Parable of the SUV

January 21, 2016

He put another parable before them, saying, “A certain ‘mainline’ Christian denomination may be compared to an SUV. This SUV was large, and held many passengers. It was a vehicle that had been on the market for many years and the world was quite familiar with it.

For perhaps as many as 30 or more years, this make and model of SUV had an increasing tendency to swerve very sharply to the left when it was driven. In fact, it almost seemed as if the SUV would move to the left while it was parked. It was possible for drivers to steer this SUV straight down the road, but only with a great deal of difficulty. And sometimes, no amount of effort would keep it from drifting to the left.

This SUV’s tendency to swerve to the left was well known by most people. Drivers and passengers alike knew about this tendency, as did other drivers on the road. Some of the drivers of these SUVs hoped, some even prayed, that the SUVs would stop swerving to the left, but none of their efforts met with success. Interestingly, some drivers and passengers actually liked this characteristic of the SUVs and never wanted another kind of vehicle. They appreciated this left-swerving tendency.

Importantly, this tendency for the SUV to swerve sharply to the left was well known by the executives of the auto maker. Some of the executives were actually quite pleased that the SUV had this performance characteristic and encouraged the engineers to keep and even enhance this design feature. Some executives seemed mostly ambivalent about the matter. They did not say anything one way or the other about it. Finally, there were other executives, who, while they were very much aware of this characteristic, did nothing to correct it even though they had the authority to do so.

It so happened that one of these left-swerving SUVs was driving down the road. This particular SUV was being driven and occupied by people who really preferred that the SUV not pull hard to the left. Not surprisingly, the SUV went off of the highway to the left, and rolled over in the center median of the highway. By the grace of God, all of the occupants were able, without assistance, to exit the SUV. Miraculously none of the them were injured physically. Yes, they were shaken up, some were trembling from the experience, but by and large they were reflective about what just happened and importantly why.

They huddled together in the median a short distance from the overturned SUV and prayed with grateful hearts for God’s gracious protection of them. Almost the instant that they said their ‘Amen’, the SUV burst into flames and it burned until their was nothing left but a smoldering shell of twisted steel. Curiously, several other SUVs of the same model passed by on the roadway immediately after the accident, their drivers struggling to keep their vehicles from also going off into the center median, many of them alternately driving back and forth between the left shoulder and the main lanes of the road.

The driver of that burned-out SUV soon had a new vehicle. This time, one that was able to be driven without the dangerous tendency to swerve to the left. And all of the driver’s passengers were quite relieved.”

 


Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (aka: PC(USA) “light”)

January 23, 2012

Last week, a new Presbyterian denomination was born.  It will be called, at least initially, Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.  Quite a mouthful I would say.  The name also feels about as clumsy as what they seem to be trying to accomplish in their formation.

While I will concede at the outset that the baby is still young, and how it grows over the years to come remains to be seen.  I am hoping that as it matures, it will distance itself from its “mother” to a greater degree than it has at its birth.

The idea behind the ECOoP is to form a new denomination, largely in reaction to the decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to ordain unrepentant, practicing homosexuals as teaching and ruling elders and deacons.  That was a move that was unacceptable to many members of the PC(USA), even as they have generally allowed their church to take socially and theologically liberal positions on other topics.

What speaks the loudest to me about this need for an altogether new Presbyterian denomination is that for the last few years, the PC(USA)’s more conservative congregations have been finding the exits and joining other pre-existing Presbyterian denominations. And I am not talking about members here, I am talking about whole churches, sometimes walking away from their property, sometimes taking it with them at great cost.  Many of these did so even before the PC(USA)’s decision to ordain homosexuals.  The particular denomination that has received most of these congregations is the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). 

The possibility of joining the EPC was still available to many, perhaps most of those PC(USA) congregations who are now interested in escaping the liberalism of their current denomination.  So, why do they not pursue that avenue, as so many others have?

