Friday, April 04, 2008

Contextualization / Big Oil / Friday Photos

It is not the business of the church to adapt Christ to men, but men to Christ.-- Dorothy Sayers

Lately, there have been several blogs devoting space to the topic of "contextualization," specifically contextualization of the Gospel. In many cases, the subject was/is prompted by comments John MacArthur made during this year's Shepherds' Conference:

I believe that byword has become a curse. “We have to change the way wedress, look, sing, in order to ‘contextualize,’ to connect with people at the level of their exposure to broader culture...”

He states a little later--"...Some people ask, why do I wear a tie? Because I have respect for this responsibility. I wear a suit because this is a more elevated experience for people. I’m trying to convey what people convey at a wedding: this is more serious than any normal activity. This is the most serious occasion anyone will attend in their life: the preaching of the Word of God."

The "suit" comment really set some people off. People like Tim Reed and Michael Spencer1 decried MacArthur's comment, insinuating he was condemning any other dress code than that of a suit and tie. I was there--at the conference--and that was not the tone or the point. The point was that the Bible doesn't need to be changed to adapt to its readers. We don't need to dumb it down for people to understand it. And we certainly don't need to make the Bible more entertaining or palatable.

Church/preaching of God's Word is serious business and shouldn't be approached lightly. God certainly didn't mince any words in His instructions to Moses as to how the Levites should not only present themselves, but carry out their duties. MacArthur wasn't saying "you HAVE to dress a certain way to come to church." He's smart enough to understand that everyone doesn't own a suit. The crux of his statement was about attitude, honoring God in the way we approach Him and worship Him. (NOTE: I do find it interesting that the same people that would scream and holler over a dress code--for lack of a better phrase--think nothing of showing up at church in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, but they will go to the trouble to wear their best clothes to a funeral or wedding.)

Phil Johnson--in his presentation at the SC--defined contextualization as the "practice of altering either the terminology or the content of our message in order to employ the language, the cultural tokens, the styles, the values, the preoccupations of the culture or sub-culture we're trying to reach." He goes on to state the obvious, paraphrased, we understand the necessity of translating the Scriptures in such a way as to make them understandable to the audience, i.e. verses referring to "sheep" won't make much sense to Eskimoes that have never been around or seen sheep! (The same idea goes for phrases such as "whiter than snow." Pretty hard to press the point for someone that's never seen snow!) What we are speaking against is utilizing crude language--for instance--to present the Gospel to people, simply because "that's the way they talk."

Contextualization today, according to Johnson—and I agree—involves “flout[ing] as many taboos as possible, unlike Paul who wanted to avoid anything that was considered impolite or uncouth so that the Gospel could be heard without unnecessary distractions. The contextualizers of today actually want to maximize the ‘shock and awe’ effect, thinking that’s going gain them a better hearing with the ‘Southpark Generation.’"

What we have here folks is a gang of potty-mouthed pastors/bloggers (and I use the term "pastor" loosely) that believe it's their duty and right to assimilate into society in order to be a more effective witness, when the Bible clearly teaches the opposite.

I may have more to say on this topic later. In the meantime, here's a couple of links that I DO endorse:

Big Oil
Well, it seems that Congress is upset with the "Big Oil Companies" for posting some hefty profits in recent months, so they've sat them down and told them "what for." Idiots! The government, in large part, has caused the mess we're in re: our dependence on foreign oil. The oil companies/refineries have been hamstrung from building any new refineries in the past 20 years or from drilling in "protected areaa" where we KNOW there are massive amounts of oil just laying there for the taking!

We can drill without disturbing the environment; we have the technology. There are other processes aside from refining crude oil that we could use, if we were allowed to expand and build new/newer facilities. Coal-to-fuel technology (look up "Fischer-Tropsch") is just one of those processes that could wean us off our dependence on foreign oil. Hitler used this same process to keep his air force going during WWII.

Frankly, I'm trying to figure out where multi-millionairs get off telling oil comany CEOs how much profit is TOO MUCH! Hillary Clinton received a multi-MILLION dollar advance for her memoirs, and yet she says things like:

The other day the oil companies recorded the highest profits in the history of the world. I want to take those profits. And I want to put them into a strategic energy fund that will begin to fund alternative smart energy, alternatives and technologies that will actually begin to move us in the direction of independence.
I'm all for "alternative smart energy," but were in the world does she get off talking about TAKING profits from companies?! Tell you what--take the profits, take away the tax breaks, etc. and you are in for one BIG shock at the pump my friends.

Believe it or not, like it or not, the price of gasoline is STILL a good deal. Gasoline really begins to look like a bargin when we compare it to other liquids we buy on a regular basis. Consider the "per gallon price" of the following:
  • 2% Milk = $3.99
  • Minute Maid Orange Juice = $6.99
  • Propel Fitness Water = 7.68
  • Dawn Dish Detergent = $11.43
  • Starbucks Frappuccino Iced Coffee = $20.48
  • Ragu Pizza Sauce = $30.17
  • Krazy Glue = $2322.29

Friday Photos

Fill 'er Up?!

