The Monks on Mt. Athos

60 Minutes recently did a documentary on the Orthodox monks living on Mt. Athos, a self-governing territory located on a Greek peninsula. Even those who find the Orthodox strange and/or irrelevant will most likely find the documentary to be fascinating for a host of reasons.

Unfortunately, embedding of the videos is prohibited, but I have supplied the relevant Youtube links below:

Main program, part 1
Main program, part 2
60 Minutes Extra: Life on Mt. Athos
60 Minutes Extra: Mt. Athos’ Autonomy
Behind the Scenes Travelogue

Halo, Welcome to our Church!

This is from the NY Times:

Across the country, hundreds of ministers and pastors desperate to reach young congregants have drawn concern and criticism through their use of an unusual recruiting tool: the immersive and violent video game Halo.

The latest iteration of the immensely popular space epic, Halo 3, was released nearly two weeks ago by Microsoft and has already passed $300 million in sales.

Those buying it must be 17 years old, given it is rated M for mature audiences. But that has not prevented leaders at churches and youth centers across Protestant denominations, including evangelical churches that have cautioned against violent entertainment, from holding heavily attended Halo nights and stocking their centers with multiple game consoles so dozens of teenagers can flock around big-screen televisions and shoot it out. Continued…

So this is the latest method for getting kids to come to youth group. What do you think? Are violent video games appropriate? Your thoughts.

Star Bucks and Soteriology

Have you heard about these churches that have java cafes right in the worship center (a trendy word for sanctuary)? Yeah, apparently you can get coffee and a donut and whatever else during the service, come and go as you please, and are encouraged to do so. Well I’ve been to one, and here are some thoughts.

First off, let me say that in no way am I bashing this particular church. I only speak about it because it was a personal experience. The place was super modern and trendy, and they fostered what was less like a “come as you are” atmosphere and more like a “come any way you dang well please” one. Perhaps that’s a big negative, but even the guy playing the guitar up front during the singing was doing so without shoes. Without shoes I tells ya’!

Seriously though, the place was relaxed to the max. Super trendy; super cool; super laid back; and, dare I say, super….shallow*? I really went in with a good attitude. I sang the songs (which were way too loud) and tried not to be critical but rather appreciate what was good about the experience. There’s no doubt this church is meeting some sort of need for someone, but I ask myself, “at what expense?”

Ask the typical critic of so-called “traditional” churches and you will almost ALWAYS hear them say that it’s too boring. Sadly, there’s a lot of truth to that. I mean, I don’t care what style you choose, it doesn’t have to be boring. But I fear that as a reaction to boringness the tendency has been to swing too far the other direction at the expense of what truly makes the corporate Christian experience what it should be.

What kind of sign is being presented by Star Bucks Christianity? Should church be like your order at Burger King (have it your way)? Not at the expense of truth, mystery, and depth is what I say. But maybe I’m just whacked.

I know some of you disagree with me. I’m not interested in a debate, but in dialogue. Help me to see the benefits of such an ultra laid back approach to church. Make a case that American Star Bucks Christianity isn’t selfish individualism’s logical expression.

Please.

*On a side note, the pastor during his sermon (50 minutes, mind you) referred to the Holy Spirit as “it”. He said, “One disciple said to the other, ‘Holy Spirit, what’s that?’ The other disciple replied, ‘I don’t know, but we’ll know when it happens.'” Pardon me, I just vomited in my mouth. Once again, in the attempt to “dumb down” and be funny he has committed heresy and depersonalized the third Person of the Trinity to 50 people. But that’s just a side note….

P.S. This post is coming across way more negative than I mean for it to. I really do have a smile on my face right now. You just can’t see it.

Motivational Posters for Emerging Christians

Ok, so I found hilarious “motivational posters” like the one you see here by going to Matt Friedeman’s blog and then clicking this link. I must say that as someone who doesn’t like “trendy,” believes in absolute truth, and ‘aint really down with the emergent movement, these are hilarious. For the rest of you who are not like me, well, you at least have to chuckle at some of them, right?

C’mon, you know you want to.

Enjoy.

Time for Intellectual Excellence

Life as a seminary student can sometimes be overwhelming. Trying to balance family life, work, and graduate school can undoubtedly be a daunting challenge. Every now and then, I need to be reminded of just why I put myself through the challenges, frustrations, and difficulties.

It’s in times like these that I turn to nothing other than…the Internet. For you see, it is on the Internet that I am reminded of why seminaries even exist. Allow me to demonstrate.

