I’ve been away from an Internet connection for the past three days – hence the lack of blogging. All I can say is that Cape Town is starting to get really wet and really cold, both Arsenal and the Sharks won this weekend (let’s not talk about cricket), I led the service at church last night and it went well, I’m house sitting in Claremont and loving living there, television is a curse, and I’ve got a lot of work to do – will post later…
Archive for April, 2007
Here’s an old post I dug out from my old blog which is no more – October last year – thought it was worth a re-post here at “…daylight”:
I was reading over an old post by the Internet Monk, Michael Spencer, about why Mark Driscoll rubs some evangelicals the wrong way. The one point he makes is that evangelicals are bothered by the openess with which Driscoll discusses his own sin. I thought Spencer’s insight, combined with Driscoll’s attitude were brilliant, so I’ve quoted a section of the post below – notice what we(evangelicals) might really be doing?
“Mark Driscoll bothers you because he’s not lying about his sins.
If you have read this web site, and kept up with the drama that is my online existence, then you know that I have been taken to task for saying too much about my own sins, struggles and shortcomings. I’ve written honestly and I don’t plan to quit. This confessional writing gets an overwhelmingly positive response from people who are tired of religious hokum and BS, but there are plenty of people who think it’s the worst thing in the blogosphere and that I’m not really a Christian when I say I’m a sinner.
This is why I love Driscoll. From the first time I heard him till I finished reading Confessions, he’s been telling me about his cussing, his failures as a family man, his screw ups as a pastor, his learning curve and his self-inflicted pain. I know a lot more about Driscoll’s struggles than I do those of most of his critics. As of yet, I haven’t heard Driscoll lecturing anyone on how they need to shape up and start acting like the kind of Christian he is. Driscoll seems a lot more concerned with dealing with his sins as opposed to pointing out mine. Far out.
In other word, he gets what Luther got: the Gospel is a table for sinners and sinners only. He gets what Merton got: the phony self is the enemy. He understands what those few honest souls like Rich Mullins and Mike Yaconelli understood: the Gospel is perfect from God’s side and messy from ours.
Driscoll is what Piper calls a “gutsy” sinner, i.e. someone who takes the promise of justification through the mediation of Jesus as the way to rise up with bold, honest confidence in God’s acceptance and forgiveness.
The problem within evangelicalism is that we are all hurting, all struggling, all failing and all faking it, but we are acting as if we have it all together. We talk about sanctification and holiness, good works and living out our theology, when we are messes, each and every one of us. Our marriages aren’t that pretty picture and our kids aren’t those youth group darlings. We don’t pray much, we’ve got lots of questions and we really wonder if we’re not the world’s biggest fake.
What to do with the cussin’ Christian? Let’s denounce him, snipe at him and sneer. Let’s encourage him to come up to “our level.” What a pile of hogwash.”
Read the complete post here.
Well the NT Wright battle of the atonement war seems to have died down, at least from a blog post point of view. I’m pretty tired of searching the blogs for meaty posts on the subject – if you want to follow it further then go to technorati and search for NT Wright. In the mean time…
I sat in a missions class today discussing contextualization and I was struck by what is probably not a very novel idea. It dawned upon me that western pastors really need to study missiology. At my college you can choose one of two streams of study for your final year, either pastoral or missions. For a number of reasons I opted for missions even though I’m going into the pastorate shortly. Reflecting on it now, I’m convinced that I’m actually getting better training, in general, than those who opted for the pastoral route.
Almost every single issue we discuss in my current course, ‘Contemporary Issues in Mission’, has fairly direct bearing upon everyday ministry in a western context. So today we discussed contextualization, and every time we mentioned a principle or a lesson in contextualization I could almost immediately visualize how one would incorporate that into a western context.
Missiology teaches you to think missionally right now where you are – it’s a must for pastors who don’t just want to keep their churches alive but actually want to make inroads into the community for Christ and his gospel.
When you’re working in a denominational setting, like I am and will be, as I see it you’ve got 2 options in terms of leading churches. In the denomination you have the healthy growing churches and as a new young minister you want to get a position on one of the staff teams of these churches – if you’re adventurous and gospel driven you’ll hopefully get a position with a view to planting a new church from the one that you’re on staff with. The second option though is to go and rough it with one of the older churches that are on the verge of dying out – and there’s quite a few of them. I suppose the sinful ‘glory boy’ in each one of us tell us we can go in there and turn the whole church around.
