Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dave Dunbar "Everything Changes"


Dave Dunbar, president of Biblical Seminary in Pennsylvania, publishes an excellent ezine called “Missional Journal.” Biblical Seminary seems to have a mission to integrate mission and theology in a way that helps to shape and engage culture. There is a great article called “Everything Changes” about the paradigm change that a ‘missional’ outlook brings to a local church or church association. It listed under 2009, vol 3, no. 2. Below are some key paragraphs from the article:

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"…But in reality the church in the West has not always been concerned for missions, or for The Mission. In fact when we focus on The Mission our perspective on many things changes. Let me give some illustrations…

"…What is crucial here is that mission is not first and foremost a job description for the church, but a reference to what God is up to in the world--God is on a mission! So the Father sends the Son, and subsequently both send the Spirit to empower Jesus' disciples to join in the world-wide mission. The church is sent into a harvest that God has already initiated.

“…The critical point here is that mission is not an after-thought in the divine agenda, and so it cannot be an after-thought in the church's agenda. It is not something we try to get to once we are finished with the real business of "doing church." As someone cleverly put it, "God's church does not have a mission in the world; rather, God's mission has a church in the world!" Think about it--there are far-reaching implications to this. So we say this in our convictions statement, "...the mission of God should constitute the unifying motif of theological education."

"…A missional approach to the church reminds us that God is already at work outside the building. It emphasizes that the kingdom is larger than the church and it invites us to look outside the walls and ask: How we can join God in his mission? This question leads to others..."
(Dave Dunbar, 2009, vol. 3, n.3).
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ok - if you agree with Dunbar (don't forget to read the original article) what do you think are the other questions that he refers to? If the question is "how we can join God in his mission?" what other questions do we need to ask ourselves?

Also, don't forget Brian's "Skunk works" creative project: 63 comments/ideas so far!

Skunklings

38 comments:

Brian Emmet said...

I'd like to learn more about how the missional folks think about the Cross. If I understand it, the mission God is on is to reinclude all things within the Love that is Trinity. Sounds good! Is the Cross necessary for that to happen, or an example of that happening, or an example for us to somehow follow, or what?

Back to Bono for a bit: it wasn't clear to me where his repentance following his dad's death originated: from Jesus' noble example, from his death (and what would be the connection there?), or ...? And while I agree with him that the spiritual includes the economic, it is not fully or even primarily bordered by the economic concerns he raised. Our problems go much, much deeper than the possibility of planetary destruction.

joe 6-pack said...

Lets keep the Bono discussion on the previous thread.

I don't know how to answer your question about the cross, although, I would imagine that the majority view it just like N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, or any other classic Christian thinker in the 20th century. Dave Dunbar has a whole index of article on his "Missional Journal" page, so you might check that out. By-the-way, did you read his article?

John M. said...

Brian, I would recommend that you read Scot McKnight's book "A Community of Atonement". It is an excellent read (not long and cumbersome, but not written for a "popular" audience either). I think Scot considers himself "missional" in emphasis.

This book emphasizes the necessity of the cross, but also calls for a synthesis of the many views of ateonement into one "community". McKnight contends that we need a wholelistic view of Atonement, not just a one-stringed banjo approach (my term, not his). His analogy is that we need all the clubs in our bag, but that some parts of the Body of Christ try to approach Atonement like someone trying to play a round of golf with only one club.

It was on McKnight's blog that I firt encountered a link to the site from which Joseph got this article. I really liked what I read there and then subsequently lost track of the link. I'm glad Joseph brought it back up.

Brian Emmet said...

I brought up Bono because I thought it related to this discussion: how are Easter, Bono's repentance, etc. actually related to the things believers typically remember/celebrate at this time of year? How is the cross at the center of "being missional"--or is it? (Unclear from Bono's NYT piece). Yes, I did read Dunbar's article, and will try to check the other that Joseph recommended to me.

