Friday, April 28, 2017

Conversations: Billy Kristol with Harvey Mansfield

"Bulverism" by CS Lewis - Part 2

"Bulverism" by CS Lewis - Part 1
"Bulverism" by CS Lewis - Part 2

The following essay written by CS Lewis and found in "God in the Dock" is one of the more prophetic essay from the late apologists pen.

I find the fruits of his discovery almost everywhere. Thus I see my religion dismissed on the grounds that “the comfortable parson had every reason for assuring the nineteenth century worker that poverty would be rewarded in another world.” Well, no doubt he had. On the assumption that Christianity is an error, I can see clearly enough that some people would still have a motive for inculcating it. I see it so easily that I can, of course, play the game the other way round, by saying that “the modern man has every reason for trying to convince himself that there are no eternal sanctions behind the morality he is rejecting.” For Bulverism is a truly democratic game in the sense that all can play it all day long, and that it give no unfair advantage to the small and offensive minority who reason. But of course it gets us not one inch nearer to deciding whether, as a matter of fact, the Christian religion is true or false. That question remains to be discussed on quite different grounds - a matter of philosophical and historical argument. However it were decided, the improper motives of some people, both for believing it and for disbelieving it, would remain just as they are.

I see Bulverism at work in every political argument. The capitalists must be bad economists because we know why they want capitalism, and equally Communists must be bad economists because we know why they want Communism. Thus, the Bulverists on both sides. In reality, of course, either the doctrines of the capitalists are false, or the doctrines of the Communists, or both; but you can only find out the rights and wrongs by reasoning - never by being rude about your opponent’s psychology.

Until Bulverism is crushed, reason can play no effective part in human affairs. Each side snatches it early as a weapon against the other; but between the two reason itself is discredited. And why should reason not be discredited? It would be easy, in answer, to point to the present state of the world, but the real answer is even more immediate. The forces discrediting reason, themselves depend of reasoning. You must reason even to Bulverize. You are trying to prove that all proofs are invalid. If you fail, you fail. If you succeed, then you fail even more - for the proof that all proofs are invalid must be invalid itself.

The alternative then is either sheer self-contradicting idiocy or else some tenacious belief in our power of reasoning, held in the teeth of all the evidence that Bulverists can bring for a “taint” in this or that human reasoner. I am ready to admit, if you like, that this tenacious belief has something transcendental or mystical about it. What then? Would you rather be a lunatic than a mystic?

So we see there is justification for holding on to our belief in Reason. But can this be done without theism? Does “I know” involve that God exists? Everything I know is an inference from sensation (except the present moment). All our knowledge of the universe beyond our immediate experiences depends on inferences from these experiences. If our inferences do not give a genuine insight into reality, then we can know nothing. A theory cannot be accepted if it does not allow our thinking to be a genuine insight, nor if the fact of our knowledge is not explicable in terms of that theory.

But our thoughts can only be accepted as a genuine insight under certain conditions. All beliefs have causes but a distinction must be drawn between (1) ordinary causes and (2) a special kind of cause called “a reason.” Causes are mindless events which can produce other results than belief. Reasons arise from axioms and inferences and affect only beliefs. Bulverism tries to show that the other man has causes and not reasons and that we have reasons and not causes. A belief which can be accounted for entirely in terms of causes is worthless. This principle must not be abandoned when we consider the beliefs which are the basis of others. Our knowledge depends on our certainty about axioms and inferences. If these are the results of causes, then there is no possibility of knowledge. Either we can know nothing or thought has reasons only, and no causes.

[The remainder of this essay, which was originally read to the Socratic Club before publication in the Socratic Digest, continues in the form of notes taken down by the Secretary of the Club. This explains why it is not all in the first-person, as is the text-proper.]

One might argue, Mr. Lewis continued, that reason had developed by natural selection, only those methods of thought which had proved useful surviving. But the theory depends on an inference from usefulness to truth, of which the validity would have to be assumed. All attempts to treat thought as a natural event involve the fallacy of excluding the thought of the man making the attempt.

It is admitted that the mind is affected by physical events; a wireless set is influenced by atmospherics, but it does not originate its deliverances - we’d take no notice of it if we thought it did. Natural events we can relate one to another until we can trace them finally to the space-time continuum. But thought has no father but thought. It is conditioned, yes, not caused. My knowledge that I have nerves in inferential.

The same argument applies to our values, which are affected by social factors, but if they are caused by them we cannot know that they are right. One can reject morality as an illusion, but the man who does so often tacitly excepts his own ethical motive: for instance the duty of freeing morality from superstition and of spreading enlightenment.

Neither Will nor Reason is the product of Nature. Therefore either I am self-existent (a belief which no one can accept) or I am a colony of some Thought and Will that are self-derived from a self-existent Reason and Goodness outside ourselves, in fact, a Supernatural.

Mr. Lewis went on to say that it was often objected that the existence of the Supernatural is too important to be discernible only by abstract argument, and thus only by the leisured few. But in all other ages the plain man has accepted the findings of the mystics and the philosophers for his initial belief in the existence of the Supernatural. Today the ordinary man is forced to carry that burden himself. Either mankind has made a ghastly mistake in rejecting authority, or the power or powers ruling his destiny are making a daring experiment, and all are to become sages. A society consisting solely of plain men must end in disaster. If we are to survive we must either believe the seers or scale those heights ourselves.

Evidently, then, something beyond Nature exists. Man is on the border line between the Natural and the Supernatural. Material events cannot produce spiritual activity, but the latter can be responsible for many of our actions in Nature. Will and Reason cannot depend on anything but themselves, but Nature can depend on Will and Reason, or, in other words, God created Nature.

The relation between Nature and Supernature, which is not a relation in space and time, becomes intelligible if the Supernatural made the Natural. We even have an idea of this making, since we know the power of imagination, though we can create nothing new, but can only rearrange our material provided through sense data. It is not inconceivable that the universe was created by an Imagination strong enough to impose phenomena on other minds.

It has been suggested, Mr. Lewis concluded, that our ideas of making and causing are wholly derived from our experience of will. The conclusion usually drawn is that there is no making or causing, only “projection.” But “projection” is itself a form of causing, and it is more reasonable to suppose that Will is the only cause we know, and that therefore Will is the cause of Nature.

A discussion followed. Points arising:

All reasoning assumes the hypothesis that inference is valid. Correct inference is self-evident.
“Relevant” (re evidence) is a rational term.
The universe doesn’t claim to be true: it’s just there.
Knowledge by revelation is more like empirical than rational knowledge.

