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Maybe we've been missing something... #20800
Mon Jan 10, 2005 10:00 AM
Mon Jan 10, 2005 10:00 AM

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Here is an article by Derek Webb, probably my favorite Christian music artist. I think he makes a VERY valid point in this, and I thought I'd share here and see what y'all think about it. For a link to the site I got the article from, go to my theology xanga. The link should be at the bottom of my post.

Too Close For Comfort: The Church's Unnecessary Rejection Of Modern Faith Heroes
By Derek Webb

“How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man.” - Johnny Cash

Christian thought and literature are full of great heroes of the faith. Over years I have read and studied the words and lives of men like John Piper, R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer, and Tony Campolo, and I have gleaned great wisdom from them. They give themselves to the building of God’s Kingdom in overt and beautiful ways. But I’m starting to wonder if there are other Christian heroes that the Church is overlooking because they’re not quite safe, and maybe a little too honest. With such a high premium in Church circles on reputation and conformity, we pass over, and occasionally ostracize those who I believe to be the most influential Christians in modern society. Our inability to identify true faith heroes is an indication that we may have a flaw at the core of our Christian worldview.

What is it that makes a ‘hero’ of the faith? The dictionary defines a hero as, “a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.” I think this is a great description. And based on this description, right next to John Piper I would seat Johnny Cash. And next to R.C. Sproul, we would find Flannery O’Conner. And right next to J. I. Packer, we raise U2’s Bono. And the list goes on. But we are too uncomfortable with these individuals. These celebrities are a little too disruptive and messy for us to categorize, or they don’t speak the jargon we are comfortable with. Or maybe we dismiss them because they, like all men, are what Martin Luther described as, “simul justus et pecator” or “both saint and sinner at the same time.” And that is precisely what we are trying to cover in and for ourselves.

Johnny Cash and U2’s Bono are both men who I have studied closely, who have not only been vocal about their faith in their art but have also demonstrated the Christian worldview with their lives. But it doesn’t always look like what we expect. I believe they are just as important to the modern history of the church as these evangelical writers and theologians, if not even more widely influential. Cash and Bono have spent the currency of their celebrity on things that clearly demonstrate Kingdom thinking.

Johnny Cash spent the majority of his long career singing songs about the social outcast and the oppressed. Consider the song ‘The Ballad Of Ira Hayes.’ Here is a true story addressing the racism facing a Pima Indian who was one of the marine heroes returning home after the epic WWII battle at Iwo Jima. He is greeted with discrimination instead of honor, from the country he had sacrificed so heavily to defend. Another example is the beatitude reminiscent, ‘The Man In Black,’ where Cash sings, “I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town, I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, but is there because he's a victim of the times.” Whether it’s fighting the injustices and ignorance of racism or caring for the poor and needy in our society, Cash has left a long legacy of great art that has engaged with culture in such a way that demanded respect for his worldview, and all the while risking great peril to his career and reputation.

Bono, of international super-group U2, has always taken rock & roll very seriously. In the early 80’s Bono used his celebrity to raise awareness of those starving in Africa and the atrocities of apartheid with the ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ and ‘Live Aid’ projects. More recently he has been a tireless lobbyist, raising money and awareness of the great needs of those suffering from the pandemic of Aids in Africa, not to mention the founding of the ‘DATA’ organization (Debt, Aids, Trade, Africa). And all of this with no mention of his day job. Along with this activism, U2 has consistently put out best-selling records and played sold-out concerts all over the world that are not only artistic, but also engaging and spiritually charged with tremendous impact on culture.

So in light of all this, why is the American Church so fearful of owning these men as the heroes they appear to be? Simul justus et pecator. As well as being great humanitarians, both have gone through seasons of being known as much for their great art as for their great excesses. Johnny Cash struggled for years with drug addiction and writes about prison time, vengeance, and murder in his songs (but then again so did David in the Psalms). He’s always maintained a rebellious image, punctuated by the magazine ad that he and producer Rick Rubin placed in Billboard Magazine in 1998 mocking the country music industry for their inexcusable lack of support which displayed a picture of Cash giving them his middle finger. Sadly, it was not until Cash’s death that the church began to really celebrate him, and I believe that’s because that was the first time the Church saw him “safe” enough to endorse. Church people don’t want to risk reputation for people like that that are so unpredictable and visible to the watching world. We are careful to avoid that kind of disruption.

