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November 2005

November 30, 2005

Over the weekend I posted a brief review of the film To End All Wars and indicated that, while it was quite a good movie, I would hesitate to recommend it because of the amount of swearing it contains. That comment led to some discussion over at Boars Head Tavern and another blog or two. Joe Carter also wrote a lengthy article entitled “What the @*&#…? A Christian Critique of Swearing” in which he discussed my position among others. As I read critiques of my Puritanical outlook on swearing I realized that I have an underdeveloped “theology of profanity” - I know what I believe about the issue, but not why I beleve it. And so, as I usually do, I began to research and write. This article and one which I hope will follow tomorrow will be the fruits of my effort.

Judging by what I have read on this topic it seems to be a prerequisite that the person writing affirm his ability to swear. So let me assure you that I can swear as well (or as poorly, depending on your perspective) as anyone. Being raised in a Christian home and attending a Christian school, though certainly great blessings, did not negate the desire to learn and use the rich, vulgar vocabulary so prevelant in society. One does not have to be a Marine or a member of the Air Force to swear. So while I am perfectly capable of doing so, like most Christians, I have found that as I have grown in holiness, my swearing has slowed accordingly. Or, as Joe Carter said, “that the further along I tread on the path to sanctification the less I feel the need to use such language myself.”

Too many people, when discussing this issue, approach from what I feel is the wrong perspective. When we examine any issue of morality, ethics or Christian living we should not approach from the perspective of “what can I get away with?” but of “how Christ-like can I be.” So let’s approach from that perspective, not seeking license but seeking absolute purity and conformity to God’s perfect standards.

A common argument against limiting vocabulary is that God did not include in the Bible a list of forbidden words. This, of course, would not have been possible as words, along with their meanings, change from culture-to-culture and from language-to-language. My purpose is not to provide a list of words that a Christian can say with a clear conscience and another that, when uttered, will require repentance and forgiveness. That would be satisfyingly legalistic, but would also be both unrealistic and unbiblical.

We should also note that words are deemed profane not on the basis of something intrinsic to a combination of letters or sounds but on the basis of their cultural understanding. You have probably heard, as I have, of people with names that, in one society would be considered profane while in others they have an entirely different meaning (by way of example, “Fuk” is, I believe, an acceptable Korean name). Words, then, have a meaning that is extrinsic to their combination of letters or sounds. Meaning is assigned within a language and even within a society. That the letter combination s-h-i-t spells a word that is considered profane while the letters p-o-o-p do not, is societal convention. We may be tempted to decide that this is ludicrous and declare emancipation from such societal silliness, but the fact is that words carry with them meaning, in both denotation and connotation. We cannot seperate these two. While words have only extrinsic meaning, it cannot be denied that they do have meaning and they are used to communicate ideas or sentiments. Thus the extrinisic meaning is what determines whether a word is acceptable or profane.

Before we begin, I feel it is important that we realize that the tongue is not an isolated instrument in the body. The tongue or the mouth speaks for the heart. Said otherwise, what proceeds from the mouth is a sure indication of what is in the heart. If a mouth pours forth filth, it is a sure indication that there is also a filthy heart. If a tongue spews forth rebellion, there is rebellion in the heart. If the tongue pours out praise, there is godly joy in the heart. We see this most clearly in the books of Proverbs and James. “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth” (Proverbs 10:20). Note the parallel between the tongue and the heart. ” So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5). So while in this brief article we may be examining words, the issue strikes deeper - as deep as the heart.

We will not discuss swearing at another person, nor will we discuss using blasphemous words, for those are both clearly forbidden in the greatest and the second greatest commandments. Using a profane word to describe another person is wrong on a deeper level than merely the words used for it shows that there is anger and hatred towards that person. Thus these words are merely a sympton of a far deeper problem. The same is true of blasphemous words uttered against God. What we will discuss, then, is the idle or flippant use of words that society has deemed to be profane. These are the words you might use to describe defecatory activities or the words you might scream when you stub your toe. We all know them far too well.

As with all matters of morality we must begin with the Bible, since, as Protestants, we believe it to be our only infallible guide for matters of life and faith. We need to look at this from two angles: from the angle of what is forbidden in Scripture and from the angle of what is commanded. We will turn to that discussion in our next article.

