Post-Modernism (Part 1)

I am preparing to write my master’s thesis on the topic of Post-modernism but I am narrowing my focus on the theological method of Stanley Grenz, one of the theological architects of the Emerging Church. I just finished reading his Revisioning Evangelical Theology and I must say that taken at the surface level Grenz presents a lot of good correctives to the stereotypical fundy. However, Grenz has some particular aspects of his re-visioned theology that are both alarming and troublesome. Though I plan on making excepts of what I am writing available here as I go through the process, I wanted to take the time to play in the middle of the road for a moment.

Although I am both saddened and frustrated at some of the antics done by so-called fundamentalists (whom I affectionatly call Fundies), the core of what I term historic fundamentalism is ironically obscured by them. One of those concepts defended by the reformers is sola scriptura. By this the reformers meant that the scripture is the only authoritatively preserved message from God. However, the sterotypical fundy obscures scripture when he/she ignores the context of a passage of scripture and instead uses his or her own sense of morality for determining what is right or wrong. In effect some fundies violate sola scriptura by going off into tangents, especially if they do not relate back to the text at hand. This certainly cannot be how we are to interpret the Bible.

The Post-modern side is not much better since Grenz suggests that in contrast to the fundamentalist/reformers view of one source of theology (scripture) and the catholic church’s dual source of theology (scripture and the magesterium), there are four sources that must be involved in determining theology: scripture, culture, community, Spirit enlightenment. ((In the Barthian sense – Scripture becomes the word of God when mixed with my faith.)) At least for the post-modern they freely admit their sources! This is something that the fundy does not do since he is perhaps blind to his slipping in of other sources. Fundies are more post-modern then they would like to admit. ((This is actually part of Grenz’s point. He takes a descriptive view of evangelicalism – an evangelical is one who looks like an average evangelical today. Since a major section of evangelicalism has  abandoned a strict understanding of sola scriptura, it is natural for him to assume that the abandonment of “scripture alone” is a mark of an evangelical.))

My point here is to introduce what I am going to be working on for the next couple months and I am letting off some steam (in a good way.) If I were to give a one word critique of Grenz’s Revisioning, I would say it was perplexing. I found myself simultaneously agreeing with some parts and then within a paragraph saying, “did he really just say that!” His history of the progress of thought from modernism (specifically the outflow of the enlightenment) to post-modernism is a good introduction to the issue. However, his dealing with the concerns of the (historic) fundamentalist is basically negative though he acknowledges their contributions. It was frustrating that he never makes his proposal about what to do with post-modernism clear in the text. It was like trying to pull teeth to get him to tell us what he was proposing. ((I think his purpose was more apologetic then a polemic. He writes as thought it is assumed that post-moderism is the correct world view and is explaining what he believes to be evangelicalism’s shift towards it. )) He also has little if any bad things to say about post-modernism, especially when he contrasts it to modernism. I would like to have seen him cover in this volume more about what he means by community, but he thoroughly covers that concept in other writings such as his “Created for the Community.”

Probably next post I will list some of the issues that I will need to deal with in this thesis. I need to finish up my proposal and get it to the Professor later this week.

 

The Center for Terrible Preaching

For a couple years now I’ve thought about creating a website dedicated examples of bad preaching. The intent was to be something of a warning for guys like me to accept criticism and thus learn from my mistakes. Out of curiosity, I typed “examples of bad preaching” in to google and it returned several websites that kind of hit on this theme, though none of them seem particularly dedicated to the topic. I did however stumble across some excellent blog posts about examples of bad preaching. Thought I would share some with you. It’s a start and perhaps I will add more to the category when I see them.

Bad preaching 101 to go along with my eisagesis 101 

Bad preaching from a Catholic perspective

An short post about how bad preaching led to financial hardship for a church

 

 

 

Worship Part 2

In this post, I seek to define worship in a very rudimentary way. Certainly worship is much larger than can be described in a couple paragraphs, but I want to give a couple thoughts regarding its definition. The Wesminster Shorter catachism summarizes the entire topic of worship as it asks its first question, “What is the chief end of man” ((http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/WSC_frames.html)). The response is simple: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” ((Ibid.)) Thus, worship is expressly tied to God’s glory.

Jonathan Edwards also helps to understand this idea when he writes,

God is glorified not only by his glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. God made the world that he might communicate, and the creature receive, his glory . . . both [with] the mind and the heart. He that testifies his having an idea of God’s glory [doesn’t] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation [i.e., his heartfelt commendation or praise] of it and his delight in it” ((http://www.apuritansmind.com/jonathanedwards/JonathanEdwards-Miscellanies-Happiness.htm)).

