Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mary: The Receiver of Grace

In his sermon on Luke 1:26-31, John MacArthur makes an important point regarding Mary, the mother of Jesus. Contrary to Catholic theology, Mary is not the bestorwer of grace, but the receiver of it.
That's not what the angel said. Mary was not the source of grace; Mary was the recipient of grace. "Hail, favored one, you've been favored by God.” You've been given grace by God. You see, there wasn't anything worthy about her. There's no commendation here. It doesn't say, "And the virgin's name was Mary, and Mary was righteous and godly and loved God with all her heart, soul, mind and strength, and served the Lord with all her heart," and on and on. It doesn't say that. It just says, "Mary, period, you've been chosen." Nothing about her. We don't ever know anything about her. We don't know anything about her life.

But I'll tell you one thing: She is not the bestower of grace. You cannot go to Mary and receive any grace. Let me shake you a little bit. Mary can't hear the prayers of anybody. Only God hears prayers. Mary cannot hear the prayers of anyone. Neither can any other glorified saint. And Mary has no grace to give. She is not the giver of grace; she is the receiver of grace.

All Around the Web - March 30, 2017

Trevin Wax - My Father-In-Law’s Conversion Story

Tim Challlies - The Particular Temptations of Young Men

The Gospel Coalition - 5 Christian Clich├ęs that Need to Die

Denny Burk - Did Jesus ever experience doubt?

Bill Mounce - What is Worse? Removing from Scripture or Adding to Scripture? (Matt 18:11) – Mondays with Mounce 277

Baptist Press - Assisted suicide bills faring poorly in 2017

Chuck Lawless - Churches that Only Talk about Prayer or Churches that Really Pray?

Thom Rainer - Eight Unintended Consequences of Building a Church Facility Too Big

Justin Taylor - Reading the Book Acknowledgments

60 Minutes - Chess instills new dreams in kids from rural Mississippi county

Washington Post - Spiders could theoretically eat every human on Earth in one year

HT: Ben Withington

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

From Lewis's Pen: Christianity And

From Screwtape Letters:
What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And’. You know – Christianity and the Crisis, and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing. (135)

All Around the Web - March 29, 2017

Joe Carter - China Admits to the Greatest Slaughter in Human History

Trevin Wax - A Word for Politically-Panicked Christians

Chuck Lawless - 10 Leadership Time Wasters

Ross Douthat - Break Up the Liberal City

Evangelical History - The Scopes Trial and the Political Temptation of Fundamentalists 

Crossway - 10 Things You Should Know about Teenagers

The Gospel Coalition - The Bible Commands Christians to Tithe

The Gospel Coalition - 7 Reasons Christians Are Not Required to Tithe

Justin Taylor - Simon Gathercole on the Historical Reliability of the Geography in the Gospels

Andy Naselli - The Collected Works of John Piper

Babylon Bee - Benny Hinn Carefully Applies ‘Not Of This World’ Sticker To Ferrari 458 Italia | Satire

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

No King But Caesar: The Shocking Truth of that Confession

The modern sexual revolution is not new nor is it a threat that the church cannot survive or even thrive in. The world in which Christianity was born was sexually decedent. One of the best books on how Christianity navigated through the Roman world is Matthew Rueger's Sexual Morality in a Christless World. One striking section is when he zero's in on the Ceasar's to illustrate how depraved Roman culture had become. Consider the following regarding Tiberius:
Following the death of Augustus, Tiberius reigned. His sexual immorality exceeded Augustus. he is said to have created a new publicly funded office for attending to his sexual pleasures. His retreat on the isle of Capri was created to be a sexual playground for his fantasies.
In his retreat at Capri, he also contrived an apartment containing couches, and adapted to the secret practice of abominable lewdness, where he entertained companies of girls and catamites, and assembled from all quarters inventors of unnatural copulations, whom he called Spintriae, who defiled one another in his presence, to inflame by the exhibition the languid appetite. . . . He likewise contrived recesses in woods and groves for the gratification of lust, where young persons of both sexes prostituted themselves in caves and hollow rocks, in the disguise of little Pans and Nymphs.
Tiberius was known to practice pedophilia. He found pretty boys and trained them to swim with him in his pool in perverse ways. They were to swim between his thighs and 'nibble on his private parts.' Tacitus supports Suetonius's claims about the Emperor, recording that Tiberius debauched freeborn children and was guilty of sexual abominations so perverse that new names had to be invented for them. Such unspeakable behavior was not prosecuted. Tiberius was a sexual predator, a rapist, pedophile, and a bi-sexual adulterer. He does not seem to have been well-liked by the public. A neighboring king wrote him accusing him of murder, cowardice, and sexual perversity and suggested he kill himself to satisfy the hatred of his own people. Yet Tiberius's deeds stood without public trial and punishment. This was the Roman Emperor in power when Christ was crucified. When the Jews shouted at Jesus' trial that they had no king but Caesar (John 19:15), this was the Caesar whom they were willing to serve. Jesus was a greater offense to them than Tiberius. (28)
 Those last lines are simply astounding. We are walking down that same road again.

