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Telling Secrets

faith, fatherhood, and culture


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

After reading "The Joy of Christian Hedonism," Angela suggested that perhaps I was a little harsh, particularly to the people of the church we currently attend, the Masters Church. Ok, maybe I was, I thought. I'll post an addendum before anyone else reads it. Not long after, Russ, the pastor of that church, called wondering how I was. So much for my plan. We had a great discussion during which I told him this was my first foray into public theological waters and that I needed him to be to me as John Armstrong is to Mark Driscoll, someone to reel me in if I get out of hand. He agreed and said that he needed me to make sure he too was on target.

So my first reflection 9 hours later is this: while my general critique of many of the people at Masters Church and other churches I've attended like it and unlike it still stands, I want to specifically point out that through Russ's leadership, the Masters congregation has made some tremendous strides to change. The church now is so different from what it was 6 months ago that it is essentially a new church, crawling from under the rock of strict fundamentalism into the missional light. I think that now perhaps they are like Plato's Philosopher immediately after he crawls out of the cave: so blinded by the light of Truth they can't see anything - all they can do is stand there and squint. The reason Angela and I continue to attend Masters Church is because of Russ's vision for the church and the city as well as for the fact that he is one of the finest pastors I've ever met. He is as nurturing as he is theologically bold. So, we are trying to serve with him as best we can, even though the people around us live completely different lives than we.

Which brings me to my second reflection: reading back through my posts from the past 6 months I see that my biggest critique has been how so many people are not living out a true Christian faith despite claims to solid doctrine. But just because few people are representin' doesn't make Jesus or Scripture any less relevent or true. Evaluating doctrine on the basis of the people who claim it is one good validation test, but it certainly isn't the only one, or necessarily the best. Russ said that he doesn't like George Grant's teaching at all, but that doesn't mean that Theonomy can be dismissed out of hand. I think one of my biggest problems is simply that I don't really like Christians that much. This means that I tend to have problems with church in general because churches are full of Christians. Consequently, I have never really been comfortable in any of them or stayed longer than a few years at most.

My third reflection is: what does this mean for me and my family? Are we going to church hop ad nauseum until Jesus comes? Does fitting in really matter that much? I think it does matter to have people in your church who you can connect with on a deeper level, who have similar values, otherwise there is no communion among the saints. But I don't think we are going to hop any more because I at least am tired of it and I haven't found a church yet with more of the important pieces in place to make sure everyone in my family can grow spiritually. So we will do our best to serve and wait for God to provide the people we need to make the long haul.


I have been reflecting for some time now on Theonomy (God’s law remains in effect now as it was before, during, and immediately after Christ) and while I am beginning to give it more credence, at the same time there is something that rubs me wrong. What makes sense to me is that God’s law really is still valid, that it wasn’t done away with as an authority we must heed as Christ followers simply because Christ removed the need for symbolic sacrifices. Christ and other New Testament writers frequently refer back to the Old Testament as the Scripture that is “good for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16) and that “till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Mat. 5:18). I have always thought that when Christ “fulfilled the law,” that meant that the only authority left over us was his example. This doesn’t appear to be the case, though, as I look deeper. Sure he fulfilled it: he showed us what a full human really looked like who kept the entire scope of God’s law. But he didn’t abolish it and his and Paul’s quotes above demonstrate this.

So, okay, chalk one up for the Theonomists. There is still something that irks me as I read and listen to them. It still seems legalistic to me in some way. They are the first to actively decry legalism and they talk about the tremendous freedom that we have in Christ and that we truly do live under the law of grace. They do a fairly decent job of balancing the moral authority of God’s law and the new law of grace we have through Jesus. But I think the problem is that they are so focused on the law and obedience to it, that it feels like a different form of legalism. It is obedience without joy.

“Where’s the love?” I almost shouted at the TV last night while I listened to R.J. Rushdooney and George Grant in the video series “God’s Law and Society.” The foundation of all their thinking is what Richard Mouw calls “Divine Command Ethics,” that is “God is the basic criterion of all morality” for Christians and non-Christians alike. So, our call to make disciples and to be “God’s ambassadors” to establish the Kingdom on this earth, here and now, is predicated on this statement. Jesus is King over all the earth now and his law needs to be upheld over everything and everyone. Consequently, morality can indeed be legislated, it can govern our economics, our businesses, our art, etc. We are rulers with Jesus and we rule with God’s law, not man’s. Dominion, dominion, dominion. That is the message that is hammered over and over and over. I don’t mean to cast asparagus on them (as my theology professor Richard Plantinga used to say) because their arguments are largely compelling. But what seems to be missing is love and joy.