Question: What is the criterion of truth, if you distinguish between cause and reason? Mr Lewis: A mountainous country might have several maps made of it, only one of which was a true one; i.e., corresponding with the actual contours. The map drawn by Reason claims to be that true one. I couldn’t get at the universe unless I could trust my reason. If we couldn’t trust inference we could know nothing but our own existence. Physical reality is an inference from sensations.

Question: How can an axiom claim self-evidence any more than an empirical judgment on evidence?

All Around the Web - April 28, 2017

Tim Challies - The Worst Consequence of Skipping Church

Chuck Lawless - 8 Ways to Determine What Masters You

Kentucky Today - Americans love the Bible, but more than half read it little or not at all

Jason K. Allen - Recovering the Exclusivity of the Gospel

Answers in Genesis - Bill Nye Saves the World Netflix Series Review

David Schrock - How Do We Know Christ Rose from the Dead?

The Resurgent - Planned Parenthood Once Told the Truth About Abortion

Thom Rainer - 15 Really Strange Reasons Not to Attend Church

The Gospel Coalition - The 19th-Century Frenchman You Should Read

The Telegraph - Elderly couple die side by side on same day after 77 years together

Babylon Bee - Report: Someone Offended | Satire

How Nature Documentaries Are Fake from DSLRguide on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Christianity on the Small Screen: LOST, Season 1-3

Locke: "Why do you find it so hard to believe?"
Jack: "Why do you find it so easy?"

One of the rich aspects of Christianity is that it unveils reality through story. Christianity is a story - in fact it is the most common of stories. So common that even secular stories highlight its themes. One great example of this is the ABC show LOST which aired from 2004-2010 which tells the story of the surviving passengers of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 on an isolated island. The beauty of the show is that the title refers to more than being stranded on a literal island.

Not only are the survivors lost on a very mysterious island with unique properties and a strange "security system" with an odd history, but the survivors themselves are lost. What makes LOST so rich is the character development and the writing. Each episode in the first three seasons explores the backstory of each character through a series of flashbacks revealing that everyone, from Jack to Sawyer to Kate to Charlie to Locke to Claire to Sun to Jin to Sayid to Boone and even to Hurley, are broken. Through the world of the island, the show's creators explore the theme of universal brokenness.

The challenge is how do these survivors overcome their brokenness on the island. They are strangers who do not trust each other forced to live in a strange world dealing with unique challenges ("Guys, where are we?"). Will they overcome their brokenness and past or will they be consumed by them?

To some, the island is a new beginning. John Locke tells Shannon in season 1 that "Everyone gets a new life on this island Shannon. Maybe its time to start yours." (". . . In Translation") She, of course, is a broken young woman who manipulates men (like her brother Boone who is on the island with her). She has a broken relationship with her stepmother and is still mourning the loss of her biological father making her home life Cinderella-esque.

Locke himself has a complicated backstory. He is paralyzed from the waist down  (spoiler alert!) caused by a broken relationship with his father. His father cons him out of a kidney and then abandons him. To Locke, the island is a place of miraculous hope and newness. He arrives in a wheelchair but lands on the island with the ability to walk.

One major theme of the show is that the island does change each character in some way. Jack embraces his role as leader. Locke regains his ability to walk. Rose is healed of her cancer. Boone lets go of his sister. Charlies breaks free from his heroin addiction. Shannon finds true love (again, her story mirrors Cinderella minus the shoes). However, as they find change on the island, the brokenness of their past continues to haunt them. Jack's need to fix things (which drove him to become a doctor in the first place) making him the perfect and worse hero being both stubborn and not trusting. Kate's violent past turned her into a fugitive and even though no one hunts her on the island, she is constantly on the run in the jungle and on the beach (not to mention between Jack and Sawyer). Charlie must give up his drugs only to find another crashed airplane inland full of heroin. Every character brings their brokenness to the island and though they try to conceal it at first, who they really is eventually exposed.

This is a universal story and it lies at the core of Christianity. The gospels tells us we are broken people: we are lost and in need of a Savior. In Luke's Gospel Jesus tells three parables about lostness: a lost coin, a lost sheep, and two lost sons. Every time something was found there was great rejoicing.

Deep down we all know we are broken and lost and in need of healing and discovery.

No wonder, then, the creators of LOST explore themes of faith and redemption. Most important in this regard is the science vs. religion debate. The opening episode of season two is actually entitled "Man of Science, Man of Faith." On the one hand is the spine surgeon, Jack, who embodies the man of science. He does not believe what he cannot see and study. He lives, as it were, in the "real world" that requires a clear explanation for everything. John Locke (note the name), on the other hand, is an office worker at a boxing company who embodies the man of faith. Nothing can explain the miraculous healing he experienced on the island so he begins to communicate with the island and becomes its disciple. This obedience leads him to pursue the hatch, save Mr. Echo, "sacrifice" Boone, and not fear the mysterious "Smoke Monster."

This disagreement becomes serious between the two men. From the writers perspective, what separates them is their view of history. Locke asks at the end of season 1, "Do you think we crashed on this place by coincidence?" ("Exodus, part 2") One phrase, used twice in the first three seasons, is "Don't confuse coincidence with fate." Coincidence, of course, does not need a metaphysical explanation. Fate, however, does. Mr. Echo, who later embodies the man of faith persona when Locke temporarily apostatizes, is the first to say it to Locke (Locke later says it to Desmond while in the midst of his apostasy).

The writers should be applauded for exploring seriously the questions of theology, philosophy, faith, and brokenness. Echo, for example, becomes the island's priest and performs a baptism for baby Aaron. There are a number of references to Scripture and other various theological and philosophical issues. A show about human brokenness should not be taken seriously without exploring such religious themes for healing cannot come by science alone.

Yet the theme of fate vs. coincidence is a real weakness. Coincidence is blind trust in nothingness and no doubt there are many coincidences in LOST. Fate, on the other hand, is not the faith answer the writer's want us to believe. In fact, to put the words "Perhaps it's not happenstance that you and Essam met at the Mosque. Perhaps it is fate" ("The Greater Good") in the mouth of a Muslim would be offensive to them. This forced dichotomy shows the secular writers ignorance of what faith in a broken world looks like. Fate is a faceless power and is nothing more than metaphysical coincidence.

Christianity has a better term: providence. Providence reminds us that there is a God who reigns supreme over the universe and rules over human affairs - past, present, and future. This fundamental truth to Christianity gives us hope in the midst of our suffering and brokenness. It is central to the story of redemption in Scripture. At the Fall when man became lost, there was God, not a faceless power, but a loving Father extending his providential grace to a broken people promising that the head of the serpent would be crushed (Gen. 3:15). And crushed it was in the person and work of his son, Jesus Christ.

