Monthly Archives: April 2007
O God and Father of all, whom the whole heavens adore:
Let the whole earth also worship You,
all nations obey You,
all tongues confess and bless You,
and men and women everywhere love You and serve You in peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
– from the Book of Common Prayer
Robert Webber, a man who encouraged Christians to reclaim the Great Tradition and to learn from the ancient church in matters of worship, died on Friday after a serious illness.
In honor of Dr. Webber and his tireless efforts to call evangelicals back to a God-centered worship, I am posting an interview I had with Dr. Webber last year.
Dr. Robert Webber was one of evangelicalism’s foremost authorities on worship renewal. He founded the Institute of Worship Studies in 1995 and spent the last ten years conducting seminars across the United States. He authored more than 40 books, including Worship Old and New, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail, the Ancient-Future Series, and The Younger Evangelicals.
Dr. Webber did extensive research on the younger generation of evangelicals (of which I am part). So I was thankful that Dr. Webber agreed to answer some questions I had for him after reading many of his works.
Trevin Wax: Who are the younger evangelicals?
Robert Webber: The Younger Evangelicals are characterized by three commitments:
1) To deconstruct the reliance of evangelicalism on modernity, especially the empirical method and on culture, especially its anti-historical attitude, its pragmatism, and narcissism.
2) To return to the sources of the Christian faith, especially in the ancient church, and
3) To build a church in the postmodern culture that reflects the two previous commitments.
However, let me add, there is no uniformity in the movement yet. So my answers to your questions will reflect my own challenge for evangelicals to recover an “Ancient-Future faith.”
Trevin Wax: What are the …
I have an elderly acquaintance of about eighty, who has lived a life of unbroken selfishness and admiration from the earliest years, and is, more or less, I regret to say, one of the happiest men I know. From the moral point of view, it is very difficult! I am not approaching the question from that angle. As you perhaps know, I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.
– C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock
Check out Michael Spencer’s “Coffee Cup Apologetics” on Why I Am a Christian. Great stuff! And I love how the Resurrection is crucial.
N.T. Wright causes a firestorm within the Reformed world by his critique of the new book Pierced for our Transgressions. Check out Wright’s critique, the authors’ response, and make sure you take a look at my previously posted essay that details at length Wright’s view of penal substitutionary atonement.
The guys at Said at Southern lay down some guidelines for content. The code of conduct is good for just about any serious blog.
Most Visited Post this week at Kingdom People: Don’t Tell Me N.T. Wright Denies Penal Substitution
Last week, I posted about the prominence of “attraction-based” models of youth ministry and their common pitfalls. Today, I’m laying out a vision for a different type of youth ministry – one that is mission-based, instead of attraction-based.
A mission-based youth group is entirely different in its outlook. The typical attraction-based model invites young people to church and then implicitly encourages them to ask, “What can this youth group do for us?” A mission-based youth group attends church asking “What can our youth group do for our friends, our schools, our church, and our community?” It is inherently outward-focused. Special events are the method by which we bring outsiders into the church in order to share the Gospel with them, see them saved, and then send them out as teenage missionaries.
Teenagers On Mission
In our world, everyone asks “What’s in it for me?” and most youth groups ask the same thing, because we have led them to think this way. I want the mindset of the youth group to not be “How can you serve us?” but “How can we serve you?”
When I use the word “mission-based,” I am not only speaking of the youth group as being “missions minded.” Of course, we want the youth to be eager to go on mission trips and share the Gospel. But that is not enough. Teenagers need to begin seeing themselves as God’s missionaries in whatever place He has put them. Every Christian is called to be “on mission” 24 hours a day. I consider …
Certainly an important find, The Gospel of Thomas has intrigued New Testament scholars and ancient historians since it appeared in the Nag Hammadi collection last century. Marvin Meyer’s translation of Thomas is noteworthy, if mainly for the breadth of scholarship contained in the footnotes.
Pastors and preachers need to read The Gospel of Thomas for themselves. With all the hype about the Gnostic gospels (such as Judas and Thomas), a pastor should have a ready answer to give to the person skeptical about the canonical Gospels’ testimony. Marvin Meyer is unabashedly enthusiastic about this gospel and what information it gives us about the historical Jesus. Harold Bloom gives (correctly) a Gnostic interpretation, which serves as a type of sermon for those who (I guess) believe Christian churches should be using The Gospel of Thomas from the pulpit.
