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Posts by Rut Etheridge III

Distance Education

If you were told that a friend had suddenly become ill to the point of death, would you not do everything you could to get to your friend as soon as possible, especially if you knew it was within your power to help your friend survive the sickness? Would you not literally leap at the chance to also spare your friend’s family the pain of seeing their loved one suffer and die, especially if that family was also dear to you? Of course you would go; of course you would help! Why? Because you love those people. But when Jesus was told this kind of news about His friend Lazarus, the all-powerful Savior did not rush to help. In fact, He deliberately delayed His arrival on the scene, allowing Lazarus to die and breaking the hearts of those who called for His help. Why did Jesus delay? For the same reason you would not delay: Because He loved those people. Read more

An Unconditionally Conditional Faith – (reposted by request)

Note: This series of blog entries was lost in the transition to GenRef’s new format. I’m reposting them one by one by request. Special thanks to http://www.theacquilareport.com for keeping the links up!)

Imagine that you and a Christian friend you’ve not seen in a while are taking a theology class together. The teacher hands out copies of the Apostle’s Creed and asks the students to sign them if the Creed accurately represents their beliefs. Happy to codify your Christian convictions, you sign your copy. However, you notice that your friend is busy making marks on his paper. You watch as he places an asterisk beside each statement of the Creed. He places one final asterisk at the bottom of the page and writes next to it: “These beliefs are subject to change.” Read more

(Dis)ingenuous – part three of a GenRef series on Emergence Christianity

The day after your long and sometimes troubling conversation with your friend, you decide to seek counsel from the teacher of the theology class you’re taking together. You knock on his office door and he greets you warmly. He takes several books and a loose pile of papers off a chair. You sit, impressed at the library surrounding and towering over you.

The professor notices your looking around, glad that you apparently appreciate his collection. “Some of these books are centuries old” he says with a wistful smile, and then he chuckles. “Sometimes I think that my truest friends are dead people!”

Slightly unnerved, you ignore the disturbing ways that statement could be understood, focusing instead on the reason for your visit. You tell the professor about your friend, including as many details as you can remember of the Emergence Theology (ET) which has so captivated him. “Ah,” the professor begins. “So that explains the asterisks on the Apostle’s Creed.” Read more

Understanding E.T. – (Emergent Theology, not the alien!) – part 2 of a GenRef series…

Imagine that you are back with your Christian friend, talking in the hall after the theology class you’re taking together. You inquire about his placing asterisks on his copy of the Apostle’s Creed. “Yeah” he begins sheepishly. “Maybe the asterisk thing was over the top, a bit too in your face, and I don’t mean to be like that. Although it was funny when the prof read it and spit out his drink!”

You ask your friend what happened to his faith since you saw him last. After a minute’s reflection, he replies: “I stopped worshiping the idol of epistemic certainty.” Recognizing that the conversation is about to get very philosophical, you invite your friend to the Mars Hill of postmodern America: The local coffee shop. Read more

An Unconditionally Conditional Faith

Imagine that you and a Christian friend you’ve not seen in a while are taking a theology class together. The teacher hands out copies of the Apostle’s Creed and asks the students to sign them if the Creed accurately represents their beliefs. Happy to codify your Christian convictions, you sign your copy. However, you notice that your friend is busy making marks on his paper. You watch as he places an asterisk beside each statement of the Creed. He places one final asterisk at the bottom of the page and writes next to it: “These beliefs are subject to change.” He signs the paper and, with a smile, asks you about the concerned look on your face. Read more

Bold or Brazen?

When does bold faith cross the line to become brazen presumption? It is easy as Christians to lose sight of that line, especially when we or those whom we love are hurting. Humble-hearted Christians will sometimes “claim” that a disease is healed, that a relationship is restored, that a job is secure because they have firm faith that these things will be so. They trust in the God who rewards those who “diligently seek Him” by faith (Hebrews 11:6); they trust that God’s plans for His people are for good, and not for harm (Jeremiah 29:11); therefore, they trust that strong, Christ-centered conviction will win from this generous God the particular good which they desire. While well-intentioned, this understanding of faith and therefore of faith’s object is deeply injurious to people who promote it and to the sometimes desperate hearts who receive it as good news concerning their hardships. Read more

