Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Gospel Coalition

Much that is interesting and exciting in America among orthodox, Protestant Christians, seems to be happening in that community that defines itself as Reformed. Online some of the representative sites are 9Marks and Church Matters, Desiring God, Together for the Gospel, and - drawing many of the people involved with these ministries together - The Gospel Coalition. As noted before, there is much at The Gospel Coalition site that is of interest, and there promises to be much more. Among the things posted is a "Confessional Statement." The first two articles are below, with a link to the full statement.
(1) The Tri-une God
We believe in one God, eternally existing in three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who know, love, and glorify one another. This one true and living God is infinitely perfect both in his love and in his holiness. He is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, and is therefore worthy to receive all glory and adoration. Immortal and eternal, he perfectly and exhaustively knows the end from the beginning, sustains and sovereignly rules over all things, and providentially brings about his eternal good purposes to redeem a people for himself and restore his fallen creation, to the praise of his glorious grace.

(2) Revelation
God has graciously disclosed his existence and power in the created order, and has supremely revealed himself to fallen human beings in the person of his Son, the incarnate Word. Moreover, this God is a speaking God who by his Spirit has graciously disclosed himself in human words: we believe that God has inspired the words preserved in the Scriptures, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, which are both record and means of his saving work in the world. These writings alone constitute the verbally inspired Word of God, which is utterly authoritative and without error in the original writings, complete in its revelation of his will for salvation, sufficient for all that God requires us to believe and do, and final in its authority over every domain of knowledge to which it speaks. We confess that both our finitude and our sinfulness preclude the possibility of knowing God’s truth exhaustively, but we affirm that, enlightened by the Spirit of God, we can know God’s revealed truth truly. The Bible is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it teaches; obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; and trusted, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises. As God’s people hear, believe, and do the Word, they are equipped as disciples of Christ and witnesses to the gospel. [the Confessional Statement]
The Gospel Coalition | Confessional Statement

Friday, June 29, 2007

Harry Potter and Wicca

Someone who knows a great deal about Wicca addresses the alleged relationship between Harry Potter and Wiccans. The comments are interesting, too.

internetmonk.com » On Harry Potter and Wicca: A Helpful Letter

This blog is for adults only

Online Dating

"This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words: abortion (8x), death (6x), dead (5x), dangerous (2x), drugs (1x)"

Mormons and orthodoxy

At his blog, Albert Mohler refers to a debate with Orson Scott Card at Beliefnet.com on the question "Are Mormons Christian?" If "Christian" has any meaning at all, it means what most people who call themselves Christians have always meant by it, and Mormons mean something else. Mohler:
Richard John Neuhaus ... reminds us that "Christian" is a word that "is not honorific but descriptive." Christians do respect the Mormon affirmation of the family and the zeal of Mormon youth in their own missionary work. Christians must affirm religious liberty and the right of Mormons to practice and share their faith.

Nevertheless, Mormonism is not Christianity by definition or description.
Are Mormons Christian? - A Beliefnet.com Debate

Light conversation and the Word of God

In an interview David Wells comments on the significance to worship and preaching of the physical environment:

9M: Many churches and ministries today boast of using new methods, while proclaiming the same message. Is this the right way to go about it, or not? Isn’t there at least some truth in the phrase "the medium is the message"?

DW: I think there is a lot of truth in that phrase ["the medium is the message"]. This argument that the message is preserved while the means of delivery is changed is a misleading proposition, because the message being delivered almost invariably is stripped of its theological content. That is the whole point about it. In many of these churches, they disguise their identity. You see it visually because they don’t want to be thought of as a church. So religious symbols go. Pews go. The pulpit is replaced by a Plexiglas stand. And then the Plexiglas stand disappears and you have people on barstools.

Now you could say that perhaps nothing has changed—and I certainly wouldn’t die on a hill for a pulpit. But subtle messages are being sent by all of this. In an earlier generation, the pulpit was at the center of the church. It was visually central. You saw it. Oftentimes it was elevated. And this was a way of saying to the congregation, "The Word of God that we are about to hear is above normal human discussions. We’ve got to pay attention to it, because it is authoritative."

Now we have replaced the pulpit not even by a barstool, but by a cup of Starbucks coffee, which speaks of "human connecting." And human connecting has become more important to us than our hearing from God. Now when we make these kinds of changes to our method, we are really making changes in the message that is delivered.

9M: So would you encourage pastors to put down the Starbucks cup and to stand behind a pulpit?

DW: I absolutely would. I’m not saying that the Word of God absolutely cannot be preached from a barstool or with a cup of coffee in hand. But as a former architect, I think I understand how environments—that is, architectural environments—affect people. There are ways of confirming what is being said by what you see. Now what you see is not a substitute for what is said. So some of the beautiful gothic cathedrals are lifeless and dead spiritually, and all the beauty of those cathedrals can never substitute for the truth of God. But the other side of that also plays out. If we have nothing but Starbucks and light conversation around the Word of God, we will find that the Word of God disappears.

Satanism, Starbucks, and Other Gospel Challengers - 9Marks

Emerging Church?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Workshops at the upcoming SDB Conference

From SDB Exec:
Conference President Ruth Burdick has lined up some interesting and challenging workshops for this year's General Conference.
SDB Exec: June 2007

The Seventh Day Baptist General Conference 2007

The 2007 sessions of the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference, USA and Canada will convene at the end of July [July 29-Aug 4] on the campus of George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon.

The President of General Conference this year is Ruth Burdick. [In the SDB structure, the President serves on the denomination's council which acts for the conference between sessions, and also presides over the annual conference business meetings and plans the worship and other activities of the week.] President Burdick is a member of the Seattle Seventh Day Baptist Church [and wife of its pastor].

The theme Ruth chose for the week's worship and study is "Tell the Truth...the Whole Truth." The last Sabbath Recorder provided information about how the morning Bible studies and evening worship speakers will address aspects of that theme: God's Word, God's sovereignty, Christ's divinity, the role of the Holy Spirit, and our responsibility to reach the lost.

It isn't unusual for entire families to attend and so, in addition to the regular sessions, there are activities for children and young people. Although necessary business is done [Baptists are democratic], most of the time is devoted to worship, discussion, study, socializing, and enjoying each other.

The sessions are open [although voting is not], so if you are curious about Seventh Day Baptists, and can be in the Pacific Northwest during that week, this might be good opportunity to learn who we are and what we're like.

