Friday, May 16, 2008

A Biblically Orthodox Worldview makes a difference


Nathan shared this with me today-

Ron Sider’s recent article in Books and Culture, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience,” contains the too familiar stats on how evangelicals and born-againers live lives a millimeter above the pagans in America, or sometimes below, in the Bible belt. Nine percent of born again people (who say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus which is still important in their lives) have biblical world view (absolutes exist, God is the all-knowing, all-powerful, Creator who still rules the universe; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; Satan is a real, living entity; salvation is a free gift, not something we can earn; every Christian has a personal responsibility to evangelize; and the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches). However, this group of people stand out with significantly different behavior from the worldly “born-againers” and “evangelicals.” Here is Sider’s comment: "Barna’s findings on the different behavior of Christians with a biblical worldview underline the importance of theology. Biblical orthodoxy does matter. One important way to end the scandal of contemporary Christian behavior is to work and pray fervently for the growth of orthodox theological belief in our churches” (Jan/Feb, p. 42). Indeed, orthodoxy was the only factor the article pointed out correlated with a significant difference in Christian behavior.

17 comments:

rgmann said...

Barna’s findings on the different behavior of Christians with a biblical worldview underline the importance of theology. Biblical orthodoxy does matter.

This doesn’t surprise me at all. As Vincent Cheung so aptly points out:

“A repudiation of theology is also a refusal to know God through the way prescribed by him. Knowing the Scripture – knowing about God or studying theology – is prior to all of human life and thought. Theology defines and gives meaning to all that one may think or do. It ranks above all other necessities (Luke 10:42); no other task or discipline approaches it in significance. Therefore, the study of theology is the most important human activity.” (Systematic Theology, pg. 11-12)

Anonymous said...

Wow. I have been really working to understand what is happening in my church. I go to a local church in your area, and I may have written you recently, but I have to say it's refreshing to read what you have to say on issues in churches like mine. We're starting this "transformation" thing, and follow many Willow Creek/Saddleback themes. My pastors are reading Willard...and others. I am opening my eyes to a lot that I have never thought about before. I am hoping to learn about systematic theology...and other appropriate topics. I found http://www.monergism.com/. Is this a healthy site to your knowledge? What books are you reading? What books do you recommend for a near mid-life couple raising a housefull of children? We need to study scripture, yes, and then what is good to read? What is the best place to start in scripture for orthodoxy? What memorization do you suggest for our children (and us adults?).

DML

christianlady said...

Oh, and DML is me...so that you're seeing the open id

Reepicheep said...

DML,

1. Mongerism.com is an EXCELLENT site. I highly recommend it. Look under their main directory for "Emerging Church" or "Emergent" Church. There wyou will find analysis of what you seem to be seeing at your church. I think it's pretty dangerous stuff long term.

2. The best books I know for child-raising are "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Tedd Tripp (this is for raising young children, before teen years) and "Age of Opportunity" by Paul Tripp (for raising teens).

3. A must read that is theologically systematic and thoroughly biblical is J.I. Packer's "Knowing God". I can't recommend that book more highly. I also recommend "The Attributes of God" by A.W. Pink. Get yourself a good Systematic Theology book for reference purposes, like Reymond's Systematic Theology or Berkhof's Systematic (Berkhof also has a neat "mini systematic" based on his big one).

4. Honestly though, you need to be in a church that values and emphasizes these things. It's not to say there won't be problems at such a place...there is no perfect church (or next to perfect either), but the Scripture and study thereof must be primary for your growth in grace.

rgmann said...

Hi DML,

If you’re looking for a great local church, I would highly recommend Redeemer Presbyterian Church. The teaching is always theologically sound and challenging, the leadership is great, and the people are very warm and welcoming. We’d love to have you visit for a few Sundays to see what you think.

I’d also highly recommend Vincent Cheung’s Systematic Theology that I quoted from in my earlier post. It’s not as in-depth as Berkhof’s or Reymond’s, but it’s by far the best introduction to systematic theology I’ve read so far. Plus, you can read it for free in PDF format at the following website (under the “Library” link), so it’s pretty hard to beat! Take care and God bless!

vincentcheung.com

Unfortunately this site is temporarily down, but you can also read it in webpage format here:

Alternate Site

Reepicheep said...

Thanks Roger, that's gracious of you. DML, Check out the site Roger posted for sure.

christianlady said...

Oh Thank you...
Trust me, sadly, we are thinking of leaving our church. We have such great friends there, and mourn for them as they don't see this as a problem at all. We were blind ourselves not too long ago until a few friends who are strong and study the Bible and pray silently left. A few red flags came up earlier, but I had no background to figure it all out (coming from an essentially non-Christian home as a child). I appreciate the suggestions and links. I will follow up. Maybe you'll see me in your church with my large family...we've been very blessed in the "be fruitful and multiply" department.

