...thoughts expressed here are not necessarily
August 15, 2005 Al Mohler commentary
Mohler is fast becoming one of my favorite "must
reads"- he generally is well balanced and yet true to the Truth.
and unlike Leonard Sweet (imho), he manages to write originally while
quoting extensively from his vast resources of reading materials. Reading
Mohler is an adventure in distillation. A quote from a recent
commentary stands out:
"Christopher Caldwell of The Weekly Standard once
described his brief but intensive
experience with the game "Snood," as a form of addiction. "I
also began to
understand for the first time what an addiction is . . . . It's a desperate
need to simplify. An addiction is a gravitation towards anything that
plausibly mimics life while being less complicated than life.""
That definition is appropos, I think, and properly
defines many activities a addictions we do not normally think the word
encompasses. More on this later.
Mohler has recently
taken on deliberate childlessness as serious moral rebellion. As a man
who had to lay down the driving desire to be a Dad years ago, I read it
with mixed emotions. We are clearly not in the category he writes of,
as "deliberate" had nothing to do with it in our case. One of
the defining struggles of our life has been in coming to terms with a
second class status childless couples are proffered by evangleical churches.
But much of the controversy belies a careful reading
of Mohler's comments. He is not addressing infertility. I clearly cannot
fathom how anyone can justify not having children since we wanted a child
so badly. After years of embarrassing fertility testing and procedures
and trying to navigate the adoption system, it became apparently that
we were trying to make something happen that was not in keeping with God's
natural course of events. We finally understood childlessness as a calling.
In rereading the commentary and keeping in mind the
context of the specific statements, a few questions still attain and may
shed some light on the emotional responses. Perhaps no other topic is
so emotion charged, and any commentary must be offered up with that in
"The entire process requires parents to give themselves
unreservedly to the toil and joy of raising, teaching, protecting, nurturing,
disciplining, loving, and enjoying our children. Does God not use this
to make us different people than we otherwise would be -- even different
This isn't for everyone -- only for those who marry."
I agree wholeheartedly with the contention that raising
children disciplines the Christian. I would go further to say that it
is part of God's design of common grace through which, if done in a manner
consistent with scripture, even unknowingly, character can be built
in the non-Christian as well. On the other hand, we have had Christians
tell us that children are more of a curse than a blessing, trying to say
something that would make us feel at ease. As one who understands what
scripture says about children, it did not.
Mohler says, "I am perplexed by Christians who
seem to believe that marriage and reproduction can be separated while
glorifying God within the marital bond. "
My question is- does childlessness redefine marriage?
Is it possible to glorify God within the marriage bond for those who are
infertile and have been forced to pursue a remarkably wonderful marital
relationship sans children? What is the "meaning of marriage"
when one eliminates the possibility of childbearing?
God is good, and has provided us with opportunities to nurture the helpless
and learn the humility of selfless service in the lives of other believers
and as an aunt and uncle. In our case it has been fulfilled in giving
ourselves unreservedly to the toil and joy of raising, teaching, protecting,
nurturing, disciplining, loving, and enjoying our spiritual children and
the aged, infirm, the stranger and alien, and the mentally handicapped.
I have also known non-believers who have a servant spirit, and who are
amazingly engaged with the outcasts of society. That being said, we know
ourselves too well, and we fully believe that we could not have done any
of this without God's resurrection power enabling us. Soli Deo Gloria
, especially in the ugly and messy parts of life. So change a diaper to
the Glory of God if you get a chance.
|The truth behind the "Hands of God" photo
still circulating via email attachment at snopes.com
AF:A friend asked me to comment on this article
from the San Francisco Chronicle, which I am glad to do. Mu comments
are interspersed with the quoted texts.
First a side road. As a Kentuckian living in the North, I recognize the
writer's condescension in the frequent and pointed dropping of endings
on words, aimed at stygmatizing all churchgoers as uneducated and slothful
and "southern". Since I moved from the South, I have never been
more amazed at people's ability to be rude, having been told that my accent
is offensive and people ranging from waiters to storeclerks drawing attention
to my heritage.
That being said, the article attacks several old chestnuts in some cases
and has legitimate commentary I fully agree with in some other cases.
