In Case You Missed It

In a post at the International Mission Board, Dr. Bruce Ashford asks, “In Post-Christian America, Should Christians Retreat from Mission?”

Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option is the bestselling and most discussed religious book of the past year. In it Dreher argues that the past few decades in American life have revealed the extent to which Bible-believing Christians have been decentered socially, culturally, and politically. An increasing number of Americans—including those with cultural power—view historic Christianity as implausible, unimaginable, and even evil. The effect of this attitude on America’s social and cultural institutions has been devastating.

 

For this reason, Dreher exhorts us to strengthen the church while there is still time. He sees encouraging signs that Christians have begun to come to grips with the reality of a post-Christian America, but argues that we have yet to take the necessary steps to strengthen our churches, families, and local communities for the difficult years ahead.

 

At the Intersect Project, Erik Clary discusses disasters, divine retribution, and the danger of rushing to judgement.

In North America, many will remember 2017 as the year of calamity. Catastrophic storms, massive earthquakes, devastating fires and a horrific mass-shooting have wreaked death and destruction. Amid the public response to these large-scale tragedies, some commentators—typically professing Christians—declare that the hand of God is punishing people and nations.

 

Similar claims, one may recall, were advanced in attempts to make sense of 9/11 in 2001, the Indonesian tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Haitian earthquake of 2010, and West Africa’s Ebola outbreak in 2014. Collectively, they suggest a particular approach to explaining horrific evil that we might call the “calamity-must-be-punishment” thesis—the notion that wherever we find horrific suffering and mass tragedy, God is in the mix exercising judgment in response to specific sin (individual or collective). In response, then, we must ask, “Do large-scale calamities necessarily signal divine punishment being meted out against its victims?”

 

Yet a careful examination of Scripture not only fails to support the calamity-must-be-punishment thesis, but it also exposes such thinking as spiritually shallow and, at least in some cases, downright sinful. In particular, there are three concrete examples in Scripture where this interpretation of evil is offered and then met with divine correction.

 

Matt Smethurst interviewed Walter Strickland at The Gospel Coalition giving a behind the scenes look at Dr. Strickland’s life as a reader.

I asked Walter Strickland—assistant professor of systematic and contextual theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, co-author of Every Waking Hour, and contributor to Removing the Stain of Racism (B&H Academic, 2017) [review]—about what’s on his nightstand, books he re-reads, books that have shaped his understanding of racial justice, and more.

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax shared an article discussing how a satisfied church is not a holy congregation; it may just be a complacent one.

If you’ve been through a church conflict, you know the truth of Psalm 133:1How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! (CSB)

 

When doctrinal disputes fracture a congregation, or when personal preferences lead to disunity, or when personality conflicts cause division, Christians naturally long for peace, a renewed sense of unity in the fellowship we have in Christ and the partnership we have in mission.

 

We crave unity. We want to experience contentment. We want to see the church united by what matters most–what God wants, not what we want. Or better said, we want to want what God wants for our church.

 

But it’s easy for Christians who have been through a season of conflict or discontentment to pursue peace and satisfaction as the goal. It’s easy for churches to imagine that it’s a sign of faithfulness when everyone is getting along and everyone is satisfied.

 

This is the mistake that robs many a congregation of missional effectiveness.

 

In a post at the Intersect Project, Alysha Clark reflected on how Reformation history came alive for her on a recent study tour with Southeastern Seminary.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. All around the world churches and theological institutions are marking this momentous occasion with special conferences, lectures and events. Some (including Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) have even scheduled trips to Reformation sites.

 

In June 2017, 48 students, faculty, pastors and friends of Southeastern Seminary, led by esteemed Southeastern professors Drs. Daniel Akin, Stephen Eccher, Scott Hildreth, Marty Jacumin and Dwayne Milioni, embarked on an 11-day tour through Germany and Switzerland to visit some of the major sites of the multidimensional and tumultuous Protestant Reformation. I had the privilege of being a part of this journey. What I experienced was more than a vacation; the Reformation came alive for me.

 

This week, Southeastern Seminary had the honor of hosting Dr. Timothy George for the annual Page Lecture series. At The Gospel Coalition Justin Taylor put together a helpful post with videos of Dr. George’s talks at Southeastern as well as some additional resources from Dr. George on the Reformation.

Bruce Ashford, professor and provost at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, made the comment the other days that “It would be difficult to identify a scholar who can deliver a better public lecture than Timothy George.”

