Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Relevant": A Careless Word

"Relevant"- a word pervasively misused in the church, commonly revealing a manipulation of Truth, intentional or not, to become acceptable, even enjoyable to people.

"Relevant" should define that which is pertinent, or that which connects to the matter at-hand. Sadly, within many Christian communities it has come to mean something very different. "Relevant" now defines that which is simple, easy to comprehend, and something that an individual would want to hear.

Here are some common examples. A brief response follows each example and translation:

"Relevant teaching".
Translation: "We want to make sure that everyone likes the message, so we will avoid challenging material and will use cultural hot-buttons."
Truth IS relevant! We cannot make it more so. Furthermore, Truth is challenging; we often do not want to hear it because of what it makes evident. "But all things being exposed by the light are made evident." (Ephesians 5:13) Teach Truth, not relevance!

"We make the Gospel Culturally Relevant".
Translation: "We bend and shape the message (Truth) to make sure that people receive it well".

The human condition is universal, not cultural, and the Gospel, or Biblical Truth is the only solution to the human condition. We can familiarize ourselves with a culture to better relate to it, but the Gospel will always be and has always been relevant to all people in all cultures! Truth cannot be molded or shaped. To do so is to part ways with Truth.

"Relevant worship".
Translation: "We want worship time in Church to sound good and to give people an enjoyable experience."
As opposed to "irrelevant worship?" No such thing exists. If it is irrelevant, than it is not worship. All true worship is relevant.

Many who use this word remain unaware of the accompanying assault on Truth. Its usage signals an attempt at lowering Christianity to meet the people, instead of having people rise to Christianity. It is MAN who must change, not the Truth. "Relevance" ignores this concept.

Beware of the word and use it with care.


28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why is it that you write in such agressive manner?

One piece of advice. Develop close relationships--it'll give you some perspective on life and help prevent you from becoming lonely and misanthropic.

-Jenni Peters
Dallas Theological Seminary

PS. I started reading this blog for a theology class on Christian theology where we focused on sectarianism and fundamentalism. I actually started with "the constructive curmudgeon" and moved onto this blog. I must say that you both come across as very angry, and that our group really feels passionately about the problem that "persecution complexes" create for the Church. Most people with this mentality feel alone and isolated. I'm sure that you're a great person; try to go out and have fun once and a while. Now that my semester is over I can speak freely.

Also, I noticed one comment about DTS. You might find that we are a bit "liberal" for your tastes.

Sarah Scott said...

Jenni,

I do not appreciate your tone, especially from a sister in Christ.

Secondly, you seem to be mistaking "aggression" for providing counter arguments to poor ideas which may or may not be detrimental to the Christian worldview. The "persecution complex" you (and Kevin, for that matter)claim seems to be similarly in response to my desire to expose and think through poor ideas.

As far as your "advice", I have close friends who I discuss ideas with and learn from daily.

If you are accusing me of being a fundamentalist with a persecution complex, then I must ask you what brand of fundamentalist you are assuming I am. Being extremely familiar with Dallas Theological Seminary, I am no more a fundamentalist than many of the fine DTS professors.

If you are accusing me of being sectarian, then you misunderstand my goal of a thoughtful blog. My evangelistic ministry, on the other hand, is primarily focused on the relationships outside of cyberspace which you assume I do not possess. The weakening of American Christianity, my friend, is not due to outside influences, but due to some Christians' seemed animosity toward reason and the intellect.

Anonymous said...

Jenni-As someone who knows Sarah very well, I can tell you that not only is she funny and fun-loving, but people are actually drawn to her friendliness and cheer. You misunderstand the purpose of her blog. Don't try to psychoanalyze people you don't know.

Susan

Anonymous said...

You are certainly welcome to reject everything I've said. I'm sorry that my tone was not appreciated, and I think that you should extend that courtesy to others.

Now as for our groups interaction with fundamentalism/sectarianism that's a tricky answer as the terms are amorphorous. But let me indict myself and my institution first. I don't think many DTS students would disagree that there are fundamentalist strands within the school, expect perhaps for the BE dept. And as you know, most students don't see eye-to-eye with many of the historical creeds (e.g. rapture) and historical persona (e.g. rejection of modernism) of the school. I need only reference Woolvoord and Pentecost as paradigmatic examples of schismatic fundamentalists; the list continues. Places where this lives on include Chafer, Masters, etc...

