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April 02, 2008

Somebody Gets It

It's always heartening when I read something written by someone that reflects something that I've been saying for a long time. this LA Times opinion piece does just that.

Darwin fish annoy me as nothing else does. Maybe because I understand why the fish became a Christian symbol, and remember that people died because the believed. Or maybe because, as Jonah Goldberg says, Christians are an easy target for intolerance like this.

I find Darwin fish offensive. First, there's the smugness. The undeniable message: Those Jesus fish people are less evolved, less sophisticated than we Darwin fishers.

The hypocrisy is even more glaring. Darwin fish are often stuck next to bumper stickers promoting tolerance or admonishing random motorists that "hate is not a family value." But the whole point of the Darwin fish is intolerance; similar mockery of a cherished symbol would rightly be condemned as bigoted if aimed at blacks or women or, yes, Muslims.

Christians aren't rioting in the streets over Darwin fish. There are no official pronouncements decrying this co-opting of an ancient religious symbol. No drivers displaying Darwin fish have been targeted for elimination.

But the most annoying aspect of the Darwin fish is the false bravado it represents. It's a courageous pose without consequence. Like so much other Christian-baiting in American popular culture, sporting your Darwin fish is a way to speak truth to power on the cheap.

Darwin fish folks are trying to show the world their opposition to the "oppression" of organized religion. How about trading in that tired old Darwin fish for something hitting Islam? Oh, yeah -- Muslims will kill you for that.


Christians have died for millennia for daring to speak out against people who could kill them. We've practiced our faith in places where even owning a Bible meant death. We have the courage of our convictions -- well, at least most of us do (that's a post for another day, I think). If you really believe what you think is true, put your money where your faith is.

People of faith do it every day, all over the world. Atheists haven't yet. Guess that says something about conviction, doesn't it?

Yes, I'm in a foul mood. Inconsistency bothers me, no matter where it comes from. I have a lot more respect for an atheist who consistently lives by his convictions than a Christian that doesn't. Unfortunately, I find very few of the former, and a whole lot of the latter.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 12:05 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Two Posts that Answer Each Other

Over at Reclaiming The Mind Ministries' blog, Parchment and Pen, a reader has sent an email with a problem. Essentially, his pastor, who is an intelligent man, thinks that theologians are out of touch and irrelevant to ministry.

He equally shows disdain for Theologians and gets quite angry at terms like Calvinism, Arminianism, Vicarious Substitutionary Atonement, or anything other theology term. His feeling is that theologians are out of touch, have no ability to relate the concepts to people, and theologians in general treat the laity as simpletons.

Now, that's a problem. A big one, because theology is important for pastors to understand and be able to relate to their congregations.

But earlier today, I read a post that solves the problem -- even though it was written before the Pen and Parchment post! JT at Between Two Worlds mentions a post by Owen Strachan talking about theologian-pastors and pastor-theologians.

Just as we need "theologian-pastors" (by which I'm referring to theologically astute pastors), so also are we in great need of "pastor-theologians" (by which I'm referring to academic scholars who bring pastoral concerns to bear on their work). There is a gigantic need for exegetes, historians, theologians, systematicians, and philosophers who see their work as done, generally speaking, in service of the church. . . .

These scholars do not study, publish, and teach to pursue their own eccentric interests and doctrines, but to assist Christians in the task of understanding the Bible and its teachings as they apply to life and ministry.

This hits home for me. I love the academic aspects of seminary. I love the study, the writing, etc. But it's important to put this stuff into practice. Otherwise, it's a waste of time and effort.

I've always used the analogy of the sponge. There comes a point where the sponge becomes saturated -- can't hold any more liquid. Unless you wring the sponge out, it's worthless. Likewise, when we learn things, that knowledge is worthless unless we use it to help others grow closer to God. Academic research has it's role; it's not an end unto itself, but a means to an end. That end is to glorify God and edify His church.

