"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Friday, February 18, 2011

Perceptions, Profiles, Politics and "Prophets"? ~ EC-5

I have probably pretty much exhausted this topic for most readers that stumble across this blog. But I want to write just two more posts, maybe three, on my thoughts on Richard Stearns book, The Hole in Our Gospel. In this post, I intend to get political….only because Stearns has. I simply want to write about some political ideologies in which Stearns has given voice. If you think I have already been political…oh boy, just wait. ;-)

This post will be a difficult one for me to write. I have had a political “bent” all my life. I have simply found all of it extremely interesting. I know it is not always popular. I have watched the rolled eyes, whispers, and snickers at my political comments, but the truth of the matter is, I don’t believe the two can be separated - i.e. faith and politics- and no, I am not talking about an issue of separation of church and state here. That would have to be for a completely different post. The whole reason I have found politics so interesting is because of my faith. For me, politics has always been about protecting our religious freedoms and maintaining the moral values our nation has had because our country’s foundation springs from a Biblical foundation.

If the richest country in the world doesn’t keep freedom to spread the Gospel, here and abroad, then which one will? Statistics show that it indeed has been the US that has done more than any other nation. Oh, I know God could always raise another; but I believe, as does Stearns, that God expects much from this one. With all the statistics Stearns has given, it simply troubles me that it is the American Christian that he has chosen to condemn. He even gives a warning before doing so:
"Let me say something at the outset. Some of the things I am going to say in this section are very critical of the Church universal and also some of our individual churches. They were hard to write and may be even harder to read. I love the Church and truly believe that it is at the center of God's plan for the world."
Well, that's good to know. Anyway, on to the politics of Stearns' book. Keep in mind that through all of his writings there is an element of truth. That shouldn’t surprise us. How would he convince us to his way of thinking if truth wasn’t included? Also, I am not questioning his salvation, or his desire for right things. I only wish to speak to his methods, and his political leanings and affiliations.

When I made my initial glance through the book I was troubled by a number of the quotes at the beginning of the chapters and throughout his writings. I saw the author had used a number of statements from emergent leaders. That was as I expected. He quotes a number of well-known liberals and even one of our well-known liberal U.S. Presidents. That’s fine; I like reading quotes from all – it doesn’t mean I will always agree – but I like reading all kinds of quotes just the same. I suspect, however, by seeing each individual Stearns chooses to quote, that Richard Stearns and I most likely have diametrically opposite thoughts and opinions.

To be fair, he also has quoted some solid Christians and successful politicians, but they are not the majority. Instead, he leans heavily on emergent leaders like Dallas Willard, and Rick Warren, and religious leaders of the world such as Confucius, and Gandhi; and he seems to love little proverbs from other nations which include an African Proverb, a Chinese Proverb and one from a woman from Egypt. I will leave you to consider from what sources each of those might come.

Granted, he also quotes Jesus, lots of Scripture (I would hope so in a book labeled Christian Non-fiction.), Jim Elliot and past American leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and John Adams. Some of the liberals he chooses to quote are: Bono, (and boy does he love to talk about him!) Jimmy Carter, and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Yes, Dr. King was liberal in his politics and not quite accurate in his theology.) Oh, and of all people: Margaret Mead!!! Oh man! For me, quoting liberals and running down conservative Christians for being too political is a huge “red flag”. But then to see Stearns quote Margaret Mead, anthropologist, secular humanist and the outspoken advocate for open marriage and other grave sins; as well as an advocate for a liberal agenda and worldly mindset! And that is somehow viewed as acceptable in his eyes and not a political statement?? Oh man!! Below is the quote:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
So there Stearns goes again; by using this quote he is giving credit to anyone except the One who is the only One that deserves credit. Now those words coming from Margaret Mead is no surprise. But to quote words such as hers in a book claiming to be “Christian” is heartbreaking. Further troubling is the fact that the quote is an incorrect ideology. Christians should be the first to proclaim the Good News of the One and only One Who has ever changed the world. And for me, it is absolutely mind-boggling that a Christian such as Richard Stearns would choose a quote from a woman who caused a great deal of political controversy during the unrest of the 60’s and 70’s with her liberal thinking and platform. Again, it seems he believes this quote from Margaret Mead backs up his point on the dust jacket, that I mentioned would be the foundation for all that he hopes to teach us in his book.

Something else I find a bit troubling about the author, is that he devotes an entire chapter about the accurately (according to Stearns) held “perception” he claims the majority of non-believers hold toward Christians. This fact, by the way, according to Mr. Stearns is only due to the conservative Christian that has inappropriately (according to Stearns) made strong, political statements and taken political stands on moral issues. I hate to say it Mr. Stearns, but by weighing in with divisive statements like that, and quoting the people you have chosen to quote, you too, are being political in a very harmful way.

