read into. The key words in your statement are "loving," "biblical," and "discipline." Discipline is to teach, and a great teacher will be someone who lives what he teaches. it is never punishment - it is designed to restore someone.

i definitely agree that today's church has erred on the side of not disciplining - lack of teaching (and living it out). We don't disciple people like Jesus did at all. We tend to rest on a one hour or less sermon each week to be the sum total of our "discipleship." And this is true even though we are called to make disciples.

Here's something I found by MacArthur on the web:

D. The Sanctifier of His Church

Christ is the sanctifier that purifies and glorifies His church.

Now, in fairness, he goes on to talk about how God uses us, as Christ's representatives, in this process. And I agree with that, but we still cannot and must not do this in our own strength and "knowledge." It must be according to His leading and according to His Spirit.

Truth unites, finally, you say the commands from scripture aer numerous.... not nearly so numerous as the ones I listed above about loving one another and building one another up. Not nearly so numerous as the commands for unity and reconciliation and to love. It's all summed up in love. The greatest commandment is love. All other commands rest in loving.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Bryan Riley: "It's all summed up in love. The greatest commandment is love. All other commands rest in loving."

The act of discipline and purity is an act of love, and therefore it fulfills the greatest commandment. Please look at the following passage:

5And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

"5 My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12)

Bryan Riley, please know that the Lord delegates the task of loving biblical discipline to His undershepherds. And to do so with a right judgment (John 7:24).

Discipline/Purity and Love are not mutually exclusive. Your big mistake is drawing a false antithesis.

Strong Tower said...

"it is never punishment - it is designed to restore someone."

This is not correct. It is not condemnation, but negative discipline is indeed punishment. Yes, inteneded to restore, and it may just take the life of the one under the whip to destroy rebellion and restore.

The passage that TUAD quotes says this: "FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES." Scourge is, well, scourge; to whip. It comes from a word that means to chew up. We do not have to look far to see that it is not mere admonitions, but rebukings, and excommunicatons. And, in the time of the Apostles a little bit more extreme. Handing people over to Satan for the distruction of the flesh... Paul carried a really big chub, and was not afraid to use it: I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—

No soft love there. He meant that he would, if necessary, end their misery...

Now it is true that we do not weild "death" authority as the apostles did, but we cannot diminish the serious nature of the responsibility thatthe husbandmen have for scourging the bride. It may not be a pretty picture, it is not some earth bound wedding prepartation that we are talking about. Take a look at Hosea and The Song of Solomon, take a look at the Bride as she is found in the testing and purification of Israel, his wife, the one called by his name. It is not a pretty picture.

Grasp the fact that we are to punish evil in our midst, and it will change the whole of your attitude concerning those who treat the Bride with such contempt that they believe the discipline of the Lord to be only loving and gentle. No, our Lord comes with whips into his temple, and it is not the tables that he used his scourge on. It was the "worshippers", so called, who had turn the grace of God in to license; to consume others for their own narcissistic delight. They thought that no teacher could or would be so harsh. But, we are not to be deceived, for the one who is coming, as in the case of Paul, and in the case of right discipline, will suddenly come into the temple, and woe to those who say, it will not reach us; he will spare no one.

Rick Frueh said...

"Grasp the fact that we are to punish evil in our midst,"

Wow, which evil are we to punish? The ones who by their own infidelity divorced and married their mistress and now sing in the choir? The ones who cheta on their income tax? The pew dwellers who do not pray or study God's Word? The men who lust constantly? The storing up of great treasures on the earth in direct violation of Jesus noncontextual words? Massive retirement accounts, savings accounts, stock portfolios, real estate investments, and many other laying up of treasures? Those that visit questionable entertainmen such as some movies?

Which evil do we punish in our midst and how do we punish it?

Strong Tower said...

Rick-

All, and rightly

Bryan Riley said...

I didn't draw that antithesis. You alone are doing that for me. We surely must be talking past each other because it seems to me we are agreeing, except that I'm not sure we both mean the same thing with the word discipline. We might, but I'm not sure. But please try not to speak for me with things I haven't said. Often my writing is agreemnt, not disagreement.

God's scourging is discipline, not punishment in my mind, but perhaps again we are defining things differently but saying the same things.

Bryan Riley said...

Why is it Jesus talks about love over and over again and acts with compassion over and over again and one time comes into his temple and cleans it out and all our doctrine for "discipline" is built therefrom? That makes little sense to me. And,isn't it interesting that the times when we see Jesus truly confronting it is always with the religiously pious? I mean, seriously, don't you think the Pharisees thought they had it all together? All right? And they did in so many ways. They KNEW the law. Better than any of us. They had most if not all of it memorized. They definitely would have been fairly justified in feeling confident about their doctrine. Yet Jesus reserved His strongest discipline for them.

Rick Frueh, great questions making a great point. Because we clearly don't judge rightly, soft selling sins that we commit while attacking harshly those that we have a good handle on, we really do need to leave the judging to the One True Judge, continuing to discipline and disciple by living a life of love and teaching the gospel of the Kingdom.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Bryan Riley: "I didn't draw that antithesis. You alone are doing that for me."

