Sunday, March 22, 2009

Theopneustia by L. Gaussen

Recently I was writing a paper and while looking for sources I stumbled upon a little book that had nothing to do with my paper but I read a little of it and began to appreciate the words of the author. The book is called, "Theopneustia: The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures" by L. Gaussen. The following is an excerpt that I thought was particularly applicable for the church today.

"It has ever happened that when flocks have been pious, theology has thriven. She has accomplished herself with learning; she has put due honour on studies that require vigorous effort; and, the better to capacitate herself for searching the Scriptures, not only has she desired to master all the sciences that can through light upon them, but she has infused life into all other sciences, whether by example of her own labours, or by gathering around her men of lofty minds, or by infusing into academical institutions a generous sentiment of morality, which has promoted all their developments.

Thus it is that, in giving higher character to all branches of study, she has often ennobled that of a whole people.

But, on the contrary, when theology and the people have become indifferent to each other, and drowsy flocks have lived only for this world, then theology herself has given evident proofs of sloth, frivolity, ignorance, or perhaps love of novelties; seeking a profane popularity at any cost; affecting to have made discoveries that are only whispered to the ear, that are taught in academies, and never mentioned in the churches; keeping her gates shut amid the people, and at the same time throwing out to them from the windows doubts and impieties, with the view of ascertaining the present measure of their indifference; until at last she breaks out into open scandal, in attacking doctrines, or in denying the integrity or the inspiration of certain books, or in giving audacious denials to the facts which they relate.

And let a man beware of believing that the whole people do not erelong feel the consequences of so enormous a mischief. They will suffer from it even in their temporal interests, and their national existence will be compromised. In degrading their religion, you proportionally lower their moral character; you leave them without a soul. All things take their measure, in a nation, according to the elevation that is given to heaven among the people. If their heaven be low, every thing is affected by it even on earth. All there becomes erelong more confined and more creeping; the future becomes narrowed; patriotism becomes materialized; generous traditions drop out of notice; the moral sense loses its tone; material wellbeing engrosses all regard; and all conservative principles, one after another, disappear."

In this quote we are told that there is a correlation between the health of a nation's church and the health of a nation. With or without separation of church and state, the church plays a vital role in the life of a nations people. The other day I was driving and saw a sign outside a church that mentioned the "U2charist" (U2 Lord's Supper) that was going to happen the following Sunday. What needs are being met with such a service? What is being taught in such a service? Search "Clown Communion" on YouTube and then think about the first words of the quote regarding the pious church. Is this the condition of the modern church which has a direct effect on the morality of a nation. Solid teaching, solid theology, and pious examples that truly supply men and women with nourishment for their souls is what the church and our nation desperately need.

Friday, January 23, 2009

One Foundation for Gay Christianity, Reviewed

Last Tuesday I was in a locally owned bookstore. Shannon and I had heard about their book club and author’s readings and we wanted to check it out. When we got there it was a quaint little shop with a café and the owners were pretty friendly. The books were of different assortments and not the usual collection you would see at a Barnes and Nobles or Books-a-Million. They did have some of those titles but mostly local writers, spirituality books, travel guides, and a vast array of different topics with small amounts of books in each section. It was just the kind of store we expected in Asheville.

After browsing around for a while we decided to leave and find a coffee shop with less people than the café. We headed up the street but we noticed a book in the window of the bookstore we had just left, and that there would be a reading on Saturday. The book was titled Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians and was written by Candace Chellew-Hodge, a minister formerly of the United Church of Christ. Shannon and I stopped and talked about whether we would purchase the book and come back for the reading and we decided that it would be a good thing. This issue is not one that is going away anytime soon in the church and we were interested in hearing what the author had to say, both in her book and the reading.

I took the book home but only had time to read the first three chapters before Saturday arrived. We arrived after the reading had begun and listened intently. She was reading a part I had read early that afternoon.

