Monthly Archives: July 2013

Worship of TRON

So, worship at Grace this week was a bit of an assault on the senses.  It was a little like being on the set of TRON, with inspirational banners and praise music designed to go down like soma.  Which is fine if you are trying to convey a message about the inevitable future of evolution in which humanity spawns an autonomous digital consciousness, with which we wage war.  It seemed like an attempt to integrate as many such circuits into the performance as we could.  Oh, I call it a performance because everyone claps afterwards.  I have every confidence that certain members of Grace’s leadership have a love for the creation of all things digital.  But, do we want our church to resemble mammon driven Times Square?  I have my doubts, but I am certain that the discussion has not been had.  There was no conversation with the congregation about how the indepth study of the scripture has directed leadership to believe that this is the best way to serve God in worship.

Now in this age, any criticism of anything is swiftly met with “who are you to say?”  And Culture has a few answers which trump all others “I’m an expert”, “I have a degree” or “I am famous”.  Well it is rarely stated that bluntly but we still seek authority in the institutions of man, which is modernism.  Or more recently in postmodern any one preference is invalid because everyone is their own authority.(A good remedy to this type of thinking  is C.S. Lewis’, An Experiment in Criticism)  Either way, the worship service is not about us, it is about God.  It is about conforming our person to his.  It is about training our tastes to his.  This is the type of thing that happens whether we acknowledge it or not.  The church has been directing us, we have become that which we worship. Unfortunately the church has been directed by these worldly ideas. So we think it’s all a matter of ‘taste’ as if our ‘taste’ was trained by God himself, rather than the reality that it was trained by the world.  I think leadership can fall into this sin of making the service about the people in subtle ways.  They might phrase it thus, “I know the service was God honoring because many people told me they were blessed”.  Well that could just be code for “I made the crowd feel good”, ‘blessed’ could simply be another way of saying “it was what I like”.  So they direct the worship in ways that brings in those sorts of compliments.  Worship is about God.

God did not regard Cain’s sacrifice.

Worship of God is a serious thing.  The first recorded offering to God reiterates this point.  In Genesis 4 Cain and Able both make offerings to the Lord.  Cain brought an offering of his work which was of the fruit of the ground and Able brought an offering from his work which were sheep from his flock.(These are the 3rd and 4th humans, where are the hunter gatherers?  They only exist in the minds of evolutionist and on earth today.  They are those who have left God and gone backward. Genesis 4:14  The Bible is clear in the beginning were farmer and shepherds.)  God rejected Cains’ offering.  That’s about all we get. Cain did not violate any command that we know of.  The fruit of the ground was acceptable sacrifice to the Lord later Leviticus 2 .  God says “If you do well, will you not be accepted?”

Uzzah steadies the ark.

We are not told all the reasons why God rejected Cain.  We have to think hard about it.  How do we ‘do well’?   In light of the New Testament we tend to think all God cares about is the heart.  But the well know verse “I desire mercy and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” Hoseah 6:6, is from the Old Testament. There are other such verses in the Old Testament like Isaiah 1:11.  God always wanted the heart, but there is something else in the Old Testament, God did require sacrifice.  Not only that he required very specific sacrifices and even enforced these rules.  2 Samuel 6:6 tells the story of the well intentioned Uzzah who was killed for trying to steady the Ark. Worship is careful obedience.

But that was just the Old Testament right?  We are under grace, the New Covenant, Christian Liberty, I can do whatever I want.  Well, not exactly.  The New Testament is full of principles that should guide our heart as well as specifics that should guide our outward worship.  It requires hard work and diligence.  The evangelical church these days tends to shy away from ‘religion’, it has become a dirty word. But God did not create us wandering spirits, he gave us bodies and prescribed certain ways to behave with those bodies.  He gave us the bread and the wine, which is repetitive,is based on a body of Passover tradition, is pregnant with complex metaphor, and both do real actions to us Luke 22:14-23.  He instituted baptism which is real water contacting our skin, it really does cleanse and is full of just as much metaphor, it is religious  Matthew 28:19.  Worship is ordered ritual.

