Monday, July 27, 2009

Sometimes someone just lets you know that someone said something about you...

The Reformed Resurgence: Reformed Rap

Collin Hansen

The Reformed Resurgence Series: Click | View Series

Gospel, Word!

Walking to my seat for the opening night of the New Attitude conference, an unexpected sound boomed over the convention center speakers. Could it be? Nah. Hip hop? Here? With this crowd? At least the lyrics sounded about right for New Attitude, a yearly conference now calledNext that attracts thousands of young adults. “Grace—unmerited favor toward those who deserve wrath,” Curtis Allen rapped. “Grace—is salvation from predestination. Christ gave his life to change our destination.”

Lyrical Theology

I approached Allen between sessions and asked him about a phenomenon I never anticipated writing about: Reformed rap. Allen, who raps under the name “Voice,” belongs to a small group of hip-hop artists who employ Calvinist theology in their lyrics. Shai Linne argues that hip-hop might be a superior musical form for conveying theology because of the sheer word count. “The power of hip-hop is because it’s primarily a lyrical medium,” said Linne, who attends Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, an Acts 29 church. “It has the ability to communicate large amounts of information at one time. When you’re able to do that, you’re able to transmit a worldview.”

Secular Slavery

The Reformed worldview isn’t always welcome in African American churches. Thabiti Anyabwile has documented the decline of African American theology from biblical faith to cultural captivity. Anyabwile, who once served on the Capitol Hill Baptist Church staff with Together for the Gospel founder Mark Dever, argues that the theological basis for African American activism has given way to secularism.

Theological Freedom

“Disentangled from its evangelical and Reformed theological upbringing, the church became motivated by a quest for justice for justice’s sake rather than by the call and mandate of God as expressed in more biblical understandings of Christianity,” Anyabwile writes. Perhaps Calvinists will be used by God to restore this theological richness that once sustained slaves enduring unspeakable evil.

To be continued.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

a humble brother's question and my response

First, let me say that I remain encouraged through your music Voice. The Truth of GOD'S WORD spills from your albums with practical simplicity. I must confess, I do not have your initial two albums. In the earlier days of my walk, I found your music exuded a significant amount of "happiness" and "joy" that I myself was not used to (hopefully this is not offensive, but it would take MANY more emails to explain. Suffice to say, with a "similar" background to yourself, the transition into joy and light, was difficult after so many years in darkness and sorrow). As time passed, and the light of CHRIST began to shine in, darkness was slowly thrust out. So when the time came for that joyous chorus (like on "Unstoppable"), the Process of the Pardon emerged! Anyway, I know your time if limited, with "Santiago" and "Mrs Betsy Allen," so let me cut to it. I enjoy your music brother, and have been INSTRUCTED on the Pardon, specifically with the jewels from Dr. Grudem, Duncan, and even Imago Dei (what's that, "non-posse-bacardi"????)

My question is in regards to NT Wright's New Perspective. I will confess I am largely unlearned in the area. I have read several articles by Wright, and glanced at the introduction to Piper on Justification (where he credits NT Wright as a tremendous Biblical Scholar). I have had several discussions with a few brothers from Westminster in Philly, some of whom acknowledge Wright to be amongst their favorite scholars. This is to say nothing of his interpretation of Justification. My question is that you steadfastly refute Mr. Wright's position as being heresy. I know you are in (I think you refer to it as) Pastor's College, thus I give great deference to your study on the matter. But I been skimming the surface on modern changes and transitions in Biblical Scholarship (see Enns on "Inspiration and Incarnation" for example), and it seems ("seems" brother), there is room (not necessarily with Wright and Enns) for correction on our understanding of "certain" things in comparison to our understanding several hundred years ago. I guess my question is how did you come to your position against Wright with such steadfastness? Again brother, I do not assert you are wrong (for I continue to hold to the traditional understanding of Justification, lest I find my Salvation is LOST!), I just want to understand how you reached your position bro, that's all. Take your time in response Voice, I know your labors are many.

