Tim Challies has a post recapping the recent criticism Pastor John MacArthur has kicked up toward Mark Driscoll’s style of preaching the Song of Solomon. You can watch all of Driscoll’s teaching on the book or download the sermons here and judge for yourself. While I dig most of what Tim Challies writes and have often linked to him here on this blog I think he might be a bit off base on this one. Challies thinks we should leave the veil on Song of Songs and let it stand as evocative poetry.
While Song of Songs is obviously poetry this does not mean it is free of meaning and teaching content. God obviously had an intent he sought to convey in including it in the Bible. Besides since we as Christians affirm that all Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching we must not shy away from understanding what it is the author is trying to teach us.
The great preacher Haddon Robinson said there are only three things we can do with scripture, explain it, apply it, and illustrate it. Pastors must not be afraid to do just these very things when it comes to the SoS. Of course this must be done with wisdom and tact, but truth be told, all scripture should be taught with wisdom and tact. A few more thoughts.
1. Some claim it is distasteful to talk about the sexual acts and behaviors that SoS seems to speak of. But I would simply ask what do you mean by distasteful? This attitude seems to carry an idea that has for far to long infected Christianity; that sex is dirty. Sex is not dirty, it is a gift from God that practiced within the confines of heterosexual marriage is glorious and honoring to God. There is no need for Christians to have a pragmatic/Augustinian approach to sex. This might come as a shocker to some, but God invented it. It a gift from Him to us, we must not see it as dirty, but rather something to be redeemed.
2. Another idea I hear is that there is too much talk about sex in the church recently. Not sure how you quantify this, is there 10% to much? 20%? And who decides this? Now I could understand this complaint if a church had been doing a series on sex for the last five years 52 weeks straight, but just because a handful of churches do 8 week or less series on the topic does not mean there is too much teaching on the subject. And might I point out the obvious that when Mark Driscoll was doing his series, IT WAS ON A BOOK OF THE BIBLE. He was teaching scripture.
Besides, if the church does not talk about sex then our people will get their sexual beliefs, values, and ethics from pop culture and the world around them. It seems every year culture becomes more and more relentless in preaching a secular sexual ethic that pervades almost all areas of life. Culture is preaching about sex 24/7 and people are listening. The Bible clearly has teaching on the subject and we should not be afraid to teach it.
Now a word of caution. As Matt pointed out to me, a preacher can go too far in teaching that just because certain sexual acts are going on in SoS they are prescriptive for all married couples and things we must do. This is a grievous error and one that could lead to marital abuse, rejection, violation, and the breaking of oneness. The Big Idea of Song of Songs is not the how and what sex should look like with your spouse. Rather, it is that there is freedom in the marriage bed for a couple to honor God by liberally enjoying one and other.
My wife has a GREAT post on her blog about Easter traditions. We are spending our first year as parenting researching and seeking to prayerfully develop traditions that help the deep traditions of our faith become real in the lives of us and our children. Click the picture for 10 Ways to Celebrate Easter without the Bunny.
*** Preface. My buddy Brent has given some inside info in regards to the Genesis of this debate that most of us were unaware of. His information seriously hinders the integrity of my pressupositions that brought about this post. This being the case, please read the comments to find out how big of an idiot I am. But also take Ryan’s comment into consideration regarding the few good points I actually make.***
A lot of Christians I know are excited about the recent Nightlight debate about “The Existence of Satan.” They shouldn’t be.
Like a bad reality television show, the producers arrganged a debate not to come to any conclusion about humanity, or in this case, Satan. Rather they put four polarizing quote machines on stage hoping that a mosaic of chaotic one-liners would ensue.
Let me start off with my team. I know Mark Driscoll. I know people that know Annie Lobert. Here’s why they were chosen:
On stage Driscoll is a loud mouthed, excitable one-liner quote machine of Christian pop-culture (he is many other things as well, many of them I am fond of, but I am assuming that none of those were why he was chosen for this debate). Listen to about 50 sermons and you will notice the recycled one-liners and soon be able to call them out before they come (note: he would no doubt conclude this as well. His sermon outlines dictate that he simply recycle his well prepared analogies and jokes around the Big Idea [shout out to Haddon Robinson] of the passage.) As he has shown by his recent media appearances: this is one of the main things “Pastor Dude” is good for.
Side note: I believe Mark to be one of the smartest and most theologically equipped theologians I know. But his recent media appearances have fed into certain stereotypes of his persona. His quick one-liners mixed with theology are so good for news media because they illicit such a visceral gut reaction either good or bad. Mark is a great theologian, but that is not why he is being interviewed by the media. Just for the record, D.A. Carson isn’t making any major news outlets for quotes or interviews.
