Archives For Culture

Around-the-Horn[1]Jimmy Carter On Gay Marriage and Religious Liberty
Jimmy Carter doesn’t think marriage laws should be decided at the federal level.  “I’m kind of inclined to let the states decide individually,” the former president told WFAA, an ABC affiliate, in an interview that aired Sunday.

May Mcllvaine Not Be In Vain: The Cardinal Doctrine of Justification
Charles Pettit McIlvaine, the illustrious Bishop of Ohio (in office 1832-1873), was one of the greatest advocates of Evangelicalism within the [Protestant] Episcopal Church of the United States of America. Able scholar, accomplished theologian, and earnest preacher of the Gospel, McIlvaine served his country in various spheres apart from the parish and the episcopate. He was appointed chaplain of the U.S senate and also of West Point Military Academy. President Lincoln assigned him as a special negotiator with the British authorities to persuade their government not to support the Confederacy in his nation’s tragic civil war.

Forgotten Providence
Providence is so sixteenth century.  We seem to have moved past needing to talk about God’s providence—we’re quite sophisticated these days.

When Jesus Says Stay
He wanted to follow Jesus. He wanted to be close to Jesus. He wanted to live a life of radical obedience. But Jesus told him to stay, not to go. Do not follow me.

America’s Spiritual Founding Father at 300
George Whitefield is the greatest evangelist in American history. He is also perhaps Britain’s greatest evangelist. Indeed, few figures in church history have made such a seismic impact for the gospel as Whitefield.

Two Solutions for the Terminally Ill
Here are two heart-breaking stories of women with terminal brain cancer.  The first is moving to Oregon so she can avail herself of physician-assisted suicide, searching for control of her life and “death with dignity.”  The second says why she is rejecting that option and how she is putting her faith in Jesus Christ.  Read them both.

High Maintenance Christians Are Better Than Nice Ones
From Housewife Theologian: It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious wills costs Him crucifixion.

Reformed Tradition Taking Root in China
China may be emerging as another global center of Reformed faith and practice. If so, East Asia would seem to be well on its way to becoming the heartland of the Reformed tradition in this century. – See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/10/reformed-tradition-taking-root.php#sthash.ZotqdzFd.dpuf

Fascinating.

TheStateOfTheology-Infographic

From Mollie Hemingway:

If you care about the poor, you need to start caring much more about marriage culture. The growing marriage divide is a major source of social and economic inequality, and is one largely unnoticed force eroding the American Dream. That’s the sobering message of a new report on economic success and marriage decline.

Americans with college degrees are doing pretty well on the marriage front. They get married and stay married. But the picture is very different for Americans with lower education levels. Lower income Americans are being hit hardest by changing social norms, the rise of the post-industrial economy and the retreat from civil society and its institutions. That’s creating a marriage divide among Americans that is leading to serious inequalities, say the Urban Institute’s Robert Lerman and the University of Virginia’s Bradford Wilcox.

Lower-income Americans have been steadily retreating from marriage and that move has played a key role in their declining economic fortunes, the scholars write in “For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success In America.” The duo estimate that median income growth of families with children would be 44 percent higher if people were marrying at 1980 levels. Further, at least 32 percent of family income inequality and 37 percent of the decline in men’s employment rates since 1979 can be linked to the decreasing number of Americans who form and maintain stable families.

“All the latest evidence confirms the ancient wisdom: the institution of marriage is a key to productive adulthood, the cornerstone of a stable family, and the basic unit of a healthy community,” says American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks of the new study.

Read the rest.

Around-the-Horn[1]Let Your Dim, Sin-Stained Light Shine Before The World
If exhortations to “be an example” have ever fallen on your shoulders with the weight of the world, take heart. There’s a way out from under the burden. Here’s the solution: our message is not about achieving perfection, but about receiving redemption. Do you realize what that means?

But Seriously, Would You Admit You Voted For Obama?
From Mollie Hemingway: Here’s the thing. It wasn’t just Grimes who voted for Obama multiple times. It was literally (literally “literally,” not Joe Biden “literally”) tens of millions of other people in this country. They really did it. For real. They put up bumper stickers. They put up yard signs. They called him a light-worker and an enlightened being. They said “He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair.” He was given a Nobel Freaking Peace Prize. The award citation reads like satire. Seriously, it’s hi-larious. If you’re ever having a bad day, just recall that President Obama once won a Nobel Peace Prize. If you’re having a really bad day, read the citation. I guarantee your mood will improve. The media fawned over him. They got thrills up their legs. By any metric, the mainstream media was obsequious in its coverage of the president, only pulling back marginally, quite recently, and in the tiniest few quarters as the crush of scandal and incompetence has continued and grown. . . Listen, I know the options weren’t great, but that’s still no defense for picking the guy who is bad at everything.

Houston, We Have A Constitution
From Russell Moore: The preaching of sermons in the pulpits of churches is of no concern to any government bureaucrat at all. This country settled, a long time ago, with a First Amendment that the government would not supervise, license, or bully religious institutions. That right wasn’t handed out by the government, as a kind of temporary restraining order. It was recognition of a self-evident truth.