Mr. Stearns explains to us how time and time again he has seen that Christians will balk at the idea that they are viewed in this manner and Christians will claim that it is simply not true. “Christians do not like to hear this fact,” he tells us; and he has had to clarify for us what is at stake.

Stearns condescendingly informs us: “Now I explain to them a simple but compelling truth: perception is reality.” He continues: “In other words, you may not think you are this way or that way, but if that is how you are perceived by others then you have to change either the reality or the perception or both.”

Hmmm; that means if someone perceives that I am a bad parent, because I spank my child, then I am therefore required to change their perception of me by no longer spanking my child. I’m pretty sure that’s what he just said. Right? I don’t think it works that way. I would say to him, that’s only his perception, and that absolutely does not make it truth. In fact, that is in direct contrast to what Jesus said. He warned us we would be hated by the world; and that we would be persecuted for righteousness sake. Paul warns us in Galatians 1:10 - “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Jesus certainly didn't tell us to change our behavior so that the world would approve.

To me the above verse instructs me that I really shouldn’t worry too much about what man thinks of me. Now of course I understand the point that we are to be salt and light and we are to lead our lives so that others will be encouraged and not "turned off". That is absolutely true, but I do not have to change my convictions in order to change someone’s negative perception of me. I do believe we need to meet a balance that Stearns does not appear to want to reach. I am not talking about compromise. I am talking about a balance the Holy Spirit brings, so that we do not run around with our Sword chopping of the heads of those that get in our way, but rather, we would allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide and be the One that prompts us into action.

On page 229 of his book, Stearns inform us that data suggests Christians have become defined by the things we are against, rather than what we support. He states that the world perceives us against gay marriage, and against alcohol, and drug use, and Islam and evolution. I'm sorry, but that is not what we are doing; that is what a liberal media is stating that we are doing. I do not believe that is the profile of the church in America (or throughout the world for that matter) that most people hold.

His definition of this supposed “perception of Christians that is in fact reality” is actually nothing more than what the liberal media has been spewing about Christianity for the last 40 years or so. He has simply joined their mantra. That’s political. One's perception is derived from one's world views and that does not make it truth.

One whom he interviewed says Stearns, explains it best like this:
“Most people I meet assume that ‘Christian’ means very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, antigay, anti-choice, angry, violent, illogical, empire builders; they want to convert everyone, and they generally cannot live peacefully with anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe.” 
He uses faulty statistics to prove his point….well, maybe the statistics are not wrong, but maybe his deciphering of them is. He says that as recently as 1996, 85% of nonbelievers still felt favorably toward Christians and their role in society. However, just 10 years later (2006) he says the statistics reveal that only 16% of those that have no religious faith had a good impression of Christianity. He claims this is due to the conservative Christian becoming increasingly involved in politics and “trying to grab a share of the media spotlight.”

Wow…I have sure never viewed trying to stand for the sanctity of life, or working to preserve the tradition of marriage, as “trying to grab a piece of the media spotlight”. But aside from that, his rational does not make sense. Actually, the height of political activism for the Christian came in the early 80’s with the onset of Jerry Falwell’s "Moral Majority". It swept the nation, and changed the direction of our country after the trying years of the 60’s and 70’s. Try as they might, the liberals could not quench this faith-based movement. Instead, it ushered in a President that freely quoted Bible and referred to this nation as a “shining city on the hill.” For awhile, America was restored and our freedoms were kept safe under the guidance of President Ronald Reagan. The liberal media eventually successfully destroyed Falwell's "Moral Majority" and it got to the point where even the Christian believed Jerry Falwell, was some right-wing nut. He was not. He was a wonderful man of God that cared deeply about his faith and this nation. I will never forget an interview I saw with him in the early 80's on the Phil Donahue Show. Rev. Falwell showed so much of God's love and such grace, I believe even Mr. Donahue was shocked. Try as he might, Phil just couldn't make Rev. Falwell look bad. It was awesome, and I never forgot it. If you have been one led to believe this organization was a bunch of fanatical lunatics, do a little deeper research and see what you find.

But back to Stearns' point. I believe the reason for the distrust Christians and Christianity is now receiving is due not to their political activism, but rather to the constant barrage of attacks by the liberal media and politically correct agenda that has become the new god of a minority, and a loud and clanging one at that. The world is buying into the media’s distortion of facts. If the new found disdain for the Christian was only about the Christian’s political stances, as claimed by Mr. Stearns, the low ratings would have occurred during the "Moral Majority" years when the Christian became more politically astute and active than ever before or since - at least in my life-time. Personally, I thank God for Jerry Falwell and President Ronald Reagan.

