Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Wading Into The Wild World Of Cosmo

This might be the most entertaining thing you’ll read all day.

New Dustin Kensrue music: “Back to Back”

I’m a big fan of Dustin Kensrue and Thrice. Kensrue’s upcoming solo album, Carry the Fire, will be released in April, and the first single is now streaming at Billboard. (You can also purchase the single at Amazon.)

An Open Letter to George Perdikis

Daniel Emery Price writes to the co-founder of the Newsboys who recently wrote about being an atheist.

Dear Angry Preacher Dude

Mike Leake:

At one point in his frothing at the mouth he said to his congregation, “You’re not going to like this. But you haven’t liked the sermon up until now, so why would I try to please you now. You are going to be mad no matter what I do….”

Few pastors would be this forthright. But I wonder how many of us aren’t dragging around his same assumption; namely, that our congregants hate hearing truth.

But they don’t hate God’s Word…if they love Jesus.

Why do you hate me so much?

David Murray addresses an important question as we continue to see the culture around us become increasingly hostile to Christianity and Christians.

The President at the Prayer Breakfast

Albert Mohler:

Intellectual honesty also demands that we recognize that going back centuries to the era of the Crusades is not really helpful when looking at the fact that the current threat is a resurgent Islam, which understands full well that the modern secular West lacks a worldview that can lead to an adequate response. Secularism and Islam are not evenly matched.

What Mr “Know it All” Doesn’t Know

Erik Raymond:

In the church we have a lot of impediments to growth in godliness. We live in a sinful world, have imperfect preachers, have trials and tribulations, and a relentless enemy who endeavors to be the stick in our spokes at every turn. But there is one great impediment to growth, this is the impediment of thinking that we already know everything. Let’s call this person “Mr Know-it-All”.

Mr Know-it-All does not really think that they have to learn anything. They are already there. They are, in effect, unteachable.

I Believe in Magazines: Proverbs for Publishing

James K. A. Smith:

Magazines of this sort are tangible expressions of Hunter’s thesis about cultural change: such magazines have a disproportionate influence on culture because instead of working bottom-up in a populist fashion, they work top-down by targeting and reaching those who wield cultural power and influence in society.  Some are inherently uncomfortable with this because they imagine that in a perfect world there are no hierarchies, or because they basically resent their own cultural privilege, and thus want to reach “the masses,” some generic audience that never really exists.

 

What did you think would happen?

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A year ago, a Seventh Day Adventist pastor, Ryan Bell, announced he would spend 2014 living as an atheist to explore “the limits of theism and the atheism landscape in the United States.” His experiment ended on December 31st, 2014. So what happened?

Well, after a year of living as an atheist, Bell no longer believes that God exists.

“I think the best way I can explain the conclusion I’ve come to — and conclusion is too strong a word for the provisional place I now stand and work from — is that the intellectual and emotional energy it takes to figure out how God fits into everything is far greater than dealing with reality as it presents itself to us,” he told the Huffington Post.

Bell is not the angry disillusioned stereotype you usually see presented in stories of this sort. He comes across as a very sincere, likeable man. He simply believes “the existence of God seems like an extra layer of complexity that isn’t necessary.”

Which, of course, is not surprising in the least.

No doubt many saw the result of this experiment coming the moment it was announced. When I first read of it, this was certainly my reaction (though, not snidely, I hope).

The problem, is, of course, us. And more specifically, it’s our sin nature. Of course living as though God does not exist is going to be easier for us. When we acknowledge God as God, it means acknowledging his authority—which, yes, does make life more complex in some ways.

But so, too, does denying his existence.

An example of the greater complexity of denying God

For example, although, as Bell points out, atheists in general are not amoral people, we should recognize that there is a fluidity to their morality simply by virtue of there being no recognized objective, outside standard from which those morals emerge. We can more easily justify our wrongdoing as mistakes or errors, or point to the end result for our justification (see: “little white lies”). You do what’s right, you do your best to go to bed with a clear conscience, and you do it again the next day.