Bono, however, is still working to keeping the church on it’s toes. He and his band have intentionally distanced themselves from the Church in America because of the negative connotations that it has earned for itself in the art community. He does not shy away from smoking, drinking alcohol, and using four letter words. Bono even spent the better part of a recent tour dressed up like Satan (a character named ‘Mister MacPhisto,’ which was an metaphor inspired by C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Screwtape Letters’). And we’re not sure what to do with all that.

So here we are, Church people working hard to avoid disruption, to protect our reputation, with an obsessive emphasis on external behavior and conformity to social norms. Does that sound like the Gospel to you? Does that sound like people with radical faith in Jesus, free to love, free to fail, free to struggle to redeem culture and reclaim it for our Father who made it? Our fear of these men comes from our failure to believe the Gospel.

Beyond rhetoric and theological language, the Christian life is either about keeping the law or about putting your faith in One who has kept the law on your behalf. We either have faith in the Law or we have faith in Jesus, and there is no middle ground. It simply cannot be about both. The hard truth is that we are not our Savior. I simply cannot do what Jesus would do. I continue to need the Law because it is the tutor that brings be back again and again to my only Hope. We’re so busy celebrating men that look like Jesus that we’ve forgotten the value of men who look like they need Jesus, and I believe real spiritual maturity looks more like the latter.

For every theology book, we need an artist, or a public school teacher, or an at-home Mom living a radical, disruptive life, out there in God’s world sacrificing for the work of His Kingdom. That is the definition of a hero, the “act of nobility” and the “sacrificing of his life.” We should never believe that our modern faith heroes are anything but men with a great need for Jesus. If we do this we lie to ourselves and to them, and we short circuit the gospel. By this standard men like Bono and Johnny Cash are certainly heroes, ones who teach us more of our need for Jesus.

Re: Maybe we've been missing something... #20801
Mon Jan 10, 2005 3:21 PM
Mon Jan 10, 2005 3:21 PM
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KalledtoPreach,

Are you kidding? Do you really agree that these men should be our heroes? People that we should look up to and follow their example? Do they follow the prime example we are to follow, Jesus Christ? Do they embrace His lifestyle, obey His commandments, live God fearing lives?
Surely these are people who NEED the gospel! Surely they are sinners, in need of a savior, pagans, who do not realize their need. Do they look like they have been born again, just because, by God's grace, they show some compassion for the needy?

I think I'll stick by the heroes of the faith that are tried and proven in their professions!
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In His Hands,

Ruth


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Re: Maybe we've been missing something... [Re: Ruth] #20802
Mon Jan 10, 2005 3:46 PM
Mon Jan 10, 2005 3:46 PM
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Ruth,

My thoughts exactly. And Tony Campolo, listed as a theological "hero" is a liberal with pantheistic tendencies! I think Piper, Sproul, and Packer would be offended having Campolo listed beside their names.

I'm grieved to see this coming from Derek Webb. I pray that he thinks about this more and retracts what he's said.


True godliness is a sincere feeling which loves God as Father as much as it fears and reverences Him as Lord, embraces His righteousness, and dreads offending Him worse than death~ Calvin
Re: Maybe we've been missing something... [Re: MarieP] #20803
Mon Jan 10, 2005 5:14 PM
Mon Jan 10, 2005 5:14 PM

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I deffinitely don't agree with who he picked, but I think the point of his entire article was that we sometimes overlook people that should be our heroes and that we need to take more risks as Christians...At least that is what I gleaned from it.

Re: Maybe we've been missing something... #20804
Mon Jan 10, 2005 5:58 PM
Mon Jan 10, 2005 5:58 PM
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What do you mean by "risks"?

And why exactly is it that we need "heroes" (in the sense that Webb is talking about, anyways) that are non-Christians?

FYI, O'Conner was Roman Catholic.

U2 is not a Christian band. See this interview with Bono, which was mentioned on the Christianity Today site.


True godliness is a sincere feeling which loves God as Father as much as it fears and reverences Him as Lord, embraces His righteousness, and dreads offending Him worse than death~ Calvin
Re: Maybe we've been missing something... [Re: MarieP] #20805
Mon Jan 10, 2005 6:58 PM
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Quote
SemperReformanda said:
What do you mean by "risks"?


