Category Archives: Christian Theology

Vintage Church – Mark Driscoll

41j3n3-sdkl_ss500_Although I am always interested in most things Mark Driscoll writes or preaches I had no intention of purchasing Vintage Church. But after a recent course in Missiology I’ve been thinking much about church planting and missions, and have had many questions as to the “how’s” and “where’s” and “why’s” of the subject in general. To be specific, if I were ever to plant a church in a city in the U.S. or abroad, where would I begin? How would I (and some close friends Lord willing) start such a thing? Knowing that Driscoll has successfully planted a church (and continues to plant more), and after reading an endorsement for the book by Driscoll himself, I decided to give it a try with hopes of learning from Driscoll’s experience at Mars Hill. I picked up the book from Lifeway, quickly discarded the dust jacket (very annoying), and dove in.

Vintage Church is part of a series of works by Resurgence Literature (Re:Lit) and published by Crossway. The first book to appear in this series was Vintage Jesus, which I skimmed but have not yet read. As the titles suggest, “Jesus” and “Church” are timeless and timely; that is, although ancient they speak the same truths to our culture and generation. Yet whereas Vintage Jesus sought to provide timeless answers to timely questions, Vintage Church seeks to combine timeless truths with timely methods in order to provide a biblical, attractive and influential model of “doing church.” Like Vintage Jesus and Death by Love (see my review here), Driscoll co-writes with professor Gerry Breshears of Western Seminary. Driscoll writes the bulk of each chapter and Breshears provides answers to expected and common questions at the end of the chapters, which are listed below:

1. What is the Christian Life?
2. What is a Christian Church?
3. Who is Supposed to Lead a Church?
4. Why is Preaching Important?
5. What Are Baptism and Communion?
6. How Can a Church be Unified?
7. What is Church Discipline?
8. How is Love Expressed in a Church?
9. What is a Missional Church?
10. What is a Multi-campus Church?
11. How Can a Church Utilize Technology?
12. How Could the Church Help Transform the World?

As you can see, any seminary student can answer the first 8 or 9 questions, or at least I hope they can. In this sense there is nothing new to learn in Vintage Church. Driscoll is clearly influenced by reformed theology and most matters of church polity and practice follow suit. Throughout the book he quotes from Grudem, Piper, Erickson and Calvin, which is to be expected. There are, of course, the open-handed differences that distinguish one denomination from another, such as credobaptism over paedobaptism, complementarian over egalitarian (maybe not so open-handed), male and female deacons (Driscoll holds to both), and the expressions of the Spirit in tongues and prophecy (also held by Driscoll). But for the most part his ecclesiology is thoroughly evangelical and God-honoring. The only unique material comes from Driscoll’s anecdotes and personal stories, which are always enjoyable, and from the final 3 or 4 chapters. To that end I don’t necessarily recommend the book, mostly because I don’t see the necessity of another book on ecclesiology. Certainly the church must change and adapt to the culture around them, that is agreed. But why waste 300 pages regurgitating what has already been written? Moreover, don’t we already have enough books floating around about missional, multi-campus, technologically advanced churches? Perhaps I’m being overly simplistic. I’ll leave that up for you to decide. Maybe I’m not “vintage” enough.

In the end, I had more fun reading the many “driscollisms” splattered throughout Vintage Church than the rest of the book. The man has an uncanny ability at turning a phrase. Here are some highlights:

“The people who showed up [in my early church plant] were generally non-Christians, new Christians, legalistic Christians, anti-Christians, and bitter, burned-out, de-churched maybe-Christians who all wanted to be in authority over themselves and do whatever they wanted in the name of community, which was code for mini-riot anarchy.”

“I once visited a church that gave me a free copy of the pastor’s sermon – on tape – even though I have not seen a tape player since the days when Michael Jackson was male. Looking around the room at the obvious lack of anyone younger than Methuselah, it seemed obvious that their traditionalism had run off emerging generations, thereby dividing their church into the two groups of BT (before tapes) and AT (after tapes).”

