Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Westminster Bookstore has a terrific deal on books by Tim Keller and Dennis Johnson: get Preaching, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness and Him We Proclaim together for only $30. Each book is also on sale individually. These deals end in a few days, so act quickly.

Not Your Average Paedobaptism

This is an interesting piece by Jared Oliphint:

It took awhile to sort out the complexities involved with baptism, specifically the infant variety. The “click,” the light bulb, and the “Aha!” moment occurred when someone helped me ask the right questions like, “Whom does Scripture include within the new covenant people?” As I tinkered with the idea of a covenant people, the meaning of the covenant sign started to take shape.

 

A better kind of selfie-stick

Also, don’t call your friends selfie-sticks:

“The Thief’s Prayer”

Brandon Smith shares the previously unseen notes of a sermon by a very young Charles Spurgeon.

When Marriage Is Miles Away

Marshall Segal:

My wife and I dated long-distance for two years — 1,906 miles and two time zones apart.

Any dating couple — whether they’re next-door neighbors or international heartthrobs — should pursue clarity and postpone intimacy. The great prize in marriage is Christ-centered intimacy; the great prize in dating is Christ-centered clarity. We all do well to make decisions in dating with that reality in mind. However, since long-distance relationships bring special challenges, they require special wisdom.

2 Billion Christians Believe in Traditional Marriage

Mark Galli:

But it’s not at all certain that the rapid cultural shift in America on gay marriage will be mirrored in the Christian church. North American and European Christians who believe in gay marriage are a small minority in these regions, and churches that ascribe to a more liberal sexual ethic continue to wither. Meanwhile, poll Christians in Africa, Asia, and practically anywhere in the world, and you’ll hear a resounding “no” to gay marriage. Scan the history of the church for 2,000 years and you’ll have a hard time turning up any Christian who would support same-sex marriage. The church has been and remains overwhelmingly united. It’s undergoing stress, certainly. But the evidence doesn’t support a narrative of division and collapse on this point.

Does history matter to Christianity?

Blind Spots

blind-spots

A lot of people are going to hate Collin Hansen’s new book, Blind Spots.

Some are going to be upset because it seems too accommodating. Others are going to be upset because it’s not accommodating enough. Yet those who feel this way are the most in need of hearing what Hansen has to say.

And in case you hadn’t already guessed, that includes all of us.

Blind to our blindness

You’re no doubt familiar with the concept of a physical blind spot—the place where you don’t have visibility in your vehicle. You’re also most likely familiar with the concept of psychological and emotional blind spots, too. We’re unaware of our own personality or behavioral ticks, though they are painfully obvious to everyone else (one of mine begins with, “The reality is…”). We have certain people we continue to think the best of, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Is it any surprise, then, that if we contend with physical, psychological and emotional blind spots, we would also have to address our theological ones?

Regardless of where we land on the theological spectrum, we have our heroes—the people we look to, and tend to trust without hesitation. We have our systems of theology that we either wholesale reject or unquestioningly embrace. We even have churches we look at in our neighborhoods where we’d say, “They’re not a true church” (even if it’s just to ourselves).

We look at the churches where people are doing good deeds, but no one is hearing about Jesus as lacking courage. We look at churches contending for the truth but ignoring the needs of others as lacking compassion. We look at churches that seem to be all about unbelievers or seekers, yet not about godly living as lacking conviction. Not only is this unfair, it’s dangerous. It presumes we have a lock on Christian truth. The only problem with that, of course, is  you. And me. And that guy over there.

What we need to do is to learn to “see the faults in [ourselves];” because until we do, we “can’t appreciate how God has gifted other Christians” (26).

Embracing our weaknesses and pursuing unity

Hansen argues the need for Christians to embrace courageous, compassionate and commissioned ministry—to pursue the Christian life with our heads, hearts and hands. But he is quick to clarify: We are not to pursue each in a balanced way, but to practice all three in “full, blessed abundance—in ourselves, our churches, and the church at large” (36).

This is important: To pursue the lost is good. To practice compassion is good. To contend for the faith is good. All of these are completely and utterly biblical, and anyone who says otherwise may need to check themselves before they wreck themselves. But we can’t just be good at one. We need them all.

