Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Here there be Pharisees

“Christian vs. Christ-follower”

You probably want to view the videos first.

Here’s my response:

I can see where you’re trying to say: we’re not the same old church that you’re sick of. We don’t fit the (sometimes well deserved) stereotypes of “church.” You might have had a bad experience somewhere else but we’re not like that.

And perhaps that is effective for some people. I’m sure you will have dozens of new people who come to church and tell you that they are there because of the ads. So good.

But I worry for what those people may someday become. I hope they come to faith. I hope they believe with all their hearts. And this ad will pass out of memory. But what you’re setting up for is a whole group of second-class Christians… the “Christians.” They read their Bibles. They wear suits. They listen to cheesy Christian music. They think you should wear suits and read Bibles and listen to Christian music too.

What is being implied? That at CCC, we REALLY love Jesus. We really follow him. We got past shallow a long time ago. We’re cool. We’re savvy to ipods and we listen to… predictibly… U2. And we are certainly better than those guys with the suits.

At some point, I think that you will discover that your marketing and humor goes only so far towards actually knowing Jesus… because the contempt that is conveyed is what will keep you away from Him.

A final note: I think Joel Hunter mentioned that the two men are more similar than they might think. But the difference is that “Christian” has created his own culture, and “Christ-follower” has grazed from white, pop, american sub-culture AND Christian American sub-culture. So it’s U2 but not Nine Inch Nails, or John Lee Hooker, or Glen Miller, or Bach. It’s a loose sweatshirt but not a track suit or a plain button down shirt. (Did anyone else predict that the Christ-follower would be listening to the universally-acceptable U2?)

In trying to be unique and clever, you have only copied (as Christians are so apt to do) a good idea from the world, cite U2, and thank God that you’re not like that Pharisee.


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Dan Phillips wrote a post last week on the “Team Pyro” blog Pyromaniacs, which in my opinion, represents the very best and the very worst of what that blog, its authors, and the general John MacArthur mindset.

In some ways, the problem is actually the strength.  MacArthur has rightly inspired a veritable legion of Reformed Baptists (given that their sense of history usually doesn’t extend much earlier than C.H. Spurgeon, AND given that you will almost never see a reference to a Reformed non-Baptist, we might be better off to refer to them as “Calvinistic Baptists,” but… well, whatever) toward greater learning, works, and Biblical reliance.  Although I wasn’t alive for his early ministry, and I wasn’t a Christian for most of his ministry, I have to go with what people have told me, but “they” say that MacArthur was extremely important in calling the church back to exegetical preaching and Biblical reliance.  Evangelicals in America, and probably the world over, owe John MacArthur gratitude and respect.

However, the very strength of force of his exegetical preaching seems sometimes to overstep its boundaries, and Dan Phillips seems to embody that strength/weakness in his contributions to their “team blog.”

Dan presents marital counseling – quite fairly – as a difficult task.  And he presents Biblical truth as important and effective for people who are suffering different difficulties.  Without a doubt, all pastors and marital counselors should look at the verses he mentions, study them, and apply them.

What concerns me is the manner in which he advocates the application of these principles.  His method is, in essence:

1: Make sure they have the right answers about Jesus, their “personal relationship with Jesus, God’s holiness, total depravity… basically, get the 5 Sola’s right.

2.  Get the doctrine of submission to God right.

3.  Pray

4.  Read some Bible verses and study them.

5.  Get the doctrine of marriage right.  (Interestingly, he says marriage is a covenant, not a dispensation.  Ha!  Just kidding.)

6.  Review marriage vows.

7.  Have them work hard and get more Bible verses.

8.  Do what the Bible says.

RESULT:  If you do that, how could your marriage be anything but happy?

Sounds good, right?  So what is missing?

Let’s see what the apostle says:

2 Cor 3:2 – You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.

2 Cor 11:2 – I feel a divine jealousy for you

Phil 1:3 – I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine…

What about Jesus?

Matthew 9:36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.

John 11:35-36 Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!”

It’s not what Dan is saying that is troubling.  He’s right on.  It’s what he isn’t saying that leads to trouble.  We don’t just drop Bible verses on hurting people… we minister to them.  This is where “Nouthetic” counseling is a welcome correction, but ultimately, a failure.  It’s where the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation has done well where Jay Adams dropped the ball.  As ministers of the Gospel, in whatever formal or informal roles we may have, our job is to press our lives up against the lives of those to whom we minister, not just hit them with Bible verses. 

This is why The Master’s College is marked by overwhelming legalism.  It’s why most of the sermons I’ve ever heard from Grace Community Church are as informative as any college classroom, and as interesting as the sound of a power drill.

While offering a Bible-centered view, MacArthur, Jay Adams, Phil Johnson and “team pyro” have replaced the image of God applying the Word of God like a healing ointment to hurting people, and have instead created a do-it-yourself kit out of the Bible, and have reduced the minister/pastor to that of an instructor.