At its basic meaning, worship is ascribing honor and worth to the one being worshiped. Worship is not for the benefit of the worshiper nor directed at the worshiper. Rather, worship is the response of God’s people to the person and work of the Trinity. As Frame writes, “worship ‘in Spirit and Truth,’ then is Trinitarian worship – worship that is aware of the distinctive work of the Father, the Son and the Spirit for our salvation.” ((Frame John. Worship in Spirit and Truth. (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing,1996.), 7.)) Worship is foundational to the vertical relationship between the worshiper and the worshiped and therefore important to the life of believers.

Worship Part 1

When you think of worship, what comes to mind? Probably for a christian two things immediately are given as an answer. The first being music (and by extension the worship service) and second being the time when a bunch of people who gather in a place to hear someone speak something about some book called the Bible. Both of these views are popular, but neither takes into account the teaching of scripture. These next posts will deal with worship begining with the question” what is worship?”

In order to answer this first question, we must first deal with the above misconceptions of worship. First, worship is not limited to music, although music is an important aspect of worship. Rather, Paul indicates in his letter to the Ephesians that they are to build one another up with songs. Second, worship is not just a social gathering. Many treat the Sunday service as nothing more than a social event, even if that event is to hear a sermon.

Both of these events have a singular goal in mind: to build up the believers so that they are equipped for the work of the ministry. Worship is not an activity of a believer, rather it is their total attitude in every setting of life.

Traveling

After graduation at Northland International University, I have been traveling with my parents and sister to her home in South Dakota. While here, I have opportunity to take in the local sights.

This morning, My parents and I visited Mount Rushmore. While not my first time to visit, it was the first time that I had clear view of the enormous sculptures. On my previous visits, it was dark, cloudy, and miserable as my family tried to distinguish the faces of the four presidents.

However, today was an amazingly beautiful day! We were finally able to see the mountain in the splendor of the morning sun.

Among many of the amazing facts about the mountain is that the sculptor Gutzon Borglum chose the exact spot that the monument rests to catch the morning light.  The incredible planing and the multitude of scale models and prototypes is staggering, but through all of the trial and error Borglum created on of the most recognizable landmarks of American history.

While the human race indeed can create works of art that are stunning in complexity or sheer size, God’s created works far surpassing the finite works of human beings.

From Genesis 1 and the creation account, the vast heavens, the masses of land, animals, plants, and everything else is declared to be the direct creation of God. Not only did he create it, but the quality of all of it was “very good.”

Not the least of God’s creation is human kind. In Psalm 139:14, the writer, David, states that he (any by extension every other human being) is fearfully and wonderfully made. In the providence of God, the human being is treasured by God and is special to Him. Perhaps because humans are created in the image of God, He takes delight in these creatures. It is  God’s delight in His creation (though defiled) that we should look back to our creator. And just like a mountain carved to reflect the images of great men of history, we should reflect back the image of the great God who created us.

Theology Matters

What we believe about God dramatically shapes the way that we live. All of us are theologians because we all have thoughts about God. These thoughts shape our lives and mold us into the people we are. The atheist rejects the evidence of a creator God and he or she becomes the ultimate arbitrator of truth and morality. The pantheist sees god  in every object. The polytheist believe that the gods fight petty wars among themselves just as humans do. Each of them however forms the thoughts and actions of the people who hold them.

The Theist alone looks to God’s own revelation of Himself for his or her theology. They contend hard with the words of scripture which claim to be spoken directly by Him.

Theology is not difficult because we don’t have God’s words: we have them collected and preserved in the Bible. Theology is difficult because we are fallen and finite beings. Sin distorts our view of God reflected in scripture and we naturally “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18) about God.

Our theology must be guided by scripture. This is true, but we must also recognize that our nature makes looking at the scripture correctly difficult. For this we must have the one who wrote the scripture enlighten us to understand what He revealed. This is percisely what Paul prays for in Ephesians 1.

16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

While many pastors focus on the imperative to “be kind” and its attendant “forgiveness”, often overlooked is that the ultimate motivation for us to forgive other fallible human beings lies in the forgiveness that we ourselves received from God.

Forgiveness is not not found necessarily in words, but is demonstrated. Love for fallen human beings motivated God to forgive us through the work of Christ (Ephesians 4:4-6).  While much can be said about God’s forgiveness, our forgiveness of one another for things mundane or critical should be motivated by that same thing which motivated God: Love!

