The text – the idol of modern day evangelicals

I read an interesting article on the IX Marks website. I like much of the article and found it useful. However:

The claim was made that the greatest danger in the church today is well meaning pastors who…

“…because, in spite of their confession, their words and actions treat Christianity as nothing more than the best form of therapy. They treat it as self-help. They treat it as the path to better marriages, better parent-child relationships, better attitudes and performance at work, and on and on.”

I agree with some of the issues the author has with such therapeutic Christianity. I also disagree, what of the people who just came to Jesus to be healed and set free, in my Bible he didn’t send them away but the power and presence of God shone into their lives regardless of their response.

Later on in the article is a section on questions you should ask of a preacher / pastor in an attempt to avoid such therapeutic sermons.

Based on what you have heard of his preaching, ask yourself…

Was the main point of the text he was preaching the main point of his sermon? (If he did not preach a text, remove his name from consideration.)

And there we meet the great idol of modern evangelicalism – preaching a text. In my reading of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John I rarely see Jesus doing that – only occasionally does he “preach” from the OT scriptures. He uses lots of parables and illustrations from daily life – I have no doubt he knew the OT very well, he simply wasn’t constrained by it.

Ask my students and they would tell you that I love the Bible, but I do not think I have to worship it to the extent of I can only deliver a God-glorifying sermon if it is based upon expositional preaching of a Bible text. At that point I get off the bus.

Splendid Isolation

It appears to me that in Matthew 14:13-13 Jesus required three types of isolation:

  • Verse 13 from everyone – he had heard of John’s death, he was grieved, his spirit knew that it signalled a new phase of his life, it was a step closer to the cross.
  • Verse 22 from his own disciples – the crowd was fed, the miracle was staggering, the impact of it was leading to even greater adulation and the possibilities of misunderstanding amongst those who would be closest to him – in order to protect the disciples he sent them away.
  • Verse 23 towards God – he went up on the mountainside to pray, to isolate himself totally from men – isolation is only fulfilled in the presence of God, we might (should) withdraw from the world but can never withdraw from God.

We all need to be isolated into the presence of God. Nothing else will do.

I think that David Crowder’s song This I Know shares a similar theme,

Up on the mountain
Where Your love captured me
Where finally I’m free
This I know
Up on the mountain
Where You taught my soul to sing
Amazing grace the sweetest thing
This I know

And then the storm rushing in
And here I am again
This I know

Take me up to where I was
When I never wanted more than You
Lift me up to feel your touch
It wouldn’t be that much for You
This I know
This I know
This I know
This I know

Up on the mountain
Where You took me by the hand
Taught me to dance again
This I know
Up on the mountain
Where You took this heart of stone
Put life back in these bones
This I know

Take me up to where I was
When I never wanted more than You
Lift me up to feel your touch
It wouldn’t be that much for You
This I know
This I know
This I know
This I know

Recent quotes

Thomas Merton, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”

Brennan Manning, “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”

Julian of Norwich, “The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”

Recently Christianity Today reported on the state of persecution against Christians around the world during 2014. It is important reading for Christians around the world. Sadly, they declared…

New research reveals one more reason to remember 2014: for the greatest number of religious freedom violations against Christians worldwide in recent memory—even in Christian-majority countries.

CT suggests that there are two major factors in this persecution, Islamic extremism and dictatorial paranoia.

But it wasn’t increased violence that primarily drove persecution to record levels in 2014, but rather increased “cultural marginalization,” according to Open Doors. In other words, the “more subtle ‘squeeze’ dimensions of persecution” which make “daily life … harder and harder” for Christians. A substantial study by the Pew Research Center found that nearly 75 percent of the world’s population now lives in countries with high levels of social hostility involving religion.

 

open doors watchlist

(Sort of) recent quotes

Listening to Buxy Cavey talking on the unSeminary podcast about the leadership of Jesus I was provoked to think about two things (and hence to “sort of” quote him here).

Firstly, the gentleness of Jesus as a leader. Cavey rightly makes the point that we do not think of passion or vision as being gentle, yet it is an essential descriptor of Jesus and could be said to epitomise his style of leadership. Jesus never cajoled his followers, didn’t shout at them, didn’t seem to use any form of coercion.

Secondly, he talks about the difference between acceptance and agreement. Once again he uses Jesus as his example and suggests that once the religious conservatives begin to have problems with us then we are starting to look like Jesus.

Science is limited, especially when it comes to dealing with existential questions.On the Bethinking website Alister McGrath quotes Nobel prize winning scientist Peter Medawar on the limits of science,

That there is indeed a limit upon science is made very likely by the existence of questions that science cannot answer, and that no conceivable advance of science would empower it to answer…. I have in mind such questions as: How did everything begin? What are we all here for? What is the point of living?

Finally, it has been a long time since I posted a Dilbert cartoon. I saw this one and it made me laugh.

dilbert lship