The irrelevance of relevant preaching

David Mills in the July/August issue of Touchstone:

If the Christian revelation is both true and a truth to which fallen men are partly blinded, and a truth of great complexity and sophistication, a preacher may be most relevant when his language is least contemporary, and may be irrelevant to the point of fatuousness when it is most contemporary. [more]
"All that is not eternal, is eternally out of date."
C.S. Lewis

Touchstone Archives: Preaching Without Reaching

Comeback for Liberal Theology?

Gene Edward Veith at Cranach:

....I'm seeing ... a convergence between some "evangelicals" and "liberals." As more and more evangelicals adopt liberal theological practices - such as downplaying doctrine, rejecting traditionalism, and revising Christianity to accord with contemporary culture - liberals are finding they can adopt evangelical tactics and language.

Many liberal denominations are now implementing church growth strategies and building megachurches. And they are especially equipped to do so. They also have their small groups and Bible studies. True, they often focus on social justice themes, which the Democrats are playing up to, but Mrs. Clinton's Methodists can also have "prayer warriors."

Mainline liberal Protestantism is my background. I remember how some of the sermons I would hear would consist of the pastor trying to apply the latest pop psychology fad so as to give his congregation the psychological counseling he thought we needed. I have since heard this kind of thing coming from a supposedly evangelical pulpit.

Whether the liberal churches stage a comeback or ostensibly evangelical churches go liberal, liberal theology (with its social gospel, anti-supernaturalism, and cultural conformity) is again a force to contend with.

Comeback for Liberal Theology?

Discrimination

In an important decision this morning the Supreme Court ruled that school districts in Seattle and Louisville violated the Constitution when they assigned students by race. The Chief Justice, in a part of his decision which, because of Justice Kennedy, will apparently not be controlling, made an observation which any but a sophisticated legal mind would find obvious:
The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
In dissent in the Plessy case in 1896, Justice Harlan wrote:
Our constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. . .The arbitrary separation of citizens on the basis of race, while they are on a public highway, is a badge of servitude wholly inconsistent with the civil freedom and the equality before the law established by the Constitution. It cannot be justified upon any legal grounds.
Justice Harlan was right then and the Chief Justice is right today. Plessy notoriously sanctioned racial discrimination, and more recent decisions, in a well-intentioned desire to rectify that evil, have legitimized it again.

SCOTUSblog

The Gospel Coalition

The Gospel Coalition now has a site at www.thegospelcoalition.org. It is very well-designed and contains a wealth of material. All of this is in support of a much-needed, and seemingly growing, movement within the Church. A description of their general purpose is in a preamble:
We are a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures. We have become deeply concerned about some movements within traditional evangelicalism that seem to be diminishing the church’s life and leading us away from our historic beliefs and practices. On the one hand, we are troubled by the idolatry of personal consumerism and the politicization of faith; on the other hand, we are distressed by the unchallenged acceptance of theological and moral relativism. These movements have led to the easy abandonment of both biblical truth and the transformed living mandated by our historic faith. We not only hear of these influences, we see their effects. We have committed ourselves to invigorating churches with new hope and compelling joy based on the promises received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
The site also contains their "Confessional Statement," a "Vision for Ministry" statement, pictures of those they identify [in an unfortunate lapse into jargon] as "stakeholders," a library of texts divided into "Classics" and a "Contemporary" section, and a variety of audio/visual materials with more promised.

The Gospel Coalition

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Using "Allah" for God

Church Matters forwards an interesting clarification about using "Allah" in reference to God. It would seem appropriate in some languages, but perhaps not for Christians using English.

As for the use of Allah for God I have no problem with it where it is the natural word for God in a given language. I don't tend to use it in English, but there are languages in the Islamic world where it is the only word available, and in such languages, it is altogether appropriate. Arabic, Indonesian and Tatar are such languages. Allah is actually from the same Semitic root as Elohim, and is pronounced almost identically to the Aramaic word Jesus would have used for His Father. It is also the word that Jewish and Christian Arabs used for God long before Islam came on the scene, and they still use it to this day. In Turkish and Persian I tend to use a more neutral word for God, since such a word is available in each of those languages, but when I am using Arabic phrases that have passed into Turkish and Persian, I use Allah as well.

Church Matters: 9Marks Blog

Despot chic

What is the attraction of wearing attire that celebrates mass murderers? Is it just the normal adolescent desire to shock? I used to ask students wearing a "Che" T-shirt whether they would wear one with an image of Heydrich or Himmler. Someone who did [Prince Harry?] would be justly ostracized. Why do the genocidal murderers of the Left get a pass? Michael Ramirez via Power Line:
Click on the image to enlarge.

Power Line: Fashions for the Ignorant Celebrity

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Where'd all these Calvinists come from?

Mark Dever, at Church Matters begins a series asking why Calvinism seems so prominent among young Evangelicals.

Church Matters: 9Marks Blog

Rumors of Glory: Waiting for Harry

At Books & Culture, Alan Jacobs writes at some length about the soon-to-be-published final book in the Harry Potter series, which he intends to read immediately upon its publication. He concludes the essay with a prediction of the end of Harry Potter:
Will Harry survive? I do not think he will. I believe that, in one way or another, he will choose death: his life will not be taken from him against his will, as though Voldemort is right in believing that death is the worst thing that could happen to someone; instead, he will give it up, trusting that what Dumbledore told him about "the next great adventure" is true. In the sixth book he twice identifies himself as "Dumbledore's man through and through"; when faced with death he will, I believe, prove himself to be just that.

That there is something beyond death, in the world that J. K. Rowling has made, we know. For one thing, there are the ghosts we meet in Hogwarts. And from one of them, Nearly Headless Nick, we learn that ghosts are those who refuse to leave this world, who fear to learn what lies Beyond. Which indicates that something does indeed lie Beyond. In the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic, there is a veil through which one can pass into the realm of the dead—that is how Sirius Black dies—and Harry and his friend Luna Lovegood both hear quiet, incomprehensible voices through that veil. I expect that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will take our hero through that veil—perhaps quite literally—and into that other world. Perhaps his final confrontation with Voldemort will even happen there, or will take the two of them there, so that Voldemort will finally discover just what he has been so afraid of. And will Harry's parents be there, and his godfather Sirius? It seems to me likely. It means much, I think, that Dumbledore's bird Fawkes is a phoenix—the animal that represents resurrection—and that Harry Potter's wand, like that of Lord Voldemort, contains at its core a feather from that phoenix.

