Thursday, May 29, 2014

I Dislike The "The War On..." Rhetoric But....

Christina Hoff Sommers put out this short video which gets to a serious issue, namely that our public educational system is rapidly becoming more hostile toward boys. This is resulting in an achievement gap that is becoming more acute with each year as women outpace men academically and as a result are forced to take on more responsibility as not only primary care provider for children but also the primary bread winner. Meanwhile the ranks of the unemployed or underemployed young men continues to swell as hordes of them enter adulthood with little in the way of marketable skill and even less in terms of expectation of ever getting ahead. Apathy plus hopelessness plus idle time is a recipe for disaster. A culture with hordes of young men with nothing to look forward to and young women caring for children on their own is one that is unsustainable. Couple that with a debt that is unserviceable and the future of American society is grim and not long from the ash heap of history.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Great Reflection On 20 Years of Marriage

Russ Moore has written one of the best essays on marriage I have ever read, What I’ve Learned in Twenty Years of Marriage. He is one of the most thoughtful writers around, someone who often transcends the cheap applause lines of the evangelical subculture. Like my wife and I, he and his wife were married young and spent their twenties growing up together. Unlike us they also struggled with infertility and later became some of the most powerful advocates for adoption in the church. This essay looks back at twenty years of marriage and what he has learned. It is a great read for young people told that they aren't "ready" and for recently married couples that are wondering what they got themselves into.

The entire essay is full of great wisdom but I really liked this:

My grandmother wisely asked one night when I was finally going to ask “that girl from Ocean Springs” to marry me. I answered, “When I can afford it.” She laughed. “Honey, I married your grandpa in the middle of a Great Depression,” she said. “We made it work. Nobody can afford to get married. You just marry, and make it work.”

You are never ready for marriage. You can never be "mature" enough because maturity in marriage comes from being married. You can never be "financially secure" enough, it turns out people with tons of money, a nice house and retirement plans get divorced too. Being older doesn't make you ready, having already traveled to Europe doesn't make you ready. Being prepared to be married and stay married, no matter what comes, is what prepares you for marriage.

Give this essay a read and pass it on to others. They will thank you later.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Report: The way of the cross is not the American way

This is a repost of my post-Memorial day thoughts from last year. I am glad to see this year more brothers who are willing to speak out against wars of violence that lead to the death of naive Americans who are little more than children as well as the countless deaths of others around the world, combatant and non-combatant alike. We still have a long way to go but as the church loses the approval of Caesar we might start to see an awakening that the way of the world is not the way of the cross.

This past weekend was a constant stream of pictures of soldiers, flags and military graveyards with references to John 15:13 and the "ultimate sacrifice". One after another on Facebook, blogs, twitter, Google+. More troubling was that many of those postings came from the same people who post verses of Scripture and talk about Jesus. I wanted to ask them, do you think Jesus wants you to honor the system that leads to the deaths of so many people? I tried to be restrained through Memorial Day out of respect for those who have served, serve currently or have loved those who serve or have died but I can be silent no longer.

How can any follower of Jesus speak of dying in battle while trying to kill others as the "ultimate sacrifice"? The ultimate sacrifice came when God became man, lived a perfect life and gave His life on a cross to redeem those who were His enemies.  I don't expect unbelievers to get that but I would hope that those who claim to be believers would understand this. Based on what I saw I am not so sure that many of us do. The way of the cross at its core is loving enemies, Jesus loving even unto death those who were His enemies and His followers loving their enemies as shown to us by our Lord. We cannot love our enemies while killing them or just as bad encouraging others to kill them on our behalf. More and more I see that the atoning sacrifice of Christ has as a central motivation love of enemy. Yet we have perverted the notion of enemy love, self-sacrifice, humble submission on the pagan altar of individual liberty, economic and political freedom and jingoistic nationalism. Why are we surprised that the church is so astray and powerless in America when it has by and large ceased to be anything resembling the church that Jesus established and when we have abandoned so many of the core teachings of Christ? Recovering the Gospel of justification by faith alone and defending the doctrines of grace is great and all but if we fail to follow Christ all of our high highfalutin' theology is nothing more than an empty intellectual exercise.

