The Redemption of All Things

So, I’m kinda excited and a bit scared. This is the first time I have ever responded to another blog on mine. I guess that makes me an official “blogger.” Now all I need are Star Wars sheets and to move back into my parent’s basement. That was a little humor for anyone worried about me. First, this is not a critique. It is a continuation and response to a friend of mine who recently posted a very helpful essay based on a sermon for the Church. I think he makes an excellent argument and it is well worth noting. Second, I am a natural pessimist, but I believe that all things can be redeemed. There is a lot of talk that “X is beyond fixing” in the culture, and I find that mildly, no, very disturbing. I find that to be an offense to the Gospel itself, to say something or someone is beyond redemption. The very heart of the Gospel is the opposite of that, affirming that we are depraved and bent towards sin, but the sovereign grace of God is enough to redeem any (look at Paul, Peter, in recent years Son of Sam, and dare I say… you and me).

The title for this comes from the idea that in the end of time, even the Creation itself will be redeemed and made new. God is in the business of making things new and redeeming them. We do this all the time in culture. Music has an anti-Christian message, we respond with the Gospel in song (Shai Linne calls it “lyrical theology”), movies carry the wrong message and Sherwood responds with movies like Fireproof and Courageous. We are in the business of redeeming culture because we believe it can be, and it should be. It starts and ends with the Gospel as both the agent that changes culture and the object that ought be culture’s affection. They are one in the same because the Gospel is Jesus – within that the Gospel is the message, the man, and the mission.

Here is a trackback to my friend Kelly’s blog, if you’re reading this, pause and read his first: http://pursuing-faith.blogspot.com/2011/09/mixed-signals-why-dont-we-question.html

Did you read it? Good.

