Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 3:39 PM
I love the television show Heroes on NBC. My wife and I got addicted to the program via Netflix and have made it appointment viewing ever since. Lately, the show, which began with straightforward characters and easily understandable models of nobility, has become more complicated.
Noah, a father, has been divorced by his wife. She has taken up with another man. Noah invites his daughter, his ex-wife and her boyfriend, and a near flame from his previous job to his apartment, for Thanksgiving. When his daughter questions the arrangement, Noah brushes it off by saying, “We’re a complex, modern family and we just have to deal with it.”
Predictably, the Thanksgiving meal doesn’t go very smoothly. Attempting to save the situation, the ex-wife’s boyfriends suggests they all go around the table saying what they are thankful for.
The suggestion prompted me to think. What am I thankful for? I knew the answer immediately. I’m thankful my parents grew up in a smaller town society that made divorce unthinkable. I’m thankful they never put me through the pain of trying to learn to accept “Mom’s boyfriend” or “Dad’s new, young wife.”
My folks fought quite a bit when I was a kid. But they always worked it out. And now, after more than four decades of marriage, they are closer than ever. I can see it. And even at age 39, well beyond the time when I need them to take care of me, I am immensely grateful that they are there for me together. I am so grateful to have a place to go home to where I can rediscover the family where I grew up and where I can take my children so they can experience uncomplicated grandparents still in their original pairing.
This is not intended as a slam on anyone. I know our culture has changed and that the family has indeed become quite a bit more flexible. It is hard to blame anyone when the ambient culture says it is okay and that you should abandon commitments that just don’t seem to be working.
But what I do hope to do is to inspire readers who have yet to be married or who are married to hold tight to the commitments they make. When you form a family, form it on a strong foundation. Give your children or your children yet to come the same blessing I have enjoyed. My mother and father are together. They have been for my entire life. It is immensely comforting. And I am thankful for it.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 2:28 PM
Mike Almeida has an interesting argument against abortion that assumes nothing about the moral status of the fetus. It relies on two commonsense claims:
1. We should remove a benign tumor that will eventually become malignant.
2. If we should remove something that’s not yet harmful because it will become harmful, then other things being equal we should not remove something not yet good that will become good.
Some will surely resist the second claim, which is what the parallel reasoning relies on. But it does seem to me to be a generally true principle. It’s why we shouldn’t pull up flowers before they finish growing.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 1:36 PM
This is the introduction I didn’t want to write.
Over the last few years, I’ve watched Patrol Magazine grow. I’ve written on and off for the site—served as the head editor for a short stint—and I’ve been amazed and excited to see its growth. I’ve always wanted nothing but the best for Patrol. The site possesses the potential to foster important and meaningful dialogue, and I’ve loved being part of it.
Certain editorial decisions over the last few months at Patrol have left me a little worried over the focus of the site. I’ve always answered critics with the argument that Patrol does not have a specific agenda; it’s merely a forum for a wide range of opinions and discussions. Up until Tuesday, I believed that.
There was an editorial published last week, “Get Over It,” pushing for the acceptance of the notion that modern evangelicalism had failed as a movement and should be discarded. With broad and flamboyant strokes, this column brought scathing accusations against evangelical churches, charges that, if taken to their logical conclusions, have tremendous implications on the presentation of the gospel and the definition of Christianity.
This was more than an attack on a failing business model (like the case of CCM Magazine); this was an attack on traditional evangelical faith. Patrol Magazine describes itself as “post-evangelical”—that’s not me.
I’m a joyful evangelical who attends a church that holds to the validity of Scripture, the reality of sin, humanity’s need for salvation and the centrality of the cross in saving people.
I wanted to respond to Patrol’s editorial, but, through a complicated series of events, I learned that there would be no place on the site for a public expression of internal disagreement.
And so, I won’t be writing for Patrol. With growth, things change, and sometimes you can’t support that change. It hurts.
With change for Patrol comes change for me, and I’ll be joining the writers of Evangel.
So take this as a greeting, and here are my thoughts on why evangelicalism is, “Not Dead Yet.”
Listen carefully, but the bell is not yet tolling for true evangelicalism.
