Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Talking About ‘Inside Out’

Jeremy Pierre:

While Inside Out overstates the primacy of emotion in human motivation, the movie nevertheless helpfully forces the audience to acknowledge that emotions make up a major part of why we do what we do. For Christians, acknowledging this is vital to discipleship, which requires that we love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). In other words, Christians value emotions because they are part of how God designed us to worship him.

The Best Way To Teach

Tim Challies:

As someone who both writes and preaches, I have been struck by my tendency toward hypocrisy in this way. I know that I am capable of teaching what the Bible says about marriage (or anything else, for that matter) even when I don’t act what the Bible says about it. I am capable of writing “8 Ways to Guarantee the Flame Lasts Forever” while acting as if I don’t care if it lasts another 5 minutes.

3 Ways I Know I’ll Never Be “Ready” to Be a Dad

Chris Martin:

One reason a lot of young couples don’t have kids, though, is that they don’t feel “ready.” The common phrase you always hear about being “ready” to have kids is similar to the one about marriage, “No one is ever ‘ready’ to have kids (or get married).” Both statements are true to a point—a lot of marriage and parenting is only learnable via experience.

In reality—I’m not even a parent and I know this—you are never “ready” to parent because there’s nothing quite like parenting. Below are three ways I know I’ll never be “ready” to be a dad, even though I plan to be one anyway.

Foolish, ignorant controversies

Landon Chapman:

The meteoric rise in social media has enabled folks from around the globe to exchange information and converse, both audibly and visually, with great ease.  As the platform has continued to grow and mature, developers have simplified its usage to the point where even those with the most basic of personal computing knowledge and/or extreme time limits, may quickly and easily engage their not so geographically close peers.  Of course, it is likely that none of this information is new to anyone reading this article.  Rather than crafting yet another piece lamenting the many reasons why social media is destroying our culture, faith communities, families, etc., I want to instead focus on a Biblical issue to which the widespread adoption of social media has contributed.

The big list of Christian podcasts

Clayton Kraby’s put together a great (and very thorough) list of podcasts touching on topics of interest to Christians. No doubt you’ll find a few in there that you’ll want to subscribe to.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to take advantage of these deals from Crossway:

Also on sale:

The Cross and the Confederate Flag

Russell Moore:

White Christians ought to think about what that flag says to our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in the aftermath of yet another act of white supremacist terrorism against them. The gospel frees us from scrapping for our “heritage” at the expense of others. As those in Christ, this descendant of Confederate veterans has more in common with a Nigerian Christian than I do with a non-Christian white Mississippian who knows the right use of “y’all” and how to make sweet tea.

On a related note, Jon Stewart offered quite a moving statement on the The Daily Show. There are a few bleeped out cuss words (naturally), but it’s worth watching as he gets to the heart of the real issue.

Goodbye

Lore Ferguson:

In seven days we leave Texas, our unexpected home.

The realization of what we’re leaving hits hard these weeks. God has disciplined us here and loved us, taught us and grown us, trained us and now sends us, and I don’t think either of us expected any of this. Five months ago he was a tall bearded near stranger and I was entertaining thoughts of life-long singleness and service to the local church. We were okay, you know? We were content and serving the Lord and our church and how much can change so quickly?

The Most Painful Interview I’ve Ever Watched

David Murray reflects on Brian Williams and the closest he came to saying “I lied.”

When the Wages of Sin Is a Grandbaby

Kim Ransleben:

Her weeping came ahead of her presence, causing my heart to pound. As a mom of three, it wasn’t the first time a crying child had entered our bedroom hours after we thought they’d gone to sleep. My mind went racing through the evening, then over to her to find the trouble, so I could do what I’d done so many times: soothe the hurt, ease the fear, or comfort her in sickness. The familiar words tumbled quickly from me, “Baby, what’s wrong?” But I had absolutely no context for what she’d say next.

She’d just finished her first semester at college, had found a great job, had made sweet friends, and had found a place to serve in a local church she really liked. There wasn’t a mention of a young man yet, though her dad and I had smiled at the thought we could be a few short months or years from meeting him. But no matter where we thought her life was, her tear-filled words came nonetheless: “I’m pregnant.”

