Having the Theologians Stoned

C. Peter Wagner has a rather controversial proposal for ridding the world of the unscriptural office of theologian in the Jan/Feb issue of Ministry Today (excerpt here). His argument is twofold: one, the office is not listed in the Ephesians 4:11 leadership list and two, declaring the position of theologian risks the further division of laity and leadership. While the article uses vignettes mainly drawn from his experience in academia, Wagner is not shy about calling for the Church as a whole to do away with this unecessary oracle/interpreter.

This would be fine if all members of the body were to devote themselves fully to the division of the Word, having a full understanding of the development and backgrounds of competing schools of interpretation and doctrine, but it seems unlikely. The pastor and teacher office are the most likely to take up the theologian mantle when the first stone flies but then, doesn’t this make them theologians? I’m not quite ready to give up the wisdom and research of those who have devoted themselves to the study of the intricacies of God’s Word as I would prefer to convert their work into application which can serve my congregation and our community.

Getting Stoned with Savages

How exactly doeSavagess one develop a taste for a gently singed piece of human flesh? Perhaps it tastes different when washed down with a shell of especially bitter kava. To discover the answer to this pressing question and others (how big can a human foot get when bitten by a centipede) you’ve got to throw your shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops into a backpack and venture to the South Pacific archipelagoes of Vanuatu or Fiji. If that jaunt is not in the cards for the foreseeable future, you can pick up J. Maarten Troost’s Getting Stoned with Savages for a recounting of his burgeoning family’s adventures as they resettle into island life.

While serving as a PSA warning against the obviously addictive qualities of kava, an island intoxicant with mysteriously hallucinatory effects, the humorous story is filled with extended vignettes of South Pacific life. Troost is no stranger to island life, having recounted a previous stay on Tarawa before moving back to city life in the United States in his book The Sex Lives of Cannibals. Even so, the transition from Washington D.C. to Vanuatu serves to deromanticize the island life. This is not a journey into the heart of darkness surrounded by hotel bars, nicely tiled swimming pools, and gently swaying palm trees. Rather, it is the reality of muddy roads, shark filled lagoons that slyly beckon the swimmer in, forays into the village kingdoms of various chiefs, and of course, kava enhanced sunset watching.

Troost has an O’Rourkean twist to his humor, bringing his encounters with people and events to life for the reader without the ugly cynicism of so many who long for the hipster travel-food-entertainment-writer label. He is as likely to befriend the locals as he is to find himself making cultural faux paus that build walls (apparently it is in poor taste to hoist your new baby aloft and claim him as your chief, go figure!) The island nations will not be distributing this book as a vacation advertisement but you and I can travel vicariously through it. Oh, and be discerning on Fiji when proposing a date…

Raising TULIPs II

I wonder if the monergism/synergism debate even needs to occur. In the long run, who really cares except those who engage for fun or profit in the theological underpinnings of the Christian faith? Pastors, professors, and prognosticators have a vested interest in taking a position on one theological system or the other but the effect on the young man who will sit in the front row this Sunday morning is what I’m most concerned about. Does he care? Should he care? 

Paul writes twice in his letter to the Philippians on the profitability of putting aside theological debate for the good of the Church. In 1:15 – 18 he muses about his imprisoned state and the free ability of others to preach Christ for their own personal gain. With sincerity in view, Paul raises his shackled arms wide and says, who cares who preaches the gospel, so long as it gets preached. The motivation behind the act is dismissed as long as Christ gets the glory. 

In 3:15 – 16 Paul moves the debate from the terrestrial to the heavenly by saying that theological discourse will eventually be resolved by God himself. Can we, in our ‘free will’, release the grace debate to God to be sorted out? If we place Christ and His Church above our need to self-identify the result might be an additional skip in our step as we labor in our portion of the Missio Dei. Just thinking…

Prayer for Unity

Today concludes the week of prayer for unity in the church. Few state the need for an undivided body more eloquently than Paul who writes “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism: one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:1-6)

Our prayers should reflect on the One we reflect and the image that want to display as His church.


Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are putting their energies, not into strife torn state of the world, but into organizing Baptists against the enemy at home, the evil, judgmental fundamentalist. Mark Tooley posts over at FrontPage magazine (here) about the upcoming congress of the ‘New Baptist Covenant’. The ex-presidents hope to bifurcate the Southern Baptist Convention, organizing members whose politics lean left away from the fundamentalist doctrines into a new body with a Social Gospel agenda.

Curtis Laws first put the word fundamentalist into the lexicon as an appelation describing someone who stood in support of the historic doctrines of the church while arrows were being shot at these beliefs by more liberal movements within the Church.  In other words, the fundamentalist stood tall against the erosion of doctrine by the creeping encroachment of secularism and one who did not believe in an ‘evolving’ gospel. Today, this steadfast honoring of God’s inerrant word is known as judgementalism.

