31 July 2012

Sproul on Celebrating Alone

RC Sproul Jr lost his wife to cancer earlier this year or perhaps last. I do not remember exactly. What I do know is that any time he writes about Denise, my tears well up. Perhaps it is because my wife had cancer that I get emotional. Perhaps it is because he is a homeschooling dad going it alone now. Perhaps it is because this man demonstrates a profound love for his wife and his Lord.  In any case, I commend his words today on the eve of his 20th anniversary.

Like the last time, I am republishing this in whole, though the original is here, if interested.

 +++++++++++++++++++++++++

It was hot and humid that day, August 1, 1992. I stood, and waited. Beside me stood several of my closest friends, and nearby was my father. All of us, however, had our eyes glued to the same spot, anticipating. The music changed, heralding the arrival we were all waiting for, me most of all. The doors swung open, and there she was, on her father’s arm. Slowly, stately, they made their way up the center aisle and soon he placed her hand in mine.

Jesus redeemed me. His life, death and resurrection assured me adoption by my heavenly Father. I will one day see Him as He is, and I will be like Him. Apart from this, however, despite a lifetime of showering me with blessing upon blessing, He had never blessed me as He did this day. House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord (Proverbs 19:14).

I knew then what I know well now, that this woman was so much more than I deserved. She was a living, breathing reminder of the gospel, that God gives well beyond my due. For nearly twenty years His grace graced our home in and through her. I woke up each morning astonished at what God had done for me. I went to bed each night beside His grace. I did not get the opportunity to plan a grand twentieth anniversary celebration. We will neither repeat our honeymoon cruise nor hold hands on the Champs Elysees. Instead I will travel to the cemetery.

I will, almost certainly, cry. I will certainly ache from missing her. I will remember those two days that have so shaped me- our wedding and her home going. But my prayer is that I will celebrate. I have much to give thanks for. I am thankful for the twenty years we had together. I am thankful for the eight children we had together, for how faithfully she mothered them, and how powerfully she shows in them. I am thankful for the family and friends she brought into my life. I am thankful for how she was used to help me grow in grace and wisdom, that I am a better man because of her. She spoke God’s wisdom into my life, while modeling it in her own.

All of this gratitude, however, pales in comparison to the one thing I am most grateful for. Because I love her I wanted to take her on a special trip for our anniversary. Because I love her I give thanks that she is somewhere infinitely more glorious than any place I could take her. My queen is not sailing to exotic ports but is casting down her golden crown around the glassy sea. She won’t stroll through Paris with me, but is walking hand in hand with Jesus on streets of gold. She is enjoying her greatest anniversary ever. Which is the best I could wish for for the woman I love.

My anniversary is, like every day, a day for giving thanks. He gave me more than I deserve in giving me her. He gave her more than she deserves in giving her Him. And one day He will bless me in the same way. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad.

Book Review: The Holiness of God

A lot of evangelicals today, I think, understand the humanity of God.  They talk about God's love and grace and compassion, but too often, it is an unbalanced view.  A full understanding of grace, you see, is impossible without a big view of God's holiness. 

In this critical volume, RC Sproul addresses the oft-neglected topic of The Holiness of God (1985/1998). Early on, Sproul makes the point that the only characteristic of God that is  referred to in triplicate (the trisagion) is his holiness.  This grammatical approach is designed to demonstrate the ultimacy of this trait.  God is all-holy.  Story after story in the Bible demonstrate the absolute dread of people when they first encounter the holiness of God.  There is none of the casualness about his glory seen among today's evangelicals.  If you read Isaiah 6, you will not come away with an image of someone who considers God his "buddy" as we see today.  Jesus does call us his friends, but unless we have a balanced view of his holiness, his otherness, we will diminish who he is. 

On page 124, Sproul writes, "In two decades of teaching theology, I have had countless students ask why God doesn't save everybody. Only once did a student come to me and say 'there is something I can't figure out. Why did God redeem me?"  That one student had a glimpse of God's holiness. Too many of us feel entitled to grace, which completely misses the point. 

