Interesting Theologians

You know this guy pushing Dos Equis beer?  You probably do.

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But have you ever hear of these guys?  They might be almost as interesting.   Brilliant, brilliant stuff from Out of Ur.   Please go there and enjoy all of these.  Here are my two favourites:

Screen shot 2013-07-30 at 5.16.10 PMInteresting Aquinas


Hearing About Tolerance Often? Read This!

toleranceTolerance is the orthodoxy of our pluralistic, consumer-driven culture of today.  Nobody has linked the contemporary view of ‘tolerance’ with consumerism better than Lesslie Newbigin.  He writes:

Different religious traditions lose their capacity to be the binding elements of societies and become instead mere options for religious consumers to select for their own private reasons, reasons which are not to be argued about.  Thus “democratized” , religions enter the marketplace as objects of subjective choices in much the same way as brands of toothpaste and laundry soap. *

So what is better than tolerance?  Love.  And Christian love is far different than the anything-goes kind of love which is popularly promoted today. Listen to Paul Louis Metzger, in reflecting on his friendship with a Buddhist monk, write about his preference for Christian love over today’s tolerance:

I for one would rather be loved than tolerated.  With this point in mind I am so thankful that John 3:16 does not read, “For God so tolerated the world that he chose not to send his Son.”  I am so grateful that it reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”  Tolerance allows for the opportunity to remain at the far end of an outstretched hand; love requires embracing the other.  Tolerance does not entail having to get to know the other; love means being hospitable, which would include welcoming the person into one’s home.  Tolerance and love alike do not entail having to agree with someone; tolerance and love entail heart attitudes and behaviors that involve making space, and in the case of the latter, cherishing the other even when there is radical disagreement concerning such vital matters as faith claims.**

*  Lesslie Newbigin, “Religion for the Marketplace,” in Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered:  The Myth of a Pluralistic Theology of Religions, page 152,

**  Paul Louis Metzger,  Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths, page 182.

What never gets old? And always needs to be re-told?

Maybe the people in my congregation have started to notice.  I’m a little repetitive sometimes.  But I give myself a pass because the Bible is repetitive too.  Read the whole New Testament and tell me I’m wrong.  The Apostle Paul told the Philippians that some things were never tedious for him to repeat but always safe for the hearers.

Good News paperIn fact, part of our worship together is to hear God’s Good News proclaimed again and again.  I always endeavour to have a Gospel-centred sermon every time it falls to me to preach.  Of late, I’ve even had a refrain (usually worked into my introduction) that states this Gospel for us fresh each week.  If you’re a part of The King’s Fellowship, maybe you’ve noticed.  It goes a little something like this:

The Gospel is that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah of Israel.  He is God in the flesh; God has come down into the world that He has made.  He lived as both Man and God – a perfect, sinless life, worthy of all God’s blessing.  He was crucified, suffered, bled, and died on the Cross for sinners.  He was placed in the grave but on the 3rd day, He rose again.  Then, after a short time, He ascended into heaven as both Man and God, where He is living right now.  And He is praying for His people.  This is the Gospel.

This Good News has implications of which here are three:  First, it means that Jesus is the Lord of all the earth.  There is no other authority.  That means that those who follow Him sometimes advocate unfashionable causes because He is the King.  Second, everyone who personally places their trust in Him is personally forgiven for their sins.  More than forgiveness, they are counted righteous in the eyes of God.  They can inherit eternal life and enter the Kingdom of God.  Third, all those who will believe, will.  They will congregate in His Church because He shed His blood for her.  They will worship Him, live holy lives, and serve this world in His name.  These are implications of the Gospel.

This takes me about 3 minutes to say.  It’s my summary of the Gospel and it works.  And you know what?  It is never tedious to say and it is always safe to hear.

Wisdom On Prayer From An Earlier Age – or – take it from a brother who knows!

Sometimes to get back to basics about something we need to go back in time.  No, I don’t mean actual time travel!  That’s most likely impossible (probably).  I mean going back in history and seeing what Christians of earlier ages said.  On the subject of prayer, Christians always need clarity and wisdom from an earlier age.  Here’s some of that older wisdom (hyperlinks do not date back to the Reformation but were added by yours truly):

John Calvin.   Try to find a pointier beard on a man, just try.

John Calvin.
Try to find a pointier beard on a man.  Just try.

On the one hand, the man who is rightly instructed in the true faith sees clearly how very poor he is, how totally bereft of all that is good, and how he lacks any possibility at all of saving himself.  Hence, if he wants to find a source of help for his beggary, he must go out of himself and look for it elsewhere.  

On the other hand, he contemplates the Lord who generously and willingly offers himself in Jesus Christ and, in Christ, opens to him all heavenly treasures.  The Lord does this so that the whole of man’s faith may apply itself to looking at this beloved Son, that all he expects may depend on this Son, and that all his hope should be built on, and rooted in, this Son.

Therefore man must turn to God in order to ask from him, by prayer, what he has learned to be in him…

…Prayer is a form of communication between God and ourselves by which we set before him our desires, our joys, our complaints – in short, all that goes on in our heart…

…There are two things which should really stir us up to pray: first of all, God’s directive which commands us to pray; and then the promise by which he assures us that we will receive what we ask.

-from Truth For All Time:  A Brief Outline of the Christian Faith, by John Calvin.

Why Am I Still Preaching? A Conversation

Here’s my old friend and seminary classmate, Rick, trying to start a dialogue about my latest post. I heartily endorse his excellent blog as well.

W.onderful W.orld of W.adholms

Why Am I Still Preaching?

Steve Swan (a friend who pastors in Winnipeg) nails it: Why Am I Still Preaching?.