November 30, 2005

Wednesday November 30, 2005

Politics: WorldNetDaily is reporting that Swedish pastor Ake Green has been acquitted of hate crime charges after condemning homosexuality.

Du Jour: Jacob Hantla, borrowing from Tim Irvin’s article which I posted the other day, lists blogs he feels are “consistently godlike in their tone, manner, and content.” I am flattered that this site made the list.

Community Blog: Ochuk posts a rather transparent and even controversial article in the Community Blog in which he reflects on a “blog war.”

Entertainment: Media watchdogs are crying foul over new video games that feature graphic scenes of cannibalism. Institute president David Walsh warned that “today’s games are ‘more extreme’ and more easily available to underage kids than ever before [and] cited increases of 3,000 percent in profanity and 800 percent in sexual content in M-rated games since the 1990s.”

November 29, 2005

This week’s King for a Week award goes to Laura who blogs at A Practice in Belief and is also a member of the Intellectuelle crew. Laura is one of the very few teen bloggers I read and certainly the one that has edified me the most. She is also the first recipient of the King for a Week award to be nominated by one of my readers. The person who nominated Laura commended her with the words, “She shows that youth does not equal a lack of knowledge and wisdom.” I could not agree more.

I continue to accept nominations for King of the Week. If you have a site you would like to nominate, feel free to do so by clicking on the “suggest” button below the King of the Week box.

November 29, 2005

Last week I was made aware of a family in Chattanooga that I feel could desperately use the prayers of other believers. This is a family that has come under a time of intense pain the likes of which few people will ever experience. As I read their story, I found the faith of this family absolutely inspiring and I just pray to the Lord that, if I come under a time of such pain and torment, my faith will hold up as theirs has.

Andy Mendonsa is the director of Widow’s Harvest Ministries, a ministry based on the biblical mandate found in James 1:27 for “pure and undefiled” worship of God by “visiting the widow in their distress.” The ministry assists widows in their spiritual and physical needs. “Widows Harvest Ministries meets many of these needs by trying to form lasting friendships with all of the widows we come into contact with as well as providing home maintenance and repair services on their homes including: plumbing, roofing, painting, electrical and lawn care.” Andy is married with two teenage children, Asher and Hadrienne.

On May 24, 2005 Asher Mendonsa, Andy’s son, a seventeen year old boy, fell through a hole at the top of the abandoned Parkway Towers in Chattanooga. He had been taking photographs of the building when he fell more than five stories. He suffered a compound fracture of the right femur, bruised lungs, trauma on the front of his brain and two fractured vertebrae around his neck. He fell into a deep coma.

The day after Asher’s accident his father wrote the following on a website dedicated to his son:

after i went home that night and cried and cried and tried to pray and to get God to heal my son, i fell asleep and woke up the next morning feeling like i was standing back down at the foot of mt everest and had to start climbing back up all over again. before i went to bed that night, though, i had climbed back up to the top, but instead of looking down at my feet, like i had been for most of the day, i was suddenly looking out over a great expanse and i realized that everything that is happening to us is somehow fitting into this great expanse. God has a much greater purpose and, for whatever the reason, this horrible and excruciating pain that we are all in is helping us all to reach the mountain top so that we can all share in our understanding for this great expanse that God wants us to behold.

Through the following days Asher underwent multiple surgeries to try to repair various parts of his body. On the 2nd of June his father wrote:

I love my son and if any amount of money could be paid to fix him, or to relieve my family from this suffering I would. For the past 2 nights as we have prayed with asher and told him goodnight, Gloria has left him broken and in tears. The thought of leaving him alone by himself all night with neither one of us to hold his hand, and neither one of us to be there if he were to wake up, is just more than she can bare. I find it very hard to bare myself. But the amazing thing that I have just realized tonight is that with every step that we take away from asher, each night, we actually take a step closer in our trust of God.

Asher slowly awoke from his coma and entered a long, difficult period of rehabilitation. The family moved, temporarily, to Atlanta to be near Asher through his long recovery.

