Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bono, take #2

I tell you, I never know what's going to stimulate some dialogue here at Life Together. I love it! Bono sure got a few folks going in the last post. What a surprise!

I feel compelled to offer a few more thoughts in response to "torokun's" comments. So here is his/her comment and then a few random thoughts.

As a U2 fan... I kinda don't know what to say.

does Bono really get it? or not?

I have no doubt that he "understands" the message of the gospel and knows even how to articulate it.

But, in his publicized private life, I just don't see the life that is regenerated. But, not knowing Bono personally, I can't really hold my opinion about his faith based on that.

Here is what I'm concerned about his faith that makes me questioin his completion of justification. And It's very simple at the core. What is THE truth that Bono holds on to?

Students of Bible knows that if you take just one thing (or add one thing) to the truth, it is no longer "the truth" anymore. It becomes a lie. In Bono's publicized collection of faith, it is clear that his cause for reaching out to the third world countries is the priority. And it overrides everything else. His ecumenical view on multiple religions also makes me question his faith.

If we start researching and listing all these things, it would be a long discussion.

What I'm ultimately amazed about is how quickly people credit other people for having a "true faith" and being a "true christian". Under the umbrella of modern evangelical, man-centered gospel presentation, I guess it's an obvious reaction. I myself was there for many many years.

And at the heart of it, Bono reminds me so much of one of my friends. Understanding of the gospel, the world view, political bias... It is uncanny how much he reminds me of Bono. I love him dearly. And I know he can argue and make the same confession of faith that Bono made about his understanding of the gospel. But, is his life the one that is truely a regenerate one? Is his faith the one that is reflected in many of our
Lord's teaching? About complete surrender to God's will? Somehow, I have this drop of doubt and uncertainty that holds my tongue back from giving him such credit...

let me know what you think...

A few of my thoughts. . . .

• I don't know much about the "fruit" of Bono's faith. I don't follow his life. But I do see what appears to the "root" of bono's faith in the article quoted: Bono purports to believe in the substitutionary atonement for sins accomplished by Jesus Christ's death on the cross. This appears to the ground of his hope. He appears to believe in the diety of Christ. He knows he's a great sinner in need of a Great Savior. He says he needs Grace. There appears to be brokenness and faith.

• Is not Bono's verbal confession of faith, evidence of spiritual fruit in his life? He's boldly sharing Christ with this guy! Likewise, he appears to exhibit an ongoing brokenness and dependence on the grace of Jesus. Is not this also fruit?

• Having said all this, no one can know the heart and soul of another. I don't and can't know if Bono is a Christian. I don't know if you are a Christian, and you don't know if I am. Perhaps rather than "Bono believes the Gospel," I should have said "Bono confesses the Gospel."

• When it comes to fruit inspection, it seems to me we should be fruit inspectors of our own lives, but not other's lives. God is the judge and heart examiner. Bono will stand before God, not me. I do not mean to justify or glorify Bono.

• All of this raises questions like. . . . What is essential doctrine?, What is mere Christianity? How do we know we're true believers? How much fruit is enough? What are the boundaries of our fellowship with those who differ in lifestyle, non-essential beliefs, etc? What is the basis of our unity?

• I have very rarely, if ever, seen such a clear explanation of the Gospel from a high profile celebrity like Bono. It was encouraging and refreshing to me. Could each of us articulate the Gospel in such clear, compelling, personal fashion? If not, why not?

• The Kingdom in its now and present form is mixed-up and messy. God will do the sorting and the separating. We're unqualified. Let's cast the nets and haul in the catch (Matthew 13:47+)

• Anonymous commenters need to show their faces. It's part of the blog thing.


Josh Mock said...

I agree with everything you're saying here, but I can relate to torokun's negativity, mostly because of lots of evidence within the music industry that celebrities claiming Christian convictions do things to make many skeptical of their sincerity.