They will always be strong in Scripture, but without a communal application of the Word from broken hearted people to other broken hearted people, we will have a stunted ministry.  That’s not who we are, and its not who we want to be.  We need to enter into the suffering of those to whom we minister, not just give them verses to study.

And when we talk about what we’re doing, we need to emphasize that, not just assume it.

What we don’t teach people actually teaches people as much as what we do teach.

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Tony Campolo at RTS part 4: The Church Faces her Tendency Toward Idolatry


Idolatry: The most fascinating thing in sociology is where people get their concepts of God.  There is a universal belief in God, but God is defined differently in all different places.  Now, why is this? 


A certain researcher observed Australian aborigines who were inventing a new religion.  He observed that:

1.  A new collection of people developed collective traits and values. 

2.  The tribe comes up with an animal, or totem, that represents the traits and values.  The animal represents the tribe.  We do the same thing: wise as an owl, strong as an ox, angry as a hornet.

3.  The people begin to worship the animal (which is nothing more than a symbolic representation of their own values.)


When people begin to worship, they are worshipping a representative of their collective selves.


This begs the questions: is the Jesus we worship a symbolic representation of US, or are we worshipping the Biblical Jesus?


The apostle Paul says, in Romans 1, that they try to transform the incorruptible God, and they end up worshipping the creature, not the creator.


Making God in our image is useful, because anyone who opposes our God opposes America, and vice versa.  We can go to war, because God is always on our side.


I see many flags draped over crosses – that is frightening.  And it reminds me that just because you put Jesus’ name on the front of a building, doesn’t mean that Jesus is actually being worshipped.


My friend is writing a book called, How Jesus Wrecked my life.    The author grew up hearing testimonies of messed-up people who became well-heeled middle class Americans.  The author grew up middle class, and he began to get messed up by following the Jesus of Scripture.  He felt alienated because he was following Jesus in a radical manner.  But what does the real Jesus say?  What does the Scripture say?


I used to talk long and hard with my graduate students, and it wasn’t long before 4 of them came to faith.  One of them was a Jewish man who had never read the New Testament.  He went to a new church, but after a while, he said, “If you asked people to create a religion that looked exactly opposite to the Sermon on the Mount, it would look like this church.”


I’m worried for this country.  I grew up in a church, the American Baptist church.  And they were married to the Democrats.  I am afraid that we now do this with the Republican party: to be a Christian is to be Republican.  And when the values of a political party become the values of Christianity, we are idolaters.  And if you always side with one party or another, you probably need to take a good, long look at yourself. 


A researcher said that love and power cannot be simultaneously expressed.  Power is contingent on a lack of love.  The more you love, the weaker you become.  Love makes you vulnerable, it puts you in a place where you can be hurt.  This is why men are lousy lovers.  They cannot be loving and powerful at the same time. 


2,000 years ago, the God who has all the power and created the universe decided to express His full love.  Jesus emptied Himself, and took the form of a slave, even to the point of death.  The scandal of the Gospel is that the all powerful God puts aside his power to show love.  But he chooses not to show power.  On the cross, Jesus could have come down, or called down a legion of angels.  He didn’t need to be mocked, he could have stopped it all through and expression of power.  But he doesn’t use His power.  Love keeps Him there.


Salvidore Dali’s painting of the Crucifixion doesn’t have nails, because it wasn’t the nails that kept him there.

We have a God who comes without power to express love.  Don’t be mistaken.  Jesus will come again, and he’s coming again in power.  At some point, he will bring judgment and power, not love.  If you become a Christian, it’s because you choose to, because love must be freely chosen.  Love cannot be coerced. 


Christians now think that, if we can have power, we can fix the country.  We just need the right power, we need to elect the right people.  And you should understand that I love power as much as anyone.


[Flat tire story]


Satan wanted to see power.  Pharisees said that they would believe if they could see some power.  Power evangelism won’t do it.  The world isn’t looking for an expression of power.  They are looking for love.  Power doesn’t work anymore.


(Campolo says) that I had an atheist friend who said I should build an alter and call down fire just like Elijah.  I said, what if it did?  He told me, honestly, I would assume there was another explanation.  Power won’t do it.


Jesus said don’t be sad that I’m leaving.  You need me to leave.  You will do greater works that I.  Jesus walked on water, he raised the dead, and my pastor (when I was a kid) told me that I didn’t have enough faith to do the miracles.  It was a cop-out.  The miracles didn’t stick!  Except for the Resurrection, the miracles didn’t have any lasting affect.  The 5,000 fed people were hungry the next day.  Lazarus still died.  But at the wedding at Cana, Jesus looks around and sees an upset bride, a distraught groom, and a father who thought he had enough wine and would be facing a lifetime of humiliation.  And Jesus sees all of this, and he keeps a secret.  He doesn’t make wine to impress his friends.  He does it out of love. 


That’s not my theology, that’s Paul’s theology.  If you don’t have love, you have nothing.  Understand, love is the essence of the faith.  The ultimate expression of love is laying down the his life for us at the Cross. 