The Bible teaches us until the scales are removed by Salvation through Jesus we will continue in our sin. Without a doubt, there are absolutes that are black and white and it has nothing to do with perception. There simply isn't much mention of sin in this book, except in the way Stearns talks about Americans lack to help the needy of the world.

I find it interesting, that it appears the new focus is not the sinner, but rather the American. According to Mr. Stearns, Americans are the new sinful child wallowing in the mud and eating with the pigs. It seems Stearns believes it is Americans that are the new prodigal son – the sinner that needs to come home.

Indeed, according to Stearns and other emergent pastors, I believe, Americans are the guilty ones, now. No call for repentance to a world in sin…only to the American that is fat, greedy and puffed up. Stearns tells us on page 120 of his book that it is man-made actions that contribute to poverty and the apathy of the "well-off" who allow it to persist. Stearns fails to see it, but that is his perception of the American. It certainly isn’t mine. My perception of the American is that it is the American that is the first to bring aid, wherever the natural disaster, wherever the tragedy. The American is the first to fight for freedoms, and the first and sometimes the only one to come against those that would want to dictate, control, and torture. The American is the only one to come against the murdering, vicious dictators throughout the world. And there is no other nation that has brought more relief and aid to a hurting world.

Though Stearns loves to talk about Bono and his agenda to help the poor, there is no mention of the "Pat Robertson's" of the world that have been there with the work of organizations such as "Operation Blessing" almost before Bono was even born. And though “Samaritan’s Purse” was started by the same founder as World Vision, there is no mention of someone like Franklin Graham, that was deep in action before Richard Stearns became the president of "World Vision". Or even someone like my own church's mission organization "Far Reaching Ministries" who have put their lives in danger working in Sudan for years.

I have to question: why does Stearns choose to profile the words and actions of a rock star who is not even a Christian. He actually laments the fact that it could not be a great church leader that would speak such profound truths that Bono has. The truth of the matter is, had he wanted to quote a great church leader with a compassionate quote of concern for action, he could have. Frighteningly, he finds it more important to call Bono a "modern day prophet."

I simply have to question: why is Mr. Stearns so anxious to glorify the "liberal stars" that are not Christian, and so readily leaves out the work of the Christian that has been doing this work for decades. Even George Clooney (one of the most active liberal actors there is) shocked fellow liberals when he recently came back from Africa and made the statement: "Amazingly the ones that we do not agree with are the ones that are there doing the work in these God-forsaken lands." That's a paraphrase on my part...I am looking for the orignial quote.

Stearns is very much showing a political side and agenda in this book. I wonder why it's ok for him to be political, but not the rest of us? Stearns informs us that statistics show that 75% of non-believers say Christians are too involved in politics, Well, it is my perception that we are not involved enough.

Stearns' concern is great; his compassion wonderful; but those he chooses to commend and those he chooses to attack is anything, but fair.

To read these posts chronologically in one place, click here: http://jan-butterfliesandrainbows.blogspot.com/2014/03/in-light.html

Or in a series:
Post 1 ~ http://jan-butterfliesandrainbows.blogspot.com/2011/02/controversial-posts.html
Post 2 ~ http://jan-butterfliesandrainbows.blogspot.com/2011/02/good-and-bad-holes-or-attacks.html
Post 3 ~ http://jan-butterfliesandrainbows.blogspot.com/2011/02/concern-or-two.html
Post 4 ~ http://jan-butterfliesandrainbows.blogspot.com/2011/02/political-paraphrases.html

Monday, February 14, 2011

Political Paraphrases ~ EC-4

“Two thousand years ago, twelve people changed the world.” Wow, I didn’t expect to find a problem with the very first sentence on the dust jacket even before I started reading the book. This is going to be verrrry interesting, I thought. I have to admit; this is the first time I have ever seen a statement like that coming from a Christian. I believe those twelve people mentioned in that quote would absolutely abhor the fact that two thousand years after they had lived their lives for the God of the Universe, they were now being credited with changing the world themselves. They worked diligently in their lives and each succumbed a martyr’s death because of their firm conviction to bring the message that is focused on the Life of only One. Since that time, Christians have consistently pointed to that same life and the message of only One Man – God Incarnate – Jesus Christ. Is that simply a minor point in which I am being overly critical? Maybe; but that single statement about twelve people changing the world, is also the foundation for all the other points the author wants to write about in his book. The author wants us to believe and understand that we, too, can change the world. Fortunately, in reality, it isn’t about us.