Blessings!
DML

christianlady said...

Since I'm sharing on my LJ what my pastors are recommending I read...I would like to share your alternatives. Can I post either a link to you, or post the actual quote of the materials? I think there are people reading and following what I'm writing, and it would be good to get this information out there. I am an obnoxious protector of the faith when I know there is a problem (a pastor recently said I was like Peter...like cutting off the ear of the soldier in the garden). I do want to be helpful and not hindering...truth with love.

Oh and thanks also to rgmann.

Blessings!
DML

Reepicheep said...

DML, This is a public blog, so anything on it may be refered to as you see fit.

Regarding the decision to leave a church, I recommend this article:

http://www.biblebb.com/files/macqa/IA-lvchurch.htm

Reepicheep said...

Here's the article by MacArthur on when to leave a church:

The following "Question" was asked of John MacArthur Jr., the pastor of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California. Copyright 2001 by John MacArthur Jr., All Rights Reserved.

Question

When should a person leave a church?
Answer

Leaving a church is not something that should be done lightly. Too many people abandon churches for petty reasons. Disagreements over simple matters of preference are never a good reason to withdraw from a sound, Bible-believing church. Christians are commanded to respect, honor, and obey those whom God has placed in positions of leadership in the church (Heb.13:7, 17). However, there are times when it becomes necessary to leave a church for the sake of one's own conscience, or out of a duty to obey God rather than men. Such circumstances would include:

If heresy on some fundamental truth is being taught from the pulpit (Gal. 1:7-9).

If the leaders of the church tolerate seriously errant doctrine from any who are given teaching authority in the fellowship (Rom. 16:17).

If the church is characterized by a wanton disregard for Scripture, such as a refusal to discipline members who are sinning blatantly (1 Cor. 5:1-7).

If unholy living is tolerated in the church (1 Cor. 5:9-11).

If the church is seriously out of step with the biblical pattern for the church (2 Thess. 3:6, 14).

If the church is marked by gross hypocrisy, giving lip service to biblical Christianity but refusing to acknowledge its true power (2 Tim. 3:5).

This is not to suggest that these are the only circumstances under which people are permitted to leave a church. There is certainly nothing wrong with moving one's membership just because another church offers better teaching or more opportunities for growth and service. But those who transfer their membership for such reasons ought to take extreme care not to sow discord or division in the church they are leaving. And such moves ought to be made sparingly. Membership in a church is a commitment that ought to be taken seriously.

Rick Calohan said...

If I may, being one that left a mainline Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) for Redeemer PCA has been a blessing in so many ways.

In an email I wrote to Tony some two years ago (2006) here are some excerpts. Some names have been withheld to protect the innocent.

I remember the day you (Tony) were installed (August 2000), I know you, and the congregation at Redeemer have done great things for young Christian families in our area.

How can I a Bible believing Evangelical Conservative Christian remain in the PCUSA. I am sure Luther had the same thoughts in 1517 regarding the Catholic Church that no matter how much you wanted to reach out and reform the church, there comes a time when you must dust your sandals and walk away. I agree with you whole-heartedly. Sadly, many members of my old church (PCUSA) are quite elderly and only attend out of tradition. They were first or second generation Italian immigrants and that church use to belong to the PCUS. Although I have been a ruling elder and remain an elder in the PCUSA, I no longer attend accept for funerals. Our session recognizing the handwriting on the wall, in 2002, gradually handed over the church to the Haitian Christian Fellowship. They were more from an Episcopalian tradition but under the care of the Heartland Presbytery PCUSA. They are good people but if you can imagine attending a contemporary French Creole service then you will understand that although it maybe pleasing to God’s ear it does not serve well for those who speak English.

I know that what the PCUSA National Assembly proposes may not always funnel down to the local level, but no matter where you turn liberalism in politics and theology has destroyed and distraught a great many conservatives in the PCUSA. My former minister who retired last year has been a great friend and mentor over the years, (he baptized me when I was 12 years old) but I do not share his views on politics or theology. He has been replaced with a female minister, which to me is just as distracting as French Creole. It is difficult to attend a bilingual service that is now held in French Creole and English, and as much as I love the people, the service now at the church and the politics of the PCUSA do not agree with me.

Tony’s response was:

“Rick, we'd love to have you and your wife at Redeemer.

My heart aches for those dear elderly people who are still attending PCUSA churches. I certainly don't mean to imply that leaving would be an easy thing. Still, I will pray that God moves them to do so.

God bless you, especially at this tough time.

