Thursday, September 29, 2016

Should Social Conservatives Be Concerned?: Encouraging Words From Levin

In light of the continued onslaught on traditional values currently being waged by the totalitarian left, should social conservatives be concerned? Certainly if left unrestrained by cultural forces, political realities, and the American people, no doubt the left will make social conservatives in general and orthodox Christians in particular persona non grata and the American experiment will prove to be a failure. Yet in his book Fractured Republic, author Yuval Levin offers a number of reasons why social conservatives should not fear the near future.

First, as is typical when either side feels the wind is at their backs, the left is overreaching. Inevitably this will likely lead to some backlash. On the surface, I must confess, I believe Levin is right but I am not as confident as he. Progressivism has been marching forward gaining speed for a century and a half in a America and one is hard pressed to find an entire generation that was not radically changed by it. Progressivism might be slowed, but it has not been stopped even when it overplays its hands.

Nevertheless, Levin's point may prove to be, at least in the short-term, a valid one. The left smells blood in water and are out to seek and destroy the right including bakers and photographers with a conscience. One would think, or at least hope, that parading such law-abiding tax payers around as public enemy #1 will backfire especially in an age of cyber warfare and terrorism.

Secondly, Levin offers the following:
The notion that living models of practical orthodoxy could appeal to modern Americans may seem implausible. But observers of modern democracy at least since Alexis de Tovqueville have noted that in democratic times, and especially in eras dominated by individualism, it is precisely the moral and religious institutions that hold firm to orthodoxy that have proven most attractive - thanks in no small part to their countercultural character. In our time, no less than any other, traditionalists should live out their faiths and their ways in the world, confident that their instruction and example will make that world better and that people will be drawn to the spark. Without dominant institutions of mass conformity and uniformity, we are more than ever in need of institutions of interpersonal moral formation, and these will inevitably be institutions that address us at the level of an eye-to-eye community. (179)
Levin's argument reminds one why liberal religion is ineffective in winning the lost. Orthodoxy draws converts and makes disciples; diluted religion is bound to evaporate.

In the end, Levin's exhortation that orthodox believers should "live out their faiths" is what matters. If we want to regain ground clearly lost, it will come throughout faithfulness not campaigns. Politics is downstream from culture; culture is downstream from theology.

We have work to do.

All Around the Web - September 29, 2016

Joe Carter - The FAQs: What You Should Know About Medical Marijuana

Trevin Wax - Evangelicals Debate the Merits of Supporting or Opposing Trump

The Resurgent - Fetal Pain Facts and Falsehoods

Kevin DeYoung - Distinguishing Among the Three Persons of the Trinity within the Reformed Tradition

Denny Burk - Is there a need for “sexual orientation and gender identity” laws?

The State of Theology -  the State of Theology: What do Americans believe about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible? Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research partnered to find out. These are the fundamental convictions that shape our society.

Charles Lawless - 9 Debatable Thoughts about Contemporary Evangelism

Thom Rainer - Seven Areas Where Pastors Have Failed at Reading Minds

BBC - Modern Family will feature a transgender child actor in a forthcoming episode

Priceonomics - What Is Shakespeare’s Most Popular Play?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Soteriology

Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Introduction to Theology
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - One-Volume Systematic Theologies
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Bibliology
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Theology Proper
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Christology
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Soteriology

Some time ago I came across a list of 25 theological books composed by Bruce Ashford he believes young theologians should read and invest in. I share my enthusiasm for most on his list and would recommend his post (you can read it here) but felt that for those brand new to the study of theology, many of the writings would be overwhelming and perhaps not the best place to start. For example, Augustine's City of God is a classic but is also an academic work that is over 1,000 pages with a unique historic context. I would not recommend a new theologian to begin there.

With that in mind, I want to compose my list of books for young theologians in various categories of theology of mostly modern books for young, budding theologians that I believe may be easier to understand. They are not classics, but I do believe they will be helpful resources to sink your teeth into.

In this sixth installment, here is a list of helpful theology proper books.

All Around the Web - September 27, 2016

ERLC - The three A’s of religious liberty

Daily Signal - What Obama’s Education Secretary Got Wrong About Homeschoolers

Barna - The State of the Church 2016

Christianity Today -  Why Don’t Small Churches Grow? (Actually, They Do)

Chuck Lawless - 10 Reasons Our Marriages Are Vulnerable to Satan’s Attacks

Thom Rainer - The Three Most Common Sentences of Dying Churches

Barnabas Piper - When pastors Doubt

Evangelical History - How Much Do Christian Kids Need a ‘Christian’ Education?

Carey Nieufhof - 5 Unfair Myths About Megachurches It’s Time To Bust

Art Rainer - 4 Church Finance Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Tim Challies - Is Seminary Really Necessary?

Monday, September 26, 2016

"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review

. . . most Baptists, especially Baptist evangelicals, have strongly contended for the free market. (120)

On January 21, 2013, our nation re-inaugurated the most liberal, big government President of its history. His speech, reflecting both the 2012 campaign and his overall approach to government as an executive, was about more government, more spending, more entitlements, and more class warfare (not to mention moral warfare). It is in this context of an American celebration of such a President that I began to read Dr. Chad Owen Brand's book Flourishing Faith: A Baptist Primer on Work, Economics, and Civic Stewardship.

The book is one of four volumes from various theological viewpoints that deal with the subject of work, faith, money, politics, economics, and stewardship. Dr. Brand, professor at Boyce College and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes from the Baptist point of view (the other three in this series are Pentecostal, Wesleyan, and Reformed). The quote above is a basic summation of his conclusion. Rooted in Baptist doctrines like religious liberty, autonomy, priesthood of all believers, etc., Brand defends limited government and economic liberty (commonly referred to as Capitalism).

The book itself walks the reader through this argument. Brand, a theologian, goes into detail tracing what the Bible says and what Christians have argued throughout the centuries on work, economics, government, the state, and wealth. Brand offers a theology of work, a theology of wealth, and a political theology taken from Scripture and how Christians have thought about these issues throughout history. In other words, Brand approaches this topic of economics, wealth, and the governments role through the realm of theology - biblical, systematic, and historical theology.

