Michaela is four weeks old today. Last night was the first time since her birth that I experienced the combination of a bad sleep followed by an early awakening. She and I sat in the way-too-hot living room (we’re in the midst of an early heat wave) for a few hours this morning as she tried to sleep and I tried to find something worth watching since my eyes were far too heavy to read the systematic theology book I’m working my way through. Needless to say, there are slim pickings in the early morning hours, but I did find some interesting religious programming. Here are a few mostly cynical lessons I learned this morning while watching the religious programming available to me (something I have not had opportunity to do since my three-year old was about Michaela’s age):
- Beth Moore has the biggest, most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen. Her eyes are like dinner plates and are constantly changing with her always-impassioned preaching teaching. I think Moore is perceived to have more credibility than many other teachers because she uses terms like “the present participle.” She digs into the Greek and tries to do some level of exegesis on her texts. Unfortunately, as others have pointed out (see an excellent review of one of her books at Modern Reformation) and as I’ve seen in my brief experiences of reading her books and curricula, she tends towards the mystical and experiential. “Basically she says, don’t let theology and doctrine confuse you when you can figure it out with God for yourself in a way that works for you.” There are far worse teachers out there, but there are also better ones. And of course there’s the issue of her being a female preacher teacher.
- When a church is composed almost entirely of white people, the cameras will continually zoom in on the one or two black people in the congregation. When a church is composed almost entirely of black people, the cameras will continually zoom in one the one or two white people in the congregation. And speaking of cameras, if you’ve ever been at a church where they record footage of the congregation, you’ll know how difficult it is to worship God while a camera is pointed in your direction.
- The hosts of “Lifeline” affirmed that it is an evil generation that seeks for a sign, yet they spent their entire program asking some young preacher all about the signs he has experienced. There was no mention of the message he preaches. They spoke only about signs and wonders, often insisting that these have all been verified and documented. As they spoke to him, gold dust began appearing on his clothes. Apparently this is a common occurrence for him. A university in Scotland once tested this gold dust and found it was purer than 24 karat gold. However, it is a heavenly substance so although it usually looks like gold, it is often a different substance altogether, so don’t try testing it on your own. He also has emerald dust appear on or around him and this portends a financial miracle. Jewels falling from the sky (which don’t hurt when they hit your head) are also a common sign from God. God once even turned a cup of hotel water into “wine” which is actually a heavenly beverage he can only barely describe, though he did provide a photograph. And, of course, everything he does is directly commanded by the voice of God.
- Some self-styled prophets think nothing of reading passages from their own books and concluding with “this is the word of God.” The mere thought of reading my own writing and announcing “this is the word of God” terrifies me! And well it should.
- The King James Version of the Bible is the refuge of many of the most heretical teachers. It seems odd, but I suppose they feel this version lends a certain credibility to their ministry. I have a feeling that a person who sells gives away “miracle olive oil soap” has really worked his way through the issues surrounding the biblical texts and has determined that the King James is superior to other translations.
- Joyce Meyer has reinvented herself. She no longer storms across a stage barking at the audience about their failures. She now sits sedately discussing issues of health and wellness.
I had to conclude that “Christian” television is no better now than it was three years ago even in the absence of Benny Hinn and Robert Tilton.
I was speaking with my sister this morning and were talking about having our daughters, both of whom are three, begin to send each other letters. They both love to dig the mail from our mailboxes, but there is never any mail addressed to them. Maryanne mentioned that she never gets personal letters anymore, and truth be told, neither do I. In fact, the only personal letters I ever receive are ones from long-lost friends asking me to support their most recent ministry venture. Email is a pretty poor substitute for a good old fashioned letter, especially when every letter I receive just asks me for money.
Denny Burk, who serves as assistant professor of New Testament at Criswell College in Dallas, has an excellent article at BP News. He writes about Brian McLaren’s statement about Da Vinci Code. McLaren said, “Frankly, I don’t think it has more harmful ideas in it than the Left Behind novels.” Burk responds: “The more I hear from emerging church leader Brian McLaren, the more I fear he is not competent to be a leader of God’s people…The problem with what McLaren says here is that he cannot (or will not) distinguish what is malignant from what is benign. No one goes to hell merely for believing dispensational premillenialism, a theology of the end times that is portrayed in the ‘Left Behind’ novels. Yet anyone who denies the deity of Jesus most certainly will, and this is precisely what is argued in ‘The Da Vinci Code.’ You don’t have to like dispensational premillenialism to see that its teachings about the end times do not come anywhere close to the damning heresy reflected in ‘The Da Vinci Code.’ Any pastor that cannot (or will not) see that isn’t competent to hold the office.” You can read the article here.
Finally, I apologize to those of you who do not enjoy book reviews. My wife pointed out to me that I have posted quite a few lately. That is true and yet I have a couple more to do. I’ve been reading a lot lately and have accumulated a list of books that I need to review while I can still remember what they are about!