Email Use Reaching Biblical Proportions

Cami and I were in church a few weeks ago when we noticed something we had never seen before in a worship service. In the row in front of us, there was a teenage girl sitting there with the bright, crisp light of her bluetooth headpiece glowing from her ear. Yes, the bluetooth has invaded even the most sacred of places. But it is not the only piece of technology that has entered the worship circle.

The Chicago Sun Times reports on the growing trend of people using their wireless devices for email and web browsing during the church service.  According to the article:

A new study of more than 4,000 Americans over 13, including 200 from the Chicago area, found that 12 percent of mobile e-mail users look at their e-mail on their cell phones, personal digital assistants and other wireless devices while in church.

Which city is the worst at wireless worship?  “Bible-belt-based Atlantans led the way in this category: 22 percent of respondents confessed they checked e-mail in church.”

The survey goes on to report that email has infiltrated another ‘holy’ place: the bathroom. “And 12 percent catch up with e-mail in the john.” Chicagoans excel the most at the techno tinkle: “Forty-seven percent of Chicago respondents looked at their e-mail in the bathroom or restroom.”

Have I ever participated in either of these activities? The answer is yes — rarely in one and frequently in the other. I’ll let you guess which is which.

As technology continues to invade our lives, the danger will be to compromise our pursuit of Christ because of the tyranny of the urgent. The way to God is not through the glow of the ‘crackberry’ but through the blood of Christ. No technological advancements will ever change that.

Debate on Speaking in Tongues

The audio is available for Dr. Russell Moore’s debate with Dwight McKissic on the Jerry Johnson Live radio show. The debate is well done and well-spirited. Three deficiencies are clear in McKissic’s views on the issue:

  1. He prooftexts 1 Cor. 14:2, with no consideration for its context, as the primary support for his view in the same way a Jehovah’s Witness prooftexts Col. 1:15 to deny the deity of Christ. One verse in isolation from its context cannot be foundational to an argument.
  2. He resists any interaction with historical perspectives on the issue in an effort to just stick to his prooftext.
  3. He engages in what I have dubbed ‘charismatic fundamentalism.’ In fact, he goes as far as to say that anyone who does not share his view on this issue is not an inerrantist. Wow!

Private prayer languages are not a modern day manifestation of the biblical gift of tongues. There are several reasons this is true:

  • The biblical gift of tongues is prophetic in nature–it was for the purpose of inspired revelation. Once God provided a written body of inspired literature to the early church, this oral transmission phased out.
  • The biblical gift of tongues, like all other spiritual gifts, is for the building up of the body of Christ; not for the building up of individual Christians.
  • The biblical gift of tongues marked the initial advance of the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea/Samaria and the ends of the earth.
  • The biblical gift of tongues occurred in known languages in contrast to much of what goes on today in ‘ecstatic’ speech.

The bottom line is that, since the purpose of tongues (as a form of prophetic revelation of divine inspiration) has now been fulfilled, the spiritual gift of tongues has now been fulfilled. While it may be possible for a believer to practice something they consider a private prayer language, this is not the biblical gift of tongues. We must not call it what it isn’t, and we must recognize the potential danger of it.

Bloodless Christianity

Dr. Russell Moore comments on the irony of Bloodless Christianity in the Washington Times:

American Christianity is far less bloody than it used to be. Songs like ‘Power in the Blood’ or ‘There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood’ or ‘Are You Washed in the Blood?’ are still sung in some places, but fewer and fewer, and there aren’t many newer songs or praise choruses so focused on blood. The cross, yes; redemption, yes; but blood, rarely. …

What could be more repulsive, even sickening, to a clean, antiseptic society than talk of spattered blood? (Some of the Christian responses to Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ were of just this sort.) Ironically, contemporary Christianity grows more and more bloodless while the communities around us become bloodier than ever.

The true irony that he points out is that American Christianity still proclaims the cross and redemption without the blood. But the blood is the crucial element for the cross to function as an atoning sacrifice.

This coincides with what I was writing about on Easter in response to the Nashville Tennessean’s article on the use of blood in church passion plays:

But I could not help but think about one thing as I read the article: The culture uses blood and violence for shock value–to secure and maintain our interest. But Jesus used blood and violence for another reason altogether–to secure and maintain the righteousness of all those who believe.