This is why, at the end of the series (which will be explored in a future post) there is no real redemption in LOST. Science cannot and will not redeem because that which science and medicine fixes will break down again (like Jack's marriage). Fate cannot and will not redeem because it will in the end betray you. But a providential God who comes down in the person of the Son makes all the difference of the world. Whether we are broken at a bar in need of hope, at the end of our ropes in a failing relationship, or stranded on a mysterious island being chased by an odd smoke monster, providence is what we need because providence produced a Savior which heals us of our brokenness. And in the Great Shepherd, the lost are found.

For more:
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 1
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 2
Christianity and the Small Screen: The West Wing
Christianity on the Small Screen: The Office (Updated)
Christianity on the Small Screen: The Office
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
Saying Shibboleth

All Around the Web - April 27, 2017

Kevin DeYoung - What Can Church History Teach Us About Wolves?

Eric Metaxas - Liberalism in a Lab Coat

Tim Challies - 8 Sins You Commit Whenever You Look at Porn

Chuck Lawless - 8 Ways the Internet Can Hurt the Church

Owen Strachan - 3 Ways God’s Justice Comforts Us

Independent Journal Review - The Most Stunningly Detailed 2016 Election Map Was Just Released—Democrats Should Be Scared, Very Scared

Thom Rainer - You will deal with gnats in pastoral ministry

Erik Raymond - God Still Uses Ordinary Means and Ordinary Men

Pastor's Today - 3 Ways to Get Leaders from Pew to Pulpit

Baptist Press - Porn deemed public health crisis, harmful in 5 states

The Blaze - Commentary: Can we stop pretending Bill Nye is a science guy already?

Babylon Bee - Merriam-Webster Updates Definition Of ‘Fascism’ To ‘Anything One Disagrees With’ | Satire

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Science: The Shibboleth of Progressive Religion

In today's BreakPoint commentary entitled Liberalism in a Labcoat by Eric Metaxas takes on Bill Nye and the religion of scientism arguing that "being 'pro-science' has become a shibboleth for supporting progressive ideology." For example, if your uncertain about manmade global warming (and thus demand increase taxes and government intrusion as the solution) then your anti-science. If you believe that biology and gender is fixed and not determined by fluid feelings then your ant-science.

I listen to Metaxas and Stonestreet's BreakPoint commentaries every morning and this one ranks up as one of the best ones. Here is the introduction.
In his preface to “Mere Christianity,” C. S. Lewis explains what happens when words lose their original meaning. Take the word “gentleman.” Once upon a time, Lewis writes, a gentleman was “one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone ‘a gentleman,’ you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact.”

Gradually, however, “gentleman” evolved into just that—a compliment. A true gentleman was no longer someone who met the objective qualifications, but a person whom the speaker liked. Thus, concludes Lewis, “gentleman” became a useless word.

I think another important word is undergoing this same redefinition. That word, alas, is science.
You can read the rest here.

Called to Pastoral Ministry?: A Question to Consider

The call to ministry is a serious question that many consider every year. Perhaps someone is reading these words right now struggling with God's call on their life. Entering gospel ministry is not something that should be taken lightly and thus any guide that points us in the right direction is imperative.

Typically, the question comes down to both the internal and ecclesiastical call. The internal call regards the candidate themselves. Do they believe God has called them? Is there a strong passion for ministry in general and pastoral ministry in particular? A general rule of thumb is that if you could be content doing anything else, then pursue that. Many have confessed to fighting the call for ministry in pursuit of other interests and careers only to surrender later in life.

The other is the ecclesiastical call. Does the local church affirm the internal call? Do they see the Spirit of God at work in your life? Is the power of God evident in your life? If the local church would not and could not recommend you to another congregation, then perhaps you are not qualified or called into ministry.

I concur with this general assessment. Of course more goes into this, but when counseling those struggling with God's call on their life, I always begin with this general assessment.

But then I quickly draw their attention to another question to consider. When tragedy strikes in the church (perhaps a teenager is killed in a car wreck or one of the church's leaders suddenly dies of cancer), do you feel called to go and minister to the family?

I received a call once from a youth minister friend who had been struggling the called to pastoral ministry. One of his students had suddenly passed in a tragic accident and was asking for my counsel on how to approach the situation. Weeks later we discussed how everything went and he confessed how uncomfortable and difficult it was. No pastor is comfortable in such situations. Death is our greatest enemy. Yet every pastor should feel called to such situation. If you do not have a strong sense of calling to minister to people in the worse moments of life and believe, without a doubt, that the gospel is the only means of comfort and grace, then do not enter ministry. But if you are compelled to comfort with grace, then perhaps God is in fact calling you.

This third question is a crucial one for me. Next to criticism, perhaps nothing else drains a pastor more than the emotional roller coaster of tragedies and the sufferings of his sheep. In a single day a pastor could be called to weep with the suffering and rejoicing with new parents. If you do not have a sense of calling for that, then stay away.

All Around the Web - April 25, 2017

Russell Moore - Signposts: How Can You Know If You’re Under God’s Discipline?

USA Today - How faith communities view different fertility treatments

Trevin Wax - Feasting As An Act of War

Thom Rainer - Five Common but Unreasonable Requests Church Members Make of Pastors

Desiring God - The Quiet Plague of Painkillers

Gentle Reformation - African American Preaching at RPTS

Chuck Lawless - 8 More Reflections on Church Consultations

The Gospel Coalition - Why the Lord’s Prayer Is So Offensive

Hare Translation Journey - Verses to Meditate on When Considering Missions

The Resurgent - Minimum Wage Hikes are Killing the Poor

Babylon Bee - Facebook Adds New ‘I’d Rather Die’ Response To Event Invitations

Monday, April 24, 2017

"Exploring J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit" by Corey Olsen: A Review

In midst of a stalemate caused by people insisting on their rights, Bilbo has given up everything.
. . . 
Now at last we can see why the dwarves needed a burglar in their company. When it actually came to it, a burglar was not all that much help in obtaining their treasure; a bowman was what they really needed for that. Bilbo was quite handy to have around at many points on their journey, but the one task he turned out to be uniquely qualified for was connected not with the recovery of their treasure, but with the recovery of themselves. Bard slays the dragon, but it is little Bilbo who works to make the prophecies of peace and prosperity come true.

