I'm teaching at a conference this next week and I was searching the web at one of my favorite random news sites and oh boy did I find a gold mine. What youth ministry couldn't use this book? I'm gonna order mine today and watch my gut expand and my teeth rot and oh I think I'll submit some recipes of my own.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
if a pictures' worth a thousand words.... I'll shut up and let these 3 speak for themselves.
The wife and I celebrated 12 years of marriage with dinner under the sunset at Ocean Beach last Sunday.
Grandma and Grandpa bought the boys 5000 gallons of water and big bucket for the backyard. It's been 100+ here the last few days... a big puddle is nice to jump in.
Tyler- age 6 lost his first tooth. Magically he made a buck fifty too.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Based on my new rating system yesterday, the United States gets a SPLAT for soccer. Mostly because of lack of enthusiasm stateside. I think the players played hard and well for the most part. We got beat badly in game 1. That was embarassing. We did very well against Italy playing a man down most of the second half. We didn't have what it takes to beat Ghana today- though it really should have been a tie- the penalty kick foul was laughable, ridiculous, and lame. But so what.
Ghana gets a BOING. Mostly because of their countries pride. In honor of soccer, their entire country took a half day off to view it on TV.
I got to thinking, I wonder what it's like to live in a country with a national passion. We don't have one in the US that I could think of. I can't imagine the entire country taking a day off or supporting the president's decision to shut down the country for any reason other than a tragedy. We simply don't have a national hobby, love, or even focus minus something threatening the name of freedom. I was in Israel several years ago when Yasser Arafat's chief aid died of a heart attack and almost instantly, the entire Palestinian quarter shut down and people closed up shot for 3 days of mourning.
I'd like to be in a country when the streets get flooded with people headed home to watch soccer. That's awesome. I wish I was in Ghana to see it and watch it with a small family in their house in the outskirts somewhere with a dirt floor and a television and cheer with them. That sounds like fun. Instead, I cheered and jeered in my home this am with a bowl of cereal and some java.
I was supposed to do a devotion in our staff today at 9am. But the game went till 9:05am. So I called in and postponed my devotion 15 minutes. Which seemed really lame when Ghana took off a half day. Made me wonder what passion I have in my life that I would take a day off for just because I could that wasn't surrounding a day of tragedy or need. I took some time off this week to help my injured bride- but that doesn't seem the same.
I thought maybe I'd do it for soccer, a chance to go to a baseball game with sweet seats, a great concert, some event for my kids... but maybe I need to do more. Maybe I need to be ready to drop my day to play more often. Maybe I'd get less done. Maybe in 10 years in wouldn't matter. Maybe my play time would. Maybe that would make a day a BOING for sure.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Ever have that feeling in your gut you can only describe as something that if you dropped it on the floor it would go "THUD". That's my day today. THUD. It might be an unfair assessment cuz my day's not over, but up to this point. THUD is accurate.
It's one step up from a SPLAT and not as nice as BOING. Here's the chart of emotions I just invented.
BOING-enjoyed my day. would do it again if I could.
THUD- just lived. would rather not repeat it.
SPLAT- that hurt. now I need prayer.
maybe I should add pictures to that chart and patent it.
To the 5 of you who read this blog, I hope your day has more BOING than THUD and certainly less SPLAT than you were prepared to endure.... no one likes SPLAT.
Friday, June 16, 2006
I have a new found love. I have officially been introduced to the italian soda. The greatest part is that I can make it in my own kitchen with great ease.
Wanna join me in my newfoud joy: here's how:
1/4 cup half and half
7 tablespoons of any flavored syrup (I recommend a fruity one)
Measure syrup into a 20 oz cup. Add ice.
Pour in half and half. Add carbonated water. Stir well.
Serve topped with whipped cream.
Sit in your backyard with a good book or a good friend, and your new beverage and enjoy.
Well, my bride and I went to the orthopedic department at Kaiser today and found out that she doesn't have a broken bone in her shoulder. Instead what I saw on the x-ray (and what we both understood to be two pieces of the same bone) was instead two bones that used to be attached by a ligament that snapped and was therefore no longer holding the bones in place. It is a separated shoulder and she'll be out for about 6 weeks in the healing process. The first week should be the most sever in terms of pain, then after that things should begin to get back to normalish.
On another note, when our orthopedic guy came to give us the low down on our x-rays, I swore I knew him from somewhere and after a lot of questions he asked if I ever watched OVERHAULIN on TLC. I said yes and he said that his wife had got him on the show. And I said, wait a second, you had a truck didn't you. He said yes and then we bonded and now I know a reality TV star. OOh la la... What a small world this is. My wife was diagnosed by the bald buy in the picture below- an ex-navy seal who has a sick truck.
