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April 19, 2008

Recently I’ve spotted my book in some interesting places. This first picture was one I snapped a short time ago in a bathroom. My book is at least in good company there, sandwiched between titles by Sproul and MacArthur. While I won’t identify the owners of this bathroom, those who know me may be able to read the clues in the monogrammed towels and figure it out.


This second photo was snapped by a friend (or really the younger brother of an old friend) while traveling in Cambodia. He writes, “I took your book along with me to Cambodia when I went there for an internship. I also took it along with me to Rabbit Island, off the southern coast of Cambodia, by Kep. While reading it, I was struck by just how far this book has traveled….and took a picture, thinking you might enjoy seeing your book in exotic locales.”


If you’ve got my book in a strange place or have spotted it in a strange place, send along a picture!

April 13, 2008

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to pray for Michaela and who sent along notes and emails. She was released from hospital yesterday evening and, though she’s still a bit grumpy, she is definitely doing much better. We are very grateful to God!

I do believe this is the final excerpt I’ll be sharing from David Wells’ The Courage To Be Protestant (available now at Amazon and everywhere else). As promised, this one deals with what Wells calls the “marketers”—those Christians who seek, perhaps inadvertently, to shape the church after the world. Wells says quite a bit about them in this book, but this portion of the second chapter stood out to me.

It seems rather clear, then, that the market which is defining most churches today is the one in which people are seeking some spiritual connection but, at the same time, are opposed to things religious. By that, they have in mind doctrines to be believed which they have not defined for themselves, moral norms to be followed which they have not set up for themselves, and corporate practice which is expected. Skip the religion; give us the meat and potatoes of what is spiritual, they are saying. That is what these marketing churches are attempting to do. So, it is no great revelation that those who are fed this trashy diet are frequently those with no worldview and in whose life biblical doctrine has little place.

Perhaps the crowning disappointment in this whole undertaking is the dismal failure of the worship services which are really thought of as being the marketers’ piece de resistance. In fact, eight out of ten believers do not experience the presence of God in their worship at all. Is this really such a stunning outcome to services in which the centrality of truth has disappeared, where biblical categories have been lost, and in which the entertainment ethos dominates everything?

George Barna was one of the primary architects who designed this new approach to “doing” church. He was in on the ground floor three decades ago. As the church’s most assiduous poller, he undoubtedly expected by this time to be the bearer of good news once his marketing strategies were widely adopted, as they have been. It has not turned out that way. It has fallen to him to be the most important chronicler of his own failure.

Leaving behind this long trail of failure as if it had never happened, Barna has nevertheless struck out in a new direction with the same old panache, bravado, and undented self-assurance. The evangelical world has neither gasped nor even blinked. In 2005, he published his book, Revolution which predicted that the church in the coming decade would lose much of its “market share” but, never mind, because now it could climb aboard a different cultural trend and succeed even more spectacularly. Now, serious spiritual revolutionaries can simply cut themselves loose from every local church. Just walk away! Permanently. And find biblical Christianity elsewhere.

What is resulting from Barna’s approach is barely recognizable as Christian today. And that is what makes the desire of some of the leading American marketing pastors to export their experiment to the rest of the world almost incomprehensible. It certainly is an expression of unbounded chutzpah.

The truth is that no matter how proficiently we learn to “do” church in terms of the Western, affluent, highly individualistic market, we are doomed to failure. Indeed, the more proficient we become, if that proficiency requires that we denude ourselves of theology, the more certainly we doom ourselves to failure. The method is inherently flawed. If it succeeds in replicating itself at all, it will only be replicating its own failure. That is what the marketers have failed to see.

April 10, 2008

Anonymity and accountability are topics I have returned to several times over the years. They are issues that continues to concern me and challenge me as the internet grows and matures and as my involvement in it increases. A few days ago I posted some other thoughts about accountability (Drawing Out the Infection) and thought this would be a useful follow-up.

Admiral Lord Nelson once remarked that “every sailor is a bachelor when beyond Gibraltar.” This was a statement about anonymity, something that was quite rare in even just a few generations ago. Nelson knew that once his sailors moved beyond the bounds of the British Empire, beyond society’s systems of morality and accountability, they underwent a transformation. Every man became a bachelor and sought only and always his own pleasure. If you have read a biography of John Newton you’ll see a vivid portrayal of a man who was able to be a gentleman at home but who was vulgar and abusive while away. All it took was a measure of anonymity and he became a whole new man.