“The fact is that when our church was small, I, like many jealous, petty, and ill-informed young buck who know everything but have done nothing, liked to take my shots at well-known pastors of large churches. Now that I am one, I must confess that I was much like the out-of-shape guy with a bowl of chips sitting at home on the couch watching television and criticizing trained professional athletes, which is far easier than actually playing the sport.”

“Admittedly, churches do some incredibly goofy things when they pursue relevance for the sake of being uber hip and ultra cool. one pastor I know go so many piercings that he looked like a rack of lures at the Bass Pro Shop and started skateboarding, despite the fact he was a grandfather.”

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The Gospel Poem

 

His Wisdom shone forthresurrection3

On Calvary’s tree

And shown to mankind

God’s blessed decree!

Wrath, yet mercy’s beauty –

No indulgence was free.

 

“Finished!” came the cry

Submission sealed in word;

On Crimson blotted weathered wood

The Church in Him was gird.

Far better than the blood of rams,

The Elect now walk assured!

 

The Lord, The Lord, just and holy,

While He loved His precious Son

Laid His Righteous wrath upon Him

Forsook Him as His will was done

The Carpenter sighed… then limply hung.

Behold – a greater Priest than Aaron!

 

They locked Him in a guarded grave

And the damned devils danced with glee

The Eleven hid in despairing doubt

Till Christ appeared in victory!

Then spread their message through the world:

“HE HAS RISEN, and so shall we!”

 

 

– by Asa Hart

 

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Art and the Gospel, part 2

It is important that we are not misled by a red herring that says that an emphasis on art in the Church is directly connected to a selfish and stingy heart. I know men who preach the Gospel out of selfish envy and vain conceit. I know men who collect books and study theology with visions of accolades and glory dancing through their heads (I confess my guilt). I know men (and have read of some) who give ostentatiously and sacrificially as Ananias and Sapphira did. I know men and women who have sacrificed much on the mission field, some of whom anticipate and long for the praise of men when they go in and out the door of the churches they visit. Don’t you dare think for a moment that because you are not prone to idolatry and selfishness in one area or that because you avoid one form of idolatry through the stifling of God-given talent that you avoid such sins altogether!

“Worship that is acceptable to God is self-abasing, not self exalting.” This is from Allen Ross’ Recalling the Hope of Glory. This statement rings true in all aspects of life, and there is a rightness about it that resonates within our hearts, (hopefully) humbling us as we read it. And then we see that the prayer of the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14 was not an exercise in godliness, but a self-glorifying mantra bent on misconstruing one’s own self-image (and conversely robbing God of His glory). The art we produce as believers must not be guilty of such a charge. There certainly is something wrong with large productions within the Church which are bent on making man feel good about man. This can take the form of plays, sculptures, music… and outreach programs, missions (Matt. 23:15; Phil. 1:15), tithes (Matt. 6:1-4), and prayer. But the Church should and must be patrons of God-honoring, Christ-exalting art!

Jan van Eyck’s painting the Adoration of the Lamb is a wonderful example of such art. How rich the theological tones of the atonement which were beautifully stroked into this work! It is impossible for a believer to view such a painting without its vivid potrayal effectively etching a breathing theology into our heads! C. J. Mahaney once said that worship music was take-home theology for the Church to easily memorize. How true! Does not a van Eyck’s painting work to the same end? How destitute our churches are when it comes to beautiful stained-glass theology lessons! Art is not to our detriment but will aid in building the strength of the Church!

I have not yet delved into the idea of man as the image bearer of God. God is creative! He made the universe in fact! Man is to bear such an image with excellence in all his craftsmanship and works of dominion over creation.

Do not stifle such an opportunity in your churches, and yet do not let them run with reckless abandon. We must be guided by the Word of God, always checking our hearts to guard against the folly of idolatry which we are always so prone to wander into.

– Asa

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Unveiling the Cross: Thoughts on Genesis 1-3 (Part 1)

It’s incredible how much affect the account in Genesis 1 to 3 has on our understanding of Christian doctrine. An attentive and thoughtful reading of the creation account, institution of man and woman in the garden, and of the subsequent fall is essential to understanding the entire redemptive fabric of the canon (redemptive=story of salvation). The creation account offers us cosmic truth. The garden shows us God’s intention with his creation. We so often need to remember that the current world we live in, as we will see, is cursed. But, because of the death and resurrection of Christ, the cosmos are awaiting a great and grand redemption with us. See Romans 8:18-23.

