Friday, May 30, 2014

Postmodernity Vs the Hope of the Gospel

We live in a postmodern age.  Postmodern describes the prevailing secular worldview that dominates and guides man as he lives out his life on this earth.  The following is an excerpt from Michael Bird's systematic theology, aptly named Evangelical Theology.  This section contrasts postmodernity with Christianity and its gospel proclamation. As you read this keep in mind that Michael lives in Australia. The term eschatological refers to the end times or last things.  All italics are mine for emphasis.

"...Yet postmodernity is really the intensification of Modernity--a hyper-modernity in fact.  Postmodernity accentuates the claim that man is the measure of all things, and it allows for the use of religious language on the proviso that the language has no referent to any reality other than the language of the users who utter it. In postmodernity, pluralism is god and diversity is his prophet. 

In the postmodern era, the overarching story is that our world is heading for political, economic, and ecological oblivion.  The only way we can save it is through a rescue; we need a savior, a state, who will end discrimination by enforcing diversity, who will deliver our economy by neo-Marxism, and who will rescue our environment with eco-legislation.  Then we will have complete equality, true diversity and authentic community.  Just read philosophers like Peter Singer, Alain Badiou, or Slavoj Zizek, and you get themes like this coming through.  Here religion, as an ideology resistance to hyper-secularism, stands in the way of diversity and eco-responsibility,; therefore, it must be exiled out of the public sphere.  Sex can be publicized, but religions must be interiorized. Tolerance is not a respect for the beliefs of others; it is the abandonment of beliefs that offend. I suspect that, when all is said and done, the postmodern vision will collapse in on itself in nihilism.  Its hope for a global community-in-diversity can only be achieved by forcing faith communities to forfeit their truth claims, to deny the finality of their hopes, and to expunge themselves of anything offensive to others. The irony of postmodernism is that its quest for absolute diversity can only be achieved by crushing dissenters.

In contrast to all this, Christian theology claims that history is about the mission of God working out His purposes.  These purposes were promised to the patriarchs and to Israel, were summed up in Christ, flow into the church, and will climax at the appointed day.  We know how the story goes, we know who it is about, and we even know how it all ends--not with a whimper but a new creation.  We do not die; rather, we become alive at the great resurrection.  Christian eschatology represents a competing story, a story that dares to challenge the dehumanizing ideologies of secularism and nihilism, for it tells us of a world without end, a benevolent Lord, a never-ending peace, and time without tears.  What is more, it is a world that has already begun in the context of this world, for that is the eschatological horizon of the gospel.

The gospel constitutes a keyhole through which we glance into God's new world.  This gospel imparts to us a vision of the future by warning us of the final judgment, giving us hope of eternal life, previewing the new creation and resurrection of the dead, and heralding the triumph of God over sin and suffering.  The gospel functions much like the program one receives at the beginning of a musical drama.  We learn the characters and the plot, and we are told how the story will dramatically end.  We discover also, much to our surprise, that we are characters in the story. The gospel calls us to sing and act amidst the melodies and motifs of God's kingdom and its king.

The eschatological horizon to the gospel is summarily announced to the world in the "gospel/good news of the kingdom" (Matt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 16:16; Acts 8:12).  God acts with kingly power to effect His redeeming reign over Israel and finally over all creation.  the kingdom of God is not a single place; rather, it is divine dominion over the entire world.  It has two key moments;  a fulfillment of Old Testament promises in the historical mission of Jesus, and a future consummation at the end of the age that inaugurates the coming age.  that the kingdom is both "already" and "yet to come" is, in the word Herman Ridderbos, "one of the fundamental presuppostions for understanding the gospel."  The gospel thus announces that God's reign is already bursting into our world, and it invites persons to enter into the rule of God for a future consummation of its saving power.....

The gospel is the announcement that God's kingdom is advancing, not in the sphere of human progress, but in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the mission of the church."

Michael Bird
Evangelical Theology
Pages 238-239

My friends, in the end, only one worldview, only one guiding philosophy, can give and sustain hope, and that is the worldview that is centered in Jesus Christ and looks to Christ as its Savior.  Don't be without true hope, without the sure confidence for eternity that it brings.  Center your world on Christ today!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Issue for the Christian of Slander and Gossip in the Social Media Outlets

One of the problems with social media on the internet is that too many times it is an advanced method for spreading gossip. Between Twitter, Facebook, websites, and blogs there is a dissemination of information with a speed that boggles the mind, with events becoming part of a national, and sometimes international, conversation within a matter of hours.  And too many, way too many times, people regurgitate information from blogs or pass along links without questioning or investigating whether the people quoted are credible, have first hand information, have the proper motives, or even have any business passing along the information in the first place.  And, speaking of information, most people don't bother to check and find out if the information is true before they pass it on or link to it.