Rusell Arben Fox has written thoughtfully about these matters, and he calls our attention to comments that Joanne Rowling has made about her own religious beliefs. I'll close with her words. "Every time I've been asked if I believe in God, I've said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what's coming in the books. … This [talking about religion] is so frustrating. Again, there is so much I would like to say, and come back when I've written book seven. But then maybe you won't need to even say it because you'll have found it out anyway. You'll have read it."
After reading this, and exploring some of the links at the original site, I came across this reply to some of the Christians [in this case Catholics, including the current pope] who have objected to the books:
Here is a summary of some salient concerns of Catholics regarding the books. I write this as a Catholic author, as a homeschooling parent, and as a fierce critic of most children’s literature being written today.
Rumors of Glory: Waiting for Harry - Books & Culture Magazine, Amy Welborn: Open Book: OKay, one more

Lord Have Mercy

Ross Douthat thinks that God is Not Great is not great, and explains why it isn't at the Claremont Review:
It might be argued that the brevity of the book and the amount of ground it covers should excuse the less-than-rigorous fashion in which it advances its more controversial arguments. But the demands of brevity should clarify and hone, whereas Hitchens manages to be both short and sloppy. To dispense with both the Old and New Testament in 25 pages is a difficult task, but if he was limited by considerations of length he might have found better evidence for the fraudulence of the Christian witness than, say, the less-than-earthshattering revelation that non-canonical gospels circulated in the centuries after Christ; or the news that the well-known passage in the Gospel of John dealing with the woman taken in adultery was not part of the original Johannine text; or the self-evidently specious observation that the New Testament authors "cannot agree on anything of importance." Hitchens might also have better disguised the fact that he seems to have consulted no New Testament authorities more distinguished than the latest publications from Elaine Pagels, the doyenne of the "lost gospels" industry, and Bart Ehrman, the ex-fundamentalist who abandoned Christianity once it became clear to him that there might have been actual human beings involved in the composition of its sacred texts.

Perhaps one should be grateful when Hitchens cites any authority at all, since his artful prose is forever rushing on to the insult and skipping the argument, and sometimes the facts as well. .... Of the Gospels themselves, Hitchens notes that "the book on which all four may possibly have been based, known speculatively to scholars as ‘Q,' has been lost forever, which seems distinctly careless on the part of the god who is claimed to have ‘inspired' it"—a good line that reveals at best a passing acquaintance with biblical scholarship, since the hypothetical Q is only envisioned as a source for Matthew and Luke, not Mark and certainly not John. [more]
The Claremont Institute - Lord Have Mercy

What is a Healthy Church?

Michael Spencer at InternetMonk highly recommends Mark Dever's What Is a Healthy Church?
... Mark Dever is a very interesting combination of scholar - Ph.d from Cambridge, Southern Baptist pastor in a renewed church in Washington, D.C. .... Dever gives very interesting, helpful, broadly ecumenical help for churches that stands distinctively apart from the predictable rhetoric of the church growth movement.

Dever deals with everything from the necessity of church membership, to theologically driven preaching, to church discipline. It’s a book without gimmicks that shares substance instead of anecdotes and fluff. Dever isn’t afraid to say what’s out of fashion, or to tweak those who have made denigrating the traditional church their calling card. ....
internetmonk.com: Recommendation and Review: What is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever

Monday, June 25, 2007

Freedom from religion has a bad day

This morning the Supreme Court issued the opinion in Hein v. Freedom from Religion, commented on previously here and here.

The AP reports:
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that ordinary taxpayers cannot challenge a White House initiative that helps religious charities get a share of federal money.

The 5-4 decision blocks a lawsuit by a group of atheists and agnostics against eight Bush administration officials including the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

The taxpayers' group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation Inc., objected to government conferences in which administration officials encourage religious charities to apply for federal grants.

Taxpayers in the case "set out a parade of horribles that they claim could occur" unless the court stopped the Bush administration initiative, wrote Justice Samuel Alito. "Of course, none of these things has happened."

The justices' decision revolved around a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that enabled taxpayers to challenge government programs that promote religion.
The Baptist Joint Committee, Americans United, and others had entered the case in support of Freedom from Religion. They lost even though Flast [the 1968 decision] was not overturned. The vote was five to four with Justice Alito writing the decision, joined by Roberts and Kennedy. Justices Thomas and Scalia concurred, but would have gone further and reversed Flast.

SCOTUSBLOG

Fight for a better America

The Chicago Tribune reports on the speech Barack Obama delivered at the convention of the United Church of Christ this past weekend:
Weaving biblical imagery with political promises, Obama, a member of Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's South Side, encouraged those in the audience to follow their consciences and fight for a better America.
Absolutely right. Christian faith should govern every aspect of our lives, including the decisions we make about politics. And our political decisions should be governed, not by self-interest, but by justice and concern for our fellow man. He goes on to correctly describe the historic relationship between church and state in the United States:
"Doing the Lord's work is a thread that's run through our politics since the very beginning," Obama told church members. "And it puts the lie to the notion that the separation of church and state in America - a principle we all must uphold and that I have embraced as a constitutional lawyer and most importantly as a Christian - means faith should have no role in public life."
Until well into the 20th century this was the view of most religious people in America, liberal or fundamentalist, left, right or center. It remained the liberal Christian view, inspiring involvement in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements. Political liberals welcomed these allies, only becoming worried about the influence of religion on politics when it seemed to benefit conservatives. Obama welcomes liberal activism, but:
He also accused the Christian right of "hijacking" Jesus to polarize the public.

"Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together. Faith started being used to drive us apart," he said. "Faith got hijacked partly because of the so-called leaders of the Christian right, who've been all too eager to exploit what divides us.
The civil rights movement and anti-war activity were also rather polarizing, but their adherents didn't seem to think that a sufficient reason to back off. Isn't it a bit disingenuous to assert that those with whom you disagree are manipulating the faith for political advantage only to argue that your own agenda would be unifying?
"At every opportunity, they've told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage, school prayer and intelligent design," he said.
Needless to say, religious Americans don't "care only" about such issues, but many do at least care about those issues and believe they are important enough to influence their votes. Democrats have taken an increasingly "pro-choice" position on abortion and become inhospitable to those who disagree.
Obama offered a list of alternative "matters of conscience," including raising the minimum wage, adopting universal health care, stopping genocide in Darfur, Sudan, ending the Iraq war and embracing immigration reform.
Ending genocide in Darfur is indeed a potential unifying issue [but why not ending it in Iraq?]. Whether increasing the minimum wage will genuinely help the poor or only result in increased unemployment, or whether needed immigration reform is represented by any particular proposed legislation, or whether socialized medicine is the best way to deliver health care to those without access, or whether ending the war in Iraq by "getting out" would make life better for any but the worst there, are probably not issues that will be unifying - they might even "divide us."

Update [6:00 pm]: GetReligion provides the portion of the speech containing Obama's testimony, and remarks how unusual it is for a politician to make so explicit a public commitment.
...during the course of that sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, He would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in Him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church, as folks sometimes do. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. The skeptical bent of my mind didn’t suddenly vanish. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works.
Chicago Tribune news: Obama tells church right 'hijacked' faith, GetReligion: Media ignore Obama's personal testimony

Legislating morality

Stan Guthrie at Christianity Today uses a story from the New York Times to report and comment on the frustration Catholics are expressing with Giuliani's "personally opposed but..." position on abortion:
.... Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark said: "I think he’s being illogical, as are all of those who take the stand that 'I’m personally opposed to abortion but this is my public responsibility to permit it.' To violate human life is always and everywhere wrong. In fact, we don’t think it’s a matter of church teaching, but a matter of the way God made the world, and it applies to everyone."
Funny how pro-choice people (and that's the best way to characterize Giuliani) say they can't legislate their beliefs about abortion in our pluralistic society but have no problem when it comes to murder, theft, or even gasoline mileage standards. The fact is, someone's morality is being legislated all the time, so why not on the sanctity of human life?
The Giuliani Choice | Liveblog | Christianity Today

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"The fear of the Lord...."

Russell Kirk [1918-1994] was a significant influence on my generation of conservatives. A fundamental premise of his political philosophy was that "political problems are fundamentally moral and religious problems because a divine intent rules society and conscience." In this essay [from Touchstone magazine in 1991], he reflects on the verse from Proverbs: "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
....[T]here are things which rightfully we ought to fear, if we are to enjoy any dignity as men. When, in an age of smugness and softness, fear has been pushed temporarily into the dark corners of personality and society, then soon the gods of the copybook headings with fire and slaughter return. To fear to commit evil, and to hate what is abominable, is the mark of manliness. “They will never love where they ought to love,” Burke says, “who do not hate where they ought to hate.” It may be added that they will never dare when they ought to dare, who do not fear when they ought to fear.

Time was when there lay too heavy upon man that fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom. Soul-searching can sink into morbidity, and truly conscience can make cowards of us all. Scotland in the seventeenth century, for instance, tormented itself into a kind of spiritual hypochondria by an incessant melancholy fawning upon the Lord’s favor. But no such age is ours.

Forgetting that there exists such a state as salutary dread, modern man has become spiritually foolhardy. ....

Politically, the man who does not fear God is prey to the squalid oligarchs; and this is no paradox. What raises up heroes and martyrs is the fear of God. Beside the terror of God’s judgment, the atrocities of the totalist tyrant are pinpricks. A God-intoxicated man, knowing that divine love and divine wrath are but different aspects of a unity, is sustained against the worst this world can do to him; while the goodnatured unambitious man, lacking religion, fearing no ultimate judgment, denying that he is made for eternity, has in him no iron to maintain order and justice and freedom.

Mere enlightened self-interest will submit to any strong evil. In one aspect or another, fear insists upon forcing itself into our lives. If the fear of God is obscured, then obsessive fear of suffering, poverty, and sickness will come to the front; or if a well-cushioned state keeps most of these worries at bay, then the tormenting neuroses of modern man, under the labels of “insecurity” and “anxiety” and “constitutional inferiority,” will be the dominant mode of fear. And these latter forms of fear are the more dismaying, for there are disciplines by which one may diminish one’s fear of God. But to remedy the causes of fear from the troubles of our time is beyond the power of the ordinary individual; and to put the neuroses to sleep, supposing any belief in a transcendent order to be absent, there is only the chilly comfort of the analyst’s couch or the tranquillizing drug.
Touchstone Archives: The Rarity of the God-Fearing Man

"I will love Him. I will serve Him. I will glorify His name."

Dylan again, via RightWingBob. The performance was in Toronto in 1980.



.... Did anybody say it was gonna be easy?
Nobody said, but you couldn't complain
The God of the world tried to drive me crazy
Even Peter denied Him
Standin' right beside Him
Took Him out and falsely tried Him
Eventually crucified Him
Who am I to say I wouldn't do the same? ....

Hey, let's all pray
I will love him
I will serve him
I will glorify His name
RightWingBob.com » To know Him is to

Friday, June 22, 2007

What actually happened made all the difference

I'm reading Mark D. Roberts' new book, Can We Trust the Gospels? As a former teacher of history, but someone without any formal training in Bible, I find it very convincing. I recommend it as a very accessible source of information about the historicity of the primary documents of the faith.

At one point [pages 120-121] he says this about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John:
They, like the vast majority of Jews before them and Christians after them, believed that what actually happened made all the difference in the world. It was in the realm of history that God made his presence known, revealing himself and his salvation. Therefore history wasn't inessential. It was at the heart of the evangelists' theology.

In this regard the Gospel writers were quite similar to the apostle Paul. In his first letter to the Christians in Corinth, Paul dealt with the view that resurrections, including the resurrection of Jesus, don't happen. Here's what he wrote:
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. [I Cor. 15:13-14]
In other words, it isn't nearly enough to regard the story of Jesus' resurrection as an inspiring fiction, or a symbolic rendering of some historic reality. Paul said, "If Christ has not been raised," in space-time reality, then Christian faith isn't true. What happened to Jesus has everything to do with theology.
Christianity is rooted in events that actually happened. If they didn't happen, if it's all just a nice story, then it is false. If it didn't happen, it doesn't matter.

