Friday, December 30, 2011

Adopted as Sons, not Daughters

Here is yet another reason to translate what the Scripture actually says, not what we think it ought to say according to current ideology. Speaking of the biblical teaching on adoption, Robert Letham writes,

The current tendency, influenced by the pressure of gender-inclusive language, to refer to believers as "sons and daughter" of God is misleading, blurs this vital truth, and has the effect of blunting the church's appreciation of what union with Christ entails. Jesus Christ is the Son of the Father, and is so eternally; that is his name and that is his status. It is not a sexual term, for God is not a sexual being. By referring to Christian believers as "sons," the NT is not, under the influence of patriarchal culture, bypassing half the human race. Instead, it is pointing to our shared status with the Son of the father, in and by the Holy Spirit. The introduction of talk of "daughters" obscures this point, placed at the hub of the Christian life.

Union with Christ, 54, fn. 19

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

That They May All Be One

Christ prayed that all who would believe in him through the message of his apostles would be one. Clearly this has ramifications for how we live with other Christians, beyond our fellow church members. But what are they? How do we even begin to endeavor to maintain the unity produced by the Spirit in our day of ecclesiastical confusion? We will begin the new year with by expending some spiritual sweat grappling with Christ's prayer for his church.

O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing (#69)
Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken (#220)
I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord (#224)
Come, We That Love the Lord (#223)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 21:1-19; Psalm 111
New Testament: Romans 13

That They May All Be One - John 17:20-26

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Insatiable Desires Christward

Andrew Bonar's sketch of Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) presents before our eyes another of that great multitude of whom we ought to "consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith."

His description of himself on one occasion is, "A man often borne down and hungry, and waiting for the marriage supper of the Lamb." He is now gone on to the "mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense;" and there he no doubt still wonders at the unopened, unsearchable treasure of Christ. But oh! for his insatiable desires Christward! Oh! for ten such men in Scotland to stand in the gap! - men who all day long find nothing but Christ to rest in, whose very sleep is a pursuing after Christ in dreams, and who intensely desire to "awake with His likeness."

The Letters of Samuel Rutherford, ed. Frank E. Gabelein

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Seek the Lord

Come now, insignificant man, fly for a moment from your affairs, escape for a little while from the tumult of your thoughts. Put aside now your weighty cares and leave your wearisome toils. Abandon yourself for a little while to God and rest for a little while in Him. Enter into the inner chamber of your soul, shut out everything save God and what can be of help in your quest for Him and having locked the door seek Him out. Speak now, my whole heart, speak now to God: 'I seek Your countenance, O Lord, Your countenance I seek.'

Anselm, "Proslogion" in The Major Works, 84.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Proving the Fulness of Sin and the Grace of God

No proof of the fulness of sin, after all, is so overwhelming and unanswerable as the cross and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and the whole doctrine of His substitution and atonement. Terribly black must that guilt be for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction. Heavy must that weight of human sin be which made Jesus groan and sweat drops of blood in agony at Gethsemane and cry at Golgotha, 'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?' (Matt 27:46). Nothing, I am convinced, will astonish us so much, when we awake in the resurrection day, as the view we shall have of sin and the retrospect we shall take of our own countless shortcomings and defects. Never till the hour when Christ comes the second time shall we fully realize the 'sinfulness of sin.' Well might George Whitefield say, 'The anthem in heaven will be: What hath God wrought!'

J. C. Ryle, Holiness 

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Bible Reading Plans

Do you meditate upon the word of God day and night? His word is his gift to us that we might know him. Prepare now to make 2012 a year of reading the Scriptures faithfully. Here is a blog post which gives several profitable plans for reading the Bible consistently. Read it, and let it challenge you to read the Word.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Friday, December 23, 2011

United for the Cause

The experience of meditating on John 17 is like soaring high in the limitless sky. There is simply no end to the beauty and grandeur of our triune God and his works. One could be quite happy here forever.

But we must also come back to earth to live faithfully according to this beautiful vision, so this Lord's Day we will consider Jesus' prayer that all who believe in him may be one as the Father and the Son are one. Join us! There is no better way to spend Christmas Day.

Angels from the Realms of Glory (#111)
Silent Night! Holy Night! (#109)
Away in a Manger (#112)
Who Is He in Yonder Stall? (#120)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 20; Psalm1
New Testament: Romans 12

United in Love for the Cause - John 17:20-26

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Joy to the World

This coming Lord's Day, we will offer to the Lord a sacrifice of praise for the coming of our Lord. May you be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit as we gather for praise.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Friday, December 09, 2011

God Giving God

Our God is a giving God, and what he supremely gives is himself. How does he do this, and what does it mean for our life in him? Join us this Lord's Day to listen to Jesus pray about these things.

Joy to the World (#92)
The First Noel (#98)
See in Yonder Manger Low (#102)
Angels from the Realms of Glory (#111)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 19; Psalm 68
New Testament: Romans 11:17-36

God Giving God - John 17

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Amusing Ourselves to Death Discussion 7

Chapter 10: Teaching as an Amusing Activity
1.      While using “Sesame Street” as an illustration of contemporary views of education, Postman makes the following observation. “‘Sesame Street’ was entirely consonant with the prevailing spirit of America. Its use of cute puppets, celebrities, catchy tunes, and rapid-fire editing was certain to give pleasure to the children and would therefore serve as adequate preparation for their entry into a fun-loving culture” (142). Are educational structures and forms always oriented toward some end-goal? What is the end-goal of contemporary educational structures and forms? What should Christian education strive toward?

2.      Postman claims “If the classroom now begins to seem a stale and flat environment for learning, the inventors of television itself are to blame, not the Children’s Television Workshop” (143). Do you agree or disagree?

3.      As something of a side note, I must register my agreement (of all things!) with Postman’s quotation from John Dewey: “Collateral learning in the way of formation of enduring attitudes…may be and often is more important than the spelling lesson or lesson in geography or history….For these attitudes are fundamentally what count in the future” (144). How should this influence Christian parents who consider sending their children to public schools? to Christian schools? to homeschool?

