Monday, February 28, 2011

Rob Bell and Judgementalophobia

Good ol' drama. Not even Christianity can escape it. This drama came in three acts. Act 1: Rob Bell (pictured), the patron saint of the emergent church, releases a promo video for his upcoming book, Love Wins. In the video he "raises some questions" with some implied Universalist answers. Act 2: Justin Taylor of Crossway Publishing wrote a piece raising concerns about the potential heresy being promoted in the video. You can read it as well as watch Rob Bell's video here. Act 3: Those theologians within Taylor's circles (Piper, Driscoll and their whole gang) pass on his article and condemn Bell's book.

Enter the drama. The response has been incredible. We'll there is a good chunk of people who agree with Taylor and his supporters, there others who clearly don't. These people typically throw out two arguments. To me, these two arguments reveal an underlying phodia that the contemporary Church as.

Therefore, I've decided to create a new word just for kicks (hey, if Shakespeare and Tolkien can do, I should be able to too, right?).

Judgementalophobia: "The fear of initiating or receiving something perceived as indignation."

This is the most common argument being used in Bell's defense. "Don't judge him." "He's just asking questions." "Give him a chance." This, I believe, portrays a common sentiment among Christians. Granted, that sentiment does have some legitimacy. But I think we're so afraid of being one of those "judgmental Christians" (a very real concern) that we're afraid to call things what they are. Jesus was never afraid to call falsehood falsehood or sin sin. While God would never have us to act proud, arrogent or hateful, there is certainly a place for pointed out sin if our heart is right. Jesus said this is Matthew 7:5.

Also, there is a flawed idea of what judgment is. Today, we think any criticism or moral assessment is judgmental. But that's not the case. We are told to be wise, discerning and to expose wickedness and falsehood. Being judgmental is when we take the place of God and condemn the person rather than the falsehood.

There is a balance to be had, but really it's not as complicated as we might think. The answer is to simply be as wise as serpents and as peaceful as doves (Matthew 10:16).

Friday, February 18, 2011

In Honor Of A Real Man

I just want to share with you how my heart has been encourage by the stance taken by a young man named Joel Northrup. You may very well have already heard of him because his conviction is so rare that the story is apparently worthy of national headlines. Joel was a favorite in the Iowa state wrestling tournament until he refused to fight a female opponent saying, "As a matter of conscience and my faith, I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner,"

Naturally, the unbiased media and liberal commentators have been very tolerant and respectful of his person decision. Or not. Actually, they've been trying to twist this in anyway they possibly can to make Joel look bad. Some have even said that he was afraid to get beat by a girl. Never mind that he was favored to win.

Then they through out the old sexist and chauvinist labels. Beside the fact that most people have no idea what those words actually mean, just look at what he said and tell me if it sounds the least bit sexist.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan [the two girls in the tournament] and their accomplishments. However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. ... It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most of the high school sports in Iowa."

This is a young man who has enough respect for women not to fight them in a very physical sport. Really, of all the sports that should remain gender-separated, wrestling should be on the top of the list. There's no way that kind of interaction can be good for a young man's mental purity. Just trust me on this: it would be very hard for even a moral young man to have decent and respectful thoughts about a girl he's pinning to a mat.

Our culture is weird. Don't think that just because it's modern it's normal. Any society that has no qualms with sending women into a fight is sick. It's just that simple. Just the other day, I was reading a study about the rapid increase of abuse, rape and sexual trafficking.

Yet, in the midst of this perverted culture, one young man had the courage to stand on his convictions and remain true to his conscience. My hats off to you, Joel.

John Piper summarized it very well: "This student won a match he never wrestled. He conquered a sick system. Real men don't fight girls."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Is God An Individualist?

That's a rather odd question, isn't it? Is God an individualist? Well, there seems to be no question that we are. After all, good old, all-American individualism is a staple of Western thought. But is it in line with the Way God thinks?

Some would heartily answer in the affirmative. After all, individualism arose, at least in part, because of the emphasis of the Protestant Reformation on Scriptural sufficiency. The Reformers correctly taught that God has a personal relationship with individuals and that that relationship is not dependent on family or church affiliation. Later, the Baptists championed something called individual soul liberty or soul competency which basically taught that each person was individually accountable before God.

I've never had a problem with any of this (I still don't actually) until I began noticing many passages of Scripture that seem to be coming from corporate mindset, rather than an individual one. The Old Testament, in particular, is loaded with these sorts of passages. There are many times in which God judges nations and families as a unit rather than as individuals. Our Western minds try to explain away references to entire families being stoned and civilizations being judged. For example, after Solomon turned from God, how did God punish him? By punishing Solomon's son. He didn't punish Solomon because God loved David. Instead, He punished Solomon's son. So, in God's eyes, it is just to reward a father by rewarding his son and to punish a father by punishing his son. This doesn't seem very individualistic.

And this is not strictly an Old Testament phenomenon. The Church is repeatedly referred to as a Body. It's not just a collection of individuals. It's a single, corporate organism. Throughout the Bible, families, communities and churches are called upon to act as a unit, having the same heart and mind.

Likewise, I've noticed that having an overly individualistic mindset has been very detrimental to both churches and families. Our postmodern mindset tells us that no one can interfere in the affairs of others, even if it's for their own good. And yet, through the New Testament, there is a plea for unity and involvement in each other's lives.

Some people try to brush this aside as a cultural thing. Near Eastern philosophy is vastly different from Western philosophy. Whereas we see individuals, they see families, communities and nations. However, this interpretation basically says that the prophets and apostles had bad philosophy (which leads to bad theology) and that somehow the Holy Spirit (maybe He was taking a nap or something) let that bad philosophy make it into His holy Word. That just doesn't fly with me.

So, how do we balance these truths about the responsibility of the individual soul and corporate unity? A while back, Jay Lauser wrote a marvelous guest post which cleared up some these confusions. However, it still left me with some questions, until I asked myself, "How does God view this issue?" In other words, is God an individualist?

Think about this for a moment. Who is God? Or maybe I should say, what is God. God is something we have a hard time rapping our heads around. God is a Trinity. In other words, He is multiple persons and yet one person. So, is He an individual or a collective group? The answer is yes.

So, the question becomes, how would Someone who is multiple-yet-singular view things (and by the way, God's view is the right view)? Individually or corporately?

Well, look at the way He views Himself. When God decided to create humanity He said, "Let Us make man in Our image." (Genesis 1:26) God referred to Himself in the plural. But, God also says of Himself, "The LORD is one." (Deuteronomy 6:4) So He also refers to Himself in the singular.

So, does God view Himself individually or corporately? Yes. He views Himself as multiple-yet-singular because that's the way He is. So, I'll ask the question again, how does multiple-yet-singular Person view humanity? As multiple-yet-singular. I believe, that God views us both individually and corporately. Throughout the Bible we see God interacting with people as both individuals and families, nations and churches.

Throughout Church history, theologians have always tried to undermine one of these truths. The results of this lopsided view have always been detrimental. The effects include Catholic atrocities, like indulgences, and Protestant snobbishness and hyper-seperationalism.

While we are individuals, we are also families, communities, churches and nations. It's important that we see ourselves as a part of unit and not just little islands. I believe that this is how God would have us to be. While we must make sure that our own affairs are in order, we must also look out for one another.

Paul summed it up nicely in Philippians 2:4, "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (NASB)