In the past, anonymity was both rare and difficult. People tended to live in close-knit communities where every face was familiar and every action was visible to the community. Travel was rare and the majority of people lived a whole lifetime within a small geographic area. Os Guinness remarks that in the past “those who did right and those who did not do wrong often acted as they did because they knew they were seen by others. Their morality was accountability through visibility.” While anonymity is not a new phenomenon, the degree of anonymity we can and often do enjoy in our society is unparalleled. “For most people most of the time, their villages or towns were sufficiently cohesive and their relationships sufficiently close that behavior was held in check. In small towns neighborliness was often ‘nosiness’ just as in cities anonymity was often ‘liberation.’ But the point still stands—traditional morality was closely tied to accountability.”

Undergirding these statements is the fundamental belief that humans require accountability. Left to our own devices, we will soon devise or succumb to all manner of evil. As Christians, those who seek to live by a higher standard, we know that we need other believers to watch over us and to hold us accountable to the standards of Scripture. Passages such as Ecclesiastes 4:12 remind us that “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” The Bible reminds us that “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) and that we are to “provoke one another to love and good works…exhorting one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Life is far too difficult and we are far too sinful to live it in solitude. We need community. We need accountability. And God has been good to give us the local church as the primary means of this accountability.

Our society values anonymity. There are many who feel that anonymity is a right and one that must be closely guarded and protected. Those who use are familiar with internet technology will have noticed the influx of tools designed to protect the anonymity of the internet user. The latest versions of web browsers come with tools designed to erase, with a single click, all traces of what a person was doing while browsing the web. Other tools allow a person to be untraceable to others as he travels various web sites. While there may be legitimate applications to these tools they are, by and large, used by those who are up to no good. Interestingly, the software developed by Christians to guard against perversion do the exact opposite—they make public what a person has done. By removing the anonymity they provide accountability.

Anonymity extends far beyond technology. It extends to the workplace where many people travel extensively, spending weeks of every year in hotel rooms where what they do and what they watch is kept behind closed doors. Many hotels make a point of telling their visitors that they can order any movies they like while keeping the titles entirely anonymous. We live in communities where we may not even know our next-door neighbors either by name or by face. When we arrive home from work we pull the car into the garage and close the door behind us. We live only yards away from people we may never meet. Churches grow larger and relationships grow weaker. We are anonymous, impersonal people in a largely anonymous, impersonal world. We live beyond Gibraltar. Guinness does not exaggerate when he writes “More of us today are more anonymous in more situations than any generation in human history.”

I have often seen the effect of this anonymity in my line of work and in my wife’s. Aileen sells products online. It is not unusual to have a person who is somehow dissatisfied with his transaction write her an email that is rude, abrasive and even filled with profanity. But invariably, if the person later phones her or if she decides to phone the disgruntled customer, the person is much more kind and even-tempered when the communication is less-anonymous. I would assume that if they were to meet face-to-face, these customers would be more civil still. Anonymity can have a profoundly negative effect on people.

I do not think that Christians are any more immune to the temptations of anonymity than are unbelievers. Guinness asks, “Why are there more temptations in a hotel room in a distant city than at home? Why do more people ‘flame’ on the Internet than would ever lose their cool in an office?” These questions are surely as applicable to those who seek to follow Christ as they are to those who do not. Christian-owned forums and blogs are all the proof we need that Christians require accountability as much as anyone. Perhaps more so.

Many bloggers and other Internet users value anonymity. A blog is understood by some to be a place of refuge and safety—a place where a person can post what is on his mind and on his heart while revealing little about who he truly is. It is a place to let loose with the anger and frustration. It is a place where a person can speak out to other people and about other people without ever having to look those people in the eye. If every sailor is a bachelor beyond Gibraltar, we could as easily say that every blogger is a pundit or a curmudgeon or an expert or a righteous man when in front of his keyboard.

Guinness says that, in former days, morality was accountability through visibility. Yet today many of us are able to remain invisible. Not too long ago I was an invisible blogger. In some ways I valued my anonymity, and yet I knew that it could be a danger. I wrote a lot and my site was read by many people, but all the while I was safely removed from the people I wrote for and wrote about. I began to see the effect of this in my writing. It became increasingly abrasive and showed a distinct lack of character. But a couple of years ago, by the grace of God, things began to change. By live-blogging conferences I had to emerge from my home office and meet many of the people who read this site and whose sites I read. This has been, in every case, a tremendous blessing. At the same time I made changes to my life, even going so far as to begin attending a new church where I could come face-to-face each week with people who would encourage or exhort me as necessary. I deliberately sought people who could challenge me and keep an eye on whatever ministry opportunities arise from my writing.

