Tuesday, December 15, 2015

All Bible Versions the Same? Nope. Beware of "The Message!" by James Smith

Here's a very interesting article about Bible translations-specifically pointing out problems with Eugene Peterson's paraphrase "The Message." Here's what Peterson said in an interview in 1995: “Why do people spend so much time studying the Bible? How much do you need to know? We invest all this time in understanding the text which has a separate life of its own and we think we’re being more pious and spiritual when we’re doing it.... Christians should be studying less, not more. You just need enough to pay attention to God.... I’m just not at all pleased with all the emphasis on Bible study as if it’s some kind of special thing Christians do, and the more they do the better.” And THIS guy writes his own version of the Bible??...
Christian Witness Ministries - Bible Versions: All preaching the same Message?

Friday, December 11, 2015

"Fighting for the Faith" Steven Kozar Interview

Here's the interview I just did with Chris Rosebrough; we talked about Amway, The AMC Pacer, The IQ of Rick Warren, Theological Diarrhea and about a hundred other things:
The Three Battles — Pirate Christian Media

Update: We had so much fun with this interview that I'll be doing more (probably a couple per month) in the New Year! -Steve

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Hipster Pietistic Christians Having Coffee" by Steven Kozar

These are a couple of short videos promoting a Zondervan book called "Jesus, Bread and Chocolate:"

Here's the second video (it's mostly all about coffee):

     Some Christians are involved in what coffee experts are calling the Third Wave; which is the trend of much better coffee being produced and sold. Somehow this is supposed to tell us something about our faith, according to the book's author John J. Thompson.

     Thompson asks: "is it possible, that our culture's re-engagement with hand-crafted local things and experiences might contain the echo of a still small voice calling us home to our truer selves? What might a batch of artisanal chocolate or a fresh-baked loaf of bread or a cup of home-roasted, carefully brewed coffee tell us about ourselves, our nature or our faith?"

Here's the answer to that deep, philosophical question:

We like better tasting ("artisanal") food and beverages because they taste better! Plus, making stuff ourselves can be a great hobby, too. It might even become a business (my business is making paintings). But if we want to learn "about ourselves, our nature or our faith," we should look to God's Word.

There, now you don't need to buy this book.

Thompson continues: "The growing underground commitment to alternative values is re-emerging from a centuries old slumber. Things like local communities, sustainability, social justice and artisanal beauty are captivating the hearts and minds of a generation unwilling to settle for literal or spiritual junk food. When I stop and listen, smell and taste, I'm reminded that there's more here than meets the eye. Maybe we can regain a taste for the good, the true and the beautiful, in ways that energize us on our journey, and encourage others to come along."

     There is so much theologically weird about that whole paragraph, I'm not sure where to start... 
What is this "growing commitment to alternative values?" What does that actually even mean? Do we Christians really need to learn about alternative values from whoever these people are? Who is this generation that is "unwilling to settle for literal or spiritual junk food?" Exactly what is "spiritual junk food?" Maybe this book makes some valid critiques of the seeker-friendly mega-churches; I'm not sure. But, I wonder, is "this generation" a reference to the millennium generation that is abandoning the Church, the Bible and Christianity faster than you can carefully make a pour-over carafe of coffee? Do we really want to learn about our faith from the trends associated with this generation? I would argue that "spiritual junk food" is exactly what hipsters (and most other people) are feeding on-it's anything other than God's Word. Instead of pandering to hipsters, we should simply and lovingly point them to the Gospel. 
     If we want to "regain a taste for the good, the true and the beautiful" why don't we just look to Christ and His Word? Is that not hipster enough? 
     Is Jesus dying on the cross to forgive us of our sins not "good, true and beautiful" enough?        
     Honestly, here's what we see about this (and every other) generation:       

     "None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God." 
                                                                                                                         -Romans 3:10-11

The Bible tells us (in Jude 4) to:

     "contend for the faith that was once handed down to the saints," 

but this book talks about "crafting a hand-made faith." Now, I haven't read this book, (although I did find a YouTube video of the author talking about his book, and I listened to the first chapter online, too, which is an amazing story of John's childhood and conversion) but I'm pretty sure that God doesn't want us to "craft" our faith "by hand"- whatever that's supposed to mean. It's not like all the Christians around the world have been somehow getting their faith off of an assembly line in a factory. In my own life, I was very tired of pastors who weren't sure about what they actually believed, or worse, pastors who who were "hand-crafting" their beliefs by subjective means. I'm only interested in faith based on God's Word. 

