Thursday, September 27, 2007

Necessary, but not Sufficient

Here's the class material from Wed September 26:

People are always looking for a single answer to complicated problems, but here’s a principle I want us to think about: “Necessary, but not Sufficient” So let’s look at some examples of what I mean. We’ll start easy and get harder with each one. Is oxygen necessary for life? Is it sufficient/enough? Obviously not. What about clinical depression – is a church environment necessary for happiness if you are a Christian? Yes, but it’s not sufficient? You need medication as well. Is love necessary for fulfillment in a marriage? Obviously, but there has to be more, so it’s not sufficient. Is scripture necessary to guide us and provide answers? Is it sufficient? I would say no. We deal with many issues that scripture does not address. Is a relationship with God necessary for peace and happiness? Is it sufficient? Most people want to say yes, but if all mankind needed was God, then Eve would not have been created as a helper for Adam. Clearly, God wasn’t enough for Adam! Is baptism necessary for salvation? Yes. But is it sufficient? No! Without faith, confession, repentance, and discipleship, you’re just wet, not saved!

So, concerning salvation, the church has typically “sold” salvation as a promise of heaven when you die – an escape mechanism from this world. The problem is that not once, in the gospels, does Jesus ever define salvation this way! Read these examples from Luke. Look at how Jesus uses the word “saved.” Luke 7:36-50; 8:40-48; 19:1-10. Salvation in the gospel is more than the promise of heaven when you die. It is not an escape from this world – it is peace, joy, healing, restoration of relationships, a new standing in the community! So what does salvation look like in our world/ culture? A divorced woman with 2 kids? A person in abject poverty? Someone dying of Aids in Africa? A busy couple in the metroplex who work 60 hrs a week? Someone abused as a child?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Christ and Culture

I know I'm way behind in posting my Wed night class material. Here's what we discussed last week. Over 50 years ago H. Richard Niebuhr wrote a book called Christ and Culture. He outlined 5 ways in which the church interacts with culture. It was a good discussion in class. Here is a basic outline of those categories. Questions/comments?

Christ against Culture
Christ is the sole authority
Either/or choices
Emphasis on the “other world”
Rejection of culture and separation: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

Christ of Culture
Christ is the fulfillment of human culture
Church accommodates the culture
Emphasis on this world
Church becomes “politically correct”

Christ above Culture
According to this view what is needed is not blank affirmation or rejection of culture, but a synthesis of Christ and culture.
Culture is subject to Christ
Romans 13 example

Christ and Culture in Paradox
Tension between Christ and culture cannot be reconciled
Luther’s 2 kingdoms – 2 side by side societies
Parable of the wheat and tares

Christ the Transformer of Culture
This last option is similar to the last one, except that it is more optimistic about the ability of Christians to improve culture
Culture can be converted
This leads to the idea of a Holy Christian community here on earth, visibly set apart from non-Christian culture
Christians as salt and light

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Reaching Popular Culture With the Teachings of Jesus

I'm excited! Tonight I'm starting a new class at the Kaufman Church of Christ called "Reaching Popular Culture with the Teachings of Jesus." The class will be very "outside the box" as classes go in Churches of Christ. We'll talk about the definitions of gospel and salvation, we'll look at texts, we'll talk about news stories and current events, we'll discuss entertainment, we'll look at case studies and role play. Nothing is off the table! If you can't be in Kaufman on Wednesday nights, this blog will cover the material I present in class each week, so you can still participate in the discussion. So, here is the opening class that I'll do tonight:

My parents were born in 1952. By the time my kid is an adult, that world will have vanished forever. Culture, technology, politics, communication, travel, religion have changed more rapidly than we can comprehend, and it aint slowing down. The world we were born into has already vanished, and it is never coming back! Historians and sociologists tell us that this kind of cataclysmic change has only happened three times in recorded human history:

1) The Fall of Rome: In the 5th century the city of Rome fell to barbarians, and everything Rome had built and accomplished in 600 years was destroyed within a single generation. Children and grandchildren of civilized Romans were born in what we call the “Dark Ages.”

2) The early 16th century: In 1492 Columbus discovered the New World, and suddenly Spain had an empire and Europeans began leaving for the New World. In 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the church door in Wittenberg, and the world changed overnight. The printing press was invented, scientific discoveries were made, the authority of the Catholic Church was first questioned and then rejected, national boundaries were torn out of the Holy Roman Empire – the modern world was born violently within 2 generations.

3) The late 20th century: The changes that have happened in the world since 1960 are as cataclysmic as the changes of the 5th century and the 16th century – those are the only other times in human history where the world has changed so much so fast. And we are living through it right now – and there is no going back to the “good old days.”

We’ve already discussed the terms "modern" and "postmodern." Modern thinking is the way you and I grew up. It recognizes that we no longer live in the Dark Ages. We no longer live in a time when magic and superstition make sense. We are a people of logic and reason. We believe that if there is a problem we can solve it through investigation, reason, and science. This is the foundation of American thought – progress toward a better life through science and technology, understanding and knowledge. Newtonian physics gave us the tools to make sense of the world.

And then the 20th century happened – WWI, WWII, communism, terrorism, genocide. In the world of science, the theory of relativity unraveled our sense of certainty, and now quantum theory has shown that there can be effect without cause. Human cloning and stem cell research has given us more problems than solutions.

So, has the world gotten better through progress? Now that we understand so much about diseases, people don’t die anymore? Now that we understand so much about psychology, we don’t have crime anymore? Now that we have science and technology, and people are better educated, our world is more moral, right? No! And the postmoderns say, “Now you’re gettin it.” The postmodern mindset says life is not about getting smarter, or being more right in this world of rational thinking that has not delivered what it has promised. But we have even gone beyond a postmodern world – we live in a post-Christian world – the “Christian era” died during our lifetime. Christian thinking, and Christian values, and Christian morality are no longer the default mode of western civilization. It is evident all around us: Think of secular western Europe. People don’t visit those magnificent cathedrals to worship, they go to look at art. Closer to home, think of when most of you were children. There was nothing to do on Sunday but go to church. Everything was closed. Decent people observed the Sabbath and removed all temptation from those who did not. Holly and I were talking with her grandmother, and she asked us what we were doing on Sunday evening, and I said, “I’m taking Holly to see a movie.” She stared at me with a blank look, and asked, “a movie -- on a Sunday?” Now, contrast that with these facts: In 2006, only 21% of the population of the DFW Metroplex attended any house of worship at least once a week – that number drops to under 10% if you are under 25 years old!

Now, this is not all bad news. The sooner we can admit that we are no longer under the warm and cozy protection of culture and government, the sooner we can engage the world as a counter-cultural force and practice real evangelism and discipleship the way God intended for us to, and the way the early church did.