Posts Tagged 'Christianity Today'

David Crowder & Rob Bell: Fantastical Worship and Atonement Lenses

Update: The conversation continues, both below & in the comments at Bob Kauflin’s blog. Please be courteous if you decide to comment over there. 🙂

So I wasn’t at the David Crowder Band-hosted Fantastical Church Music Conference held at Baylor earlier this month, but apparently it created quite a stir. For one thing, it brought together a diverse group of people: Gugnor and Paper Route and Bifrost Arts and Mike Crawford and Welcome Wagon and David Dark and Derek Webb and the Civil Wars (!), alongside CCM worship music stalwarts like Matt Redman, Israel Houghton and Hillsongs London (along with preacher/producer scribe Louie Giglio). But amidst this celebration of aural diversity, there was apparently one voice who was the wrong kind of diversity for some folks: Rob Bell. Quoth Christianity Today:

On Friday morning Rob Bell challenged his audience to drop “blood guilt” and “three-tiered universe” metaphors in their songwriting. He said we needed metaphors that connected to people today. Plenty of people in North America, he said, feel an aching sense of loss of home and we need songs that offer Christ as their true home.

(In the comments section, someone who also attended the conference clarified that Bell didn’t suggest that anyone ‘drop’ blood metaphors, but rather to not solely rely on them.) Are there better ways to think and sing about our universe? Better ways to celebrate the meaning of Jesus? Can I get an “amen”?

Apparently not, from some quarters.

People of Destiny Sovereign Grace worship leader Bob Kauflin expresses concern on his blog:

While I appreciate relevance and clear communication, developing our own metaphors for the atonement potentially undermines and distorts the gospel. Yes, it’s important to recognize and communicate the vast and multiple effects of Christ’s death and the resurrection, and yes, Christians can overemphasize theological precision and definition at the expense of actually communicating the good news. But every description of Christ’s work on the cross is connected to our need to be forgiven by and reconciled to a holy God. If we fail to communicate this, we have failed to proclaim the biblical gospel…all metaphors for the atonement are ultimately grounded in penal substitution…[emphasis mine]

One of his comment-ers, Clarice, asked:

On Bell and “metaphors”: I’m not totally clear on what Bell is talking about with metaphors of the atonement…that sounds really abstract and confusing to me. 🙂 Does he mean stuff like Galatians 4, Hagar and Sarah, or…?

To which I replied: “Hi Clarice [which can’t help but make me think of Hannibal] – in my opinion, language about atonement (and really, language about ‘God’ in general) is metahphorical in the sense that it is not a 1:1 depiction of the grandeur, majesty, and mystery of God. So: We speak of Jesus’ death as a ‘sacrifice’ for our sins; our Reformed brethren (like Bob here) will likely refer to it as a sacrifice of the Son *unto the Father* for our sins – but these are metaphorical in the sense that Jesus wasn’t literally led to a consecrated altar, and sacrificed before His Father. (We might, indeed, condemn such gross literalism as child sacrifice, which YHWH condemns!) And so historic Christianity has seen this as a way of speaking about the meaning of atonement – one that approximates, but can never fully compass, its meaning.

This doesn’t mean that other atonement metaphors carry more privilege. Pentecostals and charismatics like me in my growing-up years always historically emphasized a ‘ransom’ metaphor of atonement – Jesus rescuing us from the tyranny of the world, the flesh, and the devil. More recently, many of us in what some call the emerging church conversation appreciate NT Wright’s retrieval of the ‘Christus Victor’ model (or metaphor) of atonement, wherein the Father vindicates the goodness and perfect obedience of the Son vis-a-vis bodily resurrection, proclaiming victory over death, and the principalities and powers. Still others, in Quaker and Anabaptist and Girardian schools, rightly empathize the ironic nature of Jesus ‘sacrifice’ as a repudiation of all violence.

While I wasn’t at the Fantastical conference, my guess is that Bell wasn’t suggesting that songwriters make up new metaphors ‘cold turkey,’ but create them in continuity with the great tradition of historic Christianity, giving ourselves the same permission the biblical writers had to seek the Spirit afresh and interpret Gospel goodness to those in our time and place. Because let’s face it, the author of Hebrews is right – Jesus Christ was the final sacrifice! Because of this, sacrifice and blood guilt terminology is a Jesus-authored anachronism, something that no longer makes sense 2,000 years later. Jesus has triumphed over sacrifice once and for all – and our worship should move on accordingly.
To explore more of the sacrifice metaphors of Scripture, I’d recommend Scot McKnight’s ‘A Community Called Atonement,’ as well as atonement links I’ve catologued on Delicious. Grace & peace to you!”

It wasn’t all controversy, though. In addition to great music, some good theologizing about music happened, including this snipped that Bob also blogs about:

At one point I quoted Harold Best: “All our musical offerings are at once humbled and exalted by the strong saving work of Christ.” We touched on how our singing is not something we originate, but flows from the relationships of the triune God who sings (Zeph. 3:17; Heb. 2:12; Eph. 5:18-19). We sing because God sings and we’ve been made in his image. I never got to mention it on the panel, but a very helpful book on the Trinity is The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders.

As someone who’s part of a new church plant in Raleigh called Trinity’s Place, that sounds good to me!