I'm actually rereading "A Community Called Atonement" hand-in-hand with Mark Driscoll's "Death By Love". Very interesting... Both are books about the atonment, what it is, how it "works." Driscoll, following his Reformation tradition, focuses almost entirely on individuals. His starting point is Genesis 3:15. McKnight chooses to begin with what he calls the "Lukan thread" (Magnificat--Benedictus--Jesus' first 'sermon' at Nazareth. Where you begin, and why, influences how you go and where you end up! I actually prefer McKnight, but fear losing what Driscoll brings to the party.

Which gets me back to why I responded to Dunbar the way I did: changing paradigms is good when necessary. Dunbar referred to "other questions" that his suggested paradigm shift raises, and I noted a couple that ocurred to me. They certainly don't need to be the only questions.

just joe said...

when you finish those two books (I have not read either) I would love to get a summary of each of them, along with a compare and contrast. It might make a good discussion for this blog.

Brian Emmet said...

Driscoll's "Death by Love" is pretty straightforward: a series of pastoral letters to individuals within his church, each of whose struggles highlights a facet of the great jewel of the faith, the atonement. For example, for "Thomas" who is enslaved by lust, Jesus is presented as Redeemer; for "John" the repentant child molester, Jesus is his Justification; for "Hank," whose sense of sin is so overwhelming thast he's sure he can only go to hell, Jesus is his Ransom. Each chapter begins with a short "biography" of the person in question, then continues with Driscoll's presentation of Christ as God's saving "answer" to that individuals' unique "sin situation" (items in quotes are my wording, not his).

Driscoll sees penal substitution as the very heart of the atonement; to borrow one of McKnight's metaphors, penal substituion is the "golf bag" into which Driscoll places the various "clubs" of Jesus as "Christus Victor," Redeemer, Sacrifice, Righteousness, Justification, Propitiation, Expiation, Ransom, Exemplar, Reconciliation, and Revelation. He includes a somewhat strange letter to his one-and-one-half year old son Gideon, presenting Jesus as Gideon's "unlimited limited atonement."

Each chapter ends with some additional commentary by theologian Greg Breshears, amplifying a bit on the chapter's unique themes in a Q-and-A format.

Driscoll is straightforward, frank, pulls-no-punches, and at times can seem a bit harsh, although I suspect you can guess how he'd respond to that charge. There is a great deal of good reformational pastoral wisdom, but no real vision of the Kingdom or of community. To be fair to Driscoll, he didn't set out to write a "theology" of the atonement, but was concerned to help people (as individuals)understand and experience Jesus as Redeemer, Ransom, Propitiation, Expiation, etc.

just joe said...

hey Brian, I think it would be great for you to publish the next couple of posts on the two books you are reading on the atonement.

No one has really said much yet about the substance of Dunbar's piece... Gary Henely emailed me personally and said that he liked it.

What do y'all think about this comment?

"God's church does not have a mission in the world; rather, God's mission has a church in the world!" Think about it--there are far-reaching implications to this. So we say this in our convictions statement, "...the mission of God should constitute the unifying motif of theological education."

John M. said...

Can't Jesus be all those titles to all of us? How can there be an "unlimited, limited atonement"? That's worse theology than Bono's. Personally, I can find a limited atonement in TULIP and in reformation theology, butI have trouble finding it in the scriptures. I think the "alls" of scripture are really that, not just some play on words that mean only the "elect" -- an exclusive predetermined club. So I would part ways with Driscoll rather sharply and quickly. I, too, like McKnight's multi-club approach to playing the theological game of Atonement.

Joseph I really like the quote you gave. It will take a while to reverse the focus, but it is a needed shift. That's the kind of emphasis that Vicki and I were drinking from when we were involved with the Perspectives on World Christian Mission course, commonly known as "Perspectives".

just joe said...

what about God and God's people's mission to the gay community?

here is a great article and review by Scot McKnight of a recent book on this very subject. Check it out

Jesuscreed

Brian Emmet said...

John, you should give Driscoll a hearing before dismissing him. Driscoll is absolutely gianing a hearing and a following from highly secular 20- and 30-year-olds, and is building the largest church (Mars Hill) in the least "churched" city in the US (Seattle).

