Monday, September 04, 2006

Response to centuriOn

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.

16 comments:

Cultural Savage said...

Thank you for taking the time to verbalize why you (and I and alot of others) are feeling like this.

Totem to Temple said...

Great article.

In fact, the church is still in denial over having the ability to even ask the questions that you are asking. Why? Because in many churches, asking questions is seen as either doubt, attack of the enemy, 'touching God's anointed', or an attempt to 'do as little as possible' with the Christian lifestyle. Therefore

'to ask a question is considered to be a sin'

Always ask questions. Always question the answers in reference to the Bible as your standard.

TheBlueRaja said...

Thanks for articulating this - though it's hard to believe anyone will hear it, it needs to be said and said often. I sincerely hope the boys at teampyro will take it seriously.

Anonymous said...

Norm,

The "teampyro" guys will not engage you unless you post in their meta where the game is rigged and only their arbitrary rules, which give them a free license to savagely attack you, apply. I have yet to see anyone with dissenting views treated with respect and dignity.

I wouldn't waste any more of your time.

Chris Stiles said...

Thanks for that Norman.

Mark said...

'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'

Norm,

I especially appreciated this section of your blog. I just watched a show in my home group called "tip of the Spear". If you haven't seen it, its about a group of missionaries that are trying to reach a very violent, very remote group of indians in Ecuador. I remember distinctly one part of the movie that reminded me of point one of your blog:

"Wendonga (sp? tribe's traditional name for their God) had a son, and he was speared (traditional way the tribe had been slaughtering each other for decades) for you."

It sounds trite when I put it down in written word. But after watching the tribe live in fear, fueding, and violence, it really made a powerful statement. It connected the extremely traumatic state they were living in (the cylcle of killing) and gave them a way out...all within the same context.

Asking the cultural questions, finding out where healing needs to come in, meeting their deepest need where their at...Jesus came (in his own words) to preach good news to the humble, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to those who are bound.

Somehow, I can't see Jesus being a watchblogger...ever.

centuri0n said...

Schreef:

Thanks for taking the time to answer. Your reply deserves and requires a serioues response, and I'd like to give it one.

I'll be back later in the week (maybe later today if all things go well) with that response.

centuri0n said...

Mark --

You opinion of "watchbloggers" is interesting because "watchbloggers" are not preaching to the lost: they're preaching to people who ought to be in the choir.

I would agree that "watchblogging" is not evangelism. It's something else which we are also called to do inside the bounds of the church by the NT.

That said, I think the definition of "we" in your post is incorrect. For example, is the person with the Gospel supposed to take responsibility for pedophile priests and guys like Paul Crouch? Is the Gospel really about the today-tense moral perfection of the church, or is it about something else?

Your thoughts are interesting, but they are hardly the first time they have been aired on this subject. I'd be willing to engage you also on this topic for our mutual edification if you are serious about asking these questions of a real live "watchblogger".

David Cho said...

Frank, speaking of watchbloggers, you made a rather outlandish statement in the meta of this post and disappeared when pressed for elaboration.

This is Norm's place, so I may be stepping out of bounds by bringing this up, but I am still awaiting your response.

Mark said...

Centurion,
Hi, and welcome to the discussion! I went to you're site after you posted (my first time there) and I must say that I really like the whole comic book motif. In response to your comments to me...

'You opinion of "watchbloggers" is interesting because "watchbloggers" are not preaching to the lost: they're preaching to people who ought to be in the choir.'

I must confess, that my sampling of watchblogs is very limited...I don't usually go to those sites (and this is not a jab at you) becuase I'm not looking for more problems to be concerned about. Sorry if that statement sounds juvenile. I'm not trying to stick my head in the sand. I realize that there are problems like the one you stated in your brief comments to me (crouch, pedofiles). Years ago, I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh and nod my head up and down every time he uttered a word. After doing this for about 6 months I realized that he was never going to offer me any answers to the problems and issues he was bringing up. I guess you could call him a 'watch' radio show. I've read Slice and Paul Proctor (and now Centurion!). Their style of 'watching' makes me feel sick in the pit of my stomach (really), and fell sorry that we can't treat each other better.

Now, to be fair, I haven't read enough Pyro or Centurion to know whether you guys are similar in any fashion to the two blogs I mentioned earlier. I usually take a blogger one article at a time...some are valuable to me, some are not so much. Not every blog article the imonk puts out is going to be a new 'Institutes on the Christian Religion'...but hey, some of them are really good. So thats the long answer..the short one would be:
'The Choir' has the same needs, the same cultural idioms, the same capacity to be hurt, and the same humaness that 'The Lost' has. I do see Jesus and John berating the self-righteous, but they were pretty heavy hitters when it came to experience and spiritual maturity. If a blog does feel the freedom to call out the errors of others then I would think that the overpowering characteristics of that blog would exibit the same main characteristics (humility and love)of those people that I saw doing it in scripture (Jesus & John). Freedom to do something shouldn't become an opportunity to sin.

