Posts in the category “Culture and Theology.”

Doing versus Being

Posted Friday, January 05, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and Theology   Comments: 1
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I was reading 1 Corinthians 6 the other day and I came across the command to not associate with a so-called brother who was covetous, along with a list of other bad things. But when was the last time you saw church discipline being conducted because of coveting? I never have, and I come from a church where church discipline is practiced. As I was pondering why this was, it occured to me that perhaps this is another effect of the Enlightenment and the rise of science. Attention was given to things we could prove and show by argument. If you could not show prove it objectively, then it was subjective and worthless as far as proving anything. Hence, church discipline was done only on things that could be "proven" objectively. The focus is no longer on being godly, but on acting godly. While I do not want to undervalue acting godly, it seems that we focus so much on doing that we forget about being. As another example, look at many evangelical. books about developing a heart for God. What do they tell us: they give us a list of things to do. We need to focus on being godly and loving God as well as living godly. Read more of Doing versus Being

Of Umpires and Postmodernism

Posted Sunday, January 21, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and Theology   Comments: 23
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My mom is taking a few seminary classes and recently I was helping her study for a test for a theology class. In one of her textbooks (Survival Guide to Theology ), I came across a very helpful way to illustrate the difference between modernism and postmodernism. This topic is an important one today for all areas of life, including theology, and being able to illustrate the difference helps us understand the difference. Read more of Of Umpires and Postmodernism

Time's Sermon

Posted Sunday, January 28, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and Theology   Comments: None
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The latest issue of Time (January 29, 2007) was devoted to the topic of the mind and body. There were many fascinating articles, but one of them caught my attention: The Mystery of Consciousness, by Steven Pinker, a professor at Harvard. This articles surveys the "Easy" problem and the "Hard" problem. The easy problem is "to distinguish conscious from unconscious mental computations, identify its correlates in the brain and why it evolved." The hard problem is "why it feels like something to have a conscious process going on in ones head - why there is first-person, subjective experience." There were two parts of the article that jumped out at me. Read more of Time's Sermon

February, 2007

Just let the Colts win!

Sam discovers that he’s not always orthodox.

Posted Saturday, February 03, 2007 by Sam Yeiter
Categories: Popular CultureHumorCulture and Theology   Comments: 2
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At work, my office recently went to war with another office across campus.  It began when they stole Rish’s candy jar.  Stealthily, I went and retrieved it.  A few days later the rival camp came and absconded with the jar a second time.  This time they hid it much more effectively (I did discover it later, after this story ends, and we won…but that is incidental to my story).  When my efforts to find it were at first fruitless, I went on a quest for a bargaining chip.

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March, 2007

Styles of Preaching

Posted Thursday, March 01, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and Theology   Comments: None
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I have decided to start a new series. This new series is entitled: Stupid things evangelicals say. The general spirit of the series is to show how our conservatism blinds us to reality. If any of you fellow theoblogians have any contributions, please add to the series. The first entry is from a review of an excellent book: The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative by Steven Mathewson. Mathewson notes that often an inductive style is good for preaching, where the main point of the sermon is developed over the course of the sermon and stated explicitly only at the end. In contrast to this, the classic evangelical sermon is deductive, where the main point is stated clearly at the beginning and the end. But the reviewer says the following about this:

    It is at this point that some readers, including the present reviewer, have their greatest tension with Mathewson's suggestions. Although induction is the best approach to the study of OT narratives, is it the best means of exposition? The biblical text is an objective revelation from God whose meaning needs to be explained to a contemporary audience. For example, Ezra and the Levites "read from the book, from the law of God [which included narrative], explaining to give the sense so that they understood the reading" (Neh 8:8). The inductive, "moves" approach implies that the hearer will discover the sense from a sermon, whereas a deductive, "point" approach implies that the expositor gives the sense to the hearer. It seems that the latter approach is more consistent with the biblical mandate.

Well, I guess the author of Chronicles really missed this biblical principle. What was he thinking? That his audience would understand what his points were even if he didn't state them anywhere? I sure am glad we have only good deductive sermons today!

