David Westerfield

Theology. Culture. Technology.

Category: Christian Culture Page 1 of 12

The Protestant Deformation and American Foreign Policy – An Essay by James Kurth

The following is an essay from 2001 by political scientist James Kurth on the “Protestant Deformation” or what could be described as the radical secularization of Protestantism. As he notes, we’re now entering the final stages of this deformation, a long and twisty road that has led us to a radical individualism that threatens a new form of totalitarianism upon the free world: the totalitarianism of the self. Enjoy.

http://web.archive.org/web/20120119184608/http://phillysoc.org/Kurth%20Speech.htm
H/T http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/the-protestant-deformation/

Analysts of American foreign policy have debated for decades about the relative influence of different factors in the shaping of American foreign policy. National interests, domestic politics, economic interests, and liberal ideology have each been seen as the major explanation for the peculiarities of the American conduct of foreign affairs. But although numerous scholars have advocated the importance of realism, idealism, capitalism, or liberalism, almost no one has thought that Protestantism – the dominant religion in the United States – is worth consideration. Certainly for the twentieth century, it seemed abundantly clear that one could (and should) write the history of American foreign policy with no reference to Protestantism whatsoever.

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Zimzum of Whuh? Quote from Bell Sounds Too Familiar

http://www.religionnews.com/2014/12/02/what-ever-happened-rob-bell-pastor-questioned-gates-hell/

Rob Bell, speaking of his newfound “church” expression sounds way too familiar, as in it sounds like much of the language of the younger evangelical ecclesiological experiments of the present.

“Now resettled near Los Angeles, the couple no longer belongs to a traditional church. ‘We have a little tribe of friends,’ Bell said. ‘We have a group that we are journeying with. There’s no building. We’re churching all the time. It’s more of a verb for us.'”

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The Error of Full on Ayn Randian Libertarianism on Display

Donald Trump and Ann Coulter’s stunning comments clearly display what is wrong with a purely Ayn Randian libertarian worldview and philosophy, wrapped in a veneer of Christian language (in Coulter’s case). It’s simply the flip side of the coin of Marxism. One side of the coin believes in the all-powerful State and collectivism as the sufficient means for human flourishing, while the other believes in the all-powerful individual to “pull up his bootstraps,” a radical individualism at the expense of those most in need, physically and spiritually.

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Being Thankful in the Ordinary

Is The Christian Life More Like Colorado Or Nebraska? – R. Scott Clark

R. Scott Clark at The Heidelblog has written a great piece on appreciating and even expecting the ordinary in the Christian life. So much of evangelicalism has pushed the idea, intentionally or not, that the Christian life is one of extraordinary emotional experience and that if you’re not experiencing that “high” or mountain-top event on a frequent basis, well, something is amiss in your walk (which is a form of legalism). The result is misplaced guilt that you aren’t doing enough to warrant obtaining that experience others seem to have. The reality though is that so much of the Christian life simply comes down to contentment, thankfulness and settled-ness as to where God has us and looking for the opportunities to be a light in that place. Here are a few quotes from his article:

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Why Traditional Ecclesiastical Structures Matter

http://mikeyanderson.com/hello-name-mike-im-recovering-true-believer

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Same Old Story

Going to make this quick. This continues to be a growing problem: people either positively posting Osteen’s material as if there aren’t serious theological issues at stake or flabbergasted anyone would criticize the man. Show’s precisely how far gone mainstream evangelicalism is in the realm of discernment. What’s the problem with Joel Osteen and others of his “American positivism,” self-made, will-it-into-existence Christianity? Michael Horton embodies it here:

Legalism Light

Legalism is quite a charge. When someone is imposing a legalistic vision upon others, they are saying that unless they do certain things, they are out of God’s salvific favor. Christ + something = justification. So when a person is charged with this, it is serious business. You’re stating that they are preaching a false gospel. Galatians is a case study.

Many times, however, believers who are like-minded on many core, essential things, yet butt heads, sometimes vigorously, over what Christians should or shouldn’t be doing as a result of their salvation, lay this charge of legalism against the other. In all fairness, legalism is probably not always the right term to use. You can usually discern what they’re trying to get at when using the term, overstated though it may be, but legalism is a high charge and doesn’t necessarily fit. The problem though is that there is some truth to the charge, but not exactly in the same way. It needs some redefining.

Whereas legalism puts the “offending” persons’ relation to God in question, legalism light puts the offending persons’ relation to the community in question. In other words, if you don’t do X, well, this isn’t the place for you. Or, since we’re with these people now, doing X, we can’t hang out together. It may not be so overt, just implicit in action. I have a hard time seeing how this squares with what I’ve been reading from Paul on unity among believers in 1 Cor 1:10-17 and 1 Cor 3:1-15.

