November 12, 2009

From Death to Life

The interview below features former director for Planned Parenthood Abby Johnson, who became a strong pro-life advocate after assisting with an abortion which she also watched on an ultrasound monitor.  All the material in the interview is important, but at least three items are worth special mention here.
  • Ms. Johnson points out that one of the goals of Planned Parenthood is "to make money, and the way they make money is to increase the number of abortions they do."
  • She watched the unborn baby fight for her life.
  • Planned Parenthood does not want their employees to see what happens in an abortion and has placed a restraining order on Ms. Johnson.

November 9, 2009

The Ugliness of Sin and the Beauty of Christ

In many corners of Western Christianity it has become very unpopular to speak candidly of sin and transgression. Critics of sin-talk remind us that it is, of course, an offensive topic that reminds people how bad off they really are. Thinking about sin makes people uncomfortable and depressed. Therefore, they say, we shouldn't bring it up. Instead, let's simply talk about how sweet Jesus is and how important it is for us to be like him. The problem with such treacle is that it is not much Christian. It is sentimental moralism that sees humanity's biggest problem as not following Jesus' example. It fails to recognize that we do not need mere example; we need redemption.

Further, such talk fails to comprehend the relationship between the ugliness of sin and the sweetness of Christ. Only with a growing understanding of our own depravity can we gain a deeper and more profound appreciation for the beauty of Christ. The scriptures remind us that one who will die for a good man is a rare find. If you are looking for someone who will offer himself for an evil man, well, don't hold your breath. The great glory and grace of the cross comes with a deeper recognition of just how opposed to God the guilty sinner really is. Scripture describes us as "enemies" of God and "children of wrath." When we begin to see how deeply we have offended God and how much we deserve his righteous wrath, then we will see the beauty of Christ in new and deeper ways. He is the one who bore his own just wrath in our place. The offended took the place of the guilty. He is the one who died for bad men and women. And he is all the more glorious and beautiful for it. We do speak of sin for its own sake. We acknowledge its reality to the end of having a deeper grasp of the majesty, of the magnificence, of the splendor, of the wonder, of the grandeur, of the glory, of the grace of the person of Christ.

November 4, 2009

Politics, News, and Biases: What's the Big Deal?

I've been quite intrigued by the ongoing battle between the White House and Fox News. As I understand it, Fox is playing the role of the watchdog with the current administration and said administration doesn't much like being watched by that sort of dog. They would rather be watched by one of those nice dogs that doesn't make much noise and just sort of lays around all day. You know, one of those dogs that would just lay there and watch when someone breaks in your house and steals everything you own. Those kinds of dogs don't cause a stir or draw attention to what your doing. So, the administration comes back with attempts to discredit Fox's watchdogging by claiming that they are not really legitimate news organizations because they have a clearly Republican-conservative bias.

Now I'm no fan of Fox News. I wish Bill O'Reilly had a different last name. That guy makes me want to pull whats left of my hair right out. What interests me in this matter is the fact that the administration's accusation of bias carries any weight what so ever in the whole debate. So what is Fox News has a conservative bias. The current White House has a liberal bias. The NRA is biased, as are PETA, Hollywood, the ACLU, and the folks out at Focus on the Family. If there is one thing that postmodernism is supposed to have taught us, it is that everyone in the world is biased in one way or another, including news agencies. Since when does bias discredit a news agency. Every newspaper in America has an opinion page upon which they publish their views on certain issues. Yes, that's right, where they publish their biases.

In the field of theology, everyone knows that everyone is biased about everything. Conservatives and biased and so are liberals. Everybody thinks their view is the right one and they all know that they hold their view as a result of a complicated combination of circumstances, experiences, influences, mentors, antagonism, etc. The key is not trying to provide an unbiased view. The key is understanding your own bias and how it shapes what you think.

Christians ought to be honest about our biases. I'm biased. I am 100% pro-life and in favor of traditional marriage precisely because I think it is part of what it means to be a faithful Christ-follower. I do what I do and say what I say as a result of what I think it means to be biased toward Jesus. That doesn't mean I always get it right. It just means I'm being honest about what I think and why I think it.

The White House's attack on the credibility of Fox News falls to the charge that it is an elementary attempt to take the public attention off of what they are really up to. They are throwing mud at the watchdog hoping that it will back off or change its tune to be like that quiet dog in the corner that is really an accomplice to the thieves. The national debate will only be productive when all parties confess that they all have biases and get on to talk about the issues instead. By the way, the more liberal leaning media is not jumping on with the administration in this one because they don't want to come across as the quiet looter-accomplice dog on its bed in the corner.

What Is Theological Interpretation of Scripture?

When I first encountered the term "theological interpretation," I was a bit confused about its meaning. As far as I could tell, all the interpretation of scripture to which I had been exposed had been theological. So, I wasn't sure what the big deal was. It should, of course, be understood that this thing called theological interpretation is quite a big deal. It has become a major movement in the world of academic biblical studies as indicated by a very significant amount of literature recently and currently being published. So, what is it? I've done a little reading in the area lately and, as best as I can discern, theological interpretation is the practice or discipline of reading and interpreting the Bible as holy scripture with something to say for the life and practice of the Church. "What?" you say. "What is so novel about that? Have we not been reading the Bible as holy scripture with something to say for the life and practice of the church for millennia?" This was my initial reaction to the matter as well. As a pastor, I do theological interpretation of scripture on a daily and weekly basis. I read scripture for the Church as part of my vocation. So, why all the fuss?

The reason this is a big deal is because it is catching on as a valid discipline in academic circles. A bit of history is always helpful. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, what has become known as higher critical scholarship was on the rise in the academic field of biblical studies. This movement dismissed the notion of a transcendent God who had made himself known through special revelation. These scholars did not read the Bible as scripture with something to say to the Church; they read the Bible purely as critics of history. These men were highly influenced by the German philosophers of the period and discounted all biblical accounts of supernatural activity like miracles and divine revelation. The Bible was read as a purely human book. Scholars sought to understand the historically authentic world that was allegedly behind the religiously embellished text. Thus, a massive wedge was driven between the Bible of history and the scriptures of faith. The Bible was seen as telling us about the beliefs of the early Christ-followers; it was seen as telling us nothing from God.

This historical context should shed some light on the importance of the current rise of theological readings of scripture in academia. Theological interpretation should be seen as a response to those who would strip the Bible from the devotional life of the Church. It is an attempt to recover the scriptures as the word of God for his people and the larger world. The movement is still young and a great deal of energy is being spent on issues of method and how exactly this practice should be done. The thing for which we can be thankful is that theological reading of the Bible is coming to be seen as a very exciting, valid, and scholarly approach to the scriptures.