Posts Tagged ‘theology’

Dec
06
2013

A Theology of Technology

How do Christians handle technology? We we blindly accept it all forms as neutral? Do we withdraw in a sort of isolationist rejection? Fascinating questions we must tackle as faithful followers of Jesus during the digital revolution. These are the questions Craig Detwiler discusses in a fascinating new book, iGods. I had the change to chat with him this week over at Leadership Journal. Here’s a snippet of that conversation:

If you could counsel church leaders, how would you advise them to approach, in their teaching and personal life example, an adequate theology of technology?

As with entertainment, the temptation seems to be disengagement or overindulgence. How do develop a maturity that welcomes the wonders and gifts of technology without letting our devices drive our decision-making?

I’ve been rereading Scripture with an eye on technology, wondering how to translate enduring truths into contemporary terms. For example, can we call God the original technologist? Perhaps it is helpful to talk about Genesis in terms of engineering and aesthetics. We know that Jesus was more than a carpenter’s son, but do we also realize the Greek word for “carpenter” was tekton? Perhaps the “magic” that we associate with the iPhone isn’t so far removed from the original Designer.

I haven’t heard enough pastors talking and modeling digital discipleship. If our congregants spend hours each week involved in social media, then how do we follow God and craft a winsome witness via our smart phones? In the 21st century, we all have the capacity to be narrowcasters, with the possibility of becoming broadcasters. That is a remarkable moment to preach and teach within.

We also might find ourselves distinguished by our ongoing belief in the sacredness of the body, the need to relieve physical and psychic pain and suffering via presence—from chicken soup to bedside prayers. I’m confident the Spirit will continue to lead us towards acts of kindness towards our neighbors and into the farthest corners of the Internet.

You really should read the rest of this interview here:

Jan
30
2012

A Better Way to Discern

I come from a very conservative theological background and I maintain many of those same convictions. But one thing that has changed in my heart over the years is my attitude toward people from different ministry contexts and denominations. I used to think that if their bullet points didn’t line up with mine, then I was right and they were wrong.

I no longer think this way. That’s not to be confused with doctrinal slippage. I feel very strongly that doctrine is vital for the life of the  church and that the attempts to weaken orthodoxy by some will hurt the cause of Christ going forward. But, quite often conservatives have a “guilty until proven innocent” outlook about Christian leaders. Some self-appointed watch-bloggers view any big, successful church movement with sarcastic skepticism, as if every mega-church pastor is out to fill seats, fill coffers, and build buildings. Sure there are charlatans on the evangelical scene. There are prosperity pastors who have watered down faith in order to find Christian fame. But unless we are God (which we are most definitely not) we are not in the position to judge their hearts. We can discern the output (teaching, books, etc). But it should be done with a humble heart, not the sort of sarcastic one-upsmanship that characterizes so many self-appointed watchdogs of truth.

The truth is that there are many evangelical “celebrities” who are famous because God has blessed their teaching ministries. They are solid preachers and teachers, selfless servants. We shouldn’t begrudge them their blessing. We shouldn’t mask our jealousy and contempt behind a facade of fake discernment. Let’s not assume the worst about our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

On the flip side, some measure orthodoxy only by numbers. I’ve heard a few mega-church pastors who, when garnering criticism for a particular approach, have no other defense except to say something like, “it worked, people came.” And they push away anyone with a helpful critique as a small-minded, unevangelistic doubter. This too is wrong and prideful. Numbers cannot be the only measure of spiritual purity, otherwise we’d be able to say that a fast-growing religion like Mormonism or Islam is God’s chosen instrument of grace in this age. And I don’t think orthodox Christians are prepared to do that.

Lastly, I think we have to look at successful mega-pastors as humans. This goes two ways. First, they are humans in that they will make mistakes of methodology and associations and wording and when they do, publicly, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and forgive them and move on. Let’s assume their hearts are right, critique their methods, but not castigate them as the the next great heretic. Secondly, let’s affirm their humanity by acknowledging that some of what a pastor offers is good and wholesome and some may not be. What I mean by this is that simply because we disagree with a pastor or speaker or leader in one area doesn’t mean we should throw out all of his teaching on every area. He’s human. I’m human. Some of what I write will be spiritually beneficial. Some may not. Eat the meat, throw away the bones.

Lastly, our discernment could be more balanced and less triumphant and snarky. I personally appreciate the work of guys like Trevin Wax and Kevin DeYoung. They are men who critique with humility, love and a biblical focus. They also rarely take on a subject that they don’t know. I never detect mean-spiritedness or a sense of gotcha in their work.I may not always agree with Trevin or Kevin (sounds like a new oldies radio show), but I wish more bloggers would adopt their pastoral tone.

One more thing: We would all do well to speak with grace and clarity online. We will give account one day for every word spoken or written. Even those anonymous snarky comments left on articles with which we disagree.

Jan
13
2012

Friday Five: Matthew Lee Anderson

 

Matthew Lee Anderson is the founder of the popular blog Mere Orthodoxy as well as the author of  Earthen Vessels, Why Our Body Matters to Our Faith   He was featured in Christianity Today’s Who’s Next column in December of 2009.  Matthew sits on the editorial board of The City, and has been quoted on FoxNews.com, in the Wall Street Journal, and by the Associated Press.  He is a frequent contributor to publications such as First Things, Christianity Today, and The Gospel Coalition. He is a Perpetual Member of the Torrey Honors Institute and a graduate from Biola University (2004).