Sounds like the pastor mentioned above ran into some theologians who forgot that, or never believed it to begin with. And that's the problem. The solution is a recovery of the role of theology in ministry, and a recovery of the role of the theologian in the Church.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 04:56 PM | Comments (767) | TrackBack

April 07, 2008

Spring Cleaning

I'm taking some time to clean up the blog, especially the sidebars. I'm going to add some social networking links to the sidebars (Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Twitter, etc.), and get rid of a few buttons (the SBC Bloggers thing is pretty irrelevant now, for example). I'm thinking about a redesign, which may happen this week, but I have to learn a bit about how some things work in Moveable Type. I may be eliminating some categories, combining some into a new category, or something like that. I've had this template ever since I moved to, and it's time for a change.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 01:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 09, 2008

My Twitter Addiction

Hello. My name is Warren, and I am a Twitterholic. And no, you won't see my name on that list. Yet.

What's Twitter? Twitter started as a way to keep track of people. In 140 characters, you tell people what you're doing, right then. You can Twitter from a desktop or a cell phone, and people who follow you get all your Tweets delivered to them.

It's become something more than that, though. Through strategic following, you can keep on the cutting edge of what's happening in technology in general, and in new media in particular. You can carry on conversations with people who you would never be able to in "real life" (a few weeks ago, I talked popsicle sticks with Michael Geoghegan). But more importantly, you can find out what's going on in whatever you're interested in.

Twitter right now seems focused on tech issues. But we're not just talking nuts and bolts here -- you can learn as much about how people are using technology as you can about the hardware and software that they're using. Scott Sigler, J.C. Hutchins, and other novelists talk about how they're using new media to promote their books. Must be working -- Sigler's novel Infection debuted at #1 in Horror at Any podcaster worth their salt is on Twitter, interacting with their fans and getting tips from folks like Geoghegan and Paul Colligan, whose post on his own Twitter habits inspired this one. And you can get good advice from people with all kinds of skills and backgrounds, if you just take the time to ask and listen.

There are some people who don't use Twitter well. There are a lot of people who have thousands of followers but only actually follow a handful, and that defeats the purpose. At least it seems like it to me. I follow almost everyone who follows me (the exception being a couple of obvious spammers). And there are people who wouldn't find Twitter useful; the main conversation seems to be Web 2.0 related, so if you're not doing that, your Twittering may seem a bit dull.

But I'm totally into the whole idea of new media. There's lots of promise in it, and there are a lot of people who are doing things with it that can only be described as groundbreaking. And those people talk about what they're doing on Twitter. They give advice on Twitter. They give support on Twitter.

And that's why I'm on Twitter. And in just a few moments, a link to this post will be there, too.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 09:37 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 13, 2008

Community As A Commodity: Selling a Twitter Account

The tech end of the blogosphere is abuzz. Andrew Baron, the founder of Rocketboom and all-around new media guy, is selling off his Twitter account, including all his followers (right now, 1,509 -- up from 1,397 when he posted the auction).

This presents us with a question, and it's a question that will probably be asked a lot as the whole idea of Web 2.0 and new media starts to mature. What is the value of a community? Is the community you build up a commodity that you can sell (and buy)? Or is it an asset that is connected with you that you can take with you? Baron is betting that people are going to think the former, even though he may or may not believe it himself. As he says at the eBay auction, "... as with any dynamic group, there is obviously risk. My followers could jump ship at anytime. There is no guarantee on this part. People will come and go, thats just the way it is."

So, as Sean Aune said at Mashable, you could be paying for an empty Twitter account -- which is something Twitter is giving away for free. Interestingly enough, I just noticed this craigslist ad. Baron is selling "guest Twitter" slots for $150. Sounds a bit like a guest blogging position, except you are paying for the privilege.

Me? I think that your community is an asset. A perfect example is Leo Laporte, and the success of the TWiT network of podcasts. Leo built up a following during his time on TechTV, and when he left they went with him. Now he's got an audience of thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands, listening to his podcasts. That community has value to him; it's an asset, in the economic/accounting definition of the word. And he's done a fabulous job of leveraging that community.

That asset may not have value to other people. It may not hold it's value - as Baron said, once the sale goes through, people may stop following him. It's not him anymore; the reason for the community no longer exists. Unless the community has developed into something beyond just followers of Andrew Baron, it will dissolve once the sale goes through. It seems to me that simply renting out the Twitter account would be both more profitable for Baron and more beneficial to his followers, since it looks like he's going to be selective on who he rents the account to, and his followers are more likely to stick around if they think that Baron will eventually be back.