On July 11 the Mendonsa family suffered another setback, though one far less serious. An oak tree, one of the largest in the city, fell on their home in the midst of a serious storm that swept through the area. The house suffered serious damage to the roof and to much of the interior. Andy had an optimistic perspective:

it actually could have been so much worse. a chimney on the front of the house, that crumbled above the roof line when the tree landed on it, also kept the tree from sinking down any deeper into the house, because below the roof line the chimney remained intact all the way to the dirt floor in the basement below the house. if the chimney had not held the tree up, given it’s excessive weight, it would have most likely gone all the way through to the first floor where our house and dog sitter, kayb, was sleeping. we all just have so much to be thankful for, even in the midst of the realization that we are, in a very real sense, homeless. actually, we are beginning to feel more like refugees than homeless people.

You can see pictures of the damage here.

On November 12, Andy posted a short entry entitled “More Family Crisis” in which he shared that his step-father had fallen and broken his hip. By the 17th he was posting thanks for the prayers and saying that the family crisis had stabilized. His step-father had undergone a successful surgery and was on the road to recovery.

But then, on November 19th Andy posted the following:

i just recieved word my daughter, hadrienne has been in a car accident in chattanooga and is in critical condition at erlanger hospital. please pray. i am on my way there and gloria and asher are staying here. please pray for all of us.

According to a newspaper article in the Chattanoogan, “Friends said Hadrienne and her two friends were leaving to go to the midnight showing of the Harry Potter movie. They said their vehicle was partly out onto Mountain Creek Road when they spotted a vehicle coming at them. They tried to back up, but could not avoid being hit.”

The next morning, under the heading of “IN ALL THINGS GIVE THANKS TO OUR HEAVENLY FATHER IN CHRIST JESUS NAME,” Andy broke the news that Hadrienne had died. “We loved our daughter so much. we miss her so much and the pain is so great that it is unbearable. there is so much that needs to be done now, and we don’t even know where to begin… a conversation i had with hadrienne some months ago after tommy haymes passed away keeps going through my mind. she expressed some half joking and half serious concern to me about wondering whether she might be next. i assured her that she wouldn’t. oh dear lord have mercy on us.”

Hadrienne, a beautiful nineteen year old girl, was laid to rest on the 23rd of November following a service at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga. Reflecting on the death of his daughter, Andy wrote the following: “Since asher has been out of his coma and regained so much of his cognitive abilities he has expressed much anger and disbelief in god. he now tells us since hadrienne is gone his faith and trust in god has been restored. without hadrienne he says that he does not have the strength by himself to go on. it was hadrienne, he said, that had been giving him that strength.” God has already worked good from evil.

Andy has not updated the web site since the funeral. I trust that the family is undergoing a time of great difficulty now as they surely wonder why another tragedy has befallen them. I cannot imagine having to make sense of what must seem so senseless. I would ask that we - as the church, and even as people who live hundreds or thousands of miles away from these people - surround this family with prayer. We know that God is their only hope for finding meaning and comfort. I pray that He will comfort them with His sure promise that He is in control and that nothing happens outside of His will. So let’s hold them up in prayer as is our privilege as members of the same body.

If you are interested in learning more about the Mendonsa family, you can read Andy’s blog. It contains a chronological listing of posts going back to the day of Asher’s accident. You may also wish to read about Widow’s Harvest Ministries.

November 29, 2005

Tuesday November 29, 2005

Gift: Looking for a unique gift for that special woman in your life? Or how about special Christmas cards? Why not consider handmade pressed flower cards? Visit Elizabeth’s Flowers.

Theology: For the benefit of cessationists Ryan Jones shares what a Reformed Charismatic church service looks like. It’s the five solas with a prophecy mic!

Christmas: Liz Curtis Higgs writes shares “how this mall-impaired woman handles the holidays.”

Blogspotting: Chris Giammona comments on Rick Warren: Three Primary Concerns:
“We need to ask whether or not Purpose Driven Life truly accurately reflects the Bible’s teaching on self-denial. We need to ask whether it accurately reflects the gospel’s emphases on law, grace, depravity, sin, justification, sanctification, holiness, faith and Lordship?”

November 28, 2005

In the past couple of years there have been a few books written specifically to challenge the teachings and assumptions of Rick Warren’s mega-seller The Purpose Driven Life. Some of these have also discussed other Purpose Driven material and the man who has produced this successful franchise. These books have sometimes been criticized for being alarmist or for providing an unfair treatment of the subject matter. While I, having read all of that material, generally do not agree with the criticisms, I am quite sure no one could lodge those complaints against Bob DeWaay’s new book, Redefining Christianity.