I'm talking going against what is "expected" by most of the church for Christians to do. I was under the impression that the gospel was liberating. That once saved, we didn't have to worry so much about what people thought and about conforming to the patterns of this world (I think a good example is legalistic attitudes). It's a risk to go into a bar and share the gospel with someone...it's a risk to go into the inner city and share the gospel...it's a risk to go where the lost people are and share truth with them in a loving way and a way they will understand. It's a big risk to go where the people are who need the gospel. It's not only a risk of our life, but a risk of our reputation. It's a risk of the self-righteous people in the church who have added rules to being a Christian beyond what Scripture commands looking down on us.

Yes, we need to live holy lives and lives that glorify God. But what glorifies God more...sitting on our butts on a comfortable pew Sunday after Sunday and praying for lost people or going out to where they are and sharing truth with them that we are praying for? I choose the latter because it is what God has commanded. God never commanded us to stay inside the four walls of our comfortable church buildings and pretend they will come to us. We can have the best theology and the greatest scholars and be the most biblically accurate people on the face of the earth intellectually speaking, but if we're not putting those doctrines into practice than we are no better than the ones running around spreading lies and stealing money on TV.

Quote
And why exactly is it that we need "heroes" (in the sense that Webb is talking about, anyways) that are non-Christians?


Like I said, that part I don't agree with him on. I just think we often overlook some of the people who aren't so glamerous and popular in the Christian world. I agree...we should have spiritual role models who are living right lives, but I also see nothing wrong with looking up to someone who tries and fails miserably and shows genuine repentance...which is where I disagree with Derek's choices of people.

Re: Maybe we've been missing something... #20806
Mon Jan 10, 2005 10:21 PM
Mon Jan 10, 2005 10:21 PM
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Kalled,

Just wanted to add some thoughts, not necessarily to contradict you, but perhaps to highlight Webb's gross error on this one.

Quote
It's a risk to go into a bar and share the gospel with someone...
That's one thing, but when you yourself start drinking along with everybody else, that's what the Bible calls "sin."


Quote
it's a risk to go into the inner city and share the gospel...it's a risk to go where the lost people are and share truth with them in a loving way and a way they will understand. It's a big risk to go where the people are who need the gospel.
Yet when we begin to act like those we are ostensibly ministering to, we are becoming enemies of the gospel.


Quote
It's not only a risk of our life, but a risk of our reputation. It's a risk of the self-righteous people in the church who have added rules to being a Christian beyond what Scripture commands looking down on us.
Yet this wasn't what Webb was saying at all. He was talking about people who were "risking their reputation" by living lives a lot lower then the standards the Bible supplies. We are not called to be prudish, but we are called to be pure. We can be in the world, but when we become of it, the world has won.


Quote
Yes, we need to live holy lives and lives that glorify God. But what glorifies God more...sitting on our butts on a comfortable pew Sunday after Sunday and praying for lost people or going out to where they are and sharing truth with them that we are praying for? I choose the latter because it is what God has commanded. God never commanded us to stay inside the four walls of our comfortable church buildings and pretend they will come to us. We can have the best theology and the greatest scholars and be the most biblically accurate people on the face of the earth intellectually speaking, but if we're not putting those doctrines into practice than we are no better than the ones running around spreading lies and stealing money on TV.
Right, but again, you seem to be missing Webb's point. Bono is not sharing "truth," in the Biblical sense of the word, with anybody. Social causes may be noble, and may be a secondary responsiblility of the church, but they are not "truth," and Bono's life and doctrine (or lack thereof) make him anything but a christian hero. Johnny Cash giving the finger in Rolling Stone magazine is not putting his faith into practice- it's rebelling against it. It's not advancing the cause of Christ- it is doing injury to it.

Again, we'd probably agree on most of this, but I just wanted to point out that perhaps the thing you have in mind and the thing that Derek Webb has in mind are not the same.


(Latin phrase goes here.)
Re: Maybe we've been missing something... [Re: Henry] #20807
Mon Jan 10, 2005 10:55 PM
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I agree with you completely and I see what you're saying. I also think there is a lot of good to be found in the article.