Now if Jesus hooks my wife's shoulder up like Chip Foose did John's truck. That would be awesome.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Well, today I tried to experience life per my TASTE AND SEE post.
TASTE: I went to a youth pastor network luncheon today and I made a turkey sandwich out of a croissant and I put dejon mustard on it instead of regular mustard- just cuz I felt like it and wanted my pallate to smile. Oh, and they had a bowl of fresh strawberries and some dill pickles- so I ate some. I also ate soft serve ice cream with my kids to celebrate their graduation from Kindergarten and 3rd grade today- and just because of my new found desire to taste good things... I had it dipped in chocolate.
DRIVE: I drove with the windows down all day. I also listened to music way too loud.
SEE: I drove my wife to the hospital today. I enjoyed the fern/palm tree things at the front. They have really pretty plants at Kaiser down here. I also made sure I saw good and well the x-ray that proved she broke her shoulder in two when some wood fell over on her in our garage today while I was at work. I did not watch them put the big ol IV needle in though... I didn't want to faint and end up on the floor.
PRAY: I prayed a lot for my wife's shoulder. I thanked God for health and health care and prescription narcotics. (no I didn't take some) And I prayed for healing. I held her when she cried. I guess part of life is the pain too. Maybe if I continue to take it all in, the good and the not so great- God will continue to use it all to shape me.
I didn't eat the last two days. Day one looks like this: Skip breakfast and lunch. Really really want dinner. Get annoying to be around. Day 2. Really want breakfast and lunch. Dinner- don't much care anymore. It's like I'm numb to food by then and that's when God speaks... and this time, I realized that I didn't really take the time to enjoy what I ate. So, when I started eating again, I wanted it to be on purpose. Like I really wanted to eat and wanted to eat what I was eating.
I was drawn back to Psalm 34 that says, "Taste and See that the Lord is good." I realized both of these are senses are rare for me to fully experience. I don't TASTE and SEE much. I'm so used to just eating or just going from place to place or used to just doing that I sometimes let the task at hand rob me of the joy of experiencing God in everything.
TASTE: I'm a lousy wine taster. I only tried it once in some wineries on a wedding anniversary weekend. I didn't last long. I don't want to swoosh the cup to watch how the wine moves or smell the scent before I drink it or taste the flavor like it's a delicacy or clean my palate in between attempts with cheese. Some days I'm not even sure I have a palate. Wine tasters know something about tasting. I enjoy wine, I just don't experience it. I think that's true of all my foods. I decided today to change that. I don't have to eat. So I'm going to try and intentionally put food in my mouth when I eat and enjoy the food I do eat. Today I almost ate a package of fruit snacks- just cuz it was in a box in my car. I decided I didn't want to eat them. I'd rather eat something else. So I said no and to thank God for the gift of taste!
SEE: I miss a lot of stuff by not looking. Yesterday I was in Coronado. Orange drive in Coronado has 2 lanes each way separated by at least 2 lanes worth of grass, flowers, and beautiful trees. I looked up and realized I'd be driving for blocks and not totally taken it in. The street is lined with old Victorians. It was Flag Day. Every house had a flag on it. Since the Navy owns half the island, the center section had a flag placed on a brown wooden pole about 8 feet high every 25 feet or so. There was a light breeze and the flags flipped back and forth. In the middle of all that, I realized my windows were up and my AC was on. I'm an idiot! I rolled down all the windows, turned off the AC, and sniffed the ocean breeze. It was gorgeous. I wanted to get out. Park my car. Get a beach cruiser bike (which I really wish I owned one of), and ride around all day. But, I realized I don't see stuff. Sometimes my kids will call out from the back seat, "Look Dad, God painted the sky so pretty today" at a sunset and I'll be slapped with the reality that God paints so much around me and I miss it. I miss a lot by not stopping to truly enjoy the light that enters my eyes. Eye contact in conversations is so important and I'm so bad at it. I need to learn to love God more fully with my eyes. I need to enjoy what I see.
BE A KID AGAIN: Pretty much on every level of my senses. I have decided that I need to feel the textures in my world, to taste the foods, to explore with my eyes, to feel the breeze and to smile. To sweat. To cry. To run. To walk. To sit in the grass. To be cold. To get wet in the rain. To sip a cup of coffee and to enjoy every taste. To smell the flowers and the ocean breeze. All this writing makes me wish I had a window in this office that opens to the outside. I'd swing it open big right now.
I think Eugene Peterson captured this beautifully in his translation of PSALM 34. It makes me want to breath deeper:
Psa. 34:1 I bless GOD every chance I get;
my lungs expand with his praise.
Psa. 34:2 I live and breathe GOD;
if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy:
Psa. 34:3 Join me in spreading the news;
together let’s get the word out.