Not even Gandalf could have foreseen that his chosen burglar would play this particular role in the adventure he arranged. Yet when Gandalf meets Bilbo again at the end of Chapter Sixteen, we can see that the wizard recognizes the full significance of Bilbo's actions and fully endorses them. His comment that "there is always more about you than anyone expects!" presumably is meant to include himself, and it acts as an admission that he had no idea of the unlikely turn events have taken (249). Gandalf's hearty "Well done!" is Bilbo's greatest reward. He has more than lived up to Gandalf's recommendation. (261, 263)

Rarely do I read fiction, but when I do, the author is usually C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien. From my experience (and with my personal preferences and biases), little is better, more powerful, or better feeds my imagination more than the worlds of Narnia, Middle-Earth, or Perelandria. Following the release of the third Hobbit film, I sat down to reread Tolkien's first volume in Middle-Earth (you can read that review here). Much of the last few years, as a result, has been enjoying both theatrically and literately Bilbo and his thirteen companions.

This is what led me to discover Dr. Core Olsen's wonderful book Exploring J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Olsen writes from the perspective of both an avid fan (even a Tolkien nerd) and professor of medieval history and literature. In fact, Olsen credits Tolkien for his personal interest in the middle ages.

The book walks the reader through The Hobbit interacting with the text and its meaning. Though I consider myself a fan of Tolkien's work, I must admit how little I actually knew. Olsen opened my eyes to see the beauty of The Hobbit.

Olsen makes connections, without stretching or reading into the text, that I had failed to see before. Some of them are fairly obvious. For example, Bilbo is constantly torn between his Baggins side (who wants to stay home and eat his bacon and eggs) and his Took side (which loves adventures). That little insight alone will make the story more interesting. Another example regards the juxtaposition between the Elves and the Goblins. One should note how Tolkien leads the company from one (the Rivendale Elves) to the other.

It is here I must make a confession. I almost always skip over the many songs found in the book. In fact, I should admit that the only poetic section of the book I read is the riddles in the dark between Biblo and Gollum (and I would highly recommend Olsen's take on this great scene). Such songs, frankly, are uninteresting to me. Olsen, however, changed my perspective on this. The writer unfolds what Tolkien is actually doing through these songs. Again, the juxtaposition between the Rivendale Elves and the Goblins is case in point. What I once considered insignificant has, really, robbed me of the real meaning and beauty of the story itself.

One of the main themes of the book (beyond its take on the universality of greed) is the presence of "luck." "Luck" is Tolkien's dominate word here and so the author prefers it. Throughout the text, Olsen reminds us how constant this theme is. Bilbo was lucky to find the ring. He was lucky to figure out Gollum's riddles. He was lucky that a simple question uttered under his breath ("what do I have in my pocket?") was heard by the strange creature. Constantly Bilbo and the thirteen dwarves in surviving on luck.

For a time, such luck breeds pride in Bilbo. His arrogance is made clear in the one moment when he should have been much more humble: his interaction with Smaug. Biblo's self-aggrandizing titles reveal just how much his run of luck has gone to his head.

Yet anyone who reads the story closely and have any fundamental understanding of Tolkien's personal theology will know that Tolkien means something other than mere luck in this book. Olsen hints at this early in the book when he writes:
It would seem that there are only two sensible reactions we can have to these long strings of wildly improbably events. We can either scoff at them and find the whole story rather absurd, or we can begin to suspect that Biblo's adventure is being orchestrated by some power beyond the wizardry of Gandalf the Grey or the wisdom of Elrond of Rivendell. . . . Gently, Tolkien is drawing our attention to the fact that there is a higher purpose at work in the events of this story, and we are being prompted to suspect that the amazing luck of Bilbo and Thorin is not accidental. (67-68)
Non-accidental luck is not luck. It is not happenstance. There is a better, more powerful, word for it: providence. The Hobbit ends with this thought in his conversation between Gandalf and Bilbo. Fittingly, Olsen unfolds this theme more fully for us at the end of his volume. He writes:
Biblo expresses some surprise when he hears that "the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!" (276). In Gandalf's reply, the wizard finally addresses openly a truth that has been increasingly clear as we have studied Bilbo's story. "You don't really suppose, do you," he asks, "that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?" Gandalf confirms that what Bilbo and the narrator have been calling "luck" the whole time was more than simply chance. Bilbo's adventures ahve been "managed" by divine Providence for a purpose far greater than the enrichment of one small hobbit. As we have seen, Bilbo was one of the chief instruments, contributing to a symphony whose score incorporates everything from the tea parties of hobbits to the motions of the moon and the stars. 
Bilbo's reaction is a perfect snapshot of Bilbo after his journey. He was learned wisdom and humility and his cheerful "Thank goodness!" shows that he is quite satisfied to learn that he has not really been the protagonist of his story, after all (276). Bilbo is at peace, and our final image of him is a fitting one. Bilbo, laughing around his parlor table in Bag-end with Gandalf and Balin, hands the tobacco jar to his friend, as they all smoke their pipes together in contentment. (304)
This is what makes The Hobbit such an popular book. Not only does Tolkien show how easy "dragon-sickness" can corrupt us all (from dwarves to elves to dragons to hobbits to men), but he unveils before our mind's eye that history is God's story, not ours.

What makes Bilbo great is that he is not great. He's a Hobbit, not a King, a wizard, a dragon, or even a dwarf. He's a halfling. A nobody. The shape-shifter, Beorn, doesn't even know what a Hobbit is. The mighty Smaug is perplexed at who Biblo is. After all, he had never eaten one of his kind before.

Bilbo succeeds not because he is this mighty burglar or because he possesses a powerful ring, but because there stands above the story a divine Creator. Christians should celebrate this. Though Olsen, I believe, could have interacted with Tolkien's faith a little more, the author does not shy away from it (he does so more in his podcasts at Tolkien Professor).

In the end, those who love Middle-Earth in general and The Hobbit in particular will thoroughly enjoy this book. I was already a fan. Now I am much more.

For more:
"The Hobbit" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
A Few Thoughts on The Battle of the Five Armies
"The Fellowship of the Ring" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Two Towers" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Return of the King" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
Longing for Eden: Tolkien's Insight into the Longing of Every Human Soul
An Encouraging Thought: Gandalf on Providence
How to Read J. R. R. Tolkien
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Dramatized Audio
"Beyond The Movie": A National Geographic Documentary on the Lord of the Rings   

All Around the Web - April 24, 2017

Christianity Today - The Hottest Thing at Church Is Not Your Pastor or Worship Leader

Joe Carter - Beware of Broken Wolves

John Stonstreet - Peter Singer Defends Abuse

First Things - Why Read Great Books?

