Saturday, June 25, 2005

Penguin sex, flaming liberalism, living with the hippies ... ahhh, Donald Miller

I've continued reading up on the Emerging Church Movement and decided to chug through two of Donald Miller's most popular works: Searching for God Knows What (SFGKW) and Blue Like Jazz (BLJ). BLJ is more widely read, so I will spend most of my time on it.

I want to challenge the reader to ask those who have read BLJ this question: What is the point of BLJ? I'd be interested to know their answer, because I am having trouble answering it myself. It appears that each chapter is completely disconnected from the next, as if each chapter were its own book. The subtitle is most revealing: "Nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality." That subtitle bother anyone? Me too. I'd like to ask Miller how one can have nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality? It seems to me that Christian spirituality is religious by nature? Oh well, maybe that's just me.

So yea, BLJ gets to his chapter on faith. Amidst the disconnected ideas, Miller compares faith to penguin sex! Don't believe me? Here it is:

""You know what really helped me understand why I believe in Jesus, Tony?"

"What's that?"

"Penguins," I told him.


"Penguins," I clarified. "Do you know very much about penguins?"

"Nope." Tony smiled. "Tell me about penguins."

"I watched a nature show on OPB the other night about penguins. They travel in enormous groups ...But after a while they stop sliding, and they get around in a big circle and start making noises. And what they are doing is looking for a mate. It's crazy. It's like a penguin nightclub or something--like a disco. They waddle around on the dance floor till they find a mate."

"Then what?" Tony asked, sort of laughing.

"Penguin sex," I said.

Penguin sex?"

"Yes. Penguin sex. Right there on television. I felt like I was watching animal porn."

"What was it like?" he asked.

"Less than exciting," I told him. "Sort of a letdown."

"So what does penguins having sex have to do with belief in God?" Tony asked.

"Well, I am getting to that. But let me tell you what else they do. First, the females lay eggs. ... Then, the females give the males the eggs. ... They do this for an entire month. ... Then the females come back, and right when they do, almost to the day, the eggs are hatched. The females somehow know, even though they have never had babies before, the exact day to go back to the males. And that is how baby penguins are made."

"Very interesting." Tony clapped for me. "So what is the analogy here?"

"I don't know, really. It's just that I identified with them. I know it sounds crazy, but as I watched I felt like I was one of those penguins. They have this radar inside them that told them when and where to go and none of it made any sense, but they show up on the very day their babies are being born, and the radar always turns out to be right. I have a radar inside me that says to believe in Jesus. Somehow, penguin radar leads them perfectly well. Maybe it isn't so foolish that I follow the radar that is inside of me."" (Miller. Blue Like Jazz. Pgs. 55-57).

Umm, yea. The divine faith that is given to believers is being compared to penguin sex. Wonderful (sense the sarcasm). Can we say, "sacriligious."

Politics. What a shame that I even have to mention politics while writing about Donald Miller's works. But considering the great deal he's written expressing his political views, I feel that politics plays a major role in these books. Miller may not officially affiliate with any one political party. In any case, he might as well sign up for the Democratic Party. He is a liberal. A flaming liberal. Throughout both of his books one can sense his animosity towards conservative evangelicals, especially Republicans. Here are some select quotes:

"Nadine explained to Penny why she was a Christian. She said that she believed Christ was a revolutionary, a humanitarian of sorts, sent from God to a world that had broken itself. Penny was frustrated that Nadine was a Christian. She couldn't believe that a girl this kind and accepting could subscribe to the same religion that generated the Crusades, fund the Republicans, or fathered religious television." (Miller. Blue Like Jazz. Pgs. 45-46).

"All great Christian leaders are simple thinkers. Andrew doesn't cloak his altruism within a trickle-down economic theory that allows him to spend fifty dollars on a round of golf to feed the economy and provide jobs for the poor. He actually believes that when Jesus says feed the poor, He means you should do this directly." (Miller. Blue Like Jazz. Pg. 110).