Another resource for dialogue with gays is here in the Bsoton area, called Fish on the Other Side. I've met several times with the director, Bill Henson, an "ex gay" (although I'm not sure that is the term ofg choice) and have found his approach Biblically sound and pastorally sensitive; I highly recommend them for folks interested in elevating the conversation.
www.fishontheotherside.org.

Maybe you can help me out here: doesn't acceptance/endorsement of homosexual behavior mean that my sense of my innate/natural desires trumps everything else (i.e., "perceived as 'natural'" = "ordained by God")? Anyone have a problem with that approach?

just joe said...

I doubt that I can help you out on that issue -- I was not advocating endorsing behavior, just engaging people with a sense of mission.

Deb and I were reading from Matt 9 of The Message this morning and we came across a really thought-provoking passage:

12-13: Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: 'I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."

John M. said...

Brian, thanks for the Driscoll admonition. I know who he is. I have a little trouble with his attidtude sometimes, but obviously there are a lot of 20-30 somethings that like him a lot and embrace his theology and teaching.

With my strong reaction to your post, (and many other times, I'm afraid), I guess I shouldn't be throwing stones about attitude should I?

Scott McKnight actually did a series of blog posts on what he called, I think, "Neo-Calvinism". He defined it as a move among Christian young people to embrace radical Calvanism. I think he would see Driscol as one of the primary leaders.

He expressed concern that their hard, unbending, exculsivism would be damaging to and cause further fragmentation within Evangelicalism, if they didn't soften a bit and be willing to include their Armeian and more nuanced Calvanist brethren as true and equal brothers. That is my take on his thoughts, not exact quotes.

Maybe someone can throw up some ideas at Cov. Skunklings on how to engage, love, and build relationships with gays and other lifestyle choices in ways that are redemptive without condoning or endorsing behavior.

I think for the most part we have historically been so afraid of becoming "tainted" or appearing to endorse sinful behavior that we have totally avoided people that we placed in thos catagories. Now that we're seeing the need and acquiring the desrire to engage them, how do we do it without compromising our integrity and the integrity of the scriptures, yet without alienating them?

Joseph, you would have the most to say about this from practical experience, since you've been doing it for a good while. I'm sure some would say that you're going too far with your identification of their lifeystle ie, language, smokin' and drinkin'. But it seems to me that your style is bearing good fruit and from their viewpoint you have not compromised your integrity nor your beliefs.

I'm reading "Bruchko" to my classes right now, and I'm always impressed with how he totally immersed himself in Motalone culture. He ate their food (and got sick and had intestinal parasites), he slept in their hammoks in their communal homes (and got fleas and dealt with huge six-inch roaches), he bathed when they did which was very infrequent because the river was two miles away (and was constantly dirty and smelly) etc.

He waited five years before trying to communicate the Gospel becuase he wanted Jesus to "be a Motalone" when he did it, not the white man's god. When the opening came he was able to use their own legends, stories and beliefs to comminicate in such a way that "Jesus became a Motalone" and nearly the entire tribe embraced Jesus in an incredible people movement that has totally revolutiionized the tribe without making them Westerners or tearing their existing cultural structures apart.

Talk about incarnational ministry! How do we apply these "methods", which are really not methods but a heart directed, compassion saturated lifestyle, to the sub-cutures and counter-cultures that we live side-by-side with here?

John M. said...

Brian, I just posted this on Scot McKnight's blog on Jesus Creed. It is a comment in the thread of the review of the book on loving gay people that Joseph referred to. The opening quote is from the post just above mine on Scot's blog. I would consider this post as my response also to the question you posed in your post.

"Christians need to learn how to just be present nonjudgmentally in the life of a struggler, whether it is a gay person or someone in bondage to any other sin. We are all prodigals, loved by a patient God who gives us the freedom to run away before realizing we are not so free doing it our way."

Thanks Debbie. I pray that this will happen in me and so many others. All (or at least most of us) have besetting sins. Why do we have to paint as so horrible those who struggle with same sex attraction? It has become the leporsy of our current evangelical culture. Jesus touched lepers. He had compassion on them and loved them.