These missing ingredients also seem to be missing from the congregations I have attended, and the one I currently am a part of, who focus so much on obedience. They seem to react so strongly to emotional faith and “liberals” (narrowly defined as tree-hugging, let’s-all-be-friends, whatever-you-believe-is-okay people) that they swing entirely the other way. Their kids are raised by the rod, the church is ruled by a male elite, and they either wring their hands with chagrin at the state of Christianity or they come out from behind their thick walls wielding the biggest Bible they can find, striking out at “Make-Believers,” homosexuals, abortionists, feminists, and other vile secular humanists. They are driven by fear and obedience in the name of serving God. Freedom in Christ is a new concept and the struggle between fear and freedom is manifested in many high-schoolish discussions about whether or not it’s okay to drink and how much is too much.

Let me temper these comments by saying these are honest and good people who are trying their best to do the right thing, just like the rest of us. It just shows up in a different way. In fact, I could write (and probably will) an article as long if not longer about the other side of Christianity that I have also experienced, where no one stands for anything and the Bible is drudgery because they’ve heard it all before and there is nothing new that they can apply to their lives. So they warm a Samsonite folding chair and listen to some good jazz or rock music, nod in agreement to the Pace Picante Mild sermon for 20 minutes, checking their watches because if they hurry they can make it back home in time for the kick-off. What I appreciate most about the more fundamentalist group, over against Christianity Lite, is that the Bible still means everything to them and that is most refreshing. It is why I find myself returning to Bible churches over and over again.

But I have to return over and over again because I always end up fleeing from them too, and this brings me back to my main point: Where’s the love? Where’s the joy? This morning I finally got a deep breath of fresh air from John Piper who published a response on the Resurgence blog site to a critique of his book Desiring God. The critique came from a guy named Richard Mouw in his book The God Who Commands. I urge you to read this article by following this link. Piper points out that God does indeed command, and we must obey his commands, but what is important is that He commands us to be Christian Hedonists. His use of hedonism here is different than the philosophical idea of pursuing pleasure as a guide to or means of moral justification. What he means by Christian Hedonism is simply:

“that true love requires true happiness (emphasis mine)…To the extent that we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue.”

He comes to this conclusion, he says, as a “Biblical theologian” who has honestly wrestled with

“divine commands to ‘love mercy’ (not just do it, Micah 6:8), and to ‘show mercy with cheerfulness’ (Rom. 12:8), and to suffer the loss of our possessions ‘with joy’ in the service of prisoners (Heb. 10:34), and to be a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7), and to make our joy the joy of others (2 Cor. 2:3), and to tend the flock of God willingly and eagerly (1 Peter 5:2), and to keep watch over souls ‘with joy’ (Heb. 13:17).”

Piper goes on to say that the “moral implications are stunning: If you aim to abandon the pursuit of full and lasting pleasure, you cannot love people or please God” (emphasis mine).

Thank you, John! That’s it. That, in a nutshell, is what I have been feeling lately. I am part of a group of people who are trying their hardest to obey, but are doing so without joy. Consequently, they are having a difficult time loving people outside of their own group. Fear kills love and a strict pursuit of law aborts a whole-hearted pursuit of “lasting pleasure.” The irony of course is that pursuing true Christian pleasure is one of God’s foundational commands that somehow gets lost among all the others.

So go ahead and say it. I’m a hedonist, and to tell you the truth, I’m quite happy about it.

Ameena's First Steps

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Get this video and more at MySpace.com

Acacia and Ameena Toddlin

Get this video and more at MySpace.com


Here is my second film that premiered this past sunday:


Friday, June 02, 2006

Are Christians really doing what they should? My first film is a documentary. These are honest answers from random people on America's longest street.

You can see this and other stuff on my MySpace page. Yup, for some reason I joined the throngs. Don't know why...it just seemed like a good idea at the time.