Together. All the time. Among all of us.

In other words, we need to pursue biblical unity.

We are our own worst enemies

When it comes to the pursuit of unity, though, we are our own worst enemies. Unless it’s just me. I work for an organization where the staff are from all sorts of streams of evangelicalism (with a couple of mainliners and a Messianic Jew thrown in for good measure). We don’t agree on a lot of things. But we do agree on the majors (or at least most of them). But it’s easy to forget that. There are times when I find I have to remind myself not to make assumptions, and to remember that if I have a question or a concern, I don’t need to write out a theological treatise. I can just ask my question or have a conversation.

Now think about your own experience: where do you see the need to pursue biblical unity to a greater degree? Where do you see God giving you opportunities to put into practice what you already know about it?

No finger wagging, and no free passes

Some critics will no doubt be quick to point out Hansen’s connection to The Gospel Coalition, a ministry that is often accused compromising the gospel (from the right) or corporatizing it (from the left and the right). And it’s fair to bring it up as Blind Spots is an explanation and application of the core convictions of TGC. However, it would be wrong to assume this book is a “do life and ministry the TGC way” piece of propaganda. It’s not an apologetic for that particular ministry, any more than it’s one author pointing out what everyone else is doing wrong without pointing to himself first (even if there are more “yous” than perhaps I would have used). No one gets a free pass, including the author himself. Why? Because no one is exempt from the need to walk humbly before God. Regardless of the level of responsibility we have or the position we hold, we are all called to humble ourselves and repent. To abide in Christ—to pursue unity in its biblical fullness by pursuing Christ (109). For that, Hansen says, is our best hope:

Abiding in Christ is the best defense against the blind spots that destroy our joy in following Jesus and set us against other believers with different gifts and callings. Abiding in Christ will protect you from growing discouraged and getting sidetracked in trying to obey Jesus’s commandments.… Whatever direction the world tries to steer us—toward retreat, compromise or assimilation—the Spirit points us to Jesus, the true north on our moral compass. Only when we abide in him will we resist the cares of the world and the snares of the flesh. (111-112)

So, do I really think a lot of people are going to hate this book? Okay, maybe not hate. But they will definitely have a hard time with it. Though it’s a small book, it offers much by way of challenges to our thinking. And regardless of the degree to which we agree with what Hansen writes, we need to consider what we are going to do once our blind spots are revealed. I can’t easily answer the question, not because there isn’t an answer, but because it’s one you can’t answer hastily. But it is worth answering—because when we do we will find ourselves better equipped to bear witness to Christ in the world.


Title: Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate,and Commissioned Church
Author: Collin Hansen
Publisher: Crossway (2015)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Seeds Project is now available

My friend Mike’s been working long and hard on the first volume of The Seeds Project, Jesus Is All You Need, a devotional for children on Colossians. Be sure to grab a copy of this!

Leadership is always temporary

Eric Geiger:

Leadership is always a temporary assignment—always. It is a temporary assignment because leaders do not ultimately own the teams, ministries, or organizations that they lead. They simply steward what the Lord has entrusted to their care for a season. Wise leaders embrace the temporal reality of leading, and they prepare the ministry for the future. Because the assignment is fleeting, developing others for leadership is an essential responsibility of a leader.

The Six Definitive Rules Of Internet Behavior

Stephen Altrogge offers a good example of satire.

Dustin Kensrue covers “Wrecking Ball”

Seriously:

How Should Christians View World History?

R.C. Sproul:

It is also important for us to understand that in terms of biblical eschatology, the end of the world does not indicate an annihilation of the world but a renovation and redemption of it. The New Testament makes it evident that the final renovation of creation is cosmic in scope, that the whole universe groans together in travail waiting for the redemption of the sons of men (Rom 8:18–23). Questions of our future, personal and cosmic, are all subject to the inquiries associated with eschatology. The question of life after death—the issues of heaven, hell, and resurrection—are all integral to our study of eschatology. An understanding of the last judgment also falls under the scope of this consideration.

The Rise of the Selfie Generation

Nathan Bingham:

We all know the Greek myth of Narcissus—the attractive man who was lured by Nemesis to a pool. Narcissus, fatally falling in love with his own reflection, drowned. But what would a 21st-century Narcissus myth involve? I suspect it would include a smartphone, selfies, and crossing the street without looking.