I am for Christians going into politics.  But I fear when Christians wed faith to power… when they think that they can bring about a greater Christianity through politics.  Why didn’t Jesus go to Caesar?  Why didn’t He impose His will on everybody?  Jesus draws all men to Himself. 


Power and authority are different – authority is earned through sacrifice… power is imposed.  My little Italian mother didn’t have any power – I could have kicked her down the stairs.  But when she told me to jump, I asked how high? because she had sacrificed so much for me.


God has highly exalted the name of Jesus, and his authority is built on the Cross at Calvary… at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of the Father.


[Story of two Vietnam vets: one lost his leg, and the other got shrapnel in his chest.  Twice the Vietcong came across us, and saw that we were so pathetic they just let us go… because he was carrying me in excruciating pain.  So years later, when he got epilepsy, I sold everything and came here to be with him, because he carried me.]


Someday, all evil will yield.  That which did not yield to His love will yield to His power.  Who is this Christ we worship?  What does He require? 


The accumulation of wealth has implications.  “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  Suppose we had done what the Bible says.  What if we didn’t have an embargo for 10 years, that killed half a million children.  What if the church… not the Government, but the church… bought a bunch of stuff, and for 10 years, shipped it to Jordan, and then went to Iraq with it?  What if we had done that?  Do you think our soldiers would have been viewed as heroes.


“It’s not that we have tried Christianity and it failed… it’s that he have tried, and it was hard, so we gave up.”  -Chesterston.


Our Christianity is located within a tremendous superpower.  How do we use the power that we have as Christians?


My Pastor always says, “Title or Testimony?”  Pharaoh, Darius, Jezebel all had good titles.  But Moses, Daniel, and Elijah all had the testimony.  Some day they will throw dirt on your body, and then they will cry, and then they will go back and eat potato salad.


If you can get a title and a testimony, go ahead, get both.  But if you have to make a choice, choose a testimony.  Your testimony lasts forever, and your title goes with you to the grave.


Quotes (actually, general paraphrases) from the Q and A:


I worry that men are threatened by women in leadership; its not their deep Biblical convictions; it’s their desire to hold on to power.


The Good News is that the Kingdom will not go limping into eternity, battered and bruised.  The Church will walk triumphant into the new millennium.


America is the best Babylon in the world.  But Babylon is a whore.  Whores seduce.  Babylon consumes all the resources on the earth, and eats up the souls of men (Rev 18).  Babylon wants worship.  Babylon falls, and those who have invested in Babylon weep, and the angels rejoice.  One day this Babylon will fall.  No society lasts forever, only God’s Kingdom.  When Babylon falls, where will you be?  Will you be singing with the angels, or will you weep with the traders?  Lay not up for yourselves treasures in Babylon, but in heaven.  It will fall, and everything you were looking to for security will be gone.  If you have invested in the Kingdom, you won’t weep to see it go.

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Dr. Tony Campolo, March 7th 2006.

Kistemaker Lecture series at RTS Orlando


The Church Faces Post-Modernity


[Introduction and prayer by Dr. Mark Futato]


Today’s lecture is on Post-Modernity.  It’s difficult to define Post-Modernity (PM).  In fact, all we can really say is that it’s not modern.


Christianity has not fared will in the “modern world.”  The modern world is characterized by these ideas:


1.  The only existence is in the moment.  Nothing is eternal, things have a beginning and end.  You were not, you are, you will cease to be.

2.  You can explain everything in terms of natural causes.  Contingency.

3.  Relativity.  Values and ideas and truth are all relative.  Modern anthropology is teaching us this.  Values change, thus, what is true actually changes.  Each society has the right to define for itself what is right and wrong.  We can’t judge cross-culturally.  If a society says that something is right, it’s right for that society.

4.  Relativity.  It was the Greeks who believed that we lived in a world of archetypes.  Before you were ever born, you were an idealized entity.  But then, tragically, you were born.  So your task is to “know thyself.”  Implying that there is an a priori self who is waiting to be discovered.  “My son has to find himself.”  “Doc, I need to take a semester off to find myself.”  And it always leads to the same place: Boulder, Colorado.  [Laughter].  Kids feel like they need to come to grips with the “essence of my selfhood.”  Kinda makes you want to puke, doesn’t it?  [Laughter]  What if you peel yourself away to find out that you’re in the end, nothing?  What if you’re an onion with just more onion inside.  Existentialists would say that the self is not some secret person inside, the self is defined by our commitments.  The existentialists would say that there is no a priori means of existence.  You are born into uncertainty, and you create your meaning.  This isn’t far off from Christianity – you are what you do.  Your meaning must be created, although you are born into a pre-ordained universe.


In the modern age, science and reason were on the throne.