I follow several big tech names in Twitter. Some of them actually follow me back. I follow them because I want to hear what they're saying, and if they stopped using Twitter and sold their account, I'd stop following them. Community is not a commodity, to be bought or sold. It's an asset to be managed, used, and taken care of. Unless Baron is trying to make a point with this (and I suspect that he is), he's taking his asset for granted. He may get some money for his account (right now the auction is at $760), but it won't be nearly what the community could be worth to him.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 01:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 22, 2008

Spread the word

This needs to be spread all over the Internet.

I don't care what your perspective on global warming is; it's wrong to misrepresent the truth to make your case about anything. And it's incredibly dishonest to misrepresent the statements and opinions of practicing scientists to bolster your arguments - I don't care what you're arguing.

Wikipedia is potentially a great resource, but it's things like this that make teachers (and academics in general) frown on it's use as a resource. Wikipedia needs to clean up it's act, and crack down on activist editors of all political and philosophical stripes.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 04:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name ...

Is the term "podcasting" dead?

I'm not asking is podcasting itself dead -- I know it's not. I produce two, and would do more if I had the time. I listen to a ton of them. Podcasting News just reported that podcast ads are 7 times as effective as TV ads. More people are listening than ever before.

I'm talking about the name. Is it finally time to retire the use of the word "podcast?"

I'm asking partially because of Podshow ... I mean, Mevio. I ask partly because I keep hearing that you shouldn't call yourself a podcaster if you want to attract advertisers; call it an Internet radio show, or Internet video show. "People think you have to have an iPod to listen to a podcast," they say. And they're not wrong - the first thing I end up explaining to people is that they can listen to my shows on their computer, or any other MP3 playing device.

This isn't the first time people have talked about changing the name, though I think now we've got a better reason. Last time, everyone was afraid that Apple was trying to trademark the term "podcast" -- even though they weren't, and would have had a hard time trying if they'd decided to do it. Now, it's a matter of trying to control perspectives -- as Mevio's Ron Bloom says, the term 'podcasting' seems to carry a connotation of amateurism with it.

I don't understand why we think something that's an amateur production is by definition bad. We send amateur athletes to the Olympics every few years, to represent their country and compete for medals. Amateurs do things every day that are of high quality -- sometimes better than so-called professionals. Amateurs do things out of love, out of passion; they're not worried about making money at it, or getting a paycheck. Does this mean they're less skilled? Ask Jim Thorpe that. Ask the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. Or better yet -- ask their competitors.

I admit that there are some pretty sorry podcasts out there, and I've produced a few episodes that I'm really glad are no longer on the website or the feed. And I think that Bloom realizes that as well; he's not saying that podcasters ARE amateurish, he's saying that the PERCEPTION is that they are. And that's important.

In every sales class I ever took, they told us that perception is reality. How a customer looks at you or your product is reality to them, and the people that they interact with. Their perception of our product is important, and we have to work to change it when it's unfavorable. That's why podcasters are calling themselves "internet radio hosts" or "new media journalists" or things like that.

And if you think about it, the Church is in the same boat. I haven't posted on Lifeway's recent survey concerning the decline of SBC churches, but this really ties in. We are carrying a lot of baggage that we don't deserve. Tell someone you're a Baptist, and the first thing they think of is the Westboro loonies. They don't think of an organization that's active in preventing the spread of AIDS in Africa, or fighting hunger in the inner city. They see people protesting abortion, but they don't see the homes that we open up to care for girls who have made a mistake, and don't want to make a greater one. They don't see the care packages that go to disaster areas. They don't see the SBC first response teams that head to hurricane victims' aid, that start the rebuilding process before the first FEMA trailer rolls into town.

We have to do a better job of correcting perspectives. That doesn't mean we turn every ministry opportunity into a PR moment, but it does mean that we show people more effectively what we do to help. We do it every day -- a hugh portion of every Southern Baptist church's offerings go to help fund these efforts. We do the things people expect; we just need to show it, and make sure that the dumb things we do don't obscure what we're supposed to be doing for the Kingdom.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 11:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 25, 2008

New Jesus Book

There's a new "Historical" Jesus book coming out next year (probably just in time for Easter '09) written by Paul Verhoeven -- they guy who directed "Basic Instinct" and "RoboCop." Don't let those stellar credentials fool you, though -- Verhoeven is also a member in good standing of that cabal of uber-scholars known as The Jesus Seminar.

