Wednesday, April 23, 2014

World Book Day

So apparently it's world book day. Dr. Jim West is showing off his books and so here's my book show off too. Show us your books! #WorldBookDay.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Impressions and the Lord's Leading

Over at Grace for Sinners, Matthew Sims has a post on the trouble with following impressions as "God told me". He writes:

I place very little weight on subjective impressions. Let me end with a brief story. As many of you already know (OK probably all of you know because I’ve posted about it, tweeted about it, and have advertisements about it on my blog), I wrote a book A Household Gospel. During this process, I completed a lot of research. I read other authors who independently publish; I researched small publishing houses that come alongside independent authors; and I also researched literary agents. I saw two reoccurring currents in this research.

First, a huge percentage of Christian authors advertise, share, and tell others that God told them to write their book. Second, publishers and literary agents hear this schtick all the time and it makes no difference in their decision to support the book project. Can you imagine the gall? God telling the authors to write these books and the publishers and agents are ignoring God’s clear direction? There must be wires crossed somewhere, right?

This is a classic example of placing too much emphasis on subject impressions. Let me explain how this might look in my experience. I felt a strong urge to write a book on this topic. Family and friends encouraged me to put pen to paper. Trusted outside counselors also encouraged me to write on this topic. On a few occasions, I was asked “out of the blue“ to contribute an article on this topic at another blog. All of this adds up, right? God must be telling me to write this book, right? Wrong. I had the freedom to write or not to write A Household Gospel.

I had a conversations with a family member about this very topic. They were telling me God told them to do something. They just knew it. I asked how. They said they felt it in their gut. I responded half tongue-in-cheek and half seriously, “How do you know that’s not the Taco Bell you ate last night?” Strange fire in my belly indeed. I do listen to my gut, but sometimes I don’t. I don’t bind myself to anything but the revealed word of God.

The bottom line is we need to stick to God's Word. God is in control of all things and sometimes open doors can be a clear indication that we should walk through them. In this respect it is the providence of God's hand leading and guiding, but we need to use wisdom and discernment to make a decision at the moment.

We certainly don't want to fall into the trap of saying that God cannot lead and guide, but far to often we don't see this as through the clear commands of Scripture and godly exercise of wisdom, and dedicating matters to prayer and the counsel of others. Instead, many Christians go "with their gut" and then sanctify is with "God's leading".

Read the rest of Matthew's post:

Impressions, "taco bell theology" always reminds me of Dickens' Christmas Carols when Scrooge sees Marley and remarks how the senses can be misled by even an upset stomach.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Proclaim the Resurrection

It never ceases to amaze me that the Greek's believed Apollo had stood on the Areopagus and declared "once a man has died, and the dust has soak up his blood, there is no resurrection."

And Paul stood on that very same spot in the first century and said "there is a judgment and we know it's coming because Jesus Christ rose from the dead."

We need to have the courage to stand in the hallowed halls of our society and culture and proclaim such things.

It is not merely enough to say "there is a God" or "you can have a relationship with God" or "God is the most important person to me and give me meaning." In today's culture shoulders will shrug with a "well if that works for you, so be it" and worst: "keep it to yourself."

We need to stand up and say these things you value here, this that you think orders your life is not the ultimate order. The ultimate order flows from the Lordship of Jesus Christ who is over all everything--I we know this to be true because God raised Him from the dead."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pro-life and Liberal

Today, I came across an article entitled "Why I'm a pro-life liberal." (HT: Trevin Wax).

I have a couple immediate reflections: first, while I do not consider myself politically liberal, left, or progressive, I have known a number of conservative evangelicals who fit this description politically. In fact, it is probably only in America that we equate conservative evangelical theology with conservative (Republican) politics.

Second, I find a pro-life position commendable for anyone who holds it. We may not agree on everything but we should certainly celebrate this area of agreement.

I found this statement to be very interesting:

The pro-life leftist position maintains that human life is so significant, so inherently valuable, so irreplaceable that it should be the central subject of political concern. This view requires, therefore, that since we care enough about the outcome of pregnancy to insist against abortion, then we must continue to care about the outcome when abortion is no longer a legal option. To me, this requires a culture agreeing to put its money where its mouth is — that is, to provide robust support programs that render feasible the entire process of childbearing and childbirth, from pregnancy to child care to the total span of family life. Programs that immediately come to mind include universal health care, which would obviate the incredible expenses of pregnancy, often costing in the thousands of dollars out of pocket; government-supported parental leave and policies protecting the employment of mothers; and a no-strings-attached child allowance.