Psa. 34:4 GOD met me more than halfway,
he freed me from my anxious fears.
Psa. 34:5 Look at him; give him your warmest smile.
Never hide your feelings from him.
Psa. 34:6 When I was desperate, I called out,
and GOD got me out of a tight spot.
Psa. 34:7 GOD’S angel sets up a circle
of protection around us while we pray.
Psa. 34:8 Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good GOD is.
Blessed are you who run to him.
Psa. 34:9 Worship GOD if you want the best;
worship opens doors to all his goodness.
Psa. 34:10 Young lions on the prowl get hungry,
but GOD seekers are full of God.
Psa. 34:11 Come, children, listen closely;
I’ll give you a lesson in GOD worship.
Psa. 34:12 Who out there has a lust for life?
Can’t wait each day to come upon beauty?
I want a lust for life and to be eager to come upon the beauty of the Lord at every turn. Here I go. Wish me luck and roll down your window and join me.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
I think these lyrics by Ben Harper are profound.
"I'm a living sunset
Lightning in my bones
Push me to the edge
But my will is stone
Fools will be fools
And wise will be wise
But I will look this world
Straight in the eyes
What good is a man
Who won't take a stand
What good is a cynic
With no better plan
Reality is sharp
It cuts at me like a knife
Everyone I know
Is in the fight of their life
Take your face out of your hands
And clear your eyes
You have a right to your dreams
And don't be denied
I believe in a better way"
The VIDEO is amazing! I love his voice and facial features- I really believe he believes what he's singing- especially when he screams "fight of their life."
I really like this song cuz I've been stewing for the last few days about how a Christ-centered view of the world is a positive view... It's filled with hope but it's not naive. I love that. I'm not very good at that. I sometimes think optimists are not realists. I think Jesus was both. Sometimes I have a hard time being positive if the reality is the poop just hit the fan.
For me, seeing hope in the world is only possible when I see it and myself through the eyes of the Creator. I need Jesus' perspective on the world. I need to remember John 16:33. " In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world."
I'm starting to hate numbers. Much of my life involves numbers. Money spent. My seminary GPA. My job. My gas tank.
I'm also sick of hearing justification in the church for counting people because there were places in the Bible where it records a number of people who were there as if they did it to validate that God was working there. I've heard numerous pastors imply that the numbers are recorded in the Bible as some sort of subliminal message to the reader that he or she should count. Like I guess we should count the number of people that attend the parties they throw or the funerals they go to.
Don't get me wrong, I mean I rejoice when the Bible says thousands decided to follow Jesus. I just don't rejoice less when 12 decide to. I don't think God was more at work on Pentecost than when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well one on one. I believe it's cool when lots of people show up and I even counted the number of students the local high schools around me to give me a handle on the task at hand. (There are 26,000 high school kids in the 15+ high schools around my church in case you were wondering.) I guess I'm okay with using numbers, but sometimes I feel judged by them.
Our numbers fell in our high school weekend attendance every Sunday from May 7 through April 4 until they reached an all time low for the 14 months I've been here. I felt like a failure for weeks. Then last weekend they doubled. It's stupid. Numbers drive me crazy. When I let them determine my peace, they are less predictable than an earthquake.
How many students were there? How much money did you make last year? How many minutes a day did you spend with your kids or reading your Bible or whatever?
The other day I heard a podcast from a pastor who was recommending we embrace the mysterious nature of God working and the fact that for most of God's efforts, the results are not numerically measurable. Like, how many people did you love today or how much spiritual growth occurred inside of you today. He said the things we should count are the things that indicate how many people are making growth or change decisions in life- cuz that's the goal. Helping people change their lives from self-oriented to God-loving and others-serving lives. Like people who follow the Lord's call to be baptized or people who renew to be an active lover of people in a small group or... stuff like that.
Someday when I get to heaven, I'm not counting anything- I hope that's the joy of eternity. Everything there counts but no one actually uses numbers to prove it.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Hey, don't say I never did anything for you. I found the world cup TV schedule on line. It's a God send for all you soccer fans. Once every 4 years and now... you know how to program your Tivo for the month. Wish I had a Tivo. Instead I'm just trying to creatively plan my work schedule :). I have a friend who chose to do a month long fast from TV during June. Not smart. The largest sporting event in the world and he's fasting. Time to get my fix and prepare for coaching... I agreed to coach both TJ and Tyler's soccer teams this year so that's my excuse for watching TV instead of mowing the lawn.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
THE FOLLOWING IS MY SEMINARY PAPER MINUS FOOTNOTES- I POSTED IT CUZ I REALLY BELIEVE IT- SOMETHING TO STEW ON IF YOU WANT. I wrote most of it on I-5 from SF to SD but.... it's kinda long. Enjoy.