Sounding the death of a cultural institution is a high achievement for writers and a publication seeking to understand and analyze the times. Whether documenting the rise of the tea party or the death of 8-track tapes there is a rush to be the first to lay a pen to paper, or a key stroke to a glowing screen, and accurately detail the problems leading to the ascent or collapse of cultural mainstays.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 12:39 PM
Because God is the author of the entire creation, it is difficult to know where to start in offering thanksgiving for the many discrete blessings he has given us. I could run through any number of things for which I am grateful, but probably the greatest is my daughter, Theresa, who just turned eleven at the beginning of the month. My wife’s pregnancy had been a difficult one, and Theresa was born 14 weeks early, that is, at just slightly under six months along. She was frighteningly small at 2 lbs and spent just over 10 weeks at two Hamilton, Ontario, hospitals. The first blessing was that she was born at a hospital with a level three NICU capable of caring for one so vulnerable.
Throughout this ordeal we were surrounded by the prayers of hundreds of people from around the world, who upheld us through this difficult experience. On one occasion one of the nurses at the first hospital, who happened to be an aunt to four of my former students, took the initiative to pray with us in the room adjacent the NICU, which was greatly comforting to us. Theresa’s story can be read here.
Fast forward seven years, when I was suffering one of my occasional bouts with depression. I was sitting at the dining room table about to read Theresa a story, and I was feeling pretty bad. Unexpectedly, Theresa spoke up and said: “Daddy, God will give you healing in the name of Jesus Christ.” I was, of course, stunned to hear this from a lips of a child who had just completed grade one. But I did improve steadily after that, and I can scarcely imagine God communicating words of assurance in a more startling way other than by choirs of angels.
Indeed I have much to be thankful for. Δόξα τω Θεω!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 10:59 AM
Thanksgiving Day, presently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863. It did not become a federal holiday until 1941. Thanksgiving was historically a religious observation to give thanks to God, but is now primarily identified as a secular holiday. [Wikipedia]
Which, by the way, I’ll take. I know: you’re stunned — a day of joint thanksgiving for a secular purpose, and that I’ll wrap my arms around.
But here’s the thing: gratitude is the core Christian virtue. It’s the one all our other virtues are built on. Tomorrow is a day when the nation is imitating us — and many of them, like the men of Athens whom Paul addressed in Acts 17, don’t know to whom to be grateful. To them, God is unknown — and unknowable. This is one day when we can leverage their ignorance and their imitation of what we are and what we ought to be into a lesson about the one true God — whose offspring we are. We shouldn’t think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, formed by the art and imagination of man, let alone that He is in the shape of a turkey. And it is Him to whom we must be grateful.
Over the next couple of days, many of the bloggers here will post a brief note about why they are thankful, but as we kick this off I just wanted to point out that we are all thankful, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the good conscience to be thankful to God, and the good sense to show that gratitude as love for our neighbor.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, and may God richly bless you in this season of gratitude.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 10:47 AM
The question was raised by Jared regarding the significance of Leftist concerns (to me and to this site) and our understanding of what it means to be “evangelical”. If we accept that evangelical theology is the most orthodox, the closest to the teachings of the Word, then it follows that, among other things, we respond to our critics.
The predominant world view today is not the Christian world view. It is Marxism. It shows itself in international affairs (our Wilsonian foreign policy), in national affairs (the many socialist and communist nations), in economic movements (the redistributive efforts of many who might call themselves evangelical), in psychology (i.e., Eric Fromm), in social agendas (the class wars of the social dialectic), and much more. Including the green movement.
Marxism represents Hegel’s godless theodicy as the ugliest which humanity can become. Marxism always leaves death in its wake. Whether Hitler (10M), Stalin (40M), Pol Pot (3M), or Mao (50M) – big numbers – too big to fathom. Still, every day in our country the Left promotes and protects the bloodshed of its continued eugenics program through abortion, euthanasian, and infanticide. We minister in these areas often and effectively, but I suspect lack an historical context for assessing the efforts of these killers.
