Welcome to Carnivorous Caribou

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Cold Front at Caribouyah

If you follow this blog, you've probably noticed that the Day After Tomorrow has struck this site. Things have slowed down, and quite frankly, I don't see them warming up. But it doesn't mean I've cooled of blogging. However, due to greater passions, this blog will probably very rarely be updated.

If you enjoyed this blog (odds are I call you "mom" or "dad," but I degress), I would offer the following suggestions:

    Check out The Haphazzard Housewife. There, my wife posts family updates, writes book reviews and generally looks at things with far more wisdom than I. (Plus, she's a great writer.)
    Check out The Greenville Grace News Blog to keep up with events at our church. Occasionally, I'll even post articles on that site. (I recently posted one about the gift of not getting a Ferrari.
    Check out Perspicuous Perspectives (my online commentary). This is a great joy of mine, but I have not given it much attention. I plan to fire up more articles (and try to catch up with 1 John) on this site.
    The birth of Preach the Word. I love to preach and love to listen to preaching. Though I am zealous about it, I acknowledge it is an idiosyncratic zeal. I have wanted to develop this particular blog for a couple years, but feared that some would consider it arrogant...thinking I am setting myself up as the standard of good preaching. This is not my aim at all. The aim of my preaching, and of this blog, is to see the power of God unleashed through His Word, not mine. I do not always accomplish that task, but it is my aim. While I would love to see pastors encouraged and challenged, as well as congregations informed as to what they should be desiring from the pulpit, ultimately, I hope it serves as meditations to keep me faithful.
So, while things may seem frosty around here, I certainly hope things are warming up!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Name That Quote...

Let men who are desirous of glory be fed by their ambition, let them applaud themselves for their ingenuity; to you, let it be enough to devote yourself to your own salvation and that of the people.

If you must know...but don't try to claim credit for your "guess" if you check the link!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More on "A Common Word..."

About six weeks ago, I posted an article about the A Common Word Between Us and You (a document written by 138 Moslem scholars) and the response by many Evangelicals.

While I am no expert in Islam, what I have studied seemed in contrast to the tone of the document. And what I know about Christianity appeared in contrast to the letter written in response. So, I was thankful to see the responses from:

John Piper


Al Mohler

Both men clearly articulated their concerns graciously but firmly (Mohler even responds to Brian McLaren's rebuke of Mohler's perspective). Yet, what I truly appreciated is that both men understand the need for missiology, but start with theology...knowing that without proper theology, the missiology is pointless.

I especially appreciated Mohler's reminder from John 8 that Jesus claims that missing Him is missing God. He also reminds us that to claim Islam and a Judaism that denies Christ are "Abrahamic Faiths" is to misunderstand the nature of Abraham's faith. (My Dial-up Brethren will just have to trust me...each is worth the look/listen.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Pod Spotting"

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen to the White Horse Inn. This season is entitled "Christless Christianity."

Michael Horton, Rod Rosenbladt, Kim Riddlebarger and Ken Jones discuss the evangelical phenomena of "assuming the gospel." In the first three episodes this year they paint a picture of American Christianity that looks eerily like some organizations I know. Check out the descriptions of their first three episodes:
Countless sermons in churches across the country focus on moralistic concerns and personal transformation. But has Christ gotten lost in the shuffle? Have we inverted Paul's warnings by intentionally preaching ourselves, and not Christ crucified? On this edition of the White Horse Inn, the hosts introduce the new theme for 2008: Christless Christianity!
Many Christian leaders today point to Jesus as a good moral guide (WWJD), an inspirational figure of self-sacrifice, or one who resolves our problem with loneliness. And in doing so, these shepherds have managed to avoid one of the most central teachings of the entire Bible; namely Jesus' atoning sacrifice for sinners.
Why is Joel Osteen so popular? Is he a faithful representative of the Christian faith, or is his message more about self-help and personal motivation? On this edition of the White Horse Inn, the hosts will examine the theology of this bestselling author as they continue their series "Christless Christianity."
What is humbling as you listen to these podcasts are that they show it is not just a message the radical extremes (like Osteen) or the Mainline Denominations need to hear, but it is a reminder to every church...The moment you begin to assume the gospel message for your listeners, you have begun the process of denial.

I'd encourage you to subscribe to the podcast. (Did I mention it's free?)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Sign of the Times

Today, our church staff drove past the following sign:

I'm not really sure what to say.

Are they just being honest about their expectation? Should there be a comma between "pretty" and "good." If so, are they claiming their people are pretty or the building is?

What do you think?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Careful, Careful, My Brethren

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.--James 3:1
The James Frey controversy revealed "a new understanding of truth." When Frey's fabrications were revealed, some had the audacity to claim the inaccuracies actually helped him tell the story more truthfully.

This postmodern approach to truth has also crept into hermeneutics. Just as "higher critiques" of yesteryear claimed they still believed the Bible to be inspired, despite claiming it was inaccurate regarding science/history, these interpreters claim the passage to be teaching truth, even if the details cannot be trusted. Therefore, they avow orthodoxy (sometimes) but deny the accuracy of the passages used to defend the doctrines. These pastors play fast and loose with the Text, conforming it to their will, rather than vice versa.

This trend is easy to spot (if one is willing to ask difficult questions). When one begins to investigate their theories, nailing them down on specific texts, it becomes obvious that they are not practicing a Biblical hermeneutic.

Well, it would be easy if not for the secondary trend. When questioned, or especially when you point out the inconsistency of their theories/postulations/speculations/conjectures/guesses, they retort:

But, You Misunderstood Me.