Some of these controversies are matters of in-house debate. Yes,
some of what he describes is fluff, but much of it is indicative of a
subchristian phenomenon that will be cast out with others who say Lord,
I also recognize that the writer absolutely castrates his authority (something
an author should not do) with letting it out of the bag that, of course,
he has never experienced that which he so vociferously castigates. He
exhibits a depraved Christophobia muddled with ecclesiophobia and several
other phobias thrown in there. What he has to say is evidence of a sinsick
and blinded mind. From my experience, little of what can reasonably be
said will get through to this sort of blatant obfuscation.
Joel Osteen's message is what disturbs me far more than the venue. His
idea of being led by the Spirit and experiencing God's favor(according
to one quote I read) is finding a good parking space.
There is such a thing, I think, as a "megachurch mentality"
and indeed is something worth repenting of. I have experienced the corporization
of churches far smaller than the ones described in the article. Piper
tookon this whole phenomenon of losing our focus in lieu of keeping the
main thing the main thing in "Brothers,
We Are Not Professionals". I have also noted that among the large
churches I have attended, there is the reality of spiritual connectedness
and love along with the "tares"- a multitude of the unregenerate
who are part of what makes the experience a melange of humanity. One defining
struggle of megachurches that I have witnessed is a serious lack of accountability
and connectivity between the elders and flock.
I remember around 1985 when our pastor, Duane Litfin, returned from a
Lausanne Conference - he reported an accord among the participants on
a prognosis of the church in the year 2000. They contended that there
would be a trend toward megachurches that would constitute a major shift
in the identity of the church in the world in the 21st century. He foresaw
that as a good thing, enabling vital and coherent inroads into the community
culture, as well as a good stewardship of resources. Do the critics ever
consider what it would take to provide worship spaces for 30, 000 Christians
at the average rate of 100 per church? Far more than 75 million, I would
Quoting the article,"I mention all this because megachurches are
the latest phenomenon, the hottest trend in the Christian God-fearin'
biz, arena-scaled piety polished up and bloated out and aimed like a giant
homophobic cannon straight at the gloomy face of a new and improved God,
one who apparently truly loves the fact that these tacky, sanitized enormo-domes
are raking in an average of $5 million a year each, depending on size
and girth and the magnetism of their glossy preprogrammed pastors and
depending on how many CDs and syrupy self- help books and movie production
companies and proselytizing Web sites and recording studios and hateful
radio brainwashin' programs and malicious teenage abstinence seminars
they have to go along with the nearly naked virgin car-wash fund-raisers
they offer up to Jesus on warm summer Sundays."
AF:A straw argument here, in part. How much are mega-houses of porn raking
in each year? Hateful and malicious? Yes, I have seen that first hand
as well. Christians should be in the business of repenting. And I agree
that the syrupy self-help books and the young ladies flaunting their bodies
in carwash attire are a stench in the nostrils of God and a form of idolatry,
along with my own pet peeve, flying fish (Vans with icthus stamped bumpers
careening madly down the interstate at about 25 mph over the speed limit).
Quoting the article, "But you really don't need to attend one of
these surreal spectacles to realize that most of us should kneel down
right now in heartfelt gratitude that we have never been forced to endure,
say, the all-paunchy-married-man revue of a Promise Keepers rally, or
the bizarre pious cheerleading of a Harvest Crusade in L.A., and hence
we have been blessedly devoid of the taint of guys like Greg Laurie, one
of the new breed of sleek, preening pastors, a strange new mutant species
of pastor-CEO-huckster-salesman, who leads the big Harvest chant-alongs
and who writes milky best-selling self-help books, books that claim to
know something of God but that somehow never mention single-malt scotch
or Tom Waits or grinning Buddha icons or chocolate ice cream drizzled
on a lover's tailbone, slowly, tantalizingly. Greg. Sweetheart. You so
don't know God. I'm just sayin'. "
AF:The writer condescends here again to place his brand of religion above
all others, that of the temporal and sensual over the eternal. That is
sad and stupid, as he has enough facility with words used in hate to show
that he has a brain. I rather like Tom Waits and refrain from chant-a-longs,
BTW. On the other hand, I am sometimes offended by Greg Laurie's inarticulate
representation of the faith on Larry King Live.
He goes on the write: "These huge churches are, in short, redefining
the Christian experience in America, growing faster in the past 20 years
than even Wal-Mart has been able to destroy small towns and hope."
AF:Oh, please. If your hope is built on consumerism, it needs to be destroyed.
The Christian experience is being redefined constantly and the key for
us is to hold on to the unchangeable while being set "free indeed".