I found this extremely helpful. Consider his chapter on work for example. There he begins with a biblical survey of the subject tracing it from Creation to Consummation. His basic argument is that work is good and reflects our image bearing status. We work and find dignity in work. But consider how this has been applied throughout history. Rome, Brand argues, contributed virtually nothing to the world of inventions and technology. The reason is because Rome was built on the back of slaves. The wealthy did not work. The philosophers argued that work was undignified. Thus the slave owner had no motivation to improve work conditions or utilize new tools and technologies to make work easier because they were not the ones in the field. Brand goes as far to say that Europeans in the year AD 500 used essentially the same kind of wagons, plows, ships harnesses, weapons, farming techniques, and blacksmithing that they had used a thousand years earlier. (14) The monastic movement, however, changed all of that. Seeing dignity and godliness in work, the monks updated technology and farming techniques.

Brand does the same thing throughout the book. He makes an argument based on an exposition of Scripture and then looks at how influential thinkers and leaders have thought about the issue throughout history. His concluding chapter looks at what the Bible and Christian theology has to say about economics in a political context. Brand looks at three options: socialism (as articulated by Karl Marx), the Keynesian Model (named after John Maynard Keyne), and Capitalism (as articulated by Adam Smith).

Brand begins by noting that "the Bible does not explicitly lay out a theory of economics in a political context. But it does address issues of freedom, the use of resources such as money and time, justice, generosity, and governance" (113-114). With that said, Brand rejects socialism on the basis that Scripture as it "advocates a limited state and . . . it teaches that remedial justice, that is, the care of the genuinely poor, is primarily a function of the church and generous individuals who give of their own initiative to help others" (114).

Regarding the Keynesian model, Brand too rejects it as it too "grants government sweeping powers that have no biblical justification." The reason goes beyond this. The second half of the book criticizes the current administration and its Keynesian model of governance and economic policy. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama's stimulus passages are a reflection of the Keynesian model. As Brand shows clearly, this model simply does not work. This model assumes that the free market can be fixed with the right manager at its head. This Utopian dream, which sounds nice to the voter, is a just a dream especially from the Christian perspective and doctrine of depravity. Brand is no fan of President Obama's policies as the book makes clear. We are in real danger!

That leaves us with the free market approach. Brand prefers this model as it encourages citizens to work (a biblical concept), reflects a biblical view of depravity, and Adam Smith encouraged benevolence. This does not mean that there shouldn't be some safety net for those who desperate need it, but that our current nanny state is on the verge of taking money from a few who work and giving it to the many who refuse to. That is a recipe for disaster.

This third option is the Baptist approach to economics and I think he is right. From the beginning, whether it be the Anabaptist or the English Separatists, Baptists have argued for religious liberty. No marriage or close relationship between faith and politics is ever good as the state always becomes coercive and tyrannical. Freedom reflects Scripture better. This is true, not just in the realm of faith, but also in the realm of economics and wealth. In a fallen world, a system that promotes the dignity of work, generosity, and the rule of law is best though still imperfect.

Overall, this is a great book that is full of information, theology, and practical insights. I am barely scratching the surface here. As a pastor I really appreciated his final section on what minsters are to do with the information in this book. How do we preach this and take it to our congregation? I strongly encourage you to pick up the book and read it especially in light of what will likely take place the next four years. The state has grown immensely the past 12 years and shows no signs of slowing down. We should be concerned about that and Christian theology is not silent on these issues. So let's stop being silent.

All Around the Web - September 26, 2016

Joe Carter - The FAQs: Scientists ‘Virtually Unwrap’ One of the Oldest Biblical Scrolls

Mosaic - Who's Afraid of Religious Liberty?: Seeking to prohibit every kind of “discrimination,” activists in and out of government threaten the free practice of, among other faiths, Judaism.

WORLD - Leviticus scroll discovery shows Scripture’s inerrancy

Russell Moore - Signposts: My Favorite Podcasts

John Stonestreet -  Religion, the Great Economic Engine

Kevin DeYoung - The Attraction of Idolatry

Evangelical History - New John Knox Bible Discovered

Thabiti Anyabwile - 5 Things Not to Trust in Your Preaching

Thom Rainer - 10 Traits Of Pastors Who Have Healthy Long-Term Tenure

Biblemesh - How to Minister amid Transgenderism

Chuck Lawless - 9 Reasons to be Grateful for Problem People in Your Life

EFBC Pastor's Blog - 12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels

Friday, September 23, 2016

"The Rights of Conscience Inalienable" by John Leland - Part 4

It is clear that religious liberty is being lost in America. As such, I want to pass along a number of helpful resources of previous generations defending and promoting religious liberty from noted Christians. To begin, let us look at Isaac Backus essay The Rights of Conscience Inalienable preached in 1771.

"The Rights of Conscience Inalienable" by John Leland - Part1
"The Rights of Conscience Inalienable" by John Leland - Part 2
"The Rights of Conscience Inalienable" by John Leland - Part 3
"The Rights of Conscience Inalienable" by John Leland - Part 4

What stimulates the clergy to recommend this mode of reasoning is,

1. Ignorance—not being able to confute error by fair argument.

2. Indolence—not being willing to spend any time to confute the heretical.

3. But chiefly covetousness, to get money—for it may be observed that in all these establishments settled salaries for the clergy recoverable by law are sure to be interwoven; and was not this the case, I am well convinced that there would not be many if any religious establishments in the christian world.
Having made the foregoing remarks, I shall next make some observations on the religion of Connecticut.
If the citizens of this state have any thing in existence that looks like a religious establishment, they ought to be very cautious; for being but a small part of the world they can never expect to extend their religion over the whole of it, without it is so well founded that it cannot be confuted.

If one third part of the face of the globe is allowed to be seas, the earthy parts would compose 4550 such states as Connecticut. The American empire would afford above 200 of them. And as there is no religion in this empire of the same stamp of the Connecticut standing order, upon the Saybrook platform, they may expect 199 against 1 at home, and 4549 against 1 abroad.

Connecticut and New-Haven were separate governments till the reign of Charles II when they were incorporated together by a charter, which charter is still considered by some as the basis of government.
At present (1791) there are in the state about 168 presbyterial, congregational and consociated preachers, 35 baptists, 20 episcopalians, 10 separate congregationals, and a few of other denominations. The first are the standing order of Connecticut, to whom all others have to pay obeisance. Societies of the standing order are established by law; none have right to vote therein but men of age who possess property to the amount of 40l, or are in full communion in the church. Their choice of ministers is by major vote; and what the society agree to give him annually is levied upon all within the limits of the society-bounds, except they bring a certificate to the clerk of the society that they attend worship elsewhere and contribute to the satisfaction of the society where they attend. The money being levied on the people is distrainable by law, and perpetually binding on the society till the minister is dismissed by a council or by death from his charge.