Marxism provides an opportunity to minister, not only by working to clean up the mess that it leaves behind (the post-enlightenment philosophers were responsible for the deaths of roughly 1 of every 100 people who even lived on the earth in the 20th century), but to confront it as a heresy and present an alternative model (Mt. 5:13-14) for society. But alas, we have few models and the best we can do right now is to confront the heresy and the bloodshed that it leaves behind.
As one early anabaptist put it: True evangelical faith does not lie sleeping. And while we cannot make this a better world for the mere sake of goodness (nor should we try), we can minister in all areas for the advancement and clarification of the gospel against its challengers. Some of the challengers may appear to be mere philosophical entities, but, as Richard Weaver put it, Ideas Have Consequences. And so does silence.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009, 11:35 PM
I’m Sick and Tired of Lewis and Chesterton
Twice in the past week, I thought I’d said something relatively clever only to have someone say, “It’s funny that you say that: I was reading something that C. S. Lewis wrote about that very idea not long ago . . . .” If it’s not Lewis, it’s G. K. Chesterton: “Chesterton, of course, pointed out that . . . .” I swear, I am sick to death of pulling myself up onto a new limb of thinking only to find one of those two guys sitting there smiling smugly.
First, are those guys still writing books and essays from beyond the grave? I could swear that their “complete works” have not been completed. Every time I turn around, I find something else they wrote that I have somehow missed. I can only imagine what it would be like if they had blogged in addition to publishing their longer works.
Second, I am constantly reminded that the Preacher of Ecclesiastes was right when he reminded us, “Is there anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us” (1:10). For some reason, most of us believe our thoughts to be immensely wiser or more innovative than those of past thinker. I suppose I could call this epiphany “chronological snobbery,” an arrogant belief that what we think now is far superior to what the ancients had thought.
No . . . wait a minute . . . blast that C. S. Lewis!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009, 11:06 PM
A myth is a story so deeply moving and true that it shapes the rest of your life. When I was in seventh grade, I found a copy of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in the Rochester Christian School library. On the bus ride home, I started reading it and knew from the first page that my life would never be the same. (more…)
Tuesday, November 24, 2009, 7:20 PM
“There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. That is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel.”
– Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Tuesday, November 24, 2009, 4:19 PM
A colleague offered me the following piece of correspondence from the Financial Times. It is a letter written by Dr. Gautam Pingle, who serves as a dean with the College of India. He writes:
[unimportant first para deleted] Intolerance bred by the monotheism of the People of the Book — mostly Christian and Muslim — in their mutual and conflicting wars and quest for world domination embroiled mankind in hatred and maasacres of each other and “the other” over the past 1,700 years. Even today, we see the baleful effects of residual monotheism and its apocalyptic vision.
Fortunately, in some parts of this troubled planet, the polytheistic tendency, with its signal notion encouraging inclusion, seems to be gaining ground and legitimacy — after its long nightmare — in the guise of secularism.
I find it fascinating that this writer equates polytheism with secularism. An interesting thought.
It is provocative enough for me to ask people to read my own in depth investigation of secularism (The End of Secularism) and to encourage my fellow academics, analysts, cultural researchers, etc. to join me in the project of scholarly work about secularism. There is much to do and we only gain in the course of civil confrontation.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009, 1:38 PM
For the past two weeks I’ve been pondering what to say in response to Shane Claiborne’s essay in Esquire magazine, “What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?” I met Shane a few months ago and was very impressed by him, so I was excited then to see that Esquire chose him as the “Radical Christian” for their 2009 list of the “Best and Brightest.”
I don’t always agree with Shane’s solutions, but I do share his passion for social issues. We also agree—I think completely—on the need to share the good news of Christ with a lost world. When I read his essay, though, I was disappointed. There was no requirement for him to use the essay to share the gospel, but he did—and I think he flubbed it.
The realization that I likely would not have done any better, though, made me hesitant to say anything about it. Fortunately, blogging is one of the few areas in life where procrastination can be beneficial. Usually if I put off writing something long enough, someone else will come along and say it better than I ever could have. Such is the case with Kevin DeYoung’s latest post. Although he doesn’t mention Shane by name (I don’t even know if Kevin read his article) he addresses all of the concerns I had with this type of gospel presentation.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009, 1:25 PM
As Christians we confess with our hearts that our salvation is in Christ. More to the point, we acknowledge that God became man in Jesus, lived a sinless life on earth, suffered and died on the cross under the burden of our sins, and rose victorious from the grave. He ascended to the Father and has promised to return to establish his everlasting kingdom in the new heaven and new earth. This is spelt out in the ecumenical creeds of the church and in the evangelical confessions of the 16th and 17th centuries. We rejoice in the promise of our salvation and the hope of a renewed creation, purged of the destructive effects of sin.
