Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Restoring Honesty: A Couple of Good Responses to Glenn Beck's Rally

If you want to know where the Evangelical church is in America, then just check out the recent Restoring Honor rally led by Glenn Beck this past weekend.  Regardless of one's personal perspective on Glenn Beck's politics, his combination of politics and religion is not to be recommended or embraced.  You would think that one of the key ingredients in "restoring honor" would be honesty.  But apparently honesty concerning God and religion is not important as long as one's political agenda is furthered by the promotion of false gods and false religion.

But regardless of Beck's fusion of the sacred and the secular, what is more disconcerting is the Evangelicals who believe that it is something to drink in to the very last drop.  The danger is not just in fusing religion and politics (that's bad enough), but embracing and endorsing a non-Evangelical religion, yay even a non-Christian religion, yay a "generically theistic civil religion" with politics that consists of Evangelical Christians, Roman Catholic Christians, Mormons, Jews and even Muslims. This is not to say that these different groups shouldn't participate and help one another in political engagement, but that said political engagement should remain political and not be religious. 

Darryl Hart has already addressed this issue quite well (see here and here).  But for a shorter, Baptist version, Russ Moore has provided an excellent reflection on Beck's god and country rally (the lower case "g" is not a grammatical error just in case you were wondering).  I highly recommend you read his analysis and seriously think about his rebuttal:
The answer isn’t a narrowing sectarianism, retreating further and further into our enclaves. The answer includes local churches that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and disciple their congregations to know the difference between the kingdom of God and the latest political whim. It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Moore is correct in saying that we don't need to retreat into our enclaves; however, we do need to engage politically in light of our particular religious enclaves and not fall into the trap of thinking any movement based upon a confession of "god" is something worthy of our participation.  We must ask what "god" we are confessing; which "god" we are serving; and whose will are we are doing--is it the will of the God of heaven who came to earth to die and be raised for sinners who prayed for his Father's heavenly kingdom and will to come to this world, or the god of this world who knows he cannot rule heaven and so seeks to bring many with him to his doom through a counterfeit religion.

In another response, John Sampson over at Reformation Theology provides a biblical response looking at the participation of Evangelicals at Beck's rally from an Old Testament perspective:
Have you ever seen something like this in the Bible - God saying, "Go meet with the Baal worshippers' and arrange a huge rally, an ecumenical inter-faith service - talk about honor and integrity and family values.. and you can pray to Me, of course, and they can pray to Baal - in fact, hold the priest of Baal's hand as he prays.. that will be such a nice touch.. and its quite ok with me.. I, the Lord your God, the holy One, really don't mind.. that's because it will show so much love to people and it will open hearts to My religion and everyone will so appreciate you not being closed minded elitist bigots. It will do wonders for people's view both of you and of Me. Go do this in My Name."?

Ever seen that? Even a hint of it? No? Me neither.
We need more than honor, we need honesty in our political and religious commitments.  This can't be done by promoting a false god and false religion, or in confessing someone else's false god or by participating in that god's sham.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Free Giveaway from Monergism Books

The God Who Is There Seminar (14-Part MP3 CD)
by D.A. Carson

With the generous permission of The Gospel Coalition, Monergism Books is giving away for free this incredible seminar by Don Carson.  You receive the 14 mp3 lectures on one CD.  The disc is free, all they ask you to do is cover shipping. 

From The Gospel Coalition blog: On February 20-21 and 27-28, 2009, Don Carson presented a 14-part seminar entitled “The God Who Is There.”  This series is designed to serve the church by edifying professing Christians while simultaneously evangelizing non-Christians by explaining the Bible’s storyline in a non-reductionistic way.

The series is geared toward “seekers” and articulates Christianity in a way that causes hearers either to reject or embrace the gospel. It’s one thing to know the Bible’s storyline, but it’s another to know one’s role in God’s ongoing story of redemption. “The God Who Is There” engages people at the worldview-level.


Contents

   1. The God Who Made Everything
   2. The God Who Does Not Wipe Out Rebels
   3. The God Who Writes His Own Agreements
   4. The God Who Legislates
   5. The God Who Reigns
   6. The God Who Is Unfathomably Wise
   7. The God Who Becomes a Human Being
   8. The God Who Grants New Birth
   9. The God Who Loves
  10. The God Who Dies—and Lives Again
  11. The God Who Declares the Guilty Just
  12. The God Who Gathers and Transforms His People
  13. The God Who Is Very Angry
  14. The God Who Triumphs

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Prayer and the New Creation: An Eschatological Event


For those who were not able to attend the prayer service last night, I am including the homily I gave on prayer and the breakdown of the service itself. The homily is based on Psalm 104 and Colossians 3.1-4; 4.2.

In his primer on prayer titled A Method for Prayer, Matthew Henry states that, "Prayer is a principal branch of religious worship, which we are moved to by the very light of nature, and obliged to by some of its fundamental laws," (p. 11). By this, Henry means that by the very fact of our being created by God, there is a natural obligation for mankind to acknowledge the creator. For when we do not, we live as though God is not real. Since we have been created, we are the lesser creature, and therefore, we should acknowledge the one who is greater than we. Prayer, then, would seem to have its starting point grounded upon creation—God as the creator and man as the creature.

