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].
The following episode of the Reformed Forum’s new podcast, East of Eden, was tailor-made for the readers of this blog! East of Eden is a podcast devoted to discussing all things Jonathan Edwards. Not the recent politician with good hair and a bad reputation, but the eighteenth century preacher of the First Great Awakening who became known as the theologian of revival. In this week’s episode, the co-hosts interview a guest to be named below as they discuss Edwards’ sermon on “The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth.” One comment made by Nick Batzig sums up nicely both the sermon and the theme of this blog: “You can have truth in the mind without godliness in the heart, but you can’t have godliness in the heart without truth in the mind.”
Later, I will update this post with a transcript of the context of the preceding quote. In the meantime, listen to the entire episode, “Christian Knowledge,” to be challenged to inform your godliness with a thorough understanding of the truth which accords with godliness (Titus 1:1).
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!
I’m one of those especially unfortunate fellows who grew up with a love-hate relationship with sports. I played several sports on several little league teams as a child, and played plenty of sports in the streets of my neighborhood. My lack of skill then is probably the chief reason I do not follow sports today, although I do tend to catch the Super Bowl, mostly for the commercials. My new membership in a Reformed church and their biblical and confessional (we view these two adjectives as synonymous) emphasis on delighting in the Lord on the Lord’s Day may have implications for the Super Bowl in the future. All I can say is, thanks be to God for digital video recording.
In light of my lack of interest in sports, I am fond of informing folks that “my sports are politics and religion,” which probably tells people I can relate even less to them, when they may already see me as a socially challenged individual who doesn’t follow sports. It is for this reason that you may not be surprised by my interest in the following lecture series that was held at Christ Reformed Church (URCNA) in Washington, D.C., called “Christianity & Politics,” which is yet another venue for the Westminster Seminary California faculty and alumni, among others, to focus our attention on their attempt at recovering the Reformed notion of the Two Kingdoms approach to the relationship between “Christ and Culture.” A timely offering in this year of presidential politics.
Here’s their introduction to the series, speaker bios and links to the lectures:
Why We Confuse Church & State
Separation of church and state?
Whatever you may think of the contemporary application of our first amendment freedom of religion, Christianity and politics are ever confused in our national consciousness. Preachers seek influence in the political sphere; politicians manipulate and calculate the faithful in their constituencies.
What are the faithful to do? How should we understand our callings as citizens, both on earth below and in heaven above?
Christianity & Politics presents a range of speakers approaching this topic from a range of perspectives while discussing topics as diverse as the mission of the church, the place of evangelicals in American political culture, natural law, and the spirituality of the church.…
Lectures [were] sponsored by Christ Reformed Church, and [took] place in our place of worship, historic Grace Reformed Church, home of President Theodore Roosevelt….
MICHAEL HORTON is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, Host of the White Horse Inn radio program and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is a minister in the United Reformed Church.
MICHAEL GERSON is an opinion writer for the Washington Post and former head speech writer and senior policy advisor to President George W. Bush.
DARRYL HART is Assistant Professor of History at Hillsdale College, author of numerous books, and blogs on religion and public life at oldlife.org.
TERRY EASTLAND is the Publisher of The Weekly Standard and an elder at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland.
BRIAN LEE is the pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Washington, DC (United Reformed Church). He is a Guest Faculty at Reformed Theological Seminary and formerly worked on Capitol Hill, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Department of Defense.
DAVID VAN DRUNEN is the Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Seminary California. He is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and holds a Law Degree from Northwestern University School of Law.
DAVID COFFIN is the Senior Pastor at New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia.
Michael Gerson, Darryl Hart, Terry Eastland
One topic I haven’t treated nearly enough lies ironically at the heart of the underlying theme of my blog, which theme is an expression of my experience as a fundamentalist turned Reformed confessionalist. The topic is the tension in modern fundamentalism and evangelicalism between so-called “head knowledge” and “heart knowledge.” Having been too busy living amidst that tension for the past couple of decades, I haven’t done a great deal of blogging about it since I started this blog.
To be truthful, this blog’s title and theme, “The Misadventures of Captain Headknowledge” is both an indictment and a confession. It’s an indictment for the kind of reason that you may have already read about on my “About Me” page. The confession lies in my honest recognition that I am the sort who has the tendency to, as it is sometimes put, read about the Bible, rather than actually take time to read the Bible.” This is certainly a flaw which stunts my spiritual growth in sanctification and the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. To the extent that my blog is a personal confession, it reminds me to cultivate my own spiritual growth. In the past, I was made to feel that many think this means I must therefore utterly repent of and entirely forsake my tendency to “read about the Bible.” But I disagree, and this is where the indictment part comes in. I regard that attitude to be an overreaction to an otherwise valuable gift of God. A love for reading theology and related Christian literature must not supersede my personal study and application of Scripture, but it needn’t be excluded from my life, either. Old Princeton scholar, Benjamin Breckenridge (B.B.) Warfield has the ultimate quote on this issue, from his book, The Religious Life of Theological Students (P & R Publishing Co.):
Nothing could be more fatal, however, than to set these two things over against one another. Recruiting officers do not dispute whether it is better for soldiers to have a right leg or a left leg: soldiers should have both legs. Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. “What!” is the appropriate response, “than ten hours over your books, on your knees?” Why should you turn from God when you turn to your books, or feel that you must turn from your books in order to turn to God? If learning and devotion are as antagonistic as that, then the intellectual life is in itself accursed, and there can be no question of a religious life for a student, even of theology. HT: Hot Orthodoxy
Such an imbalanced rejection of academic theology as unnecessary or unhelpful “head knowledge” in favor of so-called “heart knowledge” in its extreme forms often seems little more than an individualistic, experiential mysticism. This brings up another, I suppose, the final member of the Old Princeton (before their fall into theological liberalism) and his comments regarding this very problem. Reformed blogger, Jack Miller, recently posted an excerpt from J. Gresham Machen’s book What is Faith? Miller also includes his own remarks, but here’s a little of what Machen has to say on the question of subjective anti-intellectualism and the resultant mysticism against which this blog is in part an indictment:
The depreciation of the intellect, with the exaltation in the place of it of the feelings or of the will, is, we think, a basic fact in modern life, which is rapidly leading to a condition in which men neither know anything nor care anything about the doctrinal content of the Christian religion, and in which there is in general a lamentable intellectual decline. (What is Faith?, p.28)
But if theology be thus abandoned, or if rather (to ease the transition) it be made merely the symbolic expression of religious experience, what is to be put into its place?… Mysticism unquestionably is the natural result of the anti-intellectual tendency which now prevails; for mysticism is the consistent exaltation of experience at the expense of thought. (p.35)
You can read the rest of Miller’s post here.
My sentiments, exactly, Drs. Warfield and Machen!