Evangelicals and their funny ways

My good friend, Jason Kuiper, gave me a book on the Lord’s Day. It is one that I have been intending to read, but have not found the time due to life’s demands and other readings that are required and/or exegetical in nature.

I have been meaning to read it because I like to interact with the Emergent Church movement. I have many friends, even godly friends, who are a part of the ‘conversation’ and I do what I can to be a part of it as well (even though I am an uncool confessional-dogmatic-Calvinistic-systematic theology loving-modernist). But let’s face it- emergent I am not, even though there are some aspects of the movement that are very biblical and useful.

Today at work I took the book along in case I had some down time to read. I did; and I began reading it with much interest. I also read a lot of it this evening (some reading is like watching TV… it is just too fun to stop even though there are other things that could be accomplished.)

The book is Why We’re Not Emergent (by two guys who should be). It co-written by the Pastor of Lansing, Michigan’s University Reformed Church and some ESPN sports writer. So far it is quite good.

In their discussion of God’s knowability, here is their critique of the Emergent Church:

We may all be, by nature, like blind men touching the elephant without knowing what we are feeling is a trunk, tail, or ear. But what if the elephant spoke and said, “Quit calling me a crocodile, or a peacock, or a paradox. I’m an elephant for crying out loud! That long thing is my trunk. That little frayed thing is my tail. That big floppy thing is my ear.” And what if the elephant gave us ears to hear his voice and a mind to understand his message (cf. I Cor. 2.14-15)? Would our professed ignorance about the elephant and our unwillingness to make any confident assertions about his nature mean we were especially humble, or just deaf?

Because of the emerging church’s implied doctrine of God’s unknowability, the word mystery, a perfectly good word in its own right, has become downright annoying. Let me be very clear: I don’t understand everything about God or the Bible. I don’t fully understand how God can be three in one. I don’t completely grasp how divine sovereignty works alongside human responsibility. The Christian faith is mysterious. But when we talk about Christianity, we don’t start with mystery. It’s some combination of pious confusion and intellectual laziness to claim that living in mystery is at the heart of Christianity.

If you are emergent, pick it up and read it. If you are not emergent: it gives a balanced approach to why you shouldn’t be- all with humor, grace, and respect for the brethren in this movement.


Revelation 3.20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

This is one of the classically misused verses for evangelism. The church has decided that the verse portrays Jesus Christ patiently waiting for the sinner to come to his senses and open the door. This is not the case. This verse needs to be understood in the light of Luke 12.36-40 which speaks of the Great Marriage Feast. Jesus Christ will come to this feast with triumph and power and we will sup with Him in victory! Richard Bauckham says, Jesus’ knock is not that of a homeless traveler, standing outside the locked door of a human heart, seeking shelter. Rather, he is the master of the house, and he will burst through the door in sovereign judgment!”

It reminds me of a conference that Francis Nigel Lee did at Southfield a number of years ago when he said (speaking of Psalm 110), “This is no namby pamby Arminian Jesus knocking on the door of your heart saying, hey buddy its cold outside, could you let me in and spare me dime?

We serve an all power Savior who will save whom he desires, yet is gracious enough to invite even the most back-slidden of churches to hear his call to repentance and invite them to the marriage feast!

In a discussion on the article of faith, “He descended into hell” you will find much confusion. The ancients intended this phrase to mean just what it says- Jesus descended into hell after his burial. Most views say that he preached or proclaimed his triumph over sin and death before demons and/or the damned.

Reformed Christians historically deny this interpretation. We have reinterpreted this phrase in our ancient creed to mean that he either entered the place of the dead or he suffered the pains of hell on the cross. My personal belief (which does not find much support in the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition) is that we strike this phrase from our Creed or we place a giant footnote at the bottom of every printing and state that we disagree with the original meaning of the authors of the text.

As far as I see there are three camps in the Reformed tradition here:
1. Those who are revisionists and reinterpret the creed.
2. Those that do not think that it is that important to change or redefine.
3. Those who want to strike the phrase out of our ancient creed.

