Monday, March 29, 2010

The Time Changers: Divorce of Morality with Authority

Two weeks ago, I was able to go off to Lewisburg to a place for those who work within parachurch or church ministry. During my time of refocusing, reflecting, and relaxing, I was able to watch a movie that has challenged my thinking. The movie is produced by a Christian organization and would not have that “Hollywood feel,” which sadly turns off a few Christians. I do not understand the comparison of expectations from production teams that have very limited monetary resources verses ones that seem to have unlimited ones, but this is for another post.

The plot of the movie is based on a professor of the Bible (Russel Carlisle) desire to publish a book back in 1890. The theme of the book is that it is most excellent to teach morality whether we are able to use the name of Jesus or not. The idea is that it is better to raise morality than to do nothing. Yet, one of his colleagues (Norris Anderson) challenges this notion that this is exactly what Satan desires. The serpent does not mind good morals. Good morals are great as long as we divorce the giver of these morals from these statutes. In essences, the colleague states that he would rather have someone steal something than to tell the person that stealing is just wrong. Why, because there is a chance that someone guilty of stealing will desire to come to Christ than an individual who is told just to be good.

Russel disagrees with Norris informing Mr. Anderson that he is delirious. Norris convinces his friend to be sent to the future to see how such a teaching could devastate future people. This is the part of the story where the underling premise is unfolded. There is a bit of comic relief as Russel tries to ascertain himself to the new culture. Yet, there is a great sadness of how far our culture has tumbled away from even the moral moorings of the 1890’s. Russel meets up with a librarian of a local university allowing for frank dialogue of the culture and the effects on Christianity. The librarian hits the theme of morality without Jesus again and again, profoundly awakening within Russel that his colleague’s critique is quite accurate. He returns back to 1890 and reworks his book to fit with his new research.

One aspect that hit home was what I believed to be an accurate display of the American church in broad strokes. Russel is muffed that for a majority of Christians “being there” is much more important than actual involvement like attentively listening to the preacher. The picture develops that you can get enthusiastic participation from many Christians to attend a movie outing but a small handful for the work of church like visitation. The movie pits the Christian’s overwhelming ability to accept sin as the cultural norm and an unwillingness to engage to stand up for what is morally right. Why, because we have lost our center of authority.

Another takeaway of this movie for me was the engagement on some very deep theological issues, especially dealing with how we relate to others within and outside of orthodox Evangelicalism. Today, we are inundated with the need to be liked. We seem to bend over backwards to please others without defending the truth. We do not want to be embarrassed or ridiculed. We would rather laugh at Russel than to stand with him and weep.

Instead of following the dictum, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15)” we stumble and fumble about. Why is this?

I encourage everyone to take some time to watch Time Changer and reflect on its message. Feel free to share your own thoughts.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Values: Do Christians Think Biblically?

I receive mailings from all different parachurch ministries.  Most of the time, they desire to promote the reason they exist and why as a church we should invest time and or finances to support them.  I am not trying to demonize these ministries; many have an important role to play (Though, I always wonder if we could consolidate a few).

Anyway, I received a letter that stated the purpose of the ministry.  They listed four values and one Biblical reference to support each one.  Granted, many churches do the same thing.  The church I am a member of does something similar. Feel free to check it out at Auburn Alliance Church under ‘Belief’ in the menu bar. 

I wonder though if such a thing is always necessary, especially if such an exercise does not seem to take the time to think critically of what the ministry believes and why.  Here are the four values and in italics my two cents worth.

The Expectation of God-Moments
We believe that God is at work all around us.  Eph. 2:10 – For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The verse quoted contextually does not deal with the works of God, but informing the Christian that they are to do good works because we belong to God.  How exactly does it deal with “God-Moments?”

The Life of Integrity
We believe that how we live is more important than what we say.  Gal. 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

How does Gal. 2:20 support the statement prior to the scriptural quote?  Does not what we say is just as important?  Jesus states that it is not what we put into our mouths but what comes out that defiles a person, Mark 7:20.  Neither Jesus nor Paul ever separates the two, so why should we start?