Leonardo Da Vinci, The Last Supper

 This is in no way intended to be the whole discussion, it is only the beginning.  But we can get a long way in borrowing from wisdom of the past(Oh no here he goes again with the past.  Try to think of it as the tested.  What is so great about novelty?  The problems of the world are all new.  The quickest way to be irrelevant is to catch a trend, for it is instantly irrelevant.  The church is generally just following the world 20 years behind.  Not only do we follow novelty but we follow old novelty. This is the ridiculousness of the TRON cubes).  We are not alone, having to reinvent everything from the wheel up, in a world of computers.  The church has left a rich legacy of applying Christian faith to every area of life. The sermon last week exhorted us to be so satisfied with the spiritual food of Christ so that we don’t go looking for food in the evils of the world. I think part of our inability to see this rich food is because we limit the effective work of Christ to church time, or religious things.  Our time in church at worship is not God time and the rest is our time.  It is a first fruits offering Leviticus 23:9-14 or a tithe, indicating that it is all God’s time.  Christ is Lord over every area of our lives, not just churchy stuff, everything.  I believe the medievals realized this.  And tasting of their rich culture makes the TRON scene seem completely inadequate.  Walking into one of their cathedrals forces you to sit down in awe.  You can actually feel the presence of God.  Your little problems and your puny music preferences fade away.  You realize you are nothing before a holy God.  I don’t know exactly how to pull this off today, I’m sure it can take on many forms.  But I know illuminated geometric shapes in a tope enclosure, are not it.  And what they do express, the god they point to, is disturbing.  So, think more, converse more and maybe we can conform ourselves and our leaders and our worship more and more to Christ.

Salisbury Cathedral, UK

Salisbury Cathedral, UK

Further Reading: http://www.amazon.com/Mother-Kirk-Essays-Church-Life/dp/1885767722/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375311423&sr=8-1&keywords=mother+kirk

Teachers Caught Teaching

“What I say isn’t that important, but what, the Bible says is important”  says the pastor.

“OK, I’m leaving” says I, “I can read it myself at home”.

What is going on here?  Why are we gathered together if what you say is not important?  James says “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness”. James 3:1  Christ says “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:40  The Ethiopian Eunuch says “How can I [understand] unless someone guides me?” Acts 8:30,31

Of course what you say is important.  James warns because, teachers have been given a high charge of shaping and influencing others.  It should not be taken lightly but it should not be simply written off as if you have no responsibility.  This phrase makes it sound like you have been placed in the pulpit by a god holding a gun to your back, and if you make one false move, Bang!  It sounds like the wicked servant in Matthew 25:14-30.  He didn’t want to take any responsibility by risking the gift of his master so he went and hid it in the ground.  How foolish, God want’s us to take what he has given us and do something with it, risk it.  Boldly proclaim the word, find some new metaphors or take some metaphors from the Old Testament and show them in the light of Christ.  Rewrite the Psalms with the mystery of Christ revealed, as was the wont of the early hymn writers.  Don’t timidly hide behind a disclaimer.  It would be nice if we all could walk around in Galilee with Jesus but we can’t, but He gave us the Holy Spirit, He gave us pastors, he gave us you. You are a representative of Christ, you are ultimately his disciple, but you are also a leader discipling others.  Sure you could screw up, but that’s why there is repentance, you can’t give up the fight before it’s even begun. “Don’t you know that you will judge the angels?”  I Corinthians 6

I believe this type of statement is driven by a sort of we-don’t-want-to-accidentally-be-Catholic-ISM.   It’s like George Costanza who was always afraid that something would prove he was gay.  He was so insecure, he feared he was just one random event away from finding himself playing for the other team.  Evangelicals do the same thing when they try to pretend they don’t have any liturgy, tradition,leaders, history, rituals, or religion of any sort.  ”Not me I’m sola scriptura all the way nothing to see here, he he”.  ”I’m not a, Catholic–honest”.  Coming out of the confessional is not at all like coming out of the closet.