The first few chapters are Stearns’ testimony and how he came to be the President of “World Vision”. His is a compelling story filled with wonderful, Biblical truths. He encourages the reader with lots of Scripture, and there is wisdom in that which he encourages the Christian to do, such as being diligent in prayer, and staying in the Word. He reminds us that God is a God of order, and that we need to follow His teachings. Most of his thoughts here I agree with, and he seems to have a pure heart for God. I will not go into a lot of this, as some of it may be doctrinal differences that are always present among Christians; i.e. the differences that are not really dangerous, because the foundation is still pure. Those are not the issues with which I am concerned in this blog.

Stearns also begins to present a Gospel that includes aiding the poor and explains his thoughts about it. It begins to get a bit dicey for me here. One especially troubling section is in Chapter 4. He has just made his case for a Gospel that requires more than “saying the right words and believing the right things.” He seeks to bring clarity about what he calls the “Towering Pillars of Compassion and Justice” which is the title of this chapter. The basis he uses to prove his point is Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25. His argument is somewhat persuasive and much of what he says is true; but we also get a glimpse of his purpose for this book and where he will take us after his foundation is laid. The hint comes when he paraphrases Scripture which he calls The RESV version. That is: “The Richard E. Stearns Version” he jokes. Though he admits it is 'irreverent" he definitely tries to bring us along to his political stance. Below is his paraphrase:
“For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved. (RESV – Richard E. Stearns Version)
Yep, I view that as political. He is pointing out a problem with those that might be concerned with the lifestyle that is most connected with AIDS. (And no, I am not advocating attacking anyone) He is troubled with those that have a desire for a strong judicial system that would ask for strong consequences in punishment. That is generally a conservative stance. And he is attacking those that would be upset with amnesty and allowing those that come into our country illegally to be sent back to their homeland and come in to our nation by the appropriate channels. That also is a conservative position. He forgets the key word as many with a liberal agenda do – illegal. But right now, I won’t go into the importance of secure borders and asking immigrants to come into our country legally as all nations require. Obviously he views it as something that shows no compassion. Unfortunately, most that are coming across our borders illegally are not people simply seeking a better life as we are led to believe; they are criminals that continue their life of crime, by trying to enter here illegally in the first place. But that is not an argument I seek to prove, today. This quote is a set-up for what Stearns will get to later. And unfortunately, what he has specifically singled out is a conservative platform.

This quote he jokingly calls “irreverent” is just a shallow illusion to where he will take us later in his book. The politics do not actually begin in these early chapters. He really just hints at such things, and I view much of what he is writing as a foundation he is building which he will use to attempt to eventually persuade us to his way of thinking. At this point, he merely uses subtle politics, with which he hopes to change the scope of opinion later.

In Chapter 5, Stearns does mention atonement, reconciliation and gives the complete salvation message. Most of it is beautiful, and had I not scanned the book with a precursory glance initially, I would believe this book is no different than any other Christian book trying to encourage us in our faith. Gradually though, little warning signs begin to appear and as I earlier mentioned, at first they are subtle.

For the most part, the prologue to his book and the initial chapters are full of what seems to be sincere, factual commentary and perhaps if Stearns continued in this vein throughout the rest of the book, we would have something we could take to heart and improve our Christian walk. But he doesn’t do that, and I can’t help but wonder if Richard Stearns has an ulterior motive and he is in fact setting us up for a type of snare – if you will. I’m afraid we are about to see a series of trappings that do nothing to bring others to Jesus; but rather, it seems he joins an agenda of those that try to bash and destroy the Christian church in America. Yeah, I know; that sounds harsh. But I have to ask: is it all for a purpose? If not intentional, the outcome is still the same. It appears Stearns believes the problems of the world lie with the American Christians who are in actuality - according to this book - the ones at fault. Stearns can’t prove that point unless he has built a foundation that demonstrates “twelve people changed the world”.  I’m afraid that simply isn’t true, and that is not what the Bible says.  Stearns informs us though, "it happened once and it can happen again". If it hasn't happened yet again, it must be the Christian who is to blame. If there are poor people in the world, then it is the rich with whom we must place blame.

The Bible says it is Jesus that changes lives - one, individual heart at a time. I’m afraid the world will never be fully changed until Jesus returns again. Until that time, we seek to change hearts by telling others that “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” That is the message that Jesus encouraged us to bear witness to until He comes again.

