On this week’s episode of the Christ the Center podcast (#263, “Insider Movements“), Dr. David Garner is interviewed about his recent article in Themelios, “High Stakes: Insider Movement Hermeneutics and the Gospel,” analyzing the hermeneutics underlying the Insider Movement, a sociological and anthropological approach to contextualizing evangelism without calling on people whose identities are tied to other world religions like Judaism, Islam and Hinduism to disassociate themselves from those religious, cultural and family ties, but to work inside them and transform their approach to those religions in light of the teachings of Jesus. While it is noble to attempt to find a way to minimize the risk of loss or danger a Jew, Muslim or Hindu (for example) may face upon becoming a Christian, it is unfaithful to the Jesus they claim to follow if they would settle for living to distort their new-found faith with the teachings and practices of the religion with which they have previously been associated. Living to syncretize Christianity with non-Christian world religions is not a faith worth living for or dying for.
This movement is clearly in contradiction with the teachings of Jesus to those who would follow him. Jesus carried his cross and died on it for those who believe, and he calls on believers to take up their cross, follow him, and be willing to live publicly for him and, if need be, accept rejection by leaders of other religions, communities and families, even if such rejection includes dying for him.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV).
I know it’s easy for me to say, and to criticize those who would find a way around it, but I too have a cross of self-denial to carry if I am to follow Jesus. I must kill my own sin (a struggle which involves suffering and risk of social rejection on my part), and publicly acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior and associate myself formally with his people, the Church (Hebrews 10:25), serving him with my time, talent and treasure–loving, forgiving and giving to my brothers until it hurts. Should the time come that the culture or community in which I live demands that I deny my Lord Jesus Christ, I am called upon to defy such a demand and willingly suffer the consequences in reliance upon the grace and goodness of God, knowing that if such is happening to me, it is no more than what he sacrificed for me.
One of the interesting things about this movement which Dr. Garner points out in the article and the interview is that the intellectual source of such innovation in world missions comes from the same root as the church growth movement–Donald McGavran (d. 1990) and his School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary (formerly the famous School of World Mission).
Donald Anderson McGavran (December 15, 1897–1990) was a missiologist who was the founding Dean (1965) and Professor of Mission, Church Growth, and South Asian Studies at the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. A child of missionaries in India and later amissionary himself (1923–1961), McGavran spent most of his life trying to identify and overcome barriers to effective evangelism or Christian conversion.
McGavran identified differences of caste and economic social position as major barriers to the spread of Christianity. His work substantially changed the methods by which missionaries identify and prioritize groups of persons for missionary work and stimulated the Church Growth Movement. McGavran developed his church growth principles after rejecting the popular view that mission was ‘philanthropy, education, medicine, famine relief, evangelism, and world friendship’ and become convinced that good deeds – while necessary – ‘must never replace the essential task of mission, discipling the peoples of the earth’. [HT: Wikipedia]
While McGavran’s efforts in his time were more theologically conservative and a reaction against liberal missionary trends, a student of his named C. Peter Wagner built on McGavran’s principles and create the church growth movement which has brought us such phenomena as seeker-sensitive worship and the modern megachurch. Incidentally, he is also the one who coined the phrase New Apostolic Reformation for the worldwide sweep of Charismatic and Word of Faith theology with a special emphasis on the restoration of the apostolic office, which movement in America has recently frightened the political Left because so many who would fall under this umbrella have modified the theonomist views of R. J. Rushdoony (for more on that, see this) and declared that they would “take dominion” over every sphere of influence in America.
Syncretism in the name of saving one’s life is no way to spread Christianity. A new generation around the world must hear the age-old truism: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” [paraphrasing Tertullian, Apology chapter 50].
I just finished watching the latest video uploaded to the Reformed Audio YouTube page, Rev. John Galbraith, Address at GA on 75th Anniversary of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Galbraith, age 98 at the time of the delivery of this address back in June of 2011, was in attendance and stood to vote for the founding of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church on June 11, 1936. The extent of his service to the church is outlined in the introductory material under the video on the YouTube page as follows:
Rev. John P. Galbraith, founding member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1936 and retired minister, addresses the General Assembly of the OPC’s Committee on Christian Education on the 75th Anniversary of the OPC on June 11, 2011. Rev. Galbraith graduated from Westiminster Theological Seminary in 1937 (where he studied under J. Gresham Machen until his untimely death) and was ordained to the gospel ministry that same year. During his 75 years as a minister in Christ’s church, Rev. Galbraith served as the pastor of three OPC churches, clerk of the OPC General Assembly for six years (1940, 1984-88), General Secretary of the Committee for Foreign Missions for thirty years, General Secretary of the Committee for Home Missions, and on numerous other denominational committees. In this address, at the age of 98 years old, he reflects on the mission of the OPC and God’s goodness to the church for 75 years, as well as challenges the church faces. Introduction by Rev. Danny Olinger. For more of Rev. John Galbraith, please visit www.reformedaudio.org/Galbraith
In his address, Rev. Galbraith comments that J. Gresham Machen’s “two pillars” of the church are that 1)The Bible is the Word of God, and 2) It Must Be Obeyed! Built upon these pillars, the young denomination would organize the Committees on Home and Foreign Missions in order to “speak to those who are without,” and underscores how that it is the mission of the Committee on Christian Education to “speak to those who are within”–to teach the teachers. He goes on to urge the OPC to watch out for the inclusivism which ultimately destroyed the PCUSA, and commends toward that end a firm committment to the Westminster Standards as our corporate confession of our ultimate guide, the Bible. Finally, upon his conclusion and stirring recommendation, those in attendance rise to sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name.”
