He seems mad because I don’t trash women on my blog. The lack of men in church isn’t a man problem or a women problem or a pastor problem. It’s a system problem.
I’m “mad” because you are trashing men on your blog and making the lack of marriage in the church into a man problem. Beyond that it is a system problem and you are contributing to the problem. The problem is the “system problem” is quite routinely the “man problem”. In other words:
It would all just work right if men would just know their role and play along.
David, be the solution, don’t be the problem. I link to you on the side because in a lot of respects you do address problems within the church. The sole reason I bothered to respond at all, is because you are the problem in that post and not the solution.
Why do men hate going to church? Because men don’t want to be unjustly vilified as the problem of everything wrong in the church and the world. You don’t need a whole book to answer that. Place the blame where it properly lies.
I definitely try to not make this blog about me. In fact, I’ve taken great pains to not make things about me, but in trying to turn out content that reflects well on the goals I undertook by starting this blog. That gets more and more difficult for numerous reasons, many of those inherent to blogging. So for this post, I’m going to try to share a bit, but try to find a way to keep it on point as a lesson. And hopefully too, it won’t be so much that I end up outing myself.
For instance, how do you keep finding good interesting content to you to keep spending the research and preparation time on posts? Oddly enough, I have plenty of things I could be writing about after nearly four years, but a lot of those go away with blogs shutting down (response posts), and just general disinterest and forget of my notes from time. A lot of it is time, but personal motivation and energy, along with reading a lot of disappointing things. Then there’s always the usual issue of repetition and whether it’s worth rehashing things. Of course, after 322 posts, it’s hard to not rehash something. It’s hard to even keep things cataloged after 322 posts (especially Scriptures used, the search doesn’t work too well for that) – it’s weird when you hit that first moment that you realize that you have to research your own stuff to see whether you’ve worked on something in the past.
It’s something that’s been consistent for almost the entire history of this blog, but some months are better than others. There’s one thing I’ve said until lately is that at least I’ve been consistent in trying to get something out at least once a month, until recently. A lot of that is procrastination (it seems I always have a hard time starting these when it comes to actually *writing* them), but a lot of that is stress. Most of that stress is the fall-out from my mother passing, and all the uncertainty that’s surrounded it, along with a lot of other problems that have cropped up. Mental exhaustion takes a toll. Get a post out, then it seems while only one or two days pass, one day turns into four turns into fourteen turns into forty-eight.
So if anyone was looking for a good (yet probably unsatisfying) answer to why I don’t post too frequently anymore, there’s your answer. I’m keeping my head down, trying to take care of more immediate concerns of life, having the faith that it’ll all end soon and I can get back to bigger and better things. Hopefully this blog. Maybe the other blog that I reserved and planned out two years ago but haven’t gotten around to starting up yet. Maybe even some book-like texts off of some things on the blog and other things I have done in the past that I haven’t been posted (mainly Bible studies), and even more impactful things in service of the Kingdom. Hopefully things that can be even greater, with the hope that I’ve been trustworthy before the one true Lord in writing what I’ve needed to write here.
To that end as a lesson, one of the things I consistently get perturbed about is the pretense of perfection that I see in those “Christians” around me. One of the first lessons I had in coming to the Lord is exactly that. If I were perfect, then I don’t need Christ. Scripture tells us no one is perfect. I definitely don’t claim that I’m perfect by any measure, but I see those claims in those around me every time I set foot in a “Christian” environment. The perfect masks that people put on just never get stripped away.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)
“I’ve accepted Christ, I’m perfect. I’m living the perfect life.” they say. “I am without sin.” they even say in my presence. Unfortunately, the message of counting the costs, and especially the costs of following Christ gets lost in the whole dynamic of the Personal Jesus. The perfect romance where everything feels good, everything works out, and everything is good. And if it’s less than that, it’s all about your lack of faith. I’ve been kicked out of places for dare admitting my life is not perfection.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
Unfortunately, a lot of people are going to get a rude awakening as to what Scripture actually says. All it would take is looking inwards at themselves to see the truth (very true of all women but most men) and be convicted of their pride and arrogance. It’s not about a completely done work, it’s about faith in a work that is to be done. Sadly, you really can’t tell any of them anything – no one really can ever. If the trials in life themselves, if the misfortunes of this life (John 9:1-3), if things not going right won’t teach them, the persecutions to come definitely will as the time is soon coming where the wheat will be separated from the chaff of those that claim Christ. When the one true God finally proves the Churchian god – the god of the building, the god of the ritual, the god of the offering plate, the god of the program, the god of the pulpit to be false, many will definitely fall away. But He will always leave a remnant. He will have reserved those who have not bent their knee to those things.