When I went to Christian summer camp as a kid, I went to these lectures on Christianity and science.  They assumed that if science and Christianity conflicted, science would win out.  Science was on the throne.  They assumed that Science did win out over faith.  That’s why I don’t worry about Post-Modernity like some others do.  Maybe they’re right.  But I have to say, modernity created an environment where it became almost impossible to believe in God.  Modernity creates a world where faith becomes impossible.  You need myth.  In France and Germany, they’re too modern for the Gospel.  In Africa, they understand the spiritual dimension, and the Gospel bears great fruit there.  It looked like modernity would prevail.  “The increasing tendency toward modernity is irreversible.”  “Modernity is the final truth.” 


But into this modern view comes… post modernity.


Ironically, the seeds of PM were sewn by modernity.  Einstein got it… he knew that gravity would not work in an infinite universe.  Carl Sagan said the universe went on and on.  Einstein came up with the concept of the expanding universe… the universe is huge but not infinite, because otherwise gravity wouldn’t work.


Imagine a balloon.  Put little dots all over it.  As you blow the balloon up, the dots will appear to move further from one another.  The Hubble telescope has shown us that, yes, indeed, the universe is expanding.  But what is the context into which the universe is expanding?  Into nothing?  Space is a universe which is expanding into nothing?  How could that expand if there’s nothing to expand into?  If smoke is spreading throughout the room, what is the nature of the room?


Bultmann said that the Biblical universe is a 3 tiered universe.  There is time, space, and matter, on the skin of the balloon, and then there is what is inside the balloon, and then there is the nothing into which the universe is expanding.  So the universe has come around to be scientifically described as a 3 tiered universe, just like the Bible said.  It wasn’t infinite.  So post modernity has brought science to a Biblical universe view.


We now know that there are 4 dimensions of the universe, the 4th being time.  A Russian mathematician said that there are at least 16 dimensions.  So what is impossible in our dimension is totally reasonable within a 4 or 16 dimension universe.


Now, Einstein really speaks to theology.  He says that the faster we travel, the more time compresses.  The theory of relativity.  At 180 miles per second, our 20 years would be a single minute to you.  At the speed of light, everything is happening at once – an “eternal now.”  This has theological implications.  Augustine knew this, and Einstein taught us about.

Think about the doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement.  I believe in Substitutionary Atonement.  There are many theories of salvation, but there are many which would.  There are two things I believe about Jesus.  He is fully God, and he is fully man.  God was not partially revealed in Jesus, He was fully revealed in Jesus.  So when Jesus was on the cross, two things were happening – a man was dying for other man.  But at the same time, Jesus is simultaneous with all of history.  That is why Jesus could say “Before Abraham was, I Am.”  Or “I am the Alpha and the Omega.”  What does that mean?  It means that when Jesus was on the Cross, at the speed of light, that moment is happening now.  Yes, the work on the Cross was finished.  But in God’s “eternal now,” you were saved 2,000 years ago, and from Calvary, God will connect with you right now, and your sin of right now will be connected to Jesus on the Cross of 2,000 years ago.  Jesus cried in Gethsemane because he was about to absorb every single sin throughout all of time that everyone would do – as you are sinning, Jesus is absorbing your own filth into His own body.  Jesus didn’t just die 2,000 years ago, He is eternally dying now. 


We say, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”  You were forgiven 2000 years ago, but you need to be cleansed right now, you need your sin absorbed by Jesus right now. 


You don’t need more Holy Spirit – the HS is in you now.  It is the Spirit of God within you that brought you to God in the first place.  The sin in your life can quench the Spirit, but you need to confess your sins and be cleansed of your sins – it’s a Holy Spirit, and to be possessed by the Holy Spirit in His fullness, you need to be cleansed. 


About predestination: does God know what is going to happen?  Yes and no.  Because for God, the beginning of time and right now are the same moment.  So does God know what is going to happen?  Yes.  But is it happening right now for God?  Yes.  You can enter into a reality, into a relationship with God.  SO are you going to go to sleep, and wait for God after you die, and wait until the trumpets sound?  Yes.  But at the same time, you enter into God’s universe and God’s time.  So the Bible teaches the immortality of the soul, AND  the resurrection of the body.  Jesus wasn’t spiritually resurrected from the dead, the tomb was empty.  This mortal body will put on immortal flesh.  Heaven will not be a bunch of disembodied spirits floating around.  It will be flesh.


The science of Einstein is shattering the science of Newton, and who knows what quantum physics will do?  We don’t get that stuff.  Is there no order to the universe?  Einstein said that the whole world is beyond reason, but the Bible says that in Him do all things exist.  What God can govern every electron in the whole universe?  If you believe that all things have a cause and contingency, then please explain the motion of electrons.  You can’t.  Science has found so much reality that only a theologian can explain it.


The Hegelian era made everything explainable.  A unified world view?  Hegel made it.  And Kierkegaard and Nietzsche dismissed him entirely.  Nietzsche said that there were two different approaches to truth.  The rational and the emotional.  Philosophy is people who are studying life because they’re too afraid to live it.  But how to we apprehend truth?  The philosophical way, the way of philosophers, said Nietzsche.  The Golden Age of Greek philosophy wasn’t philosophy, it was Greek drama.