You will be challenged and encouraged to renew your faith in and obedience to the Bible in this address.
I just thought I’d share the video of one of my favorite podcasts, if you’ve got the time.
Reformed Forum is a reformed theology media network, which seeks to serve the church by providing content dedicated to issues in reformed theology. (Link)
The flagship podcast of the Reformed Forum media network is the weekly program, Christ the Center. Hosted by Camden Bucey, a doctoral student at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who is often joined by a panel of other students, Christ the Center features interviews of authors and theologians, as well as discussions among the panelists themselves. While accessible and engaging, these guys are not afraid of dealing with the technical and academic aspects of Reformed theology, but I know everyone will find something that will benefit them.
The most recent episode posted at the Reformed Forum YouTube channel deals with the issue of “Nature and Scripture”:
In 1946, the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary published a symposium on the doctrine of Scipture titled The Infallible Word. Cornelius Van Til’s contribution, an essay titled “Nature and Scripture,” is an important work describing the relationship of general and special revelation. In this episode, Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster, expounds on this essay and connects it to contemporary issues in philosophy and theological methodology. (Link)
In case I’ve never mentioned it, I love the way Penguin publishes their books! It’s probably just the nostalgia associated with the first Penguin Classic I ever bought as a teenager, Pilgrim’s Progress.
Recently, I was browsing at Barnes and Noble and discovered a recent church history book published by Viking (Published by the Penguin Group). Naturally, I was drawn in. The book is called Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, by Oxford Professor of Church History, Diarmaid MacCulloch.
Perusing the introduction, it became clear that, while this writer may be a super scholar (he’s got a long list of awards and other honors to his name), he is not a believer, although he used to profess faith. In fact, he was an Anglican deacon, but refused to enter the priesthood due, fortunately, to controversy swirling around homosexual clergy. See his Wikipedia entry linked above for more on this story.
Although intrigued, I was not quite sure if I should spend my money on the book, so I visited that old place where people can check out books temporarily without having to pay for them, unless they are returned late. Remember libraries? Pretty cool places.
Reading the introduction is a roller coaster ride for an orthodox Christian like myself. MacCulloch, as close as he has always lived to Christianity, makes some rather odd observations about the development of Christianity, but he assures the reader he is a “candid friend of Christianity” (p11). Fair enough. The writing is very engaging, and I have a healthy respect for common grace as it relates to the vocation of unbelievers, and I am sure there is much good information I can gain from this book.
My pastor and his family swung by our house this afternoon, and I showed him that I was reading MacCulloch’s Christianity, and wanted to learn what he knew about the writer. He said they used his previous history, Reformation, as a textbook at Westminster Theological Seminary. He also said that the British WTS Church History prof, Carl Trueman, knows MacCulloch and respects his work. My pastor also wants me to let him know what I think after I read it. If any of my readers are familiar with MacCulloch’s work, please share your thoughts and reactions with us in the comments section.
So, with such a hearty endorsement, I suppose I can afford to set aside the other books I’m bogged down in, and focus on this one for a few weeks until I can’t continue. As much as I love books, I’m a slow and easily distracted reader. My “ADD” will kick in at some point, I’ll return the book to the library (on time, hopefully), and then go purchase the paperback edition of both Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, and Reformation: A History.
Here’s a BBC interview of MacCulloch on his history of Christianity, in case you’re interested in what’s in store for me as I read his book:
Apparently, I’m unable to walk and chew gum at the same time. You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting lately. For your information, I’ve been obsessing about the Republican presidential primaries, and Tweeting my support for Rick Santorum.
Over the past few years, I’ve been reading and thinking about competing approaches to the relationship between church and state, or more broadly, Christ and culture. Turning 18 during the 1988 presidential race, my political formation took place at the hands of what is now popularly looked down on as “The Religious Right.” Believing as I do that capitalism does more good for the most people (including those in poverty) than does redistribution of wealth and that abortion is nothing less than a twentieth-century “Massacre of the Innocents,” I have always found that the Republican party was more consistent with these views than the alternative, and I have voted accordingly.
