Thursday, June 30, 2005
My prayer in recent days has been for God to turn the hearts of our political leaders. I will continue to pray.
I also believe that our need as a nation is the gospel - if we quote Romans 1 to say homosexuality is a sin, then we should also be convinced with the apostle Paul that the gospel is the answer to the problem of sin: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (1:16). I will continue to preach the gospel.
I will continue to lead our church in celebrating marriage before God as the union of one man and one woman.
I am not a political activist. For those who are engaged in the political process, you may wish to check out this (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada) and this.
Finally, I am concerned in the wake of this legislation about the derogatory comments made on Christian weblogs about gays. I realize that not all who comment are Christians, but it does remind me that the church needs to respond with Christ-like love. Exodus Global Alliance has a helpful article on this with respect to "the militant, the moderate and the struggler."
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Whenever a person in a church is unemployed, we need to do everything possible to help that person find work ASAP....
There is no reason why our church directory doesn’t list where we work, what our skills are, and how we can help other folks within the congregation in their specific needs, especially if they are work-related....
As I said, there are some good ideas to consider. At the same time, we also need to reflect on how to support the Christian worker/manager trying to live out his faith in the business place, often without much power to change the system.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Chris Sinkinson and David Gibson write on "Unnatural Enemies: Why Theology & Evangelism Belong Together." It's been a helpful reminder to me that as important as our ministries of mercy are, the church cannot lose sight of its primary function, which is to announce the good news of what Christ has done on the cross. And that task of evangelism must not be divorced from sound theology.
Evangelism implies announcing or proclaiming good news. In the Greek Old Testament the word is used to describe the announcement of a military victory (1 Samuel 31:9). This is an important point. Evangelism doesn't actually "do" anything; rather it announces that something has already been done. Social action matters to Christians. We want to see the sick healed and the hungry fed but doing those things is not evangelism. After all, many non-Christians perform very valuable aid work. That does not make them evangelists. Paul describes the work of a witness as that of an ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). An ambassador is not like a soldier or engineer. They do not do the work itself, they represent the country that sends them. Of course a Christian is more than an ambassador. We are to show love and care in various ways, just as non-Christians do. However, our evangelistic task is not to be confused with the broader cultural programmes we are engaged in. Our evangelistic task is to announce a work that has already been done by our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We have not been involved in evangelism unless we have spoken the good news. It is true that evangelism should be accompanied by love and good deeds but they cannot replace evangelism.
So what, then, is the connection between studying theology and evangelism? We have established that evangelism is word based. It means delivering a message about the work of God. We have already described theology as talk about God. This brings us to the quite simple connection between evangelism and theology. Evangelism is theology. Evangelism requires us to deliver words about God. So the question that needs to be brought to bear in any evangelistic work is whether it is good theology. Is our evangelism accurate? Is our evangelism Christ-centred? Is our evangelism focused on the finished work of Christ? Questions like these are theological questions. Students of theology must help the Church address them.
Evangelism is the most basic form of theology. Without the announcement of God's victory over sin and the revelation of His own character Christian theology would not have had anywhere to start. Over the centuries, most significant theological reflection has been related to this evangelistic task. Think of the way in which the doctrine of the Trinity was formulated, or the deity of Christ or the doctrine of justification. In each case, issues of salvation were at stake. That is why Martin Luther once wrote; "All our theology is the cross." Without the cross Christian theology could not get started. Unless our theological ideas and speculations somehow relate to the cross then they may be another example of idolatry.
Monday, June 27, 2005
I posted previously about Adam Feldman's reference to them. I've never read their book. I should some day. But I did read an excerpt from a review by Andrew Hamilton. It sent a red flag up in my mind and heart. Here it is:
The fact that the Christendom paradigm has presided over the last seventeen centuries in the west provides us with a substantial basis with which to test its success or failure. As we stand here at the dawn of a new millennium, we believe that we must, at long last, give up trying to rejig the paradigm to suit the massively changed missional contexts of the western church. It simply has not worked. In fact it has created more problems (p. 14).