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)
Don’t ever be fooled, it never was and never will be about laying up treasures on this earth (Matthew 6:19-21) or having “your best life now” – in fact we’re promised the exact opposite. Resurrection to new life requires you to die first, in the promise of a new country and better country (Hebrews 11:13-16). That’s what the true follower of Christ is called to in faith. As for all things, I persevere in the hope of something better. If not this life, that’s fine. The best in this life pales to the next.
The previous post discussed the incomplete discussion of the idea of works and grace using the work of Bryan Chapell. A lot of the issue is relating obedience as the requirement of the Lord, when faith has always been the requirement of the Christian (Romans 3:22-24). Faith is belief in God’s words which reflects action, not just mere assent. Pursuing Christ as to works is always a mistake (Romans 9:32), as is saying “I have works, therefore I have faith”. As it is written, without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). It could be said that the burden of faith is not a reflection of doing the right things, but making the right choices. In the end, obedience is not the issue, but the reasons we obey are the issue. To that end, Chapell was completely correct in his assessment of generating a works-based religion by pushing obedience, but neglects that obedience should be a fruit of our choices.
The problem with those Chapell takes issue with, as well as Chapell himself is pushing works as the whole issue, when it should be a belief that spurs results. Admittedly, pushing a works-based view is much easier, but lazy. As Paul writes: “by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:9-11) This is notable in several of the Scriptures, including a number of Jesus’ own teachings. For this post, Matthew 18:21-35 is a useful teaching that will illustrate a choice in faith as opposed to works.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22)
Jesus starts out with a simple command as Master, one that we can easily relay into works and quit. But Jesus goes on to tell a parable, which is instructive:
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. (Matthew 18:23-27)
There are no coincidences on why certain things appear in Scripture and the fact that Jesus felt more needed to be said is instructive (note that “kingdom of heaven” phrase). We are presented with a story with some choices, reflective of the Gospel. Most will not need much explanation for a venue such as a blog post, so I’ll just present them with some brief descriptions.
1. We can choose/not choose to acknowledge the debt before us. This is a choice relating to the sin debt we all possess. Most Christians of all thought will recognize those who are at this point of choice to be “unsaved”, though there’s more to it than that Scripturally.
2. We can choose/not choose to acknowledge the debt can’t be paid. Notably the word “ten thousand” here is murioi (G3463) which means “innumerably many”. The main point behind the story is that it’s a big debt that can’t be paid. There are “Christian” faith traditions that believe that accepting Christ involves getting a second-chance to “get the works right this time” or that it involves the opportunity to “work the debt off” instead of having to pay up all at once. This is the danger that Chapell was addressing rightfully in his work. When we realize that we can never do or pay anything of ourselves, the gateway to mercy and grace begins to open up.
3. We can choose/not choose to believe we are forgiven freely. The consequences of these choices become more endemic to those who are in churches now. The fact that we are given grace and mercy is something that is foolish to our minds, as we expect and even turn the things of love and grace into obligation (the main defect with marriage that renders it vile). Religion, as always, is an opportunity for wicked men to control others and burden them under yokes (Matthew 23:3-4) instead of show the way to freedom from the burden of sin outside of Christ (Matthew 11:30). In other words, this is the fullness of realizing that our works don’t get us anywhere with the Lord. Unfortunately, so many that call upon the Lord are trapped in trying to “measure up” to God (what the sin/Law standard in fact is), when it simply can never be done.