I am not suggesting that I am a model to follow. But I think that God was gracious to me in revealing the necessity of avoiding complete anonymity. He helped me understand that accountability is closely tied to visibility and that personal holiness will come not through anonymity but through deep and personal relationships with my brothers and sisters in the local church. And so I have sought to make myself more visible that I may accept correction and reproof when it is necessary. At the same time I have renewed my commitment to the One who is always watching and who knows every word I write and every intent of my heart. And so this is my challenge to bloggers and to those who comment on blogs: make yourself accountable through visibility. Commit yourself to purity of heart and to only speaking or writing what is honoring to God. And then ensure that there are people who know you, who read your words, who will lovingly exhort and correct you when you do not keep this commitment. In this way we can honor God and maintain a focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

April 08, 2008

Joe Carter recently declared that he would be the last evangelical in America. He was being a little tongue-in-cheek of course, but the point was clear. He thinks the label “evangelical” is a good one and and one worth holding on to. “Naturally, I understand why some of my fellow evangelicals prefer not to be saddled with the label. The negative connotations imbued by both our friends and our enemies have weighted it down with unnecessary baggage. But I don’t think we should drop it altogether, especially for higher-level terms like ‘Christian’… I think being an evangelical is the best way for me to be Christian; for better or worse, I’ll never abandon the tradition or the label.”

I found this interesting because I’ve been reading the forthcoming book by David F. Wells and in this volume he suggests that perhaps it is time to let go of the “evangelical” label. Here is his defense and his proposal of an alternative:

Those who still think of themselves as being in the tradition of historic Christian faith, as I do, may therefore want to consider whether the term “evangelical” has not outlived its usefulness. Despite its honorable pedigree, despite its many outstanding leaders both past and some in the present, and despite the many genuine and upright believers who still think of themselves as evangelical, it may now have to be abandoned.

If the word “evangelical” has outlived its usefulness, what is the alternative? Here, I am flummoxed. My own labels are too ponderous to be used widely. I am reaching out for help. I am advertising for a new label!

In this book, I am … going to think of myself as being a biblical Christian first and foremost, as being in continuity with Christians across the ages who have believed the same truth and followed the same Lord. The period in which these truths were brought into the most invigorating, health-giving focus was the Reformation. I therefore think of myself as reformational in the sense that I affirm its solas: in Scripture alone is God’s authoritative truth found, in Christ alone is salvation found, it is by grace alone that we are saved, and this salvation is received through faith alone. It is only after each of these affirmations is made that we can say that salvation from start to finish is to the glory of God alone. These affirmations do not stand simply as solitary, disconnected sentinels but they are the key points in an integrated, whole understanding of biblical truth. It is this which gives us a place to stand in the world from which to understand who we are, what the purposes of God are, and what future lies before us. These are the things that historic Protestants believe and that is what I am.

And this is what I think offers the only real hope for our postmodern world. Not only so, but it carries in it the best help for the evangelical world in its wounded and declining state today. I do not know what the evangelical future will be but I am certain that it will have no good future unless it finds this kind of direction again.

This will take some courage. The key to the future is not the capitulation that we see in both the marketers and the emergents. It is courage. The courage to be faithful to what Christianity in its biblical forms has always stood for across the ages. So, let’s begin exploring what this might mean for us today.

I’d love to know what you think. Is the term “evangelical” saddled with too much baggage? Is it time just to let it pass into history like so many words and labels before it? Or, because it is a word with such a noble heritage and with such a profound meaning, is it one we should cling to? Is it a label you wear proudly or with shame?

April 07, 2008

In my experience there is usually one of the spouses in a marriage that handles the majority of the doctoring and nursing duties. There is one who has the medical knowledge and who knows what to do when a child or spouse is injured or maybe just plain under the weather. There is one who can clean up vomit without having to don a hazmat suit. For my marriage, this person is most definitely Aileen. She is the one who is always the first to notice the signs of sickness in our children. I may think they are acting perfectly normal, but she notices something almost indiscernible and declares that they are in the early stages of a cold or flu. Though I usually protest that nothing is wrong, more often than not time bears out the fact that she is right…again.

Aileen has a remedy for everything. Somehow she has learned how to treat any ailment. Some of these treatments make perfect sense to me; others, well, not so much. One that continues to confuse me is putting a hot cloth on something that is infected. If one of us has some weird skin thing going on, Aileen will put heat on it and insist that this draws the infection to the surface. I remain skeptical, though who am I, really, to challenge her? I looked it up online and the plethora of medical sites out there seem to agree that there is something to this theory. Maybe it is more than an old fable or wives’ tale that has been handed down to her. Heat draws out the infection.