If you do not have an appropriate sense of God's holiness, read Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4.  Then come and read this book. 

26 July 2012

Book Review: Earthen Vessels

For a while now, I had Matthew Lee Anderson's Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith (2011) on my must buy list.  Fortuitously, a few months ago, it came across as a cheap buy on Kindle, so I snapped it up.  As I finished reading it, I was not disappointed.

In short, Anderson wrote a theology of the body, a topic I have rarely seen addressed, if ever.  In fact, Anderson makes the prefatory comment "sometimes evangelicals have been tempted to spiritualize our salvation at the expense of our bodies" (p. 15), drawing attention to the strong separation we often unwittingly make between the body and the soul. 

Drawing strongly upon scripture, and bolstering his writing with ideas stemming from a number of ecclesial traditions, Anderson sets to work to show what our bodies have to do with faith. He establishes that God created not just our souls but our bodies as well.  He makes the point on page 21 that "if ever there was a question about the goodness of the physical body, the incarnation of Jesus Christ definitively answered it."  We are embodied souls, which I think we sometimes forget as believers. After establishing what the body is and why it matters, he moves on to more practical questions believers sometimes have.  He thoughtfully addresses topics such as tattooing, sexuality, pornography, homosexuality, suffering, and death. He discusses how the spiritual disciplines, such as fasting and prayer, are important in an embodied theology.

Apart from the uniqueness of this book, his writing is captivating. Just a few examples:
  • "We cannot breathe new life into our broken faith. We can only be breathed into."-15
  • "This is the paradox of the body: The body is a temple, but the temple is in ruins. The incarnation of Jesus affirms the body's original goodness. The death of Jesus reminds us of its need for redemption. And the resurrection of Jesus gives us hope for its restoration." -30
  • "An embodied theology is a theology that acknowledges the radical uniqueness of Christmas, the cross, and Easter. Only there did the one who transcends creation enter it, die for us, and rise again." -69
I would strongly commend this book for something unique, engaging, and important. 

Whither is God?

Most Americans, if they are honest, go about their days without much regard for the world around them. They may feel small microtremors of brokenness, but rarely do these events shake them out of their complacency in any real way.  After looking up and wondering what they just experienced, they turn back to playing Angry Birds, the already faint memory fading quickly. 

Unlike these microtremors, earthquake stories about the brutal murders in Aurora and the years of depravity and cover up at Penn State have shaken many Americans out of their blissful unawareness of the daily tragedies that surround us.  Once people recover from the initial aftershocks of stories like these, they begin to ask questions.  "How could this have happened?" "Why did this tragedy occur?"  "Where was God?" People are searching for answers, but secular answers leave people wanting, at least for a season.  Eventually though, the stories fade from the limelight, people stop asking why, and they slowly fade back into their blissful slumbers.

As I thought about these events, Friedrich Nietzsche's Parable of the Madman came to mind. He begins,

"Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: 'I seek God! I seek God!' -- As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated? -- Thus they yelled and laughed.

"The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. 'Whither is God?' he cried; 'I will tell you. We have killed him -- you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him"

The atheist philosopher understood that to "kill God" would lead to nihilism, relativism, and amorality. Though he welcomed the death of God, he would not have been surprised at these tragedies occurring today.

When you seek to kill God and rely solely upon naturalism, morality is no longer grounded in a moral law giver. When relativism prevails and there is no objective morality, people can no longer claim that something is morally right or wrong in any objective sense. For the relativist, the outrage over tragedies like this merely represents personal preference. Nineteenth century philosophers understood the consequences of killing God, but most people today do not. Indeed, many are on a conquest to do so.

The next time a tragedy like this occurs (and it will), stop and ask why you are morally outraged. The next time you find yourself asking "whither is God?", let your answer be "We have killed him--you and I." Rejecting God not only has grave salvific consequences for the individual; on a societal level, rejecting him destroys cultural morality and goodness. If you don't believe it, turn on the news. 

24 July 2012

A slow bumpy ride

Here are some things I have been thinking about today, after a short interaction on Facebook (I love you all who were engaged and I appreciate the push back).