"And yet another thing about the churches I went to: They seemed to be parrots for the Republican party. Do we have to tow the party line on every single issue? Are the Republicans that perfect? I just felt like, in order to be a part of the family, I had to think George W. Bush was Jesus. And I didn't think that Jesus really agreed with a lot of the policies of the republican party or for that matter the Democratic party. I felt like Jesus was a religious figure, not a political figure. I heard my pastor say once, when there were only a few of us standing around, that he hated Bill Clinton. I can understand not liking Clinton's policies, but I want my spirituality to rid me of hate, not give me reason for it. I couldn't deal with that. That is one of the main reasons I walked away. I felt like, by going to this particular church, I was a pawn for the Republicans. Meanwhile, the Republicans did not give a crap about the causes of Christ." (Miller. Blue Like Jazz. Pgs. 131-132).

Okay, this next quote is long, but worth the read (trust me):

"In his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Al Franken included a provocative multipage comic strip about a man named Supply-Side Jesus. In the strip, Supply-Side Jesus walks through the streets of Jerusalem stating that people should start businesses so they can employ the poor and should purchase exotic and expensive clothes and jewelry so their money will trickle in the economy and, eventually, bring bread to the mouths of the starving. In the comic, the disciples come to Supply-Side Jesus and say they want to feed the poor directly, but Supply-Side Jesus says no, that if you give money or food or water directly to the poor, you are only helping them in their laziness and increasing the welfare state. Eventually, Rome catches up with Supply-Side Jesus and, before an angry mob, Pontius Pilate asks the masses which man they want to crucify, Supply-Side Jesus or another man who, in the comic, stands beside Pilate humbly, a disheveled and shadowy figure. The crowd chants they want to free Supply-Side Jesus because they like his philosophies, and they want to crucify this other man, the shadowy figure standing next to Pilate. Pilate tells the crowd this other man is innocent, that he has done no wrong, but the crowd refuses to listen and instead chants, "Crucify him, crucify him." Pilate then lets Supply-Side Jesus go free, and orders the innocent man, whose name was Jesus of Nazareth, to be crucified. I sat there reading the book at Horse Brass Pub in amazement. Here was Al Franken, a known liberal who often lambastes the conservative Christian right but who also, somehow, understands the difference between the Jesus the religious right worships and the Jesus presented in Scripture. One Jesus is understood through conservative economic theory, the other through the Gospels." (Miller. Searching for God Knows What. Pg. 192).

WOW. I will be honest, when I read that for the first time I was furious. It angers me to hear a professing believer in Christ Jesus spouting out such utter nonsense. Donald Miller threw down his gloves with this statement. His true colors come out. First off, he quotes from Al Franken, a major lib. Secondly, the example he cites from Franken, this pathetic excuse for a comic strip, pokes fun of the "Christian right" for holding to the Trickle-Down view of economics. Let me correct Franken and Miller quickly as well: Trickle-Down economics does not forbid private citizens for helping individuals (rather, it encourages it!!!). What the Trickle-Down economic theory does believe is that the government should not give money to the poor (as a general/regular rule), but should give money back to the economy so businesses can create more jobs, which allows those employees to spend money which circulates back into the economy thus spurring the economy on even more! But crazy liberal Democrats like Al Franken, or Donald Miller want a quick fix and believe in Socialism. Donald Miller, NEWS FLASH: we live in a Democratic Republic, not a Socialistic economy. Miller ought to move to Canada or Germany.

Miller then asks how the Jesus of Socialism (Miller's Jesus (since he started with the labels)) was twisted around by the Republicans. He answers his question by stating: "My only answer is that Satan is crafty indeed." (193). WHOA nelly! Apprently Satan is the reason Christians since the Reformation have embraced less government involvement in the lives of its citizens.

Miller's next statement is absolutely hilarious. I kid you not, I was bustin' a gut when I read the next short paragraph: "I realize there are people reading this who will automatically dismiss me as a theological liberal, but I do not believe a person can take two issues from Scripture, those being abortion and gay marriage, and adhere to them as sins, then neglect much of the rest and call himself a fundamentalist or even a conservative." (193). LOL. Alrighty. Thanks for sharing. Oh and Miller, you're right. Your misrepresentations and inconsistencies have caused me to dismiss you as a theological and political liberal.