The Discipline of Excellence
We believe in serving that exceeds expectations.  Col. 3:17 – And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This is the best of the four values.  It does make sense.

The Priority of Children
We believe that Every Child is a Winner.  Matt. 18:14 – In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

I am not against children.  I have four of my own.  How does the salvation of a child have anything to do with this ministry’s position regarding the self-esteem of the child?

In my opinion, the ministry team that put this together did not take the needed time or the best approach in assessing their values through the lens of Scripture.  What are your thoughts?


Thursday, March 4, 2010

What is a Puritan? Pt2: What can they teach us today

Through explaining the importance of the Puritans and the desire I have of titling my blog after them, there are six important lessons that the Puritans continue to teach us Christians today. The six lessons come from a brilliant student of the Puritans, J.I. Packer. Let's get started.

1)The Puritans' lived a holistic lifestyle. Holistic is defined as being concerned with the complete system. They viewed everything of daily life through the lens of honoring God, “by appreciating all his gifts and making everything 'holiness to the Lord'.” As Packer states, “they integrated contemplation with action, worship with work, labor with rest, love of God with love of neighbor and of self, personal with social identity...” There is no separation of the sacred and secular. All of life to the Puritan was sacred. Today, we love compartmentalizing our livelihood. This part of life goes here, that one goes over there, and this stays here. We may practice this by keeping work at work and keeping our Christianity for Sunday use only. How many of us at times, seem to leave our Christianity at the door to pick up later when we get done? The Puritan outlook is one that we can learn from.

2)The Puritans' quality of their spiritual experience: What made the Puritans such spiritual giants? They were prolific in writing books and preaching sermons. They had people like Richard Baxter, John Davenant, John Owens, Cotton Mather, and Jonathan Edwards. Individuals who knew the importance of God's word. The Puritans meditated, applied, studied God's Word. Their minds were unfettered by the distractions of the world. In essence, they had ultimate clarity that only we could hope for. Our insatiable desires left unchecked, our trusts in how we feel more than what we know, our desire for self-help than for deep Biblical meditation, are in need of being under the scope the Puritans used.

3)The Puritans' passion for effective action: They desired above all to be used by God for His glory. They did not sit on their hands waiting for someone else to do the right thing. They did it. Puritans did not seek out as much as being dependent on what God desired for them to do. Prayer was not a by-line with them, but a call to action. They did not believe in a dualistic lifestyle many Christians today practice. Puritans practiced their beliefs in public and private with passion to do the right thing. We can definitely learn more from these saints.

4)The Puritans' stability of family: J.I. Packer reports, “The Puritan ethic of marriage was to look not for a partner whom you do love passionately at this moment, but rather for one whom you can love steadily as your best friend for life, and then to proceed with God's help to do just that.” Slightly different from love at first sight, falling in or out of love, or better yet, I just don't feel it anymore. With Christian divorce as bad as our secular brothers, we might learn something from the Puritans. Family worship was key for continuity, grounding the children to be equipped for productivity as adults. This is quite different from the child run family we have today. How concern are we for the spiritual development of our own children in comparison?

5)Puritans valued human worth: They respected those who differ from them in public discourse, never talking down to the other. How much value do we place in others around us? Does the modern day Christian see others as fallen without grace or someone who is to be outright rejected?

6)Puritans desire for church renewal: The renewal they espoused was personal and communal. The term used is 'reformation,' not in the sense of the Reformation. J. I. Packer explains, “The essence of this kind of 'reformation' was enrichment of understanding of God's truth, arousal of affections God-ward, increase of ardour in one's devotions, and more love, joy, and firmness of Christian purpose in one's calling and personal life.” Such a goal is one that I believe we as a church need to look at seriously and ask ourselves, “How do we apply 'reformation' in our lives, both personally and communally as the family of Christ?”

As you can see, there are many fine reasons for us to resuscitate “Puritan.” It is the main reason the term is in the name of my blog. It is my hope and prayer that my life, writing, and spiritual growth will imitate those who have gone before us. Are you willing to try on the “Puritan” name?


1 "Why we need Puritans" by J.I. Packer at