Soldiers, whether American or Iranian or Chinese or Canadian, are paid to kill those who threaten the interests of that particular nation. Dressing up that reality in flowery language and cloaking it in nobility doesn't change that reality. That is not intended as a statement to disparage those who sign up for that task, many of whom think they are doing the right thing and quite a few that believe that what they do is compatible with their faith. My beef is not with the individual young men and women who serve in the military. They are doing what our society tells them is a noble task and often they pay for that with their lives while most of the society that tells them how noble they are sits back and enjoys the "freedom" they kill and die to maintain. No, my issue is not with soldiers and sailors and airmen but with those who callously send them off to kill in our "national interest" and even more so with those in the church that glorify and encourage the senseless bloodshed.

Look back at the wars this country has engaged in: an armed rebellion against the authority of the king placed in a position of authority over the colonies in violation of Romans 13: 1-7, creating what many people call a "Christian nation". A silly and pointless rematch war with the English over borders between the U.S. and Canada. Several other wars of territorial expansion. A vicious war between Americans over the right to enslave other human beings that still scars our national conscience today. A war in Europe that was none of our business that took human slaughter to unthinkable new levels. A rematch in Europe to put down a mad dog who rose as a result of our intervention in the prior war and left hundreds of millions of people under the iron fist of Communist dictators who were our "allies", with a second front in Asia where human depravity was on display in a new and previously unthinkable way, a war ended when the "good guys" bombed a civilian population into submission with the one and only use of nuclear weapons. A war in Korea that ended in a stalemate that lasts to this day. A half-hearted war in Vietnam where civilian casualties were horrific and the damage to our national identity we have never recovered from. A couple of wars in Iraq that, let's be honest, were mostly about American economic interests. Tons of little engagements around the world. Finally the longest lasting war in American history in Afghanistan where our "allies" are a greater threat to our troops than the enemy, where we are negotiating with the Taliban terrorists while they are attacking us and murdering civilians and on a regular basis we accidentally bomb masses of civilians. Not quite as noble as the shots of the flag waving in the breeze with patriotic music playing softly in the background make it seem.

We are supposed to be grateful for the freedoms won and defended by those in the military. It is part of our religious culture that we exalt those who died, often in terror and in the earliest years of their life, after having been trained and deployed by the men who run things in this country to kill others. We memorialize them, lay wreaths at the monument to soldiers too badly mangled to identify and sing songs in praise of America in gatherings of the church.

To those who served and are serving, I appreciate and understand your zeal and your commitment but I do not wish you to kill to preserve my "right" to vote for the same people who send you to kill and be killed, to accumulate wealth, to have a Starbucks and McDonalds on every corner so I don't have to put forth any effort to feed myself, to send my kids to $35,000/year universities while the children of other Christians around the world cannot even read, to throw away cheap mass produced food after gorging myself while orphans starve, to have endless entertainment to stupefy the mind, to put on a religious show on Sunday and to live my life however I see fit regardless of how that impacts others. Those "rights" have no real value and are actual in direct opposition to the values of the Kingdom of God. Too many of us, myself included, see the values of the Kingdom as something for the eschaton, something to be enjoyed in eternity. Those values will certainly see their fulfillment and culmination after the Judgment but as followers of Christ we are to model those values here and now as a witness to the world. Instead we often live like the world with a religious veneer of cultural piety and cheer on those who kill on our behalf so we can keep playing church while pursuing those things that are in direct opposition to what Jesus taught.

To those who feel compelled to serve in the military: Please do not kill even one more person so that I can live my life in direct opposition to what my Lord modeled and commanded. I would rather live under persecution and in poverty than to enjoy what the world has to offer that has been secured by the blood of another.

I don't hate America, although a few years ago I would have made that charge to anyone who wrote something like what I wrote above. I do hate what America often stands for and I am grieved that the church in America embraces it so wholeheartedly. If American Christians had half as much zeal for evangelism and serving others that we do for living and pursuing the American Dream we would have a far different church and we would likely see real persecution from the world. God has placed me here in this country and here I will stay until He sends me somewhere else but being born within the artificial boundaries that define one country as opposed to another does not and cannot define who I am in Christ. Nor do I see any of the "liberty", "freedom" or "rights" of America having anything to do with the way of the cross.

We should not hate anyone, not the soldier who fights for America nor for those they are sent to kill. Following Jesus is about denying self and loving others, even and especially our enemies. The world will never have its fill of wealth, of sin, of bloodshed so we must demonstrate a different way. It will never be popular and no one will wave a flag in our honor but it is the life we are called to.