In the Lamb,
Tony”

Since September 2007, my family has attended Redeemer weekly and became members in February 2008, our son will be baptized this Father’s Day. This church is a pillar of the Reformation, and devoted to God’s Infallible and Inspired Word. The people are some of the most kind and generous people and have been very gracious to us.

So, while I know leaving a church is never easy, I pray that if you have come to that point that you and your family will consider Redeemer-PCA where on any given Sunday, the Inspired and Infallible Word of our Living Triune God transforms the lives of not only our members but the community.

christianlady said...

Maybe this is just me being an emotional female, but I think it's much deeper. The more I read about emergent church, and learn about books my pastors are reading (Willowcreek stuff, Dallas Willard, on and on) I am very sad. I feel like speaking up, like dropping pamphlets in my church warning people of this stuff. I cannot listen to the message, or to the songs without feeling very down for the people I love very much. I know this is going on in church after church, and many probably know they aren't getting fed on the word of God or they are missing something. For me, recently, it was that I suddenly realized my children are not learning the creeds in church like I did as a child. We never say the Lord's prayer together. I understand the idea of not just repeating stuff without thought, but for me, the creeds meant something when we said them corporately, the Lord's prayer. There's a hook to hang some security on, a hook to grab when you wonder if someone is preaching false doctrine. If you know some of the basics because you've repeated it every week(not meditation, but part of the routine of church...as memorization and as honor to God) you are less likely to fall prey to falsehoods. Now I feel people are just eating the slightly arsenic'd message and not catching on to subtle ways things are worded.

I wrote my pastors asking what they were reading. The ones that didn't write back were the youth pastors and the children's minister...at least haven't written so far. I don't really think it's intentional that they haven't replied, but my oldest is eleven and I want to know who is influencing them. He's going to be with the youth seperated out in a few years... want to know what's going on over there. How many youth are ill prepared because churches are seperating them out from the adults, and catering to them. What happens when they are adults and realize that church doesn't center around them any longer? They leave. They leave, and they don't have a grip on deeper theological things and they loose their faith (if they ever really had it). They probably don't begin to seek again truly until they have children of their own. Our church is great if you have little children...but if you're single, and out of high school, or if you're widowed, what do we have?

I don't see contemplative prayer yet...but I see some books on the list of recommendations for small groups that include that theme.

I wish I could scream it from the rooftops...hey, wake up church. Get back to basics. Study, there's no such thing as McChurch.

Blessings!
DML

Jim said...

I tried to find the Barna study on its website, but couldn't. Does Sider say when the study was released?

Also, the list of things that make a "biblical world view" is pretty selective -- some really important things seem to be left off the list. (Jesus death, resurrection and ascension, for example. Or God being triune.)

Also, the definition of what makes a person "born again" -- i.e., having made a "personal commitment to Jesus" -- is ironically heterodox, at least by historical standards. (We are born again in baptism, of course, by the Spirit working through water and the word.) And I don't think that the Bible teaches "a personal resonsibility to evangelize." (It's a responsibility that Jesus gave to his church -- which may seem quibbly to modern evangelical ears, but that's because modern evangelical ecclesiologies tend to be abysmally low.)

Another irony: within evangelical circles, there appears to me to be something of a negative association between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, at least along important dimensions. To wit, I've been involved in prison ministry for almost twenty years now. The other volunteers I rub shoulders with are uniformly Pentecostals, charismatics, and Bible-church baptists.

I've never met a volunteer who was a Presbyterian (PCA or otherwise), a Lutheran (except the ones I took in with me), let alone a Methodist or a Roman Catholic.

Now, maybe I just have a bad sample. Still, 20-some prisons in three states over almost 20 years, and you'd think I'd have run into at least one other PCA or LCMS Christians.

I sometimes wonder why that is, and what that means as we congratulate ourselves over our orthodoxy. (And don't get me wrong -- I think orthodoxy is really important.)

Jim said...

I read Packer's "Knowing God" and Pink's "The Attributes of God" over twenty years ago. I agree that they are learned, an duseful books. But, with the caveat that I'm remembering from decades ago, I'd also say that they suffer from being theocentric rather than Christocentric.

Rather than considering God's attributes or characteristics as separate abstractions, and build up to an understanding of who God is, I'd suggest that we come to know God superlatively in and through the work of Jesus Christ, God-in-the-flesh on the Cross. And that we come to know God's character and attributes by working from the Cross rather than working toward the Cross, if that makes any sense.

Frontier Forest said...

Don’t won’t to bore the regulars, but for the dear lady searching her heart for the right decision, I thought you might be encouraged by my comments and observations after visiting Redeemer for the first time on January 23, 2005. I shared these thoughts in an email to several of our dear friends who left our church of 11 years, the same time we did. (Incidentally, several of these families are now very faithful servants at Redeemer) After so many had poured hearts, souls and their very lives into making a difference for Christ, for us, it was past time to move on. Having no regrets at this most painful decision, the Lord has blessed us, and expanding our territories for ministry beyond our farthest dreams.