Redefining Christianity is a book that has much to say on the topics of Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life and other aspects of the Purpose Driven paradigm. Despite that focus it would not be correct to say that this is a book about Rick Warren or about anything he has written or dreamed up. This is, plain and simply, a book about the gospel of Jesus Christ. The underlying message of DeWaay’s book, as might be deduced from the title, is that Rick Warren, despite all his popularity and success, has redefined many critical aspects of the Christian faith. He has redefined church, vision, Christian commitment, God’s wisdom, church health and even the gospel itself. This book, then, is primarily focused not on Rick Warren but on his treatment of the gospel.

Here is a concise summary of DeWaay’s thesis:

The version of Christianity that Rick Warren presents to world leaders redefines the message of the first century apostles. The key difference is that the Biblical version did not appeal to the world; it appealed only to those who were converted. Warren’s version is popular with the world. Rick Warren has designed a message that appeals to religious consumers whether or not the Holy Spirit has convicted them of their sins. He has devised a business system to mass-market this message to the world. Through his system, he has created a way for pastors to share his success. The sheer effectiveness of this system is rapidly transforming evangelicalism. This transformation is not just a transformation of practice; it is a transformation of message. The change in the practice makes it transferable across a wide spectrum of denominational and theological affiliations. The change in the message makes it acceptable to a wide range of religious consumers.

In this statement, and indeed in the book, he captures the essence of what has made the Purpose Driven paradigm so popular and the foremost ways in which this paradigm diverges from Scripture. Through ten chapters and just over 200 pages, DeWaay provides strong evidence to support his claims. Allow me to provide a brief overview of each of the ten chapters. While I rarely employ this technique in book reviews, I believe that in this case it will be instructive and will allow the reader to understand the systematic way in which the author builds his case.

  1. Rick Warren’s Ministry Philosophy. DeWaay begins by examining the men who influenced Rick Warren, and in particular, Donald McGavran who, as the founder of the discipline that came to be known as “missiology” is considered the father of the Church Growth Movement. He shows the shaky and unbiblical assumptions that form the foundation for this philosophy including the concepts of people movements and felt needs. Ultimately, the Church Growth Movement allows the unbeliever to determine the message of the church and even the mode used to deliver it. “The key idea is very simple: change the Sunday Morning church service so that non-Christians will not only attend it, but enjoy it and keep coming back.” What becomes lost in such an approach is, of course, what people most need to hear but least want to hear and that is the full gospel message. One cannot preach that message in completeness and with boldness and remain seeker-friendly.

  2. Redefining the Church. The second chapter wades into the issue of redefinitions. “Rather than clearly preaching the Gospel to all, knowing that God promised to use it in spite of its inherent offense to call forth His sheep from the midst of the world, Warren would like to change the nature of the church and its message so it appears attractive to people as they are in their unregenerate state.” Church Growth succeeds admirably in growing the visible church (those who at least appear to be believers) but, by stopping short of proclaiming the full message of the gospel, cannot do much to grow the invisible church (those who actually are believers). In this chapter DeWaay also discusses unity, showing that the type of unity called for by Rick Warren is not the same as the Bible’s concept of unity. “The redefined church of the Church Growth Movement has mostly ignored the matter of the invisible church. They use the best means available based on pragmatic tests to make the visible church as big as possible… If happy religious consumers living better lives than they had outside of the church is the test of validity, then these huge and rapidly growing churches must be right. I do not believe, however, there is anything in the New Testament that validates seeking to maximize the visible church by means that tend to strangle the invisible one.”

  3. Redefining Vision. Not only has Rick Warren redefined the church but he has also redefined the biblical concept of vision. Vision is a crucial aspect of Warren’s strategy yet, despite providing supposed biblical proof to the contrary, the way he uses this term is different than the way it is used in Scripture where it refers to a type of true or false special revelation. Within the Purpose Driven paradigm, vision is used in a business sense in which a person plans for a future he hopes to implement. Yet those who do not catch the vision of the leadership within a Purpose Driven church are considered dissenters and are often driven from the ranks.