Every church has a liturgy whether they want to admit it or not, the question is whether you have a God honoring liturgy or not.  Every church has a tradition.   At Grace we have a tradition.  The church was started by a group of people discontent with the authority of their denominational churches who decided to have a bible study in the home of one Dr. Heetderks Sr..

Pastor Hoff and Dr. Heetderks in front of Grace Gospel Tabernacle

Pastor Hoff and Dr. Heetderks @ Grace Gospel Tabernacle, Bozeman,MT

They believed that the denominational churches were straying from the bible so they left.  It is in a sense a tradition of throwing off authority, in the spirit of the Reformation and perhaps even the American spirit of our War for Independence.  Maybe that’s why we are so quick to throw away the glorious riches passed down to us from the medieval Christian.   This is our tradition and it does affect us even today. So, we need to stop pretending that we are above all this or more holy or closer to Jesus and the 1st century, whatever that means.  We have tradition.

We have pushed sola scriptura to insane limits. “All I need is my bible”.  ”Well can I at least teach you to read?” “no education is a political issue and I’m just gonna sit here in a field with my bible, I sleep on it and is soaks into my head”. Like Steve Martin in his bathrobe in The Jerk: “this idol, my B-I-B-L-E, that’s all I need for me”.   This is foolishness.  And pretending that teachers don’t teach or exercise authority is merely to guarantee that the world directs these events.  I’m glad Philip didn’t tell the Ethiopian, who already had the scripture, that he had all that he needed. Instead he gave him the good news.  And the Ethiopian understood and asked to be baptized.  This is how God works, he uses human agents.  It was human agents who preserved the scripture all these years.  They carried it across 2000 years of history and thousands of miles of land and every culture under the sun.  It was they who fought battles for orthodoxy.  It was they who sought to apply Old and New Testament to every aspect of life and culture.  It was WE who threw it all away with silly notions of Cathlophobia.

So, pastors teach without apology.  Mine the riches of tradition and become part of it as you lend your creations to the great conversation that is orthodox theology.  Or we might start believing that what you say isn’t important, and just walk away.

Who Framed Capitalism?

TOON TOWN, CA

I think this clip sums up how most people view recent history. Which is no surprise, they have been students of Hollywood for a century now. The fact is that, whether you realize it or not, the silver screen has been the source of much of our thinking. And since the days of Reagan and McCarthy, Hollywood has pushed Marxist themes in most of its movies.

Here decades of history are condensed into the maniacal workings of an evil toon genius. An earth worshiping elitist has become disenchanted with the modern concrete world of interstates and gas stations, and so he invents a narrative of a top down evil business, oriented towards destroying the utopian Toon Town, which is more or less a metaphor for a romantic days-gone-by ideal. It might be considered a joke if it were not the most common narrative in the movies these days. 3:10 to Yuma astonishingly transforms the life blood of the west, the railroad, into an evil corporation seizing land. Harrison Ford’s version of Sabrina, transforms an older version’s CEO from a responsible steward of the shareholders’ money into a greedy profit seeking soulless machine.

In reality the Interstate Highway System was the result of the post-war can-do American spirit. I will grant that it was driven by a sort of modern humanism and a certain we’re #1 bravado. Worship of man’s achievements is the worship of a false god, and America worshiped whole heartedly. But the fact remains that the automobile was an attainable mark of freedom. And, America wanted roads to drive them on. Millions of little decisions, people voting with their wallets, lead to the creation of this system.

Further, this thinking is not limited to highways. It is the way most people view many staples of our modern world. Big Agriculture, Big Food, Big Medicine, Big Pharmaceutical, and even Big Government are viewed the same way. But the fact is that the American people got what they wanted. None of these institutions would have amounted to anything, had they not provided goods or services that the people wanted, better than competitors. But, because we don’t like some of the fruits of fanatical modernism, we have to go back and change the history to attack those we don’t happen to like today. And Hollywood had been successful in doing just that.

