Friday, February 27, 2009

So If We Are The Body...

But if we are the Body
Why aren't His arms reaching
Why aren't His hands healing
Why aren't His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren't His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
(Casting Crowns)

Good question. What is the problem with “The Body of Christ”? Why does it not seem to be doing a very good job of what its Head, Jesus, left it here to do?

Is there a problem with the Head?

Is this whole Christian thing just a bunch of nonsense and what we see is merely a reflection of what happens when people make up a religion?

No, the problem is most certainly with people!

I think a good question to ask ourselves is what exactly makes the body the body anyway? And who is part of it? Is it possible that what is being described in the song is largely not the body at all, and that is why is it is not functioning?

The body is another metaphor that Paul used to describe the church – both local and universal. It is a telling and helpful metaphor because it is very descriptive of what the people of God are supposed to be doing with Jesus physically absent.

I believe it was our dear Anglican brother John Stott who was discussing God’s problem of invisibility: God, in a sense, does have this problem. He cannot be seen or touched or detected by the five senses, as He is a spirit. How did He solve this problem? By becoming human – God in the flesh – Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, “He who has seen me, has seen the Father.” (John 14:7).

But wait – there’s still a problem. Jesus was visible and could be touched and heard, but He left almost 2000 years ago, so we are back to the same situation.

Simply, God solved the problem with the church – it is the physical, visible, touchable body of Christ in the world.

But, you protest, look at the church! Hypocrites! Judgers! Lazy, good-for-nothing gluttons and materialists who mimic the culture around them! In defense of the church, we are at our best redeemed sinners who are in the sanctification process. But still, anyone who is paying attention to the church (in the West at least) has to admit the situation is far from ideal. What can explain the sad lyrics I posted?

I hinted at above, and let me share with you, loyal blog readers, my theory: Much of what we are calling “the body” is in fact not part of Christ at all. Like a prosthesis, it looks something like a real limb, but is dead. Its function is limited at best and detrimental at worst.

I know, I am so harsh…

I believe that the pathetic dumbing down of the gospel over the last several generations, primarily by Evangelicals (the supposed guardians of sound doctrine) has produced churches full of lost people who think they’re saved because they prayed a prayer to keep out of hell. Or to have a more fulfilling life.

Lest you think I’m picking merely on Evangelicals and/or conservative Protestants, theological moderates of the Mainline Protestant persuasion, not to mention theological liberals, have done even worse. They tend to define “body” as anyone who was ever baptized or in any way associates themselves with Christianity. Their “gospel” tends to be much more about temporal social change than about God’s wrath being satisfied by the sacrifice of Christ so that sinners could be reconciled to their creator and truly, fully redeemed.

So, what exactly makes a person part of the body?

Are Catholics part of the Body of Christ? What about Methodists? What about theological liberals? What about Baptists? They’re all part of the body, right?


Let’s take a look at Scripture…

“You were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

Who was Paul talking to? The Corinthian church – far from a model body of believers. He describes them this way, however: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (I Cor. 1:2 ESV). THEY were baptized by the Spirit into the Body.

So there’s our first clue… in order to be part of the body, one must be baptized by the Spirit into it. The Spirit immerses us into the body of Christ (which does not involve water, with all due respect to my Lutheran brothers and blogging buddies). This is called regeneration. In order to be in the body, one must be regenerated, or made alive in Christ. Also known as being Born Again or Born from Above. If one is not regenerated, one is not part of the body.

So are Catholics part of the body? The ones who are regenerated are.

Are Baptists part of the body? Ditto.

What about Lutherans? Every regenerated Lutheran is part of the body, as is every regenerated Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Anglican, Methodist, Wesleyan, Anabaptist, Mennonite, non-denominational Christian or whatever. Heck, even Emergent guys who are regenerated are part of the body! Denomination was not a criterion when God invented regeneration! It does not determine our body status.

I submit to you that the reason the “body” tends to function so poorly is because many people call themselves Christians who are not, at least not by any biblical definition of the word. They are “dead in their sins and trespasses” (Eph 2:1) and try as they might, cannot do the works God requires (John 6:29; Eph. 2:10). They are not attached to the vine and so can bear no fruit.

Let us then go back to preaching the whole, hard and beautiful message of the cross. Apart from the true gospel is no power to save, and people become false converts. If we preach the whole message of the cross, we might be surprised at what happens…

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blogging 101

If you want a good example of how blogging ideally works (in my opinion), check out my buddy Steve Martin's latest post. It's a raucous but respectful conversation on baptism:

I have been planning a similar post (more regarding what "the body of Christ" means), but that will have to wait awhile.

Steve's approach demonstrates good blogring cultivation and edifying dialogue.

I'm sure he'd be happy if you jumped in... if you have the guts! Lol...

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Friday, February 20, 2009

It's War

I have declared war.

