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Monday, April 09, 2007

Taking a Deep Breath

Nearly two weeks ago, in the midst of the ECM series, I was preparing to write a post about the ECM's neglect of the eternal. Their focus can be so strong on the here and now that they miss so much that Scripture says about our future destiny. In fact, this hope of our future, should impact our current life (1 John 3:1-3)

1 John 3:1-3 would have been the perfect text, and it would have made the point...but I didn't turn there. I'm not sure why, but I kept going to Colossians 1:1-3. To be honest, I kept trying to get Colossians 3:1-3 to fit the topic. Like bashing a metric socket onto a rusty standard bolt, I knew it wasn't a good fit, but thought it may be serviceable. So I kept trying to pound my agenda into the text. I thought I could come close, but then I realized three things:
    1. I'd care.--I cringe when I look back at a text and realize I got it wrong (pretty much the first 5 years of ministry). How much worse if I knew I had it wrong as I was writing?
    2. You'd care.--Thankfully, several readers would call me to the carpet if they felt I was doing a little bait and switch with the text. Please keep at that. Don't let me slide!
    3. God cares.--It's His Word, not mine. Therefore, I have no right to alter it or make it fit my desires.
So I sat there terribly humbled by this text. Not only did I have a false impression of this famous passage, I actually considered taking it hostage to accomplish my tasks. Once I decided not to manipulate Scripture, I reasonably assumed I'd move on to 1 John 3:1-3, for it seemed to make my point.

Instead, I just stared at my computer screen. Perhaps, if I had the wrong idea about Colossians 3, I should stay there and search around in the passage. I clearly had a mistaken impression of the text, so it wouldn't hurt to stick around and see what Paul was really saying. I started at chapter one, verse one. As I began reading through and up to chapter 3 I realized something. While Colossians 3 didn't make the point that I wanted, it did make the real point to be considered. I thought that a major problem for the ECM was that they regularly discount the future/eternal state. While Colossians does not refute this idea, the text exposed there is a more severe problem.

The severity of the issue made me want to quit. I considered just ending the ECM series, for I had not commited to any length. It's one thing to say a movement may neglect a text or may be ignorant in a doctrine. It's another all together to state their is a deeper problem at its root. I've seen people offended in the past, do I really want to go down that road again?

I don't intentionally look to offend anyone. It's not my goal to alienate others. But honestly, I've only known a couple people who consider themselves emerging/emergent, and they pretty much quit "conversing" with me a couple years ago. Most of the people who come to my blog pretty much share my perspective, so there is very little at stake. I don't aim to upset anyone in emerging circles, but honestly, they're probably not reading this anyway.

But the chief issue of Colossians 3 is not an emerging/emergent problem. The issue Paul addresses extends to many churches today. In fact, the issue is one that permeates our own fellowship. It has certainly caused me to reexamine many things we do as a church. I know there are areas where we violate the principle, I'm just not aware of what they are yet.

So I'm left to wonder, do I bother writing about this? I have very little invested in the emerging/emegent movement, but I have some people I care about that I feel have been seduced by impure trends. Do I bother to confront? I dearly love the FGBC. I have been raised in it and have purposefully chosen to remain in it. Do I care enough to speak up? (Every other guy I know who has gets immediately villified.) Lastly, can I really say I love our church if I ignore these issues in our own assembly.

Oh why did I start this series with an appeal to Titus 1:9? *sigh*

(Or was that a big deep breath before I dive in?)

15 Comments:

  • At 10:14 AM, Blogger zachd said…

    I have appreciated reading your blog, I hear your heart on these issues, and we do not even know each other beyond an email conversation. I just had an opportunity to preach out of Colossians chapter 2. Does that chapter not seem to fit some of the trends we see today? Christ must be considered supreme and preeminent, and faith in Him must be our first and most important response.

    Why so many are wishing to usher in a superficial kingdom (wrapped in aesthetic sprituality) in this age where Christ is not reigning with all authority, rather than setting their minds on the eternal hope of the resurrection, I do not know...

    Are we to build community and do good work? Yes, but we can ONLY do that having a deep faith built on the work of Christ on the cross, which we have understood based on the CLEAR teaching of AUTHORITATIVE scripture.

    Also, Bono, Derek Webb, and the community of believers, as cool as they all are, are not the final authority on faith and practice!

    Zach

     
  • At 11:12 AM, Blogger Brad said…

    I know I'm placing myself in danger of looking like a one-issue guy here, but Zach's comment is an excellent example (right or wrong) of how one's eschatological views bring a heavy influence to bear upon one's conception of the church's present mission.