I guess I am just reading it through different lenses. <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/shrug.gif" alt="" />

Re: Maybe we've been missing something... #20808
Tue Jan 11, 2005 12:35 AM
Tue Jan 11, 2005 12:35 AM

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Quote
"Maybe we're missing something?"


I say, "Nah!" <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/sorry.gif" alt="" />

Regretfully yours,
Ted

Re: Maybe we've been missing something... #20809
Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:46 AM
Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:46 AM
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Quote
I also think there is a lot of good to be found in the article.

I guess I am just reading it through different lenses.


Where is the good?
The problem (and perhaps this should be taken up with him) is that if he actually wanted to stir the Church to get out of their comfort zones and live what they believe. Is the fact that the examples he gave, one can not come to that conclusion.
How can one, get this idea from people who seem ashamed of the Gospel (Bono) who also uses four letter words, etc...? Surely this is not a good example of this is it?

When I try to look at the article giving him the benefit of the doubt, I am sorry but the doubt ends up being too strong to do so.

I am a person who has listened to Derek and I understand he claims to be a Reformed Christian. But I think, he needs to look long and hard on that. Why would he make one of his heroes a Roman Catholic priest, if he is a Reformed Christian?

Tom

Last edited by Tom; Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:49 AM.
Re: Maybe we've been missing something... [Re: Tom] #20810
Tue Jan 11, 2005 6:06 AM
Tue Jan 11, 2005 6:06 AM
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Tom,

I agree with everything you said.

"Be careful what you hear" and I'm sure it could be added be careful who your heroes are.

For the most part the people mentioned are children of our inclusivist age. They are just as likely to sing of Ghandi or Buddha or New Age "spiritually" as they are of the Lord of mercy. They love the word "peace" but I often wonder about their motivations in setting themselves up as its "spokesman".

Everyone wants to sing or listen to words of peace and love but there are few that find the reality. If one truly wants to honor Christian heroes, I suggest a thorough investigation first be made of men like Luther and Calvin. Some of the sweetest "lyrics" I ever heard came from Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. From these men and great teachers a much better discernment and appreciation of the contributions of other Christians is possible.

The Lord does promise great teachers (Eph. 4:11) and it should be in our prayers that people spend as much time listening to them as they do to our liberal, inclusivist and "New Age prophets" of song.

Denny

Roms 3:22-24


Denny

Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." [John 6:68]
Re: Maybe we've been missing something... [Re: Adopted] #20811
Tue Jan 11, 2005 8:34 AM
Tue Jan 11, 2005 8:34 AM
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Quote
Beyond rhetoric and theological language, the Christian life is either about keeping the law or about putting your faith in One who has kept the law on your behalf. We either have faith in the Law or we have faith in Jesus, and there is no middle ground. It simply cannot be about both. The hard truth is that we are not our Savior. I simply cannot do what Jesus would do. I continue to need the Law because it is the tutor that brings be back again and again to my only Hope. We’re so busy celebrating men that look like Jesus that we’ve forgotten the value of men who look like they need Jesus, and I believe real spiritual maturity looks more like the latter.


It seems Webb has started to embrace a bit of antinomianism. I've always appreciated his music, and so I hope this latest divergence doesn't go far.


(Latin phrase goes here.)
Re: Maybe we've been missing something... #20812
Tue Jan 11, 2005 2:33 PM
Tue Jan 11, 2005 2:33 PM
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Quote
Kalled2Preach said:
it's a risk to go where the lost people are and share truth with them in a loving way and a way they will understand.

I suspect that we would not be in agreement with either the definition of "a loving way" nor with "a way they will understand"!

What I see and hear all too often is that this "loving way" is expressed by such phrases as, "God loves you just the way you are!", which translates into not condemning people's lifestyle, etc. With such attitudes, which by the way is totally alien to biblical teaching which demands that those who profess to be disciples of Christ be enemies of this world and its philosophies, methodologies and lifestyles, sin is all too often tolerated, diminished and even ignored. The Gospel demands one repentant. But what are unbelievers to repent of if their entire lives are acceptable? To love the lost means to take pity on them and to show them their need of Christ because their every thought, word and deed is sinful and worthy of judgment. To love the lost means to tell them the truth that they are at enmity with God and unless God should show them mercy, they are hopelessly lost and without any ability to change their present situation.