My goal was to ask a question that would challenge the author without making her feel condemned. It was evident in her book that the traditional church and those who sinfully hate homosexuals had hurt her. In response to her experience her foundation in faith was skewed disastrously. Two of her basic conclusions that depart from historic Christianity are: 1) Man was created good and 2) The Scriptures are not the inerrant Word of God. This leads to her basic abandonment of true Christianity. Notice here that I am not questioning her conclusions about homosexuality (which fit in her system) but her version of Christianity.

The Scriptures speak to the condition in which man finds himself. This is summed up in the Doctrine of Original Sin, which is expressly denied by the author. The Fall lead to man’s banishment from the Garden as well as the curse from God that all men are born sinners. Psalm 14:2-3 says, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” It is hard to skirt around the truth of this statement. Man knows its truth both in God’s Word but also in his heart. We sense the depth of our sin in our thoughts, relationships with others, and our relationship with God. We are sinners desperately in need of grace.

It is difficult to deny the truth of the Doctrine of Original Sin but Ms. Chellew-Hodge manages to do this, partly because of her second great departure from historic Christianity. She goes on to deny the value of Scripture. I use the word value here because of a conversation I had with the author. It seemed to me that she questioned the authority of Scripture but she assured me this was not the case. She said that the Bible WAS authoritative.

Upon further consideration I realized she was upholding the Bible as authoritative but she was detracting from the value of the Scriptures in her denial of inerrancy. If the Bible contains words from God but is not in its entirety the Word of God, man then becomes the decider of what is God’s Word in the Bible and what is not. No longer can man rely on the Bible to teach us anything. We can easily deny its teaching saying the parts we disagree with were not intended by God. Without inerrancy the debate on God becomes subjective and based on the individual and their interpretation of Scripture.

In responding to her first question at the reading, the author said that we could know nothing certain about God. She was only comfortable saying, “God is.” That is all we can know. I followed that up with the question, “Would you say that God is Jesus Christ?’ Her answer reminded me of the clever way heretics of the early church would redefine terms in order to sound orthodox. She said something along the lines of Christ was the most perfect embodiment of the divine. This allows her to avoid claiming the divinity of Christ, which again departs from Orthodox Christianity.

My conclusion is that Ms. Chellew-Hodge completely departs from Christianity and has created a new spirituality that no way is related to Christianity other than her mention of Christ. Her deconstruction of the Bible, as well as her false claims about the goodness of man in her book begins the departure from Christianity. Her remarks made following her reading completes her departure and allows me to comfortably say that what she describes is not Christianity but a new type of Spirituality that involves finding the ‘authentic self’ and encourages self-esteem religion calling men and women to become ‘bulletproof.’

It is my conclusion that Ms. Chellew-Hodge is free to believe in what ever manner she desires. She has that freedom. However, the religion that she clings to is not Christianity but a type of spirituality. My challenge to her would be to leave the Christian title out of her services and writings, not because she is gay, but because what she is teaching is not Christianity. Notice the post never really commented on her homosexual lifestyle but it did challenge her to understand the orthodox understanding of Christianity and define her teaching in light of that. It seems she has some misplaced desire to call herself a Christian when her foundation is that of New Age Spiritualism.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Should We Leave Our House To Go To Church?

Over the years since I left college there was something brewing at Anderson College (now University). New Spring Church has invaded Anderson with a force like no other church I have ever seen. They have expanded their influence to Greenville and Florence and are developing plans to open a campus in Columbia. While I have a desire to see the church grow and lives changed for Christ, anyone who knows me, knows my concerns about the quick development and lack of depth (not an opinion of mine alone) in the teaching at New Spring. One thing that I have noticed was that New Spring does have many positives like relational home ministry groups that is a wonderful addition to any church. However, I have to express my concern for depth and serious connection to Historical Christianity. Marketing, lights, rocks bands, and feeling good are not the basics of the church.

This blog entry was not intended to express these concerns but it is related to my concern for the latest development at New Spring. They are developing a 'campus' they have called their 'web campus.' They are encouraging people nationwide to become members of New Spring via their web campus. However, this in no way resembles the church. To listen to sermons from your bed or study is not the same as building community and being around church family. This latest development is one that I had to write about. Please read the quote from the New Spring Webcampus Blog and respond.