Bryan, your following statement is what I find objectionable, and what I see as a false antithesis between love and discipline/purity:

""I still say it isn't our job to keep the church pure."

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Bryan Riley: "And,isn't it interesting that the times when we see Jesus truly confronting it is always with the religiously pious?"

Please tell me that you understand that Jesus is purifying His church of pharaisaical legalism which is also a sin.

Rick Frueh said...

"Please tell me that you understand that Jesus is purifying His church of pharaisaical legalism which is also a sin."

I do not see the Lord purifying His church of anything, I see the church playing the harlot more and more with each passing year. There are some who are repenting, but most are carnal. Judgment is coming but still has not arrived.

RememberPolycarp said...

Some great analysis Mike Riccardi! I really appreciate the extent of your reasoning skills, and the willingness you demonstrate to exhaust your answers for some who stubbornly refuse to see your points as you declare them!

Bryan: I'm not just referring to you in my comment to Mike above, as I have appreciated reading Mike's efforts to give the same thorough explanations to several others (some of whom have been much more stubborn). Why do I say stubborn w/ regard to you? Well, it just seems as though you feel compelled to challenge every statement that appears too confident or too resolved about calling out false teachers or teachings in the church (or even recognizing the very reality that false teachers exist). To give you the benefit of the doubt (because you seem like a really nice guy), I think you perceive your oppositional statements to those of us who follow the many directives set fourth throughout the N.T.--to contend for the Truth and to guard against falsehood--as "peacemaker" statements that perhaps reflect our Lord's sermon on the Mount. However, have you noticed that such statements we make--Biblical statements--cause you to have a knee-jerk reaction of sorts to challenge them, in the name of peace and love, rather than share an occassional "amen" every now and then, thus indicating that you feel a breath of fresh air when you hear such politically incorrect challenges to the ever-glorified "tolerance" of our age, manifesting itself in the various strands of emergent liberalism or ecumenicism. As for myself, I know I love to hear such refreshing wisdom from Phil, Dan, or so many other solid brothers here on this site, as they make my heart glad amidst the chaos of a vast compromised church today.

Bryan Riley said...

What if we went back through my statements and there were as you say "amens"? I think if you did you would find that there are. And, have I not consistently given scriptural truths with much of my own statements? Is it possible that people are reading my comments through their own lenses, makign some assumptions about me simply because I do call for peace, unity and love?

Truth Unites.. I don't understand your question. I will say I wasn't calling you religiously pious nor did i mean to make that charge against the blog or bloggers here - I was simply responding to the notion of making judgments and some of the emphasis I see here upon confrontation and contention for ideas versus a loving teaching (through word and deed) of the truth of the good news of Jesus.

Now, the above question is somewhat rhetorical, but what follows is not. This is to any commenter and to Phil and others who write on this blog.

1. What is your purpose for the blog, for commenting, for any and all of your writing here?

2. How do you feel, honestly (and yes I mean feel in your heart as well as think in your head), about commenters like myself who come to the site with some praise and some challenge to the things said?

Strong Tower said...

Me first, me first....

Bryan- I come here to assert what I know as fact. Then brace for the blowback.

I think that most who come here are honest. It is not a monolithic bunch, more like a bowl of mixed fruit and nuts... lots of variety.

Spend some time and check out their links their profiles and blogs...weird bunch of peculiar electorati, specially the blog owners, my goodness God has a sense of humor. Just look at Centurion's spot...

The frozen meat chub is wielded freely though, so come prepared to beat and be beaten. They are merciless, here if you back in. If you use a frontal assault and throw down the gauntlet, do no be surprised if someone her picks it up and slaps you down with it. Well armored contestants though will find the competition fair, but often brutal.

Bryan Riley said...

Ironically I just went to at least 4 blogger profiles and on to the ones that had blogs, leaving a few comments. You have one yourself. :)

I'll wait for others to answer, if anyone, before I write substantively. I pray I don't just hear crickets, like Ferris Bueller's teacher.

Bryan Riley said...

Meanwhile, I must be goign to bed. I'm only up because i awoke from a dream. it's almost 2a.m. where I am in England.

greglong said...

Bryan Riley said:
I still say it isn't our job to keep the church pure.

Bryan, that's like saying, "I still say it isn't our job to get people saved." True, only God only can "[shine] in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6), but we must "proclaim the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15).

Jesus will "present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27), but we must "earnestly contend for the faith" (Jude 3).

Yes, it IS our job to "keep the church pure," to the best of our ability. "Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed" (1 Cor. 5:7). This verse is in the immediate context of church discipline (by the way, "disciplining" is not the same as "discipling", which you seemed to confuse in an above post--although they are certainly related).

Bryan Riley said...

Greglong, I agree with what you've said ("Amen!"). It is well said. I just wouldn't call it keeping the church pure. Many of us keep talking past each other and we just use different words to say the same thing.

