God wants your THEOLOGY healthy

I have an old friend whose month-old child has been fighting for his life since he was born. Another well-meaning friend recently wrote to many of us, explaining the ‘theology’ of sickness and faith-healing, and urging us to pray. I was deeply appalled, because under such sensitive circumstances it was abundantly clear what devastating consequences such theology could have if believed. It reminded me again why the NT spends so much time urging us to keep our theology healthy. Continue reading

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When the going gets tough, the tough stay put

Emigration has been thrust into discussion in our circles lately with two of our younger ministers deciding to depart for Australia. The latest is a good friend. I have been asked to comment on this (more than once), though I wanted to leave it alone, so apologies to those who might feel any implied rebuke more deeply.

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In addition to this, please let me emphasise that the circumstances of the individuals concerned are not being taken into account in this post, and there is much that is weighed up in a decision of this magnitude. I am not personally aware of all of the underlying factors that have motivated these people, and there may well be things that outweigh the concerns that I am about to outline. Please take the following as it is intended: a list of arguments against emigration in general, and not a veiled condemnation of individuals. This is something to add to a list of ‘Cons’, but it says nothing about the list of ‘Pros’ that might be legitimately motivating any one potential emigrant.
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In most countries, emigration would not be an issue. Heck, it’d probably be called ‘missions’. In post-apartheid South Africa, everything is more complicated. For Christians it is more complicated still.

Living in a relatively dangerous country is taxing on anyone, particularly families with small children. From an individualistic perspective, it is a matter of freedom to choose where you want to live, and not a directly moral issue. However, having the freedom to make a decision either way is not the same as saying that it’s a neutral decision. Viewed communally, there are a few reasons why Christians should curtail their personal freedom for the sake of their compatriots. Continue reading

Let’s Just be Friends

There is a strange recent fashion in Christian thinking about evangelism. In person and in print, I’ve come across the idea that it is insincere to make friends with the express purpose of trying to convert them. Christians, we’re told, should never do this.

It’s clear in the current Western climate that evangelism needs mostly to take place in the context of friendships, as non-Christians are reluctant to wander into churches, or scared of the ambiguity inherent in meetings entitled ‘Harvest of Souls’. However, with this advocacy of ‘friendship evangelism’ has come the warning that we should not befriend people as a means to an end.

No doubt, there is some truth in that. No one likes the conservatively-attired guy with the glassy smile, standing starched in the corner with his non-alcoholic beverage, watching your lips for any half-hatched segue into his stiff and awkward ‘gospel presentation’. Worse still is the Christian friend who kidnaps every conversation for Christ. “Did you watch the sports game? Ah, yes, that player certainly saved your skins in the dying seconds, didn’t he?  …  And speaking of being saved…”

But, honestly, is the salvation of strangers such a nefarious motive for making friends? I’ve got tonnes of friends. My FaceBook page has hundreds of them, some of whom I don’t even know. Why would I want to make new friends when I have scores of relationships that I’m currently neglecting? Why especially would I want to make friends with non-Christians of all people? Non-Christians are frequently a crass, cankerous species, often bemused by our morals and hostile to our way of thinking. If wanting to introduce them to their long-lost Father is a bad motive, what is supposed to motivate me?

In fact, friendships are hardly ever motivated purely by the merits of the prospective friend. I have friends because I would like someone to talk to, or to watch the game with. I have friends because I can see my own jokes coming. So, if there are already all sorts of prior motives to friendships, why on earth would you want to rob Christians of the one motive that is has a shot at being other-person-centered? You could hardly be a Christian friend without wanting your friends to know Jesus.

Unless your desire to see people saved is going to drive you to become a chronic social misfit, you should most certainly not be discouraged from befriending people because you want them to be saved. If anything, it will be a good motivation to stick with such friends when it would be easier to bunker in with your like-minded church buddies.

Velvet Elvis overdose

velvetPostmodern-Christian writers are strange animals. They’re the first to speak about how impossible it is to connect truth and language, and how language fails when it comes to communicating anything about God. Yet they’re never short of words to tell the rest of us about God, and they expect us to understand them. They’re the most cynical about the misuse of language, and yet they engage in more rhetoric and manipulation than anyone, without regard for genuine argument or logic.

We’re having a postgraduate seminar about the ’emerging church’ tomorrow. The student paper on the subject looks at Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis (2005), and I got upset. So I thought I’d share.

*Note: Having just had the seminar, it is clear that the student has misinterpreted Bell in some respects, and at least not fully demonstrated his thesis that Bell is leaning on Brian McLaren’s thinking. So let me not take it for granted that Bell is fully in the Emergent line. Nevertheless, there are some worrying tendencies. Continue reading