What is Salvation? This appears to be a simple question, yet the answer has been highly debated among Christian theologians for centuries and the issues date all the way back to at least the first century believers. Perhaps the reason salvation and what exactly it is becomes so contended is because the conclusions have immense consequences for life and faith- both on an individual and a corporate level in the church. Luke records salvation as the chief purpose of Jesus’ life on earth; “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10) To bring salvation to the gentiles was the God-given mission of Paul and Barnabas. “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 13:47) Paul, when writing to the church in Ephesus, reminds them that it is not by works that one is saved, but rather for works. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:8-10) In another letter, to the church in Galatia, Paul sums up his faith in light of the life and death of Jesus with salvation at the core. He writes, “I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Gal. 2:20-21). These passages are a miniscule sampling of what is clearly a lot of weight given to the doctrine of salvation- especially in the New Testament.
While there are numerous soteriologies one could adopt in answer to this basic question, for the purposes of this paper, they will be summarized in one of two categories: (1) Those who claim salvation is a single event in time and (2) those who believe salvation is a process. Through an analysis of the relevant biblical passages and the thoughts of other theologians on the subject, it will become clear that while salvation may have a beginning point, it is a lifelong process made of both justification and sanctification, not merely a moment in time where a soul is instantly redeemed by God.
SALVATION AS A SINGLE EVENT
Those who claim that salvation is an event treat it as a “spiritual birthday” and look for confirmation that one is “saved” based on the precise ability to name a day when they were spiritually reborn. They would argue that even if the record has been lost by bad memory, all Christians have a spiritual birthday when their names are written in the “lambs book of life”. (Rev.13:8) Like a physical birth, it is an event that is permanent and in the past for every soul that has been promised eternal life. This realization places great confidence in the Christian that all their sins were paid by Jesus and no matter how they live from this day forward, they have an inheritance guaranteed by the deposit of the Holy Spirit in them. (Eph 1:13-14) This is the message preached in evangelical sermons all over the world, many of which also offer a chance for an individual who is listening to “receive salvation” by praying a prayer of repentance and accepting Christ’s shed blood as payment for their sins.
Perhaps this doctrinal position has best been championed in the modern day by Campus Crusade for Christ’s founder and author of the very famous “four spiritual laws” evangelism tract, Bill Bright. When asked what is the message of salvation, and how to communicate it to an “unsaved” person, he says,
“The basic components of the Gospel could be summarized as: problem, penalty, provision, and decision. You might use the Four Spiritual Laws and bring their attention to these four components. The Problem is sin. It is universal, and at some level, almost everyone acknowledges that they fall short of either God’s standards or their own: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The Penalty is death. Romans 6:23 states that ‘the wages of sin is death.’ This is not physical death, but spiritual. The result of sin is eternal spiritual separation from God. The Provision is Christ’s death for our sin; He pays the penalty for us. The Decision one needs to make is to place their faith in Christ to pay the penalty for their sin (to be their Savior). "
That is all there is to it. Help people realize these four easy steps and once they decide to place faith in Jesus, their “salvation” is complete.
In examining the historical roots of this idea, Hindmarsh notes others who have held to this concept of salvation. He records that, “Wesley and other evangelicals conceived of salvation primarily (and that is an important adverb) in terms of the individual and his or her eternal destiny. They understood that the gospel implied much else, but when they spoke of salvation, they conceived of it primarily in terms of the inherited Reformed ordo- the so-called golden chain of God’s saving actions that begin and end in eternity: Those whom God predestines, he calls, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies.” But this view of salvation primarily as an event designed for an individual soul is not a message we can afford to communicate as the dominate view of salvation in the church today, nor is it the whole Biblical truth.
The problem with this message is not that salvation does not have a beginning or a specific starting point. It’s that salvation is more than a one-time choice made by a lost individual in need of a Savior. If this is in fact the Gospel message and there is nothing more to salvation than this, then God’s redemptive plan for humanity post the fall has been to get men and women to make a single decision to be His follower so that they could find eternal life with Himself post physical death. Anything beyond that is unnecessary for salvation and simply a bonus if it happens. One could be the thief on the cross headed from a life of sin to a life of redemption in an instant or could serve God for a lifetime like Paul’s companion Timothy. But either way, the status of “saved by grace” is all that matters.