"My problem is sin" I heard someone on the radio say today. I found myself nodding in agreement. How could I not? I am a man mired in sin.  Psalm 51:3 says, "for I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me." This is my favorite psalm. I read it often. Today I wrote it, word for word, in my journal.

There is just one answer to sin. Jesus Christ. In fact, Romans 5:6 tells us that "Christ died for the ungodly." Though my problem is sin, Christ died for me, bearing the penalty I deserve. Further, the salvation I have accepted is available to anyone who believes in his heart and confesses with his mouth (Romans 10:9). Anyone can be free.  What does it mean to believe in your heart? I think it means an acknowledgement that you are hopelessly sinful and that you know Christ is the only hope for redemption. This is truly available to anyone.

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28), Jesus tells his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that he commanded.  Well, now what does that mean? Yes, we are saved by grace, praise be to God! It is available to anyone who will accept the free gift.

Yet Jesus tells us to make disciples and teach them to obey him.  What are Christ's disciples to obey? It's important to note that salvation is free, but also to note that God desires for us to be sanctified, to be made holy (1 Thessalonians 4:3).  He saves us while we are in the muck, but he doesn't want to leave us there.  As a Christian, I believe God asks me in the Great Commission not only to tell people about the good news of Jesus Christ, but also to show them what being a follower of Christ involves. 

Often, amongst evangelicals, holiness is an unpopular concept.  We like salvation, but we don't like submission.  As a Christian, I want people to see that God not only wants to save you, he wants to make you holy and that means accepting him as Lord. 

If you truly believe him in your heart, he will make sure this happens. It may be quick, but more than likely, it will be a slow, bumpy ride for most of us. 

23 July 2012

Batman cannot save you

Over at the Mockingbird blog, Bryan shares his reflections on The Dark Knight Rises, the subsequent violence, and what it means. Though the whole thing is worth reading, the final paragraph is powerful and hopeful.

So where do you turn when there’s no Batman to save you? Where do you go when diagnosis is accurate but the prescription is nowhere to be found? Who will save us when our proverbial city erupts in flames because of our own doing?   I think if I’m honest with myself, and I trust that “what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies,” my heart flees to Jesus because he is my only hope.  He is my deliverer who, though I am part of the system of violence in our world,  does not count my complicity in the systems of the world against me.  It’s trite to suggest that “Jesus is my Batman,” because Batman never died for my sins, nor is he an agent of grace and forgiveness.  Instead, I will simply suggest that, unlike many philosophers with book deals, suffering and violence in my world actually drives me to the crucified savior, not from him.  Deliverance will come when Jesus, like the walls of Jericho, makes our fourth walls “come a tumblin’ down” with grace, love, and deliverance.  May he return soon and do so, that such violence as we have seen this week might never weigh down our souls again.

Read the rest here.  

18 July 2012

Righteous Anger?

Today, there was an excellent article in Touchstone Magazine from Theodore Pulcini entitled "Cultivating Christian Anger." I don't necessarily agree with everything that he has to say. For example, he questions whether God becomes angry, categorizing along with other biblical anthropomorphisms.  But the general flavor of the article is well heeded.  Christians do indeed come across as angry and vitriolic at times and we must be very cautious about that tendency. 

Reflecting on a student's rejection of religion because of his perception of anger, Pulcini writes, " have to admit, this student’s observations hit a nerve. For some time I had been peculiarly uneasy with much of what I was reading in Christian publications, both popular and scholarly, both “traditionalist” and “modernist.” In many cases, it was not that I took exception to what the author was arguing. It was, rather, that the tone was shrill, high-handed, pedantic, mocking, and caustic. These works caricatured and dismissed the other as villainous, insidious, or just plain stupid. What was ostensibly an informed discussion of a topic sometimes even lapsed into sheer harangue. In short, anger took over."