Maybe I'm reading them wrong. But they seem to be dismissing the last seventeen centuries of church history. That bothers me. If that's the so-called "revolution" taking place these days, then I'd rather not be identified as Missional ... although I am interested in being missional.
BTW, concerning Frost and Hirsch's distinction between "attractional" and "missional" churches, aren't there both "attractional" and "missional" elements in the New Testament church? It seems to me every church - if it's true to the Scriptures - has elements of both drawing others in and engaging with the culture (though they may disagree on how to engage the culture). Individual churches will emphasize one or the other to varying degrees. For some, their primary emphasis is to run programs that attract people. And guess what? God is using many of these churches to reach people for the kingdom. On the other hand, I'm glad there are more churches wanting to engage the culture. Both need to stay biblical.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
11. Father, give wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to media leaders as they make decisions in program development. Save them from the ways and words of worldly wisdom. Keep them from receiving counsel from those who walk outside Your truth and who have cynical attitudes. Remove the influence of anything evil, perverse, and faithless (Prov. 2:6, 12-15; 1 Cor. 3:19; Ps. 1:1, 101:3-4).
12. O God, create in industry decision makers a sensitivity to the power that words and images have for good or evil. Remind them that they will have to give an account for their decisions (Prov. 18:21; Mt. 12:36).
13. Enable the media to see children as You see them, Father, and to use caution and discernment in seeking to protect their innocence (Mk. 9:42).
14. Creator God, You hold marriage and family relationships in high regard. Cause them to be portrayed in and through the media as good and honorable (Heb. 13:4).
15. Lord, bring media themes and products that communicate Your truth into the forefront. Guide people to create entertainment that encourages positive life choices and that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Dt. 30:19; Phil. 4:8).
16. In the powerful name of Jesus, I stand against the power and influence of the occult in media and media products, as this leads to the downfall of a nation (Dt. 18:10-12).
17. By Your grace, O God, teach Christian viewers to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to be self-controlled in their media choices. Teach them to lay hold of Your promises so that they may escape the corruption in the world. Holy Spirit, convict them of double-mindedness that sends mixed messages to program producers (Titus 2:11-12; 2 Pet. 1:3-4; Jas. 4:8).
Thursday, June 23, 2005
The Puritans lost, more or less, every public battle they fought. Those who stayed in England did not change the Church of England as they hoped to do, nor did they revive more than a minority of its adherents, and eventually they were driven out of Anglicanism by calculated pressure on their consciences. Those who crossed the Atlantic failed to establish new Jerusalem in New England; for the first fifty years their little colonies barely survived. They hung on by the skin of their teeth (p. 23).
Certainly not very appealing to pragmatic, success-oriented Christianity. So what can we learn from the Puritans? Packer outlines six specifics, which is what hooked me to read the book:
1. We can learn from them the integration of their daily lives.
There was for them no disjunction between sacred and secular; all creation, so far as they were concerned, was sacred, and all activities, of whatever kind, must be sanctified, that is, done to the glory of God (pp. 23-24).
2. We can learn from them the quality of their spiritual experience.
In meditation the Puritan would seek to search and challenge his heart, stir his affections to hate sin and love righteousness, and encourage himself with God's promises... (p. 24).
3. We can learn from them their passion for effective action.
They had no time for the idleness of the lazy or passive person who leaves it to others to change the world. They were men of action in the pure Reformed mould - crusading activists without a jot of self-reliance; workers for God who depended utterly on God to work in and through them, and who always gave God the praise... (p. 25).
4. We can learn from them their program for family stability.
The Puritan ethic of home life was based on maintaining order, courtesy, and family worship. Goodwill, patience, consistency, and an encouraging attitude was seen as the essential domestic virtues (p. 25).
5. We can learn from them their sense of human worth.
Their appreciation of man's dignity as the creature made to be God's friend was strong, and so in particular was their sense of the beauty and nobility of human holiness (p. 26).
6. We can learn from them their ideal of church renewal.
The ideal for the church was that through "reformed" clergy all the members of each congregation should be "reformed" - brought, that is, by God's grace without dirorder into a state of what we would call revival, so as to be truly and thoroughly converted, theologically orthodox and sound, spiritually alert and expectant, in character terms wise and steady, ethically enterprising and obedient, and humbly but joyously sure of their salvation (p. 27).
