Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Nationalism & Millennialism

Doug W said...

How bizarre is it when many in the evangelical world (or, at least those with the loudest voices) side with Israeli tanks over the Christians in Lebanon (which I'm told is about 15-20% Christian -- sorry, I don't know where my copy of Operation world went) who are working to show the love of Christ to those who have been displaced?

Watching Nightline last night (Letterman was a rerun), I see Pastor John Hagee (the rootiness, tootiness preacher in all the West -- I always picture him with a ten-gallon hat and a pair of six-shooters) talk about how today's events are a fulfillment of some dusty corner of Ezekiel. And, as a result of such fantastic (literally) exegesis, he has begun "Christians United for Israel," a group that met in Washington with noted GOPers and the Israeli ambassador to the US.

Contrast that with this:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/129/42.0.html. It's from Martin Accad, the dean of Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, who are trying to be a witness of Christ in the middle of the Israeli invasion. It's his indictment of US evangelicals who are silent on the bloodlust of Israel.

We've got a ways to go. But, I guess, you all knew that.

4/8/06 4:12 PM

14 Comments:

Anonymous jason fry said...

Yay pacifism! I think John Hagee is one of the most frustrating preachers to listen to or to even hear about, since he's almost always wrong in every way that a preacher can be wrong, from exegesis to application and everything in between. Unfortunately, dispensational premillennialism, along with nationalism, racism, and a generally unChristlike attitude towards those outside of Judeo-Christendom, have been the main characteristics of American evangelicalism and American charismatic/Pentecostalism. Thank God for the "emerging Church". Postmodernism may just save American Christians! How cool is that?!

I love you!

5/8/06 1:42 PM


Do you guys think that these Christian Nationalists are representing dispensational premillennial and postmillennial eschatological positions, or, if they are neither in belief, they may be unwittingly holding onto values that come from pop-Christian theology, such as dispensational premillennialism or postmillennialism? (Another example of this kind of dissonance would be when a Stone-Campbell Arminian says, "well, everything happens for a reason!", betraying that their stated theological position on predestination and their actual worldview are not integrated)

Perhaps one's eschatology really is as important as our Bible college professors said.

I'm not saying that eschatology is the only thing motivating these Christian nationalists, I'm just asking how significant a role do you folks think eschatology plays?

And a second point: in my experience on a Bible college campus and at local churches, trying to convince people of the Biblical commission of all Christians to be involved in worldwide evangelism, there are two fundamental obstacles to people adopting a Biblical viewpoint on their own need for involvement in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth: the first is nationalism, since many Christians seem to think that the Homogeneous Unit Principle is prescriptive, not descriptive, and that H.U.P. applies to who they should pray for and who they should mobilize others to evangelize too. The second is fear of the unkown, or another way of saying it, fear of leaving behind the familiar stuff that they think they need to survive, like family, friends, and American culture.

Also, there are humongous misconceptions regarding America being "blessed" by God and deserving to bask in that blessedness, and false teachings about the supposedly Christian doctrines upon which This Great Country was founded.

To those who hold the misconceptions and false beliefs above, I have tried to convince by quoting Stan Lee, "with great power comes great responsibility," or as I like to misquote it, "with blessedness comes great responsibility". So far it hasn't worked. I don't think they were big Spiderman fans, though, so maybe that's why.

Peace out.

15/8/06 1:59 AM

August 15, 2006 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger zach said...

Jason,
“Postmodernism may just save American Christians!”

Hold on, are you saying that something has saved American Christians? Phew! That is so great to hear cause I have always thought that the American Christians needed a savior. I don’t know how we got by without one all these years.

August 15, 2006 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger Thom Stark said...

...

Zach,

Do you know Jason? I'm curious why you think the heavy sarcasm is necessary. Let's, all of us, attempt to be constructive with our remarks.

1) Jason is a missionary, not a philosopher, and his remark should be understood from that vantage point.