By way of a word picture, it’s like being told you are officially on a sports team because the coach picked you and you agreed to join. Then after being welcomed to the team, you’re told it is expected but not mandatory if you show up to practice, run hard, score any points, or even work directly with your teammates. All that really matters is you’re on the team and you can sit on the bench until you die and that won’t change your status. The Evangelical position would argue that a true conversion would not merely “bench it” for life. But the truth is, they could if salvation is solely a momentary line that is crossed by belief and profession of faith. But the redemptive work of God in the life of the believer does not begin and end on a penal substitution theory of the atonement whereby a Divine exchange is made for the lost soul and then what was lost is now “saved” and we’re done. There is way more to the redemptive life of God in us than a single life-altering event.
SALVATION AS A PROCESS
For those who see salvation as a process, they see it less like a legal transaction, sports team membership, or spiritual birth date and more like the constant adjustments one makes while driving to stay on the road. There may very well be a distinct day and time one could point to when they first got behind the wheel and started to drive (or it may be a series of moments starting with just watching Dad drive as a kid), however the act of driving- like the act of being a follower of Jesus- itself is made up not of one decision, but of many. That is what the New Testament teaches. Jesus called His disciples to, “take up their cross daily”. (Luk 9:23) Paul’s challenge to the Philippian church was to, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil 2:12-13). Peter also underlines that salvation is a process, even for the believer when he writes to them scattered around the Roman world and tells them, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” (1Pet. 2:2)
Even famously chosen verses by the “salvation is an event” group like 1 John 1:9 are in the context of a bigger plan of salvation. 1 John 1:9 tells the reader that sins are forgiven upon a prayer of confession. However, 1 John 1:7 reminds the reader that, “if we walk in the light, as [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” Here we see more of the process of salvation. The question becomes, “Which piece of this sentence is it here that produced a purity from sin?” Was it the blood of Jesus? Was it the life lived in fellowship of other believers? Was it the walking in the light with God? Can we dump one of these three character traits of a believer as optional? The answer is no, nothing can be dumped because God uses all of those things to daily redeem our hearts and minds and souls. He uses other people. He guides our steps. And yes He uses the sacrifice of Jesus to save. This is not an attempt to add works to salvation or to limit the atoning power of Jesus’ blood for sins. But it is an attempt to open the believer’s eyes to the fact that the act of salvation is more daily and present tense applicable than a past tense experience with future implications.
One New Testament scholar who gives some clarity to this position is Scot McKnight in his recent book, “The Jesus Creed.” He says that “conversion, like wisdom, takes a lifetime.” By way of an illustration, he puts it in terms of a birth certificate verses a driver’s license. He notes that the first is concerned with “What do I need to get to heaven?” and the later is concerned with, “How do I love God?”. He cautions that, “If a conversion is likened to a birth certificate, we produce babies who need to be pushed around in strollers. If it’s like a driver’s license, we produce adults who can operate on life’s pathways…. And so conversion to Jesus and [the Jesus Creed- which he defines as Deut. 6:4-5 and Lev 19:18] is total conversion- heart, soul, mind, and strength.”
As an example, Scott McKnight looks to the life of Peter verses Paul as conversion or salvation experiences. Paul’s story is touted by Evangelicals as a case study for conversion and how one can go from extreme sinful hatred of God to a passionate servant via a dramatic salvation experience. The Apostle Paul can name the day and time when Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus. He seems to be a classic proof text of the “salvation is an event” theologians.
But what about Peter? When was he saved? Was it when his brother introduces him to Jesus and Jesus promises he’ll get a new name? Was it when Peter confesses he’s a sinner in the presence of God after Jesus gives him a huge catch of fish one morning when he was done fishing and throws down his nets just because Jesus says to do so? Was it when Peter correctly answers Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am” at Caesarea Philippi? Was it only after Jesus dies and is resurrected and calls Peter to return to feeding and loving Jesus’ sheep? Was it on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon him? These rhetorical questions don’t have a clear answer in the pages of the New Testament writers. The point is, it’s not always so easy to name a date and time, nor was it the goal of salvation for the early church fathers. They were seeking disciples, not merely decisions.
But the truth is, no matter how big or clear the “beginning” conversion moment may or may not be, both Paul and Peter spent their lives post meeting Jesus striving to live more fully the life of a faithful follower. They were both amazed the grace of God was given to them and they intended to live their lives working that grace out through every part of them. But they were not living completely redeemed lives themselves, they were a work in progress and thus were moving toward fully experiencing salvation in every area. In fact, a large portion of the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a summation of a disagreement between these two men about God’s plan of salvation for the gentiles and what was required for them to begin this new life as a follower of Jesus. In the case of Peter, we also see God’s continual forming of his salvation plan in him with regards to the gentiles in Acts 10 at the home of the centurion Cornelius where Peter is given a vision that opens his eyes to see all people in renewed spiritual ways and in need of a Savior. It is clear that in the New Testament, both Paul and Peter were both still very much in the process of salvation in themselves and learning how to call and lead others to experiencing salvation in Jesus too.