This is an answer to your prayers.

The launch of this blog means that NewSpring’s web campus is only a matter of weeks away from launch.

Perhaps you’ve been streaming or downloading our podcasts and vodcasts and you’ve wanted to share the experience of worship with other NewSpringers and get behind the amazing work God is doing through our church.

Perhaps you’re attending our Anderson, Greenville or Florence campuses in South Carolina and you’re burdened whenever your friends and family across the nation and the world have said “if only we had a church like NewSpring!”

Now they do.

What’s our web campus? The short answer: It’s your church. Anywhere you are. Even if you don’t know it yet.


The end of the entry calls the blog readers to a two week period of prayer until the February 1st launch of the 'web campus'. My call to you is to be in prayer for Christians to understand the need to be involved in a local church. Internet church will only allow people to compartmentalize their faith and feel like good Christians without leaving the house. They listen to a heartwarming sermon and hear the word of God read but in no way are they really participating in the life of the church. Please pray and leave your feedback.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Job of a Sincere Pastor

This past Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at my new congregation, Fairview Christian Fellowship. When it was over I was emotionally drained. I struggled to convince myself that it was a solid sermon and beat myself a bit. It was not bad by any stretch but I simply felt that it could have gone better. I could reflect on this for hours and hours but that is not the goal of this post.
After discussing the sermon with Rusty (my pastor) and hearing his testimony I began to reflect on the job of a pastor, how draining it would be to go through that week after week, not to mention the added burden of the emphasis the Presbyterian church puts on preaching. What a daunting task for the full-time preacher.
A pastor prepares all week. He studies a passage over and over, gleaning more information from that passage than can be understood in only a week, let alone taught in a 30-45 minute sermon. It is also the pastor’s duty to understand the needs of his congregation and present the vast amount of information in its most understandable and effective way. Hours in the study translates to a 30-minute opportunity to share the richness of God’s Word that he has been contemplating all week. So much is left unsaid and the pastor must decide what say, how to say it, and unfortunately what not to say. It is no surprise that we hear about the Sunday afternoon blues or in the case of two Sunday services, the Monday morning blues.

A pastor’s heart and soul is poured into the study of a passage and he puts the same effort into organizing his words and trying to understand the needs of his congregation. He believes in the power of the Holy Spirit but also understands his own unworthiness to speak on the inerrant and infallible Word of God. It often feels like you are teetering on the edge of the abyss, asking, “Will these busy people, who didn’t spend all week contemplating this passage, get the point?”

A pastor’s heart is concerned with the growth and development (sanctification) of those whom God has placed under his care. It is with this in mind that these thoughts have come to the forefront of my mind. A pastor cannot write something like this requesting that his congregation understand what he is trying to do, so I have written it. If we understand that a pastor is handling the Word of God, and we appreciate the love and care that is put into preparation, perhaps we will seek more intently to understand what is being taught on Sunday morning or night, whether or not it is entertaining or we feel it was done well enough. See the heart of your pastor and then seek understanding through his teaching. It is God who called the church member to sit under the teaching, God who called the pastor to teach, and man’s responsibility to take seriously the calling of God.

This Kid I Knew

When I was growing up there was this kid. He was always around. When I went to the basketball court, he was there. When my Mom gave me money to go to the pizza place, he would always be there. We were always in the same school, we rode the bus together, and we were even on the same little league team year after year. Time went by and we got to know each other pretty well. We didn’t see eye to eye on anything.

When we were in elementary school we had a little run in just down the street from my house. We were walking around the neighborhood talking a little trash. I had recently gotten angry and picked my plastic skateboard up over my head and slammed it on the ground, smashing it into three pieces. It was one of those skinny, little yellow boards about as wide as your foot that some of us referred to as banana boards. He was making fun of me in front of my friends and I wasn’t having it. I charged toward him with a rage in my eyes. He became the matador. I was the raging bull, but there was no artistic near miss here. Contact was made and we hit the ground.

