Morning in America or Mourning in America?

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Today I was riveted by the comparison of two very well produced television ads: the first aired by the Reagan campaign in 1984, and the second one released this week by “Citizens for America” attacking Barack Obama.  The Reagan “Morning In America” ad contributed heavily to president Reagan’s re-election. Republicans hope the “Mourning In America” ad focusing on the failed policies of the Obama administration will be equally effective in boosting conservatives who are running for office all across the country this Fall.

Here is my take: I love both of these ads. But more than that, I see some poetic justice here. Mr. Obama campaigned by heavily attacking his predecessor, George Bush. On inauguration day he spurned him. He never stopped attacking and degrading the man. Never has a sitting president spent so much energy and exhibited so much arrogance beating up on his predecessor.

Obama’s chickens have come home to roost. What goes around comes around. The “Mourning In America” ad says it all. I have included both ads below for your viewing enjoyment. They are short ones, only a minute each—well worth the time. Watching them consecutively blew my mind and stirred my heart.

(Just as an aside, I would like to point out that after inheriting a recession when he came into office, and after suffering the attack of 9-11 and the tremors that caused throughout our economy, Bush enacted tax cuts and pro-business policies that resulted in 53 consecutive months of solid growth accompanied by low unemployment (in the 4% neighborhood). That was 4 years and 5 months of good economic numbers. In November 2006, propelled by a strong anti-war sentiment, the democrats swept both houses of congress. Just a few months after Reid, Pelosi and the democrats took over, the economy started sputtering and the recession began. That’s a fact. Look it up.  GW wasn’t perfect…but he didn’t/doesn’t deserve the derision Obama has given him.)

Power Encounter in Cebu

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I’ve never ventured to shared this story before. It’s one of my  my “naked faith” experiences I had while on the mission field in Asia.  As you will see (if you bear with me through the long narrative) it is “Outside the Box” of normal human experience, at least in the Western world…TRUE STORY.

In the summer of ’88 we spent two months ministering up and down the Philippines, conducting open air outreaches in remote villages, sleeping in grass huts and abandoned houses. Our team, which consisted of 14 people from about 7 different countries, was a “special ops” ministry team of sorts, trailblazers who endeavored to press the envelope and establish contacts for future ministry. We used drama, pantomime, personal testimony and preaching to communicate God’s love to all we came in contact with—drawing crowds ranging from 20 to 1000 or more, depending on the time and place.

What a beautiful and colorful country, the Philippines! The culture there is outgoing and gregarious, the people warm and very open to the Gospel. Everywhere we went conversations abounded. The afternoon and evening meals were always sumptuous affairs where half the neighborhood showed up to meet us: these young, intriguing people who had travelled so far to be in their village. Pit smoked pig, “Lechon Baboy” (head included), was the centerpiece of the spread, which also included a large serving bowl of baby coconut milk, a potpourri of dishes made with shrimp, rice, noodles and vegetables and fruit.

One highlight of our trip was the day we boarded a motorized banana boat (40 ft long by 8 ft wide) on the island of Cebu and sailed for the Camotes Islands, which sit like tiny freckles east of Cebu, so inconsequential that they don’t even show up on a standard map. (There are over 7000 islands in the Philippine chain.) We began the trip at 9pm, and during this 12 hour overnight joy ride we experienced the full range of emotions. The waves were choppy most of the way and at times we were certain the boat was going to capsize. Only an hour into the trip our daughter Brittany, just two and a half, vomited all over my lap. By the time we reached land the next morning. Typhoon warnings had been issued all over the Philippines, adding to our anxiety. But we had been getting used to it. Having been in this beautiful island chain just over three weeks by this time, we had come to realize that what for us was living on the edge, was for the Filipino people simply a way of life.

It was a bright morning when we pulled into port. No one was there to meet us. All we saw was jungle. When contact was finally made with our hosts, we were carted several miles inland, where the king and the entire island population (we were told) awaited us. It was party time!

