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Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary at Multnomah University.
Posted 6/18/13 at 6:39 PM | Paul Louis Metzger |
I am thankful for the midwives who helped us bring our children into the world. They didn’t create our kids or magically pull them out of thin air. They coached my wife and me as my wife took deep breaths and pushed them into the world while I held my breath, praying to Jesus all the way.
So many people today look at Jesus as a midwife, not God incarnate. Even those who view him as an incarnation don’t view him as the one and only incarnation of God. None of this is new. Søren Kierkegaard observed this trend in his own day. Kierkegaard spoke of this trend as “the Socratic view,” which he witnessed in aspects of Hegelian thought. On this account, Jesus is a midwife, like Socrates, helping humanity bring forth what has always been there within it, albeit implicitly, namely, its own participation in the divine nature. I shared Kierkegaard’s argument on this subject today in my theology class. You should have seen the looks on people’s faces, as they were giving birth to thought. FULL POST
Posted 6/17/13 at 2:55 PM | Paul Louis Metzger
I remember Dr. John M. Perkins once saying, “There’s no such thing as a sophisticated Christian.” I have never forgotten those words. Dr. Perkins wasn’t saying that people should be simplistic or unskilled in their work. What I think he was saying is that people should be simple and pure in their devotion to Christ and other people.
My father was a simple man. In contrast, I grew up wanting to be sophisticated, and I wished my dad were that as well. How I longed to be marked by near-omniscience and hailed as a sage by my peers! While I have never received such accolades, one person was convinced early on that my father was one of the brightest men who ever lived: one of my nieces once boasted as a child to those at school that her grandfather (my dad) knew so many languages. She had witnessed as a little girl how he would strike up conversations with people from different countries. This impressed her. But she didn’t seem to know at that time that Dad knew only a few words in each of those languages, and that he was out of his depths once they responded. It gave my dad great joy to speak a few words of Japanese or Polish, for example, and watch Japanese and Polish people’s faces light up when they heard him speak to them. My dad had a way with a few simple words of greeting and with making people’s days brighter wherever he went. FULL POST
Posted 6/11/13 at 6:20 PM | Paul Louis Metzger |
I was going through a very difficult time in ministry and was facing some overt persecution. In sharing some of my angst with one of my closest friends and ministry partners, he referred me to Jeremiah’s lament recorded in Jeremiah 12 and God’s response recorded in verse 5: “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?” Jeremiah had gone through an intense time of suffering and persecution on account of bearing witness to God’s Word in calling the people of Jerusalem and Judah to repentance. God responded by saying that harsher battles awaited Jeremiah. I believe God desired for his servant Jeremiah to view his present persecution as testing ground for greater spiritual warfare which was to come.
I don’t know if Jeremiah got frustrated with God for challenging him in this way. All I can say is that my friend often frustrated me when he lovingly challenged me to have greater confidence in God in the midst of my sufferings in and for the faith. The problem was not with my friend, but with my thick head and cold heart. For whatever reason, though, this time his words broke through and made total sense and led me to trust God in the midst of my very painful circumstances. My friend encouraged me to see my own sufferings as preparation for future challenges in taking on bigger prophetic assignments in response to God’s leading, if I would respond in faith and trust in the midst of my suffering in the present. While I may never experience the kind of persecution that Jeremiah faced for obeying and sharing God’s Word, I can have confidence that God will meet me in my hour of need. FULL POST
Posted 6/10/13 at 5:34 PM | Paul Louis Metzger
Holding firmly to biblical truth makes us more relevant as Christians, not less so, as we become more open handed, not closed fisted. My friend, Brian Considine of the Mission America Coalition (See www.EthnicEmbraceUSA.net), reminded me of this truth when he recently wrote, “As a conservative Biblical Centerist I grow weary of the unthinking nature of what passes for Conservativism in the US today. If we don't start to line up our political philosophy with Biblical truth Christianity will only slide more into irrelevance.” Brian was responding to a post I wrote on immigration reform.
We often tend to think that conserving or holding firmly to biblical truth will lead us toward cultural irrelevance. What struck me about Brian’s response was his conviction that holding firmly to biblical truth will make conservative Christianity more relevant. Why is this? No doubt there are many reasons. One reason was noted above: holding firmly to biblical truth causes us to be more open handed rather than closed fisted toward those in need. Being closed fisted closes us off from being engaged in these people’s future, thereby making us irrelevant to them and to God. FULL POST
Posted 6/6/13 at 11:53 AM | Paul Louis Metzger
I have joked that I am leading a Demon track, not DMin (Doctor of Ministry) track at the seminary where I teach. This is no reflection on my students, but on me. In fact, as I will share, there is hope for my track because of my students!
Perhaps the DMin Director’s little boy has picked up on the banter his father and I have engaged in regarding the wording DMin and demon in various settings. Regardless of where he picked up on “demon,” his Dad shared on Facebook about how his child was troubled over the fact that he was messing around with the dark side. My colleague had to assure his son that it was not demons he was working with, but people getting doctorates in ministry.