To totally understand it, you have to see Star Trek 5.  The Enterprise is invaded by aliens.  (Why haven’t they put an alarm system on the Enterprise, after all these alien invasions?)  Spock’s brother says, Spock, you went the way of science and modernity.  Emotion doesn’t affect Spock.  His brother asks, “Did it ever occur to you that you can’t think your way to the truth?  But some of the most stupid people I’ve met know the truth, and some of the most brilliant people don’t have any truth at all?”


How does that guy with an IQ of 90 love Jesus?  He knows truth, because truth isn’t a proposition, truth is a man.  When Pilate says “What is truth,” Jesus didn’t answer.  Socrates and Plato would have had an answer.  Only God was wise enough to remain silent, because truth is an encounter with the Living God.   And if you don’t encounter Jesus and know Him in the NOW, you don’t know him.  The next half of a second is not NOW… NOW is now.  I’m not fast enough to tell you what I’m thinking about NOW… I can only tell you what I was   Truth cannot be articulated, it must be experienced.  Your theology is good, but it’s only a description of what you’ve experienced.


PM says that you can’t think your way to the truth.  Spock’s brother said that you have to LOVE your way to God.  Who are the ones who know God?  The ones who love Him.  At the judgment day, you’re not going to have a theological exam.  He is going to ask you, “Do you love me?”  PM raises questions, not about the validity of reason or theology… it suggests that there is something beyond the categories of truth, there is an actual relationship with truth.  The PM world is tearing us out of the modern view… our theology is nothing more than a tool for evangelism.  We are simply trying to explain to people what we have seen and experienced.  The way we talk about Christ in the PM world may be different from that of a modern world.  We’re not out of the modern world yet, but we will be… and we need to be ready for it.

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Tony Campolo Lecture at RTS, part 2.

The church in transition from sect to Ecclesia


[Tony Campolo is currently Lecturing at RTS.  These are my own notes from his lectures.  I haven’t been able to type fast enough to quote him directly, but I think I have captured the sense of his lecture and the majority of his comments.]


We have been using the categories of “sect” and “ecclesia” as we talk about the transition within the church.


What is a sect, what is ecclesia?


A sectarian movement is characterized by the fact that the members are all converts.  They all have an excitement and zeal that people raised in the religion don’t have.


Converts can’t understand why people who grew up in the church don’ t have the same kind of excitement or zeal that they do.


Most of the people in megachurches haven’t been taken from other churches, they’ve been converted, and as a result they’re full of energy.


If you go to a church where people have grown up in the church, it’s hard to get them to evangelize, to get them out there.  New converts have an excitement, a zeal, that others don’t have.


Sects have evangelistic zeal, ecclesiastical organizations have a staid mentality.


Within a sectarian movement, things are very spontaneous.  Reformed Presbyterian churches have an order of worship, and if HS was going to move, He would have to be cleared through 3 committees.  Now, there needs to be both.  I’m no fan of the new worship movement.  But young people love it.


We have voluntary chapel at our school, you know who shows up – the God Squad.  They’re upset that the rest of the school isn’t as holy as they do.


Our new chapel has a new pastor, and he changed the worship style.  I hate the new worship.  The only difference between a machine gun and modern worship is that a machine gun only has 100 rounds. 


“I will sing of His love forever” – they mean it.


Worship music will change what you’re doing.  At my school, 1200 out of 1700 kids show up to worship during the week.  They’ve all got their hands up and tears streaming down their face, loving Jesus.  God is in the middle of it.


These kids love the spontaneous, Pentecostal style worship.  When they graduate, they are asked to fill out a form and talk about what they like and don’t.  Many of the graduates actually come to faith in their worship service.  Unfortunately, its not because they have this great sociology professor.  [Laughter].  It’s because of the worship, which is exhilarating.


I go to a black church.  I joined a white church but all the white people moved away, and all the black people moved in, so now it’s a black church.  In the middle of worship, they might stop the worship service and just stop everything and wait until the Spirit shows up.


In ecclesiastical churches, you have a theology of prayer, but you don’t pray in the Spirit.  Of course, Pentecostals get crazy half the time.  I heard that a woman stood up and said, “Thus sayeth the Lord, just as Moses led the animals onto the ark, so I will lead my people.”


10 minutes later, she stood up and said, “The Lord says, ‘it wasn’t Moses, it was Noah.”


Pentecostals are growing – they will be the most dominant denomination in the US and in the world before too long.  But I love Pentecostal people.  Before you speak at their seminaries, they pray.  They pray long.  They go on and on.  Which is good, because I need a lot of prayer.  They pray so long they get tired, and they begin to lean.  So you get 11 guys leaning on your head.  And then this one guy starts to pray for somebody else, and that’s dirty pool, because he’s leaning on my head.


Sectarian spirituality is fluid, it’s spontaneous… you gotta be ready for it.  There’s room for the old stuff too, though.  Jesus said that the Kingdom of heaven … old stuff, new stuff.


If there isn’t room for the old stuff, the old theology, the old hymns, it’s not the Kingdom of God.  But there is this tendency.


