Ok - there's a good reason for the picture. Hang in there and read on...
Last night I attended a "Freedom Alliance" concert in San Diego hosted by Sean Hannity and Oliver North. There were special appearances by Fred Thompson, Jon Voight, Lee Greenwood, Montgomery-Gentry, and even Michael W. Smith. It was a time filled with parachuting Navy SEALS, George W. Bush / Hillary Clinton impersonators, country music, and local talk-radio personalities. The goal of the concerts is to raise money for the children of soldiers killed in battle - and to date they have given over $1 million in scholarships. Amen to that.
Now on to the picture. When we were walking to our seats we noticed that there were huge silhouetted woman decals decorating the stage. We later learned this was part of the Montgomery-Gentry country music act. Fair enough, but imagine the jarring disconnect of this backdrop while Michael W. Smith sang Gospel music. I'm sorry, but it was too big to miss. Add to that a bunch of ass-kicking "my town" song / talk, and you have yourself one heck of an interesting experience! Go America! (?)
Now here is my quandry. Is this the face of main-stream conservativism in America now? Power, sex, country, and... Jesus? Let me say it again - POWER, SEX, COUNTRY, and JESUS. Just to be clear - I like Sean Hannity and Oliver North for the most part. I understand their deep frustration with the radical liberal agenda that is eroding our freedoms. However, I wonder if these guys realize how a concert like this "presents" to the watching world. Again, they've raised a million dollars for scholarships and I haven't. I get that. I'm just struggling with the ethos of this thing. If this is what conservativism is now, we're in big trouble.
There's a place for fun, power, country, and even sex. I don't think I'm a prude. But as an American citizen who happens to be heavenly citizen I am left a little concerned. What say you, Americans?
Like most novices to the Reformed tradition, I cut my teeth on issues surrounding God's sovereignty and man's free will. From there I moved to covenant theology and infant baptism. In both cases, the major driver pushing me towards Reformed convictions was my sense that the Reformed tradition was more intellectually honest when confronted with Scripture that was hard to deal with. Instead of glossing over hard passages or using contorted logic to make them fit a feel-good system, the Reformed tradition sought to be highly integrative and honest when the Scriptures were downright difficult. I vividly remember hearing folks of a more baptistic / dispensational persuasion reacting to certain Scriptural texts saying, "Well, it can't really mean that!" Or even worse, "I could never believe that!"
Now I feel as if those tables have been turned. Whether we're talking about paedocommunion, the efficacy of the sacraments, the Lordship of Christ in every arena of life, or even the nature of Christ's obedience on our behalf, it seems that the Reformed stalwarts are saying, "Well, it can't really mean that!"
Take the issue of paedocommunion. Reformed traditionalists keep banging the "examine yourself" passage from 1 Cor 11:28 to mean that we must introspectively / subjectively determine if we really "know" we are saved before coming to the table. When confronted over the largely "extrospective" pastoral context of 1 Corinthians as it relates to "discerning the Lord's body" (the unity of the local church), the Reformed traditionalist's eyes glaze over and proceeds to say, "Well, it can't really mean that because... blah, blah, blah!"
I could develop this particular point much more, but the irony is that popular Reformedom is only willing to be intellectually honest up to a certain point. For all of the hoopla about sola scriptura and sola fide, the reality is something far different. You can't even talk about baptism as a washing away of sin without a thousand caveats that explain it away! They can derogatorily call me a "Biblicist" all they want, but I'm determined to be intellectually honest when confronted with what the Scripture says.
Transformers - (Disappointing) I think this is going to be the last time I utter the words, "the special effects were good." Of course they were good, this isn't the Sci-Fi channel or something! The story and the dialogue were as thin and hokey as it gets. My favorite example of this is a scene when the teenage boy-hero has to get an artifact out of his room before the evil robots do it and annihilate the human race. Even though the good robots urge him to hurry for the sake of the human race, the boy is worried about what his parents might do if they hear him rummaging around! When his parents do hear noises and see lights they come and ask him if he has been... self-pleasuring in his room. This isn't what I signed up for with this movie. Instead of being entertained, I was bored, irritated, and inundated with corporate product placement (by the way, is there a new Camaro coming out?). This movie was a huge disappointment and I put it in the category with other flops like The Hulk and The Fantastic Four. Yuck.