It is not my intention to give a detail of all the tumults, oppression, fines and imprisonments, that have heretofore been occasioned by this law-religion. These things are partly dead and buried, and if they do not rise of themselves let them sleep peaceably in the dust forever. Let it suffice on this head to say, that it is not possible in the nature of things to establish religion by human laws without perverting the design of civil law and oppressing the people.

The certificate that a dissenter produces to the society clerk (1784) must be signed by some officer of the dissenting church, and such church must be protestant-christian, for heathens, deists, Jews and papists, are not indulged in the certificate law; all of them, as well as Turks, must therefore be taxed to the standing order, although they never go among them or know where the meeting-house is.
This certificate law is founded on this principle, “that it is the duty of all persons to support the gospel and the worship of God.” Is this principle founded in justice? Is it the duty of a deist to support that which he believes to be a threat and imposition? Is it the duty of a Jew to support the religion of Jesus Christ, when he really believes that he was an impostor? Must the papists be forced to pay men for preaching down the supremacy of the pope, whom they are sure is the head of the church? Must a Turk maintain a religion opposed to the alcoran, which he holds as the sacred oracles of heaven? These things want better confirmation. If we suppose that it is the duty of all these to support the protestant christian religion, as being the best religion in the world—yet how comes it to pass that human legislatures have right to force them so to do? I now call for an instance where Jesus Christ, the author of his religion, or the apostles, who were divinely inspired, ever gave orders to or intimated that the civil powers on earth ought to force people to observe the rules and doctrine of the gospel.

Mahomet called in the use of law and sword to convert people to his religion; but Jesus did not, does not.
It is the duty of men to love God with all their hearts, and their neighbors as themselves; but have legislatures authority to punish men if they do not? So there are many things that Jesus and the apostles taught that men ought to obey which yet the civil law has no concerns in.

That it is the duty of men who are taught in the word to communicate to the teacher is beyond controversy, but that it is the province of the civil law to force men to do so is denied.

The charter of Charles II is supposed to be the basis of government in Connecticut; and I request any gentleman to point out a single clause in that charter which authorises the legislature to make any religious laws, establish any religion, or force people to build meeting-houses or pay preachers. If there is no constitutional clause, it follows that the laws are usurpasive in the legislators and not binding on the people. I shall here add, that if the legislature of Connecticut have authority to establish the religion which they prefer to all religions, and force men to support it, then every legislature or legislator has the same authority; and if this be true, the separation of the christians from the pagans, the departure of the protestants from the papists, and the dissention of the presbyterians from the church of England, were all schisms of a criminal nature; and all the persecution that they have met with is the just effect of their stubbornness.

The certificate law supposes,

1. That the legislature have power to establish a religion: this is false.

2. That they have authority to grant indulgence to non-conformists: this is also false, for religious liberty is a right and not a favor.

3. That the legitimate power of government extends to force people to part with their money for religious purposes. This cannot be proved from the new testament.

The certificate law has lately passed a new modification. Justices of the peace must now examine them; this gives ministers of state a power over religious concerns that the new testament does not. To examine the law part by part would be needless, for the whole of it is wrong.

From what is said this question arises, “Are not contracts with ministers, i.e. between ministers and people, as obligatory as any contracts whatever?” The simple answer is, Yes. Ministers should share the same protection of the law that other men do, and no more. To proscribe them from seats of legislation, &c. is cruel. To indulge them with an exemption from taxes and bearing arms is a tempting emolument. The law should be silent about them; protect them as citizens (not as sacred officers) for the civil law knows no sacred religious officers.

In Rhode-Island, if a congregation of people agree to give a preacher a certain sum of money for preaching the bond is not recoverable by law.[1]

This law was formed upon a good principle, but, unhappy for the makers of that law, they were incoherent in the superstructure.

The principle of the law is, that the gospel is not to be supported by law; that civil rulers have nothing to do with religion in their civil capacities. What business had they then to make that law? The evil seemed to arise from a blending religious right and religious opinions together. Religious right should be protected to all men, religious opinion to none; i.e. government should confirm the first unto all—the last unto none; each individual having a right to differ from all others in opinion if he is so persuaded. If a number of people in Rhode Island or elsewhere are of opinion that ministers of the gospel ought to be supported by law, and chuse to be bound by a bond to pay him, government has no just authority to declare that bond illegal; for in so doing they interfere with private contracts, and deny the people the liberty of conscience. If these people bind nobody but themselves, who is injured by their religious opinions? But if they bind an individual besides themselves, the bond is fraudulent, and ought to be declared illegal. And here lies the mischief of Connecticut religion. My lord, major vote, binds all the minor part, unless they submit to idolatry, i.e. pay an acknowledgment to a power that Jesus Christ never ordained in his church; I mean produce a certificate. Yea, further, Jews, Turks, heathens, papists and deists, if such there are in Connecticut, are bound, and have no redress: and further, this bond is not annually given, but for life, except the minister is dismissed by a number of others, who are in the same predicament with himself.

Although it is no abridgment of religious liberty for congregations to pay their preachers by legal force, in the manner prescribed above, yet it is antichristian; such a church cannot be a church of Christ, because they are not governed by Christ’s laws, but by the laws of state; and such ministers do not appear like ambassadors of Christ, but like ministers of state.

The next question is this: “Suppose a congregation of people have agreed to give a minister a certain sum of money annually for life, or during good behaviour, and in a course of time some or all of them change their opinions and verily believe that the preacher is in a capital error, and really from conscience dissent from him—are they still bound to comply with their engagements to the preacher?” This question is supposable, and I believe there have been a few instances of the kind.

If men have bound themselves, honor and honesty call upon them to comply, but God and conscience call upon them to come out from among them and let such blind guides[2] alone. Honor and honesty are amiable virtues; but God and conscience call to perfidiousness. This shows the impropriety of such contracts, which always may, and sometimes do lead into such labyrinths. It is time enough to pay a man after his labour is over. People are not required to communicate to the teacher before they are taught. A man called of God to preach, feels a necessity to preach, and a woe if he does not. And if he is sent by Christ, he looks to him and his laws for support; and if men comply with their duty, he finds relief; if not, he must go to his field, as the priests of old did. A man cannot give a more glaring proof of his covetousness and irreligion, than to say, “If you will give me so much, then I will preach, but if not be assured I will not preach to you.”

