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.)

In Case You Missed It

Bruce Ashford recently posted at Canon and Culture discussing the question: “Are we voting for a Pastor-in-Chief or a Commander-in-Chief?” Dr. Ashford writes:

More than any race in recent memory, the 2016 election cycle has caused Americans to debate whether or not a presidential candidate’s moral failures should affect his or her viability for office.

In the Democratic primaries, the debate centers on Hillary Clinton in general, and her email scandal in particular. Polls tell us that a large portion of the population perceives her as dishonest and untrustworthy. In the Republican primaries, the debate centers largely on Donald Trump’s candidacy, as he has been criticized for bragging about sexual exploits with women other than his wives and for employing rhetoric that many consider demeaning and unprincipled.

Often, the debate is framed in terms of a question: “Are we supposed to be voting for a Pastor-in-Chief or a Commander-in-Chief?” When asked in that manner, the implied answer is, “Of course we are not electing a pastor-in-chief, so stop whining about a presidential candidate’s track record in matters of morality.” But this question poses a false dilemma, and its formulaic answer is simplistic and unhelpful.

At his personal blog, J.D. Greear recently addressed the biggest questions he gets on Geneis 1 and 2. J.D. writes:

The opening chapters of Genesis are incredibly rich. (If you haven’t noticed, they’ve been bouncing around my head quite a bit recently. Consider Exhibit A and Exhibit B.) But I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible to bring up Genesis 1—regardless of the setting—without certain key questions coming up. For some people, these are the onlyquestions that matter. As you’ll see here, I don’t think that’s the case. But they’re important questions nonetheless.

Recently Karen Swallow Prior published a piece describing what it’s like to be in the middle of a life story, but you just want the spoilers.

This is how it begins:

A faded cotton gown that barely covers me as I lie on a hospital bed, one breast uncovered while the technician glides a probe across my cold flesh.

She stares ahead at the monitor, hunting for telltale signs of death, chatting blithely about her daughter and shopping at Target, and I gaze upwards at dull white ceiling tiles.

At the Peoples next Door, Keelan Cook recently discussed two reasons you should be a missionary.

A few days ago, I described three things that should keep you from going to the mission field right now. They were all character issues, and frankly they are very important. The damage that can be done to the missionary and family, the team they are going to work with, and the work itself on the field is jeopardized when people go who do not possess the necessary character outlined in the pages of the New Testament. It is a big deal.

But I do not want to leave it there, because that is only half the picture.

At the Intersect Project website, Amber Bowen posted: Love the Word: Redeeming Jacques Derrida (The Philosophical Blacklist)

If given the choice, would you prefer to read God’s word or to hear him speak? Which would make you feel closer to God? Which would give you greater sense of certainty?

My guess is that we would prefer the latter. Even those of us who are wholeheartedly committed to the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture would intuitively say that hearing God’s voice would make us feel we are truly in His presence and have perfect clarity of what He is saying. I often wonder if we subconsciously consider the scriptures sufficient for the time being until the day when we will have true, unmediated access to God by physically seeing his face and hearing his words.

Why is it we intuitively think that hearing God’s voice would somehow be superior to reading his word? I believe the best person to help us answer this question is a contemporary, post-structuralist philosopher named Jacques Derrida.

In Case You Missed It

At Christianity Today, Greg Thronbury published an article discussing what we can learn from the complicated legacy of David Bowie.

You have to hand it to David Bowie. He certainly knew how to be the party—and how to break up the party. On Sunday night, just as Hollywood celebrities were arriving at their post-Golden Globe awards events, the laughter reportedly died down and a hush fell across the revelers: Bowie was dead at 69 from cancer. David Bowie turned toasts into conversations about memento mori. His death stunned everybody. Just a month earlier, he had appeared at the opening of his off-Broadway show Lazarus, and, as always, he looked great. Three days earlier, he released his most ambitious record in recent memory—a progressive jazz tour de force. We had seen him in brand new music videos which bewildered us.

At the Intersect Project website, Amber Bowen published an article discussing Christians and the transgender narrative. Amber writes:

In his final public appearance before debuting Caitlyn into society, Bruce Jenner shared his experience as a transgender with the world in an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer.

“Who is Bruce Jenner?” Sawyers asked. Jenner took a deep breath and said:

“I’ve tried to explain it this way: God is looking down making little Bruce…And then at the end, when he is just finishing, he says, “Wait a second; we’ve got to give him something. Everyone has stuff in their life they have to deal with. What are we going to give him?…Let’s give him the soul of a female, and lets see how he deals with that.” So here I am: stuck.[1]

“Stuck” is the word Jenner repeatedly used throughout the interview to describe his personal identity in relation to his physical body.

Upon hearing these statements, psychologists would immediately identify an obvious case of gender dysphoria. Philosophers, however, would recognize the basic tenants of Substance Dualism.

Aaron Earls posted at his personal blog, The Wardrobe Door, discussing Star Wars spoilers, cults and Christianity. Aaron writes:

Recently, I achieved the unthinkable. I avoid any and all spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens before seeing it Christmas Day. My wife, who saw it a couple weeks later, was not so lucky. A Facebook friend posted about hoping a pivotal moment would change the second time she saw it. There was no ill-intent, just random thoughtlessness.

We’ve all had someone accidentally spoil a movie or book (or we’ve been the unintentionally spoiler). But what about those who give away the plot twists and turns on purpose? What drives someone to plaster a spoiler of The Force Awakens on the back window of their car and drive around town?

Perhaps surprisingly, part of it may be the same mentality that drives someone to join a cult. That doesn’t mean your uncle who enjoys binge-watching Netflix and posting spoilers on Facebook is starting a doomsday group (though it seems those guys are almost always “odd uncles”). But it does mean that obtaining “secret knowledge” is enticing to us and we often want to let others know we have something they don’t.

The appearance of exclusivity is attractive. There’s a reason advertisers use phrases like “limited time” or “be the first to own.” If something is only around for a short amount of time, I don’t want to miss it. Spoilers and cults serve the same purpose just on opposite extremes of importance.

Having a spoiler to a movie grants you power through that exclusive knowledge. You can either share that with others, whether they are asking for it or not. Or you can keep it to yourself and revel in knowing more than everyone else. You feel like you have all the control, similar to a cult.

Joe McKeever wrote about an important topic at his blog this week. You’re a pastor and you’ve found the work tough? No sympathy here, friend.

It’s supposed to be tough.

Why do you think God has to call people into this work? If it were easy, they’d be lining up to volunteer.

The Christian life is tough to start with. “In this world you will have tribulations,” our Lord said. Then, He added, “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Then, the Lord calls certain ones of the redeemed to stand apart from the flock and to become “point men.”  His undershepherds.  Overseers of the flock.  Examples to the rest.  And frequently, His spokesmen.

Targets. In the crosshairs of the enemy.

He does not sugarcoat the call.  When Jesus called Saul of Tarsus, He said to one, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).  Jesus told His disciples, “I send you forth like sheep in the midst of wolves…. Men will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.  You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake…. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matthew 10).

You see how they treated Jesus; you should expect nothing different.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

At Chuck Lawless’ blog, Brandon Conner discusses 8 questions discouraged leaders need to ask. Brandon writes:

As leaders, we all face times when things are not going as well as we would like.  In those seasons, it’s important to remember that before we can ever re-energize the church we lead, we have to first be energized ourselves.  Below are eight questions leaders should ask themselves during difficult seasons.