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Externally focused churches are internally strong, but they are oriented externally. Their external focus is reflected in those things for which they staff and budget. Because they engage their commmunities with the good works and good news of Jesus Christ, their communities are better places in which to live. These churches look for ways to be useful to their communities, to be a part of their hopes and dreams. They build bridges to their communities instead of walls around themselves. They don't shout at the dirty stream; they get in the water and begin cleaning it up. They determine their effectiveness not only by internal measures - such as attendance, worship, teaching, and small groups - but also by external measures: the spiritual and societal effects they are having on the communities around them. Externally focused churches measure not only what can be counted but also what matters most - the impact they are having outside the four walls of the church. They ask, "Whose lives are different because of this church?" Nearly everything that is done inside the church should prepare and equip people not only for personal growth but also personal impact....
For resources on externally focused churches, see Leadership Network.
Eric Swanson has written Ten Paradigm Shifts Toward Community Transformation.
Now that I've linked to some resources on houses churches, multi-congregational churches and externally-focused churches, what would a church form look like if we combined the best of these three?
Monday, June 20, 2005
A multi-congregational site is captured in this photo of a ministry called Mosaic. In the photo Livingstone Monastery, Hope Community Church and three other congregations meet on one campus.
- Ken Tombley at splashingthoughts talks about multi-congregational campuses as one solution to the economic realities of small churches.
- Harderwyk Ministries is a multi-congregational church in Holland, Michigan. They say about their approach: "at our ministry campus people are able to worship God with others in a variety of formats and experience a small-church feel within the context of large-church resources."
If multi-congregational sites typically involve small church congregations or at least stress the small-church feel, multi-site congregations can be the exact opposite.
- Dave Ferguson explains "The Multi-Site Church."
- Newthing has resources for multi-site churches.
- A Canadian model is Chartwell Baptist Church in Oakville/Mississauga (Ontario).
- Some of the biggest churches in the States use this format (with videocasts of the message), such as Harvest Chapel, Bethlehem Baptist Church, and Willow Creek Community Church.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds mentions Marvin Olasky's influential volume, The Tragedy of American Compassion. The book description indicates Olasky advocates an approach to fighting poverty that is intensely personal:
Poverty fighters 100 years ago were more compassionate--in the literal meaning of "suffering with"--than many of us are now. They opened their own homes to deserted women and children. They offered employment to nomadic men who had abandoned hope and human contact. Most significantly, they made moral demands on recipients of aid. They saw family, work, freedom, and faith as central to our being, not as life-style options. No one was allowed to eat and run.On the same theme, JT also links to Hope for Orphans, where there is information on how to start a local church based orphan ministry.
Some kind of honest labor was required of those who needed food or a place to sleep in return. Woodyards next to homeless shelters were as common in the 1890s as liquor stores are in the 1990s. When an able bodied woman sought relief, she was given a seat in the "sewing room" and asked to work on garments given to the helpless poor.
To begin where poverty fighters a century ago began, Marvin Olasky emphasizes seven ideas that recent welfare practice has put aside: affiliation, bonding, categorization, discernment, employment, freedom, and most importantly, belief in God. In the end, not much will be accomplished without a spiritual revival that transforms the everyday advice we give and receive, and the way we lead our lives.
It's time we realized that there is only so much that public policy can do. That only a richness of spirit can battle a poverty of soul. The century-old question--does any given scheme of help... make great demands on men to give themselves to their brethren?--is still the right one to ask. Most of our 20th-century schemes have failed. It's time to learn from the warm hearts and hard heads of the 19th-century.
