Friday, July 25, 2008

The Machine Gun Hermeneutic

The Society of Evangelical Arminians website has a great article entitled The Machine Gun Hermeneutic. Contributing writer Martin Glynn writes,
I began referring to this as a machine gun hermeneutic based off a conversation I had once. My opponent essentially quoted 6 or 7 different verses at once, and then insisted I respond to every single one of them. I refused, because I knew it really wouldn’t be effective anyway, since he would ignore whatever exegesis I offered by simply quoting more texts (he had done it before). He claimed that I didn’t respect Scripture. I responded, saying that I believe Scripture to be a sword, not a machine-gun, and it is disrespectful to Scripture to treat it differently than how it was designed.
This is great stuff, and oh, so true.

Check it out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Church on the Edge of Revival

I'd like to invite you to head over to the audio blog. There I have posted an MP3 of a recent message I gave at Red Oaks Assembly of God, The Church on the Edge of Revival. It was one of those special ones.

Check it out.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Ben Witherington on Pagan Christianity

Ben Witherington has just completed a four-part review of George Barna and Frank Viola's Pagan Christianity. I should note from the outset that I have not read Barna and Viola's book, so my response to Dr. Witherington's review might not be fair to them. Nonetheless, the book appears to embody many contemporary criticisms of the "institutional church," and so I read Witherington's response as a critique of that overall mindset. Some quotes will illustrate where he is going with this:

From Part 1:
Like Dan Brown’s novel, the Da Vinci Code, Constantine is painted as ‘Bad Bart’ the person who messed things up in Pagan Christianity. He is called on p.18 the father of the church building, which is giving him far too much credit. He did of course take Christianity off the illicit religion list, and he and his mother became the patrons of the building of various churches including in the Holy Land, but it is simply false to say that there were no church buildings long before Constantine. It will not do to make him the bad guy who ruined pristine and pure early Christianity.
From Part 2:
And categorical statements like “Let’s face it. The Protestant order of worship is largely unscriptural, impractical, and unspiritual.” (p. 77), is not only an uncharitable remark. It’s Biblically inaccurate.

An actual study of worship in the Bible would recognize that there is indeed both order and space in worship, both liturgy and creativity, both leading and following. When Paul describes worship in 1 Cor. 8-14 he is largely critiquing the lack of order and structure in the service there, not baptizing it and calling it good. 1 Corinthians is a problem solving letter, and when one takes the problematic model and makes that a template for modern Christian worship—that in itself becomes a problem.
From Part 3:
The sermon is not an invention of Protestants over the course of the last five centuries. No one who has actually read the sermons of Chysostom or Ambrose or Augustine or a host of other Church Fathers could ever make a silly assertion like that. And furthermore, I would stress once more, the use of rhetoric already was in play in the Diaspora synagogues, which is one of the reasons why Paul's rhetoric was sometimes well received, at least initially in such synagogues. The writers of the NT are almost without exception Jews, not former pagans, and almost without exception they use not only the Greek language they had long since learned but the Greco-Roman rhetoric that was a part of elementary education all over the Empire, including in Jerusalem!
From Part 4:
Certain persons certainly were appointed to regularly do certain functions in earliest Christianity. That is what the Pastoral Epistles not merely imply but say, and Timothy and Titus are clear examples of this. Of course this goes strongly against the 'everyone gets to do anything they feel led to do since they are part of the priesthood of all believers' approach, but then, as I have said, the priesthood of all believers language has nothing whatsoever to do with deciding who gets to be teachers, prophets, elders etc. Those issues are determined by whom the Spirit gifts and graces for such tasks, and whom are recognized by the church to have such gifts and graces.
Dr. Witherington's critique is very much needed as a counterbalance to the idea that the problem with the church today is that we're simply doing it wrong, and if we'd just do it right--meaning in houses, with no meeting structure, no clergy, and everyone participating however they want--then the problems would be solved. Witherington clearly demonstrates that what we do in church does in fact go back to the early church and biblical principles--even if there may be a need for examining how we've culturally adapted these practices; that "pagan roots of Christian practices" is largely a bogeyman; and that the idea of a pristine "early church" without any cultural baggage to muck it up is a product of wishful thinking.

The original series goes into a lot more detail, and it's well worth reading. Check it out.