The apostle Paul used a term that is often translated “tenderhearted” to describe the compassion of a person as he or she looks at the plight of another. That strong, intense focus on the one who wronged us should move our focus to how we have wronged God and yet he still forgave us.

Forgiving others is not our first thought when we are wronged. It is not natural for us to forgive. In fact, it is impossible to forgive another human being in the same way that God forgave us unless we forgive in Christ. It is Christ’s redemption work that provides the foundation for us to forgive one another.

Therefore, since God forgave us much we are able to forgive others much for their inconsistencies, failed promises, and pain they caused us (and hopefully others will forgive us for our own failures as well.)

Christian Arrogance

A friend of mine posted this quote earlier today:

“Had God consulted us for wisdom we could have given him a more workable plan, something that would attract the sign-seeker and the lover of wisdom. As it is, in his own wisdom he left us out of the consultation.” (G. Fee on 1 Cor. 1:21-25)

The Sealing Ministry of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 1:13,14

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Classical usage of the term σφραγίζω (to seal) essentially means to identify a belonging with its owner. ((Hoehner, 238)) In this sense a seal would be a mark denoting ownership of a particular object or thing. Previously in this passage, God has chosen a group of people and has predestined them for adoption. God’s mark of ownership of these people is the Holy Spirit ((Hoehner notes that many identify the Spirit’s act of sealing with baptism. He notes that this is a confusion of the ministries. Baptism refers to placing a believer in the body of Christ while sealing refers to God’s mark of ownership of a person.)). A second aspect of sealing is that of protection. Owners who mark their property will seek to protect what is theirs. O’Brien relates the relationship of the sealing of the Spirit with the promise of full possession of the inheritance: “by giving Gentile believers the Spirit, God ‘seals’ or stamps them as his own now, and he will be protect [sic] them through the trials and testings of this life until he takes final possession of them on ‘the day of redemption’” ((Peter T. O’Brien. The Letter to the Ephesians.(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1999), 120.))

How does one receive the seal of the Spirit? The seal is not given because of some act done by a believer. Walvoord notes that the act of sealing is entirely accomplished by God. It is never commanded or set as a goal for believers to reach ((John Walvoord, 157)). However, the passage states that when the Ephesians heard the truth of the gospel and believed, they were sealed. The relationship between belief and sealing is not antecedent. The sealing occurs at the same time as belief and not some time after ((O’Brien, 119)).

Paul uses legal terminology to describe the relationship of the Holy Spirit to a believer. He is said to be the ‘guarantee’ of the believers inheritance. The term ἀρραβών (ernest [kjv]) is a Hebrew transliteration which literally means “an advance transaction that guarantees the validity of a contract or a full purchase price down payment, first installment, pledge” ((Timothy Friberg, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 75)) As Grudem describes it, “When God gave us the Holy Spirit within, he committed himself to give all the further blessings of eternal life and a great reward in heaven with him.” ((Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 791.)) The Holy Spirit is only part of God’s inheritance to believers. Romans gives a broader look at this picture by showing that believers have the firstfruits of the Spirit and eagerly await for the final stage of salvation: the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23). This is the inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the first down payment ((Millard J. Erikson. Christian Theology. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 1010.)).

While the believer is sealed by the Spirit and marked out as God’s possession, believers can also grieve that same Spirit (4:30). The imperative found in this verse give ample motivation for the preceding and following imperatives (“Let the thief no longer steal…[4:28]” , “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths…[4:29]” , “Let all bitterness… be put away from you [4:31]” , “Be kind … [4:32]” , “Be imitators of God [5:1]” , “walk in love [5:2]”). This reference to irritating the Holy Spirit by these acts can possibly be traced back to Isaiah 63. Israel had rebelled and grieved the Holy Spirit in spite of all the blessings they had received ((God bringing up the children of Israel from Egypt comes to mind. Isaiah in 1-6 recounts that God desired to help, but no one available.)). It might be said that “Paul issues a warning to this new community [the church] not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, ‘as Israel had done’ in the wilderness (cf. 1 Cor. 10:1-11), the more so since they have been sealed by that same Holy Spirit until the day of redemption (4:30) ((O’Brien, 347)).

The last phrase in 4:30, “by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” might suggest purpose, but a reference to time might be more in view ((Hoehner, 632. )). The two are closely related. Certainly a purpose of the day of redemption includes a time principle. However, Hoehner suggests that two phases of redemption exist. One is the day “that sets believers free from sin” and a second that “occurs in the eschatological future when Christ comes for the saints, setting believers free from the presence of sin.” ((Ibid.)) Whenever the day of redemption is to occur, believers have been sealed and will experience the fullness of God’s intention for them.