Secondly, as to this matter of speaking to the lost "in a way they will understand", too often this is expressed by a "dumbing down" of the Gospel; e.g., using their language when speaking to them. I find this totally unacceptable and dishonoring to the Lord Most High. Those who have been brought out of darkness into the marvelous light have been changed in every facet of their lives, particularly in their understanding and relationship to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus they have been and continue to be radically transformed so that they no longer think, speak or act as they once did but rather they are "new creatures". Lovers of God cannot speak of God as "the big guy in the sky" or use any such phraseology. They revere the name of God and of Christ. They speak of sin as sin and not simply as "mistakes", "less than acceptable choices", or such euphemisms. Understanding comes from the enlightening of the mind by the Holy Spirit as the one who is witnessing to the truth is faithful in speaking the truth.


"It is an inexpressible grief to me to see the church spending its energies in a vain attempt to lower its testimony to suit the ever-changing sentiment of the world about it." - Benjamin B. Warfield



In His Grace,


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simul iustus et peccator

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Re: Maybe we've been missing something... [Re: Pilgrim] #20813
Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:07 PM
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I am totally in agreement with you. We can't dumb the message down, and we don't have to I don't think. There are plenty of ways we can express, for example, election that people can and will understand...at least on a surface level, and that can be explained without dumbing it down. So I agree. We can share the gospel in a way they will understand even using phraseology that, in human terms, we THINK they can't understand.

And I agree that we can't, in the name of love, ignore a sinful attitude or lifestyle. Helping people see sin and showing them the only solution and only answer to sin is more loving than anything.

So I agree with you.

Re: Maybe we've been missing something... #20814
Fri Jan 14, 2005 12:36 AM
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Hey Kalled.
If the point that you appreciate in this article is that the heroes and teachers tomorrow's church (if indeed there is a church to look back upon our time historically) will look back on aren't necessarilly the ones we ourselves look to and follow, this I can agree with. It is however, unknown what the "church" of tomorrow will ultimately be like, we're in a transition, it seems likely that the visible "church" will continue to apostate and that the men they will hold in high regard will not be the same we do. This is speculation of coarse, b/c I for one am not a prophet (nor have I read all Tim Lahayes books, wink wink(That was a joke everybody)).

The scary idea is that we have people who believe that they are theologically wise just simply b/c they can spout facts and quotes and speak multiple languages and words that fill the mouth and the mind. I maintain my belief that the only way we will know all the good things of God and come to maturity in the knowledge of God is through godly living.

It's also unfortunate that we sometimes get bogged down into the idea of what is and is not living dangerously and living for the Lord. I do not wish to live my life dangerously, neither I believe, do men like Piper, Sproul, Packer, or MacArthur nor does any body else. Yet to these men, dangerous is not living against the expectations of society or against the laws of the Scriptures, but dangerous is living life in a manner, in some pursuit that is not the Fullest pursuit of God.

Christian liberty and freedom are not just applied concerning the expectations of the world upon us, but of our expectations on the world and our definitions of it. We must not continue to define danger as being danger from the world or danger in a public relations manner but we must remember the fear of God and the dangers inherent in living like sinners in the hands of our angry God.

I trust you'll agree that Piper and Sproul and Packer and MacArthur and the rest see themselves as sinners saved only by grace through faith in Christ alone, in essense, sinners and saints. We are all sinners, we sin, but in Christ, in God's sight, we are saints seen by God through Christ who covers us so that all God chooses to see is the exact representation of Himself in Christ.

Certainly, there are lessons to be learned from this article, and lessons to be learned from the subjects mentioned herein. Perhaps the first 2 lessons we should learn are: How easily we can be distracted with technicallities, and that There are sinners out there putting the sinners in Church to shame by doing things, godly type things that we churchmen ought to be doing and could be doing but aren't b/c we don't live a biblically based life, we don't see the danger in disobeying God. The very sad thing will be when we see men who did greater deeds for the poor and the needy and thirsty and the hungry and he is rejected b/c Christ never knew him and then Christ will say to us, "Well Done" and we may perhaps know that we have not done well.

May the God of Peace, Guard our Hearts and Minds in Christ Jesus our Lord till the day of glorification.

Brother Luke <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/BigThumbUp.gif" alt="" />

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