There are those who demand proof, in a scientific sense, that the events occurred. Proof, in that sense, isn't available for any event in history. Things happen, and are past. They are unique and, although the sciences may have something to say about them, they cannot be proven the way experiments in a laboratory may make a conclusion increasingly likely. Later in the book [p. 135] Roberts makes this point [an observation any student of history will recognize]:
Reasonableness and proof are not the same thing, however. There is no way I can prove that Jesus actually did miracles or actually rose from the dead. Nor can anyone prove that he didn't, for that matter. History doesn't allow for such proof, but only for contingent knowledge based on evidence, probabilities, and reasoned argument.
We rely on that kind of knowledge for most of what we know. Mark Roberts makes a good case that the Gospels can be relied on, not just for theology, but for what they say about history.

He is posting some of the material from the book at his blog.

"What liberal media?"

Mollie Hemingway at GetReligion on a study of the political attitudes of reporters:
MSNBC investigative reporter Bill Dedman had an obvious but interesting story looking at political contributions from journalists. He found that reporters gave to Democrats and liberal causes nine times as frequently as Republican or conservative causes:
MSNBC.com identified 144 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 17 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.
...Why should reporters check their citizenship at the door? The test of whether this lack of diversity is a problem is not a listing of statistics about who gave what — it’s whether each
reporter’s politics affect the quality of their journalism. I have worked with extremely liberal reporters — socialists, basically — who I would trust to report and write any story out there. A good reporter is a good reporter.

The reporters I worry about are the ones like Linda Greenhouse, the New York Times’ superstar Supreme Court reporter who thinks her extremely liberal views are not opinions but facts. I’ve worked with that kind of reporter, too. The arrogance and ignorance implicit in such an approach is what’s wrong with mainstream media. And reporters are insane if they don’t think readers and viewers pick up on that vibe. .... [more]
What liberal media? » GetReligion

Legalism

Between Two Worlds calls attention the following about "legalism" at Reformation Theology. The errors described are common in the Christian world, but it may be that those of us who are a distinct minority in our belief about some aspect of the law are especially vulnerable. C.R. Biggs quoting and commenting on Dan Doriani:
The point he makes about "class-four legalists" is that they have the correct teaching, but that they make the correct teaching oppressive without the love of Christ and his fulfillment of the Law as foundational to all of their preaching. This is helpful for preachers, teachers, as well as all Christians when sharing and living the gospel with others.

Prof. Doriani writes:
  • Class-one legalists are auto-soterists; they declare what one must do in order to obtain God's favor or salvation. The rich young ruler was a class-one legalist.
  • Class-two legalists declare what good deeds or spiritual disciplines one must perform to retain God's favor and salvation.
  • Class-three legalists love the law so much they create new laws, laws not found in Scripture, and require submission to them. The Pharisees, who build fences around the law, were class-three legalists.
  • Class-four legalists avoid these gross errors, but they so accentuate obedience to the law of God that other ideas shrivel up. They reason, 'God has redeemed us at the cost of his Son's life. Now he demands our service in return. He has given us his Spirit and a new nature and has stated his will. With these resources, we obey his law in gratitude for our redemption. This is our duty to God.' In an important way this is true, but class-four legalists dwell on the law of God until they forget the love of God. Worshiping, delighting in, communing with, and conforming to God are forgotten.
Class-four legalists can preach sermons in which every sentence is true, while the whole is oppressive. It is oppressive to proclaim Christ as the Lawgiver to whom we owe a vast debt, as if we must somehow repay him - repay God! - for his gifts to us.
Reformation Theology: "I've Been Reading...": Quotable Quotes from Excellent Books, Issue 4- C.R. Biggs

Forget reinvention

The interview in the post below took place at a conference by "Na" which stands for "New Attitude" and that attitude is "humble orthodoxy" which they explain on their site:
Humble orthodoxy is a commitment to believing, living, and representing the truth with humility. We believe that God's truth in Scripture should not be redefined or reinvented to suit our own preferences or culture. Our role is not to change truth but to let truth change us.

It's not a revolution. It's not a movement. It's a group of people in local churches, passionate about rediscovering truth and recommitting to it. We stand on the shoulders of those who have followed God before us. So this is what we offer to the conversation:

Forget reinvention. Embrace a humble orthodoxy.
All of the messages delivered at the recent conference on "Discernment" - messages by people like Mark Dever, John Piper, C.J. Mahaney and Albert Mohler - are available for download free, as are brief video interviews with some of the speakers. [The picture on the left links to a statement by Mark Dever about doctrinal discernment, and includes a good, orthodox, statement of the Gospel.]

Na - New Attitude

"The mind is a muscle"

Justin Taylor of the Between Two Worlds blog was interviewed at the Na: Humble Orthodoxy blog about the study of church history:

Na: ...Why do you think it’s so critical for us to learn from Christians that have gone before us?

JT: ...[I]f we try to come up with a new doctrine, if we’re not learning from those before us, it’s the ultimate act of arrogance. Because it tends to be our default position to assume that the Holy Spirit is starting his work with us and we forget that he’s been working for 2,000 years and beyond. ....

So thinking that you’re really doing something completely “new” is just naïve. After 2,000 years if anyone says anything absolutely new it’s probably just going to be bizarre.

Na: Laughs: Right.

JT: But if you say something that sounds new and somewhat plausible and creative, more likely than not it’s already been said a hundred years ago and responded to and dealt with. .... And that’s why if you don’t know history lots of this can seem new and you don’t know how to respond. That’s part of the importance of studying church history. ....

Or, "those who will not learn from history...." He goes on to an observation about why so many fail to read and learn:
JT: .... It’s interesting because reading and thinking is one of those areas as Christians that the fact that it’s hard deters us. But in other areas of our lives we don’t think the fact something is hard should prevent us from doing it. In athletics you run out of breath if you’re out of shape but you keep going and eventually it’s worth it. Or you work hard at a job because you know the results will be worth it.

Na: But we’re not that patient with reading and studying.

JT: When we get to mental activities it takes about a page before we say, “Oh it’s too hard. I can’t do this. It’s not for me.” The mind is a muscle that needs to be exercised like any other muscle in your body.

Abraham Lincoln, who had only a year of formal education, but who read just about everything he could obtain, advised a law student:

"Get the books, and read and study them. The books, and your capacity for understanding them, are just the same in all places.... Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing."
Na - Justin Taylor on Old Dead Theologians

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Overheated Rhetoric

Charles Colson reacts to the attacks on American Christians, and suggests how we ought to respond:
The question for us is how to answer their hysterical assaults. The writers know that evangelicals and conservative Catholics have had decisive influence on public policy and recent elections. Their books have one purpose: to silence us in the public square.