The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon

Brandon Smith interviews Christian George on the previously-unpublished sermons of Charles Spurgeon.

Three thoughts on satire and social media

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We all know great satire when we see it. When it shows up in our Twitter feed, or we read it on the Onion, watch an honest trailer, or pay money to see a Michael Bay movie.

But what is it that makes great satire great?

1. Good satire—and good parody—loves its subject

I asked a few friends—one of whom is the man behind one of my favorite parody accounts on Twitter (and maybe yours, too)—this question over dinner a while back. The answer was actually pretty simple: as with great parody in general, great satire1 requires you to love what you’re spoofing.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Let’s not forget that satire has a purpose: it showcases the shortcomings, vices, and follies of individuals, governments, organizations or society as a whole with the goal of improving it through ridicule. This is what you see in The Onion, with its open mockery of what passes for news, as opposed to a classic movie like Airplane, which sends up crisis films so wonderfully. The latter does a great job poking fun. The former implicitly asks, “can’t we do better than this“?

The same is true in social media. The best parody and satire accounts are the ones where the person operating happily imitates and pokes fun at his or her subject, but does so from a place of affection. This is why parody accounts like Fake John Piper and Fake JD Greear  are worth following. They respect the individual being parodied, but don’t idolize him. Case in point:

(And everyone who’s read Don’t Waste Your Life or have heard the seashell illustration snickered.)

This is also why the satire account Church Curmudgeon is worth your time. The author doesn’t come across as a “hater”, but he or she certainly isn’t afraid to tease about some of the goofiness of North American evangelical churches.

2. Good satire isn’t a mask for malice

There are other accounts though—such as the plethora of Fake Driscolls, Fake Ann Voskamps, and fake Rob Bells—that are simply not worth your time. While they are technically satire, their goal is uncertain. Their words are frequently venomous. There is no evidence of love, or even a desire to see change in the people being “spoofed”. It seems an opportunity to mock not because the individual wants a particular person or people’s view of him or her to change, but because they feel malice toward their subject.

Which is basically bullying, but whatever…

There is no place for such writing or thinking in the Christian life. We are called not to mock others, but to show love to all. Mean-spirited words, even against subjects worthy of extreme ridicule, is unbecoming of the Christian. If you’ve got an axe to grind with a particular person or organization, don’t write it. Don’t read it. Don’t encourage others to read it, either.

3. Good satire is written by people who are actually good at it

I think the reason a lot of the satire online is so terrible is because people don’t realize how hard it is to write. Satire is difficult to write well. Parody is a little easier, but not by much. There’s a reason I don’t write much of it. I’m not good at it—I know my limitations. So my attempts rarely (if ever) see the light of day. I wonder how many of us would do well to follow suit?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s deals from Crossway focus on social issues:

You can also get Get Out: Student Ministry in the Real World by Alvin L Reid for $4.97, The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel for $2.99, and my tiny book, Everyday Theologyfor 99¢.

The Importance of the Pastoral “I Don’t Know”

Jared Wilson:

One of the most valuable sentences in a pastor’s arsenal is “I don’t know.” The pressure to know and be everything everybody expects us to know and be can be pride-puffing. I once worked at a bookstore where we were told never to say “I don’t know” to a customer. We must give them some answer, any answer, even if it was a guess or a likely wrong answer. Customers don’t want to hear “I don’t know” from service people, but even a wrong answer makes them feel helped. I confess the temptation to “satisfy the customer” has persisted through my ministry days, for a variety of reasons. I want people to feel helped. And I also don’t like looking like a rube.

Are You Insulting God in Worship?

Sam Storms:

Little words can mean a lot. They can make the difference between good and evil, between heaven and hell. In this case, a right understanding of a single word is the only thing that prevents an act of worship from degenerating into a colossal insult to God. It’s the word “for.”

What Dodgeball Taught Me About Growth in Christ

Kevin Halloran:

Looking back at where I have come since I left my physical “prime”, I notice that I have grown deeper in my knowledge and love for Christ, my love for others and the desire to see souls saved, my desire to bless His church with the gifts He has given me, and my ability to withstand temptation by the Spirit’s power.