Further, we need to understand that this garden paradise was a  sanctuary. This was a place where God spoke directly to Adam  and Eve (cf. Gen. 1:28, 29; 2:16, 18; 3:9, 13-14). We are also  told that God walked in this garden (3:8). This same verbal  expression is used to describe God’s presence (lit. ‘walking’) in  the Temple (see Lev. 26:12; Dt. 23:14; 2 Sam. 7:6-7). The  imagery indicates that God’s presence was in the garden. Its  interesting to note that the Temple walls, which ‘contained’ the presence of God were inlaid with pictures of open flowers and gourds. The innermost part of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, was symbolically guarded by two cherubim whose wings stretched the entire breadth of the room (compare Genesis 3:24). Further, in Genesis 2:15 Adam is told to “cultivate and keep” the garden. These same verbs are used to describe the work of the priests’ in the temple: “to serve and keep” (see Num. 3:7-8; I Chr. 23:32). This is imagery reflective of Genesis 1-2. Its important to see that later Old Testament revelation reveals that Adam was a kind of priest, who was to keep charge of the garden sanctuary. This was more than paradise, this was where God and man dwelt together on earth.

This is why we are told in Genesis 3:23 that God “sent” Adam out of the garden. God cannot fellowship with sin! Isaiah’s reaction in Isaiah 6:5 when he sees God sitting on his throne is very instructive, “And I said: Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Seeing God did not cause Isaiah to become a sinner. Instead, seeing God made Isaiah acutely aware of his sinfulness. This sin problem is the continuing problem of mankind.

But, here’s the big question? Did Adam sin? What’s going on in this story of the Fall? Many think that the serpent testing Eve is simply a fictional story that represents the existences of both good and evil in the world. Although I’d love to spend time on these kind of theories, we must take the narrative of Scripture as historical reality. There really was a serpent and Adam and Eve were truly the first human beings. Paul himself recognizes this and prescribes Adam’s sinful actions in the garden as the reason that we are all born into sin: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). The role of Adam as priest in the garden sanctuary sheds light on his representative role for all humanity. There are many theories on how Adam’s sin has past down to us. I think these are silly and useless. The point is, that’s what happened and that is the condition we are all now in: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).

So what was this sin? Next time we shall have a closer look at the temptation of Eve and the resultant Fall. Until next time…

-Randall

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Response to Asa: The Glory of God and the Law Firm Magnet

I heartily agree with my esteemed brother Asa in many ways regarding his view of art and the church (Art and Gospel post) and I have a high regard for his passion for evangelism.  However, his belief that “art is not simply a cosmetic luxury for the church, but a necessary avenue of worship” has some rather interesting implications.  Firstly, defining art (especially in our pluralistic culture) has proven to be a tricky thing to do as everything at some level can be called art.  Therefore, this post is conscious of the gray area of art and it will try and focus solely on the black and white.

The written word has always been the covenant community’s focal point throughout the history of special revelation with art being used only as a bookend.  Art was used in amazing ways pointing out the glory of God with a microcosmic proclamation of his glory in all the Temples of Israel.  In the early church we find art in the catacombs of Europe even while martyrdom lay just around the corner.  It is clear that God magnifies himself in beauty found in all of his created order and this beauty should therefore be mirrored by his creation from the cosmic universe to the kids’ drawings on the front of our refrigerator held up by the local Law Firm magnets.  All things in all creation are to mirror and reflect the awesome glory of our God and who else is better suited to do that then his redeemed people as they look forward to the redemption of all things?