 

Dr. George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, delivered two of the Page Lectures at Southeastern this week on the Reformation:

  1. An Overview of the Reformation
  2. What Did the Reformers Think They Were Doing?

 

You can watch both lectures below, or go here to download the audio or video.

In Case You Missed It

Laura Thigpen posted an article at the Intersect Project discussing when grief is good.

Grief is an unwelcome guest that enters our lives unexpectedly and awkwardly overstays its welcome. But even this most awkward and unwelcome guest can open our eyes to the pain and suffering we have unwittingly been blinded to. It reminds me of a quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain:

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

When we read this short sentence, we may resonate with the words preceding the colon. In our pain, it can feel like God is shouting to us. Yet, don’t overlook the words that follow the colon. God uses our pain to rouse us, to stir our heart’s affections, to awaken our sensibilities.

 

This is precisely the point Lewis is making about our pain. The Lord uses our grief as a catalyst to bring about repentance, to achieve His purposes and to fulfill His plans.

 

Trevin Wax shared an article at The Gospel Coalition, titled: “Welcome Everyone, Affirm No One.” Trevin writes:

The most well-known hymn in America, “Amazing Grace,” by the former slaveholder John Newton, contains a line that many people stumble over.

 

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!

 

The hymn may be popular, but the sentiment is not. Few Americans consider themselves “wretches” of moral repugnance and debasement. We like to think of ourselves as basically good, with a few flaws; not fundamentally bad, with few virtues to save us.

 

Some Christians believe it would be good to remove unnecessary offense by downplaying human sinfulness, but such a move severs the root of what makes grace so powerful. It is precisely because we’re bad, not good, that God’s love in sending his Son to die for our sins is so significant.

 

The trouble is, grace is unimaginable in a world where everyone believes grace is deserved. And when grace is transformed into entitlement, the definitions change, for both those inside and outside the church.

 

At Biblical Foundations,  Andreas Köstenberger published an article discussing the historicity of Jesus’s resurrection.

One of the most important historical questions related to Jesus is how a tiny offshoot of Judaism went on to change the world. One of the most outspoken detractors of Jesus’ deity and the truthfulness of Christianity, Bart Ehrman, writes, “But then something else happened. Some of [Jesus’ followers] began to say that God had intervened and brought [Jesus] back from the dead. The story caught on, and some (or all – we don’t know) of his closest followers came to think that in fact he had been raised” (Did Jesus Exist?, 233). So did the early Christians invent the resurrection of Jesus? For his part, Ehrman disputes that Jesus’ tomb was empty, in part because neither Joseph of Arimathea—the man who put Jesus in the tomb according to the Gospels—nor the tomb itself are mentioned in the earliest creed (1 Cor 15:3b-5aHow Jesus Became God, 129-69). Yet 1 Cor 15:4 does say, “He was buried,” and proceeds to affirm, “He was raised.” The obvious historical conclusion is that whatever Jesus was buried in, presumably a tomb, was now empty!

 

Art Rainer discussed our double-edged smartphones at The Baptist Press.  Art writes:

Your smartphone can impact your financial health beyond the monthly service bill.

 

Smartphones are everywhere. According to Pew Research, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. This is more than double the 35 percent ownership in 2011.

 

Many of us cannot remember what life was like before our smartphone. Just the thought of losing or breaking our phone sends us into a state of panic.

 

Smartphones have been a double-edged sword for most of us. We find them useful and harmful at the same time. This can be true as it relates to our financial health. Sometimes they can help. But sometimes they can harm.

 

At the Intersect Project, Michael Guyer posted: “A Letter to a Transgender Student.”

Dear friend,

I am so thankful I know you. It is an honor that you would share this struggle with me. I know it was not easy, nor does sharing resolve everything. As you shared, I could not help but think of how deeply I desire to be truly known. God designed us for this—to know Him and be known by Him. He not only made us for Himself, but He also made us for community—to know others and be known by them. My heart groans with yours to be truly known as God intended from the beginning. But my heart also groans because I know the church has not always felt like a place you could talk about this struggle. As a result, you have felt disconnected and not truly known yourself. Along the way, you have been disappointed, hurt and isolated by the actions and words of Christians. I grieve over the pain and loneliness you have experienced. Before I say anything else, I want you to know that I am here for you and I love you.

 

Also this week, Bruce Ashford published a 5-part series of articles at his blog discussing the issue of transgenderism:

  1. Introduction
  2. A Brief Explanation of Significant Terms
  3. The Bible and Gender Identity
  4. Relating to Individuals with Gender Dysphoria
  5. Responding to It as an Ideology and Movement