But then what? How do we live in the meantime? This is hardly an academic question but cuts to the heart of our faith, which, as St. James the Apostle tells us, is dead if it does not bear fruit in works of righteousness (James 2:17, 26). As I’ve read some of the discussion surrounding the Manhattan Declaration, I have been, not exactly confused (as Joe Carter professes to be), but bemused. Bemused enough to ask: if we are saved by grace, exactly what are we saved for? To be sure, we are saved from sin and from the power of death that comes in its wake. But what are the implications of this salvation for the way we live life — indeed all of life, including those elements that characterize our social, political, economic and artistic life? Or are these fields of human endeavour exempt from the sinful patterns that produce the need for salvation in the first place?
The answer to the latter question is absolutely not. We human beings have a wilful tendency to embrace idols of our own making in every area of life, not just in our church or devotional life. Redemption in Jesus Christ renews God’s good creation in its totality, and not just abstract individual souls. Redemption reaches into the remote corners of everyday life, renewing the ordinary activities that are a part of our created nature as God’s image-bearers and shapers of culture.
If this is true, then it suggests that gospel and law in the larger sense are not the dialectical polarities that some make them out to be. Jesus never repudiated the law but came to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17):
For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:18-19).
It is true, of course, that the apostles released gentile converts from their obligation to follow all the intricacies of the mosaic law code (Acts 15:1-35). St. Paul condemned those who would impose circumcision on the early Christians and asserted unequivocally that “no one is justified before God by the law” (Galatians 3:11). Nevertheless, Paul could never have argued that Christians are free from the law whereby God governs the cosmos and the norms given to his image-bearers for living. Paul was not an antinomian and took pains to repudiate those who misinterpreted his teachings in such a way. We are by no means free from the central command to love our neighbour as ourselves (Galatians 5:13-14). In fact, Paul goes so far as to write that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
How is this relevant to the debate over the Manhattan Declaration? Its relevance comes in the confession that the gospel does have an impact on the ways we live our lives politically. Politics is not a realm of neutral rationality, as some would have it. Along with the rest of life, it is the setting for a cosmic struggle between competing false gods — whether these be the jealous gods of individual rights, the messianic proletariat or the redemptive nation. This is the point I attempt to make in my own Political Visions and Illusions.
There are good reasons to critique the Manhattan Declaration. For example, its treatment of religious freedom contains troubling language concerning the supposedly “unconstrained conscience” of man. To hold that “God alone is Lord of the conscience” appears to downplay the extent to which he uses the communities, including the institutional church, of which we are part to shape our hearts and minds for his service.
Yet if we confess that the gospel changes everything, reorienting the way we live our entire lives, even our lives in community, then the issues addressed by the Declaration can hardly fall outside the scope of the gospel in this sense. Changing laws will not bring anyone to salvation. However, it may well be that efforts at legal reform are among the fruits of that salvation.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009, 1:22 PM
We now know of the hoax of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. The revealed emails show the manipulation of information. There is nothing left to doubt except the leftist politicians. But what do we do now? Here are some ideas:
1) Ask Honda and Toyota to produce diesels instead of hybrids.
2) Challenge Congress on the Cap & Trade tax excuse. Challenge them to shelve it entirely. And return any tax dollars disbursed to reinforce this hoax.
3) Challenge President Obama to apologize for his error.
4) Challenge Al Gore to apologize.
5) Challenge the emergent and postmodern theologians to apologize and remediate their accompanying theological errors.
