Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hump Day Humor: Homeschool

This week we entered the world of homeschooling. To celebrate, here are a few videos from great comedians commenting on it.

Thor Ramsey

Tim Hawkins

Bob Smiley

From Lewis's Pen: Diminish God's Glory

From the Problem of Pain:
When we want to be something other htan the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy. Those Divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshal us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted. He demands our worship, our obedience, our prostration. Do we suppose that they can do Him any good, or fear, like the chorus in Milton, that human irreverence can bring about ‘His glory’s diminution’? A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him (with that responsive love proper to creatures) and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces. If we do not, that only shows that what we are trying to love is not yet God—though it may be the nearest approximation to God which our thought and fantasy can attain. Yet the call is not only to prostration and awe; it is to a reflection of the Divine life, a creaturely participation in the Divine attributes which is far beyond our present desires. We are bidden to ‘put on Christ’, to become like God. That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little (46)

All Around the Web - August 20, 2014

USA Today - Kirsten Powers: Obama's inattention to Iraqi Christians
It's starting to seem as if the Obama White House operates on a time delay. In the case of Iraq's religious minorities, the results have been deadly.

On June 10, the barbaric extremists called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured the city of Mosul. By mid-July, they issued an edict to the Christians who remained to "convert, leave or be killed."

The White House said nothing.

Beginning on July 22, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., took to the House floor six times to plead for attention from the Obama administration as a genocide threatened Iraq.

Not a word from the president.

Ligonier - What’s the Difference between the Ontological and the Economic Trinity?
Do you know the meaning of the word Trinity? In all likelihood, most of those reading this are familiar with this word and its meaning in theology. But what if I were to ask you to distinguish between the “ontological Trinity” and the “economic Trinity”? If I said, “Please describe for me the difference between the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity,” could you do it? The distinction is very important.

Ontology is the study of being. When we talk about the ontological Trinity, we are referring to the fact that God is three in one. There are three persons in the Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—who together are one being. The ontological structure of the Trinity is a unity. When we speak of the economic Trinity, we are dealing with roles. We distinguish among the three persons of the Godhead in terms of what we call the economy of God. It is the Father who sends the Son into the world for our redemption. It is the Son who acquires our redemption for us. It is the Spirit who applies that redemption to us. We do not have three gods. We have one God in three persons, and the three persons are distinguished in terms of what They do.

In orthodox Christianity, we say that the Son is equal to the Father in power, in glory, and in being. This discussion rests heavily on John 1:1, where we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This verse indicates that the Father and the Word (the Son) are different and are one. In one sense, the Son and the Father are identical. In another sense, They are distinguished. From all eternity the Father sends the Son, and the Son is subordinate to the Father. The Son doesn’t send the Father; the Father sends the Son. So even though the Father and the Son are equal in power, glory, and being, nevertheless there is an economic subordination of the Son to the Father.
John Stonesreet - What Ever Happened to Cultural Relativism?
Not too long ago, the most common complaint about Christians was that they imposed their beliefs on others. Many were upset that Christians claimed a corner on objective truth, swimming against the modern embrace of moral relativism, which said that truth and morality vary from person to person or culture to culture. The only unforgiveable sin left was to impose or even propose your beliefs to someone else.

But now the shoe is on the other foot. Now that a different set of values—like radical environmentalism and support for same-sex marriage—have become the norm, many cultural relativists have no problem imposing these views on others.

Thom Rainer - Seven Positive Ways Christians Can Use Social Media
  1. Pray before you post. If I have learned anything about social media, I have learned that I’m not the smartest guy around. I need God’s wisdom to communicate in such a way that brings honor and glory to Him. That is why I must begin with prayer.
  2. Encourage others in social media. Some of the greatest encouragements I receive come from people on social media. I am so thankful for the many Christians who use this platform in obedience to the Word of God: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
  3. Respond with a gentle spirit. Let our desire be to win hearts rather than to win arguments.
  4. Remember who is watching you in social media. The words we Christians say to one another and to others are on display for the world to see. This platform is an incredible opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ in action, which brings us to my next suggestion.
  5. Use social media as an opportunity to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. God is doing great works through those in social media who strive to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit every time they post: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self control” (Galatians 5:22).
  6. Create a prayer ministry through social media. Make it a point to pray for many of those you read or watch on social media. Let them know you are praying for them. At this blog, I ask Christians across the world to pray for a specific church every Sunday (use this form to submit a church).
  7. Seek to create unity in the body of Christ through social media. For sure, there are many who are divisive. But even more of us can be a mighty force for God to bring unity to Christians across the world. Paul said it well: “Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:14).