2) I don't think Jason was trying to say that postmodernism is replacing Jesus as the savior of American Christians. Your remark seems a bit unfair.

I'm glad you're here.

...

August 16, 2006 at 3:20 AM  
Blogger zach said...

Thom,
Sorry for any confusion, I can’t seem to find the right tone or something. I am sure that I don’t know Jason. Jason if you read this, please read my words as only light sarcasm.

“Jason is a missionary, not a philosopher, and his remark should be understood from that vantage point.”

Good, because we need more missionaries, not more philosophers.

“I don't think Jason was trying to say that postmodernism is replacing Jesus as the savior of American Christians. Your remark seems a bit unfair.”

You know, Thom, I don’t think that he was trying to say that either. Here’s what I do think. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and anything worth saying is worth saying carefully. What we are trying or intending to say might well be one thing, but the impression that our choice of words gives to others is not a negligible commodity. Thom, I bet you would agree with me here. I do not want to see Jason throw over mission work for philosophy. Rather I want to see careful investment in and use of words that have the power to alter people’s lives. From the Old Testament to contemporary church, the damage done by lackadaisical language is staggering. Therefore, I might come across as something of a gadfly about this issue. It’s kind of like my Grandmother who was an English teacher and harped on me about my grammar.

August 16, 2006 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger Thom Stark said...

ok. thanks for clarifying.

August 16, 2006 at 5:55 PM  
Anonymous Jason Fry said...

Zach,

You're right that I should be more careful when I write; thank you for practicing a good enough hermeneutic that you could look past my ambiguities to see my intended meaning, and for challenging me to be more precise. I assume by "light sarcasm" that you mean facetiousness, since sarcasm, by definition, is meant to negatively affect the one towards whom it is directed. I would appreciate it if you would give me an extra ounce of grace when reading my extemporaneous statements by continuing to understand my point without tripping over my ambiguities, especially when those ambiguities have multiple ways of being interpreted, only one of which is logical and/or consistent with orthodox Christian doctrine. I, in turn, will strive to be more precise in my written communication.

Thom, thank you for giving some extratextual context to help Zach determine my intended meaning. It's true that I am more practitioner than theoritician, and that is reflected in my writing. For the record, I am working towards a PhD in philosophy. By "working towards", I mean that I have almost applied to the university here for acceptance into their undergrad degree program in historical studies, which is a precursor to a graduate degree in philosophy, which will hopefully allow me to pursue a PhD. Even then, though, I would rather be a missionary than a philosopher any day, especially since the only reason I'm studying the theory is so that I can be a more effective practitioner.

Now, what I think I meant to communicate in the statement with which Zach took issue: The mainstream evangelical church in America has allowed itself to become generally ineffective at reaching or even intelligently dialoguing with mainstream American nonchristian culture, both the "churched" and "unchurched" varieties. Postmodernism, with its rejection of many of the tenets of the Enlightenment, has provided new opportunities for Christians to engage mainstream culture, both by affecting the mainstream culture and by affecting American evangelical Christianity. The "emerging church" is one example. Therefore, postmodernism has provided, I believe, something necessary, which was lacking before, that will allow God's Kingdom to grow in breadth and depth. That breadth and depth is already noticable if one looks at the "emerging church", and I think eventually it may have a positive (from a Kingdom standpoint) result for people like the Lebanese Christians who are being bombed in part because modernist Christians want to support Israel at all costs.

That may be redundant, but no one has posted on here for a few days, so I figured I oughta say something.

To get back to the original discussion, or at least, to get back to what I thought was the original discussion, I am quoting myself, ambiguities, poor grammar, and all; feel free to skim:
"I'm not saying that eschatology is the only thing motivating these Christian nationalists, I'm just asking how significant a role do you folks think eschatology plays?