Living with freedom within boundaries is a challenge we can do better
Quoting the article, "They are places like the New Life Church, perhaps
the most powerful and frightening of all megachurches, home to the famous
and heavily shellacked Pastor Ted Haggard and his 11,000 fiery "Left
Behind"-addled throngs located in the heart of honey-let's-never-go-there
AF:I agree that some of these devotees are "addled".
The ones I speak of know more of the LB books than the scriptures they
purport to be based in. And I do have a concern in regard to the Bransonization
of western Christianity. I have friends who go on Christian cruises, listen
only to Christian radio, walking lockstep with Dr. Dobson's take on all
that is good and true, and reading only from an approved evangelical list
of self-help books. One such worldview weekend included a bit of Bible
study plastered onto the end of Christian comedy routines and feelgood
spirituality sheltered away from anyone who didn't look just you.
Quote: "Pastor Ted, that is, with his bright red hot line straight
to the White House (he and our sanctimonious, war-happy prez speak
at least once a week), Pastor Ted who, along with the snarlingly pious
James Dobson of the violently militant Focus on the Family sect
of frothy true believers, helped terrify the Federal Communications
Commission and slam women's rights and galvanize all those mad throngs
of confused Christians to vote to keep Dubya in office all these
shockingly impeachment-free years. Praise Jesus." (Emphasis mine)
AF:The writer is exhibiting a sanctimonious spirit and the descriptors
of insanity throughout this piece that sinks into blasphemy here. That
being said I do NOT square with Haggard's confession doctrine or spiritual
mapping or prophetic movement ties.
Quote:"Maybe the appeal is self-explanatory. Maybe you walk into
one of these stadium-size God-huts and everyone is forcibly blissed out
and everyone is just numbly patriotic and everyone is throwing hand-rolled
tubes of nickels (most megachurch parishioners have very low median incomes
and little more than a high school education, and the vast majority are
as white as bleached teeth) into the giant golden donation vats and snatching
up freshly published copies of "He Died for Your Lousy Little Sins
So Put Down the Porn and Listen Up, Sicko."
AF:Here the write sinks from diatribe into the patently false. Most have
higher than average incomes and education. Also his characterization of
sin here is very instructive.
Quote:"Of course, people want to belong. People are desperate to
connect to something, anything, bigger than themselves, something that
professes to have answers to questions they don't even know how to ask.
Especially now, especially when the country's identity is imploding and
moral codes are deliciously evolving and we are no longer the gleaming
righteous superpower we always thought we were and instead are much more
the fat self-righteous playground thug no one likes. "
AF:I fear moral codes that deliciously evolve.
Quote:"I think it's actually something far more interesting, and
hopeful, and maybe even enchanting. Here it is: Maybe these megachurches
are not, in fact, a sign that the United States is coagulating like a
tumor to the right, but, in fact, they indicate the exact opposite."
So the opposite would be that the USA is coagulating like a tumor to the
left? Sounds about right.
Quote:"Maybe megachurches are, in short, an anxious, quivering reaction
to a hot divine upsurge, one that people can't quite comprehend and that
makes their eyeballs shudder and their loins burn; the churches' existence
is irrefutable proof that something divinely radical is afoot, a sea change,
a karmic mutiny, with the churches acting merely as a sleek and desperate
defense. You think?"
AF:So, here's what I think- the divinely radical is afoot, as always.
A hot divine downsurge will come in wrath against those who would suppress
the truth, including the goofy scions of health and wealth and other "other"
gospels. At least some of what the writer has observed as wrong with the
church today is a passionate groaning on the part of redeemed sinners
that the spirit understands and to the degree that such behaviors find
their broken wellspring in a heart that pants after God, they will be
blessed. And EVERYTHING that is not done in faith is SIN. My eyeballs
shudder when I think of THIS.
Quote:"In other words, maybe these delirious throngs of blind believers
are merely a trembling shield masquerading as salvation, vainly attempting
to protect themselves from the onslaught of, oh, I don't know, divine
self- definition? An orgasm of radical sticky nontheistic cosmic beauty?
A goddess with a bright red tongue and a wry, knowing grin and an appetite
for destruction? Let us pray."
AF:Postmodern gnosticism to the core, I would say. Black is white and
white is black. Everything you know is wrong. In the final analysis, the
writer is, as you have said attacking far more than the megachurch phenomenon.
He is running scared that his way of life is being challenged and that
the monopoly on cultural influence by those who would suppress Truth is
Interesting, if sad.