What brand are you? You are similar to Woolvard and Pentecost.

Since I'm sure you've read literature from these professors you'll notice that their tone is agressive, patronizing, and absolutist. I rarely have seen you use the subjunctive tense on this blog. If you can't admit that you don't exemplify these traits (at times) then it may not even worth pursuing a conservation anymore. It simply won't lead anywhere.

If you do decide to go you should take a class with Kreider. You'll probably be very angry (at first), but with your astute mind and depth of reading I'm confident that you'll grow in Christ and become much more broad and appreciative of various traditions and perspectives.

I'm glad that you have close relationships. I hope they are based upon intimacy rather than the mere exchange of abstract ideas.

Jenni

Don't be afraid to admit your weakness, academic shortcomings, pride, etc... you'll feel free and you won't feel the need to defend yourself on every single point all the time.

Susan: thank you for coming to her defense. You may very well be correct; and if so, she should present her as she is. The blog, in its present form, confused our group of 4 in this respect. Perhaps, then, she should recognize that other audiences might be confused too (e.g. Kevin). ALL readers should walk away from the blog and see that she is a loving and funny person, and although she disagrees with many at this point, one should also think that she loves them.

Tim said...

Jenni,

George Will once asked William F. Buckley how he managed to turn out an unending stream of editorials. Buckley replied that it was really quite simple: "Every few days, the universe annoys me."

It isn't a bad way to get into writing -- or blogging, as the case may be.

Like some others, I'm a bit baffled by your unsolicited and aggressive comment. If your back is up because you feel protective about postmodernism or the Emergent movement -- and I'm conjecturing here since you really don't provide any context that might explain your outburst -- then please consider the possibility that people can object to these things, even object strenuously to them, without being "fundamentalists" in a pejorative sense.

I have not, myself, read any of Pentecost's work, and "Woolvard" doesn't ring any bells at all. But if Kreider's teaching is inducing his students to post unsolicited and unfounded psychoanalyses of people they have never met on the grounds that those people display "anger," he is doing his students a disservice both morally and intellectually.

And if he by chance is sidling up to postmodernism, then I would say unequivocally that he is guilty of academic malpractice.

Anonymous said...

Tim:

To what degree are your dalliances with apologetics based upon an inerrantist reading of the Bible?

And, how much formal biblical training do you have? Can you read the Bible in its original languages?

Tony

Sarah Scott said...

Tim,

Thank you for your always appreciated dose of rationality! :)

Jenni,

1) I am well aware of the internal battle taking place at DTS between those sympathetic to postmodernism and those who wish to preserve universal, objective absolute truth. If you are a follower of Christ and are, to use Tim's phrase, "sidling up to postmodernism", then I implore you to become more familiar with what that philosophy entails and implies.
I am not as familiar with Wolvard, but Pentecost (regardless of his famous/infamous eschatological views) is a Godly man who exegetes Scripture with utmost care, humility, and respect. So if I am similar to him, then thank you greatly.

2) You asked what brand I am, I am assuming you mean "of fundamentalist". I do not consider myself a fundamentalist at all. As for my brand of human? I am a Bible-believing Christ follower who strives to uphold God's absolute, universal, objective truth.

3) Because apparently you are a Christian relativist (a problematic title if I've ever seen one), you should have absolutely (ironic, no?) no problem with the fact that I disagree with your assertions. I am grateful that you are at least exposing yourself to opposing dialogue.

3) I will be attending Denver Seminary to study under Doug Groothuis who you also find to be "angry". I am hopeful that I will grow in Christ, but that is not marked by bowing to postmodernism as you seem to suggest: "you'll grow in Christ and become much more broad and appreciative of various traditions and perspectives". Smeems Emergent to me.

4) My blog is not my place to "show that I am a funny and fun-loving person". Here I directly deal with the issues and ideas we are faced with. There is a time and a place for everything. Though often I use humor, I am sorry you did not detect it.

Tony,

Thank you for a fine example of "linguo-intellectual snobbery". The ability to read Scripture in the original languages is no doubt a wonderful asset, and is useful for textual criticism. However, outside the realm of textual criticism, in no way do linguistic skills give you the ability to reject arguments merely because the person giving the argument does not read Koine Greek or Aramaic.

