A Parallel of the Two Cultures

Christian Overman, in his book Assumptions That Affect Our Lives, refers to Will Durant’s book The Life of Greece, which was published in 1939. Overman summarizes Durant’s discussion of ancient Greece and compares it with modern America with the following list on pp. 19-20.
  • People, especially the educated ones, have rejected traditional religions.
  • Cults from the East have been accepted.
  • Astrology is practiced.
  • Patriotism has declined.
  • Men practice manners which have previously been considered effeminate.
  • The upper class is consumed with the pursuit of pleasure.
  • Education stresses knowledge more than character, and produces masses of half-educated people.
  • Public athletic games have turned into professional contests.
  • Homosexuality is popular.
  • Men who want to watch dances by unclad women do not have to go far to find them.
  • The dramas of the day are full of seduction and adultery.
  • A women’s liberation movement has brought women into active roles in a previously male-oriented culture.
  • Motherhood is devalued, and the bearing of children is viewed as an inconvenience.
  • Abortion is commonly practiced, as well as infanticide.

Sounds familiar. Ever wonder what happened to the Greeks?

(Permission from Dr Phil Siefkes)

A Revival for ECT?

I could not believe what I was hearing as I was driving home tonight. In his “BreakPoint Commentary,” Chuck Colson addressed a commentary entitled “Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant” in reference to Father Richard John Neuhaus, who recently passed away. What caught my attention was not that he referred to Neuhaus “my dear friend,” but that Colson referred to a Roman Catholic priest, “brother in Christ.”

Granted, he was one of the prominent proponents to “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) back in 1991, but I somehow thought that after all these years (with numerous discussions with Boice, Sproul, MacArthur, and many others) that he would change his position (at least, I was hoping). But tonight, was I wrong! I could not believe he was spewing his pro-ECT rhetoric on what is considered an “evangelical” radio station. I wondered if the radio station heard what he just said. I wondered if they think it’s no big deal. I wondered if the listeners discerned what he just said. But again, based on the current state of evangelical churches, I probably shouldn’t hope. Is there a coming revival for ETC? Why wouldn’t it be when so many professing evangelicals are in sleep?

Above All Earthly Pow’rs – Part 3

Personal and Private Truth

Continuing from Part 1 and Part 2 of my interactions with David F. Wells’ Above All Earthly Pow’rs.

Wells observes that postmodernists personalize and privatize truth. He notes:

Truth in this postmodern and individualistic context becomes entirely private. What is true for one, therefore, may not be true for another; what is preference for one will not be preference for another, and the spirituality that works for this person may not work for that (p. 168).

As a pastor, how often have I heard professing Christians say, “Well, that’s just your interpretation” or “That’s your opinion”? Even after spending countless hours showing them what the Bible actually says (with their Bibles opened), explaining exegetically all the verbs and nouns and important grammatical constructions, persuading them that I’m not the only one who believe this by pointing them what the churches have taught historically, and still, they act as though they know more or that they are the final judge. I sometimes wonder whether these people argue like this when they go see medical doctors or bankers. Whatever happened to objectivity? I doubt that these people would argue with physician’s assessment or banker’s equation. How is it that people listen to these folks more and readily than ones that proclaim and explain God’s word? I already know the answer to my own question; I’m just not sure whether these people know or honestly admit.

Above All Earthly Pow’rs – Part 2

The House or the Journey?

Continuing from my previous post, let me share “two images of contrasting spiritualities in America” that David Wells points out in his book; and they are “house” and “journey.” He explains:

A home is a fixed place with clear, unmistakable outer boundaries, and established internal routines, roles, and expectations. The spirituality of the home – what has been called ‘religion’ – is one that includes public worship, a set of doctrines, a fixed worldview in which God is unchanging, and in which truth and morality are unaltered by time or circumstance (pp. 119-20).

However, “a journey” on the other hand, is an image of postmodern twist of “Christianity” that is opposite to traditional Christianity (i.e., “home”). According to Wells, a postmodern version of Christianity have the following characteristics:

There are no boundaries, no internal rules and routines, there is no ultimate sense of right and wrong, no ability to understand when the road is leading in the wrong direction, no sense as to what the destination is, and no ultimate accountability (p. 123).

It is my observation that many of these churches or “emergent churches” interestingly do have their church names with “journey” in them. Although “journey” is a descriptive term found both in the Bible (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11) and John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress, there is as Wells points out “stark and jarring differences between the way Bunyan understood this spiritual journey and the way that postmoderns are thinking about it” (p. 120). According to Wells:

A spirituality of journey in this [postmodern] sense does not begin with what has been given by God, or with what does not change. Rather, it begins with the self. It begins in the soil of human autonomy and it gives to the self the authority to decide what to believe, from what sources to draw knowledge and inspiration, and how to test the viability of what is believed. The result is that this kind of spirituality is inevitably experimental and even libertarian. Its validation comes through the psychological or therapeutic benefits which are derived (p. 132).

As a pastor how many times have I witnessed individuals who missed out on the blessings of God due to their unsubmissive self? Tragically, there are too many to count.

Above All Earthly Pow’rs – Part 1

Personalized Spirituality

Every now and then there are certain phrases that just grip my mind when I read. One such phrase is “personalized spirituality” in his book Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World by David F. Wells [(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 109]. And I can’t seem to shake it off, but more and more such phrase seems like a dead-on conclusive analysis of our present time. But more tragically, it can be found in our churches.

One of chief characteristics of postmodernism is denial of the absolute truth, and to embrace plurality of opinions. But to me the bigger problem is that there seems to be categorical confusion between what is truth and what is opinion. Those two are not the same. What is happening in our churches is that people think of biblical truths as preferences and opinions, rather than the absolutes. That is why every now and then you hear people say things like “There are many ways to look at that verse” or “There are many ways to interpret the Bible” or “You can say whatever you want to say from the Bible” and etc.

The traditional approach to hermeneutics are gone, namely, by literal-grammatical-historical. Now, new hermeneutics are here – i.e., the meaning of the text is driven by the interpreter, not the text itself! Whatever interpreter feels or thinks (in theology we call this mysticism) is the meaning of the text. Since people operate under the premise that there is no absolute truth but to embrace plurality of opinions, one’s interpretation of the text is good as another person’s. Hence the term “personalized spirituality” or what I call customized Christianity.

All that is to say, self is now the authority. What is true is determined by me. I may go to church (“though I don’t really have to go to become a Christian or be a Christian”) as long as my self is not pricked, disturbed, exposed, or sacrificed. Where I go to worship and how I worship is determined by my choice and preference. I will “grow” on my time and my way. Hence, out with the pastoral authority, corporate accountability, and individual responsibility. And because these people assume that spirituality is personal and private it can develop, as David Wells points out “without the guidance of religious institutions” (p. 112). However, what most people don’t realize is that such attitudes and actions have both immediate and eternal consequences.