Kim Riddlebarger did his doctrinal thesis on B. B. Warfield. In this lecture he discusses many aspects about Warfield’s life that you will find fascinating. Much of Warfield’s life was engaged in defending the Gospel from the persistent Arminian erosion that is so widespread today. In his writings he carefully explains how the Arminian gospel is, at it’s heart, a theological contradiction within itself. He defences are as fresh and timely today as they were over a century ago.
I usually groan when I hear the words ‘Christian’ and ‘culture’ used in the same sentence. But in the mind of Ken Myers it actually makes sense, and makes sense biblically, because he rejects the churches attempts at popular contextualization. Mark Dever interviews the fascinating Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio. There was so much information packed into this interview that I’ve had to listen to it twice, and it was such a joy the second time around.
Ken talks about his education, his work at NPR, and how Mars Hill Audio came to be, and what it’s focus is.
Ken begins by saying that the difficulty in talking about culture is that we don’t know where to start; we don’t have a good framework to know how to tackle it. There are many who have attempted to adapt to the culture by introducing media, entertainment and appealing to a consumer culture, such as the Church Growth Movement, but they have not understood the dangers that they present. And from a historical perspective now, those dangers have taken hold of those churches. Most would agree that contemporary society is confused overall, and it’s irresponsible to look to the world for models that we would structure the church around.
In fact, we have become Christian “choosers”, or “consumers” today, rather than becoming Christian disciples. We treat church like a commodity, and we treat people like consumers, and our culture has conditioned us to fill those shoes.
In the church, Ken sees a problem developing in the intellectual life of the church. Pastors are taking cues from the dumbed-down pop Christian culture, while Christians are reading at a far lower caliber books than they did 30 years ago. Today the demand for discernment is greater than it ever has been, and we are generally very ill-equipped for any kind of useful discernment.
Ken also talks about how Christianity has become more American than Christian, which is something that’s been happening for a long time. There has been the temptation for the Christian church to be the “chaplaincy” for the American project. Secular people have defined what the American project is, and the church is there to bless it. Yet, in the other direction, Ken is disappointed in the efforts of the Right Wing to engineer a Christian culture into society via a political machine that has consumed billions of dollars. He observes that there is only so much we can do that society will allow.
Given our media hungry culture, Ken says we as Christians must be skilled in the use of language. God has revealed himself to our age through words and language. And we ought to be conversant in poetry, prose and language arts.
Ken talks about things that define how our culture operates and thinks, from “optionalities” (having the freedom of unlimited options) to the danger of informality. We have also lost formal rhetorical speech, and we are one of the only cultures that have lost this formal register of speech, because we have developed a suspicion of authority. And this has application to churches who seek to contextualize themselves and their message to this culture. Can we contextualize to a cultural that prizes informality because it rejects authority? Are our church values of informality encouarging further rejection of authority? These are serious questions that we need to be thinking about.
Here’s a Bibliography of books and articles mentioned in the interview:
Nicholas Carr’s Atlantic Monthly Article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”
Knowing God, by J. I. Packer
Mediated, by Thomas De Zengotita
Mark Edmundsons article from Harper’s Magazine, “On the Uses of a Liberal Education”
Why Read?, by Mark Edmundson
All Gods Children and Blue Suede Shoes, by Ken Myers
The Democratization of American Christianity, by Nathan Hatch
Foolishness to the Greeks, by Lesli Newbigin
Doing Our Own Thing, by John McWhorter
The Gravedigger Files, by Os Guinness
The Death of Character, by James Davison Hunter
Anything by David Wells
Technopoly, by Neil Postman
Culture Making, by Andy Crouch
This is a fabulous interview filled and will raise your level of Christian awareness.
Michael Horton raises an alarm about the condition of our churches and the youth who are following us, as he discusses his book Christless Christianity on Christ the Center. Horton clearly explains the gospel understanding and basic theological position of the average evangelical American who attends church. Quite frankly it’s frightening.
Here’s the sermon that often doesn’t get Paul Washer invited back. And no, it’s not because he’s boring. Washer preaches with clarity and passion. The reason Washer has caused such an uproar in some places is because he makes a frontal attack on some of Evangelicalism’s most sacred cows: Assurance of Salvation, and sincerity in “making a decision” for Christ.
Washer pulls no punches. Nor does he just attack for the sake of attack. He attacks these forms of Evangelical religion like a surgeon attacking a cancer. He dissects and explains.
Washer rails against how Evangelicals are so quick to proclaim people ‘believers’. One of the most damnable practices in the church is when a person doubts their salvation, they are usually taken back to that day when they “made a decision” for Christ and “asked Jesus into their hearts”, neither of which are statements found in Scripture (apart from a poor hermeneutic). We are often guilty of giving people a false assurance that is based more on the ‘sincerity’ of their decision than on the presence of a transformed life. Washer claims this tactic sends countless people to hell. At the very point that a person may be coming to Christ with a legitimate doubt about salvation, we kill off that work with a sloppy proclaimation of false salvation.
Washer broadsides contemporary evangelistic practices, including child evangelism and Sunday School programs. He says he would not put his children in 80% of the Sunday school programs, because the gospel presentations we give to children are so seriously distorted they border on heresy.
This message needs to be preached to every church in America. The congregations response would serve as a good litmus test of spiritual health.