THE GREAT REVERSAL.
But, despite the fact that there are those who believe that salvation is a process, the dominate evangelical position of our day is that it is an “event”. The question is, has it always been this way? In his studies on the history of the doctrine of salvation, particularly among Evangelicals, Bacote notes that, “Evangelical soteriology has rightly focused on the salvation of individual souls, for indeed the eternal destiny of individuals is a central aspect of the gospel. But it is not the only aspect…. Prior to the twentieth century, there was considerable evangelical engagement in all areas of life. In particular, those who held a postmillennial eschatology sought to transform society so that the Kingdom of God would eventually appear on earth. … however a shift that some scholars have labeled ‘a great reversal’ [in the 1900-1930] led to a distinct de-emphasis on matters of social concern. This reversal was a reaction to the social gospel of liberalism and the result of a shift to rapture-focused premillennialism as the dominant view of eschatology. Concerned that the gospel message of eternal life through Christ’s atoning work would be lost in a sea of social concern and convinced that the Bible teaches that society will only deteriorate, fundamentalists and evangelicals directed their soteriological gaze toward eternal matters.”
True as this may be, the caution of socialist goals has been overstated for the last 50 years and now we find many in the Evangelical community who believe that their salvation is secure and their lifestyles are but optional areas of progressive holiness having no consequence greater than the crowns one may receive in heaven. Consequently, the social, corporate, and morally sanctifying pieces of the gospel of salvation need to be resurfaced as part of the soteriology of Jesus who “came to seek and to save that which was lost.”- which is broader than the individual soul’s of humanity momentary profession of Jesus as Lord.
In the process of studying the Catholic Church’s perspective on salvation, something traditionally viewed as drastically different from the Evangelical position, Francis Sullivan studied the history of Papal statements on the subject of salvation as it pertains to the Catholic Church from the 1200’s through modern day. His conclusion is that the Papacy has declared that, “God has assigned to the church a necessary role in the divine economy of salvation. As Christ is the one mediator, so his body, the church has a subordinate but necessary role of mediation in the salvation of mankind.” While the Catholic Church’s view of the salvation works has traditionally been rejected by the Evangelical position, more and more they are finding some common ground. One point of common ground should be that salvation is a process in which the believer’s role in submission to and participation with the voice of the church is critical to the salvation work of Jesus in our world today. Rosner comes to a similar conclusion regarding the need for salvation to be viewed in light of the Biblical context of the whole of creation, not just the individual soul in his study of the history of salvation. He states, “Salvation is thought of both individually and corporately. If Christ is in the individual believer, correspondingly all believers together are in Christ. The believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit, just as the church as a whole is such a temple. As well as a judgment of individuals, there will also be a judgment of nations. And if individuals long for salvation, no less does the whole creation. Salvation history makes it clear that God’s purposes loom larger than my personal fulfillment, are bigger than me and my God, and embrace a universalistic vision.”
THE CONSEQUENCE OF SALVATION AS A PROCESS VS. AN EVENT
But, this view of salvation as a process produces some obvious fears for evangelicals- especially those with a linear thinking modern mind. (1) How can we assure people of salvation without knowing when they were reborn? (2) If salvation is a lifelong process, how can we ever know we are “saved”? (3) This sounds like a salvation by works doctrine whereby someone must earn their way to God. We are either saved by grace or we’re not… These and other valid questions could and should be asked in the arena of this discussion on salvation for the accepted conclusions determine the very function of the life of Jesus and by default those who claim to be His followers. At the outset, it is enough to say that some of the debate is over concern for a math equation for salvation. The process view of salvation is less concerned with an objective moment of decision to cast assurance on, and content with the mysterious life of transformation and an embracing of the process as a whole. Where the exact line is that justifies a follower is less important than the awareness that one has truly embraced the Holy Spirits lead and embraced faith in Jesus as His disciple.
When Evangelicals in America get that wrong, and begin to teach and live out an event or justification only driven evangelism model, the ripple effects are broad and catastrophic. Take for example the search for conversions that characterized much of the conquering of the Native American Indians in this land among some of this continent’s earliest believers where men and women tried to force an entire people group to become Christians. Regarding this Bacote writes, “The implications for God’s covenant people are enormous as ever. Those who have entered into a covenant relationship with God cannot assume that their “saved” status carries no responsibility for their behavior. The legacy of Christian treatment of Native Americans is lamentable and reveals the hubris that can result from misunderstanding our status as a covenant people.” In this case, sin clearly has corporate consequences as well as individual ones and the gospel of Jesus speaks to both.