"Dear Faithful and Frustrated X________ Folks,
If you haven't heard about Redeemer Presbyterian Church let me share with you all about our wonderful experience this past Sunday. Pastor Tony Felich preached right from the Word and his message was on 1 John 5: 1-5. The main theme was "Life in Christ (the New Birth) is what transforms us from slaves of sin into victors, conquers and saints!"
For the first time since I can remember, Cheri got so excited she was doing some "AMENEN" on her own! Haven't felt such a peace and the 'joy of the Lord' since we left _________over a year and half ago. Pastor Tony is a young man, 35-ish of Spanish origin, I think?? He was raised and reared with a former Catholic background and in his message, he shared a bit of his own powerful yet humorous testimony.
He came to Christ as a 16-year-old teenager and when he surrendered his life totally to the Lord, he knew the Lord had his life planned for him.
Graduate from the great Moody Bible College, Pastor Tony has been the senior pastor here for about 6 years. Very small congregation (probably 200 at the 11:00 service) They have broken ground for a building and looks like they will about triple the size of their existing steel structured building.
On an exciting side note, I just remember when we joined ____ we were members number 274.
I know with my firm and very fundamental Baptist doctrine, combined with a pretty well,
died-in-the-wool, Wesleyan theology, switching to Reformed, Calvinistic thinking is going to be an interesting twist. But when you have great men of God like John McArthur, RC Sproul and Dr D James Kennedy as mentors and leaders of the PCA movement....how can you go wrong following these men?
Redeemer Presb folks do a lot of pastor/congregation liturgy and responsive readings. They do have a very small choir but great potential. With the absolutely fabulous, uncompromising preaching of God's Inerrant WORD I really felt like this maybe home for us!!
They do weekly communion and comment in their weekly bulletin that this is the “climax of our worship service. We invite to the Lord's Table all those who are baptized disciples in Jesus Christ, under the authority of Christ and His body, the Church. By eating the bread and drinking the cup with us as a visitor, you are acknowledging to our church that you are in covenant with God. You also acknowledge that you are a sinner, without hope except in the sovereign mercy of God, and that you are trusting in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation. If you have doubts about your participation, please speak to one of the pastors or one of the elders after the service."
Their mission statement: "The mission of Redeemer is to mature as a community of Christians who love to worship their God, study His Word, and proclaim His gospel to the world."
Their website is www.redeemer-pca.org Services 8:30-Sunday School 9:45 and then 11:00
services. 6:00 p.m. Sunday night services.
We are going to attend Sunday school next weekend to hear Pastor Tony speak on "Authority of Scripture".
All the folks were very friendly and made us feel right at home. One man and his wife really talked about the strong, "meaty" teaching going on right now in the three different adult Sunday School classes.
His comment, "For a small church we have three of the most powerful Bible teachers in the Midwest."
We know that God's plan is to use us and allow us to exercise our gifts to His glory as HE multiplies and divides His body.
Not trying to persuade any of you all but wanted you to know about our fabulous first time gathering there.
Please know that God has and will continue to use all of us as we seek His face and as we dare to stand for truth, and defending and proclaiming His WORD and telling of the hope that is within us!”

Reepicheep said...

Jim,
Both Packer's book and Pink's book are on Theology Proper. Still, Packer's book most definitely presents Christ very vividly, but I appreciate your point.

To be born again one must be given the gift of faith by God. Faith specifically in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Obviously most evangelicals equate being born again with "making a decision for Jesus" or however you put it, but nevertheless, the actual act of regeneration is the work of God's Spirit when and where He wills.

I won't take the Lutheran bait on the baptism comment you made... :)

rgmann said...

I just came across a great quote that I think sums up the primary problem with evangelicalism today:

We need to recover the offensiveness of the gospel rather than settling for a "seekerfriendly" message so diluted that non-Christians can agree with it without a genuine and complete conversion. The non-elect ought to be offended by the gospel, and say, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" (John 6:60). But when confronted with the plain truth, the elect, or those whom God has chosen for salvation, will say, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (v. 68-69). The gospel message, when properly preached, should draw the elect and repel the reprobates (John 10:27). The word of God divides the sheep from the goats, and the wheat from the weeds (Hebrews 4:12). Even then, in the wisdom of God, he has ordained that some will appear to rejoice at the word of God, only to fall away at a later time (Luke 8:13). Therefore, let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12); let us test our faith so as to remove false assumptions about our standing with God (2 Peter 1:10). (Presuppositional Confrontations, p. 44)