As you can probably figure out, Verhoeven's book is far from orthodox.

Marianna Sterk of the publishing house J.M. Meulenhoff said the book includes several ideas that run contrary to Christian faith, including the suggestion that Jesus could be the son of a Roman soldier who raped Mary during a Jewish uprising against Roman rule in 4 B.C.

The book also claims that Judas Iscariot was not responsible for Jesus' betrayal, she said.

The movie director's claims were greeted with some skepticism among those who have dedicated their careers to studying the life of Jesus. One issue is that there is very little information about the life of Jesus outside of the Gospels. The Gospels as understood by Christians for nearly 2,000 years do not support Verhoeven's ideas.

Critics aren't impressed.
William Portier, a professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton, in Ohio, said the Jesus Seminar is known for making provocative claims, but "they are real scholars — you have to deal with them."

However, he said Verhoeven's ideas sounded "pretty out there."

And fellow Jesus Seminar members aren't impressed, either.
John Dominic Crossan, a Jesus Seminar founder, agreed. He said that while Verhoeven was a member in good standing, there is little evidence for the view that Jesus was illegitimate.

Crossan said the claim is first reported in a polemic written in the second century against the Book of Matthew, intended for a Jewish audience.

"It's an obvious first retort to claims that Mary was a virgin," Crossan said. "If you wanted to do a hatchet job on Jesus' reputation, this would be the way."

The most likely scenario for people who don't accept that Jesus was literally the son of God and had no human father is simply that he was the son of Joseph, Crossan said.

Academic study is important. I've always enjoyed the academic aspects of my seminary work - my dream job would be to teach historical theology and church history. But this story shows the problem with focusing on academic study without letting what you're studying actually impact your life. The really sad part in this case is that Verhoeven has taken some old theories that have been shown to have no basis in fact, and is writing a "new book" advocating them. He'll get a lot of attention with this, and sell a ton of books -- and none of the people reading this stuff will ever realize how old his ideas are, and how often they've been shown lacking.

The entire modern fascination with gnostic sources of Christianity and historic Jesus studies isn't even new -- more than a hundred years ago, people went through the same fascination with apocryphal texts and "hidden" Christianities. When people realized how much of it was without merit they started ignoring it, and soon it was all but forgotten. The Dead Sea discoveries in 1948 have triggered a new round - the modern fascination with it all dates that far back. And people have forgotten what we learned the last time. Any attempts to correct what's being said is considered "anti-intellectual philosophizing" by Christians who are feeling "threatened" by "new discoveries."

We've got some warning before this one hits American bookstores. I'm hoping that someone is already planning a book refuting Verhoeven's claims. If not, maybe we can just re-publish a few 100 year old books -- they seem to have done the job the last time.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 11:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Quote Of The Day

"If your blog regularly makes you enemies, that doesn't necessarily mean you're being persecuted for Jesus. It may just mean you're a jerk."

From a guest post from Abraham Piper, posting at Between Two Worlds. The rest of the post is great as well, but this line really stood out for me.

I may have to Tweet it ... ;-) {edit} Nope -- too long. Twitter has taken us from the 30 second soundbite to the 140 character soundbite.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 12:11 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 26, 2008

The John 3:16 Conference

This November at FBC Woodstock (a huge, iconic church in the SBC, and very influential nationally), they're having the John 3:16 Conference - a non-Calvinist's response to the Building Bridges Conference. I'm not going to criticize FBC Woodstock, or Jerry Vines Ministries -- I've been blessed by the ministries of both, and know people whose lives were changed by both. I want to look at both these conferences, though. There are some telltale differences between the two, and I think it's important to note them.

One of the things I noticed about the Building Bridges conference is that the speakers represented a broad range of opinions, and not all of them were Calvinists or favorable to Calvinism. Non-Calvinists presented on reasons that they were concerned with the increase in Calvinism in the SBC; Calvinists presented on why they thought that was a good thing. Theology was discussed, alternate viewpoints were presented, and a healthy debate was encouraged. Above all, cooperation was emphasized -- the last two sessions were on "Working Together To Make Christ Known." AND each session is available (for free) on the internet, to encourage the discussion to continue.