The Bible and Same-Sex Relationships

Tim Keller:

There are a number of other books that take the opposite view, namely that the Bible either allows for or supports same-sex relationships. Over the last year or so I (and other pastors at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City) have been regularly asked for responses to their arguments. The two most-read volumes taking this position seem to be those by Matthew Vines and Ken Wilson. The review of these two books will be longer than usual because the topic is so contested today and, while I disagree with the authors’ theses, a too-brief review can’t avoid appearing cursory and dismissive. Hence the length.

I see five basic arguments that these books and others like them make.

How healthy is our growth?

healthy-cancer

Any time I hear a pastor speak about church growth—whether in a book, a podcast, or a conference message—I want to cringe. Not because I’m against having a large number of people as part of a congregation, but because congregation size is so often used as a defense: What we’re doing must be working since people are showing up, so God must approve, right?

And yet.

The thing I wonder about among many of these apparently healthy churches—and perhaps it’s just me being me—is how healthy are they, really? And how would you know if the growth experienced is actually beneficial? Based on what I’ve read so far in The Prodigal Church, Jared Wilson shares this concern. He writes:

It is a customary mantra of ministry that healthy things grow. And yet sometimes healthy things shrink. This is certainly true of our bodies, when we’re eating right and exercising. I mean, the formula doesn’t always work in every circumstance. “Healthy things grow” sounds right. But cancer grows too. (40)

Now think about that for a second: healthy things grow—but you really need to qualify what you mean by healthy growth. Are the people attending growing in godliness, or are more people simply showing up? Are more people being invested in so their gifts can flourish, or do they have to look elsewhere in order to exercise their gifts? Are leaders growing more deeply in their love for the people they serve—or are they beginning to hate them?

This is the danger of the unqualified (and unhelpful) mantra of “healthy things grow.”

If having a large number of people show up every week is our primary goal, we will inevitably do whatever it takes to make it happen. And as more people show up, while we might enjoy the high of it, we’ll eventually grow bitter toward some—perhaps many—of them because they don’t give, serve, or contribute to the life of the body in any discernible way.

The thing we want risks becoming the thing we hate.

The body will be ravaged by cancer, and we’ll be hard-pressed to do anything about it.

So what’s the solution? Having people show up on a Sunday isn’t bad, obviously, and if people are legitimately meeting Christ, we should praise God for his use of crooked sticks such as us. But maybe the best place to start, perhaps, we sit among the congregation on Sunday morning or we serve them as our vocation, is to begin asking ourselves not “are we growing”, but “are we growing in the right way”? Is our growth helping us—or is it hindering us?

There isn’t an easy answer to the question—even if that difficulty is merely accepting the truth—but it is worth asking.

May’s top 10 articles at Blogging Theologically

top-10

Let’s take a trip back in time and check out the top ten posts in May:

  1. Five phrases Christians should never use again (May 2015)
  2. What should the church expect as same-sex marriage moves forward? (April 2015)
  3. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  4. Long preaching isn’t always good preaching (May 2015)
  5. The way we show love to abusive leaders (May 2015)
  6. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  7. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)
  8. Six books every Christian should read on prayer (August 2014)
  9. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  10. What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? (April 2015)

And just for fun, here are five favorites written over the month:

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to get these titles in the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series for $5.99 each:

Also on sale is Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan for $2.60.

How Age of Ultron should have ended (part one)

And just for fun…

5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel

David W. Jones:

No matter what name is used, the essence of this message is the same. Simply put, this “prosperity gospel” teaches that God wants believers to be physically healthy, materially wealthy, and personally happy. Listen to the words of Robert Tilton, one of its best-known spokesmen: “I believe that it is the will of God for all to prosper because I see it in the Word, not because it has worked mightily for someone else. I do not put my eyes on men, but on God who gives me the power to get wealth.” Teachers of the prosperity gospel encourage their followers to pray for and even demand material flourishing from God.

Cochrans4Chicago Update

Glad to see this update on my friend Joey’s family and ministry (and that he’ll be staying in the Chicago area for a while).

What kind of men does God use?

