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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
Looking for a church in the Omaha area? Come check out ours on Sunday mornings at 11!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

True, Balanced Doctrine and Orthopraxy

I am currently reading The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. It has been a fascinating and compelling read so far, but he has said something twice that has stood out to me both times (I think he wanted to make sure I caught it) and I have taken exception with it. It seems to be a sentiment that is shared with many in the emerging and postmodern Christian circles.

He said "Political ideologies and religious doctrines just aren't very compelling, even if they're true" and again, "Doctrine is not very attractive, even if it's true".

I think I can understand his motivation for saying this and, if it had been only once, I may have been inclined to ignore it. But when it bears repeating, it bears addressing. Certainly his intention was to say that what is compelling and attractive is missional, communal, Jesus-like, (fill in your own Christian buzzword here _________) living that reaches out to the lost, marginalized, and hopeless.

The problem is you can't divorce that sort of living from the doctrine behind it. Some people, swinging like a pendulum away from fundamentalism, will abandon the language surrounding their faith. However, as they continue to live the way Jesus lived and wants them to live, they are still affirming and acting on true, balanced doctrine.

Jesus died for my sins. Doctrine. He saved me from hell, both here on earth and in eternity. Doctrine. He asks me to share His love and Gospel. Doctrine. When I serve the marginalized, I serve Jesus. Doctrine.

I am not defending all doctrine. There is doctrine that is false, and it is patently dangerous and destructive. There is also true doctrine that, if out of proportion and unbalanced by other true doctrine, can be equally dangerous and destructive. But true, balanced orthodoxy is behind all right living.

Though you can have orthodoxy (right belief) without orthopraxy (right living), you cannot have orthopraxy without orthodoxy. While we can run away from the words, true doctrine will be at the core of all faithful Christian living. This is because all true doctrine is rooted in the character of God and his revelation. Whether from the Bible or the motivation of the Holy Spirit in a believer's life, true and balanced doctrine lies in the bones and sinew of a Christian life rightly lived. Or, stated another way, when your life aligns with the character of God in any area, your life aligns with true, balanced doctrine.

And that is compelling and attractive.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Book Review: The Rabbit and the Elephant

I am certainly aware that my position as paid staff of a "traditional" church may lend some bias in how I read this book. That being said, Tony and Felicity Dale and George Barna have written a book that may be revolutionary to some burnt-out ex-churchgoers. For others (myself included) it may sound like the church they already go to—minus the Sunday morning service.

The Rabbit and the Elephant proposes that the large, complex churches (elephants) multiply and grow slowly while the small, simple churches (rabbits) multiply quickly. Thus a hybrid small group/house church model is presented as a more effective way to grow the church, foster evangelism, and promote genuine Christian community.

While I found much of the information helpful, encouraging, and even insightful, I did not find it revolutionary. In addition, I have reservations about how a "simple church" (or small group only) model allows for certain biblical aspects of the church like eldership, gathering for teaching, and church discipline. Indeed, my personal experience is that, while not perfect, my church has all but implemented their model into our community groups during the week without jettisoning the larger service. This book would be a beneficial read on how to do small groups (or simple church) well, even if you don't plan on ditching the Sunday morning service.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Book Review: Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson

In the span of one paragraph, N.D. Wilson made me break out in goosebumps then made me laugh and cry at the same time. His writing in Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl from Thomas Nelson Publishers evokes emotion like the best fiction, scratches the brain like the best philosophy, and stirs a love for Creator and creation like the best theology.

His bursts of thought are not always clear-cut and linear, rather they seem to be confusing and unrelated at times. As his ideas shape the chapters, however, and the chapters form the book, a step back reveals a beautiful piece of work.

And this, I think, was no accident. Wilson's premise is that the universe we live in is a work of art and the masterpiece of The Artist. It is a drama, a play, and God is the Author. And so, just as his writing style reflects, there are surprises, twists, and turns. It doesn't progress in an uneventful, gradual incline.

The best dramas have real tragedies, the best paintings have both shadow and light. Thus it makes sense that the best of all possible worlds made by an Artist/Author will have real tragedies, both shadow and light.

N.D. Wilson writes like Donald Miller on uppers and caffeine. He writes like someone with ADD who has sat through too many college-level courses on philosophy and art appreciation. He writes like I imagine Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club) would if he found Jesus and switched to non-fiction.

My favorite book of the year, hands down.

You can read the entire thing online for free at Google Books. However, that's kind of like choosing to look at a Rembrandt on the internet rather than having one to hang on your wall. Yes, I thought that highly of this book, but that's just me. You have fun with your pixels.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Book Review: Trusting God by Jerry Bridges

To all of you who have been pulling your hair out wondering why I haven't posted anything in many weeks (all two of you): breathe a sigh of relief. You can thank NavPress for the breach in writer's block. And you can blame my friends over at the Christians in Context blog for making me OK with the writer's block in the first place (click here for a further explanation).

I've signed on to be a book review blogger for a couple of publishers, and I couldn't be happier about the book I got from NavPress for our maiden voyage.

Trusting God by Jerry Bridges turned into something I was not expecting, and I was all the happier for it. I have read enough defenses for the sovereignty of God, both philosophical and apologetical. Instead, Bridges presents a biblically-grounded celebration of the sovereignty of God in all things.

His central theme asserts that we can only trust God when bad things happen if He is totally sovereign, wise, and loving. This in response to the age old question of evil: either evil came about because God is all-powerful but not all-loving, or because God is all loving but not all-powerful. Rabbi Harold Kushner chose the latter in his best-selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, a position that Bridges references (and refutes) throughout the book.

Instead, Bridges presents a God that is both powerful and loving, both sovereign and wise. He does it with the awareness of the tensions between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, yet he does not rely on speculation or philosophy. Rather he draws heavily from both the Old and New Testament to defend a sovereignty that overcomes evil, a sovereignty that secures the glory of God and the good of His people, a sovereignty that can be trusted.