The end result of pragmatism

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by stilllearning, Nov 17, 2009.

  1. stilllearning

    stilllearning
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    Doing “anything” to get them in the door...........

    http://www.christianity.com/blogs/mohler/11616842/print/

    Here it is, if the link doesn’t work......

    “Woof ‘n Worship? Seriously?
    Albert Mohler
    Author, Speaker, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Just for the sake of adequate seriousness, I will resist all temptations to pun. That is no easy resistance in light of the report from the Associated Press about American churches developing special services for congregants and their dogs.

    The story, reported by Gillian Flaccus, begins with Rev. Tom Eggebeen of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. Faced with an aging and declining congregation, the pastor decided to do something innovative -- he started a service for both people and dogs, "Canines at Covenant."

    Gillian Flaccus described Eggebeen's idea: "He would turn God's house into a doghouse by offering a 30-minute service complete with individual doggie beds, canine prayers and an offering of dog treats. He hopes it will reinvigorate the church's connection with the community, provide solace to elderly members and, possibly, attract new worshippers who are as crazy about God as they are about their four-legged friends."

    Flaccus also cited Laura Hobgood-Oster, a religion professor at Southwestern University in Texas, who recently conducted a survey that revealed more than 500 churches that conduct blessing services for pets and six that go so far as to offer pet worship services like the "Canines at Covenant" service. One church near Boston offers a "Woof 'n Worship" service. The professor sees "pet-centric" services as a growing trend.

    The reason she offers is especially interesting: "It's the changing family structure, where pets are really central and religious communities are starting to recognize that people need various kinds of rituals that include their pets . . . . More and more people in mainline Christianity are considering them to have some kind of soul."

    The report goes on to explain that the dogs at the "Canines at Covenant" service showed little evidence of interest. Nevertheless, the service was very pleasing to the human participants who brought their dogs. One woman brought two dogs, a black Lab and a Dachshund-terrier mix. She told the reporter, "I don't have any kids, so my pets have always been my children, so it does mean a lot . . . . I haven't been to church in a long time and this may push me into it. I'm getting older and I've been thinking about those things again."

    Gillian Flaccus offers a very interesting report on the "Canines at Covenant" service and the larger phenomenon of "pet-centric" services. Her report also points to a deep theological confusion that these services bring to light. There are several dimensions to this confusion.

    First, the Bible clearly presents animals as part of the goodness of God's creation. As Christians, we are to see the glory of God in the diversity and wonders of the animal kingdom. We are to respect all animals as intentional creations of God and to acknowledge the gifts that these creatures represent. God created animals for his own glory, and humans are to see the glory of the Creator in each animal species and individual.

    Second, God made human beings as the only creatures made in his image. As the image-bearers of God, humans alone have the capacity to know and to worship the Creator. Animals reflect the glory of God, but only human beings can see the glory of God and know the Creator. Animals may possess consciousness, but they do not have souls. They lack the capacity to know the Creator.

    Third, God assigned human beings dominion over the animal kingdom and clearly marked a separation between humans and animals. This separation is clear, ranging from the dominion theme to the prohibition of bestiality. To compromise that separation is to disobey God. Some part of our contemporary confusion over this distinction is due to emotionalism and sentiment, but much of it is driven by an ideology that reduces the status of humanity to that of the animals.

    Fourth, while we recognize and celebrate the consciousness of many animals, we recognize that their consciousness is different from our own. We must also be aware that we tend to read features of human consciousness onto animals. We enjoy stories and movies that feature talking animals and endearing animal characters, but this is fiction, not fact. Many animals do enjoy forms of community and relatedness, but they are not humans. We must always be aware of the temptation to read human abilities and states of mind onto animals.

    Fifth, to put the matter simply, animals do not worship God. Jesus told the woman at the well [John 4] that the Father seeks worshippers who worship him in spirit and in truth. The biblical concept of worship is not limited to attendance at a service, but involves the conscious and active knowledge of himself through Jesus Christ. Dogs do not worship. As Gillian Flaccus reported, the dogs at the "Canines at Covenant" service "didn't seem very interested in dogma." That observation is cute, but profoundly understated.

    Sixth, the Bible says a great deal about animals. From Genesis to Revelation animals are keys to understanding God's revelation. Genesis shows us the indescribable wonder of the animals in creation. The Bible reveals the catastrophic impact of the Fall on animals, leading to predation and violence. At the end of the Bible, we are given the picture of the new creation and the reversal of the curse of sin as the lion and the lamb lay together. But, amazingly enough, even as the Bible mentions animals as beasts of burden and agents of violence, it gives virtually no attention to animals as pets.