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JP Moreland, the IFCA and Philosophy

Posted Friday, March 09, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and Theology   Comments: 19
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This week was the NW regional meeting of the IFCA. Since I grew up in an IFCA church and am now serving there, I have been going to them whenever I am able, and this one was an opportunity I did not want to miss since the main speaker was JP Moreland. From the moment I heard that he was going to speak, I thought it rather a strange choice and wondered how he would be received. For those of you who do not remember, John MacArthur was almost kicked out of the IFCA a few years ago for his views on the sonship of Christ and the blood of Christ (Further details hereand here ). Then the seminary associated with MacArthur, Master's Seminary, was begun partly because Talbot Seminary (at Biola) was going too liberal, so some of the professors left there for Master's. Now the link in all this is that JP Moreland is a professor at Talbot. So someone too liberal for Masters who is too liberal for the IFCA is coming to speak! I guessed it would be an interesting time, and it certainly proved to be. Here are some of the interesting things that he said. Read more of JP Moreland, the IFCA and Philosophy

The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon and Moody

Book Review

Posted Tuesday, March 13, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and Theology   Comments: None
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This book by David Bebbington is the third installment in the five-volume “A History of Evangelicalism” series from IVP (at this date only the first and third are published). The book covers the years from about 1850-1900, but does not take a chronological approach, instead topically examining various aspects of the evangelical movement during these years. The book is a great read because it explains a lot of our current practices as well as showing us how some things never change. I felt like I was reading a modern evangelical history book with the names changed: the same issues are being debated today with different characters. There is much that we can learn from our ancestors. There are lots of good stories and observations I could give from the book, but here are a few.

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Posted Thursday, March 22, 2007 by Brian Beers
Categories: Culture and TheologyFaith   Comments: None
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Christianity can seem like a swarm of buzzwords, catch-phrases, and euphemisms. Current buzzwords tell us what has captured the collective attention of the church. Catch phrases tell us the efforts being made to influence the church. But euphemisms have a deeper meaning. More accurately: Euphemisms prove that there is a deeper reality. While buzzwords and catch-phrases reveal wishful thinking, euphemisms reveal a “wish it weren’t so” kind of thinking. There are aspects of reality that we cannot avoid and cannot avoid talking about. So we resort to euphemism.

Perhaps the use of euphemisms in the presence of the true God is evidence to his weight of glory. We speak of the “hand of providence,” “dying to self,” “accepting Jesus as your personal savior,” and “besetting sins” among others. Yet we shy away from fully considering what they mean. In this way our use of euphemism reveals something of the power of our faith.

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April, 2007

The Christian Environmentalist's Creed

First Thoughts

Posted Tuesday, April 03, 2007 by eric.mattison
Categories: Popular CultureCulture and Theology   Comments: 5
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The world at large is asking difficult questions regarding the environment and our relationship to it.  The challenge is finding ministers and teachers that are willing to even discuss it in Biblical terms.  To often our teaching on it is reduced to platitudes heard on talk radio and some occassional proof texting via "Scientific" studies.  Perhaps a significant source of frustration is the lack of real doctrine related to this issue.   The lofty goal before us is to rectify some the inequities here.  Read more of The Christian Environmentalist's Creed

Jesus Camp

Posted Friday, April 20, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Popular CultureCulture and Theology   Comments: None
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I watched an interesting film last night entitled Jesus Camp (Thanks to my friend Ben for first telling me about it). The film is a documentary about a children’s camp that trains kids to be fundamentalist and charismatic cultural warriors. The film was not interesting not only because they are inhabiting a fairly different evangelical world than mine, but also because in some ways they are very similar to us and it felt strange to watch “us” from the outside.

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May, 2007

Jesus died for my karma

Posted Wednesday, May 09, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and TheologyMissions   Comments: 1
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The latest issue of Christianity Today (May 2007) includes a fascinating article with Ram Gidoomal entitled "Christ, my Bodhisattva." Ram grew up in a Hindu environment but then got saved while he was in England, where he still lives. The point of the article is the need to contextualize the gospel to Hindu's. For example, there are practical problems.

"I recall my first visit to a church here, my first church ever, St. Paul's Onslow Square. I went to the evening service, so none of my friends or relations would see me going. The first thing I looked for on walking in was the shoebox. I wanted to take my shoes off: This is holy ground, and you're asking me to come in with my dirty, filthy feet and go into the presence of God? This is not right: this is not holy. I must take my shoes off. But they told me that there was no place for shoes. So I went to sit on the floor, in the proper location of respect, and the usher said to sit on the wooden bench. Then the organ blasted out and I thought, Who has died? Because organ music was just for funerals in my mind. It was an alien experience." 

 But the more interesting question is how to actually communicate the faith. "So I decided, When they talk about sin, I think of karma, and I believe Jesus died for my karma, so I am going to accept him on those terms."