4.      Now back to a fundamental point of engagement with this chapter…Postman says that “reading books and watching television differ entirely in what they imply about learning,” and that this “is the primary educational issue in America today” (144-5). What is the primary educational issue in America today from a Christian perspective?

5.      When criticizing education as entertainment, what precisely are we criticizing?

6.      What does Postman posit as the three commandments of television’s philosophy of education (147-8)?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Loving Holiness

Something to consider as we meet together tomorrow.

Have I a real love to holiness? Do I press after it, and earnestly desire to be more holy, using holy ordinances for this end, that I may be made thereby more and more holy? Am I fond of holy ordinances and holy people, and that because they are holy? Have I a real value for holiness wherever I see it? Do I delight in God’s holy word, and that because it is holy? Do I call the holy sabbath a delight, and that because it is holy? Do I love the brethren because they are holy, and love them the better the more holy they are? Do I long to be made perfect in holiness in that other world?

Matthew Henry

Shunning Sentimentality and Pragmatism

Who knew that wisdom could be found in the Huffington Post?

This article isn't the whole fight, but the author lands a hard right hook to the head.

Here is the jist of the article: "God save us from the successful church."

Read it all here.

Friday, December 02, 2011

In, but not Of

Yes, that old "in but not of" again. It seems like a cliche: "Christians are in the world but not of the world." But what did Jesus mean when he prayed, "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world" and "As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world"? We will seek to come to grips with that this Lord's Day.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel (#87)
O Come, All Ye Faithful (#88)
Angels We Have Heard on High (#89)
Once in Royal David's City (#91)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 18; Psalm 7
New Testament: Romans 11:1-16

In the World, No of the World - John 17:6-19

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bible Study Resource

For those who might be interested, I recently published a review of the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. You can read it here.

Amusing Ourselves to Death Discussion 6

Chapter 9: Reach Out and Elect Someone
1.      In this chapter, Postman says that “the fundamental metaphor for political discourse is the television commercial” (126). He wants “to show how it has devastated political discourse." What does he use as his baseline for evaluating not just political discourse but also science and liberal democracy (127)? Or to ask the question from a different angle, what does he see as the source of good political discourse?

2.      Why does the answer to #1 matter?

3.      Aristotle identified three pisteis, or forms of persuasion, in any speech situation: the presentation of the trustworthy character of the speaker, the logical argument set out, and the emotional effect created by the speaker (On Rhetoric, 1.2). Since I assume Postman would accept Aristotle as an authority on these matters, does Postman adequately account for all three means of persuasion?

4.      Postman makes the astute observation that “the television commercial is not at all about the character of products to be consumed. It is about the character of the consumers of products” (128). Later he says that great commercials “provide a slogan, a symbol or a focus that creates for viewers a comprehensive and compelling image of themselves” (135). Is it not true that political leaders have always functioned as visible embodiments of the polis (the city or community)? If so, what is bad about the way commercials structure political discourse?

5.      Augustine said that a community is formed by common agreement on the objects of our love. What do our commercials, as well as our political discourse, tell us about the state of our community? What loves hold us together?

6.      What would a good model of political discourse in America look like? Could commercials have any appropriate function in that kind of discourse?

7.      Postman charges that television is “a medium which presents information in a form that renders it simplistic, nonsubstantive, nonhistorical and noncontextual; that is to say, information packaged as entertainment” (141). Is entertainment necessarily simplistic, nonsubstantive, nonhistorical, and noncontextual? If something is simplistic, nonsubstantive, nonhistorical, and noncontextual, can it even be “information,” much less entertainment? Would it be better to say that television presents a series of dramas or stories? How does this help us in understanding how to critically evaluate television and its effect upon our political discourse?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving, Keeping, Sending

As we read Jesus' prayer for his disciples in John 17, we find that they are caught up into the very work of God. It is an incredible privilege to do the works of God based upon his work for us, and we will learn more of this by listening to Jesus' prayer this Lord's Day.

Praise the Savior (#17)
Rejoice, Believer, in the Lord (#627)
A Sovereign Protector I Have (#615)
How Good Is the God We Adore (#738)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 17; Psalm 114
New Testament: Romans 10:14-21

From Manifestation to Consecration: Knowing God in His Saving Works - John 17:6-19

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It Is Good to Give Thanks

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name,
O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.

For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

Psalm 92:1-4 (ESV)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Week of Remembrance

Every year, during the week of the Thanksgiving holiday, my family and I have a week of remembrance. I want my children to know the mighty acts of God "so that they should set their hope in God" (Psa 78:7). Here is our plan for this year's week of remembrance.

Monday - remembering the mighty acts of God in creation and redemption

Tuesday - remembering the mighty acts of God in our family's history. We particularly like to recount how the Lord saved our children's grandparents and all the blessings which flow to us today because of it.

Wednesday - remembering the mighty acts of God in our family's history (continued)

Thursday - Thanksgiving Day

Friday - remembering the mighty acts of God in 2011

I hope you will have a wonderful time in your homes this week telling the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done (Psa 78:4)!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Living in the Dark Ages of Sound

Enlightenment thinkers made up the label "Dark Ages" to dismiss the European era of Christendom as backwards, superstitious, and unintelligent. The reality is that moderns believe just as many, if not more, cunningly devised fables, and our ignorance can be seen and heard in the cultural artifacts we produce. More dreadfully, our ignorance can be seen and heard in the worship we offer to God.

Two blog posts I read this morning brought this to my attention again, and I commend them both for your consideration. In the first, David de Bruyn considers Richard Weaver's statement, "Unformed expression is ever tending toward ignorance." Without good form in our music, prayers, and preaching, we slouch toward darkness. He concludes:

Beware the people who insist you choose between form and freedom. Good form is freedom. Good form enables freedom. Good form frees us to express ordinate affection. (Read it all here.)

The second post is by Peter Leithart, entitled "How the Church Lost Her Soundscape."  He observes, "Musically, evangelicals are all charismatics now." So he asks, "What ideas, standards, and forces shape liturgical music? And, what does the church’s musical culture say about the church and its future?"