In our modern day, these consequences continue as those who claim to be among the “saved”, confident in a birth date in their past upon praying a prayer of confession, then go onto refuse to live the daily life of a follower of Jesus in the marketplace. Horn writes, “The deepest reason for faith alone is that salvation is by Christ alone. Faith only means it is all Christ. Christ, not the church; Christ, not me; Christ alone. This is certainly the Bible’s teaching. The trouble is that it seems to cut out my responsibility altogether. I cannot do anything to gain justification, for Christ does it all. I need not do anything, for faith rules out works. So the question arises: what are the consequences of this emphasis on grace and faith? What does ‘faith only’ lead to- a life of spiritual idleness.”
In fact, one of the most frightening teachings Jesus ever gave on the subject of salvation was given in his famous Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew. It was there that he told the crowd that they could be very religious and look like they were “saved” only to find that on the day of judgment, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’(Matt 7:22-23) Bacote sees the results of this among the poor and oppressed. He notes, “Christians who claim to have given their hearts to Jesus while failing to call for justice, particularly those in positions of influence, may unwittingly have joined themselves to the enemy in their life practice. Though they may give to missions, attend church regularly, and engage in daily personal devotions, their lives, apart from inner piety, hare no different from those of the unsaved. Will evangelical piety break free from the inner life and have a public statement thereby changing the circumstances of Christian brothers and sisters who suffer? If not, are we really who we say we are?”
THE ISSUE OF CARNALITY
For the evangelical holding to an event based salvation plan, this discrepancy of a life lived partially committed to God is an issue of “carnal” verses “spiritual” living. Since one is saved by a decision or profession of faith, there must be some sort of doctrinal explanation for the fact that some who are “saved” don’t live as such. Here again we can find this teaching by Bill Bright helpful to understanding this position. He writes, “Jesus meant for the Christian life to be an exciting, abundant adventure…. The carnal man, described by Paul in I Corinthians, Chapter 3, is a defeated and fruitless Christian. He is living in the energy of the flesh instead of drawing upon the inexhaustible resources of the Holy Spirit. He may be a Sunday school teacher, a salesman, a student, or even a minister or missionary who, even though he is a Christian, is in [personal] control at the same time. The carnal man desires and sometimes attempts to set his affection on the things of God, but still holds onto the things of this world.” Speaking of the same passage, Charles Ryrie concludes that “Paul can only mean that these carnal Corinthians lived like unsaved men. That clarifies why the word carnal can label both unbelievers and believers, simply because the lifestyles of both are the same. The cure for the unbeliever’s carnality is salvation; the cure for the believer’s is to grow in the Lord.” Notice how Ryrie separates the two processes. Salvation is the act of belief that occurs at some point for the unbeliever to become “saved” and redemptive living is an act of obedience that is clearer among some followers than others depending on their “growth in the Lord”.
SALVATION IS JUSTIFICATION AND SANCTIFICATION
The perceived problem of “carnality” is not because there cannot be variation in the holiness of a Christian in process of becoming like God, it is instead due to the fact that the doctrine of salvation has been reduced to the doctrine of justification. Which is like reducing a recipe for cake down to the ingredients and ignoring the need for an oven to bake it. It is agreed that justification occurs in an instant. Paul’s letter to the church in Rome makes this abundantly clear in multiple locations, the most famous of which is likely Chapter 3, verses 22-24 where he writes, “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Justification is then the moment when all the ingredients come together to make a cake mix in profession of belief. It is a significant spiritual moment in the life of a believer when the process of salvation has begun. However salvation also includes sanctification. It has a time and life transformation piece too. This is what James is speaking of when he cautions that, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (Jam 2:19) Belief is not all there is to salvation.
In his study on the subject of justification, Horn states the commonly taught evangelical position on these two doctrines. “Justification is beginning and sanctification is continuing. Justification is complete once for all; sanctification is progressive and increasing. One settles our status and secures our adoption. The other is God’s dealing with inborn sin, starting to train us in godliness.“ However, he also reminds us that “Justification does not stand in isolation. God does not justify us so that we can say, ‘Right, I am saved. No I don’t need to bother with what God wants anymore.’… only the person who has been justified is in God’s family and only he can begin to grow like Christ in character. That person alone will truly love and obey Christ.”
Thus the question, “What is Salvation” is a widely contested one. Whatever specific conclusions one comes to, it is clear that though there are verses in the Bible that deal with and support salvation as a moment in time conclusion, the problem is they’re only half the story. God’s redemptive plan of salvation is in part a justification process where by a lost soul is found and divinely forgiven. This is not the end however, but instead the beginning of the process of salvation whereby the Holy Spirit leads and guides a disciple into a sanctified life lived eternally both in this life, and the life to come. It is the process of working out and growing up into salvation. It is a process that is less about individual soul winning and more about redemption. It is about redeeming lost and found individuals into the image of their Creator. And ultimately it’s about redeeming lost cultures, a wounded creation, and the Kingdom of God back to it’s full light. As a final word, Titus 2:11-14 sums up the process and the goal of salvation well. “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self–controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
Dieter, Melvin E., and others. Five Views of Sanctification. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.