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. (Matthew 18:28-30)
4. We can choose/not choose to respond in full belief of the mercy/grace we are given. This choice is where the common Churchian of today fails. The idea that in turn nothing is required of us is what is turning the vast majority of those who profess Christ into reprobates. We were bought by Christ’s blood (Hebrews 9:14) in order to pay the debt, so we become His. This is the matter of faith set before us, and the requirement of us. If we wish to be counted dead in Christ to be raised to newness of life, then our actions need to reflect it. To explain the issue, simple obedience isn’t the issue, it’s that we obey for the right reasons in recognition of what has been done for us. In other words, we can do all the right things and still fail for wrong reasons. We will always fail in perfect obedience, but we can always measure up in perfect motivations towards him.
So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. (Matthew 18:31-34)
Note the result of the servant’s actions – the result of a incorrect faith. Note how the Lord in the story puts it: It’s not that the servant failed to forgive, it’s that he failed to recognize what the Lord has done for him! This is always our measure, and the main concern of our Lord constantly in Scripture: “That they may know who I am”. This is where the whole “relationship with Jesus” line started, though blown into a complete false gospel by the implications of the word “relationship” as Jesus’ own concept (discipleship) used throughout Scripture was cast aside.
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (Matthew 18:35)
And here lies the application to us. It’s not a warning to obey, but a call to faith. The simple question is reiterated by Jesus and others throughout the whole New Testament (Matthew 25 being another example). It’s not “Have you obeyed?”, but “What have you done with what I have given you?” This question applies to both issues of mercy and grace.
Have you responded in a way to bring fruit to the kingdom? Or have you responded in such a way to trample the blood of Christ? This is the issue that is neglected in the pulpits today.
One of my interests of late when I could do it (that’s a long story I need to tell here sometime) has been tracking down some of the instructional materials that the professional preachers are exposed to in seminaries. One of the more popular ones seems to be Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell, echoing a popular idea of the moment echoed by the title.
As this book is published in 1994, written by a former president of Covenant Theological Seminary (Presbyterian), and accepted in most preaching schools, the ideas in it would seem reflective of common preaching we are witness to today. While a book review didn’t seem proper overall, Chapell’s focus on “Christ-centered preaching” turned out to be something worthy of examination. It is fraught with problems, and unfortunately Chapell’s other big problem in this book (literary diarrhea, this commentary is about over 40 pages of his book, and I have 3 pages of typed quotes copied out) will cause difficulty in presenting succinct quotes reflecting his position and has delayed this post.
Chapell spends the last two chapters of the book detailing this “Christ-centered” focus and the errors he believes are commonly made by other pastors in preparing their sermons. Most notably, this focuses on the idea that people will inadvertently be focused on the idea of a works-based religion instead of a grace-based religion.
A message that merely advocates morality and compassion remains sub-Christian even if the preacher can prove that the Bible demands such behaviors. By ignoring the sinfulness of man that makes even our best works tainted before God and by neglecting the grace of God that makes obedience possible and acceptable, such messages necessarily subvert the Christian message. Christian preachers often do not recognize this impact of their words because they are simply recounting a behavior clearly specified in the text in front of them. But a message that even inadvertently teachers others that their works win God’s acceptance inevitably leads people away from the gospel. (1)
Scripture includes many instructions that are often preached as conditions for divine approval. Such preaching errs not by detailing what God requires but by implying or directly stating that God’s favor is a consequence of our obedience rather than proclaiming that obedience itself is a blessing that results from the favor God purchased for us in Christ. Divine love made conditional upon human obedience is mere legalism even if the actions commended have biblical precedent. The only obedience approved by God is that which he himself has sanctified through the work of Christ . . . (2)
To preach matters of faith or practice without rooting their foundation or fruit in what God would do, has done, or will do through the ministry of Christ creates a human-centered (anthropocentric) faith without Christian distinctions. Truly Christian preaching must proclaim, [Romans 8:1-2]. (3)