And a second point: in my experience on a Bible college campus and at local churches, trying to convince people of the Biblical commission of all Christians to be involved in worldwide evangelism, there are two fundamental obstacles to people adopting a Biblical viewpoint on their own need for involvement in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth: the first is nationalism, since many Christians seem to think that the Homogeneous Unit Principle is prescriptive, not descriptive, and that H.U.P. applies to who they should pray for and who they should mobilize others to evangelize too. The second is fear of the unkown, or another way of saying it, fear of leaving behind the familiar stuff that they think they need to survive, like family, friends, and American culture."

August 19, 2006 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger david said...

Doug, 'christian' in Lebanon is not the same as christian to you. Past that, there are many 'christians' of this same definition in Northern Israel specifically. And of course on both sides of that border, there are in fact real disciples of Jesus. Both sides. Trust me, I live here. But let us just begin with that.

I am not pro-jew, or pro-Israel, but I am pro-people and to side against the 'loud voices' of american TV christianity is easy and necessary I agree, but it DOES NOT mean you need to swing that pendulum so far as to be un-reasonable pro-hezbollah, pro-arab, or pro-Lebanese.

I mean to say, once again, that 'pro-people' is what disciples ought to be, i think, and to be appropriately frustrated at times like these when people are stuck on circumstances where this mindset is nearly impossible. It is our job to be upset now, not biased.

August 19, 2006 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Josh Furnal said...

Fry-daddy, i have appreciated reading your thoughts here, thanks for chiming in for the "practicioners."

but from one "practicioner" to another, can i toss out a few questions in light of what you have said?

there is something about wanting to "be more effective" as a person or "professional christian" that is enticing. I mean, who honestly wants to be completely ineffective in their field? But what i am cautious about is our constant use of 'effectiveness' as a standard that would reflect our worth as a human. perhaps this is just semantics, but what do humility (the virtue championed on this blog) and being effective (for the sake of being effective) have in common?

what is the criteria that would allow the "mainstream evangelical church in America" to be considered effective at reaching and/or intellegently dialoging with mainstream American nonchristian culture? [if the evangelical church became more humble, would this be considered effective?]

is the criteria for 'effectively reaching the nonchristan culture' found in the ephermeal tenets of postmodernism?

since the emergent church has seemingly enabled us to 'engage mainstream culture' by unlocking the lexicon of postmodernism, do we really have "better opportunities" than our predeccesors who happen to be labeled as modern? If so, how would we know?

higher impact, better opportunities, more provision, are claims that i would be cautious to throw out across a 'kingdom' that is described as being small mustard seeds and barely visible yeast...

breadth and depth are good things to seek, but these become questionable to me to the degree that they are marketed across america for the 'next big thing.'

please don't read sarcasm into this jay, i am currently struggling through such issues as a "practicioner" in a culture where supposedly this postmodernism was birthed...

tuba!

August 20, 2006 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger Tyler Stewart said...

Fry-
I don't see the connection you’re making between American foreign policy, particularly American evangelical support of Israel, and postmodernism as a catalyst for change.

Also, you said, "Many Christians seem to think that the Homogeneous Unit Principle is prescriptive, not descriptive, and that H.U.P. applies to who they should pray for and who they should mobilize others to evangelize too." Where do we see the H.U.P. principle as even descriptive? By descriptive, I think you mean descriptive of a biblical example, which I don't see. Help me here.