But here’s the rub: this is actually a far more complicated way to live. Not because going to bed with a clear conscience isn’t a good thing. Not because we shouldn’t be morally praiseworthy people. But, as Paul says, it’s our right deeds that present a problem for us. For when those “who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves” (Romans 2:14, emphasis mine). This is the same law, the same objective standard, he later says condemns us—not because the law is bad, but because it does not save us. Just because it’s easier to not recognize the source of morality doesn’t mean he’s not there, and it doesn’t mean we will escape the consequences of our falling short of it.

The greater concern with denying God

But there’s a greater concern that I have with this whole situation—and it, again, is one that comes as no surprise. As a Christian, as someone has been saved by Jesus, had my sins forgiven through his death on the cross, I cannot fathom the idea of living as though God did not exist. And I understand backsliding, straying, letting your love for the Lord grow cold, all that. It happens to all of us. But this is different. here’s something terrifying about the idea of being to so easily say, “Yep, I’m going to live this way now,” for it means something else entirely. That the Lord you professed to know, you did not know at all.

That, to me, is tragic. Not because I’m naïve enough to think this doesn’t happen all the time—I know far too many people who have either fallen astray for significant periods of time, continue to walk in rebellion, or have outright denied Christ who once claimed to be believers for my liking—but because the conceit of the project seemed to be self-deceptive. One doesn’t simply decide one day to be an atheist; it’s the result of moving along a trajectory toward unbelief. And one doesn’t engage in such a project if he or she is intending to come out the other side a more committed believer. Instead, the results show the experiment for what it was: one man getting comfortable with being able to say, “I don’t believe God exists.”

And it’s tragic because someday he’s going to meet the God he’s just denied.

So what should we do? We should not make callous comments. We should instead pray for God to reveal himself to Bell and people like him. That genuine believers would come into their lives. That they would meet the real Jesus—the one they never knew—so that, when they stand before him someday, it will not be in judgement, but as being welcomed home.


photo credit: Pliketi Plok via photopin cc

Links I like

Book deals for Christian readers

Here are a whole pile of Kindle deals to get you started (note, most of these are academic references, but books you’d likely want in your library):

Also on sale are a number of volumes from the ZECNT series:

And a few volumes in the Expositors Bible Commentary series:

At Westminster, you can get a great deal on Resisting Gossip by Matthew C. Mitchell. Get a 10-volume pack for your small groups for $50 (includes five copies of the book and five participants guides), individual copies for $8 and digital editions for $4.

Finally, today’s $5 Friday deals at Ligonier include:

  • The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (hardcover)
  • The Christian Mind: 2012 national conference messages (DVD)
  • Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible (ePub)

The Presidency of the Holy Spirit

Ray Ortlund:

Our forefathers used to call this “the presidency of the Holy Spirit,” when the Lord himself would preside over the gathering of his people in such a way as gently, wonderfully to take charge.

I have seen this.  Doubtless, many of you have as well.

The Most Honest Atheist In The World

David Murray engaging with Crispin Sartwell’s article at the Atlantic, Irrational Atheism: Not Believing in God Isn’t Always Based on Reasoned Arguments And That’s OK.

McDonalds vs organic food

This is amazing (be sure to turn on the subtitles):

The Softer Face of Calvinism

This is a really good interview between Kevin Emmert and Oliver Crisp, author of Deviant Calvinism.

The American Jeremiad

Matt McCullough:

Rhetoric of decline is almost always rhetoric of persuasion. It aims to diagnose a problem and prescribe a solution. We must be careful to assure the prescriptions and their expected results don’t go beyond what God has actually promised.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week, there have been a TON of really good Kindle deals:

Four books by Francis Chan:

The New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology series is on sale for $3.99 each:

The Profiles of Reformed Spirituality series is on sale for $1.99 each:

Several volumes in B&H’s Exalting Jesus commentary series are on sale for $5.99 each:

Finally, Zondervan’s got a bunch of titles focused on :

Why leaders fail

Dan Darling nails it:

Recently I had a discussion with some friends about some public leadership fails in the news. I could name them, but you likely already know who they are. Our conversation turned to a general topic of leadership and things we’ve observed. What struck us was how these things evolve from little, seemingly insignificant decisions that form the culture out of which unhealthy leadership grows. In other words, nobody wakes up one day and says to himself, “I’m going to strive to be an authoritarian leader who wreaks havoc on the people I serve.” It just doesn’t happen that way. Leaders start with good intentions. They start as “normal” people. So how do leaders fail? I think there are five basic mistakes leaders make.