I. Christ-centered preaching completely removes the requirements upon men.
Chapell’s Christ-centered preaching model, in coming out against anything that seems like “human-works” (5) completely removes any requirements that the Lord places upon men, universally proclaiming them all righteous. Notably, such a position removes Our Lord’s own emphasis on discipleship and requirements. While I can relate a lot of Scriptures which indicate this requirement, the most straightforward is to note that the righteous are justified by faith and not their works (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:11; Galatians 3:24; Hebrews 10:38).
Much of the surrounding Scriptures point to Chapell’s position, but the faith requirement for justification is entirely lost in Chapell’s vilification of the idea that humans have any requirements set before them. To dispel that faith has anything to do merely with a verbal assent and not actions, we are corrected of this in James 2:24 and in Romans 6:1-2. A faith followed up by appropriate actions is a requirement. In fact, it could be said that the requirements for us were raised substantially from the requirement of the Law: ALL. Such costs are accentuated by Our Lord Himself (Luke 14:25-33). Why should we ever think after reading Scripture completely that the Lord requires absolutely nothing of us at all (6), when we are given a standard that we can meet out of our own selves?
II. Christ-centered preaching misplaces the object of proper faith.
Chapell’s model, in pointing to the idea of the grace given by the Cross, points towards the improper Christ.
When believers see that the whole of Scripture–the entire sweep of Biblical revelation–is a stage for the portrayal of grace, their hearts respond in awe and humility. Such responses ground messages of worship and obedience in their proper motivations and make the application of all biblical truth the fruit of thanksgiving, praise, gratitude, and loving service. Christ-centered preaching does not abolish the normative standards of Christian conduct, but rather locates their source in the compelling power of grace. The rules of obedience do not change, the reasons do. (7)
In doing this, the idea of Christ-centered preaching points backwards instead of forwards as the Scriptures do (1 Peter 5:4; Colossians 3:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Peter 3:10-12; 2 Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:12; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:2). This causes numerous problems of application to be addressed later. The expectant Christian in Chapell’s system looks backwards to the Cross instead of forwards to the appearing of Christ, causing not Chapell’s indicated result, but something much different. It produces a different gospel that does not change conduct in holy fear of Christ’s return (e.g. the “day of the Lord”, Book of Revelation), but tramples all over the blood of Christ in trying to avoid even the appearance of any requirement upon men.
III. Christ-centered preaching removes the centrality of God and puts it upon man.
In focusing backwards towards the Cross, it does indeed abolish the normative standards of Christian conduct. This is done by Chapell’s device of the Fallen Condition Focus (or FCF). It creates an individualism by which Scripture is applied to the lives of the people, instead of the lives of the people being applied to Scripture. This creates the self-reflexive worship common to Christianity today in
IV. Christ-centered preaching removes the fear of the Lord.
It is not a surprise that the concept of fear is wholly vilified in the idea of Christ-centered preaching. When Christ is dispelled as both Lord and Master, the idea of One to whom accountability is required becomes verboten, and fear of that accountability becomes verboten as well. Fear from a lack of faith or lack of obedience can easily be confused for the proper fear of the Lord as indicated throughout Scripture (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10; Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Psalm 112:1; Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Bunyan’s realization reflects the understanding that characterizes the applications of Christ-centered preaching. Since every instruction of Scripture functions within the frame of God’s explanation and provision of his redemptive work, we must use grace to urge others to implement what we expound. Grace does not merely aid righteous conduct, it aids in the apprehension of the unerring love of God that makes human righteousness possible. If obedience is merely a defensive posture our listeners assume to avert divine wrath or curry divine favor, then human holiness is but a euphemism for selfishness. Self-protection and self-promotion are sad substitutes for “glorifying God and enjoying him forever,” but the former alternatives are the definite products of lives devoted to God out of servile dread and slavish fear.
