In Case You Missed It

In a recent article at the People’s Next Door, Keelan Cook poses the question: “If a lady in a hijab walked into your church, how would you respond?” Keelan writes:

I fear this post has the potential to ruffle feathers, but that is not my intent. Instead, my hope is that you will take the question in earnest in order to search your heart. I have been doing the same.

 

A while back, I ran across an article, in which a lady wore a Muslim head covering in order to gauge the response of a Christian church. She was a Christian, but she was curious what kind of response a Muslim, who may be interested in Christianity, would receive. The article was posted on the website for the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies. The Zwemer Center is an academic center at Columbia International University, a fine Christian university, that exists to provide research and training concerning Christian witness to Muslims.  It is a good resource for the church.

 

According to the article, the experiment did not go well. To be fair, the article only mentions the incident briefly, and there is no way to know the details. I have no desire to beat this church up in a post, but it made me think about how most churches would respond in this instance. I would hope that most churches welcome strangers, even ones who are different than them. Unfortunately, I see the rhetoric swirling around in the United States today about immigration and refugees, and I fear the worst. I am afraid Christ’s church, scattered across the country in local congregations, may often be more influenced by this rhetoric than by the Scriptures on these issues.

 

In a recent post at his blog, Bruce Ashford lists 8 reasons why abortion is detrimental to society.

In the midst of the carnival-like atmosphere of the 2016 election cycle, evangelicals run the risk of allowing one thing to slip their attention: Hillary Clinton’s enthusiastic acceptance of Planned Parenthood’s endorsement and Planned Parenthood’s heightened efforts to expand its abortive territory.

 

In light of Planned Parenthood’s aspirations to recruit and train “tens of thousands” of persons to further its mission, how should evangelicals respond? In short, we should continue to seek both legal reform and cultural renewal, and should do so not only by articulating the Bible’s teaching about human dignity but also by enumerating the ways abortion corrupts society.

 

Brad Hambrick posted a helpful article about how he talked to his boys after the transgender talk at their public school. Brad writes:

My boys attend a local public elementary school. With the current debates that are occurring in North Carolina regarding legislation around transgenderism and public restrooms, the school’s CNN Kids news program did a story on the debate (May 10th edition). I read the video transcript and found the discussion on the role of public restrooms in modern politics to be interesting and informative.

 

Knowing that many other families will be having conversations around this subject, it seemed as though it would be beneficial to reflect on the conversation I had with my boys; not as a prototype to follow, but as a sample to vet.

 

Here are a few preliminary thoughts that I won’t go into in as much detail, but I believe are relevant.

 

In a recent article at the Intersect project, Nathaniel Williams discusses a homeless Gospel in a partisan world.

I’m accustomed to seeing Donald Trump Twitter tirades. I’m not, however, accustomed to seeing Southern Baptist theologians as the object of those tirades.

 

Opinions of Donald Trump aside, when was the last time a Republican Presidential nominee publicly went after an influential Evangelical leader? I can’t think of an example. Republicans used to actively court Evangelicals, not crucify them.

 

And the cordial feelings tended to be mutual. Though the Republican Party has never aligned perfectly with Christian teaching, conservative Evangelicals could generally rely on the party to produce candidates who valued life, character and religious freedom.

 

Yet that assumption has been slowly eroding, and Trump’s tweet seems to be the nail in the coffin. The gospel no longer fits neatly into a political party (if it ever did at all).

 

At his blog, Thom Rainer recently listed five questions prospective pastors rarely ask search committees (but should).

“This church is nothing like the search committee described. They said they were ready for change. They are, as long as it doesn’t affect them!”

 

The sentence is a direct quote from a pastor commenting on my blog. And many other pastors have expressed similar sentiments to me.

 

Of course, not all prospective pastors deal with pastor search committees. Still, the pastors inevitably have someone who interviews them, such as elders or judicatory bodies.

 

It is critical that prospective pastors ask questions about the church. There are five questions, however, which are rarely asked. These questions could be key toward avoiding some of the unpleasant surprises many pastors encounter.

In Case You Missed It

Amber Bowen recently posted an article at the Intersect Project website discussing human value and the pro-life ethic. Amber writes:

What does it mean to be pro-life?