So that in answering the question, instead of determining which of the evils to chuse, either to disobey God and conscience, or break honor and honesty, I would recommend an escape of both evils, by entering into no such contracts: for the natural evils of imprudence, that men are fallen into, neither God nor man can prevent.

A minister must have a hard heart to wish men to be forced to pay him when (through conscience, enthusiasm, or a private pique) they dissent from his ministry. The spirit of the gospel disdains such measures.

The question before us is not applicable to many cases in Connecticut: the dissenting churches make no contracts for a longer term than a year, and most of them make none at all. Societies of the standing order rarely bind themselves in contract with preachers, without binding others beside themselves; and when that is the case the bond is fraudulent: and if those who are bound involuntarily can get clear, it is no breach of honor or honesty.

A few additional remarks shall close my piece.

I. The church of Rome was at first constituted according to the gospel, and at that time her faith was spoken of through the whole world. Being espoused to Christ, as a chaste virgin, she kept her bed pure for her husband, almost three hundred years; but afterwards she played the whore with the kings and princes of this world, who with their gold and wealth came in unto her, and she became a strumpet: and as she was the first christian church that ever forsook the laws of Christ for her conduct and received the laws of his rivals, i.e. was established by human law, and governed by the legalised edicts of councils, and received large sums of money to support her preachers and her worship by the force of civil power—she is called the mother of harlots: and all protestant churches, who are regulated by law, and force people to support their preachers, build meeting-houses and otherwise maintain their worship, are daughters of this holy mother.

II. I am not a citizen of Connecticut—the religious laws of the state do not oppress me, and I expect never will personally; but a love to religious liberty in general induces me thus to speak. Was I a resident in the state, I could not give or receive a certificate to be exempted from ministerial taxes; for in so doing I should confess that the legislature had authority to pamper one religious order in the state, and make all others pay obeisance to that sheef. It is high time to know whether all are to be free alike, and whether ministers of state are to be lords over God’s heritage.

And here I shall ask the citizens of Connecticut, whether, in the months of April and September, when they chuse their deputies for the assembly, they mean to surrender to them the rights of conscience, and authorise them to make laws binding on their consciences. If not, then all such acts are contrary to the intention of constituent power, as well as unconstitutional and antichristian.

III. It is likely that one part of the people in Connecticut believe in conscience that gospel preachers should be supported by the force of law; and the other part believe that it is not in the province of civil law to interfere or any ways meddle with religious matters. How are both parties to be protected by law in their conscientious belief?

Very easily. Let all those whose consciences dictate that they ought to be taxed by law to maintain their preachers bring in their names to the society-clerk by a certain day, and then assess them all, according to their estates, to raise the sum stipulated in the contract; and all others go free. Both parties by this method would enjoy the full liberty of conscience without oppressing one another, the law use no force in matters of conscience, the evil of Rhode-Island law be escaped, and no persons could find fault with it (in a political point of view) but those who fear the consciences of too many would lie dormant, and therefore wish to force them to pay. Here let it be noted, that there are many in the world who believe in conscience that a minister is not entitled to any acknowledgment for his services without he is so poor that he cannot live without it (and thereby convert a gospel debt to alms). Though this opinion is not founded either on reason or scripture, yet it is a better opinion than that which would force them to pay a preacher by human law.

IV. How mortifying must it be to foreigners, and how far from conciliatory is it to citizens of the American states, who, when they come into Connecticut to reside must either conform to the religion of Connecticut or produce a certificate? Does this look like religious liberty or human friendship? Suppose that man (whose name need not be mentioned) that fills every American heart with pleasure and awe, should remove to Connecticut for his health, or any other cause—what a scandal would it be to the state to tax him to a presbyterian minister unless he produced a certificate informing them that he was an episcopalian?

V. The federal constitution certainly had the advantage, of any of the state constitutions, in being made by the wisest men in the whole nation, and after an experiment of a number of years trial, upon republican principles; and that constitution forbids Congress ever to establish any kind of religion, or require any religious test to qualify any officer in any department of the federal government. Let a man be pagan, Turk, Jew or Christian, he is eligible to any post in that government. So that if the principles of religious liberty, contended for in the foregoing pages, are supposed to be fraught with deism, fourteen states in the Union are now fraught with the same. But the separate states have not surrendered that (supposed) right of establishing religion to Congress. Each state retains all its power, saving what is given to the general government by the federal constitution. The assembly of Connecticut, therefore, still undertake to guide the helm of religion: and if Congress were disposed yet they could not prevent it by any power vested in them by the states. Therefore, if any of the people of Connecticut feel oppressed by the certificate law, or any other of the like nature, their proper mode of procedure will be to remonstrate against the oppression and petition the assembly for a redress of grievance.

VI. Divines generally inform us that there is such a time to come (called the Latter-Day Glory) when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters do the sea, and that this day will appear upon the destruction of antichrist. If so, I am well convinced that Jesus will first remove all the hindrances or religious establishments, and cause all men to be free in matters of religion. When this is effected, he will say to the kings and great men of the earth, “Now see what I can do; ye have been afraid to leave the church and gospel in my hands alone, without steadying the ark by human law; but now I have taken the power and kingdom to myself, and will work for my own glory.” Here let me add, that in the southern states, where there has been the greatest freedom from religious oppression, where liberty of conscience is entirely enjoyed, there has been the greatest revival of religion; which is another proof that true religion can and will prevail best where it is left entirely to Christ.

For more:
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part1
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 2
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 3
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 4
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 5

All Around the Web - September 23, 2016

Trevin Wax - Tim Kaine, Genesis 1, and Same-Sex Marriage

Kevin DeYoung - Love One Another With Brotherly Affection

Thom Rainer - Five Categorical Lies about Pastors

Evangelical History - ‘The Religious Affections’ by Jonathan Edwards: A Q&A on an Evangelical Classic

Erik Raymond - Why Giving to the Church is Different from Paying Your Bills

Jason K. Allen - Do You Desire the Ministry?

