Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Method

MT 24:35, MK 13:31, LK 21:33 – “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
I ask myself a lot of times, “Why are we so protective of the way we do things?” Sometimes I get the thinking that, we are more method oriented then message oriented. Shouldn’t we change the method if we’re not getting the message through? I don’t think we should be afraid of attempting new strategies if the current is not working anyway.

In one perspective, I believe the Bible passage on top can be interpreted as, “It’s ok to change the program, as long as you do not dilute my message in any way.” I once came across a quote, “The method may change, but the message remains the same.” I don’t have any idea who quoted this, however it spoke a million words to me.

We all know that Jesus came to save the lost. Now let’s take a look at our churches and see if drug addicts and prostitutes are filling up the seats/pews. In most churches, it’s usually the same God fearing people who worship. I believe every church has done something or the other to bring these brothers and sisters to Christ and have succeeded in many ways. Praise God for out-reaching churches, however, there are too many of these newly born again Christians who turn back to their old ways because they cannot digest the way the spiritual food is served to them.

When such things happen, the church is found saying, “Maybe it’s not the acceptable year of the Lord for them yet.” Some are even declared, “Unripe for the Gospel.” Is it them or our way of delivering the message? Time goes by and they die of suicide and over-dose. Why do we portray ourselves as, “Blameless?” We were, we are and we will always be as believers commissioned to make disciples as is written in Mathew 28:19. If so, why is it always their fault? Isn’t it time we take the blame and change the method?

The parable of the Fig Tree in Luke 13:6-9. The farmer who came along and saw a beautiful fig tree took a deeper look. It had grown well, but there were no figs! Much of our work, not just in church but in our mission field works (for missionaries), has somehow reached a high status, but there are no disciples. The farmer in this parable ordered to cut down the tree because it bore no figs even after a reasonable time had elapsed and much work had been done.

It will hurt to change our programs, especially for all the money and effort spent and hoping against hope that very soon it will bear fruit. But too often, ‘very soon’ has stretched to lifetimes costing souls meant for heaven to hell.

Think on this, the tree that bore no fruit was cut down, what about a church bearing no disciples? (I don’t think you need to ask God for an answer! He’s already given you the biggest brain of all living things proportionate to your size.)
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Siami said...

pic cu van nalh ve kan in a i siam kha ni mo, i kut khi a hriat eeeee.
Thu pawh that khi.

Joey Zorina said...

Hi Chico,

Thank you for asking me my opinion on this.

# First, it's good to know your heart is set on the things of God. Don't let anyone stop you from blogging. You seem to have put tremendous effort in coming up with this. I commend you a job well done.

# Second: the hard but crucial part of offering you constructive criticism (meant to build you up and not tear you down. I sincerely think you can do a better job in interpreting the Scripture. You seem to have done an eisegesis rather than an exegesis. It's one thing to quote Scripture and say what you want to say over it; it's another thing to explain it (or exegete) and apply it to a particular situation or context. We must work hard not to read into the text our predisposed and preconceived conclusions. Note: Contextualization does not mean we minimize the authority of the Scriptures.

One other thing, when you said:"In most churches, it’s usually the same God fearing people who worship." I empathize with your sentiments here; but it might have been better had you added or mentioned that: "Sin is an inner disease that is a zillion times more deadlier than any killer viruses. Sin is not what we do, necessarily, but sin is who we are by nature. Sin is not merely our moral failings; but sin is deeper than drug addiction or prostitution etc."

When we talk about the Church, it's important that we stop flailing at the branches and put the axe at the root of the tree. So I am anticipating that you will dig deeper prayerfully and thoughtfully as you communicate the burden that you carry.

Lastly, I once wrote a paper in 2007. I hope it will encourage you to have a balanced perspective on doctrine and methodology; as it relates to your post here.

Over the centuries, various Christian traditions have been prone to emphasize either the incarnation/humanity of Jesus or the exaltation/divinity of Jesus at the expense of the other. Liberals and their Emergent offspring generally prefer the former, while conservatives and fundamentalists generally prefer the latter. On this matter we must be careful to avoid reductionism whereby we embrace only part of the truth and in so doing undermine it altogether. Here is my conclusion; an excerpt from that paper.

A Two-handed Approach: Incarnational and Exaltational Christology.

What I am advocating for is a two-handed approach to Christian ministry. In our firmly closed hand we must hold the timeless truths of Christianity, such as the Solas of the Reformation. In our graciously open hand we must hold timely ministry methods and styles that adapt as the cultures and subcultures we are ministering to change.

Practically, this means churches must continually ask questions about their use of technology (e.g., web sites, MP3s, podcasts, e-mails, musical style, dress, verbiage, building aesthetics, programming, and the like). we must ask questions like: Are we being as creative, hospitable, relevant, and effective as possible to welcome as many people as possible to connect with Jesus and his church?

I am not advocating for relativism, by which truth is abandoned and all of life and doctrine is lived out of an open hand. Rather, I am arguing for relevant-ism, by which doctrinal principles remain in a closed hand and cultural methods remain in an open hand.

