Sunday, October 29, 2006

Unbelieveable Resource

Check out this site for some incredible online resources. Access is free until the end of the year and a nominal fee will be charged for those who can afford it after that point. If you're tempted to ignore my suggestion and NOT click on the link, let me give you just a teaser but pointing out you can access the full text to the volumes of the Word Commentary series free. It shouldn't take much more than that...

(HT: Dave Griffiths)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Simpsonian Apologetics

This is actually the third attempt on this post, that is if you're reading it. Who knows, maybe it will actually be 5 or 6 by the time it posts. Anyway, you've probably heard of classical and presuppositional apologetics; the title of this post is not an attempt to offer a third alternative, but rather to answer the excellent question raised by Lyndsey in the comments section of the previous post. The ever present question..."What about the Simpsons?" In other words, the ensuing discussion is intended to be a defense of The Simpsons, more or less. I've actually never addressed this topic in a public forum and this seemed like an excellent opportunity to do so. After all, I am always ready to give an answer for the...well, never mind. I'll get right to the point: In order to "interpret" or appreciate The Simpsons, you have to recognize the show's genre. Are Bart and Homer terrible role models for our children? Yes. Definately. Of course. However, The Simpsons was never intended to be taken on par with Aesop's Fables or even Sesame Street. The show is straightforward, simple satire and nothing more. Virtually every episode I've ever seen (and I've seen a few, courtesy of syndication and double episodes on the WB) satires at least one (though typically more) aspect of contemporary culture. In fact, it's almost become a sort of status symbol to be mocked by the Simpsons. From political figures like Bush and Carter to pop cultural icons like The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty, numerous culture brokers have done cameos over the years, some more than once. Everyone from Steven Hawking to Steven Speilberg have been sketched into their episodes. Their primary tools for the satirical undertaking are sarcasm, irony and hyperbole (are their anyothers?). However, ignorance of the contemporary culture may cause viewers to miss these elements. In fact, I would suggest this is the primary reason there has been a reaction among fundamentalists and other social conservatives over the years. But stop and think: Homer is the quintissential portrait of a blue collar worker - wears blue jeans and a collared shirt everywhere; that is except when he's walking around in his tighty whiteys. Beer drinking, job sleeping, head of the household that's run by his wife. He is the essence of a blue collar worker - at least in a hyperbolic sense. He's a characterization and that's intentional. That's what satire's all about. And that's one of the reasons it's T.V.'s second longest running show (second to 60 Minutes I believe). One more good-diddly-ood example should suffice: you guessed it -- Ned Flanders. While the writers may not be believes (I don't know), they've certainly run into enough fundies to satire the fundamentalist christians. I've even heard good ole Ned leading his kids in songs we've sung in children's church. Is it malicious and satanic? NO! It's just satire. Get over it. Better yet, learn from it. They're exaggerating all the quirky things that different elements of society embody. I could go on with the doughnut eating Chief Wiggins, the philandering mayor of Springfield, Marge's two chain smoking single sisters, etc. So what's my point? Am I offering a full scale endorsement of The Simpsons? Of course not. I am suggesting, however, that you know and understand what you're condemning before you condemn it. And no, this logic doesn't lead to justifying porn; that's a ridiculous logical fallacy. Porn is not a liberty issue in Scripture; satire is. In fact, Jesus was willing to use some of the elements mentioned above in his own teaching. Finally, I do want to offer a few qualifications: 1) Don't be confused by the fact that The Simpsons is a cartoon -- it is not a children's show. Most kids don't have the intellectual tools and discernment to distinguish between fodder for emulation and satire. In fact, some adults don't either. 2) Even I think some episodes are in appropriate. Some of their religious satire deals with God and Jesus and crosses into what I would consider blasphemy. But it's satire right? Heck no! I shut these types of episodes off faster than you can say "Doh!" 3) Don't violate your conscience. If you think it's sin--Don't do it! That's my paraphrase of Paul in Romans 14. Life will go on just fine if you never see an episode of The Simpsons. However, know why you do what you do and don't do what you don't do. Above all, when trying to evaluate elements of culture, yes base it on Scripture. Duh. Obviously. But also make sure you understand the elements for what they are.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


It's Sunday night and I've been sitting for the last hour and a half watching some of the Heroes marathon. While the title and some of the trailers mays suggest that it's an attempt to cash in on the age old superhero genre, the plot seems far more pomo. As I understand it, the show is taken from the graphic novel genre, which I readily admit I'm not too familiar with; nevertheless, two episodes have left me with what I think is a pretty good feel for the show. Amidst other things, it appears that the program is wrestling with/advancing the notion that contemporary heroes are not as perfect as those of bygone eras. Sure Superman had his kryptonite, but this isn't the type of weakness this show wrestles with. All the superhero's from my day (it's sad that I can date myself already) though they may have grappled with occasional physical infirmities, were upstanding at all time in their moral character. NBC's new program grapples with the darker side of their heroes. For example, the narrator of the storyline is a man who can see the future and is mapping out the fate of the characters through his paintings...which are composed during his heroin induced trips. Likewise, the wholesome cheerleader who apparently cannot die and gladly saves a stranger from a burning train wreck also kills the boy who tried to take advantage of her by racing his car (with him in the passenger seat) into a concrete wall at 80 plus miles per hour. The gentle Asian man who can stop time to save a young girl from being hit by a truck, also uses the same skills to beat the house in Vegas. I grant that it's still early in the season and perhaps these moral dilemmas will be righted...however, I suggest postmodernity has struck again...this time deconstructing the superhero. Either way, the show is certainly intriguing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Taking Another Look at Galatians 3