"A Theist" is nice so far. Favorite track (From an emcee perspective, thus far) is Uni-verse! Hope all is well with you brother.


My response:

Sorry it took so long for me to respond to this. I set it in my email group and I lost it or something to that effect. In any case I appreciate your humble question and the subsequent follow up email and encouragements. I hope I can answer your question with clarity although I must admit there are plenty of other people (Jon Piper, Ligon Duncan among others) who have done a fine job bringing discernment to this issue. If you haven’t I would encourage you to get some of there materials to see what those who actually have something worthwhile to say about it. I will also avoid commenting on the scholarship of Wright but will say that yes in many areas he has proven to be an excellent scholar of the bible. However, he is not infallible and in his position on Justification, I have to say his infallibility is apparent =)

In answering a question like this Nate I have to be honest and say that most of what we know and believe today we stand on the shoulders of the great saints that preceded us. What I offer is no new insight into scripture or some how I have come to this position on my own as if some angel revealed things to me about Justification that shape my “perspective.” Having said this I will try to answer your question. This will be a non-scholar answer to by the way. Not that I could give a scholar answer lol.

One of the main reasons I disagree with Wright is that this position would not have been a position that has historically been in the church as a matter of question. As far back as we can know this “new” perspective is in fact that, new. I find it hard to believe that the further we move away from the original days of biblical writings that we come into more clarity on those writings. Wright’s interpretation of the Greek word for Justification is not used in the way that he describes in most texts that use this word. The connection that the word makes to justification is not an issue of family but an issue of position. At least that is what everyone (that we, including Wright, have sided with) who has weighed in on this issue throughout church history has seen Justification as a legal declaration from God not a term referring to family. I find it hard to believe that in all history this has not been put out there, especially by all those who have studied this intently.

Another reason I disagree with this position is because of the implication of this position. If this is true (new perspective) then a person’s standing before God isn’t guaranteed by God and therefore becomes about works to assure one of salvation where the scripture speak so vehemently against works as earning salvation. This new perspective gets down to the issue of how can I be sure I am saved, being “a member of God’s family” doesn’t indicate that soteriological implications are present. Sadducee’s and Pharisee’s were also a part of God’s family as in that they were the chosen people by God. People weren’t struggling with being a member of a family in second temple Judaism. Yes people wanted to worship in the temple and were kept out but the issue was acceptance by God and worship of God. They all knew they were “part of the family.” If this perspective is true then one’s own assurance seems to not be certain which makes us Neo-Judaizers in trying to attain certainty in our salvation.

Lastly, I think this new perspective doesn’t line up with the totality of scripture. While the Pauline epistles offer the most data on this issue other aspects of scripture highlight the work of God and what makes us acceptable to Him.

Christ’s atoning death definitively secures our forgiveness for sins past, present and future.
  1. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12,14)
  2. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” 1 Peter 3:18
  3. God not only removes our sins (Ps. 103:12) leaving us “neutral” before God, but he also credits us with a perfect righteousness (Is. 61:10, Rom. 4:3)

Again brother there is so much to say here. This was a little answer to a big question. I appreciate your heart man and I hope that you continue to be encouraged in Christ and in your justification!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Are legalism and license the only two options...

for getting justification and sanctification confused? Often we hear of the perils of confusing the difference between these two heavyweight doctrines. Usually when justification is confused with sanctification it can lead to extreme legalism. You find people trying to earn their salvation. Not in the sense that they actually believe that they can but it is an attempt to somehow prove to God their worthiness by their perceived obedience. The danger here, more than anything, is the accusations against God that His Son's death was good but insufficient as well as we earn His favor by our efforts. WHOA!!!!!!!!!! Yet people live their whole Christians lives flying under the radar of "smuggling human effort" in with divine justice. Bad bad bad bad bad!