So why does Stearns go to such lengths to write about how wrong the American Christian is and has been? I guess I don’t rightly know....except it seems to be what the emergent philosophy tends to do. And somewhere along the line I too, decided to write...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Concern or Two ~ EC-3

Since I am talking primarily about the book written by the president of  "World Vision", I thought it might be helpful to give a bit of history about this organization. As I said before, Richard Stearns’ book is not so much about the work of "World Vision"; but as the title suggests, The Hole in Our Gospel, it is more about what Stearns believes is the problem within the Christian faith.

"World Vision" was founded in 1950 by a pastor whom had traveled to China and South Korea as a missionary with “Youth for Christ”. His name was Dr. Robert Pierce. A sincere desire of Dr. Pierce was written on the flyleaf of his Bible: "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God."

To me that demonstrates a beautiful yearning for the things of God and explains why Dr. Pierce was so successful in his endeavor with World Vision. But his selfless ambitions did not end when Dr. Pierce resigned from World Vision in 1967. He also founded the effective evangelical Christian organization, "Samaritan’s Purse" which is now lead by Franklin Graham.

The original World Vision Mission Statement read as follows:

"To follow our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God."
A current mission statement that I took from the World Vision website reads this way:
“World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty.”
Not quite the same, is it? Upon searching their website further, though, I was happy to find the original statement has also been included on their website:

“World Vision is an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.”
But still, upon searching "World Vision’s" website, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and any mention of the cross seems to be missing. So though started by a humble man with a sincere heart for the things of God, and whom had an effective missionary agenda, "World Vision’s" goals seem to have changed somewhat since its beginnings. In reading their website it appears they have lost their main desire to evangelize for Jesus; and instead as reported by some, they now direct their efforts toward “community development” and aid for the poor around the world. Unfortunately, although the name of Jesus is used, what He did for us no longer appears to be at the forefront of "World Vision’s" goals.

Of course theirs is a worthy cause and I don't know who would ever want to find blame with an organization that seeks to help suffering children around the world. I am simply concerned (as are others) about their failure to mention mankind's need for a Savior while claiming to be a Christian organization. Though their agenda for community development and help for the poor is indeed admirable and is truly something that is necessary around the world, if we do not include a salvation message to bring others into the Kingdom, I’m afraid it is all for naught. Sinners cannot be lead to salvation with a weakened Gospel that fails to show why they are in need of a Savior. How sad an organization such as this, would fail to show all that Jesus endured so that we might have salvation. Hopefully they do that in their work, but I could find nothing on the “World Vision” website that even so much as alludes to our old-fashioned Gospel message. It just isn’t there; and that appears to be the case for many of the emergent leaders and their ministries. That single factor is where the concern begins for those that question emergent doctrine.

But let me get back to the desire posted on "World Vision’s" website that speaks of seeking to help through community development. The Wikipedia definition of “community development” reads as follows:
“Community development seeks to empower individuals and groups of people by providing these groups with the skills they need to affect change in their own communities. These skills are often concentrated around building political power through the formation of large social groups working for a common agenda.”
Hmmm…..As I said, although the website tells us much about Jesus’ concern for children and the poor, one will be hard-pressed to find any mention of salvation or the cross. That simple fact is what is most needed to change and transform lives.
“We seek to follow Jesus — in his identification with the poor, the powerless, the afflicted, the oppressed, and the marginalized; in his special concern for children; in his respect for the dignity bestowed equally on women and men; in his challenge to unjust attitudes and systems; in his call to share resources with each other; in his love for all people without discrimination or conditions; in his offer of new life through faith in him. We hear his call to servanthood, and to humility.”
That’s as close as "World Vision’s" website gets to any mention of a Savior or Salvation. I believe what is mentioned in the above statement fails to include everything with which Jesus was concerned. Wouldn’t you agree? By the way the lack of capitalization of the pronouns referring to Jesus in this quote is "World Vision’s" error, not mine…

One more quote from the "World Vision" website:
“We are called to serve the neediest people of the earth; to relieve their suffering and to promote the transformation of their wellbeing. We stand in solidarity in a common search for justice. We seek to understand the situation of the poor and work alongside them.
We seek to facilitate an engagement between the poor and the affluent that opens both to transformation. We respect the poor as active participants, not passive recipients, in this relationship. They are people from whom others may learn and receive, as well as give. The need for transformation is common to all. Together we share a quest for justice, peace, reconciliation, and healing in a broken world.”
That pretty much sums up their vision. It sounds extremely noble. Certainly, it is something for which we should strive. But wouldn't it be wise to question their means and methods in seeking this end?