Another one of Miller's anecdotes describes his month-long adventure living with the pot-smoking hippies. He abandoned his local church and moved out to the woods to live with hippies. He later explains how the love he received from the hippies was much more than what he received from the Church. Miller writes,

"I was even more amazed when I realized I preferred, in fact, the company of the hippies to the company of Christians. It isn't that I didn't love my Christian friends or that they didn't love me, it was just that there was something different about my hippie friends; something, I don't know, more real, more true. I realize that is a provocative statement, but I only felt I could be myself around them, and I could not be myself with my Christian friends. My Christian communitities had always had little unwritten social ethics like don't cuss and don't support Democrats and don't ask tough questions about the Bible. ... I had discovered life outside the church, and I liked it. As I said, I preferred it." (Miller. Blue Like Jazz. Pg. 210).

Hrmmmm, does anything need to be said? =)

Much more could be said of Miller's works; this will do for now. Perhaps if I write an article on the Emerging Church Movement I will reference Miller's books again. I am thankful I am finished with Donald Miller's work. Like Mark Driscoll, Miller writes to an immature audience, with course language and silly stories to fill the pages (though to be fair, Driscoll's Radical Reformission cannot compare with the lows of Miller's writings) and of course, Emerging Church ideals.

To summarize, I feel that both of Donald Miller's books are a complete waste. It saddens me that so many Christians are able to turn off their discernment radar while reading Blue Like Jazz, and yet I know that the Lord is at work in His people. My prayer is that the Spirit will drive those being influenced by Emerging Church authors (Miller, Driscol, and others) back to the Scirptures to examine Miller by the Scriptures.

*As a by-product of Miller's book, he is overly paranoid and leaves his lightsaber extended, ready for attack*

Friday, June 24, 2005

It is good to thank the Lord

Pastor Fry preached from Psalm 92 at our prayer meeting last night. The Psalm begins: "1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; 2 To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night" (Psalm 92:1-2). This was the text my pastor chose to emphasize. He spent a great deal of time reminding the congregation of what we ought to thank God for:
  • Common grace upon our land - We live in a place where we have relative peace. As Christians, we do not worry about our safety when we meet to worship. In the work place, sure we get teased for our faith, yet we generally get along, and we accomplish great things together with the unregenerate.

  • Life - Every breath, every beat of the heart is a gift from God. When we experience joy, this is from God. Even in our sorrows, things are not as bad as they could be if God removed His sovereign hand.

  • Salvation from sin - The God of heaven and earth saved wretched sinners for the praise of His glory. We were dead but were made alive. We have bold access to the throne of grace. Our rightstanding before the Father is based on the righteousness of another, that of Jesus Christ, the Savior.

  • God's faithfulness to His people - In all that we face through this life and the next, God remains faithful. For God, He is the Lord. He is the One who has predestined all things according to the good pleasure of His will. He has predestined the ends as well as the means to reach those ends. God is always watching and protecting His elect people.

My pastor asked a question that really struck me: Why is it good for us to thank the Lord? ... because He says so. It is God who determines what is good and right, and He has declared to us that we should thank Him. That's the obvious answer. But more than that, thanking God reminds us of His faithfulness and that He is near. Finally, thanking God glorifies God.

The believer should always give thanks. We ought to perceive the good things around us and thank God for them.