Jitney Messiahs
This is a lie that under-girds all progressive thought, all the time, but it has now come to the forefront again, and some out-maneuvered Christians are helping to propagate it. Progressives are the ones that progressives have been waiting for, but really, nobody else has been. Whenever their jitney messiah arrives — and they find a new one every generation or so — I really see no reason for bowing down.

Only Themselves To Blame
Have you noticed the recent battle over encrypting information?  This article has and it concludes, “Feds only have themselves to blame for Apple and Google’s smartphone encryption efforts.”

Seeing Our Faith Through A Western World Lens
There are so many times in our Christian life when we look at parts of our faith through a blatant Western world lens.

Seduction And The Cost of Saying No
Most American youth don’t face these sorts of threats, but that doesn’t mean their faith comes without cost. America doesn’t kill or incarcerate people for being Christian, but it does foster a social and economic environment that makes following Jesus increasingly costly.

Catholic Family Synod & Liberal Protestantism
Without simply proclaiming Christ’s forgiveness–apparently, those outside the church’s blessing are not even allowed to confess their sins and receive absolution!–the document tries to establish a new “tone.”  My question:  How is this any different from liberal Protestantism?

Getting Back To The Ancient Church
Most of the contemporary discussion about the ancient church attempts to show discrepancies between what is now and what was then. The not-so-subtle implication is that there is something very wrong with the contemporary church. Blame Constantine. Blame the Enlightenment. Blame Capitalism. Blame the Fundamentalists. It doesn’t really matter. The only way to fix the church today is to get back to the ancient church.

Around-the-Horn[1]

Does God Have Regret?
From Kevin DeYoung: What does it mean for God to say “I regret”? Can God change his mind? Can we thwart God’s plans? Is God ignorant about the future? Is God just like us in that he makes honest mistakes and sometimes look back at his decisions and says, “Golly, I wish I could do that one over again”?

I Survived A Weekend With The Cult Of Oprah
From NYMag: It’s 8:30 a.m. in Newark, New Jersey. I am bound for the church of Oprah, otherwise known as the Prudential Center.  This was the fourth stop on Oprah’s the Life You Want weekend tour — her biggest arena tour ever. In eight cities, she is offering fans two days of Oprah, including dancing, drinking, journaling, empowerment, enlightenment, an assortment of OWN-approved “trailblazers,” and a temporary merch city called O-Town.

The Medium Is The Message, 50 Years Later
A look back on Marshall McLuhan’s assertion that the medium is the message. It’s amazing to see how deeply the idea has become embedded in our society.

Six Great Reasons To Study Doctrine
From Tim Challies: I love doctrine. Doctrine is simply the teaching of God or the teaching about God–the body of knowledge that he reveals to us through the Bible. I guess I’m one of those geekly people who loves to learn a new word and the big idea behind it. But I hope I do not love doctrine for doctrine’s sake. Rather, I strive to be a person who loves doctrine for God’s sake.  Today I want to give you 6 great reasons to study doctrine.

Had Sex, Dumped Jesus: The Spiritual Perils of Immorality
The Christian faith says a few rather firm things about sexual conduct, what goes and when. Our culture, on the other hand, tends to think anything goes, whenever. But there are dire spiritual costs hidden in this supposed benefits package.

Ordinary Isn’t Mediocre
From Aimee Byrd: Okay, so I don’t know many people who aspire to be ordinary. We grow up being told we are special. What would our parents think if we just turn out to be regular people?

Resenting Christian Compassion
Ross Douthat, NYT, has another wonderful essay in which he considers whether the church is facing a new pagan society, as in the first century.  He thinks not, but he notes that some of the hostility against Christianity is very similar to the resentment against the faith expressed by pagan Romans.  He cites a recent rant in Slate complaining that so many of the doctors battling Ebola are Christians and missionaries, and calling for a separation of religion and health care.  Douthat said  this is like Julian the Apostate’s frustration that “all men see that our people lack aid” from pagan sources, even as “the impious Galilaeans support not only their own poor but ours as well.”

Joan or John?
From Russell Moore: This question takes place sometime in the future—or the present—in your ministry.

In Praise of Confidence: Doubt Is To Be Endured, Not Celebrated
From Mollie Hemingway: When you think of some of the most passionate, persistent, and eloquent advocates for social change—William Wilberforce, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr.—you think of men who were confident in the rightness of their cause. But a study published in Psychological Science says that it’s doubt, not confidence, that leads individuals to advance their beliefs and attempt to persuade others.

The Vindication of Antonin Scalia – A Sad Milestone for Marriage and Morality
From Albert Mohler: A giant milestone in the moral revolution passed today when the U.S. Supreme Court turned down every single appeal from several states on the issue of same-sex marriage. This decision not to take at least one case under consideration stunned both sides in the same-sex marriage battle.

David vs Goliath, Chandler vs Furtick
From David Ould: If I’m David then I need to throw that stone just right and I become the hero who saves the people of God from their enemy. But if I’m not David, I need to trust in the Saviour that God has sent who saves me along with the people of God from our enemy. One is justification by faith alone brought about by God alone and brings glory to King David’s greater Son. The other isn’t.

