Thursday, April 10, 2014

All Around the Web - April 10, 2014

The Gospel Coalition - We're All Over-Protected Now
It's hard to pinpoint how many of us have been indoctrinated into safety-hunger and inoculated against adventure. We surely have, though. Here are some factors:

1. We are, in relative terms, beneficiaries of an era of unprecedented wealth. Capitalism comes in for hard critiques, but studies show that its advent coincides with soaring life-longevity and material prosperity. When you reach this state, you don't want to leave it.

2. We have grown up in a church-friendly culture (now under major renovation). I don't decry this history as some do. But we all have to acknowledge that being a majority culture will cause us to be less prophetic, less daring, than we might otherwise be.

3. We live in the age of the mega-watt spiritual celebrity, people who promise us wealth and ease and unending upward mobility. Whether we know it or not, easy-believism affects us all.
4. We've bought into a theology of grace that softens every edge and cushions every fall. More than we know, we're therapeutic and psychologized. There's a "gospel-driven" form of this problem. I call it "gospel self-help." Just like the secular kind, it makes us the focal point of our faith. Narcissism easily suffocates a courageous spirit.

5. We want to fit in more than ever, in part because our identities—even as evangelicals—are so this-worldly. We care tremendously what other people think of us. The worst thing for an undergrad today isn't an injury—it's to be "awkward" (in sing-song). We all fear man now. God and his inter-galactic holiness seems far off; your self-aware neighbor with her judgey gaze seems all too near.

We could go on. Suffice it to say that these cultural factors end up getting baked into the church's main course. Our preaching trains us, week after week, to manage the status quo, keep the boat un-rocked, and experience greater self-fulfillment. At the same time, somehow, we're told to dream big dreams, undertake grand schemes, and discover who we truly are. But here's the strange thing: even in this me-centered air, few of us actually seem to end up launching anything grand. The fulfillment of our "dreams" seems to end up looking a lot like secular versions of the good life.

We're over-protected Christians.

Denny Burk - Can we avoid the consequences of speaking truth in love?
I do not know if Brandon Eich is a Christian, but there are nevertheless some salient parallels between his recent dismissal from Mozilla and Louie Giglio’s ouster from the President’s inaugural ceremony last year. Both men exhibited a generous spirit toward all people such that both men surprised their “employers” when it became known that they actually supported traditional marriage. Both men were dismissed despite their otherwise amiable disposition.

There is a lesson for Christians here. Yes, we must be winsome. We must be kind. We should not be pugnacious. It matters how we say what we say. It is our joy to love our neighbors and even our enemies. When we walk in this kind of generous spirit, it will open up bridges of opportunity that wouldn’t otherwise be open. All of that is true.
Having said that, Eich and Giglio also force us to come to grips with a hard truth. No amount of winsomeness will exempt us from the reproach that comes when we speak plainly about what the Bible teaches. If you speak plainly about sin, there will always be some who will vilify you as angry, bigoted, hateful or worse. Jesus told us that it would be this way (John 15:18-21).

The only alternatives to this reproach are either to hold the biblical view and not speak plainly or to hold an unbiblical view and speak openly. It is obvious why holding an unbiblical view would not be an option for a true follower of Christ. But what about those who hold the right view but seek to avoid conflict by concealing it? Is this a faithful way to engage the world for Christ? I would argue no for several reasons.

Eric Metaxas - Make No Camel Bones About it
Recently, two researchers from Tel Aviv University made headlines when they claimed that the Bible’s historicity was undermined by, of all things, camel bones.

The camel bones in question were discovered in ancient copper mines south of the Dead Sea. After dating the bones to the tenth century before Christ, the researchers concluded that the stories of Abraham and other patriarchs possessing camels 1,000 years earlier could not have been true.

But why let the facts get in the way of a good headline? As Todd Bolen of the Master’s College told Christianity Today, their conclusion, based on a single finding, was definitely “an overreach.”

And Titus Kennedy of Biola pointed out that “a camel is mentioned in a list of domesticated animals from Ugarit, dating to the Old Babylonian period,” which ran from 1950-1600 BC, around the time of the biblical patriarchs.

Speaking of facts, in the latest issue of Biblical Archeology Review, Lawrence Mykytiuk of Purdue asks and answers the question “how many people in the Hebrew Bible have been confirmed archaeologically?’

John Stonestreet - Theologians on a Hill 
Whether this new evidence will bolster that conclusion remains to be seen. After all, humans demonstrate incredible capacity to explain away evidence in service of pre-ordained conclusions. And Christians should remember that this isn’t definitive proof for the God of the Bible. It’s still a leap from admitting the universe had a beginning to trusting in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to forgive your sins through His Son, Jesus Christ. But we can conclude two important things.

First, materialism isn’t enough. By definition, natural science can only experiment and draw conclusions within the realm of physical reality. When scientists try to push beyond this reality into the emptiness before time and physics, they’re literally dealing with the supernatural.

Second, it shows that scientific consensuses can and do change. With "Steady State" theory as extinct as the dinosaurs, many have had to admit that Christianity was right all along on the supernatural origin of the universe. As Jastrow writes in his book, "The Enchanted Loom":

"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."

In the Big Bang, science meets its limits, but so does the materialist worldview. Happily, it is no difficulty to those who know the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega.

Tim Challies - If I Wrote the Bible . . .
If I wrote the Bible…

…There would be more rules. A lot more. In those times when I want to have my way, or those times when I know the right thing to do, I naturally gravitate straight to rules. Because there’s no easier way to get people to obey my will than to give them rules, my bible would undoubtedly be dominated by lists of rules to govern just about every possible circumstance. I expect this would make for a much longer book, but that would just have to be the cost.

…There would be much less grace. There would be a lot less room for freedom. Where God gives us so much room for our personal preferences, I would elevate my preferences and negate diversity in favor of clear uniformity. I would see less beauty in diversity and a lot more beauty in conformity.

…There would be fewer genres. One thing I continue to find surprising about the Bible is how it shifts so often between genres, going from histories to prophecies to poetry to apocalypse to epistles. I would be unlikely to consider something like the poetry of Song of Solomon or the personal appeal of Philemon. Again, my bible would be dominated by the new genre “Lists of Rules.”

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