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Monthly Archives: April 2011

I just stumbled across this video on facebook. Take a look and then we’ll continue this in a moment:

I know, right? In case you’re wondering, yes, that was a real song…about jeans. The video follows young Jenna Rose on a crazed search, friends in tow, for a pair of jeans. In the video we also see Jenna, who is only in the 7th grade by the way (that’s right, you heard me, 7th grade!), brushing her hair (I’m sure she already did her make-up), conflicted over what to wear (big decisions for a 12 year old), flipping through teenybopper gossip magazines (gotta keep up with the Biebs), incessantly exclaiming “o-m-g!” (why the face?), dancing around her room with her friends as she sings about said designer jeans, jumping into a Mini Cooper and driving off (evidently all you need are wealthy parents to get a license in Cali. Plus, there are just way too many kids in that car! Unless there are about 23 seat-belts in the back little Jenna is going to have her first run-in with the law), and running around the mall (‘cuz that’s what girls do, right?!). As she lustfully gazes through the window at the immaculate denim she sings,

“I thought about how cool I’d look if I had them on right now / I’m anxious, and excited , they’re on my mind”.

Enter “Baby Triggy” (who can’t be much older that 13 himself), rapping about jets and his new Blackberry.

GOOD LORD!

Is this what we’ve become?

Frankly, as the father of a soon-to-be-born baby girl this scares the bejeezus out of me. As Christians human beings we need to recognize the formative power of things like this and see through the bull. Now, surely this is not Jenna Rose’s fault. She’s 12 for crying out loud. I honestly feel for this poor girl. But here’s the really scary thing…kids listen. If this is what our daughters brains are being pumped full of then can we really expect a different outcome? The target demographic of marketing like this are girls as young as 6-8 years old (even younger?) who are not old nor wise enough to think rationally and clearly about these sorts of matters. Our young women are being formed into mindless zombies that a) are utterly consumed and anxious about their appearance (at increasingly younger ages), b) succumb to the powers of a soul-sucking consumerism, c) are influenced and compare themselves to teen celeb’s (someone has to sell those jeans!), d) are sexualized at far too young an age, and e) take up shopping as a hobby.

Well, I say no. I’d like to use stronger language to describe what I really want to say but there could be future employers reading! My daughter will not be swayed by your perverted ways. She will not be weak an unable to stand up to the forces of consumerism. No, she will be strong because she belongs to the Lord and he to her. She will not be anxious about what she looks like. No, she will know that her beauty and worth are far more inherent than the clothes she wears. She will not take up shopping as a hobby. No, she will be far too busy loving and living with the sick and the destitute to hang out at the mall. She will not be made into a sexual object before she even hits puberty. No, she will be entitled to and enjoy her childhood. She will not care about the latest celebrity gossip. No, she will be far too busy listening to the voice of her Father in Heaven.

Am I being to idealistic here to suppose my daughter will be unaffected by the powerful narratives that shape the Western world? I hope not. For I know of a narrative that is more powerful than any story told by clever marketers that sling crack to children. I know of a love that is far stronger than the love for material goods. In the opening verse Jenna sings: “Commercial shows on my t.v. about these cool designer jeans”. Be not deceived: our children are being targeted and sold a lie. The stats on marketing that is targeted towards children are shocking. Kids hardly stand a change these days.

What can we as parents, friends, and concerned citizens do?

May God’s story be more powerful and formative yet. Lord have mercy.

Rant, over.

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Damnation.

Some like to yell about it. Others can’t stand the thought of even mentioning it.

But what’s the deal exactly? Who the hell (pun intended, hey-o!) am I supposed to listen to? Obviously different theological traditions will come at this differently but what are some things that we can all agree on? What are some things that, in light of revelation, we can say about that God awful topic, damnation (the reason I say “can” is because it’s my opinion that both extreme’s, those that yell about it and those that are silent, are saying things that we can’t say if we’re to be faithful to the whole of the Biblical narrative)?

It is here, yet again, that I must turn to a gentleman that is quickly becoming one of my favourite living theologians, David Yeago. In the final chapter of Apostolic Faith, ‘The Four Last Things’, Yeago highlights 5 constraints that our teaching on damnation should be bound by. I found these immensely helpful so I thought I’d take the time to share them and expound just a wee bit. If we are to be faithful to the apostolic legacy then these must guide what we say/don’t say in regards to damnation.