Although Henry refers to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras for this understanding of prayer, it is certainly true that the Bible teaches it as well. The Bible is replete with calls to pray unto God because he is the Creator and because of his grand work of creation. One psalm in particular, Psalm 104, is an entire psalm built on this theme to render blessing unto Yahweh because of his majesty, which is demonstrated in his work of creation. To "bless" Yahweh as the creator is to praise or salute him. This verb in the Hebrew is also associated with kneeling. In essence, the word in its action of verbal declaration, as well as, through the mental picture of kneeling, speaks in its most basic meaning of prayer. We are to pray unto God as an expression of our recognition of and dependence upon him as our majestic creator.

And yet, as you read through the psalm, one comes across a most interesting expression of the "creative" power of God, and that is his power to bring to an end what he has begun. In verse 29 we are told, after 28 verses describing God's constructive creative activity that God, that when God turns away his face his creation is dismayed, alarmed terrified. Why? Because when God turns away from his creation, life is lost and returns to the dust. The point: we stand or fall according to the will of God—creation only continues as long as God sustains it by his power. Part of God's creative power rests in his power to bring death.

And yet, this death that God can bring is not the final note of this melancholic turn in psalm, for as soon as death is said to reside in his power, so also is life! Only this time in verse 30 it is renewed life that is the result of God sending forth his Spirit! Creation that dies is a creation that can be renewed! Old creation can become New Creation through the sovereign, creative power of God working through his Spirit. Death leading to life through the Spirit!

The old creation, then points us ahead to a new creation. God's work of creation in the first points us ahead to a second work of creation. The covenant Lord will create again and anew in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. He is before all things and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of his church, the firstborn from the dead that in everything—in the old creation or the new creation—he might be preeminent. For through the one in whom all the fullness of God dwelled, he has been pleased to reconcile all things to himself, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

In Christ, death becomes life! It is in Jesus Christ that God accomplishes this drama of redemption. For in him, you who were once alienated and hostile in your minds, doing evil deeds, have been saved in order that he might present you holy and blameless. In Christ, you go from death (old creation) to life (new creation).

In Jesus Christ, our lives are now defined by his life as we enter in to his life by faith. By his resurrection, He is the firstborn of the new creation. As he is the firstborn of the new creation, He is the exalted one who has ascended to the right hand of God to ever dwell in his presence and enjoy his eternal fellowship. And he is the head of his church—he is not the only one exalted to God's right hand and God's fellowship—he is the first one and the preeminent one—but he is not the only one. For those who rest upon and receive Jesus as he is offered to us in this grand story of redemption also share in his resurrection and ascension!

This is what we just heard moments ago when we read from Colossians 3. This participation in Christ's death, resurrection and ascension is the conclusion of all that Paul has been saying in Colossians up to this point. You who are of faith have been (already accomplished) raised with Christ! And raised where? To where Christ is seated, which is at the right hand of God in the heavenly places!

This participation with Christ in his resurrection from the dead and ascension to God's right hand in glory is what now defines you who have trusted in Christ, so much so, so utterly so, that Paul's says your life is now hidden with Christ in God. His life is your life—his story is your story.

And so, Paul calls us to understand our lives in light of sharing in Christ's life so that we might know how to live out our new creation lives. Notice that Paul commands us in light of our new identities to seek the things above—to understand ourselves and the world from the perspective of heaven. We are to have heavenly glasses through which we see God, Christ, ourselves and the world, rather than viewing these things through the lenses of earth.

And one of the specific applications by which we live our new creation lives looking at things through our new heavenly glasses is prayer. Chapter four verse two opens with this command: "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." As the commands of scripture are always grounded first in what God has accomplished for us in Christ, it is important to note that this command in 4.2 is grounded in what was said back in 3.1-4. As our prayers are certainly to be offered unto God because he is our Creator Lord, we learn here that our prayers are also to be offered in light of the new creation in our Lord Jesus Christ. Praying, then, is an eschatological act that is an expression of our new eschatological lives. Praying is a function of the new creation, and therefore, it is to be perfumed with the aroma of heaven as we pray. And though we pray about the cares and concerns of our lives and our faith in this world—the prayers we are to offer are certainly not of this world. Rather, our prayers are to be shaped by the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth, for you have died and now are one who lives in the new creation with your life hidden with Christ in God. You have been raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly places at the right hand of God. So pray with the joy and thanksgiving of one who has entered into heaven—who is there and not here. Do you realize that as Christ is there praying as one who possess all the blessings of the heavenly places, and as those in the heavenly places with him, when you pray according to God's will, you are praying for things that are already yours in Christ?!

Prayer, then, as it is now grounded upon the new creation, is not only an expression of our recognition of and dependence upon him as our majestic creator who has the power of life and death; it is a participation in his majestic resurrection life, a participation in his glorious power and might that he used in raising Jesus from the dead; prayer is a participation in his heavenly prayers. So, as those raised with Christ to the new creation, seek the things that are above as you continue steadfastly in prayer in the power of and from the perspective of the new creation.

For the prayer service:

Adoration                                          Psalm 104A
Confession                                         Psalm 102A
Thanksgiving                                      Psalm 116A
Supplication                                       Psalm 90C
Concluding Doxological Praise           Psalm 106.47-48 (tune: All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name)
 
Save us, O LORD, our gracious God,
From heathen lands reclaim,
That we may glory in Thy praise
And thank Thy holy name.
That we may glory in Thy praise
And thank Thy holy name.

The LORD be blessed, yes, Isr'el's God, through all eternity.
Let all the people say, "Amen."
Praise to the LORD give ye.
Let all the people say, "Amen."
Praise to the LORD give ye.