Has any one else struggled with temptation to engage in sinful
heterosexual behavior? I certainly have/am. Why is that different than same sex attraction? I know, I know, what will be said, That's "natural" the other is "un-natural"? But it is sexual sin. Does God differentiate degrees of sexual sin and temptation? They are human problems and tendencies. He who is without sexual sin cast the first stone.

Another quick thought. I wonder how many who are so vehemently opposed and vocal about their hatred of homosexuals, view heterosexual pornography regularly? I guess that's another topic, but I do know that it is a huge issue in the church, and creates a massive double standard and many double lives for both sexual orientations.

Brian Emmet said...

How does our discussion of (changing) sexual ethics and social mores fits with Dunbar's "Everything Changes" thesis? Does "everything" truly change?

just joe said...

I think Dunbar answers your question at the end of his piece when he says “not everything must change” but that many things in the vision, strategy and programming of the church needs to change in order for the church to more effect in its mission.

To respond to both John (3 posts ago when he talked about evangelical fear of contamination) and to Brian regarding what must (or will/is) change, let me revisit the issue of divorce and remarriage (which we discussed about a year ago).

I can clearly remember in the mid to late 1950s when Christians were reticent about having fellowship with someone who had been divorced and subsequently remarried with someone else. It was considered to be shameful (at least in my holiness circles), a divorced and remarried person was a social pariah and would never be allowed to hold a position of leadership in most conservative evangelical circles.

And now? Which of us would refuse to accept a tithe from someone who was in their 2nd marriage? Or refuse to accept them into membership in our church?

The teaching of Jesus was clearly against remarriage after divorce. And yet we have almost completely given into to the dominant cultural trend in this area of sexual ethics.

And what about pornography use? It seems to me that statistics show that 1 out of every 2 Christian men have a problem with frequent use of internet porn. When was the last time any of you are aware of one of our churches initiating a process of church discipline or expulsion of someone who persisted in using internet porn?

Why would we basically turn a blind eye on those two areas, but mobilize to fight against another area of sexual dysfunction (sin?) which may happen to be either less common among us, or more socially repugnant?

John M. said...

Interesting thoughts Joseph. Last week at the men's retreat, I mentioned pronography as one of the unhealthy ways we men respond to father wounds.

There was a huge response afterward when we opened for disuccsion. So many men admitted struggeling with the issue.

Afterward I had two separate conversations with mature men in the Lord who had teenage sons, and who were sturggling with what to tell their sons about masturbation since they still sturggled with the issue themselves in their personal life.

These topics regarding our sexuality are very seldom mentioned in conservative Christian circles (probably not "liberal" circles either.) Both the "P" word and particularly the "M" word are pretty much taboo. We act as if they don't exisit.

When the "P" word is mentioined it's as if it is "out there" someplace and how it's ravaging society and families and we need to "combat" it. Ironically, it is many times ravaging lives and families of brothers (and sisters sometimes) sitting right there in the pews, yet it is never addressed nor let on that there is a problem in our midst.

"The Emporer Has No Clothes" Oops, maybe that is not a good metaphor in this situation! :)

Brian Emmet said...

So are we arguing in favor of a stricter understanding and practice of church discipline? That would be a change!

Is our culture better off, and are our churches better off, because of liberalized attitudes towards divorce and remarriage? The church my oldest daughter attends, a Presbyterian one in Chapel Hill, will not perform a remarriage without first investigating thoroughly whether the first marriage was dissolved on Bibilical grounds or not. Does this represent a refusal to change, and is it a good thing or not?

I'm not wanting to hash out divorce-and-remarriage; instead, I want to make the point that we need to be on guard against imbibing the cultural kool-aid that "progress is inevitable" (which means that all change is good) and the now is always and automatically superior to the past.

Joseph and John are right to point out our inconsistency and hypocrisy.

david said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
david said...

very good discussion. i was just reading today about the early christian catechumenate period - it lasted as long as 3 years before people were allowed to become members of the church.

a very different idea of church discipline

just joe said...

interesting David ... I have often wondered at the apparent discrepancy of the NT church, where people were baptized immediately upon faith, and the second century church where they were required to go through a long period of training and testing before baptism. The difference 100 years gan make!