Christianity Today - Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable

Chuck Lawless - 10 Questions for Leaders to Ask Each Week

Tim Challies - The Power of a Mother’s Surrender (Christian Men and Their Godly Moms)

The Gospel Coalition - Why Christians Should Support Religious Freedom for Everyone

Study Finds - Survey: 1 In 5 Adults In The UK Can’t Change A Lightbulb, Boil An Egg

Babylon Bee - Longtime Church Member Self-Identifies As Visitor To Get Good Parking Spot

Friday, April 21, 2017

"Bulverism" by CS Lewis - Part 1

"Bulverism" by CS Lewis - Part 1
"Bulverism" by CS Lewis - Part 2

The following essay written by CS Lewis and found in "God in the Dock" is one of the more prophetic essay from the late apologists pen.

It is a disastrous discovery, as Emerson says somewhere, that we exist. I mean, it is disastrous when instead of merely attending to a rose we are forced to think of ourselves looking at the rose, with a certain type of mind and a certain type of eyes. It is disastrous because, if you are not very careful, the color of the rose gets attributed to our optic nerves and its scent to our noses, and in the end there is no rose left. The professional philosophers have been bothered about this universal black-out for over two hundred years, and the world has not much listened to them. But the same disaster is now occurring on a level we can all understand.

We have recently “discovered that we exist” in two new senses. The Freudians have discovered that we exist as bundles of complexes. The Marxians have discovered that we exist as members of some economic class. In the old days it was supposed that if a thing seemed obviously true to a hundred men, then it was probably true in fact. Nowadays the Freudian will tell you to go and analyze the hundred: you will find that they all think Elizabeth [I] a great queen because they all have a mother-complex. Their thoughts are psychologically tainted at the source. And the Marxist will tell you to go and examine the economic interests of the hundred; you will find that they all think freedom a good thing because they are all members of the bourgeoisie whose prosperity is increased by a policy of laissez-faire. Their thoughts are “ideologically tainted” at the source.

Now this is obviously great fun; but it has not always been noticed that there is a bill to pay for it. There are two questions that people who say this kind of thing ought to be asked. The first is, are all thoughts thus tainted at the source, or only some? The second is, does the taint invalidate the tainted thought - in the sense of making it untrue - or not?

If they say that all thoughts are thus tainted, then, of course, we must remind them that Freudianism and Marxism are as much systems of thought as Christian theology or philosophical idealism. The Freudian and Marxian are in the same boat with all the rest of us, and cannot criticize us from outside. They have sawn off the branch they were sitting on. If, on the other hand, they say that the taint need not invalidate their thinking, then neither need it invalidate ours. In which case they have saved their own branch, but also saved ours along with it.

The only line they can really take is to say that some thoughts are tainted and others are not - which has the advantage (if Freudians and Marxians regard it as an advantage) of being what every sane man has always believed. But if that is so, we must then ask how you find out which are tainted and which are not. It is no earthly use saying that those are tainted which agree with the secret wishes of the thinker. Some of the things I should like to believe must in fact be true; it is impossible to arrange a universe which contradicts everyone’s wishes, in every respect, at every moment. Suppose I think, after doing my accounts, that I have a large balance at the bank. And suppose you want to find out whether this belief of mine is “wishful thinking.” You can never come to any conclusion by examining my psychological condition. Your only chance of finding out is to sit down and work through the sum yourself. When you have checked my figures, then, and then only, will you know whether I have that balance or not. If you find my arithmetic correct, then no amount of vapouring about my psychological condition can be anything but a waste of time. If you find my arithmetic wrong, then it may be relevant to explain psychologically how I came to be so bad at my arithmetic, and the doctrine of the concealed wish will become relevant - but only after you have yourself done the sum and discovered me to be wrong on purely arithmetical grounds. It is the same with all thinking and all systems of thought. If you try to find out which are tainted by speculating about the wishes of the thinkers, you are merely making a fool of yourself. You must find out on purely logical grounds which of them do, in fact, break down as arguments. Afterwards, if you like, go on and discover the psychological causes of the error.

In other words, you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method [Note: This essay was written in 1941.] is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became to be so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it “Bulverism.” Some day I am going the write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father - who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than the third - “Oh, you say that because you are a man.” “At that moment,” E. Bulver assures us, “there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.” That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.

All Around the Web - April 21, 2017

Joe Carter - Survey Reveals Many Evangelicals Are Confused About Adultery

Hershael York - The Case for an Exegetical Sermon Series

CNS News - Census: More Americans 18-to-34 Now Live With Parents Than With Spouse

NBC News - LGBTQ Advocates Seek to Label Conservative Opponents as Hate Groups

Thom Rainer - Churches, Social Media, and Customer Service

Chuck Lawless - 7 Reasons to Ask Others about Themselves Every Day

The Resurgent - Gender Insanity Now Invades God’s Word

Barna - 6 Tech Habits Changing the American Home

Baptist Press - Ky. puts focus on Bible with new laws, executive action

Babylon Bee - Twitter User Courageously Stands For Doctrinal Integrity With Anonymous Account

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 2

Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 1
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 2

In light of Fox airing a fifth season of Prison Break years after the show went off the air, I thought I would repost my summary of the the show. Here is part 2.

The Meaning

Writing about the Jewish slaves in the Exodus narrative, George Morrison said, “It took one night to take Israel out of Egypt, but forty years to take Egypt out of Israel.”[1] Freedom is not a matter of location or title or legal declaration. Freedom is not something we can give ourselves, but can only be found in Christ. Though the writers of Prison Break never went that far, they came close.

All of the characters of the show, whether residents of Fox River or not, are in prison. Michael Scoffield, for example, is a prisoner to wanting to be a savior. Once he discovers his brother is innocent, he goes to the extreme of imprisoning himself in order to break him out. In each season, Michael feels guilty for his failures. The victims of "T-bag," he feels, are on his hands. He, personally, did not save those victims. He is to blame. Had he figured out a way to prevent Bagwell from breaking out with him, they would still be alive. Likewise, when Michael and Lincoln finally arrive in Panama, Sara is on trial and he plots how he might save her. He is a slave to this. Early in the series we discover that Michael suffers from low latent inhibition which feeds his empathy towards those who suffer.

Lincoln is no different. From the time he was a child he acted rashly and without thought. He was in constant trouble and prison. This created a fractured relationship between him and Michael. While Michael always has a plan, Lincoln is quick to act. He is more of a bull in a china shop than a thinker. Yet Lincoln is no killer until season 3 as his character becomes very dark and non-remorseful. Lincoln is a man who is never in control. Though he is strong, he controls nothing. The one time he is innocent, he is declared guilty. His involvement in the case was due to his need to pay off mounting debts. Lincoln is portrayed as being strong enough to fight five men at one time, yet he cannot win a single fight - his own. He, even as a free man, is a prisoner.