There’s pros and cons to both options. How would you proceed? What are your thoughts? Stick with the growing churches with an eye for church planting and grow more churches or have a crack at reviving one of the older churches and turning it into a growing church with an eye for church planting? Or even both? I’d like this to be a conversation…what are your thoughts?
I’ve recently heard Psalm 15 preached, written a Bible study on it, and am contemplating writing a sermon on it. Below are some questions that I think are fundamental to correct interpretation of the Psalm within redemptive history. I’ve also included my initial answers to these questions. Please feel free to comment or add questions that you think are fundamental to understanding the Psalm.
Question: So what is this ‘sanctuary’ and ‘holy hill’ that David is talking about? Look up a number of cross-references: Exodus15:17; Exodus 25:8-9; 2 Samuel 7:1-17.
Answer: I think there’s more than one answer to this question depending upon which group of readers we’re considering. At the time of the writing of the Psalm, the sanctuary was the tabernacle (cf. Ex. 25:8-9) – this is especially in line with the original Hebrew which renders the word as ‘tent’. The ‘holy hill’ was most likely initially a reference to Sinai, but perhaps with expectation of a future ‘holy hill’ (cf. Ex. 15:17). The post-exilic community would have read it slightly differently, perhaps combining the two places into the temple on Mount Zion which was set up after David’s reign (cf. 2Sam. 7:1-17). The common denominator however, is that this sanctuary and ‘holy hill’ were synonymous with the presence of God. It was here, in its different expressions, that God’s deepest presence on earth was manifest.
Question: So what is David really asking then?
Answer: Who can live with God? Who can dwell, in some earthly sense, in the presence of God?
Question: Is that the same as asking who can go to heaven? Why or why not?
Answer: This is possibly the crux question for understanding how to interpret and apply this passage to the New Testament believer today, as well as the original readers. Common teaching on this passage is that ultimately it is asking the question, ‘who can go to heaven’, since God’s presence is ultimately in heaven. One presumes that this line of teaching is adopted in order to iron out any hint of works based entrance into God’s presence. The problem with this view is that it fails to take into account the psalm’s position in a redemptive historical context.
David, as the anointed king, of the redeemed covenant community is able to, along with the rest of the covenant community, offer sacrifices at the tabernacle. Similarly the post-exilic community can offer sacrifices in the temple. Their complete access is still limited and mediated through priests, but limited access has been apportioned the community. This limited access exists because the community has already been redeemed and so Wilcock, ‘the tent is also the Tent-as-Home, into which God invites those he has already made friends.’ (Italics mine). This paints the Psalm in a slightly different light, no longer is Romans 3, and man’s inability to be righteous, this psalm’s New Testament counterpart, but rather something more along the lines of the Sermon on the Mount – what life in the kingdom looks like.
Dave Bish has begun a series of chapter reviews of Rob Bell’s Velvit Elvis. Having read Dave’s blog for quite a while now I really respect his grasp of the scriptures, especially in the area of biblical theology – and so I’m quite keen to follow this series. Here’s a quote of his to whet your appetite:
“You get the feeling with Rob Bell that really he’s writing against some theologically constipated people who’ve never learned to enjoy God“
I’m afraid it’s back to the old template. As cool as the other one looked it just had too many bugs. Maybe the designer will sort out the bugs in the future. I’ll keep an eye on it – till then I’m going to stick with this template.
I presented a paper today on church planting and contemporary issues in mission, and in preperation, I was taking some time to read through what others have said about the local church. Lesslie Newbigin has a great quote:
“I have come to feel that the primary reality of which we have to take account in seeking for a Christian impact on public life is the Christian congregation. How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross? I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic of gospel, is a congregation of men and woman who believe it and live by it. I am, of course, not denying the importance of the many activities by which we seek to challenge public life with the gospel – evangelistic campaigns, distribution of Bibles and Christian literature, conferences, and even books such as this one. But I am saying that these are all secondary, and that they have power to accomplish their purpose only as they are rooted in and lead back to a believing community.” The Gospel in a Pluralist Society – 1989
This seems to me to be fairly in line with Paul’s thinking in Ephesians 3:10. I like Newbigin’s emphasis on ‘believing’ and ‘living’ – surely that means that this sort of congregation will be a Bible-centered congregation, because they need something to believe in. Secondly the congregation with be a congregation of praxis, because they live out what they believe.