Brian, I am not arguing for stricter church discipline. I honestly don't know what the answer is to changing sexual ethics in society is. My point was that we should be consistent across the board in terms of biblical ethics ... and there is at least as much spelled out in the scriptures about divorce and remarriage, and lustful behavior, as there is about homosexual orientation or behavior. I am just saying that the whole area requires careful and prayerful thought ... and before we attack one issue (like homosexuality) we need to look at other issues that have already crept into our practice and become normative. In my opinion it is hypocritical to take a uncompromising stand on homosexuality and to ignore the fact that we have compromised with biblical teaching in other areas of sexual ethics.

What to do? I am not sure. I have some ideas, but I doubt that you would like them. I do think however, it is essential that we teach people to love God, follow Jesus, and internalize his teachings and live in community. Any single who genuinely loves and follows Jesus by thoroughly keeping his commands and internalizing his ways, is going to be substantially less likely to allow themselves to be addicted to pornography or to allow a marriage to fail such that it results in divorce.

The fact that those two things are so prevalent tells me that we already have a serious problem in Western or "modern" Christianity -- a bigger problem than creeping acceptance of alternate sexual preferences.

the growing acceptance of gay marriage in our society is a symptom of a deeper problem within the people of God. IMHO. mainly, that we have not been "salt and light."

John M. said...

I stating the obvious, but all three topics under discussion, porn, divorce/remarriage, homosexuality are also symptoms of the larger cultural and societal fragmentation.

I think all of these can be ultimately traced to family disfunctioin and breakdown. Which can mostly be traced to disfuntional and broken fathers. So, father wounds are the root of many if not most of the individual struggles.

Most of the guys at the men's retreat last weekend who shared, had fathers who never talked to them about their sexuality, about masturbation, prnography, promiscutiy etc. There was just a big vacuum -- no communication. Obviously, there is plenty out there for a boy to discover to fill the vacuum.

I know that some have traced the root of homosexuality (at least in males) to dominate mother figures, but what caused Mom to be dominate? Weak, absenteee, and nonfunctional or dysfunction males, fathers and husbands. We're dealing with generational sin here, and it's not going away soon or easily.

So how do we proceed? We can't turn the clock back -- not that we should really want to. I think we're going to need a lot of grace and give a lot of grace to get through this. Most of those struggling with these issues struggle with guilt, self-loathing etc. because of their struggles -- especially Christians and/or those in the church.

I'm not sure they need harsher church discipline as much as they need open, honest, loving transperancy, reality and conversation, which hopefully will lead to healing and wholeness, along with breaking the sinful, desturctive patterns they are caught in.

I guess the deterining line between church discipline and the above would be at some point whether the person is really trying to move into wholeness or is satisfied with their life-style with no intent to change. That's a tricky quesion to answer though
-- especially for those with addictive behaviors. INMO, I think they mostly mean it when they promise to change, but can't find it within themselves to do it and keep "returning to their vomit."

John M. said...

Sorry I didn't proof read before I posted. Hopefully you can decipher what I was trying to say!INMO means? IMHO is what I meant.

just joe said...

the very idea of church discipline for any reason whatever in our present context is a total joke. Whats the local Vineyard going to do to a transgressor, take away his gourmet coffee? "No donuts for you!" When was the last time any of us in this group discussion participated in bringing church disclipine on anyone?

I'm tired. I guess I need to go to bed.

david said...

john, i'm not sure that it's a more harsh church discipline that we need - but we do need a church that actually means something.

the church in this country needs to be something that is in fact different from the culture around it. while not ignoring the culture, what needs to be shown is the One who is The Way, The Truth and The Life as opposed to exposing our culture to a way, a truth and a life.

just joe said...

David, I totally agree, but how?

by-the-way, can you send me your email address? I would like to stay in touch outside of the blog.

mine is josenmiami@yahoo.com

riley_clan said...