Of course there is much more that we can do. But we must begin by actively communicating with the apologists.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009, 8:17 AM
A few months ago on my own blog I wrote about something I write often about: how the good news is that Christ’s finished work actually means the work of salvation is finished, so that even our feeble participation in sanctification is both covered by Jesus and empowered by him through the Spirit. A somewhat prominent blogger then brought up the idea of our own “sweat equity” contributing to our sanctification. I couldn’t think of a more abhorrent idea at the time, an idea more antithetical to the gospel, which suddenly becomes no gospel, because it means Christ made a down payment and now I’m on the installment plan.
I saw the idea again yesterday, as someone linked to the May 2008 edition of The Gospel Coalition’s Themelios journal, in an article titled “How a Mega-Church is Rediscovering the Gospel”. An excerpt, from the pastor of that church:
I met with a man who had been attending our church for four years. He said he needed to ask me a theological question before he could join our church. I never like those kinds of conversations since the question is usually about a distinctive rather than about something central. We met for breakfast, and his question was the best theological question I had ever been asked. He simply asked me how people grow. He said that he knew people were saved by grace, but he wanted to know if I thought people were sanctified through their own sweat equity. I thought for a moment and then told him that the only thing that ever really changed me was love. Ever since the mission trip, I had been feeling that it was more important for me to understand how much Jesus loved me than it was for me to figure out how to love Him. I watched in amazement as relief spread across my friend’s face. He said he had tried for twenty years to be sanctified through his own effort; it had ground him to powder, and he would not go back.
I know this myself personally. Talking about how the gospel and the law relate to sanctification is no mere intellectual exercise for me. It’s not just one more idea for the blog. It made the difference between the crushing weight of my own sinful failure and the freedom that comes from tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. This is a real freedom, a freedom that makes “good works” a celebratory dance, not a day-laborers’ accumulation of sanctifying sweat equity. That way leads to burn out and bitterness. “Do not again return to a yoke of slavery,” Paul practically yells at us.
And I don’t care if this offends you (because it needs to): If you don’t get this, you do not have the joy of gospel wakefulness.
Pastor Joe Coffey continues:
Gospel-driven transformation is both liberating and terrifying.
There are some in our church who have not yet rediscovered the Gospel this way. There are others who hear the terrifying part but not the liberating part, and they sit on pins and needles. Many of them will leave soon, I think. But there are many others who have felt the shackles start to fall off, and, like me, they are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.
It is counterintuitive, but wakefulness to the reality that the work is done makes us work more and harder. The gospel creates what the Law requires. And when we approach the notion of sanctification from the angle of “How much reminding of the spiritual homework can we do?” we miss the point entirely. It is often because we do not trust the proclamation to be effectual, and we do not really believe that the gospel is power in itself, that it bears fruit of itself.
[C]ontinue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. — Philippians 2:12b-13
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. — Ephesians 2:10
“We must re-evangelize the church.” — John Armstrong
Monday, November 23, 2009, 4:07 AM
I have a confession to make: Often when I read Christian blogs (including this one) I have absolutely no idea what in the world the people are talking about. No clue. At all.
Maybe it’s that despite being an evangelical for over thirty years I still don’t quite comprehend evangelicalese (a distinct possibility). Maybe it’s that I’m not that bright (which is a certainty). Or maybe—just maybe—these well-intentioned bloggers are failing to actually communicate with their audience because they are using words and concepts in a way that casts more shadows than light.
I’ll give you one recurring, though nonspecific, example. I often read a lot of vague musing about Gospel and Law. Gospel, in these posts, is an ill-defined term that represents all that is good and holy. If you have the Gospel then you have everything and are doing it right since you’re not really doing anything at all (Jesus does all the work). Law, on the other hand, is an ill-defined term that represents all that is bad and wrong with Christianity. The law is a nasty thing that some Christians (mainly people the blogger doesn’t like) are shoving down people’s throats, leading to all manner of evils and causing them to miss out on the Gospel. From what I can tell, the Gospel is so effective at washing away sin that we can pretty much ignore it completely—both in our lives and in the world. Too much concern about sin means that we are focused on the Law. (Oddly the term “sanctification” rarely enters these discussions at all, though it would seem to have some bearing.)
