20 March 2009

Can anything good come from Nazareth?

by Frank Turk

I have no idea if Phil is going to post today or not, and this post is a sort of stand-alone which I would normally post at my personal blog. However, I think it’s got enough chops to stand up here so I’m going to drop it off for your Friday reading enjoyment, and may the critics have their say.

For your information, I have bullet-pointed this post only because it's really a random list of thoughts I have had in the last two weeks or so, and I have somehow brought them together here. It is an unordered list.
  • I have no idea how Dan and Phil feel about this, but I am completely creeped out by being one of the lesser luminaries (some might say "black hole") in the constellations in the evangelical horizon. I didn’t even realize it until we had to move this year and started looking for a new church – but the truth is, it turns out that I am pretty uncomfortable with being even mildly famous. When strangers treat me like they know me, I have to fight off an urge to flee.

    When I told this to my wife last night, she said, "that’s what you get for plastering your name and face all over the internet, dummy," which is exactly what she should have said.
  • Now I say that last bit to say this bit: there’s something wrong with the celebrity culture of our American church. And this is a fairly nuanced complaint, I think, because what I am not saying is that we should have no heroes of the faith who are alive and well and living in our midsts. What I am saying is that when we see those people – whoever they are – as somehow iconic of our beliefs or our movement or our faith, we are doing the faith and ourselves an injustice.

    May we all have the opportunity to use our gifts for the goods works God intended them to be used for, amen? But let’s never forget that while it is a virtue to do those things which God has ordained beforehand, it is not a virtue to merely admire those who are doing what God has ordained and then nothing else. You are not a Paul-plus-James Christian if you merely enjoy the podcasts from all the T4G guys and all the Gospel Coalition guys. You are a Paul-plus-James Christian if you count trial as joy, and can say that you see that the aim of what the apostles taught is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

    As my friend Ron Mooney says, you have to do the stuff. Celebrity culture inhibits you from doing the stuff.
  • I’m not one of those guys who thinks you can find the Gospel in popular music, but the pagan poets before the band Nazareth said, "Love Hurts." The lesser poet J. Geils said, "Love Stinks". And I tell you that, believers and other readers, to point out something to you which you may not really understand:

    Even the most mundane and in fact profane people know that somehow "love" runs counter-intuitive to what we think we know about the world. Nazareth and J. Geils may have been singing about something we would in fact reject as "love", but the truth that if you actually love you will actually suffer is something we Christians should know best.

    And I say that in the context of sort of riffing on celebrity culture to say this: when we think we have believed the Gospel because we have gone to all the seminars and coalition meetings and what-not, we have completely missed the soteriological boat.
  • Yes: I do mean the soteriological boat. More on that in a minute.
  • Relating to my series on Titus and Timothy, let us meditate on something for a moment: when Paul tells Titus that he was sent to Crete to "set things right", Paul wasn’t telling Titus to establish a seminary or start holding conference calls about meta-issues concerning or afflicting the de facto institutions of the Christian church. Paul (as we shall see in a few weeks) was telling Titus to, in a manner of speaking, move into the trailer park or the apartment complex where these vile Cretans lived and establish elders there who will teach the Gospel there so that real people will be changed and love each other there.

    So the Gospel will save those people.
  • So how does doing otherwise miss the soteriological boat? Why am I not here getting gassed up about the ecclesiological boat?

    It’s because soteriology comes before ecclesiology – I know you reformed eggheads know this in theory, but when I look at you (that is, at us – at me first and then at all of you) it’s like looking at somebody who gets dressed without ever checking the full-length mirror. I think you didn’t really mean to leave the house dressed like that.

    Later in the letter to Titus, Paul says (as Phil rightly pointed out in his plenary session as the Shepherd’s Conference) that the church should be about adorning the doctrine of God our Savior with good works. Instead, most often, we have one of three kinds of things which happen:

    [1] We have stupendous doctrine, mind-blowing doctrinal content, which we have defended so well that there is nobody left standing to hear it and therefore be saved by it. We have mowed down all the enemies of Christ rather than winning them out of their captivity.