I am not saying certain information should not be shared, but it should be shared with the right motives, and after the proper vetting.  I am not referring here to issues of Theological concern and disagreements, or issues of false teaching.  What I am referring to is information shared or linked to that is directed at the person, that which has to do with a person's moral character and integrity.  There are many instances where posts have been made and information dispensed with malicious intent against the person, not their theological position or teaching; and when these posts are jumped upon, then passed around and linked to, the people doing so are not only guilty of gossip, but are participating in the malice, slander, and evil intent of the original poster.

The biblical references to gossip always connect it to slander and malice (Proverbs 20:19, II Corinthians 12:20, Romans 1:29-30, I Timothy 3:11 & 5:13, II Timothy 3:3, Titus 2:3); so, in effect, nothing good is ever said about gossip, but it is always connected with evil.  And we see that evil being spread around in the various social media outlets.  What pains me is how much of this takes place on Christian blogs, and how many Christians participate in it through Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets.  Brothers and Sisters, it should not be this way!

As Christians, what should be our response, how should we handle information and issues that we think are important?  Well, first, we know, absolutely know, that we should not participate in gossip, period; and I think the Scriptures mentioned above have adequately made that point.  Secondly, we are called to judge righteously, not self-righteously; and it seems to me much of what gets passed along is done so with an aura of self-righteousness by the poster (Proverbs 16:2, James 4:10-12, Matthew 7:1-5). Thirdly, we need to respond to gossip, to information that is passed along or run across in a way that is both Biblical and consistent; and I believe we have the Biblical guidelines in Philippians 4:8.

Even though this passage is aimed at how and what we think, there is a direct correlation between what we think and how we act.  The principles given in this verse should not only guard our mind, but guard our tongue as well.  So in considering any information we first need to ask, is it true, and if we cannot determine that it is true, then we should discard it. Secondly, even though it is true, is it honorable?  In other words, is it honorable to pass it along; and this would involve a check on the motives for passing it along.  Then, is it right?  Is this the right thing to do, is it appropriate?  Then along comes purity, which would involve what is said and the reason for saying it (the admonition in Colossians 4:6 to season our speech with salt, the purifier, would be applicable here).  How about lovely? Well is it?  Then we have what is of good repute and excellence (Ephesians 4:29 is applicable here as it instructs us to let no unwholesome word escape from our mouth, but only that which is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, so that its result will be to give grace to those who hear).  Finally, is it praiseworthy?  Would the result of posting or passing the information be considered praiseworthy?  Also, the most universally applicable verse in the Bible, the golden rule found in Matthew 7:12 would be an overriding consideration in all of this.

So, my Christian friends, let's be careful, very careful about what we post, link to, and pass along regarding others in our social media.  Let us not compound the sin against someone else.  Let us not participate in sin against someone else; but let us be holy in all our behavior, even our internet behavior.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Whose Direction are You Following, and Where Does It Lead?

The ancient Greek playwright, Euripides once said, "The wisest men follow their own direction."  However the Bible says this in Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."  Man's own direction for his life always follows the broad path that leads to destruction, for he always goes astray in his heart.

Our gracious and compassionate God has given man His word, His direction, His way, and His path in the Bible.  Hear His word today!  Choose God's path today!  Heed His call today!  Follow His direction today! Forsake your own way and call upon Him while He is near, asking for His direction for your life; and He will have mercy upon you and set you and direct you to the path that leads to eternal life.

That path is centered in Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me."  We must follow Christ in order to find the path to eternal life; and to follow Christ we must turn from following our own direction for our life (repent), and believe that the direction to God lies solely in Him.

God's direction will always and ultimately lead to eternal life.  Forsake setting your own direction, and follow His today!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

God's Faithfulness and Hard Providence

This was a comment I made on another blog concerning times of hard providence.
How do we reconcile the faithfulness of God with times of hard providence?  I think one of the best examples of this occurs in Genesis 12, with the call of God to Abram to the promised land. When Abram arrived in Canaan the Lord appeared to him and Abram built an altar and worshiped. But what did God call him into? He called Abram right into the middle of a famine, and famines don’t go away overnight.
God could have prevented the famine. He could have directed Abram’s journey so that he arrived after the famine was over; but, no, the Lord’s providence was for Abram to arrive in the middle of the famine; and from the Scriptures there is no explicit statement of why God did so.
We can glean from the text that this was indeed a test of Abram’s faith and trust, and a proof and confirmation of God’s faithfulness. But it was a hard providence, with no explanation from God about why or what purpose this hard providence served.
As in the story in the post, there were unforeseeable circumstances…unforeseeable to us as finite beings, but totally foreknown by our omnipotent God, the One who has declared the end from the beginning.
What do we need to keep in mind during times such as this? A progression in Psalm 119 helps us with this.
119:68 You are good and do good.
119:71 It is good for me that I was afflicted
119:75 I know, O Lord, that your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
119:76-77a O may Your lovingkindness comfort me, according to Your word to Your servant. May Your compassion come to me that I may live…
The Lord is a God of faithfulness (Psalm 89:5,8). In affliction and through affliction God is being faithful to us by accomplishing what concerns us (Psalm 138:8), and that is our eternal good.  So during times of hard providence let us keep in mind that the Lord is being faithful to us in this life by preparing us for the next.