Help A Friend Get Out Of The Country!

In a good way....

A real life friend is headed to Guatemala on a short term mission trip and is raising funds via Go Fund Me. She and hr husband have a real heart for the fatherless and I know from experience how impactful spending time with orphans can be. Check it below and give her some coin if you are so led, or perhaps share this post to spread the word. Thanks!

Some Tuesday Linkage

A couple of links for your interweb pleasure....

At least a broken clock is right twice a day. Paul Krugman? Pretty much never. Unfortunately for him and his enablers in the media that keep treating him like a serious thinker we have this internet thing going on today that makes his consistently wrong ideas part of the permanent record. Case in point from 2011 his essay on the awesome success of the V.A., Vouchers for Veterans. From the man himself:

What Mr. Romney and everyone else should know is that the V.H.A. is a huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.

We he is kind of right, it does indeed offer important lessons like what happens when a huge bureaucracy is put in charge of health care. The unfolding disaster that most of the media is very reluctantly reporting on at the VA is warning enough but you can be sure that Paul will skip merrily on to his next asinine topic with the delusional self-assurance of someone who is not out of touch with reality but really has never been in touch with reality in the first place.

Owen Strachan draws attention to the latest error by Rachel Held Evans in his essay Is Rachel Held Evans’s Use of “God Herself” Biblically Faithful?. Ms. Evans consciously describes God using a feminine pronoun in yet another attempt to rewrite Scripture to fit her "Christian feminist" agenda. Ms. Evans long ago abandoned even the pretense of orthodoxy and in my opinion isn't far from walking away from the idea of Christianity in general. It is more troubling that so many Christians seem so enamored with her and her dangerous teaching. 

 Eric Johnson address the scandal of Liberty University inviting an open heretic to speak to their students, Liberty University and the Glenn Beck saga (Part 1). Mormon Coffee was one of my favorite websites back in the cathartic early days of being saved out of mormonism. Eric's daughter just graduated from LU so he has some standing to speak here. I am looking forward to the second half of the series but it is worth your time to check it out.

I am a big advocate of unity in the church, just not false unity based on embracing error as truth. Michael Brown writing at Charisma News takes the next step and openly calls for separation over the recent embrace of homosexual sin by large parts of the church in his post Let the Separation Begin 

 The question of "gay Christianity" is not a minor issue, as it affects our views of the authority of Scripture, the meaning of marriage and sexuality, and the importance of gender distinctions, not to mention having massive implications for the society at large. 

 That's why I welcome the coming separation over this issue. And as painful as the division will be within churches, denominations, ministries and even families, it is absolutely necessary and unavoidable. 

 That doesn't mean that we attack each other or speak and act in ways that would dishonor the Lord. But it does mean that we hold firmly to our convictions before Him, regardless of cost or consequences, knowing that God's ways will be vindicated in the end.

Those who demand that the church walk back thousands of years of understanding related to God ordained human sexuality have made this issue their defining one. Make no mistake, it isn't the dark forces of "fundamentalism" that are causing this disunity. Rather it is the splinter groups who have demanded a radical redefinition of a central teaching of the Bible on one of the most critical human relationships.

Hard to believe this is still a topic but racial "reparations" keep being put forth as some sort of mechanism for justice. Kevin Williamson writing at National Review does a good job of making The Case against Reparations.

I read this a week or so ago, There are some jobs now in manufacturing. Kids just aren’t interested in taking them. I can confirm a lot of this. The idea of there being no decent jobs for young adults without a four year degree is a deeply entrenched one. Truth is there are lots of jobs out there, the issue seems more that employers have a hard time getting reliable people to fill those jobs than hordes of willing workers not being able to find a place. Somewhere along the line we have created a mindset and culture where it is better to not work at all than be asked to work hard at inconvenient hours.


Monday, May 26, 2014

For the last time

America ≠ Old Covenant national Israel

Repost: Freedom Doesn't Come At The End Of A Gun

With each year that passes I find Memorial Day and other nationalistic holidays to be more sad and less celebratory.  Sure we get a day off and provide obligatory "thanks for your service" along with pictures of Arlington national cemetery. Is it really something to celebrate though? Untold young Americans died while being sent off by our government to kill other young men in wars that by and large were foolish. There is no official remembrance but there should be for those innocent foreign civilians killed by our armed forces in these wars in places like Hiroshima and Dresden, Iraq and Vietnam. Days like today are mostly a reminder of the foolishness of man and the insatiable appetite for violence by those who seek to gain and keep power by the sword. Call me un-American, call me un-patriotic. Whatever you like. I just won't be celebrating today.