Lone Rangers Are Dead Rangers

I thought of this principle while sitting with the men of my church last Wednesday night. No, none of the men there had a huge blight on his face or anything unsightly like that. We’ve been reading through Josh Harris’ Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is) and came to the chapter dealing with accountability and the kind of friendship that asks the tough questions. We talked together for quite some time about the kind of relationship that allows for deep and probing questions—the kind of relationship that offers a real level of accountability. We soon came to see that almost all of us desire to be in this kind of relationship—one where we can speak with other Christian men and have them both challenge us to put sin aside and preach the gospel to us in those times where we’ve committed that sin yet again. This is not just accountability that focuses on sexual sins, but on all kinds of sin and transgression. But though it seems that all of us felt we could benefit from this kind of relationship, I believe that very few of us actually are.

And this has been my experience and my observation. It’s interesting to me that Christian men are hesitant to seek out this kind of relationship (and here I implicate myself as much as any man). Men want these relationships but very few are actually in them. I’m quite convinced that the main reason, or at least one of the main reasons, is that as men we are convinced that we would be the one who was imposing on others. I’d be glad to talk to a friend if he called me at midnight in the throes of a crisis. But I would never think of calling another if I was the one experiencing crisis. I would be glad to help a friend who truly desired a measure of accountability, but it would not occur to me to impose upon another if I needed accountability. Everyone is busy; why would I want to be a bother? And yet the other men are thinking the same. Maybe it’s time for us to lay aside pride and let other men into our lives.

Applying the Heat

According to Alan Medinger (quoted in Harris’ book) an accountability relationship is “one in which a Christian gives permission to another believer to look into his life for purposes of questioning, challenging, admonishing, advising, encouraging and otherwise providing input in ways that will help the individual live according to the Christian principles they both hold.” These relationships are one in which Christians apply heat to each others lives. They ask tough questions, probing questions, potentially humiliating questions, in order to find evidence of sin. Because we often have trouble seeing the sin in our own lives, we ask others to seek it out on our behalf.

Drawing Out the Infection

Too many accountability relationships end there. They are incomplete, ending with sin or with sympathy. Confession is necessary and we may well sympathize with one another as we discuss sins that are common to all men. But we cannot and must not end there. Instead we must take those sins to the cross. My pastor gave the wise advice Wednesday night that we must be prepared not only to look each other in the eyes to ask about sin, but also to look each other in the eyes and preach Jesus. We need more than confession and sympathy—we need the cross of Jesus Christ; we need the gospel so we can draw out that infection. We need to admonish, challenge, advise and always preach the gospel. As Harris says, “The most important thing we can do for each other when we talk about sin and temptation is to remind each other of God’s provision for our sin—the Cross of Jesus Christ.”

This is the kind of friends, the kind of brothers, we need to be. We need to be brothers who will ask the difficult questions—who will apply the heat—so that we can help one another draw out the infection.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).”

April 06, 2008

You know by now that King for a Week is an honor I bestow on blogs that I feel are making a valuable contribution to my faith and the faith of other believers…or sometimes just because I really like them. You know as well that I inevitably keep them in place for more than a week. No matter. King for a Week is simply a way of introducing my readers to blogs that they may also find interesting and edifying. Every now and again I select a blog, link to it from my site, and add that site’s most recent headlines to my right sidebar. While this is really not much, I do feel that it allows me to encourage and support other bloggers while making the readers of this blog aware of other good sites.

This week’s King for a Week is Amy’s Humble Musings. It was rather a surprise to me to realize that I had not honored this blog already. It is, after all, a blog I have been reading for quite some time now and one I enjoy, even if I am not really the primary audience for it. Amy [Scott] is, according to her brief bio, “the mother of five six kids 9 and under, wife to a handsome rocket scientist, and aspiring Proverbs 31 lady.” Her blog, which she has been updating since January of 2005, is a place for her to muse about life, family, homeschooling, the agrarian life, and other things that are of interest to her. I’ve always appreciated Amy’s ability to see and describe what is zany in life. Yet while she can encourage her readers to laugh at and with her, she also shares some valuable lessons about living this Christian life. I always look forward to her updates.

In the coming days (and/or weeks) you will be able to see the most recent headlines from this blog in the sidebar of my site. I hope you will make your way over to look around.