    And of course, I can't pass up the opportunity to insist that Christ is presently reigning, and that he is doing so with all authority in heaven and on earth.

     
  • At 11:50 AM, Blogger zachd said…

    Great comment Brad! I threw out a statement in my comment, knowing that it was eschatologically based, and you called me out on it! Ultimately, you are right, Christ indeed does reign, but is He reigning in such a way that justifies pursuing a kingdom on earth? It seems, whether admittedly or not, that much of current evangelical thinking is indeed looking for this.

    Beyond that, I did not do justice to Danny's post. His intention was probably not eschatologically based at all, but more deeply rooted in where our focus must be, in the here and now, or on the bigger picture. Comments Danny, lest we defame your blog!??

     
  • At 12:03 PM, Blogger Dale Harris said…

    Matthew 28:18-20 says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me ... And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age."

    Um, if Christ isn't reigning with all authority, then why does the Bible say so? Isn't this context clear that this authority must be during the present age since Jesus uses this authority as the basis for the great commission and then promises his presence during this age? On what basis can he promise that presence if not on the basis of his just announced authority? I know the word 'reign' isn't present here, but what other authority could be in view? Yes, the Millennial reign will offer a different version when Christ's reign becomes the dominant expression of world government instead of just a spiritual reality. However, those in whose hearts Christ is already reigning should be offering glimpses of what that future earthly reign of Christ will look like.

    Hey, Bono has his issues ... we all know that. But don't link a prophetic voice like Derek Webb with Bono. They're not even in the same ballpark. Derek Webb's music is theologically articulate and amazingly relevant to our current situation. Plus, he's even a pretty Reformed dude (check out his song 'Thankful'). I don't know anyone who would say he's the final authority on anything, but his challenges to the church are timely, well-spoken and helpful.

     
  • At 12:13 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    welcome zach!

    glad to have you in the blogosphere!

    brad said:

    And of course, I can't pass up the opportunity to insist that Christ is presently reigning, and that he is doing so with all authority in heaven and on earth.

    as one who just appealed to our Body to quit saying "easter" and call it "resurrection sunday"...words mean a great deal to me. i trust that zach clearly sees Christ having all authority, for he said "Christ must be considered supreme and preemineent" but sometimes us premill guys speak of His unfufilled manifestations of His authority in ways that makes it sound like the authority isn't His yet.

    am i right zach? i think you'd agree with that statement.

    brad, i appreciate your desire to continue to see Christ's authority acknowledged. you know i think your eschatology is confusing and off (which i greatly appreciate our generous dialogue). i do not believe it is consistent with your general approach to Scirpture. however, i do think it has become appealing to you because of MAJOR deficiencies you saw in our fellowship.

    we've certainly got problems, and i think those issues severely let you down, however, i hope this series will expose that our fellowship's eschatology isn't the problem.

    dale,

    glad to see you fired up! let's give zach a chance to comment again to see if he really believe Christ does not have all authority, or if he really meant to state that Christ's visible, earthly reign is not centered on a throne in Jerusalem yet.

     
  • At 1:13 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    Wow. Looks like we might have just had a case of multiple simultaneous comments.

    Zach, Christ taught his disciples to pray that God's kingdom would come to be present on earth as it is in heaven (I recognize that this point might require a more developed exegetical argument from the "Lord's prayer") so there is at least one way in which we are to be pursuing such a kingdom. I would also argue that establishing God's kingdom on earth is the primary purpose for evangelism (linked as the Commission is to Christ's declaration of authority on earth).

    Danny, I didn't mean to imply that eschatology was the root of the problems in any particular fellowship. Of all my reasons for not remaining in the FGBC (for which I still have a great deal of affection), that would have been last on the list. Most of my reasons for leaving the church I did, at the time I did, are reasons with which I know you would wholeheartedly agree. I would say all of these were rooted in what I perceived to have been an inadequate emphasis upon the scriptures.

    As you've pointed out in the past, I credit my Brethren upbringing with instilling in me a very strong sense that the scriptures are the only reliable source of true Christian doctrine and practice. I just wish the principle had been applied with more consistency. It was ultimately that perceived inconsistency that led me to look elsewhere.

    And I know that my saying it over and over again doesn't make it true, but I wish I could get my Brethren brethren to understand that I have tried with all my might to keep myself from being taken in any doctrinal direction by anything other than sound exegetical arguments. It's easy to say that my conclusions (unformed as they may be) are based on bad past experiences, or that they are somehow aberrations from an otherwise valid hermeneutic, but until that has been demonstrated to me, I'm just going to have to go on being confusing and off ;)

     
  • At 1:24 PM, Blogger zachd said…

    Danny- Thanks for getting my back on this one. Yes, as I mentioned to Brad, Christ does have real authority, and I did get sidetracked into a discussion of the manifestation of His rule. But,I did hope, as Danny pointed out, that my view of Christ would be clear based on my comments of Colossians.