Biblica Hipsteria

This is so good:

Why Curious People Don’t Get Bored

Tim Challies:

There were two weeks left in summer vacation. Two of my kids were sprawled on the couch in dejected boredom, wishing they could just watch a little more Netflix or play a little more Flappy Bird. One of my kids was wide-eyed, staring into the pages of a book. And it occurred to me: Curious people don’t get bored. People with a deep sense of wonder don’t get bored. People with a deep desire to appreciate the world around them and to learn its secrets—these people have developed a resistance to boredom.

Sam Harris wants everyone to get spirituality

Kimberly Winston on an altogether unsurprising development:

“Our world is dangerously riven by religious doctrines that all educated people should condemn,” he writes in the book, but adds: “There is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit.”

The prescription, Harris holds, is Buddhist-based mindfulness meditation. A Stanford-trained neuroscientist, Harris is a long-time practitioner of Buddhist meditation. He said everyone can, through meditation, achieve a “shift in perspective” by moving beyond a sense of self to reach an enlightening sense of connectedness — a spirituality.

Don’t Be a Fundamentalist (Calvinist or Otherwise)

JD Greear:

When you elevate your doctrinal system too highly, you become a fundamentalist in a second sense: you start to believe that all of God’s graces, or at least the best of them, are found only within your narrow little camp. Again, I am no doctrinal relativist, but it seems that God has chosen to give greater insight into certain areas of Christian life and teaching to people I disagree with on secondary issues than he has to me and the people in my camp. Fundamentalism doesn’t recognize that–in many ways, can’trecognize that. Fundamentalism believes that if you’re not in our camp, and you’re not on the approved list, there is very little you have to say. The best of God’s grace is only with me and mine.

Scenes you’ve seen: blockbusters recreated with stock footage

This is pretty well done:

Knowledge vs understanding

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

There is nothing new about not believing in God; it is the oldest thing in the world to deny Him. This is what I find so pathetic, that people think it is clever not to believe in God, that it is modern, that it is something new, that it is something wonderful! But here is a man, King David, writing all this a thousand years before Christ—nearly three thousand years ago—and there were people saying then, “There is no God”—just what clever people are saying today, those who try to argue that they are saying it in terms of some latest esoteric knowledge that they have been given and that other people still do not have. But is it not clear that this has nothing at all to do with knowledge as such?

No; it is a question of understanding, and that is a very different thing. Men and women may have a lot of book knowledge, but that does not mean they have understanding or that they have wisdom. They can be aware of many facts, but they may be fools in their own personal lives. Have we not known such people? I have known men in some of the learned professions; I would take their opinion without a moment’s hesitation because of their knowledge and because of their learning. But sometimes I have known some of those men to be utter fools in their own personal lives. I mean by that, they behaved like lunatics, as if they had not a brain at all. They have behaved in exactly the same way as a man who never had their educational advantages and who had none of their great knowledge. They drank too much even as a less educated man did; they were guilty of adultery even as he was.

There is all the difference in the world between knowledge—an awareness of facts—and wisdom and real understanding. Though people may have great brains and may know a number of things, they may still be governed by their lusts and passions and desires, and that is why they are fools.… They are men and women who listen to their hearts, their desires; they are governed by what they want to do rather than by true understanding.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms, 14–15

Links I like

The Evangelical Persecution Complex

Alan Noble offers a thought-provoking piece:

The Christian church itself has a long history of telling stories of martyrdom and persecution. The stories of saints’ lives often center on their sufferings for Christ. For example, Fox’s Book of Martyrs is a popular and classic text recounting notable martyrdoms throughout church history. The purpose of these stories is to inspire and strengthen Christians, particularly those who will later face persecution. But they were not designed to function as aspirational fantasy. And that is the real problem with many persecution narratives in Christian culture: They fetishize suffering.