  4. Redefining Christian Commitment. “In the Bible, Christian commitment is based on faith in Christ, and dependence on Him for grace to walk obediently in His ways… Now we have Rick Warren bringing back the hyper piety of pre-Reformation Rome through nothing less than religious oaths, touting this as a ‘reformation.’” Much of the commitment of members of Purpose Driven churches is based on covenants some of which are even declared irrevocable. DeWaay teaches in this chapter that oaths and covenants are forbidden within a New Testament context. To write such covenants and to demand them as a display of solidarity is an egregious offense against the members of a church. He highlights the irony that exists between the Reformation, where Protestants came to see that oaths were forbidden in the Scriptures, and Warren’s supposed second reformation where they are once more required.

  5. The “Gospel” According to The Purpose Driven Life. In fifth chapter the author shows how Warren continually changes or obscures the key issues of the biblical gospel. He shows that God’s purposes do not need to be discovered, for those that God wished to make available to us have already been clearly revealed in His Word. He also points out the difficulties inherent in The Purpose Driven Life which makes little in the way of distinction between believer and unbeliever, extending the same claims and promises to both groups. The offense of the gospel, for which so many Christians have suffered, has largely been removed from Rick Warren’s teachings. An incomplete gospel, one that denies key aspects such as God’s wrath or Jesus’ resurrection, is no gospel at all.

  6. How Misused Bible Translations Support a Journey of Self-discovery. Rick Warren makes much of the two thousand references to Scripture in his book. Yet it takes more than citations from Scripture to make a book biblical for it must also present the Word of God accurately and unashamedly. “Warren’s solution to the problem [of an offensive gospel] is to use his marketing acumen to circumvent the resistance of the target audience. His plan is to draw from dozens of translations (including loose paraphrases), to choose the ones that will support the motif of a journey of self-discovery (already proven to be popular with the world), mix these various Bible citations with citations of popular worldly writers that seem to be saying the same thing, and make a seamless, religious product that speaks the world’s language but appears to come right out of the Bible. Genius! The result is The Purpose Driven Life. This is the product for the Purpose Driven Church to market to religious consumers.” As has been shown by many reviewers since the publication of the book, The Purpose Driven Life is replete with Scripture used out of context or passages provided in translations that bear no resemblance to the original text. In a clear case of giving credit where credit is due, but still highlighting problems, DeWaay says the following: “One could conclude that Rick Warren is unable to do solid Biblical exegesis, and that the cases highlighted above, and many others, are caused by a simple preacher trying his best, but lacking scholarly tools, but this is not the case. On pages 195 and 196 he offers solid, well reasoned, and accurate exegesis of Romans 8:28-29.27 I was surprised when I found this quality of Biblical interpretation in a book filled with just the opposite. This proves that Warren is capable of sound Biblical interpretation and teaching when he sees fit. My question is, ‘If he is capable of expounding the truth of a passage accurately, what excuse does he have for not doing so with hundreds of other passages?’”

  7. Redefining God’s Wisdom. Rick Warren has defined God’s wisdom by making it appear to be little more than human wisdom. He often makes grandiose claims that are unsupported by Scripture and may even stand opposed to Scripture. In doing so he provides a message that is little different than the message of popular psychology and human self-discovery. He goes so far as to quote wholly unreliable sources of spiritual wisdom such as George Bernard Shaw and Anais Nin, not to mention several Roman Catholic sources. DeWaay goes so far as to provide an extensive list of instances of “Warren’s practice of combining human wisdom with poor translations or out of context Scripture that promotes his human wisdom as if it were God’s wisdom, which it is not.” Some of these include: Paul’s “secret” was a focused life; How you define life determines your destiny; There are “secrets” to friendship with God; The truth is-you are as close to God as you choose to be; You are only as sick as your secrets. “According to his own public statements, Rick Warren’s message has broad appeal, even to members of other religions. Part of the secret of his success is his ability to integrate his own aphorisms with statements from people the world admires, combining these with partial Biblical passages taken out of context, to create a hybrid message that is simultaneously marketed to the world and the evangelical church. Everyone gets something they like.”