I hope this makes sense, and this is by no means a critique of you or your website....I have barely read anything you've written yet. But if someone was thinking of joining the 'choir' and they came across soem fo the vitriolic discussions I've seen in just my short time surfing....they would probably go solo instead.

northWord said...

Hi Norm,

Before I offer my own (un-solicited) words here, I will tell you that I have clicked all of the links on your homepage and read every word you've offered because I wanted to better understand the person to whom I would speak/comment to about this blogpost.
I really appreciated your candidness in writing about your thoughts, feelings and experiences, well done. I'm sure you don't need to hear it from me that the things you have likely accomplished for the Lord have been very valuable, and considerably more than many people can be recognized for.

I hadn't read your comments in the "say kids, what time is it?" page about the Way of the Master til late last night, it made me feel bad to see someone seem hurt, especially through a ministry that I value much, so I came to your page to find what it was all about. I hope you don't mind if I offer my own observations in response.

I've been listening to the Way of the Master radio for several months now and have been greatly edified by them. I consider their ministry just one of several sound, and scriptually well-aligned resources that I use for learning/growing.
That said, keep in mind that these (as well as all such resources) are of mortal man and subject to; imperfection;
subject to not appealing to everyone; and subject to the discerning eye -in that, I regard you with respect from your years in the ministry and missionary work, so I considered carefully the words you had against WOTM.

I consider it also important for each person to take a look at themselves when they are so adversley affected as it seems you were.. and I don't understand the "dunce" cap reference at all as you seem to be a quite intelligent man.

starting with your quote of Todd's words:

"Justice demands that I go to a bad place unless God steps in and takes the punishment I deserve”

to this you queried:
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?

the quote you're referencing seems to lack sufficient context here, if Todd said this verbatim it's sort of 'wrapped wrong' (for lack of better description)
at any rate I believe something was mis-interpreted by you,
what is meant (within context provided): is that God is the creator of justice, and of everything (!) -and through His perfect plan, "justice" indeed demands that we "go to a bad place" unless we reconcile ourselves to Him.
-since He did step in and become flesh, Jesus, who indeed took the punishment we deserve.

then you said:
"is there a standard of justice that stands above God, that He has to adhere to?"

with every bit of confidence in speaking for the whole of the WOTM people: No.
I found nothing in that quote to suggest such a thing.

"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?

(just speaking for the podcast):
This is not the purpose of the show - to ask everyone these feelings questions, though you would no doubt find such questions sprinkled about the thousands of hours of podcasts as they might pertain to a particular witness encounter.

"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."

I'm not sure what you meant by "that little piece doesn’t even mention Christ", since God the Father and Jesus the Christ are One..

My understanding of Imputated Righteousness come from:

1Cr 15:21 For since by man [came] death, by man [came] also the resurrection of the dead.
1Cr 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Norm, if you really want the most sufficient answers I know that Todd absolutely loves hearing from people, and that he will treat you with respect, he is easy to reach through the WOTM site.

I really believe that you have not given them enough time to make the statements you came up with, and I wouldn't expect you to see the humor that is offered there -to each his own of course. You may never wish to click their way again, nothing wrong in that.

Forgive my long post (!!), and if my words in reply seem fragmented or thoughts incomplete it's because I still have a lot to learn.

Peace, Grace, and understanding to us all ~
Suz

Schreef said...

Suz,

Thanks for your kind words and thoughts.
It probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to go through things again one by one.
I am glad that WOTM is beneficial for you and I hope it helps you to grow.

This is a matter of taste, of course, but I don’t find the humor of WOTM very helpful to me, and I have listened to a few other podcasts (not everything of course ). It comes over to me like they are trying to produce the same atmosphere (but then positive and Christian) of an early morning radio show. Fine idea, but I would like to see the quality of the humor improved.

I just listened to Todd’s rebuttal of Dan Barker in the debate with an atheist. Just one thing example that characterises my problem with WOTM: Todd pleads with Dan to lose his presuppositions. Todd gives the impression that he doesn’t have any presuppositions, that he approaches Scripture without them and is thus capable of discerning the truth of Scripture.

It is a widely known truth that no one approaches anything without presuppositions. The very fact that you use a language to describe anything means you are full of presuppositions. In my opinion Todd’s presentation is shallow because he doesn’t admit that truth and work with that.

I would have wanted to go in the direction of saying: Dan has presuppositions, and so do I. They color how I look at life and Scripture. What are Dan’s presuppositions, what are mine? Perhaps we even have some in common. In that way you establish common ground and are talking about the real issues.

When Todd doesn’t admit he has presuppositions, there is no real common ground for useful debate.

Again, IMHO, I find these broadcasts superficial and not really engaging the other person as person who is seriously trying to make sense out of life, as most of us, Christian or not, are attempting to do.