Bridge to Terabithia - (Horrid) This is NOT an appropriate movie for children. It is actually a very deliberate piece of anti-Christian propaganda. The only reason to watch it with your children is to teach them how to discern a message that is completely antagonistic to the Christian faith. The story features a young boy and girl who become fast friends in their imaginary world of Terabithia. Shortly before the girl dies in a tragic accident, she attends church with the boy's family and says something to the effect of, "That stuff about Jesus is interesting. You believe it, but you hate it. I don't have to believe that. God is too busy running this beautiful world to send people to hell." This sets up a conflict in the boy's mind - and obviously in the minds of young children watching. Could this great little girl really go to hell for rejecting Jesus? A great question, but set in a horribly antagonistic narrative. Ick.
Ratatouille - (Fun) A great story about the conversion of a dour restaurant critic. My kids liked it, but the themes were probably more appropriate for adults. I'm not sure they could really appreciate the art appreciation / childhood nostalgia / conversion of critic angles. I definitely recommend it and encourage you to pay close attention to the converted critic's restaurant review / monologue at the end of the movie. That is some good writing. Live Free or Die Hard - (Brain Candy) The action is really fun to watch and is sustained by a plot that is just good enough to hold it together. Don't get me wrong. Critical elements of the story are paper thin, but the premise is good enough to keep you interested. It is definitely summer blockbuster material that the action / Bruce Willis enthusiast should go and see - probably not with your kids, though.
The world was
created by the one God who reveals Himself as a community of loving Persons –
Father, Son, and Spirit. God created mankind
in His likeness to expand His fellowship of love. The first man, Adam, rejected God for power
on his own terms and threw all of creation into self-destruction and
death. Instead of abandoning His
creation, God sent His Son to reclaim it by dying for Adam’s sin and rising
from the dead to establish a renewed creation. All men who believe this are part of this renewal and its ultimate
conclusion when God’s Son returns again.
Give it a try - it isn't easy! I thought it was pretty funny that Michael Horton couldn't help going with 466 words. Typical Reformed guy doesn't know when to stop... Is that why Westminster grads have tediously long sermons?!
Oh - and I didn't use the words, "imputation of active obedience," so I guess I'm preaching a false Gospel. Ha!
As many of you know, I have been regularly attending a PCUSA church for worship on Sundays. About once per quarter my family has sat under the preaching of one of the female pastors. This has not been particularly easy because of my understanding of 1 Tim 2:12, but quite frankly I have had a tougher time in the past listening to many unqualified and rambling men (1 Tim 3:2)! Lisa Johnson's sermon on 7/1/07 was quite good, and I hope it will be posted online soon.
One of the truths that has made this scenario easier for me to swallow is the eschatology of woman. There is a very real sense in which Eve "finished" incomplete Adam (Gen 2:18). Scripture even goes so far as to say that women are the "glory of the man" (1 Cor 11:7). Women are the finishing touch / crowning jewel of our humanity and should be prized as such. Can it be an accident that the resurrected Christ was first revealed to and testified by women (Luke 24)? Or that Paul's salutations to ministry partners in Romans 16 called out many, many women? Or that the church itself is the very bride of Christ?
Don't get me wrong. It is precisely the eschatology of woman - the concept of being a "bride" that underscores the exclusive role men have in preaching. Men serve the Bride in this way as Christ serves His Bride, the church (Eph 5:25ff). Preaching is a form of guarding and service to the Bride and that is one reason men should be doing it. When women preach, this dynamic is sadly obscured and churches and families are weaker for it. Gender is not arbitrary or meaningless in God's program.
The reality is that I struggle just as much with a form of patriarchy that strictly relegates women's leadership to childcare, hospitality, and mercy ministries. I may not be comfortable with women preaching in corporate worship, but I am increasingly uncomfortable watching women being completely sidelined by men. In my dream world this would all be settled and I wouldn't have to deal with either problem, but here I am. If I've got poison to choose I think I will take this one for now. Believe me, I'll take a well-preached sermon delivered by a woman than an ill-informed / rambling effort by a man any day. And maybe someday generations from now this will all get sorted out and my great-great-great grandchildren won't have to make the choices I am making.