     Faith comes from hearing the Word of God. Period. We don't craft it; not even by hand. 

      This is, perhaps, the most bizarre form of Pietism to come along in a long time. Apparently, real Christians will obsess over carefully crafted coffee (or bread, or chocolate) to make the world a better place and, once and for all, validate the Christian faith by their keen ability to mimic the hipster trends of East Nashville. (By the way, my daughter used to live there and she worked at one of most famous hipster coffee places... let's just say it's not a model of "our truer selves.")

     In all of this, we hear no mention of our sin and our need for a Savior. Those things are probably mentioned somewhere in this book (I hope), but overall, this all sounds like another version of "Do More, Try Harder, Christianity" but with a hipster twist. Hipster Pietism doesn't say: "you should stop smoking and drinking, and start wearing a suit and tie if you're gonna be a real Christian! You should go to both Sunday services and Wednesday nights if you're gonna be a real Christian!" Now it's more like: "you should live more communally, locally and intentionally... And you should only eat and drink certain hand-made things that prove your sincerity and awareness... And you should only be certain of your own uncertainty... And you should somehow align your faith with cultural trends established and reinforced by non-conformists who all dress alike if you're gonna be a real Christian!" 

     It's very hard to figure out the actual Christian teaching that this video/book is promoting. The most ridiculous and ironic part of the (first) video? The actress writing in her notebook:

         "Why I don't go to church.
              Spiritual but not religious..."

"Yeah, those churches are too fake. Unlike this this totally fake scene that I'm acting in... pretending to write a tired old cliche in a notebook... to help sell books."

     The layers of hypocrisy are really thick... like the crust on a carefully-baked loaf of artisanal bread.

     Closing thoughts: I actually know this author (just a little bit; he wrote a nice article about me years ago, and I used to visit his record store and see him at concerts in the Chicago area) so I was unsure about posting this; I have nothing personal against him at all. But, I really wanted to address the underlying issues here-not attack the actual author (even though I kinda did). Sorry John, if you ever read this.
      I would have probably read and enjoyed this book myself five years ago. But more recently I've become free from having to follow the latest trends to "validate Christianity" and "change the world" and now I want to shake people up to return to the timeless, pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

     I found that pure Gospel not in a hip coffee shop, but in His Word and in the CHURCH. 

     I'm afraid too many of us Christians are off on tangents that distract us from the core of our faith. We don't need to try and hear the still small voice of "artisanal beauty" (or whatever the new trend is) to know who God is, or who we are. We can hear directly from God in His Word. Praise God for that, too, because this world is too confusing to try and learn from cultural trends and the latest "experts." 

     To be fair, I'm the one who is using the term "hipster" here; the author, John J. Thompson is not. I could be over-emphasizing the hipster thing, here, I admit. It just seems like the obvious target audience and subject matter based on these videos.  

       Also, I love good, hand-crafted coffee, bread and chocolate, just to be clear.
                                                                                                                         -Steven Kozar
For more clarity on the issue of Pietism:
Here is an excellent article by Bob DeWaay called: How Pietism Deceives Christians
Here is an excellent history video by Ryan Reeves about Lutheran Pietism 
Here is an excellent lecture by Rod Rosenbladt against Pietism on Issues, Etc.

"Bill Johnson-False Teacher Misusing Words" by CrossWise

This is a very thorough and scholarly article about Bill Johnson and his very deceptive misuse of words: 
Learning Etymology with Bill Johnson: A New Age ‘Repentance’? | CrossWise