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Living in Light of Two Ages

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Tuesday
Jul222014

Repost--Orange County: A New Burned-Over District?

Since things are slow around here for the next couple of weeks, I've re-posted the series I did last Summer on Christianity in Orange County.  Note:  Chuck Smith and Paul Crouch have died since this series was completed, and Robert Schuller lost his wife, and is in poor health.

You can start here at the beginning and follow the links to read the entire series.

I've been thinking about tackling this subject for some time.  But it was an article in Monday's Orange County Register (Click Here) which prompted me to begin this brief series.  In an article in the new "faith & values" section of the Register religion writer Jim Hinch observes . . .

The future of religious America lives in a two-story beige office building in downtown Fullerton, where homeless people and college graduates attend church together. The future also lives at a mosque in Mission Viejo. At an organic farm started by a megachurch. In downtown Santa Ana, where kids of many faiths feed the homeless. And in an Orange County church for hipsters where women, once excluded from ministry, now are pastors.

Hinch goes on to describe the biggest change of all to the Orange County religious landscape--Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral is soon to become "Christ Cathedral," home to Rome's OC diocese.  Anyone who has been to the OC, knows that the Crystal Cathedral stands tall and is directly across the 5 freeway from the Honda Center (where the Ducks play hockey) and Anaheim Stadium (where the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play baseball).  Christ Reformed is also nearby, but almost invisible until you are on top of it.

Hinch is right.  The change in ownership of the Cathedral is simply the latest and surely the most visible sign that much has changed.  The loud buzz long associated with the various Protestant, evangelical, Pentecostal, and charismatic megachurches of the OC, has, by and large, given way to the kind of low-key religious pluralism described above by Hinch. 

With all of the changes afoot in OC's religious climate, my question is simply this, "what happened to the OC of the 70s, 80s and 90s?"  An era in which a distinctly Christian "buzz" was everywhere, and a time when many of the religious trends and fads which drove American evangelicalism began in my own backyard.  Locals joked that based upon church attendance and Harvest Crusade responses, the population of the OC had been saved twice over.  You don't hear that quip anymore. 

I saw much of it, and participated in some of it.  I am now the pastor of a church in the OC where many of us (including me) came to faith in Christ (or to a new or deeper understanding of our faith in Christ) because of that "buzz."  My guess is that about 75% of the members of Christ Reformed were, at one time, actively involved in some aspect of OC's Christian buzz.  So, if all of that is true, why is it that the OC is now so different?  Why is the buzz gone?  Why is this a good thing? 

I'm not intending this series to be a scientific study of current religious trends (I'm not equipped to evaluate these trends in that manner, nor am I interested in such things).  Nor will this series be a nostalgic look back at a better time--granted, it had its moments.  I am doing nothing more than offering my observations on a time now gone, and looking for any lessons which might be learned. 

My take is that this era was more of like a super nova of a dying star, than it was the establishment of any sustained evangelical movement.  We know that to be true, based upon the observations of Hinch and others about the decline of the megachurches and the rise of a generic religious pluralism which has taken their place.  Granted, the megachurches are still here, but the buzz they generated is gone (or greatly diminished), as is the influence they exerted upon the religious life and the culture of the OC.  

There are several reasons why OC Christianity has changed so drastically.  The most obvious is that the OC itself has changed--drastically.  Thirty years ago, the OC was mostly white middle-class and Republican.  OC had the highest percentage of Republican voter registration in the country.  Most of those folks moved here after World War Two, attracted by good jobs and the great weather.  There were some Asians, and more Hispanics, but the county was predominantly WASP.  The economy was robust and virtually recession-proof, driven largely by aerospace (Hughes, Rockwell, Boeing, and others were here), hi-tech industries (i.e., Bechman Instruments, Fluor), and entertainment (Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland).  

Little of this is true anymore.  The local economy is not near as robust.  Aerospace and the hi-tech industry are leaving the state because of California's oppressive business climate--high paying jobs are going away and not coming back.  Immigrants now dominate many of the county's neighborhoods--including my own.  "Little Arabia" is two miles away from me, and Garden Grove has a substantial Vietnamese neighborhood ("Little Saigon").  The barrio of Santa Ana now extends into North Orange County (and is within a block of my home).  Right-winger Bob Dornan's old congressional seat is now held by the very progressive Linda Sanchez. 