All Around the Web - Mark 28, 2017

Eric Geiger - 5 Realities About the Weight of Pastoring

Christianity Today - An Insufficient Resistance

Christianity Today - Moral Relativism Is Dead

The Federalists - Brain Scientists: ‘Learning Styles’ Like Auditory, Visual, And Kinesthetic Are Bunk

WORLD - Canada is harvesting the organs of euthanasia patients

Thom Rainer - Urgent Church: Nine Changes We Must Make Or Die

Chuck Lawless - Why Some People Won’t Come to Church This Weekend

Tim Challies - 8 Rules for Growing in Godliness

New York Times - The Jihadi Who Turned to Jesus

Sam Storms - 10 Things You Should Know about Fasting

Monday, March 27, 2017

"Grendel" by John Gardner: A Review

"The world resists me and I resist the world," I said. "That's all there is. The mountains are what I define them as." Ah, monstrous stupidity of childhood, unreasonable hope! . . . "The world is all pointless accident," I say. (Chapter 2)

A cursory search of this website will reveal a real passion for the old English tale Beowulf. It is, by far, my favorite story and I have read several versions of the narrative over the years. The story is rich and its themes even richer (see my theology of Beowulf in the links below). One of the books that continues to appear as a must-read in my continuing research of the book is John Gardner's novel Grendel. The book is named after the first and most famous monster Beowulf battles.

The story is literally told through Grendel's eyes utilizing the first person style. Gardner doesn't tell Grendel's story. Rather, the novel is from the perspective of Grendel telling his own story. Doing so makes Grendel a more sympathetic character whose motives are more complicated than one may presume purely in Beowulf and that, in my opinion, is part of the problem.

I would agree that any serious student of Beowulf should read Gardner's work I would also contend it is also a deeply flawed volume. First, though Gardner clearly knows his Beowulf history along with a number of its themes (like fraticide), characters (like Scyld Shefing), and historical background (I enjoyed the exploration of the rise of Hrothgar), Gardner turns the story of Beowulf into something it is not. The author utilizes the Grendel character, a demonic monster who embodies murderous envy and is literally a direct descendant of Cain, as a means of exploring the philosophy of Jean-Paul Satre. Beowulf, I believe, is a theological work making an apologetic point about Christianity. It is not a philosophical one. Through the eyes of this monster, we explore the world of fatalism from the greedy dragon and the futility of religion from three priests.

Yet this is not the Grendel of the original tale. Grendel is introduced thus:
Thus Hrothgar's thanes
reveled in joys,
feasting and drinking
until their foe started
his persecutions,
a creature of hell.
Grendel, they called him,
this grimspoiler,
a demon who prowled
the dark borderlands,
moors and marshes,
a man-eating giant
who had lied in a lair
in the land of monsters
ever since God
had outlawed him
along with the rest
of the line of Cain. (8, source)
Later we see Grendel morbidly laughing while the Danes are mourning the slaughter of their own. Grendel is a demonic and animalistic monster who feeds, not because he is hungry or lonely, but because he is jealous and wicked. Yet this is not the depiction of Grendel in Gardner's take. To him, Grendel becomes a monster whereas to the anonymous writers of the ancient tale, Grendel is a monster and the difference is very significant. Thus Grendel turns to fatalism - a monster will do monstrous things. Yet the original tale was very different. The story opens and closes with a funeral and thus on the surface, the reality of death and the cycle of violence makes fatalism attractive. Yet in the narrative we discover the opposite: hope. Something (and someone) greater than Beowulf is coming.

In the end I would again say that Gardner has written a story that every Beowulf reader should tole lege but not for keen insight into the original tale. A philosophical take on Beowulf is certainly worth exploring so long as it reflects the philosophy of the original writers. That is what makes Beowulf so rich.Gardner fails o reflect that original worldview in his exploration of the hero's most famous foe.

For more:
"Beowulf" Translated by Dick Ringler: A Review
"Beowulf": A Review
A Shrewd Apologetic: Doug Wilson's Take on Beowulf
Beowulf: Resources and Links
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary

Theology Series:
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Introduction
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Why Beowulf Matters
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 1
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 2
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 3
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 1
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 2
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 3
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 4
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 5
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 6
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 7
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  Conclusion