I will be a unifying Christian

This is a lovely piece from Thom Rainer.

The Unbelonging

Lore Ferguson:

I’ve always been a fan of the fringe. If you can stand on the sidelines and affect change from within, you’ve followed the model Christ set forth well. I watched a movie a few months ago in which the principal characters return to high-school incognito. They’re so far removed from high-school that what was cool then is not cool now. The jocks are jerks and the nerds are neat. What happened?

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Finally, the Christian Encounters series is on sale for 99¢ each:

Look! A Distraction!

Tim Challies:

Distraction is one of the costs of life in a digital world. Paul Graham says it well: “Distraction is not a static obstacle that you avoid like you might avoid a rock in the road. Distraction seeks you out.” We surround ourselves with devices that bring us so many good gifts, but even these good gifts exact a cost—the cost of distraction. The iPad that allows me to read the Bible anytime and anywhere also barges into my devotional life with notifications and alerts. The phone that allows me to stay in touch with my family while they are far away also wakes me at night with its buzzes and flashes. It giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.

We are learning. We are learning the costs so that we might also learn the solutions. Here are three of the costs of all of this distraction.

Stealth Calvinist Ninjas

Derek Rishmawy offers some constructive criticism to Roger Olson’s subtly titled “Beware of Stealth Calvinism!”:

What I want to point out in the middle of this is the bald-faced cynicism of the post. Here we don’t simply have a theological correction, dispute, or caution about inadvertent theological drift. No, here we have a warning about Calvinist tactics in general, about their alleged strategic maneuvering to crowd out and stamp out divergent thought by “stealthily” taking advantage of people’s ignorance.

I know I’m a lot younger, but if we’re dealing in anecdotes, I suppose part of the reason I find the whole thing silly is that three out of the four Christian colleges nearby me, including my own seminary, are explicitly non-Reformed, and the fourth is definitely blended. Fuller has, maybe a few Reformed theologians, certainly not of the militant sort. They’re not cranking out Calvinists ready to take over churches there. But maybe that’s just a Southern California thing.

The Folly and Hubris of Richard Dawkins

Eleanor Robertson at The Guardian:

Dawkins’ narrowmindedness, his unshakeable belief that the entire history of human intellectual achievement was just a prelude to the codification of scientific inquiry, leads him to dismiss the insights offered not only by theology, but philosophy, history and art as well.

To him, the humanities are expendable window-dressing, and the consciousness and emotions of his fellow human beings are byproducts of natural selection that frequently hobble his pursuit and dissemination of cold, hard facts. His orientation toward the world is the product of a classic category mistake, but because he’s nestled inside it so snugly he perceives complex concepts outside of his understanding as meaningless dribble. If he can’t see it, then it doesn’t exist, and anyone trying to describe it to him is delusional and possibly dangerous.

Links I like

Pop Atheism and the Power of the Gospel

Dan DeWitt:

With the relentless barrage of new atheist bravado over the last decade, believers are liable to grow weary in well-doing. Much of the contemporary anti-God campaign now serves as a mirror image of religious fundamentalism, with iconic leaders such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris standing guard as dogmatic defenders of a secular orthodoxy. Many students have imbibed their sacrilegious sound bites, adopting a brand of pop atheism that makes rational discussion seem virtually impossible.

If Mario were real…

HT: Mike Leake

I Can Do All Things

Nathan Busenitz:

Out of context, Philippians 4:13 is used as a blank-check promise for whatever is desired. But in context, it is a verse is about contentment. It’s not about your dreams coming true or your goals being met. Rather it’s about being joyful, satisfied, and steadfast even when life is hard and your circumstances seem impossible.

“Was Bonhoeffer Gay?” and Other Adventures in Missing the Point

Trevin Wax:

I believe the conversation about Bonhoeffer’s sexuality tells us more about life in the sexualized culture of the 21st century than it does about Bonhoeffer. In fact, if we pay attention, we will see how Bonhoeffer’s life and legacy directly challenges several commonly held assumptions today.

