Thinking Out Loud

September 7, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Another collection of things my web history says I visited this week:

  • The Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit simulcast happens for Canada September 29th to 30th with the rebroadcast of  speakers from the U.S. event plus Canadians Tim Schroeder and Reginald Bibby. 
  • Clergy, or people doing the work of clergy, are entitled to IRS tax breaks in the United States including a generous housing allowance. But this doesn’t get applied in denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention that don’t offer ordination or equivalent credentialing.  So as applied by Baptists the housing allowance becomes a sexist issue.
  • And speaking of tax issues, is this another case of the head of a charity being overpaid? I refer to the case of lawyer Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice.
  • New blog of the week — except it’s over a year old — is More Christ by K.W. Leslie where you’ll find some serious devotional articles, but, inexplicably, also a Jesus Junk page where you can purchase the t-shirt at right.
  • With the school year in full swing, Jon Acuff asks, When should you let your kids use Facebook?  130+ comments and counting.
  • Like most of you, I always keep a Salvation Army Captain or two on speed dial, and mine also happens to blog at Il Capitano Inquisitore. This week, he’s dealing with the contrast between the S.A.’s statement on gay and lesbian issues, and what it doesn’t say about when those same ‘welcomed’ people want to step into a leadership role. He tells me the comments pale in comparison to the off-the-blog mail…
  • Juanita Bynum updates Pentecostal and Charismatic distinctive theology by introducing typing in tongues on her Facebook page.  To which I say: fsdgklhs ddtowyet scprnap.
  • “…The man told me in the letter that he had seethed in a quiet fury and then picked up his Bible and walked out…”  Russell D. Moore tackles the thorny issue of “closed communion” or “fencing the communion table” in a piece at Touchstone appropriately titled, Table Manners.
  • Meanwhile, back at his own blog, Moore looks at the internet debates between people of different denominational and doctrinal (D&D) stripes as not much different than the Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) club debates of his high school.  “The Dungeons and Dragons clubs came to mind because those guys, at least in my junior high school, seemed to be obsessed with something that seemed to have no relevance at all to their lives, or to anyone else’s. But D&D became their identity.” Read more, or rather, read Moore.
  • Glen Scrivener has written a poem that takes three minutes to read and contains 106 phrases that the King James Bible introduced into the language. He calls it a King James-themed something or other. (It may turn up here in full on a slow day, but you can read it now!) It’s also a video which you can watch here, or literally watch it here in the comments section.
  • Shawn Stutz offers his rant about Bible Gateway’s ‘sanctified’ version of Farmville.
  • Are you ready for “The Great Atomic Power?”  That’s the theme of a bluegrass/country song by the Louvin Brothers.  But as Darrell at SFL informed me, Ira Louvin’s story is a little checkered.
  • This one stretches all the way back to late July, but I guess this really hot breaking Christian news story took a little longer to reach us here.
  • This week’s cartoon — in keeping with our green t-shirt theme — is from No Apologies Allowed, which describes itself as “Weekly apologetics cartoons and quotes for the faithful, the faithless, and the full-of-its.” The blog consists recently of responses to atheists and Mormons.

Advertisements

October 27, 2010

When is a Blog Not a Blog?

Normally, the Wednesday Link List would be here, and I’ve had comments both on and off the blog about how much you enjoy it.    Probably, it will be back next week, but today it’s not going to happen for two reasons:

  1. Although the comments have been most encouraging, the statistics tell another story.   Many people read the page, but only a handful actually click on the links in question.   I’m frustrated with that, and wondering how to change things.
  2. Some of the links have been to sites where I regularly visit and leave comments, and I’ve noticed lately there has been a recurring pattern where comments I’ve left have not been moderator-approved.   I think this is part of a larger issue concerning the “closed community” that has developed on certain blogs that I’ll deal with separately in a few days; but also the personal side inasmuch as I have dealt with various types of rejection from the Christian community throughout my entire life, so that on a subjective level, it hurts.

