FUNDAMENTALISM, LIBERALISM, AND OTHER –ISMS THAT DISTRACT AND DIVIDE THE CHURCH
Join us in the Green Room each Wednesday at 6:30 pm, beginning September 7, for a new study of the many “-isms” that can distract us from the center of faith: Jesus Christ. Faith Formation is a weekly discussion led by our Pastor and all are welcomed to attend, learn, and even contribute!
Starting January 13, join us each Wednesday at 6:30 pm in the Fellowship Hall as the Pastor leads a look into the life and letters of Paul.
A Prickly Apostle
Even in his own day, people held many different opinions about Paul. These opinions weren’t always helped by Paul’s “prickly” nature. In the passing centuries, these opinions have only multiplied.
Some reverence Paul’s words and thoughts so deeply, anything Paul says determines how the rest of the Bible is to be interpreted.
Others approach Paul with a radical skepticism, since he (supposedly) despises women and does not challenge ancient evils such as slavery.
Who is the real Paul? How shall followers of Jesus approach the most famous follower of Jesus and the author of over half of the New Testament? How can we make better sense of his writings, which aren’t always the most accessible? As 2 Peter 3:16 says, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort.”
A Misunderstood Missionary
We would miss out on so much wisdom and truth if we read Paul through either the lens of unyielding reverence or unbending skepticism. If anything, Paul comes across as prickly because he was never one to back away from conversation, even with people who deeply misunderstood him. Of course, some ancient means of “conversing” would be considered ugly arguing in modern times. But Paul is not a modern man.
He is the first missionary to the Gentile world. Paul forever changed the world through his devotion–not to himself and his teaching–but to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and the kingdom he firmly believed had come in him.
Let’s not be afraid to enter into conversation with Paul: prickly as he can be, misunderstood as he is, firm as his letters are. There may be much to learn in these pages.
When I (Pastor Kevin) moved to a new area in Texas, I encountered a new town: Tivoli, Texas. You are probably encountering it the same way I first did, reading the word. How do you pronounce it? I had an idea. Soon enough, I found my idea was wrong. They actually giggled at me.
tuh-VOAL-ee was wrong. tie-VOAL-uhwas how everyone there and around there said it. For a very long time. So they should probably know how to say it. I did not.
Nor did I know that Refugio county, in which tie-VOAL-uh is located, is pronounced re-FURY-oh. Huh? The G makes an R sound? Do they teach that at tie-VOAL-uh Elementary School? Maybe so. Even if not, I promise you won’t talk Texans out of these highly creative pronunciations.
READING FROM SOMEWHERE
This is a small example of a fundamental issue. Nobody reads correctly, automatically, straight off the page. Everyone reads with a certain set of “eyes” and a certain frame of mind.
For Christians in Bible study, this means there is no god-like space which we can get in and simply read the Bible for ourselves, ignoring all that pesky talk about original languages, differing cultures, and issues of interpretation. To state what should be obvious: Nobody reads from nowhere. Everybody reads from somewhere. We are situated in a place, with a certain language and worldview. We have assumptions, many of which will not be the same as those made by the MANY differing authors of the Bible.
This does not make reading impossible. Far from it! It makes reading the Bible much more interesting. For often, as many have said, we discover the Bible is “reading us.”
We’ll begin with a look at the Parable of the Prodigal Son — a favorite of so many people. Yet you and I tend to miss something in that story (and it’s not a minor detail) because of our social situation and assumptions in reading the text. Want to know what you’re missing? Join in the discussion!
Faith Formation: Better Bible Reading By Removing Cultural Blinders
Taught by Pastor Kevin Collison
Each Wednesday beginning at 6:30 pm in the Fellowship Hall of Island View Baptist Church
Our new Faith Formation study series begins on Wednesday, August 19 and continues for 5 weeks. Come join the conversation over “Toxic Charity” and let’s work together to help our community without hurting it.
Everyone wants to help.
But sometimes the way in which we try to help can actually hurt people. An obvious example would be handing cash to a known addict. But there are less obvious ways, too. By giving one-way aid (we have the resources, you do not) in non-emergency situations, we can actually devalue those we seek to help and create destructive dependencies.
Robert Lupton, a Christian community developer and entrepreneur, has seen churches and charities pour “help” into communities only to see them worse off than before the help began. In his own life, Robert has worked and invested in urban Atlanta and practiced a different way of showing compassion. The strong critique he offers in his book “Toxic Charity” will certainly generate discussion, get us thinking about better ways to help our community, and might just lead us to some new ways of doing ministry together.
Toxic Charity is available for $10 in the Fellowship Hall or you can find a copy at Amazon.com or your favorite bookseller. The book is in no way required to participate.
So the reviews are coming in and they are clear: Left Behind the movie remake of Left Behind the original movie which was made from Left Behind the book is bad. Very bad.
Certainly many people will still go and see it. Certainly some people will like it. People see and like bad movies all the time. I don’t want to pick on Nicholas Cage, but he has certainly been in some bad movies. And the biggest money maker of movies globally is Transformers: Age of Extinction. Bad movie. Great payday.
I do recognize we all have different opinions and standards of goodness in a movie. I think Raising Arizona is a great movie; my dad thinks its one of the greatest examples of a stupid movie. But here is a sampling of the emerging consensus (as of 10/3/14):
and the most important review, Christianity Today (which you should go read now): 0.5 stars out of 4, only because giving 0 stars was not allowed
The Christianity Today reviewer, Jackson Cuidon, makes the controversial argument that Left Behind is not really a Christian movie; rather, it is a movie marketed toward Christians. That is an important distinction.