The problem is that most Christians and Christian ministries have only either an open or a closed hand. The result is relevant heresy among some liberals and irrelevant orthodoxy among some fundamentalists. Both groups fail to contend and contextualize equally; fundamentalists largely only contend, and liberals largely only contextualize. The Bible itself models this two-handed approach by giving us four Gospels. Each Gospel is written both to contend for the truth of the person and work of Jesus and to contextualize that truth to varying cultural groups so that the gospel is most easily understood by people in that culture.

Gripped by Grace,

Andy Varte said...

With all due respect, as an aspiring social scientist myself, I feel that Mr Joey here is complicating a simple matter. With regards to his 2nd point: I believe Chicco here is not guilty of eisegesis (ie the act of misinterpreting text by introducing one's own ideas). The Bible, the Scripture is there. It is laid out for everyone to see. However, we find denominations within the Christian fold itself because our interpretation of the text is different. This is because as human beings it is impossible to say that this or that is the right way of interpreting it - there is no Supreme Court for religious texts.

We are all apart of society and our interpretation of ideas and concepts are inevitably influenced by the values which society has taught us since the moment of our birth. This hold true for religious beliefs as well.

With regards to the "Sin is a killer disease..." part, I agree. However, although sin is deeper than drug addiction, drug addiction itself is a sin! Rather, a very significant and important incarnation of sin! Hence it becomes necessary on the part of the church to address this problem and not just blame it on the 'inner sin'.

I believe it is important that we interpret the Scripture in a constructive way, which I believe Chicco has done here. The first thing that is taught in Social Sciences is that Society constantly changes - as such, it becomes necessary for institutions such as the Church to facilitate this change lest it starts to fail in its purpose of bringing sinners to Christ.

And finally, kudos to Chicco for a great post. Excelsior!

Chicco said...
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Chicco said...
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Chicco said...

You guys are so kind, thank you all. Thanks for your constructive criticisms, compliments and encouragements.
Just one thing, look at the third paragraph, first line, "In ONE perspective....." So, it doesn't mean this is the only revelation of the scriptures mentioned. So maybe this sentence can moderate the argument on eisegesis and exegesis.

Joey Zorina said...

With regards to biblical exegesis, interpretation of the Scripture is hardly a “simple matter.” Inherent in culture are the values with which we interpret various ideas I agree. However, our worldview changes by process as born-again people whose minds are renewed by the Holy Spirit.

Eisegesis [ < Greek eis- (into) + hègeisthai (to lead)] is what's being done when someone interprets the Bible according to notions that were born outside of the Bible. It's when we read stuff into Scripture. Borrowing what someone said from a missiological perspective and then applying that to mean what a certain text is saying is an eisegesis. (For instance, the idea of the United States as a "Christian Nation" is the creation of egos who boast over being powerful. It has no basis in history or fact, although the nation was founded by Deists, but more importantly, it has no basis in the Bible. Thus it arises from eisegesis. Yet some leading US politicians and pastors interpret the Bible through this notion.)

To some extent, social scientist are right in saying that eisegesis is unavoidable. We don't come to the Bible with a blank slate. A lot of living and learning went into each of us. If we really bring our whole selves to the study of the Bible, all our societal norms and values in us will and should have an impact on how we learn from the Bible. So I am keenly aware of this.

Here's where prayerful obedience and discipline comes in, for the Spirit rewards hard work and harder prayer (which is an integral part of growing in our understanding of the Bible). The hard work uncovers what the Bible is telling us, and the obedience sets aside the ideas we cherish so that we may take on the Bible's vision. The same living and learning that would have made us do an eisegesis of the text instead becomes the raw material for re-visioning our lives and thoughts (hermeneutics) in the light of what the Spirit reveals in Scripture (exegesis).

Exegesis, on the other hand [Greek exègeisthai (to interpret) ex- (out) + hègeisthai (to lead). Related to English 'seek'.] is to interpret a text by way of thorough analysis of its content. In its most basic Bible-relevant meaning, exegesis means finding out what the Spirit originally was saying in the Bible passage through its author. This is hard work! A spiritual laboring of the inmost soul.

My deepest concern and warning as a young theologian is that if societal values or cultural norms are the only means with which we interpret Scriptures, without careful analysis of the texts; the result as we have seen in the past and will continue to see in Mizoram or in global Church history is- ignorant heresy, cult groups and so on –because of their prejudices and preconceived ideologies that distorts their interpretation and misapplication of the Scriptures etc.

" an act of love. It means loving the one who speaks the words enough to want to get the words right. It is respecting the words enough to use every means we have to get the words right. Exegesis is loving God enough to stop and listen carefully." -- (Eugene Peterson,author of MESSAGE BIBLE in *Theology Today*, April 1999, p.10 )

At the end of the day, as long we can agree with the essentials: That Christ died and rose again to atone for sinful humanity; we may squabble over the non-essentials and still love one another as Christ did.

Jesus loves you guys! :)

Chicco said...

Joey, thanks for the detailed comments, must have spent some time there buddy.
Well as far as I’m concerned, being aware, maybe not fully but aware all the same of eisegesis and exegesis, these things are to me of very little importance as compared to the Gospel I’m to preach. It is the concept of the subject itself that I want to bring out. Where in the Bible does it tell us that believing in John 3:16 is not enough to save us? And yet it’s just one verse and the purpose of the whole scripture.
I believe we need to balance our every move.