I’ve also noticed that there is an increasing tendency on some blogs to not allow comments, or just post the first half-dozen and then close comments completely.   One of the most glaring examples of this is Southern Baptist guru, Albert Mohler.    He likes the efficiency of using a content-management-system (CMS) to create an online presence, but isn’t up for the discussions that might follow.   I suppose if you see your page as nothing more than a “web-log,” that’s fine, but living as we do in a Web 2.0 world, the interaction is what makes this sector of the internet so meaningful.   In fact, I don’t know a CMS provider that doesn’t allow for the possibility of response.

So I poured this out in a heartfelt letter composed to Mr. Mohler, only to get back a form letter from his assistant saying he is too busy to respond.   But not to busy to post his daily encyclical.   Contrast this to Nashville multi-site pastor Pete Wilson, a guy who seems accessible on so many levels; or Thomas Nelson publishing president Michael Hyatt.   They’re busy, too; but they realize if they enter into this particular online world, it’s got to be a dialogue not a monologue.

The problem in so much of Christian endeavor is that people are dying to speak and have their views heard, but not so anxious to listen.     Many grew up in a world where Christian radio broadcast the message of preachers to a world that had no opportunity to respond.    Even today, the number of Christian radio and TV ministries that incorporate a “talkback” or “mailbag” segment is embarrassingly small.

If you don’t have time to listen, you need to reconsider the ministry of Jesus.   So many of his responses to people were in the form of a question; and in his case, questions for which he already knew the answers.

Although the comments-to-readers ratio here is somewhat lower than I’d like, I am so very thankful for the people I’ve gotten to know here, especially where the conversation moved off the blog.    I’m also thankful for being the recipient of the same hospitality from other blogs.   And I will continue to link to writers who have something to say even if they don’t reciprocate.

# # # #

FOOTNOTE 1:   The experiment in church planting that I did one hour east of Toronto — Transformation Church — had this as its advertising tag line:   “Ever wished you could put up your hand in church to ask a question?   Now you can.”     Interactivity is a feature today in many newer churches and the need for this is supported by many Christian authors.    But many are slow to catch on to this.

It’s also apparent in our evangelism efforts, where we ask people questions, but the questions have a pre-determined outcome.   (“So if you’ve told a lie, I guess that makes you a liar, right?”)   The end result is that we’re following the template of a set speech; we’re not speaking with we’re speaking to. That’s just so wrong.

FOOTNOTE 2 — Characteristics of Web 2.0

  • Openness
  • Modularity
  • User control
  • Modularity
  • Participation

For more information click here.

Here’s another way of looking at the “ingredients” of Web 2.0:


 


May 18, 2009

Christianity in Crisis: Confronting Word of Faith Theology

Christianity in Crisis

In a new edition, Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century, the host of the Bible Answer Man broadcasts and head of Christian Research Institute makes it really clear it’s the excesses of “Word of Faith” theology under discussion, not issues with the wider Pentecostal, Assemblies of God or Charismatic doctrine.   As such, Christianity in Crisis by Hank Hanegraaff (Thomas Nelson) is probably the best tool we have to confront those who espouse the “name it and claim it” or “prosperity gospel” fringe of Christianity.   The doctrinal flights of fancy are simply too numerous to list here; and the Christian blogosphere is thankfully home to people whose beliefs — for the most part — are a litte more stable.

But what a visible “fringe” this is, accounting for a huge percentage of the airtime purchased for religious broadcasting, not to mention entire networks.   Why is that?   That question is beyond the scope of this work, though I wish Hanegraaff had waded into the question, “What is it that draws these evangelists to one particular medium — television — while remaining almost entirely absent from radio and having only a minimal presence on the internet?”   It does make you appreciative of the doctrinal balance to be had on Christian radio.