If you are an animal person or an anti-war activist, you might want to stop reading now.
Rats have invaded my back yard again, tunnelling under the foundation of my shed and taking over my bird feeders. But they didn't stop there: they have set up shop under my back porch in my basement. They have bored enormous holes near my back steps and are burrowing around the foundation of my house. That's over the line. So at the behest of my beautiful wife, I have unleashed the arsenal...

I now have SIX Victor spring traps - Made in USA. I baited them with peanut butter, chicken and refried beans.

This is the pitiful scene under the porch. You can see how they have chewed through my foam barriers, so now notice the glue traps and poison.

This is one place the foul creatures have made an entrance.

This is a rabbit trap baited with chicken. I am not playing.

Two more Victor traps by the basement door...
I'll keep you posted on my progress...

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Church of Oprah: Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Al Mohler on the Future of Evangelicalism

Monday, February 9, 2009

Parental Rights

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Emerging Urban Conservative

Part 1 of an occasional series...

This morning I was reminded why I am a conflicted voter.

We got up at 6:45 to get our kids off to school. Now, school is 2 miles away and starts at 8:00, so some of you may be asking why we get up so early to start the process, but for those of you who have kids, you understand.

So every day we have breakfast with our four kids at 7 am. Our kids have never known anything else - it's normal for them.

But for many, many kids in the city (and increasingly in other places) having breakfast with your parents is anything but normal.

This is the source of my conflicted politics. Let me explain, using the Breakfast example.

Many people assert, and I would agree, that school is the place you go for education. Not for parenting, not for essential life skills, not for self-esteem or counseling, and not for breakfast. Back in the day, schools taught kids math and history and science and reading, and many kids brought their own lunches in cool metal lunch boxes with pictures of Speed Racer or some other hero (remember them?). Other kids got hot lunch that their parents paid for - because after all, that is what parents do right? They provide for their kids. So breakfast happened at home, courtesy of mom and dad.

But the reality for lots of kids is parents who do not or cannot provide. There are many reasons for this:

In some cases, both parents have to work in order to stay afloat, and leave home very early. Breakfast is nearly impossible to pull off.

Too many kids grow up with single moms, for a variety of reasons. Breakfast at home becomes a luxury.

Many more kids, like in my wife's old school, have parents who are still kids themselves, or absent, or drug-addicted, or completely broken in some way. The caregivers range from babysitters to Grandma or some other relative to friends of the family to nobody. Really.

Most of this mess is the result of someone's sin. From greedy corporate executives to generations of sinful choices regarding sex, drugs and alcohol, other people's sinful choices cave in on these children and rob them of normality.

Some of the mess is simply a result of difficult circumstances. Either way, it's the kids who pay.

So back to my politics...

My conservative, Republican side says that to saddle the schools with the responsibility to play a parental role is bad for a million reasons. It distracts from the mission of the school to educate, it absolves the irresponsible parent of responsibility, and it turns the government into something of a Big Brother... a Nanny. Those are all valid points, and one of the reasons I'm a Republican (albeit an uncomfortable one).

But the urban side of me recognizes that if the government, by means of the schools, does not feed these kids breakfast, they will not be fed.

We can pontificate all we want about how the church should be doing this and that, but at the moment it is not doing it, and kids need to eat today.

And I believe passionately that the Gospel breaks the chains of sin and irresponsibility and turns losers (like me) into functional people and great parents. I have seen it happen over and over again as people in the 'hood and elsewhere in the city get saved and experience the awesome sanctification of the Holy Spirit, and over time become highly functional people who give back to their communities and raise strong families. This is why I do what I do.

So I wish for a smaller, simpler government but recognize that current reality demands government intrusion in an ostensibly parental responsibility.

I wish for greater individual responsibility for sure, but recognize the reality that there is a corporate responsibility of a society for its needier members. I don't think there is a political party for those realities.

So I am an Emerging Urban Conservative

Conservative because I resonate with the essential tenets of political, social and fiscal conservatism: Small, effecient government with a limited role and great accountability to an educated electorate; taxation that allows essential governmental function without hindering businesses or placing an undue burden on taxpayers; and morality that places value on human life at all its stages and on the responsibility of the individual. I have a real theological problem with people trusting in government for everything. I do not believe it is biblically justifiable, especially for Christians who claim we must trust God.

Urban because the realities of the city cut to the heart of the human condition and cut through the political crap. You see the best and worst here, where the artificial glaze of suburbia is removed. It is in an urban environment that flawed ideology, whether left or right, gets exposed for what it is (even if it still clings to life, as Democratic nonsense does here in Chicago). Despite all my Republican convictions, the reality of the city shows me that life is too complicated for bootstrap ideology. There's a reason there are hardly any Republicans in Chicago!

Emerging because more and more people, especially Christians, are beginning to see that no political system solves all the problems or is substantially in line with biblical thought. There is a political ideology emerging among us that abandons old ideological and political loyalties and instead lives in a messy tension.

You should think about joining me!

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