Wednesday, April 30, 2014

All Around the Web - April 30, 2014

Eric Metaxas - Like Seagulls to Trash Piles
In October 2012, I told BreakPoint listeners about a Smithsonian Channel documentary that examined a fourth-century papyrus fragment in which Jesus purportedly refers to His “wife.”
At the time, I noted that even if it weren’t a blatant forgery, there was ample reason to be skeptical about what the fragment purported to tell us.

Well, now the fragment is back in the news, and not only is skepticism about the fragment itself still warranted, but we should also ask ourselves what lies behind the continuing interest in the fragment and similar documents.

When the discovery of the document was announced, scholars pointed to “grammatical errors,” its “resemblance to other gospels” and even “inconsistencies with traditional Egyptian Coptic script” which called the fragment’s authenticity into question.

Earlier this month, the Harvard Theological Review published a series of articles claiming that the fragment wasn’t a forgery, and instead, “probably dated from between the sixth and ninth centuries and might be even older,” the mostly likely date being around 859 A.D.

The Gospel Coalition - On My Shelf: Life and Books with Russell Moore
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?

I find that I regularly re-read almost the entire C. S. Lewis corpus, and I'm often surprised by how much of his thought I've absorbed while forgetting he was the one who taught me. I regularly re-read Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, and his essays, especially those in Signposts in a Strange Land. I also return often to Irenaeus's On the Apostolic Preaching and Augustine's Confessions and The City of God. I re-read J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism rather often, and always find it prophetic and timely.

What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?

John Leland's biography is very influential on my view of the relationship between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this age. Other influential biographies or autobiographies for me include Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain, Brad Gooch's biography of Flannery O'Connor, Willie Morris's North Toward Home and New York Days, and Peter Brown's Augustine of Hippo. I like biographies and memoirs of musicians, too: Terry Teachout's Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, David Cantwell's biography/cultural analysis of Merle Haggard, and Michael Streissguth's Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville are some I've enjoyed in recent days. For whatever reason, I'm drawn to the biographies or autobiographies of losing presidential candidates, whether I like those candidates or not, ranging from William Jennings Bryan to Henry Wallace to Barry Goldwater to Hubert Humphrey to George Wallace to Walter Mondale. This isn't technically a biography or autobiography, but I return often to the correspondence between Walker Percy and Shelby Foote.

Marty Duren - How churches can help prevent pastor suicides
Deal quickly, firmly and biblically with unfounded criticism and the critics that promote it.
Give your pastor a minimum of three weeks paid vacation.
Give your pastor a paid 4-week sabbatical every five years.
Provide counseling options for members other than the pastor.
Make church wedding costs official church policy.
Allow your pastor two ministry weeks a year minimum to be used for revivals, teaching opportunities, mission trips and the like.
Stop acting as if your pastor and his family will never do any wrong, and stop judging them if they do.
Build solid walls around his glass house to ensure a measure of privacy.
Provide for your pastor’s emotional health.

Jason Allen - A Conversation with Russell Moore about Religous Liberty
Dr. Allen: I want to talk with you today about the topic of religious liberty. I know you are speaking to this on a daily basis. You write on it with great frequency. You have to rally attention to it and you have to give proportionality to it so that we are not over-torqueing the case, over-torqueing the urgency, and not creating drama in little contexts and sub-scenarios where it should not be. At the same time, you are crying, “wolf,” because there is a wolf there at times. You are trying to bring balance to that. I have to tell you, it is a daunting task to me as I watch you, because it is a big-picture, principial issue that is perennial and needed. The different applications of it, the different potentialities of, and the apparent occurrences of it are often deeply nuanced. Then, you get the talking voices coming into the social media. Sifting through what is a legitimate religious liberty concern and what is just someone trying to drum up attention to their cause can be very difficult to watch in the world. You have to do that on an hour-by-hour basis, so this is a timely conversation for us. Let’s hop in here. Tell us, at the broad level, what are some principles our listeners and readers participating in this conversation should have in mind under the topic of religious liberty?

Dr. Moore: Religious liberty is simply an application of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and render unto God that which is God’s,” which is saying there are some things that belong to God that do not belong to the government; they do not belong to Caesar. One of those things is the simple fact that the gospel is addressing every person personally, saying, “You will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account.” If the government cannot come in and stand for you, then that means you have an allegiance that is higher than the government when it comes to your soul and your conscience.

So, when we are saying we are standing for religious liberty, we are not just standing for religious liberty for ourselves. It is not as though we are saying, “Let’s try to get enough votes so that conservative evangelicals have liberty or Southern Baptists have liberty, and we take that away from everyone else.” We are saying, “No, no, if we are gospel people, then that means you cannot impose your religion on anyone else, because religion is not something you can have issued to you by the state; it has to happen by the power of the Holy Spirit.” So, we do not want Muslims pretending to be Christians; we do not want secularists pretending to be Christians; we do not want Hindus pretending to be Christians. We want Muslims, Hindus, everyone else, who are genuinely expressing what they believe, so that we can seek to persuade them, through the power of the Spirit, to come to Christ.

In the American Constitution, sometimes people will talk about the establishment clause that says the government cannot set up a church or religion, and the free exercise clause that the government cannot restrict the free exercise of religion. Really, those are not two separate clauses; they are the same thing. Whenever the government comes in and says, “You cannot freely practice and exercise your religion,” the government is setting up a religion of some sort or another. They are saying, “This is what the religion is that we are giving you from the government.” So, we are standing for religious liberty for everybody precisely because we do believe the gospel.

Kevin DeYoung - But What About Gluttony?!
Why do conservative Christians make such a fuss about homosexuality and give everyone a free pass—most notably themselves—when it comes to gluttony?

That's a question you hear a lot of us these days and one you should expect to hear again and again, posed in a hundred different ways, in the years ahead.

Why are we asking about gays in heaven when we should be asking if there will be fat people in heaven? How can we say "their" sin of homosexuality is terrible while "our" sin of gluttony is no big deal? Everyone's a biblical literalist until you bring up gluttony. Besides, the Bible contains three times as many exhortations against gluttony than against homosexuality.

How should Christians think about these claims? Well, the operative word in that question is "think." We can't settle for gotcha headlines and arguments that are more slogan than substance. We have to be open to reason, open our Bibles, and think this through.

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