Tag archives: christianity

Tim Keller: What is a Conservative Protestant

I’ve mentioned the recent Pew survey to some people this week and several have asked me what “Mainline Protestantism” is and how it relates to “Evangelical Protestantism”. The Pew people explain their methodology, but it’s not especially useful unless you’re trying to classify people in a survey. So I prefer this explanation by Tim Keller:

I’ll use the Bebbington four plus one. Now, David Bebbington was a historian and a sociologist some years ago who tried to define evangelicalism and came up with these four characteristics.

I have never found the autograph of what he actually said, but because it keeps coming down through everybody else, this is my understanding of his four characteristics were the authority of the Bible — by that, I think it means the Bible trumps reason and experience. Secondly, the necessity of a conversion experience of some kind. Thirdly, salvation through faith in Christ’s work on the cross, not good works. Fourth, mission, the idea of activism, needing to take this message to the world.

And my fifth one I would add — even though it may be inherent, it may be implied, I would call it supernatural Christianity. Liberal Christianity tried to redo all of Christian doctrine in terms of naturalistic assumptions, no miracles. And I would say an evangelical conservative Protestant definitely believes in miracles, believes the resurrection really happened.

Somebody once told me, if you ask an Episcopalian minister, “Did the resurrection really happen?” and if he says, “Well, it depends on what you mean,” that means no.

I don’t know if that’s fair to suggest about Episcopalians, but I know a several Methodist and Presbyterian ministers who would add a lot of caveats and nuance to their answer.

Myths about Pastors

Good piece by Thom Rainer listing seven myths about a pastor’s workweek. I don’t know where he gets his data, but it’s all true in my case.

 

Sermon

One of the students in my preaching class in seminary used to preach a sermon based on a sticky note in his Bible. I was preaching from a written manuscript. Over time, I replaced the manuscript with a detailed outline, then a smaller outline. And now I have arrived at the point where my colleague was 10 years ago:

Sermon

(A recording of the sermon is available online. Start at the church website and follow the links.)

Religion News

Here, without comment, other than the names I give them, are some interesting stories in the news:

Why did Westside Presbyterian Church of Englewood shut down?

Why “In Christ Alone” isn’t in the new PC(USA) hymnal.

A huge Presbyterian church in Dallas voted overwhelmingly to leave the PC(USA) and join the ECO. Why? Read and wonder.

Did mainline churches lead or follow the culture?

The Seminary Bubble

From the Aquila Report, but I heard a UMC Bishop making essentially the same point 10 days ago:

Imagine an institution that requires its leaders to attend not only college, but graduate school. Imagine that the graduate school in question is constitutionally forbidden from receiving any form of government aid, that it typically requires three years of full-time schooling for the diploma, that the nature of the schooling bears almost no resemblance to the job in question, and that the pay for graduates is far lower than other professions. You have just imagined the relationship between the Christian Church and her seminaries.

Read the whole article. (Its title of the piece is a reference to the “Higher-Education Bubble,” the broader problem of which seminaries appear to be a piece.)

To complaints in this article I would add another. While I understand and approve of an educated clergy, the period of seminary education necessarily removes the student from the context in which his or her gifts for ministry were first manifested. Since we’re all about contextualization, a key aspect of the missional church movement, it hardly makes sense for the normal case to enforce decontextualization.

Please Don’t Tip

If you want to stiff your waiter, that’s your business. But please don’t drag God into it:

The idea that Christians are poor tippers apparently has been whispered in service circles for a long time. Many waiters try not work Sunday brunch, so as to avoid notoriously stingy churchgoers, claims Justin Wise, the director of a Lutheran ministry in Des Moines, Iowa.

Chi Rho

Here’s a symbol you often see in churches:

Santa Maria in Trastevere

and in cemeteries:

Chi Rho alpha omega

The symbol is a sort of monogram or shorthand meaning “Christ,” and is formed from the first two letters of that word in Greek (“ΧΡΙΣΤΟ&#x03A3″). Those first two letters are, respectively, Chi (Χ) and Rho (Ρ).