That said, the glory that God receives from our art is nothing compared to the universal proclamation of the fact that He is Lord over creation.  We find the very angels of Heaven rejoicing over one soul that is saved even while they abide continually before throne of God Almighty (Luke 15:10)!  How much greater and incomparably more important is the salvation of the lost over a church’s new steeple, new décor for the youth room or the weekly spread of new flowers for the front of the church.  Art and the use of it by the church is in many ways a gray area where the Scriptures do not explicitly regulate their use and we have generations of rich artwork that demonstrate a Christian culture that throughout the centuries has attempted to reconcile the human with the divine.  It must ultimately be left to the digression of the church to decide expenditures of time and money but these decisions must be made in light of the Great Commission which I fear too often is lost in the swell of self-centeredness.

As a Southern Baptist I heartily hold to Cooperative Program and the theological tenant that we are merely stewards of all the resources that God has gifted to his Church and its members.  Thus, I find it somewhat irreconcilable for the American churches to build up their “sanctuaries” as if they are to become the abode of the Ark while the masses of the world live and die having never heard the gospel because no one went.  I sorrowfully believe the western church has reneged on its reality of being a debtor (Rom 1:14) to the entire world for the sake of being a debtor to both the culture and the local credit union.  Art can be good and should be used within the church the glorify God, but ultimately we are a Kingdom people living for Kingdom purposes and so all things must be subjected to the ultimate needs of building the Church through evangelism and discipleship.

My brother Asa shared the story of Francis Schaffer’s son Frankie who moved away from the Christian faith because of its lack of appreciation for art.  Let me respond with a story of mine own.  I was having a conversation with a friend last week about the church and the gospel.  Her main point of contention and one which I was unable to move past was that in her whole life experience the church had done nothing but take from her and her family members.  In her mind the monetary pull of the offering plate overshadows the pull of the mercy and love of God demonstrated through the gospel.  I fear the church is able in this society to forget the most important things and instead settle for things of far lesser importance.  So, art is good and it can be used to advance the proclamation of the gospel.  Probably no one has ever gotten saved by looking at a cross unless that cross has been preached preached and likely no one has ever had their mined renewed or their life transformed through the power of a good stereo sound system unless the Word of God is proclaimed through it.  Let us not build upon wood, hay, and stubble unless that wood is the cross of Christ.

-Brad

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Unveiling the Cross: An Introduction

There is a song by The Swift that is mostly comprised of one line, “This is the love song”  It’s a catchy song that I find myself singing and whistling constantly its main repetitious lines, “This is the love song…”, and I find myself only wanting.  There are so many rich songs offering praise to God, and all that I can conjure up in my mind is “This is the love song!”  Why don’t I sing Martin Luther’s famous “A Mighty Fortress is our God” or the more contemporary “There is a Higher Throne” by Keith and Kristyn Getty. 

Here’s the point:  My quest for an intellectually and spiritually deeper praise song to sing illustrates my general concern for all Christians and their knowledge of basic Christian doctrines.  Ignorance of Christian truth is a great malody in the contemporary church.  This is why we constantly seek to entertain.  Pastor’s don’t know truth, so they can’t give it, so they make us laugh, sing happy songs that help us leave feeling good and glad we just wasted our time.

We don’t know God, nor His love, because we don’t know or understand the magnificent, glorious truth of the Gospel.  Why do we say the cross is center to our faith?  What’s the big deal about the cross?  Our answer is, “Well, Jesus died for you and me.”  That’s true if you wish to give the very minimum.  It is my argument that the cross, and its proclamation – the Gospel – is the key to a vibrant, beautiful, fulfilling, joyful relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The cross is not just the Romans road – the entrance to Christianity – it is the very bricks on which we walk. If you don’t know this, then the real experience of being a Christian will be mundane, distant and purposeless.  This is the diagnosis of scores of Christians.  Ignorance my friends, is not bliss…The best we can do is to think of Jim Cavezal’s re-enactment.  I’d argue that James Caviezel knows more about the passion of the Christ, not as a movie, but as a historical reality, than most Christians do.

So here we go…I have pondered and pondered what my contribution would be to this blog.  That’s why I haven’t written much lately.  I wish to be intentful… so here is my intent.  I want to share with you, my readership, whoever you may be, whatever you may now believe, the central truth of Christianity.  I want you to understand more fully the marvelous word of the cross. Posts will come up, most of the time, on Monday/Tuesday evenings.  Until then…

-Randall

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