For me, one of the biggest concerns about the new "World Vision" – or perhaps I should say the president of "World Vision U. S." – is the political affiliations I have found. And though in his book Stearns seems to bash all things political, (I will get to that in future posts) "World Vision" itself, I believe, has become a liberal, emergent campaign. “World Vision International” has openly endorsed the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” as well as the “United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child”. Believe me, that is a political posture! We have conservative politicians and organizations fighting courageously and tirelessly to pass an amendment to our US Constitution - “Parental Rights Amendment” - so that we might keep our freedoms as parents. Unfortunately, this amendment is now desperately needed to prevent the United Nations from having control over our own nation’s children and families! That is the type of control the UN will be allowed through the “United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child”! You can read more about the efforts and concerns of "Parental Rights" here:  http://parentalrights.org/

To see a “Christian” organization supporting the UN program mentioned above is frightening. Through out his book, The Hole in Our Gospel, Stearns makes a number of political statements, (sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle) but the whole attitude of his book is one of politics. It just doesn’t happen to be “conservative” politics.

World Vision by their own admission is an ecumenical organization that partners with Christian churches but desires to be respectful of other faiths. Respecting another’s beliefs is important and admirable, but when respect turns to acceptance of false teachings that are contrary to Scripture, a line as been crossed. This is a second concern of those that question the emergent doctrine.

This will be the only post written about "World Vision"; the rest of my posts will be concerned with the statements Stearns makes in his book. I’m sure it is safe to assume their visions of this work are the same.

Personally, I believe if Dr. Pierce was still living, he would not be happy with the direction that "World Vision" is taking.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Good and Bad; Holes or Attacks ~ EC-2

As I mentioned in the earlier post, someone recently decided to write a letter to the editor of our local paper about the dangers of a book entitled The Hole in Our Gospel, written by the president of "World Vision", Richard Stearns. The letter created a bit of a controversy, here locally - much of what I expected once I read the letter. I have been watching the emergent church debate among Christians for several years now, and I felt that this is exactly where this letter would lead. The author of the letter did not name the book or ministry as emergent; I believe she was simply concerned that the book was an attack on our faith.

The particular book mentioned in the letter was one with which I was not familiar. Yes, I had heard about "World Vision" and the new direction they were beginning to take, but I had not heard about this book written by "World Vision’s" CEO. I decided therefore this would be a good resource for me to read, to see for myself just exactly what is capturing so many as a wonderful new truth, and causing so many others to cringe in the thought of heresy. I had already read a number of books and articles on the dangers of the emergent church, but this book I wanted to read and analyze on my own. At the time, I wasn’t sure the author would be actually promoting an emergent doctrine, but I did suspect it. I want to note that Stearns’ book is not so much about the work of "World Vision" as it is about what he believes is the problem within the Christian faith and that is the issue I seek to address. It is a bit of Stearns auto-biography, but it isn't simply that. He seeks to bring us along to join him in his belief system.  It is not my intention to single out any particular ministry with concerns over the emergent church. It is the general philosphy with which I am concerned, but as this is the one that brought discussion through our local paper, this is the one I chose to read.

I ordered the book, which came in no time, but I put it on my shelf for the time being until I could finish two others books I had been reading. Not long after I had received the book in the mail, though, the company where I had ordered the book sent me an email saying “Jan: Based on this purchase, (the one I had just ordered – The Hole in Our Gospel) we've hand picked some titles you just may find impossible to resist.” There below their email a number of books were pictured just waiting for my purchase. I got a good laugh; every single one of the books pictured was written by an emergent church author. Ok, so it is as I suspected, The Hole in Our Gospel will be promoting a social gospel. But it only piqued my interest, so I decided to start reading this book right away. I wanted to find out just why this division is so easily occurring and manifestly growing at a rapid pace.

Even at my first glance through the book, I found there was so much I wanted to comment about, that I almost felt overwhelmed. I read more, and started making notes and doing more research. I did not want to be wrong in blogging about this book - especially if it would be something that was simply a minor doctrinal issue. No sense in joining in controversy over something that would fade away in time, as so many minor differences have. I prayed about blogging these thoughts and gave it some time. I don’t believe we should go around bashing other ministries at will. That is destructive and hurtful and most often only sets the recipient more firmly in his beliefs. I simply have no desire to do that; but I do believe the “blog” can be a proper forum for this type of discussion. No one has to read it, and that is what blogs are all about. If one does want to read, it is a good place to trade thoughts and ideas. I do welcome in-put, thoughts and comments.

I had planned on commenting chapter by chapter of this controversial book, but I think I will hit a few general highlights first and see if the chapter by chapter blog posts will continue to be something I want to do.