1. We have no right to teach with certainty either that some will be damned or that none will be damned, that many will be damned or that few will be damned.
A most important point about the Last Judgment is that it is yet to come. It has not yet happened. When this happens it will happen in the utter freedom of God, who is the judge, not us human creatures who are most certainly not the judge (we are, rather, the object of this judgment!). So then, to assume with any degree of certainty and detail the way in which God will execute his judgment is to “usurp his prerogative”, as Yeago says. Just as the coming of the Messiah totally surprised and subverted Israel’s expectations so too the course of God’s judgment is sure to surprise us. We must say then that all people everywhere are in God’s hands and that whatever happens to them/us will, in the end, prove to be entirely consistent with God’s character. This is all we can say about outcomes.

2. We cannot deny with certainty that the God who has conquered death has ways of bringing the gospel to the dead.
Once in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (4:7-10) and twice in 1 Peter (3:18-20; 4:6) reference is made to Christ descending to the place of the dead to preach the gospel: “For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does,” (1 Pet 4:6). The result of Jesus enduring death and descending to the place of the dead is not only that he was able to preach there but that he, in fact, defeated the powers of sin and death utterly exhausting them beyond their last breath. And so elsewhere in Scripture Jesus is described as he who holds “the keys of death and Hades” (Rev 1:18). Jesus’ preaching to the dead is in no way portrayed as a one-time event. Like the crucifixion, which transcends time and confronts each and every person, it is possible that his descent into Hell may transcend time and confront each and every dead person. Given that Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades (the door is open) this is entirely possible.

3. We can and must say, however, that no human being will find a final fulfillment of his/her existence apart from Jesus of Nazareth and those who gather round him.
In Yeago’s words, “the Church does not claim simply that Jesus is a meaningful symbol; it claims that this particular person, as a particular person, is in reality the Lord of all, the one whom all go to meet, the active centre of meaning for the whole universe. He is in person the fulfillment of human destiny, and there simply is no other fulfillment than participation in his risen life. Indeed, the fulfillment is his risen humanity, into which he gathers his brothers and sisters.” Salvation, then, is not something which God has “attached” to Jesus which is unattainable unless you “believe in Jesus”. Rather, salvation is simply the “name for what it means to gather around Jesus and share in his life.” To be sure there is, nor can there be, any human fulfillment apart from Jesus the Christ.

4. If Jesus is the fulfillment of human destiny, then the way to that fulfillment for every human being must be the way of repentance and faith.
“Repentance” simply means to turn from a life without Christ and “faith” means to join our lives with his. So then, repentance and faith are of ultimate importance for each and every human being. Since he is the fulfillment of human destiny then turning to him and entering into shared life with him matters infinitely. Therefore, any sort of “wider hope” or “universalism” must be the hope that those who do not know Christ in this life will nevertheless be brought to repentance and faith in him (This is important to note. Proponents of a “wider hope” or “universalism” are all too often accused of pluralism. However, to be sure, one can hold to a “wider hope” and not be guilty of pluralism if they maintain that it is only in Christ that salvation is possible).

5. We must confess that in all God’s dealings with creatures, in mercy and in judgment, his aim remains the same: communion in love.
God’s aim always and everywhere and in every situation with regard to his creatures is “communion in love”. However, God is not coercive, so his love is nor forced upon anyone, now or after death. So then, because God is not coercive we cannot exclude the possibility of damnation even though we may hope it never becomes an actual reality. We cannot say that Jesus’ warnings are simply empty threats rather than real life-or-death warnings. However, before hurling these warnings at anyone else we must realize that they are first directed towards us.

Well then, what are we to do? On this basis, the most appropriate way in which to entertain a wider or universal hope is in prayer. “If it is not impossible that those who have not believed in Christ in this life may nonetheless be received into his fellowship in death, then it is certainly permissible to pray that it may be so”.

Amen.

*The image featured above is a painting from the Chora Church in Istanbul depicting Christ’s victory in the place of the dead. I believe that is Adam and Eve whom he is pulling up out of Hades.