Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tyranny of the Tithe: Pro Tithing Quotes

As many of you know, I’m not a tithing advocate. I’ve written about the topic many times over the past year, explaining ad nauseum the Scriptural problems with the teaching. However, I do like to pay attention to the various pro-tithing voices out there (and they are losing ground, by the way).

I ran across the following quotes that typify the pro-tithing mindset. I grew up in a tithe-teaching church, and have spent all of my adult life ministering in pro-tithing churches, and I’ve heard this type of talk many, many times. Even taught it myself a time or two:


"Tithing is an important test of our personal righteousness."

"By this principle it shall be known who is for the Kingdom of God and who is against it... By it shall be known whether we are faithful or unfaithful"


Who said these things? Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church.

Was Jesus Wealthy? - Part 2

In a previous post, I dealt with some of the ideas put forth by prosperity preachers that Jesus was, in fact, a wealthy man. The impetus for these posts comes from an article at CNN.com that you can find here.

Biblical and historical ignorance are on full display every time one of these Ministers of Materialism opens his or her mouth. There was so much I wanted to cover, I decided to split it up into 2 posts.

The argument for Jesus’ affluence continues:



[The Rev. C. Thomas] Anderson says Jesus never would have had disciples or a large following if he was poor. He would not have been able to command their respect.
"The poor will follow the rich, the rich will follow the rich, but the rich will never follow the poor," Anderson says.



But, what about Martin Luther King? And Mahatma Gandhi (who wore a diaper)? The article points out that they amassed quite a following without being paragons of opulence.

The Scriptural record is clear that the people followed Jesus because of the healing and the teaching. He taught things the religious establishment of that day did not. He offered hope in the form of reconciliation with God – something they cherished back then, and that seems to be lost on society today.

But this assertion points to a more troubling problem I have with the prosperity movement: the idea that we must ascend to greatness (i.e. material wealth) in order to be effectively used by God. This betrays a worldly and covetous heart, and it flies in the face of Biblical truth:




1Co 1:26-29 NIV Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. (27) But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (28) He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, (29) so that no one may boast before him.




I pray that the peddlers of prosperity would spend less time feeding their flesh, and more time meditating on the Word of God.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Was Jesus Rich?


The prosperity preachers are really reaching in order to justify their religion of opulence. For years they’ve been spouting the nonsense that, contrary to centuries of understanding, Jesus was a materially wealthy man.

You see, they have to assert this falsehood in order to legitimize their own right to wealth (after all, they are the King’s Kids). This affluence is also available to their followers, who are willing to plant a fully deductible faith-seed into their ministry.

This article from CNN.com does a good job presenting both sides of the argument that Jesus was wealthy. Here are some quotes:


[Rev. C. Thomas] Anderson says Jesus couldn't have been poor because he received lucrative gifts -- gold, frankincense and myrrh -- at birth. Jesus had to be wealthy because the Roman soldiers who crucified him gambled for his expensive undergarments. Even Jesus' parents, Mary and Joseph, lived and traveled in style, he says. "Mary and Joseph took a Cadillac to get to Bethlehem because the finest transportation of their day was a donkey," says Anderson.

This is an example of blatant biblical ignorance coming from a supposed Man of God. Even a cursory glance at scripture will show that there is no mention of Mary and Joseph taking a donkey on their journey. That’s just the stuff of legend used to fill out a nativity scene at Christmas time.

Also, regarding the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, it’s widely agreed that these “lucrative gifts” were used to finance their trip to Egypt (remember that – fleeing from the murderous King Herod?). Presumably, Joseph had no carpenter clients in that area, so they would have used the gifts to live on during that time.

As for the soldiers gambling for His clothing? Records from that era show that this was a typical practice. Roman soldiers routinely gambled for any intact garment of a crucifixion victim. What wasn’t typical, though, was the crucifixion of the wealthy. This torturous death was reserved for the despised slaves and rebels.

More on this in the next post.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The New American Religion


According to a nationwide survey, lots of people like to blend Christianity with Eastern and New Age beliefs.

You can read the LA Times article here, but here are some quotes:
About a quarter of those surveyed expressed beliefs in New Age or Eastern religious principles such as reincarnation and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects.

About 65% of those surveyed also expressed belief in or report having an experience with a variety of supernatural phenomena, such as believing in astrology, being in touch with the dead or consulting a psychic.

S. Scott Bartchy, a professor of the history of religion at UCLA, said the results were not surprising given the increasing cultural diversity of the United States.

Regardless, Lichterman said, Americans have the idea that religion and spirituality are a matter of choice.