But we must not be intimidated; rather, we must continue to speak out boldly against abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, slavery in Sudan, and same-sex marriage.

.... We answer not by firing back, but by feeding the hungry, redeeming prisoners, and freeing today's slaves.
Overheated Rhetoric | Christianity Today

July/August 2007 Sabbath Recorder Online

The July/August, 2007, Sabbath Recorder is available online here as a pdf. The theme of the issue is "Growing in Christ: Step by Step" and it includes stories about the growth of the Brazilian SDB Conference, the Lincoln [Nebraska] SDB Fellowship, Larry Graffius's explanation of the Seventh Day Baptist logo [the one on the left], and much else.

"Everyone has a story. My cat has a story. So what?"

At Intellectuelle Bonnie reacts to an article in Christianity Today about the author of Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller. She hasn't read the book, but has some problems with some of what he seems to be saying:
...Miller delivers a variation on a theme ascendant in evangelical Christianity: Truth is rooted in story, not in rational systems. The Christian mission is not well served when we speak in terms of spiritual laws or rational formulas. Propositional truths, when extracted from a narrative context, lack meaning. "The chief role of a Christian," he says, "is to tell a better story."
Well, truth isn’t rooted in story. The Christian story and those that make it up are rooted in truth. Neither is truth rooted in rational systems; the Christian mission is not well served if we speak only in terms of spiritual laws, or only in stories – the problem with elevating story to truth, besides the fact that not all stories point the way to truth, is that significance is found in the story rather than in the truth. We all have stories. Some of them have good endings, some don’t. Seung-Hui Cho had a story. His victims have stories. Everyone has a story. My cat has a story. So what? ....

Though they may be harder to grasp, propositional truths extracted from a narrative do not lack meaning; truth’s meaning is not dependent upon whether or not it is understood. ....

Sales do well for items that meet felt needs, notes Dodd [author of the article]. Trouble is, "felt need" doesn't always equate with "actual need." We don't always know or want what we need. I know I don’t. Sometimes the Holy Spirit has to lay you flat in order for you to, uh, feel your needs, and who knows how you may feel. But Dodd’s premise, and Miller’s as related by Dodd, is that we can judge the effectiveness of a message by whether or not it makes people happy. Sure, sometimes it's bad to hurt peoples feelings, or offend them, but sometimes it isn’t. The focus shouldn't be on their feelings. ....

Dodd suggests that spirituality is dialectical. That it combines deep self-examination “with a call to integrate with the world outside the self.” He seems to encourage a person's projection of their human relational needs onto God, but this model is backwards. ...[I]t's about learning who God is, and mankind in relation to Him. ....

So I question whether, as Dodd says, readers are responding to Miller’s “true spirituality” if the things he says in his article about readers, listeners, and Miller are true. They are perhaps responding to his humanity and authenticity. But if, in fact, “his books encourage a certain amount of Christian navel-gazing, but only long enough to get the fuzz out,” then where is their gaze once the fuzz is out? [more]
Intellectuelle: I feel your need

Tying the knot

It has been some time since a typical wedding involved the groom in a good suit, the bride in a new dress, and a simple reception in the church social hall after the ceremony. Even before Father of the Bride middle-class parents felt pressure to marry off a daughter in style, imitating a society wedding. According to CNN/Money.com, the average cost of a wedding is today approaching $30,000:
A total of $125 billion - about the size of Ireland's GDP - will be spent on 2.1 million weddings in 2005, according to the "American Weddings" study conducted by The Fairchild Bridal Group. Fairchild surveyed more than 1,000 brides.

Tying the knot used to involve a trip to the altar and a simple reception, but low-cost affairs are increasingly a thing of the past as brides and grooms flex their consumer power and buck tradition. The average price tag that is fast approaching $30,000 represents a 73 percent increase during the past 15 years, according the study.
And comparatively normal people give in to this absurd extravagance:
About a dozen years ago, an old friend of mine was told by his daughter that she was going to get married. This suited him fine, but he balked at pouring untold thousands of dollars down the drain of a full-dress wedding. "I'll tell you what," he said to her. "I'll give you a choice: You can have a wedding, or you can have $30,000 to help you get started on your new life." Without a moment's hesitation, she astonished him - and me, too, when he told me the story - by replying, "I'll take the wedding." ....

...[T]his was a young woman of reason and moderation, a sensible person who nonetheless had been caught up in an early wave of the phenomenon that - all unknown to her father and me - was beginning to sweep across America: the rise of the wedding industry ....
We are all creatures of our time and culture, and it can be very difficult to upset the expectations of family and friends, but why has this come to pass? Rebecca Mead believes that an expensive and stressful event meets a need:
I think that people need the wedding and the planning to be in some way a traumatic experience. It used to be that a wedding was a definitive break in your life, and the new traumas of married life were real. Suddenly, you were waking up next to somebody with whom you’d never spent the night before. We don’t have that anymore—marriage is not the beginning of your independent life, it’s probably not the beginning of your sexual life, and it’s not your entry into adulthood, as it once was. So there’s a sense in which what used to be the trauma of newly married life has been transferred to the trauma of planning a wedding, because we need a wedding to feel momentous, and one way to make it feel momentous is to make the planning of it complicated and difficult and an enormous production.
Reflecting on all of this, Douglas LeBlanc, at Get Religion, found an example of someone who bucked the trend:

After reading through People Extra, my new heroine is Mary Beth Baptiste, who wrote recently in Newsweek about how she and her husband began their new life together for a total of $150.

All of this, of course, having very little to do with what a Christian wedding is really about.

CNN/Money.com: Ka-ching, Washington Post: Jonathan Yardley, The New Yorker: Do We Ever, GetReligion.org: Wedding Bell Blues, Newsweek: Love on a shoestring

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

At least two more of C.S. Lewis's Narnia books will appear in theatres. NarniaWeb links to this story from The Hollywood Reporter:
Michael Apted has signed on to direct Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader."

This is the third installment in the series that includes the 2005 film "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," and the upcoming 2008 release of "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian." "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" will begin filming in January and it is set for a May 1, 2009, release date.

Among the cast members who will reprise their "Narnia" roles are Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes. ....