As Hebrews 9:22 reminds us, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

Paige Patterson on Denominational Decline

In light of the brewing controversy in the Episcopal Church, I’ve been thinking a lot about controversy among Southern Baptists. What helped us return to orthodoxy in the past and what will help us preserve it in the future?

Then, I came across some timely words by Dr. Paige Patterson found in his chapter in the excellent book Why I am a Baptist. Speaking of denominational demise going on at that time, he says, “Methodists and the larger group of the Presbyterians in America have found themselves, if not on a slippery slope, then surely on a wild toboggan ride to the bottom of the course. Their ecclesiology does not allow them much of a chance to turn it around.” His words are eerily relevant to what is happening today among Episcopal churches.

If this lack of potential recovery marks other denominations, why might it be different for Baptists? Patterson offers, “All of this is to say that I find in Baptist ecclesiology and polity the possibility for a grassroots referendum. Because Baptists rejected all forms of connectionalism, and Baptist churches, associations, state conventions, and national conventions are independent, autonomous entities, the people in the churches find it possible, though not easy, to rise up and say, ‘We do not approve of the direction that our denomination is going and we want this corrected.'”

In other words, Baptist ecclesiology does not guarantee recovery. However, it provides an opportunity for it. Instead of power centering at the top of a hierarchical structure as in other denominations, power is dispersed at the local church level in the Southern Baptist Convention.

So, in theory, the denomination can save itself from disaster. But, Patterson testifies about how it happened in reality, “The primacy of the local church has been crucial. I knew from studying Baptist history as well as Southern Baptist bylaws that such a referendum was possible. But, in 1979, I did not know for sure whether that was merely a technical matter or whether a referendum was genuinely possible. As it turned out, that which was technically possible resulted in on of the great reformation movements in modern time.”

While it seems that the Episcopalians are passed the point of no return, Patterson’s words should cause us to realize that their problem is not just theology but ecclesiology. It’s not just their view of scripture; it’s their view of the church.

But it should also sober us into the realization that every denomination that drifts from the authority of scripture can crumble. Just because Southern Baptists have recovered once does not guarantee that we would recover again.

Episcopalians Continue Down Slippery Slope

For Aggies all over the country, the biggest thing going on in Texas this week is Texas A&M’s trip to San Antonio for the Sweet 16. For the rest of the world, the biggest thing going on in Texas just happened 30 minutes from Texas A&M itself. Episcopal bishops met at Camp Allen and took the next step down their slippery slope of separation from the worldwide Anglican communion. According to the Washington Post:

The nation’s Episcopal bishops have rejected a key demand from the larger Anglican Communion, saying a plan to place discontented U.S. parishes under international leadership could do permanent harm to the American church.

The plan to put conservative parishes under an international “pastoral council” would replace local governance with “a distant and unaccountable group of prelates” for “the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century,” the U.S. bishops said in a written resolution. “We cannot accept what would be injurious to this Church and could well lead to its permanent division.”

In essence, this is a rejection of a last ditch effort by the Anglican communion to reach a compromise with American Episcopalians. The Anglicans wanted Episcopals to allow conservative American parishes to be governed by more conservative international leaders. The plan seemed doomed to fail from the start.
Why? Because there was no way that the American church would relinquish its authority. But more importantly, because it was an attempt to circumvent the real issue at hand. The primary problem is not how to deal with a few outlying conservative American parishes. Instead, the true issue is that there is a doctrinal divide over the authority and integrity of scripture.

To be honest, I think the liberal American Episcopalians got one thing right here–an ecclesiological adjustment is not what needs to happen. They just got it right for all the wrong reasons. You can’t overcome this separation over the view of scripture and the view of man just by adjusting the practice of the church.

For the worldwide Anglican communion, this compromise effort seems almost like trying to harvest organs from a dying cancer patient. They feel like they have done everything they can to cure the cancer that has ravaged the person’s body, and now they are trying to save those body parts which are uncorrupted so that they may be useful in the future for others. The cancer of biblical rejection has ravaged the Episcopal church, and they are attempting to salvage what is left.
We all know what happens when compromise fails. It seems as if it is only a matter of time before a full and final rift will occur.