The Gospel Coalition - On My Shelf: Life and Books with Alastair Roberts

Chuck Lawless - 9 Simple Principles in Changing a Church

Sam Storms - The Day an Angel Ministered to Jesus

Denny Burk - “The Benedict Option” for evangelicals will likely include 9Marks

Is Genesis History? - Teaser Trailer 1 from Compass Cinema on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Christianity on the Small Screen: The Office (Updated)

I recently rewatched many of the episodes of The Office and thought I would repost my review of the show as I stand by my conclusions with only a few modifications added.

One of my favorite shows of all time is NBC's The Office. The dry wit and satire on reality TV sets it apart from TV comedy. The acting is superb and the writing and jokes are rich. Each character only adds to the narrative and intrigue of the show. Recently I watched through all nine seasons again on Netflix and noticed an important point worth exploring from a Christian perspective.

The show, at its root, is about man's obsession and need to be accepted.

Consider the evidence. First there is Michael Scott himself. Scott is woefully awkward and inappropriate yet his need to be accepted and fear of loneliness prevents him from seeing this. Scott has to be viewed both as a cool boss (made most evident by his "World's Best Boss" mug) and a funny man. Every time he is rejected as either crass, crude, or unlovable he lashes out in rage and depression.

His fear of loneliness is obvious. It is revealed that Michael was raised without a father figure, supposedly has a brother he has never met and a stepfather he strongly dislikes. The episode featuring his nephew reveals the dysfunctional of his extended family and why he views Dunder Mifflin as his real family. In one scene, Michael is seen as a child confessing on TV that when he grows up he wants to father over a hundred children so that he will never be without any friends. The series finale shows him with two phones loaded with pictures of his children he shares with his wife he met on the show.

All of his romantic relationships are dysfunctional in some way. Outside of his relationship with Jan, the blame lies solely at his feet. Michael craves their affection and obsesses over each of them even after their relationship is over. He needs them to accept him, to approve of him.

There is also his obsessive need to be the center of attention. Many scenes featuring Michael in the office begin with him casually and unnecessarily walking out of his personal office into the broader office area without purpose only to do something to draw something to himself. The annual Dundees is nothing more than a comedy routine in which he expects his employees to praise his superfluous award show. Likewise, most of his jokes and conversations were a reflection of his need for attention, not community. One of the best examples of this obsession is Phyllis's wedding where he thinks pushing Phyllis's wheel-chair-bound father down the aisle is equivalent to walking the bride down the aisle. When her father stops half-way and walks on his own thus no longer needing Michael, he marches off in anger. He later interrupts the traditional toast in an inappropriate way in order to draw attention to himself.

The Assistant to the Regional Manager, Dwight, is a sycophant and almost worships him. Michael needs this and when Dwight leaves Dunder Mifflin Michael sinks into a type of depression. In addition, Michael is intimidated by the success of others he considers a threat to him. Most notable here is Ryan Howard (who went to business school) and Jim Halpert.

Secondly, there is Dwight. For the first eight seasons (which feature Michael Scott), Dwight needs to be accepted by both Dunder Mifflin in general and Michael in particular. Dwight does everything - everything - to prove his loyalty to both his regional manager and the company. His need for acceptance is best evidence in the following quote:

In one season Dwight actually leaves the company and works for Staples. He later returns after Scott, in the midst of his own depression, wins him back.

Dwight also seeks acceptance by proving his superiority to his co-workers. He is superior as a paper salesman, farmer, a man, a fighter, a volunteer sheriff deputy, tight-rope walker, boyfriend, Game of Thrones nerd, etc. The list is endless. Dwight's obsession of proving his superiority is the fuel behind many of Jim's pranks against him. In the final season after Dwight finally becomes regional manager, Jim convinces Dwight to be the assistant to the assistant to the regional manager. This would make Dwight both the number 1 and 3 in the office because no one else was worthy of being his number 3. The running joke that illustrates this superiority mindset is his made up title given to him by Michael of "Assistant to the Regional Manager." Dwight prefers the more dominant title "Assistant Regional Manager."

A cursory web search of some of the classic Dwight quotes reveal this need to be accepted. Most notable in this regard is a season 5 episode where Dwight confesses, "Nothing stresses me out. Except having to seek the approval of my inferiors."

Then there are the other characters. Ryan Howard needs to be rich and successful even if he has to cut corners. After quickly climbing the corporate ladder of Dunder Mifflin, Ryan is arrested for corruption only to return later to the show. Ryan is an arrogant jerk who uses people for his own purpose. At one point he starts a social media company taking money from his co-workers.

Erin Hannon replaces Pam Beasley as the receptionists of the office. She is an orphan who constantly longs to know her mother. In the finale she reunites with both of her birth parents. Toby Flenderson is rejected by everybody. Michael especially loathes him while the rest grow tired of him. He tries to run from his rejection overseas only to return to the Scranton branch. He is divorced multiple times - a reflection that everyone rejects him. It seems that only his daughter likes him and that is at risk at times.

Angela Martin is a self-righteous fundamentalists that wants to be viewed as such. In reality, however, she is a hypocrite who commits adultery against every boyfriend and husband outside of Dwight whom she finally marries in the finale. While married to "the Senator" she gives birth to Dwight's child. She tries to tell everyone the baby is premature in order to explain why she gave birth before the ninth month anniversary of her wedding. She finds acceptance in her self-righteousness

Andy Bernard is a salesman (later turned regional manager) who constantly brags about his alma mater Cornell (ever heard of it?). He is constantly trying to prove himself to his rich parents who think of him as a failure. In the final season Bernard quits his job to chase his vain dream of stardom. He becomes a star, but only as a viral joke on YouTube. His final line is of him longing for "the good ol' days."

Even Pam Beasley is subject to this indictment. She is discontent with being a lowly receptionists and is always afraid to take risk. She knows her relationship with Roy isn't healthy but can't seem to break it off even though the wedding planning never ends. She wants to be an artist but fears failure especially after no one comes to her gallery. Of all of the characters, she finds redemption the earliest in Jim Halpert who alone, except for his brief flirtation with Athlede in the final season, is the exception to the acceptance rule. Jim is the only character that doesn't fully fit this pattern in the series. He isn't brash, outlandish, a drunkard, stereotypical, or anything else. He's rational, gifted, and "cool." Jim is everything the other characters want to be and everyone, secretly, resents him for it. Michael is intimidated by him, Dwight fear Jim will defeat him, and Pam won't measure up to him.

