American Idol, again

I have notoriously enjoyed “American Idol,” so, yes, I’m going to give it a try again, when I can. It’s lost a bit in ratings, while still being the biggest thing in television, so the producers are trying to tweak it in this 8th season to wring out even more viewers and product placement. I think the tweaks have made it even more grandiose, which is not what people like about the show, which really has a simple concept that should just be allowed to work. As for adding an extra judge, I like her fine, but four seems too many. Either more time will be devoted to comments or the comments will get shorter. Either way, the dynamic between Simon, Paula, and Randy–which became one of the best parts of the show–will be damaged. And how can you have decisive votes on an even-number panel? Apparently, the practice will be that a 2-2 tie becomes a winner! That seems just wrong. I’ll give the show another chance and probably get drawn in as before.

The Heavens were torn open (#2)

More from Pastor Douthwaite’s sermon on the Baptism of our Lord Sermon. He is expositing Mark 1:10: “And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove”:

Now that’s quite an unusual word to use there [the word for "torn open"]. But remember, Mark, the man of few words, chooses his words carefully, and so here uses a word he uses only one other time in his whole Gospel – and that was right after Jesus died on the cross, when Mark reports, “He saw Heaven being torn open.”“the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Mk 15:38)

And so with this word, Mark connects the beginning of His Gospel with the end. He connects Jesus’ baptism with His crucifixion. That we may know that in Jesus taking our sins upon Himself in His baptism, and taking them to the cross, that the division that separated God and man, that closed Heaven to us, is abolished! With our sin on Jesus, and with His death for our sin, Heaven is open again! We are right with God. Our sins are forgiven, washed away.

Church removes crucifix for being too scary

As a coda to our series on the Theology of the Cross, consider this story about a church in England that removed the outdoor crucifix below because it was “too scary.” Says the story, quoting a museum curator who ended up with the sculpture, “the powerful image portrayed by the figure was that of Christ in pain. ‘That today isn’t an image which a lot of churches want to follow.’” Why is that, in light of our series on the Cross?

Calvinist cool?

The New York Times, no less, has a feature on Seattle megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll. He cusses, he preaches about sex, he is alternative, he uses hard rock music in worship; and yet he lambastes seeker-sensitive services and has been described as “seeker insensitive.” For all his modern pop culture styling, he waters down nothing. He is, in fact, a thorough-going Calvinist who has made Calvinism cool.

Mark Driscoll is American evangelicalism’s bête noire. In little more than a decade, his ministry has grown from a living-room Bible study to a megachurch that draws about 7,600 visitors to seven campuses around Seattle each Sunday, and his books, blogs and podcasts have made him one of the most admired — and reviled — figures among evangelicals nationwide. Conservatives call Driscoll “the cussing pastor” and wish that he’d trade in his fashionably distressed jeans and taste for indie rock for a suit and tie and placid choral arrangements. Liberals wince at his hellfire theology and insistence that women submit to their husbands. But what is new about Driscoll is that he has resurrected a particular strain of fire and brimstone, one that most Americans assume died out with the Puritans: Calvinism, a theology that makes Pat Robertson seem warm and fuzzy.

At a time when the once-vaunted unity of the religious right has eroded and the mainstream media is proclaiming an “evangelical crackup,” Driscoll represents a movement to revamp the style and substance of evangelicalism. With his taste for vintage baseball caps and omnipresence on Facebook and iTunes, Driscoll, who is 38, is on the cutting edge of American pop culture. Yet his message seems radically unfashionable, even un-American: you are not captain of your soul or master of your fate but a depraved worm whose hard work and good deeds will get you nowhere, because God marked you for heaven or condemned you to hell before the beginning of time. Yet a significant number of young people in Seattle — and nationwide — say this is exactly what they want to hear. Calvinism has somehow become cool, and just as startling, this generally bookish creed has fused with a macho ethos. At Mars Hill, members say their favorite movie isn’t “Amazing Grace” or “The Chronicles of Narnia” — it’s “Fight Club.”

So what do you think about this? Isn’t this still just church growth methodology under another name? Macho and harsh rather than touchy-feely, but isn’t it still culturally-conforming?

On the other hand, maybe you can do this with Calvinism. We Lutherans have a theology of worship that should theoretically keep us from such innovations (though that doesn’t stop some of us). And we have a theology that mitigates the fire and brimstone with, as has been said, the Theology of the Cross. But does Rev. Driscoll’s show that a confessional theology can, in fact, be cool? And should a confessional theology aspire to coolness?

I’m curious too, so let me ask you Reformed readers whether Rev. Driscoll’s tone, approach, and worship style are acceptable or controversial in PCA and other confessionally Reformed circles. If any of you are familiar with Rev. Driscoll’s ministry, please report.

Big Hollywood

Here is a site of note, Big Hollywood. Here is the description by the founder, on-line entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart:

On Tuesday, I launch Big Hollywood, a big group blog that will feature hundreds of the big minds from the fields of politics, journalism, entertainment and culture.

Big Hollywood is not a “celebrity” gabfest or a gossip outpost – it is a continuous politics and culture posting board for those who think something has gone drastically wrong and that Hollywood should return to its patriotic roots.

Big Hollywood’s modest objective: to change the entertainment industry. To make Hollywood something we can believe in – again. In order to give millions of Americans hope.

Until conservatives, libertarians and Republicans – who will be the lion’s share of Big Hollywood’s contributors – recognize that (pop) culture is the big prize and that politics is secondary, there will be no victory in this important battle.

There actually ARE conservatives in Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Big Hollywood seeks to be their sounding board, gathering place, and hideout.

HT: Peter Forbes

Christ baptized into our sins (#1)

Happy Jesus’ Baptism Day yesterday! We had another rich, rich sermon from Pastor Douthwaite. In fact, I think I’ll start a brief series on baptism this week based on excerpts from that sermon. John’s baptism is described as being a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But Jesus didn’t have any sins! So what does it mean that He came to be baptized?

Everyone else, we heard earlier in the Gospel, was baptized by John as they were “confessing their sins.” But Jesus did not have any sins to confess. He did not inherit any sin, nor commit any sins. In fact, He should have been repulsed by that water! Talk about a cesspool! That water was filled with just about every sin imaginable. Sins washed off the multitude of sinners. You name the sin, and Jesus is hip-deep in it. Idolatry, adultery, sexual immorality, murder, theft, hate, prejudice, lying, selfishness, coveting, pride, greed, lust – and Jesus jumps right into that putrid, toxic water! And lets it be poured all over Him. All the filth. All the sin. It’s disgusting.

But His Father’s not disgusted, but delighted! So is the Holy Spirit! The First and Third Persons of the Holy Trinity are thrilled that the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, receives John’s baptism. They’re elated that He’s drenched in this sin-infested water. And so the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus, and the Father speaks His approval: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” He doesn’t say (as we probably would): Get out of that disgusting water! Go clean yourself up! No, this is exactly right. This is the will of God. For Jesus to stand with sinners. For Jesus to be washed in our sin, to take our sin, to become the sinner. For Jesus to take our place.