I personally have witnessed this countless times, but what is even worse is seeing several instances within the Christian industry specifically that make me question those artists' beliefs. I've seen everything from violent band breakups fueled by rumors and nasty language to homosexual lifestyles to heavy substance abuse problems, among other things. While these are all sins just as much as any other more "common" or "acceptable" sin, it's discouraging to see from within the Christian industry. It also leads one to wonder how prevalent such behavior is that we don't hear about.

My point is that while it's perfectly possible for Bono and other celebrities to actually be Christians as they claim, and to be able to speak the Truth flawlessly in an interview, all the counts against those same celebrities and their Christian "counterparts" and their more-often-than-not lack of fruit leads many to be somewhat cynical and doubtful about their sincerity.

~Josh Mock

Phillip Moses said...

I think your sermon two weeks ago deals with a lot of these issues very well. (Listen here)

As for your post, I think you correctly identified the issue when you said the following:

"All of this raises questions like. . . . What is essential doctrine? What is mere Christianity? How do we know we're true believers? How much fruit is enough? What are the boundaries of our fellowship with those who differ in lifestyle, non-essential beliefs, etc? What is the basis of our unity?"

I think these are great questions, especially for many who are studying the doctrine of salvation. Jim Keller’s article, “The Centrality of the Gospel” has really encouraged my thinking on this subject.

I think we would all agree that there are many people who claim to be saved, and simply are not. Their view of Grace is nothing more than fire-insurance. The concept of repentance being necessary to salvation is rarely taught. As a result, a great deception has been foisted on the modern church, leading many to have an incomplete view of the Truth that leads to salvation. To this end, I understand Torokun’s concern.

On the other hand, there is another camp of salvation doctrine that accurately teaches the necessity of repentance, and the life-changing power of the gospel. But several in this camp can go too far - expecting sanctification as a prerequisite of salvation, or just as dangerous, looking to the fullness of one's sanctification as "evidence" of salvation.

It is true that a life changed by the gospel will be just that - changed. Therefore, sanctification will occur as a result of salvation. But it is also true that God is in control of our sanctification as much as He was in control of our salvation. And it is His job to measure it, and our job to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

And here is an interesting question: does sanctification equal sanitization? Are there times when some obscene things need obscene words to describe them?

I found an interesting article online about Bono and these very issues. It’s written by a pastor and is in a response to an email somewhat similar to Torokun’s. Check it out here. I encourage everyone in this discussion to read it (and let me know what your first reaction was when reading the Tony Campolo quote).

Pastor Tim, at the end of the day, I think what you said is most pertinent:

“When it comes to fruit inspection, it seems to me we should be fruit inspectors of our own lives, but not other's lives. God is the judge and heart examiner... The Kingdom in its now and present form is mixed-up and messy. God will do the sorting and the separating. We're unqualified. Let's cast the nets and haul in the catch (Matthew 13:47+)

Suzette Lyons said...

I don't know much about U-2 or Bono. I sure am glad that my life is not under such an intense microscope as his. I daily wonder if one thing or another I have done is evidence of lack of fruit or lack of "true faith". I try to be encouraged about each little bit of progress I make thanking God that he is not leaving me as I am. I do hope that if Bono reads all of this he will take it as encouraging that he has stimulated people to think deeply and not take it personally.

Jeannett Gibson said...

Love the email reply Phillip! I find myself in this situation sometimes: while I don't in any way hide the fact that I am Christian, it seems to many times surprise people at work when I comment on church, or bible study, or some other "religious" thing. In fact, I was discussing my interest in teaching the 2's and 3's Sunday School class and someone jokingly commented: "Don't they do background checks?" I immediately (good-naturedly) confronted this person and asked why she would say something like that. "You just don't seem like the church-going type" "Why?" "Well, you're kinda loud, and funny and say bad words sometimes I guess" response: "Being a christian is more than being the quiet, hands folded in your lap, perfect person. God's salvation is so much more simple than that, and for that I am infintely thankful. You know, christians can be funny. It's not a sin." A few hours later, the same person came back to me and apologized...and then asked if I knew of a good, easy to read Bible! HALLELUJAH!

Another quick story to the same effect: While visiting a church with a friend a few years back, one of the fellow church-goers, after some conversation said: "You didn't grow up in the chuch, did you?" "No, why?" "You can tell." I was so flustered, I wasn't sure how to respond, so I didn't. But looking back, I think I would say "Thank You." It's not about cliche's or stereotypes or what people think you should be. It's your soul that matters, and if being a little unorthodox (i.e. Bono) is what it takes for some people to stand up and take notice that otherwise wouldn't...AMEN!

Kevin Heldt said...

Words spoken for shock value are just that, shocking. We shouldn't be surprised if they appear to be effective. They will get people's attention. And God can and does work through everything, even situations He doesn't like. But it belittles Christ's chosen method of sharing the Gospel when we do that. Christ came full of grace and truth. He didn't cuss a blue streak until He had people's attention and then say, "Now, as I was trying to say, I love you and want you to be with me forever." The minute we think we need to introduce foul language or foul and edgy behavior to reach people, we've effectively admitted that the Gospel message needs some help. There's plenty of room for our creativity in how we share the good news, but we can be sure that God doesn't want us to sin just to get people's attention better. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. So if we find that our language is atrocious, either with bad language or gossip or slander or abundant negativity, then we should take that as confirmation that our hearts need searching out and purifying, not confirmation that God is blessing our "shocking" ministry approach even if it appears to make people take notice more.

Again, look at Jesus. The pinnacle (arguably) of his shocking statements came in John 8 when He said "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I AM!" It made His hearers want to stone Him. But it was the truth. There is nothing more shocking than the truth of the Gospel, that God sent His Son to die on the cross to save sinners of whom I am the worst. The Gospel is plenty shocking all by itself. It doesn't need us to tack on clear disobedience to better help it "reach our post-modern generation."

So Philip, I think it's too bad that Tony Campolo saw fit to use foul language to get people's attention. I think it belittles what is truly an extremely important message that he wanted to share. It's also very sad that there is truth behind what He said and that we as Christians are so far away from God's heart on so many important things. But we need to trust God to give weight to our words. If we are speaking with grace and truth as Christ modeled, we can have faith that that is always going to be the most effective ministry.

So what about Bono? I think our tendency is to be quick to rush to one side or the other. I think (from my very limited knowledge about Him) he has done some really wonderful things for the Kingdom. I think it's great when people reach out to the "least of these" and lend a hand. I also think (again from my very limited knowledge) that there are some clear teachings of the Bible that would speak to his use of foul language and the other things that Torukun and the interview article noted. The Bible is clear about taming the tongue and about how the mouth follows the heart. So I don't feel the need to categorize him one way or the other. I am grateful that He shared a clear confession of faith in that interview that was no doubt heard by many non-believers. And yet I also think his (or anyone's) witness would be stronger if some of his behavior didn't "raise questions."

And as someone else noted, who knows how we would fare if our lives were so visible. I'm sure there would be church blogs simultaneously criticizing and praising the visible parts of my life. But that's the wonderful thing. As others have stated, it's totally not our job (thankfully) to assess the sincerity of others' confessions. We don't have to be judge and jury. As Pastor Tim put it, we're not qualified. And besides, our main strength is spotting specks and ignoring planks so we wouldn't even be good at it. We can rejoice with our brothers and sisters when they make great strides for the kingdom but we only need emulate them as they emulate Christ. And if we're in a place of confidence in their lives, we can confront them in love (grace and truth) when they err, and trust that they will do the same for us. But we don't have to act like the world to impact the world. Christ remains our perfect model and we can follow His example and proclaim that before Abraham was born, HE IS!

Kevin Heldt said...

Oops, I certainly didn't mean to apply the divine pronoun (capitalizing "him") to Bono in the 4th paragraph of my previous post. I mean the first three songs of The Joshua Tree may be the strongest opening trio of any CD of all time, but let's not get carried away... :)

Kevin Heldt said...

3 comments in a row -- this must be against the rules. Brianna found this which I thought I'd share in light of the recent Bono discussions. Pretty cool:

It's the 4th little article down on the page.