“We tend to forget how often in Scripture God performs His mighty acts so that men will ‘know’ that He is Lord…We tend to forget how often Scripture emphasizes that although in one sense all people know God, in another sense such knowledge is the exclusive privilege of God’s redeemed people and indeed the ultimate goal of the believer’s life” ~John M. Frame
“Rationalism recognizes a need for criteria, or standards; empiricism a need for objective, publicly knowable facts; and subjectivism a need for our beliefs to meet our own internal criteria. A Christian epistemology will recognize all of those concerns but will differ from the rationalist, empiricist, and subjectivist schools of thought in important ways. Most importantly, the Christian will recognize the lordship of God in the field of knowledge. God is sovereign, and He coordinates law, object, and subject, so that the three cohere; a true account of one will never conflict with a true account of the others” ~John M. Frame
“Our apologetics must be pervaded by a sense of Christ’s lordship, and this demands diligent preparation so that we may be able to obey our Lord’s Great Commission, being prepared to answer inquirers--not only with proclamation, but with answers and reasons. And it requires boldness so that we may take advantage of these opportunities” ~John M. Frame
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Last night at our church’s Thanksgiving evening service, I listened to many who gave thanks for various things ranging from family to God’s provision to learning hard lessons to returning college kids for the Thanksgiving Break. I thought about giving thanks out loud that I was thankful that I met my father—my real, biological father—for the first time two and a half years ago; grateful that we had some time to get to know each other and spend a little time together, cell phone and email each other; extremely thankful that I was able to have this long-at-last relationship before my dad passed away in September. I would have raised my hand to share this thanksgiving along with all the others, but the emotions and tears welled up even thinking about it, so I kept the thankful thoughts in my heart. Didn’t think I’d even be able to get the first part of the first sentence out, ”I am thankful that I was able to meet…” But, I am thankful, extremely thankful this thanksgiving for knowing my dad, knowing that he always held a place for me in his heart, kept the pictures of me at birth and 1 and almost 2, that he did tell his kids from his second marriage “they have an older brother.” Grateful. Thankful. God is good. Where sin abounds, His grace abounds all the more. I am thankful for my half-siblings, Michael, Michelle, Tony, and Joey (who I still need to meet); thankful for Jen, Tony’s wife and the first one to email me that my dad lives in South Carolina and “we’ve been looking for you” and welcoming me in as family; thankful for all my cousins I have recently just met, some who rock the world—hey Sal and Steve!—and for all the nephews and nieces I have. My family world is now so very full. I am thankful to know many are fellow Christians, especially that I could share some time with my nephew and his wife, Anthony and Maris (Tony’s boy) as they train for future Christian ministry. I am thankful for these things beyond what anyone can see, save God. I am thankful for my mother who stuck by me all these years, a stepfather who continues to provide and support me, for my wife, my daughter, and stepkids. My heart was way too full of thanks to let it out last night, the tears and sobs would have hindered the words and garbled the sentences. “Thank you, dad, that we met and got to hug and talk and share before you met Jesus face-to-face.”
Monday, November 22, 2010
No spoilers here. But a few plot revelations--sorry. My daughter and I were brought to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last Saturday by my sister-in-law and niece. My daughter is a big, big fan…especially of the books. I have liked the last three movie installments. My family members and to the slight embarrassment of my daughter—which she is used to by now—had to witness me crying like a baby at two places in the film. At the beginning, when Harry’s friends were all willing to be put in harms way to protect Harry. Such character, nobility, and self-sacrifice from friends always grabs my heart. And then, near the end, when a small, weak character steps up and rescues Harry and his friends, even sacrificing his own life in the process. My family thought I was crying because of the character—not really. I was balling because the idea of the weak, the least one expected to rise up and sacrifice his or her life for another always gets to me. We expect the big and the bold and the powerful to do this—this takes no extra amount of courage; it is what they possess and should do in the first place. It is when the weakest amount us, among our friends and among our neighbors and even among strangers who step forward and place themselves in harms way for other—now that’s courage and true sacrifice. Always makes me cry.
Friday, November 19, 2010
“We are very dangerous…We meet unblessed: not in some garden of wax fruit and painted leaves, that lie of Eden, but after, after the Fall, after many, many deaths…And the wish to kill is never killed, but with some gift of courage one may look into its face when it appears and with a stroke of love—as to an idiot in the house—forgive it; again and again, forever? ~Arthur Miller, After the Fall
Monday, November 15, 2010
Harry Blamires of The Christian Mind fame wrote a novel trilogy published in 1955, the second book of the series, Cold War in Hell, contains a chapter entitled, “The Problem Child.” Here’s an excerpt:
“At present there is grave dispute over the question how we ought to cater for the twentieth century. It is our problem century, for twentieth-century man is our problem child. You must understand that I am not referring to the moral delinquency in you and your contemporaries. It isn’t this that troubles us; for though the delinquency is important it presents no special problem. You see, men of all centuries are delinquents. Morally, twentieth-century man presents the same spectacle as his forebears and, I may add, as his successors. No, it’s the odd state of mind into which he has fallen that disquiets us. His intellect is corrupted in a fashion quite without precedent. In a word, twentieth-century man is irrational. That is what makes him our problem child.”
