Friday Culture


Fellow Church Planter Jim Powell writes:

Weak Christian?  That I am, but my friends call me Jim.  Actually, the rhetorical question should read, ‘Strong Christian?!?!’  Is there is even such a thing?  There is not.   “For he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”   – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Sometimes when there is a misunderstanding between two people I have been known to say, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” When we describe others as “strong Christians” (certainly we would never describe ourselves this way), we may not mean something that contradicts what our brother Jim has stated on his blog. You may even respond, “But I didn’t mean it that way.” No matter, words have meaning. What kind of message are we sending to the unsaved in our community when we use lingo such as “strong Christian?” What kind of message are we sending to Christians immature in their faith and are not well grounded in the Scriptures? “Ah”, you say, “see, someone who is grounded is strong.” Are they? Is being a mature Christian the same things are being a strong Christian? I would say not. A toddler may not be as mature as a teenager, but he may be very strong. An adult may be mature, but weak physically or in some other way. Maturity is not the same thing as strength. Our strength as Christians depends on our weakness because this is where God’s strength is displayed. If we are going to reach our culture with the gospel, it is imperative that we see ourselves as we really are…as weak Christians. 

Yesterday, I was speaking to a brother and friend on the phone and he keyed me in on this book by Robert D. Putnam. The book is titled Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. What is interesting is that this book is written from a totally secular perspective. The very idea of community is foreign to most people today, especially those in the church. Here are a couple of “factoids” from the Bowling Alone website:

1. Joining and participating in one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year.

2. Every ten minutes of commuting reduces social capital by 10%.

3. Watching commercial entertainment TV is the only leisure activity where doing more of it is associated with lower social capital.

The website says that social capital is “the very fabric of our connections with each other” and says that this fabric has plummeted. It is clear that God created us to need to be in community with other people. The gospel and the church is all about community. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way those of different races, economic classes, nationality, etc. can come together for genuine community as being people who have experienced a common faith (Gal. 3:28; Jude 3). If we aren’t experiencing and practicing and living community in our churches, then we are missing a key element of the gospel itself.

In recent years our nation has been overwhelmed with tragedy. All you have to do is hear the words Columbine, 9-11, or Virginia Tech and immediately you are transported back to the images of the events on those dreadful days. This week another such event sent shockwaves all over the United States and perhaps the globe as fifty plus cars were sent plummeting into the Mississippi River as a bridge on a major highway in Minneapolis gave way almost instantaneously. The last time I checked there were five people confirmed dead with at least twenty more missing and assumed dead. Most of us have viewed the horrible video footage taken from a security camera as our hearts dropped when the bridge and vehicles fell before our very eyes. It is a great tragedy, but is it the greatest tragedy?

This may come as a shock to you, but over 150,000 people die every single day. That is one person every 1.8 seconds. Death is not a surprise. All of us will die unless the Lord returns. Death is not only not a surprise to us, it is certainly not a surprise to God. In fact, our deaths are appointed by God Himself [Hebrews 9:27]. Here lies the greatest tragedy, that following our appointed death comes the judgment. As John Macarthur has so well said, “The tragedy is not that people die untimely deaths, the great tragedy is that people die and enter a timeless eternity without Jesus Christ in hell.” Events like 9-11 and the bridge collapse should remind us all of the words of Jesus, “Repent, or you will likewise perish.” Repentance and faith in Jesus alone will not keep you from dying in this life, but it will keep you for perishing forever in hell.

 In the news of late are the new Bible action figures that will soon hit the market at your local Wal-Mart. No doubt “Christians” from various denominational backgrounds will rush to purchase these “family friendly” toys for their children as an alternative to Harry Potter, Transformers, Spiderman, and even G.I. Joe. David Socha, founder of one2believe (who is producing these toys) states, “We can’t let this exceptional opportunity just pass-by! We need to raise awareness of this opportunity and encourage others to support us as well.” What opportunity is he talking about? The opportunity to glorify God through the proclamation of the Gospel? The opportunity to elevate God’s Word as Holy and Sacred? In his own words, “This is a chance to let our voices be heard. By supporting this program we can send a message to other retailers and toy makers letting them know that we, as a Christian community, are truly concerned about the toys that our children play with! We are aware of the influence that toys have on our young children’s impressionable minds, so we would like to see more God-honoring options available. It’s a “Battle for the Toy Box”!” While this sounds good, are these toys truly the way to honor God, or just another way to slip away into our “Christian bubble”. They have their toys, we have ours. Are these toys really a good idea? Are they really family friendly? Is it really toys that are causing kids to grow up into little pagans? “I don’t know, me and Billie Jean did everything we could to raise our kids right, it was those blast darnit’ toys that did them in!”

The Trivialization of the Historicity of the Bible

I know, that is a mouthful of words. However, they are necessary words. What happens when you market Bible characters alongside of other fictional action figures like Spiderman and Superman? This reduces the historical accounts recorded in Holy Scripture to nothing more than a fun fairy tale or the latest action adventure which isn’t really true, but it sure is nice to pretend once and a while that it is. These action figures are not causing this kind of thinking necessarily, they are a barometric reading of a culture that already views what they read in the Bible as “nice stories” but not history. Of course the marketing of these toys has nothing to do with history at all. If you would look carefully at the first picture I posted, this is actually an ad that features Sampson fighting Goliath. Perhaps just a little confusing?

The Misunderstanding and Poor Application of Sinful Men and Women as the “Heroes” of the Bible 

One thing is sure when watching a Superman movie or a Spiderman movie: You know who the hero is. The danger of these “action heroes” is that they may fuel the fire of an already confused plethora of children and parents. The Bible has one hero, God. David is not the hero of the Bible, Paul is not the hero, you get the point. In the New Testament, the hero is Jesus Christ alone. Yes, they do have a Jesus action figure that talks to you and is poseable according to the box, but this doesn’t elevate Jesus as the hero, it places Him on equal standing with all of the other “hereos”. This is what the Corinthians were doing when Paul admonished them:

1 Corinthians 3:4-5 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.

Here is the description of the Jesus “Messenger of Faith” figure from one2 believe, “A long time ago, God sent His only Son, Jesus, from heaven to Earth. He was born to a woman named Mary and a man named Joseph. His earthly parents raised Jesus until He became a man. Then, He left them to travel all around the land. He helped lots of people by teaching them, healing them and performing many miracles!” Is that all Jesus did? There is no mention of the cross or the resurrection or Jesus paying for sin on the website. This is typical of what my father in law calls “Christianity Lite.” If this is the story their talking Jesus tells the children who play with them, they will in fact be introduced to an unbiblical Jesus. I know, some of you may be thinking, “Wow, he sure is making a big deal of this, I mean after all they are just action figures!” You make my point precisely. That we have come to a place where Christians have no problem with the treasure that we have in the Word of God being represented by silly children’s toys proves that we have in fact trivialized the Word of God and missed the point on who is the central character in the entire Bible. The Bible is not a book that merely tells us about some cool people who had exciting lives that we can copy not only in our lives but now also as we play with action figures. The Bible is a book that tells us who God us. I once heard R.C. Sproul say that unbelievers greatest need is that they need to know who God is. He then said that the churches’ greatest need was to learn who God is. Amen to that. We won’t learn who God is by getting our kids to play with these new Bible action figures. In fact, this kind of trivialization of God’s Word may ensure that our kids never really learn who God is.