The Dangers and Duty of Confessing Sin to One Another

Nick Batzig:

“Open Confession is good for the soul,” or so the maxim goes. Perhaps it might also be said, “Open Confession is  good for your relationship with God and men.” While Scripture supports both of these statements, there is something of a haze that lays across the surface of the meaning of such statements in Scripture as, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Is James speaking of going around and confessing any sin that you can point to in your life to just about anyone you are in fellowship with in the church so that they will pray for you? Or, does he have in mind the practice of “keeping short accounts” with the brethren? Does he mean going to an offended brother or sister and asking forgiveness for a particular sin that was committed against them? Or, as the context might indicate, is James instructing  individuals in the congregation to come to the elders and confess particular sins of a scandalous nature in order to be healed of a sickness with which they had been chastened by God? While we may not come to a completely settled agreement on the precise meaning of James 5:16, there are 2 dangers and 3 applications of our duty that we should be able to agree upon when reflecting on this subject.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Cruciform Press launched its “five days five books” sale, with the following titles being offered for 99¢ each:

Also on sale:

Finall, Christian Focus has a few of their Jungle Doctor books on sale for $2.99 each (note: I noticed some availability issues on Amazon, so they may or may not still be available for purchase):

Is Evangelical Morality Still Acceptable in America?

Alan Noble kills it:

Behind all of these charges is the suspicion that evangelicals are simply refusing to accept contemporary American mores; they are privileging their faith over the moral spirit of the age. But for many evangelicals, these beliefs are not actually a sign of retreat from public life. Instead, there is a fear that in an increasingly secularized society, there will be less tolerance for people who wish to act upon their deeply held religious beliefs, except in narrowly defined, privatized spaces. This is a fundamentally American concern: Will I have the right to serve God as I believe I am obligated to?

Why Christianity Doesn’t Stand a Chance At Your Local Library and How to Change That

Mike Leake:

“Maybe there really is a God.”

Young Sam has had this nagging sense in his heart for a few weeks now. But he’s always been an intellectual, so he’s not the type of guy that just goes on feelings. So he does what he always has done when he wants to find the answer to something—he goes to his local library.

Third World Osteen

Dustin Germain applies Osteen’s Christless nonsense to the poorest of the poor. The results are about what you’d expect (go see).

Deleting the Devil

JD Payne:

The problem with deleting the devil from our theology is that we also delete what the Bible teaches about the devil.  Certainly, Church history has created numerous satanic caricatures: pitchforks, red dress, cloven hoof, etc.  And though these unbiblical traditions have made him out to look more like a nasty clown, such is no excuse for discarding the biblical teaching on Satan.

Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke

This is a fascinating piece over at Science 2.0:

Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.

While this idea may seem outlandish—after all, it seems easy to decide not to believe in God—evidence from several disciplines indicates that what you actually believe is not a decision you make for yourself. Your fundamental beliefs are decided by much deeper levels of consciousness, and some may well be more or less set in stone.

This line of thought has led to some scientists claiming that “atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,” says Graham Lawton, an avowed atheist himself, writing in the New Scientist. “They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.”

Was Luther a Calvinist?

Douglas Sweeney:

…perhaps it’s worth a minute or two to walk through the ways in which Lutherans came down on the five “points” of Calvinism. We should all understand by now that there’s far more to Calvinism than five simple points, that the five points themselves were sharpened after Calvin’s death, and that some think that Calvin himself did not affirm them all. So Calvinist friends, hold your fire. The goal here is not to oversimplify your faith, but to scan the ways that leading early Lutherans addressed the matters fought about most fiercely at the Reformed Synod of Dordt (1618–1619), and in the subsequent debates between Calvinists and Arminians.

Links I like

A spiritual family tree

Jason Helopoulos:

What does your family tree look like? I am not so concerned about your biological family tree. Frankly, that is of very little interest to me. I’m interested in your spiritual family tree. From where did you come spiritually? Who shared the faith with you? And who shared the faith with them? If you are a believer, you are in a long line dating all the way back to Abraham. But even more importantly, what does your spiritual family tree look like going forward? What growth is budding off of your branch? This is Asaph’s concern in Psalm 78. It is a glorious Psalm about passing on the faith to the next generation. It is quite easy to dismiss the call of Asaph–to treat this charge as something light or as someone else’s duty; but it is anything but a light charge and it is our duty.