Of course I wonder, if the 20th century man was heaven’s problem child, what would be the 21st? What is worse than being irrational? Blamires is expressing, 50 years ago, what Peter Berger has suggested in the 70’s, that modern man has created a World without Windows…where it’s hard to listen to heaven. When preachers and Christian communicators downplay the mind and confer on the “heart” what was not intended by the biblical authors in the first place, that is “the heart” is the real central place of man, they are just showing their kinship to the Problem Child and are expressing their own postmodern view of the world. If Blamires and Berger are right (which I believe they are), won’t it be the preacher’s (or any Christian communicator’s) mission to repair the irrationality and seek to help us hear, amid the voices of (post)modernity, God’s voice?
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Those who pit faith against reason never think they are applying their very own reasoning skills to make such an argument. In my experience (what a postmodern thought indeed), I have heard all the arguments and it seems to me that all Christians are doing is replacing the word faith for reason—in other words, it is faith that is misunderstood, and reason, poorly applied. For the unchurched this results in a windowless, irrational human being. For the Christian, we, too, lose the power (inherent within God’s gift of reason) to adequately hear God and interpret His world. Harry Blamires writes:
“To begin with, the implied antithesis between faith and reason just will not do. It is reason that guides a man to pass judgments on human life and its limitations; and, having judged, he finds the venture of faith absolutely indispensable. It is reason which enables you to distinguish the good from the bad, the beautiful from the ugly, the true from the false. Faith is obedience and self-committal. Reason distinguishes and preserves the values and standards which can call obedience and self-committal into play. If reason does not fulfill its proper function, then moral will is deprived of any sense of direction.”
It seems to me that if reason is fading or eliminated or destroyed, faith suffers for the Christian and, for both the Christian and the unchurched, hearing (God) is impaired. Herein modernity and its super-charged cousin, postmodernity, has made it difficult to hear the natural revelation God has endowed within his creation, the special revelation of His Word, and as well, the revelation of His Son. If one cannot hear God’s Word, one cannot respond in faith; and as Blamires writes, one cannot respond in obedience and commitment to that Word. This is the dilemma the 21st century person finds for himself, that which leads to damnable personal and cultural consequences. For the Christian, who refuses the gift of reason and dispels it as worldly, also is left with emotions and preferences to be a guide among choices and judgments, and as a result is no better off than his or her postmodern neighbor. (No wonder when pastors keep appealing to the heart (alone), obedience isn’t produced.)
I find that we, Christians, love our modern conveniences and benefits, but they are just as postmodern in our exercising truth-claims and obedience, in that our response to information, facts, and ideas and our obedience are measured by the ‘heart’ (read feelings), not guided by our reason. I fear modern Christians can also display that same irrational state of being plagued by our unchurched neighbors.
Take a look at a previous post: “Only the good (Christian) man is rational.”
Friday, November 12, 2010
“And all the time—such is the tragicomedy of our situation—we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive,’ or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity.’ In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful” ~C.S. Lewis, “Men without Chests”
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
“Converging with the language of psychotherapy, rights talk encourages our all too human tendency to place the self at the center of our moral universe” (Mary Ann Glendon in Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse, p. xi).
Americans have ignored the consequences of an expanding catalog of rights and personal liberties. And now they are feeling the impact such expansion has on personal responsibilities and, especially, on the general welfare. Look at the American court system. It is almost at gridlock with suits over rights.
Once again we are confronted with the consequences of an overly privatized, self centered worldview. America dispenses rights and grants unlimited freedom. At the same time emotional trauma and impoverished self worth are causing widespread despondency. This is the fallout of deriving rights from and seeking self satisfaction within the private sphere.
This private sphere of unlimited moral boundaries detached from community responsibility has developed into a social cancer. As Os Guinness observes, it has become “the sphere of spending rather than earning, and of personal fulfillment rather than public obligation.” Maintaining a self demanding list of needs and rights is an expensive habit. The self has an insatiable appetite. Other people no longer look upon Americans as victorious champions of freedom; they see them as spoiled brats.
*This is an excerpt from the chapter “Getting Beyond the Sphere of Spending” in my book, Destroying Our Private Cities, Building Our Spiritual Life (a lay-commentary on Philippines). As part of my up-coming session on Being Human at The New England School of Theology and a reflection of this past election cycle (2010), I again am awestruck by how “rights-talk” seems to pervade our society. I thought about Ms. Glendon’s comment above.