Now I am all for contextualizing the gospel so that people can understand it. But one can certainly take it too far. I think (at this moment anyway) that this statement could be helpful for people to understand the gospel, but not as a statement of the gospel to stand by itself. But I am being too picky? Do you think that this would be a good statement of the gospel?  

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Donald Miller: Blue Like Jazz

Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and Theology   Comments: None
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The most recent issue of Christianity Today (June 2007) had an interesting interview with Donald Miller, who wrote Blue like Jazz. Have any of you read it? I was thinking about reading it sometime. The interview included some intriguing quotes.

“If your mind is not constantly being changed,” he says, “you’re not following Christ.”

Miller believes sharing the gospel should be like setting someone up on a blind date, not like explaining propositions.

“It seems to me there are a million keys to marriage, and they change depending on what kind of mood she’s in.”

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June, 2007

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

Posted Wednesday, June 20, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and Theology   Comments: None
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I have started doing reading for my PhD program this summer, so I thought I would pass along my reading reports. The reports are about 10 pages, so I have divided them up into two posts. The first report is on a fascinating and provacative book by Mark Noll about evangelicals and thinking. I would happy to hear any comments on the book or the report.  Read more of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

Juries and Theology

Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and Theology   Comments: None
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I got summoned for jury duty this morning, and as I was sitting there I started thinking about commen sense. (By the way, there were not any cases for the specific group I was in, so I was only there two hours.) They said we should decide using our own commen sense. This is also a technical term that I have been reading a lot about recently, specifically Scottish common sense realism. This viewpoint had a great effect on the church in the last two centuries and affects how we do theology and how we read the Bible. But as I was pondering common sense, it seems that a postmodern culture is drifting away from common sense: they recognize that everyone has an angle and a viewpoint. Therefore, common sense actually isn't all that common. So will the whole idea of a jury go away? In my thinking postmodernism doesn't mix real well with a jury system. Of course, postmodernism doesn't mesh real well with a justice system at all. Read more of Juries and Theology

July, 2007

Progressive Cessationism

Who's Afraid of the Holy Spirit?

Posted Friday, July 13, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: TheologyCulture and Theology   Comments: None
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Some in the cessationist camp have felt that we have thrown the baby out with the bath water. That is, we believe that the sign gifts have ceased, but then we act like the Holy Spirit has ceased as well! Can one be a cessationist and still believe that the Holy Spirit does anything today? Maybe even something miraculous? Maybe even something subjective? What does the Holy Spirit do today? I had the privilege to get together with a group of pastors (all cessationists) recently to discuss this issue and it was fascinating to see the variety of opinions among them. Cessationism is certainly not a monolithic entity. Another group of cessationists (this group consisting of academics) asked the same questions and the result of their inquiry was a fairly recent book entitled Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit? Here are some of the highlights of the book.

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Emerging Church

Posted Saturday, July 21, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and Theology   Comments: None
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I have recently read two books either about the emerging church or heavily influenced by it. Both of them were certainly the usual style of books I read, as they were not about the emerging church as they were by the emerging church, which has a fairly different approach to life than I am used to. The two books are Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches (read: Five ways of being emerging church) and Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller.

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September, 2007

Mind and Emotion

Posted Tuesday, September 04, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and Theology   Comments: 2
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I heard a pastor say a statement recently that I have also said but that struck me as wrong when I heard it. The statement was that we need to make sure our mind tells our heart what to do, because the heart is the location of our sinful nature. The problem I had with this was two-fold. First, it was dualistic: it made a absolutely good mind and an evil heart. Secondly, it ignored total depravity: every aspect of our being is corrupted sin, including our mind. Therefore, a time might happen when we need to follow our heart and not our mind. This emphasis upon the mind refects our fascination with the Enlightenment, where the mind is given priority to understand anything, without prejudice. But there is no perfectly neutral obersver, we are all situated somewhere and we all have preconceived notions of some kind. We have been dramatically affected by our culture (modernism, in this case) and confused that with a biblical worldview. 

By the way, I do think the statement still  has some validity. For example, David talks to himself and I think we should do the same type of thing (O soul, why are you downcast?). We need to remind ourselves of truth and the proper way to feel and live. But sometimes our mind needs to be taught, too. 

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Gadamer and Understanding

Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and Theology   Comments: None
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For our theological interpretation class we have been reading about Gadamer. I had never heard of Gadamer previous to this class, but he has some good things to say, along with many things about which I disagree. He was a German philosopher who published his most famous work, Truth and Method, in 1960. In a sense, he is halfway between modernism and postmodernism.