As the county has changed, OC religion has become as diverse as the people who now live here.  Hardly a surprise.  But one thing which has come with the change is the virtual silencing of the Christian buzz which was quite loud and lasted some three decades.

The Christian buzz was a cacophony arising from the churches and ministries which were located here.  During this time, the OC was home to TBN and the nightly follies of Paul and Jan Crouch.  The Hour of Power was based here (the TV ministry of Robert Schuller), as well as Insight for Living (Chuck Swindoll's radio broadcast).  Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel and John Wimber's Vineyard reached out to the Jesus people in the late 60's and seemed to get the whole "youth culture" thing rolling.  Maranatha music and "praise songs," anyone?  There were always concerts, and bible studies in these churches were usually packed to the rafters.  Meanwhile, Walter Martin fought back the "cults"--Walter's Saturday night live call-in radio broadcast of the "Bible Answer Man" always generated buzz at church on Sunday.  Walter gave many of us our first exposure to Christian theology (weak as it was).  There were a host of Word-Faith "ministries" here (like Gary Greenwald and the "Eagles Nest").  Meanwhile, good ole Rich Buhler comforted the neurotic, and KYMS (the local Christian radio station which now broadcasts in Vietnamese) had huge ratings.  Then Rick Warren showed up, along with Benny Hinn (for a time) . . .  I am sure I am missing many others.  There was a lot going on here in the OC.  And it generated a distinct Christian "buzz."  

We'll talk about all of this and more in this series.  Bear with me as we go, I'm doing this from memory, and I didn't think to take notes at the time!  A lot of water has gone under the bridge.  Thankfully, I have now so successfully isolated myself in the theological sanity and comfort of Reformed theology and church life, if there were still such a Christian buzz, I probably wouldn't hear it. 

We'll start next time with an attempt at a definition of a "burned over" district, and develop in a bit more detail what I mean by a Christian "buzz."  I'll also recount my own very small role in the OC religion.  Part One -- "The Buzz"

To whet your whistle a bit, did you know that both R.C. Sproul and Mike Horton were on TBN?  Stay tuned.

Tuesday
Jul222014

Update--The Annual Summer Slow Down

Things here at the Riddleblog have been slow and are about to get slower.  The missus and I are soon headed to the White Horse Inn Weekend (in Vail), will return home for a bit before taking our annual trek to the Eastern Sierras to join family, friends, and church folk for a few days enjoying the great scenery and fellowship such a trek always generates.

It has been a busy and hectic summer so far.  I've completed my chapter for a forthcoming book from Crossway entitled, Reformation Theology, edited by Matthew Barrett, and which includes essays from Carl Trueman, J.V. Fesko, Gerald Bray, Michael Reeves, Cornel Venema, Douglas Kelly, Keith Mathison and many others.  My contribution is "The Eschatology of the Reformers."  This should be a great book, and I'll keep posted about the details. 

I have also completed my lecture on the Trinity for the WHI weekend, and managed to tape a few White Horse Inn sessions on "Hospitality"--a subject which will surprise you, and which I think you'll find very profound and thought-provoking.  Two new hosts sat in with Michael and me: Justin Holcomb (an Anglican) and Steve Parks (a Lutheran professor at Concordia who teaches with Dr. Rosenbladt).  I think you'll enjoy their contributions and personalities.

I will post when I can, hopefully with some good pictures from the WHI Weekend.

Enjoy your summer!

Monday
Jul212014

By Now You've Heard the Rumors . . .

Ok, its true.  We have a cat, or more properly, a cat has us.

A year or so ago, this stray female tuxedo cat decided to move into our yard, wreaking havoc on the local lizard, bird, and rodent population.

She'd sit at our back door, meow, and display her trophies--usually the carcass of something she'd just caught and killed.  I'm not a cat lover, but if she can catch and kill rodents at her current pace, she's welcome!

We resisted feeding her until she had her first litter somewhere in our yard.  She was worm-ridden, underfed, and a mess.  After her second litter, we had her spayed, and gave her kittens to friends.  My wife even bought her a "bed" and "gourmet" catfood (the really cheap stuff that stinks).