Middle C

1Tim Reed is a pastor and blogger that seems to take exception to pretty much ANYTHING MacArthur says. He did not attend the Shepherds' Conference, so he relies on the blogs and statements of others to support his diatribe against MacArthur. He also appears to have no problem with himself or others using crass, filthy language to express themselves under the guise of "relating" to his audience--exactly the thing that MacArthur, Phil Johnson and other speakers at the conference were addressing.

Spencer, aka the "Internet Monk" (from what little I've read) seems be of the same ilk as Reed. The Monk, responding to MacArthur's statments (the Monk wasn't at the conference either) stated: "That suit keeps all kinds of men from ever entering a church. Probably less than 3 [percent] of the men in my county have ever had on a tie, much less a suit. Where do I stop them and say it’s Biblical and 'serious' to wear a suit? It would be completely OUTSIDE of the Gospel for me to do so." He missed the point and would rather focus on the "suit" than the actually point: you don't dumb-down Scripture to make people feel more comfortable about church.

I'm not providing links to either of their blogs. I'm not in the habit of making up quotes, etc. so you can believe me or not. I just can't bring myself to send any more traffic their way.


Team Awesome said...

If I had misrepresented someone as badly as you've misrepresented me I'd refuse to provide links or exact quotes too.

Team Awesome said...

Its also rather interesting that you have a problem with us relying on second hand reports about the shepherds conference (which by its nature is able to be accurately reported on), but you don't have any problem evaluating my entire ministry from a-far, a situation which is far harder to evaluate in the way a keynote at a conference is.

Ah well, I guess you've made up your mind, no point in confusing you with the facts.

same said...

Great article Keith, you got me to thinking. I perhaps should get a suit, instead of letting those who want me to wear one provide one for the event that they want me to wear one. One thing I don’t get is how does putting your head in a noose of silk show respect? What’ that all about and who started that tradition. I know some only allow kings English to be spoken during public prayer. I know God is not a short order cook and is to be respected. That starts with an attitude of fear and reverence. Not the kind of fear that we might feel if we knew that someone meant to do us harm but the kind of fear we have when we know that our heart, every thought and intention is being examined by God’s ever seeing eyes who’s vision sees to the ends of eternity. May we never ever dumb-down Scripture to make people feel more comfortable about church.

Keith said...

Team Awesome: I've removed the comments between you and me. I am not comfortable with some of the references/quotes I cited...and I think enough has been said. My goal is not a public "character assasination." We will both have to answer for any words that may have been carelessly spoken/written.

Same: "Great article Keith, you got me to thinking..." That's what I'm here for. Glad to help.

Keith said...

Same: You may be interested in this discussion (judging from your profile).

same said...

About the suit and tie, “When in Rome do as the Romans do” not wearing one would not make you any less responsible but you might appear so to some people. Appearance means so much to people that the visual impact of wearing a suit leadss people to think you are more intelligent capable and honest. And a suit is also a good place to hide things. A suit that is to big may be worthy of and require further investigation.

Keith said...

Same: Along the same lines of logic, using profanity or drinking a beer may also cause people to assume things that are not true. I prefer to err on the side of caution and avoid either.

same said...

People do sometimes take things out of context, that can and often does create misinformation and confusion. Quotes that are out of context, from a trust and respected sources, are used to make points and illustrate the ‘validity’ of many a shaky case. I now have a better understanding of contextualization and cultural assimilation and I do not want to practice them.

About profanity and drinking beer. It would not be a smart thing to do. Profanity for those who don’t use it is a form of cultural assimilation and a very bad thing to do among those who don’t. One beer a day ordered by a doctor may be a healthy thing but could get you addicted to it. I do not like the way it makes people smell. I would have only half as one 12oz light beer makes me drunk. It would impair my reasoning and makes me want to relax to much. What if I need to drive someone to the hospital? Parents should not drink. Children should not drink. Those in charge should not and those who do are asking for trouble. That brew can be very deceptive.
Erring on the side of caution is the way to go (not as much fun in the short run perhaps) but you and yours will live longer as you err on the side of caution. Thanks for being you

Keith said...

Same: Did you check out the link? It's a "cult" thing I thought you'd find interesting. Maybe you've heard of the group.

same said...

Yes keith I did check it out and I found it very interesting and sad but not as sad as pretending that such groups are not out there. I passed it on to a preacher friend.

Knowing of a danger is the first step toward defending yourself and others against it. Talking about it helps to shine the light of day on such cult practices.
I have been aware of such groups that often pray on and profit from sheepish peoples by separating and control them. The key to their mode of operations seems to hinge on separating them from those who will not support and reinforce the delusions they are teaching.

That particular group like so many like them do not teach openly what they believe (they operate under a shroud of secrecy) as they draw in those they can persuade and start them on a gradual declination, until they become fully deluded, finding that they have no more support or contacts outside the cult and they are trapped.

Control of those in the cult is paramount to those in charge, free will and individuality is discouraged, fear and intimidations are often so subtle that those outside and even inside the group to not even recognize it as such.

It is amazing and would be amusing if it where not so sad that entire groups of good people are so easily lead astray as they draw in others to support them.

Thanks for the eye opening links. All the thoughtful commentaries are more than I can digest at times and I struggle to understand it all. Prayerful that God will keep eyes open and able to help others on the way until that day.