If logic and Scripture both make it apparent that selfish fear is a greater menace to holiness than the assurance of love, why does the debate persist over whether threat of guilt or promise of grace better stimulates holiness? The simple answer is that preachers feel the need for a corrective. We wonder how we can compel others, or even ourselves, to pursue righteousness if we do not threaten rejection, promise retribution, or impose guilt. We recognize that each of these approaches is powerfully suasive, and in the secrecy of our hearts question, What reason will God’s people have to obey if all we do is keep assuring them of his love? (8)
One should never deny the idea that God’s love can never be earned or denied. However, God’s favor, including his salvation, should never be confused with his lack of love. Judgment is often referred to “God’s strange work”, because of His nature. Judgment is often deferred out of the Lord’s love, for “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Judgment is never eliminated on the cause of God’s love, even for those in the house of God, for we are reminded that “judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). There are many that will be reminded that “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21-23). God does not judge with joy but with sadness.
Given the gospel of the Personal Jesus, unfortunately it is lost on many that our Lord is a holy God who must be approached according to His own way in a holy fear. Anything outside of it will not be met with approval but with rejection.
The idea of grace has been dragged through the sewer in the recent history of the church, and the model of Christ-centered preaching presented by people such as Chapell and adopted by many has been what has done it. The idea of the Law is compared with the idea of grace, outside of the Scriptural idea of faith. Ultimately a false gospel is produced whereby violence is done to the true message of the Gospel. Grace bestowed is something that is not to use as a free license against God (Romans 6:1-7), but something that demands an effect (1 Corinthians 15:9-11) born out of faith reflected by the work of the Cross in anticipation that it will be done for us as well. We are given the pattern of Jesus through the Gospels. The only effective instruction we are given is to follow Him in discipleship, essentially to go forth and do likewise. The next post will be some more direct preaching on the idea that the Lord’s grace and mercy doesn’t remove us from all requirements.
Isn’t it interesting in his attempt to pander to the Churchians those who want to “protect Christianity” (who destroyed it themselves) that he couldn’t get a simple book reference right? The crowd definitely knows better, but took it as a joke instead of a hypocritical attempt to make himself seem like “one of us”. Even the leaders don’t know better:
To students who might be concerned that Mr. Trump is not the most religious in the current crop of presidential candidates, Mr. Falwell also had a message from his father.
“Dad explained when he walked into the voting booth, he wasn’t electing a Sunday school teacher or a pastor,” he said, adding, “He was electing the president of the United States.”
As “The Sinner’s Prayer” does not appear in Scripture, I will readily dismiss consideration of it. But as baptism does, the question will be a worthy one to explore. Does baptism save? The answer to that is “No.” The rest of this post aims to explain why and to put baptism in the correct place.
I. Baptism is a work. The previous post illustrates part of the problem that such an emphasis on evangelism has brought in on an understanding of the requirements of true Christianity. I referenced it there in terms of “fire insurance conferred by The Magic Water and Incantation”. It’s the idea that the act of being baptized is what saves people into Christ.
Traditionally, this started in the idea of turning it into a ritual or “sacrament”, specifically the idea that baptism was something to be earned. Furthermore, other groups started doing it in a perfunctory fashion to infants and children, confusing the matter. Afterwards, the over-emphasis on evangelism brought the idea more into focus as something that simply signifies ringing up the sale of fire insurance.
The “trouble” of getting someone to be immersed (and sometimes multiple ones) has brought further abominations of tradition to light such as “The Sinner’s Prayer”, where all is taught is that it takes saying a certain set of words in prayer in order to be “saved”. Of course, those who have had infant baptism use that as a barrier to entertaining the idea that they may not actually be “saved” and might have to do things more consistently called for in the Scriptures in order to fulfill the Lord’s callings.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)
Unfortunately, with using this as a go-to, it presents baptism as the way and not a changed life where the costs are counted beforehand.