Yup, we have a cat.  This was the scene out my back door Sunday morning.

Having a cat really makes me want a dog.

Sunday
Jul202014

"God Sent Me Before You to Preserve Life" -- Genesis 44:14-45:15

Here's the audio from this morning's sermon:  Click Here

Sunday
Jul202014

This Week's White Horse Inn

Rid of My Disgrace

How should Christians respond to the growing number of sexual abuse cases? How does this issue affect the mental and spiritual lives of both victims and perpetrators of this form of assault? More importantly, how should we apply the gospel of grace in these situations? Mike Horton discusses these questions with Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, authors of Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault (originally aired Dec. 30, 2012).

Click Here

Thursday
Jul172014

Monegerism.com Update

One of the best and most useful resources on the web is Monergism.com.  This is one of the first places to go if you are looking for any kind of Reformed reference on virtually any topic: sermons, MP3s, articles on theolological topics, Reformed classics, free eBooks . . .

John Hendryx, the proprietor, has recently updated the front page with a new menu bar tracking the fifty most recent updates to the website.  This makes a great resource that much more valuable and easy to use.

He's got a great bookstore too!

Thanks, John, for providing the saints with so many great resources! 

Go here to check it out.  Monergism.com

Thursday
Jul172014

The Bone-Dry Dog Days of Summer

 

For those of us living in So Cal, the dog days of Summer are finally here.  Because of a severe two-year drought, the state legislature has mandated a whole bunch of new water restrictions.  We can't wash our cars, wash-off our sidewalks or driveways (so, if you come to my house and step in bird poop, its not my fault), and any water run-off from poorly-aimed sprinklers or from over-watering will bring down the wrath of the water police--yup, "water police."  These are code enforcement folk now looking for water-wasters.

The sad thing is that many of our contemporaries blame the "drought" on human activity.  The fact is that California has always been a desert, although the last one hundred years have been some of the wettest on record.  Sure, we've had miserably low rainfall totals the past few years, but this is our historic pattern.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  The current drought was predictable--just take a look at the Farmer's Almanac.

To add insult to our thirsty misery, state officials are reacting to a genuine water emergency, while at the same time failing to realize that the water emergency is largely their own doing.  Since the early 1970s--when the last state water project was approved--California's population has exploded.  Yet, no new water infrastructure or water sources have been added.  Instead, environmentalist groups have lobbied to preserve small and isolated fish populations in the delta region, while diverting life-sustaining water from the world's bread basket, the central valley of California.  This has put thousands of our poorest residents out of work, ruined once fertile farm land, and crippled the state agribusiness.  And if you want lettuce, Kale, or soybeans, you are going to pay much more for it.

Our state legislature (with the federal transportation people's help) is spending billions on a high-speed rail service from LA to SF which no one wants, and which our state does not need.  But add new water sources (i.e., desalinization), or new water infrastructure?  Nope, not even on the radar.

Despite what it will do to my sinuses, I'll now use my leaf-blower on my sidewalks.  But my neighbors will complain (one in particular) about the dust and the noise.  The same environmentalists who oppose new water sources will guilt-trip me that my 2-cycle leaf blower pollutes the air.  They want me to use an electric powered blower--which I can't use until after 6:00 p.m., because of rolling brown-outs and a state-wide electricity shortage.

You gotta love state politicians . . .  Clueless.

Sunday
Jul132014

"Peace Be to You, and Do Not Be Afraid" -- Genesis 43:15-44:13

Here's the audio from this morning's service:  Click Here

Sunday
Jul132014

This Week's White Horse Inn

Darkness Is My Only Companion

Why does God allow so many of us to experience deep forms of depression often to the point of despair, and how do we counsel those in our lives who struggle with the torture of the soul? How can pastors and churches be better prepared to recognize symptoms and help those who struggle? Join Mike Horton in today’s discussion with Kathryn Greene-McCreight, author of Darkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness, and Harold Senkbeil, author of Dying to Live and board member of Doxology: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual care and Counsel.

Click Here

Friday
Jul112014

Friday Feature -- Because No One Should Work in a Cubicle

We've all worked with guys like Milton, Lumberg, and Peter.  We've all gotten "PC Load Errors."  And TPS reports and coversheets . . .

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