Friday, June 17, 2005
The challenge has been made that relativist postmoderns (the average people in our culture) do not respond to--and are even offended by--truth claims, and we should not approach them with evidence for a spiritual reality. But all people--even the "postmodern generation"--know deep down that reality exists. They understand that if you step into the street in front of a truck, you're going to bump into reality and be hurt. Once you explain to them that just as we have to adjust the everyday things we do (like crossing the street) to the physical reality of the world around us or suffer the consequences, so we must adjust our thinking about the spiritual aspects of this world to reality or suffer the consequences, then they start asking questions about the true spiritual reality. This takes less work than you might think. And from my experience, we're more afraid of offending people than we need to be. As long as we don't get agitated, neither do they--even if we say we think they're wrong. This doesn't mean that nobody will ever get mad at us; but since people hated Jesus (even though he did everything right), this has more to do with their hearts than with our actions.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
The fact that confessions possess only human authority means that no confession (or church) ought to demand absolute agreement, blind faith, or implicit obedience. Only divine authority may require such responses. Still, confessions have a human kind of authority. The key word used in the Bible for how we should relate to such human authority is hupotassein which has for its essential idea subjection or subordination....
This view of the church’s confession has great, practical bearing on the church member’s relationship to the church and its confession. Though the elders on behalf of the church must inquire if a prospective church member has any actual disagreements with the confession and determine whether such disagreements are consistent with church membership, from the viewpoint of the prospective member only the measure of agreement sufficient to make subordination possible is necessary. This certainly requires that all prospective members be familiar with the church’s confession, but it does not require that they fully understand or agree with the confession of the church. If they agree with it sufficiently to submit to it sweetly, live with it peaceably, and respond to its exposition teachably, this is all that it is required. Of course, if someone cannot be sweet, peaceable, and teachable under the teaching of any given confession, this is a barrier to church membership.
I especially appreciate the line: "If they agree with it sufficiently to submit to it sweetly, live with it peaceably, and respond to its exposition teachably, this is all that it is required."
Monday, June 13, 2005
- Leighton Tebay explains "Why I Like House Churches More than Traditional Churches."
- Website for Pathfinders Fellowship, a ministry to plant small 'discovery and discipleship' churches in the Greater London (Ontario) area.
- Xenos Christian Fellowship in Columbus, Ohio articulates their home church theory.
- Andrew Jones on "My Gripes About the House Church Movement," and his update article "House Churches Have No Sex Appeal."
- Dan Trotter writes about house church Christianity at The New Reformation Review, including some insight on "House Church Dirty Diapers."
- Wayne Jacobsen has this on "Why House Church Isn't the Answer."
- Roger writes the HouseChurchBlog.
I'll give the final word on this blog to the pastor of a non-house church. What John Piper says here is applicable to whatever new or old expression of church life and structure we may be in:
A man came to see me last week who had visited our morning worship a couple times. He said he just wanted to encourage me to keep on and then tears welled up in his eyes and he said, "I went home and cried because we don't worship at my church like you do at yours." I was surprised because I know how far we have to go. He had been nurtured as a new believer in a very informal house church. So I said, "Then our service must seem really stiff to you, since everything is pretty much planned out." But he said, "No, no. It's not the form or structure. It's whether there's life. Whether the leadership and people are really meeting God." And he's right. There are dead charismatic churches and there are living liturgical churches. The form is just a track to keep us all going in the same direction....
Saturday, June 11, 2005
While reading some patristic documents recently I was startled to discover that the Church Fathers are univocal in their insistence that the bulk of the revenue collected by a local church belonged by right to the poor. There was no expectation among them that a large percentage of what was collected by a local congregation would be used for its own maintenance and ministry. In fact, to do so would have been viewed by them as a misappropriation of funds.
Reference is made to Neil Cole who says:
What you do with a new Christian in the first 24 hours is crucial - the first 24 hours is like an imprint upon their lives that will greatly impact how they live for years to come.
Darren goes on to say about Cole's approach:
His approach was very different. It included immediate baptism (no classes or preparation period), immediate immersion in Scripture (they get them into small groups that read 30 chapters a week) and immediate evangelism and praying for friends. They are not babied but rather their energy and passion is harnessed and the momentum is allowed to continue. New Christians are not extracted from their network, rather the aim is to start a new church within it. The new Christian instantly becomes a missionary in the world they live. As a result they often see whole families, groups of friends and networks won for Christ very quickly.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
- Differences between the emergent-missional church and the evangelistic-attractional church.