Those of us in ministry have to be on guard against being demons unleashed on the world to lash out and inflict pain. Those of us pursuing advanced degrees in theology and ministry must ask ourselves why we are doing it. As I have written elsewhere, while I have benefited greatly from getting a Master of Divinity degree, I will benefit all the more from being mastered by Divinity. The former does not necessarily lead to the latter. Nothing is spiritually guaranteed either with acquiring PhDs in theology (I fear that at times the abbreviation does not convey doctorate in philosophy/theology, but as someone once remarked “Pile it high and deep”) and DMins. FULL POST
Posted 6/3/13 at 2:07 PM | Paul Louis Metzger
My family and I went out to dinner last night in Portland with Dr. John M. Perkins and his young assistant, Thad. During the dinner conversation, we spoke about Dr. Perkins’ long life, his pain and struggles bound up with justice, and his eventual passing into the presence of the Lord (he’s been talking about that topic more often the past few years). The elderly though full of life Dr. Perkins quipped that “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.” On the way home from the dinner, my wife and I laughed at how true the statement was. We find people all the time who claim in one way or another that they want to go to heaven, but do not want to die. The same holds true for us.
Some people don’t want to die because of the pain they associate with death, or the uncertainty of what follows, or the fear of impending judgment based on having lived poorly, or because they love this life and the people around them so very much. There are many other reasons. No matter the reason or reasons, there is a good chance we all think about the end of our lives and what might await us. That’s something we all have in common with Dr. Perkins. What I’d also like for us to have in common with Dr. Perkins is living life well before God and with others. Surely, like us all, Dr. Perkins has some regrets. But those regrets pale in comparison with the rich relational accomplishments he has achieved. FULL POST
Posted 6/3/13 at 1:58 PM | Paul Louis Metzger
Most of us cringe when we hear a knock on the door and see a salesperson there. We often have a similar distaste for the prospects of visiting a car lot as we try to buy a new or used car. It’s not that we aren’t interested in purchasing products; it’s that we don’t want to engage certain kinds of salespeople—those geared toward hard sales. Hard sales salespeople follow a predetermined script with the goal in mind of getting us to buy their product, and quite possibly at the expense of our wants and needs. For these salespeople, it’s about the ABC’s of hard sales: always be closing, like Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry, Glen Ross, as he pushed the company’s salespeople: “Always Be Closing.” FULL POST
Posted 5/28/13 at 7:51 PM | Paul Louis Metzger
For those who still haven’t watched the movie, you might find here a spoiler or two.
Pulp Fiction is one celebrated, complex, multi-faceted, and troubling gangster movie. Celebrated in that it is considered one of the greatest movies of our time, complex in that the scenes do not go in chronological sequence and the dialogues are often rhetorically robust, multi-faceted in that there are multiple stories within the story, and troubling in that the foul language, drugs, violence, and sexual perversion are dark and heavy. It’s the kind of movie that one may watch again and again in order to get what’s going on and to see movie making at its best.
John Travolta plays one of the gangster hit men in the movie (Vincent Vega). He said of Quentin Tarentino that he would always be Travolta’s guardian angel for raising his career from the dead with his role in the film. Speaking of guardian angels, what strikes me most about Pulp Fiction is Samuel Jackson’s hit man character’s (Jules Winnfield) brush with death and how he is convinced that he and his partner (Travolta) were the beneficiaries of divine intervention. Travolta doesn’t appear convinced. Just like society as a whole, the jury’s out in the film on whether divine intervention is fact or fiction. FULL POST
Posted 5/28/13 at 7:24 PM | Paul Louis Metzger
I took my kids to see the movie 42 today. The movie is based on the real life story of baseball great Jackie Robinson, the first African American baseball player in the major leagues. Robinson wore the number 42 for the Dodgers. As I understand, the number 42 is the only number that has been retired for all major league baseball teams; it was retired in honor of Robinson and the values for which he stood. That doesn’t mean that racism has retired. Ongoing vigilance is key.
A few weeks ago, I was asked after preaching a sermon on justice what I believed the number one justice issue facing the American church and society is. While I cannot say that there is only one all-important justice/injustice issue, I did say that addressing racial concerns is high on the list since racialization (i.e., the impact of race on various domains) impacts so many spheres in American society today—from health care to job placement to where people live. The list goes on and on. And so the work to undo the racist policies of the past and their ongoing influence goes on and on. FULL POST
Posted 5/23/13 at 5:24 PM | Paul Louis Metzger
We Christians need to be on guard in our understanding of such movements as contemporary Paganism. We tend to lump all of modern Paganism into one general and distorted category. We often fail to account for the vast complexity within the movement and articulate Paganism accurately. For all our concern about pagan idolatry, we may be guilty at times of making their idols for them. We need to develop the practice of respect for understanding their practices, rituals, and beliefs.
The Apostle Paul was a very nuanced Christian thinker. He understood the world of ancient Paganism and respected the Romans and Greco-Roman culture enough to understand carefully what they practiced and believed. As Paganism lost ground in the ancient world with the rise of Christianity, a sophisticated understanding of pre-Christian or pagan religions also lost ground. Unlike many Christians throughout the ages, Paul understood that idols were not to be identified at every turn with pagan deities. In Acts 17:16-34, we see that he (like many ancient Pagans) understands that the statue to the unknown God is not a god, but that it represents or can represent God beyond the idol. The same goes for Paul’s reflection on idolatry in 1 Corinthians 10. The idols to which food was sacrificed were nothing, even though in his estimation, the idols were associated with demons (1 Corinthians 10:14-22). In other words, Paul was able to distinguish the material object from what he understood to be a demonic presence. FULL POST