He criticizes the ignorance of contemporary pop music:

Contemporary music arose just as general music education collapsed in our schools. As Ken Myers points out, the church did nothing to fill the gap, apparently content to let advertisers, disk jockeys, the Stones, Steve Jobs, and Madonna provide musical training for Christians, especially young ones. It is no surprise that contemporary worship music takes its cues from commercial pop. No surprise, but surely a concern. Pop music is a relatively new cultural phenomenon with its own set of commercially driven values—accessibility, immediacy, instant gratification, freedom, sex. It has its own, extremely limited, range of musical and emotional possibilities. For all its variety, pop music is dismally monophonic. Transgression is encouraged, so long as it doesn’t get too close to the music. Lady Gaga wears her meat dresses and Rihanna feigns sex on stage, but when the music starts they are both as frothy as Justin Bieber. There can be no Stravinsky of pop music. 

Leithart concludes with this sobering observation:

I can hardly imagine a more worrisome sign of worldliness, or clearer evidence of the church’s identity crisis, than our eager renunciation of our own soundscape and our determination instead to reproduce the world’s.

I hope for a new reformation which will drive out the dark ages of sound we now inhabit.

A Sacrifice of Praise

Would you like to participate in one of the most powerful exhibitions of the Jesus Christ's lordship? It is better than any parade of military muscle, and it is far more effective than any Federal Reserve board meeting. It is when God's people humbly and joyfully gather to declare what he has done to deliver them. Join us this Lord's Day to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving!

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come (#708)
We Plough the Fields and Scatter (#704)
Psalm 95
We Gather Together (#709)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Isaiah 12
New Testament: Romans 15:8-13

A Sacrifice of Praise - Hebrews 13:15

Please remain with us to offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psa 50:14) immediately after the conclusion of our service. Tell us what God has done for your soul!

Following our time of giving thanks, we will all celebrate together with a thanksgiving feast!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Helping Out the Fountain

...whatever right worship is paid to God profits not Him, but man. For no man would say he did a benefit to a fountain by drinking, or to the light by seeing.

Augustine, The City of God, 10.5 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Undiminished Christianity and Unfailing Love

If you have not done so already, I encourage you to read David de Bruyn's series of articles on conservative Christian churches. His conclusion points us to what is always at the heart of a lively and biblical conservatism - Spiritual love.

Pastor de Bruyn begins:

Conservative Christian churches are not eccentric. They believe they are merely consistent in their understanding and application of Christianity. They believe that the Christianity they have received must be passed  on without diminution. Where they differ from many other Christians is that they believe there is more to Christianity than the gospel and a statement of faith. They believe there is such a thing as Christian worship, and they wish to pass this on. They believe Christianity is a life of love and worship, therefore they believe they must preserve and pass on the whole notion of ordinate affection. They believe Christianity must be applied to a continually changing world, therefore they wish to pass on a concern for meaning. They believe they are simply one link on the chain of Christian history, therefore they wish to honor what is truly Christian from the past.

Consequently, he pleads with his fellow pastors, "Love people, not populism." 

A love for people means supplying them with what they need most and what will help them most: an undiminished Christianity. This will mean teaching them things that they may initially reject, or misunderstand, or fail to grasp. It may mean enduring charges of elitism, Gnosticism, or authoritarianism. Yes, many of our people are populists, and expect us to be too. But as any parent knows, love is not merely meeting the expectations of your children all the time. Love is patient, love is kind, love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

At HCBC, we long, by the grace of God, to love too much to be populist. 

Read the whole thing.

Eternal Life

What really is 'eternal life'? Why should I want it?

This Lord's Day we will see how Jesus puts on the spread so we can taste it. Join us.

Crown Him with Many Crowns (#52)
Praise Ye Jehovah (#4)
There Is a Fountain (#267)
Now Thank We All Our God (#5)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 16; Psalm 23
New Testament: Romans 10:1-13

What Is Eternal Life? - John 17:3

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Only Really Happy and Blessed Life

For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker? How could men be reasonable beings if they had no knowledge of the Word and Reason of the Father, through Whom they had received their being? They would be no better than the beasts, had they no knowledge save of earthly things; and why should God have made them at all, if He had not intended them to know Him? But, in fact, the good God has given them a share in His own Image, that is, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and has made even themselves after the same Image and Likeness. Why? Simply in order that through this gift of God-likeness in themselves they may be able to perceive the Image Absolute, that is the Word Himself, and through Him to apprehend the Father; which knowledge of their Maker is for men the only really happy and blessed life.

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, section 11

Church Planting and Renewal Conference

Back on October 20-21, I had the privilege of participating in the Mid-America Conference on Preaching hosted by Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, with the theme of church planting and renewal. All of the recordings and notes from the conference are available here.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A Prayer to Know the Triune God

O Lord our God, we believe in you, Father and Son and Holy Spirit....Directing my attention toward this rule of faith as best I could, as far as you enabled me to, I have sought you and desired to see intellectually what I have believed, and I have argued much and toiled much. O Lord my God, my one hope, listen to me lest out of weariness I should stop wanting to seek you, but let me seek your face always, and with ardor. Do you yourself give me the strength to seek, having caused yourself to be found and having given me the hope of finding you more and more. Before you lies my strength and my weakness; preserve the one, heal the other. Before you lies my knowledge and my ignorance; where you have opened to me, receive me as I come in; where you have shut to me, open to me as I knock. Let me remember you, let me understand you, let me love you. Increase these things in me until you refashion me entirely.

Augustine, The Trinity, 15.51 (translated by Edmund Hill)

A good prayer to pray as we gather tomorrow to consider John 17:1-5.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Deep Grammar

Trinitarianism is the encompassing framework within which all Christian thought takes place and within which Christian confession finds its grounding presuppositions. It is the deep grammar of all the central Christian affirmations.

Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God, 46

God Giving Glory to God

Jesus prayed that his Father would glorify him so that he could glorify the Father. Here is the source of our eternal life.