A crowd gathered as we got on our feet. We stood facing each other angry and breathing heavy. I hated this kid and I wanted to pummel him. I wasn’t certain that I could take him but I didn’t really care. We stood strong and continued talking trash. Suddenly the kid swung and caught me square in the nose. I fell to the ground in a heap. The crowd erupted in cheers and it was over. I stayed down and people began to leave when they realized nothing more was going to happen. Nose bloody and utterly humiliated, I stumbled to my feet and made the shameful walk home.

Surprisingly, I never heard anything about that fight ever again. That was the kind of event that could ruin a reputation. This kid was a grade behind me and technically he was the victor.

Years went by and our differences grew. There were more harsh words spoken and yelling and the occasional food-throwing incident. Perhaps I was learning patience by having such an annoying person in my life that seemed to be around all the time.
During my freshman year in high school we were talking trash at my house, which started out pretty innocently but there had always been some animosity between us. Once again we reached the boiling point and this time I swung first. Again just one punch and it was all over. I gave him a quick, strong left-handed punch in the gut. He looked stunned as the blow landed. His eyes opened wide and the punch had knocked the wind out of him. He fell and hit his head on the corner of a toy box.

My family had this toy box that my father made and painted to look like a dog. It was a pretty cool thing as I was growing up and we kept it even after I had outgrown my GI Joes and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures. Well, it was positioned right where this kid was falling. When he fell his head hit the corner of the toy box and there was blood and tears. He lay on the floor clutching his head and writhing in pain. I was stunned and had no idea what to do. As he got up I saw the huge lump that had already formed. He muttered some incoherent tear-filled words and disappeared. I was the victor this time. He would recover from his wounds without stitches and was fine by the next day, except a gash and a little lump.

Many more years have passed since these incidents and that kid and I still don’t see eye to eye on much of anything. We keep in touch in spite of it all and there is one thing that I know for sure. I would do just about anything for him. You see there is nothing like a brothers love. While there were monumental battles, times of protesting silence, and some of the harshest words, there were also times of compassion and love like none other. We truly are apparent opposites. He went to big public universities and became a liberal and a lawyer in Las Vegas. I went to small private Christian college and seminary and became a conservative, a future preacher, and hopefully will settle down in the Midwest. Regardless of our many differences we share a common upbringing and understand what the other has gone through over the years.

You see, after he gave me that bloody nose and knocked me on the ground… he walked me home. After I punched him in the gut and he smacked his head on that toy box in the hallway… I sat up and worried until he got home from the emergency room. I wouldn’t be who I am today without him challenging my thinking and without his support and encouragement. He is my brother and I love him deeply. We were there for each other in all the moving that accompanied our military family, through broken hearts, and failures.

It is the chiding remarks when I made a mistake that made me see things differently. His challenging my anger by adorning me with the nickname “Raging Bull.” Which made me more angry back then, but I did see his point.

I tried to help him reattach the screen door he didn’t see and ran through at his girlfriend’s house before her mom got home.

Once we were riding bikes at Brill hill and he got a little off track and jumped into the middle of a thorn bush. Everyone else sailed past and down the hill for the thrilling ride and I stopped to make sure he was all right.

One time, fear filled my heart when we shut him into a couch bed and couldn’t get it open again.

More recently, he flew out from Arizona to my wedding in Indianapolis the weekend before his law school finals. He wouldn’t have missed my wedding for anything.

Through all of the craziness of a young boys adventurous and rebellious life to becoming a man and trying to make it in through the struggle that is adulthood, the love of a brother is a wonderful blessing.

My First Armed Robbery

Way back in the 1980’s in Bicester (pronounced Bister), England when I was in the second or third grade, I was confronted with the reality of this commandment for the first time. I was far from a Christian but I had been made aware of the “sin” of stealing by my family. My brothers and I were just like most little rough and tumble boys. We liked to ride our bikes, go exploring in the woods, and play guns. On one fateful day these three activities would come together making it possible for me to commit my first felony.