Kevin DeYoung - Bio, Books, and Such: Collin Hansen
During the summer I’ll be posting micro interviews on Fridays. I’ve asked some of my friends in ministry–friends you probably already know–to answer questions about “bio, books, and such.” My hope is that you’ll enjoy getting a few more facts about these folks and getting a few good book recommendations.

Today’s interview is with Collin Hansen,  author and Editorial Director for The Gospel Coalition.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 1

After a great introduction, the authors of Seeking the City turn the readers attention to the biblical narrative itself and what it says about the nature of politics, cities, and economics. First, the Old Testament. The authors summarize the Old Testament narrative thusly:
the narrative shows clearly the economic consequences of man's efforts in a world governed ultimately by the God of the Bible. Scarcity and its companion, poverty, are the direct result of man's spiritual problems. (70)
The authors then add that God created the world and man in it to work the ground and enjoy its abundance. But the Fall and the subsequent generations that follow it suffer under the consequences of sin resulting in scarcity. This, then, leads to the following conclusion:
In our century it is fashionable to make men and women the victims of all kinds of systemic, "structural" (current usage: "beyond our control") evil and injustice. everything from obesity to substance abuse to marital failure to children born out of wedlock to poverty to plain ignorance and illiteracy, not to mention outright criminality, is seen as really a problem to be addressed "through the system" (current usage: "with political, governmental answer") and its attempt to get at the so-called "root causes" of such activities (seen as "structural evil"). The narratives of the OT deny this by showing that these evils proceed from human beings themselves and their failure to rule themselves. (73)
This is a key point to what the authors will argue going forward. Certainly there are systemic and structural challenges in America (and in every society). Yet Scripture is clear that there are systemic sins because the system is controlled by individual sinners.

In this sense, former President Ronald Reagan was only partially right when he said that government is not the solution, it is the problem. Yet even that is too simplistic. Government is the problem because government is a human enterprise. We the people are the problem. The solution, then, cannot be discovered in tax reform, education reform, health reform, immigration reform, or any other kind of systemic reform. The solution is found only in Christ who regenerates the heart.

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Preface

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 3

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 1

For more:
"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review
Brand on Coveting and Classwarfare
The Secular vs the Sacred: Brand on the Influence of Luther

All Around the Web - August 19, 2014

Koinonia - The Perfect Illustration for God's Outrageous Grace — An Excerpt from “Proof”
Sometimes it’s hard being a teacher, particularly when you’re looking for that one story to illustrate your main idea.

That’s why we’ve gifted you your next illustration!

The next time you’re teaching on grace, here’s the perfect object lesson. It’s an excerpt from Proof, a paradigm-shifting book on God’s outrageous, irresistible grace.

Below co-author Timothy Paul Jones tells the story of taking his adopted daughter to Disney World. I won’t ruin it for you, but for years she was denied going by her original adoptive parents. When she finally experienced the Magic Kingdom, here was her response:

“Daddy, I finally got to go to Disney World. But it wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.” (83)

John Stonestreet - Package Deal
There are some Christians who, for understandable though mistaken reasons, believe that their fellow Christians should support or at least not oppose same-sex marriage.

Implicit in this position is the belief that supporting same-sex marriage is a position that can be held in isolation—that what you believe about the definition of marriage is unrelated to other issues regarding marriage and human sexuality.

Well, according to sociologist Mark Regnerus, that simply is not the case.

In a recent article at “The Public Discourse” Regnerus asked the question, “What is the sexual and relational morality of Christians who accept the moral legitimacy of same-sex marriages?”

The Gospel Coalition - Five Principles of the New Sexual Morality
The following are some of the core principles of the new sexual and relational morality:

First, sexual acts don’t have intrinsic meanings or purposes. They don’t relate to a deeper natural order, which we must honor and not violate. Their meaning is merely constructed, by society and the persons engaging in them. Sexual relations between a man and a woman need not involve the natural significance of making them “one flesh,” with all that entails. “Meaningless” sex is a genuine possibility.