The flip side to this legalism is usually described as license. Which simply is a freedom to willfully pursue sin and all its perceived pleasures. Somehow assuming the grace of God makes way for sin rather than grace makes way to not sin. Living as a "Christian" with either of these worldviews will make for a slow miserable death. Thank God for Jesus! In Him we have all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-11). Our obedience is is one that learns not one that earns. We learn about God and ourselves not earn from God for ourselves. Amen!

Are these the only two options though? At times I get concerned that we, people in general, are primarily satisfied with placing "things" in one of two categories. We are in the "either or" worldview often in our description of life and the hereafter. Maybe because there really are two kinds of people in this world from the bible's perspective, reconciled and unreconciled. Maybe because there really are 2 ways to live. Although Tim Keller has recently been pushing that there are in fact 3 ways to live. All this being said, I believe there is at least one more, and in my opinion, one that is very infamous among Believers, when we get Justification and Sanctification confused. The problem is I don't have a good theological term for it like the two above. Right now I have packaged it as good ol' fashioned "Meology." A street way to say this is "a holy zap" or "Sudden Sanctification." This is a more common response than not for the believer when justification is viewed as a process.

Sudden Sanctification is when the believer confuses sanctification (on going/progressive process of becoming like Jesus) with justification (instantaneous act in which God declares the sinner as righteous, as if he never sinned at all) and believes that sanctification should be instantaneous. This is the evil twin of legalism which states, in essence, that justification is a process as opposed to an instance. What this looks like is the believer is shocked at their sin, discouraged at the rate of their growth and often bitter towards God and or others that seem to "get it" when it comes to doing the Jesus thing. Other symptoms include, nausea, diarrhea, loss of hair, one leg growing longer than the other and an intense search for Baked Beaver Back as an evening dish. The worst of it all is that the believer thinks that this desire to be holy quickly honors God and is humble and passionate but in actuality it is an expression of severe arrogance and complaint towards God who designs all processes for His people in order that they may grow to be like him, while being dependent on Him. There is no such thing as a holy zap! There never will be. While there are some areas that will radically come to a halt. Often many of the areas you and I struggle with will remain on some level as the thorn in our flesh to keep us humbly dependent on His righteousness to guide us into eternity.

"Sudden Sanctification" says to God, "I hate this sin and how it makes me feel and I want you to take it away, NOW!" This mindset forgets 1 Peter 4:12-19, James 1:2-4, 2 Peter 1:3-11, Hebrews 12:11, Galatians 6:7-9 and many other wonderful passages that highlight the reality of who God is and what He has done. As a pastor I often come across people who want the desires and effects of sin to go away and actually expect them to as quickly as they say it. I regret to inform you that there is no such thing. Sanctification is indeed a process. It is a process given only to those whom are called by God. It is a gift and it produces the kind of character that pleases God. We focus so much on the goal that we forget that God is focused on the process. He has already called us "not guilty," justified by the blood of Christ. The goal is already achieved. The process needs to be received.

Perseverance is the name of the game here. This glorifies God! I know in my life there are quite a few areas where I wish God would give me a holy zap. But my desire is selfish. It's not about honoring God it's about not wanting to do the work of long suffering with my sin and it also requires no faith. The work of the spirit is sufficient and will be complete. Let Justification be instantaneous and sanctification be contemporaneous. When we confuse the two the outcome is one of anguish and confusion. "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8:13)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How can I get black people to come to my church? pt.2

Where possible, invite some black Christians to your church to evaluate your service.

Even if you have to reach out to a black church that you have no relationship with, explain to them that you are desirous to reach the community for the purpose of having a church that reflects more the kingdom of God than it does currently. Ask if they would be willing to let a handful of members attend your service and give feed back on what would hinder black people from coming back.