Sara Tancredi is also a prisoner. At first she is portrayed as a sacrificial, empathetic doctor who is the daughter of the Illinois governor who works at a local prison out of the kindness of her heart. Yet we discover she is a drug addict who uses her position as a doctor to steal drugs for herself. The escape of the "Fox River Six" fuels her drug addiction until Michael wins her heart again (remember the savior-complex). Her love for Michael does not cure her addition, it replaces it. Her affection for the escaped convict with questionable morals causes her to make poor and dangerous decisions herself. She is the Harley Quinn of the story and she too is a prisoner who cannot escape.

All of the other characters are the same. Theodore Bagwell was sexually abused by his father and pursues true love only to revert to violence when women do not return the favor. There is a brief moment of redemption for him when he refuses to murder his "true love" and her family and instead lets them go free. In season 4, Bagwell summarizes this overarching theme when he states (as a free man), "We are captives of our own identities living in prisons of our own creation."

Bagwell eventually takes on the persona of Cole Pfeiffer, one of the best salesmen for Gate. After it all falls apart, Bagwell asks an undercover FBI agent if such a lifestyle fits him. Bagwell was starting to believe that he could move away from crime, yet in the end he doesn't. Its a fantasy for the murderer to believe he could ever be free. He, as he said himself, is a captive of his own identity. Cole Pfeiffer was a myth.

Alexander Mahone is another great example. He is introduced in season 2 as a self-confident FBI agent assigned to catch the fugitives. Yet as his story unfolds, we discover he is a man riddled with guilt. He is a workaholic who obsesses with each case. A previous case proved to be detrimental to his mental, emotional, and spiritual health. One fugitive proved impossible to capture until finally Mahone secretly murdered the man and literally buried him in his own back yard. That guilt ruined his marriage and explains his involvement with the Company who organized his role as the lead investigator to capture the Fox River fugitives. Mahone, a free man, "manages" his guilt by taking strong, addictive pills to numb the pain. He eventually lands himself in Sona, a dangerous prison, where he must take even stronger drugs.

John Abruzzi, eventually killed in season 2, is a prisoner to his pride and power as a mob boss. Even as an escapee he insists on taking revenge on the man who turned him in. His wife protests yet he refuses and his stubbornness leads to his death. Brad Bellick is a prisoner to wealth who cons prisoners while working at Fox River. When fired he chases the escaped convicts in pursuit of the $5 million award. Through his entire narrative, he proves himself to be a man without a moral compass willing to sell anyone out for security and personal benefit.

The same could be said for virtually all of the major characters. Whatever side of the prison bars they are on, they are in chains. This does not imply, however, there is no redemption in the show, it is to say that imprisonment defines us all.

Regarding redemption, there are two ultimate options the show offers and neither are the right answer. The first is death. Both the deaths of Abruzzi and "Haywire," the mentally disturbed escapee, are portrayed as liberating. Haywire was in pursuit of Holland and is told by Mahone that jumping to his death will get him there. C-Note, too, tries to commit suicide in order to protect his family though he ultimately fails. Such an act is viewed as heroic. Bellick's death is also heroic because of its sacrificial nature. In each of these cases, the characters do not find freedom until they find death.

The second source of redemption is hope rested in a faith in mysterious chance. Over and over again when their backs are up against the wall, the brothers tell each other that they "gotta have faith." At best, their faith is in luck which continues to be on their side. There is no God in the worldview of Prison Break. He is rarely mentioned and never a serious part of the narrative. So when the brothers mention "faith," they are not speaking of providence, but are trusting in a faceless and nameless force. There is no real freedom, let alone hope, in that.

This is why there is no real resolution to the story in the end. Yes the convicts and other characters are "justified" (to borrow a Christian term) when Scylla is finally recovered and the Company destroyed. Even with their acquittal, the show had established that they are prisoners even without the threat of imprisonment. Michael, the main character, is the closest thing the story has to a savior and even he falls short as he remains in bondage all the way to the end. Even his sacrificial death is not that of a spotless lamb. Perhaps this is why there must be a Season 5.

Ultimately, Prison Break offers liberty in the form of a legal declaration. Each characters rejoices when the federal governments exonerates them, but as the premier of season 5 reveals, they are each still very much in chains. Nothing has changed regardless of their legal status.

In the end, however, Prison Break puts a mirror up to human nature. We are all in bondage regardless of our "rap sheet." The only hope to freedom we have is a Savior - a real one - that is not in chains himself. Michael Scoffield is not that savior; Jesus is. Jesus, we are told in Scripture, is like us in every way, yet without sin, without bondage and therefore, can alone set us free.

You know we spend so much of our lives not saying the things we want to say . . . The things we should say. We speak in code, we send little messages; origami. So now, plainly, simply, I want to say that I love you both. Very much. And I want you to promise me, that you're gonna tell my child . . . that you're gonna tell my child how much they're loved everyday. And remind them how lucky they are . . . to be free, because we are. We're free now, finally. We're free.
-Michael Scoffield, final words

[1] As quoted by Warren Weirsbe, Exodus, 78.

For more:
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 1
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 2
Christianity and the Small Screen: The West Wing
Christianity on the Small Screen: The Office
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 - April 20, 2017

Trevin Wax - Following Christ in a World of Being “True To Yourself”

George Will - When the separation of church and state leads to children with scraped knees

Thom Rainer - Ten Common Sentiments Pastors Wish They Could Express

The Gospel Coalition - What Your Biology Teacher Didn’t Tell You About Charles Darwin

Denny Burk - Can the mainline be saved? Not in the way Douthat suggests.

David Schrock - What If There Is No Resurrection? Seven Implications

Chuck Lawless - 8 Reasons Church Conflicts Often Burn Out of Control Quickly

Atlas Obscura - The Sketchy Faith Healer Who Tried to Save New York From Vice

Zondervan - Who Wrote the Book of Hebrews?

Jason K. Allen - On Preaching and the Public Invitation System

Babylon Bee - Baptists Release Modified Version Of Food Pyramid With Mostly Just Casseroles

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

From Lewis's Pen: Going to the Dentist

From Mere Christianity
Let me explain. When I was a child I often had toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother—at least, not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain: but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists: I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie, if you gave them an inch they took an ell.

Now, if I may put it that way, Our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take an ell. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of (like masturbation or physical cowardice) or which is obviously spoiling daily life (like bad temper or drunkenness). Well, He will cure it all right: but He will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment.

That is why He warned people to ‘count the cost’ before becoming Christians. ‘Make no mistake,’ He says, ‘if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect— until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.’ (201-202)

All Around the Web - April 19, 2017

Weekly Standard - Defining Doctors Down

Sam Alberry - Death Is Dead, Christ Has Conquered

Christianity Today - Trump Signs Law to Let States Defund Planned Parenthood

Kevin DeYoung - Ten Questions for Pastors and Polemics

Erik Raymond - What is Expository Preaching?