My brothers and I were riding on the paths through the woods, whizzing past trees on the left and right, inches away from disaster. Sharp turns, left patches of unsettled soil and shaking leaves behind us as we anticipated the next obstacle. Soaring leaps over fallen logs tested the quality of our tires and gave us that momentary sensation of human flight. In those days we seldom left the house without some sort of firepower. We were carrying cap guns with us pretending to shoot soldiers from Russia from our bikes, as the Cold War was not yet over. We road for quite awhile and as lunchtime approached we headed for home.

On the way home my brothers took off ahead and I enjoyed a relaxing ride through the woods after our battle. As I came out of the woods onto our street, Lincoln Avenue, the house was just three hundred yards away. Houses lined the street on the left as I came through the little fence at the opening of the woods. A couple of younger kids that I didn’t know were outside playing, one was in diapers and his older brother was watching him. As I rode past the older boy he had a wallet in his hand.

The wallet was absolutely amazing. It was a camouflage canvas type Velcro wallet. As soon as I saw it, I wanted it. So the little boy became an enemy. I stopped my bike, put the kickstand down, and walked toward him. After fumbling around in my pocket for a second, I pulled the cap gun out and pointed it at the bewildered little boy. “Give me your wallet,” I barked. He looked confused so I repeated, a little firmer the second time, “Give me your wallet!” Stepping toward me he handed the wallet over. Shocked that he had fallen for my little ruse, I went back to my bike and rode home to eat lunch with my new wallet secure in my pocket.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Walking Man

In 1994 my family was living in Airway Heights, WA while my Mom was working at Fairchild AFB. It was a rough time in my life it was my third year of high school and my third high school due to the nomadic lifestyle of military families. I would actually come to love Washington State but hate my home life. My family seemed to be falling apart and I was a rebellious and withdrawn teenager. My escape from the turmoil of my home life was found in sports. Basketball was my preference but I was also a runner.

My spiritual life began here on the country roads of Washington State where I would spend my time running and reflecting on the difficulties of life. On one particular day I was out running on this abandoned little road where I had seen very few people. This day however, I could make out a figure on the horizon. It was moving toward me at a much slower rate of speed than I was going but as I got closer I could tell that it was a man.

Usually my practice would be to try and pick up the pace a little bit so the onlooker would be impressed with my running prowess. As I got closer however I felt somewhat uneasy. I could see the man was walking using a stick and he had a tired disheveled look about him. His hair was unkempt and was accompanied by a long brown beard. All I could think was, “Why is this guy out here in the middle of nowhere?”

The space between us was closing and while I calmed down some I was determined not to look at him and just pass by on the other side of the road. Once I got past I would pick the pace up and put more distance between us. I approached the man and it looked as if he had been walking for weeks and that he was fairly harmless since he appeared to have little energy. Our paths crossed and I continued on my way.

Seconds after I passed and was about to pick the pace up I heard a voice. It seemed like an eternity but in just a few seconds I went through about a thousand scenarios of what this man might say. I stopped running and turned toward him and he asked me, “Do you know how to get to the Little Falls Dam?” It was a simple question and I felt silly for having worried about the interaction that might occur. My answer was simply that I had no idea but I thought it was in that general direction (I pointed to the northeast).

I turned to continue on my run and the man called to me again and I thought, “Aha, here is where it gets strange!” I turned back to the man and he said, “Remember, Jesus loves you,” and he turned and resumed his walk. I turned and continued my run and thought for a moment about those four words. I knew very little about Jesus but I thought it was odd that someone would tell me that Jesus loves me. I remember thinking that even if Jesus did love me how would that guy know. My conclusion as I ran on my way was that the man was a loon, one of those wacko Christians I’d heard about. However, something about that moment stuck with me and I couldn’t help but go back to it from time to time.

I don’t know if it was the nervousness that I felt as I approached, my disgust that I was judging this man by his appearance, or the curiosity I felt about those four words but something made this a memorable moment. Little did I know what would happen just a few years later, the seed planted in my mind on that road in Airway Heights would begin to sprout and the questions about Jesus would come flooding to my mind causing me to find out more about this Jesus and the love that crazy man said that he had for me.