Category Archives: Christian Apologetics

Andy Crouch on church and culture

Last week we had Andy Crouch (columnist for Christianity Today and project director for Christian Vision Project) at Biblical talking to us about the relationship between church and culture. It was a good presentation so I want to give some of his thoughts here (but mind you, my interpretations of what he said):

His descriptors of culture: It is urban, affluent (even the poor are shaped by America’s affluence), post christian, and thin (intellectually and relationally).

Question? The church is in culture but is she transforming or being transformed? Should it see its job as transforming culture?

Since the 19th century, the church has had these postures toward culture:
1. Condemning culture (the suspicion of christians of increasing worldliness)
2. Critiquing culture (a la Francis Schaeffer, take in culture but critique it)
3. Copying culture (the rise of the christian rock music scene)
4. Consuming culture (just use it, no critique)

#2-4 are what we call cultural engagement. Each one may be short-sighted. Andy suggested that these are all good gestures but not good postures or stances for the church. There are things we should condemn, things we should critique, things we may want to copy, and things we may want to just consume. However, he called us to look at the creation mandate for guidance on a different posture: Cultivate and Create. Adam was called to cultivate the garden and to create by naming the animals as he saw fit. (I’ve written on this as well so it was neat to see him say something similar). Our posture, says Andy, should be one of cultivating culture and creating culture. He showed us a short video from the Christian vision project of an artist in NYC (and two prominent pastors) talking about doing both cultivation and creation after 9/11.

Good things to think about… 

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Filed under Christian Apologetics, church and culture, cultural apologetics, Missional Church

Painful words in the church: What’s the difference between a prophet and a slanderer

For those who might not know it, Mark Driscoll wrote a blog post regarding Ted Haggard’s admission of sexual immorality. The post contains some comments regarding protecting pastors from such problems. While several of the points are useful, one point in particular offended many:

Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.

Scot McKnight at blogged on the topic and pointed to a Seattle pastor’s open letter to Driscoll, calling on Driscoll to offer an apology. Several responders to McKnight’s blog then took Scot to task for being easy on Brian McLaren’s “provocateur” style of writing/talking but being hard on Driscoll’s offensive remarks to women, especially pastor’s wives. These issues have made me think about a deeper issue: What is the difference between someone willing to speak up about difficult issues with a prophetic and provocative voice and a person who uses reckless words to slander individuals he or she does not respect or value?

Does Driscoll speak provocatively about the lack of frank sexual discussions among pastors and spouses? Or does he link a pastor’s indiscretions to his wife’s behavior even though he states that is not his reason? (Is it possible that pastors’ wives “let themselves go” because they are neglected and at the bottom of their husband’s ministry lists?) I Realize that every prophet may give in to the temptation to slander and every slanderer may speak prophetically. So the distinctions I try to make between the two cannot be categorical.

1. A prophet names things and people (especially opponents) in a way that they would agree or approve. A slanderer uses names to disparage and to smear opponents, even those who might barely be related to the issues at hand. (Scot McKnight, in a recent presentation at Westminster Seminary, offers some good advice in this area when talking about emerging/missional church authors and their critics. When you describe your opponents, you ought to do so in a way that the opponents says, “that’s me.”).  A prophet does not stoop to build straw men.  
2. A prophet highlights viewpoints in order to point out their possible logical conclusions while a slanderer takes another’s position to an extreme and paints the person as intending the outcome or so foolish not to see the result.
3. While pointing out possible outcomes, a prophet is still able to describe these outcomes with complexity and shading while the slanderer merely paints everything in black and white.
4. A prophet points to a better way, creative solutions, risky but realistic options while a slanderer wastes no effort trying to provide solutions, but is satisfied with producing only criticisms and tired stereotypes.  

When I look at this list, I realize that I have slandered those less theologically astute, the biblically naive, and the psychologically narrow-minded. God has gifted me with some level of critical thinking. How will I use it to give Him the glory?

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Filed under Christian Apologetics, conflicts, Doctrine/Theology, Missional Church

Of protecting the faith and killing blue birds

Got the latest print issue of Christianity Today. In it was a essay by Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary. He recounts a story where then pastor of Tenth Pres (Philadelphia) Barnhouse was shooting grackles that were messing with his beloved bluebirds. With him was defender of the faith, Al Martin. After shooting a grackle from some distance, they come find out that Barnhouse had actually shot a bluebird. Barnhouse apparently made the spiritual lesson to Martin saying something like, “better to leave a grackle for the Lord to deal with than kill a bluebird and have to answer for that at the judgment seat of Christ.” (My memory of what Mouw wrote as I left my copy home).

Good advice. In the academy, we take great delight in shooting down bad theologians (armchair or otherwise). But, there will be collateral damage. We’d better make sure we don’t mind taking responsibility for that damage when we face our Lord.

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Filed under Christian Apologetics, Doctrine/Theology