Second, our sexuality is a subjective sense and intrinsic to our self-identity. Provided no harm is caused to others, we have a duty of care for ourselves to realize and express our desired sexual identities, even when this may involve measures such as sexual reassignment surgery. As members of a society, we also have a duty to ensure the sexual identities of our neighbors are affirmed and supported. Opposition to nonmarital sexual relations, or the expectation a person should remain in a marriage for the rest of their life (even though it may be sexually unfulfilling), are two Christian positions in tension with this principle of sexual morality.

Third, sexual agents are autonomous, rights-bearing individuals. Sexual relations are therefore mutually enhancing arrangements. Appropriate relations presuppose the partners are equal in their agency and there are no significant imbalances of power between them. For those who have developed this principle, traditional forms of marriage can cause discomfort. Such forms of marriage have typically recognized the existence of some degree of inequality of power between husband and wife (e.g., physically, economically, socially), harnessing male powers for loving and responsible service rather than presenting men and women as autonomous individuals facing each other with equal bargaining power. They have also placed limits on individuals’ and couples’ sexual choices, expecting lifelong exclusivity and commitment even against their private desires. Much of this restraint has been for the sake of children, who by the nature of their existence confound liberal concepts of the person and social relations.

Fourth, freely given consent is the watchword for sexual relations. Where a relationship between given parties is consensual, few if any reasonable objections can be raised against it. When advocates of traditional Christian ethics oppose consensual same-sex relations, for instance, they violate this strongly held moral principle and threaten both the rights and identities of other sexual agents.

Fifth, beyond the prevention of harm, sexual relations should be freed from social policing and constraint, from norms and from stigmas. While marriage may grant public recognition and affirmation to a couple, each couple should be freed to practice marriage as they choose, and no couple should be expected to get married. But Christianity has always sanctioned certain sexual relations and condemned others, treating sexual relations as matters of public and communal concern and thereby falling afoul of this principle too.

Canon and CultureUnderstanding Ethics: Consequentialism
As Christians called to be salt and light within our culture, we must be able to analyze the ethical theories of our society in order to bring Scripture to bear upon them. Many of the decisions happening daily in our culture fall within the category of consequentialist ethics. While consequentialism is nothing new and much more extensive work has been offered on it than can be found in this article, my goal is to explain how a broad understanding of consequentialism is helpful for the Christian when parsing ethical decisions. Adding competency in consequentialism to the Christian’s tool belt will supply a ready filter useful in deconstructing an ethical decision.

Consequentialism focuses decision making upon the potential outcomes of an action; the outcome, coupled to some extent with intent, becomes the standard for morality. Situation ethics, utilitarianism, and pragmatism are examples of the larger school of ethical thought known as consequentialism. A crude, but often effective, way of characterizing consequentialism is to claim that the ends justify the means. In other words, if deemed necessary, then seemingly unethical actions can be employed ethically so long as the outcome is itself, ethical.

Initially, consequentialism seems intuitive, even natural. Don’t we always choose what we think is best? Shouldn’t we choose what we thing is best? Biblical ethics, however, seeks those actions that God deems best. Instead of seeking what we think to be the best outcome, our duty is to seek the will of God in humble obedience. God’s will may happen to coincide with the outcome that we thing is best, but it will be coincidental to the reason for the ethical decision. With this contrast between biblical ethics and consequentialism in hand, we can offer some general critiques of consequentialism.

The PointSeven Things Even God Cannot Do
Here is a list of things the Bible says outright, or by necessary implication, God cannot do:

1. Lie (or do anything else immoral)—Titus 1:2
2. Deny Himself (i.e., do anything out of character)—2 Timothy 2:13
3. Remit/forgive sins without the shedding of blood (i.e., taking of life)—Hebrews 9:22
4. Avoid going to Calvary if man is to have hope of forgiveness—Matthew 26:39
5. Pardon someone who will not repent/believe—2 Peter 3:9
6. Remain righteous by passing over sins and never requiring blood atonement—Romans 3:25-26
7. Be tempted by evil—James 1:13

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Divine Kick in the Pants: Jim Elliot and the Call to Go Out

Sometimes God just kicks you in the pants and wakes you up. Here is one of those moments. Jim Elliot was a missionary who was killed while trying to reach a people group who had never heard of the gospel. His story is told in a number of books, movies (like "End of the Spear" which I highly recommend) and documentaries (like "Beyond the Gates of Splendor" which I also highly recommend).

