Wednesday, July 26, 2017

From Lewis's Pen: On Forgiveness

From the essay "On Forgiveness" as published in The Weight of Glory.

·         If you had a perfect excuse you would not need forgiveness: if the whole of your action needs forgiveness then there was no excuse for it. But the trouble is that what we call “asking God’s forgiveness” very often really consists in asking God to accept our excuses. What leads us into this mistake is the fact that there usually is some amount of excuse, some “extenuating circumstances.” We are so very anxious to point these out to God (and to ourselves) that we are apt to forget the really important thing; that is, the bit left over, the bit which the excuses don’t cover, the bit which is inexcusable but not, thank God, unforgivable. And if we forget this, we shall go away imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves with our own excuses. They may be very bad excuses; we are all too easily satisfied about ourselves.

. . . What we have got to take to him is the inexcusable bit, the sin. We are only wasting time by talking about all the parts which can (we think) be excused. When you go to a doctor you show him the bit of you that is wrong – say, a broken arm. It would be a mere waste of time to keep on explaining that your legs and eyes and throat are all right. You may be mistaken in thinking so, and anyway, if they are really all right, the doctor will know that.

All Around the Web - July 26, 2017

Joe Carter - Should We Encourage Sterilization of Prisoners?

Carl Trueman - The Church of England’s Nietzschean Proposal

Willima Lane Craig - Must a Biblical Doctrine of the Atonement Comprise Penal Substitution?

GetReligion - Race and Southern Baptists II: Why not cover the national meeting of black SBC leaders?

Tim Keller - 3 Wrong Ways to View the City

Sam Storms - 10 Things You Should Know About Augustine

Evangelical History - What Andrew Jackson Could Teach Donald Trump about Religion

Tim Challies - A Quick Fix for Low Self-Esteem

Chuck Lawless - 8 Ways to Respond to Spiritual Attack

Timothy Paul Jones: Rome Burned But Nero Never Fiddled

Babylon Bee - Feminist Dismisses Bible As ‘Godsplaining’

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire

Our heroes have made it out of the dark mountain. Gandalf and the dwarves have escaped the goblins while Bilbo has finally escaped Gollum. Now they begin their journey together again . . . or so they think. It doesn't take long before, having survived the frying-pan, they jump right into the fire.

We see early in the chapter Bilbo learning to use the ring to his advantage. For the first time he is earning the respect of the dwarves. Up to this point, the dwarves have considered him to be a burden and distraction. They all doubt Gandalf's wisdom in inviting Bilbo to join them. But coming out of the goblin-infested mountains changed all of that.

While the fellowship still must battle with the goblins, the threat of the mountains is largely behind them. What is before them is the world of the wild and it will dominate their adventure for the next few chapters. The first threat in the wild (beside the hunting goblins of course) are the wolves. "There were no wolves living near Mr Baggins' hole at home," Tolkien tells us, but Bilbo "knew that noise." (91) We all do. The problem for Bilbo, however, is that
Even magic rings are not much use against wolves - especially against the evil packs that lived under the shadow of the goblin-infested mountains, over the Edge of the Wild on the borders of the unknown. Wolves of that sort smell keener than goblins, and do not need to see you to catch you! (91)

Gandalf leads the fellowship to find shelter in the top of trees - a place where the wargs cannot get them. The problem, of course, is the the wolves are waiting to meet the goblins who are mourning the death of their chieftain. Gandalf knows that once they arrive, they are in serious danger.

It is here we meet the eagles who become important characters later in the story and in the Lord of the Rings. As has been the pattern of the last two chapters, I wonder if we are expected to compare the wargs and the eagles. Both are wild creatures and both have opposite dealings with the goblins. The wargs cannot reach the fellowship in the trees, but that is no challenge for the eagles. To the wargs, an enemy of the goblins must be an enemy of the wargs. To the eagles, an enemy of the goblins must be friends of the eagles. Neither the wargs or the eagles are kind, but the latter are not unjust. Finally, food becomes a literary tool. In the goblin song while the fellowship are stuck in the trees, the goblins suggest they are going to eat "the birds" (a metaphor for Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves). Later, while in the company of the eagles, the company eat to the full.

The wild, then, is a place of adventure. None of it is safe, even among those who are good. The same could be said of the next character they meet: Beorn.

The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - An Unexpected Party
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Roast Mutton
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - A Short Rest
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Over Hill and Under Hill"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Riddles in the Dark
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Queer Lodgings
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Flies and Spiders
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Barrels Out of Bond
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - A Warm Welcome
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - On the Doorstep
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Inside Information
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Not at Home
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Fire and Water
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Gathering of the Clouds
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - A Thief in the Night
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Clouds Burst
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - Return Journey
"The Hobbit": Blogging Through Tolkien's Classic - The Last Stage

For more:
"The Hobbit" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
A Few Thoughts on The Battle of the Five Armies
"The Fellowship of the Ring" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Two Towers" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Return of the King" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
Longing for Eden: Tolkien's Insight into the Longing of Every Human Soul
An Encouraging Thought: Gandalf on Providence
How to Read J. R. R. Tolkien
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Dramatized Audio
"Beyond The Movie": A National Geographic Documentary on the Lord of the Rings   

All Around the Web - July 25, 2017

Merer Orthodoxy - Gotta Serve Somebody

Resurgent - “Tolerance” : LGBT Kingpin Brags About Punishing ‘Wicked’ Christians

American Conservative - Jesus Shrugged: What if Christian organizations just went on strike?