Every Male that I have shared Christ with at work has come from a conversation about sexual addiction or pornography. This has been more than a few! Partly I think because I have struggled with this issue myself. My question is why are we concerned with being culturally hip as a church(global warming, 3rd world socialism, and western self loathing) when our own American Church history of the past 100 years and earlier has demonstrated social change by changing the evils that plaque the individual back in the day. I reference Billy Graham, John Wesley and others who principaly offered the news of the power of the cross to change lives and the social change followed after. Wesley even came out on the wrong side of the American revolution yet was still relevant for his day. When will the church begin to minister to the sin of the culture and stop trying to be culturally relevant and popular to spread the gospel. a cure for leprosy needs no popularity or salesmanship to sell.
when will our churches begin to tap the power that changes our divorce rate with in the church so that we are different than the world.

a puzzled laymen!

riley_clan said...

A follow up! why do we measure theology or doctrine or success of message on the number of people we can get to attend our churches? If those churches look no different than the Bono's, Amy Grants or others of the world. I ask again I believe NT Wrights explanation of Paul, but who cares NT Or Piper if there is no power! Not a Charasmatic Church form of power but one over sin!

A layman and some what jaded Pastor's son.

just joe said...

good points Riley, and welcome to our thinklings community.

anyone care to respond to riley's questions?

Brian Emmet said...

Whew! Not sure I can do anything approaching justice to the last ten posts, but...

Yes, we have applied church discipline, quite successfully, in at least one instance: an older couple (50s, both divorced), living together. It took us many months, but we were able to see them married, and still very happily married. Maybe this wasn't a success, because we didn't do a thorough investigation of whether their divorces were biblically justified! But I'm pretty sure they were... This also was not made a public matter, but I remain pretty pleased with how we handled it, and the outcome. But I plead guilty to all the other situations we probably should have intervened in, and didn't!

Riley, good stuff! Thanks for joining in. Let me muse on your points a bit...

David, thanks, too, for your contributions.

John M. said...

Interistingly, the last time I can remember being involved in church discipline was when I was in college in 1971 or '72. We had a house group of 30-50 college students and about 6-8 guys who functioned as elders.

A guy showed up, started attending meetings and hanging out over a period of time. That was really all that was required for membership in the group.

Then he started showing up at girls apts., inviting himself inside for some reason (these were females who knew him and were trying to be polite to him before we learned of his problem). He then would ask to use the bathroom, but instead go to the bedroom, get into the female's underware drawer and masturbate into their underwear.

Obviously, we couldn't let this go on, so after we got several reports and saw the pattern, we called him in. He admitted to it. We told him to stop. He did it again, and we "disfellowshipped" him, forbidding him from attending meetings or having contact with any females in the group. We offered as brothers to meet with him privately and try to help him.

Here's the dramatic part: He refused and left in anger. He told someone that he was going to hitch hike to the California. A few days later we learned that a car in which he was riding was involved in a serious accident and he was killed.

Our read on the matter was that God was serious about the whole matter of church discipline, and that He didn't mind "destroying the body, in order to save the soul."

just joe said...

wow, that’s heavy. It is interesting that only 2 or 3 of us can think of maybe one or two situations in a life-time. I have been involved in it 3 or 4 times... only once was there a positive outcome. Can I safely say that apart from a few of us old fashioned ‘covenant community’ types, church discipline is not even on the radar for seeker-sensitive or purpose-driven mega-models of church life?

I am not sure how we got on the topic of church discipline and same sex orientation from Dunbar’s piece on orienting the church around mission: however, McKnight has a good second overview of Andrew Marin’s book “Love is an Orientation” today. The last thing I need to do is to spend money on another book to put in my “to-read” pile but this book is calling to me. Below is a highlight of McKnight’s review:

The Power of "With"“The power of "with" comes from learning about and getting to know the GLBT community. The average age is 13 when a person realizes his or her same-sex attraction. Declaration occurs, on average, at 15. Fear and shame etc dominate the consciousness of these folks. More importantly: many pray hard for God to remove same-sex attraction and the unwanted feelings. They come to one of two conclusions: (1) there is no God because God doesn't answer that prayer; (2) that God has already condemned them to hell and that is why that God doesn't answer the prayer.