Sentimental Christianity: “All Sins Are Equal”

I sincerely believe this particular euphemistic phrase and others like it were born out of an earnest desire to show that in the eyes of God, our sin is sin. It’s an empathetic gesture from one sinner (though saved by Jesus’s work) toward another sinner who doesn’t know the Lord to say, “Hey, I’m like you and I’m not leaving myself out of this equation.” It’s a way to gain common ground with another person so they might hear the gospel. And in some sense it’s true: we’re all leveled before the judgment seat of God’s holy stare and it only takes the committing of one sin. We’re all culpable and liable to judgment. No question. Part of me does wonder how much of this is the evangelical spirit desiring to eschew the rough edges of truth because they are offensive. The doctrine of hell and eternal punishment is not a popular concept in our culture, let alone that God would be sovereign in the dispensing of His mercy in light of that. But regardless, let’s just say for arguments’ sake the motive is good.

The problem is this just simply isn’t true, at least on its face, which is likely how most people hear it; they probably don’t think further about it within our tweet-size discourse in the West. Different sins have different judgments. We don’t necessarily know what they all are or how they are met out. But Jesus makes it clear to Pilate: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:11). Some may object and say, yeah, well, that was the Jewish Sanhedrin and they were betraying Jesus. But the principle is still the same and applies throughout. Some punishments receive greater weight, even in the law. Some sins deserve greater judgment than others and therefore some sins are indeed worse than others.

Freed to be Ordinary

http://www.challies.com/christian-living/ordinary-christian-living-for-the-rest-of-us

“‘You can’t market a book like that. It won’t sell. Nobody wants to read a book on being ordinary.’ They are probably right. Nobody wants to read a book on ordinary living because nobody aspires to be ordinary. It is not likely to sell as a book or a theme. Crazy, wild, radical, more, greater, higher, this-er, that-er, the comparatives and superlatives, these are the themes that fly off the shelves. But once we’ve been crazy and radical and wild and all the rest, why do we still feel, well, so ordinary? Why do we still feel like we’re missing out?” – Tim Challies

I don’t believe this is an argument against excellence or being proactive in things that we should be more proactive in, but rather an argument that amongst all the talk in modern Christian literature of being “awesome” and “extraordinary” and “doing big things for God” (summed up, “radical”), most of us are, well, ordinary. I’d count myself in that category. I’m an average IT guy, working at a financial company, providing for my family, ministering to a group of high school guys, who loves Christ. And it’s freeing to know that that’s okay, because the Gospel frees us to be ordinary. Are there things I could improve? Sure, no doubt. But the pressure to do something or be something big is huge it seems. And most of us are ordinary people who don’t live an extravagant, radical life and feel grossly inadequate and out of place.

This doesn’t mean some of of us won’t be extraordinary though, or that in our ordinary living extraordinary things won’t happen. And it doesn’t even mean that we shouldn’t, should the opportunity arise, pursue extraordinary things in our lives. But not everyone can or should be pursuing that (a concept handed to us by celebrity culture I believe, that we must aspire to “be awesome,” “dream huge so you can do what I’ve done” and so on; think in terms of an Academy Award acceptance speech). If everyone is extraordinary, doing extraordinary things, no one is extraordinary; the word loses its meaning. In fact, I would argue that God mostly uses ordinary people in the church to accomplish His ends throughout the world. We only see the big, headlined, mega-marketed things that are broadcasted, not the ordinary pastor in a small town, consistently shepherding a small group of people under the teaching of the gospel for 40 years.

Now if they do extraordinary things it’s because of His work and it can and does happen from time to time. Most people who accomplish incredible things for God do so because of His multiplying effect though (like Jesus with the fish and loaves), not because they were trying to “be awesome.” Rather it was precisely because they minimized themselves and got out of His way that He then did big things. In other words, extraordinary things happen because of God, not us necessarily, though certainly He uses us.

I believe the antidote to a lot of this thinking that we have to do “big things” or “be big things” (as we millennials have defined it; I guess I’m a millennial?) is a re-recovery of the Reformed view of vocation.

http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=881

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/calvin-and-the-christian-calling-20

“Freed From the Shackles of Inerrancy” or, rather, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood”

If I could re-title this book, it would be, “Freed From the Shackles of Inerrancy.” I wouldn’t waste my time on it, frankly; I’m not. Yeah, call me dismissive. There are way too many other books of immediate importance (recent and from church history) and worth reading out there and I don’t need one more subversive, alleged evangelical to add to the list. You know, the old school theological liberals (at the very least, as I understand it) were fairly clear, in the main, about what they were doing, what their intentions were. Our generation of theological liberals, while claiming humility and to be within the evangelical camp, implicitly and explicitly mock the very concept of inerrancy as something foolish, backward and archaic and then make it into a project that gets picked up and promoted by the Christian marketing apparatus. Inerrancy is, or has been until now, at the very core of evangelicalism (along with penal substitutionary atonement, which is also being discarded), so one wonders which evangelicals she’s talking about being a part of. There are many, many frothing atheists that make me less angry than Rachel Held Evans. And, contrary to one of her fans I read in a comment section, I’m not upset with the book because I fear her, rather I fear the hermeneutic she uses will do damage to the cause of the Gospel. IMHO, her angle and tactic is dishonest (1: about what she’s doing, and 2: her supposed neutrality as if she has no bias) and it’s subversive to the faith once for all delivered. And subversion of the faith almost always starts from within and works itself outward. I’m still stunned how many people I know are eating this nonsense up.

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