Thursday, February 28, 2008

"No one is interested in that stuff"

While in OKC last week, one grumpy brother said to me, "No one is interested in that postmodernism stuff. People are interested any more in doctrines like baptism and instrumental music." This is not the first time he has told me that, but he seemed grumpy this time.

Preachers preach the gospel of Christ whether anyone is interested in it or not. Jesus felt that baptism and observing all that He commanded was important enough to mention as He gave the Great Commission. Jesus, my Lord, was interested in those things. Why shouldn't I be?

God works in baptism to give me rebirth and cleansing and forgiveness by the blood and grace of Christ. He is working on me in baptism. It is worthwhile--no, it is imperative--to help people see what God is doing for them to give them newness of life. That is what preachers do. When people say we don't need baptism to be saved, they are actually interfering with God's gracious work in our lives (Tit. 3:3-7).

Postmodern thinking is man's way of dismissing God. If I love God, I cannot dismiss Him; and I will not stop speaking about Him and His words.

Have you ever considered how Jesus treasures His words? People who talk against "doctrine" are actually speaking against what He teaches, His Words.
  • Heeding his words distinguishes the wise from the foolish (Mt. 7:21-27)
  • His words impart the truth that sets us free. True disciples abide in His word (Jn. 8:31-32)
  • If we are ashamed of Him or His words, He will be ashamed of us (Mk 8:38; Lk. 9:26)
  • His words are eternal life (Jn. 6:63)
  • We will be judged by His words (Jn. 12:48)
  • We become His mother and brothers by hearing and doing His word (Mk. 3:35; Lk 8:21)
  • Heaven and earth will pass away but not Jesus' words (Mt. 24:35)
  • Whoever is of God hears the words of God (Jn. 8:47)
  • Whoever does not love Jesus does not keep his words (Jn. 14:23-24)
  • Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” (Jn. 8:51)
  • Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (Jn 17:17)
The words, teaching, or doctrine of Christ is not some small matter to be swept aside. When postmodernists seek to set aside the teaching for self-made religion, they begin building on sand. Can I sit silent and not warn them? (Ezek 3:18-21)

What is not interesting to people is often very much the interest of God (Matt. 16:21-23). Our task is to quit thinking how we can accommodate people and begin focusing on pleasing God. We cannot say to God, "hush." God will have His say, if not today then one day. When He speaks then, we will wish we had listened.

think, think, think,



dell said...

Earnest deep study of God's Word is never without value. Nor is the preaching of God's truth. It is of great value for us to continue to diligently seek truth. The major problem in the brotherhood is not postmodernism. Indeed this is a problem. More serious is the problem we develop when we believe we have arrived at perfect truth and stop seeking to know God's will. Thanks Phil for the post.

Matthew said...

Unlike the brother that you mentioned, I feel that people are increasing in their interest in doctrine. Doctrine in the sense of spiritual transformation, and spiritual development. The theology of singing without the instrument is larger than "just do not do it" it is the unity of voices given to God. The doctrine of baptism is bigger than "just do it" it is the reenactment of the Gospel Story as we are connected to Christ and cleansed through His blood. Maybe this brother, is not teaching the great depths to doctrine, when we look at the doctrine in the Bible, we see a rich story to life in as followers of Christ. We should not stop preaching doctrine, it is a anchor to spiritual development, and besides all teaching in the Bible is doctrine.

Phil Sanders said...

I really think you have missed it here. Your response is a statement a person infected with postmodernism would make. We can know the truth, otherwise Jesus' promise is in vain (Jn 8:31-32).

The response that we can't be perfect is also a postmodern objection. While no one is so arrogant as to say that he has perfect knowledge (none of us is God), that does not mean we cannot know with confidence what we know.

Some people do get arrogant and stop studying. God forbid.

But let's have none of this idea that we cannot know what is right and speak out against what is wrong. We are not Christian agnostics.


dell said...

Phil, I am confident you will not print this response but perhaps it will benefit you. You have missed the point. Postmodernism is a problem as we both have stated. A bigger problem is the modern day pharasee. This individual infects almost all congregations, He believe he has perfect truth. If you want to be considered sound you must see every matter of doctrine exactly as he sees it in order to be sound. If you disagree in the least with his findings you have become unsound. This stops the need for further study. All future study is done to defend the dogma rather than to seek truth. He becomes the standard rather than God. Phil I read much of your material. I fear that you are wandering dangerously close to this mindset.

