Friday, July 27, 2007

Love God or Obey God: What's our Primary Responsibility to Teach Children?

One of my favorite podcasts is from Brookside Baptist Church in the Milwaukee suburbs, where Sam Horn is the primary teaching pastor. A few weeks ago he preached from one of my favorite passages in Deuteronomy 6, which shows parents the importance of making God big in the eyes of their children.

About 38 minutes into the sermon (6/17) he makes what I think is a pretty important comment:
It's not just that God wants you to teach your children to obey God. That's not the task. What is the task? God wants you to teach your children to love God. . . Now here's the question: If your objective is to teach somebody to obey somebody, you're going to go about it differently than you would go about the task of teaching somebody to love somebody. And my contention is, that somehow in our thinking, particularly for those of us who have come out of more conservative circles, we have been primarily consumed with the idea of teaching our children how to obey God. [Not that we shouldn't obey God—that's not what's being said.] But that's not the task that God is giving us here. The obedience is going to flow out of something.

What the task is, is to teach our children to love God totally—with all of their heart, and with all of their soul, and with all of their strength. So let me ask you a question. If that is the task, and you were to sit down and give some careful attention about how to do this, how would you do it? . . . How do you teach somebody to love God, because that is what the task is. We haven't accomplished the goal if all we have done is taught our children to obey a set of external things. We have to teach them in such a way—we have to engrave it in their heart so that it's permanent—a deep, complete, passionate love for God.
Verses 7-9 provide a pattern for how to do just that.

Obviously, teaching love and obedience are not mutually exclusive. But I think Horn is dead right to say that one flows from the other, and there shouldn't be any question which is the source for the other.

This is the kind of message I didn't hear 5 or 10 years ago, but it's seeping into more are more of the kinds of places it didn't seem to be before. Though my experience may be different from others, it's surely encouraging to hear these concepts that are so foundational to true Christianity expounded faithfully.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Redefining Traditional Music

Maybe I'm just not educated enough on what constitutes "traditional" church music, but it seems to me that somewhere along the way "traditional" became predominately either 1) songs written since 1850 or 2)songs from hymnals published not less than 20 nor more than 50 years ago (unless the hymnal is published by fundamentalists). I wonder whether we're not missing out on a vast and rich hymnody when we fail to mine the depths of the hymns written a bit further back. Sure, some of the tunes aren't catchy, and some of them aren't quite as bouncy or dramatic as those professing traditionalists prefer these days. But some are just downright beautiful and wholly appropriate to the theological message. Of course, if you like experiential stuff, well, you might night find so much of that.

Here are a couple scans of the hymns we sang in church Sunday night. I suppose this is a bit of an anomaly, but not much. If you can read the fine print, check out the dates when the authors and composers were alive.

Interested in Biblical Theology?

Seems like some great deals here.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Something to Think About Before You Blog or Post Personal Info on the Web

From a Financial Times article:
The technology tools of what has become known as "web 2.0" magnify the impact of all this "user-generated content". Consider, a search engine currently in development. It builds a profile by trawling for information about you on social networks as well as the web at large, then lets other people add "tags", or labels, to your profile that can characterise you to anyone who is interested.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mohler on Music

Whether or not one thinks the term "morality" necessarily applies to all music (I don't), I would hope that we could all agree that music is a communication medium for meaningful messages. As such, our choices in this realm demand biblically guided thinking and application. The difficulty is often discerning precisely what those messages are.

I've been encouraged in recent years by some who are working to rebuild the discussion of music and meaning out of the ruins of many horrendously bad arguments. In this interview conducted at the recent New Attitude conference, Mohler discusses how we need to be thinking about how not only the words, but also the tune, rhythm, and underlying worldview carry a great deal of meaning. He certainly doesn't provide all the answers, but it seems to me like a pretty useful place to start. In particular, it's accessible to younger people who aren't equipped to handle deep, technical cultural arguments.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Re-Theologizing" the SBC

Interesting thoughts from Tom Ascol at the recent Founders Conference, reported by Baptist Press. Here's a sample:
"I believe we are living in an early era of 're-theologizing' of the SBC," Ascol said. "Just listen to some of the things that are being said; theology is becoming a point of controversy, a point of dialogue. Even theological statements that are being made that are not helpful are being spoken with passion, they are being made with a real sense of concern. That is a good thing; the fact that 'they' are talking about theology is good."