The John 3:16 Conference looks to be a fisking of the five points of Calvinism. I don't see any Calvinists listed as speakers, just the assertion that "This conference is not going to be a "Let's bash the Calvinists" conference. This conference is going to be a biblical and theological assessment of and response to 5-point Calvinism." It appears pretty one-sided in it's scope. And "There will be no live or archived audio or video of this conference via the Internet."

That is disappointing. It shows me that discussion and debate is not going to be encouraged in this conference - it's going to be a lot of "Here's what we say, you'd better learn it and learn to repeat it, because we're smarter than you are." It reminds me of the problems with the Ascol-White/Caner debate that was scheduled last year, that fell through at the very last minute.

People on both sides of the debate were encouraged by the Patterson/Mohler discussion at the Pastor's Conference at the SBC in Greensboro. There was potential there that both sides could learn to work together, and stop vilifying and misrepresenting each other. It looks to me like the John 3:16 Conference represents a giant step backwards.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 12:05 PM | Comments (96) | TrackBack

April 28, 2008

Jeremiah Wright

I've held off on this topic just because I was enjoying watching the religious Left squirm a bit. It's nice to see them having to deal with their own Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell figure, though I've been a bit disappointed that Wright's "America deserved 9/11" remarks seem to have engendered less outrage than either Robertson's or Falwell's. Guess there's still a double standard concerning outrage on the left.

I actually tend to agree with Mike Huckabee on the whole Wright controversy; any preacher can sound stupid/intolerant/whatever if you grab sound bites out of a 30+ minute sermon. On April 20, you could have gotten quite a sound bite from my own Sunday morning sermon -- "Those people are going to hell. They're getting what they deserve. Who cares?" THAT would have gotten me some press. Of course, the rest of the sermon was all about who cares, and as it turns out there are a lot of people who care, but the sound bite makes me sound like a Westboro Baptist member. So I think it's wrong (at best) to try to determine someone's theology based on snippets of sermon, and I think that's why Huckabee didn't release transcripts of his own sermons to the press.

That said, there was one remark that Wright made this morning that concerned me. He used John 10:16 to respond to John 14:6.

The question raised was, considering Jesus' statement that He is "the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me," whether Islam was a path to heaven. Tough question, considering the fact that many African-Americans are Muslim, and that many of them support both Wright and Obama (neither of whom are Muslim -- wanted to make that clear right off).

The question touches at the heart of the Gospel - is Jesus really it? Is Christ really the only way? And if so, what does that mean to all the otherwise good people who don't believe in Him?

Wright had what I call an Osteen moment. He had the chance to share the Gospel in front of millions. Not only that, but he had the chance to calm the fears of evangelical Christians that his church was somehow not really a Christian church. He could have done so much, but he decided not to.

He quoted another saying of Christ. "And I have other sheep that are not of this fold." And that would have been great, if he'd just used the whole quotation. Jeremiah Wright did to Jesus exactly what the news medai have been doing to him -- taken a part of a sermon, quoted it out of context, and made it sound like something that wasn't intended.

John 10:7-11 reads

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” Jesus isn't talking about people who don't believe in Him, who haven't trusted Him to save them. He's talking about people who are His own, who He knows as His own, who know Him, but were not at that time part of His flock. They are sheep that He is going to bring to Himself, so that there will be one flock, and one Shepherd. Jesus is not teaching that all religions will get you to Heaven, as Wright seems to imply. Jesus is saying that there are a lot of sheep out there that are His, who are not part of this Jewish flock that He's talking to. He died for them, too, and He will draw them in. They will hear His voice, and listen to Him. They will know Him as their Shepherd.

The Gospel is exclusive. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, and you know I hate it when people call me intolerant, but the facts are the facts. Christianity is an exclusive faith, and anyone who says differently is misinformed at best. Joel Osteen choked on the exclusivity of Christ, and now so has Jeremiah Wright. It's a struggling point and a stumbling block for many on the left side of religion, but it's still there, and Christians everywhere stake their lives on it.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 10:37 AM | Comments (1505) | TrackBack

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