Archive for August, 2010

Beloit College Mindset List and Spiritual State

I came across an article on CNN today commenting on the Beloit College Mindset List. This list is fascinating. The introduction to the list offers a brief explanation.

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. The creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation. The Mindset List website at www.beloit.edu/mindset, the Mediasite webcast and its Facebook page receive more than 400,000 hits annually.

The 75-point list is pretty fun to read through. I have included a few that I found interesting of funny.

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

6. Buffy has always been meeting her obligations to hunt down Lothos and the other blood-suckers at Hemery High.

7. “Caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been street corner lingo.

11. John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.

14. Doctor Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine.

18. Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.

24. “Cop Killer” by rapper Ice-T has never been available on a recording.

32. Czechoslovakia has never existed.

33. Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.

39. Pizza jockeys from Domino’s have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes.

46. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.

57. A purple dinosaur has always supplanted Barney Google and Barney Fife.

58. Beethoven has always been a dog.

70. The artist formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg has always been rapping.

71. The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.

Certainly, when dealing with culturally relevant classroom illustrations, each of these issues are perhaps very helpful. I must admit, it is somewhat shocking how much different my “mindset” is from the class of 2014. However, there are many far more substantial issues that have not budged, though we ignore them, which have far more profound impact on the educational process.

1. The trinitarian God of the Bible exists.

2. All men are born dead in sin and continue in sin and therefore are guilty before God.

3. Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity, was born to Mary, grew up, fulfilled the law, and died for the sins of his people.

4. Man’s only hope, security, and forgiveness are found in Jesus Christ.

5. God pours out his Spirit on believers to be their helper and guide.

6. There is truth.

7. God is sovereign and directs all things–past, present, and future, for his glory.

8. God designed things to function in a certain way, and all things have been grossly affected by the fall.

If we are going to take the stance that such trivial things as Beethoven being first recognized as a dog rather than a great composer affect education, perhaps we would do good to give some thought to the affect our understanding of much more basic things has on education.

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Pursuing Cultural Relevance as a Church

As a church planter I do a lot of thinking about how to reach the community in which I am seeking to plant a church. To be clear, I think church planters, pastors, sessions, congregations, and individuals should be engaged in such thought and conversation with one another. Such thinking is pretty easily defended from a biblical perspective. Jesus talks about not throwing pearls before swine in Matthew 7, and he instructs his disciples in how to proceed with their work in Matthew 10. Clearly, Paul has given some thought to his missionary journeys as evidenced by the fact that he is planning and desiring to visit Rome.

However, I must be extremely cautious when thinking about such issues. While I may begin the thought process desiring intelligibility (making sure that I am clearly communicating the gospel to the folks I am working with), it is all too easy for my flesh to get involved and to begin to think about how to make the gospel relevant (downplaying certain aspects of the gospel and emphasizing others in order to make the gospel more immediately accessible to the folks I am working with). The church has struggled, and in my opinion often lost this battle, as she has tried to work through ministering within the business-minded and results-driven culture of America.

Recently, I have had to think through some of these issues again, and the same struggles arose in me. Therefore, the quote that my wife showed me the other day was incredibly convicting and refreshing. Donald Miller writes,

A friend of mine, a young pastor who recently started a church, talks to me from time to time about the new face of church in America–about the postmodern church. He says the new church will be different from the old one, that we will be relevant to culture and the human struggle. I don’t think any church has ever been relevant to culture, to the human struggle, unless it believed in Jesus and the power of His gospel. If the supposed new church believes in trendy music and cool Web pages, then it is not relevant to culture either. It is just another tool of Satan to get people to be passionate about nothing (Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, p111).

So, the question I must repeatedly ask myself is this, “What am I teaching the people to be passionate about–meeting in a bar, being a downtown church, having great music, being reformed, asking hard questions, amassing theological knowledge, etc., etc., etc., or the gospel of Jesus Christ?” Now I know some of these things may be the outflow of a genuine excitement about the gospel, but all of these things can be pursued in place of the gospel. Only the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Nothing else is. I have heard Charles Spurgeon quoted as saying, “If you win them with a carnival, you will have to keep them with a carnival.” The bottom line is this, if someone “believes the gospel” because of a Web site or great music, then I must ask some hard questions because they might have faith in a Web site or song leader. If someone “believes the gospel” because of me, the church, something I do for them, or something the church does for them, then I must ask some hard questions because they might have faith in me or the church. The problem with teaching people to be passionate about something other than Christ is that when that Web site crashes, that song leader moves on, I fail them, or the church changes directions, then so does that person’s hope and security. My prayer is that I will be a pastor and we will be a church who are passionate about one thing, Jesus Christ–crucified and resurrected.

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How Does D.A. Carson Know God Exists?

Let me begin by thanking Tim Challies over at www.challies.com for his recent string of very helpful videos posted on his blog. This video is a brief (4 min) answer to the question, “How do I know God exists?” The man answering it is D.A. Carson. God has gifted D.A. Carson intellectually and, from all that I know of him, spiritually and used him in tremendous ways for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God. One incredible project that Dr. Carson is involved with is The Gospel Coalition; it is worth checking out. Needless to say, Dr. Carson answers this question in a way that challenges both Christian and non-Christian alike.