    [2] We have no doctrine because of the fear of being type [1] churches, so we have pointless good-works churches which are nice community centers or political outposts for either the left or the right. We have there simply put ourselves in the chains of the enemies of Christ, but at least we’re happy there.

    [3] We have retreated from churches altogether because they are all type [1] or type [2] churches in spite of the fact that the Bible never once calls any church perfect, never tells the believer to live in a personal bomb shelter singing a sanctified version of Peter Gabriel’s "Here Come the Flood", and never says that churches will be fixed by abandoning them.

    But if we took our soteriology seriously – you know: that men do not save themselves but are in fact a danger to themselves spiritually, and that only God saves, and that God only saves by the word of Christ, and that nobody can know unless they hear and repent, and nobody can hear unless someone tells them – wouldn’t we have churches that knew at least as much about love as Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, Roy Orbison and Dan McCafferty?
  • You know:
    Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But he was wounded for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his stripes we are healed.
    All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the LORD has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
    And then this:
    Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
    That's what we say we believe -- but can we love like that since we say we have been loved like that?

    Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds, and marks any heart not tough or strong enough to take a lot of pain -- but love is like a cloud which holds a lot of rain.

    I prolly wouldn't give you a nickel for the rest of that song, but here's my point: we are not really Gospel-saved people if we aren't changed by the Gospel into people who know that love hurts but that we are commanded to love anyway. And not merely the bizarre intellectually-satisfied love which stands on one foot on the phrase "love chasteneth" (which is true but wickedly incomplete and insufficient), but has both feet planted on the bedrock that Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, and being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
It is a classic 3-pager in WORD at this point, so I’ll end with this: I admit that I am glad that somebody has read any of the bandwidth I have generated over the last 5 years, and if it benefitted you in any way, “SDG” as we say in the Truly reformed circles. But if what all that writing did was make another celebrity, I hope the servers crash and it all gets annihilated and nobody ever reads it again.



At some point, you – me, all of us – have to go out in the yard and befriend that kid whose parents don’t come home at night, or spends half the month in our neighborhood and half with his other parent’s neighbors, or take a plate of supper to the guy next door who’s alone, or whatever. I didn’t write all this stuff to help you grasp the nuances of systematic theology, or to become a name to be dropped. I wrote it so you would go do the stuff.

Now go do it. Start immediately, and if you can’t, start on the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s House with the Lord’s people. They are not any worse than the Galatians or the Colossians – most of them. Most of you aren’t either.

Me, on the other hand, ...






41 comments:

David said...

I'm crying. Thanks, Frank.

Kim said...

Oh my goodness....

Nazareth and J. Geils in the same post.

Talk about a time warp.

DJP said...

Boom!

Word.

Shinar Squirrel said...

Great, really great, thoughts, Frank! Thank you.

The Squirrel

Derek Joseph said...

I needed that.

Respectabiggle said...

When I told this to my wife last night, she said, "that’s what you get for plastering your name and face all over the internet, dummy," which is exactly what she should have said.

This is one of the primary reasons that God gives us wives.

bethelgrace said...

Amen. Thanks.

Bob said...

If it eases your mind at all, I don't think of you as a celebrity. I used to, but then you called me a 'stalker' and now you're just a regular brother whose thoughts and comments are usually received with gratitude and much amusement. Bless you, Centurion. I am looking forward to meeting you over there.

Frank Turk said...

Bob:

That doesn't mean we're going to lift the restraining order.

:-)

~Mark said...

Superb post Frank. I work in radio, a career in which one must put themselves "out there" and yet like you, I freak out when people on the street recognize me.

Then there was the day the guy I'd never met yelled at me using the screen name I use on fishing sites because I'd announced that the walleye were hitting in a certain spot.

Then there was the well-known internet Christian who lambasted anything coming from the ghetto, and stopped responding when I reminded her about the same line you used for the title of this post.

It's a conundrum for me because I truly don't like coming out from under my dome, but everything I am demands it, particularly my relationship with Christ!