 

The term “pro-life” has a narrow meaning in our current context and political discourse. Typically, when we say someone is pro-life we mean that they stand up for the rights of the unborn and oppose abortion.

 

While being a voice for the unborn is a significant part, that issue alone does not encompass the whole of being pro-life. We must be careful not to mistake the whole for the part.

 

The scriptures open up our narrowly focused definition, reminding us that all life is precious and should be defended. This is true of the unborn child at the earliest stages of development, a child with special needs, a wayward teenager bent on ruining her life, orphans, the homeless, refugees, immigrants, minorities, the elderly.

 

What do all of these examples of life have in common? What is the common thread of value that runs between them? The theologically correct answer is that they are each made in the image of God and are the crowning work of his creation. Our society, however, has proposed other bases for the value of human life.

 

Even though Christians may cognitively believe that humans have life because of the imago dei, I believe if we dusted for the fingerprints of these alternative bases of value we would be shocked by how scattered they are throughout the Church and within our hearts.

 

Keelan Cook posted at The Peoples Next Door explaining how languages are more important than we think.

Languages are fascinating.

 

For all of you who endured through Spanish or French in high school, you may disagree with me, but there is a reason that we take foreign languages in school. Language is a fundamental part of being human. It is one of the irreducible components of every society. Every culture, every group of people, communicates through language. It may be English, it may be any one of thousands of foreign languages, or it may even be sign language. Everyone that can communicate does so with language.

 

That makes language very important, and we need to keep that in mind as we do ministry in the United States today. I am a firm believer that good ministry can happen across language barriers. Language can often be an excuse for not reaching out to our new, foreign-born neighbors. It should never be so, and even when we do not know their language, we can still begin to engage. However, we desperately need to realize how important language is to culture, because it has a huge impact on discipleship and missions.

 

Language does not merely express what we think it affects how we think.

 

Language is a means of expressing the content of culture, but it is so closely tied to culture that it is often hard to distinguish between the two. The two work in tandem, developing one another and shaping one another. Just like culture, language affects our worldview. It shapes the categories for our thinking, and it determines how we process information.

 

At his blog The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls writes: “Culture gives Christians a choice: hypocrite, bigot, or weirdo?”

As western culture becomes more post-Christian, those seeking to follow Christ will find themselves in increasingly difficult circumstances. We will essentially be in no-win situations. Do you want to be a hypocrite, a bigot, or a weirdo?

 

“Christians are a bunch of hypocrites.”

 

We’ve all heard that statement and we’ve heard it as an excuse for a whole host of things. Why don’t you come to church? Hypocrites. Why shouldn’t Christians have a part in the cultural discussion of marriage? Hypocrites.

 

Make no mistake, we’ve seen Christians act hypocritically. Just recently, we can point to Josh Duggar and other Christian leaders whose immoral lives have been exposed, all the while they preached the importance of biblical morality.

 

There are very real cases where self-professed followers of Jesus have failed to live up to the standards they championed for others. Many in culture have gleefully pointed to these instances and concluded, “If Christians refuse to live according to their own values, why should anyone listen to them?”

 

The hypocrisy of one Christian is used as a means to dismiss the positions held by other Christians. If that pastor cannot remain faithful to his wife, Christians should not speak on issues of marriage.

 

So hypocrisy is worthy of scorn, sure. But what about those trying to live out their ideals?

 

Southeastern Baptist Seminary provost, Dr. Bruce Ashford recently discussed some of his favorite books, as well as some books he is reading right now with Matt Smethurst at The Gospel Coalition. Matt writes:

On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers.

 

I corresponded with Bruce Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, about what’s on his nightstand, books that have shaped his thoughts on politics and culture, his favorite fiction, what he’s learning about life and faith, and more.

 

Tim Challies recently posted a list of helpful resources to kick-start your theological library.

It’s no secret that building a quality theological library is a very expensive proposition. Compared to popular-level books, theological works come at a premium cost. But I’ve got a secret to share with you that will help kick-start any theological library: You can build an electronic library of excellent theological journals and magazines without spending a dime. These journals are full of excellent articles by top writers, scholars, and reviewers. Some are targeted at academics while others are written with a general audience in mind. There is something for everyone!

