Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Weekly Links We Like to Link to - The Religious Edition

Because what better way to honor a Saint?

Speaking of which, Dan Kimball at Vintage Faith has a post on the Missional St. Patrick, noticing how he had been scorned by the officials in Rome and England for hanging around scoundrels and sinners, rather than making enclaves in the pagan Ireland. (And yes, this is being posted on Tuesday - sadly, late - while St. Pat's day was supposed to be celebrated on Saturday due to Holy Week. But I think it's a nice culmination of events.) Here are a couple other links on poor misunderstood St. Patrick, the one-time Briton slave and then missionary to Ireland (who did not, apparently, drive out the snakes via the Pied Piper). Blarmey!

They're magically delicious.

Tony Jones is considering why Liberal and Conservative Christians are so boring.

James Dobson wonders, "Where have all the cowboys gone?" No, wait. Who will lead the conservative Christian movement now that the Grahams, Falwells and Colsons are fading away? Here's another question: Will there be a conservative Christian movement in a similar form as there is now in the next generation? Or will American Christianity (in particular, Protestant Christianity) be more fractured than ever before. Or rather, hopefully, find more common ground and begin acting as a large unit?

The Christian Vision Project this year is asking, "Is our Gospel too small?" I think that's a great question. Tim Keel responds that the word "Gospel" is now short-hand for many of a truncated view of how one gets to heaven.

Asking "Is our gospel too small?" implies that something is off kilter—that somehow we have gone off course in the way we answer "the gospel question." But it may not be just our gospel that is too small. It may be that we have been living in a world that was too small—the small, reduced world of modernity.

One of the features of the modern world was "reductionism": the belief that complex things can always be reduced to simpler or more fundamental things. To reduce something is to take it out of context and to take it apart. Church leaders have become experts at reductionism. Ministries that are successful in one context are reduced to "models" that we try to duplicate in other contexts. Sometimes such reductionism is effective. But when we use reductionism indiscriminately, we end up in a world so simplified it is barely recognizable.

So in a modern world, we tend to reduce the complexity and diversity of the Scriptures to simple systems, even when our systems flatten the diversity and integrity of the biblical witness. We reduce our sermons to consumer messages that reduce God to a resource that helps the individual secure a reduced version of the "abundant life" Jesus promised (John 10:10).

And the gospel itself gets reduced to a simplified framework of a few easily memorized steps.

Scot McKnight's response is that our vision of the gospel needs to be more robust, more fully-dimensional. I'll include two of his "8 Marks of a Robust Gospel":

2. The robust gospel places transactions in the context of persons. When the gospel is reduced to a legal transaction shifting our guilt to Christ and Christ's righteousness to us, the gospel focuses too narrowly on a transaction and becomes too impersonal. We dare not deny transaction or what's called double imputation, but the gospel is more than the transactions of imputation. The robust gospel of the Bible is personal—it is about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. It is about you and me as persons encountering that personal, three-personed God.

Indeed, more often than not in the New Testament, the gospel is linked explicitly to a person. It is the "gospel of Christ" or the "gospel of God." Jesus calls people to lose their life "for my sake" and, to say the same thing differently, "for the sake of the gospel" (Mark 8:35; 10:29). Paul preached the "gospel of God" (1 Thess. 2:9) and the "gospel of Christ" (3:2) and "the glorious gospel of the blessed God" (1 Tim. 1:11). Paul tells us that the gospel is the glorious power of God's Spirit to transform broken image-bearers into the glory of God that can be seen in the face of the perfect image-bearer, Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18–4:6). In our proclamation, too, the focus of the gospel must be on God as person and our encountering that personal God in the face of Jesus Christ through the power of the Spirit...

7. A robust gospel includes the robust Spirit of God. How often do we hear about the Spirit of God in our gospel preaching? To our shame, the Spirit has been defined out of the gospel. But notice these words from the New Testament's most notorious gospeler, Paul: "For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ" (Rom. 15:18–19). For Paul, the gospel, the power of God unto salvation (1:16), was also the "power of the Spirit of God." Again, "In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:13–14). Jesus, too, said, "But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you" (Matt. 12:28). The gospel is animated by God's powerful Spirit, and its result is Spirit-empowerment for new living.


  1. I'm afraid that American Christianity will continue to be fractured. I see some signs of hope but there are too many people who can only see their particular interpretation as the correct one. I don't see that going away in the near future. I hope I am wrong.

  2. i want to believe that we are starting to come out of our corners. that one of the things that the emergent movement is doing is opening up the doors and allowing for a bigger world out there.

    but at the same time, there are tons of people within even the emergent movement that i even would probably not have true fellowship with. i do draw the line at the resurrection. that would be my litmus test of whether or not someone is a true Christian, whether they can point to the resurrection of Jesus as a factual occurrence that bears well for us. and i guess by that i do think that there are necessary lines of demarcation.

    but, for the most part, most lines are not necessary and the little churches (especially the Protestant churches that we two are a part of) has made a business (in some ways maybe even literally) out of defining themselves as "NOT them."


Be kind. Rewind.