I can handle hearing this phrase from time to time, but the regular barrage of supposed misunderstanding does become problematic. In my youth, I would play fast and loose with my words, and when called on it, I would reply with the similar retort: I was just kidding. It seemed the perfect alibi. I could make unsubstantiated claims. I could make outlandish boasts. I could take unprovoked stabs at others. Then, just as a person was going to lay blame on me, I could shift the focus...claiming they missed my humorous attempt. It really was perfect--until I read:
Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, "I was only joking!"--Proverbs 26:18-19
I read that passage and was broken. I had not invented a clever technique to allude investigation, I had become a madman. My ways had to change immediately.

Likewise, an overused barrage of I've been misunderstood! is problematic for the following reasons:

1. It assumes no responsibility.--Stated in a passive tone, a person is still exonerated from any responsibility. They are not claiming I misspoke, thus assuming responsibility. Often times, when cornered on loose communication, the person will claim the problem really lies in the hearers listening skills. Rather than listening to what I meant to say, the person only examined what I actually said. Therefore, the speaker is not responsible to clear the air, but is left to do so, if they choose. And even clearing the air does not become their responsibility since they did not err. Any clarification is condescendence--for your sake, since you misunderstood in the first place.

2. Or, it's generally lazy. Now, I can incorrectly turn a phrase like anyone. (I will forever regret the time I used the word forthright instead of forthcoming with a beloved friend...thus creating an unintentional accusation.) Sometimes, we have to confess when we misspeak. However, the teacher/preacher should never be comfortable with this. I've yet to meet the perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well (James 3:2). James says so himself, when he stated: For we all stumble in many ways. However, this does not mean we will not be judged more strictly.

When I exchanged forthcoming with forthright I did damage to a quality relationship. A simple, I misspoke was not enough. Though my friend was very gracious with me, the misunderstanding from my error caused some pain. As we worked through my mistake, I had to speak slowly and with much more precision (not for his sake...for mine). I sought to restore our relationship and never again use the words forthcoming and forthright without being deliberate. (In fact, I don't know that I'll use either term in front of this person ever again.)

Just this week, I was listening to an interview of NT Wright by a student of Southern Seminary. Wright was asked about his endorsement of Steve Chalke's book despite Chalke's disaster quote on the penal substitution of Christ. In Wright's explanation, he explained that Chalke simply lacked clarity in speech, and that this is understandable--he works with youth, isn't well trained and speaks with emotion. There was no hint of responsibility for Chalke, we should all just be understanding that he didn't mean what he said. Such a perspective does not seem to line up with Scripture.

If we find ourselves too often saying, "I misspoke," "I didn't mean what I said," or "I said that wrong" perhaps we need to either quit speaking...or seriously adjust the way we do.

3. It eliminates the capacity for tolerance. Not the hold-hands-ignore-our-differences-while-listening-to-Barry-White-singing-Kumbaya-style tolerance, but the original meaning for tolerance. (tolerance: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own.) When you disagree with someone, and they simply say you misunderstood them, how do you work through the disagreement?

Whether arrogance, naiveté or an unwelcomed product of our postmodern society, the idea that someone might actually disagree with an opinion seems incalculable. Therefore, we cannot deal with our differences, discussing the texts, nuance and understanding. Instead, we are left to assume it is an issue of communication, and quite often are even encouraged to simply drop the matter--trusting that though it may seem otherwise, we're probably on the same page.

Telling a person they misunderstood you, rather than telling them you think they are wrong, certainly seems like a softer answer...but it is not genuine tolerance. And ultimately, the two cannot accept their differences, because they are to act like there is not difference at all. And if we ignore differences, it's not tolerance, it's neglect. And relationships (the supposed "Holy Grail" of this new approach) do not survive well in neglect. Working through disagreement may be some heavy lifting...but heavy lifting strengthens.

Therefore, be careful. For those considering teaching the Word, and for those who do teach, we should consider the stern warning of greater judgement. We should be setting the example for the Body by guarding our words closely and stating things as clearly as possible. (Certainly, when pastors engage in a theological "conversation," saying You've misunderstood me! should be at an absolute minimum.) The pastor/teacher should seek to be as clear, direct and accurate as possible.

For it's not just other people who are listening.

Betrothal View

On December 9th, I got to enjoy presenting some answers during a "Question & Answer" Sunday School class. In that class, when asked about Marriage/Divorce/Remarriage, I made the (admittedly strong) statement "I can't think of any situation where I would ever encourage a person to pursue a divorce."

Unfortunately, many in the (universal) church erroneously support pursuing a divorce after a spouse has been unfaithful. Citing the "unfaithfulness clause" in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19, many think Jesus excused divorce after adultery. Instead, I believe Jesus was speaking in reference to the Jewish betrothal system.

In July 2006, I began a series of posts to explain this position. Since several after that Sunday asked for more information about hat perspective, I have reposted the links to those articles below:

Cultural Consideration With Sin
Marriage Killed by a Bad Hermeneutic
Who has Committed Adultery?
The Disappearing Exclusion
Did Matthew Put Words in Jesus' Mouth?
Who Said Anything about Adultery?
(editing correction)
Jews, Betrothal and Divorce
I Admit, I Don't Get It
A Heart Confession
The Gospel and Exceptions

In 2007, John Piper wrote an article advocating the "betrothal view," a perspective he has held since at least 1986.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Believer's Approach to 2008

As I was thinking about the New Year, here were some thoughts that came to mind. As we enter 2008, the believer should be:
    --Disappointed that Christ didn't come in 2007. (Revelation 22:20)
    --Grateful to be alive for 2008 (James 4:13-16)
    --Preferring to be in heaven (Philippians 1:21, 23)
    --Knowing we're here for Him (Philippians 1:21-26)
    --Looking for a Presidential Candidate with character (Proverbs 16:10-15)
    --Viewing the election through God's Sovereignty (Proverbs 16:33)
    --Confident our salvation is not in this government anyway (John 18:36)