Friday, November 05, 2010
My staff, as well as, our case workers, project managers, and Department directors where I work humble me—everyday. We’re all far from perfect, but I watch them deal with people—people often hurting, not sure where to turn for help, many at their final wits end, some filled with pride pretending like nothing is wrong, some even refusing to receive help. Everyday these staff work with the poor and marginalized. Not to keep them poor or trapped in poverty, but to move as many as they can toward a more self-sufficient life, away from the barriers of poverty.
The idea of helping the poor is an ancient alms-giving effort, but as part of the American experiment it began by wealthy land-owning ladies who invested their families’ wealth in building “settlement houses” and providing services to help the poor live better and prepare for them for entering the workforce. What strikes me, this is the model we have even today. Although, however, once funded by the goodwill of the more wealthy, we have a government system that utilizes the same model funded by tax dollars. I for one, despite the fact that many of my evangelical peers do not like their tax dollars used this way, believe it is a good investment, and these staff and thousands around the country and I work hard to maximize that investment. Until the church takes on this responsibility, I’ll always have a job.
The church once played a strong role in helping the poor live better, providing needed services to them. But here our own church-model changed—now its emphasis and energy is for church growth, bigger buildings, larger church budgets, larger congregations, and sadly to move away from areas of poverty. The parachurch organizations arose to replace what the church once sought to do—take care of the needy, the vulnerable. This, along with the development of social programs and the “Great Society” thinking of our government, moved this responsibility away from the congregation—and we let them. The more I study the subject of human services and philanthropy, the more I experience it first hand through my vocation and the more I reflect on church growth, evangelism, and Scripture, the more I realize we, the church, are far from our own calling and God-given mandates and have, thus, become just another expression of the American experiment. The church community is not the American experience! We are—or should be—the expression and the inaugural agent for the arrival of God’s kingdom in the realms of humankind. We are not counting on God’s blessing to do the right things as an expression of the presence of God’s Kingdom, but the blessings bestowed on us by our constitutional rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” i.e., the American dream. The Evangelical church is very protective of its American rights. We will jump high and work hard to seek laws and constitutional amendments to help overcome the demise of our culture—this is their constitutional right. But, we are not ultimately governed by the laws of our country, nor are we just to be an expression of the American experiment. We, the church, are foremost an expression of the Kingdom of God and are to be governed by Scripture and, thus exist for His purposes. These things weigh on my mind.
On the other hand I have watched the wasteful spending and mindless disregard for freedoms and self-determination happening in Washington DC and among the vast members who claim to care for the poor. The numbers tell us this has led to a raise in poverty statistics—exacerbated by the economy of course, but further compounded by creating a downward business environment that cannot sustain what the Government is billing us and going to bill us. Not only irresponsible—it doesn’t address the issues of poverty as they claim.
To add to this—I sympathize much with the Tea-Party movement—to the chagrin of many of my colleagues. (I continue to be alone in almost every room I am in.) However, my concern with the Tea-Partiers and the conservatives who have moved things back to the right in this last election is that the poor will be stripped of much of their services as a result of swinging the pendulum back too far to (not the right) but to the self-American, market-centered genes latent in so many non-poor and non-urban Americans.
Both are wrong—and wrong for the same reasons: both want power to reside in their camp. I believe we can’t help the poor without a sound economic footing (and yes, a free market approach works best it seems); there needs to be prosperity at all levels for the resources to be there—for private and public resources.
While one side spent our future on drunken power and while the other consolidates their benefits of prosperity, my colleagues work hard to help the poor and economically vulnerable to just maintain the basic needs, and help some move toward self-sufficiency and a better economic foundation for their families. These things weigh on my mind. We’re not perfect, but we work hard to change people’s lives.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
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- Wasted Evangelism - Barriers militating against an open discussion on evangelism
- A thought on atheism’s problem with time
- L&S Quote - Thrust forward to a total testimony of salvation
- The Wasted Evangelism thesis—social action can be evangelism
- Wasted Evangelism-A long argument (my introduction)
- A working definition of biblical social action
- L&S Quotes - Dare to be right when the majority is wrong
- L&S Quotes - Evangelism isn’t table talk, it’s an emergency bulletin
- L&S Quotes - Don’t be pushed off your story
- A conclusion for my wasted sigificance and the Mark 3 commission
- L&S Quote - How holy women and men show their inner spiritual lives
- L&S Quote - This sounds odd: who lives, who dies
- Noah and the flood isn’t a children’s story (revised-reposted)
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer and getting our hands dirty
- Using Bertrand Russell’s own logic
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