In terms of redemption, The Office is a comedy that offers little until the final season when the show transforms into a semi-drama. By the end of the series, the characters that find peace find it in love. Jim and Pam, for example, work out their differences when Jim discovers that Pam is more valuable than a dream job while Pam discovers that Jim is more valuable than her comfortable life in Scranton. Dwight and Angela discover the same thing. Angela, the fundamentalist hypocrite who is an adulterer whose heart is broken by a husband guilty of the same, finds peace in her marriage to Dwight. Dwight, similarly, finds his "perfectenschlag" as a humble manager at Dunder Mifflin and as the husband of said Angela. Michael, too, finds love as both a husband and father. He leaves the show after getting engaged. He is finally happy. Even Ryan and Kelly seemingly find happiness in their witty escape in the series finale.

Yet those who do not find fulfillment are those who do not find love. Andy, for example, concludes the series by regretting abandoning Dunder Mifflin referring to it as "the good old days." He now has a job at his alma mater and is a viral superstar online, yet none of it matters. He spent his adult life fantasizing about Cornel and now that he has returned as an employee, he fantasizes about his past life as a paper salesman. In the plot of the story, Andy lacks love.

As a Christian, such redemptive hope is not redemptive. Romantic love, as defined by the culture, is fickle at best. Jim and Pam, from what I've witnessed in pop culture, do seem to possess one of the strongest marriages in modern television, yet even it is flawed. Erotic love is no Savior and it will not bring joy. Only Jesus can.

This is really what makes The Office so good. It is more than jokes and comical routines, but well-written satire that tells us something about ourselves. While mocking reality TV, the characters hold up a mirror to the viewer. Each of us have this same longing in our hearts. We may not act like Michael Scott of Kevin Malone, but that same desire is still ours. The good news of the gospel, however, is that in Christ we are accepted. We have nothing to prove.

For more:
Christianity on the Small Screen: The Office (Updated)
Christianity on the Small Screen: The Office
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 1 
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 2
Christianity and the Small Screen: "Smallville"
Christianity and the Small Screen: Fox's "House, M. D."
Christianity and the Small Screen: NBC's "Crisis"
Christianity and the Small Screen: FBI Files  

All Around the Web - September 22, 2016

Albert Mohler - From Father to Son — J.R.R. Tolkien on Sex

Andrew Walker - Belgium Lets A Legal Minor Euthanize Himself

Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About Alzheimer’s Disease

Evangelical History - 85 Years Ago Today: J.R.R. Tolkien Convinces C.S. Lewis That Christ Is the True Myth

John Stonestreet - Man and Michelangelo’s 'David'

Kevin DeYoung - Four Questions for Obeying the First Commandment

Trevin Wax - 2 Reasons Some Christians Resist the Term “Cultural Engagement”

Chuck Lawless - 11 Characteristics of Evangelistic Pastors

Denny Burk - Should an Evangelical Theological Society admit members who affirm gay marriage?

Chuck Lawless - Preachers: A Challenge from Charles Spurgeon before You Preach

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Christology

Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Introduction to Theology
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - One-Volume Systematic Theologies
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Bibliology
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Theology Proper
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Christology

Some time ago I came across a list of 25 theological books composed by Bruce Ashford he believes young theologians should read and invest in. I share my enthusiasm for most on his list and would recommend his post (you can read it here) but felt that for those brand new to the study of theology, many of the writings would be overwhelming and perhaps not the best place to start. For example, Augustine's City of God is a classic but is also an academic work that is over 1,000 pages with a unique historic context. I would not recommend a new theologian to begin there.

With that in mind, I want to compose my list of books for young theologians in various categories of theology of mostly modern books for young, budding theologians that I believe may be easier to understand. They are not classics, but I do believe they will be helpful resources to sink your teeth into.

In this fifth installment, here is a list of helpful theology proper books.

All Around the Web - September 20, 2016

Washington Post - Study: Religion contributes more to the U.S. economy than Facebook, Google and Apple combined

Joe Carter - What You Should Know About the Green Party Platform

Russell Moore - Signposts: How to Talk About Evil With Your Children

Kevin DeYoung - Seven Principles for Angry Parents Disciplining Angry Children

Thom Rainer - Four Reasons to Welcome Smartphone Use in the Worship Service

Doug Wilson - Yea, Though She Fall Into the Van

The Resurgent - NCAA Adopts Neo-Paganism While Rejecting God

Erik Raymond - An Often Neglected Treasure Chest for Sermon Illustrations

Spurgeon Center - 3 Ways Spurgeon Conquered His Secret Sin

Denny Burk - Five quick points on the ESV’s rendering of Genesis 3:16

The Blaze - ‘Pets Are Becoming a Replacement for Children’: Millennials More Likely to Own Pets, Less Likely to Have Kids

Chuck Lawless - 10 Ways to Conclude a Worship Service

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce" by John Piper: A Review

Thus began a forty-five year investment in the politics of England. He began it as a late-night, party-loving, upper-class unbeliever. he was single and would stay that way happily until he was thirty-seven years old. Then he met Barbara on April 15, 1797. he fell immediately in love. Within eight days he proposed to her, and on May 30 they were married, about six weeks after they met - and stayed married until William died thirty-six years later. In the first eight years of their marriage they had four sons and two daughters. (28)

As I am typing this, the primary choices for the American presidency in the 2016 election is Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R). I am unaware of a more depressing time to be a Christian voter on the national scene in America. The two candidates clearly lack any clear moral barometer. In light of that, it seemed appropriate to return to one of my favorite all-time politicians: William Wilberforce. I began by reading the short book by John Piper entitled Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce (download the book for free here) which is a great resource for those new to the British leader.

Wilberforce is best known for his work in abolishing both the slave trade and slavery in England. The abolition of slavery required a war and an executive order in America, but the work of leaders like Wilberforce accomplished the same without a single shot. Yet Wilberforce accomplished more than that. He was a man driven by his Christian faith. His political courage and the causes he fought for were the fruit of his robust theology. In a day were many politicians are either hesitant to embrace faith or are outright faithless, Wilberforce embrace the gospel openly and served his country well through it.

Piper's brief book offers both a biography and theological treatment of his life and thought. It is precisely what one would expect from a pastor-theologian who is not a biographer or a historian. That is a not a critique of the book, but the reader should know what this volume is and is not. The origin of its pages come from a sermon preached by Piper available below.