*sigh* I am very appreciative of your post. :)

BaseDad said...

"We have no doctrine because of the fear of being type [1] churches,"

If I attend a type 2 church and feel like nailing the doors shut on my house to start my own type 3…..

What is the cure?

Also, what is “SDG”?

Thank God for teampyro.

Bob said...

Base Dad: what an amusing irony in your comment following the question "what is SDG?"... intentional?

Lockheed said...

You said what I've been thinking lately. But when, and not if, I do meet you, I will treat you like I know you. ;)

I've been saying lately: "Let's learn sheep before we try to be shepherds."

BaseDad said...

Bob, i am being sincere. I am new to the blogoshpere.

Matt Gumm said...

That's what makes you a great blogger, my friend. You can take the substance of a conversation over lunch and synthesize it into this.

Now may we get off our collective sanctified, um, posteriors and do something for the kingdom. SDG.

To BaseDad: click here to see the Wikipedia entry on SDG.

BaseDad said...

Thanks Matt

Frank Turk said...

You see why Matt Gumm is a sidekick? He loves the n00b rather than the easy and gratifying alternative.

Phil Johnson said...

BaseDad:

SDG = soli Deo gloria = "Glory to God alone."

It's a legitimate question. I'll bet more than half our readers didn't know the answer.

Frank:

You'll always be a celebrity to me and my family.

And thanks for bailing me out this morning. I came home from Tulsa to a pile of stuff more urgent than blogging, so there's no way I could have posted today. Monday, for sure.

(Or should I say D.V.?)

Ron said...

Matthew 28 says "GO and make disciples.." not "go attend another seminar or go read to gather more data about the subject." Our Lord left us the Holy Spirit to guide and assist, so don't make it a bench warmer. Just do it!

Frank Turk said...

There's something more urgent than blogging?

You mean, LIKE MINISTRY?!

I read this CT piece a coupla weeks ago about Passion Church in Atlanta, and I thought that you, me and Dan could start up a multi-campus church where we each get to preach once every three weeks and relay the thing to each church via JumboTron.

We could call it "PyroCclesia", and sell t-shirts and all that, but then I heard Mark Dever's curt dismissal of multi-campus churches and a little part of me died.

{sigh}

Lunch with Lance only barely consoled me.

Becky, slave of Christ said...

Okay, the illustrations AND the content.

This is a solid reminder, Frank, thanks.

Stefan said...

If it's any consolation, Frank, I despise you.
.
.
.
.
.
.
No, seriously, I love you, and thank you for your thoughts here.

Taking up our crosses in love, working it out with blood, sweat, toil, and tears, and all God's grace and for His glory. That's what it's all about.

Stefan said...

"...all by God's grace and for His glory."

Strong Tower said...

SDG? I thought Cent was referring to himself as Some D**b Guy ("that’s what you get for plastering your name and face all over the internet, dummy").

IPTGTBLTDG, if you know what I mean.

SDG-

Self-deprecating guy.

Stuff done good.

Some done good.

Some do good.

So do good.

Some dribble gravy.

Sock darning granny.

Shizdazzlingazooks.

Really Frank, with a billion of us on the Net, most likely your sub-blogstar position is secure. Not everyone can be an iMonk, ya know. There is this one thing, though I might never be able to pat your pate in person and say good boy, you done good you'll never know about.

Gotta go chase that annoying kid off the lawn before he steals my gnome sculpture again.

Rita Martinez said...

"we are not really Gospel-saved people if we aren't changed by the Gospel into people who know that love hurts but that we are commanded to love anyway."
*sigh* Thanks Mr. Turk I've been learning that lesson this year...not fully there yet.

Colin Maxwell said...

Wow! These were jsut a few random thoughts off the top of your head?

And your wife thinks you're a dummy?

What planet am I on?

Regards,

stratagem said...

Good stuff Mr. T. When you actually start liking being semi-famous, you'll really have problems.

But I must say, your dissing of celebrity culture would be more consistent if you hadn't somehow worked so many celebrity pop-culture lyrics into your article!