After a 3 hour celebration our team was introduced to their hosts. The plan was for team members to pair up (guys with guys and girls with girls) and stay with different families on the island. Being the only married couple on the team, efforts were usually made to keep us together. On this occasion it didn’t work out—so I paired off with a 19 year old guy from Sweden (the youngest team member). They stayed in the home of an elderly couple and their grandson, in a thatched roof house tucked away in the woods. The hospitality was warm and the grandson, Bayani, spoke English. He was 11 years old and loved playing chess. He was very frail and it was clear to me that he had some kind of affliction. I did not let the opportunity pass to play chess with him and to strike up conversation and share the Gospel with him. The more we talked, the more I realized God wanted to do something special for Bayani.

The warm, open reception to the Gospel I encountered up and down the Philippines was amazing. Having been a youth pastor and a minister of evangelism for several years in the states, presenting the Gospel one-on-one was something I was very accustomed to teaching and doing. I loved striking up conversation, building bridges, handling objections, asking good questions, quoting the scriptures, and leading people to a point of decision for Christ. Watching the light go on in people’s eyes was a priceless experience for me.

In the Philippines, where the whole culture seems to thrive on conversation, sharing the Gospel was easy. Everywhere we went, our team would set up the sound system, present dramas and give testimonies. One of us would close the program with a simple 2 minute Gospel message. At that point, we would fan out among the crowd and further share the Gospel one-on-one. So often, instead of one-on-one, it was one-on-six or eight or ten. These groups of people would be hanging on the words that came out of our mouths and often tears would be flowing down their faces as the Holy Spirit brought truth and conviction to their hearts.

As we sat on his grandparents’ veranda, I shared the Gospel at length over the chess board with Bayani. At some point in the conversation, I felt like the Lord showed me that evil spirits were living inside him and were intent on taking his life. I did not share this with him. It was, after all, just a thought that came to me. What if I was wrong?

It was clear something was wrong with him. His breathing was labored, pointing to a serious respiratory condition. He was very frail and small for his age. He said the doctors had diagnosed him with a severe case of asthma. Whatever it was, this condition appeared to be choking the life right out of him. I told him the Lord would heal him if he would surrender his heart.

When I asked him if he would like to pray to receive Jesus, he hesitated.

“I want to,” he said, “but something inside won’t let me.”

I’ll never forget the pitiful gaze he gave me when he told me that, his eyes conveying both longing and despair.

“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I think I have evil spirits inside of me.” He replied.

I got goose-bumps at that point. And before we could go any further with the conversation, our team leader arrived, announcing that I had to come with him right away so we could conduct an open air meeting on the other side of the island. I told Bayani I would be back before we left the island. I wanted to pray for him because I believed God was going to deliver him from these evil spirits and heal his condition. He told me he would like that. Then I left.

Several days later, the afternoon before we left the island, I visited Bayani. Once again I explained the Gospel to him, then told him I was going to pray for him and ask Jesus to free him from the evil spirits. It took about an hour. I ordered the spirits to leave in Jesus’ name. I believe there were seven of them, because seven times Bayani’s convulsed and spat up mucus all over the table. Stephan, the Swedish kid who was with me, was wide eyed in amazement. He has never seen anything like that before. I was praying like crazy, feeling like I was in a spiritual wrestling match, and excited because I knew we were winning!

After each incident, there would be a silence and then more prayer—and the process began again. Finally, Bayani came out of his trance and looked at me. His eyes sparkled. He started breathing deeply and blurted out “I am healed! Jesus has healed me!” We all started jumping up and down with joy. His grandparents, who had been in the house, came out and joined us in the victory dance. Before we left I prayed with Bayani and he invited Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. Why not? At that point, apparently, He already was!

Forging Your Way Through the Chaos

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Driving in Mexico is really all about forging your way through the chaos. This is how I described it to some friends the other day as we went for a 10 minute drive to though downtown Chapala, encountering a wide variety of obstacles along the way that spiced up the ride. Multiple cars doing a dance through ill-defined intersections marked by battered signs (or no signs at all) on roads pocked with gargantuan pot holes when you least expect them. Drivers with “a better idea” of how they can get where they are trying to go. Fruit trucks going 2 miles per hour, blasting their vocal presentation and prices by loud speaker turned up to a few decibels higher than the maximum. Buses—those sharks of the road that have gone the route so many times NOTHING phases them—and their driving shows it!