Ray Ortlund:

The Bible says, “If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).  This is a big part of the power of the gospel.

Horatius Bonar painted that picture with greater detail after observing the kind of “vessels” God clearly used with divine power.  Writing the preface to John Gillies’ Accounts of Revival, Bonar proposed that men useful to the Holy Spirit for revival stand out in nine ways.

No, I Won’t Bless the Food

Don Whitney:

Maybe it reflects the limits of my own experience, but it’s been my observation that nowadays fewer followers of Jesus pause like this at the beginning of a meal to give thanks for what they are about to eat.

This seems to be true for individuals and for families, at home and in public.

Why the decline? As with all Christian practices and disciplines, unless each successive generation is taught the reason for something, it soon devolves into mere a routine, then an empty tradition, and then disuse.

Six books I want to read this summer

summer reading

Summer vacation is already here for some of us, and nearly upon us for others. Although my reading has left me feeling a little unfulfilled of late, I’m still looking forward to what some time off with a good book or two will bring. Here’s a look at what I’m planning to read this year:

The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo by Jared C. Wilson

This is one I’ve been meaning to get to for a while now. I’ve read a few pages, though, and it’s delightful.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien

I’ve been reading the Lord of the Rings series for the last little while, so it’s going to be fun to finish it up.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore (trilogy box set)


Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke

I am a big fan of the Theologians on the Christian Life series from Crossway, and based on what I’ve seen so far, this volume looks pretty spectacular.

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Bookstore


Onward by Russell Moore

Though this one has the least practical relevance to my life (since I live in Canada), it should be a thought-provoking read nonetheless.

Buy it at: Amazon (pre-order)


Preaching by Timothy Keller

The people we have the most to learn from about preaching (aside from those to whom we preach) are those who have done it for a long time. Given Keller’s decades of pastoral ministry experience, I’m really looking forward to learning from this one.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The Batman Adventures, vol 2 by Puckett, Parobeck, and Burchett

For an entire generation, Kevin Conroy’s Batman from Batman: the Animated Series is the definitive Dark Knight. I finally introduced Abigail to this staple of the 90s, and she thinks it’s pretty rad. It’s also one of the few superhero comics I’ve been able to find that isn’t kind of porny or otherwise wildly inappropriate to share with my kids (but that is a story for another time…).

Buy it at: Amazon


That’s a quick look at what I’m trying to read. Some of it I’ll be done sooner than others, naturally, but I think it’s a reasonable goal. What’s on your reading list?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Moses and the Burning Bush Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • John by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover)
  • After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology—Essays in Honor of R.C. Sproul (Paperback)
  • The Spirit of Revival: Discovering the Wisdom of Jonathan Edwards (ePub)
  • In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

You Don’t Need a Good Reputation

Aaron Earls:

Is that really how you want to live your life—overly concerned with how others view you? Chasing after a good reputation places us at the whims of those around us. That’s never a good place to be.

Even if our desire is to have a godly reputation, we are still missing the point. Ultimately, what does it matter if everyone around you thinks you are an obedient follower of Christ, if underneath that’s not the case?

A Pastor’s response to the death of a childhood abuser

Mez McConnell:

I thought I might dance a little jig or even feel a sense of release and elation at news I longed dreamed about and ached for as a kid. This is a woman who drove me to such despair that I attempted to set her on fire in her (drunken) sleep when I was no more than 10 years old. But there is no jig. There is just a heaviness of heart and the nagging itch of my suffering and her evil never admitted in this life. The problem is that I want to feel joy at her passing. I want to rejoice in the belief that she will face the judge of all the earth for her crimes against me. I want to revel in the thought that she is having her own spiritual Nuremburg moment right now. That father time has caught up with her and her sins are about to be found out and brought into that terrible, perfect light. That the angels in glory will see just what a monster she truly was.

I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me

This was interesting, and kind of terrifying (note: language warning—there is a bit of cussing in this article).

Four Reasons Why Pastors Should Quit

Mark Dance:

In light of the famously exaggerated statistics about pastoral attrition, you may be wondering why LifeWay’s pastor advocate would hope for even more to quit. We are all painfully aware that there are people in the ministry who never belonged there in the first place. While I prefer encouraging pastors to fulfill their call and finish strong, I am also a pastoral pragmatist who desires to speak the truth in love to those who are miserable in ministry, as are those around them.