Don’t you get the feeling sometimes that, in some sense, gospel ministry is frightfully simple?
I saw this new template and couldn’t resist. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to view as well in internet explorer as it does in Firefox 2
But…I think I’m going to keep it – so if you haven’t got Firefox, then get it – unless you can tell me how to make it view better in internet explorer (if that’s possible at all: for example, why are all my links indented under their headings in IE but not in Firefox?) Any other help would be great.
This sort of evangelism frustrates me, and it seems that I’m not the only one – have a look at what David Bosch says:
“An evangelism which separates people from their context views the world not as a challenge but as a hindrance, devalues history and has eyes only for the ‘spiritual’ or ‘nonmaterial aspects of life’ (H. Lindsell) is spurious. The same is true of an evangelism which couches conversion only in micro-ethical terms, such as regular church attendance, abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, and daily Bible reading and prayer, or limits the evangelistic message to an offer of release from loneliness, peace of mind, and success in what we undertake. In fact, much so-called evangelism, it appears, aims at satisfying rather than transforming people.” (Transforming Mission, p.417)
Here’s my take on evangelism: Evangelism is about calling on rebellious (all) people to repent of a life of autonomy, ask for forgiveness in Christ, and live with Jesus as their king in their own context now and forevermore, in accordance with the scriptures.
I’ve been reading a number of sites dealing with emerging theology over the last few days. As I’ve been reading I’ve started to notice some recurring themes which I thought I’d make mention of. Now I need to qualify so as not to create a storm of any kind here. Firstly, my reading has not encompassed all of emerging theology, I’m limited, I can only read so much. Secondly, these are just initial thoughts and reflections. And thirdly, I’m a historic evangelical and so whilst I have much sympathy and empathy for the emerging church, I read things through a historic evangelical lens, this is not to say that I don’t personally critique my lens time and time again. So here are my reflections:
I’ve mentioned this before elsewhere, but it seems to me that a lot of the EC’s critique of evangelicalism deals with abuses within modern evangelicalism and not so much with historic evangelicalism. So for example I’ve seen people taking evangelical views of scripture such as authority and infallibility. The reason behind the challenge though does not always seem, to me, to stem from an intellectual or reasoned disagreement with the doctrines themselves (although this follows), but initially it seems to stem from frustrations with abuses of the doctrines.
So here’s the logic in an example: The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa used the Old Testament to justify apartheid. How do we stop people from doing this in the future? Well we neutralize the authority of the Old Testament. We have a dilemma – we can’t correct apartheid interpretation of the Old Testament because that would then be to impose our own interpretation which is governed by our time/cultural lens. So because we can’t correct we rather diminish the authority of the Old Testament. So instead of the OT being God’s Word it now instead becomes the writings of a small Jewish community trying to figure out what it means to follow God in their context.
Historic evangelicalism doesn’t pit those two against each other – the OT is God’s authoritative Word as well as being the writings of a small Jewish community within a particular context. The two are not necessarilly natural opponents as some would make it seem.
So whilst I think this sort of theology brings a healthy indictment upon much evangelical reasoning it fails, in my mind, to provide an accurate way forward.
Whilst on the subject of scripture, I’m also a bit alarmed at the poor knowledge of manuscript evidence when dealing with things like the integrity of the original manuscripts. Having a background in Classical Civilization, and therefore the study of ancient texts and their transmission, I have a bit of an upper hand on most – but I still hear arguments about whether the Bible has significantly changed over the centuries. I have secular Classics Professors who will testify to the integrity of the Old and New Testament manuscripts with far more conviction than some emerging folk.
Anyway, that’s my first reflection for now.
‘Missional’ is a tag I use a lot for many of my posts and it also characterizes the type of ministry that I wish to be involved with in the future. I suppose its pretty near the forefront of what I think about all day when I think about ministry. Today I stopped and reflected as to how things came to be this way in my thinking. Which influences shaped my missional thinking. So I’ve decided to list a few (in no particular order – some are more recent influences, others influenced me a while ago. I’ve particularly not included Scripture as an influence because pretty much all of these influences below have helped me to reflect thoughtfully on the Word of God):
- My good friend Sam who is now a church planter and pastor in Pietermaritzburg.