Holy, Holy, Holy (#3)
All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (#36)
Amazing Grace (#247)
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness (#400)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 15; Psalm 25
New Testament: Romans 9:19-33

God Giving Glory to God - John 17:1-5

Thursday, November 03, 2011

We Say "Amen"

R. C. Sproul has some instructive comments on why we say "Amen" in our corporate worship. He begins,

And all the people said… “Amen!” The “amen corner” has had an important place in the life of the church throughout the ages. However, it is rare to find such a spot among Presbyterians. We are known as God’s frozen chosen for a reason. It has been said that the Methodists like to shout “Fire,” the Baptists like to shout “Water,” and the Presbyterians like to softly say, “Order, order.” Nevertheless, in spite of the idiosyncrasies of various ecclesiastical persuasions, the function of the word amen far transcends denominational usages in the modern era.

Read the whole thing.

Circle of Glory

Do you see the circle of glory revolving among those who are alike? The Son is glorified by the Spirit; the Father is glorified by the Son; again the Son has his glory from the father and the only-begotten thus becomes the glory of the Spirit. For with what shall the Father be glorified but with the true glory of the Son, and with what shall the Son be glorified but with the majesty of the Spirit?

Gregory of Nyssa, On the Holy Spirit (cited by Anatolios, Retrieving Nicaea, 209)

Poetic Power

How can man adequately communicate about God and the depths of spiritual experience? One partial answer is to use poetry, such as the author of Job did.

Robert Alter (The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes) is effusive in his praise of the poetic skill of the author of Job.

The Book of Job is, of course, a theological argument, but it is a theological argument conducted in poetry, and careful attention to the role that poetry plays in the argument may put what is said in a somewhat different light from the one in which it is generally viewed. The debate between Job and his three adversarial friends and then God's climactic speech to Job exhibit three purposefully deployed levels of poetry....(6)

The third--and ultimately decisive--level of poetry in the book is manifested when the Lord addresses Job out of the whirlwind....The poet, having given Job such vividly powerful language for the articulation of his outrage and his anguish, now fashions still greater poetry for God....God's thundering challenge to Job is not bullying. Rather, it rousingly introduces a comprehensive overview of the nature of reality that exposes the limits of Job's human perspective....The vehicle of that overview is an order of poetry created to match the grandeur--or perhaps the omniscience--of God. (9-10)

With God's speech as the climax of the book, the Job poet takes a risk that only a supreme artist confident in his genius could do. He had already created for Job the most extraordinarily powerful poetry to express Job's intolerable anguish and his anger against God. Now, when God finally speaks, the poet fashions for Him still greater poetry, which thus becomes the poetic manifestation of God's transcendent power and also an image-for-image response to the death-wish poem that frames Job's entire argument. (158)

Prose isn't enough. It takes poetry to communicate something of the grandeur and power of our God.

Friday, October 28, 2011

God, Glory, and Giving

As a young man in my teen years, I was privileged to attend church with an elderly saint named Mr. Chodan. I admired his godly wisdom gained through many years of following Christ, and I never tired of listening to him pray. His prayers were never fiery or passionate. No, they were deeper than that. They were quiet, substantive communion with God. Mr. Chodan's example taught me much about knowing God.

But in John 17 we find a prayer that is infinitely deeper than Mr. Chodan's prayers could ever be. Here we listen to God communing with God, and by the Spirit we are drawn into the true knowledge of God which is eternal life. I hope you will join us to listen to this prayer this Lord's Day.

Give to Our God Immortal Praise (#53)
Blessing and Honor (#10)
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing (#69)
Psalm 118b

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 14; Psalm 136
New Testament: Romans 9:1-18

God Giving Glory - John 17:1-5

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tastes in Noise

Every body has their taste in noises as well as in other matters; and sounds are quite innoxious, or most distressing, by their sort rather than their quantity.

Jane Austen opens up another one of her many insights into human nature. We might restate it this way - what we love in our hearts is much more significant to our happiness than the circumstances in which we find ourselves, even when those circumstances are as simple as noise.

Unveiling the Idols

It is fascinating to observe how the underlying paganism of our society is working its way out more and more consistently into our public practices.

On a scholarly level, some advocate re-appropriating the polytheism of Homer's era. These scholars see clearly how enlightenment has brought emptiness, so they advocate a different kind of idolatry.

On a popular level, we are watching the deification of Steve Jobs.

As I was re-reading J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism just a little while ago, I came across something I had forgotten. Machen wrote:

...despite all superficial continuity, a remarkable change has come about within the last seventy-five years. The change is nothing less than the substitution of paganism for Christianity as the dominant view of life. Seventy-five years ago, Western civilization, despite inconsistencies,was still predominantly Christian; to-day it is predominantly pagan.

This work was published in 1923. If Machen was right, and I think he was, then twentieth century America was, at bottom, a pagan society. Her public institutions, practices, and mores have progressively removed the drapery which shrouds her real gods.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Amusing Ourselves to Death Discussion 5

Chapter 8: Shuffle Off to Bethlehem
1.      After watching religious programming on television, Postman came to two conclusions (116-7). What are they?

2.      What characteristics of television make authentic religious experience impossible via television broadcasts, according to Postman (118-21)? Do the same criticisms apply to radio broadcasts or live streaming videos of preachers in multi-site churches?

3.      Is Postman correct when he says “It is an essential condition of any traditional religious service that the space in which it is conducted must be invested with some measure of sacrality” (118-9)? Why or why not?

4.      Why does Postman think that televised religion has a strong tendency toward idolatry (122-3)?

5.      “I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion,” Postman writes. “When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether” (121). What Scriptures would support his belief?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Real Discipleship in the Home

Overheard this morning in the next room:

And so we can see that God always provides for his people.

A split-second later:

M----, go get on the potty!

I love family life and homeschooling.