"That kind of religious individualism," he said, "is the American religion."


This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to the direction the American church has been taking for the past – oh, I don’t know – 10 years or more? I know I’ve been speaking out about it for over half that time.

I’m afraid that evangelists, pastors, and teachers across the continent have failed in their mission. When America’s pulpiteers abandon biblical preaching in favor of ear-tickling entertainment, the masses are left to fend for themselves.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

100th Post Special Extravaganza Lollapalooza

Well, this is my 100th post. Quite a milestone considering I had no idea what I was going to do with a blog when I started. I’ve decided to interview myself and ask some questions I’ve been dying to know the answer to!

Why did you start this blog?
At the time I was the Associate Pastor/Youth Pastor at a local church here in Roanoke, and I was looking for another way to connect with the people in the congregation there.

And you’re not in the ministry anymore?
Nope

Gonna be again?
Not any time soon.

Why do you still call the blog Pastor Kip, seeing as how you’re no longer a pastor?
Well, I hope some of my reflections will serve as a pastoral help to those who read my blog. Plus, I know it really irks some people.

That’s not very Christian of you.
So I’ve heard . . .

Why do you write?
I write about things that interest me – that I find amusing. I’ve always enjoyed sharing things I like with others. I also find writing to be a catharsis to help me sort out how I feel about certain things, and to sound off on personal pet peeves. I’m not always right, and I may not always say things the right way, but I try to be absolutely honest in what I write – even if it ticks some people off.

But you’re such a sweet guy, have you ever ticked anyone off?
Oh, yes. I’ve had to remove two of my posts because of the furor they incited – one got me accused of blasphemy (I’ve reposted that one here) and one even became the subject of an entire church board and council meeting.

I didn’t know you had that much power . . .
Me neither!

What’s the future of Pastor Kip, the blog?
Pretty much the same. I’ll continue to write about religion, pop culture, sports, etc. Now that I’m no longer a part of the church machine, I’m freed up to express my raw feelings about things, so it should get pretty interesting.

Any final words for your readers?
Yes. Thanks for taking time to care about what I have to say. Don’t take me too seriously (Lord knows I don’t), and feel free to disagree. I can handle it. I even change my mind from time to time.

Thanks for the interview.
My pleasure.

Don’t forget to call your mom.
Oh, thanks!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Video: Top Dollar Tithing Tunes

Here's the video I posted a few months back that had some accusing me of mocking and ridiculing Christianity. I took it down because of the criticism. However, on further reflection, I've decided to repost it. The mockery is not of Christianity, but the avarice that defines so much of what passes for "Christian stewardship" today.

Plus, it's just plain funny.

Truth is, this video was made by the folks at GodWhy for a sermon series on things people don't like about church. Maybe we could set aside our self-righteousness, stop taking ourselves so seriously, and learn something.




Article: Vatican Newspaper Praises "The Simpsons"

Wow - didn't see this one coming! Here's the scoop:


According to Catholic News Service, the Vatican paper went on to describe "The Simpsons" as "tender and irreverent, scandalous and ironic, boisterous and profound, philosophical -- and sometimes even theological -- nutty synthesis of pop culture and of the lukewarm and nihilistic American middle class."

"Simultaneously reflecting modern people's indifference toward and great need for the sacred, Homer ... finds his ultimate refuge in God."

You can read the entire article here.

And to think I was once chastised by my pastor for referring to The Simpsons during a youth message . . .

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Priest Says Shoplifting is Okay - Seriously

The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that on Sunday, the reverend Tim Jones told his congregation at the Church of Saint Lawrence in York that it was okay for poor people struggling to survive to steal food and other essentials from stores.

Here's more from the article:


"My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift," he said, as originally reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post. "I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither."

Jones set down strict guidelines for would-be Christian criminals. "I would ask that [people] do not steal from small, family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices," he said. "[And] I would ask them not to take any more than they need, for any longer than they need."

Needless to say, the reverend Jones has come under some serious fire from authorities and storeowners alike.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Modern Youth Ministry Labeled "Indisputably Unbiblical"


In a recent conference, Scott Brown, director of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, claimed that modern youth ministry is "indisputably unbiblical."

Here are a few tidbits from the article:


Age-segregated youth ministry, trained youth ministers and programs to draw and entertain youth are a new invention in the history of the church, Brown said.

"Modern youth ministry is also inherently destructive in its impact. It divides the church by creating generational division and multiple cultures instead of a unified 'body,'" he maintained.

. . . age segregation leads to the isolation of an individual's perspective to one that only looks outward from within the confines of their age group and excludes the lessons that can and should be learned from previous generations," he adds.