Today is Memorial Day in the United Sates and as a people we are going to be remembering those who died fighting for America.

Let those of us who know and are known by Christ remember that our freedom was not won or preserved by those buried under a field of crosses in Normandy Cemetery in France, as noble and heroic as their sacrifice was. Our freedom was won on a single cross on Calvary. Our declaration of independence is not found on a parchment in Washington, D.C., it is in the words cried out by our Savior "It is finished!"

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Preemptive Plea

With tomorrow being Memorial Day, a holiday set aside to remember those Americans killed in war while serving in the military, it is inevitable to get the memes with John 15:13 referenced on social media:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Whatever your views are of military service please, please note that Jesus is not talking about a soldier being killed while serving with fellow soldiers trying to kill someone else. Jesus laid down His life by not resisting, not verbally and certainly not violently. He rebuked His disciples for trying to defend Him with the sword. He didn't jump on a grenade to save the apostles or carry Peter on His back off a battlefield. He walked unarmed into Jerusalem knowing His life would be taken and He did so to show the triumph of love. I am not seeking to disparage the service of those who died in American military service, in spite of my grave misgivings about warfare. I am simply asking that we not blur the distinction between the secular state of America and the Kingdom of God, between a man killed in combat and the Son of Man laying down His life in the exact opposite manner.

However you choose to commemorate Memorial Day, please leave the Lamb who was slain out of it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

What Is Going On At The Gospel Coalition?

The last week has been a PR nightmare for The Gospel Coalition. Two very public figures, C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris, both very popular speakers and authors, stepped down from TGC amid an on-going and progressively uglier revelation of a cover-up of child abuse within the ministries they led (neither is directly implicated to my knowledge).

Meanwhile another TGC contributor, Tullian Tchividjian was asked to leave/forced out/whatever over the issue of sanctification and grace/law distinction or something. It sounds like there was some conflict over the whole handling of these abuse accusations but I also note with caution that his brother Boz runs a "ministry" that charges churches and other ministry groups in investigating claims of abuse and conducting preventive measures. That whole group with its cutesy name, Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment, strikes me as an opportunist way to make a buck off of tragedy.

So what is going on? How can this sort of thing be going on within a group that gets the Gospel right? In spite of my regular criticism of TGC propping up extra-biblical ecclesiastical traditions, by and large they get the central teachings of the Scripture right on the money, a welcome contrast in a world full of dumbed down doctrine and outright embrace of all manner of errors. So what I think is going on is pretty simple:

Too much money.

Too much influence.

Too much pride.

The "celebrity pastor", conference sponsoring, book selling machine where "pastors" somehow have the time to pastor "their" church while churning out book after book, has taken such a hold on parts of the church and the side effects are predictable. The more people have to protect, the more protective they become. I don't ascribe any devious motivations to these men and I am wholly disinterested in using their public humiliation to score points for my pet positions. I am mostly grieved because this culture has swallowed up many a Christian and promises to do so more in the future.

We have inverted our concept of pastoral ministry from Scripture. Scripture presents a ministry that is non-professional, intimate in the sense of not just proximity but relationship, one that operates best (and really only) on an interpersonal level between Christians that have an established relationship. We have embraced a model where the most charismatic and/or well educated are elevated again and again until they are so distant from the church that they cannot possibly pastor anyone. Yet many people refer to these (mostly) men as "pastors" because their talks and books have been educational and profitable. This should be obvious but a man you have never met (other than a handshake at some conference) and wouldn't be able to pick you out of a police line-up is not a pastor to you. A teacher sure and that is important too but a public teacher with a global platform cannot, must not, replace the pastoral leadership of a co-laborer in Christ who is not above you but beside you, leading through example and equipping you for the work of ministry.

Sin will happen in the church. We must not compound that sin with a culture that circles the wagons at the first sign of trouble. We must reject a culture that fosters this response, a culture that makes men like these brothers into Reformed rock stars, adored by religious groupies from a distance. I sincerely hope that these men will be used in a different, hopefully more humble capacity, in the future. I especially hope that we jettison the culture that elevates men to levels that make problems greater when they happen outside of the familiar relationships that should be central to the church.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Even Aragorn Agrees!