Coming from Nowhere and Going Nowhere in Particular

That about sums up the view of mankind working through Western society for the past few centuries. Charles Taylor says that the “Modern Moral Order”
“…starts with individuals, and doesn’t see these as set a priori within a hierarchical order, outside of which they wouldn’t be fully human agents. Its members are not agents who are essentially embedded within a society which in turn reflects and connects with the cosmos, but rather disembedded individuals who come to associate together. The design underlying the association is that each, in pursuing his or her own purposes in life, act to benefit others mutually. It calls for a society structured for mutual benefit, in which each respects the rights of others, and offers them mutual help of certain kinds” (A Secular Age [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007], 447).
The gospel changes all of that.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Only Form of Sexual Union

The only remaining safeguards of family life in modern urban civilization are its social prestige and the sanctions of moral and religious tradition. Marriage is still the only form of sexual union which is openly tolerated by society....But if we accept the principles of the new morality, this last safeguard will be destroyed and the forces of dissolution will be allowed to operate unchecked.

Christopher Dawson, "The Patriarchal Family in History" - 1933

And what is the cardinal weapon that in our day is being deployed against the gospel of triune grace? It is sexual confusion. It is sexual brinksmanship. It is sexual accommodation. It is sexual grammar parsing. And whatever else it is, it is now upon us.

Douglas Wilson, "Cardinal Sexuality" - 2011

The historian Dawson was concerned about the decline of our society; our concern, though related, is more radical. It is a concern about the gospel and the right relationship of men to God. God created male and female and established the only form of sexual union precisely to point men to the wonder of his relationship with his church (Eph 5:32). The diabolical attack upon the only form of sexual union is an attack upon the gospel and the core truths of Christianity.

Who Are They?

Pastor Bryan Brock of Lifepoint Baptist Church, applying Hebrews 13:17:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

"Who is the 'them' and 'they' in your life?"

"It could be argued that active church membership in good standing was one of the best NT tests of genuine Christianity."

The Gospel News Is Sounding

We welcome you to join us this Lord's Day as we rejoice in the spread of the good news of Jesus around the world.

Salvation! O My Soul Rejoice! (#291)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (#137)
From Depths of Woe (#337)
Hark! the Gospel News Is Sounding (#293)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 13; Psalm 114
New Testament: Romans 8:18-39


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Proverbs on Education

What is the message of Proverbs concerning education and learning?

In the final analysis Proverbs is a book of education. It is the textbook of Israelite paideia (Greek, "education"). What is the Hebrew ideal of education?...

First, Proverbs does not subordinate the education of the individual to the needs of the state. This is remarkably different from the later Greek paideia. For the Greeks devotion to the polis ("state") was a fundamental element of education....In Proverbs, however, such notions scarcely surface at all. Patriotism is not regarded as evil, but no attempt is made to glorify Israelite culture. Instead, everything is subordinated to the Israelite God. If God is honored, all will be well with the state; if he is not, things will not go well....

Second, Israelite wisdom does not promote any particular occupation or trade. This contrasts with Egyptian instructional literature....

Third, education is primarily the task of parents. The family is the first and best school (Deut 6:4-9). The son is exhorted o heed his mother and father (23:22-25), and the parents are commanded to invest time and attention in their children (29:15, 17).

Finally, biblical wisdom stresses the limitations of human knowledge. The gulf between human perception and divine reality is never really closed....The learned must never forget their limitations (30:2-4) and that they are prone to error and conceit. Above all, they must subordinate their quest to the Word of God. For "every word of God is flawless" (30:5).

Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (NAC), 57, 59

P.S. Those in our seminar on the wisdom literature in the Bible may be interested in this post, "What is Hebrew Poetry?"

Friday, October 14, 2011

Songs and Scripture for the Coming Lord's Day

Christ, the Lord, Is Risen Today (#156)
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness (#400)
It Is Well with My Soul (#371)
May the Mind of Christ My Savior (#476)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 12:28-51; Psalm 135
New Testament: Romans 8:1-17

Returning to the Father so that You May Have Peace - John 16:25-33

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Amusing Ourselves to Death Discussion 4

Chapter 6: The Age of Show Business
1.      As he begins the second section of the book, Postman states the questions which the rest of the book will address. What are they (84)? Keep these questions in mind as you read.

2.      What distinction does Postman make between technology and a medium (84)?

3.      “It is possible,” Postman writes, “for a technology to be so used that its potentialities are prevented from developing and its social consequences kept to a minimum” (85). He then goes on to say, “But in America, this has not been the case. Television has found in liberal democracy and a relatively free market economy a nurturing climate in which its full potentialities as a technology of images could be exploited” (86). Assuming Postman’s point for the sake of argument, does this mean that the greater problem we face is “liberal democracy and a relatively free market”? If we reformed these problems, would television as a medium convey a different meaning?

4.      “Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on television” (87). Agree or disagree? Two further thought questions. Is entertainment bound to be the ruling ideology of television, as such? Is entertainment bound to be the ruling ideology of television in America?

5.      Would it be accurate to make this charge: “Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on radio”? Or, “Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse in news magazines”?

6.      Postman says, “I do not say categorically that it is impossible to use television as a carrier of coherent language or thought in process….After all, it is not unheard of that a format will occasionally go against the bias of its medium” (91). But he goes on to state, “But this is not television at its best, and it is not television that most people will choose to watch” (92). Does this mean that the greater problem we face is what most people want to watch?

7.      “How television stages the world becomes the model for how the world is properly to be staged” (92). Would it be more accurate to say that how producers stage the world using television’s inherent qualities becomes the model for how the world is properly to be staged? Is this what Postman means? What difference does it make?

8.      Most would agree that “our culture has moved toward a new way of conducting its business, especially its important business. The nature of its discourse is changing as the demarcation line between what is show business and what is not becomes harder to see with each passing day” (97-8). What would you suggest is the source of this shift in our society?

Chapter 7: “Now…This”
1.      I think it is evident by now that this book forces us to meditate upon our human nature as much as it does upon the nature of television. What fundamental presuppositions do we as Christians bring to the table regarding human nature?

2.      Does the format of the typical television newscast communicate that the world “has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously” (99)? Do the constant interruptions of commercials render the news “banal” (104)?

3.      Is the following true in all forms of communication? “The perception of the truth of a report rests heavily on the acceptability of the newscaster” (101). Is it wrong for our perception of truth to be influenced by the messenger? Also, does television make us rely more heavily on this perception?

4.      “What has music to do with the news? Why is it there?” (102).