I love it! I remember my first drive ever in Mexico City–1986. Our host was pastor Ezekiel Calderon, who had picked Stasia and I up at the airport (8 hours late!), and piled us, along with 6 month old daughter Brittany, and our huge load of luggage into his rickety station wagon. Off we went, on “Mr. Calderon’s wild ride” to a little suburb 90 minutes away. He drove like a desperate maniac. It seemed like a race for our lives at just about every intersection and turn-off. He apologized more than once at the close calls we encountered, but assured us he had everything under control. That night we had road nightmares.

One of my favorite Mexican memories came 7 years later. I was leading a group of 15 Australians on an outreach through Mexico. We flew into San Diego from Sydney, rented a couple of white Dodge Caravans, and drove from San Diego, through the border crossing at Nogales, Arizona all the way to Guadalajara for a week  then Mexico City for a week, and then back to San Diego. It was a blast. The Aussies were so much fun to be with, and none of them had ever seen anything like the roads of Mexico!

When we finally arrived in the outskirts of Mexico City, we encountered this massive intersection. It was something like a 7 way stop with a humongous open circle in the center. You couldn’t call it a roundabout because there was nothing in the center of the circle. This intersection seemed to invite all cars, any cars, to “take the dare” and try to cross.

No exaggeration: there were probably 100 cars converging  slowly through that intersection. Massive gridlock. We all creeped a few inches at a time as we forged through the chaos to get to the road we thought would get us where we wanted to go. I was driving one of the vans. Suddenly, out of nowhere in the bright sunlight, a shadow formed over the windshield that lasted a micro-second, giving way to a “thud” as a soaking wet airborne towel  plopped  onto the windshield’s passenger side. It was immediately followed by two skinny little brown guys—one on each side who planted themselves on the front fenders of our slow moving vehicle and proceeded to scrub the windshield clean, no questions asked—that is, until the job was done! We tipped them, and with a great big smile they were on their way the next vehicle. It was so congested in that intersection that the only way these little guys could get out was to wash their way out! (I later came to know first hand that these little window washers, found all over Mexico City, were street kids who live in vacant lots and sewer lines, sniffed glue all day, and washed windows for sheer survival. We had the opportunity to spend a week ministering to some of them later in the trip and in following years.)

Telling these stories reminds me of what it is like to follow God in the world we live in. We must be ready to forge our way through the chaos and rely on Him to get us through. We must cast our cares on Him and try not to take things too seriously. We must be ready for the little surprises along the way, where God will send angels into our path and we will be unaware of it at the time (Hebrews 13:2). We should ALWAYS buckle up with the armor of God  (Ephesians 6:13) and keep our eyes on the road before us (Hebrews 12:1-2)! And, like Keith Green used to say, “He’ll Take Care of the Rest!”

Nothing Like The Real Thing, Baby!

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When I have gone far too long taking myself too seriously and fighting dragons of fear and self doubt, I will often go to my trusty video shelf, pull out a Chris Farley movie, and invest a few sacred minutes filling my parched, melancholy soul with laughter. I love that guy. (He actually reminds me of a good friend of mine down under in Australia, but that’s a story for another day!)

Recently I viewed a clip of Farley that was filmed on “Saturday Night Live.” This clip was a parody of never-seen-before video takes of a coffee advertisement, where the MC approaches a man at a table in a restaurant (in this case, Farley) and informs him that the coffee he has been drinking is, in fact, freeze dried instant Colombian coffee, and not the real ground roast normally served at the restaurant. Once informed of this fact, it takes a few seconds for the smiling, happy Chris Farley to morph into a raging maniac who cries “Why you s___ of a b____!”  demolishing all the tables around him as he pursues the hapless interviewer who runs for his life.

