Monthly Archives: December 2005

Christ and Culture

There is a great upheaval in the evangelical church regarding how Christians should engage culture. The most common form of understanding, at least among American evangelicals, is the "Christ and Culture" model set forward by H. Richard Niebuhr. In this model the theory of "two kingdoms," namely the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the world, is central. This emphasis resulted in the strong secular and sacred distinctions that we find in fundamentalism, as well as in much evangelicalism.

This view is correct in so far as it reminds us of the very real enmity that exists between these two kingdoms until Christ comes again. While we live in both kingdoms now, and have responsibilities to both (cf. Romans 13) kingdoms, we are to give absolute homage to Christ alone. We will not bring in his kingdom by our efforts to transform the kingdom of the world. He stands over the world and thus must always remain our higher authority. Niebuhr referred to this thinking as "Christ-and-culture-in-paradox." The paradox explains the dominant way that most evangelicals, until the last twenty years

By |December 14th, 2005|Categories: Culture|

Is it a Christmas Tree or a Holiday Tree?

I’ve said it before, but given the level of heat created during the past two weeks by well-meaning conservative Christians, I want to say it again. What people within the culture call the large green tree prominently placed in front of the nation’s capitol, or on the front lawn of your state capitol, is irrelevant. This is another culture wars "smoke screen" that will raise lots of talk and money. In the end it is really a lot of noise about nothing.

A major part of the truly Christian agenda in the culture should to protect freedom, both freedom of speech, properly understood, and freedom of expression. There are some serious cases where this has been undermined but the "tree" issue is not one of them.

I am not making this stuff up. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Counsel is running a "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign" and James Dobson’s Alliance Defense Fund is running a "Christmas Project." Countless hours and thousands of dollars are being poured into these efforts. Fox News’ commentator John Gibson even has a bestselling book with the title:

By |December 12th, 2005|Categories: Culture|

Getting Regeneration and Conversion Right

A common evangelical mistake is to make regeneration synonmous with initial spiritual birth and thereby to deny that it has anything at all to do with the process by which the Holy Spirit works to consummate what he begins through initial salvation.

The same mistake is made with regard to misunderstanding conversion. Conversion is often seen as synonmous with the first movement toward Christ but it should also be understood as a process. Donald Bloesch rightly concludes: "We err both by viewing the initiatory stage of regeneration as the climax of the Spirit’s work and by treating regeneration as a general life process that entails no decisive break with the past."

Regeneration clearly has a broader sense in Scripture and thus should have such a broader sense in our theology. It involves the whole work of cleansing and renovation. In the narrow sense it refers to the "act or acts" by which we come into communion with Christ but even in this limited, or narrow, sense it includes several stages; e.g., seeking for Christ by the Spirit’s prompting and commitment to

By |December 11th, 2005|Categories: Biblical Theology|

Year End Giving and Donor Issues

Almost every North American mission I know plans for December to be their major month for donations in the entire year. In fact, the last ten days of December typically supply as much as 40% of our needed giving for the year. For this reason I annually write a December letter asking old friends and new friends to help us finish the year strong. My current letter will be mailed early next week to those in our database but that letter is also currently available on our Web site home page at Even if you are not a donor, or do not intend to be a donor to our ministry anytime soon, you will enjoy reading the letter since some very important news about our future is provided this year. I hope you will take time to read it.

I also thought about this matter of year-end giving for another reason. Many have told me that their work has faced what has been termed "Katrina fatigue" since September. So much has been designated to relief efforts

By |December 9th, 2005|Categories: Donors and Funding|

The Cell Phone

It seems more and more of us use, and abuse, the cell phone these days. I bought my first one, about four years ago, to provide my wife and daughter some protection when they were away from home. Once I began to use one myself I found it "saved time," or so I thought. Like almost every modern technological device it did "save time" on the one hand, but it also "took time" in an entirely different way.

I am not a Luddite. I plan to go on using my cell phone. I do not think technology, per se, is inherently evil. But I do believe we can very easily become absorbed in new lifestyles that depend upon every new technological advance that comes along. This also creates an unhealthy "must have" lifestyle. And it can produce harmful effects. If you do not see these at all then you are not spiritually alert in some crucial areas.

A recent Chicago Sun-Times (December 6, 2005) piece by Andrew Herrmann suggested that staying in constant contact these days is quite "annoying." He

By |December 7th, 2005|Categories: Current Affairs|

The Radical Reformission

Over the past few weeks I have led a small group discussion, with seven couples, based upon my friend Mark Driscoll’s book, The Radical Reformission (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004). The discussion has been both stimulating and challenging. I find it quite hard to demonstrate to these conservative suburban Christians (much like me of course) the central thesis of Mark’s brilliant little manifesto on mission and culture. I think the overwhelming majority of us do not understand how we swim in our particular culture 24/7 and then assume that we can "hear" the gospel clearly in that context. I have come to conclude that this assumption is fatal to grasping the missional church emphasis of Mark’s little book.

As I was praying about last evening’s group meeting on Thursday morning (we discussed chapter four last night, if you have the book, with the title: "Elvis in Eden—A Reformission Understanding of Culture") I asked the Lord to specifically help me make these thoughts as clear and powerful as possible. I then had lunch with two men who are Korean missionaries to the United States. These

By |December 2nd, 2005|Categories: Emergent Church|

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