Every Sunday morning, we’ll be posting articles and links that are saying something important about church, culture, and mission (or that just made us laugh). Here’s what resonated with us this week on the web:
On Heretics and False Teachers
Tim Challies continues his series on “False Teachers” with a look at Mother Teresa and, by extension, the Christian tradition of “mysticism”:
Protestants have long held to the doctrine of sola scripture—Scripture alone. Teresa wrote during the Counter-Reformation, the period of time in which Rome was responding to the challenge of these Protestant doctrines. Donald Whitney says, “the Scriptures alone—and not anyone’s individual experience nor the collected and distilled corporate tradition of the church—are our final authority. And the Scriptures are our final authority because the Scriptures are what God says. In this context sola scriptura means that the Bible is the ultimate authority in all matters of faith and Christian living, and thus the ultimate authority in spirituality.”
When we understand the unique position Scripture demands for itself, we also understand the danger inherent in mysticism.
The Christian Post reports that evangelical publisher WaterBrook Multnomah resigned from the National Religious Broadcasters under pressure from conservative critics of the release of God and the Gay Christian on one of its imprints:
WaterBrook Multnomah, which has published numerous evangelical bestsellers, has resigned from the National Religious Broadcasters over Matthew Vines’ controversial book God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.
“It is a sad and shameful day when a major Christian publisher releases such a book and claims that it is a solid evangelical publication. This is abhorrent, disgraceful, and terribly misleading. And it needs to be addressed and exposed,” author Michael Brown, who holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has published his own book on the subject, Can You Be Gay and Christian, wrote in an opinion piece earlier.
Rachel Held Evans responds to being called a “heretic” by Owen Strachan, president of the Center of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:
I believe that when we declare God to be exclusively male, we flirt with idolatry, for we re-create God in a human image. And the fact that some people find the notion of a feminine God so repulsive reveals the degree to which this type of idolatry has snuck into the Church and the degree to which women in our society are still seen as lesser beings than men.
That said, I use the feminine pronoun for God very sparingly in my writing. Usually, I either avoid using a gendered pronoun altogether or I use the word He to avert unnecessary controversy (much to the chagrin of my more progressive readers!). I don’t have a problem referring to God as Father, or as He. Scripture does this often.
On State Marriage and the Complementarian Bait & Switch
Greg Forster writes at The Gospel Coalition against those who suggest distinguishing sacred and civil marriage:
At this tough time, we must be especially careful to avoid wishful thinking. More and more Christians think they have found an easy way out of our marriage dilemmas through a “separation of marriage and state.” The idea is to avoid a political debate about marriage by removing that question from the realm of law, policy, and regulation. Let anyone who wants to call themselves married call themselves married, and keep government entirely out of it.
Don’t get me wrong—such an approach would not be the worst possible outcome of the current debate. It would probably be better than full-blown legal institutionalization of gay marriage. Politicians and activists need not fight to the death for perfection; their job is to obtain the most palatable result from a menu of alternatives that is always imperfect and often downright unappetizing. In the coming years, something like a separation of marriage and state is likely to be the least-worst among the bad selection of possible outcomes in many localities.
Mimi Hadad of the Center for Biblical Equality responds to John Piper’s comments on girls and education:
Happy as I am that complementarians endorse female education, even so, the teachings of complementarians marginalize females from the decision-making tables in their marriages, churches, work places and communities. While girls and women are viewed equal in worth (ontologically), complementarians claim that males and females have different roles or purposes (telos). Of course, by roles they mean males hold authority that females are denied. What is the result? Males and females are equal in being (ontos) but unequal in purpose (telos). Bait and switch!
Complementarians tell girls and women, “Yeah, you have equal worth!” We reply, “Yeah!” We then hear, “But, you cannot serve as senior pastor, or president of a Christian college, or seminary or a denomination. And, in some places you cannot teach, lead or make decisions that impact males over the age of 12. Remember, also, that your husband makes all final decisions. But, don’t be sad or view yourself as inferior, because in God’s eyes you have equal worth!” How can you be equal yet without equal authority? Bait and switch!
On Diet Coke, Testimony, & Abundance
David Fitch re-introduces his Zizek-inspired illustration from four years ago. Is Evangelicalism like Diet Coke?
Many of evangelicalism’s beliefs and practices have become separated from the concrete reality around which they first came into being. In its beginnings, the inerrant Bible, the decision for Christ and the idea of the Christian Nation articulated beliefs for evangelicals that helped connect them to the realities of our life in Christ in the face of several cultural challenges. (these were the ways we thought about the authority of the Bible, conversion into salvation and the church’s activity in society). For fifty to seventy-five years, these articulations of what we believe served us well but also evolved and become hardened. As American society advanced, and our lives became busier and ordered towards American affluence, we practice these same beliefs but they have become disconnected from what they meant several generations ago. As a result, the inerrant Bible, the decision for Christ and the Christian Nation mean very little for how we live our day-to-day lives as evangelical Christians. They are ideological banners that we assent to. They are tied to behavioral practices that we engage in but they bear little or no connection to our lives in Christ for His Mission in the world. Just as our society drinks Coke as an “it,” as something that makes us feel good but has little substantial value as a drink, so we practice these beliefs as something we add on to our lives – not as something we need to live. It is something we do as an extra to our already busy lives that makes us feel better. Evangelical church, as symbolized in many ways by the large consumer mega churches, has become an “add-on,” “a semblance” of something which once meant something real. It is a surplus enjoyment we enjoy after we have secured all of our immediate needs.
Sociologist John Hawthorne summarizes the rise of Testimony Evangelicalism among Millennials:
The most powerful pieces we read on the internet are not systematic explications of how this and such worked together. They are painful moments of real life: the miscarriage experienced by a young couple, the struggle another couple had with infertility, the sometimes crippling nature of depression, the happy couple in their first apartment, the birth of a grandchild, the completion of a doctorate.
And in the midst of all that is faith. Not a blind faith that says “God has a plan” but one that says that God is present in the struggle and the joy and the accomplishment. Testimony of that sort can change the world.
Testimonial Evangelicalism is trying to Bear Witness.
Pastor Chris Smith looks at churches experiencing abundance even in difficult economic times:
Englewood Christian Church, the church to which I belong on the urban Near Eastside of Indianapolis, has for the last two decades been seeking to imagine a life together that is rooted in abundance. Even though we are largely a blue-collar congregation and are located in a neighborhood that would seem to most people to be impoverished, we have found that we have been given an abundance of gifts.
In the early 1970s, we were a very large church, and although we are much smaller today (about 200 people), having a building that is much bigger than we need has been a huge asset. We have used the gift of this large building to rent space to other non-profits, host meetings for many neighborhood groups and even other churches, start a daycare that has become one of the most-recognized faith-based daycares in Central Indiana, and provide office and work space for a wide range of our own businesses and ministries.
On the Unforced Rhythms of Grace
Sarah Bessey collaborates with The Work of the People to produce this video. Consider it on this day of rest.