I read these types of posts and then I read the Bible and then I get thoroughly confused. These are generally godly men and women who are well-versed in the Bible and theology. They have a richness and depth of understanding that I will likely never possess. But for some reason I can’t get quite connect the dots between what scripture says and what they are saying. Reading their posts is like watching a 3-D movie without the special glasses; I can make out vaguely familiar shapes but the whole isn’t recognizable.
I realize this is a maddeningly vague complaint and that my example is an inadequate representation for what I’m trying to describe. I also acknowledge that the misunderstanding may be completely due to my own deficiencies and failings. But if its not, then it means there are other people who are similarly confused. They are likely thinking that they are the only ones who are missing the point and that they are just too dumb to understand this heady theological stuff.
Are there such people or am I the only one? And if there are more of us, how can we communicate our confusion so that others will be able to better explain what they mean?
Monday, November 23, 2009, 1:01 AM
So Joe posted a link to the new Manhattan Declaration which came out late last week, and in the comments it came out that I agree with the morals of the document but think this documents and others like it obscure the Gospel. Collin, my co-blogger here at Evangel, didn’t see what I meant (prolly because I didn’t explain a lick of it), so I’m going to give an apologia for myself here and hope that it makes something like good sense.
The first thing is this: it’s pretty hard to deny the precepts of the “in the image of God” apologetic for the sanctity of life, and the Genesis/Ephesians apologetic for the presuppositional category of marriage standing prior to any legal sanction of the thing. I have myself made both arguments to others in the past as these are broadly-Christian ideas; they are certainly consequences of a “Nicene” christianity (Big “N”, small “c” intended).
But, as a second point, I wonder if the argument for religious liberty here is entirely satisfactory. I think I agree with the conclusion and would in some way renovate the path to get there — because as a Christian, I think all other paths to God lead to God-in-his-wrath and not to God-in-His-eternal-love. The idea that man has an obligation of conscience to follow God as he sees fit comes apart quickly when we understand that man’s conscience (broken as every man’s conscience is) is actually part of the problem with this world. Moreover, everyone who rejects the Son rejects the Father who sent Him. I’m not sure we do anyone any favors by telling them, “well — if that’s what floats your boat …”; I’m pretty sure that is the antithesis of the Gospel.
Sunday, November 22, 2009, 2:56 PM
The Washington D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has made its understandings of the law clear — that somehow homosexual marriage is required by law. You can read the whole document here. The board finds its motivation in the modern feminist movement. In evaluating two matters, the Jury and Marriage Amendment Act (JAMA) and the Human Rights Act (HRA), the board came to the conclusion that
While neither the HRA nor its legislative history explicitly mentions same-sex marriage, it is without question that the HRA must “be read broadly to eliminate the many proscribed forms of discrimination in the District.”40 Since JAMA’s enactment, the District recognizes same-sex marriages that have been properly entered into, performed, and recognized by other jurisdictions. This did not exist when Dean was decided. Consequently, couples who fall within JAMA’s purview are entitled to the same benefits of marriage that are afforded heterosexual married couples, and the denial of these benefits to married couples on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individuals who comprise the couples now constitutes a “proscribed form of discrimination.” It is clear that this result is the intent of the Council, which voted 12-1 to pass JAMA. The Initiative seeks to deny recognition to JAMA marriages on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individuals who comprise the couples. As a result, the Board finds, and both the District’s Attorney General and the General Counsel for the Council agree, that the Initiative authorizes or would authorize discrimination proscribed by the HRA and is therefore not a proper subject for initiative.
This is dangerous. The D.C. board considers the disallowance of homosexual marriage recognition, in principle, to be a “proscribed form of discrimination” — and “proscribed” means dangerous and illegal. The D.C. board has used specific terminology that declares the Christian view of marriage, that marriage must be between one man and one woman, and the practices of hiring and service, to be dangerous and illegal.
It doesn’t take long to go back and look at the government’s confrontation of Bob Jones University for its institutional racism. The school was, in my understanding of the Word, practicing an immorality for which it deserved condemnation. But the power of the federal government to intrude into religious organizations has been established, against Bob Jones and elsewhere, as the Left continues its assault on individual liberty.
And the board has let its intentions regarding any initiative to change this ruling:
Saturday, November 21, 2009, 5:06 PM
I have been thinking a lot about the way we sell church-related goods and services.