The answer, I believe, lies in the fact that the PC(USA) congregations who are forming the new ECOoP are caught between their current church, that is too liberal for their liking, and another Presbyterian denomination that is not liberal enough.  Consequently, they find themselves needing to give birth to a new church that is nearly as biblically confused as the one they are trying to escape.  And the specific aspect of their need for a new hybrid church is the fact that while they may reject the ordination of unrepentant homosexuals on the basis of its incompatibility with scripture, they have yet to embrace the perspicuity of scripture with respect to its teaching that opposes the ordination of women to the office of teaching elder.  The result is a couple of denominations, one old and one new, with philosophical and theological positions that are only distinguished by one church’s willingness to ordain women and the other’s willingness to ordain women, and unrepentant homosexuals.  While the difference between the two may seem significant in a contemporary cultural context, there really is very little difference with respect to the compatibility of either ordination standard, with scripture.

Several years ago, Albert Mohler, who is president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY wrote:

The feminization of the ministry is one of the most significant trends of this generation. Acceptance of women in the pastoral role reverses centuries of Christian conviction and practice. It also leads to a redefinition of the church and its ministry. Once women begin to fill and represent roles of pastoral leadership men withdraw. This is true, not only in the pulpit, but in the pews. The evacuation of male worshippers from liberal churches is a noticeable phenomenon.

Furthermore, the issues of women’s ordination and the normalization of homosexuality are closely linked. It is no accident that those churches that most eagerly embraced the ordination of women now either embrace the ordination of homosexuals or are seriously considering such a move.

The reason for this is quite simple. The interpretive games one must play in order to get around the Bible’s proscription of women in congregational preaching and teaching roles are precisely the games one must play in order to get around the Bible’s clear condemnation of homosexuality. (emphasis, mine)

I hope that I am misreading the putt here.  But the very fact that the ECOoP claims as one of its distinctives that it is an  “Egalitarian Ministry (in which the spiritual gift of both genders and all racial and ethnic groups are “unleashed”)“, and the fact that it has taken the confessions of the PC(USA) as its own basis for its theology rather than the more orthodox Presbyterian, Westminster Standards, would suggest to me that the ECOoP is merely a “light” version of the PC(USA).


Reformation

October 31, 2011

Today is Reformation Day.  The 494th anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses, or arguments against the catholic church, to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany.  October 31, 1517 was a day that was pivotal in the history of Christianity. 

I have written on the subject of Reformation Day in prior years, and if you are interested in those articles, you can find them by searching for the words “reformation day” in the search utility at the right side of this page.

C. Michael Patton from Credo House Ministries has written an excellent article underscoring the importance of the Reformation, by drawing some comparisons between Protestant and Catholic theology.  Click HERE to read about the Reformation in a Nutshell.


Introduction to Homosexuality

October 30, 2011

An hour in length, fairly academic in both its content and presentation, with a message that is nevertheless very helpful in looking at the issue of homosexuality from several different perspectives at least insofar as its causes/origins are concerned, all under the assumption of a Biblical view of human sexuality, the sinfulness of ALL mankind, and the hope of the Gospel.

Dr. Sam Williams, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

HT: JT


The ‘Other’ Steve Jobs

October 10, 2011

Last week I followed suit with countless others who eulogized Steve Jobs with either simple “R.I.P.’s”, or article-length pieces.  Not a week has passed yet since his death.  Yet articles are now appearing that reveal another side to the genius that was heralded last week and seemed kindly and loveable, if not a bit eccentric.  As this article notes, “a great man’s reputation can withstand a full accounting.”  And so it does, portraying a darker, less warm and fuzzy genius in Steve Jobs.

With respect to a part of the article linked to above, I have to say that on one hand, I am leery of censorship in its unbridled form. An authority that has the power to censor one type of material that might be deemed offensive to some, has the power to broaden its scope to include material that IT deems to be offensive.  The linked to article decries what might be thought of as censorship exercised by Apple via its App Store and iTunes.  Yet, limits placed on what can and cannot be installed on an iPhone or iPad via an app, places NO limitation on what can be accessed via these devices internet connectivity.  So that particular complaint in this article falls a bit short of making a credible point.  Furthermore, (at least historically) a company like Disney drew lines on what material it would allow to be presented under its brand.  I am sure there are other examples, so Apple’s policy is hardly lacking precedent.