Of course, all three have consequences. What should be done though? Does a revisionistic interpretation open the door to liberal interpretations of the Scriptures? Does striking the line show disrespect to our ancient heritage?

Three quotes were given in the discussion that shows the confusion that this phrase has made in the evangelical world. These quotes left me astonished that some have gone so far as to redefine Christ’s atoning sacrifice to fit into a creedal system. I see these as the bad fruit of not dealing with this early on in the Protestant Reformation (I understand that the Reformers would not have been able to maintain their claim on catholicity if they began disassembling the creeds of the historic Church):

When Jesus cried, ‘It is finished!’ He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. There were still three days and nights to go through before He went to the throne…Jesus’ death on the cross was only the beginning of the complete work of redemption. -Kenneth Copeland

Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that were the case, the two thieves could have paid your price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God…Satan and all the demons of hell thought that they had Him bound and they threw a net over Jesus and they dragged Him down to the very pit of hell itself to serve our sentence. -Fredrick Price

He [Jesus] tasted spiritual death for every man. And His spirit and inner man went to hell in my place. Can’t you see that? Physical death wouldn’t remove your sins. He’s tasted death for every man. He’s talking about tasting spiritual death. -Kenneth Hagen

This week I had visitors from Albany New York. We had a great week discussing many things as well as praying, reading the Scriptures, and singing the Psalms. (We had a ton of laughs as well!)

One of our many discussions was on the Emergent Church. We talked about some of the books that I have read on the subject, as well as the many good things that this movement is doing for the church. It is sad how the Reformed camp, which has so much to offer, does not engage the culture the way that they did during the time of the Reformation or during the Puritan movement.

  • Today I listened to a sermon on Mars Hill’s website. Rob Bell is doing a series called “God is Green” and it deals with God and the Christian’s (or follower of Christ) response to the creation. Interesting. “God’s primary purpose in creation is not consumption, but pleasure.
  • My professor, Dr. Gerald Bilkes’ wrote a critique of the movement that is good as well.

This is Lydia.

Here is a response that Nathan emailed to World Magazine regarding their recent article on the new Creation Museum. I will post it, because I think it brings up a very good point, and since he is unable to blog, heh, I will do so for him.

Ken Ham focuses on problems in society stemming from evolutionary thoughts and views–and not taking Genesis literally. While I agree with Ken, and appreciate the work he has done and is doing, I pray he also will recognize the importance of the Sabbath Day and the impact of not keeping the Sabbath holy on society. Nathan summed this up in the last paragraph of his letter.

Exd 20:8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

Isa 58:13If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, [from] doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [thine own] words.”

Dear Editor,

I just received my latest World Magazine, which is always an anticipated day at the mail box! I was interested in the article, Museum With A Message about the Creation Museum that Mr. Ham has established.

What amazes me most about this museum is that despite the focus on a literal 6 day creation (which is a great purpose for a museum), Mr. Ham seems to have forgotten what occurred on the 7th day! The Museum is in violation of the 4th commandment as they work on the Sabbath and charge fees for entrance on the Sabbath day. A Christian museum that calls itself a ministry should not be open on the Lord’s Day, and especially with fees over $20 per adult. If they want to make an impact on society, they would make a stand on 6 days of creation and one day of Sabbath rest. Hebrews 4:9 says that there remains a Sabbath for the people of God.

There will be no societal impact when the world looks on and says, ‘Its business as usual at the Creation Museum.’ Obedience to the Word is what an unbelieving society needs to see, not obedience to part of it!

Nathan Eshelman

Time away from the seminary gives me the opportunity to catch up with current evangelical Christianity. It gives me the chance to read what others are reading. When I say others, I mean people who are not reading Church Fathers, Medieval Mystics, Reformers, or Puritans. I mean the people that live in the real world and deal with day-to-realities that seminarians and pastors tend to forget. I get a chance to read what the people in the trenches of reality are reading.

This week I read girl meets God by Lauren Winner. This book is not new, it was published in 2003, but it is fresh and still being read by many college students and many non-Christians. Winner is a winner. She speaks of her conversion from an Orthodox Jew to a High Church evangelical.

