Dluxe's World

Wednesday, January 25

Well, that's a novel approach...

As Tim would tell you, I've been doing some reading regarding the so-called "Emerging Church" phenomenon. I was initially intrigued by them because I came across Brian McLaren's interesting open letter to songwriters. Having taken a shot at some songwriting lately, I was interested.

McLaren states that:
Let me make this specific: Too many of our lyrics are embarrassingly personalistic, about Jesus and me... A popular worship song I've heard in many venues in the last few years (and which we sing at Cedar Ridge, where I pastor) says that worship is "all about You, Jesus," but apart from that line, it really feels like worship, and Christianity in general, has become all about me, me, me... Isn’t our God, our mission, our community worthy of more lyrical quality than we are offering so far?

I agree. Matt Redman made a similar push in WorshipLeader magazine as well. For my part, the little ditties we've worked on are grounded in Scripture lyrically and try to be more than just 'love song' offerings. (And, no. You can't hear them, yet.)

So, I was intrigued and tried to find out a little more about this 'Emerging Church' thing. What I discovered was that they "slippery", to borrow the phrase from Tim. The basic gist seems to be they are trying to break out of traditional molds to bring the church into the modern (and even postmodern) age.

I can resonate with that, to some extent. We should be able to adopt appropriate, culturally-relevent forms into our worship and expressions of Christ's work in our lives. At the same time, it's dangerous to let our (sinful) modern perspectives have too great a sway on our doctrines. Just because it's new doesn't make it right/better. Note: 'Old' isn't always better either, but that's another post.

Then I read this gem by McLaren on ChristianityToday discussing homosexuality:
I hesitate in answering "the homosexual question" not because I'm a cowardly flip-flopper who wants to tickle ears, but because I am a pastor, and pastors have learned from Jesus that there is more to answering a question than being right or even honest: we must also be … pastoral. That means understanding the question beneath the question, the need or fear or hope or assumption that motivates the question...

Frankly, many of us don't know what we should think about homosexuality. We've heard all sides, but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say "it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us." ... Even if we are convinced that all homosexual behavior is always sinful, we still want to treat gay and lesbian people with more dignity, gentleness, and respect than our colleagues do. If we think that there may actually be a legitimate context for some homosexual relationships, we know that the biblical arguments are nuanced and multilayered, and the pastoral ramifications are staggeringly complex. We aren't sure if or where lines are to be drawn, nor do we know how to enforce with fairness whatever lines are drawn.

Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements.

Certainly, much damage has been done to the cause of Christ because of confrontational, over-zealous, self-righteous Christians. When we confront sin as if we are judge, jury, and the injured party in all this, the usual result is not positive for the Gospel. I think comments should be "seasoned with salt", revealing our humility and sinfulness as well as Christ's overwhelming grace. We've all fallen short of God's glory, right? We're not so different...

While grace absolutely needs to be present in our conversations, Truth needs to be present as well.

Here's what disturbs me most about McLaren's comments. While I am no gifted exegete, I do think that the Biblical prohibitions against homosexuality are clear and striking. Failing to tell a congregant of their open rebellion against God is a terrible thing for a pastor to do. If, as McLaren implies, there "is no position [that] has yet won [his] confidence" the right thing to do (IMNSHO) would be to dive into the Word and figure it out.

By failing to state a conclusion, McLaren commits a fault I think is almost worse than taking the wrong position. He has chosen to characterize God's divine law as a cosmic shrug... Instead of bringing the church into postmodernism, he's done nothing more than bring postmodernism into the church. "I dunno, I could go either way, I guess. What is truth?"

I am reminded of our pastors/elders who decided to clearly define the church's position on the Biblical role of men and women. Obviously, this is another charged issue to tackle and has reasoned advocates on both sides. Uninviting as it might've been, our church leaders recognized that taking no stance was analogous to a punt. So, they dove into Scriptures, read books, prayed and reasoned together to reach a conclusion.

If church leaders are called to 'give an account' for leading the flock, I would think that they'd at least want to plumb the depths of the issue, understand it, formulate a conclusion, and be able to sustain your conclusion philosophically (in this life). Will we be right all the time? Probably not, thanks to sin.

But simply leaving it up to everyone else... Or not speaking of it until you're 100% positive...? That's a road to nowhere. Paul exhorted Timothy:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5, ESV, emphasis mine)

I can't help but feel that "preaching the word", at least as it pertains to sound teaching, means that there will be some difficult, black 'n white statements to be made. We should carefully examine the issues in light of the truths revealed in the Bible to form our opinions.

Failing to form an opinion, however, is not modern wisdom. At best it's an affirmation of ignorance. And, at worst, it's simply failure.

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  • Reading the Timothy passage I am reminded of Titus, another Pastoral Epistle, in which Paul says this of an elder/overseer: "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those to contradict it." (Titus 1:9)

    I think the issue of homosexuality would fall into the category of doctrine, which teaches us how to live our lives even down to the nitty-gritty. It's something that those in authority need to take a stand on one way or another because they have to be instructing those under them.

    A shepherd can't lead sheep if he doesn't choose which way to go.

    By Blogger Eva, at 9:26 PM, January 25, 2006  

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