I responded to a blog on the blog “Pyromaniacs”. The blog is called "say kids, what time is it?" I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I did. It was one of those blogs that is a “blog spotter”. Links to lots of other blogs. In that blog he refers to the “Way of the Master” website and podcast. He recommends two passages in that podcast: an answer to a question about the uniqueness of the Christian God, and a comment about the “emergents”.
You can read my response for yourself. Click here and scroll down. The essence of my response was that I said I felt that this kind of stuff makes me feel like the kid with the dunce cap in the front (or back?) of the class. It doesn’t take seriously my struggle – and that of many others, to look for Biblical answers to the questions our world of today is asking.
Another well known (at least I think he’s well known) blogger, centuriOn, responded. For his reponse, click here and scroll down even further. His question: Can you tell us what we could do or stop doing which would make you stop feeling like you are wearing the dunce cap? This is not a request to start fighting: this is a request to understand the concern you have provided here, and to make this blog as much as possible about delivering the Gospel to a world which needs it. The advice of a 30-year evangelist must be worth something to that end.
I must be honest – I’m not entirely sure I trust this question. And I’m a bit afraid to enter into this discussion. But I’ll try. It’s a beautiful morning here after weeks of rain – the most rainy August in history, and how else would I want to spend my morning?
So here are a few comments, particularly in relation to the WOTM podcast, to use that as an example.
First, it’s not, IMHO, humor (P.S. when I say IMHO, I really mean it. Not "it's my humble opinion, but I'm sure I'm right". I really think I could be wrong. But I realize it's dangerous to say that also. The person who says he's humble......well, you know). To me, it’s not even funny, but the quality of humor is really low. Good, quality humor encourages one to look at him- or herself and make a wry smile. This “humor” didn’t do that for me. Perhaps I’m the only one for whom it didn’t do that, but I don’t think so. If you are on the “side” these people don’t agree with, their humor does not produce a wry smile. Again, IMHO. I realize that tastes can vary.
Secondly, and more “seriously”, this podcast – and so much of what I see in blogs – doesn’t ask a fundamental question of its “opponents”: why do you think that way? Why is it you feel the need to look at Scripture again and come up with new paradigms? What’s driving that?
Only when you ask that question can you understand the person, and when you have understood the person you have a better chance to help him or her see the truth.
That’s what cross cultural work forces you to do. Why do you all think this way? What’s lying behind it? Why do you feel these needs? And how does the Bible approach your worldview?
And not only on the personal level. What is going on in our world? What are the movements producing the questions for which people are seeking answers? How is our world developing and growing and changing, and what does that say about how people look at faith and how we respond? I realize that weblogs probably aren't the best places to ask or answer those questions, but even so....
For example: my experience in Holland is that a whole generation has turned away from the church, largely because of the way the church has conducted herself. I know there are other reasons, I believe in the sinful heart, but you cannot escape that conclusion here. I have experienced more than once adults crying on the streets (yes, I have done street evangelism in Amsterdam) because of pain inflicted by the church. I suspect the same thing has happened a lot in the States.
I think it would be beneficial if the church would, in the light of “emergent” or any other “movement”, seriously ask the question: what have we done? What has been our part in the current developments in society? What have we missed? Where have we caused pain and hurt, and how can we help heal? How can we understand?
On that basis, you gain the right to speak truth into someone’s heart. This podcast doesn’t address that at all.
Thirdly (and finally – I’ve got to stop somewhere): some of the statements and criticisms are shallow and or wrong generalisations.
The sentence (and I quote): “Justice demands that I go to a bad place unless God steps in and takes the punishment I deserve” raises the very legitimate question, an old question for theologians – is there a standard of justice that stands above God, that He has to adhere to?
A thinking person here in Holland who hears this podcast - especially one who has a church background and left it - would ask that question, but there is no reference to that issue. It can be a legitimate and serious question for a nonbeliever.
WOTM says literally: “the righteousness of God is imputed to you”. I thought it was Christ’s righteousness. That little piece doesn’t even mention Christ.
In these two examples, I am listening to a sarcastic tone of voice, with almost no quality humor, presenting a partial and not really helpful piece of the Gospel. It doesn’t take seriously my struggle to present the Gospel in our society because, if I had ever learned anything from, say, Brian McLaren, at all, I would really be cast as an idiot (“they don’t embrace anything except 'you’re wrong, you conservative’”). And it doesn’t give me real tools to help me. It’s humor, analysis and answer is superficial. Remember: IMHO.
And because it doesn't, in its style or content, take who I am or what I need seriously, it makes me feel like a dunce. I will be the first to admit I may be a dunce, but I think the Bible encourages us to do everything we can so that dunces aren't made to feel that way. Jesus "spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand" Mk. 4:33 (NIV).
[I don't dare quote The Message, which is even clearer ;-). Well maybe I will: he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity.]
I don’t know if this helps, CenturiOn. I’m interested to know if it does. And this is not really the best medium to share things of the heart. But I wanted to take a stab at it.
If you want to know more about me, see my website: www.normanviss.nl/en.
Thanks for listening. I have tried to be gracious and honest in my reply, I hope I have succeeded.
C.S. Lewis: It matters enormously if I alienate anyone from the truth.
By the way: the contrast between C.S. Lewis (who never shirked from telling the truth) and this podcast is, again IMHO, enormous.