I have been thinking about that and about Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers and sacrificial animal sellers in the temple.
The marketing inside the church has probably never been more feverish than it is today. Hollywood hires savvy Christian marketers to try to gin up interest in certain films among our demographic. We trademark little phrases for sale to Christians. I recently heard an acquaintance excitedly describe a system for integrating Prayer and Your Priorities. I shall not share the catchy name for this system so as to avoid smearing the person working on it. This results in a marketing platform for an inspirational book, a devotional, a daily planner for the system, calendars, sticky notes, etc. I imagine it will prove attractive for some Christian publishing house.
My question, though, is whether this is a wholesome thing for the church. As the author of a book, though not a super consumer-oriented one, I think about it all the time. For example, if called upon to preach at a local church, should I take along a box of books to sell at the end of the service? Should I even mention the book? Should I ask whoever introduces me to mention the book? Should we sell ANYTHING in the church?
The question is not as easy as it may appear. For example, the market instincts of new publishers spread Martin Luther’s work to a large audience. Without the printing press, Luther probably would have died as just another dissenter. Marketing and the honest profit motive are surely reasons why the Bible is as incredibly widely available as it is.
But the question remains. How far do we go in making a profit from the gospel of Jesus Christ? I don’t have a good answer. Love to hear from you in the comments.
Saturday, November 21, 2009, 4:57 PM
The best way to get web hits is to say something loudly.
Our discourse is often as subtle as a teenager with a stuck caps key. We don’t just oppose the President’s agenda, but WE STAND AT ARMAGEDDON AND WE BATTLE FOR THE LORD.
Saturday, November 21, 2009, 3:58 PM
President Obama is just returning from China having gently mentioned to the butchers of Beijing that human rights are important. The witness for human dignity will continue in China, but it will not be the soft approach of kowtowing to dictators while speaking softly to them.
How do we know? (more…)
Friday, November 20, 2009, 1:29 PM
The Manhattan Declaration is a 4,732-word statement signed by a movement of Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Christian leaders who are collaborating around moral issues of great concern. Its signers affirm the sanctity of human life, marriage as defined by the union of one man and one woman, and religious liberty and freedom of conscience. The Manhattan Declaration endorses civil disobedience under certain circumstances.
The original 148 signatories include 14 Roman Catholic bishops, 2 Eastern Orthodox bishops, 20 presidents and 19 faculty members from seminaries and college—including our own Russell Moore—46 leaders of various ministries, 22 pastors, 10 magazine editors and publishers (including First Things editor Joseph Bottum), and various other luminaries.
First Things has posted the text here. You can sign the declaration here.
(Thanks to Touchstone magazine for the information on the signers.)
Friday, November 20, 2009, 12:56 PM
Townhall.com ought to be one of my favorite websites, but I rarely hit a link from my reader.
Friday, November 20, 2009, 10:45 AM
Nearly 25 years ago I made a discovery that would change my life profoundly, especially as it relates to the worship of God. While visiting Prague in 1976 I had purchased a copy of a Czech hymnal published in 1900 that contains the 150 Psalms in metre and some 350 hymns. But it was not until the mid-1980s that I discovered the true significance of this little volume. At that time I discovered the tunes of the Genevan Psalter, the metrical psalter completed in 1562 and used in Calvin’s Geneva. From thence its use spread to the Netherlands, Hungary, South Africa and elsewhere, having a huge influence in the Reformed churches in those countries. Imagine my surprise to discover that I had long possessed evidence that these were sung by Czech Christians as well, and in the very church of pre-reformer Jan Hus!
Apart from a few tunes, however, the Genevan melodies did not catch on to the same extent in the English-speaking world. This is largely because of some of the distinctive characteristics of the English language, including the relative paucity of feminine endings, or unstressed final syllables. Hence English-language metrical psalters, such as the Scottish Psalter of 1650, tended to render all the psalms in a very few uniform metres, such as common metre (86 86 iambic), long metre (88 88 iambic) and short metre (66 86 iambic).