Jessie Trach and I were talking recently about Galatians 3 and he raised some interesting questions that caused me to sit down and take a look at the text again. I found myself with my NLT in my lap as I flipped open to this familiar chapter, only to find that I saw it through different (fresh) eyes. As I looked at it a second time, I concluded that the primary things that caused me to see this text afresh throught the lenses of the NLT were the rending of seed as child and sons as children. Certainly both legitimate translations, from a functional perspective, this nuanced difference gripped me in a new way. Needless to say, by the time I was done in the text, I found myself "singing a different tune" about Father Abraham :-) I've included some of the more significant verses from the NLT below for your own reflection.

Galatians 3:14-16 Through the work of Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, and we Christians receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith. 15 Dear brothers and sisters,1 here's an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or amend an irrevocable agreement, so it is in this case. 16 God gave the promise to Abraham and his child. And notice that it doesn't say the promise was to his children, as if it meant many descendants. But the promise was to his child -- and that, of course, means Christ.

Galatians 3:26-29 So you are all children1 of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians -- you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and now all the promises God gave to him belong to you.

My Latest Adventure

I just posted some pictures with my latest enjoyment of the "culture" over on our family blog. Rather than double post it, I figured I'd just post a link here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Danger of Creating a Christian Subculture

Since I praised Driscoll's books without end below, I thought I'd post a choice quote from the first installment (pictured at the right). Having noted how crucial it is that Christians understand and grapple with culture, he applies his observation with the following words:

Why is this significant? Because issues of style and culture affect how you live your life, how you worship God, and how you will be perceived by lost people in your culture. In practical terms, your cultural preferences help determine the way you dress, where you live, what you drive, the enterntainment you enjoy, whom you trust , what friends you have, and how you perceive and communicate the gospel.

-The Radical Reformission, p. 101 (emphasis mine)

I was captured by this quote because I realized this is the danger of overdeveloping a Christian subculture. To be sure, believers and the the Church are to be a countercultural presence in the world, but unfortunately many fundamental and yes, even conservative evangelical churches have confused this with creating a subculture. Most of our time is spent with Christians: Our friends and kids' friends are christian, we read christian books, listen to christian music, watch christian movies, go to christian mechanics, buy from christian sellers (real estate, cars, etc) and speak christianeze, etc. The dress and worship style of many churches in this category is a continuation of the 1950's leave it to beaver with few variations. What's wrong with all this? Well, for starters, it may mean that we're not taking risks by rubbing shoulders with unbelievers, but that's another post. More importantly, we are so insulated from the culture we have little idea how to contextualize the gospel in our culture(s). We have learned and perpetuated the christian subculture in our attempt to avoid worldliness (which we should avoid) but largely because we have misunderstood what worldliness is. As a result we fail to be countercultural, because we are so out of touch with our culture. I would suggest this represents a fundamental misunderstanding (if not inversion) of what it means to be "in the world, but not of the world" or "light in the darkness." The solution? Repent and resurge (to put it in Driscollian terminology).

Monday, October 09, 2006

Finally Finished!

I've finally broken my pattern of philanderous reading habits and seen not one but two books through to the end! This past week I plowed through Driscoll's two books The Radical Reformission and Confessions of a Reformission Rev. I highly commend both to anyone interested in either culture or pastoral ministry. By the time I finished Confessions (which incidently, I read first, out of order) I was ready to jettison my post-grad plans and go plant a church somewhere....almost :-) Seriously, both are great reads that will leave you in stitches, convicted and probably at some point offended. Driscoll defines himself as theologically conservative and culturally liberal and it's certainly an apt description. The man loves Jesus and is not afraid to take risks...even if it means he fails at times (hence the title and cover of the second volume pictured here). Driscoll knows he's not perfect, but also knows he's accepted because Jesus was (perfect). If you haven't read either, you owe it to yourself to read one. They're both easy reads and hard to put down once you start. The first volume is a little more formal; each chapter follows almost a sermonic structure (intro with a story, 3 alliterated points with illustrations and a conc). The second is primarily a narratival tracing of the development of Mars Hill (their church) and the senior pastor (him). Of the two, this was my favorite, but both are great. Read, but be ready to be challenged, shocked (at least for the culturally conservative) and encouraged!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's In!!!

My free copy's in (and has been since last week)! If you ordered yours off of my link, yours should be in soon too. If you didn't, repent in sackloth and ashes and scroll down to the link and see if it's too late! I've already skimmed several of the chapters and it seems excellent. It's classic christian hedonism put on a level that a high schooler could grasp, yet definately profitable for even the most seasoned christian.