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February 2004

February 18, 2004

I watched with great interest as the Christian world reacted yesterday to Gibson’s interview on Primetime. As I expected, he was the talk of the blogging world yesterday. Meandean over at Blogs4God compiled a partial list of bloggers who wrote about Gibson. (You will have to scroll down a little bit to find the article).

Based on what I read on those blogs and on various forums around the Internet there are three main views of the interview.

  1. Gibson did a great job defending his faith and defending the movie. His comments about salvation being open to all faiths were taken from a different interview and were used grossly out of context. He certainly believes no such thing.
  2. Gibson did a great job defending his faith and defending the movie. His comments about salvation being open to all faiths were unfortunate but do not reflect his true beliefs.
  3. Gibson did a poor job defending his faith and an adequate job defending this movie. His comments about salvation being open to all faiths show that he has little to no understanding of the gospel. He should not be held as an example of a Christian and the movie should be judged on its own merits rather than as a movie made by a Christian.

I received quite a few comments on the article I wrote here. I agree with many of them and especially with what Leslie posted. She said “Let us not hold Mel Gibson up as some beacon of Christianity or somehow tout this movie as worthy because Mel was allegedly inspired to make it.” She also said “Secondly and more importantly,the real take-away from this movie will come near its end when Jesus says on the cross “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. This is the starting point for helping a non-believer understand the redemptive nature of Jesus and His sacrifice. Instead of crying “Revenge”, Jesus cried “Forgive”. Therein lies the difference between Jesus and all of humanity, past, present and future. Focus the non-believer on that point and you are off to a good start.” I agree. Let’s get Mel out of the equation and take the movie on its own.

February 17, 2004

I watched Mel Gibson’s interview on ABC last night with great interest. I must say that generally I was impressed with the way he handled himself. Though at times I became half convinced that he had overdosed on caffeine before the interview, I thought he remained composed and fielded questions quite well.

However, he did stumble in one very important area.

Diane: When we talked with Gibson and his actors, we wondered, does his traditionalist view bar the door to heaven for Jews, Protestants, Muslims?

Mel: That’s not the case at all. Absolutely not. It is possible for people who are not even Christian to get into the kingdom of heaven. It’s just easier. I have to say that because that’s what I believe.

As a matter of fact, that is worse than stumbling. Gibson effectively proved that he has no real understanding of the Gospel message. To say that it is possible to non-Christians to get to heaven is in direct contradiction to what Jesus taught. It is in contradiction to what the epistles teach. It goes against the very basic tenets of Christianity.

Another concern that this interview reinforced is that the movie is being presented as an accurate representation of the gospel story. As Diane Sawyer mentioned, Gibson seems to believe that he had the guidance of the Holy Spirit in writing the movie. At the same time he says that many of the “details” of the movie were inspired by the writings and visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich, a 19th-century German stigmatist and mystic. So Gibson is presenting extra-Biblical revelation as being synoymous with Biblical revelation and is making no distinction between the two.

To echo what I have said before - it is not the movie I have problems with as much as the laud that Gibson is receiving where his faith is being held up by the Protestant world as an extraordinary example. The movie in and of itself may be a wonderful opportunity to reach unbelievers, but indicating that Gibson’s faith is no different from traditional Protestant faith is to make a mockery of Protestantism.

February 17, 2004

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Matthew 4:18-22

For such a simple analogy Jesus’ words about making His disciples fishers of men seems to be misunderstood by so many people. I don’t know how many times I have heard illustrations based on this passage that go something like this:

“We need to be fishers of men. To be effective fishermen we need to have a good fishing rod, we need to use the right kind of bait and we need to reel those unbelievers in!” Admittedly that is simplified, but is indicative of the sort of comment we often hear in connection with this story which is told in both Matthew and Luke.

This passage presents a great example of the value of the inductive method of Bible study (or grammatical-historical hermeneutics). If we impose our modern-day presuppositions about fishing onto this passage we walk away with an interpretation that is foreign to the meaning Jesus intended. Now I am not going to deconstruct this passage today - I am just going to provide some of the ideas Jesus was hoping to convey.

The men Jesus called to be His disciples in this passage were fishermen. Their method of catching fish did not involve rod and reel, though that method certainly did exist in that time and is even mentioned in the Bible (Matthew 17:27). When we think of fishing we often picture a young man sitting on the bank of a creek with a piece of grass in his mouth, snoozing as his line bobs in a river, but this is not the picture of fishing we see in the Bible. Rather, these first-century fishermen used a net to catch their fish. This method involved toss a net overboard and slowly dragging it along, hoping to trap fish in the net. The net would then be hauled back onto the boat, emptied and dropped overboard once again. They would often have to spend time repairing and cleaning their nets. They did not use bait, but rather relied on time and repetitive effort to bring them their catch. This was a time-consuming and often frustrating process. In Luke’s parallel passage we can see some of this frustration. Jesus tells the men to let their net down and Simon answers “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!” The men had spent all night fishing and had nothing to show for their work.