Here is what he said:
Our young men are going into the professional fields because they don't 'feel called' to the mission field. We don't need a call; we need a kick in the pants. We must begin thinking in terms of 'going out,' and stop our weeping because 'they won't come in.' Who wants to step into an igloo? The tombs themselves are not colder than the churches. May God send us forth.
Amen! We should go out rather than expect them to come in. This is exactly what Paul says about the local church (Ephesians 4:12). The primary responsibility of the local church is to train believers for the purpose of going out into the world to reach the lost. Those reached then come to the church to be trained and sent out. Let Jim Elliot's words ring in our ears tonight.

Sometimes we just need a Divine kick in the pants.

H/T: Between Two Worlds

For more:
"Beyond the Gates of Splendor" Documentary
"To the Ends of the Earth" by Michael Hakin and Jeffrey Robinson: A Review

If Calvinism is an Enemy to Missions . . .

"Pontius Pilate" by Ann Wroe: A Review

He may have wondered, from time to time, why he had been sent to Judaea. Any number of later theologians and scholars could have told him. He was sent because the stars were in alignment and the other players in place. This was what God had planned from the beginning of the world. His son would be put to death, a symbolic* death on a tree, to save sinners. But it would appear to be a routine execution by a governor who did such things all the time. . . .

The Catholic Catechism adds: "For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness." But this is a refinement, in which God allows free will and incorporates it into his design. The unrolling of Scripture suggests a different, inexorable motion: the 'free" acts of Pilate and the others were already part of the plan. Although the Roman governor had never heard the voices of the prophets, he fulfilled them in every detail by trying Jesus and condemning him. (119)

It is amazing how little biographical information we have on some of the most important characters in the Bible. Could there be a more consequential supporting character in the narrative of the New Testament than Pontius Pilate? His part in the play is simple: hand Jesus over to be crucified. God raised Pilate up for that one providential moment - "Behold the man!"

Curious to see if there was more to his story from both Scripture and history, I picked up Ann Wroe's book simply titled Pontius Pilate. The book presents itself as a biography of the infamous governor of Judea, but such a billing is oversimplified. A biography, typically, unfolds the story of one's life correcting myths in order to present to the reader the person's narrative as it was. Wroe does not do this. Instead, she interacts and engages the myths making it difficult to decipher what is fiction and what is not.

Throughout the book, the author interacts with early Christian (read, "Gnostic") and medieval interpretations and fanciful legends of Pilate. She also interacts with modern plays and other renditions of the Pilate story. All of this is acceptable, but the book does too much of it.

Related to this, the author seems confused as to what this book is to be. It straddles the fence between these myths and the facts too strongly. At times, the book presents itself as a honest engagement with the historic and biblical record. At other times, the book is a collaboration of well-intentioned, yet fanciful narratives. Why interact with the dialogue of medieval poems or plays? Just give me the facts ma'am.

With that said, there are a number of things to commend the book for, especially at the books first one hundred pages (roughly). The book begins by interacting with the three major views of Pilate's origin and upbringing. The first of these three, in my opinion, seems most likely. In these pages (and sporadically throughout the rest of the book), the author provides real insight into the Roman world, Roman politics, the Judean world, and the historic context of Jesus of Nazareth. For example, at one point the author contrasts the parallels of the arrival of Pilate with that of John the Baptist. Great juxtaposition.

The reason for reading this book was to investigate the man of history and Scripture in personal study of the Gospels. The book contains this (though from a more liberal perspective) but this is often lost in the weeds. If this is all the book was, it would be much shorter and better.

In the end, however, the author summarizes why, for me at least, Pilate is such a fascinating figure:
He left almost no traces behind him. No roads, no milestones, no public buildings. Some miles from Jerusalem runs an aqueduct that may be his, solidly built of brick and lined with lead. Beyond that, all that remains is a block of calcareous stone and a handful of coins. (88)
And yet, he changed the world by handing Jesus over to be crucified.

* This word, symbolic, sticks out to me. Jesus death was not symbolic - a word suggesting that its meaning was not real. Orthodoxy holds to a real propitiatory atonement taking place that day. One heavy weakness of this book regards its limp theology rooted in either personal heterodoxy or ignorance.

For more:
To the Source: Pilate from Jewish Sources