Tag: Christianity

5 Ways to Fail My Church

Reading through the Pastoral letters of the New Testament, I’ve been struck by the fact that if I don’t insist on Gospel-centered doctrine in my church, then I will fail you in at least five ways. If I don’t insist on Gospel-centered doctrine, then…

  1. The church will devolve into a socially-minded non-profit or a consumeristic Groupon. The gospel of Jesus Christ is what sets the church apart from any other organization or community. If I remove the gospel, or don’t insist on its centrality in everything we do, then you do not need the church. You can find social service outlets with better non-profits and community with Groupon gatherings.
  2. You will lose a substantial reason for living in community and on mission. Though anyone can experience community and mission outside of the church, it is a gospel-centered church that keeps mission and community from becoming your raison d’etre (reason for being). If community becomes your reason for being, then your community will likely become ingrown, selfish, snobbish, cliquish NOT inclusive, diverse, generous, growing, and vibrant. If mission is your raison d’etre, they mission will eventually become optional or so essential that you will look down on others who aren’t on mission. Only the gospel can call us away from these two extremes because it reminds us that Jesus Christ is our raison d’etre. Bottomline, community and mission will always fail you but Jesus will not. You need a church that reminds you of that.
  3. I will become unfaithful to what the Bible teaches and misrepresent historic Christianity to you. This is intellectually dishonest, historically unfaithful, and theologically untenable. You need a pastor who does not see doctrine as an end in itself, but that the gospel is the end of every doctrine.
  4. I will remove the one Person that consistently loves you, satisfies you, beautifies you, and releases you into your created purpose–to glorify God by enjoying him and calling others into a life of spreading that gospel joy over all the earth.
  5. I will remove the very Person and principle upon which the church was formed–Jesus Christ. Not only is this inconsistent, it is a genetic fallacy, distorting something from its designed purpose, tampering with its DNA.

A Brief Defense of Christian Faith in the Face of Haiti

The suffering of the Haiti tragedy is immense and heart-breaking, and brings to mind so many questions. Those who claim Christian faith are often the first to question or be questioned in times like these. In a stimulating BBC Magazine article entitled, “Why Does God Allow Natural Disasters”, philosopher David Bain recently raised a key question based on an age-old syllogism:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

How Can an All-Good, All-Powerful God Permit Haiti?

Bain argues that the implications of this syllogism lead us to conclude that a) God is either good but not all-powerful b) God is evil and all-powerful c) there is no God. This syllogism is misleading. It assumes that God has not done anything in the past and that he will do nothing in the future to address the problem of evil and suffering. It is an incomplete framing of the issue. We could flip it around and ask: “How can an All-Good, All-Powerful God permit good to bad people?” I’ll leave you to ponder that.

To the point, although the reasons for an all-good, all-powerful infinite God in human suffering may not be clear to finite minds, it does not follow that there are no good reasons. Just because our minds can’t plumb the depths of God and the universe to find complete answers to evil and suffering doesn’t mean there aren’t any. To make this claim is to put inordinate faith in finite intellect, which is itself a leap of faith.

Are We Asking Enough Questions?

Perhaps we aren’t asking enough questions? Is it possible that the way we frame the problem of suffering and evil is limited? In order to grasp some of the answers to this great problem, I suggest we bring more questions into the picture, to fill it out, and to see ourselves and suffering more clearly.

Ask yourself this question. “Am I placing too much faith in myself to discern answers to a cosmic dilemma?” To state it another way, “Am I holding myself, my intellect, in too high esteem?” Just think about how we come to the conclusion that God is neither good nor powerful. From a small and very limited perspective, we make some grand, totalizing claims. We stack ourselves as high as this omnipotent God to evaluate him as a peer. We make awfully big assumptions. We assume that we possess an individual intellect and moral capacity that rivals that of an eternal and holy God. If we are content with these assumptions, then the Christian answer to suffering and evil will not make sense. However, if we are willing to drop these assumptions, to humbly evaluate our intellect and morality, then humility may lead us to more satisfying answers.

Reaching an Answer

I believe some of the reasons for suffering and evil are within grasp, and others are not. One of these great reasons is that God wanted to enter into our suffering in Jesus, to redeem it, and make much of his mercy and grace towards undeserving people. Although this reason does not account for the origin of evil (another topic altogether), it certainly disproves the syllogism. It tells us that God has done something about the problem of evil.

In demonstration of his goodness and power, the cross of Christ began overturning evil on the very day of Jesus resurrection—the defeat of his own death and the vindication of his innocence, relief from suffering and establishing justice. But God’s answer does not remain in the past; it works in the present. His goodness and power flow through his true followers today, many of whom are working day and night to alleviate suffering in Haiti. The ardent, compassionate, and humble faith of Christians must tell us something, though certainly not everything, about God.

The confident hope of the Christian faith is that God has done, is doing, and will do something about the problem of evil and suffering. God in Christ 1) defeats evil at the cross, 2) releases “aid workers” at the resurrection, and 3) promises total peace at his return. In the language of Bain, God promises a “Magical world”, where reason, morality and joy will flourish with the absence of any evil at all. As I see it, the alternative of placing faith in my intellect and morality, or in some other philosophical system, dims in comparison to the Christian vision of what is and what will be. God crucified, God resurrected, God returning to defeat and redeem suffering and evil and make all things new.

From Secular City to the Future of Faith

As I continue to read Harvey Cox’s new book The Future of Faith, I wonder about how it compares with his early book The Secular City. The Secular City embraced secularism as an inveitable part of urban development and recognized the privitization of religion. The Future of Faith, however, seems to be opening up to the idea that Christianity may have a grassroots resurgence (it is in Africa and Asia) that restores some of its public potency.

This blog post was a helpful start in examining Cox’s theological journey between the two books.

Resources on Biblical Manhood

In preparation for my message on Biblical Masculinity (part of the Truly Human series), I consulted a number of books and articles other than the Bible. In the end, some of the most helpful stuff appears to have been reflections from my own failures and successes. However, here are some of the popular, not academic, resources I consulted. Note that I do not agree with all of the information in any of these resources:



You’ll note that the articles lean in the direction of cultural exegesis, while the books lean in the direction of biblical exegesis. Feel free to email me for academic resources that deal with both conservative and liberal interpretations of the sermon texts!