To all, (and thank you Strong Tower for answering my questions!):

We are called to be Christ's representatives here on earth and the purpose of that is to minister reconciliation - what reconciliation? - the opportunity to introduce people to Jesus and the good news of the Kingdom - reconciling men to the Father through the saving blood of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.

And, we know through the teachings of Jesus that men can know who He is through the unity of those who follow Him. John 17. We also know that people will know we are Jesus' disciples by our love for one another. John 13:34. In other words, the way people will be attracted to Jesus is by seeing Jesus in us, working through us, to give us love for one another and a unity together in Jesus.

it seems to me that all of our writing, our blogging, our living, our talking, our doing should be about reconciling men to the Father, exhibiting the love of God toward one another, always endeavoring to build one another up and call one another to a life of repentance, freely forgiving one another, and walking in love and grace AND truth.

Now, how do I feel about my short time commenting here on Pyromaniacs? I feel like I've come to a town of Christian men who all see things generally in the same way. And, when they talk about how they see it they like to chest bump and high five about how well they've said it around a cup of java (or do some have brew at the pub?). They are highly intelligent and seem like a fun group of guys. It would be lovely to have a monday night football party with them. I definitely would have fit in a few years ago, but today i have a slightly different paradigm and, dare I say, hermeneutic. Because of that I sometimes question things that our said. Immediately, I feel like I'm the guy who gets picked up in the town center, put on the train, and railroaded out of town.

Now, if we are trying to be iron sharpening iron and if we truly want to have discussions and draw men and women to the Father, wouldn't we rather have some people who question things, flesh things out, etc.? And, not just so we can bludgeon and prove our incredible apologetic (argumentative) skills? Wouldn't it be better if we were truly trying to build one another up?

Perhaps you are trying to do so, but I can tell you that from my point of view, the way I feel, I feel very unwelcomed here. I feel like some would rather me take my thoughts elsewhere.

Any thoughts on this??

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Yes, it IS our job to "keep the church pure," to the best of our ability." (Greg Long)

"Greglong, I agree with what you've said ("Amen!"). It is well said. I just wouldn't call it keeping the church pure." (Brian Riley)

What would you call it then?

Bryan Riley said...

I would call it our job to obey what the Lord has asked of us. I don't believe he has asked us anywhere in scripture to keep the church pure. He has asked us to discipline and teach and obey and immerse and love and edify and not to judge and ..... the list goes on. But I don't see anything about keepign His church pure.

I agree with Greg's scriptures. That was what I agree with. And I follow them.

I suppose, upon rereading, that I don't see a huge distinction between disciplining and discipling. I think when we disciple we will discipline and that disciplining must always be designed to disciple.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Bryan Riley: "I don't believe he has asked us anywhere in scripture to keep the church pure. He has asked us to discipline and teach and obey and immerse and love and edify and not to judge and ..... the list goes on. But I don't see anything about keepign His church pure."

Bryan, how would you exegete 1st Corinithians chapter 5?

Rick Frueh said...

The Corinthian church had human idolatry (I'm of Cephas, etc.), rampant divorce, lawsuits, they treated the Lord's Supper as a picnic, misuse of spiritual gifts, a lack of love, people shouting blasphemies, and a litany of other very serious sins.

And yet Paul only says remove one guy who was living with his mother-in-law! Why? We can only assume that was the one sin that was public and was a stumblingblock to the unsaved.

The rest was handed internally mainly it seems with teaching, maturity, and loving patience. There are some today who would either kick all of them out of the church or look the other way. Both views are extremes.

Bryan Riley said...

Truth Unites....

As a rule I don't exegete cuz it's a big word and i'm from a small town in Arkansas. :) Ok, that was a silly thing to say, but seriously I just ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand. Exegete really isn't a word I use.

I see Paul addressing a specific situation that was occuring with the fellowship of believers who were in Corinth (not 20 different denominations of churches). It was a horrid situation involving blatant disobedience. I think (opinion here) that Paul was more upset with the pride of the believers than the immorality, but regardless he was addressing both. He was doing so for the express purpose of edifying and correcting, not punishing.

As for the purification of the church, I haven't denied that God works through us to do so - he does - but it must be His direction. All too often people are quicker to jump on someone whom they believe needs disciplining without any direction from the Lord. Also, it often seems that people are out "to correct" matters of disputable belief (contra Romans 14 as one example) more so than matters of sinful attitudes and sinful conduct.

What is accomplished when someone blogs about "all those postmodern folks teaching heresy" when there aren't specific charges being given? What is accomplished by condemning groups of people and calling individuals one of them when no one even knows what it is specifically that is being charged?

greglong said...

Bryan, with all due respect, making a statement like...

What is accomplished when someone blogs about "all those postmodern folks teaching heresy" when there aren't specific charges being given? What is accomplished by condemning groups of people and calling individuals one of them when no one even knows what it is specifically that is being charged?

...shows you haven't been reading this blog.

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