- Consequences of the E-A Church: (1) building mentality, (2) missiology, (3) consumerism, (4) passive Christians.
- The mega-Church as the crowning achievement of the evangelistic-attractional model.
Thanks to Matt Otto at One Mo Blog for the link. BTW, Matt writes about why he is emergent here, and why he is NOT emergent here.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
The challenge is for us to change the way we understand our ownership of resources, to change the way we understand our relationship to the larger world. We must stop viewing ourselves as autonomous and sovereign consumers, and begin to authentically understand ourselves as stewards or trustees. This understanding plays out in the following ways:
• Our possessions are not our own. If we desire a new good, the determining factor shouldn't be our ability to afford it.
• Our relationships are not commodities. We are called to submit to one another, instead of entering into some sort of relational transaction, in which our needs and wants are met.
• Our virtues reflect Scripture ... which is often at odds with our societal values of "success," "productivity," "efficiency," and "affluence."
• Our churches are not dispensers of religious goods and services. We don't shop for churches. We don't go to the church that most aligns itself with our tastes and wants. The discernment process is much deeper than that.
• Our faith isn't a set of commodities. We don't create our own personal creed and our own personal faith. It is developed in community, as we submit to the presence of the Spirit and the reading of the Scriptures in community.
• Our God isn't the ultimate commodity. We don't sell Jesus. We don't buy-in to belief. Our response to God is one of worship. He consumes us.
Monday, June 06, 2005
A good question is one way to turn a conversation Godward. A real simple one that I think Christians should ask each other more often is, "How are you doing spiritually?"
What about outside the church? What questions can we ask that might open doors to talk about Jesus Christ? What questions have you used and found helpful?
Pathfinders Fellowship is a community ministry of The Navigators of Canada. They are seeking to develop "strategically small churches" (house churches) in the London, Ontario region. They suggest these five opening questions to bring out peoples’ opinions:
1. Do you have any spiritual beliefs?
2. Who, to you, is Jesus?
3. Do you think there is a heaven or a hell?
4. If you fell over and died, where would you go? If heaven, why would God let you in?
5. If what you are believing right now was not true, would you want to know?
If yes – open Bible to John 5:24, etc.
If no – do nothing and pray that another opportunity might come into their life.
Finally - and this may not be for everyone - but a lady at church has started asking people she knows this question: "Who is the worst sinner you know?" She's gotten some interesting responses.
Friday, June 03, 2005
In a message to the 160th Convocation of Knox College, Wednesday May 12, 2004, Stewart said:
For many years I've been struck by the rather blithe notion, spread in many circles including the media, and taken up by a rather large section of our younger population that organized, mainstream Christianity has been reduced to a musty, dimly lit backwater of contemporary life, a fading force. Well, I'm here to tell you from what I've seen from my "ring-side seat" at events over decades that there is nothing that is further from the truth. That notion is a serious distortion of reality. I've found there is no movement, or force, closer to the raw truth of war, famines, crises, and the vast human predicament, than organized Christianity in action. And there is no alliance more determined and dogged in action than church workers, ordained and lay members, when mobilized for a common good.
It is these Christians who are right "On the Front Lines" of committed humanity today, and when I want to find that front, I follow their trail. It is a vast front stretching from the most impoverished reaches of the developing world to the hectic struggle to preserve caring values in our own towns and cities. I have never been able to reach these front lines without finding Christian volunteers already in the thick of it, mobilizing congregations that care, and being a faithful witness to truth, the primary light in the darkness and so often, the only light.
Now this is something the media and government officials rarely acknowledge, for religion confuses many, and anyway, we all like to blow our own horns. So front line efforts of Christianity do not usually produce headlines, and unfortunately this feeds the myth that the Church just follows along, to do its modest bit. Let me repeat, I've never reached a war zone, or famine group or crisis anywhere where some Church organization was not there long before me … sturdy, remarkable souls usually too kind to ask "what took you so long."
The rest of Stewart's message is linked at the start of this post.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
“Real theology springs from a bible in your right hand and the daily newspaper in the left.” That’s a paraphrase of a statement by Karl Barth, one of the very few significant evangelical theologians from the last century.