This is how I feel the more I ponder Brian McLaren’s new book, A New Kind of Christianity.  I am supposed to now believe that for 2000 years—and especially for the last 500 years, we have had it all wrong. We have been drinking from the cup of God’s grace, reclining at the table of His goodness, enjoying His Word, and worshiping in His sweet presence for all these years, only to now be told that our experience of God’s kingdom is an artificial freeze-dried form of Christianity that is more a product of the Greco-Roman world than anything else.  We’ve been worshiping the wrong Jesus, reading and quoting the wrong Bible, presenting the wrong Gospel, believing in the wrong kind of salvation, We were wrong to believe in absolute truth, and arrogant to think that Jesus is the only way to God.

According to Brian McLaren, we are supposed to believe we have been “set up” by Apostles, church fathers, and great Christians throughout the ages, many who died as martyrs for the faith! What are supposed to believe that what we have been experiencing all these years was false comfort based on a false religion!

And we are supposed to smile into the camera and not be upset about it!

Reading NKoC makes me  feel like getting up from the table and crying “HERETIC!!” at the top of my lungs, turning some tables over and pelting McLaren with a banana cream pie right between the eyes, as depicted in the Farley video clip.

But I will contain myself, pour a cup of fresh ground Colombian coffee, crack open my study Bible, and take another tour through the Psalms, Romans, maybe Hebrews, the Gospel of Luke—-the fact is, it is all so good I don’t know where I will end up today! Hungry, I will feast at the table prepared for me. And I will sleep well tonight humming “there’s nothing like the real thing baby!”

The Apostle Paul is McLaren’s Worst Nightmare

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The image of Jesus is easy to manipulate, and liberal theologians throughout church history have made this their goal.  The “gentle Jesus meek and mild” motif fits in well with the zoned out image of Buddha, the softer gods of Hinduism and even the sensibilities of post-modern man–so McLaren holds to this “new kind of Jesus” because it fits his utopian vision of a world where all religions stand in a circle together and sing “kum-ba-ya”.

But there is no way to give Paul a face lift. His theology is too clear, too dogmatic, seemingly too sexist,  too rigid and too war-like in places.

Let’s look at some of Paul’s work that drives theological liberals crazy:

SUBSTITUTIONARY DEATH OF JESUS:

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor. 5:21

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?   Romans 8:32

Brian McLaren leads the charge in challenging the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement, which has been tagged as “cosmic child abuse. ”  (I tag this effort as LIBERAL THEOLOGY ABUSE.)

GOD GIVES GOVERNMENT THE SWORD FOR A REASON:

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” Rom. 13:3-4

Now there’s a thought!—government actually doing something to secure our freedom instead of constricting it! I realize that there are those “pacifist” Christians among us who believe we should try and pacify our enemies instead of resist them and they probably would have loved Chamberlain and hated Churchill had they lived through WW II. But had pacifism has its way then, we would all be doing the goose step right now burning incense to statues of Hitler. (For those who think Hitler should have been obeyed by Germans because of the above verse, remember, the qualifying characteristic of the ‘God ordained’ government would be  that it is “not a terror to good works, but to evil.”)

…McLaren, the liberal that he is, is a pacifist, and casts Jesus as a pacifist. But what are we to make of  Revelation 19:11-16?

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He £had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in £fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

GOD’S WRATH, HELL AND JUDGMENT: Here Paul and the other Apostles are pretty explicit. Below I have listed a simple New Testament search I made of the word “wrath” as a case in point:

Matthew 3:7

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Luke 3:7

Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

John 3:36

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Romans 1:18

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Romans 2:5

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

Romans 2:8

but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath,

Romans 3:5

But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.)

Romans 5:9

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

Romans 9:22

What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,

Romans 12:19

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Romans 13:4

For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

Romans 13:5

Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

2 Corinthians 12:20

For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults;

Ephesians 2:3

among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Ephesians 5:6

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Colossians 3:6

Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,

1 Thessalonians 1:10

and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

1 Thessalonians 2:16

forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.