Phil Sanders said...


Certainly we have modern day Pharisees--no doubt they are a thorn in the side of every individual who longs for truth.

If I were a Pharisee, I would not have started this blog to defend myself against them. I am not a believer in auto-soterism, self-salvation.

I have spent much time in helping to see what the teaching of Scripture actually is, because so many people are so ignorant.

We all have the temptation to become self-righteous and judgmental. We also have the temptation to run to the other extreme with such a false sense of humility that we can't say anything for sure, lest we offend someone.

Jesus is my example, and he did not stutter speaking the truth. Nor should we. The statement of truth with confidence arises from faith, not self-righteousness. Jesus' example is always right. To affirm his teaching is not arrogant; it is trust.

Pharisaical legalism is when one makes his own thinking into God's law. I have not done so.


dell said...

Phil, thanks for printning my response. If your definintion of the postmodern is the same as Mirriam-webster which states the following:
(being any of various movements in reaction to modernism that are typically characterized by a return to traditional materials and forms)
I plead guilty. My intent is to seek and obey truth. I am unwilling to accept opinion at face value. I will always attempt to measure what I believe based on God's Word and intent. If I have misinterpreted your position I will review your materials and positions again. I am glad you are publishing your materials and wish you continued success in the kingdom.

Phil Sanders said...

I have been studying the postmodern mindset for twenty years, beginning with a grad school class with Dr. Bill Jones of OC. He got me started looking at social and philosophical trends in his class on OT theology. His book also heavily influenced me.

Dr. Jones is one of the wisest men I have ever known in the area of trends and thinking of our time.

I spent two years of intent research into numerous volumes dealing with the PM problem. This led to my book Adrift, in which I give a definition of the postmodern mindset (I like this description better than "postmodernism.") I have spent the last ten years continuing to look at and try to understand the thinking of our time so that I could be more effective as an evangelist.

If you are aware of my book on silence, you would realize that I take great pains to separate what is human in origin from what is Biblical. This has led to being slapped by both the left and the right for the same statement. Oh well, I keep fighting away at both extremes. This is why I am surprised at your charge of legalism.

If you would like to know of my hermeneutical and silence stands, please go to the website and look under online tools. I teach courses in hermeneutics and in silence at Nashville School of Preaching.

thanks for posting and letting me explain.


preacherman said...

Right now is an exciting time.
The new generation is seeking and many evangelical church are going back to N.T. Christianity. The emerging church is going back to the basics of N.T. Christianity, 1st Century Christianity. Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo in their book "Adventures in Missing the Point" talk about a new Restoration movement that is taking place. House churches are being started all over the country with basic N.T. form of worship being practice. In their book they even question the "Sinner prayer and excepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior." They talk about baptism. On ben Danny Dodd and Ben Overby's blog they are looking at a book by George Barna called Pagan Christianity that talks about the new Restoration Movement taking place and going back to the simple teaching of Jesus & the Acts of the Apostles. How worship and the Christian community funtioned in the 1st Century. I beleive this should excite us as the Church of Christ. Non-denominational churches with appropriate leadership with different with "real" 1st century worship is taking place. Dan Kimball in his book "The Emerging Church:Vintage Christianity for New Generations", says,"While many of us have been preparing sermons and keeping busy with internal affairs of our churches, something alarming has been happening on the outside. What once was a Christian nation with Judeo-Christian worldview is quickly becoming a post-Christian, unchurched, unreach nation. Tom Clegg and Warren Bird in their book Laost in America claim that the unchurched population in the United States is now the largest mission field in the English-speaking world, and the fifth largest globaly. New generations are arising all around us without any Christian influence. So we must rethink virtually everyting we are doing in our ministries."
I agree. I believe that we must change (and change is okay if it needs to be done) in order to reach out to those who are seeking God. We must change the way we do our worship. I believe if that means meeting in homes, using testimonies, prayer time, story telling type of sermons, discussion about topics that effect life(bible class, yet in small group setting), communion talk, communio meal, confession and sharing the things in our lives in which we need the prayers, quiet time and prayer, poetry time reading Spiritual Hyms., singing, community Scripture reading. The elders annointing and laying their hands on while they pray for the sick. Eating together, confessions and baptisms. Time of Encouragement for those who have been baptized. Announcements. Silent reflection on what you have experience. Singing. (Some emerging churches have worship dance: The example they have is David Dancing before God in the ark of the covenant. It was pleasing to God.) Closing reflection and prayer.