Love in the time of clickbait

 

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Nearly three years ago, my wife deleted her Facebook account and hasn’t looked back. She’s now on her second Twitter account, having deleted the first after she found the people she was following were a little too intense (and sure) in their belief that Obama is letting America go to pot so he can declare martial law, thus becoming Barack the First. Now, even though she’s occasionally tempted to pack it all up, she routinely unfollows people when they’re getting consistently cranky.

She is a reluctant social media user. And she is wiser than many of us, I suspect.

Part of the issue for her—and for me, too—is the clickbait we Christians keep shoving at one another. Now, it’s usually not the “Someone ate a sandwich and YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT” all-caps type of nonsense promoted by Buzzfeed and Answers and the like.

No, ours is of a different sort. It’s outrage (and fauxtrage) and open letters and op-eds—some helpful, most not—about everything from a theologically liberal Christian coming out in support of something most people already assumed he supported, or a celebrity who is deeply confused about his identity, or issues that were handled wrongly at one church or another, or blog posts carefully examining every word a pastor has to say, looking for the one thing that could discredit him…

These are the really tempting stories to share because they get attention. (They got your attention, right?) And many of us feel a particular need to bring to light the injustices that happen when church leaders handle situations wrongly or we feel it’s important to shine the light on wolves in sheep’s clothing. And certainly, there are times when this is necessary (so please don’t hear me as saying the sins of churches and their leaders should never be spoken of publicly).

But maybe it’s not a good idea to be sharing these all the time. I wonder if we’re being just a little too liberal with it and not considering its effect on other believers. After all:

  • What does it do to a believer when he or she feeds on a steady diet of stories detailing the faults of church leaders they may not have heard of otherwise?
  • What does constantly being inundated with story after story after story of things they can’t do anything about do?

Now, I again, I don’t want to be so crass as to suggest that sin should remain hidden, for what is hidden will always come to light (as we’ve seen time and again). But is it not helpful for us to consider whether or not what we’re sharing demonstrates love for those who follow us on Twitter or Facebook, or read our blogs? Should our greatest concern be not to point out faults, but to encourage and build up believers in the faith?

Love doesn’t conceal truth, nor does it treat sin lightly. But it also doesn’t leave us wallowing in the muck and mire. And this is what I see lacking in so much of the conversation around so many issues. There are so few pleas to not lose heart. There seem to be no exhortations to think upon whatever is good and true. No appeals to consider what is honorable and just. No pleas to press into what is pure and lovely. No giving thanks for what is commendable and praiseworthy. Of all these Paul instructs us to think on, and yet publicly we spend so much of our time considering the exact opposite.

We speak with so much fire, but seem to do so with so few tears.

Friends, this should not be said of any of us.

Around seven years ago, I was having lunch with my former pastor, and we were talking about my tendency to wield truth as a hammer, smashing falsehood indiscriminately, without considering the collateral damage. My actions and my words were inconsistent with the grace I’d been shown in the gospel. I wasn’t acting out of love for those around me, even when I was right in what I was saying. I wasn’t speaking out of a desire to build others up, but to tear someone down—or more often to build myself up.

And that’s a dangerous place to be. It’s lacking in love. It’s barren of joy. It’s out of step with the Spirit.

My fear is that many of us are saying so much and not paying attention to the effect we’re having on those around us. We are rightly concerned about the piles of dead bodies left by domineering pastors, but we’re not checking to ensure we’re not creating piles of our own in the process.

Lost in Transmission

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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

“Who am I to judge?”

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Some time ago there was a young guy who was hanging out with my neighbor at the time who was a professing Christian. Really nice, sweet guy—the give you the shirt off his back type. One morning I drove him over to the Tim Horton’s on the corner (because, Canada), and we somehow got on the topic of same-sex relationships. He had a very live-and-let live attitude about the whole thing, not because he had a conviction that such things are or are not acceptable, but because he hadn’t given it much thought. And since he didn’t want to be seen as being judgmental, he simply said, “Who am I to judge?”

Everybody judges

It sounds very noble to say something like this, but it’s actually kind of silly. Why? Because everybody judges.

All the time.

We can’t help it. We judge people about everything. People who love Starbucks are either coffee snobs who enjoy being robbed every morning, or they have discerning tastes and don’t like coffee that tastes like an ashtray. Apple users are either with it and hip, or they’re desperately trying to be. Star Trek fans are… okay, there’s no winning on that one. But the same goes for Star Wars fans, too. So let’s not kid ourselves: everybody judges.