Here are some resources that may help you get “the moment” into your left hand and might encourage you to get into the discussion and into the creation of some theologies and missions and ways of doing “church” that make sense for today.
The list of media resources is long!
However, one caught my eye: The CIA World Factbook. I'm sure it's beneficial for would-be spies. But I see it as a cool companion to Patrick Johnstone's Operation World book and website.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Melinda Penner at the STR weblog cites a Christianity Today survey of the unchurched. The survey classified the receptivity of the respondents on a scale from one to five. U1, or unchurched 1, represented the most receptive group to the gospel. U5, or unchurched 5, were the least receptive. This article highlights their research with the U4s. Here is what they found on what "U4s" think of Christianity's exclusivity claims:
The tolerance movement in America has made a huge impact, and nowhere is the impact more evident than in this issue. More often than not, we did not merely hear mild objections to exclusivity; we heard emotional tirades from the U4s. Words do not do justice to the outbursts we often heard. The reader cannot see the red faces and looks of indignation. "Christians would do a lot better in this world if you did not have the arrogance and stupidity to act like you've got all the answers. I don't know anyone else that makes arrogant claims like you people," screamed Jackie F. of Idaho. Perhaps you can sense a bit of the emotion in Jackie's words. If you had been present during her outburst, however, you would have seen an anger and indignation that is difficult to describe with the written word. The U4s are simply furious that basic Christian doctrine holds to a single way of salvation. How then do you the Christian respond? I fear that a few may take this description of the U4s and become totally reticent to share Christ as the only way of salvation. We cannot compromise the essence of the gospel. The world may reject the message we have to share, but we cannot fail to share it. The response of the U4s to the exclusivity of salvation through Christ is a caution for wisdom, not an admonition for silence. We did these interviews so that we could learn something about the mindset of the unchurched world. You should not, therefore, be caught off guard by negative responses or even emotional outbursts by U4s. Be wise in your words and timing, but do not remain silent.
Another finding I thought was interesting was how these "U4s" responded to an invitation to attend church. While I don't agree with the writer's use of Luke 14:23 as a prooftext for inviting people to church, or that people have to go to church to hear the gospel, I was intrigued by the results. The actual numbers were: 17% said they were very likely to attend church if invited by a friend or family member; 45% said "somewhat likely"; and 38% said "not likely at all."
Will They Ever Attend Church?
I am not certain how you the reader will respond to this article. Will you see the U4s as resistant and hopeless lot for whom our time and energy expended is just a waste of time? Will you see some of these beliefs of the U4s as so far out that any point of connection seems highly unlikely? Or will you view their spirituality and comments on the Bible and prayer as a potential starting point for sharing the gospel?
From our research team's perspective, the responses of U4s, when asked if they would attend church if invited, are nothing less than amazing. Among them -- the second most resistant unchurched group -- 62 percent indicated that they were either very likely or somewhat likely to attend church if they were invited.
Our further questions found that most of these unchurched are uncomfortable entering into a church building alone. They would rather you take them to church or meet them there. But the key issue is that the vast majority will come if invited.
Now, the probing question for you and me is: "When is the last time you invited an unchurched person to church?"
We in the churches are searching and agonizing over ways to reach the lost and unchurched world, yet the research indicates that a simple invitation may be the most cutting-edge approach we can employ.
When speaking of those who will enter the kingdom, Jesus spoke in the parable of dinner to "Go out into the highways and along the hedges and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:23, NASB).
Though the analogy between the kingdom and the local church is not perfect, the principle is close. We have been mandated by Christ to urge people, to invite people, even to compel people to come to church and to hear the gospel.
Van Til knew a great deal about the history of human thought, but he made very little of historical turning points. This is one very noticeable difference between him and the thinkers we have so far considered. Schaeffer, Guinness, Wells, Myers, and the chroniclers of postmodernism, all make a case against present-day culture, based on historical developments. For Schaeffer, the turning point was the “line of despair;” for Guinness, the counter-culture of the 1960s; with Wells, modernism; for Myers, the industrial revolution; for many others, postmodernism. So for these thinkers it is some relatively recent historical development that is responsible for most of the ills of present-day culture.