Friday, July 13, 2007

"God's Business"

One of my co-workers said today that if he ever pastors a church and finds a good reason to print some kind of church t-shirt, he'll refuse to buy the t-shirts from a "Christian" shirt printer, even if they cost him twice as much. The commercialization of faith simply drives him nuts.

Now, I know that not all Christian shirt printers are created equal, but I kind of like the sentiment.

Later today I read this article from the Washington Post on the Christian bookstore market. Maybe I'm just cynical, but I think this statement just about sums up the sentiment, not only of the Christian publishing market, but of the whole world of mindset American Christianity:
To many, this is not just any business; it's God's business. To others, it is an opportunity to capitalize on the growing awareness of faith and the powerful political and social force of evangelicals.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Evangelical Politics and the New Liberalism

Phil Johnson has a stellar post today on the left-leaning politics of the Emerging Church. As he moves toward his point, he makes this spot-on observation about evangelicalism (and I don't think his point is irrelevant to many fundamentalists either):
[I]t's no accident that the elevation of worldly entertainments in evangelical megachurches has gained popularity right alongside evangelicalism's obsessive craving for clout in the political arena. I'm convinced these trends are closely related.
But at the same time, the affinity of the Emerging Church for liberal politics betrays a parallel trend toward old school liberal theology:
There are countless parallels between the Emerging Church movement and classic religious modernism. Both movements were sparked by massive paradigm shifts in secular thought and culture. Both are undergirded by a conviction that the church must change in a fundamental way or be rendered irrelevant: she must adapt her perspective of truth and certainty in order to fit better with the way the world is "progressing."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bauder:Barrett = Dever:Duncan?

I'm continually amazed at how similar are Kevin Bauder's and Mark Dever's discussions of the priority of the gospel in the extent and limitations of our cooperative relationships between believers.

Here's one illustrative quote among many from this sermon Bauder preached from Jude: "The disagreement over who we should baptize doesn't cut to the very heart of Christianity."

Just for fun, compare it with an address Dever delivered at a recent conference for young adults. You can download it free here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Selling Christianity: Apparently We're Not Even Shy About It Anymore

Accompanying Christianity Today's tribute to Evan Almighty is this rather blunt discussion of Christian publishing's search for "the next big thing" that will line its coffers as the Rick Warren and Joel Osteen waves subside. The materialistic motivations are so obvious that I'm actually surprised at the level of transparency the article reveals.

About the same time I read about this blatant marketing of the Christian faith, I read these words from David Wells' Above All Earthly Powers:
[Pat Robertson and Jim Bakker's excursions into profit-driven Christian broadcasting and theme parks] were but the front end of a growing Christian penetration of the commercial market. Earlier rock bands such as Stryper, dressed and made up like other heavy metal bands of the 1980s, were now followed by many others like Audio Adrenaline and solo artists like Amy Grant and others who were among those in 2000 who helped the Christian music industry expand into a three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar business when the rest of the music market retreated, though it was praise music in particular which was responsible for this. Religious trinkets, videos, movies, and Bibles in every conceivable size and covering, Bibles for singles, for the depressed, for the young, for the old, for the divorced, for the recovering, for African Americans, Bibles fitted for every niche in the market, were all for sale. Today there are Christian amusement parks and dance clubs, and sermons for sale for pastors who are too harried or too indolent to do the work themselves.

It has not gone unnoticed in the secular world that there is gold in these religious hills. The result is that today there are evangelical publishing houses which are the religious arms of secular corporations, and Songs 4 Worship, a successful collection of Christian music, lavishly advertised on the TV networks, was launched by Time-Life. In 2002, General Motors unleashed sixteen Christian rock bands in a number of southern cities under the banner "Chevrolet Presents: Come Together and Worship." All of this, however, was only one end of a growing alliance between commerce and spirituality or, at least, the growing use of spirituality by commerce. (284-285)
Finally, if anyone is still reading, you'll find a great discussion of these trends on Albert Mohler's radio program with Russell Moore sitting in as guest host. Particularly interesting is Moore's interview with Jim Smith, editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, on why he refused to accept advertising for Evan Almighty in his paper.