Having more recently become a proponent of Reformed theology, I have been intrigued and challenged by Reformed and Presbyterian teachers discussing things like “Kuyperianism,” “Two-Kingdom theology” (2K) and “the Spirituality of the Church” and even things like “Theonomy” (or it’s more politically charged name “Dominionism“). While I find much to commend in the first three views, I have no use for the fourth. But unlike other Reformed bloggers, I have not become a strident advocate of either Abraham Kuyper’s view of sphere sovereignty, the modern Reformed appropriation of Luther’s modification of Augustine’s “Two Cities” (as expressed in City of God) view, or the Presbyterian view of the spirituality of the church. The committee is still out on which of these views will win the battle for my mind. All I can say is that I am still working on which I find to be most consistent with Scripture. In the meantime, I’m culling the candidates as I always have. This election season, my sympathies lie mostly with Rick Santorum as holding the best conservative candidate to run against our esteemed incumbent President Barack Obama.
Before I settled on which candidate was for me, I began to notice that many of the Reformed proponents of the Two Kingdom approach to Christ and culture seemed to favor the libertarian phenomenon, Ron Paul. Before this, I followed a certain prominent 2K blogger who is probably the chief scholar on the life, thought and ministry of J. Gresham Machen, the founder of both Westminster Theological Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Yes, I mean Dr. Darryl G. Hart. I thoroughly enjoyed his series on the life of Machen provided by the Reformed Forum, and I listen to it again and again (You can listen to part 1 here). I did find Hart’s portrayal of Machen as a 1920′s libertarian charming, especially regarding his civil disobedience against the tyrannical anti-jaywalking laws of his day. How can you not grin at the notion of the author of Christianity and Liberalism defiantly charging across a busy street at will? But the more I listened to Hart expound on his 2K view, it began to sound more like a promotion of libertarianism in the name of 2K than it did a defense of the right of a believer before God to determine what he thinks is most in his nation’s best interests. Likewise, many others in the Reformed blogosphere who are big fans of Hart’s and strident 2K proponents themselves, seem to be following suit in promoting Ron Paul for president as enthusiastically as I am Rick Santorum. This is their right, of course, but I can’t help coming away with the feeling that to be 2K is to be self-consciously anti-1980′s Religious Right Republican and thus necessarily Libertarian. I’m sure they don’t see it this way, but this is the way it appears from my perspective.
So, staying true to my theological and political instincts, I remain very distracted from my blogging, and continue to daily follow the exploits of Rick Santorum’s “Game On!” surge to virtual, if not actual, front-runner status. My wife and I even attended his rally in Plano, Texas last week! (or was it the week before?) In my online searching about the former Senator from Pennsylvania, I came upon the text of a 2010 speech he delivered in Houston which analyzes and criticizes his Catholic president predecessor, John F. Kennedy’s historic 1960 Houston speech, in which he famously assuaged the fears of Protestant America that the Vatican would not exercise undue influence on his administration and declared “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” Santorum says that the implications of Kennedy’s position has harmed the freedom of conscience and the freedom of religious expression, and has given us the modern Left-wing war on religion in America. You can begin reading it here:
“Three pictures hung in the home of my devoutly Catholic immigrant grandparents when I was a boy and I remember them well — Jesus, Pope Paul VI and John F. Kennedy. The president was a source of great pride and a symbol to Catholics that all barriers had finally been broken. What my family and maybe even candidate Kennedy at the time didn’t realize was that in a key moment in that election of 1960 right here in Houston, Kennedy began the construction of another, even more threatening wall for our society — one that sealed off informed moral wisdom into a realm of non-rational beliefs that have no legitimate role in political discourse.
“Fifty years ago this Sunday JFK delivered a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to dispel suspicions about the role the papacy might play in the government of this country under his administration. Let’s make no mistake about it — Kennedy was addressing a real issue at the time. Prejudice against Catholics threatened to cost him the election. But on that day, Kennedy chose not just to dispel fear, he chose to expel faith. Let me quote from the beginning of Kennedy’s speech: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”
“The idea of strict or absolute separation of church and state is not and never was the American model. It was a model used in countries like France and until recently Turkey, but it found little support in America until it was introduced into the public discourse by Justice Hugo Black in the case of Everson v. The Board of Education in 1947. (Black, by the way, was a Catholic-hating former member of the KKK who ironically enough advocated this strict separation doctrine to keep public funds from Catholic schools.)
“While the phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t appear in the Constitution, the concept of keeping the government apart from religion does. The first part of the First Amendment prohibits the federal government from establishing a state church, such as existed in England and in some of the states in 1791, and from discriminating for or against particular faiths. The founders were determined to ensure that the new national government had no jurisdiction over matters of religion, in large part to insure that each American would be free to pursue the religion of their choice without state interference. Far from reflecting hostility toward religion, our founders, rooted in their own faith convictions, knew that faith was not just an essential element, but the essence of civilization and the inspiration of culture.
“The second reference to religion in the First Amendment guaranteed the free exercise of religion and in conjunction with the prohibition of established churches, these two concepts were to work together to ensure that religion and people of faith had powerful constitutional protections of their right to not only worship as their conscience dictated, but to be free to bring their religiously informed moral convictions into the public discourse.”
Keep reading… and feel free to sound off with your reactions to any of mine or Rick’s comments!