(And you might have just judged me for writing that just now.)

Judge whom?

The real question is not who am I to judge, who am I to judge: Ourselves? Non-Christians? Fellow Christians?

On judging non-Christians. I do my best to avoid blanket condemnation of non-Christians. Why? Two reasons: first, we are told not to by Paul. “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? …God judges those outside” (1 Cor. 5:12-13). Second, because of the example of Jesus. Though we are told that “someday” on the final day of judgment, believers will participate in Christ’s judgment of the world—and even the angels (1 Cor. 6:2-3)—Jesus reminds us that in his first coming, he did not come to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:17). During his earthly life, he was a friend of sinners, after all. Thus, we should be wise to do likewise. This does not mean participating in sinful behavior, nor approving of it; however, pursuing genuine relationships with non-Christians means we should not be condemning of them as people, even when we take opportunities to challenge behaviors. An “I think I’m better than you” attitude has no place in the Christian life, as I think we can all agree.

On judging Christians. Among Christians, the practice of judgment changes. We are not told to withhold judgment. In fact, we are told quite clearly that we are to judge among ourselves, and to “purge the evil person from among [us]” (1 Cor. 5:12-13). Therefore, we are to judge with right judgment and not according to appearances (John 7:24)—a good lesson for us all whenever we see blog posts and articles bringing to light issues with well-known pastors and churches.1 We are wise to use Matthew 18’s process for dealing with personal sin—that is, deal with personally and fairly, with unbiased witnesses being included where required. But we are also reminded that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Some of our sins don’t require confrontation or even a conversation. These we can let go; but only we can judge what those are for ourselves.

On judging ourselves. Where we see Scripture’s strongest commands about judgment relate to judging ourselves. As a general rule, we are to deal with our own sins before those of others (Matthew 7:1-5). We should never be so presumptuous to think we’ve got all our junk together or that our sin is somehow less serious than the sin of another. We never hold anyone to a higher standard than we would ourselves (7:2). If we don’t deal with ourselves first—and if we don’t hold ourselves to the same standards we hold others—we should not be surprised that Jesus would call us hypocrites.

We all fall down

When it comes to judgment, we all fall down. Sometimes we’re too harsh on non-Christians. Others, we give Christians a pass when it’s not appropriate. Most commonly, and though we would never say it, we act as though we’ve already achieved perfect sanctification, and sin is no longer an issue for us (but everyone else, oh my stars…). But this doesn’t mean we should give up. Instead, we should learn how to judge rightly, which begins with self-evaluation.

Some questions we should always try to consider:

  1. What is it about the situation that I find offensive? Trying to pinpoint the exact issue and why it is offensive to us is helpful in keeping us focused on the specifics and avoid generalities.
  2. Is this incident a one-time event or the latest in an ongoing pattern of behavior? The answer to this question may completely change our response to what we’ve experienced. The offense of one who is not characterized by being harsh with his words should probably be different than that toward the one who is known for being domineering and hostile.
  3. Is my reaction in line with the nature of the offence? There are some things we should be angered by, but sometimes our reaction doesn’t match the incident. We should be careful to consider why this is so.
  4. How can I best address the offence in a way that honors Jesus? Sometimes this will mean taking drastic action (such as calling the police in the case of sexual abuse or any other illegal activity); other times, it may mean dropping it entirely and seeking to live at peace with those around us.

Certainly, these questions are not exhaustive, but they are a good starting point. Christians are not free to abstain from judgment. If we are seeking to be faithful to Christ, it is important for us to judge with right judgment in as much as we are able and with the Spirit’s help. Lord willing, we will be up to the task.

How much bandwidth can you give controversy?

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Whenever I read news of a church imploding, some sort of scandal arising involving sexual abuse, or any other scandal really, I can’t help but think, “I wonder what it would have been like to live during a time when the entire world wasn’t at my fingertips?”

Now, obviously, I’ve never been one to entirely avoid controversial issues (or people). And when we see a celebrity pastor lose his mind, or when patterns of abuse are revealed that affect anyone, man, woman or child, it is hard to ignore. But at the same time, though we should grieve these things—and if a crime has been committed, we should report them—we can only give so much mental bandwidth to these things. Here are a few reasons why I believe this is so, at least from my perspective:

1. Because I really can’t do much to help. Without (I hope) sounding callous toward those who’ve experienced abuse (sexual, physical, or emotional), there’s not a lot I can do to help in a specific situation happening in Florida, Texas, or, honestly, even in a different town 30 minutes down the road. I can pray and, if the issue warrants, I can say something where I feel compelled to, but that’s about it.

2. Because I have people close by who need my attention more. What I am responsible for is not so much what happens out there, but what happens in my local church and within the various communities I associate with. I am required to love and serve those whom I am closest with differently than those who are far off. So if there is someone in need within my local congregation, or within one of the groups I’m a part of (our homeschool co-op, for example), I have a greater sense of obligation to address that need. If I become aware of a pattern of behavior that is concerning, I need to say something in the appropriate way. If I’m aware of a crime being committed, I am obligated to report it.

3. Because it can lead me to despair. There is no shortage of bad news out there—no shortage of controversies, abuses of authority, violence and all the other evidences of humanity’s desperately wicked state. Knowing about the ugly things that are happening in other congregations, other communities and other nations doesn’t add a sense of urgency to the call to love and serve others, or tell me anything I didn’t already know. It’s just more.

4. Because it tempts me to become even more distrustful. Many who report on abuse issues within the church have been severely harmed by an experience in a local congregation they were once a part of. And my fear is that for some, confusion has found a foothold, and authority exercised by a godly individual is seen as authoritarianism.

I’ve got to be honest: I’m already distrustful of some of the leaders God has placed over me, some with more reason than others. But what I find myself needing to do more and more is praying for those leaders, rather than trying to parse the meaning of every word they use, attempting to find some hidden meaning or a message between the lines. I want to be lead by people that are worth following, and the only way for that to happen is for God to be at work in them. And if I am not praying for them, what does it say about what I think about them?

5. It tempts me to put myself in the place of God. The truth is, none of us know the full story of what goes on in any given scandal. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care, but it does mean we need to be cautious. When I judge too quickly, I often find myself thinking as though I am standing in for God, and therefore capable of rendering a sound and infallible judgment. And a lot of the time, I’m completely and totally wrong. That isn’t to say that wrong isn’t wrong or sin isn’t sin (far from it!)—it’s just that we ought to be very careful about what we put out there in our outrage. There are certain things you say that you can never come back from. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in this regard, and I’m not eager to repeat them.

So getting back to the question at hand: how much mental bandwidth should we give controversy that doesn’t directly affect us? Speaking only for myself, only as much as my conscience allows—and only in so far as it doesn’t become a distraction to loving and serving those with whom I am in relationship. For most, that means almost none. For some, it means a great deal of attention. But for all, it means learning when to say “when” so that I don’t neglect the things that are most important.

Four guidelines for literary evangelists

compassion-rhetoric

For my apologetics and outreach course, I’ve been reading Michael Green’s Evangelism in the Early Church, which is a wonderful study of the evangelistic practices of Christians during our first three centuries of existence (even if it’s got a couple of points I’d question). But in it, there is something deeply troubling. It’s not one of the author’s views; rather, it’s the author’s assessment of the work of the Apologists of the second century.

In the earlier generation, such what we find in the work of Luke, there is a deep desire to persuade people of the truth, and to do so in a way that is “loving, tactful,” and “subtle.” (352). However, Green notes a marked turn in the character of the Apologists. Where once Christian literary evangelism was in the spirit of Luke, something ugly had crept in. And though they desired their readers to come to know Christ, “the tone in which the writing had been couched would have effectively stood in the way of such an outcome” (351-352).

You understand why this is troubling, I hope.

Reading this hurt a little bit, not because I disagree, but because I can see it’s still a problem today. I’ve seen how easy it is to fall into this trap. In less than thoughtful moments, I’ve certainly been guilty of doing so. And I’m tired of that. I’m tired of Christians arrogantly running around as “jerks for Jesus”—being apparently so concerned for the faith, all the while failing to use words that reflect it. I’m tired of it, again, because I recognize how easily I can fall into this pattern of thinking and writing. But when we act in this fashion, it doesn’t win people to Christ—it pushes them away from the truth.

This has been weighing heavily as I consider how to respond to a very serious issue in my home province, one that’s got a lot of people riled up to the point that there’s nothing but angry rhetoric coming from either side. (And for that reason alone I’ve shied away from any public commentary at this point.) However, in watching it both sides have at it, it makes me consider how to best address any controversial issue. Here are a few guidelines that may help:

First, understand the issue firsthand, as best as you are able. Don’t rely on commentary from others.

Second, determine what issues are truly matters of first importance. We should always discuss secondary matters civilly, and likewise we should always affirm whatever is good and true in any circumstance (for if it is true, it belongs to God).

Third, pray for wisdom and clarity. More often than not, we put our feet in our mouths because we are rash with our words, or we overlook an important point in our opposition’s argument. However, God will not leave us in the lurch if we are faithful to ask for his help in communicating well.

Finally, seek to be truly evangelistic in my approach. I’m not interested in winning an argument (as much fun as that may be); I want to win the person reading. Fiery rhetoric and angry polemics won’t do this. Genuine love and compassion for the people involved in any given issue, however, just might.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

  • Names of God teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson (ePub + MOBI)
  • Kingdom Feast teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio & video download)
  • Jesus the Evangelist by Richard Phillips (ePub)
  • The Westminster Confession of Faith teaching series by John Gerstner (audio & video download)

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

Finally, can get Keep Your Greek free simply by signing up for their mailing list (if you’re already a subscriber, just input your email; you won’t double-up).

A Biblical Theology of the Trees of the Garden

Nick Batzig:

At the outset of the biblical record, two trees stood at the center of the God’s covenantal dealing with man–the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. Far from being mythological concepts, these trees were–in a very real sense–just like any other trees in the Garden. God did not invest these trees with magical power to confer something out of their own resources, ex opere operato,  to our first father; rather He set them apart to represent a reality beyond themselves and to stand in the place of that for which they had become symbols. Like baptism and the Lord’s Supper the two trees were sacramental. They pointed to a reality beyond themselves. Though they had no power within themselves to confer anything, nevertheless, God had so invested them with spiritual meaning so that the covenantal arrangement into which He entered with Adam was signified and sealed with these trees. Their significance cannot be underestimated. They can only now be explained in light of a third tree–the cross on which our Lord Jesus died. The cross is both the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. Jesus restores what Adam lost both with regard to moral uprightness and with regard to life. Consider the following biblical-theological aspects of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life.

7 Millennial Traits That Baby Boomers Need to Learn

Baby boomers took over the workforce when they came of age, and made a huge impact. It comes of no surprise that they raised their children, the next generation of the workforce, to do the same. Now millennials are flooding into corporate America, and many baby boomer managers, entrepreneurs and leaders are re-evaluating what it means to be a millennial–what their needs and passions are.

Below are seven traits that most millennials have that baby boomer employers should keep in mind.

Hatred & Heresy: Why Words Matter

Aaron Earls:

But if I have spent years yelling “Wolf!” and pointing at every sheep that has a spot of dirt on it, no one will listen if I call out an actual theological wolf attempts to devour the flock. I’ve bargained away the trust others have in me for a temporary advantage in online debates.

So how can we fix it? What can be done to change the tone of discussion across social media and blogs?

Church Splits

Tom Ascol:

When an atom is split, its overall mass is reduced and a tremendous amount of energy is released. The results, graphically demonstrated by the two atomic bombs that ended World War II, can be massively destructive, with effects that linger for generations.

The reactions that result from atom splits have their counterparts in the spiritual realm with church splits. When a congregation experiences division, the consequences are often devastating, widespread, and long lasting.

Three things I’d like to see in the Christian blogosphere in 2015

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Over the last few years, I’ve developed a bit of a tradition: thinking about a few things I’d like to see in this strange corner of the Internet known as the Christian blogosphere each year (here’s a look at the 20122013 and 2014 editions). For me, this is somewhat therapeutic—and not in the “venting about all the things that grind my gears” sense. For me, it’s a chance to look back and consider where bloggers–particularly me—can grow and change as we represent Jesus on the Interwebs.

Here are three things I’d like to see (and am hoping to do) this year:

1. Fewer blind eyes turned to serious issues. This is a strange one for me to include, since I’m not a fan of chasing controversy. But one of the reasons controversies happen in the first place—at least to some degree—is because people are silent. As the curious ethical decisions and/or compromises of many Christian-famous types continue to come to light (see, for example, Christianity Today’s recent piece on buying your way onto bestsellers’ lists), my encouragement would be that we not shut down discussion, ignore or turn a blind eye. Instead, we should actually wrestle with the issues being raised—and talk about them.

 

2. More admonishing with tears. However, even as we do speak up about problems, we must avoid seeming prideful and arrogant in how we address them. Ad hominems should not be known among us. Instead, we should model ourselves after Paul, who wept for those he warned. Where I feel compelled to offer correction or speak up on an issue, I want to do so in a way that makes it clear that I’m doing so out of great concern for those involved.

3. Write like you like writing. If you’re a blogger, I’d hope it’s because you do it for a really good reason… like because you enjoy writing. It’s easy to get overly concerned with figuring out how to drive traffic to your website; but the problem with getting overly concerned about numbers is it’s easy to start caring more about traffic than writing content you care about. (I’m especially talking to myself here.) Don’t worry about finding the perfect formula, or the right combination of times when to tweet a link or update Facebook, or whether or not you’re SEO-ing hard enough. Write something you like. Something that matters to you. Play. Have fun. Write like you like writing, and let the Lord sort out the rest.

That’s what I’m hoping to see in the months ahead—and what I’m going to be trying to do. What about you?

Should you separate the message from its messenger?

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Maybe I’m too cynical for my own good.

I’ve been wrestling with an article written by one of America’s more abrasive mega-church leaders on how the best pastors, like the best athletes, are the ones who aren’t afraid to take a hit. Taken on its own, it’s certainly a fair enough encouragement. But at the same time, whenever I see the name of this person show up on a blog or on Twitter or…  well, anywhere for that matter, it’s rarely in connection with anything godly or virtuous (though perhaps that simply means I’m following the wrong people).

And this brings me to my struggle: should we separate a half-decent encouragement from its author’s ministry? More pointedly, is this even possible—can our content stand alone, or do we need to pay more careful attention to the context from which the message stems?

When I think about pastors embroiled in controversy, I can think of no better example than the apostle Paul. Wherever he went, he was dogged by groups of false teachers determined to subvert his teaching and turn people away from his message. In Corinth, so-called super apostles questioned his ministry and turned the people away from Paul. And being maligned, Paul—though he called himself a fool for doing so—defended himself (2 Corinthians 10-11).

But what was strong about his defence was what he ultimately pointed to. He didn’t simply encourage the Corinthians to look at the fruit of his ministry, though he could have. He didn’t tell them to consider his teaching. He told them to look at how he conducted himself in ministry—his humble disposition and his refraining from taking financial support from them so that it would not be a stumbling block.

You could look at Paul himself—not the results of his work, but the man—and discern whether or not the criticism he faced was valid.

I’ll be honest: I don’t see that with a lot of modern church leaders. There doesn’t seem to be a willingness to open their lives, and to ask people to verify for themselves. To test the messenger, as well as the message. Instead, when controversy comes, it seems most often to be met with claims of unjust criticism.

And this is where the struggle comes in for me. Even when the message is fine taken on its own, how much should the author’s own baggage factor into how we interpret it? I tend to struggle to be able to easily separate the two. When I read warnings of unjust criticism from those whose names only ever come up in the context of controversy, to me, it seems a bit disingenuous.

But should it? Is it fair to wonder what prompted an author’s words, or to potentially second-guess them—or is it a sign that I, as a reader, am simply too cynical?

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new deals to start your week:

Hate to fly? It’s your own fault

This article presents an interesting point.

5 Ways to Love (or Hate) the Church Nursery Workers

Aaron Earls:

Look, let’s be honest. If there is anyone at church who deserves all of our respect, appreciation and perhaps hazard pay, it’s nursery workers.

There are times when I drop off my two year old and yell, “I’m sorry! Good luck!” as I run off to a nice, peaceful (adult) small group time.

Despite nursery workers’ value and obvious sacrificial love for the church body, we parents often don’t help matters when it comes to creating a smooth experience in the nursery.

Would Jesus buy his way onto a bestseller list?

Jackson Dame responding to Christianity Today’s piece debating the merits of the practice.

What to Say to Church Members Leaving for Bad Reasons

Jonathan Leeman:

There are better and worse reasons to leave a church. Are you moving to another city? That’s a good reason. Are you harboring bitterness toward someone who has offended you? That’s a bad reason. Does the church neglect to preach biblical sermons weekly? Good reason. Don’t like the church’s style? Probably a bad one.

So how should you respond to a fellow member who is leaving for what sounds like a bad reason?

Is The Bible Too Complicated For Those Who Struggle To Read?

Adam Prime:

Is the Bible only for the professors, the boffins, the academics, and the geeks? Is it only for John Owen and not for Andy Prime? Is it only for the preachers and not for church members? Is it only for the middle class? Can it be for the schemes in my neighborhood or the slums in yours? Is it too difficult? Is it beyond the reach or normal people, and only for a select few?

What to Do When Someone Is Wrong on the Internet

Mike Leake offers some good thoughts here.

Links I like

Why I Repented from Twitter Following Everyone

Joey Cochran:

One sunny day in March I woke up and decided to follow everyone on Twitter. I’d like to think that I had no real reason to do it, but if I’m honest the stunt was stimulated from the base desire of wanting more followers. It was shallow. I wasn’t going to buy them because that’s just crazy. But I thought, maybe if I followed a bunch of people, they’d just follow me back. I justified it by calling the following act a wave. I told myself: “You know what, I’m gonna wave to everyone in Twitterdom, and see who waves back.”

The Case for Face to Face Meetings

Erik Raymond:

Technological advancements have made communication much easier. We can email, text, instant message, call, or Skype. While this makes meeting easier it does not necessarily make it better. As Christians we should endeavor to be loving in everything we do. This requires thoughtful intentionality when considering the medium for communicating information. Ease must never trump love.

In my experience, particularly in pastoral ministry, the preferred format for meetings is face to face. If there is ever a potential to be misunderstood or if the subject matter is wired with emotion then a face to face meeting is nearly essential.

Is Open Theism Still an Issue?

Jeff Robinson:

Much has changed since members of ETS wrestled with open theism more than a decade ago. You will not find papers in defense of open theism being read in seminars at ETS today. Books are less likely to emerge from evangelical publishing houses to debate the merits or demerits of this theology over against the classical Christian view of God. Instead, open theism mainly finds its voice through more popular means. A quick internet search reveals numerous blogs written by pastors and laypersons espousing open theism. Open theism today makes its case not so much through books and refereed scholarly journals, but through the mostly unfiltered voice of the blogosphere.

“You are cured of MS!”

David Murray shares the testimony of Gary Timmer, whose son Trent was diagnosed with MS in 2012.

It’s a dance-off!

Imagine if this had been the ending to Guardians of the Galaxy:

HT: Aaron

Why we become deaf to the warning cries

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Whenever a controversy erupts, you’ll always find a group of people who, when everyone else finally realizes there was a problem, are saying, “We’ve been saying it for years!”

And it’s true. They have been saying it for years. There’s no question about it. There have been many—many—people who were warning about Mark Driscoll, for example. Notably among them were John MacArthur and many of his followers such as the Team Pyro folks.

So why didn’t we listen?

I wonder if the reason is two-fold:

The first reason is many of us choose to not hear. Honestly, when a church leader appears to be being used by God in a pretty powerful way, it’s tempting to just shut down any negative criticism with a slightly patronizing, “But look how God is using him”. Which is completely stupid, of course, but it’s true. Many folks did this with Mark Driscoll (something I admitted to). Many did it with Rob Bell, too. Many still do it with Steven Furtick, and Perry Noble, and Joel Osteen, and TD Jakes, and…

We need to not just look to (dubious) fruit as a reason to excuse  un- or anti-Christian conduct, character or creeds. When there are warning signs, we need to pay attention and we need to take them seriously.

The second is that many of those voices raising alarm only raise alarm. I remember attending an event in 2011 during which the alarm was raised a great deal over the seep of paganism into the church. During the final Q&A session of the event, one of the attendees said something to the effect of, “We’ve heard a lot about the dark, and this has been a real wake-up call… but what about the light?”

The truth is, we need both light and heat1. The alarm needs to be raised over false teaching, abuses of power and actions and attitudes that bring reproach to the name of Christ—we need to offer reproof in those instances.

But we are also called to encourage, to build up and edify the body of Christ. There needs to be a balance, of the sort you see in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation. There, when addressing each church, Jesus offers specific commendation to five of the seven churches (Sardis and Laodicea being the two exceptions), before offering any rebuke. Jesus shone light on their sin, but also on their good works. If all we say is a constant stream of warning, we risk becoming clanging symbols that deafen those we wish to persuade.

Five opportunities to glorify God in Mark Driscoll’s resignation

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So… Mark Driscoll resigned.

There’s a lot that could be said about this, and undoubtedly much will be. Some of it will be helpful, some of it will be… less so. Hopefully this will be the former, and not the latter.

In all honesty, I’m very glad that Driscoll is out of ministry. After years of controversy, and in recent months the unceasing barrage of issues coming to light—including plagiarism, financial mismanagement at Mars Hill and a pattern of abusive behavior—this needed to happen, for the good of the people who have been hurt, for the people at Mars Hill and for Driscoll himself.

And while, undoubtedly, there are going to be some who will read his resignation and point out some of the troubling aspects (including his not being found disqualified despite being disqualified by his “domineering style of leadership,” [1 Peter 5:3]), I would love to focus on five opportunities to glorify God arising from this:

The opportunity for Mars Hill Church

Mars Hill’s at a crossroads: if the church is all about Jesus, now’s the time to prove it. The best place to start? Honestly evaluating their structure.

The model they’ve been running on—with an outside board of accountability—simply doesn’t work, nor is it biblical. If they’re serious about getting healthy, they need to put in place a model of governance where every leader really is one vote at the table, and are held to account. They need to become autonomous churches with elders who are biblically qualified and capable of preaching the Word.

They need to not be what they’ve been for the better part of the last decade if they’re serious about getting healthy and continuing on with Jesus’ mission to make disciples of all the nations. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

If not, then it’s time to turn off the lights and shut the doors.

The opportunity for Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll is also at a crossroads. The pattern of public behavior we’ve all witnessed over the last several months have shown us what can happen when a man with natural ability but lacking in spiritual maturity puts himself in a position of great authority. One cannot escape from such a scenario unscathed.

While he says he was not disqualified by the investigation (and really, did anyone expect him to be), one thing is unquestionably clear in all of this: he desperately needs help. Driscoll desperately needs to do some real soul searching and ask himself hard, honest questions: How did things get this bad? Is he seeing his own role in this drama correctly? What would God have him do going forward.

And although, I’m glad he says in his resignation that he and Grace will be receiving support and counsel from men and women across the country, he needs something else: to be a member in a local church. He needs to be under the authority of someone (or rather, multiple someones) for the first time in his adult life.

To be perfectly honest, my hope for Mark Driscoll is that he stays far away from the spotlight and far away from ministry for a long, long time. He’s got serious issues that need to be worked out. The best place for him to do that is as a member of a local church, not as a leader in one. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

The opportunity for those injured

For those who have been injured over the years at Mars Hill, I’m not certain the news offers much comfort. Some, understandably, had hoped to see him disqualified and fired. Instead, he’s resigned of his own accord.

Regardless, he’s gone. Whether the church stands or falls remains to be seen. This is an opportunity to be at peace and heal, even if the way the end came about isn’t the way they’d hoped. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

The opportunity for those on the sidelines

Finally, those of us on the sidelines have a number of choices to make. Some have made their reputations blogging about these sorts of controversies (to varying degrees of helpfulness). For these bloggers, their work is more or less done, at least as far as the negative side of these events is concerned. My hope for them is they’ll be able to focus on what is good and pure and true, and celebrate what God inevitably does out of this situation.

Some bloggers have chosen to be silent about these sorts of issues in general and this one in particular. Sometimes it’s for good reasons, such as not having anything to say or not wanting to be accused of chasing controversies. I don’t really have an issue with that. But my hope for all of us— particularly those of us who claim to be “gospel-centered”— would be an increased willingness to confront evil, especially when it appears in our own houses. We should be willing to decisively condemn such practices. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

The final opportunity

Finally, we all have one final opportunity to glorify God in this, and that is to pray. We need to pray for God’s will to continue to be done in the lives of all who have been affected by the drama at Mars Hill Church over the last several months and years.

  • That those who have been injured would find peace.
  • That humility would reign in the hearts of the remaining leaders at Mars Hill as they choose how to move forward.
  • That God would truly break Mark Driscoll’s heart in a new way so he can be closer to God as he says he desires to be.
  • That we wouldn’t just wait for the next rockstar megachurch pastor to implode, but would pray that God would cut through the garbage they’ve surrounded themselves with.
  • That we would put our houses in order and not sacrifice people and mission on the altar of celebrity.

If we can pray for those things, I believe God will be glorified.