The letter Chi is pronounced “key” or “khee.” It is a “ch” sound, as in chorus or charisma or the Scottish loch. Rho normally represents an “r” sound, except at the beginning of a word. There, Greek expects a breathy sort of sound, which is indicated with an “h” and is why English has hard-to-spell words like “rhythm” and “rhapsody” and “rhinoceros.”

This symbol is (very imaginatively) called the “Chi Rho,” from the two Greek letters from which it is formed. As the 2nd picture shows, the “Chi Rho” symbol often appears with two other Greek letters, the “Alpha” (Α) and the “Omega” (Ω) used to describe Jesus in Revelation 1:8. Although it’s made of two disctinct letters, the “Chi Rho” is a symbol in its own right, and has its own Unicode value and everything! (U+2627, &#x2627)

Anyway, I mention it because we’re headed into what is now often called the “Holiday Season.” On the increasingly rare occasions when the name of the holiday appears, it is written as “X-mas” rather than “Christmas.”

I’ve known people who got all bent out of shape over the “X” in “X-mas” as if it were somehow demeaning to Christ to use an abbreviation. But as these ancient monograms show, the “Chi” (along with the “Rho”) is actually an perfectly legitimate symbol for Christ. There’s nothing demeaning about it. But call it “Khee-mas” instead of “eks-mas” if you want to be an egghead about it!

Age-Segregated Worship On the Way Out?

Here’s an interesting sign of the times:

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale now offers only one service at 10:15 a.m. with, essentially, blended worship – that means no more separation based on age, likes and comfort.

For years Coral Ridge was the best-known Presbyterian Church (PCA) in the country, due to the influence of the late Dr. D. James Kennedy. But now, under Senior Pastor Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham, it’s ending its practice of offering two distinct worship styles (“contemporary” and “traditional”).

The article assumes that preferences in worship style is synonymous with age, which is not always true, but it’s right a lot more often than it’s wrong.

My camp of Presbyterians, the PC(USA), believes that children should be part of worship, as stated in our Directory of Worship, §W-3.1004:

Children bring special gifts to worship and grow in the faith through their regular inclusion and participation in the worship of the congregation. … The session should ensure that regular programs of the church do not prevent children’s full participation with the whole congregation in worship, in Word and Sacrament, on the Lord’s Day.

If that’s true of children and worship, how much less reason is there to segregate different groups of adults?

(Sorry I can’t provide a better link to our Directory of Worship. There don’t seem to be many people in our denomination who understand things like open standards, permalinks, etc.)

The Best Apologetic

Twenty-odd years ago, I became a Christian, and part of the reason was apologetics, or defenses of the faith. God used several books, including C.S. Lewis’ wonderful Mere Christianity, to overcome my objections to the Christian faith.

By the time I got to seminary, however, I was really pretty bored with apologetics. It’s not that I had decided they were unimportant–far from it: as my faith became more important in my life, I realized how important those apologetics had been. But I’d moved on, and they weren’t very helpful to me any more. (Although I do still pick up my copy of Mere Christianity every couple of months and re-read a chapter or two.)

It turns out I’m not alone. In this article, Max Lucado, a best-selling Christian writer, says that the best apologetic is compassion.

Though Christians do need to respond intellectually to explain their faith, the long-time pastor recognized, “When the church argues back with society, I don’t know if we get very far.”

“But if we can say our passion is to help the poor and the forgotten, you cannot argue with that,” he noted. “Nothing convinces people of our Lord better than to live like he lived. We cannot live like he lived without being compassionate.”

That rings true for me. Jim Noble, the pastor who led me to Christ, told me, “Maybe you could believe in God if you saw him at work, and [his church] is a great place to watch.”

He was right. I had some baggage I needed to deal with, and my apologetic reading helped me do that. But it was seeing God at work in and through the community of faith engaged in works of compassion, that enabled me, finally, to put my trust in Christ.