Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all... As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.
Once a month, my church, Ancient Hope, has a men's meeting we call, "Calvin & Hops." We don't have a deep study or sing "kumbayah," rather, we banter, drink, laugh, and smoke like men...
Our subject last night was the "feminization of the church." We struggled with how and why men in the church seem to keep stepping on their skirts interpersonally, in leadership, and in worship. My brother, Lane, kept poking at guys asking, "Does your uterus hurt?"
Of course, our conversation targeted more broadly Evangelical churches that seem to try and turn men into women through initimate small groups where we discuss feelings, tear-filled retreats, and love ballads in worship. While I resonated to the criticism quite a bit, I felt we were not owning our end of the problem. Namely, given the fact that the church has been overly-feminized, what do we do about it? Should we read more books and build bigger libraries? Should we brew our own beer and smoke a lot? Should we get into sports cars?
Here is what we do - we must go and hunt a buffalo. Not a real buffalo, of course, but a symbolic one. We must rally around a mission / a project - roll up our sleeves and get to work for the kingdom. That is what men do. We strategize, labor, and build. If we want to be men, then we need to get to work on something, and whatever it is should challenge the heck out of us. We must hunt a buffalo.
Any ideas out there? I'll keep you posted as we survey the land.
Whenever someone is threatened, starts trying really hard to explain themselves, and tops it off by waving their hands in circles, I can't help but hear Jabba the Hut saying, "Your Jedi Mind Tricks won't work on me, young Jedi. Heh, heh, heh, heh, hehhhh...."
Strangely, I also sense that Jedi mind tricks may be involved when I hear things like:
I'm selling these magazines so I can go to college...
That strikes at the vitals of our system of doctrine...
Your estimated mortgage payment will be...
For the peace of the church we will take this to the church courts...
It looks like your car needs new belts...
The confession can't mean that because...
It won't look like fake hair plugs at all...
Calls to charity are a sure path to liberalism...
Of course this analogy breaks down - primarily because I'm much better looking than Jabba (heh, heh, hehhhhh...). No seriously, I have no malice in my heart towards those who wave their hands in circles and say nutty things, but it is pretty hard not to say, "Your Jedi mind tricks won't work on me..."
"...the thrust of the document is to emphasize the diversity of different theological perspectives. I believe that the boundaries are more important than the diversities, and that therefore PPT as a whole is emphasizing the wrong thing... Our own age prefers dialogue, but the apostles were more interested in proclamation. It is not just in mission that we are to be united, but also in theology."(emphasis mine)
There are a lot of assumptions that lie behind this statement, and I would like (in charity) to try and flesh them out:
This seems to assume that signers of PPT aren't interested in proclamation, or that proclamation and intramural dialogue are mutually exclusive. How is such an assumption warranted? I believe in proclamation with every fibre of my body, but I also recognize that my brothers and I need to continue to talk very carefully and lovingly through the differences we have - many of which are within the historical and confessional bounds of the Reformed tradition. That is what PPT is about.
The same false dichotomy is posited by pitting diversity against boundaries. The whole point is to maintain diversity within boundaries! The best way to do this is to have charitable and profitable dialogue from start to finish to preserve our unity in the Gospel! That is what PPT is about.
Last time I checked, we don't have apostles to settle our differences today. We only have their apostolic testimony as recorded in the Bible - and each other to wrestle through it. We therefore need each other - and we need to tolerate certain diversities in our journey together. That is what PPT is about.
Ryken's final comments suggest that he would not sign the PPT because it undermines our need to be united theologically. Again, who could disagree that we should strive to be united theologically? The trouble is, this side of glory, we are going to have some disagreements. How should we handle them? Should we handle them with schism, derision, and sectarian spirits - otherwise known as the Presbyterian way, or should we strive together in love as we proclaim the Gospel together? If I could ask Philip Ryken a question, I would ask him, is the spirit of rancor and division in our tradition a boundary for the Gospel or a barrier to it?
For the past several days I have been watching various reactions across blogdom to Presbyterians & Presbyterians Together. There have been fascinating responses, but the one that really blows my mind is the notion that this sort of document is "unPresbyterian" because the true Presbyterian way of pursuing peace is by settling disputes in ecclesial "courts" (eg. local sessions, regional presbyteries, national assemblies / councils).