Granted, I believe there are some issues worth standing our ground for.  Still, in so doing, we need to remember to treat others with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

Read the rest here

17 July 2012

Tim Challies takes on Debi Pearl

I disagree with Tim Challies sometimes. Often, though, he demonstrates wisdom and discernment through his writing. I have particularly benefited from his book reviews.  Over the past two days, he has addressed his many concerns with Debi Pearl's Created to Be His Helpmeet.  As I would have anticipated, there has been a lot of backlash from Pearl fans, but I think it is at least worth considering the criticisms Challies raises. 

Part 1
Part 2

16 July 2012

I prayed about it

Ed Welch addresses how to respond to people who say "I prayed about it" to justify sinful behavior.  I have had these conversations with people, and they are not easy.  He writes,

Things are not so innocuous in the adult version. “I prayed about it,” adult-style, is invoked when Scripture clearly teaches one thing and the person wants to do another. For example, a Christian woman is (somehow!) granted that coveted spiritual exception to marry an unbeliever. When challenged by her friends, she says: “I prayed about it.” Or another follower of Christ is startled to hear the Spirit say a resounding “YES, you can move in with your girlfriend,” or “YES, you can leave your spouse, because, after all, I want you to be happy.”

What “God” are these people praying to? This perverse, self-deceived foolishness is apparent to everyone except the person involved. How can we respond?

Read the rest here.  

13 July 2012

Praying the Sinner's Prayer

A few month ago, this video made the rounds.



Since then, there has been a lot of dialog in the Christian blogosphere about the concept of "praying to ask Jesus into your heart."  Today, JD Grear wrote an insightful post at Christianity today about the sinner's prayer.  Specifically, he addresses those who have fleeting assurance and those who have false assurance. Here are a few quotes worth considering:

  • I have begun to wonder if both problems, needless doubting and false assurance, are exacerbated by the clich├ęd ways in which we (as evangelicals) have learned to speak about the gospel. Evangelical shorthand for the gospel is to "ask Jesus into your heart," or "accept Jesus as Lord and Savior," or "give your heart to Jesus." These phrases may not be wrong in themselves, but the Bible never tells us, specifically, to seek salvation in those ways. The biblical summation of a saving response toward Christ is "repentance" and "belief" in the gospel.
  • Belief and repentance are the only prescribed biblical instruments for laying hold of salvation. They might be expressed in a "sinner's prayer," but they are fundamentally postures of the heart toward God. It is possible to pray a sinner's prayer and not have repented and believed. It is also possible to repent and believe without articulating such a prayer.
  • Conversion to Christ is like sitting down in a chair. If you are seated right now, there was a point in time in which you transferred the weight of your body from your legs to the chair. You may not even remember making that decision, but the fact you are seated now proves that you did.
    Salvation is a posture of repentance and faith toward the finished work of Christ in which you transfer the weight of your hopes of heaven off of your own righteousness and onto Jesus Christ. It does begin in a moment, but it persists for the rest of your life. The way to know you made the decision is by the posture you are currently in. The apostle John almost always talks about "believing" in the present tense because it is something we do continually, not something we did once in the past (e.g. John 3:36; 20:27-28; 9:36-38; 1 John 5:13). The posture begins at a moment, but it persists for a lifetime.
     
     You can read the rest here

11 July 2012

Why Francis Schaeffer is One of My Heroes

In 1966 I joined Operation Mobilization for a year of ministry in France, but spent two years in India instead. While in London that summer, at the one-month OM orientation, I volunteered to work on a clean-up crew late one night.
Around 12:30am I was sweeping the front steps of the Conference Centre when an older gentleman approached and asked if this was the OM conference. I told him it was, but most everyone was in bed.
He had a small bag with him and was dressed very simply. He said he was attending the conference, so I said, “Let me see if I can find you a place to sleep.” Since there were many different age groups at OM, I thought he was an older OM’er.

I took him to the room where I had been sleeping on the floor with about 50 others and, seeing that he had nothing to sleep on, laid some padding and a blanket on the floor and used a towel for a pillow. He said it would be fine and he appreciated it very much.