First, there is a lot in here that a pro-life conservative (political) right position would find agreeable. For example, I know plenty of conservative pro-life people who want to see mothers and children cared for well after they are born. 

It is a huge straw-man to think (if indeed this is what is behind the words) that pro-life "right" positions only care about the child in the womb. In fact, I know at our local pregnancy center there are efforts to care for mother and child after birth--including classes, aid but especially classes to help new fathers. 

If we are talking about government social programs, well we may disagree on effectiveness and means but a lot of conservatives value having some kind of safety net. I would just guess a few more are favorable to it at a state level then a federal level--in fact I've seen some nice argument for letting the federalism built into the country (i.e. states trying different means) do the work. 

I would saw this: Christians should agree taking care of orphans and widows is extremely important. One of the challenges in today's culture is broken families. Men who father children but do not step up as fathers. Children who are similar to orphans because of growing up in single parent homes without stability. Regardless of how you see the role of politics in alleviating the struggles (you never really 'solve' the problems), we should agree on certain fundamental Christian duties and concerns of compassion.

First, this will be radical. We live in a world were we are often sold this either/or. Either you are "right" or you are "left". Then you are in very defined stereotype categories.

Second, this gives us far more common ground. Are disagreement then is more about means and effectiveness not really about ends. This should give us far more charity. We can often acknowledge while the Bible is very clear about the ends, it is often left to areas of general revelation and common grace to sort out the means.

Some related posts:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Michael Bird's Testimony & New Book

Michael Bird has a great little piece over at Christianity today giving both a mini-testimony and a mini-apologia for the recent book he has edited in response to Bart Ehrman.

What is interesting about Bird's testimony is that his is, in his words, the anti-type of Ehrman.

He nails it one why Ehrman's skepticism is so popular. While Ehrman is very intelligent and an excellent textual critic, he provides academic credibility for skeptics. Most of what I have read of Ehrman's popular writings, preaches to the choir. Bird writes:

Ehrman's book is genuinely informative and provocative in places, but he gets many things wrong. Modern secular audiences—who prefer provocative sound bites from Richard Dawkins and conspiracy theories from Dan Brown—love to hear Ehrman's message. He provides solace to secularists: the whole Jesus-is-God thing is a big mistake that has negatively affected human history. In our culture, unbelief is trendy and religion is passé; people of faith are often derided as superstitious yokels from the boonies.

Then Bird concludes with this paragraph echoes Pauline sentiments from Phil. 3:
Some have great confidence in skeptical scholarship, and I once did, perhaps more than anyone else. If anyone thinks they are assured in their unbelief, I was more committed: born of unbelieving parents, never baptized or dedicated; on scholarly credentials, a PhD from a secular university; as to zeal, mocking the church; as to ideological righteousness, totally radicalized. But whatever intellectual superiority I thought I had over Christians, I now count it as sheer ignorance. Indeed, I count everything in my former life as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing the historical Jesus who is also the risen Lord. For his sake, I have given up trying to be a hipster atheist. I consider that old chestnut pure filth, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a CV that will gain me tenure at an Ivy League school, but knowing that I've bound myself to Jesus—and where he is, there I shall also be.

The real story of Jesus Christ is good news, and it transformed my life. That's why I'm fighting to tell it amidst a cacophony of misguided voices.

 Praise God for scholars working in their fields to articulate, defend, and winsomely share the faith given to the saints once for all.

You can find the new book edited by Michael Bird here.

Michael Bloomberg & Heaven

First, let me say this post is not about politics.

This brief post is about arrogance. It is about theology.

The Blaze is reporting that Michael Bloomberg believes he is going to go to heaven because of his good works. This view has always been a rather common one because it is the natural tendency of the human heart to think we are good enough before God therefore he will reward us.

What is rather rare is the brazenness of Michael Bloomberg's articulation. But really it points to the brazenness and arrogance of anyone who thinks they can secure themselves and their position before God.

Michael Bloomberg is quoted as saying:

"I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close."

I'm sorry, Mr. Bloomberg but as humanitarian as your efforts on gun control, smoking, and obesity may (or may not) be, these will count as nothing before a righteous and holy God.

Repent and trust Christ.

Even more your attitude should remind us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

The quote is originally from this New York Times article. See the last two paragraphs here:
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