Apted's credits include "The World Is Not Enough," "Gorky Park," "Gorillas in the Mist" and "Coal Miner's Daughter," as well as his most recent film "Amazing Grace" (for Walden Media's sister company Bristol Bay Prods.) and the first three episodes of the HBO dramatic series "Rome."
Several of those involved in the production of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" expressed a desire to not be too overtly religious. One wonders how they will handle Eustace and the dragon, or the lamb at the end of the world.

Apted on voyage with third 'Narnia

Good stuff

Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds has a lot of good stuff [he always does].
  1. A link to the new blog at 9 Marks, blog.9marks.org.
  2. A link to a response to Dawkins by Francis Beckwith at First Things titled "The Irrationality of Richard Dawkins."
  3. A recommendation from Ed Welch that we read Job 38-42 every day for a month:
    If you read these chapters every day for a month you will find that they are a treatment for almost anything. Do you fear people? Are you suffering? Are you anxious? Depressed? Struggling with anger? Hard-hearted? listen to these questions from the mouth of God.

    • "Have you ever given orders to the morning?" (38:12)
    • "Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?
    • Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?" (38:17-18)
    • "Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, 'Here we are?'" (38:35)

    The pace of God's questions is relentless. They leave you speechless. But they are graciously delivered to a righteous man who prizes the fear of the Lord above all else.
  4. A quotation from Anthony N.S. Lane about the difference between justification and sanctification:
    The Reformation doctrine makes a deliberate and systematic distinction between justification on the one hand and sanctification or regeneration on the other hand.

    • Justification refers to my status; sanctification to my state.
    • Justification is about God's attitude to me changing; sanctification is about God changing me.
    • Justification is about how God looks on me; sanctification is about what he does in me.
    • Justification is about Christ dying for my sins on the cross; sanctification is about Christ at work in me by the Holy Spirit changing my life.

    The Reformers were careful to distinguish these two--but not to separate them. One cannot have one without the other--as with the heat and light of the sun. The sun gives out heat and light. These two cannot be separated. When the sun shines there is both heat and light; yet they are distinct and not to be confused. We are not warmed by the sun's light nor illumined by its heat. To use a modern illustration, justification and sanctification are like the two legs of a pair of trousers, not like two socks which may well become separated and, in the author's experience, too often do become separated.
  5. And more...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Religious liberty

Americans are inclined to take religious liberty for granted. It is guaranteed in our Constitution. That is far from true elsewhere, even in countries supposedly democratic:
Malaysia's best known Christian convert, Lina Joy, lost a six-year battle on Wednesday to have the word "Islam" removed from her identity card, after the country's highest court rejected the change. ...

"You can't at whim and fancy convert from one religion to another," Federal Court Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said in delivering judgment in the case, which has stirred religious tensions in the mainly Muslim nation.

He said the civil court had no jurisdiction in the case and that it should be dealt with by the country's Islamic courts. "The issue of apostasy is related to Islamic law, so it's under the sharia court. The civil court cannot intervene."

The Belmont Club: Oh Joy

Politics


For those who are interested in how the American political system works, Michael Barone is the gold standard. His The Almanac of American Politics, published every two years, is the indispensable reference about politics and elections in this country. The 2008 edition has just been completed and the publisher, The National Journal, has made available Barone's introductory essay - a good primer on the political environment as we enter another Presidential election year.

National Journal: Open-Field Politics

Monday, June 18, 2007

Infuriating phrases


Christopher Howse at the Telegraph [London] asked his readers to "come up with a paragraph or two, no longer than 150 words, packed with as many infuriating words and phrases as possible." Here are their contributions.

Telegraph newspaper online

Atheists v. Faithful

World Magazine's blog cites a recent survey by George Barna which compares American atheists and agnostics with Christians. The blog notes some results which may be discouraging to Christians, but which also bode ill for society at large:
- The no-faith segment grows with each successive generation: "The proportion of atheists and agnostics increases from 6% of Elders (ages 61+) and 9% of Boomers (ages 42-60), to 14% of Busters (23-41) and 19% of adult Mosaics (18-22)." Each generation's degree of secular fervor appears to stay relatively constant over time, contradicting the popular notion that such generational differences are simply a product of people becoming more faith-oriented as they age.

- No-faith Americans exhibit more cultural disengagement: "Atheists are less likely than active-faith Americans to be registered to vote (78% versus 89%), to volunteer to help a non-church-related non-profit (20% versus 30%), to describe themselves as 'active in the community' (41% versus 68%), and to personally help or serve a homeless or poor person (41% versus 61%)."
Atheists v. Faithful

"Only God can build up Zion"

Between Two Worlds summarizes J.I. Packer on "Lessons from Luther":
  1. The necessity of reformation when the church's outward form and life contradict the gospel, whether doctrinally or practically.
  2. The nature of reformation as spiritual renewal, wrought from within by the Word of God.
  3. The pastoral purpose that must govern church reorganization. Good church order is not an end in itself, but must be thought of as a means to the good of souls by inducing fellowship, edification, and holiness.
  4. The primacy of preaching and teaching the Word as the means to reformation. All Luther's emphasis was laid on teaching, by catechisms, sermons, books, and schools. This emphasis on Christian instruction was itself epoch-making.
  5. Piecemeal improvement is better than none: and it is better to carry out innovation in a slow and piecemeal fashion than to outstrip weak consciences and make them stumble.
  6. Patience is needed by those who seek reformation: having set ourselves to teach the Word, we must wait for it to do its own God-appointed work. Only God can build up Zion, and he is not always in such a hurry as we are.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

"head and heart, reason and faith"

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 [ESV]

Ben Witherington reflects on the fact that the leaders of the New Testament church were all members of the social and educational elite, literate and learned, not anti-intellectual. In a world in which very few were literate,
.... What does it tell us about early Christians and early Christianity that it had so many documents, and was spread by writers and writings, among other things? For one thing it tells us that Christianity was not a movement led by illiterates. This does not mean the leaders were all lettered or learned persons (Peter and John for example are said not to be such in the early chapters of Acts), but all of the major leaders of the early church were literate - could read and write. This includes Jesus, Peter, James, Jude, Paul, the Beloved Disciple, Apollos, Silas, Luke, Matthew, Mark, and many more. As E.A. Judge long ago demonstrated Christianity was not led by bucolic charismatics. It was led in the main by the more educationally and socially elite members of its ranks. This is hardly a surprise when we realize that the church met in the homes of their more socially elite members (former synagogue leaders, city treasurers like Erastus, successful business persons like Lydia. The idea that early Christianity was a movement chiefly composed of or even led by peasants, slaves, and in general the ignorant or illiterate is absolutely a myth. This is not to say that it was led by a bunch of scholars either, but for sure it was led by some of the more socially elite and/or well educated persons in antiquity.

