Monday, December 30, 2013

Some Links To Like

First comes a post from my brother across the pond Christopher Dryden pondering whether we are seeking to be edified or entertained: Edify or Entertain? . Da Man CD recognizes the value of uplifting entertainment but also the difference between entertainment and edification:

Often however, I get the impression that the desire is to be entertained rather than edified.  The desire is to get a cheap thrill and a token God-shot to tick the criteria of being a moral person.

It reminds me of Paul’s warning to Timothy,

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3)

Reading those words is sobering.  It suggests there has to be a desire towards seeking to hear and be built by what stands for sound doctrine.  It makes my life following Christ not like the consumer-culture at all.  I cannot afford to just digest the stuff that pleases me.  I cannot just pick and choose what I want to take on, because it is pleasing to me.  That also implies my desire of encounters with God, His Word and His People, is not primarily for the purpose of being entertained.

One note that should help us to think through this. Edification. in the New Testament is a mutual act, something we all do for all of us. It is not a top down, expert-centric, professionalized series of information lectures but brothers encouraging each other to stir one another up for the work of ministry. I also think that depending on your background it is easy to see what other Christians do as people-pleasing entertainment and what I do as edification. I enjoy a deep sermon on theology. It certainly edifies me to an extent, although I rarely remember what was said weeks later, but it also entertains me. Likewise some people sneer at contemporary Christian music as being mere entertainment while getting the same entertainment from classic hymns. This is something we all need to be aware of.

I saw this yesterday (HT: Robert Martin), Resolved: Quitting the Progressive Christian Internet in 2014. It looks like the increaingly over the top rhetoric that marks the conservative/liberal divide is growing wearisome for my brothers on the left as well as for those of us on the right. I am not familiar with the blogger, Zach Hoag, but I do appreciate what he says:

This is not a call-out post, so I won’t be naming names or linking links. That’s not the point. The point is that the Progressive Christian conversation has lost its way, primarily because of the third word in the label: the Internet. The Internet has fostered a disconnect between the Progressive Christian Internetter and rooted, relational church realities, such that the ideology expressed online has become an end in itself rather than a means tethered to the end of ecclesia. The conversation is increasingly non-incarnational. Whereas evangelical church-planting culture is often plagued by shallow pragmatism, the Progressive Christian Internet goes to the other extreme, philosophizing its way out of any substantial, practical ecclesial application.

And in the attempt to be ideologically Progressive, it often fails to be substantially Christian.

You can replace some of the words and get the same problem among conservatives. It is worth your read. I don't think Zach is calling for complete disengagement, nor am I obviously, but a change in the tone and the method is warranted. The internet is wonderful for many things but it is pretty poor at developing the sort of relational conversations that actually get to the heart of these issues. Instead we get warring factions that snipe at one another and circle the doctrinal wagons to have conversations among people who mostly agree with each other.

A post from Eric Carpenter today makes the list, No Longer Could I Serve in the Military. Like Eric I have come to this same conclusion and it is largely based on this:

Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. How could I possibly serve in the military when I might be ordered to kill someone in the name of the USA? Killing and loving do not mix.

It is simply impossible to simultaneously love someone and kill them. I have seen all sorts of tortured explanations for why it is OK but they simply make no sense.

A quick political link on Rand Paul & the Christian Right. I like Rand Paul quite a lot, knowing full well that he is a politician with all that entails, but I see him as a refreshing new voice against a lot of the sacred cows of the perverse marriage of neo-Con interventionists and Christian culture warriors. I have been encouraged to see a groundswell of changing attitudes as a war weary nation, and especially Christians, grow disillusioned with the constant wars that always seem to do more harm than good. Especially heartening are posts like Eric's above that show a move away from supporting war, something that the church in America has been to eager to do as our leaders embrace the hawks on the political Right as the cost for support for the moral issues that culture warriors care about. A few years ago someone like Rand Paul would be relegated to sitting in the same corner that the GOP establishment put his father Ron in. Today? We are seeing something very different happening and it is a positive development. As the church gets out of the culture wars business and stops providing a steady supply of soldiers from our families for the American war machine perhaps we can get back to our actual calling as ambassadors of the Prince of Peace.

One last one I thought was funny/disturbing:  2013 is the year that proved your ‘paranoid’ friend right. It seems like it happened overnight but a lot of people are pretty spooked at the surveillance state, the abuse of power in law enforcement, the encroaching of government into our most basic liberties. Hopefully more people will wake up and smell the proverbial coffee!


Anonymous said...

Great post Arthur (as always)...
In regards to "entertainment" I've always respected Leonard Ravenhill's insightful comments --

"I'm embarrassed to be part of the Church today because I believe it's an embarrassment to a holy God. Most of our joy is clapping our hands and having a good time and then afterwards we talk all the nonsense of the world. We're overboard on laughter and happiness. There's an old saying in the world, "Laugh and the world laughs with you." I change it and say, "Laugh and the Church laughs with you, but weep and you weep alone." Because there isn't enough real joy in the house of God, we need entertainment. Entertainment is the devil's substitute for joy. Because there isn't enough power in the house of God, people are always looking for something to take its place. We point the finger at the world, but we need to turn to the Church and say we'd better all get sackcloth and ashes and humble ourselves and say "Almighty God!" When I see the Church in the New Testament, they didn't have stately buildings or paid evangelists or a lot of money. (They couldn't get on television and beg!) But I'll tell you what they did - they turned the world upside-down!"

With the love of Jesus,

Arthur Sido said...

Thanks Todd!

Debbie said...

Regarding serving in the military, I recently heard a teaching on the passage of Mark dealing with Jesus being asked whether it was right to pay taxes. (Sorry, don't have the reference right here.) The part that really hit me was the comment that money is the state's, but our lives belong to God. DH has often commented that when someone signs up for the military, he/she is then owned by the military. (Ding, ding, ding! Bells started going off....) How can a Christian, whose life has been bought and paid for by Christ, sign that life over to the state? Long before the point of being required to kill someone, there is something wrong with that picture.

Just a thought.

Arthur Sido said...

Debbie, that is right on the money. Before you even kill someone, signing up for the military indicates a willingness to do so or help others to do so.