April 04, 2008

Scott Lamb is both a friend and a contributor to Discerning Reader. I’m pretty sure he reads even more books than I do and we knew that sooner or later he and I would read the same title at the same time. Sure enough, that happened recently with Collin Hansen’s Young, Restless, Reformed. Because I had written a review of it, Scott decided to focus instead on the story behind the story, so to speak. He wrote what I found a fascinating article on just how big and how wide this movement really is. I thought you would enjoy it to, so decided to post it here. I do so primarily because I think Scott provides a good warning to us, and particularly so in the final paragraphs. From here on you’ll be reading Scott’s article.

In a nutshell, before reading the book I would have thought the movement was larger and more influential. The metaphor of “ocean” comes to mind. After reading the book, I am given to thinking that the movement is more like a pond, maybe a lake.

That is not a prediction of what the future holds. But this is a book about the present (last 10 years or so), and I am less inclined to think much of the movement after reading Hansen’s work.

I am not shooting the messenger (Hansen) in any way, shape, or form. I read the entire book while leaning on a wall about six feet from my post office box. Then I read it again a day later, again with enjoyment. I really want you to read it too.

I do think there are many recent aspects of the groundswell of Reformed theology that are entirely missed. There are also many foundations of the movement which have been vitally important, but which lack any formal attachment to the Reformed camp. I will come back to these in a later post.

Let me throw some spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks.

Spaghetti on the Wall

Are we overly optimistic about what is going on? Are we just having self-referential Calvinist conversations with ourselves? Perhaps you don’t think so?

Well, you are reading a book review about Calvinism…to be posted on Calvinist Tim Challies’ book review web-site…about a book that reports on the rise of young Calvinists like Tim and a bunch of our friends and mentors…and Tim wrote an endorsement for this book on the back cover…and now a review of the book…and he also wrote a book published by the same company as this one…a company that publishes a mountain of books by Calvinist authors mentioned in this book…and since you are a Calvinist you may decide to buy this book and comment on it on your own blog or on Amazon.com…and then we will link to your blog and say, “A Reformed friend of mine who is on staff at Piper’s church wrote a great review of Hansen’s new book”…then some other Calvinist will interview Hansen, himself a Calvinist…then we will all get in our cars and head to a conference where 75% of the folks mentioned in the book will either be preaching or listening (or live-blogging)…

Suddenly, a certain joke about cousins marrying cousins comes to my mind.

Am I saying there is anything wrong with friends and colleagues and pastors networking together or talking about common interests? Absolutely not. I’m just saying that we’d better not read our own press clippings and jump to the wrong conclusions. Is this “new Calvinist” pond little or big? The answer depends on who we hang out with.

On Guard

In our self-referential excitement over the movement toward Calvinism, there are two errors I am afraid we could easily make:

  1. Although we should take joy over the number of folks gaining passion for biblical truth, will we foolishly begin to believe that the majority of Evangelical Christianity is actually making a turn toward solid theological conviction.

  2. Although the numbers do represent individuals who are coming to truth, will the local church itself be changed and challenged and loved? We love our Reformed theology, but will the “young and restless” part only serve to bring out the devilish individualism characterizing so much of American Evangelicalism. We grew up in “typical” churches, and have “escaped” the poor theology, but will we now spend the rest of our lives proving that we are “not the like the church we came from”? Will our mantra be- “Give us books, conferences, audio sermons, and blog-buddies, but keep us far from messy relationships with Arminians in our local church.”

Let me provide a few illustrations of what I am thinking.

How Wide the Influence?

In our Calvinist circles, we get real excited about the 275,000 copies of Desiring God sold. But wait. Hasn’t Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life sold over 24 million copies (as of 2006)? Wow, that is a ratio of 1:100.

Warren is extremely influential (understatement of the year), and that influence is felt directly at the level of the local church - in a very widespread manner across the nation and across the denominational spectrum.

Perhaps we are actually only 1/100th as influential as Warren.

Do you wish those numbers were the opposite? Yeah, so do I. But they aren’t.

How Big Is Ground Zero?

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary gets a lot of attention in Hansen’s book. He calls Louisville “Ground Zero” for Calvinism. An astounding number of ministers are being trained at SBTS. Four thousand students receive theological education by 180+ total faculty. The largest Protestant seminary in the world runs on a budget of less than $40 million dollars (2006).

But consider another number - $95 million. In one year’s time, that is how much money Joyce Meyer fleeced earned through donations and conferences.