1 Thessalonians 5:9

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Revelation 6:16

and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

Revelation 6:17

For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

Revelation 11:18

The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,

And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,

And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,

And those who fear Your name, small and great,

And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”

Revelation 12:12

Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

Revelation 14:8

And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”

Revelation 14:10

he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

Revelation 14:19

So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

Revelation 15:1

Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.

Revelation 15:7

Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.

Revelation 16:1

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the £bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”

Revelation 16:19

Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.

Revelation 18:3

For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”

Revelation 19:15

Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”

**********************************************************************************************************

That’s a pretty long list of verses on the wrath of God from a casual search. What about hell? I am not one to dwell on hell, and I am not the one who spoke of it more than anybody in scripture—that would be JESUS—but I will say that the best explanation I have heard of the hell issue was made by CS Lewis who wrote:

“If we don’t say to God ‘Thy will be done’ in this life, He will say to us “thy will be done’ in eternity.”

Hell is a place where people who don’t choose to love God go. It’s their choice. Like Keith Green pointed out, these people would be MISERABLE in heaven, where God will be worshiped, enjoyed and glorified forever.

Debunking The Two Layer Approach to Truth

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Jesus addresses the problem of leaders in his day who were leading people astray with warped ideas of the kingdom of God. He called them

“…blind guides, who strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”  (Matthew 6:23:24)

For all the negative talk about dualisms in his “A New Kind of Christianity,”  Brian McLaren, the would-be Martin Luther who is really a liberal-in-evangelical-clothing,  “swallows the camel” by accepting the upper storey/lower storey dichotomy of truth. Nancy Pearcey, in her excellent book, Total Truth, sums it up well:

“The crucial flaw in liberalism is that it adapts the two layer concept of truth. It accepts a naturalistic account of science and history in the lower storey, while relegating theology to the upper storey, where it is reduced to personal non-cognitive experience. This explains why liberal theologians insist that scripture is full of mistakes. After all, naturalistic science and history have decreed that miracles and other supernatural events are impossible. Convinced that they must accommodate to naturalism, liberals either deny the supernatural elements in scripture or else translate them into naturalistic terms…After accepting naturalism in the lower storey liberal theology then tries to rebuild and new form of Christianity strictly in the upper storey, cut off from any roots in nature or history.”  (Nancy Pearcey, The Total Truth)

This explains why McLaren pulls out all the stops with his wildly enthusiastic suggestions that we scrap Christianity as we know it and start over with a more postmodern-friendly layout. Why not? It’s all one big game anyway, according to this view of truth. The upper story, where myth and values and faith can thrive, has room for whatever  people  want to believe. It has no connection with objective reality. The lower, ground level floor of real, verifiable world truth has been given to Darwinism and Naturalism. The upper floor, where Christianity and other world religions live, is an academic diversion—cute, but irrelevant.

McLaren’s whipping post is Modernism, and he alleges that the evangelical church, by and large, is Modernist to the core. Interestingly enough, however, he employs one of the most modernistic mainstays possible—evolution—to make his point of the development of God through the centuries. The idea that the God of the Bible evolved from the days of Noah until Christ presupposes that scripture is a product of man’s understanding and not the REVELATION OF GOD to man. I find it a troubling assertion, to say the least.

This is Brian McLaren’s world–and he calls Christians everywhere to throw off the bonds of the past and join him in a bold new experiment to re-make Christianity–construct a new God and  new Jesus and forge ahead with a new understanding of the kingdom of God. The God who answers by fire  has been relegated to the camp-fire around which all religions gather and sing “kum-ba-ya” into the night. The Redeemer Jesus who rides on the white horse to bring justice to the nations is relegated to a poor martyr whose death didn’t really save anybody in particular. The everlasting kingdom Jesus came to inaugurate has been relegated to a “now only” cheap liberal movement bent on satisfying left-wing fantasies.