We foolishly think that because we read it on a blog, that we came up with it ourselves. But we have been trained and are continually trained by our government schools, liberal media, and liberal Hollywood, in very deep ways. We need to take every thought captive. We need to be as discerning as serpents. Movies are not just entertainment, they affect the core of our thinking. And most seek to do it for the worse. So next time you go to the movies take your brain think hard about what you are being taught.

http://ndturner.com/evil%20big%20business/

Pig Dogs

No, it’s not about a Monty Python insult, well maybe a little.  Why does Peter end the second chapter of his second letter with bashing dogs and pigs?  It is difficult for us to understand what these animals represented to the ancient Israelites, because today these are two of our favorite creatures.  Bacon posts seem to have taken over Facebook and, in Bozeman at least, everyone seems to have at least one of man’s best friend.  But this was the opposite of an Israel under God’s Torah.  God repeats the theme of ‘you are my people, set apart’ over and over in the Pentateuch.  Part of that was a focus on clenliness which was a visual metaphor for holiness.  You serve a holy God so you will show it by being clean . Leviticus 10:10,11 This meant staying away from food that lived in the dirt. It even goes back to Genesis when God curses the serpent “the dust you shall eat. So durt immediately brings pigs to mind, but it also includes shellfish and reptiles.  There is also an emphasis on things which associate with carcases of unclean or even clean animals.  As most dog owners know dogs love to roll in filth and dead carcases, in addition Leviticus 11:27 calls them out as unclean, not to mention the vomit.  Which brings us to Peter’s mentioning of them.  Even to this day the middle east has very little respect for dogs, or pigs.  Typical dogs are mangy and roam the streets only to flee as people throw rocks at them, pigs are the ultimate insult.  We still have much of this in our language.  We have many insults about both these creatures.  As a side note ‘son of’ whatever is a phrase which means ‘the ultimate representative of’ so we have ‘Son of God’ often as the ultimate representative of God, or ‘son of a dog’ or Monty Python’s ‘son of a silly person’ as their respective insults.  The nature of these animals is uncleanness, just like the false teachers, or the fools conjured by the Proverbs 26:11 passage Peter alludes to.  So, try to avoid being the son of a heretic, for you are a people set apart as holy.

Who was Judas Iscariot?

Judas, Study for the Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci

After two centuries of mythopoeia (see a future post I have not written, or G.K. Chesterton, on myth) surrounding this sinister character we more or less throw everything at him and no one really objects.  Maybe we are in good company John 12:6 but I think he has gotten a bad wrap, and we may be more like him than we like to think.

javert_croweI really think Judas is a lot like Inspector Javert from Les Miséserables.  He lived by a code of justice, which was for the most part honorable.  He upheld a duty to the law and fought for what was right.  But in the end he couldn’t understand the path of forgiveness and sacrifice layed out by our Lord.  Rather than repent and change his way of thinking, he committed suicide.  Similar to Judas.  Judas was ready to go to war to stop the tyrrany of Rome.  He wanted to see his people freed and the true King ascend to the throne.  These were all good things.  But he wanted to do it his way, Satan’s way, with no suffering.  We often seek this path as well.  Jesus cried out to his father in the garden asking if there was another way.  And there was, there was what Satan had offered him in the desert.  A kingdom with no death and suffering necessary, or so it seemed.  But our Lord prevailed and chose the path of suffering, that his Father might lift him up in victory.