Positives

  • Biblically sound – I love Kelly’s heart for Scripture and his knowledge and application of it
  • Recognizance of the cultural debate – He nails it on the cultural issue here with the mixed signals we send (actually quite convicting, thank you brother) and an astute observation of a growing cultural trend towards overt rejection of theism or the embracing of a “eh…” perspective that rejects any absolutes.
  • The distinction between first and second order issues – The participation in or abstinence of Halloween is not a test of salvation or fellowship, it’s a matter of conscience and conviction. I’ve read too many other people who don’t make that distinction in either direction and fall into the trap of legalism or the equally dangerous trap of libertinism.
  • Justification for sin – We are so quick to make excuses or try to find a way to sew together our own fig leaf costume (pun intended) to weasel our way out.
Common Assumptions – Kelly and I both are working with some common assumptions
  • Not everyone who engages in Halloween is actively participating in the occult, but that doesn’t mean that makes it OK – it doesn’t work with the cop to say “I didn’t know I was speeding” it won’t work here
  • This is a second-tier issue, no one has “ELECT” on their forehead based on their participation or not on Halloween, unless that happens to be your costume
  • Conscience and Conviction demand testing – We are encouraging parents to practice the biblical art of discernment in dealing with Halloween. We encourage parents to watch what their kids dress up as, who they hang out with, where they go, and why they want to engage in Halloween. Discernment is simply the practice of applying biblical wisdom to life and allowing your convictions and beliefs to shape your behavior.
  • Halloween, though inherently pagan and inclined to the occult, can be redeemed. Here is a helpful post from Mars Hill Church about Halloween: http://blog.marshill.com/2009/10/29/the-history-of-halloween-revisted/
We do recognize a couple tensions that we have to live between. The first is “the avoidance of all evil, even the appearance of it” and the second is “engage the culture for the Gospel.” Here are a couple ways this is not supposed to be:
  1. Chick Tracts instead of candy – Look, it sounds good but handing out tracts instead of candy is going to get your house egged. Plus, if you’re going to hand out a tract, do it the same way you should in a restaurant (with a higher tip). So give good candy, and use good tracts. Please, I beg of you. I like tracts and think they’re very helpful, but so many of them are nothing but moralism and do-goodery.
  2. Judgment Houses – Well meaning yes, but fall far short. Russell Moore has a helpful post on these here. Maybe your church does one and if you’re able to share the Gospel great. Do me a favor though, don’t make it a moral issue. It’s not. I get a lot of invite postcards as a youth minister and I have yet to see one say “Come and be terrified because of your heart condition that is against God and His Son Jesus Christ.” Sadly, most of them are moralism: Drugs, Sexual Promiscuity, Homosexuality, Drunk Driving, Greed, or something like that. Morals are not the problem, it’s the heart. Address that please. It doesn’t have the shock value some cheesy over-hyped ex-meth addict can have, but it’s faithful to Scripture and isn’t that what’s most important?
  3. Picketing – Some people become absolute grumps over stuff that isn’t worth getting grumpy over. How do I know, I’m a recovering legalist. Barricading and protesting puts you in an awkward spot and doesn’t do a fair job preparing your kids to be missional. It teaches them the answer is to retreat, not engage. It’s much easier to lob hand grenades than it is to look people in the face and have a conversation with them.
  4. Give in – As a youth minister, this is the approach I see far too often. So many of our students have no clue what they’re putting into their minds and hearts by the TV they watch, the movies they take in, the music they listen to, the company they keep, and the activities they do. I’ve had students share their favorite movies and several of them shared movies I would never in my lifetime allow my son to watch. It broke my heart another time to hear students talk excitedly about the latest episode of Jersey Shore and how much they liked the characters. I’ve had students tell me God doesn’t care what they put on Facebook, even though the song they quoted was about a sexual orgy. And these are church kids. When it comes to Halloween, these are the ones who dress in whatever they want and engage in whatever activities they want without thinking about the big picture. Instead of fearing the occult and the paganism associated with it, they embrace it as “no big deal” while parents side idly back and laugh as their kids engage in strange fire of worship. Parents, let this be a warning to you: You wonder why your kids aren’t committed to Christ and living out their faith, I can trace almost all those examples back to parents who did not engage in their kid’s spiritual life.
So how should the Christian and the Church respond to Halloween? That’s a conviction/conscience issue, so these suggestions are not binding by any means, but instead are a list of ways to redeem something that has been long claimed by the occult.
  1. Use it as an opportunity to provide a trick-or-treating alternative. This allows for the innocence of kids getting candy (and their parents “making sure it’s ok” – a cover for getting the good stuff!) associated with Halloween to go on in a protected environment without the occultish side. Decorate car trunks and have fun with it. Encourage costumes but make sure it’s clear they’re not to be scary or demonic. We all enjoy it sometimes to pretend to be someone we’re not. That’s why we read good fiction like Tolkein or Lewis, we enjoy putting ourselves in a somewhere we’re not with someones we’re not. God has given us imagination and fantasy, when appropriately applied, can be fun. Plus, it provides an opportunity to make contacts with prospects in your community if you make a contact card a requirement to get in 🙂 Many parents are looking for “safe” alternatives and churches are still trusted enough to provide this. Take advantage of it!
  2. Use the Sunday around Halloween as an opportunity to share about something else that happened that day, Reformation Day! Yes, it is an actual holiday in some countries that were profoundly impacted by the Reformation, and in neo-Reformed circles where guys wear shirts that say “Luther is my homeboy” – Take this as an opportunity to share the Gospel, because that’s what the Reformation was all about, the preaching of the Gospel of justification by faith. Teach children the Five Solas: Sola Fide (By faith alone), Solus Christus (in Christ alone), Sola gratia (By grace alone), sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone), soli Deo gloria (to God alone be the glory)
  3. Reverse trick-or-treating. Your church probably has a card, if not, get 1000 of them cheap online somewhere. Put your service times, contact info, website, and such. Include a coupon for a free dinner if your church has one. Give the cards to parents to have their kids hand to people as they get candy trick-or-treating. It might not generate a ton of prospects, but it doesn’t involve a ton of money or time commitment, and you never know where it might lead.
Maybe after all this you decide you still want to avoid it all. That’s fine, your conscience and conviction can lead you there. The only thing I ask is that you recognize that others may not bear that same conviction. Those of us on the other side recognize that as well, and we admire your steadfastness to your convictions. Ultimately though, our goal is for Christ to be glorified and He be made much of. On that, we can agree, rejoice, and celebrate.
Kelly, thanks for a helpful post. I hope this has helped further the conversation.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s