The Genevan tunes, by contrast, conformed to a variety of metrical patterns, some of which would strike us as rather eccentric. This made them more like the German chorales that were being composed in the Lutheran territories at the same time. The syncopated rhythms were such that Queen Elizabeth I is said to have referred to them derogatorily as “Genevan jigs.” Following centuries-old practice, they were written in the traditional ecclesiastical modes of the western church.
Following my discovery of this rich liturgical resource, I was hooked and began to write my own versifications of the Psalms to be sung to these tunes. Somewhat later I began to compose arrangements for the tunes. Ten years ago I posted a website devoted to the Genevan Psalter and to the recovery of psalm-singing in evangelical churches. Since then I have been adding to this website, including an introductory essay, a blog, a sample liturgy, numerous links to other psalm-related material and, of course, the texts themselves.
This is a labour of love that has been a part of my life for nearly a quarter century, and I expect that it will occupy my retirement years when the time comes. My prayer is that it may spark in Christians around the world a renewed love for singing the psalms. I will have more to say in future on the place of the psalms in the church’s liturgy.
“Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6)
Thursday, November 19, 2009, 10:49 PM
Gospel deficiency is the major crisis of the evangelical church. The good news has been replaced by many things, most often a therapeutic, self-help approach to biblical application. The result is a Church that, ironically enough, preaches works, not grace, and a growing number of Christians who neither understand the gospel nor revel in its scandal.
There are lots of good reasons to reclaim the centrality of the good news of Jesus in our preaching and teaching and writing and blogging, and I’ve come up with four basic arguments for (what I’m calling) The Gospel Imperative, but perhaps defining our terms is in order. It’s no good going on about making the gospel the center of our worship and discipleship if we are not on the same page for what the gospel actually is.
Like many others, I affirm that the gospel is big. I favor a robust gospel, a good news proclamation with many facets and ramifications. It is everywhere in the shadows and in the light of the Old Testament Israelites’ desert wandering, and it encompasses the brilliant kingdom landscape of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It is in God’s gracious covering of the freshly fallen Adam and Eve (and in the cursing of the serpent) in Genesis, and it is in the awesome return of the tattooed, sword-wielding Jesus 65 books later in Revelation. I agree with Tim Keller, who argues that the gospel is “both one and more than that.” It is certainly “more than that.” But it is also “one,” which is why a nutshell like “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23) can work well.
While acknowledging that the gospel is about the inbreaking kingdom of God setting a fallen world back to rights, the gospel I am speaking about here is the “essential” gospel, which is the news that Jesus has died to make atonement and risen bodily to establish his Lordship and has thereby murdered sin and conquered death.
Pretty powerful stuff, ain’t it? And yet many of our churches consider this news, which eternal angels still long to gaze into, merely introductory stuff.
Thursday, November 19, 2009, 10:23 PM
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If you come to Columbus, OH, in the near future, I would enjoy interviewing you. Perhaps coffee or tea @ the local Panera?
There is something about blogging, something lacking. We’re out here, just writing, alone and with little reward. Many of us are neither reporters nor any other form of professional journalists. A few, like Michelle Malkin, can make a good living in that field. Some, as found here, are pastors or teachers — professional communicators. But others of us just try hard. At least we bloggers have a chance to edit and correct our errors and republish. We don’t have to embarass ourselves as political hacks on national television.
In that light, here are a couple of subjects on which I would engage her.
1. I’ve been thinking of asking her more than Bill O has planned on Fox News. He said tonight that he wants to talk to her about policy. Nobody, after all, is talking about her views on policy matters. That is a good step for Bill O. We certainly do not hear about policy matters on CNN — Behar and the others can only make fun of her. I will ask her why she doesn’t write and perhaps publishing some essays on these matters. It’s what Paul Tsongas did with his Call to Economic Arms. It’s what Ronnie did as he prepared for his run against Carter.
2. I might even ask her to change her eyeglasses. Those big lenses look like safety goggles. City people seem to like to wear small lenses. I think city people are intimidated by the size. If she would wear smaller lenses, then perhaps she might honor us all with an imitation of Tina Fey.
I figure all she can do is say No. Or not even see this post, but that’s not something she does — it’s something that she wouldn’t be doing. So that really doesn’t count. But I digress. Hey, it was worth a try.
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