The ad man’s gospel

Alastair Roberts:

As Don [Draper] says, ‘You are the product. You, feeling something.’

The ad man knows this secret, and so do many contemporary evangelicals. Much of the time Bell isn’t trying to communicate a particular abstract theology to people. Rather, he elicits desirable emotive states from his audience and connects those with a heavily chamfered theology while tying undesirable emotive states to opposing viewpoints. All of this can be done without actually presenting a carefully reasoned and developed argument for one’s own position, or engaging closely with opposing viewpoints.

The advertising style comes with a fragmentation of thought. Even the way that Bell describes his thinking and writing process – trying to find a theme to bind together hundreds of detached impressions – seems to manifest this. The advertiser does not make lengthy and involved arguments and those who are raised on advertising can seldom handle them.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This weekend I shared a pretty great list of new Kindle deals; here are a few of them in case you missed them earlier:

Carnal Peace

R.C. Sproul:

In our generation we’ve been told that the highest virtue is peace. We’ve lived in the age of the atomic bomb. We’ve seen widespread warfare. We’re tired of disputes, tired of people fighting and killing each other. It is by God’s grace that churches aren’t burning people at the stake or putting them on torture racks as was done in earlier centuries. We’ve learned to coexist with people with whom we disagree. We value that peace. But I’m afraid the danger is that we value it so much that we’re willing to obscure the gospel itself. We have to be careful of speaking about unity when we really don’t have it. At times I think we believe we have more unity than we actually have.

God’s Not Dead and the angry atheist professor

James Hoskins:

In several ways, my life is similar to Josh Wheaton, the main character and hero of the recent movie God’s Not Dead. I grew up in a conservative evangelical home (the son of a preacher). I considered myself a devout Christian throughout high school and later when I enrolled at a very progressive state university and chose to major in philosophy. I quickly learned that all of my philosophy professors were either atheists or agnostics (to my knowledge), and that several of them are rock stars in their respective fields. One professor,Clancy Martin, is even considered an expert on Nietzsche, whose famous statement “God is dead” is where the film derived its title. So, from just about every angle, one could easily have expected that my college experience would equal or exceed the combative anti-Christian environment of Josh Wheaton’s philosophy class depicted in the film.

But it didn’t. It was the complete opposite.

Links I like

Beware of self-appointed pastors

Denny Burk, commenting on a recent NY Times article:

The pastoral office is reserved for those who are gifted for the ministry and who meet a defined set of character qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The men who meet these qualifications are not self-appointed. The church is to recognize and set these men apart for the ministry (1 Tim. 4:14). The issue is not whether one recognizes his own giftedness and qualification. The issue is whether the people of God recognize it as well.

Former Pastor Experiments With Atheism for a Year

Heather Clark:

Ryan Bell, 42, led Hollywood Adventist Church until March of last year, when has was asked to resign over his increasingly liberal views and his disagreements with Adventist theology. Bell says that he expressed support for female ordination and the inclusion of homosexuals, and took issue with the literal six-day creation outlined in Genesis.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Actively engaged in the abortion battle

Matt Chandler:

When I begin to have conversations with some of my aunts and uncles and how they wish they would have marched with King but they were just indifferent, they just thought it would work itself out. How they wish they could get back into time and fight the noble fight. Instead, they were quiet. … I think [abortion] is going to be one of those issues for us.

Antinomianism, Legalism And The Relationship Between Law And Gospel

Tullian Tchividjian:

One of the problems in the current conversation regarding the relationship between law and gospel is that the term “law” is not always used to mean the same thing. This is understandable since in the Bible “law” does not always mean the same thing.…

So, it’s not as simple as you might think. For short hand, I think it’s helpful to say that law is anything in the Bible that says “do”, while gospel is anything in the Bible that says “done”; law equals imperative and gospel equals indicative. However, when you begin to parse things out more precisely, you discover some important nuances that should significantly help the conversation forward so that people who are basically saying the same thing aren’t speaking different languages and talking right past one another.