Andrew proposes "constructive, nonviolent tension." That is, spending time in the tension. That tension has been created, in part, by the "for" vs. "against" debate. It has led many to be against the God of Christians. Andrew has found that many gays and lesbians want to know the God of the Bible. Here is Andrew's conclusion:

"Over the years I have clearly learned ... that at a baseline level all the GLBT community wants from God is (a) to have the same intimate relationship with God that evangelicals have; and (b) to safely enter into a journey toward an inner reconciliation of who they are sexually, spiritually and socially" (30).”

John M. said...

There is a third option: There are those who decided that since God does not take away their same-sex attraction that it means he wants them to reconcile it with their relationship with him.

just joe said...

Although I have not read the book, I think Andrew Marin is proposing a third option other than "for or against" ... his option is "with." In other words, setting aside momentarily the issues regarding "wrong or right" in order to affirm friendship and the offer of love in Christ as the starting point ... sanctification and holiness come down the road on the journey.

It strikes me that Jesus chose 12 that they might be "with" him. He touched lepers and he associated with those who were looked upon as social pariah's ...

In response to Brian's concerns, I am supposing this might be another issue that touches upon the difference between The Work and the local church. A local congregation has the right to study the scriptures and fellowship together in the Lord to collectively determine their doctrine and standards of behavior, lovingly and compassionately, whether it is regarding divorce, pornography, serial fornication or same sex orientation.

In the work however, we have an obligation to go to those who who are in need of a physician. Of course that is everyone, but not everyone is aware of their need.

I am trying hard not to spend money on books right now, but this one is tempting me.

riley_clan said...

Good points! as the son of Retired Nazarene Preacher and the brother of a Anglican Priest let me run one by you that I repeatedly "lay about with my family.

How do we tell a homosexual that attraction to the same sex is no different than attraction to other women other than one's wife. we properly say that God does not judge our temptation only my act. Is God responsible for my mental state of mind that makes me makes me overly sensitive to temptation for multiple partners or for the homosexual, a same sex attraction. God forbid! Yet when we examine Wrights covenant theology we somehow excuse divorce and remarriage for indulgent self gratification and happiness. Divorce was never intended and remarriage is adultery. Yet in a church world that is just that with a divorce rate exactly the same as the world, we think we can speak about homosexuality with any credit.
A friend of mine in the Baptist Church that I attend (caters to both armenian and reform) divorced a year and a half ago. He asked me what I thought about his second wife which he was divorcing. I did not know her well and he was looking for support. Rather than judge, I asked him this question. Is it possible for two Christians to get a divorce, or is that and oxymoron of terms? He went to the assistant Pastor with this question. His wife was also a member and they were in counseling with that pastor. I was indirectly chastised, when he reported that "they could not lose their salvation and the problem was that his wife just "never was socially active with the women of the Church. He Married his 3rd wife, also a divorced women a year later, both still attend.

In my humble opinion, Global warming has killed absolutely no-one, the 3rd world debt and poverty exist and these countries have stronger families than the west. We have become irrelevant as a church in the west and like the children of this man's broken marriages, they do not attend church. The millions of dysfunctional children and rise of homosexuality among church people alone would seem to me that it is time to address the sin of our age with a church that has an answer and plan of redemption for all these broken people. The broken covenant of marriage has spawned, radical feminism, sexual decadence, homosexuality, suicide from loneliness and millions who think love is a performance based gift and suffer the addictions that accompany that belief. It is to embrace Wrights covenant Theology not for culturally acceptable ministry but for the radical doctrine of unconditional Love lived out thru the radical concept of Holy self denial in the covenant of marriage.

as one who ran like Jonah headlong into divorce with my evil little scheme to remarry and leave my wife and three children and get back in with God after I got my way. I was swallowed by a whale rather than slain by a donkey, and only Gods gift of a truly christian wife who welcomed me back despite the hurt and for her children. I have been healed and am truly thankful for 'there by the grace of God go I"

Brian Emmet said...