In reference to my previous post...

No Aragorn/Viggo doesn't have an opinion on progressive theology but he does have an opinion on Peter Jackson, over the top CGI and The Hobbit (as an aside the only thing better than the George R.R. Martin Game of Thrones books is the HBO series and the only thing better than watching the series when the new episodes come out on HBO is reading the Entertainment Weekly recap. Funny stuff and a guilty pleasure).

Anyway, Viggo Mortensen was quoted in an article titled Viggo Mortensen calls 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy a 'mess'. It seems some of the behind the scenes goings on with the Lord of the Rings Trilogy were a mess. Interesting but kind of irrelevant although this quote got my attention (emphasis mine:

“Peter was always a geek in terms of technology but, once he had the means to do it, and the evolution of the technology really took off, he never looked back,” Mortensen says. “In the first movie, yes, there’s Rivendell, and Mordor, but there’s sort of an organic quality to it, actors acting with each other, and real landscapes; it’s grittier.”

Mortensen says the “ballooning” of Jackson’s reliance on CGI began with the second film, The Two Towers, and has increased with each subsequent project. “It was grandiose, and all that, but whatever was subtle, in the first movie, gradually got lost in the second and third. Now with The Hobbit, one and two, it’s like that to the power of 10,” Mortensen says.

See even Aragorn agrees that the CGI in the Hobbit is over the top! The LotR and Hobbit are mostly character driven. They are stories about Bilbo and Thorin, Frodo and Sam, Gandalf being mysterious and gruff while being fiercely protective of hobbits and their culture. Smaug makes a brief appearance, very little magic happens (always more of a threat than a reality) and we see long stretches of dialogue versus massive battles. I guess that doesn't make for thrilling theater but it does make for fulfilling reading.

"Progressive" Theology and The Hobbit Movies

So I have lots of time to noodle things over while mongering iron (?). I was rehasing the horrible second installment of The Hobbit film trilogy. The old adage holds true, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. I guess I give Peter Jackson more than the benefit of the doubt because of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Honestly for as kind of hokey as it was the 1977 animated The Hobbit from many years past was a far better movie. Turns out that while "progress" certainly changed the retelling of this classic book, it didn't really improve the retelling in any meaningful way. One particularly notable change was the encounter between Bilbo and Smuag the dragon.

In the book, The Hobbit, the encounter between Bilbo and Smaug is fairly brief. Bibo sneaks in and steals a goblet, much to Smaug's outrage. He comes back after Smaug wakes up. There is some banter back and forth where Bilbo flatters Smaug and gains the secret of his missing scale. Massive chase scenes involving the dwarves? Nope. That entire interminable scene was just dumb. It is a prime example of just doing something to make it louder and flashier because you can and because you think (perhaps justifiably) that modern entertainment consumers are too dumb to enjoy something that isn't accompanied by relentless scene cuts and booming audio.

So fine, I didn't like either Hobbit movie and am pretty sure I won't like the third installment. What does that have to do with progressive theology?

Here is where I made the connection. Much of what passes for "progressive theology" seems to be driven by being against whatever is old or traditional or, worst of all, "fundamentalist". The progress envisioned smells a bit like "change for the sake of change". Now I am not any sort of apologist for traditions and I am happy to hold any of the traditions of the church up to Scripture and discard what fails. However I try not to jettison stuff just because it is traditional. Here are some examples.

The Bible teaches that God created the Earth and everything on it in six days and then rested on the seventh day. That is what it teaches. However, even though it has been pretty much universally accepted in the church forever, it simply lacks the cultural sensitivity of a church in a day and age of SCIENCE! The cultural movers and shakers tell us a fanciful tale of evolution and a "big bang" and billions of years.

Shortly after Creation God made man and then to complement and complete him made a helper, woman. That relationship was skewed with the fall into one of conflict. Scripture helps us to realign the relationship between men and women, not as one of "mutual submission" but one modeled after the relationship between Christ and the church, a precious one for certain but never marked by Christ submitting to the church. That sort of traditional gender role is simply not going to fly in a day and age of cutesy "Christian feminism" and redefinition of Scripture to meet the culture, rather than our witness being a message to and against the culture. "See what Paul really meant was that there were these unmentioned temple prostitutes..."