What to do? I believe that the only way to address McLaren and the Emergent, postmodern stream of the church is to put truth, ALL truth, on the ground floor. Let’s eliminate this ridiculous upper storey distinction altogether. The clear proclamation of a Biblical Christian world-view, which begins with God and His revelation (in nature and scripture) as a reference point for life, is the way forward.

Truth and the Postmodern Mindset

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The key to understanding the Emergent movement is found in the post-modernism mindset, since Emergents like McLaren and others are obsessed with being relevant to “pomos.”  While there are many “modern” people still walking the earth (those over 45 or so), they are, to Emergent writers and leaders, a dying breed who are the closest thing to the enemy that peace-loving Emergents have in this world.

I found it interesting that McLaren threw his full support behind Barack Obama in the presidential election in 2008 and expressed his distaste for McCain with these words:

“My top reason for supporting Barack Obama for president centers in the narrative I believe he frames his life and work by, in contrast to the narrative John McCain frames his life and work by… Does anyone doubt that Senator McCain lives by a warrior narrative? This is the most consistent theme in his campaign. For him the world is clearly divided into us and them.

We are good; they are evil. We are right; they are wrong. We are about safety; they are about danger.

This dualistic and fearful narrative is deeply rooted in McCain’s generation. They were formed in the simple, binary context of Axis and Allies, and then Communists and Free World. When Communism collapsed, a new antagonist conveniently presented itself (preempting the expected “peace dividend” and keeping the famed “military-industrial complex” well funded). This new war became what McCain calls “the transcendent challenge of the 21st century,” the clash of the West with fundamentalist Islam. McCain’s word “transcendent” is significant. It suggests a kind of holy war mentality, because for McCain, these us-them dualisms are absolute and therefore of a cosmic, metaphysical, even spiritual nature. The dualistic us-them mindset, I believe, is bogus and dangerous.”

On a personal aside—I feel McLaren’s cold shoulder. Being 53 and committed in mind and heart to the triumph of good over evil in this life and the next, I don’t fit into McLaren’s mold. I am not ideal stock from which to build his new Emergent kingdom. At least not until I change my ways, become a pacifist, embrace his New Christianity and jump on board with the left wing liberal agenda he fervently pushes on his followers. Until then, I belong to the one class of people that McLaren and Emergent revisionists don’t welcome to the conversation, those who believe in objective, propositional truth.

Enough of me–let’s talk about post-modernism. The highly respected evangelical theologian D.A. Carson calls it “the bastard child of modernism” because, while it vehemently attacks modernism and what it stands for, it shares with modernism one distinct trait that makes it a “chip off the old block,” namely, an epistemology that begins with self out works outward to define everything else.

The pre-modern Christians didn’t have this impediment. They believed that in a personal infinite God “Who is there and is not silent,” (to quote Schaeffer). They believed that God had revealed Himself in scripture (special revelation) and nature (general revelation.) In this revelation, everything else found its reference point.

This all changed when a Frenchman by the name of Rene Descartes (cerca 1596-1650) declared “I think, therefore I am,” opening the door to the modern mind-set.

As the philosopher who best exemplifies modern rationalism, Descartes was in fact a devout Catholic who believed in God. He grew up in a culture fueled by the Enlightenment and marked by rapid change (much like we are experiencing today) and wanted to come up with a way to rationally answer skeptics in his day. Catholics and Protestants were struggling over the question of what constituted religious truth. The new scientific world was also in turmoil and its picture of the physical world was rapidly changing through the likes of people like Galileo, Kepler, Newton and others. From Descarte forward philosophy approached truth by starting with man and moving outward—in direct contrast to the God-first approach held by the Apostles and pre-modern Christians.

As one can imagine, things began to devolve from that point on. Left to himself, man is a poor custodian of reality. By clinging to this absurd approach to epistemology, both modernism, and now postmodernism, are doomed to failure. The writer of  Hebrews gave a proposition we would all be wise to heed:

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”   Hebrews 11:3,6

Francis Schaeffer addresses this far better than I could ever hope to in an excellent 6 minute video clip which you can access by clicking the following link:

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