The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches holds that the biblical order and unity of the family are crucial to the stability and health of the Church of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, churches have contributed to the breakdown of the family, the center claims.

"We now have almost three generations of children who had no father who walked beside them but a youth group instead. It is obvious that half a decade of youth group does not produce young people who are passionate about the church."

Research and estimates by youth workers have suggested that a majority of youth group seniors drop out of church after graduating.

Brown is quick to point out that while he rejects youth groups, he supports ministry to youths. He advocates generous investments in teaching Scripture to teens.

Having been a part of the church machine for the past 25 years or so, and most of that spent in youth ministry, I have to say that – for the most part – I agree.

I don’t have a problem with teens having their own group, but I’ve seen it go way too far – to the point where teens don’t know what to do with themselves after they graduate and are no longer a part of the “youth group”.

I also don’t have a problem with burping contests, and snot shot contests, and all those crazy things, but I’ve seen those become the soul purpose of the youth ministry. In all my years, I always strove to teach solid Biblical doctrine to teens while allowing them to have fun on their own terms. And, all in all, it worked pretty well. The main emphasis, however, must be the Biblical presentation of the gospel and discipleship.

And Brown hits a home run with his indictment of the failure of families (and fathers in particular) to teach Biblical truths in the home. That, in fact, is the Biblical pattern.

MacArthur on the Prosperity Gospel

Randy, over at the CrossTalk blog, has posted an excerpt from a John MacArthur message regarding the prosperity teaching so rampant in the church today. With a fervor for the truth of Scripture, MacArthur speaks out strongly against the shameful practices and teachings of the TBN network in general, and Oral Roberts and Paul and Jan Crouch in particular.

Here’s the excerpt in full:

And for anyone who simply bothers to compare Jesus’ teaching with the health-and-wealth message, it is clear that the message that currently dominates religious television is “a different gospel; which is really not another” (Galatians 1:6-7), but a damnable lie.

TBN is by far the leading perpetrator of that lie worldwide. Virtually all the network’s main celebrities tell listeners that God will give them healing, wealth, and other material blessings in return for their money. On program after program people are urged to “plant a seed” by sending “the largest bill you have or the biggest check you can write” with the promise that God will miraculously make them rich in return. That same message dominates all of TBN’s major fundraising drives. It’s known as the “seed faith” plan, so-called by Oral Roberts, who set the pattern for most of the charismatic televangelists who have followed the trail he blazed. Paul Crouch, founder, chairman, and commander-in-chief of TBN, is one of the doctrine’s staunchest defenders.

The only people who actually get rich by this scheme, of course, are the televangelists. Their people who send money get little in return but phony promises—and as a result, many of them turn away from the truth completely.

If the scheme seems reminiscent of Tetzel, that’s because it is precisely the same doctrine. (Tetzel was a medieval monk whose high-pressure selling of indulgences—phony promises of forgiveness—outraged Martin Luther and touched off the Protestant Reformation.)

Like Tetzel, TBN preys on the poor and plies them with false promises. Yet what is happening daily on TBN is many times worse than the abuses that Luther decried because it is more widespread and more flagrant. The medium is more high-tech and the amounts bilked out of viewers’ pockets are astronomically higher. (By most estimates, TBN is worth more than a billion dollars and rakes in $200 million annually. Those are direct contributions to the network, not counting millions more in donations sent directly to TBN broadcasters.) Like Tetzel on steroids, the Crouches and virtually all the key broadcasters on TBN live in garish opulence, while constantly begging their needy viewers for more money. Elderly, poor, and working-class viewers constitute TBN’s primary demographic. And TBN’s fundraisers all know that. The most desperate people—”unemployed,” “even though I’m in between jobs,” “trying to make it; trying to survive,” “broke”—are baited with false promises to give what they do not even have. Jan Crouch addresses viewers as “you little people,” and suggests that they send their grocery money to TBN “to assure God’s blessing.”

Article: The War on Christmas

Every year we hear the battle cry, "Don't take Christ out of Christmas!" and we know the Christmas wars have begun once again. But here's an article that explores the battle fronts taking place in areas other than the hallowed manger in Bethlehem.

Here are a few quotes on a few different topics:

Economics

In his book, "Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays," [Joel] Waldfogel says gifts generate less satisfaction than things we buy ourselves. We don't really know what other people want, he says, but we do know what we want. Because of this, in his view, Christmas shopping is "an orgy of wealth destruction" as we spend on things people don't value as much as the money we pay for them.

"I'm not against spending, just sloppy spending," Waldfogel said on NPR's Tell Me More.