The Methodist movement was a sectarian movement in its early days, with John Wesley.  Now, it has become ecclesiastical.  It looks like the very Episcopalianism that it originally rebelled against.


The next difference is that the sect leader is always charismatic – not meaning tongues, but meaning one who speaks with authority, like Jesus spoke with authority.  The Pharisees had all the right training and authority, and Jesus comes along.  And the Pharisees want to know where he got his credentials.


You know that Paul would never get into a Reformed Seminary.  Can you imagine his testimony?  “I was walking down the road and I saw a bright light.  But none of my companions saw it.  But now there’s two of me: Saul and Paul.  But they don’t get along!  They hate one another!  Wretched man that I am!”


The black church that I went to didn’t care a lick about a degree.  The black pastor I had told me that “by the time seminary is done with you, you won’t be able to preach the fuzz off of a peach!”  Young people come in alive and excited about Jesus, and when they leave, all they care about is education and credentials.  Gotta watch out for that.  You know if you’re gonna preach already – if you have the gift.  I taught one year, and I was surrounded by kids who wanted to be pastors, and I knew they were going to go out and kill churches.  Because they didn’t have the charisma.  You have to electrify the audience, to turn them on, and that’s what they look for in the black churches.  Do you have that spiritual dynamic.  Do you have the gift?  Quite different from someone who has academic credentials, and that’s what makes him a pastor.


Another thing:  The social class that tends to attract sects.  Sectarian spirituality is attractive to those who are lowest in the socio-economic class.  It is non-formalized.  Something like the RPC is going to grow from people who are disgusted by people who are sick of liberalism.  Who want sound Biblical teaching.  But you’re not going to attract social rejects – Pentecostal churches are going to attract the pimps, the hookers, and the druggies.  People who have been rejected by the world, and in turn, reject the world that has rejected them.  They want to be a part of something that rejects the world.  You’re churches [here from RTS] attract people who don’t want a world-rejecting church.  They want to have a better marriage, they want to get along with people, they want to get ahead.  Sectarian groups reject the world, and see it as an evil place.  Being a Christian requires that you live a separated life.  Reformed theology is about transforming the world.  The task of the church is to be agents of change to change the world.  But Pentecostals are threatened by worldliness,,. they want to reject it.


Evangelicalism has become mainstream.  As a kid, we rejected the world.  We didn’t drink or dance, and guys, if you can stand in front of a woman and move like that, and not get turned on, you’re not spiritual, you’re dead.  [Laughter].  So as a kid we would never have a dance, we’d have hayrides.  [Laughter]


The motif, when I was growing up, said, that society is a sinking ship.  The church is a lifeboat.  The church’s task is to get as many off the ship and onto the lifeboat as possible.  The idea was that society is going down the tubes… get as many as possible into the boat.


The mindset of the Reformers is that God loves the ship and the lifeboat, and God wants to save the ship, and the culture and the system.  The Reformed mindset doesn’t buy into the social mindset that we can make the world a perfect place.  WWII taught us that.  But we are caught up in a matrix of evil, and we are not going to create a perfect world.  The Titanic was unsinkable.  The First World War was the “Last War,” but we now know that we are not people with a few flaws that can be overcome.  We are dead people who need a radical miracle… we need to be transformed.  But the reality is that we can impact society.  Many white people think things are getting worse and worse, but black people don’t want to go back 75 years.  There is progress.  Some things are worse, better.  Can you create a utopia?  Sure you can. 


Every war has a decisive war, and after that war, you know that you’re going to win or lose.  Gettysburg.  Waterloo.  Normandy.  Rommell knew that if the Allies have a beachhead in Normandy, they could get more troops in Europe, and Germany would lose.  If they could put them back in the water, they would win.  Rommell joined the movement to assassinate Hitler, because he knew that Hitler would never give up, and Rommell didn’t want to see all of Germany, all of Europe, be destroyed.


Now, more people died after D-Day than before.  More death followed the decisive victory.


That’s Calvary.  On Friday, it looked like evil won.  But Jesus staged a coup, and then we knew that all the powers raised against Jesus, at their strongest, are not stronger than Jesus at His weakest.


Billy Graham said, “I have read the New Testament and I know how it ends: we win.” 


Between D-Day and V-Day – the crucifixion and the trumpets sounding, there will be death and destruction, but we know we’re going to win.


If you told the French Resistance that they were fools, they would have said, “Look, across the Channel, there is a huge force, and someday it will come to help us.  So we struggle, and we will win.:


Here’s the good news: one day the trumpet will sound, and there is a huge invasion force in heaven that is going to come and join us, and we… will… win!  [Applause]  We are not going to lose.


The truth is that Jesus is coming back to join us.  We are moving forward to Christ’s V-Day.  We are saying the world is there, and we are called to transform society.  That is what makes the Reformed tradition distinctive.  We don’t think we can create the kingdom without a second coming, but we know that we can do a lot.