It can get complicated, eh? In Malachi, God tells us that he hates divorce. In Nehemiah, God tells the Israelites to put away (divorce) their foreign wives. In Mark, Jesus gives a seemingly no-exceptions policy, but Matthew adds "except for marital unfaithfulness." Paul, in somthing of a reprise and reinterpretation of Nehemiah, tells a believing spouse not to divorce his/her unbelieving spouse if the unbeliever wants to remain in the marriage. Now add to this admittedly very cursory and incomplete survey of Biblical texts on divorce--and Riley is right that the real issue may well be remarriage following divorce--the social fact of cohabitation (are such couples "married" from God's perspective?) If they are, then it is rapidly becoming impossible for anyone to marry--remarriage is the only option!

just joe said...

Steve, almost all of my young friends in the secular world are either single, or cohabiting. Of those who are cohabiting, some live together, some live separately. There is one couple that have been together for 10 years (they are barely 30) and they plan to get married next year in Key West. It seems that of their generation prefer to "take the risk out" of divorce out of marriage by trying out the relationship for a few years before entering into a covenant. It seems that they feel burned by our generations failure to keep our word.

Riley, the self-delusional sexual dysfunction within the church almost makes me sick to the stomach (not with anger but with sorrow and grief). I am grateful you made the right decision ultimately -- my 35 annniversary is coming up and I am deeply greateful.

just joe said...

Let me make one more observation about the church and Christians in general. I hope Brian will weigh in on this as well.

In my opinion, the low level of moral integrity among many Christians and in many churches is a symptom of a flawed soteriology (the very thing that Piper and Wright are discussing). The typical Evangelical pathway to conversion and church membership in the 1970s, 80s and into the 90s emphasized “making a decision” but a decision for what? It was often a) a mental decision to intellectually affirm a set of propositional truths about Jesus, b) a decision to attend church; or c) a decision to repeat a ‘magical’ prayer. If we prayed the sinner’s prayer sincerely, there were all kinds of bible studies to show us logically that we no longer need fear the consequence of hell after we died. This was said to be based “fact” not “feeling.” Evangelicals mass produced the conversion experience and removed the messy detail of experiencing God. In exchange for a simple prayer, weekly participation and giving, we provided people with an other-worldly assurance of blessing and with a social identity with carefully constructed boundaries against the secular culture . In most corners of the Evangelical church, there was little mention of the kingdom of God, the cross of Christ (self-denial) or of the need to leave everything and follow Jesus. Lordship was not on the radar of the broader Evangelical movement. For 30 years it there was a massive induction of sinners into the church without much serious interior transformation, almost analogous to what happened under Constantine. The “seeker-sensitive” methodology was just the ultimate outworking of consumer Christianity. In about 30 years we even managed to take over the levers of power in Washington with control of all three branches of government and both houses of Congress – at least for a few years.

Now we are reaping the bitter harvest of preaching an other-worldly gospel, cheap grace and magical conversion. Now we have angry and fearful “Christians” with no inward transformation, no commitment to follow Jesus and no real difference in the fruit of their lives between them and secular people. If the Christian faith enters into a time of being humbled, marginalized and persecuted, it will probably be a good thing.

Brian Emmet said...

The weaknesses, deficits, dysfunctions and sin of our evangelical world are profound, as Joseph rightly points out; at the same time, they need to be viewed against the far greater weaknesses, deficits, dysfunctions, and sin of our culture. My point is not to provide false comfort by saying, "Hey, we're totally screwed up, but at least we're not as bad as THEM!" That would be a fundamental denial of the Gospel ("All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God..."). Instead, let's not lose our nerve about the goodness of the Good News, which, after all, is about who Jesus is and what he has accomplished for us, rather than about the state of the church. Yes, it quickly gets complicated, but the reality is that anyone/everyone who trusts and obeys Jesus, even in a less-than-ideal setting (are there really any other options?)is still in better shape, now and eternally, than those who scoff at the cross. This is not an argument for complaceny, but for confidence.