Other news coverage on the issue:

Episcopal-Anglican rift deepens, LA Times — “U.S. bishops say no to a key demand.”

Episcopal bishops reject Anglican leaders’ demands, Nashville Tennessean — “NEW YORK — Episcopal bishops risked losing their place in the global Anglican family Wednesday by affirming their support for gays and rejecting a key demand that they give up some authority to theological conservatives outside the U.S. church.”

Episcopal bishops reject Anglican ultimatum on gays, USA Today — “The Episcopal House of Bishops has rebuffed an ultimatum from the worldwide Anglican Communion to establish a church-within-the-church to minister to parishes and dioceses that dissent from the U.S. church’s stances on homosexuality and the Bible.”

Episcopal Bishops in U.S. Defy Anglican Communion, Washington Post — “The nation’s Episcopal bishops have rejected a key demand from the larger Anglican Communion, saying a plan to place discontented U.S. parishes under international leadership could do permanent harm to the American church.”

Need Some Motivation to Go to Church? Don’t Look Here

Many American Christians struggle with going to church. Need a little motivation? Here is a telling attempt at offering some.

This post provides a perfect window into the misunderstanding that most Americans have of the local church. Most disheartening was the final motivator for church attendance:

Rationalize the time — I gained some motivation to attend church by comparing the amount of time the church-going process takes to the length of the entire week. My church service (including travel time) is only 1.5 hours total and that is only .89% of the week (168 hours/week). I also rationalize the length of the church service as half of a movie, three sitcoms, less than two episodes of Prison Break, etc. whatever works for you.

The whole post reminded me of the classic video ‘Me Church’:

The way to motivate yourself towards church is not through simply changing your perspective of your relationship to the local church but through changing your perspective of the local church itself. The church is not just a spiritualized version of the Lion’s Club. Nor is it your weekly pit stop to refuel your emotional and spiritual tank.

The local church is an outpost of the Kingdom of Christ intended to display the presence of the Kingdom here on earth while destroying the kingdom of darkness until Christ returns.

The reason so many struggle to be excited and engaged in their local church is because they have an anemic understanding of the purpose of the church. They have been captivated by our consumer culture which has wooed them into seeking the best return on the investment for their Sunday morning loyalty.

How do you motivate yourself for church? Not by getting an accountability partner. Not by recalling that going to church takes only half the time of watching American Idol. True motivation towards the local church will only come through a right understanding of its function. A changed perspective of the church will lead to a changed lifestyle towards the church.

Gay Bishop Weighs in on Anglican Debate

The approval of homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson was the tipping point that inflamed the Anglican Church debate. Now, the tipping point is making several points of contention with the recent meeting of Anglican primates disputing the direction of the denomination. Here are some select portions from his comments:

Just because The Episcopal Church has been invited to subvert its own polity (governing structure) and become a Church ruled by bishops-only, a Church that is willing to sacrifice the lives and ministries and dignity of its gay and lesbian members on the altar of unity, does not mean that we are going to choose to do it.

God is still with God’s Church — frail, cowardly and misguided as it can sometimes be, human nature being what it is. The Church is not ours to save or lose — the Church belongs to God, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

Whether the Episcopal Church ‘comes through’ for us or not, God will not fail.

You can read his full response here.

The inflamed issue of homosexuality in the Anglican Church is a major issue, but it is not the main issue. Instead, it is merely a derivative complication that stems from a much deeper problem–a rejection of biblical authority. When the authority of scripture is rejected, then these types of compromises will naturally follow. It is only a matter of time.

I personally do not see much hope for reconciliation in the Anglican Church worldwide. Why? There is a sharp divide between two different subgroups with two different sets of priorities based on two different views of authority. Unless something dramatically changes, then a continued schism will happen.

Bishop Robinson is right about one thing–“the Church belongs to God, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” The problem is that he, and many other Episcopalians, are seeking to build the church on some other foundation than the truths proclaimed by the apostles and prophets…not to mention Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone Himself.

His claim that the Anglican church is “willing to sacrifice the lives and ministries and dignity of its gay and lesbian members on the altar of unity” is indeed over the top. But the truth of the matter is that I would rather sacrifice the lifestyle preferences of some on the altar of biblical faithfulness than sacrifice biblical authority on the altar of tolerance.