Third thing:  The sect has a different theology, a ‘religio-magic religion.”  There are a lot of miracles in the sect.  In the typical Presbyterian church, you’d be embarrassed by it.  I was lecturing at this small school, and this woman came forward with a crippled child, and she said, “God told me to come.”  (The least God could have done would be to tell me she was coming!)  “God told me that you would pray over my boy, and he’ll be healed.”  A young man came to me and said, “let me help.”  So the young man said, “If you don’t believe that this boy can be healed, please leave, because even Jesus couldn’t do miracles when the people didn’t believe.”  So they all left, but for 5 Pentecostals.  We got some oil, and we turn to the book of James and read it like it’s a cookbook.  And I gave this phony prayer, like, “If it be your will…” and all of a sudden, I felt the Holy Spirit, and it was awesome.  And I have to tell you, people, I fully expected the child to be healed. 


3 years later, the woman came back to me.  She was there with the boy.  And he was healed.  “What happened?”  “Every morning, the boys legs were healed a little bit more every morning.”  A Reformed friend said, that doesn’t fit into my theology.  “Maybe God is bigger than your theological categories.”  Somehow we have to bring together the best of it all, because I’m sick of people putting God in a theology.


Is it inevitable?  Does every sect turn into ecclesia?  There is an increasing cycle of charisma filling the ecclesiastical organization, and a new sect starting, and the new sect turns into an ecclesiastical organization.  But this doesn’t have to happen.  If you are not constantly bringing in new converts, your church will turn into an ecclestic organization.  You need new converts to bring fresh vision, new energy into the church.


A guy told a story to me… He said, “I was in Australia and a guy asked me, ‘if you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity?’ “ That’s how he became a Christian,  And two guys came to faith like that.  And after 7 years, this guy finally found out that 2 people came to faith.  [Long story short] turns out that thousands of people had been impacted by John Childs – they didn’t find out until Campolo went on a radio show.


On Waikiki beach, a crazy guy was shouting and holding his Bible.  He’s a fanatic.  He’s being a fool, making a fool out of himself.  An hour later, this crazy guy was praying with two other guys, these two businessmen, and they’re asking Christ into their hearts.  My wife asked, “How many people have you led to Christ today?”


We need an aspect of sectarian theology.  We need all the forms of Godliness that are crazy, that are out there, and are willing to be fools for Christ.


[He offered a Q&A afterwards.  These notes will probably be only useful to those who attended]


In the stillness of the morning, I ask the spirit for nothing.  I just sit there with him. 


How do you introduce the “Sect” without destroying the people?

1.  People want the Spirit and the life He gives.

2.  Don’t be critical of those who aren’t into it.

3.  Take the ones who want to meet God and teach them – they’ll teach everyone else

4.  Get your people to the third world at least once a year.




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…I understand why people become Pentecostals. Why rock music is ridiculously loud.

Being “cool” is a virtue among our kids, but “cool” means unaffected. They want to be unmoved.

A Prophet: [#2] Offers an alternative view. It is easy to condemn, but a prophet has a critique, and weeps, and gives hope with a vision and a dream of another reality.

Democratic Capitalism will end. The Kingdoms of this world will end. But the Kingdom of our God will never end… He shall reign forever and ever!

The voice of Paul comes out and says, “Present yourself to God as a living sacrifice!”

How much do we stand against what is really killing us? Prosperity Christianity makes Jesus a means of getting more stuff.

I knew a young man who was living in poverty, in community with other Christians, on purpose. The father came into my office and said, “Look what you’ve done to my boy! I don’t mind being a Christian up to a point…”

And the son said, “Dad, do you think that the point might be the cross?”

I’m glad I went to seminary, because seminary taught me that I don’t need to really believe what the Bible says. Before I went to seminary, I thought that when Jesus said, “Sell all you have and give to the poor,” He meant that. Seminary taught me the right answers… that Jesus meant “It’s OK to have money, as long as it doesn’t control you.”


There’s nothing wrong with making a million dollars. There’s something wrong with keeping it.

A BMW is more than an automobile… can you imagine Jesus saying, I know that people are starving in Haiti and dying of AIDS and hopelessly uneducated, but go ahead and buy an $80,000 status symbol to make yourself look better.

You must be counter cultural why did Mother Theresa have more authority than the Pope? He was surrounded by billions of dollars worth of stuff. She gave up everything and lived in Calcutta.

YES! Being a Christian means asking ourselves difficult questions! Are you ready to deal with that.

[TC here told a story of a death row lawyer, but I didn’t get enough to give you good notes.]

I knew a young man who went to Haiti, and he saw the poverty and the need, and he declared, “I’m going to be a doctor, and I’m going to come back here and help people.” Well, he was half right. I ran into him years later on the streets of New York City, and do you know what he did? He sold out. He did cosmetic surgery – and not reconstructing mangled people. He’s helping people buy into a culture that objectifies women’s bodies: breast enhancement. I told this young man, “Stop talking. You’re making me sick, because you sold out.”

