Wednesday, January 10, 2007

In Which She Edits the Title to a Less Offensive...What She Thinks of Evangelistic Video


There is an interesting brouhaha taking place over at Pyromaniacs, Frank Turk's blog, and Steve Camp's blog about an evangelistic video by Francis Chan. The fuss is whether Francis Chan makes a clear presentation of the gospel in his video. Well, the comments are flying and the guys are coming out with their dukes up, itching for a fight (or actually, continuing the battle of words in true testosterone fashion).

Ahem...I will insert my own thoughts on the matter.

The problem I had with the video was a sort of John Eldredge flashback. Chan states that "God is crazy about you", "God is begging you to accept Him", and "God is screaming for your attention". I think those particular viewpoints of God are popular Arminian hooks and His grandeur and holiness gets diminished into a caracature of a hapless pursuer.

I had no other issues with the video because I believe God can use anything He wants to draw us to Himself. He can use the EBay cheese sandwich with the image of Jesus on it as a tool to change a person's heart and mind. I sobbed when the clown was hanged (or whatever) in Godspell. God is not limited to our understanding of his drawing power.

I do have an issue with what happens from the point of conversion though. If a person does not have an understanding of their state before salvation, then a romance with God can be reduced to a relationship where God is crazy about me and since I chose to be with Him, He should be happy I chose Him over the world. I am reminded of Gomer in the book of Hosea. Hosea continued to be faithful to her, even though she had other lovers, idols, and turned away in faithlessness. Sometimes it is human nature to feel secure enough in a relationship to not put much work in it. I once was told during my divorce years ago, that the person who cares the least in a relationship, wins, because they have the control and the power. The other person in the relationship feels helpless and unable to force love from their uncaring partner. God is sometimes portrayed in contemporary American Christianity in the position of the one who doesn't have the power and the control. We are the primadonnas (at times callous) wife and He is the giver of all good gifts (hoping we keep loving Him), and his love is always positive, no negativity allowed. Chan made a statement that God does not want to take from us, but rather give to us. God DOES want to take from us. He wants to take our selfishness. He wants to take our continual evil thoughts. He wants to take our self-sufficiency from us. How does He accomplish these things? One way He does in my life is by love. Not a hand wringing love. A tough love. A love that doesn't always look like love to me. It looks like hardship. It looks like abandonment. It looks like pain and suffering.

Jonathan Edwards came up in the conversation. Frank Turk made the comment that Edwards preached to a particular culture, so he was able to preach about the wrath of God and people responded with contrite hearts. I shared in a comment that I believe Edwards was able to share about the judgement of God partly due to previous circumstances. A great earthquake shook New England in 1927. A number of after-shocks occurred. Some witnesses even mentioned blue lightning racing along cracks in the earth. Many Christians, including very prominent preachers, believed the earthquakes were from the hand of God, and in fact, judgement on New England. It made for a climate of vulnerability among the populace, ready and eager to hear the gospel and escape the wrath of God.

I once heard a quote, from Bill Cosby I think: "When the earth shakes, everyone looks up."

Edwards believed that one needed to know their own wretchedness before salvation, so that true repentence followed. In contemporary Christianity, there is no emphasis on how wretched we really are, totally undeserving of God's mercy and favor. Instead, we are told how God bends his knee and proposes to us, hoping, just hoping, we will accept Him. I would rather really hear and take to heart the words of Newton:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

If we know how wretched we are, we tend to be grateful that God chose us, and where can there any room for pride in that kind of truth? Since God gives good gifts, it is the gift of his grace in our lives that makes the difference.

Well, I hope the flailing of fists will come to an end with a group hug at the least or a good outing to the coast where the waves are big and we are small.

UPDATE: I wanted to add another point out of Hosea. One of the main points in the whole discussion over at Pyro and And His Ministers is about the love of God. In the book of Hosea, Gomer is taken out in the wilderness and wooed by God. But... she is wooed after she is stripped of all her lovers and idols. She is stripped of everything she depended on for personal affirmation and taken out into the wilderness. of wild animals, thorns, heat, thirst. That is the place God chose to woo her to Himself.

UPDATE! UPDATE!! Here are some words of wisdom from Spurgeon that complement the post above. Especially note the ending where he mentions plowing the ground.

Luke 8:13

My soul, examine yourself this morning by the light of this text. You have received the Word with joy; your feelings have been stirred, and a lively impression has been made. But, remember, to receive the Word in the ear is one thing, and to receive Jesus into your very soul is quite another; superficial feeling is often joined to inward hardness of heart, and a lively impression of the Word is not always a lasting one. In the parable, the seed in one case fell upon ground having a rocky bottom, covered over with a thin layer of earth; when the seed began to take root, its downward growth was hindered by the hard stone, and therefore it spent its strength in pushing its green shoot aloft as high as it could. But having no inward moisture derived from root nourishment, it withered away. Is this my case? Have I been making a fair show in the flesh without having a corresponding inner life? Good growth takes place upward and downward at the same time. Am I rooted in sincere fidelity and love to Jesus? If my heart remains unsoftened and unfertilized by grace, the good seed may germinate for a season, but it must ultimately wither, for it cannot flourish on a rocky, unbroken, unsanctified heart. Let me dread a godliness as rapid in growth and as lacking in endurance as Jonah's vine; let me count the cost of being a follower of Jesus. Above all let me feel the energy of His Holy Spirit, and then I shall possess an abiding and enduring seed in my soul. If my mind remains as stubborn as it was by nature, the sun of trial will scorch, and my hard heart will help cast the heat the more terribly upon the ill-covered seed, and my religion will soon die, and my despair will be terrible. Therefore, O heavenly Sower, plow me first, and then cast the truth into me, and let me yield a bounteous harvest.

Here is an added bonus of a post from The Irish Calvinist on evangelism.


At 2:53 PM, Blogger Sharon said...

Although I have not seen the video, I detest such platitudes as "God is crazy about you, and is begging for you to love Him, too!" Can you get any more Arminian?

You know, sometimes the end does not justify the means!

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Connie said...

I FINALLY watched the video this afternoon, just because the broohaha has become so intense.

"Gospel" movies have never held much interest for me because they tend to play too much on the emotions.

The things that really stood out in my mind in this video are the same that you mentioned--"God is crazy about you", "God proposing to you"... I don't have any use for that, and find no scriptural support for it.

I will say that I appreciated the apparent quality and attention to detail--often lacking in "Xian" media. Nevertheless, I'd suggest they spend more time on the content of the message rather than the delivery.


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