 

 

 

 

Christians and Pagans

October 8, 2014 — Leave a comment

From Ross Douthat in the NYT:

Occasionally in the debates about Christianity’s weakened position in American culture, you’ll hear traditionalists and conservatives analogize the Christian situation, now or soon, to the environment the faith faced in its earliest centuries, as an embattled minority in a hostile pagan empire. I’m not a particular fan of this analogy, for various reasons: Not only because lions-and-catacombs imagery risks trivializing the concept of persecution at a time when Christians outside the United States face actual Diocletian-style consequences for their beliefs (and don’t always receive the charity they deserve from their American co-believers), but also because describing contemporary American culture as pagan in the style of the ancient world strikes me as a category error, which underplays the extent to which middlebrow American spirituality is still infused with Christian-ish sentiments and assumptions and ideas, and underplays, as well, just how radically different a thoroughly repaganized society would be from the one we (happily) inhabit today.

All of that said, I wouldn’t want to say that there are never echoes of the ancient world in contemporary religious debates. Consider, as a for instance, this piece in Slate from the science writer Brian Palmer, which passively-aggressively complains about the fact that so many of the doctors fighting Ebola on the ground in Africa are … Christians … and worse still, Christian missionaries … and not that there’s anything wrong with that, but actually maybe there issomething wrong with that (“I’m not altogether proud of this bias—I’m just trying to be honest”), or at least Palmer wants us to know that he’s a little troubled by its implications (“some missionaries are incapable of separating their religious work from their medical work … I suspect that many others have the same visceral discomfort with the mingling of religion and health care …“) even as, broad-minded guy that he is, he concedes that “until we’re finally ready to invest heavily in secular medicine for Africa,” the missionaries may deserve our grudging support.

Read the rest.

An excellent review from Christianity Today of an intriguing book:

ordinaryIf we are justified by faith in Christ alone, then we need not be anxious to show how Spirit-filled we are by living extraordinary, radical lives. Having already received the promise of the Spirit in baptism—God’s promise, which we can trust he will keep—we are free to serve our neighbors with ordinary good works. We are freed from establishing our credentials before God or our own consciences. And we are even free, Horton states, to enjoy our neighbors as gifts rather than making them into our own projects, as if it was our job to transform their lives.

Horton argues that the underlying theology behind oft-heard calls to be wild and crazy radical believers—as if Christianity were an extreme sport—is works righteousness in a new, consumerist mode. For some time, radical has been a favorite word of advertisers and ideologues alike. Every website with something to sell now routinely promises a transformative experience.

Instead of another call to be radical, extraordinary, or transformative, Horton would have us return to the ordinary means of grace, those practices of the church in which God has promised to make himself known: preaching the gospel, teaching the faith, administering the sacraments, and worshiping with a local congregation. Instead of advertising life-changing experiences or the next big thing, the aim is a sustainable faith for the long haul. The great strength of being ordinary, after all, is that you can do it for a lifetime.

Read it all.

The Cure for Shame

October 1, 2014 — Leave a comment

Shame. Boatloads of shame. Day after day. More of the same. Blame. Please lift it off. Please take it off. Please make it stop.” Those words are not just the lyrics to a famous Avett Brothers’ song, they are also words under which a lot of us live. To live in this world is to experience shame. Boatloads of shame.

Shame is a word that’s hard to describe. We’ve all experienced it on some level. It’s the feeling you get when you suddenly realize you’re underdressed for a party. When you show up late to a meeting thinking you’re right on time. Or when your card gets declined buying coffee at Starbucks for your financial advisor. That last one hits a little too close to home.

Then there’s the shame that never gets spoken. The kind that involves things done in secret. Compulsive behaviors. Hidden struggles. The shame of being abused, of being taken advantage of in a way that takes a little of the light out of our humanity, and our hope.

Maybe the best way to describe shame is to think of it as the residue of sin, both our own, and that of others against us. One author describes shame as “the subjective experience of our objective guilt.” Both the guilt of what we’ve done (and left undone), as well as the guilt of what others have done (or left undone) to us. In this way, shame is like an onion. There are so many layers that when you begin to cut it open, it’s hard to tell where some begin and others end.

Shame is what Peter felt when he made eye contact with Jesus just after denying that he even knew him. It’s what David felt as he realized his own blindness before Nathan. It’s what Isaiah felt in the temple when he felt overwhelmingly unclean. We’re no strangers to it either.

Read the rest to find the cure.

The Bending of God’s Word

September 25, 2014

A good reminder from Francis Schaeffer:

“God’s Word will never pass away, but looking back to the Old Testament and since the time of Christ, with tears we must say that because of a lack of fortitude and faithfulness on the part of God’s people, God’s Word has many times been allowed to be bent, to conform to the surrounding, passing, changing culture of that moment rather than to stand as the inerrant Word of God judging the form of the world spirit and the surrounding culture of that moment. In the name of The Lord Jesus Christ, may our children and grandchildren not say that such can be said about us.”

The Great Evangelical Disaster (1984)