One of his key points, which evangelicals need to take to heart, is how situated each of us is in our historical and cultural context. It is not just that the answers we get are skewed because of our surroundings, but even the questions we ask are a product of our surroundings and culture. Deconstructionism takes this to the extreme and says that it is virtually impossible to know anything, but Gadamer attempts to rescue some kind of objective truth. His main thought is that agreement is knowledge. That is, if people agree in a Hegelian sort of way, then some kind of objective knowledge can be reached. Each person should have an interpretative humility, where they seek to learn from everyone, even if it is just to learn how to correctly reject their view. Gadamer also, somewhat inconsistently, takes a high view of tradition: since we are historically situated, then we do not know enough to be to critique, so we should simply and humbly accept it.

There are various ways to take this into a Christian context. The idea would be that we can know and believe as Christians because we are part of a believing community. We are not out to seek the truth as the Lone Ranger, but we seek it along with the community. There is much to commend this, but it also has problems. Which community do you follow, for example? What happens when communities disagree? How is someone like Luther explained who goes against his community?

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November, 2007

Faithful Intepretation: Reading the Bible in a Postmodern World

A. K. M. Adam

Posted Sunday, November 11, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Culture and TheologyHermeneutics   Comments: None
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How does a postmodern read the Bible? A. K. M. Adam has given us a very helpful view for how a postmodern can read the Bible and use it in their life. The largest step which Adam makes (in my opinion) is that he moves away from determinate meaning and away from an overarching universal criterion for interpretation. But he does not thereby move to  complete relativism, since he says that some interpretations are only possible while others probable. The way that he draws this line is to bring in local criteria. For example, if he gave a bizarre interpretation of a particular text, then those around him would censure him in various ways, either directly or through ignoring him. Hence, this will define what can be a possible or a probable interpretation. But even with a bizarre interpretation he says that there would be some who would probably accept it, and then presumably it would be a valid view among that local group. He says that we should welcome a variety of interpretations because it reflects the diversity of creation: we should not try to stifle interpretations that are different than ours, because that just is a blatant power play, but we should glory in these various interpretations. Quoting Stephen Fowl, he says that texts do not have ideologies, but we bring our ideologies to the text. Hence, Matthew is not anti-Semitic for Adam because it cannot be anything. He does not like the imitation idea from Jesus and Paul, especially Paul, because he sees the command to imitate him as another power play. In its place he proposes the idea of repitition, where we repeat what others have done, but adjusted to our own context. Somewhat predictably, he ends the book with a strong defense of homosexuality in the church.

While the book is a fascinating and easy read, there are several unanswered questions for me. The first I will call the "stop sign" problem. Adam discusses the stop sign several times in the book. He notes that drivers stop at an octagonal red sign only because of a local concept: because in this culture that kind of sign signifies that one needs to stop. But if the sign was different and written in Chinese, then the American would not be held culpable for not understanding the sign. But then Adam adds that they would be held culpable for denying the  underlying command exists. This seems to go against Adam's whole thesis: the red stop sign might need to be translated, but the idea behind it is absolute for all. So why can't there be an ultimate meaning for a biblical text? The closest that Adam gets to explaining this is that the Bible is a literary text and different from a stop sign, which is more simple. But I think that there is more of a parallel between these two types than Adam grants. He could state that the stop sign is a single incident, which is different than the complex literature which we find in the Bible. But there is no text without a context: there is no abstract stop sign without contextual clues.

The other problem is what I call the "Nazi problem". The Nazi's are the whipping boy of ethical discussions, but they do provide a nice example because virtually everyone says they acted in a wrong manner. The problem is what happens when the local criteria are wrong, as in the Third Reich. An interpreter could present a strongly anti-Semitic viewpoint and be encouraged by his community and pass the local criteria. How does the local criteria function work when it is broken? Adam never addresses this issue in the book, and I think that this problem is the Achilles heel of any pure community or local model. One possible way around it is to say that the interpreter should have moved away from purely German criteria and brought in more criteria from other countries. But this moves us ever closer to universal criteria, which is exactly what Adam tries to avoid.  When he talks about his bizarre interpretation, he says that it would be accepted by some, so presumably the interpretation is valid as long as some accept it, so it cannot be rejected simply because it does not conform to a larger circle than the local circle. Presumably Adam would also respond to this charge with a call to ethics: the Nazi reading is not an ethical reading. But this simply creates another problem: What is an ethical reading? The Nazis certainly thought that they were being ethical, and if we say that they were wrong then we are simply executing a power play, in postmodern terms. I simply do not see any way that an indeterminate view of meaning can handle the Nazi problem.

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