II. Faith in Christ is the only thing that saves.
Note that the focus is often on the act of baptism and not the word I highlighted. Going to other Scriptures, however, tells us that anything we do does not confer salvation, only acts of faith. In other words, people can say words and get wet and even take classes and works to “prove themselves worthy of baptism”, but have no formative change in them. That our Lord says there will be those that come before Him who claim Him that He will reject (Matthew 7:21-23) should give huge pause. To refer to the other Scriptures (Luke 8:12; Romans 5:1; Titus 3:5):
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. (Acts 16:30-32)
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)
Note in Mark 16:16, the contrast is placed on belief and not baptism. The confusion we are presented with is that baptism is heavily linked to the idea of belief. Notably, while the repentant rebel on the cross along with Jesus was given salvation (Luke 23:39-43), a true believer not seeking a public baptism would be strange. In fact, baptism gets equated with belief so much that the Scriptures can get confusing on the matter when taken in isolation.
III. Baptism is the true “sinner’s prayer”
The role of baptism is best understood in a similar light to marriage: The idea that it is a physical representation of a spiritual reality. In the true believer, it represents a statement of clear conscience before God in testifying a desire to be part of the resurrection in faith: (Romans 6:3-5; Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 10:2; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 2:11-12).
Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 3:20-21)
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38)
The key word in the first passage (“like figure”) is G499 in Strongs (“antitupon”) or anti-type. It’s a representation or testimony of an actual inward decision or change. A problem comes in delaying or deferring such a testimony, as true conviction would bring upon this desire. This is noted with the story of the eunuch, as well as clearly illustrating the connection of it as a stated testimony of belief given to us as a testimony of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12-14).
The problem that comes in the teachings on baptism comes when belief is removed as the primary requirement in favor of the act. When the act becomes paramount, who does it, how it’s done, and whether the right words are said becomes more paramount. It is subsumed into tradition, and it loses all meaning. In such a Christianity, it becomes a group of reprobates “saved” by publicly getting wet and other “traditional” requirements the priest lays on them (attendance, tithing, idolatry to the “church”). Or even worse, both belief and baptism are removed in favor of saying certain words.
The decision point becomes not whether the person involved has heeded the call of discipleship in their hearts by faith, but whether or not that they said the right words, the right words were said over them, or whether they got wet or not. In other words, the emphasis on whether “the salvation event” was done right, clearly showing a works-based mentality over it, and destroying its meaning by tradition. Sadly, there are many that have done these works that believe that they are saved, not giving consideration that they might have to actually change their lives. That many (including myself) will relay two “salvation events” in their lives is especially indicative of what actually happens with these things.
With life and human failings come the tendency to prejudice and negativity. In re-reading the comments to that thread afterwards I noted a lot of it. Some of that negativity came from the typical expectation, some of it from how the movie was pitched. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this movie, compared to my impressions from the trailer and the review. Where the Kendricks are inept when it comes to film making, the writers and producers of this one are much more accomplished.
(spoilers afoot from here)
While functioning in the backdrop of “dating” or a “romance”, Old Fashioned functions as an examination of the individuals involved in this journey, more than anything to do with marriage or romance. This said, the Christian themes of this movie have nothing to do with marriage, courtship, or dating.
The primary themes are ones of Law and Grace.
We are introduced to a man, Clay, who is working in an antique shop, named “Old Fashioned”. Occasionally, he repairs old furniture. Amber, the free spirit, comes into town. She has run out of gas and out of money, so she decides to stay and rent an apartment. This turns out to be the upper loft of the antique shop, where she meets and takes an interest in Clay.