- The writings of Steve Timmis and Tim Chester – Sam and I read ‘The Gospel Centered Church‘ together when I was still quite a new Christian.
- The writings and talks of Tim Keller – I think most would agree that Keller is the unofficial bishop of missionals in the reformed tradition.
- My studies in Biblical Theology – thanks especially to the writings of Graeme Goldsworthy for helping me to see God’s unfolding plan for his Kingdom.
- A group of gospel-centered pastors in Kwa-Zulu Natal who took me through a 2 year apprenticeship programme. Thanks Grant, Ray, David, Michael, Wayne and Duane.
- Christ Church Glenwood (the church Grant and Ray pastor) in Durban – I’d never seen a church like this before with such an emphasis on local mission, especially with the students of UKZN.
- St. Stephen’s, Claremont – my current church continues to inspire me as they continue to be missionaries for Jesus in the Cape Town community.
- Bishop Frank Retief – the current presiding bishop of CESA. His commitment to the gospel and church planting over so many years is astounding.
- Phillip Jensen and the Sydney Anglicans - I’ve never been to Sydney but I’ve read a lot of Jensen’s books and listened to his talks and they’ve left me wanting to help people to come to truly know Christ.
- Short term spells of working in townships and low income areas in Cape Town – when you’re there on the ground with them you can’t but help becoming missional.
- The great friendships I’ve built up and discussions I’ve had with my colleagues from Sub-Saharan Africa – thanks Asaf, Leo, Velile, Jean-Blaise, Pastor Pirai, your stories have encouraged me to use whatever gifting I have to be missional here in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- The wonderful self-sacrificial missionaries I met in Malawi last year – you redeemed the concept of ‘missionary’ for me.
- The crew from U-Turn who work tirelessly with homeless folk everyday – you show that Jesus’ love is very practical.
- Mark Driscoll – he makes me laugh and he loves Jesus and wants people to be in a right relationship with God.
- Donald Miller – whether you like him or not ‘Blue Like Jazz‘ is brilliant – it helped me to treat people as human.
- The Emerging conversation – I have a love/hate relationship with the EC, but the things I love in the EC I really do love.
- The writings and talks of Don Carson – No one has helped me understand the gospel with more richness and fullness.
- The Faculty of the Bible Institute of South Africa – you’ve taught me to love people.
- My friends Mark and Anthony – you both often talk to me about ‘missional’ things. These times have been good, let’s pray that God will help us translate these conversations into faithful ministry on the ground.
- The world of blogging – its been a lot of fun and I’ve learned stacks from taking part in it.
- Emergent Africa – seeing your guys’ hearts on these issues has been a privilege.
- My beautiful country – South Africa – she inspires me to see Jesus as her King.
What are your influences?
As I continued reading through the Psalms this morning I came across what for me is one of the most profound verses in Scripture. If I remember correctly I first really reflected on this verse when I read a sermon of John Piper’s dealing with it. The verse is Psalm 63:3
“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.”
What strikes me is the frame of mind David has to be in to write such words. To reckon that God’s love is greater than one’s very own life – and not just intellectually, but to the point of action – is completely mind boggling for me. Everyday I love this life, and my life, more than God’s love – it is a constant challenge for me to reckon that God’s love is greater than life. Intellectually I’m there completely but in practice I’m miles away.
I pray for God’s Spirit to transform my heart and my actions so that I can sing this Psalm with David with great conviction.
I’ve never thought of it this way before but David Bosch put a new spin, for me at least, on why Western Christians might be ineffective in mission. He says,
“Because of its complicity in the subjugation and exploitation of peoples of color, the West – and also Western Christians – tend to suffer from an acute sense of guilt. This circumstance often leads to an inability or unwillingness among Western Christians to ‘give an account of the hope they have’ (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) to people of other persuasions.” Transforming Mission p. 3
Living as a white South African, its easy for me to see how this statement can hold a lot of water. Guilt is a huge obstacle to real, missional, cultural engagement. I think some white Christians in this country are simply paralysed from doing mission in the broader South African context because of an overriding sense of guilt.
Fortunately our gospel is a gospel that breaks down the barrier of guilt because in the economy of the gospel all are guilty and all are equally able to be forgiven and cleared of guilt. If our mission revolved around any other message then guilt would be an insurmountable obstacle.