First I want to give a little history about "World Vision", which I will attempt to do in my next post. Again, this is not to point out whether "World Vision" is a worthy ministry or not. I simply want to share the history that I learned.  As with anything, there is good and there is bad.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Controversial Posts! EC-1

I think I can pretty much sum up the controversy between the emergent church movement and traditional Christianity in one or two sentences. The emergent church has ushered in a new “social gospel” that has made America and Americans the new sinner, with conservative Christians being the contributing source of blame; unfortunately, the cross has been left far behind and all but forgotten there at Golgotha.

There you have it. But I have a desire to explain, so that is what I intend to do in several future posts. What I believe is at issue here is that the “social gospel” is not trying to save the world from a heart issue of sin. Rather, it is trying to save the world from poverty. Americans so rich in resources and wealth compared to the rest of the world, I’m afraid, according to emergent pastors are the new sinner.

If you have no interest in this topic, then the rest of this post is going to be extremely boring for you. You may not want to read further. If you have been following the emergent church movement, you probably already have an opinion, and the rest of this may indeed be a bit controversial so you also may not wish to read further. But if you like reading other's opinions, (not that my thoughts will be 100 % accurate, they most likely are not, but I do believe that discussion aids in bringing about truth) then you might enjoy the rest of this post. I’ve enjoyed the study, and I’ve enjoyed where it has brought me.

I became interested in the emergent movement several years ago, when I had first heard about it through an issue that had risen in a news program I had been watching. I pursued study of it, because whatever has taken place in “the church” has always interested me. Throughout my life, I have watched the pendulum swings from doctrine to doctrine. Yes, it does swing! But “the church” has never lost its foundation, and it has held on to Jesus’ promise to us that He will never lose His church. Because of that promise, I have never feared the swings of the pendulum, but I do enjoy the discussion and a chance to bring awareness.

Most swings I am talking about were not damaging to salvation. This swing is a little different, however; and is quite possibly going to have an after effect that could be quite dangerous. Though most involved in the movement would likely deny it, this movement is very political. So while conservative Christians get bashed for being too involved in politics over moral issues, we have a new group entering on the other end of the political realm.

When I owned my bookstore, I studied the emergent church movement a bit further, and a bit deeper. I did not want to be guilty of encouraging or spreading false doctrines simply because I had a book in my store that was inaccurate. For that reason, I monitored my Christian books more carefully than any other genre I carried. I learned authors, ministries and pastors who might be teaching things that were not according to Scripture. I did not attack their ministries. I simply did not carry their books on my shelves.

Recently, a letter to the editor of our local paper prompted my decision to begin the posts that I am beginning to share. I did not want to respond to the letter in the local newspaper. Though others did; personally, I don’t believe that is the proper place. It’s almost like the church "airing our dirty laundry" for all to see. I believe that is damaging. Letters to the Editor are all about opinions, but for myself, I'm not really sure I want to see matters of faith, there. Blogs, however, are understood to be a place to read someone’s view point on any and every topic. My thoughts on a variety of issues, is some of what I wanted my blog to be…not entirely, though. But every now and then, one will find on my blog something that is political or controversial. This is a warning for those that don’t want to go there. I’m beginning a series on the emergent church. They will be added among my other posts, but they will be labeled as such to prevent one from having to read them, if one would rather not.

So to bring a little levity to this post, I will quote from one of my favorite country music singers: “Hate me if you want to, love me if you can.” ;-)  And, happy reading....or, not!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Spending Treasure VII - The Lunch Box and 2nd Chances

He was one of those kids that always seemed to be at the tale end of everyone’s jokes.  His red hair and freckles revealed his Scandinavian heritage, and because red hair wasn’t very common, it somehow was a target for little raging bulls that wanted to charge.

“Buster” was reserved, quiet and slow to action; but if one was to engage him in a conversation, he could talk forever. “Buster” was my 2nd grade classmate and he had a lunch box just like mine.

Every day we had to take our lunch boxes to the lunch room and put them on the shelf that was set aside for our 2nd grade class. I knew “Buster’s” lunch box was the same as mine, so I was careful each day to make sure I grabbed the right one when it was time for lunch.

I tried to be the first one there, because I wasn’t so confident that "Buster" would be as careful. One day he beat me to the boxes; and sure enough as I passed him at the table on the way to find my box, I saw it there in front of "Buster" as he opened it up. I had placed something in there that I didn’t want anyone to see. It was a little doll or something, that I had placed there…(keep in mind, this was 2nd grade). As I walked up to him, he was holding the doll out for all the class to see. “A doll??” He questioned, still not comprehending that this wasn’t his box.

In my embarrassment, holding up that doll was all it took to set me off. I angrily grabbed that lunch box out from in front of him and snapped, “This one isn’t yours!”