As he was preparing for bed, I asked him if he had eaten. He had not as he had been travelling all day. I took him to the dining room but it was locked. So after picking the lock I found cornflakes, milk, bread, butter and jam—all of which he appreciated very much.

As he ate, we began to fellowship. I asked where he was from. He said he and his wife had been working in Switzerland for several years in a ministry mainly to hippies and travellers. It was wonderful to talk with him and hear about his work and those who had come to Christ. When he finished eating, we turned in for the night.

However, the next day I was in trouble! The leaders of OM really “got on my case.” “Don’t you know who that man is on the floor next to you?” they asked. “It is Dr. Francis Schaeffer, the speaker for the conference!”

I did not know they were going to have a speaker, nor did I know who Francis Schaeffer was, nor did I know they had a special room prepared for him!

After Francis Schaeffer became well known because of his books, and I had read more about him, I thought about this occasion many times—this gracious, kind, humble man of God sleeping on the floor with OM recruits! This was the kind of man I wanted to be.

HT: EPM 

10 July 2012

Soul & Spirit

I am in my second year as editor for Soul & Spirit, the newsletter for the Society for Christian Psychology.  I have the honor of working with not only psychologists, but biblical counselors, philosophers, theologians, authors, church historians, and physicians.  If you are interested in reading some of our past newsletters, I have created a repository for them here

Book Review: Why You Think the Way You Do

Too often, people are unreflective about where their worldviews come from.  In Why You Think the Way You Do (2009) history professor Glenn Sunshine explores the emergence of the Western worldview tracing its roots back to the Roman empire, which was also when Christianity emerged.  He moved forward from the Roman empire onto medieval cultures, to the rennaisance and Protestant reformation, to the enlightenment, and on to modern society. 

Near the end of the book, Sunshine commented, "What is the key point? All of the greatest achievements of Western civilization, from the abolition of slavery to the idea of inalienable rights and the dignity and worth of each individual, from the rise of science and technology to the development of universities, from the emergence of economic theories that maximized production and raised standards of living to the ideas of representative democracies and limited government--all were the products of ideas that have roots in the Bible and a Christian worldview." If you want to see the evidence that this is true, even though modern society seems to call into question the usefulness of Christianity, I would recommend this book to you.  

Book Review: Grace for the Afflicted

This fall, I have the opportunity to be a respondent to two speakers at the American Association of Christian Counselors annual meeting.  The two speakers are Curt Thompson who wrote Anatomy of the Soul and Matthew Stanford, who wrote this book, Grace for the Afflicted (2008).  This book provides a biblical perspective on mental illness from a professor of neuroscience.  Stanford presents a balanced perspective on mental illness, walking through many common diagnostic categories. It is a great introduction for lay persons. 

What I found particularly helpful, though, was his descriptions of people who have dealt with mental illness and their experiences with the church.  Too often, the church responds poorly, if at all, to mental illness.  I hope that church leaders will take this book, read it, and try to respond with understanding and compassion to people struggling with emotional issues.

Book Review: Food Rules

I previously read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, which is a pretty good book.  I don't know where I came across his latest book, Food Rules: An Eater's Manual (2011), but I was intrigued. As someone who thinks there is a lot of wisdom to be had in the NoS Diet by Reinhold Engels, this book was certainly worth a look. 

In this book Pollan hypothesizes that eating has become unnecessarily complex and that we often feel at the mercy of food scientists. He points out 2 (perhaps 3) facts that most people agree upon. Fact 1: people who eat a primarily Western diet tend to have higher rates of all sorts of bad health outcomes and chronic diseases. Fact 2: People who eat a wide variety of traditional diets, even when the foods vary considerably, tend to be healthier than Westerners. The third fact is that people who get off the diet tend to see improvements in their health. 

To help the reader not become hyperfocused upon food science complexities, yet also alter their typical diet, Pollan offer 83 "food rules".  There was certainly some overlap and some that were more than commonsensical.  On the whole, however, this was an interesting, albeit brief read.  Here were my top 5 favorite food rules:

  • Avoid food products that makes health claims.
  • Eat all the junkfood you want as long as you cook it yourself. 
  • Enjoy drinks that have been caffeinated by nature, not by science. 
  • If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you're probably not hungry. 
  • Limit your snacks to unprocessed snack foods.
I also have to mention my son Ian's favorite, which makes him giggle every time he hears it: "The whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead."  