 

In just a moment I will give you a long list of journals and magazines that are freely available to download. Before I do that, though, you need to make sure you have an information management system that can store and search Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files. I recommend Evernote as a system that will allow you to not only store and search the files, but also to read and annotate them, though annotation may require an Evernote Premium subscription. Once you download the files you can add them to your information management system which will, in turn, allow you to search them and use them for reading or research. Click them, download them, store them, use them. It’s that simple. (Alternatively, you can just download them as you do any other file and read them that way.)

Adam, the Man: Guardian of the Garden

By: Drew Ham
Scholars are agreed that the Genesis 1 text, the first creation account, is a crescendo from the simple to the complex, or the simple to the most beautiful. For example on day one, God created the light. On day two he separated the land from the water. Leading up to day six, the pinnacle of creation, God created the most beautiful, or the most complex, of all created beings, mankind. The Genesis 2 creation account is an examination of the sixth day in particular, the creation of mankind. It explains that God created the man out of the dust and breathed life into him (Genesis 2:7). Then, after the creation of the man, it explains that the Lord created the Garden of Eden and placed the man in the garden.

The Genesis 2 account portrays the Garden of Eden as a sanctuary or a temple. In the ancient Near East, temples were often located on the side or top of a mountain. Eden is portrayed as an elevated sanctuary. Notice that the four rivers flow downward implying that the garden was elevated. Ezekiel 28 gives the impression that the Garden of Eden was a mountain sanctuary.
In Genesis 2:15, God took the man and put him in the garden to “work it and to keep it.” Those Hebrew words “work” and “keep” elsewhere in the Old Testament have been translated as “worship” and “obey.” Numbers 3:7-8, and 8:26 uses those verbs to require the Levites to be responsible to “guard” and “minister” to the people. Adam was a royal gardener, the priest in the sanctuary. He was a royal priest, a holy caretaker (see 1 Peter 2:9). Made in the image of God, Adam was God’s representative, His vice-regent, who had dominion over all the created things, and was placed in charge as governor of this majestic Garden (Genesis 1:26-28). His care over the Garden is an act of worship before the Lord. The manner in which Adam “tends the Garden,” or rules over the created order, is worship to God (I Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17).

In verse eighteen of Genesis 2, God says it is not good for man to be alone. So God causes Adam to fall asleep, and creates the woman from Adam’s side. Once again, this idea that the creation account is a crescendo from the simple to the most beautiful lends itself to the suggestion that the woman is the most beautiful of all the created things. She is the crown jewel of creation (see Proverbs 12:4; 31:10). She is the delicate, priceless vase or the “weaker vessel” as 1 Peter 3:17 explains her. She requires the special care, and guardianship of the royal gardener. She is to be cared for and treasured as a beautiful gift. Adam certainly recognizes the goodness of this gift as demonstrated by his joyous poetry in verse 23. The royal gardener’s responsibility is to be sure that this gift is nourished, and that she flourishes.

Let it be stated that the woman, Eve, is not simply an adornment or an ornament to be displayed. She was specifically designed to be Adam’s “helper.”

Perhaps this understanding of Adam as the guardian of the Garden should help us understand why God first approached Adam after “the fall” in Genesis 3. Adam was commissioned with the responsibility to watch over, to “keep” the Garden, and specifically the most beautiful of all the created things, the woman. Since Adam was given dominion over all the created things, why did he permit this conversation between the serpent and Eve to go uninterrupted? Why did Adam not protect his bride? Perhaps Adam’s passivity, his lack of responsibility and guardianship was his first area of failure.

Men, your responsibility to “work” and “keep” has not changed. We are still called to work/keep, worship/obey, to protect/minister. While the implications are many, who are the women in your life that you are responsible to protect? Your wife? Your daughter(s)? Your mother? Your sister(s)? How about the women within your local church? The Bible calls the church “the family of God.” Are not the women within your local church in need of protection and care? Are they not our “sisters” in Christ?

Paul’s encouragement in 1 Corinthians 16:13 suddenly seems much more applicable: “Be watchful. Stand firm in the faith. Act like men. Be strong.”

Drew Ham is the Director of Discipleship & Spiritual Formation at Southeastern. The husband of Shelly, and father of four little ones, he is completing an EdD and writing his dissertation on the topic of biblical manhood and sexuality.