Why I will not sign the Manhattan Declaration

If you need more info on this, click here. It is another attempt by the church (RCs, Orthodox and Evangelicals) to take a stand for the sanctity of marriage and human life with freedom of religion and religious expression thrown in.

I won’t sign it.

I won’t sign it until the church itself holds its own members accountable for divorce and abortion. How extreme of us to hold our political leaders accountable for what we do not even hold our own members accountable for. Until the RC church bars from communion those who are prochoice, until the Evangelical church has higher standards on divorce and remarriage such statements as the Manhattan Declaration are nothing more than a resurrection of Moral Majority tactics that fall on deaf ears.

Thoughts on a Sunday at another church

My thoughts in no particular order (which is generally how I think!!!)

1. Someone else did all the work. Thank you, Lord.

2. I was the ultimate consumer. This Sunday it was all about me. That probably makes me a bad Christian

3. Visited a church of about 1,000. Two services. Went to the late service. At the start maybe 75 in seats. Stayed that way for a while. Twenty five minutes into the service most of the seats filled. Major discontinuity between what was happening on the platform and what was happening in the audience. Two different worlds. It was like the platform was happening on a screen as at a movie theater and the rest of us were watching but still doing our own thing.

4. Never saw so much coffee in a service in my life. Dunkin Donuts cups galore. One family also brought in their box of donuts to share during the service. Church has its own coffee bar so the “java jump” was doing its magic.

5. Bible – what Bible?

6. Gospel – what Gospel?

7. Tremendous attempt on part of worship leader and Pastor to relate “down at our level.” I actually think they did such a great job of this that they got below our level.

8. If there ever was a church that followed the exact formula for having no barriers between the church and the seeker (or guest, or nonchurched or whatever) this was it. It was so exact I was stunned that something could be that formulaic. I expected something to be nuanced and contextual, but nothing.

9. In my own church there has been some exploration of deep church, a sense that we don’t get to make up church out of thin air. There is the controlling influence of the Bible, for starts. And then there is the era of Classic Christianity of the first four centuries. This service was completely ahistorical.

10. No trinitarianism. This is an evangelical church, and I know they believe in the Trinity. But there was no trinity in this service. Sounded like monotheistism without biblical pluriformity to me, not even a tip of the hat.

11. It was great to be in a crowd. I love large churches. But I would have to sacrifice this desire and go to the ineffective, small fundamentalist church rather than return to this church. The fundamentialist church might not be successful as people count success but it would be a more faithful carrier of the 2,000 year tradition than what I saw yesterday.

12. I expected some intelligent attempt on the part of this evangelical church staffed by bright young people to connect their church with The Church. I couldn’t find anything where I saw a subtle but real attempt to move people from the casual to the intentional, from the front door to the rooms of the house. It just wasn’t there.

13. This is personal. Excuse me if my theology is showing. At the end of the service they ordained one of their women staff to the pastoral office. She is now Reverend. It’s not women’s ordination I am concerned about so much. I just wonder what else a church doesn’t get if it doesn’t get that the Apostle Paul was pretty clear about the gender-specificity of the office of the elder. If you can make Paul casual about this, you can pretty much make Paul casual about anything. And, quite frankly, evangelicals are making Paul casual about any number of things as of late.

I am fairly broad in what I can appreciate as a contribution to the larger body of Christ. But yesterday I surprised myself by how many lines I was drawing in the sand. I have been to services at Willow Creek, Saddleback and any number of churches trying to do the same. They fit into my vision of evangelicalism even if it not in my part of evangelicalism. Yesterday I saw what I could only interpet as a lowest common denominator attempt at a formula driven service. I know the staff can do better than that. They should.

Prof. Frame’s review of Horton’s “Christless Christianity”

I am uncomfortable with Horton’s “Christless Christianity.” But I am not a smart man, and I can’t always describe in exact words what is troubling me. Frame fills in the blanks for me.

Everyone agrees that the evangelical church is too consumeristic and market driven, as in “if this is what will get butts in the seats we will do it.” Everyone agrees that discipleship is weak and that morals are loose. Horton is not saying anything new. But Horton is drawing lines about who is in and who is out that seem severe to me and uncharitable.  As Frame writes, “I must disagree with many friends and respected colleagues, who have commended this volume lavishly. They should have known better.” Frame is doing his best to keep Reformed Christianity in the broader family of churches rather than a narrow sect. This is something Tim Keller seems to be trying to do, too, according to Jim Belcher in Deep Church.

Horton’s argument depends on ideas that cannot be justified by Scripture, or by the classic Protestant confessions. Some of these are:

1. Attention to ourselves necessarily detracts from attention to Christ.

2. We should not give attention to the way we communicate the gospel, or to making it relevant to its hearers.

3. God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are a zero-sum game. The idea that man must do something compromises the absolute sovereignty of God.

4. God’s work of salvation is completely objective, external to us, and not at all subjective, internal to us. (Here he backtracks some.)

5. God promises us no earthly blessings, only heavenly ones, and to desire earthly blessings is a “theology of glory,” deserving condemnation.

6. Law and gospel should be utterly separate. There should be no good news in the bad news and no bad news in the good news.

7. Preaching of the gospel must never use biblical characters as moral or spiritual examples. Nor must it address practical ethical issues in the Christian life.

8. A focus on redemption excludes a focus on anything else.

9. In worship and in the general ministry of the church, God gives and does not receive; the congregation receives and does not give.

10. Analysts of the church must compare the Church’s focus on Christ with its focus on other things[in other words, it’s either Christ or other things], rather than considering that many of these other things are in fact applications of Christ’s own person and work.[in other words, a commitment to Christ means that we have to talk about other things because Christ’s work includes those other things].

I agree. Horton simply creates unsustainable dualities. He should have simply encouraged those who are imbalanced in their emphases to right the ship rather than bring to the table the charge of Christless. Overmuch and divisive. As if we already do not have too much of that.