David-
Do you live in Israel or Lebanon? Are you saying that there is a lot of nominal Christianity in wherever it is that you live? (Because I certainly know a lot of nominal Christians here in America.) Also I think it would be quite impossible for us not to have a bias. The question is not whether or not to be biased or upset (which I don’t see how getting upset is helpful). The question is which biases should we as Christians have. I certainly don't want to support Hezbollah, but their actions in Lebanon are an indictment on the church. Of the very little I know about the Hezbollah party I know that they give free health-care to their party members and they give discounted health-care to anyone who comes to them. If only the Church would reach out in similar ways. I know that Hezbollah is being funded by Iraq and Iran, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Church in America could give much more by simply giving 10% of the tithe of the top 10% of the wealthiest Church in America. This may sound idealistic, but why not? Paul did something similar for the Church in Jerusalem. But then how would we pay for mega-church buildings? I don’t know maybe we could even send some people out so that our buildings wouldn’t have to be so big. Don’t hear me wrong I don’t want to bash mega-churches. I’m just saying that we (Christians) should help Christians and those who don’t follow Christ to become Christians. Our job is not to be upset, our job is to patiently pray (Rev 13.10) and know that God will bring our vindication. Obviously that is a lot easier for me, living in America, than for you, but I still think it is God’s call for us. David what can I do? How can the church I am a part of here in America help your church? E-mail me at tyler.a.stewart@gmail.com if you have any ideas.

August 21, 2006 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger Tyler Stewart said...

I meant wealthiest churches

August 21, 2006 at 8:43 AM  
Anonymous Jason Fry said...

Josh, don't worry, I can't feel defensive when you pull out the old Tuba joke. How was the luau? You're right that my statements are unbalanced; they seem to be putting "doing" before "being". In fact, I seem to be ignoring "being" altogether. This whole being/doing (or "essence/existence") tension still mystifies me sometimes, even though I've been thinking about it for years, as you know, since we have had conversations about it around the dominos table. My fleshly bias towards "doing" is obvious, since I needed you to point out my imbalance; I will now attempt to balance my above post with some points I should have made in that post: We Christians are called to know Christ; anything else, from loving our neighbor to loving our enemies to evangelizing least-reached people groups or postchristian people groups or whatever, is sort of a by-product of our dynamic relationship with Him. If we get a little less individualistic, then we can say that the role of the local church and of the worldwide Church is the same: as a community, to know Christ in dynamic relationship. The results from this dynamic relationship will be all the stuff that the church is supposed to "do". Only when we get the "being" right, i.e. "being in right relationship with God" or other ways of saying it, then the "doing" starts to fit the description of what an "effective" Christian should be, what an "effective" local church should be, or what the "effective" Church should be. I don't think it's either/or, it's both/and, but you're right that I am prone to overemphasizing the existence portion of the tension. Sorry, I'm still prone to overemphasizing the "doing" part of the tension in my own life as well. When our motivation is to "do," we have the wrong motivation. Effectiveness in reaching the culture or dialoguing with the culture is not the criteria by which the church should judge itself. If a church, or a Christian, wants to know if it's doing the right stuff, it really needs to ask if it's being the right person. We put the cart before the horse when we do otherwise. Effectiveness in reaching the world outside is not what the church should be trying to attain, knowing Christ should be the goal instead. With all that in mind, there does come a need to strategize, plan, and employ methods to "do" what we need to do, though. I think that is the point at which I started my above statement. I got ahead of myself, though. I don't think that the "modern" Church/church was less effective in its day at the "doing" part than the postmodern church may be now, but many moderns did allow existence to precede essence. The best authors and leaders of that era didn't make that mistake, but a lot of modernistic Christians did, including myself (I have my feet firmly planted in both modernism and postmodernism, and don't know what to do about it, besides point out that postmodernism isn't really the new thing, it's just the end of the old thing). Please correct me if I still seem unbalanced or if I seem to have an unrealistic view of myself.

Tyler, Firstly, the Homogeneous Unit Principle isn't overtly in scripture, although some narratives like the Tower of Babel and many records of cultural shifts in the Church found in Acts seem to be in line with it. HUP is just a description of the way people act. It's Christian anthropology, and it was only first enunciated in the 20th century by Donald McGavran, a missologist from Fuller Seminary, and it's been debated for years by missiologists. Many folks assume that HUP is prescriptive when they first hear about it. It is not, however. It can be part of a strategy, but it must be overcome in the long-run by any church that wants to reach across cultures (i.e. "obey God"), including the cultural divide between Christians and nonchristians, which is more severe in some cases than others.