1 Thessalonians 5:18: "18 in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

*Puts away his lightsaber*
The Rusted One

Monday, June 13, 2005

Imputation: All of Christ's Righteousness

"That the righteousness of justification is the God-righteousness of the divine Christ himself, which is imputed or reckoned to us the moment we place our confidence in him (see justification as a finished act in Rom. 5:1--"having been justified"), is amply testified to when the Scriptures teach that we are justified (1) in Christ (Isa. 45:24-25; Acts 13:39; Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 6:11; Gal. 2:17; Phil. 3:9), (2) by Christ's death work (Rom. 3:24-25; 5:9; 8:33-34), (3) not by our own but by the righteousness of God (Isa. 61:10; Rom. 1:17; 3:21-22; 10:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9) and (4) by the righteousness and obedience of Christ (Rom. 5:17-19). In short, the only ground of justification is the perfect God-righteousness of Christ that God the Father imputes to every sinner who places his confidence in the obedience and satisfaction of his Son. Said another way, the moment the sinner, through faith in Jesus Christ, turns away from every human resource and rests in Christ alone, the Father imputes his well-beloved Son's preceptive (active) obedience to him and accepts him as righteous in his sight." (Reymond, Robert. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. Pg. 746.).

I have recently been challenged on the Reformed view of imputation (crediting/reckoning). This led me to dive headfirst into this subject - one which I am passionate about.

To begin, how can a sinner be justified in God's sight? What is the basis for this justification? Are sinners justified on account of their own righteousness? Weeeell, Romans 4:4-6 speaks to this issue:

"4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works."

The Apostle Paul informs us that the one not working, but believing in Christ has righteousness credited (or imputed) to him. Okay, so we don't work. We believe. Then we have a righteousness imputed to us. Who's righteousness is imputed to us? Clearly it isn't ours, because it is imputed. It must be the righteousness of another, that of Jesus Christ.

But still, what exactly is the righteousness that is imputed to the believer? This is where I was challenged.

Historically, Christ's righteousness has been placed within two categories: (1) Christ's Active Obedience and (2) Christ's Passive Obedience. Active Obedience refers to his keeping of the whole law. Passive Obedience refers to the death of Christ. This leads us into the next question my challenger asked me: Why are both the Active AND Passive Obedience of Christ imputed, and not just his Passive Obedience?

I will argue that a unified righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer. This means that both his obedience in life and death are imputed as righteousness.

The fulness of Christ's righteousness is expressed in his life and death, as Paul wrote in the Carmen Christi:

Philippians 2:7-8: "7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

My challenger then pointed out that Christ's death made atonement for sinners. After all, sinners need the forgiveness of the guilt of their sins. This is true. But my question to this challenger was: what positive righteousness do you have to present to God? The challenger did not have a sufficient answer to my question. Thankfully, the Bible is clear on this issue: we have the Active Obedience of Christ's perfect fulfillment of the law imputed to us. This is our positive righteousness, which is seen in Paul's insightful comments found in Romans 5:17-19:

"17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. 18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous."

Verse 17 and 18 refer to the failure of Adam to keep the Covenant of Works. This resulted in the Fall, and the imputation of Adam's sin to all his posterity; as you well know that all men are born sinful by nature. Christ, on the other hand, kept the divine law perfectly. It is this one act of righteousness performed by the last Adam (Jesus Christ) that gives us a positive righteousness before God.

Sinners need the unified righteousness of Christ imputed to them for salvation to be possible.

If I might take a slight detour to respond to an objection I hear on a regular basis: "But Case, aren't you splitting hairs here? I mean, if your "challenger" denies that Christ's Active Obedience is imputed to Christians, so what? At least he believes in the imputation of Christ's Passive Obedience. Isn't that good enough?" My response: This isn't splitting hairs at all. I am trying to honor the Biblical understanding of our foundation of our justification before God. Imputation is at the heart of justification, by the way. And if imputation is the heart of justification, and justification is the heart of the Gospel, then I believe we ought to take seriously the doctrine of imputation. Furthermore, I find great joy in this Biblical truth! I mean, when you wake up in the morning, and you don't feel the terror of the wrath of God abiding against you, why is that? Well, for the believer in Jesus Christ, he knows that his salvation is secure because he is covered by the righteousness of the Son of God. As Christian people, we ought to rejoice over this glorious teaching found throughout the Scriptures. I hope you can rejoice with me.

For further study on this important doctrine, I wanna recommend two books that every Christian should read:
(1) Counted Righteous in Christ by John Piper
(2) The God Who Justifies by James R. White

An excerpt from my favorite hymn:

"When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found,
Dressed in his righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne."