Evangelical History - Mass Evangelism in Contemporary America: A Report from Texas

Tim Challies - What We Gained When We Lost Our Hymnals

Chuck Lawless - 10 Times When Church Consulting Doesn’t Work Well

Daily Mail - Incredible colorized photos of Abraham Lincoln's assassination conspirators revealed on the 152nd anniversary of fateful shooting

Yahoo! - Italian Emma Morano, last known survivor of 19th century, dies at 117

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It Goes Both Ways: Effective Preaching and the Congregation

While commenting on Jesus's rejecting in Nazareth from Mark 6:1-6, William Barclay noted the following:
There can be no preaching in the wrong atmosphere. Our churches would be different places if congregations would only remember that they preach far more than half the sermon. In an atmosphere of expectancy the poorest effort can catch fire. In an atmosphere of critical coldness or bland indifference, the most Spirit-packed utterance can fall lifeless to the earth. (140)
In other words, preaching is a two way street. In order for the public proclamation of the gospel  to be effective it must come through the soul of a faithful minister of Christ and be received with the attentive hearts of its hearers.

The context of the above quote is important. Jesus returns to his hometown after a series of incredible miracles - calming of a major storm, the cleansing of a demonized man, the healing of a hemorrhaging woman, and the raising of a little girl. One would suspect that when Jesus arrives in his hometown, he would be received triumphantly with celebration and thanksgiving. Instead, he is rejected. Mark tells us that Jesus taught in the local synagogue and the Nazarenes were astonished by both what they heard from Jesus and what had been reported he had done in nearby villages. In the end, they took offense of him.

Striking that the Son of God, who they describe as "the son of Mary," preached from the pulpit in Nazareth to little to no effect. One doubts it was the lack of ability, art, of giftedness on the part of our Savior, but from the congregations willingness to receive the Word.

The truth is, apart from the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, there will be no revitalization or revival at any church unless the church wants it. Often the effectiveness of the preaching has as much to do with the congregation as it does with the preacher. Most ministers can attest to preaching similar sermons to different congregations and receiving two unique responses. What changed was not the message, the delivery, the illustrations, the applications, or the exegesis, but the hearers willingness to receive and respond to the preached word.

Of course this is not the only aspect of Christian ministry where this principle holds true. The same is true regarding pastoral leadership.

Nevertheless, in order for a church to thrive, it takes two: the under-shepherd and the sheep. Both must take the gospel and the work of the church seriously and that includes preaching.

For more:
It Goes Both Ways: Pastor Leadership and Church Submission

All Around the Web - April 18, 2017

The Guardian - What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died?

Sam Storms - 10 Things You Should Know about Eastern Orthodoxy

The Atlantic - Will Editing Your Baby's Genes Be Mandatory?

Jared Wilson - 6 Things Christ Does With Your Sin

Chuck Lawless - 10 Signs that Easter Is a One-Day Event for You

Desiring God - He Is Not Dead: Seven Victories on Easter Sunday

The Resurgent - An Educated Person Knows the Bible, So It’s Past Time to Put it In Every School

Thom Rainer - Five Ways Pastors Can Reverse Negative Sentiments in a Church

The Gospel Coalition - Learn How (Not) To Doubt

Tim Challies - 7 Books I Would Definitely Read

Atlas Obscura - Ant Medics Captured on Video Caring for Their Wounded Comrades

Monday, April 17, 2017

"Resolving Everyday Conflict" by Ken Sande & Kevin Johnson: A Review

Peacemaking comes naturally to no one. (13)

Where there are people, there is conflict. The real problem comes with knowing how to best resolve conflict. As a pastor, handling congregational and personal conflict is a constant challenge. Thus with much anticipation I read the brief book by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson Resolving Everyday Conflict.

The book is simple and summarizes the author's broader ministry and work in biblical conflict resolution. For those new to their ministry, this is an excellent introduction. The book surveys the source, cause, how to contribute to conflict, a survey of what Scripture says about conflict, and how the gospel draws us to resolve conflict.

In the end, conflict resolution requires two people to embrace humility over pride; repentance over entitlement; love over anger; peacemaking over anger. The authors guide us through this process. Perhaps one of the most practical sections regards the slope of how we respond to conflict which ranges from escapism to reconciliation to anger and violence.

Overall, this is a helpful work that is a great source for local churches. I intend on walking our church through it in hopes we will apply it to both our personal and corporate lives.

All Around the Web - April 17, 2017

Adrian Warnack - Raised for our Justification Romans 4:25: the forgotten verse?

Chuck Lawless - 7 Reasons We Take the Cross for Granted

Tim Challies - The Power of a Persevering Mother (Christian Men and Their Godly Moms)

Meet Edgar - How Facebook Decides Who Sees Your Updates

Babylon Bee - Millions Worldwide Cling To Faith That Jesus’s Resurrection Was Elaborate Hoax

Friday, April 14, 2017

"The Hunt for the Boston Bombers" Documentary

Tomorrow is the 4th anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing. Here is the best documentary about what happened and the hunt for the terrorists.

All Around the Web - April 14, 2017

Kevin DeYoung - We Can Share in Christ’s Sacrifice and In All His Gifts

The Gospel Coalition - 5 Reasons You Should Delight in Theology

Chuck Lawless - 8 Things I DIDN’T Learn in Seminary

Pastors Today - Six Ways Millennials Educate Their Churches Theologically

Thom Rainer - Three Actions Churches Can Take in Times of Crisis

Evangelical History - Pandering to Millennials?

The Gospel Coalition - Your Pain Is Preaching a Gospel

Christianity Today - 'Bible Answer Man' Converts to Orthodoxy

New York Times - Do Millennial Men Want Stay-at-Home Wives?

Backchannel - How Google Book Search Got Lost

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 1

Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 1
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 2

In light of Fox airing a fifth season of Prison Break years after the show went off the air, I thought I would repost my summary of the the show. Here is part 1.

Sometimes exploring the spiritual and moral meaning of a television franchise is as easy of reading the shows title. ABC's LOST, for example, is about more than dozens of survivors marooned on a mysterious island. As the flashbacks, flashforwards, flash-sideways, and the return to the island reveal, the characters themselves are personally lost.

The same is true for the FOX's hit Prison Break which first aired from 2005 to 2009 running four seasons. A fifth season, featuring the original cast, returned in 2017. Like LOST, which aired at roughly the same time, the real meaning of the show is found in its title and explores the theme of liberation both in and out of jail.