Historic fundamentalists will take literally the word of the Lord in Matthew 25:31-46 and the mission that it informs. They will not need political committees or lobbying efforts to simply bring water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to the unclothed, and companionship to those imprisoned. The ‘judgmental’ fundamentalist will do this for those people that they might find it difficult to love but they will do it because the inerrant word of God tells them to do so. Dividing the church further will do nothing but start a new round of judgmental name calling that further tarnishes the image of the Savior and the Church He loves.

Raising TULIPs

A recent leadership discussion has me thinking once again about the importance of theology to the day to day life of the body of Christ. I am of the conviction that one’s theological framework gives us the lens through which to view the decisions and direction of a life guided by the Holy Spirit. Do minor disagreements on theological issues put the first crack in an otherwise solid leadership foundation? As the leader of the leaders, how far should I go to gain consistency of thought within the leadership team?

I’ve been kicking around a book idea for several months now about this very topic. It seems important to provide a guide to the process of teaching Calvinist doctrine to men and women in the laity, one that shows how the key doctrinal points and the position one takes can affect how we view our place in the Missio Dei. The level needs to be popular rather than scholastic and practical more than theoretical. Maybe today is the day to get started…

The Blind Side


“No good deed goes unpunished”;a quote variously attributed to Oscar Wilde, Andrew Mellon, Dorothy Parker, and Clare Booth Luce but also a proverb applied to the lives of Michael Oher and Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy as they intersected in Memphis, Tennessee. Michael Lewis weaves a complex tale in The Blind Side of the melding of lives as the boy from one side of town begins life anew as a part of a family of rich Evangelicals from the opposite side. Michael Oher is a destitute African-American boy, one among thirteen children born to a crack addicted mother who grows up knowing little pertinent information about himself and whose life is on a trajectory to nowhere. Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy are rich (though tenuously at times), white, Christians living at the other end of town who are deeply involved with their children and the private Christian academy at which they are educated. Michael serendipitously becomes involved with the Touhy’s through the nexus of Briarcrest as he is given an opportunity to be educated there. What follows is the story of Michael becoming integrated into the Tuohy’s family, raising the angle of his trajectory considerably.

If this were the whole of the tale one might be tempted to push the book back onto the shelf and continue scanning but Lewis is not simply telling this family’s history. Paralleling the drama of Michael and the Touhys is the story of the rise of the left tackle in the NFL, the one who guards the quarterback’s blind side. It is a position charged with stopping the oncoming linebacker who is bent on the destruction of the team’s offensive core, the quarterback. Because of the speed and agility of the linebackers in professional football, the position requires a rare combination of size, speed, nimbleness of feet, reach and hand size and a very specific center of gravity. Rare qualities that genetics and development would visit upon Michael Oher.

These intertwining stories make for an engaging book. Lewis’s quality of writing satisfies, whether the reader is primarily interested in the human interest tale or the details of an increasingly critical component of the game of football. Though I have little interest in football, the personalities and details as painted by Lewis’s prose kept me attentive to seeing their development in Michael as the story unfolded. Viewing the domestic saga from a set distance also serves the reader well as the motivation of the Tuohy’s to take in Michael and begin the transformation of his life is questioned.

As Michael’s unique qualities are noticed by those outside of the Memphis football world the inevitable issue of money surfaces and it is these future riches that are used to taint the purity of the Tuohy’s charity. They are accused of salvaging Michael for their own enrichment, an accusation that drives Sean and Leigh Anne into action. The reader is cheered and then pummeled by the ups and downs of the ongoing accusation and acquittal battle in which the Tuohy’s and Michael must engage.

Lewis does not shy away from the difficulty of whipping our emotions about with this book. The reader is led to loathe those who would take advantage of Michael, feel compassion for Michael himself, cheer the Tuohy’s and their 99% pure charity, and perhaps most subtly, fear the oncoming linebacker and the gunshot crack of bone beneath a pile of huge, helmeted men. The Blind Side satisfies on all levels.

You might also enjoy The Parable of Michael and the Briarcrest Saints

Is Missional the New ‘Purpose Driven’?

The new issue of Leadership Journal is about to be published and Tim Conder has a probing column  that should be required reading for church leaders and members who have identified their communities as Missional. His assertion that numerous churches that once identified themselves as cell churches, purpose-driven, seeker style, etc. have now self-identified as Missional churches is valid but I think that it can be expanded a bit. These buzzword bodies tend to support their identification with programs or organizational structures; a Missional church is guided by a philosophy. That philosophy is defined by returning to mission as seen in the first century church, to be reproducing communities of disciples.

Many churches are driven by what goes on within their walls. There are programs and activities for the personal enrichment of those inside the battlements with only occasional forays into the world. The Missional church reverses this design and it equips and sends its members out into the world so as to restore the order of the world as God ordained it. In other words, one cannot simply slap the label Missional on top of their member-care programs and have it be so, it is something that has to be believed and lived from the core of one’s being.