Saturday, March 22, 2014

All Around the Web - March 22, 2014

The Gospel Coalition - You Asked: Does God Harden a Believer's Heart?
2. But does God actively harden the hearts of sinners? And if so, why?

Without question, the answer is yes, he does. The Bible speaks of God's active agency in hardening hearts with unmistakable bluntness.

Maybe the clearest example is Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus. God hardened his heart in obstinacy on purpose. "Not once in Exodus 4-14 is the assertion of God's hardening of Pharaoh grounded in any attitude or act of Pharaoh. Instead, again and again the reason given for the hardening is God's purpose to demonstrate his power and magnify his name," as Paul explains in Romans 9:17 (John Piper, The Justification of God, 174).

We find another example in John 12:36-43, showing Jesus unmistakably connecting unbelief in his day with the hardening of God. But before we go much further it's vital to hear four key qualifications from D. A. Carson on this text:
If a superficial reading finds this harsh, manipulative, even robotic, four things must constantly be borne in mind:
(1) God's sovereignty in these matters is never pitted against human responsibility;
(2) God's judicial hardening is not presented as the capricious manipulation of an arbitrary potentate cursing morally neutral or even morally pure beings, but as a holy condemnation of a guilty people who are condemned to do and be what they themselves have chosen;
(3) God's sovereignty in these matters can also be a cause for hope, for if he is not sovereign in these areas there is little point in petitioning him for help, while if he is sovereign the anguished pleas of the prophet (Is. 63:15-19)—and of believers throughout the history of the church—make sense;
(4) God's sovereign hardening of the people in Isaiah's day, his commissioning of Isaiah to apparently fruitless ministry, is a stage in God's "strange work" (Is. 28:21-22) that brings God's ultimate redemptive purposes to pass. [Carson, John, 448-9]
God has his ways and his prerogatives in divine hardening, and those prerogatives are just and right (Rom. 9:14-24).

At the same time, a hardened heart always reflects the willful, self-hardening, and rejection of God by the sinner (Rom. 1:26-28). Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex. 8:15). God also hardened Pharaoh's heart (Ex. 7:3) for God to display his wrath and power.

But this answer raises another question: is the hardening work of God now passed? Was it only a stage in redemptive history to bring out the cross and the ingathering of Gentiles? Or, to ask the question another way:

Russell Moore - Questions & Ethics: Pro-life and for Capital Punishment?
Russell Moore shares what the Bible says about capital punishment.

Ross Douthat - The Age of Individualism | This is how you write an opening paragraph.
IN the future, it seems, there will be only one “ism” — Individualism — and its rule will never end. As for religion, it shall decline; as for marriage, it shall be postponed; as for ideologies, they shall be rejected; as for patriotism, it shall be abandoned; as for strangers, they shall be distrusted. Only pot, selfies and Facebook will abide — and the greatest of these will probably be Facebook.

That’s the implication, at least, of what the polling industry keeps telling us about the rising American generation, the so-called millennials. (Full disclosure: I am not quite one of them, having entered the world in the penultimate year of Generation X.) A new Pew survey, the latest dispatch from the land of young adulthood, describes a generation that’s socially liberal on issues like immigration and marijuana and same-sex marriage, proudly independent of either political party, less likely to be married and religious than earlier generations, less likely to identify as patriotic and less likely — by a striking margin — to say that one’s fellow human beings can be trusted.

In political terms, the millennials are liberals on the surface, which is why the Pew report inspired a round of discussion about whether they’re likely to transform electoral politics in the short run (no, because cohort replacement is slow, and it’s Generation X that’s actually moving into positions of influence right now), whether they will push our political debates leftward in the long run (probably, because youthful voting patterns tend to persist across the life cycle), and whether this gives the Democratic Party a hammerlock on the future (it doesn’t, because political coalitions always adapt and fracture in unexpected ways).

Practical Shepherding - What are the top 10 books every pastor should read…and re-read?
Doing Pastor’s Ministry (Top 10 List)

US News and World Report - Study: Mental Health Hospitalizations Increasing in Children
More than 4 million American children and adolescents have a mental illness, and a study from the University of California, San Francisco shows mental health hospitalizations among this demographic increased by 24 percent between 2007 and 2010.

The latest findings suggest nearly 1 in 10 children are hospitalized because of a mental health problem.
"The most important finding is the fact that mental health hospitalizations are so common for kids," Dr. Naomi Bardach, a professor of pediatrics at the UCSF School of Medicine and the study’s lead author, tells U.S. News & World Report.

The Daily Beast - The Inside Story of Johnny Cash’s Legendary Lost LP, ‘Out Among the Stars’
Most “new” albums released after a musician’s death aren’t really new at all. Instead they tend to be leftovers—the live tracks, B-sides, and outtakes that the artist didn’t see fit to release in his or her lifetime.

But the new Johnny Cash album, Out Among the Stars, is different. This isn’t a bottom-of-the-barrel hodgepodge assembled by Cash’s heirs to keep the family coffers full. It’s an actual lost LP by the Man in Black—an entire disc that was supposed to come out back in the mid-1980s but was shelved by Cash’s record company before it could be completed.

For decades, these fascinating recordings languished in the Cash Family vault, unheard and unremembered. But now Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, has rescued them from obscurity, polished them up, and put them back together—just as he says his father and mother, June Carter Cash, would have wanted.

To find out more about the process, the music, and how Out Among the Stars got lost in the first place, we gave Cash a ring. He was gracious enough to tell us the behind-the-scenes story of his “endeavor of the heart.”

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