(Mote, Edward. "The Solid Rock.").

2 Corinthians 5:21: "21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Counted Righteous in Christ,

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Greetings from afar! It has been far too long since my last update. gooOOSH

I've kept busy. I'm taking Educational Psychology for the summer session 1 semester. It's everything I hoped it would be, and more! (I'm really obnoxious, I know).

Yesterday was my dad's 50th birthday. Today is my mom's birthday ... we dont proclaim a woman's age remember? Weeeell, last Saturday we had a surprise dinner for my dad. He was completely caught off guard because it was the weekend before his birthday. All of his co-workers were there. My Aunt Kim from Kentucky was able to fly out. My grandparents were there. Last, but not least, me and my bro's made an appearance. So he shows up, and we do the whole SURPRISE! thing - you know the drill. Well he's blown away. The best part is, this wasn't the big surprise. My mom was going to send him and my youngest brother Cory to Alaska from Wednesday to Sunday. This was the perfect present because if you know my dad, all he talks about is the trip he and my mom took to Alaska last summer. Once he found out that he was going again, his eyes got watery, and then got up to kiss my mom. It was one of those moments I will always remember. Dad and Cory are in Alaska right now fishing like no man has fished before.

Yesterday was my dads bday. Today is my moms. I usually forget which is which, but with my dad on his trip, it's easier for me to remember for some reason. Anyways, I am incredibly proud of myself because of the gift and card that I bought for Mom. Aunt Kim is my mom's best friend, and she was kind enough to inform me that she wanted a black purse. Soooo, everyone put on their imagination caps and give ear to "The Tale of Casey's Journey Through the Department Stores" ... Casey felt out of place as he shuffled his feet towards the massive buildings that some call the "Department Stores." Now, Casey is not an avid shopper and did not comprehend the impossible task that lay before him. Casey was here for one reason and one reason only: to buy a black purse. "A black purse, I must find. I shall leave this place victorious," Casey muttered to himself. His first attempt was in a structure called "Dillards." Even though the young man is not a professional shopper by any standard, he easily recognized that this "Dillards" had a poor selection. For personal reasons the storyteller shall refrain from informing the reader of the amount of time it took Casey to realize that "Dillard's" selection was lacking. His next adventure would occur in a different large structure called "Robinsons-May." After wandering aimlessly around the large area dedicated solely to products that women use to color up their faces, Casey wised up and asked for guidance to the purse section. The moveable stairs led him down to the lower level. He took a hard right and suddenly, there they were - the purse layer. Unlike "Dillards," "Robinsons-May" had hundreds of items to choose from. "Perhaps this quest is more difficult than I originally thought," Casey thought to himself, "but I must choose, and choose wisely!" He carefully avoided eye-contact with anyone in the purse layer so as to not be remembered as the first male to ever tread in such dangerous terrain. Everywhere he looked, mountains of purses lined the shelves! Casey was nearly overcome by the sheer terror of it all when a spy approached the young man and asked if she could be of any assistance. The innocent young man could not have known the woman's true intentions. Did she really want to help? Was she trying to discover his identity so as to make a public spectacle of him? It was then that Casey remembered the wise words of Frodo-Baggins: "We have no choice but to trust him." "Thanks Frodo," Casey said aloud. "Im sorry?" the woman asked. "Oh, umm. Yes, thanks. I need some help finding a purse," he replied. The spy turned out to be a maiden of the purse layer. She was of great help. Together they discovered the perfect gift and then journeyed through the aisles to the cash register so he might barter for the item. Casey offered some green pieces of paper - an unusual method of payment to be sure - and the trade was successful. Casey hurriedly left that horrific place, never to return. "I am victorious!" he shouted as he arrived at his mode of transportation. Casey lived happily ever after. Oh, and the moral of this story: if a member of the male species desirest to embark on a shopping quest, he ought to invite a member of the female species to guide him safely through. Amen, and amen.


So yea. Ill let you know if my mom ends up keeping the purse I bought her, or if she exchanges it =).

Dba dba dba dba thats all folks. Ill post more lata, Lw

Case of Base