Pretty quickly, we find Clay is very closed off to interacting with Amber, preferring to keeping her in a separate room. However, he is not closed off to sharing his “theories on dating” with anyone who will listen, explaining him doing this. Notably, these rules turn out to be an accurate view of the courtship movement, including the lack of recognition that borders can exist in dating. We also meet his friends, Brad or Lucky Chucky who is a radio jockey (think Leykis clone), and David, who is “living in sin” with a woman that he knocked up, who are annoyed pretty consistently by Clay’s “theories”.
As the movie progresses, we find out about the pasts of both Clay and Amber as the barriers begin to fall between them. We have these things revealed to us as they and the townspeople interact, most notably by Amber breaking things in the apartment so she can get time to interact with Clay. Clay has a certain past that he’s repented of when “Jesus found him”, which we find later involves being a PUA who produced Girls Gone Wild type audios with his radio jockey friend.
Amber has a past of chasing after “the warm fuzzies”, leading her to deal with multiple men, and running away when things get “messy” and her gas money jar gets full. This is shown to us by her broken hand, which we learn was done by the last man she was with over her decision to wear some nail polish.
Much of the focus of the movie is on Clay and this world he finds himself in which is hostile to his beliefs, not much affirming his views. We find out in the talk between Amber and her friends, and directly through Clay’s decision surrounding his friends. However, we find Amber falling in love with Clay’s rules and structure before she does him, finding a man that knows what he believes and upholds it to be different than what she previously knew through their “not date” dates into their first real date at a marriage counselor (again courtship). Eventually the ice thaws enough between them that they take a trip to his house along with his Aunt. This leads to a trip to church, a first for her (“spiritual but not religious”) and a long absence for him (“others not perfect so he didn’t fit in”). This leads her to find a testimony of love that she hasn’t gotten before, and allows her to let Jesus find her outside of Clay.
The crisis point of the film involves issues of temptation to faith. One is Clay standing up for his faith where he rejects being in David’s bachelor party when he finds a stripper has been invited. This leads him to plead to David over it, David agreeing, and the party being broken up. But not before everyone else involved has words for him, and the stripper’s bodyguard comes to blows with him. Then his old girlfriend, Kelly, shows up at his door. Amber’s involves Clay continuing to not be open with her (she has extended an incredible amount of grace towards him on this point in the movie), coupled with his unwillingness to confess his past when she confessed hers, at the prompting of the marriage counseling question guide they got, leading her to watch one of Clay’s old videos. She then goes out and her friends help her to pick up Brad which leads her back to his motel room.
This leads to a happy ending, where both resist the temptation to follow through. But in looking for each other to talk, they get mistaken notions of what the other did. Clay’s aunt’s talk at the end, coupled with Amber ridding herself of her “memory board” and the “gas money jar” drives home what was going on fully: Clay was unwilling to forgive himself for his past and allow grace to get into his life from God’s forgiveness, while Amber was running from her past instead of dealing with it. We get one final scene of real “romance” at the end, which functions as a proof that both were listening to each other all along.
As I noted above, this movie was done by film makers much more able than the Kendricks and it showed all the way through. That a film maker powerfully got across the concepts of law and grace without using The Sledgehammer of Plot(tm), was refreshing. The choices of symbolism, lighting, and the expression of the actors expressed the emotions and gravity of the situation and many of the Scriptures that could have been referenced. The ones that were quoted were non-intrusive in the dialogue.
Outside of Amber being the initiator so much, which will be objectionable to some, it provides a wonderful example in Amber to those women who have been trained to not be active of IOIs as the actress playing her uses them constantly.
The fact that Clay was presented as a Christian man with true convictions that he never wavered on despite the opposition, who gained respect from others (notably Amber and David), was refreshing as well.
The confusion between romance and love exists within this movie, but outside of a few things I could nit-pick on, as a Christian message, I found this movie to have a very affirming and positive story line, with a distinct minimum of true feminist thought in it. I know nothing of the other movies from this studio, but as for this one, it was a definite step up from the Kendrick’s fare. While not anything approaching a “classic”, it is definitely worth watching if you are looking for such fare.