Meyer’s enthusiasm for Thomas is groundless, mostly for historical reasons. He claims that certain parables of Jesus are found here in their original form, even when they show blatantly Gnostic tampering. Meyer naively assumes that the earlier, canonical Gospels cannot be fully trusted because of their theological assumptions about Jesus, while Thomas has somehow managed to remain untainted by its author’s theology. Meyer wants a Jesus who is a Greek cynic. Thomas appears to give him what he wants: a talking head that doesn’t do anything but sputter strange witty sayings and advocate a secret knowledge that leads to salvation.
The revolutionary Christians who were turning the world upside down in the first centuries weren’t dying for their faith in the Jesus portrayed by Thomas. They were reading …
N.T. Wright holds the distinction of being one of the few theologians of our day who regularly contradicts and opposes the liberal wing of the academy while simultaneously alienating and perplexing many conservatives within the Reformed tradition. Liberal scholars scoff at his insistence upon Jesus’ literal and physical resurrection; conservative scholars decry his apparent denial of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. It is the latter subject that I will deal with in this post.
An Overview of Wright’s Historical Theology
During the 1970’s, Wright’s theology put him squarely in the conservative Reformed camp. One of his earliest works was assisting the compilation of the complete works of John Frith, the early English Reformer. Even today, Wright admires men like J.I. Packer, John Stott, and Michael Green.
Wright’s theological views underwent substantial change in the mid-1980’s as he wrote the Tyndale New Testament commentary for Colossians and Philemon. He claims to have been a “dualist” before this time, one who saw the Gospel as belonging to one sphere and the rest of life belonging to another. Therefore, politics and the world of creation were left untouched by the Gospel, which was primarily about individual salvation to a heavenly afterlife. From this point on, however, as Wright began to study the cosmic implications of the Gospel and articulate his own version of the rising “new perspective” on Paul, he moved away from his Calvinistic roots and launched into historical study of the Gospels.
Wright’s Appeal to Scripture
Ironically, though Wright is labeled by many as …
All the millennial schemes wind up in the same place. New heavens, new earth. Interestingly enough, none of the historic creeds of the church, not even our own Baptist faith and message nail you down to one of the scenarios. That’s why you can have Baptists that disagree, even within the same church. It’s not a test of fellowship. These scenarios make for good discussion and debate. But ultimately, we all agree that Jesus Christ is coming again, bodily, to judge the living and the dead and to bring about a new creation. Just how that plays out is up for discussion.
So, instead of looking too deeply into the “how” Jesus is coming back, I want us to jump ahead to the “Why” question. What is Jesus coming back for? What is the ultimate destiny of the world? What is our ultimate destiny?
2 Peter 3:1-7 starts off with people scoffing at the Christian claim that Jesus will return. And this was two thousand years ago! People were saying, “Where is your Lord? Where is Jesus? If Jesus is reigning, why can’t we see him?”
Try to proclaim the Gospel today. Just tell people that “Jesus is Lord,” and people are going to say, “Well it sure doesn’t look like it.” After all, there are wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, child abuse, murders, divorce… …
Despite the sweltering summer heat, the people had followed Jesus up the mountain to hear His teaching, witness His healing hand at work, and marvel at the miraculous signs He was performing. Though the sun was setting, the masses were still coming. Jesus turned to Philip and asked where they could buy bread for all the people. He didn’t ask because He needed Philip’s answer. He posed the question in order to test Philip’s faith.
Questions are like seeds: if the seeds are parched with doubt, they shrivel up and die. But, if watered with faith, they blossom into a beautiful plant. Jesus didn’t come simply to bring heavenly solutions to all our earthly problems. He also came with questions. Consider the times Jesus answered questions by asking more questions. He did not force feed people with the truth. Instead, He engaged His listeners, letting them tease out the implications of His teachings.
On this particular test, Philip didn’t do so great. He turned in a blank sheet that didn’t even answer Jesus’ question. Rather than tell Jesus where they could go, he told Him how much it would cost. Often, we respond to Jesus in the same manner, avoiding the question by changing the subject. Many times it’s because we understand precisely what Jesus’ questions are leading to that we quickly come up with excuses that skirt the issue and …
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.