The surrounding has candles, incents, crosses, power point art on screen. Drapperies on floor and wall. Pulpit if one, is on the floor with people. If not use a stool to sit and preach. It is very relaxed and conversational. It is nonthreatening.

I do see the Church of Christ changing within the next decade in a dramatic way in order to reach the lost in our country.

I think it is a time for us.
We just need to get our of our comfort zone and understand that change is okay. Understand that worship form can change but the message must never change. The message must remain the same. The GOOD NEWS. The Gospel Story.

dell said...

Phil, as you didn't exactly charge me with postmodernism I didn't exactly charge you with legalism. I stated that you appeared to be wandering dangerously close. In fairness I will re-examine your volume of work. My concern is that we should never take the position we have arrived at the point of perfect truth. When we do this our interpretation becomes the standard rather than God's Word. Additional study for those who take this position is to defend dogma rather than seeking truth. (IN MY OPINION) this is the greatest danger facing the church today.

Phil Sanders said...

What I suppose gets me, Dell, is the use of the word "interpretation." Some things are so clear that they really are not matters of interpretation. For instance, what Jesus said in John 3:5 is rather categorical, and every ancient writer understood this to be a reference to water baptism.

I don't regard myself as a legalist for saying immersion into Christ is necessary and judging those who want to make the passage speak of some Calvinistic experience.

So before we get into a "that's just your interpretation" disagreement, I think we should know that not all interpretations are alike.


Richard said...

Why is it that when we are confident we are right about something that we are charged with thinking we have perfect knowledge?

Jesus said that we can know the truth because it will set us free. If it is vain to be confident in what we believe then how can Jesus be correct?

dell said...

Richard there is no problem in thinking you are right on a particular subject. I like almost any good Bible student believe I know the truth on almost all matters Biblical. The problem occurs when we refuse to continue to seek truth. When our undertanding of truth becomes the standard by which others ideas are measured we have left good scholarship. When we judge others "unsound" if their view doesn't match ours we have become keepers of the creed rather than seekers of the truth.

preacherman said...

I think the Church of christ is changing and will change in a dramatic way over the next decade. I believe that instrumental music will not be an issue. I do think that "baptism" will still be important and practiced. Worship will be more "vintage". I believe we will see alot of home churches. I think we will see in worship: Prespective stained glass logo on screen with scripture on screen (slides); CD music reflective Personal preparation for worship; baptism/testimony time; welcome and announcements; offering; singing; community scripture reading time; Commmunion Message; Communion Meal; Art/Drama/Scipture during message (the sermon will be more story telling in nature); Silent Reflection and Community Prayer (open for anyone); Singing; Corperate Scripture Reading; Worship Dance; Singing; Closing Prayer; Fellowship Time of Sharing With One Another.

I believe we will become for emerging and missional in thought and purpose over the next year to ten years. The way the church of Christ looks will change in a radical way. The issues that we have debated over in the past will no longer be an issue. Music; Womens Role; Leadership; etc. even the color of carpet to whether we should support children's homes and Bible class will be a thing of the past.

Dan Kimball in his book "The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations" says, "While many of us have been preparing sermons and keeping busy with the internal affairs of our churches, something alarming has been happening on the outside. What once was a Christian nation with Judeo-Christian worldview is quickly becoming a post-Christian, unchurch, unreached nation. Tom Clegg and Warren Bird in their Book Lost in America claim that the unchurched population of the United States is now the largest mission field in the English-Speaking world, and fifth largest globally.
New Generations are arising all around us without any Christian influence. So we must rethink virtually everything we are doing in our ministries."

Is the church of Christ ready to change in order to become more missional? Are we willing to get out of our comfort zones? Are we willing get out of the 1950'of worship and really go back to New Testament Christianity? Not picking and choosing what is comfortable to us but really going back to it orgianal form?

