Monday, October 26, 2009

Random Readings and Reflections

Yesterday I read more of my sermon than I usually do. Frankly, I do not manuscript. The few attempts produced articulate literary documents that lacked pathos in their verbal execution. I don't like to read from the pulpit; yesterday was an exception because I was not reading my reflections, but God's revelation. I counted 127 verses spoken--a liturgical tour de force. By the end I was desperate for oxygen.

Paul told Timothy not to forsake the public reading of Scripture, as well as exhortation and teaching (1 Tim. 4:13). From the pulpit we often get more of the latter than the former.

Christianity today editor, Mark Galli, explores the 'need [for] spiritual and moral renewal,' in his current article entitled, "In the Beginning, Grace" (Oct. 2009, pg. 24). His essay cites a book by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, whose research confirmed a belief system that synchronizes Christianity with Popular Psychology. They have coined this phenomenon "Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism." In other words, God is a remote deity who informs my ethics and comforts my pain. Bowing to His sovereignty is optional.

Sadly, this circumcised faith is not limited to teenagers. "We have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition..."

In his 2009 publication, Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them, Ed Stetzer and company conducted two-years' worth of polling. The research supports a Moralistic Therapeutic Deism in many of the younger unchurched, but this finding does not bode well for the church. In fact, 90% of people surveyed agree to the following belief: I can have a good relationship with God without being involved in a church (pg. 54).

Admittedly, the word church carries with it more baggage than Indiana's elderly at the first sign of frost. But popular opinion (of the unchurched) raises the question: How does church involvement increase our intimacy with God?

Self-proclaimed Geek par excellent of Wired Magazine, Scott Brown, laments our national obsession with 'imperialistic' science fiction overloaded with 'ever-shinier effects' (see "All Aboard!" Nov. 2009, pg. 083). The critique is founded. And I confess, I love dystopian stories. Give me Orwell. Give me Huxley. Give me Darth Vader chucking the Empower into the Death Star's reactor core.

But I digress: What intrigued me about Brown's article is the connection he made about imperialism and evangelicalism. He writes, "Like its not-so-distant cousin American religion, American sci-fi is fixated on final battles, ultimate judgment (particularly on questions of control and leadership), and an up-or-down vote on the whole good/evil issue." The following sentence curtly references the Book of Revelation.

So evangelicals are criticized for reading their Bible like science fiction. Or is it possible that Brown has the order reversed, perhaps science fiction authors are criticized for making their stories reflect God's.

Brown's point considered, it is possible we obsess over the Bible's flashy ending, and churches obsess about flashy services, and somewhere along the line, we lose the plot: A holy God invites people to worship Him because Jesus' life/death/resurrection secured the way. A stumbling block to the M.T.Diests. Foolishness to the Geeks.

"Who is like You among the Gods, O LORD?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
Awesome in praises, working wonders" (Ex. 15:11).


Zach Doppelt said...

I appreciate your point on Scripture reading. At times I have pushed the limit by reading a couple of chapters at one sitting on a Sunday morning.

Maybe too much.

However, let us never forget it is the Spirit's power, the Gospel message, and the enduring Word of God that changes lives, not creative illustrations and our humble expositions...

randy said...

In your comment about American teens, I remembered a quote though not the author:

"Compromise is simply changing the question to fit the answer!" A generation who have had parents and an educational system dedicated to bending anything to make them feel successful (and thus "healthy") has no place for a Majestic Sovereign and absolute truth. Just a thought.

Sprained Ankle said...

First off, I point people to the conversation between Randy and Zach found at (I think that is the address) about current discussions in eschatology among FGBC leaders. Very cordial, thoughtful, and informative.

Second, I like Scripture reading in church, but am hesitant to jump on the Ancient-future bandwagon that has rediscovered liturgy in church. The new liturgy is found in Romans 12:1-2.

Third, I point to Jerry Bridges discussion in the Pursuit of Holiness, where he critiques pastors/preachers who avoid the terms 'sin' and 'disobedience' for the more gentle word 'failure.'

There is little hope for an educational system that tries to synchronize Social Darwinism with Self-Esteem. They don't marry well.

That being said, compromise is centers around relational questions, not propositional questions. So I watch football and my wife gets a back massage.