The Bible over and over and over points to sexual sin, especially the sin of homosexuality, as serious and an grievous affront to God and a perversion of the nature of humankind, "male and female He created them". But the church is "on the wrong side of history" here. As judges create a "right" for homosexuals to "marry" and the powers in the culture punish anyone who dares fail to be properly obsequious to the new "normal" many in the church are drawing dividing lines with mean old fundies on one side and kindly "progressives" cheering on sin in the hope of an affirming pat on the head from the world. Make no mistake, this singular issue is being used as a wedge, not by the terrible people who hold to what the Bible teaches and the church has always understood, but rather by the "progressives" who demand you get in line.

The Bible teaches there are only two eternal fates for man, salvation in Christ or hell. Well that is so lacking in nuance! How can I talk to my neighbor with that sort of alarmist silliness? Besides I reserve the right to redefine "love" as I see fit and God has to match what I think love is. God is love after all and that must mean I can tell God what love is.

On and on.

Sometimes the old, classical way is better. The simplicity of the Hobbit story is what makes it so beloved. It is straightforward. No exploding giant golden dwarves. No random love plots between a dwarf and an elf. No running battles in Lake Town with orcs. The Bible is an ancient book for sure. It is written by and to an ancient, to our eyes primitive people but that is who and when God chose to reveal His Son and reveal Himself in that person. His laws and His nature are timeless. His Gospel is not subject to alteration with every whim of the culture. His definition of sin, even the very idea of sin, is not culturally driven. We don't have to change the Bible to make it more exciting and interesting, to sell more tickets to a skeptical, disbelieving audience. We need to simply stand fast no matter what the culture thinks. Progress that is change for change sake and worse for the purpose of saving face and preventing embarrassment at cocktail parties is not progress at all. It isn't even new. We have heard the old question "Did God really say.." for the very beginning, It is troubling that so many people reject out of hand the very context of that critically important lesson for God's people throughout history.

You can keep your "progress". I will stick to the ancient teachings of God and the not as ancient classics like The Hobbit.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Some Linkage

Some linkage from me to you...

I don't often link to a Methodist but I liked Timothy Tennent's post on the topic of Orthodoxy versus Heterodoxy, Orthodoxy vs. Heterodoxy: The Fundamental Divide in the United Methodist Church. Dr. Tennent makes the imprtant observation that the struggle we see in the church should not be classified as "conservative" versus "progressive" but rather orthodoxy versus heterodoxy. As he points out, the term "progressive" implies that these notions will move the church forward, whereas I see the majority of positions described as "progressive" having the opposite effect. By using politically charge terms this struggle loses the deadly seriousness that is better reflected by the terms "orthodox" versus "heterodox". His summary is quite good....

However, the two groups should never be called “conservative” and “progressive” and they should never be viewed as equivalent groups. What we actually have is a group (however imperfectly) which is committed to historic Christianity. The second group (however imperfectly) is committed to a re-imagined church. One, however flawed, is committed to the recovery and defense of historic Christian orthodoxy. The other, however nice and erudite, has not demonstrated a robust commitment to historic Christian orthodoxy. Thus, we actually have two groups; one orthodox and one heterodox. I will be the first to concede that even orthodoxy in North America has become so weak and bland that is has become hardly recognizable. Likewise, I believe that many in the heterodox camp are driven by important “branches” of the gospel, even if they have lost touch with the Christian “root.” But, this should not confuse the deeper point I am trying to make.

This is the struggle the entire church is facing. As someone committed to the doctrines of grace and principles of Anabaptism I still recognize many streams of the church as part of the historic faith while others fall outside of that definition and into the various and sundry heterodox groups throughout the ages. I did find encouragement in Dr. Tennent's observation that heterodox groups have come and gone all through the 2000 year history of the church but the orthodox has always persevered. Today's modern iteration will make a lot of noise and generate a lot of press but will eventually die as all the others have, learning the same lesson that when you no longer stand for anything you no longer have any reason to exist.

This was kind of cool, I saw it this yesterday: Still Paying For The Civil War. Hard to believe a child of a civil war veteran was still collecting a pension. I also got a grim chuckle out of this quote:

"The promises of President Abraham Lincoln are being delivered, 150 years later, by President Barack Obama, " Secretary Shinseki said in a speech last fall. "And the same will be true 100 years from now—the promises of this president will be delivered by a future president, as yet unborn."