    As Danny mentioned, the issues I have concern about in the evangelical church are not eschatological in nature, they are on the authority of Scripture and the understanding of the Gospel message.

    There are people, based on their idea of kingdom work, who have begun to confuse what the gospel message really entails. As I read Paul's intro in the book of Galatians, based on the context of the rest of the book, it seems the gospel of Jesus Christ is faith in Him based on His work on the cross. That seems to be priority for us. All other "work" should outflow from the understanding and preaching of this gospel message.

    There are both people who are dispensational and covenantal that have a firm handle on these issues. Again, it is not an eschatological issue or debate.

    As far as Dale's comment, yes, Bono and Derek Webb are two very different people. I like Derek Webb, and I have a couple of his C.D.'s., but I wonder if some do treat these men as authority?

     
  • At 1:29 PM, Blogger zachd said…

    Thanks Danny for letting me join in!!

    Brad- As I read some more of the comments, I realize that as we look at the fine details, we will probably go in circles. If I were to expound on the idea of the Lord's prayer, I would begin asking "Can the kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven mean different things?" or "Are there different aspects of the kingdom." Either way, we would get way off and my eschatological views would become the debate! My point again is how we understand the gospel. Great discussion!

     
  • At 2:33 PM, Blogger BReformed said…

    Your post today reminds me of a farming technique called plowing. Today, plowing is a bit of a rarity because farmers have turned to a "minimum tillage" approach, where the earth is not turned over. There are increasing debates over the wisdom in this faster approach to planting and reaping.

    There's a huge comparison between that example and your post where you ask, "do I bother writing about this?" I think you should bother (and you have.) This kind of unearthing you are doing in your ECM study is what the church continues to need, just as a field needs to be turned over from time to time to yield the best results. It takes time, and it is costly, but the potential return is substantial.

    I appreciate your approach to go mining for Truth against trends, and I think Zach's interjection is both insightful and helpful.

    Please plow. We've had enough minimum tillage.

     
  • At 2:34 PM, Blogger Keith said…

    I guess I'm a bit confused at all of this. I am without compromise or apology in the camp of Biblical inerrancy, authority, sufficiency, expository preaching, etc. I addressed these things as Moderator of the FGBC both in my message at conference last year and my Moderator's Address the previous year. My recent book, Childlike Faith, portrays our Fellowship as people of the Book. I'm concerned, too, as are most in the FGBC, about some of the compromises and dangerous trends of so-called evangelicalism invading our Fellowship. But I hardly see that as a reason to cast doubt upon the whole/majority of the FGBC. You make it seem like there is some vague way in which we are violating or disbelieving Colossians 3. I guess I have not observed that in our Fellowship as a whole. If it is true that there is such a deliberate or even subtle attempt to move the FGBC off of its foundation, that, of course, should be confronted. But the Fellowship should not be called into question in such a broad, sweeping way. I'd rather see specific names and examples rather than personally be accused in the indictment because I am part of the Fellowship. The Fellowship is only us, not some vague institution.

    Keith Shearer

     
  • At 3:07 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    wow,

    who knew a puny little transitional post (consider this just the "oun" between two posts) would garner such attention?

    you're right david, this is just a "tilling post." i'm deliberately moving slow...and it's only going to get slower.

    *keith*

    i love you brother, and hope you do not in anyway believe this is an attack on your church. frankly, i've never visited your church, never heard you preach (i wasn't at conference the years you've spoken), and haven't read "childlike faith" yet (though it is almost to the very top of my "must read" pile...now that 'above all earthly powers' has been completed--excellent book, but sloooow reading,...i should be getting to your book soon, possibly even before this series ends!). yet, from conversations we've had on the phone, our love for some of the same things, and your ocassional comments on this blog...i think we are much of the same heart.

    perhaps this post came across a little shocking...as if i was saying the entire fellowship has given way to compromise. as i said before, i'm working very slowly...so i think in time you'll see that's not my point. my point however, is that there is a crack in the foundation and though we may not see the water damage today, if we do not seal up the crack, we will find ourselves flooded by the concerning things in the emerging/emergent camp within the next decade or so.

    i would argue that some of our resistance to scary ECM trends is due to the fact that we are always behind most movements. we're always on the back side of the wave. (and i do not mean that as a knock...i see that as God's preservation.)