What I knew would come to fruition, did. He had mistaken my lunch box for his, and it couldn’t have been at a worse time…the time when I had placed something in there that I didn’t want everyone to see.

I laugh at that, now…but what isn’t so funny, was my disdain for "Buster". "Buster" was eventually held back to a different grade and I soon lost track of him.

However, just a few years ago, I was surprised to see “Buster” at my church! He came up to me and gave me the warmest greeting and told me who he was. "I would have known you anywhere," I told him. "You look just the same!"  He does! We reminisced about our grade school years, and he informed me that out of our church of more than a thousand people there are about 4 of us that attend there that graduated high school locally within the same time frame. Now every Sunday, I seek out “Buster” to say hello.

One Sunday, we sat next to each other. During worship, I stopped for a moment to listen to him sing. As I listened, tears sprung forth when I heard how beautifully he sang. When I was reminded of the little boy I didn’t care for; God showed me how much He did! It wasn’t a lesson in being nice to people; it wasn’t even a lesson to help me learn that God loves each of His children. Of course we all know that. To me, this day, it was a lesson in God caring enough about me to give me a second chance to show kindness to a boy I once didn’t like.

God allowed me 40 years later to see the gift He had bestowed on this brother in Christ - the boy that was just as important as all those other children in our little school, but few stopped to recognize.

“Buster!” I whispered to him. “I didn’t know you had such a beautiful singing voice!”

“Yeah?” He shrugged as he told me half disgutedly, “Mom made me take singing lessons when I was little.”

I didn’t know.

Spending Treasure VI - The Innocent

There were no tears, but I could tell by the crack in her voice that they weren’t far from making an appearance. “Susie Blackwell” was one of those kids that all the other kids seem to pick on, make fun of, and treat…well… just down-right rotten.

“They call me ‘Blackwell’….” she woefully explained. The name has been changed….to protect the innocent.

She had finally built up enough nerve to bring a complaint to our 5th grade teacher. I don’t know why she decided to do it in front of the whole class. It may have been because the teacher was reprimanding her about something and this was her chance to explain what had been bothering her.

“So! That’s your name, isn’t it?” The teacher snapped in just about the harshest tone I have ever remembered a teacher using.

This wasn’t going well, and I did not like it. I had heard the way the kids had taunted her saying her last name over and over whenever they came across her on the playground.

“It’s the way they say it.” I blurted out…without raising my hand to request permission. This; from the shy kid who would almost rather die than have to answer a question in class….It took all the strength I had to answer a question when called on in class and it had better be a one-word answer.

That’s all I remember. I don’t know what the teacher did after that. I don’t even remember if she heard me. But boy was I angry with that teacher! How could she not see what had been happening to this classmate. How could she not see and not want to defend someone that was continually the brunt of everyone’s jokes. Why in the world would the teacher be angry at this student? She was in no-way a trouble maker.

The next thing I remember was seeking Susie out on the playground at recess. She always was alone. I don’t ever remember anyone ever playing with her. I found her that day and stood with her for that recess. I think she was wondering what in the world I was doing. I was wondering why in the world I hadn’t bothered to
play with her before.

I don’t remember much else about this student. We moved on to junior high and senior high and I have only one other recollection of her.

I think it was about a year or so later. We would have been in 6th grade and I was in Camp Fire Girls. Back then, the Camp Fire Girls went door to door to sell Camp Fire Mints to earn money for our club. For safety reasons we were always to take a partner with us so we wouldn’t be alone. I don’t remember who my partner was that day. The only thing I remember is going up to a house I was unfamiliar with and knocking. When the door was opened, there stood “Susie”. When she saw who was behind the knock, her face broke into the biggest smile of excitement. She thought we had come to see her and she was thrilled. I wish I could say, I pretended that that was indeed why we were there, so as not to steal her joy. But I didn’t. My partner and I simply asked if her mom was there and if she wanted to buy some Camp Fire Mints. The expression on her face that day is forever in my memory. She was happy; but only for a moment.

I think Susie had a good home life and came from a good family. She wasn’t really homely. She was a bit tall and gangly, but she had beautiful “platinum blond” hair as they called it back then; only hers was natural. I don’t know why she was always the brunt of everyone’s jokes. Not going outside my circle of friends to include her, or play with her from time to time has always been a regret of mine. I guess I do remember one other time in 8th grade standing with her next to those metal poles that apparently were support for the eves over the side walk. We just stood there, not saying much. Maybe she knew I was just trying to be nice. In hind site, I think she was probably a whole lot like me…mostly…just afraid to talk.