Leave it to the current administration to somehow turn every single event that happens in America into an opportunity to point out how invaluable President Obama is in our everyday lives. What would the pensioners do without Mr. Obama sitting up to the wee hours of the morning writing out their check every month with a quill pen? Also odd that they seem so concerned about the "ye unborn" when they show no interest in protecting them from the abortionist today and no qualms about indebting them for the future.

Remember when Mitt Romney was the "conservative" alternative to Barack Obama? Yeah, me neither but the more distance we get from that election (I voted for the Libertarian instead of the Republican for the first time in my life) the more I conclude that things would be only marginally different with a President Romney. Case in point:

Even Romney should know better than that. The minimum wage is a farce that does nothing to improve the standard of living of the lowest wage earners and causes price inflation for the rest of us. Remind me to watch that video the next time I consider voting for a "conservative Republican".

National Review takes a predictable look at the latest faux-troversy over some show on HGTV. Apparently a couple of guys lost their show or something. That doesn't by itself interest me but the article, The New Fascism Rolls On, does make the point that what we are seeing can be ignored in isolation but the pattern is one of a contemporary fascist tyranny. The irony, as I have pointed out before, is the McCarthyite mindset of the very crowd that would most loudly complain about Joe McCarthy.

Every pope has been dangerously and damnably wrong on matters of theology but my boy Jorge compounds that with a naive economic religious socialism that is becoming increasingly difficult for even his most ardent apologists to defend. His latest foray speaks for itself. From the official Vatican news source, here is the pertinent section of Pope to UN: Resist the economy of exclusion, serve the poor (emphasis mine):

Consequently, I do not hesitate to state, as did my predecessors (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 42-43; Centesimus Annus, 43; BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 6; 24-40), that equitable economic and social progress can only be attained by joining scientific and technical abilities with an unfailing commitment to solidarity accompanied by a generous and disinterested spirit of gratuitousness at every level. A contribution to this equitable development will also be made both by international activity aimed at the integral human development of all the world’s peoples and by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society.

Didja catch that? "Legitimate" state redistribution of "economic benefits". So who determines what is or is not "legitimate"? The pope? While his economic naivete and foolishness pales compared to his pronouncement of theological error, it nonetheless is amusing to watch people invested in a religious system built around a fallible man trying to continually explain why he doesn't mean what he very clearly is saying.

My lats entry is from Al Mohler on the recent modern day snuff film produced by a young woman undergoing an abortion and filming it to show how great it is. His article, “I Feel Super Great About Having an Abortion” — The Culture of Death Goes Viral, is chilling but not surprising. I can't and won't watch the video just as I wouldn't watch a video of a person shooting a baby or setting a child on fire but the death culture is growing more bold daily. If only the church would show an equal boldness in the defense of life.

Friday, May 09, 2014

The (Mostly Sad) State of Christian Education

"Christian education" is a pretty major deal in the church. I will dispense with the quotation marks going forward because I am lazy but I imply them throughout because I think a lot of what passes for Christian education doesn't have much that is Christian about it. Regardless we as the church spend tons of money on providing a Christian education for our kids. In spite of the intense focus and enormous investment, the entire Christian educational system is a trainwreck. This is more true the higher on the educational ladder you get, all the way to the Christian college experience.

Many traditionally Christians colleges and universities are completely secular. Places like Wake Forest and Baylor are indistinguishable from the rest of the secular educational system. Other Christian schools are under assault from the outside and more commonly from the inside.

On the one hand we have prominent Christian leaders and institutions playing footsie with a heretic who espouses damnable and abominable heresies but says the right things politically. I have mentioned on a couple of occasions that Dr. Albert Mohler, head of the flagship of the Southern Baptist seminary system Southern Seminary, has chosen to appear as the guest of Brigham Young University, a school that trains up young people in the lies of mormonism and is named for a cult leader with a harem of "wives" and a litany of demonic teachings on subjects ranging from the nature of God to perverse racist rantings. Recently Liberty University, a school that prides itself on being "conservative", invited one of the most dangerous wolves in the fold today, unhinged talk radio personality Glenn Beck, to essentially preach to their students, going so far as to fine students who failed to attend a talk by a heretic. These are strange days indeed. As Christendom crumbles, far too many of my brothers are seeking "enemy of my enemy is my friend" allies among the world, some with dubious orthodoxy and others outright deniers of the Gospel itself. Even as the Religious Right loses the culture wars it is simultaneously exposing students to dangerous false teachers in the hope of averting a loss of political influence.