Health

Last week, Australian public health expert Dr. Nathan Grills of Monash University was called a "killjoy" and a "scrooge" in the media for an article he wrote suggesting Santa Claus was promoting bad health habits. The article, called "Santa Claus: A public health pariah?" was published at bmj.com, a British medical journal, and suggested that Santa was sending the wrong message with his obesity, drunk sleigh-driving, speeding and generally bad lifestyle choices.

Grills also said Santa could easily become a vehicle for spreading disease because he allows so many children to sit on his lap. Factor in all the sugary products he helps sell, he added, and the man in red is clearly not pushing a healthy agenda.

Editor's note: Grills later said the article was a spoof he wrote in his spare time.

Environmental

As Christmas trees went up and light displays started flashing around the world, some people cringed at the thought of the electricity required to light the season.

Many of these light detractors suggest swapping out traditional Christmas lights with LED (light-emitting diodes) strings, which can be 90 percent more efficient.

While using LED lights may be a step in the right direction, some point out that many of those lights still end up on carbon-eating trees that have been mercilessly chopped down.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Selling Jesus

Here’s an interesting article about one of my pet peeves: Christian Marketing. Ever since I saw Testamints (breath mints with Bible verses on them) at my local Christian retailer, I’ve been cynical about the selling of what church marketing consultant Brad Abare calls “Jesus Junk”.

In this article, Abare nails it:

"We think it's just dumb. It's not a true reflection of creativity," said Abare, of the nonprofit Center for Church Communication in Los Angeles.

He’s speaking specifically about the current t-shirt trend where widely recognized logos such as Subway, iPod, American Idol, and Coca Cola are altered to contain, upon closer inspection, Christian themes.

“Reese’s” becomes “Jesus”.
“American Idol” becomes “Amazing Grace”.
“Sprite” becomes “Spirit”.

Some are going beyond the creativity criticism and questioning the copyright infringement. Aren’t these clever religious marketers violating the eighth commandment – thou shalt not steal?

My main concern is that these cheesy, banal rip offs will cheapen the message of Scripture. How are we to take seriously the idea of a loving God giving his only Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins against His holiness, when we see Him referred to as “My Homeboy”?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Lesson Learned From Tiger

The Tiger Woods saga is a cautionary tale. As more and more women come out of the woodwork, and Elin moves out, and Tiger steps away from golf for a while, it’s good to remember that while a wise man learns from his mistakes, a wiser man learns from other people’s mistakes.

Let’s face it, we’re not billionaire athletes and our personal sins will not be plastered across tomorrow’s headlines. The world at large does not care about our transgressions.

But our own little spheres of influence will care. That illicit relationship, that shady financial deal, that shameful habit, these will not remain hidden. And the secret things that invariably come to light will affect our own little world of family, friends, and peers.

The Bible puts it this way in Numbers 32:23:

. . . you may be sure that your sin will find you out.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tyranny of the Tithe: Paul, the Law, and Biblical Ignorance

Several months ago, a local church leader asked to meet with me about my tithing articles. He was complimentary and even said it caused him to consider changing the way he teaches the subject at his church. Then he made the statement that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while.

He said that after thoroughly reading Paul’s writings in the New Testament, he observed that Paul only rebuked Christians for following the Law of Moses when they made it necessary for salvation. He concluded that Paul was okay with New Testament Christians observing the Law (including tithing) as long as they didn’t take it too far. I nodded along as he spoke, but I wasn’t sure at the time if I agreed with the statement.

Now, I’m sure I don’t. In fact, I fear that argument may reveal a grievous error of attempting to force the Scriptures to fit a predetermined agenda.

Over and over again Paul exhorted Christians to not observe the Law. In Galatians 5, regarding those were tempted to return to the Law, Paul tells them, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Burdened? Yoke? Slavery? Do those sound like the wishy-washy words of a guy who wasn’t all that serious about the issue?

Paul goes on to say, “. . . if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.” He even says that if a Christian chooses to obey the Law regarding circumcision, he is obligated to obey the entire Law. It’s not something to deal with lightly – there’s no pick-and-choose option with the Law.

Furthermore, to teach a congregation that it’s proper to obligate oneself to any part of the Law is to separate them from the grace of God – see Galatians 5:1-4.

Some would say, “Well, I just want to follow the Law so I can please God.”

Sorry. The Scriptures make it clear that following the Law – even if you could do it perfectly – would not please God. That kind of attitude, when boiled down to the basics, is self-righteousness. The only way to please God is to come to Him by faith through the blood of Jesus Christ.