    however, keith....i would like to push back about one issue--you stated:

    y recent book, Childlike Faith, portrays our Fellowship as people of the Book. I'm concerned, too, as are most in the FGBC, about some of the compromises and dangerous trends of so-called evangelicalism invading our Fellowship. But I hardly see that as a reason to cast doubt upon the whole/majority of the FGBC.

    do you remember when i called you almost a year ago? i called you for some pastoral advice (which was brilliant) regarding an issue i believed was biblical but had never seen practiced (though i grew up gbc). you gave me wonderful, biblical, sound and quite helpful advice. and once we were finished with that, we stayed on the line and just chatted some...getting to know each other and hearing of your affection for jonathon edwards.

    near the end of the call, you told me you were refreshed to see such a young pastor who wanted to obey the Scriptural issue i called you about. you said it was refreshing because *few grace brethren churches actually practice this today*. (probably not an exact quote, but certainly the tone of your statement.)

    so now i ask you....if the majority of the fellowship is about the Book, why is it that there are so few of us that honor the issue i had to call you about?

    and i think the issue has to do with colossians 3...which i will explain in future posts.

    until then, please be patient keith. i will tell you, i will not name names (yet). i have seen many guys provide names, examples and churches to establish their point and they are immediately dismissed as divisive, abrasive, arrogant and rude. maybe by the end of this series i'll see the necessity to call out specifics...but not now.

    until then, i'd encourage you that from what i've seen of you and your ministry, these posts are in no way targeted toward your practice. however, the fact that you had to stop and examine yourself and your church...that's a good thing.

    i've been doing the same thing with mine.

     
  • At 3:41 PM, Blogger Keith said…

    Yep - that's what I said! I suspect my comments about the lack of the practice of church discipline were intended to go beyond, but include, the FGBC. I do not know of any groups/denominations/etc. in which all or most of the churches consistently practice biblical church discipline. Praise God for individual churches who do!! And I long to see such godly and holy living restored in our churches for the glory of Christ. So please do expose what needs to be exposed. But realize that there is no other group of churches out there doing it any better.

    Having said all of this, I acknowledge as well that as we continue to approach the end of the end of the age, there will be increasing apostacy and spiritual darkness (2 Thess.2:7, I Tim. 4:1-3, 2 Tim.3:1-9). Christ, through the triumph of His Gospel is preserving His faithful remnant.

     
  • At 4:06 PM, Blogger zachd said…

    Danny,

    I can't help but to comment again. I think as you begin to discuss Colossians 3, you will show us some contrasts between chapter 2 and 3. With 2:12-14 being central in the discussion, My question will then be, "Is the spirituality and good works we are pursuing that of the Colossians, or that which is explained in chapter 3?" This is the very essence of my concern. The heart, if you will, of the issue.

    I look forward to what you have to share in your next few posts.

    Zach

     
  • At 4:46 PM, Blogger Dale Harris said…

    Danny,

    You've got me digging through Colossians today, which is a good thing. But I found something in chapter 2 that hit on a recent conversation we've been having at my blog.

    Verse 16 says, "Therefore don't let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day" (NIV, sorry I forgot my ESV). Anyway, here's what's interesting to me from chapter 2...

    - The hollow, deceptive philosophy appears to be a sort of asceticism that teaches against pleasure and enjoyment. It seems to be a teaching either against the material world (gnosticism) or an over-exaggeration of Jewish law (Judaizers).

    - I'm even more interested that Paul tells them not to let anyone judge them about "New Moon celebrations." I did some quick study by reading up on "new moon celebrations" in the commentary by P. T. O'Brien (probably the best commentary writer I've ever read). He says, "at colossae, however, the sacred days were to be kept for the sake of the 'elemental spirits of the universe,' those astral powers who directed the course of the stars and regulated the order of the calendar. So Paul is not condemning the use of sacred days or seasons as such; it is the wrong motive involved when the observance of these special days is bound up with the recognition of the elemental spirits" (Word Biblical Commentary).

    All that to say, Easter itself seems like a holiday that might have origins is just being a secular special day or calendar marker. By pointing me to Colossians, you actually helped me find biblical defense for arguing that we should allow people to celebrate Easter.

    I'm interested in your thoughts here. Of course, I'm not sure where you're going with Colossians and the big problem facing the church, but I'm a little concerned about how you're going to use chapter 3 in light of chapter 2. And during that, the whole Easter thing popped up since it's fresh in my mind.

     
  • At 6:13 PM, Blogger BReformed said…

    But realize that there is no other group of churches out there doing it any better.

    My brain went to 100% processor load on that one.

     

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