5.      How do we combat “disinformation” (107)?

6.      Postman says that “television is the paradigm for our conception of public information” (111). Does the growing influence of the internet and devices such as the iPhone change this? If so, in what way?

7.      What does the book of Ecclesiastes have to say about what Postman is wrestling with in this chapter?

Friday, October 07, 2011

Sorrow and Joy

Although the church marches on through suffering in this present world, she is already partaking of the blessing and fullness of true life that comes from Jesus. We will reach for that joy this Lord's Day, as we call on the heavens and the earth to join us in our jubilation.

Behold, this is our God;
 We have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord;
  We have waited for him;
Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation! (Isaiah 25:9)

Joy to the World (#92)
Psalm 100
God Is the Treasure of My Soul (#632)
Rejoice, the Lord Is King (#13)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 12:1-17; Psalm 81
New Testament: Romans 7

No One Will Take Your Joy Away from You: Living in the Joy of the Resurrected Christ - John 16:16-24

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Amusing Ourselves to Death Discussion 3

Chapter 5: The Peek-a-Boo World
1.      Postman argues that in the middle of the nineteenth century two ideas came together which formed a new metaphor for public discourse. What are those two ideas?

2.      Do you agree with Postman that telegraphy “destroyed the prevailing definition of information, and in doing so gave a new meaning to public discourse” (65)? Why or why not?

3.      Postman asserts that “information derives its importance from the possibilities of action” (68). Is this true? Can you think of counter-examples which do not fit his assertion? What is the danger of this viewpoint?

4.      What is the real value of information measured by?

5.      Christ taught us to not needlessly multiply words (Matt 5:33-37). Do we debase our cultural conversation simply by the sheer volume of talk?

Friday, September 30, 2011


While on vacation recently, my family and I went up into the Routt National Forrest near the Flat Tops Wilderness, the second largest wilderness area in the state. Due to the ages of our younger children, we did not push too far off-road. Nevertheless, just touching that vast and rugged wilderness was enough to make one keenly sensible that you must be aware of where you are at, at all times. Getting lost there, especially in the winter, can be a life or death matter.

Following Christ and accomplishing his mission can sometimes feel like wandering through a wilderness area. Thankfully, we have a guide, the Spirit of truth, who will lead us in all the truth. Join us this Lord's Day to follow his leading.

Call Jehovah Thy Salvation (#499)
All the Way My Savior Leads Me (#494)
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (#495)
Thou Sweet Beloved Will of God (#528)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 11; Psalm 109
New Testament: Romans 6:15-23

Guidance in All the Truth - John 16:12-15

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Amusing Ourselves to Death Discussion 2

Chapter 2: Media as Epistemology
1.      Postman opens this chapter with a clear statement of what he hopes to show in his book. What is it?

2.      Postman says, “Television is at its most trivial and, therefore, most dangerous when its aspirations are high, when it presents itself as a carrier of important cultural conversations” (16). Do you agree? Why or why not?

3.      Epistemology is concerned with knowledge and belief and truth. For example, we have epistemological concerns when we wonder, “What sources of knowledge can I trust? When am I justified in believing that I know the truth?” Why does Postman bring up epistemology? What does he want to show (17)?

4.      Postman writes, “Whatever the original and limited context of its use may have been, a medium has the power to fly far beyond that context into new and unexpected ones. Because of the way it directs us to organize our minds and integrate our experience of the world, it imposes itself on our consciousness and social institutions in myriad forms” (18). Why is this true from a Christian perspective? What is fundamental to a Christian worldview which explains why we always think and communicate in metaphors?

5.      Is it true that our media forms define truth for us (17, 18)?

6.      Postman denies epistemological relativism, yet he says, “Truth, like time itself, is a product of a conversation man has with himself about and through the techniques of communication he has invented” (24). Is he consistent?

7.      What is truth?

Chapters 3&4: Typographic America and The Typographic Mind
1.      Postman credits the Enlightenment for the character of American thinking in the nineteenth century (47). He also says, “It is no accident that the Age of Reason was coexistent with the growth of a print culture” (51). Do you think his historical connection is appropriate?

2.      Postman puts forward religion and law as examples of the essentially rational character of early American discourse, which he calls the “Age of Exposition.” He also says that advertising followed this basic model of discourse. When does he say that the change in advertising began (59)?

3.      Is rational, dispassionate, abstract, and objective knowledge the best way to find the truth?

Ministry Is a Verb

Last Friday I attended a local conference on ministering to military personnel and their families. I figured I could glean a few insights and also scope out the lay of the land in contemporary military ministry. Thankfully, I was able to accomplish both of those objectives.

However, two other observations struck themselves like darts into my mind while at the conference. The first was that the military co-opts the church for its own purposes. This underlying premise seemed to be shared by every speaker I heard, Christian or non-Christian, military or civilian. I heard nothing about sin, righteousness, and judgment. I did not hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. I did not hear that Jesus is Lord and that all men, including those in the U.S. military, must bow the knee to him. I certainly did not hear that allegiance to Christ was far more important eternally than allegiance to America. I did hear, repeatedly, how churches can help military personnel and their families in order to have a strong fighting force. It's not about seeking first the kingdom of God; it is about seeking the kingdom of America. This is civil religion with a vengeance. But I'll have to deal with that more at a later time. This post is prompted by the second observation.

The second observation was that "ministry" was treated as a noun and not as a verb. In other words, "ministry" was considered a thing that churches and Christians provide for military personnel. In this sense, it is a product. It can be packaged, programmed, and even marketed. "A" ministry is completely separable from any particular people, their wisdom, love, and Christian character. This view of ministry, of course, is not unique to this conference. It is precisely the view of ministry that prevails amongst Christians in this nation, so it is not surprising that the conference reflected it. This view of ministry also fits neatly with the first observation mentioned above. The military views churches as producers who provide a product that they are happy to have their soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines consume. They are happy to have them consume this product because they see that it yields more stable families, less destructive behavior, and an all-around happier life for their personnel.

Ministry, however, is first and foremost a verb. It is something that people do. It is inseparable from those who perform it, including their Christian maturity and character. It is not a product that can be marketed. The church is not a factory which produces a nice little product called 'spirituality' which people can consume in order to make their lives and families better. It is decidedly not a factory producing a product to keep the military humming along in top condition.

