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Posts Tagged ‘Evangelicalism’

Portrait of a young pig by Joel Sartore
Portrait of a young pig

For my birthday, we had a Pigfest. I blogged a long time ago promising a Pigfest, and challenged you all to discover what it was. Here’s how it went.

Each person in attendance was asked to have a statement prepared for debate. It could be about theology, philosophy, politics, history, or economics. They would state their proposition and explain it if necessary. A timer set for fifteen minutes was started and the debate began, with any person present allowed to play devil’s advocate or switch sides or bring up a new aspect for debate at any time.

A Gentleman's Debate, 1881 by Benjamin Eugene Fichel
A Gentleman’s Debate, 1881

The first proposition was that Imagination is inversely proportional to the amount of toys one possesses. Discussion included types of toys, what happens if one has no toys, the advantage of having a few toys over either extreme, whether we meant toys, or property in general (who defines toy?). The assumption that imagination is a desired goal was addressed, as well as the purpose of imagination and of toys. “Is passive entertainment ever healthy?” someone asked. We talked about different kinds of people, and the kinds of entertainment that are more satisfying because they engage the entertained to interact. Finally at the last minute it was suggested that the relationship is not inverse. If “inverse” were true of toys and imagination, no toys would produce infinite imagination, and that is not the case.

Secondly it was proposed that Evangelical Christianity should be more like Roman Catholicism in that there are wards, and one is expected to attend the nearest church, focusing on involvement in their immediate community. This would mean that problems in churches get fled, not ignored. There would ideally then be accountability in the leadership of the church. The Roman Catholic church, however, enforces accountability with a bishop who is outside of the local congregations, overseeing several churches. Who would enforce the rule? How would it be enforced? Would a Christian be able to exercise their freedom and their conscience toward doctrine? Someone suggested choosing between the three closest congregations. The condition was Evangelical Christianity, so it was argued that one’s own theology defined what one considered an appropriate church/denomination to attend, and most people present wouldn’t change the church they attend (Pigfesters at this event represented at least four churches, and I invited members of several more churches.) If community is the end goal, then why do we have church buildings at all? Why not house churches? How do you hear about/get invited to a house church? If one is going to fix problems in existing churches, wouldn’t that lead to a sort of vigilante church take-over? Wait! Is that happening in some churches already?

Our third debate was on the need for a national language, and that because the majority of the nation speaks English, and our legal and founding documents were written therein, the national language should be English. The first objection was that one would have to define English. English is evolving, as evidenced by the low comprehension we would have of a Middle or Old English document. A national language would enable integration of immigrants, encouraging unity in our country. How would you enforce the national language? How would you integrate those whose birth language was not English? What does a national language mean? Are road signs only in English? Laws? Ballots? Government documents? If one national language is such a good thing, why should we stop at that? Why not a global language? We talked about the tower of Babel, and God’s design in confusing languages.

Next was a discussion of the relative morality of nuclear weapons. The proposition stated that the morality equaled that of using hand grenades or traditional bombs. Brought up was the economics of both the use of and the recovery from nuclear weapons; the effect upon innocent non-combatants, the number of dead, and the number of miserably injured. What is the object of war? To obtain land and property? Defense? Killing the most enemy combatants? Killing the most people? Is psychological warfare moral? Doesn’t the use of morally regulated nuclear weapons facilitate escalation in that it emboldens the less principled (or sane) enemies to use nuclear weapons against innocents or recklessly?

We had a proxy proposition that Lying is justifiable to save a human life. Immediately presented were the biblical examples of Rahab and the Midwives, and contrasting example of Corrie ten Boom’s sister (Corrie nine Bang?). What was God rewarding? Is it ok to give the appearance of lying? God clearly says that He abhors lying, but we are only assuming from examples that it is ok to lie to save lives. Theology and application should be consistent with the whole revelation of Scripture. A Bible story was brought up in which God caused an attacking army to believe there was an army attacking them, even though there wasn’t. Does God use mind control? Will He use it if we don’t take initiative and lie for Him? Is lying ok in other circumstances, like surprise parties? It was argued that life is the highest end, taken from Proverbs 31 where it says to intercede for those being delivered to death. Against that was the position that God’s glory was the highest, that faith in God says that God can accomplish His purposes inside our obedience (as well as outside). What else could Rahab, for example, have done? Refuse to answer. Be creative. Die for the truth. The Holy Spirit will guide a Christian to the proper response in a given situation.

Then we addressed the question Does God tell you what to do and change the plans? The general answer was yes, He does. Then it was asked is God lying. The example was given of Abraham and Isaac, that God tests our surrender. Is God lying, or is our perspective not reflective of reality?

Finally, trying to mix up the topics, I selected a topic from history from my list. This was my proposal: Ancient civilizations knew about and had maps of America and Antarctica. After the strong stand taken against lying in any circumstance, no one wanted to argue with me. There was discussion on the evidence: trigonometry, maps, Columbus’s discovery of America, that Antarctica was mapped pre-ice cap (what if there was a civilization there?). We diverted into conversation on ancient technology (that we moderns don’t understand), Mormon myths, similar architecture in rings out from Babel reflecting the dispersion. From the Bible we talked about Peleg (in his days the earth was divided, whatever that means) and boundaries (between nations that are not to be moved), and the knowledge possible to be acquired in 500 years of life versus the current life expectancy. Evidence was presented that mammoths were found with dandelions that had been blooming in their stomachs as they were frozen, suggesting the climate was more temperate in the arctic and Antarctic in the past, and that it changed rapidly.