All this said, along with what the article has to offer, I hope all the more that God did a work or regeneration in Steve Jobs life near its end, as these latest revelations and reflections confirm that he seemed to lack that, in the normal course of his life.


Yeah, me too. A requiem for Steve Jobs

October 6, 2011

I admit it, I am a slow adopter of technology.  It is a genetic predisposition that has proven to have low heritability, as my daughter is pretty consistently on the front end of embracing new gadgets.  And my son, while not nearly as aggressive as his sister, is nevertheless well ahead of me. Perhaps my son has inherited my frugality.  Leigh prefers the term “cheap” when describing this trait in me.

All that said, I have to admit that my engagement with the products of the late Steve Jobs’ brainchild Apple, Inc. is limited to just an old, now antiquated iPod and an iPhone 4.  The former has been rendered not useless, but certainly less-used by virtue of the latter, and now as of this week, the latter is on the road to obsolescence, thanks to the iPhone 4S and the inevitable iPhone 5.

Much has already been written, and I suspect that much more is yet to come about Steve Jobs.  Probably safe to assume that many of those kindly expressions are being made using the very technology that bears his imprint.  And it was from that same technology that many learned for the first time that he had died yesterday.  

Much of what I have read has focused on the genius of Steve Jobs and the amazing innovations that can be traced back to his vision for technology and consumers.  Few have focused on what really ought to concern people of faith, and people of the Christian faith in particular.  Granted, the world has lost a unique genius and we are right to mourn the loss of Jobs’ life, and to some degree the absence of his creativity applied to future products.  But my hope would be that we would grieve the probable loss of this man’s soul, more so than the loss of the gadgets that he might have been a part of delivering in the future.

It is entirely possible within the context of the mysteries of God, that God and God alone worked His sovereign, saving grace into the folds of Jobs’ life in the days, hours, or even moments before his death.  I hope that is the case.  But there was certainly nothing in the visible or audible content of Jobs’ life that would offer any particular confidence that he had earlier realized and embraced a saving faith as described in scripture.  Instead, his apparent faith was much more in conformity with secularism.  Some believe he may have been a Buddhist.

The irony is certainly not lost on me that while Jobs clearly recognized the inevitableness of death, even his own (as witnessed by his often cited commencement address at Stanford University a few years ago), he also must surely have been a part of the decision-making process that settled on the iconic Apple logo.  That logo of an apple with a bite taken out of it is the very symbol of the introduction of sin and death into the world, as described in Genesis chapter 3. 

My hope for Jobs is that in some supernatural, monergistic way, God revealed the rest of His story of redemption to Mr. Jobs, in at least the last few moments before he passed from this life, into the next.


Why limit it to the third trimester?

September 16, 2011

Last month I wrote an article about the ethical dilemma that the pro-baby killing folks are wrestling with regarding a practice known as “reduction.”  These are procedures performed in pregnancies that involve multiple babies (twins, triplets, etc.). Through selective abortion, one or more babies are killed, until the desired number remains, usually just one.  “Reduction.”  What a nice impersonal, unemotional sort of word.  But the nice word can only go so far in disguising what is going on in these procedures and they are causing all sorts of hand-wringing and heart burn among even the most ardent supporters of killing unborn babies.

Now, the legalized “killing of babies,” has taken on a new and even more comprehensive and precise meaning.  A Canadian appeals court has ruled that a mother who strangled her infant (that is, already born) son and threw his dead body over her fence into a neighbor’s yard, cannot be charged with any crime, or at least not one related to the killing of the child.  Re-read that if you like, but you probably read it correctly the first time.  A mother killed her already-born-son, and is guilty of no crime.  And get this…the judge’s logic in de-criminalizing what would otherwise be regarded as infanticide, relied on Canada’s abortion statutes that allow for killing of babies through the third trimester of pregnancy.  It appears that the good news for those who were not able to come to the decision to kill their child en utero, can now do so after he or she has been delivered.  I guess that the only remaining question, not yet adjudicated by the courts in Canada is exactly how long a mother has to exercise this frightening new privilege. 

Al Mohler has a sober and thoughtful article on this subject that is well worth the time to read.