When we understand that Jesus was referring to this difficult, laborious process, we see that there are several meanings we can draw:

  • Jesus was referring to hard work! Evangelism is difficult work and demands that we apply ourselves to it.
  • Jesus was referring to a lack of results. Evangelism is often characterized by lack of results, yet we cannot let the results dictate our enthusiasm and motivation.
  • Jesus was referring to obedience. Reading further in the passage in Luke we see that Peter obediently let down his nets at Jesus’ bidding and immediately hauled in a huge catch - a catch so great that he had to call for help to bring it all in. When we are obedient God will use our work for His purposes.
  • Jesus was referring to dependence. Simon’s bountiful catch had nothing to do with his skill or his technique. He had spent the entire night using all of his own ability and had nothing to show for it. But when he realized that his own ability could do nothing God was able to use him.
  • Jesus was referring to God’s plan. God’s plan is that many come to repentance, not just a few.

There is great depth of meaning in this passage. When we interpret it through first century eyes rather than through our perspective we can see the meaning that Jesus intended.

February 16, 2004

If I were to use the average church outreach program as a guide, I would have to assume that the average non-Christian is lazy, stupid, ignorant, unwilling to learn and suffering from attention deficit disorder. He has two kids that he loves but never spends any time with, leaving him racked with guilt. He is trying to hold a marriage together but his wife ranks a distant second to his career.

It really seems that this is the way many Christians regard unbelievers. Consider, for example, Bible translations. Though most Christians were brought to the Lord through an “old-fashioned version of the Bible,” those translations are apparently much too difficult for today’s unbelievers. After all, who could understand a difficult translation like “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” when we could use something so much easier like “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” Why would we want to give them God’s literal words and make them think when we could do the thinking for them? I recently heard a person in a Christian bookstore explaining to someone how difficult the New International Version is and convinced the patron to purchase The Message. If I was an unbeliever I would consider this insulting! The NIV is easily readable and understandable by anyone with even an elementary-level education.

Or what about preaching? We seem to believe that despite the fact that we all sit through two or three hour lectures all the way through post-secondary education, when it comes to preaching it had better be fifteen minutes or less or we will lose their attention. Having been raised in a television-saturated culture we assume they no longer possess the ability to sit still for more than 22 minutes. So we shorten the preaching and change it to feel more like a casual talk than expository preaching of the Word.

We no longer pray in church, believing that time dedicated to prayer will drive away “seekers.” Whatever happened to good old-fashioned congregational prayer? Our perception of the unbeliever’s attention deficit disorder has made us lose this practice.

Even our music shows the way we regard unbelievers. We somehow think that four verses of a hymn will bore them to tears, so we cut our music down to short choruses (which, ironically, we repeat ten or twelve times).

It is ironic that in an age where we so highly regard the New Testament church, we seem to lose sight of what made that church so great. Throughout Acts we read about the first Christians “praying continually,” “searching the Scriptures,” and studying doctrine. Yet in our churches we so often suppress the Scriptures, pray only before the offering and push doctrine away altogether. We do all of this to remain inoffensive to unbelievers.

I think unbelievers come to church looking for something different. If they wanted exactly what they experience in their daily lives, they would not need church. If a man sits in an office for eight hours a day why do we try to give him the exact same look and feel on his day off? Churches get noticed by being different, not by being the same. Let’s take pride in our differences and trust that God will use these to reach people for Him, just as he did with the earliest church.

February 15, 2004

THIS DAY IN JESUSNAME WE MEET

This day in Jesus’ Name we meet,
Our Lord, Redeemer, King;
This day around Thy mercy seat
We all Thy praises sing;
Thou gavest us this day of rest,
Of holiness divine;
Lend comfort to each troubled breast,
And make us ever Thine.

Oppressed with earthly toil and pains
The weary week did close;
Yet God’s own day of peace remains
When spirits seek repose.
Let Sunday’s sweet refreshing dew
All with’ring cares dispel;
Let Sabbath joys our strength renew,
Help us Thy goodness tell.

Be with us, as Thy servant asks,
Thy mercies to prolong;
Grant that by prayer we know our tasks,
Let incense rise with song.
O may this be a day of light
To nations far and near;
Let all men see Thy visage bright,
Thy loving message hear.