On the other hand the creeping encroachment of various forms of liberalism are washing away the shaky foundations of other schools. My good friend Josh Gelatt recently wrote a post regarding the "Clarification Statement" controversy at Bryan College. Here is an ostensibly Christian college with an existing statement of faith that affirmed the Biblical Creation account. As is common at Christian educational institutions employees are required to affirm the statement. The controversy came about when Bryan published a "Clarification Statement" that clarifies that the Statement of Faith regarding Creationism. This is where things got hairy as a number of faculty members found the clarification's statement regarding the literal descent of all humanity from Adam and Eve to be beyond the pale. Read that again. A  confessionally Christian college needs to reiterate belief in something that has been an accepted teaching in the church for thousands of years and instructors who have chosen to teach in an avowedly Christian school find that position to be incompatible with their own belief system.

This is only the tip of the iceberg but it has been happening for a long time. With the notable exception of the Southern Baptist seminary system that came back from the brink, an overwhelming number of Christian colleges are either being unequally yoked with unbelievers and heretics or plunging headlong into a liberalism that knocks out the foundations of the Gospel. Meanwhile the cost of getting a degree from a Christian college is rapidly entering the same stratospheric level as secular schools, becoming available only to the very wealthy, the very poor or the middle class student that is willing to go in to six figure debt.

Look at the cost for tuition at some of these elite,ostensibly Christian schools:

Wheaton Undergrad tuition: is $31,900

Calvin College undergrad tuition: $29.400

Even lower tier colleges are crazy expensive. For example local (to me) colleges like Taylor University ($29,298) and Indiana Wesleyan ($24,102) are just as expensive as secular alternatives. Even Christians secondary schools are extremely expensive. I tried finding the tuition cost for a large local Christian school and literally couldn't find it but I know it is pretty pricey.

I attribute a lot of the problems to the basic premise as I see it of Christian education. It seems to me that the underlying philosophy is that we want to follow the way of the world but slightly in a "Christianized" variation. Nowhere is this more true than in our wholehearted acceptance of the modern American success paradigm that involves lots of debt for homes, cars, vacations and of course college that is perpetuated and passed down from generation to generation until "Christianity" in America looks like little more than a slightly more moral (at least in certain areas) social group.

There is no question that Christians in America have swallowed the contemporary American dream paradigm. Go to college so you can get a high paying job so that you can afford to buy nice stuff and take nice vacations and of course save money for your kids so they can repeat the process. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway) the church also depends on donations to keep itself running so the church body needs to make enough money to have their own disposable income while at the same time paying for "the church" to keep operating. This leads to the perplexing  prevalence in the church of working mothers in Christian homes, the overt display cultural symbols of affluence and the proliferation of speakers hawking the latest get rich quick scheme, get out of debt quick scheme or some weight loss scheme to lose the excess pounds we gain by our conspicuous gluttony.

It should come as no surprise that the Christian education system has gone so far off the rails. In the same way that sports reporters desperately want to write about "serious" topics to get over their inferiority complex of being the red headed stepchild of journalism, many Christian academics seem to crave the acceptance of the broader, secular academic world. If that means jettisoning the foundational truth propositions of the Bible, so be it. Even in more "conservative" circles where those truths are not set aside we see an attempt to create the next generation of culture warriors to smite the liberal heathen trying to take away our Ten Commandments monuments and raise taxes. We can worry about the widows and orphans later, them Democrats are fixin' to cut defense spendin'!

Perhaps it is time that the church step back and rethink the whole notion of Christian education. Is our goal to have our children graduate from college prepared to make a nice middle class household income while at the same time keeping their virginity intact and their Republican voter registration in good standing? Or is it instruct our children for a life of ministry in a hostile world where they may very well have to choose between comfort and truth, between acceptance and affluence or poverty and faithfulness. We are doing a bang up job of the former, not so much on the latter. A conversation about the goal of Christian education is overdue but unlikely. As in so many other places in the church a combination of institutional inertia and entrenched vested interests make these conversations nigh impossible. The sad truth is that this system will go on until the money runs out and then the church will be left with the task of rebuilding. If nothing else the near future promises to be a busy one.