Anonymous said...

i am not a relativist. i just don't think people should be overly dogmatic. because i appreciate different traditions besides 20th century fundamentalism doesn't mean i'm emergent. i just don't think the emergent church is heresy. Sure, McLaren is untrained in the Bible--but so too are most of his critics (with the exception of D. A. Carson, who also said N. T. Wright was a heretic). Let me repeat this: I am not a relativist, nor am I emergent, nor am I a postmodernist. Why are you so suspicious?

BTW: the Bible was written in Koine Greek and Hebrew. Only a few chapters were written in Aramaic.

Being able to read the Bible doesn't correlate to linguistic skills, nor is it only helpful in textual criticism. It allows you to do exegesis. Take a look at some of your future professor's hermeneutics book. He argues that they are essential to making a good argument.

Maybe Tony is incorrect by question Tim's ability to even make an argument. But, according to Blomberg, one cannot make a strong scriptural argument.

Tim: I'm curious about how you answer Tony's question without wangling your way into a red-herring.

Lastly, Pentecost won't call on women in class because he doesn't think they should study at a seminary. I think he's a chauvinist pig. He also thinks that black people should have never been allowed in. But that's besides the point.

Jenni

Anonymous said...

Blomberg.

My note: "ALL readers should walk away from the blog and see that she is a loving and funny person, and although she disagrees with many at this point, one should also think that she loves them."

your response.

"show that I am a funny and fun-loving person"

I wish you would have commented on the more important issue: being loving.

Sarah Scott said...

Jenni,

You continue to miss the point.

It is, however, apparent that you enjoy having a forum to promote your ideas. I recommend you start a blog of your own.

I also recommend that you read TRUTH DECAY by Dr. Groothuis, as it is the best and most comprehensive treatment of postmodern thought available.

It has become clear that you are not keeping track of your own argument, since in your last post you refuted yourself. Nothing more will be said on the matter from my end.

Best

Tim said...

Tony,

If you're going to sit on the sidelines under the cover of anonymity and take pot shots thinking that I'm obliged to respond, you're sadly mistaken. That's just rude.

If you want to find out what I know and don't know so that you can criticize my qualifications, the least you need to do is to come out with your real name and your academic credentials and make an argument.

Tim said...

Jenni,

I can tell you feel passionately about Pentecost's positions. Have you ever gone to his office, one-on-one, to ask him what his beliefs and positions truly are -- and what his reasons are for the positions he actually has?

We all know it's easy for people to misunderstand each other and that unfounded gossip spreads like kudzu on a Georgia road cut. It may be that Pentecost believes just what you say he does. But it may not. Why not cut out the grapevine and ask him in person?

Anonymous said...
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Sarah Scott said...
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Sarah Scott said...

Chris,

If you would like to restate your requests in a polite and mature manner, then you are welcome to. Until then, your comments will be deleted.

Anonymous said...

Sarah:

Would you mind posting your SAT scores? I'm rather curious. Thanks!

Chris

Justin said...

Ah, Chris, good to have you back. Reading your posts is like reading the intellectual equivalent of a drive-by shooting with a squirt gun. Here's hoping that when you come around again in several months, you will have actually grown up.

Thanks for playing.

Justin :)

Anonymous said...

I fail to see how asking for SAT scores is such a juvenile behavior. Colleges ask that question, and many use is as a quick intelligence assessment. In anycase, I found your sardonic wit entertaining! Nothing is funnier than cutting humor. (It's also a clever rhetorical move because it confuses the issue, which in this case, is a simple question). Well done!

Sarah: "Would you mind posting your SAT scores? I'm rather curious. Thanks!" (again)

Chris
PS. My scores weren't very good.

Tim said...

Chris,

From your first post on this blog, your purpose has been perfectly plain: to assert your own intellectual superiority by pouring contempt on others. Your persistent attempt to find out Sarah's SAT scores is simply obnoxious. Give it up.

Suppose for the sake of argument that your fantasies are right and that her scores, or mine for that matter, were low, or lower than yours, or lower than those of the average Harvard student. What would that prove? Are you assuming that people who haven't scored high on the SAT have no right to blog? That their opinions are prima facie unworthy of consideration? That the best way to discredit their ideas is to pick at their prose style? That it is morally acceptable for obsessive and terminally narcissistic undergraduates to cyber-stalk them?