Pastor David Doran recently addressed this same problem with a post aimed at local church life. He writes:

Ministry is not a position; it’s an action. You don’t really “have” a ministry; you minister. A healthy congregation is not built by organizational charts and job descriptions. It develops as God’s people engage themselves is serving Him by using their God-given gifts for the benefit of the Body (Eph 4:11-16). That text highlights spiritual maturity and mutual ministry, not organizational efficiency. Sound doctrine and godly relationships are God’s priorities.

He also gives an example of the 'institutional' mindset of ministry.

That the institutional mindset has crept into the church is most clearly evident by the way people think about going to church (and I’m tempted to put those last three words in quotes because the phrase itself reflects the problem). Let me illustrate. A friend tells you he is going up north for the weekend and you ask about missing church. His reply: “Because someone else is covering my [insert normal ministry designation] this Sunday, I’m not doing anything, so there’s no problem with me skipping this weekend.” Do you see what has happened here? Serving Christ in the church has been reduced to fulfilling a task or role within a program.

This view of ministry is tempting because it does not require a commitment of covenant love. I don't have to give my life to real people in a real place. I just have to do my job, and I am free from all the baggage of love. As long as my program works well (and working well is usually defined statistically), I can have a sense of accomplishment. I have 'served the Lord' with my life by running the program. But biblical ministry, Christ-like ministry, is at its core a giving of my life for the sake of others so that they may know the Lord. It is love that leads me to lay down my 'freedom' to skip church so that I can serve my Lord by serving his people.

Ministry is love. Ministry is service. Ministry is a verb.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

For the Love of the World

The world is an old whore, desperately deceiving and being deceived, destroying and being destroyed, and she will be judged.

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Therein lies the paradox of the Christian's relationship to the world. Join us this Lord's Day to be in the world but not of it.

Now Thank We All Our God (#5)
God Loved the World (#244)
May the Mind of Christ My Savior (#476)
Rejoice, Believer, in the Lord (#627)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 8; Psalm 78:23-55
New Testament: Romans 5:1-11

For the Love of the World - The Gospel of John

Friday, September 09, 2011

Ears Wide Open

Nancy Leigh Demoss gives some good pointers on how to listen to preaching. She asks,

Do you ever find yourself . . .
• waking up on Sunday morning and wishing you didn’t have to go to church?
• having a hard time staying awake in church?
• daydreaming during the message, or making a mental “to-do” list while the pastor is preaching?
• picking apart the message or the preacher in your mind or not getting anything out of the sermon?
• wishing your pastor would be more _____?
• forgetting what the message was about before you get home from church?

How can you prepare your heart to get the most out of your pastor’s preaching?

You can read it all here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

And for Us

This is a lesson that all churches need to learn continually.

"A Lesson from Marx for the SBC"

Amusing Ourselves to Death Discussion

For those who cannot make it to our discussion group, yet would like to follow along as much as possible, I will post study questions from the book Amusing Ourselves to Death.

(Note that all page number refer to the original edition.)

1.      AOD was first published in 1985. Who was the president at that time? What was the cultural mood?

2.      Postman refers back to two novels which imagined the future of our civilization. What are they?

3.      What was Orwell’s vision of the future?

4.      What was Huxley’s vision of the future?

5.      Postman’s book lends its support to which vision?

Chapter 1
1.      Postman’s book focuses on the forms of human conversation and argues that “how we are obliged to conduct such conversations will have the strongest possible influence on what ideas we can conveniently express. And what ideas are convenient to express inevitably become the important content of a culture” (6). Do you find this initially plausible? Why or why not?

2.      Where did Postman first get the idea that “forms of media favor particular kinds of content and are therefore capable of taking command of a culture” (9)?

3.      Postman suggests that perhaps Moses should have added the commandment, “Thou shalt not make mechanical representations of time” (12). Why is it significant to our Christian view of communication that Moses did not include such a command?

4.      What does Postman mean by saying that “a medium is a metaphor” (10-14)?

5.      Do you believe Postman when he says, “We do not see nature or intelligence or human motivation or ideology as ‘it’ is but only as our languages are. And our languages are our media. Our media are our metaphors. Our metaphors create the content of our culture” (15)?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Guilty As Charged

Did you know that there is one prosecuting attorney who infallibly proves his case? He is the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. This old world system in which we live constantly protests its innocence, but there is no way to get around the verdict.

But now you must ask yourself, "Do I know how the world is guilty?" Many professing followers of Christ seem quite unaware of how the world is guilty, and so they have difficulty discerning worldliness even when it is staring them in the face. In order to perceive the world's guilt, join us this Lord's Day.

God Himself Is Present
The Holy Ghost Is Here (#203; Tune: St. Thomas)
Eternal Spirit! Praise We Bring (#207)
Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove (#211)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 6:28-7:25; Psalm 78:1-22
New Testament: Romans 4:13-25

The World Stands Convicted - John 16:4-11

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Not Sub-Christian Praying

The language of these imprecatory psalms is harsh (dashed heads against rock, broken teeth, etc.), but it is justly fierce, corresponding to the depth of wickedness displayed by those who would join the serpent against God.

And in a footnote,

Appeals for and celebrations of God's judgment in the Psalms are not 'less than Christian'..., as any reader of the book of Revelation can see. In fact, descriptions of the horrifying terror of the coming judgment are merciful warnings that invite the wicked to repent, and they glorify God who will demonstrate his wrath and make known his power (Rom 9:22).

James Hamilton, God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 288-89.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dry Off and Get to Work

After Jesus douses us with the sober truth that the world hates us, what do we do? We could sit there and cry about it, but that would only make us wetter. Worse than that, it would lead us to fall away from Christ. Instead, we should recognize that Christ has us in enemy territory for a purpose. We are to testify about Christ. Let's dry off and get to work.

We Gather Together (#709)
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness (#400)
Our Great Savior (#434)
Lord, How Delightful (#726)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 6:1-27; Psalm 90
New Testament: Romans 4:1-12

Testifying in Enemy Territory - John 15:26-16:4

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Someone Who Gets It!