Shinar Squirrel said...

I noticed Phil was so pleased that he didn’t have to try to come up with a post today that he didn’t take Frank to task for that picture :-)

The Squirrel

Johnny Dialectic said...

Celebrity culture is awful for the gospel. The temptation is strong to be somebody TO ALL. Be somebody at your church and neighborhood. That's what's needed right now. Evangelicalism is getting to be a joke because of its Geraldoization.

Stefan said...

Frank:

There's a comment from KM on your last post ("Put It in Order") from this morning, that he/she is waiting for a reply from. I certainly don't feel qualified to answer.

Pevensie15 said...

Great Post. I think you collected your thoughts very nicely.

Gilbert said...

Your wife called you a dummy? Tough crowd.

True story: several years ago, three people, including myself, from our church used to visit a nursing home/assisted living center for a few years, and had developed respect with the workers and also the residents there. A new manager came onboard after we were ministering to the residents and kicked us out, falsely accusing us that we were there to steal, offering no evidence whatsoever. Threatened to call the cops; we're banned for life there. That was my first taste of 2 Corinthians 4:7-12:

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you."

Believe me, we were perplexed, but I recalled afterwards that one of the new people in the assisted living center hated Christians, and when he found out we were, he angrily asked us to leave his room. I'll never know for sure, but that may have caused the issue.
I never got that verse until then, and I didn't understand why God would allow that to happen. Now I do, but it's still sad. And I finally learned serving God is anything but a picnic.

But yet, ultimately rewarding.

lawrence said...

You guys post a lot of great stuff, but I think this was the best one yet (to me.) Well said my man.

Daryl said...

" the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s House with the Lord’s people. They are not any worse than the Galatians or the Colossians – most of them. Most of you aren’t either."

That, Monsieur Frank, is possibly the most overlooked thought out there. And probably, if we believed that one thing alone, it would stop a whole lot of "well meaning" church hopping. Or at least make it happen more slowly and thoughtfully.

You're not my hero, by the way, but I do generally like to read what you have to say.

Stefan said...

I have never been tempted to leave my church, but your long series on just that very subject back in...'07, was it?...helped teach me just how precious and valuable the local church is.

Jugulum said...

"You are not a Paul-plus-James Christian if you merely enjoy the podcasts from all the T4G guys and all the Gospel Coalition guys. You are a Paul-plus-James Christian if you count trial as joy, and can say that you see that the aim of what the apostles taught is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."
Frank, thank you for this. It's the area in which God has been challenging me, for a while now. Particularly with reference to 1 Cor. 12-13.

Jay said...

Thanks Frank. Thought provoking.

I find myself becoming a (3) because of my (2) church - ironically due to the education that I've received from visiting this site the last few years and trying to figure out what everyone is talking about. If it wasn't for TeamPyro then I don't know if I ever would have discovered the wonderful Biblical teaching of John MacArthur.

BaseDad said...

i second that Jay

Egeiro Katheudo said...

Jay said...If it wasn't for TeamPyro then I don't know if I ever would have discovered the wonderful Biblical teaching of John MacArthur.

Lol, that's just the exact opposite of my experience. If it wasn't for Dr. MacArthur, and then, by proxy, Phil Johnson, I would have never discovered the wonderful world of TeamPyro.

Egeiro Katheudo said...

Oops, I know this is going to look like a pandering afterthought following my previous post, but it's genuine.

Frank, thanks for the thought provoking post. It really has me thinking. I guess I'm thinking primarily about John MacArthur. I really hold him up on a pedastal, but I'm pretty sure it's not iconic and I'm especially certain that it's not idolatry, it's that I greatly respect him because he's proven to be consistent, biblical and true in a world where those qualities are sadly lacking.

Your post has caused me to examine it more closely.

Huh...

thinking.

Egeiro Katheudo said...

Lol. Immediately after submitting the last post, I went to the top of the page and the Word Verification says

trator

Yeah, it's misspelled, but after my post about MacArthur, it's kinda spooky, lol. Ok, Dr. MacArthur, I take it all back.