The connection I find between the incidence of American nationalism among Christians in America, American foreign policy regarding Israel, and postmodernism as a catalyst for change is this: postmodern Christians put a lot less stock in "secondary" doctrines, like eschatological viewpoints, and postmoderns of many stripes, including Christians, either don't feel very nationalistic or are unaware of their own nationalism and would abandon much of it if they were educated about the world. As a group, if they don't mind me lumping them together that way (most of them will probably mind, so don't tell them I said this), pomoChristians tend to hold on to a handful of doctrines as primary and necessary, and the rest they are willing to disagree about, within certain perameters. Certainly there are some who might describe themselves as postmodern Christians or some other synonymous term who would be either more exclusive or more pluralistic than my description, and many would even disagree on what the handful of primary doctrines ought to be. That's okay. They are more interested, I think, in knowing Christ and living out his ethic than in making sure that America is an ally of Israel when Jesus inaugurates his millennial reign there, and in helping the Jews rebuild the Temple so the rapture can finally happen, which means helping Israel kick the Muslims out of Jerusalem, which would most probably start a "holy war" that some might think parallels the description of Armageddon (common dispensational premillennialist motivations for their uncritical support for Israel). In short, I think that one of the good results of postmodernism in the Church is that postmodern Christians tend to be focusing on what's truly important, temporally (radically loving neighbors, no matter which ethnicity, nationality, or religion) and eternally (knowing Christ and making him known). Certainly many pomoChristians have their own stumbling blocks that may be just as dangerous as the ones modernist Christians have tripped over, but many of them seem to be on a right track. If these kinds of Christians become more influential in the "mainstream" evangelical American church, that would be a good thing for both the American church and for the world. My HUP statement comes into play here as well, since most of the established (more modernistic) evangelical churches are homogeneous, while most of the postmodern Christians that I know are at least interested in the heterogenous makeup of the Body and want to see that reflected in their local congregation. Of course, none of this helps the current situation in the Mideast, but if the world lasts another 50 years, it may have mattered.

I'm not sure if this post has clarified or more obfuscated what I'm trying to say. I probably need to quit chiming in and just stick to reading what the rest of you write. If you guys think this stuff is irrelevant to the larger discussion, feel free to move on. I don't mean to monopolize the discussion by any means.

Peace out.

August 21, 2006 at 1:03 PM  
Blogger Josh Furnal said...

fry,

you gave us alot to swim through, and i don't know if i caught what you were groping for in all the essence/existence kinds of distinctions, but for know, i think you cleared up some things that i was trying to address...

peace

August 22, 2006 at 6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I told a sister in Christ about my going to the Middle East to be a missionary, she asked me, "what do you feel about going to try to minister and save the people who's whole mission is to destroy Israel? Don't you feel like you are going against God's will?"
That's the second Christian who's told me I'm wrong for evangelizing Israel's enemies.

September 12, 2006 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Jason Fry said...

Holy moley anonymous. Have you talked to this sister about God sending Paul to the Gentiles, who did in fact destroy The Temple and Jerusalem in AD 70 and who further decimated the "Holy Land" in the second century? God didn't seem to think it was a bad thing to evengelize the very people who A) had conquered Israel and subjugated the Jews, who had been free from outside political control until the Romans came along, and B) would soon (within 30 years or so) be destroying the Temple, the city of Jerusalem, and brutally slaughtering thousands of Jews. It was a good idea in the first century to love our enemies (aka evangelize our enemies), and it's a good idea now. This approach sort of sidesteps the whole question of whether Israel is "the Holy Land" still, whether we are supposed to align ourselves with Israel and against Israel's enemies, eschatological viewpoints, etc., but it may be more influential towards someone who is hopelessly skewed in the sidestepped issues.

September 19, 2006 at 1:30 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home