In our day of Styrofoam wafer Christianity, it sure is refreshing to come across someone who understands the issues at stake in our practice of the Lord's Supper. Russell Moore writes:

Too often in our contemporary Evangelical church culture, the act of barring a member from the table seems quaint or even meaningless. After all, who really cares if he is deprived of a wafer and a splash of grape juice?

Sometimes Christians in other traditions assume that all low-church Protestants take this kind of view, but that’s simply not the case. While disagreeing with the sacerdotal theologies of many of the older traditions, Baptists (before we were to this extent washed up in the riptide of parachurch Evangelicalism) shared with other Christians a common conviction that the Lord’s Table is a place of profound gravity—much more than the kind of “communion” we might have with the Lord and with one another while talking about the Holy Spirit over coffee and doughnuts.

This is why many low-church Protestants have shared historically with their high-church brothers and sisters the conviction that the Supper must be tied to discipline (1 Cor. 5:11). The table is not just an individual reminder of the gospel; it is the very locus of church fellowship, the place where we experience Christ present in proclamation and in one another. It is here that we experience a foretaste of the wedding supper to come, and where we announce those we hold accountable to struggle with us until then. The church is “recognizing the body” of Christ (1 Cor. 11:29) by defining the boundaries of communion at the table in terms of those who are in union with Christ and who are able, should they deny him, to be disciplined.

You can read the whole thing here. It seems as though so many of my Baptist, Presbyterian, and Bible church brothers look at me with blank stares when I talk about these things. We can't even have a meaningful disagreement because they assume that Lord's Supper has as much significance to Christianity as a Jesus t-shirt. They both proclaim Jesus, right? And aren't my personal thoughts of Jesus what the Supper is all about? And after all, it is the gospel that matters, not how we choose to portray it. Why should it matter who we allow to the Supper?
No, no, no, my friends. "It is the very locus of church fellowship."

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Bucket of Ice Water

In a violent contrast, Jesus moves from telling his followers to abide in his love to saying that the world will hate his followers. Its the bracing kind of statement that feels like you have just had a bucket of ice water thrown in your face. But it is just what we need if we are going to follow him and accomplish his mission. Join us this Lord's Day for a bucket of cold water in the face.

Call Jehovah Thy Salvation (#499)
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (#588)
He Who Would Valiant Be (#507)
How Firm a Foundation (#610)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 5; Psalm 105
New Testament: Romans 3:19-31

The World Will Hate You - John 15:18-25

P.S. Don't forget the afternoon picnic.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How to Show Biblical Love to One Another

Since we have talked quite a bit lately about Christ's command to love one another, I found this post helpful:

37 Ways to Love One Another.

I'm grateful for biblical direction to stir me up to love and good works.


I know that not many people in our church have much to do with Mark Driscoll...and that's a good thing. However, given the realities of technology today, I would be naive to think that you won't come across his teaching somewhere. Some of his teaching is biblical, but you need to be aware of his clearly unbiblical and degraded teachings, as well. Phil Johnson has done us a service by demonstrating how ridiculously unbiblical and obscene Driscoll can be. It's sad that Phil even has to document such things, and it's even worse that so many evangelical leaders refuse to deal with the issue.

The pastoral epistles show clearly how men can go astray in their practice as much as in their teachings. It will not do to defend Driscoll on the grounds that he has some good theology. If he cannot understand why filthy talk has no place in his life (Eph 5:12), then he fails the Scriptural qualifications for an overseer (1 Tim 3:2 - "above reproach," "self-controlled," "sober-minded," "respectable"). All who hunger and thirst after righteousness ought to steer well clear of his degrading ministry (1 Cor 15:33).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dwelling in Christ's Love

How do you make the love of Christ your true home? Jesus tells us to "abide in him." Join us this Lord's Day to seek that true home.

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (#243)
I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say (Kingsfold)
Psalm 23b
Jesus Love Me (#719)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 4; Psalm 82
New Testament: Romans 3:1-18

Dwelling in Christ's Love - John 15:1-17

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just Sentiments

The right defense against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.

C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 14.

Eating Our Hearts Out

The riots in England are but another example of how Western societies are consuming themselves from within. The cancer has eaten out our souls. May the true churches of our day proclaim boldly, "You must be born again!"

Update: This article by Mike Ovey assesses the situation well.


Charles Taylor on the meaning of the term "secular" in the West.

And so the history of this term “secular” in the West is complex and ambiguous. It starts off as one term in a dyad that distinguishes two dimensions of existence, identifying them by the particular type of time that is essential to each. But from the foundation of this clear distinction between the immanent and the transcendent, there develops another dyad, in which “secular” refers to what pertains to a self-sufficient, immanent sphere and is contrasted with what relates to the transcendent realm (often identified as “religious”). This binary can then undergo a further mutation, via a denial of the transcendent level, into a dyad in which one term refers to the real (“secular”), and the other refers to what is merely invented (“religious”); or where “secular” refers to the institutions we really require to live in “this world,” and “religious” or “ecclesial” refers to optional accessories, which often disturb the course of this-worldly life.

Through this double mutation, the dyad itself is profoundly transformed; in the first case, both sides are real and indispensable dimensions of life and society. The dyad is thus “internal,” in the sense that each term is impossible without the other, like right and left or up and down. After the mutations, the dyad becomes “external”; secular and religious are opposed as true and false or necessary and superfluous. The goal of policy becomes, in many cases, to abolish one while conserving the other.

In conjunction with this, I read Ralph C. Wood's discussion of Flannery O'Connor's insights into American religion.

Yet for all of O'Connor's commonality with the major modern writers, there is also a huge difference: she does not secularize the spiritual. Salvation and damnation are, for her, more than inward states of subjective consciousness; they are objective states of both our immediate existence and our final destiny. The secularizing of the spiritual - at least from Hegel forward - has been one of the most serious mistakes of modernity....That late modern men and women of the West have failed to discern the concrete operations of both the divine and the demonic is largely the church's fault.

Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 156-7.