When you consider that the $40 million at SBTS comes from the tuition payments of 4,000 students and also from a portion of the offerings of 40,000 SBC churches, it absolutely boggles the mind to consider that a woman who preaches a false gospel can get her hands on twice as much money!

Think about how many individuals it must take to rake in $95 million. These are huge numbers. This is real influence.

SBTS, a.k.a. “Ground Zero for Calvinism”, only has HALF the budget of just ONE prosperity-gospel preaching woman.

A Huge Gathering?

The 2006 Together for the Gospel Conference drew 3,000 men, and probably could have gotten 2,000 more in the door if space was available. I was there. It was great!

But Joel Osteen draws in 10,000 on any given weekend that he takes his show on the road. Speaking of Osteen, if you add up the royalties for every book authored by MacArthur, Sproul, Piper, Mahaney, Begg, Boice, Duncan, etc. - would the total come anywhere near the $12 million advance Joel received for his last book alone? Not a chance.

Does Wal-Mart carry anything by Sproul, Piper, Mahaney? Can you buy a “Chosen by God” board game?

And speaking of publishing, Crossway and a few other faithful companies serve up 80% of what young Calvinists are reading. So, does that mean sound biblical theology is going to prevail among Christian publishers too  What about the other 50-75 Evangelical Publishers Association companies? What percentage of their books can we get real excited about?


Are we reading our own press clippings, and getting worked up in the wrong way?

How ironic it would be if God-centered theology truly caught fire throughout the church, only to come crashing into the brick wall of flesh-boasting about numbers and influence.

How terrible it would be if Calvinist soteriology got branded on the hearts of young people, only to have them choose individualism over God-glorifying commitment and dedication to the local church. Christ did not die on a cross for a conference, campus Bible study, or book publisher. He laid down his life for the church.

As Calvinists who dwell on total depravity, understand that it is fully well possible to receive a rich theological treasure, only to squander it through sin.

However, as Calvinists who well on divine grace and sovereignty, understand that “He who began a good work” can and will continue to purify the bride of Christ by His grace and for His glory.

Let us make sure our passion begins and ends with Soli Deo Gloria, focusing our boast on the cross of Christ alone.

I really enjoyed reading this book and thinking through these issues. Thank you Collin.

Tim here again. I think Scott is on to something here. While we need to continue to bless and praise God for the work He is doing in drawing people to Himself, and especially in those who are young and restless, let’s realize that this movement is, in relation to the rest of those who confess Christ, very small. Let’s always remember that there is still much work to do and that we must not take pride in being part of any movement, even one as exciting as this. We are to boast only in the cross. Let our pride and our joy be in the great work of Christ.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what Scott has written.

April 01, 2008

I sat down today to write the most hilarious April Fool’s post ever. I had thought about it yesterday and was giggling as I thought about all of the possibilities. But somehow, when I sat down and started typing, it just didn’t work. It was really anything but funny. It was going to be a satirical peek at a segment of evangelicalism. It was ripe with possibilities (or is the proper phrase “rife with possibilities”?). But it just didn’t happen. Maybe it’s just too difficult to create humor on command. So then…

˙ɹǝɥʇıǝ ʎuunɟ ʎɹǝʌ ʇ,usɐʍ ʇɐɥʇ ʇnq˙˙˙uʍop ǝpısdn ƃuıɥʇʎɹǝʌǝ ƃuıʇsod ɟo ʇɥƃnoɥʇ ı˙˙˙

As I struggled and eventually gave up, I though of a quote I read just a couple of days ago in The Courage To Be Protestant, the forthcoming [and utterly brilliant] book by David Wells. I think Wells pretty well nailed it for me:

This co-opting of showbiz, this transformation of Christianity into entertainment, is rapidly becoming the norm today, not the exception. Pastor are straining to outdo each other in becoming as chic and slick as any show in Las Vegas.

I pity satirists who might be tempted to try to tweak these segments of the evangelical world. Theirs is a mission impossible. It can no longer be done. No matter how indelicately they might exaggerate, no matter how much they might embellish to make a point, no matter how many descriptions they might offer of the tasteless things that are happening, it will most likely be met with only a yawn and a bored question: “So … ” Nothing seems improbable. None of it, in fact, ever seems exaggerated and none of it seems improper. It has now become impossible to insult some evangelicals. How the Wittenburg Door stays in business, I do not know.

Maybe next year I’ll come up with something. In the meantime, you can content yourself with A Blockbuster Deal or A Theo-Doping Scandal. And you may also wish to read the review of Instructing a Child’s Heart I just posted.