You’re part of a wave of young evangelical intellectuals. Scholars like Mark Noll have lamented the lack of evangelical scholarship in the past, but do you sense a new renaissance in evangelical intellectual pursuits? 

I hope so, but it’s very difficult to tell these sorts of things with anything approaching accuracy.  I know we have made incredible advances in a number of disciplines, particularly philosophy, psychology and sociology.  And I keep running into really intelligent Ph.D. candidates in political philosophy, which gives me hope for the future.  But if we are experiencing a renaissance, it will only be because of the work of Noll and others in the generation previous.  They were the true trailblazers, and my generation is simply lucky to stand on their shoulders.

In your famous paper, “The New Evangelical Scandal“, published in The City, you cautioned young evangelicals who tend to dismiss everything they learned from their parent’s generation. Why is this tendency so dangerous? 

“Famous” is probably overstating it, but it was a fun piece to write!  I think when the default mode of cultural engagement is that our parents were wrong and we’re out to fix it, we risk inoculating ourselves against any form of self-criticism.  Myopia breeds only more myopia:  if we don’t have the vision to see both the good and the bad of what we’ve inherited, we’ll never learn to truly see both the good and the bad of what we’re contributing.  Chesterton once wrote something to the effect that love is blind–it’s bound, and because it’s bound, it sees more clearly than anything else.  I think the same sort of thing is true of our cultural engagement: if we recognize the ways in which our lives our bound up in our parents, for both good and ill, we’ll see ourselves and the world more clearly and act more effectively in it.

Earthen Vessels is a thorough treatment of the intersection of the human body and faith. What inspired you to write this book? 

A moment of insanity!  Seriously, I have been ruminating on issues related to the body for a decade.  I first realized that there were depths when I listened to a lecture on Plato by John Mark Reynolds.  I also happened to be binging on the Apostle Paul and reading Dallas Willard’s Spirit of the Disciplines  The result was the realization that the Incarnation changes everything, and that the problem that Christianity solved in the ancient world (which is pretty close to the problem it solves today) is the problem of the body.

Why do evangelicals need a more robust theology of the body? 

For lots of reasons, not least of which is that it will help chasten the tacit secularism that many evangelicals have unwittingly adopted.  Secularism isn’t always and everywhere bad, but it’s impossible to sift properly without pre-existing theological categories that will filter things out.  Seeing how the Gospel shapes (and doesn’t shape) bodies is imperative for living in a world that has reduced the body to a question, and evangelicals are currently woefully equipped to do that.  Developing a more robust theology of the body will help us know what shape our practices should take, see how those practices will affect our bodies, and help us resist and affirm the counter-practices of the world with greater wisdom and discernment.  If it’s not my book, it has to be someone else.  And I’ll sell their book as much (if not moreso) than I’ve tried to sell mine.

Lastly, I appreciate the lack of straw men in your writing. You really aim to present both sides of an argument fairly in a way I don’t often see even in people whose arguments I agre with. Has this always been a feature of your writing? 

Well, that’s very kind of you to say.  I don’t know if it’s always been a feature of my writing, but I’ve always tried to make it one.  It’s a practice I take very seriously.  My motivation has two sides to it.  On the one hand, I want to be charitable to people, to represent them at their best because that’s what I want for my own work.  But on the other hand, if we’re going to ultimately disagree on something, I want to really disagree–fairly, honestly, out in the open, and preferably over a good meal that you’re buying.  It’s no fun having arguments when one side has been misrepresented:  it’s a lot more fun when the disagreement’s over the substance of things, and that’s always the level to which I’m trying to reach.

Nov
22
2011

Children as Image-bearers

I ran across this terrific article at the Gospel Driven Life blog on parenting (HT: Trevin Wax). It discusses our children as image-bearers. The author says about our kids:

They are image bear­ers.  They are crea­tures, made by God and for God.  They are given glory and honor by God.  They have inher­ent value, of greater worth than ani­mals.  How we treat the image of God is how we treat God.  The dig­nity of humans is built into the Law and the Prophets and the Gospel.  And we must see our chil­dren as image bearers.

I encourage you to go and read the whole thing, especially as this theology is worked out practically in day to day live. Click here for the rest: Parents and the Image of God | Gospel Driven Life.

Jul
15
2011

Friday Five Interview: S. Michael Houdmann (Gotquestions.org)

This is the last of three classic Friday Five interviews I’m posting while our family enjoys some vacation time. This is with S. Michael Houdmann, founder and proprietor of Gotquestions.org, one of the most heavily trafficked Christian sites online. And believe it or not, this interview continues to be one of the most popular pages on my blog:

Last year, while attending the annual gathering of the IFCA, I stopped by a booth and met S. Michael Houdmann, a graduate of Calvary Bible College and Seminary. He introduced me to his powerful website, gotquestions.org. I remember thinking, “Why hadn’t I discovered this before?” Since that time I’ve regularly visited gotquestions.org. Its a unique ministry idea. Essentially they answer Bible questions every week, not just easy questions like “Who is Jesus?” but tough theological questions. And every single question is answered with Biblical precision and accuracy. I can’t tell you how many times I was preaching or counseling on a narrow theological idea and just needed a sort of launching point in Scripture and turned to gotquestions.org. They have an archive of thousands of questions and even have a page of FAQ, what they consider their most important questions about God and the Bible.

By the way, Got Questions is now available as an iPhone app.

I think gotquestions.org is one of the most profoundly useful tools to the Christian today. Today, we have the privilege of talking about gotquestions with its founder, S. Michael Houdman.

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