You're obviously dying to tell the world all about your SAT scores and daring them to voice theirs and compare them to yours. So here's an idea. Instead of dispensing unsolicited advice here, go start a blog of your own. Post your SAT scores prominently at the top -- GRE, MCAT, and LSAT scores too, if you have them. Mention that you're a student at Harvard. Invite the world to come and bask in your brilliance. People who want to know what you think can come over and comment there. People who don't, won't. And you won't look like such a jerk.

Anonymous said...

Tim:

Let me ask you a question. Be honest.

Have you ever asserted your academic background? Have you ever appealed to your depth of study?

If so, don't be a hypocrite. You may have appealed to your study and I am appealing to superior intellect. You may ask if this is valid. It is valid in this respect.

The tone of this blog is one of intellectual superiority. Sometimes that attitude needs to be truncated in proportion to one's true intelligence.

Your other rhetorical questions are not on target (they are interesting, though).

I know that it is ironic for me to act as a jerk while accusing another of the same. But such is life!

Chris :)

Tim said...

Chris,

You're missing the point -- deliberately, I suspect. In fact, you're missing several of them.

First, Sarah owns this blog. It's up to her to post what she likes, to engage in discussions as she sees fit, and to ban cyber-stalkers at her discretion.

Second, there is a difference between stating one's credentials and research in a particular field in the course of a discussion where what is in question is one's qualification to speak on a particular subject to which those qualifications and that research are germane, on the one hand, and making a naked claim to "superior intellect" ab initio for the purpose of ... well, for the purpose of making a naked claim to superior intellect.

If you had even once said something interesting in your comments -- if you had engaged in a substantive discussion of any of the issues raised on this blog, even if that was a polite and articulate dissent -- I would have a far higher opinion of your intellect than, in the event, I actually do. But your monomaniacal focus on your own alleged intelligence is obnoxious and precludes any serious discussion.

You suggest that the tone of Sarah's blog is one of intellectual superiority. My counter-suggestion, for which I can muster a great deal of evidence by trawling through your comments here, is that this is a classic case of projection. Sarah is earnest, she is frustrated by some trends she sees in contemporary culture, both Christian and secular, and she is trying hard to articulate her concerns. Sometimes she has even taken down and rewritten a post in order to clarify it in response to a commentator's polite interactions. But she has never made a claim to intellectual superiority, she has never bragged about her college, and she has never challenged anyone to announce his SAT scores.

Take a day off and reflect on the fact that SAT scores, useful as they are for predicting college success, can be overrated. Consider the possibility that an ability to score well on heavily g-loaded tests may be less than perfectly correlated with wisdom, insight, or the pursuit of truth. Then get off your high horse, apologize to Sarah for being such an ass, and say something substantive, germane, and interesting.

Sarah Scott said...

Thank you, Tim! I've been on vacation and away from the computer, but I don't really need to say anything more!

O.K., I will say ONE more thing.

I am leaving Chris' posts up because Tim's responses are so good that they deserve proper context. ;)

Anonymous said...
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Sarah Scott said...
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Anonymous said...
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Sarah Scott said...

Chris and Jenni will be deleted unless I see some polite, astute, or constructive comment attached to their names (Chris, you actually had a decent question in there but its framing warrented deletion).

Sarah Scott said...

By the way, I recognize that "warrented" needs to be changed to "warranted".

Anonymous said...

Tim:

"Second, there is a difference between stating one's credentials and research in a particular field in the course of a discussion where what is in question is one's qualification to speak on a particular subject to which those qualifications and that research are germane, on the one hand, and making a naked claim to "superior intellect" ab initio for the purpose of ... well, for the purpose of making a naked claim to superior intellect."

I read your paper on the resurrection and it is clear that you are unfamiliar with New Testament scholarship, and more imporantly, that you have never actually worked with the sources. Hebrew and Aramaic are only related as Canaanite languages. Do some readings in these languages and it'll give your paper a little depth, and even some interest, to someone other than a layperson. Use primary sources--not tertiary ones. But to give you credit, atleast you don't cite J. McDowell like J. P. Moreland.

Please don't write about that which are unqualified. It makes Christianity look silly.