Book Review: How Now Shall We Live?

Over the next year, I will be completing the Centurions Program, a Christian worldview, ethics, and leadership training program established by the late Chuck Colson.  The program requires a fairly substantial reading list that we are required to interact with and reflect on.  The first book, How Now Shall We Live (Colson & Pearcey, 1999) is really a cornerstone to the program. 

In essence, this book is a detailed introduction to the concept of worldview.  The authors not only address what worldview is, but why it matters.  They begin by examining the relationship of Christianity to Naturalism, expanding to look at postmodernism, multiculturalism, and relativism.  They look at each of these things through the grid of creation, fall, and redemption.  In other words, each worldview must account for how we came to be, what went wrong, and how it gets fixed. 

This book nicely combined intellectual rigor with personal accounts of why worldview matters.  No doubt I will have to review this book in greater depth as I go through the program.

07 July 2012

Is Christianity socialistic?

RC Sproul wrote a challenging essay today entitled "Obamacare: Taking Our Medicine".  He begins by writing, "It is true enough that the church is worldly. Like the world’s younger brother we follow a few steps behind the spirit of the age, mimicking its swagger. That truth, however, ought not cause us to miss another truth- that the world follows the church. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that believers are salt and light, that we act as a preservative to a world swirling in a maelstrom of moral entropy. How easy it is to diminish this truth, to reduce it down to 'Be nice, so your neighbor will be nice.' The truth is, however, not only that the broader world becomes a less moral place when we behave in less moral ways, but that the connection runs deeper still. When we fail at X, odds are the world will fail at X, spectacularly. And in ways we won’t like."

If you look at many denominational assemblies (e.g., conventions), there is a continual slide away from the authority of Scripture in a relatavistic morass. Rather than acting as "a preservative to a world swirling in a maelstrom of moral entropy," the church enters the whirlwind themselves by refusing to take a stand. 

He goes on, "Of course we want our socialism in small doses, just like campers like tent- encroaching camels in small doses. We have bought into the notion that it is fitting for the state to tax us all, to finance health care for the aged. We have bought into the notion that it is appropriate for governments to tax us all, to finance education not just for them, but for eighty percent of our own children. We have bought into the notion that the state should tax us all and guarantee our mortgages, underwrite our college loans, supplement our retirements. The country is embracing socialism because the church has embraced socialism. We have lost our savor, and are baffled at the stench all around us. We tear our clothes, tossing ashes into the sky, angry at the government for merely doing more of what we have asked it to do."

I echo his closing prayer: "I hope and pray we will never actually see Obamacare become a reality. I pray still more that Christians would cease asking Caesar to give us our daily bread. I pray still more that the church would honor the eighth commandment. I pray still more that we would recognize and repudiate socialism whenever and from whichever party it rears its ugly head. I pray the servants of the King will one day come to love the liberty He came to preach. I pray we would be free men."

06 July 2012

Misattributed sayings

I really appreciated this article from Justin Taylor.  He looks at a quote that is attributed to C.S. Lewis, but apparently was not said by him, nor is it correct.  The statement is: "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."  The statement actually comes from George McDonald who was one a strong influence on Lewis.

What is more interesting is the tendency to assume these platitudinous statements without reflection.  The reality is that this approaches an early heresy called docetism, which stated that Christ only appeared to have a body and was distrustful of the physical body. 

I also liked how Taylor showed this tendency with other statements as well, perhaps most famously St Francis of Assisi's "Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words" which Francis probably did not say (it was inconsistent with his life), but is also contradictory to Scripture.  Preaching the Gospel necessitates words. 

I wonder how many other quotes we use are misattributions or flatly untrue.  Regardless, we must hold them up to Scripture to see if they are actually true.