Whatever, part … whatever…

In the previous entry, we considered Paul’s willingness to give up “whatever” in order to gain a right standing before God, a standing only attainable by faith in the risen Christ (Philippians 3:7-12). Now we consider the reason why Paul and every other believer in history is brought by God’s grace into that standing. Contrary to the impression unintentionally given by popular approaches to evangelism, gaining a proper standing before God is not the culmination of a person’s spiritual journey; it is the beginning. After all, the purpose of standing is not to stay still. We stand in order to walk. Paul’s having gained Christ prepared him for his pursuit of Christ, and made him willing to walk right into and through…whatever. Read more

Whatever …

What do you desire most in life? And how much are you willing to give up in order to gain it? Is there anything about which you’d say: “I would give whatever it takes, without condition, without exception. To get that, I would give, and I would give up… whatever.” Read more

Texts Over Which To Weep

Does God ever seem cruel to you as He’s portrayed on the pages of Scripture? You come across something God says, does, or commands His people to do and you cringe, thinking: “Is God really like that? Is this as bad as it seems? Is He as bad as this seems?” Certain depictions of God seem to violate the very instincts of love and justice wrought in believers by the Holy Spirit. What sense are we to make of this struggle of sentiments within us, each of which claims to represent the true and living God? Read more

“But what about him?!”

Have you ever had a burden so heavy on your heart, a duty you knew you had to perform, that its weight altered your view of the rest of life and of those who surround you? Suddenly, every song you hear taunts you. Every gust of wind against your cheek is a slap in the face. Every smile aimed your way provokes not a grin, but a growl: “Put that smile away! If you knew what I’m facing, you’d weep!” And has that pressure forced from within you feelings of envy and even bitterness toward people whose burdens seem so light compared to what’s crushing you? The Apostle Peter received news from the Lord Jesus which surely could have made him feel this way. Read more

The Indispensable Expendables

A good friend told me that upon leaving a congregation he had served as pastor, he had two fears: 1.) That everything would fall apart without him. 2.) That it wouldn’t! Now nearly three months removed from my own pastoral work in Pittsburgh, I can identify.

Pastors are called to pour their lives into the people whom they serve (Philippians 2:17) – We are called not only to preach to the people, but to be with them – through the week, through their joys and sorrows. After having that privileged access to their lives, these dear people become hard to leave! Pastoral affection runs deep. But subtly, what is meant to be selfless service and affection can twist in the direction of self-worship. A pastor may come to believe, without admitting or even recognizing it, that peoples’ spiritual wellbeing depends upon his being their pastor. While telling the people to depend upon Christ, he may secretly want them to depend upon him. Read more

Shady Interpretations

Why is it that two Holy-Spirit filled, Christ-loving, Bible-believing Christians can come to very different conclusions on the very same passage of Scripture? The same question applies to Christian denominations (and non-denominational churches) divided by differing teaching. Different doctrine results from differing interpretations of God’s Word. Such fractures among the faithful are frustrating; they run like ruptured veins through the body of church history and they continue to pain the church today. How can we come to collective clarity in our view of God’s Word? Read more

Paul’s Agony

Christian conversation about pastoral ministry often includes the expression “a pastor’s heart,” but what does that expression actually mean? Though Scripture may not use the exact phrase in question, it absolutely answers questions about the nature and the practical proof of pastoral affection. Read more

For Whom The Bell Toils . . .

Rob Bell is back, and the critiques of his latest work are coming in.  I’ve not yet had the opportunity to read What We Talk About When We Talk About God, but I’m starting to peruse the reviews.  Having read and taught concerning his previous work, I know that Bell’s claims about Christianity must be taken seriously and answered seriously.  It is precisely that fact which causes me to cringe a bit regarding the reviews of his most recent work.  So far, they seem to follow the typical pattern of analysis and refutation, which is well and good.  But, similar to the last batch of critiques, they contain an element which subtly but substantially undermines the otherwise helpful work within them.   Read more

The New You …

Were you you when you were converted to Christianity?  Or, asking about the same idea from a different angle:  Are you you subsequent to your conversion?  Every Christian should answer with a resolute “Yes!” and “No!”  That’s the Bible’s answer.  As such, it is an ancient, unequivocal answer bearing not one iota of influence from postmodern sentiments about truth.  So what does this answer mean?  How does it make sense?  Let’s take our cue from Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17.  Read more