I want to suggest four check-points to consider before quitting or continuing in ministry.

They Believe God Is The Only One Who Wants Them

Jared Wilson:

Hersh said that a Christian church service in the village might have been one of the most vibrant experiences of worship she’d witnessed. There was so much joy, so much emotion, so much confession, so much exaltation of and desire for God. They were excited, expectant, enthusiastic, enthralled. “Is it always like this?” she asked a local.

“Yes,” came the reply. “They believe that God is the only one that wants them. And so they want him.”

You know they’re not in conflict, right?

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It’s probably safe to assume that any time the “religion vs. Jesus” thing comes up, I’m going to wind up annoyed. Some Christian gobbledygook of this persuasion popped up in my Twitter feed the last night, this time on how to use the Bible—find out what it says and follow that, or find out how it points to Jesus and follow him.

Now, before I go any further, I agree with the whole “do vs. done” element of the general argument. And I also firmly believe you should absolutely read the Bible with an eye to how it points to Jesus because he is the one we not merely follow, but worship as God. If you don’t read your Bible this way, you’re not reading it as a Christian (he says, preaching to the choir).

But this whole “follow the Bible” vs “follow Jesus” thing… Can we just not, please?

Let’s be honest, this sort of either/or—either follow what the Bible says or follow Jesus—isn’t really all that helpful. It’s actually kind of dumb. Let’s not forget:

Jesus followed commands in the Bible. Jesus was a devout Jew. Devout Jews kept the Law. Jesus kept the Law perfectly, as no one else did or could.

Jesus gives us commands. It’s true. “Follow me”, and “abide in me” are commands. Not only that, he tells us to pray (and even says “like this”), to love others, to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s… He even says “if you love me, you will obey me.” Those don’t sound like suggestions, do they?

The commands Jesus gives us are in the Bible. At least, that’s where they were the last time I checked. (Yep, still there.)

We are expected to do what we’re told in the Bible. When we read that we are to “love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and “love your neighbor as yourself”, it’s not a suggestion. It’s an imperative, which means we are to do it. Repent and believe? Yep, that’s another one we are expected to do. Make disciples? That one too. Submit to one another out of love for Christ? Ditto. Have nothing to do with false gods? You know it. These are things we are to do, as obeying the commands of God1 is evidence of our love for Christ.

Pitting Jesus against the Bible comes across like a kid trying to pit mom and dad against one another. The only one it’s going to go badly for is the kid.

So, yeah.

If we could never do that again, that would be super.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Sexual Abuse Among Us

Christopher Pierre:

The media have responded with continued attempts to dig up and display the shameful details of Joshua Duggar’s past and repented sin. This has been accompanied by an analysis of how appropriately his parents, his church, and law enforcement did or did not respond. As both a prosecuting attorney and a pastor, I am particularly intrigued and concerned by these unfolding events.

But how should the church respond? How should we deal with similar situations of abuse and wickedness in our midst?

The Fields Are White

Don Whitney encourages us from John 4:35:

It’s important to realize that He said this in Samaria—a place where Jews (like Jesus and His disciples) weren’t welcome and where Jesus had seen only one convert, and that one just a few minutes earlier

In other words, the twelve apostles did not consider Samaria a place where there had been, or likely ever would be, many conversions.

The Courage To Tell My Story

Mike Leake:

Mr. President, you tweeted yesterday that it takes courage to share your story. This has inspired me to tell my story…or at least a portion of it.

The Most Courageous People In The LGBT Movement

Stephen Altrogge:

But I am increasingly convinced that the most courageous people in the LGBT movement are those men and women who have come to the conclusion that they are gay, have publicly told their friends and families that they are gay, and yet for the sake of Christ, have chosen to remain celibate for the rest of their lives. To make such a choice requires incredible, God-given, Holy Spirit-inspired courage.

Raising voices

Mike Cosper:

Eugene Peterson once said the primary goal of pastoring was to teach people to pray. I agree, but I might amend his words slightly: to learn to pray, we must learn to sing.