The advantage of this approach is that Piper shows how deep Wilberforce's theology was and how it shaped his life in a unique way. Historians get distracted by political and historical detail whereas Piper shows us how Wilberforce's deep faith was the driving force behind all that he did.

The one critique I would have for the book would be his heavy reliance on John Pollock's biography on him. The author does reference and quote other works, but Pollock dominates the pages. I would not recommend the same practice for any other author.

Nevertheless, this is a helpful introductory to a great man who was used mightily by God. Wilberforce loved Jesus and did not run from his vocation in that affection but understand that God called him to public service and that politics was his ministry. No doubt he fought the good fight and finished the race. Literally. The news of the abolition of the slaves came to him three days prior to his death. What an answer to his prayers!

For more:
"Seven Men" by Eric Metaxas: A Review
William Wilberforce and the End of Slavery: A Legacy of the Gospel

All Around the Web - September 19, 2016

Joe Carter - U.S. Civil Rights Commission: ‘Religious Freedom’ is Code Word for Racism, Homophobia, and ‘Christian Supremacy’

David French - The Left Is Weaponizing Sports

Russell Moore - Rescuing Men From Fake Love and Fake War

Get Religion - What's happening with NCAA boycotting North Carolina? Don't bother reading Raleigh paper

Bruce Ashford - 4 Principles for Political Witness in our American Babylon

Baptist Press - Polygamists appeal to Supreme Court

Thom Rainer - Five Reasons Why Churches Are Dying and Declining Faster Today

Jason K. Allen - Ten Tips for Leading Kids to Christ

The Wardrobe Door - The American Church’s Real Enemy

Chuck Lawless - 10 More Ways to Challenge Your Church to Give More

Mark Driscoll - 7 Reasons Why Sports Are Good For Kids

Trevin Wax - Visiting the Home and Grave of C. S. Lewis

Friday, September 16, 2016

"The Rights of Conscience Inalienable" by John Leland - Part 3

It is clear that religious liberty is being lost in America. As such, I want to pass along a number of helpful resources of previous generations defending and promoting religious liberty from noted Christians. To begin, let us look at Isaac Backus essay The Rights of Conscience Inalienable preached in 1771.

"The Rights of Conscience Inalienable" by John Leland - Part1
"The Rights of Conscience Inalienable" by John Leland - Part 2
"The Rights of Conscience Inalienable" by John Leland - Part 3

1. Uninspired fallible men make their own opinions tests of orthodoxy, and use their own systems, as Procrustes used his iron bedstead, to stretch and measure the consciences of all others by. Where no toleration is granted to non-conformists either ignorance and superstition prevail or persecution rages; and if toleration is granted to restricted non-conformists the minds of men are biassed to embrace that religion which is favored and pampered by law (and thereby hypocrisy is nourished) while those who cannot stretch their consciences to believe any thing and every thing in the established creed are treated with contempt and opprobrious names; and by such means some are pampered to death by largesses and others confined from doing what good they otherwise could by penury. The first lie under a temptation to flatter the ruling party, to continue that form of government which brings the sure bread of idleness; the last to despise that government and those rulers that oppress them. The first have their eyes shut to all further light that would alter the religious machine; the last are always seeking new light, and often fall into enthusiasm. Such are the natural evils of establishment in religion by human laws.

2. Such establishments not only wean and alienate the affections of one from another on account of the different usages they receive in their religious sentiments, but are also very impolitic, especially in new countries; for what encouragement can strangers have to migrate with their arts and wealth into a state where they cannot enjoy their religious sentiments without exposing themselves to the law? when at the same time their religious opinions do not lead them to be mutinous. And further, how often have kingdoms and states been greatly weakened by religious tests! In the time of the persecution in France not less than twenty thousand people fled for the enjoyment of religious liberty.

3. These establishments metamorphose the church into a creature, and religion into a principle of state; which has a natural tendency to make men conclude that bible religion is nothing but a trick of state. Hence it is that the greatest part of the well informed in literature are overrun with deism and infidelity: nor is it likely it will ever be any better while preaching is made a trade of emolument. And if there is no difference between bible religion and state religion I shall soon fall into infidelity.

4. There are no two kingdoms or states that establish the same creed or formularies of faith (which alone proves their debility). In one kingdom a man is condemned for not believing a doctrine that he would be condemned for believing in another kingdom. Both of these establishments cannot be right—but both of them can be, and surely are, wrong.

5. The nature of such establishments, further, is to keep from civil office the best of men. Good men cannot believe what they cannot believe; and they will not subscribe to what they disbelieve, and take an oath to maintain what they conclude is error: and as the best of men differ in judgment there may be some of them in any state: their talents and virtue entitle them to fill the most important posts, yet because they differ from the established creed of the state they cannot—will not fill those posts. Whereas villains make no scruple to take any oath.

If these and many more evils attend such establishments—what were and still are the causes that ever there should be a state establishment of religion?

The causes are many—some of them follow.

1. The love of importance is a general evil. It is natural to men to dictate for others; they choose to command the bushel and use the whip-row, to have the halter around the necks of others to hang them at pleasure.

2. An over-fondness for a particular system or sect. This gave rise to the first human establishment of religion, by Constantine the Great. Being converted to the christian system, he established it in the Roman empire, compelled the pagans to submit, and banished the christian heretics, built fine chapels at public expence, and forced large stipends for the preachers. All this was done out of love to the christian religion: but his love operated inadvertently; for he did the christian church more harm than all the persecuting emperors did. It is said that in his day a voice was heard from heaven, saying, “Now is the poison spued into the churches.” If this voice was not heard, it nevertheless was a truth; for from that day to this the christian religion has been made a stirrup to mount the steed of popularity, wealth, and ambition.

3. To produce uniformity in religion. Rulers often fear that if they leave every man to think, speak and worship as he pleases, that the whole cause will be wrecked in diversity; to prevent which they establish some standard of orthodoxy to effect uniformity. But is uniformity attainable? Millions of men, women and children, have been tortured to death to produce uniformity, and yet the world has not advanced one inch towards it. And as long as men live in different parts of the world, have different habits, education and interests, they will be different in judgment, humanly speaking.