Afterward we watched Amazing Grace, the movie about William Wilberforce’s campaign to abolish the slave trade in England. It was positively inspiring. Afterward we passed around the petition to amend the Colorado Constitution defining person as a human from the moment of fertilization.

I’m told, and experienced myself, that the conversation sparked by fifteen minute segments of debate carried on into the next few days. We have all resolved to have Pigfests again.

Feel free to add to the arguments, ask questions, click on the links, host your own Pigfests, comment on your debate experiences, say hi, etc.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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In case you haven’t determined from my other posts, especially those about “Changing Church,” I have some serious concerns about the evangelical Christian Church in America. A year ago I led a Bible study. And it is a symptom of the problems with evangelicalism that I must clarify: that means we took passages of the Bible and studied them. We figured out what the words meant, how the passages were connected with other parts of Scripture, and how to apply them. The topic was spiritual gifts. One of the primary passages on spiritual gifts in the Bible is 1 Corinthians. Typically a theologian would point you to select verses in chapter 12. However, spiritual gifts are the topic throughout 12, 13, and 14. This information fits because, in context, we saw that spiritual gifts are (this is so obvious) part of Church structure and purpose. Our group ended up discussing and discovering a lot about how the Church was intended to “run.”

from Whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” – Ephesians 4:16

Ephesians 4, also a defining passage for the Church, is another chapter describing spiritual gifts. There are also passages in Romans and 1 Peter. In none of these do we see church buildings. The four-point sermon is not described, nor the “invitation.” Come to think of it, a weekly offering wasn’t part of the instructions. There is no gift for “treasury,” though there is one for “giving.”

To some extent, I am still trying to figure out what the Bible teaches about the design for the Church. What did Paul tell Timothy the Church should look like? How should the assemblies go? Who should assemble; when; where; how often? Is it like a network of small groups that interact and overlap? How do elders fit in? What does an elder do? How many elders did God plan for churches? Do they need to be formally ordained? Does a teacher have to be an elder? Does an elder have to teach? If they do, is it every week?

*Deep breath* I have a lot of questions. And I have some ideas I’m exploring. Some might ask how relevant my search is to real life. Occasionally God reminds me He is more important than a completely worked-out theology. He’ll teach me what I need to know. Mostly I need to know I should trust Him.

So I read up on these things. And I try to have an application-oriented study. But I’m not pragmatic. Truth is more important to me than success. I won’t take a group that “does it right” without believing the right thing. I’d rather not be part of a church that is high on creeds and low on follow-through. For one thing, that is my tendency, and I need influences to counter my laziness.

I’m not alone in my dissatisfaction with the Church. A lot of people my age leave, and I can’t entirely blame them. For one thing, my friends and I want challenged. We want examples. We need interaction across generations that is generally unavailable to us at traditional churches. Some who leave their childhood churches gather with others craving spiritual experiences though they were raised outside of church. An overall term for these gatherings is the “emergent church.”

This church and its leaders tend to have embraced a unique philosophy/theology. It is unitarian, communal, experiential: meaning respectively that there could be many roads to salvation and a relationship with God, evangelism and the Christian life should be more about serving the poor and building real there-for-you relationships, and worship must be a multi-sensory encounter.

One of the most frequent things I hear is an emphasis, almost a demand, for “alternative worship.” There is also contemplative prayer. The idea that conversion is a process can be found. In a book I am currently reading, a missionary is encouraging Muslim converts to keep the Koran, keep the the mosques, and be “Messianic Muslims.”

Here’s the thing. Most of these emergent believers and former evangelicals (and some others: family-integrated church members, some house churches, other conservative “fundamentalist” movements) are identifying real problems in the Church. The difference is the source of their solution.

I am searching for a back-to-the-Bible approach such as advocated by the New Testament Reformation Fellowship. The other options would be slight reform (as explained in the Purpose Driven Church and other such books) or theological abdication for what works. These alternatives are man-centered, offering either that which appeals and entertains men, or that which men think will work, borrowing “truth” from “wherever it can be found,” including pagan religions, popular psychology, New Age spirituality, Hollywood, and ancient mysticism.

Back to the topic of spiritual gifts, one oft-overlooked and even supressed gift is that of discernment. “Discerning of spirits,” can mean telling whether a spirit (message or soul) is from God or not. John MacArthur has compiled an entire book on the subject for contemporary issues, entitled Fool’s Gold. There are websites like Let Us Reason, Apprising Ministries, and the Christian Research Net. I believe this is one of my gifts as well as a topic I believe to be vital to the Church.

So I feel obligated to warn you about reliance on The Message paraphrase of the Bible, Brennan Manning’s writings, Rick Warren’s writings, anything Emergent Church or “Christian mysticism.” The argument that one must have read a book to denounce it, or have met a person to know that they are false teachers is invalid. The spiritual gift of discernment comes from God, and is primarily a testing of spirits against the pure, absolutely true Word of God. For specifics of why these people, books, movements, and ideas are unbiblical, please consult the links above. I have personally had exposure to each of these, but not immersion. However, the links provided do go into detail, with quotes and point-by-point refutations.

To summarize: the Church has problems. The solution to these problems can be found in the Bible, and the cause in how we have sold out to our culture and human philosophies rather than believing the instructions God gave. Some people who recognize these same problems and are very insightful in how they are related to each other and to statistics coming out about the Church have resorted to unbiblical “solutions,” which will cause more harm than good. Christians must be on their guard against these philosophies and practices. This is done by being solidly grounded in the Bible, and testing every movement against it.

Colossians 2:6-8, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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