Word of Faith theology is the entire focus of this work.   In a world where critics obsess over the current emerging/Emergent church; where a new Dan Brown movie reminds us of the gullibility of the public when it comes to Biblical truth; where Jesus Seminar practitioners such as Marcus Borg and Shelby Spong undermine the validity of the gospel accounts; and where atheists are become more militant in their attacks on faith; in all of these situations, a book called Christianity in Crisis could address a variety of battlegrounds for Christ-followers.    It doesn’t.   But its single focus is sufficient to fill all its 400-plus pages and Hanegraaff is wonderfully restrained in expressing his outrage over what gets broadcast, 24-hours a day, over so called “Chrsitian” networks.

If the new edition of Christianity in Crisis were a research paper, it would, at first, score an A- for actual research and a D- for organization of material.   Since this book is a little longer than ones I normally review, I want to take a bit more time to qualify both ratings, beginning with the D-.

Despite a penchant for alliterative and acrostic outlines — some of which are borrowed from the author’s other writings — which appear to show superior organization,   much of the material in the book is repeated, over and over and over again, in different sections.   Transcriptions of television broadcasts are used as a kind of proof-text for multiple points, instead of beginning from the transcripts themselves and then fleshing out their various implications.   Honestly, I’m not sure where the greater efficiency is to be found, but the latter would eliminate the possibility of reading a quotation for the fourth or fifth time, as is presently the case.   The main points of the book might be said in half as many pages, though some of the finer nuances of each TV personality’s beliefs would be lost.   This should not distract from the importance of each individual argument, however.

But I have to qualify the A-, also.   Because the author heads a group called Christian Research Institute, there are immeasurable hours of compiling transcripts of religious television represented here.   Nobody does it better.   But wait a minute, look again at the second half of the updated edition’s title:  “…The 21st Century.” Despite this reference to the 21st Century, there’s very little internet citation here; there is little commentary from other critics — which abound online — and many of the citations and statistics are from the period in the late 1980’s when the original edition was written.

Contrast that with the other updated title I’m reading now, The King James Only Controversy by James White (Bethany House) where you see dozens and dozens of internet references per chapter as White gives fresh information and renders his re-make of a 1994 title appear to be “hot off the press.”

White’s book also highlights a flaw in Hanegraaff’s update inasmuch as entire sections of the original edition are imported wholesale; so a section on recommended Bible translations and study Bibles refers to The Living Bible, not the New Living Translation and there’s no mention at all of the biggest thing in Bibles to happen in the last decade, The English Standard Version. Readers counting on the book for advice would be hard pressed to even find a copy of The Living Bible, though Tyndale keeps a single edition in print.

But you might say, “Internet links are fleeting and the groups under discussion might modify or remove offending pages if Christianity in Crisis were to cite them.”

True.   But as it stands, the seventy-odd pages of bibliography and footnotes contain references to transcripts to Christian television broadcasts that absolutely nobody has access to, unless they also are recording every single thing that airs on TBN and other networks.    Also, without more internet citations, the book has very little relevance to next generation or postmodern readers, who expect the web to form part of modern scholarship.

hank hanegraaffStill, one doesn’t wish to overdo the criticism because we do owe a great debt to both Hanegraaff and his organization for all that they are doing to keep TV preachers accountable.   This book makes its point and makes it well:   The theology being broadcast daily on Christian television is, for the most part, nuttier than a fruitcake.

Based on what I read here, I wouldn’t let Benny Hinn or Joyce Meyer, or Myles Munroe or Creflo Dollar or Joel Osteen walk my dog, let alone watch my kids for five minutes.   It’s not that they aren’t “rightly dividing the Word of God,” but given financial and marital evidence, it’s more like they can’t properly handle anything.    And that includes the trust and responsibility that they’re given when they invade the homes of the unsuspecting on a daily or weekly basis.   Thankfully, Hanegraaff resists the temptation to do any more than allude to character issues, keeping his focus squarely on the contrast between errant doctrine and Biblical truth.

So if there’s someone in your sphere of influence caught up in the world of Paul Crouch, Rod Parsley, Juanita Bynum, Paula White, John Hagee, or any of the other aforementioned scripture twisters;  ignore all of the above critical comments and buy the book.   Read it all, and then loan it out to people who need to see the contrast between Christian television and orthodox Christianity.

Blog at WordPress.com.