Van Til knew only one turning point: the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. History since that time, in his view, has been replay after replay. Eve was rationalist and irrationalist, modernist and postmodernist, oppressive establishment and counter-cultural rebel, an idolater of value and a destroyer of it, all at the same time. Picture the scene. Eve knows what God has said, but she has also heard a Word from Satan that claims God is a liar. How shall she make up her mind? It should have been obvious, of course. God is the creator; he has perfect knowledge and understanding; he has the right to speak with absolute authority. Eve should have trusted God, too, because he loved her.
But something had happened in her consciousness. Somehow, she no longer accepted God’s Word as the final Word. As Van Til explains, Eve was shut up to two remaining alternatives: either there is no final authority, or she was the final authority. As a Rationalist, she believed that she had the authority to decide what was true or false, right or wrong. But if she were the final authority, then there was no God, nobody who could speak a Word more authoritative than hers. And if there was no God, there was no meaning, no rationality, no structure, no ground any other Word, including Eve’s, to be authoritative. So Eve was both a rationalist and an irrationalist. She thought she was the supreme authority, but she also believed there was no supreme authority. These two beliefs were inconsistent, of course. But both are necessary to the unbelieving mindset.
So Van Til analyzed the history of philosophy to show that all non-Christian thinkers, from ancient Greece to the present, were both rationalists and irrationalists at the same time. Van Til did not agree with Schaeffer that the ancient Greeks had an adequate view of truth. The Greeks believed with Eve that truth could be known through the autonomous human intellect; and that was no better than subjectivism or irrationalism. Nor did he take the position of Wells, and others that the ills of culture come from modernism, or the industrial revolution, or the sixties’ counter-culture, or postmodernism. Eve was both a traditionalist and a modernist, a modernist and a postmodernist. History is not a movement from rationalism to irrationalism, but a dialogue, a dance, among these. When rationalism gets out of hand, irrationalism jumps in, and vice versa.
So the problem is not history; the problem is sin. Culture is bad today, but Sodom and Gomorrah were probably not any better, nor were Tyre, Sidon, Ninevah, Babylon, Rome, Capernaum, Chorazin, or Bethsaida.
Popular culture is bad, but high culture is too. Beethoven was a devotee of the secularism of the French Revolution, Wagner of German mythology, and their music makes a powerful case for these false world-views. The problems of high culture go back a long way. It is not that high culture has been infected by popular culture; if anything, the reverse is true. And folk culture has always had alongside its humble virtues a lot of bawdy tales, class warfare, ignorant populism, and disrespect for the holy.
It is always wrong to try to single out one element of culture as pure, even relatively pure, and blame all society’s ills on some other element. That is almost always self-serving: we like what we like, and we want to blame the evils of life on the culture we dislike. But perhaps we need to have a more biblical view of sin. Sin is not limited to some segment of society or some segment of culture. It pervades everything. And whatever good there is comes from God’s common and special grace.
That is a perspective that easily gets lost in the din of today's voices. In fact, I'm sometimes weary of all the talk about postmodern versus modern (and other attempts to define society). Most people I interact with, whether young or old, seem to function on the same operating system: "ME" (and I'm not talking about Windows Millenium). As Solomon pointed out, there is nothing new under the sun. When all the analysis is done, the bottomline is still, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Romans 1:21).
A while back Gary had a post on evangelism which caught my attention. These two paragraphs especially caused me to pause and reflect:
On the other hand, working with [unbelievers] one-on-one does not bring the most powerful dimension into play -- seeing the love between believers. John 13:35 does not talk about our love for the unbeliever. It talks about the unbeliever seeing the love between believers. In some way, you have to get them to a meeting.
So the issue moves to defining the location and agenda of a meeting which does more than demonstrate normal social intercourse and general human interaction. The meeting has to be structured in a way that they see believers in loving unity.
Expose people to the love of believers for one another! That presumes we are churches that prize unity and strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. More of that, and less of gossip and pride and bitterness and unforgiveness and prejudice, and unbelievers may actually see the presence of Jesus in our midst.