I’ve said something similar in a paper I presented for the Society for Pentecostal Studies that has been picked up for an edited volume in the works on Pentecostal Preaching. You can read the proposal for my contribution HERE (and there is a link there for reading the paper as it was presented: “Emerging Homiletics: A Pentecostal Response”).

I’m with Steve…traditional preaching remains an integral part of the responsibility of the Church. It isn’t the only way for instruction, but it remains one of the essentials of Christian proclamation and community formation.

via Steve Swan.

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Why Am I Still Preaching?

My congregation’s life is in full summer mode.  That means on any given Lord’s Day, we’re missing 2/3 of our people (sometimes even ¾!)  When I take the small step up to the pulpit on Sunday and look out over the small gathering, I wonder – why am I about to preach?  Should I bother?  The summer doldrums make me feel this question more so than the rest of the year (I always feel awkward preaching to smaller groups).  But the question is still a good one to revisit.  I’ve heard several times that communicators and teachers should endeavour to be ‘guides on the side’ instead of the ‘sage on the stage’.  There is in this a not so subtle critique of the sermon in its traditional form.  *nevermind that as a pastor, I spend lots of time guiding on the side*

It's hard to find images of preachers not wearing ties.  Finally found one.

It’s hard to find images of preachers not wearing ties.
Finally found one.

Why, in this day and age, should God’s people – with strangers, skeptics, and seekers in their midst –  still gather to listen to one person speak from the Bible?  What about more dialogical ways of communication?  Are we staying with ‘preaching’ just because it’s the way we’ve always done it?  When I was an art student immersed in conceptual art forms, I often doubted the validity of traditional painting.  Wasn’t painting dead?  Maybe oil painters were just addicted to the smell of turpentine, we joked.  Is it similar with preachers? Do we keep on with the same method because we’re addicted to our voices?

I love dialogical ways of communicating.  I love Q & A (although I’ve rarely been able to successfully employ it in a worship service).  In light of that, why do I still keep on preaching rather traditional sermons?  I’ve asked myself this many times.  I’ve seen other Christians abandon preaching but I just can’t.  I thought I’d share why:

1)  Our culture hasn’t given up on it!

Despite voices saying that our culture has moved past a crowd gathered to listen to one person speak, I’m not quite convinced.  Why?  Because many people I know listen like crazy to TED talks.  FaceBook walls of friends and acquaintances are filled with links to them and similar talks as well.  I know there are differences – most people don’t gather together to hear a TED talk, they’re often shorter than some sermons, and some have more visual aids.  But the fact remains, people are still wanting to hear from one designated person who speaks to the many.  So I’m not so convinced that our culture is beyond that form.

2)  The nature of the Gospel demands proclamation. 

The Gospel is by nature an announcement of what has occurred.  It is a story to be told.  It carries with it the authority of God.  Because it is news (the Good News) of something that has been done for us it must therefore be told.  Dialogue can be great and helpful but the Gospel’s own nature as news demands proclamation.  I’ve heard Tim Keller express this so many times I can’t even cite it.  If it were Good Advice it could be shown, but because it is Good News it needs telling.  Sometimes people tell me there are other, better ways to teach some one something.  I actually agree with them – there are!  When I’m out of the pulpit I like to let others do most of the talking and I always love learning that way.  But when the time comes in worship for the Word, and the task falls to me, I’m not just teaching but proclaiming.  News needs proclamation.

3) I still believe something happens. 

Call me naïve but I really believe the Bible; that God speaks through it.  And I really believe Titus 1:3, that God manifested (and manifests) His word through preaching (its actually plural – preachings – which I take to mean every occasion of preaching).  As Darrell Johnson of Regent College has said about when a person engages in preaching:  “Something Happens!”  To be in the presence of God’s Word proclaimed isn’t a sacrament – but it’s almost sacramental.  That is, there is a real activity of God in the room, with the people, when the Bible is read and expounded.  Sin is named and conviction felt.  Hurts are addressed and comfort given.  Truth is declared and received.  Idols are torn down and the True God made known.  Something really happens.  Something of God’s Word is manifested in the here and now.

It’s for these reasons that I still preach.  Every now and then I must remind myself that it is not a waste of time – even in the midst of summer doldrums.

The Journey of Conversion Made Up By Mini-Decisions, Part 4

Sometimes when you are buying something you need to try it out for awhile.  While I shudder to equate coming to faith in Christ with ‘buying something’ there is some wisdom there.  Even when people appear to accept Christianity suddenly it is often because of a series of ‘mini-decisions.’  Using Tim Keller’s Center Church as a guide, I’ve been looking at different types of these min-decisions.  Awareness, Relevance, Credibility and now Trial.  Here’s how he defines it:

steps4)  Trial:  “I see what it would be like.”  They are involved in some form of group life, in some type of service ministry, and are effectively trying Christianity on, often talking like a Christian – even defending the faith at times. *

Keller doesn’t give his own examples of this one but I’ve witnessed this over the years.  People aren’t quite ready to commit fully but they do want to ‘feel it out’.  They may:

-start attending church services (usually sitting in the back)

-may come to a prayer meeting in a home (I did this!)

-may even assume some Christian vocabulary – “I’m starting to think about my ‘walk with the Lord'”.

What’s important is that we, the community of Faith, make room for people to explore.  They may be trying to feel what it’s like.  We don’t have to require great knowledge or spiritual commitment of people before they take part in prayer gatherings, for example.  We shouldn’t hold back in discussing matters of faith just because there is someone around who might not quite ‘be there.’  They may need to hear us, and even participate, as part of their journey.

*  From page 282 of Center Church.