Now listen, I am a Presbyterian, and I affirm the role of courts to settle irresolvable disputes that threaten the peace and purity of the church. However, there is something terribly awry when Presbyterians claim that purity and peace are pursued primarily through formal ecclesial litigation. Ecclesial court actions are last resorts when no other solutions and / or options are left on the table.
Far from being unPresbyterian, Presbyterians & Presbyterians Together is an expression of Christian unity in diversity. Wherever possible, we work our differences out without going to ecclesial court - and wherever possible, we tolerate certain differences without fighting. It saddens me a great deal that my Presbyterian brothers - my Christian brothers - would run to court rather than sign a document that commits to charity within historical bounds. For all of our talk about not being like the world, it would seem that in this respect we are very much like the world - we rush to settle our problems through litigation and political machinery.
An addendum on 5.17.06:
I can think of at least one blog(ger) who is misunderstanding the point about "last resorts" here. I will take responsibility for that. In blog posts, simplicity can often become simplistic. Let me try again...
The point is not that church courts only exist to litigate disputes. Uncle. Courts can also function as cooperative forums for ongoing education, missional activity, and organization. My point is that when we encounter disputes that arise within the context of our tradition, our knee-jerk reaction shouldn't be, "Let's take our differences to presbytery, form a study committee with three guys with the same point-of-view, and draft a hasty response to see declare who is right and who is wrong!" Ugh. Yuck.
I'll give you an example. I am convinced by Scripture and our Reformed confessions that we should understand infant baptism in terms of "presumptive regeneration." That is, I believe that when infants of believing parents are admitted to the sacrament of baptism, we should do so trusting that God is working in the life of the child according to His covenant promises. Now, I realize that some of my Reformed / Presbyterian brothers struggle with this - and others don't believe that at all. Should we have an ecclesiastical duel in the name of purity over this issue? Should we slap together a little committee, casually adopt their findings, and then hold it up to our congregations like it is the final word? Should we put books under the ban, block ordinations, and harass previously ordained men on such a basis? I think not. That is what I was trying to say.
I urge you to go to Presbyterians Together to read a much needed call to sanity and charity in our tradition, appropriately titled, "Presbyterians & Presbyterians Together."
Some men are protesting this effort under different guises as a threat to the purity of the Gospel. I ask you - what is more threatening to the Gospel - tolerating certain disagreements of articulation and nuance in difficult theological matters, or constant infighting over intramural distinctives?
Please join me in a prayer for God to send peace makers that will sign this document.
In preparation for our church study and discussion of Dan Brown's, The Da Vinci Code, I finally read the book a few weeks ago. From the stand-point of pure story telling, Dan Brown spins quite a yarn. Even though I was disturbed and disgusted at many points in the book, it was definitely a page-turner.
Even if you haven't read the book, you have probably heard that it is a de facto attack on Christianity. It is - and even though it is chock-full of misinformation and lies, Dan Brown effectively leaves the church with a black-eye (certainly nothing fatal).
What fascinates me more than Brown's attack is what he subtly proposes as the substitute for Christianity. Instead of the Gospel of the incarante Son of God come to save sinners, he holds forth the gnosis of the so-called "Sacred Feminine." Oooooh - now that sounds so intriguing!
Let me tell you something - Dan Brown is brilliant to repackage what he is really proposing with this language. The Da Vinci Code religion of the "sacred feminine," is nothing more than the ancient "fertility cult" of paganism. Ancient fertility cults conceived of the gods or forces at work in the world in sexual terms. When these masculine and feminine gods / forces came "together" they would stimulate activity in the world. So for example, the way for humans to make sure their crops grew was to have sex rituals to stimulate the gods.
Make no mistake - Dan Brown is not just attacking the Gospel or the church, he is subtly promoting pagan fertility cults / sex rituals as a way to stimulate and experience the gods. How people miss this fact simply amazes me. Instead of embracing the good news of Christ, they flirt with ancient paganism. That's what you get when you imbibe the religion of the, "Sacred Feminine." I'll take a pass.