Green, Joel B. and Scot McKnight, eds. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, Il.: IVP, 1992.
Horn, Robert M. Go Free! The Meaning of Justification. Downers Grove, Il.: IVP, 1976.
McKnight, Scot. The Jesus Creed. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2004.
Packer, J. I. Knowing God. Downers Grove: IVP, 1973. Part 3.
Ryrie, Charles C. So Great Salvation. Wheaton, IL.: Victor, 1989.
Stackhouse, John G. Jr., ed. What does it mean to be saved? Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002.
Sullivan, Francis A. Salvation Outside the Church? Tracing the History of the Catholic Response. New York, NY: Paulist Press. 1992.
Toon, Peter. Justification and Sanctification. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1983.
Vanhoozer, Kevin J., ed. Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker., 2005
Wells, David F. The Search for Salvation. Downers Grove, Il: IVP, 1978.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
I just finished 13 months of one night a week seminary. I'm taking the summer off. I don't even care what grade I got. I won't miss tests a bit. One day when I start my own seminary... I'm gonna change all the rules, here's a few in case you want to apply to the Brian Berry Seminary for the Real World:
1. No more Jeopardy quizes. If you don't need to know it to have an intelligent conversation regarding spiritual things at Starbucks... you don't have to memorize it.
2. No more tests without books. It's pointless to assume you'll live your life without access to them. So unless you're training to minister to jungle people on a dessert island, you can bring your top 5 resources to any test we have.
3. All class projects answer the question: how will this help you in the real world? If you want to be a text book writer, you can take a degree track to prep you for that. If you want to work with junior highers, the track will be much different. Duh.
4. We care if you understand what you read and the implications of various ideas in the world you live in, not your ability to write a encyclopedia entry on it.
5. We don't care what format you use to footnote or write a bibliography. Just be consistent and give us the info we need if we want to read it too. Beyond that, we don't care whose system you adopt or if you make one up yourself. Besides, every system of records we have was made up anyway. This is your chance to be a trend setter.
6. If you aren't enjoying the learning process, either our teaching sucks or you're attitude does.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
I spent the week in Palm Springs with my wife courtesy of our church. 2 days with our church staff. 2 days by ourselves. 2 days at a our church's marriage retreat. It was amazing. And it was 112 degrees. Yep. 112. I could have fried an egg on the hood of my car. Easily.
On day 2 of our time by ourselves, I tried to convince my wife to go with me on a hike in the morning. She said nope and looked at me like I was sick in the head. So did all my friends I tried to get to go with me. So, I went by myself. My bride stayed at the Westin and enjoyed a lazy morning and read an such. I went hiking in a desert canyon oasis by myself. All by myself.
So I hiked on an indian reservation on a 2 mile trek until a sign said the trail ended. But there was so much more climbing to do so I ignored the sign and went off trail. Then I found a waterfall and a secluded pool. So I read Blue like Jazz for a while and then I read Psalm 63 and then I relaxed for a while and then I went skinny dippin.
Maybe next year I'll convince the wife to go. That would be fun. If so, I won't be posting that. Here's the full photo set of my hike surroundings.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
TJ: Dad, I have to do a science project.
DAD: Ok, What do you need help with.
TJ: I don't care what we do, but I have to do a report on it. I can't do the baking soda and vinegar volcano, but I want something to blow up.
DAD: Ok, let me get on the internet and find out how to blow something up... ok.... TJ I found one that makes soda explode.
TJ: Yeah Dad! Let'd do that!
DAD: Fill out the form and tell your teacher what we're going to do.
TJ: Dad. I have bad news. Our science experiment got rejected. My teacher said our hypothesis was not good enough.
TJ: Yea, she wants us to do an experiment watching radishes grow. Here it is.
DAD: Um, we're not doing that. Here, take this note to your teacher. Brief note summary (my kid wants me to blow something up in the name of good science and you want me to grow radishes? Can we just come up with a new hypothesis?)
TJ: Dad, she says she still doesn't get it, but if can make a hypothesis, we can do it.
DAD: Sweet. I'll make something up. You make the list to give to Mom to buy and lets blow up some soda bottles.
End result: bottom photo is what happens when you dump 10ish mentos all at once into a freshly opened bottle of diet pepsi. Shoots up higher than my kid and creates a science memory he actually will care about. I'm sure someone is supposed to watch radishes grow. Just not an 8 year old boy.
Mabe we're raising a future pyro-technics man.