Lobert was not chosen because of her compelling testimony, rather for her image, the bombastic nature of her ministry (which I am not in disagreement with) and her great claim that she was raped by Satan/demons. Not a theologian, simply a piece of the circus, of whom I can only guess producers hoped would be emotionally driven.
Super side note: I am not trying to bad mouth or say I do not like these people. I love Mark and am very grateful for Annie. I am simply trying to show why I think they were chosen for this debate.
Chopra came off as a pretentious know-it-all, so I’m guessing that’s why he was involved. And the other guy seemed, and probably is, nuts so there you go (plus he was black, and ABC probably wanted to even the race card out).
I sent the link of this interview to someone I knew that didn’t really have a horse in the race and this was his response (note, I sent this to him before I had a chance to watch the debate):
“Bro, you MUST watch these, hilarity will ensue, I promise!
-First off, who the hell (pun intended) picked these four people expecting a true debate?”
I know that many Christians are very excited that the gospel was preached (very well by Pastor Dude), as am I. I know that many are excited by how Driscoll came off, which wasn’t that bad. But we must not miss the bigger picture. We as Christians, the idea of Satan, and one of the most prominent leaders of the “New Calvinism” were made a mockery of. And it is really dangerous when you are being made fun of and don’t realize it. When this happens your voice doesn’t carry much weight, and your topic is automatically straw-maned. It doesn’t matter if it is justified or not.
So Christians, Mark Driscoll and Annie Lobert especially: you are being made a mockery of. You were picked to be a part of this circus because they thought you would make for entertainment. Not because they value our/your opinion.
Let’s reconsider how excited, and furthermore, how we promote these circuses.
” Some are saying that in the next generation, the government’s chief job will be to devise ways of keeping a growing mass of people entertained, because machines will have taken their jobs” No Little People, Schaeffer p. 85.
Schaeffer was quite prophetic as he wrote in the 1970′s, and even then he had some cautionary words about the Christian soul and entertainment/technologies effect on it.
“People today are afraid to be alone. This fear is a dominant mark upon our society. Many now ceaselesly sit in the cinema or read novels about other people’s lives or watch dramas. Why? Simply to avoid facing their own existence. Many of us can sit in front of the television and, except on rare occasions, not face our own private life. Entertainment so fills every cranny of our culture we can easily escape thinking.”
Is this true? I know it pricks my conscience as I think about my own propensity to “zone out” in front of the television rather than engage with life. What does Schaeffer mean by saying “we are afraid to face our own existence?”
But wait he keeps going.
“So is the one who stands with the transistor radio plugged in his ear much of the day. No one seems to want (and no one can find) a place for quiet–because when you are quiet, you have to face reality. But many in the present generation dare not do this because on their own basis reality leads them to meaninglessness; so they fill their lives with entertainment, even if it is only noise.”
The last sentence hits hard. Yet it might be why we live in a culture that never considers its own mortality or finitness. Most of us go on living as if we have forever. We forget to heed the words of James 4.
Schaeffer concludes with saying, “The Christian is supposed to be the very opposite. There is a place for proper entertainment, but we are not to be caught up in ceaseless motion which prevents us from ever being quiet. Rather we are to put everthing second so we can be alive to the voice of God and allow him to speak to us and confront us.”
Please read this twice and let it sink in. It may sound obvious but it is hard to hear and commune with God when our lives are so filled with noise, like trying to have a conversation at a Las Vegas night club. Schaeffer begs with us to make ourselves alive to silence. To give way to quietness for the sake of our soul. Wrestle with your existence and now that you are finite and your life is short.
When I was in college one of my favorite verses was Isaiah 30: 15.
This is what the LORD the Holy One of Israel, says:
In repentence and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.
Cnn this afternoon points to a very interesting Time article by David Van Biema. In his article Van Biema seeks to answer the question, “Did God Want You to Get that Mortgage.”
His thesis is that many prosperity gospel preachers have put their congregants in very unstable waters by encouraging them to embrace the “blessing” of the housing market for the past few years.
I would hypothesize that this is a problem that defies socio-economic or even denominational lines, but it does raise interesting questions.
For churches, they must ask themselves, “Have we been relevant enough to speak on these issues even though it could hurt us?”
I recently read an article by pastor Jonathan Wolfgang on his facebook page expousing the troubles this is causing in his midwestern congregation. Lee Coate, one of the pastors at my church, the crossing, recently said that the church is retooling the sermon series lineup to address these issues. While I applaud such a quick response (which is incredibly pastoral), I cannot help but once again wonder: why did we as church leaders allow this “elephant in the room” level sin to persist in our congregations for the past few years?