This is a bold move! But the payout could be enormous! This accomplishes a couple of things. It sends a loud statement to the people of that church that you are serious and sincere (unless they get suspicious that you are sheep stealing). It can give you a good rapport with them and could lead to possibly a partnership in the gospel that consists of reaching the black community. It communicates to your church that you are indeed serious and it gives you time to prepare them for greeting black folks as they come. It allows you to evaluate seriously how your church responds to the reality of another culture coming to fellowship with them.

Be Genuine. It's okay to just "be white" around black people

Sometimes white people think they have to "relate" to black people in order to make them feel welcome. This is not necessarily true. I have seen so many non-black folks change their whole swagger so that they can be accepted by the black people they are "relating to." WRONG! Be yourself. It is okay if you don't know the proper "black" handshake or can't relate to something that is described in such a way that you feel like you should be able to. Ask questions like, what does that mean that you just said? Expose your ignorance don't try to hide it. If you are genuine black people will pick up on that and actually respect you for it.

Pray for direction

This could always be first on my list and is another one of those "duh" statements but it is in fact true that many who pursue such things as this can have desire without direction. Ultimately the Lord is going to lead you in the endeavor.

When possible use illustrations that can highlight the reality of and your disdain for racism

My Senior pastor John Loftness does this very well. He, being a white man, will often use illustrations or read stories that highlight the reality of this racial barrier's existence and denounce it. It is a subtle way to train your church but also if on a particular Sunday black people are there they will pick up on that if its genuine.

If there are already a few black people in your church they need to play a role here.

My church has had a recent flux of black folks coming to our church. We haven't even targeted them but on our website they can see that two out of the three pastors are black. If this exists in your church, make sure there are pictures on your website that indicate that. Black people don't like being vastly outnumbered by white people especially when they are the only black people there, it can be a challenge.

None of these things are ground breaking or novel but they are a good step in the right direction. I wish I could say just do this, this and this and WALA black people will show up in droves. It requires faith and diligence with patience as the backdrop. If it is the will of the Lord then you will accomplish that no matter what obstacles present themselves.

Lastly a few bullet points that will be a struggles for most black people, not all but most.

Worship style will be a challenge. Black people are really drawn to music. Unfortunately many of us are in churches where the theology is horrible but the worship is right. Your white band will have a rhythm that will be a sacrifice to a lot black people to overcome.

Homeschool and the expectation of biblical womanhood may be a challenge. Sometimes these values assume a particular family structure and that may not be the case with some black families coming into your church. A single mom may come in with two kids. If all she hears is homeschool this and moms should be home that she wont likely stay. While we would say that's not the only way to honor God we sure can emphasize it, however subtle.

Theology may be a challenge. Depending on your church, this could be a paradigm shift in the way black folks experience church. We tend to be more feeling and whites tend to be more intellectual. Not saying that whites don't feel and blacks don't think but it is different. The racial history of this nation has left black people with a more "God wants to bless you" theology. "Reparations theology" if you will, pivots off of oppression and promises of love and blessings. The negative effect of this that you can have people thinking that God loves them and forgives them solely because of the horrific racism that black people have gone through. It can be very emotional particularly when songs highlight God's love or nearness. Sadly, this doesn't always translate to living. Reformed theology is a thinking man's faith. It is weighty and though not necessary, extremely beneficial to read and study. This could be a challenge.

Over greeting could be a challenge. You definitely want to greet but if you have the whole staff plus their moms and their cousins surrounding black folks they may think you are a cult! Don't send the whole kitchen sink at them and don't send only the black people to greet them. If possible the senior guy or whoever preached that Sunday get to them and say hello and greet them as well.

Your churches culture will be a challenge. I know in Sovereign Grace churches there is a certain way people can talk and outside of the bubble of our churches it would seem strange. If a group of people all sound the same, look the same when greeting and talking to black guests or those considering joining, it could be a challenge.

I will spare you any more thoughts as there as actually people who have thought through these things far better than I have. If you meet them I am sure they can offer you a better perspective than I have. Either way I hope this serves any who took the time to read and is desirous of this pursuit. To God alone be glory!