  8. The Problem with Private Confession. In this chapter the author wrestles with a question that has often perplexed myself and many others. “Rick Warren believes the orthodox truths of the Christian faith. He has documents that say so. Insiders at Saddleback Church say that they know Warren is orthodox. However, when I read The Purpose Driven Life I saw many teachings that are very different from historical orthodoxy. How can this be?” How is it that what Rick Warren confesses when among Christians is so different from what we hear from him when given a public venue in which to speak? DeWaay teaches, with great sensitivity towards a difficult topic, that true profession must be public and consistent. It is what is publically stated, not privately confessed, that is taught by the Bible as being grounds for knowing a person’s faith. This consistency is lacking in Warren’s ministry and this has been shown in his media appearances and in much of his writing. Rick Warren “presents a disjunction between what he confesses privately to evangelical Christians, and what he confesses publicly to a worldly audience.” DeWaay provides, in this regard, the example of Peter who was rebuked by Paul for publically denying in action what he privately knew to be true - that there was equality between Jew and Gentile. A partial denial, as shown in Peter’s earlier denial of Jesus, is as good as a complete denial.

  9. The Purpose Driven Brand. The book now turns to a discussion of the Purpose Driven brand. The author shows that Purpose Driven, like the franchising models so popular in the world of business, allows a pastor of limited means, skills and capabilities, to enjoy all the success of Rick Warren. Purpose Driven is “church-in-a-box” much as McDonald’s is “burger-in-a-box.” He shows how leverage is applied to maximize the impact of the paradigm and also discusses the importance of vision casting and mission statements. I believe the following is one of the most important points made in this book: “I hope my readers see what is going on. These change agents make all the definitions, compare us to the church as they define it, declare us failures, then offer us “success” if we join their programs. Dear fellow Christians and specifically church leaders, this is American marketing pure and simple: define a problem so that you convince nearly everyone they have it, then sell them the solution. In this case the goal may not be to make money. In Rick Warren’s case, I do not think he wants money for his own benefit; I think he wants his “reformation” to succeed and go down in history as a reformer like Martin Luther. He wants to create a version of Christianity that the world loves.” “What he ‘invented’ was how to harness the latest technology, marketing strategies, management systems; couple those with a message that appeals to the unregenerate mind; then put the whole thing ‘in-a-box’ and replicate it around the world. This revival bears no resemblance to what happened in Acts. What happened in Acts was a work of the Holy Spirit through the means of uncompromised Gospel preaching. The P.E.A.C.E. plan does not depend on the Holy Spirit but on the wisdom of man.”

  10. Who Determines “Church Health,” Jesus Christ or Rick Warren? The final chapter compares Rick Warren’s definition of church health with that of Jesus Christ. Using seven churches in Revelation, DeWaay shows just how little resemblance there is. “The key Purpose Driven principles and protocols are very different from those in the New Testament that describe a church pleasing to Jesus Christ. If those of the New Testament prevail, the result is a church that is pleasing to Christ. If those of Rick Warren prevail, the result is a church popular with religious consumers in the world, but which is much different from Jesus’ ‘little flock.’”

    All of this leads DeWaay to warn:

    “Warren has so redefined the major issues (the Gospel, the Bible, the church, fellowship, worship, discipleship, evangelism, and missions), he has effectively re-defined Christianity. The new version of Christianity is popular with the world. This version has avoided the outcome that Jesus predicted to His disciples: “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). The world loves a P.E.A.C.E. plan which promises to solve the problems they want solved. The problem is that the world hates the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May we boldly proclaim that Gospel so that God will use it to save some from His coming wrath. May we shun the lure of popularity and success offered by Warren’s redefined Christianity. It is so much better to be pleasing to Jesus Christ.”