This brings me to an important point. There is, and has long been, an anti-intellectual element in low church Protestantism, especially in its more fundamentalist and charismatic branches. This is not always the case of course. Yet even today there is often a suspicion that too much study, intellectual effort, too much schooling can ruin one's faith, as if head and heart, reason and faith were necessarily at odds with one another. Not only is this not necessarily the case, a close study of the leaders of the beginning of the Christian movement gives the lie to such an assumption. It is an irony that Paul, one of the great minds of any age, could have been used to spearhead an anti-intellectual approach to the Christian faith. Paul would not have been pleased with this misuse - indeed if you read Rom. 12.1-2 closely you will discover that submission to God necessarily leads to the renewal of the mind, a crucial part of any conversion or Christian life. In the 21rst century it is time for Christians to get beyond the faith vs. reason, head vs. heart, dichotomies. We need all our human resources mental and otherwise to save a lost world. Indeed we need all that we are and can be just to adequately worship God - we must love God with our whole hearts, souls, minds, and strength.
Ben Witherington: Ephesos - 2007

"Everything else is postmodern chatter.”

Philip Jenkins, in an article about the resurgence of European Christianity:
Jürgen Habermas, a veteran leftist German philosopher stunned his admirers not long ago by proclaiming, “Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this day, we have no other options [than Christianity]. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.”
Foreign Policy: Europe's Christian Comeback

Artificially extended childhood

Robert Epstein, in an interview for Psychology Today, thinks teenagers are simultaneously too controlled and too free. They need to be with adults and treated like adults. Excerpts from the interview:
The whole culture collaborates in artificially extending childhood, primarily through the school system and restrictions on labor. The two systems evolved together in the late 19th-century; the advocates of compulsory-education laws also pushed for child-labor laws, restricting the ways young people could work, in part to protect them from the abuses of the new factories. The juvenile justice system came into being at the same time. All of these systems isolate teens from adults, often in problematic ways. ....

.... We need education spread over a lifetime, not jammed into the early years—except for such basics as reading, writing, and perhaps citizenship. Past puberty, education needs to be combined in interesting and creative ways with work. The factory school system no longer makes sense. ....

We have completely isolated young people from adults and created a peer culture. We stick them in school and keep them from working in any meaningful way, and if they do something wrong we put them in a pen with other "children." In most nonindustrialized societies, young people are integrated into adult society as soon as they are capable, and there is no sign of teen turmoil. Many cultures do not even have a term for adolescence. ....

Teens in America are in touch with their peers on average 65 hours a week, compared to about four hours a week in preindustrial cultures. In this country, teens learn virtually everything they know from other teens, who are in turn highly influenced by certain aggressive industries. This makes no sense. Teens should be learning from the people they are about to become. When young people exit the education system and are dumped into the real world, which is not the world of Britney Spears, they have no idea what's going on and have to spend considerable time figuring it out. ....

Are you saying that teens should have more freedom?

No, they already have too much freedom—they are free to spend, to be disrespectful, to stay out all night, to have sex and take drugs. But they're not free to join the adult world, and that's what needs to change. ....
Psychology Today: Trashing Teens

Friday, June 15, 2007

"When people stop believing in God ..."

At NRO's The Corner today, Jonah Goldberg quotes himself from an article he wrote last year. He comments several times today about "secular religion," making, among others, this point:
.... According to Voegelin, you cannot eliminate the religious instinct. "When God is invisible behind the world, the contents of the world will become new gods; when the symbols of transcendent religiosity are banned, new symbols develop from the inner-worldly language of science to take their place." Translation: When you rely on science and technology to do God's job, it won't be long before you worship science as a god. Marxism, the apotheosis of progressivism, purged the divine and replaced it with materialism. For the Marxist, proclaimed Voegelin, "Christ the Redeemer is replaced by the steam engine as the promise of the realm to come." For many people today, the steam engine has been replaced by the embryonic stem cell as the promise of the realm to come.
I once knew someone who had lost his faith in God, but replaced it with faith in cryogenics, believing that his immortality could be insured by freezing his body until a cure could be found for whatever killed him. The statement "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing - they believe in anything" is commonly attributed to Chesterton. If he didn't say it, he should have. It seems to be true.

National Review: The terms of debate

"I am Who I am"

At Christianity Today, Mark Galli explains why "seeker friendly" services may fail to lead the seeker toward the God who is:
If you are trying to reach seekers, people who don't know Jesus and have had little acquaintance with church culture, you don't want them to feel lost and confused when they worship with you. .... So the urge to avoid "speaking mysteries in the Spirit" is understandable and intelligible. But when it comes to the worship of the Creator of heaven and earth, we've got a problem. ....

... [O]ur desire for worship that is "understandable" is, well, understandable for evangelistic reasons. But there is a less seemly side of this desire: It's sometimes about worshipping a God we can control. Just as we furiously pursue some line of study in order to "master" a subject, so we are tempted to pursue God in an attempt to master him. As A. W. Tozer put it in Knowledge of the Holy:
Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get him where we can use him, or at least know where he is when we need him. We want a God we can in some measure control. We need the feeling of security that comes from knowing what God is like.
This is the sin of the moralist, who wants to box God into a set of religious rules, and of the rationalist, who imagines that God fits neatly into his systematic theology. This is the sin of the prideful seeker who wants to fit God into his preconceived notions of divinity. This is also our sin when our longing for understandable and intelligible worship masks an unwillingness to love God as he is—ultimately mysterious and incomprehensible.

Understandable worship, in the end, can become the sin of idolatry—the worship of that which is not God but a mere figment of our imagination. As Eugene Peterson says in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, "We are not dealing with the God of creation and the Christ of the Cross, but with a dime-store reproduction of something made in our image." Worship that doesn't in some ways leave a large space for transcendence and mystery is not worship of the God of the Bible, who when asked to name himself—to explain his essence—said rather truculently, "I am who I am."
Seeker Unfriendly | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction