Around the Interweb (05/16)

The Poison of Quaint Moralism

Tyler Jones/Acts 29 (via The Resurgence):

The South has been poisoned, and the poison is “quaint moralism.” This poison has systematically infected tens of millions in the South and we are now in the midst of a moralistic pandemic. Who has dispensed this quaint moralistic poison? The blame lies with Christianity! We have blared from pulpits, on radio waves, even in movie theaters that “it’s good to be good.” We have taught that when you do what the Bible says, your wife will obey, your dog will obey, and your kids will obey. For decades now we have filled churches by declaring that those among us who are ethical churchgoers will be accepted by God and those of us who don’t go to church will burn, burn, burn.

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In Other News

Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie?

Tim Challies compares the Kindle and the iPad (video)

The problem with “give in order to get”

Seth Godin: Consumer Debt is not Your Friend

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Eric Metaxas’ excellent new book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

How can you encourage young parents to join small groups? Look to your youth group

Statler and Waldorf go to Church

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes the peculiar task of the Church

Whatever Makes You Feel Good About You


Morals play a large part in religion; morals are good if they’re healthy for society. Like Christianity, which is all I know, the values you get from like the Ten Commandments. I think every religion is important in its own respect. You know, if you’re Muslim, then Islam is the way for you. If you’re Jewish, well, that’s great too. If you’re Christian, well, good for you. It’s just whatever makes you feel good about you.

A “non-religious white girl” from Maryland, as quoted in Christian Smith’s essay, On “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” as U.S.Teenagers’ Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith

In his book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, sociologist Christian Smith describes what he refers to as “the de facto dominant religion among contemporary teenagers in the United States is what we might call ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.’”

The creed of this religion, as codified from what emerged from our interviews with U.S. teenagers, sounds something like this:

  1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about one-self.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

“It’s just whatever makes you feel good about you,” says the teenager from Maryland. Reading Christian Smith’s essay, On “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” as U.S.Teenagers’ Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith, was a real eye-opener. Because at the heart of it all:

It’s all about us.

Am I the only one who finds that a bit depressing? [Read more...]

John Piper: Smiting Morality with Gospel Joy

A powerful excerpt from Piper’s lecture at the 2010 Desiring God Conference for Pastors, “Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul: Learning from the Mind and Heart of C. S. Lewis.”

The abbreviated transcript follows:

Until we are gripped with the joyful impulses of gospel grace from the inside, we will always be thinking in terms of doing external duties as pressures from outside. This is called morality. But here is what I discovered with Lewis’s help:

A perfect man would never act from a sense of duty; he’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and of other people) like a crutch which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times; but of course it is idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs (our own loves, tastes, habits etc.) can do the journey on their own.

The implications of this for my own pursuit of holiness and my teaching on sanctification have been pervasive. Lewis brings this insight to bear on the Puritans and William Tyndale in particular in a way this is profoundly illuminating:

In reality Tyndale is trying to express an obstinate fact which meets us long before we venture into the realm of theology; the fact that morality or duty (what he calls ‘the Law’) never yet made a man happy in himself or dear to others. It is shocking, but it is undeniable. We do not wish either to be, or to live among, people who are clean or honest or kind as a matter of duty: we want to be, and associate with, people who like being clean and honest and kind. The mere suspicion that what seemed an act of spontaneous friendliness or generosity was really done as a duty subtly poisons it. In philosophical language, the ethical category is self-destructive; morality is healthy only when it is trying to abolish itself. In theological language, no man can be saved by works. The whole purpose of the “Gospel,” for Tyndale, is to deliver us from morality. Thus, paradoxically, the “Puritan” of modern imagination—the cold, gloomy heart, doing as duty what happier and richer souls do without thinking of it—is precisely the enemy which historical Protestantism arose and smote.

This is what I want to keep smiting with Christian Hedonism: The gospel is designed to make forgiven sinners love righteousness, not do it against all their inclinations.

By John Piper. © Desiring God

Moralizing: How to Destroy Scripture and Cultivate Pride

I really appreciated this clip from Mark Driscoll’s sermon, The Birth of John the Baptizer, and felt it would be valuable to share today:


What could tend to happen when we do character studies of the Bible is we pick someone in the Bible and we look at their life and we say, “Okay, what are the good things they did? What are the bad things they did? Okay, I don’t want to do the bad things, I want to do the good things,” and the result is something called moralizing.

Moralizing absolutely destroys Scripture. You don’t even need to be a Christian to moralize Scripture. You can have any religion, ideology, philosophy or theology, and moralize Scripture.

It’s one of the great errors of Bible teachers and that is, “Don’t do the bad things, do the good things, now go.” The way that John was able to become the greatest man who ever lived was not by moralizing, but by the Holy Spirit. You see that? As we study John from here and you look at this man’s amazing life, and the legacy that he has, and the fruit of his ministry, it’s not, “Well, I need to do what John did.” No, you need to be filled by the Holy Spirit like John was.

You need to be empowered and transformed by the Holy Spirit like John was.

Through faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in you so that you can live a life under the control and power of the Holy Spirit like John did. Otherwise, it’s just nothing but a list of dos and don’ts. If you think you did well, you’re proud, and if not, you’re despairing. On neither account does moralizing lead to humble joy.

John was filled with the Holy Spirit, that’s how he did it.

There is no secret.

God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

God’s power enables us to be who we cannot be and do what we cannot do because it’s God power.

Made in the Image of God: Wisdom, Emotions & Morality

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Genesis 1:26

As we continue to look at humanity bearing the image and likeness of God, we come to the next way we image God: Through intellect, emotions and morality.

Wisdom and Knowledge

God is wise and full of knowledge. Several passages in the Bible speak to this truth, not the least of which is Isaiah 11:2, which says in anticipation of the coming of Jesus, “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” Here God is spoken of (specifically God the Holy Spirit) as being the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might, and of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Like God, we have the ability to have knowledge and wisdom (cf. Prov. 1:7). Solomon, King of Israel, was the wisest man ever to live (cf. 1 Kings 4:30-34). Jesus commends the dishonest manager for his shrewdness in using unrighteous wealth to make friends for himself, commanding His followers to be wise in using money as well (cf. Luke 16:1-13). So we can have wisdom, and we can know truth.

What we cannot know all things fully, nor can we fully understand God’s reasons for why He does what He does. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9). The Apostle Paul states, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). So while we cannot fully know yet, we are fully known.

[Read more...]