    There will be some who will doubt the author’s motivations in writing such a book. Some will accuse him of jealousy or of nitpicking. Others will no doubt label him a troublemaker. Those who find that they doubt his intentions or motivations may wish to begin at the end, as it were, with “A Loving Appeal to Rick Warren.” The book concludes with what is clearly a sincere, heartfelt plea for Rick Warren to return to the full message of the gospel, a message he surely knows but chooses to ignore. This appeal shows the heart of a pastor. The gospel is never far from the heart and mind of a godly pastor and this is clearly the case with Pastor DeWaay. His concern is with the gospel, and well should it be. Jesus Christ has not entrused the church with a message of purpose but with an offensive gospel message of sin, wrath, punishment, death, resurrection and forgiveness. If we leave this message we have nothing to offer. If we become ashamed of the full message or deem it somehow embarrassing we have become little more than clanging gongs and clashing cymbals. The central message of this book is not Rick Warren and neither is it The Purpose Driven Life. The central focus of Redefining Christianity is the gloriously good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I believe that there is no more complete a resource available to Christians to understand how Rick Warren is changing the church through his Purpose Driven paradigm. Redefining Christianity is well-researched, meticulously-documented and overflowing with the gospel message. I commend it to you and trust that God, in His grace, will use it to convict many to stand firm in or return to the simple, offensive, powerful gospel delivered to us by the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures.

    I am not entirely certain when the book will be available for purchase, but assume it will be early in 2006. I will let you know when it becomes available.

November 28, 2005

Monday November 28, 2005

Du Jour: Laura writes about blogging the ninth commandment. “So one of the challenges to blogging to the glory of God, if you will (and you’d better), is applying, among others, the 9th commandment.”

Worship: “Evangelicals have become exceedingly passive in their worship. Feebleminded lyrics and imaginary conceptions of God are plaguing the church.” So writes Marco over at Reformation Theology.

Spurgeon: Joe Loughery who writes at Potter’s Clay provides a chilling warning from Charles Spurgeon. “I do not think it will be sweet; but if God makes it profitable, it will do good.”

Community Blog: Ron Gleason continues his series examining Anne Lamott’s book.

November 27, 2005

toendallwars.jpgLast night, at long last and having had it recommended to me many times, I sat down to watch the film To End All Wars. For those who do not know of it, it is the story of Ernest Gordon who was a captain of the Scottish Argyles during the Second World War. After escaping the Japanese at the fall of Singapore, Gordon and some fellow soldiers sailed a junk almost 2000 miles, only to be captured by Japanese. They were taken prisoner and were sent to work on the Burma-Siam Railroad (which you may know from the film Bridge of the River Kwai).

Before I continue allow me to provide a bit of a warning. I was quite surprised at the volume of swearing in this film. Usually I would not be surprised to find bad language in a war movie, but was surprised at this one primarily because the people who recommended it to me made no mention of it. Thankfully, because of the subject matter, it was not a film we decided to watch with the children present.

I will leave summaries of the content of the film to others and just mention a few brief points about my experience.

In some ways I enjoyed this movie and in others I didn’t. I enjoyed the subject matter and the deep spiritual message behind the film. The film was produced by a professed Christian and this was obvious in the overall theme of struggle with sin, redemption and forgiveness. I don’t know that anyone could watch this movie and not come away without a deep sense of the power of forgiveness and the need for redemption. Key characters grapple with their depravity not through their own actions but through the realization that they are, in reality, no better than the very people they hate. So there is a real maturity to the message - far more than we might find in other “spiritual” movies.

I was disappointed for two reasons. First, while I am not intimately familiar with the story that inspired the film, and have not read Gordon’s book by the same title, I know enough to realize that the producers deviated in several key ways. Certain characters were combined to form one and actions that ought to have been attributed to one person were attributed to another. There was also a key scene of suffering that I believe was changed substantially so as to make a more clear parallel to Christ’s sacrifice. Secondly, I found that many of the characters were shallow and underwent little development. In fact, many of the characters seemed little more than caricatures and were typecast into specific roles from which they could not deviate. Every character had his part, and while each played it well, it allowed little room for development or surprise. From all I have read the real story behind To End All Wars is inspiring and displays the best of what God can do in the lives of men and I don’t understand why the story was rewritten.

Despite those small complaints the movie was well-made and, as I have said, contain a strong, biblical message. It would be a mistake, however, to say that this is a “Christian film,” whatever that might mean. Like most films, it tells a story, and like only a few, it tells it well. But as with most in the genre of “inspired by a true story” films, I was left more interested in reading the book than watching the film. As for the swearing, I don’t know how to reconcile that with my Christian worldview. Judging by the caliber of Christian by whom this movie was recommended to me, it is not an issue even conservative, Reformed Christians feel strongly about. Yet I have difficulty recommending it on the basis of the language. I am looking forward to reading the book.