There are many ways we can choose the easy way, which seems to get us what we want quickly with no humble sacrifice, with no suffering.  We try to get food we didn’t earn, maybe not direct theft but we steal it from our kids with pension plans or inflation or we steal from our neighbors by taking government handouts.  We want sex without the hard work of marriage and children.  We want a good job, for our family, so we lie a little on a resume.  We want to keep our job so we let others suffer unjustly so we don’t risk sticking our neck out.  ”It’s all for the children.”  We want good goals but we want to get there our way, right now, instead of God’s way.  We want to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, now, instead of in God’s time.  This is the root of much Sin.  This brings to mind Peter in the garden cutting off the hight priests’ ear.  He was ready to bring in the kingdom, without Jesus dying, that was not The Plan.  So he acted as Satan, he acted as Judas.  I’m sure Judas was as surprised as anyone when Jesus was arrested.  He thought he could force Jesus’ hand into rising up and ushering in the an earthly kingdom.  But when faced with the fact that his paradigm was incorrect, he chose suicide rather than repentance.  Judas was a heretic in the sense mentioned previously, he had no direct followers, but we can be his followers when we try to find our own shortcuts to the blessings of this world.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24

Javert on the Precipice

Javert on the Precipice

Apostasy vs. Heresy

‘Apostasy’ is not a word we use much these days, even less ‘heresy’.  At Grace they use the word ‘apostasy’ which is someone who has abandoned the faith, and ‘apostate false teacher’ someone who not only leaves but goes on to teach false doctrine.  These ideas are present in scripture. 1 John 2:19 is the idea of apostasy.  But I think historically the church has used a better word for those who actively teach false doctrine. Christ warned us of them in Matthew 7:15  They often do not believe they have left the faith, and even fight for their beliefs.  They are those who start denominations or cults. They are the Heretics.   Which I believe is the most accurate contemporary term for what Peter is talking about in II Peter 2  He even opens the chapter with the greek word that has become the basis for our word heresy.  In the Greek it was “a taking or choosing”.

The church has battled many such persons throughout the centuries.  In the USA we have the common ones the Mormons, Christian Scientist, Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  But if there is a battle today, between the church and these heresies it is a cold war.  There is, however, a heresy that is alive and well, and the battle is as hot as ever.

Born in the year 570, we don’t often think of his followers as heretics.  He was certainly a false prophet of the type our Lord warned us about in Matthew.  In fact his followers call him an-Nâbî, “the Prophet”.  He is Muhammad.  It may sound strange to many to refer to Islam as a Christian heresy but that really is the best explanation.

First of all what is your definition of heresy?  If you compared the doctrine of the groups above or even historical heresies it is in full agreement in 90 percent of doctrine.  For the most part these groups agree.  But that last 10 percent is crucial. Heresy is that which is almost right but not quite.  Theologians like to point out that the first great heresy came down to a single letter, homoiousios (alike in substance) vs homoousios (the same substance).  But that one letter makes a lot of theological difference.  To the modern non-militant Christian this seems silly, this is what has led to the modern day movement to unite all the sects, agree on what we can agree on and live in peace and milky apathetic harmony.  Well they have simply forgotten their history, men fought and died to maintain orthodoxy for hundreds of years, shall we consider their lives meaningless?  I think not.

Second, Muhammed is the poster child for what Peter is talking about in the second chapter of his second epistle. v. 2 many will follow…because of them the way of truth will be reviled v. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin,  v.18 they entice with licentious passions of the flesh, v. 19 they promise freedom but they themselves are slaves of corruption.  But the connection is not just in general.  Muhammed studied Christianity, he appreciated it’s structure and marveled at the way it spread so fast and so strongly throughout the world. He wanted this for himself, much like Simon the Sorcerer, he wanted to adapt Christianity for his use.  And he did.  Muhammedans beleive in Jesus and his teaching, but they believe that the bible was corrupted and that Muhammed’s writings are necessary to clarify and fix those corruptions.  You might not think there is much in common between Christianity and Islam.  But there are many paths by which can strike up a conversation and lead to the true gospel.

Further Reading: The Great Heresies, Hilaire Belloc  http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~spok/metabook/heresies.html
Icon from the Mégalo Metéoron Monastery in Greece, representing the First Ecumenical Council of Nikea 325 A.D., with the condemned Arius in the bottom of the icon.