Is conformity of sentiments in matters of religion essential to the happiness of civil government? Not at all. Government has no more to do with the religious opinions of men than it has with the principles of the mathematics. Let every man speak freely without fear—maintain the principles that he believes—worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in so doing, i.e. see that he meets with no personal abuse or loss of property for his religious opinions. Instead of discouraging of him with proscriptions, fines, confiscation or death; let him be encouraged, as a free man, to bring forth his arguments and maintain his points with all boldness; then if his doctrine is false it will be confuted, and if it is true (though ever so novel) let others credit it. When every man has this liberty what can he wish for more? A liberal man asks for nothing more of government.

The duty of magistrates is not to judge of the divinity or tendency of doctrines, but when those principles break out into overt acts of violence then to use the civil sword and punish the vagrant for what he has done and not for the religious phrenzy that he acted from.

It is not supposable that any established creed contains the whole truth and nothing but truth; but supposing it did, which established church has got it? All bigots contend for it—each society cries out “The temple of the Lord are we.” Let one society be supposed to be in possession of the whole—let that society be established by law—the creed of faith that they adopt be so consecrated by government that the man that disbelieves it must die—let this creed finally prevail over the whole world. I ask what honor truth gets by all this? None at all. It is famed of a Prussian, called John the Cicero, that by one oration he reconciled two contending princes actually in war; but, says the historian, “it was his six thousand horse of battle that had the most persuasive oratory.” So when one creed or church prevails over another, being armed with (a coat of mail) law and sword, truth gets no honor by the victory. Whereas if all stand upon one footing, being equally protected by law as citizens (not as saints) and one prevails over another by cool investigation and fair argument, then truth gains honor, and men more firmly believe it than if it was made an essential article of salvation by law.

Truth disdains the aid of law for its defence—it will stand upon its own merits. The heathens worshipped a goddess called truth, stark naked; and all human decorations of truth serve only to destroy her virgin beauty. It is error, and error alone, that needs human support; and whenever men fly to the law or sword to protect their system of religion and force it upon others, it is evident that they have something in their system that will not bear the light and stand upon the basis of truth.

4. The common objection “that the ignorant part of the community are not capacitated to judge for themselves” supports the popish hierarchy, and all protestant as well as Turkish and pagan establishments, in idea.

But is this idea just? Has God chosen many of the wise and learned? Has he not hidden the mystery of gospel truth from them and revealed it unto babes? Does the world by wisdom know God? Did many of the rulers believe in Christ when he was upon earth? Were not the learned clergy (the scribes) his most inveterate enemies? Do not great men differ as much as little men in judgment? Have not almost all lawless errors crept into the world through the means of wise men (so called)? Is not a simple man, who makes nature and reason his study, a competent judge of things? Is the bible written (like Caligula’s laws) so intricate and high that none but the letter-learned (according to common phrase) can read it? Is not the vision written so plain that he that runs may read it? Do not those who understand the original languages which the bible was written in differ as much in judgment as others? Are the identical copies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, together with the epistles, in every university, and in the hands of every master of arts? If not, have not the learned to trust to a human transcription, as much as the unlearned have to a translation? If these questions and others of a like nature can be confuted, then I will confess that it is wisdom for a conclave of bishops or a convocation of clergy to frame a system out of the bible and persuade the legislature to legalise it. No. It would be attended with so much expence, pride, domination, cruelty and bloodshed, that let me rather fall into infidelity; for no religion at all is better than that which is worse than none.

5. The ground work of these establishments of religion is clerical influence. Rulers, being persuaded by the clergy that an establishment of religion by human laws would promote the knowledge of the gospel, quell religious disputes, prevent heresy, produce uniformity, and finally be advantageous to the state, establish such creeds as are framed by the clergy; and this they often do the more readily when they are flattered by the clergy that if they thus defend the truth they will become nursing fathers to the church and merit something considerable for themselves.

For more:
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part1
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 2
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 3
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 4
"An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day" by Isaac Backus - Part 5

All Around the Web - September 16, 2016

Albert Mohler - All That Terror Teaches: Have We Learned Anything?

Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About the 9/11 Aftermath—15 Years Later

TIME Magazine - My Brother’s Pregnancy and the Making of a New American Family

The Resurgent - LGBT Militants To Churches: Bow To Us, Or Else

Politico - ‘We’re the Only Plane in the Sky’

Evangelical History - Jonathan Edwards and the Bible’s Historical Reliability

John Stonestreet - Stay Repressed, My Friends

Trevin Wax - Visiting the Home and Grave of G. K. Chesterton

Chuck Lawless - 7 Questions to Determine if Your Prayer Life is More Ritual or Relationship

The Gospel Coalition - My 3 Biggest Fears as a Teenager

Estately - These Are the Most Oddly-Named Towns in Each U.S. State

Denny Burk - Louisiana Floods Before and After

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Truth, Tears, Anger, and Grace": A Sermon Preached by Tim Keller

Sunday was the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and I was still in high school on that day. I remember the brief spiritual revival as millions of Americans gathered for worship the following Sunday looking for answers. I recently came across the following sermon I thought worth passing along by Timothy Keller who pastors in New York City from September 16, 2001. Such sermons are good for pastors like myself to review and consider for the day we will be called upon to rise and prophetically speak to hurting people and a hurting nation.

HT: Lauren Hines

All Around the Web - September 15, 2016

Russell Moore - Sunday Morning Worship in an Abortion Culture

Washington Post - Massachusetts: Churches may be covered by transgender discrimination bans, as to ‘secular events’

Evangelical History - How the Colonies in America Moved from “Tolerance” to “Free Exercise” of Religion

Andrew Walker - The Christian Response to Gender Dysphoria

Thom Rainer - Seven Ways Pastors Can Deal with the Monday Blues

The Stream - Tampons in the Men’s Room and Other Campus Insanity

Western Recorder - Roy Moore to stand trial for gay marriage order

The Cripplegate - The Blog in Our Eyes

Doug Wilson - The Huffington Puffington Post

Realtor - Inside Lower Manhattan’s Amazing Post-9/11 Rebound

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

God Undestands Our Suffering: Billy Graham Message to a Nation on 15 Years Ago

Three days after 9/11, a group of religious leaders were invited to speak at a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance at the Washington National Cathedral in light of the terrorists attacks. One of those speakers of the evangelists Billy Graham. I still remember where I was when I watched his brief sermon and to me, this is the Billy Graham I will remember.