pastoring theology

Tough Questions

There is a huge difference between knowing an answer from scripture and applying it pastorally to peoples lives.

The past few weeks, I have been wrestling with God’s word over the issue of remarriage, as I was recently asked to officiate a wedding for a couple with divorce in their past. I can honestly say that this has been the most difficult pastoral challenge I have faced, having to wrestle with Scripture that is hard to understand, and apply it to such a weighty topic where people have a lot invested.

I am confident that in seeking God and weighing the arguments of both sides, I have come to the right conclusion for this instance, but it is still not easy to swallow, especially when I genuinely care for the couple.

The most difficult part, however, is that my conviction of the teaching of the Bible differed from their understanding, and it has resulted in a fractured relationship.  I’m still wrestling with how to understand this and work toward reconciliation, but I know that God is faithful and will honor my obedience to Him.

Pastoring is unbelievably difficult at times…please pray for me, and your pastors!

christianity theology

Biblical/Theological Preaching

Halim Suh’s sermon from Sunday at The Austin Stone is an excellent example of applying biblical theology to understanding a difficult text of scripture.

Halim did a fantastic job of grappling with 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 by articulating an overall biblical teaching of manhood and womanhood and through Genesis 1-3, and applied the overall perspective toward understanding Paul’s view of women in this text.

The first argument Halim made was to establish the absolute equality of men and women, as created in the image of God.  Using the Trinity, Halim made the parallel that as Jesus is equal to the father, so are women to men.  However, he then articulate the distinctness of the sexes, and as all members of the Trinity have a role, so too do men and women.  In humility women submit out of their equality to fulfill their designed role and display the glory of Jesus.

Halim then applied these ideas in order to understand this passage.  His basic argument was we must understand the “when and where” of what Paul is teaching here, not simply take it as a blanket ordinance for the practice of church.  Based on Halim’s study, the text is about elders weighing a prophet, and women are to remain silent in this process of weighing a prophet because they are excluded from the office of eldership based on 1 Timothy and teachings elsewhere in scripture.

I’d highly recommend listening to it if you would like a good lesson in good exegesis with a view toward the overall teaching of the Bible.

church theology

Multisite Church

I just finished reading through the new 9 Marks Journal on Multisite church.  I thought it was a fantastic and balanced presentation of arguments both for and against the concept.  Ed Stetzer dialogued through the basic objection most have to multisite here, and I’m also asking a similar question.

The article by Jonathan Leeman titled “Theological Critique of MultiSite: Leadership Is the Church” (it starts on page 50 in the PDF or here) was one of the most clear-headed and incisive arguments against multisite, but there is something that is unsettling to me about his critique that I can’t quite put my finger on.

Perhaps it is because I have been reading things like The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch and Organic Church by Neil Cole, but it seems that Leeman’s answer dissociates the organic nature of the church from the biblical prescriptions about it.  I know this is a very poorly supported answer both biblically and logically (Leeman would shred me in debate…), but like I said, I can’t quite put my finger on why his argument isn’t resonating.

The excerpt below highlights the basic theological argument that is the foundation of Leeman’s conclusions:

These three passages in Matthew tell us that he gave this authority to the apostles, who were uniquely commissioned with the apostolic message to establish the foundation of the church. Once that foundation was established and the apostles died, did that authority then pass along to every individual on the planet to determine whether or not he or she should be baptized into the body of Christ? Hardly. That authority is then passed on to the church. Only the apostolic church has the authority to baptize and distribute the Lord’s Supper. Now, the church does not have the authority to deny baptizing one who offers a credible profession of faith (Acts 10:47). After all, the church’s authority is mediated, not ultimate. Still, the church alone has the power of the keys, and the church on earth is, quite simply, particular churches.

He then continues to dialog about the institutional nature of church from Scripture, but I think this view ultimately dissociates the institution from the collection of individuals that encompass it.  It is in effect establishing the concept of church as the authoritative body apart from what it is comprised of–believers.  Basically, the church is defined as an external set of biblical prescriptions according to Leeman, while it would say it is both external biblical prescriptions AND the composition of the individual believers who compose the body living and applying those biblical prescriptions.

Logically, all of Leeman’s arguments are sound (they are a model of excellent thinking and clear argumentation), but I’m not yet ready to write off multi-site as he does based on the issue above.

Give the article a read, and then let me know what you think!

books christianity theology

The Reason for God | Chapter 4

I just finished chapter 4 last night, which wrestles with the challenge of the church perpetrating so much injustice in the world.  Keller approaches the question in a couple different ways:

  1. He addresses the common argument that Christian nations have been responsible for war, genocide, slavery, destruction of culture, and a host of other evils.  Keller appeals to the universality of these injustices throughout secular and religious governments alike (using the examples of communist states, imperialist Japan, and few others), and ties this universality to the human propensity for evaluating some belief to supremacy, whether God or an ideal.
  2. Secondly, he takes the opportunity to speak about the comparative morality of many within the church, and their deficiency relative to secular counterparts.  His argument leans essentially on one important point of doctrine: common grace.  The idea that all good things flow from God, including those which lead to social and moral stability, is the explanation for how a completely secular individual could appear so much “better” than a Christian.  Coupled with the inherent attractiveness of the gospel of grace to those who are broken, and the long road of sanctification, it is easy to see how this picture could form
  3. Finally, Keller deals with the idea of fanaticism by essentially pointing out those who practice the condemning form of faith do not have a full comprehension of the gospel.  He does this biblically through the Sermon on the Mount, pointing out Jesus’ treatment of the “religious”.

The close of the chapter discourses through the idea that the capacity to critique the Christian faith comes mostly from within the faith itself, not outside it.  A purely secular worldview has abject poverty to critique the faith because it is based upon self-driven motivation, which manifests itself in an honor/shame-based culture.  This concept of selfish motivation has no intrinsic motivation to seek justice on behalf of the weak, and it is only because our cultural worldview is deeply built on a historical Christian base that we have any value for the poor and oppressed.

This chapter was an excellent, yet short dialectic that answers many common objections to rational assent to Christian faith.  Keller has a way both intellectually and pastorally explaining his ideas from a position of great humility, and I have appreciated both the soundness and tenor of his ideas.  This is indeed a great book thus far!

books christianity theology

Reading “The Reason for God”

I’ve found myself needing to repent of my lack of reading actual books as of late, so I’ve got a few things on the docket I want to read.  I just picked up and started Tim Keller’s The Reason for God, and I must say it’s a good read.  Although the concepts aren’t mind-blowing, Keller has an aptitude for communicating simple answers to complicated questions.

Chapter 1 was about the exclusivity of the Christian truth claim, and how ultimately every person has an exclusive claim, regardless of their faith or skepticism.  I thoroughly enjoyed his simple response to the fact that everyone adopts a world-view or a fundamental narrative, whether they claim to or not.  Whatever grounds an individual has for denying an exclusive claim is in fact still making an exclusive claim.  My presumption is that he will answer doctrinally later on in the book the basis for the Christian world-view as the inspired Word of God.

Chapter 2 delved lightly into the question of suffering, and the supposed challenge that it is to the existence of an omnibenevolent God.  Keller answers this challenge by pointing out that anyone who claims God cannot exist because of evil has a concept of just and unjust that presupposes an extrinsic concept of justice.  To be logically consistent with a self-driven, Darwinian world-view, you cannot uphold this idea of justice.  He then goes on to understand that the Christian narrative is probably a better apologetic for the existence of God.

I’m looking forward to reading more…

Any thoughts from you who have read the book?