I would not agree with all of Winner’s theology, but as you read you can sense that she is working out her faith. She struggles with sin, she is a poor witness, she is a bad friend, she is a hypocrite at times. Lauren Winners is you and me. There is so much that real Christians struggle with here. There is so much that we, in the Reformed community are afraid to admit and to discuss. She doubts, she fears, she questions her faith. But she also prays with friends, attempts to think through her faith, attempts to live unto the glory of Christ.

Take a couple of days and read this book. There are so many touch points that can be used for discussion with the greater evangelical community and those who are not Christians. This book is also somewhat racy at times as Winner discusses her sins and areas that are less than sanctified. I imagine that is why Random House is her publisher and not Zondervan or Baker. Winner also has great glasses which make it all worth while.. for me at least!

On being more sophisticated than her other church members:

I would answer in the affirmative because I would look around All Angel’s [Church] at the motley crew of Christians, some of whom buy clothes at Wal-Mart and some of whom wear Vera Wang, and I know that these people are my people, polyester, Amy Grant, and all. p106.
On the superficial nature of her relationship with her unconverted father:

So we don’t talk much about church or God or prayer. And when we talk about other things, a creeping superficiality marks our conversations. I tell him about the papers I am writing for school, but I don’t speak about vocation. I tell him about decisions I make, but I never speak about prayerfully discerning God’s will for my life. I tell him about buying a new desk. I do not tell him about all the ways I am slowly turning into the person God wants me to become. p109.
On evangelism:

Evangelizing, if it means handing out tracts, is not something I do. I don’t ever swing my arm around a friend’s shoulder, look meaningful into her eyes and ask, “Susie, if you were hit by a bus tomorrow, would you go to heaven?” When I come face-to-face with Jesus’ commission to the disciples- go and spread the word around the world- I wince, for I know I am not even spreading it around Morningside Heights. p120.
On prayer:

I have a hard time praying. It usually feels like a waste of time. It feels unproductive; my time would be better spent writing a paragraph or reading a book or practicing a conjugation or baking a pie. Sometimes whole weeks elapse when I bother to hardly pray at all, because prayer is boring; because it feels silly; but above all because it is unproductive… Still there are weeks when I do pray, the weeks when I trust- or, at least manage to act like I trust- that prayer does something, even if it is something I cannot see. Aquinas wrote, “Prayer is profitable because it makes us familiars with God.” I like that language… Then Aquinas quoted Psalm 140, “Let my prayers be directed as incense in thy sight.” p135.
On an ex-boyfriend getting married:

I am a mean petty person, and a terrible Christian to boot, and I spend all weekend hoping that Steven and his bride will be miserable, that his brilliant dissertation will turn to straw… and he will be stuck in a loveless marriage in the godforsaken town in Arkansas for the rest of his natural life. I hope too, that she is not a Christian, that she will lead him down a path of sin and restlessness… p141.

On the English Church historian, Venerable Bede:

That prayer is why I love Bede. Because he knew that knowledge and books were just a nice way to fill the time until he came to dwell with Jesus. p201.
On Confessing sins to one-another:

The Lord has put away all your sins. I think that the language is perfect, God folding my sins neatly and putting them in the dresser drawer next to the sweaters and the turtlenecks and the socks. It means the God who worries about our sins is not only God the judge, but also God the caretaker. He worries about sin because he craves righteousness, but also simply because he loves us. p211.

Ruth Bell Graham has gone into a coma. According to reports, they are not expecting her to survive. It is interesting how much the last 12 months have provided to the many leaders of evangelical Christianity. D. James Kennedy has not recovered from a heart attack and remains in poor condition, Jerry Falwell went to be with his Lord, and now Mrs. Graham is not doing well. It will be interesting to see who rises as the next generation of evangelical leaders.

A humorous story that is retold in Billy Graham’s biography from about 10 years ago tells the story of Mrs. Graham being asked to be ‘baptised’ by some of the Baptist brothers. Mrs. Graham always refused to be re-baptized because she has always been a proud Associate Reformed Presbyterian!

Pray for her and her family in this trying hour.

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