    Seventh, America is a pet-centric culture, and this reveals much about us. We have the wealth to spend billions of dollars on pets. The ownership and enjoyment of pets is a sign of wealth and plenty. We are also a society that is trading human relationships for the companionship of pets. We cut off our elderly from extended family and leave them alone with their pets. We see increasing numbers of younger people who decide not to have children, but instead to pour themselves into relationships with their pets. Restaurants, malls, and hotels are asked to allow pets even as they allow children. Professor Hobgood-Oster points to the pet-centricity of our society as evidence of "the changing family structure, where pets are really central." The woman who brought her two dogs to the "Canines at Covenant" service said, "I don't have any kids, so my pets have always been my children." Postmodern Americans see these statements as evidence of new lifestyle choices. Christians should see these statements as tragic.

    Eighth, the churches that offer these services are concentrated in the liberal wing of American Protestantism. The declining membership of liberal churches is matched to a loss of theological focus. Churches concerned with the preaching of the Gospel, committed to authentic evangelism and biblical preaching, are not going to demonstrate the confusion that leads to "Canines at Covenant." It is not surprising that Covenant Presbyterian Church lists its support for same-sex marriage and opposition to California's "Proposition 8" defending traditional marriage on the front page of its Web site.

    I am thankful for dogs. My own family cherishes a friendly and inquisitive Beagle who reveals the glory of God in just being a Beagle. But Baxter does not go to church. I am absolutely convinced that animals will be a part of the New Creation we are promised in Christ. But it is believers in Christ -- redeemed humanity -- that yearn for this New Creation. To blur the distinction between humans and animals is to confuse the Gospel itself.”
     
  2. Johnv

    Johnv
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    This has already been discussed and debated ad nauseum here:
    http://www.baptistboard.com/showthread.php?t=62529

    and here:
    http://www.baptistboard.com/showthread.php?t=62580

    BTW, the OP is a bit misleading. It's actually Covanent Presbyterian Church in Westchester, which is near Los Angeles. (There is no church in L.A. called "Covanent"). And the pastor is the interim pastor. The canine service is actually not the main service, but a smaller informal service in the evenings. Also, it's not permanent.

    As unusual as it seems, one must ask oneself if there's anything scripturally wrong with it? The first churches were house churches. If those houses had family pets, they'd have been around. The example is less about pragmatism and more about whether or not we have artificially puffed up our worship so that it no longer resembles the worship experience of the first century. We have turned the informal house church into a formal stuffy building that requires us to dress up, where anyone who brings so much as a water bottle in would be villified, and where anyone who needs to politely excuse themselves for any reason is tasked for their faithfulness.

    I remember when we started our new church several years ago. We first met in a small warehouse, and it was normal for people to have snacks or coffee on their person. WHen we moved into our current building, the tradition of allowing food and beverages continued. Some newcomers found it to be unusual, but also refreshing. For us, it wasnt' even an issue, because we've always allowed it. Yet some would no doubt accuse us of pragmatism for permitting food and beverages in worship.
     
    #2 Johnv, Nov 18, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2009
  3. stilllearning

    stilllearning
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    Hello Johnv

    When you said........
    I thought that you were talking about this news story.
    --------------------------------------------------
    As for the importance of this issue, we disagree.

    Although it is great, that your Church services are in such a relaxed atmosphere, the idea of doing anything, with the point of it being a gimmick, just to get people in the door, is wrong.

    The idea, that what a Church may be doing, may not be “scripturally wrong”, totally misses the point.
    When it comes to a part of the Church’s ministry, we MUST ASK, did God tell the pastor to do it or not.
    --------------------------------------------------
    Now I would never criticize a pastor or a Church for a ministry, because for all I know the Lord did tell the pastor to do it.

    But far too much is being done, simply because it seems to work and there isn’t anything scripturally wrong with it.

    I don’t think it is wrong, to wait for the LORD to tell us, to start a new kind of ministry.
     
  4. Johnv

    Johnv
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    That's a bit broad and ambiguous. By that definition, any time a church does something new for the sake of increasing attendence, it should be admonished. We should then remove the marquee out front with next week's sermon title on it, stop having youth events, carnivals, picnics, pot lucks, friday night bingo, not allow the choir to have concerts, etc etc etc, since they all serve to increase attendance and are therefore gimmicks.

    This is more a case of whether it serves to meet a need in the community or congregation, and whether it assists in spreading the gospel. If it meets those criteria, and itns' in any way sinful, then, as unusual as I might find it, let the local church do what it wants.
     
  5. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell
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    Hyper pragmatism is heavy in our churches.
     
  6. Johnv

    Johnv
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    And it should be condemned outright. What's even heaver in our churches is the lack of discernment as to the difference between reasonable pragmatic application and hyperpragmatism. Yet you don't see much of an outcry against lack of discernment.
     
  7. KenH

    KenH
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    We have eight dogs and knowing how when one dog starts barking that they all join in I can just imagine how an auditorium with dozens of dogs in it would be after one dog cut loose with a hearty "Woof". :laugh:
     
  8. Johnv

    Johnv
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    The pentecostal dogs would howl, though.
     

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