The Show

The premise of the show is simple. In season one, Michael Scoffield, an architect by trade, arranges to have  arrested and placed into a particular prison, Fox River, where his brother, Lincoln Burrows, is awaiting execution for the murder of the vice-president's brother. Immediately, the two brothers begin to carry out their complicated escape plan which comes to fruition in the season finale.

In season 2, the brothers and the other escape convicts are on the run (remember the title of the show is about more than physical prison), trying to escape capture. The ultimate plan is to escape to Panama where they believe the local government will not extradite them. As the story unfolds we discover that Lincoln's "crime" is much bigger than a murder-gone-wrong but part of a larger plot involving the highest office of the American government who is being controlled by the mysterious "Company." The two brothers find freedom in Panama only for Michael to be arrested again and sent to "Sona" - a foreboding prison run by the Company.

By season three everything is the polar opposite of season 1. Instead of Burrows in prison for a crime he did not commit, Scoffield is. Once again, Scoffield (the brain) and Burrow's (the brawn) managed to pull off another unlikely escape and are free men.

Season four is a return to some of the same themes of season 2. Though free, they are not. They seek to finally take down the Company which requires the brothers and the other characters to apply their skills. Instead of breaking out, as they have done repeatedly in the show, they must break in.

The show ends with Michael Scoffield's sacrificial death (an event we will return to) and his return is a major theme of season 5.

For more:
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 1
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break - Part 2
Christianity and the Small Screen: The West Wing
Christianity on the Small Screen: The Office
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 - April 13, 2017

Tim Challies - 10 Ugly Numbers Describing Pornography Use in 2017

Russell Moore - Who Would Jesus Abort? Confessions of a “Christian” Abortion Doctor

Trevin Wax - The Beauty of Spiritual Struggle

Pastors Today - 7 Things Pastors Wish Their Congregations Knew

Chuck Lawless - 6 More Leadership Tasks for This Easter

Thom Rainer - 25 Really Strange Things Church Members Said to Pastors

Grace to You - Frequently Abused Verses: Does God Condemn Debate? (2 Timothy 2:14)

The Gospel Coalition - 4 Ways Satan Uses Christian Generosity for Evil

The Cripplegate - A Pro-Life Argument that Needs to Die

New York Times - That Fingerprint Sensor on Your Phone Is Not as Safe as You Think

Babylon Bee - Calvinist Researchers Complete Development Of Elect Detector

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

From Spurgeon's Pulpit: Unsatisfying Sermons

From his sermon Good Earnests of Great Success (#802).
It is a long time since I preached a sermon that I was satisfied with. I scarcely recollect ever having done so. You do not know, for you cannot hear my groanings when I go home, Sunday after Sunday, and wish that I could learn to preach somehow or other; wish that I could discover the way to touch your hearts and your consciences, for I seem to myself to be just like the fire when it wants stirring; the coals have got black when I want them to flame forth. If I could but say in the pulpit what I feel in my study, or if I could but get out of my mouth what I have tried to get into my own soul, then I should preach indeed, and move your souls, I think. Yet perhaps God will use our weakness, and we may use it with ourselves, to stir us up to greater strength. You know the difference between slow motion and rapidity.
Glad I'm not the only one.

All Around the Web - April 12, 2017

Joe Carter - The FAQs: Islamic State Bombs Two Egyptian Churches on Palm Sunday

Kevin DeYoung - Are We Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing?

Telegraph - Why people with no religion are projected to decline as a share of the world’s population

Fred Sanders - God Died on the Cross

The Gospel Coalition - 10 Books That Belong on Every Pastor’s Bookshelf

Justin Taylor - A Guide to the Entire Cast of Characters During Jesus’s Final Week

Doug Wilson - The Product®

Jared Wilson - Advice on Hosting and/or Accepting Speaking Engagements

GetReligion - Just in time for Holy Week: BBC asks if modern Brits still believe in the resurrection

Chuck Lawless - 7 Evangelistic Things to Put on Your “To Do” List This Easter Week

Babylon Bee - Instagram Introduces New ‘Spiritual’ Filter

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Why You Should Preach the Gospel At Every Funeral

As a pastor I have been given the opportunity to preach countless funerals, burials, and memorial services. Unlike most pastors who, behind closed doors, prefer to "bury you than marry you,"I prefer weddings to funerals. Funerals are a constant reminder that though death is a defeated foe, we can still feel its sting.

Though I have preached many funerals, I have also attended and "tag-teamed" many others which included other ministers who were invited to preach. It is unfortunate that many ministers fail to consistently and clearly proclaim the hope and good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ at a funeral. Many are tempted to share sappy stories and personal experiences with the deceased mixed with spiritual antidotes that offer no real comfort.

I cannot condemn such a dereliction of duty in strong enough terms.  I believe that any minister that fails to preach the gospel at a funeral should repent and leave the ministry. Here are a few reasons why I believe this so strongly:
1. Because Your a Minister of the Gospel, Stupid. Do not call yourself a minister of the gospel if you do not proclaim the gospel. When given an opportunity to speak (whether publicly or privately), the gospel must always be on the forefront of your tongue. If the gospel is unclear, then do not call yourself a minister of it.

2. It is an Open Invitation From the Lost to Preach, Don't Waste It. Whether you know the family or not, there will be non-believers at the funeral. It is unfortunate that pastors are more evangelistic on a Sunday morning than at a funeral when the lost-saved ratio is drastically different. Funerals are the one event in our culture where the lost welcome ministers to proclaim the saving gospel. Don't waste such a rich opportunity.

3. Only the Gospel Truly Comforts. In my experience, one can tell if the deceased was a faithful Christian or not the second you enter the funeral home. The mood of the environment is different. Where Christ was the center of the deceased life, there is hope of all who knew them. Where Christ was not the center, there is but sadness. Only the gospel comforts. The gospel tells us the story of how God entered our story, walked in our shoes, suffered in our place, died, and defeated death through his resurrection. Our hope is not in this world, but in Christ. Death is not the end for the believer. That is more comforting than talk of angel wings, harps, and "they were a good person."

4. Ministers Will Be Judged For Their Ministry. James 3:1 is clear that ministers will be judged more harshly than others in the church. Failure to preach the one message you were commissioned to preached by the King will result in judgment.

5. Scripture Speaks of Death in Gospel Terms. One cannot read 1 Corinthians 15 without seeing that the Christian response to death is the gospel. The pastor (the Christian too) has nothing to say but the gospel when dealing with death.
 6. There Isn't a Better Message to Preach Than the Gospel. There is nothing better to say than the gospel. So say it. Otherwise your wasting everyone's time.

For more:
"A Necessary Grief" by Larry Michael: A Review