Hollywood producers now know that American Christians feel that way about their faith—that Christians so desperately want to participate in the mainstream, that they’re tired of having sanctioned music that’s like other music and movies like other movies and politicians like other politicians but always still being on the outside, that Christians just want to feel identified without having to carve out little alcoves or niche markets that exist alongside the Big Boys.
And, now that they know it—that is, now that they know they can make back 5x their initial financial investment—they want to exploit that, by pumping out garbage (not moral garbage, just quality garbage), slapping the “Christian” label on it, and watching the dollars pour in.
I’ve not seen the movie, I’ve never seen the original series of movies, and I probably never will. So I won’t attempt to review the film myself. But if it is as bad as other “Christian” movies (meaning movies marketed at Christians), I fear we are leaving behind something BIG.
Because Jesus was a master storyteller. We are still telling his stories today; in fact, they are among the most widely known stories in the world. And Jesus attracted crowds. But he also confronted those crowds with the same stories that attracted them. His parables are simple on the surface, yet utterly deep upon reflection – a pool in which a gnat can swim but an elephant can drown, as its been said.
What are we leaving behind? Not just respectability. Not just relevance. We have left behind the Jesus-inspired, transformative power of story when our movies are widely seen as flat, one-dimensional propaganda.
And of course, the real star of this movie–the Rapture–was never a Christian belief for 18 centuries and is not affirmed by the majority of Christians today. Because it’s not in the Bible. But it sure makes a great disaster flick.
Or maybe not…
We can talk about the Rapture and where it came from in a future post.
Our Faith Formation series on Revelation is underway each Wednesday night and I’ve made two promises so far:
First, if you come, we will clear up some fog for you and help you understand this perplexing book a bit better.
Second, if you come, we will not clear up all the fog. We will not solve all the mysteries. Probably not even half of them. If the church has wrestled with this book for 2,000 years and still shares so many diverse interpretations and opinions, then how will we will sort through them all by meeting each Wednesday for an hour after dinner?
So, we will learn and grow. But we won’t know it all. I think 99% of Christians are content with that. (Although, let’s face it… on some level, who doesn’t want to know it all!)
In our study, I’ve given some guardrails for reading Revelation. These are broad, generally accepted guidelines of interpretation. Certainly, some people travel outside of these guardrails (just as some people crash through guardrails on real roads!), but staying inside these guardrails will get us a lot further down the road in understanding this book.
The latest guardrail we’ve acknowledged I’ve borrowed from Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, in their great little book, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: Revelation doesn’t mean now what it never meant then. Fee and Stuart rightly apply this to all books of the Bible. It’s worth emphasizing with Revelation because so many people run right through this guardrail and wind up way down in some narrow, scary ditch where only they see what they think they see in the book.
How Not to Read Revelation
Case in point: the profoundly silly but enormously influential idea that the messages to the seven churches in Asia (Revelation chs. 2 & 3) are not really messages to those churches at all but code for epochs of church history that will unfold in the next 20 centuries. I have a popular study Bible on my shelf that makes this case rather matter-of-factly. We live, supposedly, in the Laodicea era–the last era, of course.
Actually, I think there tremendous insights to be gleaned from comparing Laodicea with our modern, western world. But there are many other insights to be gleaned from the other six churches and their unique circumstances. We actually narrow the possibilities of hearing God’s Word speak to us when we impose these narrow interpretations that emerge from human calculation and fascination and not the text (and basic principles of interpretation).
I believe this is a big part of why many people are scared of Revelation… other people seem to have it all decoded and charted and figured out, while they don’t! (Don’t believe it. No one has the future mapped out like a coded history book written in advance. Period.)
But here’s the biggest error in the historicist, seven churches = epochs of church history interpretation: it presumes that Jesus is not doing what he says he’s doing, namely, delivering a message to these seven churches in Asia. Our interpretations go out of bounds into arrogance when we assume that these letters meant next to nothing to the first audience, nor to people in succeeding centuries, and only now do we finally understand the secret message that Jesus was really giving to us instead of Smyrna, Laodicea, Ephesus and so forth.
Here’s a better rule: Revelation doesn’t mean now what it never meant then. We are reading the Bible at our best when we work to understand what the Word of God meant to the primary audience, then ask God what this Word means for us today. This is often hard work; but it shouldn’t be confounding, convoluted, or scary. Let’s not make Revelation into what Jesus never intended it to be.
The great Reform er Martin Luther was a big proponent of putting Scripture in the hands and in the minds of laypeople, arguing against the dominant understanding of Scripture as rightly understood only through the traditional avenues of interpretation endorsed by the “Church” and protected by priests. For this reason, Luther translated the Bible into ordinary German–the kind spoken in the streets and not a lecture hall.
Luther’s Bible included the book of Revelation, yet begrudgingly it seems. Luther did not number its pages (same with the Letter of James), nor did he include it in the Bible’s table of contents. We don’t have to wonder why, as Luther made clear his opinion that the book was confusing and contained very little gospel to his ear. He would not reject it, he said, he just did not like it. (As you may already know, Martin Luther had little trouble sharing such feelings.)
What is your take on Revelation? It’s surely one of the most unusual books in the Bible. It’s also one of the most difficult to understand. Many may wonder why any time should be devoted to its study. (Others, it seems, wonder why anyone would study anything else!) I’d like to invite you to a study on this “troublesome” book. Our weekly Faith Formation study has emerged from the questions and curiosity of people like you. We won’t solve every puzzle for sure – after 2,000 years of study, it would be supreme arrogance to suppose we could. But Revelation is nothing to fear, and nothing to foam in fascination over. It is a word of encouragement to faithful living, and a testimony to who Jesus is.
We’ll post a few odds and ends online, but we really hope that you’ll stop by some Wednesday if you’re in the area!