This shouldn’t take any serious student of the Bible by surprise. Music shows up early in the Book of Genesis, and the people of God are seen singing throughout both Testaments, in ordinary places and odd ones: on their way to battle, while chained up in prison, and at the end of the world. I confess, I cringe a little when I hear the Psalms described as the great “prayer book” of the Bible. It’s not that this statement is untrue – the Psalms are certainly prayers – but it is incomplete; the Psalms are first and foremost songs.

Lost in Transmission

lost-transmission

After writing online daily for six years, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: slander sells.

If you want to get people’s attention, you’ve got to be willing to go for the click bait… or at least, that’s what I keep seeing other people do. Honestly, when controversies come about, the last thing I want to do is write (or read for that matter) is 14 articles on why so-and-so is a gospel-denying liberal who probably voted for Obama and would gladly do so again, or whatever it is that people are doing this week.

Although my example is a bit ridiculous (though, sadly, not by much), I’ve seen the approach doesn’t actually help with encouraging discussion and offering correction. Instead, it causes people—particularly offenders and defenders—to dig their heels in and double-down. Even if the people who are angrily blogging are right about whatever they’re writing about, the vitriol with which they write obscures their point.

This is something I appreciated about Nicholas Perrin’s tact in Lost in Transmission. This relatively short book was released a number of years ago to address the criticisms of Bart Erhman, he of Misquoting Jesus fame (so it might be strange to see something close to resembling a review of it at this stage).

The challenge for Christians

Perrin has two goals in this book: the first is to challenge Christians to not be frightened of challenges to their faith. For, “when people succumb to that temptation of ignoring challenges to their faith, they are in the end demonstrating that they are more committed to the feeling of having a lock on truth than they are to truth itself” (XXI).

This is something that too many of us, I suspect, would affirm yet practically deny. How quickly do we get our back up when someone challenges our position on a particular issue, regardless of significance? Are we able to engage thoughtfully with critique or do we immediately get our rage on?

There isn’t an easy answer to this question, at least not for me. I know there have been far too many times when I’ve behaved like an arrogant so-and-so because I thought I was right (and sometimes I even was). But my “rightness” was really just being unwilling to be challenged. And this simply will not do: if we’re serious about the truth, then we need to be serious about the truth. If we’re unwilling to be challenged, how do we expect to grow in our faith?

The unknowable Jesus

Second, Perrin wants to demonstrate why we need not fear—and he does this by illustrating the insufficiency of the challenges put forward by Erhman. But he doesn’t do this with mockery, but civil engagement. It is clear he’s read Erhman carefully, for he understands the heart of the matter. As a scholar, Erhman long ago succumbed to the “deeply ingrained pressure toward historical agnosticism (we can’t know what Jesus really said)” (60). This, in turn fuels religious agnosticism—that if we can’t know what Jesus said, we can’t know if what he said was true and therefore we can’t know who he really is.

If we can know what Jesus said, that puts us in a position whereby we must decide on Jesus. Either he was who he and his followers claimed him to be, or he was not. But if we cannot get back to Jesus because his words and very identity have been all but lost in transmission, then this keeps alive a corresponding agnosticism when it comes to weighing Jesus’ claims against other counteroffers. (60-61)

Now, even in his many errors, Erhman has long been a defender against those who would try to argue that we cannot know if Jesus even existed at all (something many of his critics have even given him praise for). Erhman’s issue is not Jesus’ existence, but whether we can know much, if anything, about him.

The transmuted Jesus

Thus, he offers the gnostic writings in all their peculiar glory as alternative “Christianities” that didn’t gain prominence simply because the sects promoting what we now consider orthodoxy won the fight. But, as Perrin writes, “it was not the Christians who were sitting in the second-century equivalent of smoke-filled rooms, cutting deals as to what constituted right belief and what should be in the canon” (160).

