Thursday, March 6, 2008


Right now, I'm taking a class on the New Testament. Granted, I'm at a secular college, but I had no idea it would be like this. I had an idea that it might challenge my beliefs, for sure, but man, I wasn't ready to actually stand for them.

To say that the gospels are free of contradictions in class today might have been the most difficult thing for me to say in class. I said it, perhaps without thinking, but nonetheless, the words came out of my mouth. I never got a chance to defend my belief, but I at least made it known.

In doing so, I fear that I have jeopardized my academic legitimacy. All of a sudden, I've become a young-earth inerrantist, a person who has no business at a liberal arts college. This is difficult also, because the professor with whom the exchange was made is my academic advisor. He's forgotten my name, but he probably won't forget it again, now that I've stated that I hold such an unacceptable viewpoint. I got on his bad side I can tell, because he misunderstood something that I said later on in the class, and snapped a little.

Now I'm freaking out, because all of a sudden, living my faith has me walking on limbs that are being cut from underneath me. It's not a pleasant feeling, not in any way.Just what can I do about it? I'm not sure.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Relevance: a gateway drug

I was listening to ESPN radio this morning; it makes me feel more masculine, you know, because men like sports. Honestly, I enjoy the one show where sports seem to be less of a priority. The host was talking about the Oscars, almost lamenting the fact that Americans had not seen the Best Picture Nominees. He spoke of a battle in Hollywood: do we produce smart movies and remain true to our art, or do we make money?

This point was intriguing to me, insightful into American culture at large. Then, a pastor calls up, I think he was from Pennsylvania. He said, "I'm going for my Ph. D. I find that the more educated I become, the harder it is to connect with people. I played a Linkin Park song at church today because that's what people are listening to."

I had to laugh, even though I wanted to cry. In the name of relevance and connection, this pastor was not using his education. He overlooked the integrity of his theology. Was he actually preaching the Gospel? I can't really say, as I didn't hear the sermon. However, it brought to mind a problem that seems to be growing in American churches. Biblical preaching is being replaced by relevant preaching. Relevant preaching is dangerous. It can lead to all kinds of heresy, BUT it will make a church popular.

People go to church looking for something they can use. Most times, the Gospel isn't the first thing on their minds. One need not go as far as prosperity to reach this phenomenon either. Take my home church as an example. When I was growing up, I hardly ever heard of sin. Sin is important, and actually quite easy for most of us to talk about. After all, we are experts in the field. I was saved, I was redeemed, though I never knew from what, exactly. It's funny because sin applies to everyone, making it perhaps the most relevant topic of discussion today (is that why it shows up so often in the Bible?).

Yet, most pastors seem to be promoting and protecting the congregation's self-esteem. They say, "You gotta feel good about yourselves folks. Why? Because God loves you, and He sent His Son to die for you." If they're a prosperity preacher, they'll add, in Osteen-esque fashion, "He died for you so that you can achieve total victory over sickness, poverty, and hardship." That's all well and good, but I don't need him to die to get most of those things.

What would a congregation do if a preacher said: "You're dirty, filthy unclean sinners! You are unfit for God to look upon, and are destined for Hell, unless you repent! Your hearts are darker than even you can fathom!....(congregation mutters: "How dare he say that about ME).... I know....I'm one of you, but Jesus loves me, and He died to save me from His Father's wrath in spite of my sins. "

What an unpopular message. What an irrelevant message! The congregation won't relate to that!

Do they have to relate to make it true? Or can I be countercultural?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Repentance, and a little more

No time for introductions....right to the first'll get to know me soon enough.

I'm sitting in a public computer lab at a secular college, listening to Amy Grant. Why would I do such a thing?? I'm at the college because I'm a student there. I'm listening to music older than I, because I am lamenting the decay of Christian music. Not only is some of it musically undesirable, but also overly saccharine, theologically void. Once in a while though, I run into a song that is more than just theologically permissible, or maybe an artist's library. One such artist is Derek Webb. From the beginning of his work with Caedmon's call, he exhibits an honesty in his lyrics that is uncommon in Christian music. I noticed this from the beginning, and went and saw him live. THEN, I got saved, or maybe I just became aware of my salvation. Now, some of his honest lyrics cut like knives. Here's one such stanza:

I repent, I repent
of parading my liberty.
I repent, I repent
of paying for what i get for free,
and for the way I believe
that i am living right
by trading sins for others that are easier to hide.
I am wrong, and of these things
I repent.

I freaked out a bit. This was the most relevant piece of songwritiung I'd heard in reference to American Christians, in reference to even my own Christian life. It's easy to think you've defeated sin when you reduce theft to jealousy, or promiscuity to lust. I must say, I do just that. To stop the action but continue the thought is no less sinful. Why is it, then, that so many preachers focus on "big sins" and let their parishoners continue in the little sins of life? We're all about appearances, aren't we? I know I am.

Go up to the altar! Go ahead! Get prayed for and shrug it off as you walk out the back! Get "saved" and act like scum. Everybody's doing it! doesn't work that way. It can't.