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Discernment and Entertainment

Rev. Mark Driscoll is a pastor of a large church up in Seattle called Mars Hill (Be careful not to confuse him with Rob Bell the pastor of Mars Hill in Grandville, MI. Driscoll is pretty solid theologically. Rob Bell – not so much, although he likes to use words that sound familiar which makes it all very confusing.) Driscoll has gotten a lot of publicity in the last few years because of the growth of Mars Hill and because he is one of the men seen as having helped to popularize Calvinism. Driscoll is a pretty colorful dude at times and has managed to offend plenty of folks, but he also gets a pretty fair amount right. Here is a video of him commenting on some of the popular teenage vampire novels; he makes some good points. As always – feel free to comment.

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The Gospel and Prison Escapees

I don’t know anything really about the pastor in this story, the church that he pastors, or the denomination that they are or are not a part of. What I do know is this, he gets that the gospel is for everybody. Sure, he didn’t know who exactly he was talking to, but in God’s providence Rev. Ron Kingston was able to minister to Tracy Province (a convicted murderer who was on the run after a successful prison break and who was apparently involved in two more murders since his escape). Sure, Rev. Kingston may have acted differently had he been aware of who was in the area, but in God’s providence Kingston thought Province was just a guy who needed help and he helped him. Sure, we could say all kinds of things about how this story might have been different if Rev. Kingston had known he was talking to a lifer on the lam, but we can also say is the Rev. Kingston showed the love of Jesus Christ to a man who needs that love.

The bur in my saddle is not that Rev. Kingston was so bold that he sat and talked with this lifer, and I am not that bold. The bur in my saddle is that Rev. Kingston loved someone who was hurting in obvious outward ways (not the clean white-bread ways I am used to), and I find this hard to do. The issue I face is that while I don’t necessarily think it would be a sin to hide from Tracy Province if you saw him coming and knew who he was, I can’t say the same for looking past and even at times condemning someone who is broken in ways more obvious than myself. Sure Rev. Kingston didn’t know who he was talking to, but the fact remains that Rev. Kingston’s love for a homeless guy who got dumped in Yellowstone and was trying to hitch hike home was such that the guy said he might like to stay in Rev. Kingston’s town and get a job welding. Sure, say that Province was only looking to take advantage of an apparently easy score if you want, but I can’t undersell the power of the gospel that easily.

My belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ is a full admission that I am just as much a sinner deserving God’s wrath and curse as Tracy Province or anyone else who has walked this earth. My profession of faith in Jesus Christ is not a statement that I am something special, but that Jesus, the Son of God, had to die in order to adequately deal with my sin. The fact that I am called a son of the Most High God is not a badge to be worn with pride, but a marker of the profound mercy I have received from God through Jesus Christ. If I am but a recipient of mercy, how can I deal with anyone in pride? If I am but a beneficiary of the grace of God, how can I deal with anyone any differently? If I am alive only by the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ, how can I be so bent on self-preservation? Too often my penchant for pride and self-preservation stifles my ability to love those who are hurting, so I am grateful for and encouraged by this Wyoming minister and his willingness to serve someone who was apparently down on their luck.

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A Lesson on Interpreting the Bible

The above video was posted on one of the blogs I like to read. Since Joel Osteen is currently one of the most influential preachers in the world, I wanted to post the video and offer a brief response. The point of the response is not so much that Osteen is a complete charlatan but more that we must not accept everything someone teaches but check it with Scripture as the Bereans were commended for in Acts 17.

Before you read the rest of the post, perhaps take some time on your own to think through what Joel Osteen is teaching and ask, “Does this square with Scripture?”

So, here’s the deal. There is nothing in Scripture that says God’s motivation for the Old Testament dietary laws are based on the healthy benefits of such laws. Rather, the point was to provide an object lesson for being set apart – for holiness. There is plenty in Scripture that speaks to the fact that laws such as the cleanliness code had a temporary function that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus takes a radically different approach to the dietary laws than does Mr. Osteen in Mark 7.14-23. Peter, the Apostle, tried to take Joel’s approach to interpreting these same passages and was rebuked by God for it as recorded in Acts 10.9-16. The problem is not that Mr. Osteen is wrong about the health benefits of pork but that he is wrong in how he interprets Scripture. To say we must or should refrain from eating pork is, oddly enough, to deny Scripture; because, such moralistic teaching misses the (perhaps) subtle point of the teaching in Leviticus 11 and the blatantly obvious teaching in Mark and Acts. Further, if I can, as Mr. Osteen seems to teach, please God by not eating pork, then I don’t need a Savior to die in my place (see Galatians 3.15-29). When we draw a strong line of demarcation between the Old and New Testaments so that the Old Testament is not about a gracious redemption through the promised Messiah and the New Testament is not the same story as the Old Testament but something fundamentally different, then we miss the point of the Bible, of the law, of the gospel, and of Jesus’ death on the cross.

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