03 July 2012

College, debt, and a soapbox



Yesterday, I posted this video, which deals with the "slavery of student loan debt".  A friend commented "that was excellent--what is the solution?"  I don't know the solution, but I had a soapbox moment.  Here it is:

Now *that* is the real question, right? I think one thing is to not demand children go to college, but consider other options as well (e.g., the trades). It may be encouraging military service so they can go on the GI Bill. It may be encouraging them to work for a while so that they can discover what they really want out of life. It may be holding our universities and their faculty to more rigorous academic standards and, by extension, the students. It may be telling young people that going to college is not about how often you can get drunk, throwing off the reins of their parents, or seeing how many sexual partners they can amass, but rather to develop their brains. It may be telling them that in college, they do not need a stereo, PlayStation 3, car, motorcycle, full-wardrobe, and a host of other things contributing to a mountain of credit card (or parental) debt. What they need is a desk, some office supplies and a good light to read their books by.

A college education should teach young people to see the world better. They should be learning in class and outside of it how to think well, how to solve problems, and how to love and serve other people, not just gather facts so they can graduate with a 60 cent piece of paper. Too many young people are no smarter after graduating than they are when they started. Indeed, I would happily make the argument that some are worse off because not only have they not learned much, they assume they have, which contributes to a degree of undeserved arrogance.

The university was created by Christians. It was a place where people of all stripes could come together to study, learn, and exchange ideas about God's universe. Unfortunately, the modern university has become much more about multiculturalism and the celebration of "tolerance" (provided you are not a Bible believing Christian--they don't tolerate that) than it is about an open exchange of ideas. In its typically relativistic worldview, the university has lost its pursuit of big-T Truth, leaving many students without any clear sense of direction or purpose. We need to reclaim the idea that the university is a place to pursue truth, that debate is not only allowed but beneficial, and that all opinions may be expressed, even though all opinions are not equally valid.

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox. Do you have thoughts?

02 July 2012

Forgiving God?

I have heard people mention the concept of forgiving God a few times and it always makes me cringe.  Sam Storms, who is much smarter than I, has addressed this issue in a useful essay today. 

He wrote, "My primary concern, however, is with the idea of humans forgiving God. What are we to make of this?"

and then later,

"But my struggle is with the language of 'forgiving God.' For one thing, I don’t find it ever used in Scripture. That alone ought to give us pause before we incorporate such language into our Christian vocabulary or allow it to shape our theology or our understanding of spiritual formation.

"Also, a person can only be truly forgiven if that person has truly committed a sin or some wrong. Forgiveness assumes guilt on the part of the person being forgiven. If there is no sin, there is no guilt, and if there is no guilt, there is no need to be forgiven. Typically we say, 'I forgive ______ for having gossiped about me,' or 'I forgive ______ for having broken a confidence,' etc.

"But God never has, cannot, and never will sin against us. Nothing he does is wrong or misguided or ill-informed or unwise or unloving. That doesn’t mean we will always see it that way! Far from it. We often think that God has missed a step or failed us in some way, but he hasn’t. If he had, he wouldn’t be God!
 Read the rest here.  

Sherlock Holmes and Bible Study

Eric McKiddie applies what he learned from Sherlock Holmes to Bible Study.  This is really quite a fascinating read!. 

Are you a match on a windy day?

Stephen Altrogge wrote a great little piece on "feeble love for Jesus." 

He writes, "But the weakness of my love for Jesus doesn’t cause me to despair. For any genuine love for Jesus, even if it’s as small as a mustard seed, is proof one’s born again. Unbelievers don’t love Jesus and don’t care that they don’t love Jesus. Only genuine believers desire to love Jesus more.

"Even a desire to love Jesus more pleases him. What wife wouldn’t be blessed if her husband said, Honey I’m not content with how much I love you. I love you, but I want to love you so much more."

You can read the rest here

01 July 2012

Gideon-Part 1

This summer, we are doing a series on the book of Judges. The series is called "character in the midst of chaos."  Last week, I taught the first part of a two part series on Gideon.  If you are interested in giving a listen, you can hear it here.