As part of my ongoing interest in the songs we sing and the God this reflects, I’ll hopefully be reviewing some contemporary worship offerings this Fall – ranging from the New Hymns movement to shoegazing emergence music and slam poetry. If you’re an independent worship artist or church who’d like their music to be considered for review, contact me via the comments section of this post.

Soli sapienti Deo!

Ancient-Future: Faith or Fad?

This week I’m going to review a couple of recent offerings – one an album and one a book – that could be seen as a continuation of the ancient-future faith revival sparked by Robert Webber a decade or so ago that is still going strong. But before I do that, I’m going to call the whole ancient-future enterprise in question! Actually, I’m going to let my friend Kevin Beck do that for me, as a.) I’m a wimp, b.) I’m lazy, and c.) I’m more of a softie for ancient-future expressions than Kev-O. Even so, I find that I need to listen to his gracious but incisive critique – you probably should too. Here’s a taste:

While appreciating centuries of tradition is important, the attempt to reinstitute them is misguided and can result in unintentional authoritarianism. We’re not medievals. Pulling forward medieval tradions is nt a sacred way into the heart of God. Trying to recapture the thirteenth century is certainly not an emergence.

Continue reading in

Kung, Authoritarianism, Christianity, and the Protestant Ancient-Future Impulse

Kung and Authoritarianism in Evangelicalism

Heresy Hunters: I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

You know you’re doing something worthwhile when all the right people are denouncing you.

A couple of weeks ago Herescope denounced Jay Gary, Diana Butler-Bass, Brian McLaren and myself, who will be hanging out at the World Future Society‘s annual conference in D.C. We’ll be talking about “The Future of the Religious Right” and of global Christian faith in general, but the Heroscope team sees our work as promoting “new theologies and practices,” and “disparaging…of biblical prophecy.” Somehow, they suspect that all this winds up “creating an evolutionary convergence” where we all sing Kumbaya and venerate Gaia and Easter bunnies. As if that’s a bad thing!

Moving along: I’ve already told you the kind of flack The Shack has been getting recently with the heresy-hunter websites. Well, as Steve Knight reports at Emergent Village, now our ‘ol pal Mark Driscoll is in on the action too (you can watch his eight-minute YouTube rant on the E.V. link). Apparently he’s mighty uncomfortable with the sacred feminine, anthropomorphic depictions of God, and the idea of the Trinity (and thus, human relatedness) as mutually submissive rather than chain-of-command hierarchical. Sigh. Co-publisher Wayne Jacobsen blogs his response to the question “Is The Shack Heresy?”

Of course Frank Viola has had his share of critique concerning Pagan Christianity–not all from shrill heresy hunters, but certainly enough of it. Well, Tim Dale over at Karis Productions produced this pretty funny spoof response:

I have two observations about all the shelling and attack from this past month: Most of the people above are friends of mine, and for the most part, we can all laugh this off (in the cases of Frank and Team Shack, they can laugh all the way to the bank, as these books have really struck a chord with most readers and have become best-sellers)–even if we don’t know whether to laugh or cry sometimes. Others, though, are not so fortunate–heresy-hunters can cost people their livelihoods.

I don’t have the privilege of knowing Peter Enns, but his story has been all over the blogosphere recently. As Christianity Today reports, Enns has been suspended from his teaching post at Westminster Theological Seminary for writing his 2005 book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, which takes a hard look at the messy, complex, and human aspects of Scripture from an evangelically-informed text criticism point of view. The Board of Trustees said:

“That for the good of the Seminary (Faculty Manual II.4.C.4) Professor Peter Enns be suspended at the close of this school year, that is May 23, 2008 (Constitution Article III, Section 15), and that the Institutional Personnel Committee (IPC) recommend the appropriate process for the Board to consider whether Professor Enns should be terminated from his employment at the Seminary. Further that the IPC present their recommendations to the Board at its meeting in May 2008.”

I understand that confessionally Christian schools are not as enamored with “freedom of thought at any cost” like their liberal arts counterparts; I get that evangelical higher learning institutions are trying to maintain a precarious balance between intellectual integrity and nurturing creedal faith commitments. All the same, Enns is not Bishop Spong or something–he’s asking questions about Holy Writ that the rest of the Church (and world at large) have been asking since the 19th century. Like it or not, those who read and love the Bible are going to begin pondering its more troubling aspects with greater honesty and ideological flexibility.

Heresy-hunting is far from the world’s worst problem. (Next time, I’m going to blog about sex trafficking. Please try to refrain from throwing yourself off a building.) Nonetheless, it is a downer. As I mused last year, sometimes I wonder why I even bother participating in this kind of ‘dialogue’–it all seems so insular. Sometimes I just want to throw my blog into the ocean (so to speak) and becoming a wandering hermit…with my wife and child, of course. But for now, I suppose I’ll leave everyone with an easily-rebuttable maxim: If you don’t have something kind to blog, don’t blog anything at all.

Related:

Mike Todd’s The Shack Film casting call

John MacArthur launches Nothing Must Change tour

Heretic Hunter video

Brad Cummings and Wayne J have something constructive to say about all of this in their Doctrine Police podcast at The God Journey


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