Power belonged to the Romans, not to the Christians. But the Gnostics had nothing to fear from Rome:

The Gnostics wanted to have Jesus, but at the very point at which identifying with Jesus’ mission became politically or socially awkward, the Gnostics had a way of transmuting Jesus into their own ideal of a starry-eyed mystic or Greek philosopher. (161)

It’s easier to turn Jesus into something other than Jesus than to follow Jesus when it’s not advantageous. This is what we’re seeing in our own day as people lament the decline of Christianity in the West. But that’s not what’s happening: people who didn’t believe anyway are now just admitting they don’t believe. There’s no social benefit to professing to be Christian (at least culturally), so it’s better to not do it at all.

Engaging with respect and what this book still has to teach us

As I said before, this is a relatively old book—and, honestly, I’d recommend The Heresy of Orthodoxy by Köstenberger and Kruger ahead of this if you’re looking for an evangelical critique of Erhman. But it’s it’s still one worth reading. Why? Because although it is not as thorough a refutation as some might like, in reading it, you get to learn how to approach controversial or destructive teaching with respectful engagement.

This is something I’ve tried to do for the majority of my time as a blogger (although I know there are times when I’ve failed in it). Nevertheless, it is the approach I prefer to take when possible.

Probably the most difficult aspect of this is the fact that this sort of engagement requires actually reading opposing viewpoints carefully and fairly. If anything, this is probably the most difficult thing to do. It’s easy to pick up a book by someone like Rachel Held Evans1 and have pretty good sense of what it’s going to be about going in. It’s quite another to go in knowing we’re likely going to disagree with it, and still do our best to give it a fair reading.

That’s what I want to see when I engage with the ideas of others. It’s what I want to see when any Christian seriously engages with anyone’s thoughts. Ad hominem attacks, mockery, and potentially jumping to conclusions… those are easy, and lazy, and really have no place in the Christian life. But to engage with someone else’s thoughts, and to actually try to understand where they’re coming from and be able to articulate it well enough that my “opponent” could say, “Yes, that’s what I believe”—to contend without being contentious—is much more difficult. It takes a great deal more patience, which, in all honesty is the most difficult part for me (again, primarily because it is so much easier to not). But I think it’s worth it. While there might be better rebuttals of Erhman on the market (and there are), there are few that provide as helpful an example of respectful engagement and disagreement.


Title: Lost in Transmission? What We Can Know About the Words of Jesus
Author: Nicholas Perrin
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2009)

Buy it at: Amazon

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For God so loved Caitlyn Jenner

Marty Duren:

We do not have to understand the situation to love those in it. We do not have to understand why some have gender reassignment surgery to love those who have had it. We do not have approve of abortion to love the woman who had one or love her boyfriend who, under threat of abandonment, coerced the woman into having the procedure. We do not have to approve of greed to love the businessman who made a fortune lying to customers. We do not have to approve of pride to love each other when set ourselves above the rest.

The love of Jesus prohibits me from treating Caitlyn Jenner like the two-headed goat at the Ripley’s Museum.

This piece from Alex Duke at TGC is also worth reading.

Smartphones, Tablets, and Christian Parenting

Russell Moore:

Sadly, though, we see a culture, even among Christians all too often, that is willing to give a child a serpent, as long as he really wants it. After all, all his friends have access to venomous reptiles and we don’t want him to feel different. Plus, we think he’s trustworthy as a snake-charmer.

Brothers and sisters and friends, this is madness.

Creepy Ads Use Litterbugs’ DNA to Shame Them Publicly

This is intriguing and kind of terrifying.

The Duggars and the Evil Outside

Trevin Wax:

…I’d like to point out a problematic, but fairly common assumption in many corners of evangelicalism — an assumption that needs to be challenged. It’s the idea that sin is something out there that we need to watch out for. The reality, however, is that sin is not primarily something we need to be sheltered from, but delivered from.

Disappointment is an Opportunity to Be Reminded

Michael Kelley:

Have you been disappointed by something yet today?

If not, just wait. It’s coming. Because it happens most everyday. We make our plans, with the best of intentions, and then things don’t wind up going the way we think they should. Granted, some of these disappointments are bigger than others, but imagine with me for a second that the disappointment you face today is something big. Maybe it’s a project you have put your heart and sweat into that is not yielding the results you wanted. Maybe you poured your soul into a Bible study or a sermon and only were met with blank stares. Maybe you bent over backward to create a special experience for your spouse or child and they were only mildly enthusiastic. And you find yourself disappointed.