Church Tech Today -  5 Common Myths About Mobile Giving

Kevin DeYoung - Why I Love the Evening Service (And You Can Too)

Chuck Lawless - 10 Signs that Your Pastor Needs Prayer

Baptist Press - Survey: Good deeds by Christians often go unseen

Gospel Coalition - Remember the Rural: Does Modern Church Planting Overemphasize the City?

Evangelical History - The Banner of Truth Trust Turns 60 Years Old

Business Insider - Why you should never add two spaces after a period

Babylon Bee - Joel Osteen Cuts Self While Attempting To Rightly Divide Word

Monday, July 24, 2017

"The Happiness Effect" by Donna Freitas: A Review

And soon, growing up online will be all anyone knows.

But this generation is the test generation, the one that faces working out all the kinks and complications, while we - their parents, coaches, teachers, mentors, professors, admissions officers, bosses, and future employers - are likewise faced with helping them through this massive cultural shift as best we can.

What I have called the happiness effect throughout this book - the requirement to appear happy on social media regardless of what a person actually feels - is an effect of our own making. We are the ones who have created this problem. Young adults have internalized the lesson that if you can't say something happy, you shouldn't say anything at all, even if you feel despair, dismay, anger, or any number of other emotions common to human experience, from us. We have burdened them by obsessing about how people in power might react when confronted with evidence that sometimes we are silly, do stupid things, get angry, say something dumb, appear less than perfect, and maybe even drink a beer before we turn twenty-one. This lesson on our part is obviously well-intended and, at least on its surface, sounds like excellent, rational advice. But the consequences are disturbing. Posting on social media for so many young adults means pretending one's true feelings are not really there; it requires hiding them and, ostensibly, lying for the sake of one's audience. Because of this, most of what anyone ever sees on social media are gleeful timelines of joy and accomplishment - the highlight reel. This can make anyone who isn't blissfully happy all the time feel even worse.

And none of us are immune to this part of the happiness effect - not really. No matter what age we are. (252)

We are officially living in a digital age. It is a revolution of sorts. The world we live in today is nothing like the world of two decades ago. The average citizen has access to more information in their pocket than any generation previously. This digital age, still in its infancy, is a real challenge and we are still waiting to see what the long term affects will be. For this reason, I was interested in the book The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost by Donna Freitas.

The thesis of the book is straightforward and made clear in the title and subtitle. The digital generation lives online and as a result feel pressure to be happy all the time. The reason is simple. Everyone online appears happy which reinforces the pressure to present oneself as happy. It is a vicious cycle and given the threat of cyberbullying, sexting, anonymous gossip sites, etc., the pressure continues to mount.

Much of the authors argument is based off of a survey done among mostly college students as well as personal interviews that are focus of the book. As such, the book provides great insight into the minds the average college student that has largely grown up in this digital age. The author explores the dominant social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YikYak, Instagram, Snapchat, and others. What makes these sites popular is different from the others, yet what unites them is this need to give the allusion that we are happy.

In other words, our online world is filtered but the real world is not. The digital generation has realized that what they post online could be used negatively against them by future employers, spouses, children, and others. As such their only online options are anonymity (which leads us down a dark path) and fantasy.

What is most striking about the book, at least to me, is how this is a a retelling of an old story. The author notes near the end that humans have always filtered out the bad for the good (though she notes that the digital age documents every moment unlike previous generations). This need to hide our discontentment is not new, it is as old as Eden's Fall.

The pastor in me, however, draws me to two conclusions. First, this pursuit for happiness is vanity in the tradition of Ecclesiastes. Happiness can not be faked nor can it be portrayed by an Instagram filter or discovered on Pinterests. The interviews made this point abundantly clear. Whether the students were fighting social justice from the comfort of their local coffee shop or guarding their online reputations, what they are looking for is vanity. We cannot live bifurcated lives as our online lives do not reflect reality.

Secondly, contentment is found exclusively in Christ, not in filtered images or in status updates. We used to keep up with the Jones's, now we seem to be doing the same with our online selves. The book discussed happiness and rightly so. Happiness is the best we might obtain on earth apart from Christ, but that is largely a vain enterprise. Only Christ gives us joy and that joy is not based off of likes or retweets.

What will become of the digital age remains to be seen but I am confident that its challenges, at the root, will not be new. All us are still longing for meaning and joy. It is our responsibility as Christians to show the world that it is found in the Savior, not on any social network.

All Around the Web - July 24, 2017

American Conservative - The Church Of Identity Politics

Evangelical History - Politics and What It Means to Be an ‘Evangelical’

Denny Burk - Why intersectionality may be at odds with the gospel

Thom Rainer - 10 Outreach Ideas for Your Church This Fall

Chuck Lawless - 10 Things Pastors Should Be Cautious about Saying

Tim Challies - Guard Your Health

Gospel Coalition - Preacher’s Toolkit: What Book Do I Preach First?

LifeWay Pastors - 3 Common Ways Leaders Miscommunicate

Gospel Coalition - When Kids Ask Hard Questions

Real Clear Politics - Bret Weinstein to Evergreen College Board: Do You Know The Campus Descended Into Literal Anarchy?

Babylon Bee - Federal Judge Orders Chris Tomlin To Stop Adding Choruses To Perfectly Good Hymns