But again, I’m glad the broadcasts help you, and I cast no aspersions on the motives of WOTM.

northWord said...

Norm,
God Bless you for your reply. I hope I can sufficiently clarify some things..

"Todd pleads with Dan to lose his presuppositions. Todd gives the impression that he doesn’t have any presuppositions, that he approaches Scripture without them and is thus capable of discerning the truth of Scripture."

Yes, Todd may give that impression - and as a believer why shouldn't he? or, I suppose he could have conveyed a presuppositon in Christ.

consider this view of the scenario:

Presuppositions begin to enter the core of our being at the behest of our parental/environmental influences, (perhaps starting in infancy) and change with the ebb and flow that is life.. Presuppositions concerning ones' faith in God can only be subject to change unless/until: a person acknowledges the Truth of the Gospel as it's written in the in the bible, repents, and puts their full trust and faith in Jesus Christ, then a new presupposition is 'born'.
Plainly, God's "presupposition" (as if He has one) becomes (my) presupposition. Thats how it's supposed to work.

In my opinion, Todd's appeal to ones' presuppositions seem a natural course, and merely one of many, in the argument for the belief in God.
Dan Barker obviously wasn't soundly saved whilst he was evangeli`sin, (un-intended tho interesting pun), he is now an atheist, so, consider his changed presupposition.

"It is a widely known truth that no one approaches anything without presuppositions. The very fact that you use a language to describe anything means you are full of presuppositions. "

Indeed.

"Again, IMHO, I find these broadcasts superficial and not really engaging the other person as person who is seriously trying to make sense out of life, as most of us, Christian or not, are attempting to do."

As I said in my initial response, we have to keep in mind that a b s o l u t e l y anything presented by man is subjected to error, but God's word is not. In as much as we are to refer to the bible for solid edification concerning what we hear from man, we have to pay close attention to the Spirit which is also in us, and testifies for us on behalf of righteousness.
In many instances, I like to call this Common Sense.

I refer to this beautiful Truth:
1 Cor. 2:10-16: For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.


I hope this speaks well about the question of suppositions.

It seems a another common question among you and others here is (example): Mark said: "what have we done? What has been our part in the current developments in society? What have we missed?"

These are absolutely very important questions that we should be asking, and seeking answers too through the word of God and the Holy Spirit that indwells in us.

Again, Thank you for your replying to me, I always learn through these discourses.

Suz

Mark said...

Ack!!! THis is the fist time I've ever been 'stood up'...by a watchblogger.

Chris Stiles said...


"Todd pleads with Dan to lose his presuppositions. Todd gives the impression that he doesn’t have any presuppositions, that he approaches Scripture without them and is thus capable of discerning the truth of Scripture."

Yes, Todd may give that impression - and as a believer why shouldn't he? or, I suppose he could have conveyed a presuppositon in Christ.


.. because it is several steps away from dealing with Dan the person.

It may be appropriate to give that impression when talking solely to a body of believers with the same presuppositions, however in the context of a debate the sort of quick answer employed ends up coming across as snarky ridicule.

Schreef said...

Suz,

You write:
Plainly, God's "presupposition" (as if He has one) becomes (my) presupposition. Thats how it's supposed to work.

There lies for me a part of the tension. We claim God's proposition has become mine or ours.
Pretty stupendous claim, a start on the slippery slope (yes, I read the latest Pyro blog - ggrrrrrr) to the kind of "arrogance" that leads to the tone of voice and approach to others that bothers me.
If God's presupppositon has become mine, then my view is the right one, the right one for the universe. That's the logical and practical conclusion.

I remember a sentence from Tim Keller of New York: when you look back on what you did and thought ten years ago, you think "boy, was I an idiot".
Well, cheer up - in ten years you'll be thinking the same thing about what you do and think today.

No way do I want to tell someone else God's presuppostions are mine.

I do want to say: there is truth. Let's look for it together. What are your presuppostions, what are mine, do they correspond with reality, with God's word, what needs to change, grow, develop.

Didn't Paul say - we see a poor reflection in the mirror?

Cross cultural commnication tends to shakes one's conviction that he has a handle on how the world works.

I'm sure I'll be misunderstood to be saying there is no truth. That of course is one of the weapons used against "emergents".
But that's not what I'm saying. There is truth, I'm just not sure I trust my ability to have enough of a grasp on it that I can beat someone else about the ears with it.

Frederick Buechner wrote: People have principles instead of God.

I think he is right, and I want to be known as a man of compassion and love, which is also truth.

As I blogged elsewhere: Jesus didn't say "this is the truth", or "these are the right presuppositions", He said "I am the truth".

I think what many Christionas are struggling with today is the past which was primarily an intellectual kind of Christianity, now realizing that Christianity is not less than intellectual, but certainly much more.
Other Christian traditions have had the monks and the mystics, we did not. We're trying to find that part of Christianity again.
That, too me, is a partial reason for the turbulence we are now in.

Anyway... for what it is worth.