When you say no one is interested I think we are interesting in batism that saves. Batism in which we recieve the Holy Spirit. In Brian McLaren & Tony Campolo's book "Adventures in Missing the Point" they question the sinners prayer and accepting Jesus as your personal Savior. Listen to what they say.

The phrase accept Jesus as your personal Savior is absent from the pages of the Bible. In fact, the Bible seems to make the focus of salvation on us as a people, no on me as an individual.

So I believe this is an exciting time for us in the Church of Christ as the evangelical movement is searching, questioning, chaning. I believe a new Restoration Movement is occuring. I think as Churches of Christ we should take advantage of this time in history. We should change our form. Our patter, the real patter will be the pattern of the New Testament. Our Message will never change though. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. His message never changes. The approach though does and can change. Are we prepared to change? Are we open minded enough to change or are we satisfied to sit in our pew and punch our cards and say we have worshipped and done our duty for the week.

Anonymous said...

Christianity and thinking?
Do you "think" it'll catch on?

Keith Brenton said...

I agree that scripture is very clear about baptism.

What is God doing for me through a cappella music, though? Saving me?

They're simply two doctrines that don't belong in the same sentence - because one is from God and the other is from man.

I'm all for observing all that Jesus commanded. He just didn't command a cappella music.

Unreached people aren't stupid. When we insist on a doctrine that's not biblical and a means at arriving at it that is not biblical, they're going to suspect the veracity of the doctrines we insist on that ARE biblical. It ruins our credibility.

The doctrines I find Jesus most interested in are preaching good news to the poor ... freedom for prisoners ... sight for the blind ... the year of the Lord's favor. Shouldn't we be putting first what He put first?

Phil Sanders said...

Dear Keith,

While I agree with you that the command is not part of the great commission, that does not mean that singing is not commanded. The participles of Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16 are modal, telling us in the first passage how to be filled with the Spirit and in the second to let the word richly dwell in us and teach and admonish. Not every instruction of God is in the imperative mood grammatically, but that doesn't mean it does not have authority in our lives.

It's funny how John D. Price, that Baptist fellow, came to understand the truth about a cappella music, isn't it? When I talked to him on the phone, he revealed to me that he wished he didn't worship with any instruments. One must wonder how stupid Christians were for centuries to understand that they were only to sing.

I guess they didn't grow up being deceived like the sprinkled, thinking it funny that anyone would immerse instead of sprinkle for baptism. It's amazing how in just a few short generations a whole population can turn things upside down, thinking that their "modern" ways are actually the Biblical and then resent anyone who tells them otherwise. I just don't understand how those legalists who want to go back to the original can be so insistent!! But the unreached aren't stupid; they can separate their inherited traditions from the man-made religion and can insist on their own way, because the Scriptures don't forbid what they dreamed up!

Keith, have you ever counted how much of the gospels is taken up with corrected the false, human religion of the Pharisees and Sadducees? When you tell me that the good news is all Jesus talked about, I find that very out of touch with the whole counsel of God.

BTW, Just so you will know. I have spent the entire week preaching the simple gospel of Jesus Christ. I am in Palm Beach, Florida in a gospel meeting. Please do not assume you are the only one that cares about souls. I have preached eleven times in five days. Some of my topics:

Contagious Christianity
Why You Should Be a Christian
What Are You Becoming?
How Do You Stand with the Lord?
The Greatest Sentence
Will Jesus Really Help Me?
Five Minutes After Death
Why I Believe in God, in Christ, in the Bible, in the Church


preacherman said...

The emerging church is going back to true new testament Christianity. Baptisms are taking place faster than we can count. God's blessings are falling on us. We must change the way we do things because we are living in a post-Christian culture. I highly recommend Dan Kimball's book: "The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations."
In his book he states" While many of us have been preaching sermons and keeping busy with internal affairs of our churches, something has happened on the outside. What once was a Christian nation with Judeo-Christian worldview is quickly becomming a post-Christian, unchurch, unreached nation. Tom Clegg and Warren Bird in their book "Lost in America" claim that the unchurched population of the United States is now the largest mission field in th English-speaking world and fifth largest globally. New generations are arising all around without any Christian influences. So we must rethink everything we are doing in our ministries." I believe strongly that even though worship may change, Jesus never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.