We sit and point fingers at the “fat cats in washington” and the bank leaders as those who are to blame. Yet I cannot help but wonder: where were we as church leaders? Were we caring for and protecting our flocks during this time? Were we above reproach in our own financial dealings during this time?
Perhaps our congregations would best be served by top down repentance. Then they would take responsibility for their irresponsibility during this time. Then, insteasd of finger pointers we would be grace embracers.
Oh God, in this time of crisis, restore Shalom to your church that we might restore Shalom to our country.
Just like the world job market culture is becoming increasingly specialized, so has our social networks. The internet has made it possible for the most niche interests to link up with hoards of others for fellowship. I usually consider myself to be pretty culturally adept, but even sometimes I find myself completely befuddled by the vast array of sub-cultures in our country.
Recently I got schooled by my sister Kammi on the culture of World of War Craft or as I guess it is known to insiders, WOW. I guess there are close to 20 million people in the United States who play this game. Often these people devote their entire lives to it.
Well this morning as I entered my house of worship (Starbucks) I came across a table of WOW players who had decided to meet up and talk strategy. I could not help but sit down at the table next to them and listen to their convo. It was amazing. A group of people gathering to discuss strategy in a virtual world. It was truly a Nerd Narnia. They had entered into their own magic wardrobe and left this world behind for another.
Relationally, I have no idea where to even begin with people like this. I would probably just marvel at their geekdom and have this look of shock on my face. Fortunately God has equipped people to reach WOW enthusiasts. My sister Kammi is one of them, as she has hosted dinners, and social events to connect with these people in the last few months. I know the apostle Paul told us to become all things to all people but I think Nerd Narnia is beyond my capacities.
I went with a group of friends on Friday night and say the new Batman movie. We went to the 10pm showing and I was a bit tired from the start. Lucky for me the movie was enough to wake and keep just about anyone’s attention.
Going into the movie I was a bit skeptical. The massive expecations, the rave reviews, and the early Oscar buzz had me thinking that there was no way this movie could deliever on all the hype. I was wrong. Ledger was better than I thought he was going to be, and the story was riddled with complexities and deeper questions about terror, fear, and the innate desire in some to just do evil.
Though only part of the movie that I really had a hard time with was with the two boats that were faced with a moral dilemma of killing the other boat before they killed them. The Joker had bet this would be the defining piece of evidence in his thesis that people would generally seek self-preservation when faced with fear and death. Of course Batman delivers the cheesy line of something like, “the people of Gotham are to good for that.” And in an overly ideal conclusion; the Joker is proven wrong about the nature of Gotham’s citizens. I just could not buy it. It was too neat and clean. Especially considering that a mob of people had showed up at a news studio, a few scenes before, to shoot a guy that was going to divulge the identity of Batman.
This is really a fundemantal weakness of all big blockbuster movies; they are unable to deviate to far off the PC nature and view of humanity and society.
This really is a minor critique, because most of us go to movies like this to be enthralled with a stunning film with a wonderful story. The Dark Knight succeeded on both fronts.
For all of you who saw it, what are your thoughts?
If you do not remember Shawn Kemp he was one of the best basketball players of the early nineties. His nickname was “The Rainman” and he led the Seattle Supersoncis to the NBA Finals. In his heyday he was truly one of the most athletically gifted players to ever play the game. He could jump out of the gym and take over games. He was also a trailblazer in athletes going from high school to the pros, although his route was a bit more circuitous.
Yet Shawn Kemp was also a trailblazer in another athletic area; rampant fertility. Shawn Kemp would become the butt of many Bill Simmons jokes for fathering 8 kids by 6 different women. Athletes such as Holyfield and Travis Henry have since followed in his misguided footsteps. In fact I know they even had Shawn Kemp come into the NBA rookie forum a time or two, and caution them about sleeping with every women you meet.
Well Shawn Kemp eventually ate himself out of the NBA and looked like he had swallowed a hot air ballon. His career fizzled and the bank accounts dried up. While I doubt he ever has run out of money I bet the millions of dollars in child support payments he has had to dole out have not helped his financial situation.
But have no fear for Shawn Kemp, it looks like the eldest of his 8 kids is now a big time college prospect and could have a bright NBA career ahead of him.
Maybe Lon Kruger can give him a call for UNLV?
So while Kemp may have gone broke paying child support payments for all those kids, he now has a son who likely has a million dollar future in front of him. Let’s just hope his son does not fully follow in his father’s footsteps…