And then there’s this other group of people

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Dr. Anthony Campolo is a guest speaker at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, for what is known as the “Kistemaker Lecture Series.”  I am aware of the controversy that seems to surround Dr. Campolo, and I don’t really know what to make of it.  More importantly, I don’t really care.  He’s not my Pastor and he’s not even in my denomination, so I intent on listening and critiquing what I hear, not what everyone else hears.
With that in mind, I intend on attending the entire 4 part lecture series, and offering my notes here.  Bear in mind that these are his words, filtered through my mind and my hand onto paper, then again from my paper, back into my mind, and into the keyboard.  None of what follows is a direct quote, but ” ” indicates that I’m pretty close.  Through my notes I have tried to convey the sense of what Dr. Campolo has put forth, but don’t quote Tony Campolo off of this, it has not been approved by Dr. Campolo and would be fairly unfair to him, lest I put words in the man’s mouth..  I’ll offer my own thoughts after I’ve put all my notes in here.  Anything I add will be in [brackets].
[Steve Brown introduced Dr. Campolo], saying that Tony Campolo (TC) lectures everywhere and to all sorts of people.  “We don’t agree on much except Jesus.”  SB goes on to say that TC is controversial, but that he (SB) doesn’t know anyone more faithful to Jesus, or anyone who embraces his calling more than TC does.
FF said that history is a succession of societies living out great ideas, and that we are at the end of history, because we have found the model idea, the idea around which all future societies will be organized: DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM.  (TC notes, “That’s it?”)  The last 2 challenges to Democratic Capitalism (facism and communism) collapsed.  3rd world nations want to enter into it.  China is slowly getting there. 
Why is this?  Why has this occured?  Has democratic capitalism been ordained by God as the final, greatest structure of society?  The reason it’s so popular and effective is because it is the most efficent at creating consumer goods at the lowest possible price.
We invented a system that makes…”stuff.”  Eastern Europe didn’t have as much stuff as the West, so the West won.  The wall fell for the sake of stuff.  We are so efficent at making stuff, when we have everything we need.  And if you are sitting here [at RTS], trust me, you have everything you need.  Your problem at the holidays will not be a problem of finding money to buy gifts… it will be how to buy stuff for people who have everything already?  You’re not courageous enough to just say, ‘That’s it, family, no gifts this year!’ [Laughter].  It takes a lot of energy to get people stuff they don’t need.
Why are our houses so big?  Look at the size of houses being built here in Orlando.  Is it because our families are bigger?  Our families are actually smaller these days.  We’re working longer hours, outside the home, with two incomes to buy stuff we don’t need.
[He commented here with high praise for his wife, about how she raised their children, and about how being a stay-at-home-mom is one of the most important and difficult jobs one could have.]
… Raising children is the ultimate task, but we’re neglecting it, having to earn more and more $ to buy more and more stuff.
The average married couple talks for 11 minutes every day.  The average father talks to his children 4 minutes per day, and we’re exhausted, trying to buy all the stuff we don’t really need.  We don’t have time for marriage or family… how do they get us to exhaust ourselves?  We don’t even know how to stop working when we go on vacation.
We are marketing genuises.  Marketing is one of the most popular majors at the University of Central Florida.  We can get people to buy stuff they don’t need in a heartbeat.  But we market by faith, not by product.  We sell the context: love for one another.  Faith.  Hope.  But in the end, all you have purchased is a can of beer.  What is the one thing that has brought perfect harmony to the whole world?  Black and white, Catholic and Protestant, all together?  Coca-Cola.  You remember the ad.  It was just like Pentacost – everyone singing together, singing the same song.
But Jesus said you can’t have it both ways: God and Mammon.
Your biggest problem, as young pastors, going out to teach and lead, is not going to be secular humanism… it’s going to be consumerism.  We are willing to neglect God and His Kingdom for stuff we don’t actually need.
A modern prophet, if we had a new one, would see what we’re facing and he would:
[1] weep.  Prophets weep before they shout.  A lot of us think that prophets are here to shout but they’re not.  They’re here to weep first.  Jeremiah was the weeping prophet.  Amos.  Isaiah.  Jesus wept over Jerusalem.  We should weep because we have all been duped into the consumerism, and just like the prophet, we know that as our people go into captivity, we go into captivity as well.  So we weep.
Sin isn’t what’s going to kill us, a lack of passion will kill us.
I was in an elevator the other day, with a young man with pants hanging down way too low.  When we got to the bottom, the door didn’t open.  I started banging on the door, and hollering, “the elevator’s stuck! Let us out!”  Well, it was one of those elevators with two doors, and I was looking at the wrong door.  It had opened up behind us.  And that kid just stood there, and so I grabbed him and shook him and said, “Laugh already!  That’s funny stuff!”  But young people don’t have any passion today. 

Many of you are going to be youth pastors as you’re in seminary.  The big problem isn’t that your kids are bad kids, they’re not sinning… they’re dead.  They don’t have any life in them, they don’t have any passion.  I understand why people become pentacostals, why Rock music is ridiculously loud . . .
[to be continued]
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