Words: Frederick R. Daries, 1916

February 14, 2004

My reading in Proverbs today seemed to fit nicely with Valentine’s Day. Proverbs 12:4 reads “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.” Naturally my thoughts today tend towards my wife anyways and this seemed to be confirmation of what I already felt. I then turned to the very end of the book where we find a poem dedicated to the virtuous wife. We do not get the full impact of this poem when reading it in english as in the original language it is an acrostic with each verse beginning with the next letter of the hebrew alphabet.

In Proverbs 31 I read “[the worth of a virtuous wife] is far above rubies…the heart of her husband safely trusts her…she opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness…she shall be praised.” Her reward shall be this: “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also and he praises her: ‘many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.’

I am blessed to have a wife that is worth the world to me. I trust her with all my heart and look to her for wisdom and kindess. Though my children are young, they already praise her for being a wonderful, godly mommy. Her love keeps our family cemented together and I do believe that of “many daughters” she truly does excel them all. I thank God for Aileen continually - for her godliness, wisdom, industriousness and love.

February 13, 2004

I love television. I love to be able to turn my mind off at the end of a hard day’s work and just lie back on the couch with nothing more to think about than who will be the next person voted off the island. I love following the lives of fictional characters whose lives seem so much more interesting (and funny) than my own. I love a good whodunit, trying to determine which of the good guys is actually a bad guy. I love football, hockey and baseball – some of the best forms of entertainment available.

I hate television. I hate how it makes me turn my mind off, causing me to stop thinking about the important and interesting things I have learned during the day. I hate telling my kids to shush because I don’t want to miss the punch line of a great episode of a sitcom. I hate following the lives of people who don’t exist whose lives are so immoral and godless. I hate seeing my son watching an almost-naked body on television or having him see a dead child on the screen. I hate watching hours of football, hockey and baseball – some of the most mindless entertainment available.

I love what I hate. I love to watch television, though I know most of it has no redeeming value whatsoever. I profess to know that what goes into a mind comes out in a life, yet don’t think I can be affected by filling my mind with garbage. I want my son to be raised with a respect for what is right and wrong, yet continually justify what is wrong because I don’t want to turn off my show. I know that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, yet love to turn mine off. I am a hypocrite.

Why does television have such a hold on me? Why do I not have the self-control to just turn it off? To just walk away? All I can determine is that turning off my mind is addictive. I like to be amused. The word “amuse” comes from Greek words meaning “not thinking” and that is exactly what I seem to enjoy. I enjoy not having anything deep or exciting to think about. I enjoy mindlessness. And perhaps even worse, if I did open my mind I would see all sorts of behavior that contradicts my beliefs.

That is a sobering thought. Where God tells me to fill my mind with purity and holiness, I prefer either to turn it off altogether or fill it with trash.

I have invested a lot of time and consideration into the places where Christian’s lives disconnect from their faith. Or said differently, where the walk disconnects from the talk. For me, I know this is one of those areas. I say one thing but consistently contradict what I say with what I actually do.

Now please don’t think that I am against television altogether and am advocating putting a hammer through your (or my) TV. And don’t think that I watch ridiculous amounts of TV. I just know that this is an area in my life that I am holding back, unwilling to let God change me. I am stubbornly refusing to give up this addiction, denying God the right to use that time for His purposes.

February 12, 2004

I have an article nearly written but it seems that real life continues to get in the way of blogging. I have about 10 Web projects underway at the moment, not to mention a family, friends and a church that all seem to want a bit of attention! I will post the article tomorrow and try to do some good writing on the weekend so I can actually put some worthwhile content on this site again! I have a friend who would like to write an occasional guest column, so that should be fun. I am thinking of starting an area for occassional guest writers, especially those without blogs of their own who have something they would like to say to the world (or the few hundred people in the world who choose to drop by here on a daily basis).

Mel Gibson recently said in an interview that he does not believe that there is salvation outside of the Roman Catholic Church. When pressed he had to admit that this even applies to his wife who is non-Catholic. This quote is suddenly appearing in articles all over the place. I wonder how the Protestant world will reach to this since he is definitely a hero to most Christians at the moment. I suspect most people will not care. It will be interesting to see if this is a topic that will come up in his interview on Primetime this Monday.

Jeremy Hoover sent me a link to this article. It is the beginning of a “Scholarly Smackdown” where “a liberal professor and a conservative professor debate the movie, the Bible, theology and more.” It is going to be an ongoing debate. The first session opens with interesting discussions regarding the appropriateness of showing sadistic acts of violence and possibly leading people to think that Jesus’ suffering was what saves us. This promises to be an interesting discussion!