On a popular Christian web forum, I asked the following two questions:

1. What is the Trinity?
2. How does your answer to question number 1 affect how you live your life on a day-to-day basis?

Below are a few of my personal favorite answers.

zinthos answered,

The trinity is not biblical. it doesnt make sense and started in Babylon.

JustVisiting answered,

1. The Trinity is a purely man-made concept that never has, never does, and never will be supported by Scripture and is simply a way for Christians to justify calling Yeshua Hashem without actually saying it.

2. Well, it affects my life quite well because I worship One G-d, not three in one. And its a comforting thing, to me.

Swinny89 answered,

1. the trinity is an attempt to understand the connection between God the father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

2. it has no affect, because i have no strong opinions about it.

These are just a few samples of what the answers are like. They come from the minds of normal every day Christians, generally youth. To me they represent a growing problem throughout the life of American Christianity and are a vivid example of why the church needs people who can think rightly now more than ever.

But do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that only seminarians can think rightly. I am only speaking from my own context. The point I am trying to make is that we need to be intellectually sharp in this sad day of theological, biblical, and moral ‘illiteracy.’ I say “sad” because it is sad indeed when the Trinity is regarded as unbiblical and irrelevant for Christian life. What should be central has been moved even beyond the margins into the realm of unnecessary man-made conjecture.

Will you commit with me to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind? Will you seek to know Him as He has revealed Himself? And will you seek to be a beacon of intellectual excellence no matter what level of education you are at in this point of your life?

The church needs you.

The world needs you.

Are you a heretic?

Am I a heretic? You be the judge:

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you’re not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant

100%

Nestorianism

67%

Pelagianism

58%

Monophysitism

33%

Adoptionist

25%

Apollanarian

25%

Donatism

17%

Albigensianism

0%

Socinianism

0%

Monarchianism

0%

Modalism

0%

Arianism

0%

Gnosticism

0%

Docetism

0%

Thanks, Heath. That was fun. Although some of those questions were too vague.

Can’t Touch This!

One quick scan through my blog archives will reveal to you my true feelings about contemporary Christian music in the church. I’m one of those stodgy old souls who doesn’t like rock or pop music in the church. I know — “Boo!” I’m not here to debate that issue, per sé. I just want to reiterate a previous thought:

There is not a single contemporary song sung in the church today that can match a Wesley hymn.

More often than not, the new songs we sing are shallow, needlessly repetitive (probably stemming from its shallowness — they can’t think of more to write), emotionally-oriented, incoherent, and theologically questionable…and those are the songs that the words are even understandable. Now I’ll admit, there’s a newer song every now and then that hits a little closer to the mark. But place it next to a Wesley hymn and it still shrinks away like plastic in a flame. The Wesley’s had their stuff together.

Take for instance, Hymn #256 of the old Methodist Hymnal, “Hail, Father, Son and Spirit Great”:

1 HAIL! Father, Son, and Spirit great,
Before the birth of time
Enthroned in everlasting state,
JEHOVAH, ELOHIM!

2 A mystical plurality
We in the Godhead own,
Adoring One in Persons Three,
And Three in nature One.

3 From thee our being we receive,
The creatures of thy grace;
And, raised out of the earth, we live
To sing our Maker’s praise.

4 Thy powerful, wise, and loving mind
Did our creation plan;
And all the glorious Persons joined
To form thy favourite, man.

5 Again thou did’st, in council met,
Thy ruined work restore,
Established in our first estate,
To forfeit it no more.

6 And when we rise in love renewed,
Our souls resemble thee,
An image of the Triune God,
To all eternity.

I know it gets old hearing this same old argument from me. But seriously, read those words again. Forget for a moment that they were written in the 18th century, contain words like “did’st,” and are commonly sung with — horror of horrors — AN ORGAN (gasp!). Don’t even let the issue of style come into your mind. (And please don’t go down the “Wesley’s wrote their music to bar tunes” route. Take Jason Kranzusch up on that.) This song is amazing. The only new songs I hear that even start to head back in the direction of the depth of this hymn are the ones written recently by Dr. Steve Blakemore, former WBS prof and Executive Director of Third Millennium Faith.

I feel like I should exegete this song. Perhaps I may in the future, who knows. I just wish I could think as well as they wrote music. What a gift!

So my challenge to you is to show me one modern song that can match a Wesley hymn. Just one. I really am open. Try me.

And please keep don’t berate me with your response. Let’s have open, honest, respectful dialogue (if any).