The Mystery of Ephesians

Note: These are just some thought as I have been studying the book of Ephesians. I may decide to release part a part two to follow up.

The term μυστήριον (musterion – mystery) occurs six times in the letter to the Ephesians. In new testament literature it refers to the kingdom of God (Mark 4:11), the resurrection / rapture (I Corinthians 15:51) and the incarnation (I Timothy 3:16). Both Colossians and Ephesians use the term in relationship to the Church and particularly to the act which brings the church into existence: reconciliation. This post seeks to examine the content of the μυστήριον in Ephesians and how it relates practically to a believers life ((Author’s Note: I will finish this in a part two)).

The basic meaning of the word μυστήριον describes Greco-Roman secret rites or teachings especially in the religious realm. There was a certain reluctance to divulge these secretes in historic times ((BDAG, 661.)). Some commentators suggest the term was borrowed from these ancient mysteries and given a Christian twist. While heathen mysteries were guarded closely and never revealed, the mystery of Christ is freely divulged to all people ((T.K. Abbott. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Ephesians and Colossians., 15)) . Others note, however, that there is no need to assume that Paul had “the heathen mysteries in his mind when he used the word.” ((Ibid.)) It is therefore necessary to examine Paul’s usage in Ephesians to determine the meaning in this aspect.

The first use of the word in 1:9 is that the mystery concerns God’s will and what the Father has planned to accomplish. This plan was conceived before the creation of the world (1:4) and contains His plan to bring all things into their proper place. Fulfillment of this plan ultimately takes place in the fullness of time ((Harold Hoehner. Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary. (Grand Rapids :Baker Academic, 2002), 219. Literally the phrase is plural (“the fullness of the times”). As Hoeher notes, the only other time that this plural phrase is used is in Luke 21:24 where it refers to the fullness of the times of the gentiles when Messiah would rule the earth. Paul presents in 1:11 what this Messianic rule will look like.)) .

The second use in 3:3 and 3:4 describes this mystery as one that can only be made known by direct revelation of God. God revealed this mystery to Paul, the human agent. Paul wrote about the mystery previously in a few words ((Ernest Best. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Ephesians. (Scotland : T & T Clark Edinburgh, 1998), 302. An alternate view is common relating to the meaning. These view the meaning here Paul (or whoever the author might have been) had previously written another letter to the Ephesians, possibly Galatians or Colossians. A major difficulty about this view is that Paul could not have been sure that the Ephesians had already received these letters. Also, the context and the meaning of the word does not force one to look outside the current correspondence.)) about the admission of the gentiles into the new body called the church (1:9; 2:11). The genitive τοῦ χριστοῦ if taken objectively would indicate that the mystery is about Christ ((Hoehner, 437.)) . Abbott notes that others have taken it as an appositive or an identification of this mystery with reference to Colossians 1:27 ((Abbott, 80.)).  However, there is a major difference between them: Ephesians is “the mystery of Christ” while Colossians is “the mystery is Christ in you.” It seems proper to understand that the mystery is about what God is doing through Christ and has now been made known to believers through Paul.

The content of the mystery in Ephesians is that the Father has united two groups of people into one. The will or plan of God has already been mentioned in 1:10: to unite all things in Him. Chapter two describes the what this uniting entails. Prior to the believers salvation, their former lifestyle was thoroughly flesh oriented (2:1-3). However, God provided the opportunity for salvation by faith (2:4-10). Paul points out that two groups exist. The distinction between these two groups is that one was near and one was a far off (2:11,12) ((Those who are near and far are separated by the “middle wall of partition”. Christ abolished this wall in his flesh. The identification of this wall is the Mosaic law with its commandments and ordinances. Those who were given the Mosaic law are those who are “near” and those who are outside of the nation of Israel (gentiles) are those who are “far”)). The resulting third group of people who have brought near are identified as “living stones” who are forming a temple as a dwelling place of God (2:19,21).

The final two references to this mystery are practical applications flowing from the understanding of God’s plan. The latter part of chapter 5 deals with the responsibilities of the husband / wife relationship to properly reflect the relationship of Christ and His church. The point of the marriage relationship to the mystery of which Paul speaks is that the two people (husband and wife) become one new person in marriage. Verse 33 is the summation of the responsibilities: the husband must love his wife as Christ loved his church and the wife is to submit to the husband and the church is to be under the authority of Christ.

Paul’s final request is that the believers would pray that God would give him opportunity to declare the mystery which has already been discussed (6:19).