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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Thought I’d start posting reviews here along with on my GoodReads account…

The Courage To Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World by David Wells

An excellent read and challenging critique.  This book is a summary of Wells’ previous 4 volumes, so at times I wished I could have gone deeper into some of his arguments in order to fully understand them.  But nonetheless, a very challenging, edifying, and refining read for me.  Wells challenges the church “Let God be God” in the church and cling to the solas of the reformation.  Here is a quotation that is close to capturing both the thesis and the tone Wells uses throughout the book.

“In practice, many evangelicals – especially those of a marketing and emergent kind – are walking away from the hard edges of these truths in an effort to make the gospel easy to swallow, quick to sell, and generationally appealing.  They are well aware of the deep cultural hunger for spirituality in the West, and they are trolling these waters.  The problem, however, is that this spirituality is highly privatized, highly individualistic, self-centered, and hostile to doctrine because it is always hostile to Christian truth.  Evangelicals gain nothing by merely attracting to their churches postmoderns who yearning for what is spiritual if, in catering to this, the gospel is diluted, made easy, and the edges get rounded off.  The degree to which evangelicals are doing this is the degree to which they are invalidating themselves and prostituting the church.” (p. 237)

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Reflections

First off, I should introduce myself and apologize for rarely posting. I’m Andy, and though I am a faithful reader, I haven’t had much time to contribute to this blog because I’m in my first year of seminary. But, I took my last final yesterday and now feel the need to be reflective. As I was cleaning my room last night I came across some notes I took at the seminary’s orientation last year. I laughed out loud as I read one quote that has proven to be true, “God brought you here to seminary to mess with you.” I’ll share a few ways that has been happening.

I was all about correct doctrine when I came here 9 months ago…I was quick to judge “emergents” who seemed to cast aside truth in an effort to “reach the culture.” I have by no means come to a point where I cast doctrine aside, but am less arrogant (hopefully) in thinking that I have it all figured out. These are a few questions that I am still pondering: how much of our doctrine is shaped by our American culture and how much of that is Biblical? Throughout the minor prophets, nations are judged because of their extreme arrogance, and God’s people were not exempt from that. Another judgment against God’s people was that their worship was not from the heart. They went to the temple, they did their sacrifices and externally they seemed very faithful, but their hearts were not in it which was evidenced by the way they lived outside the temple. They neglected the poor and needy and they joined in “pagan” sins, even turned to other gods. This was convicting to me because I have so often “done the church thing” out of a sense of duty and not engaged my heart in worship. I have not worhipped any idols carved by human hands, but have put other “worldly idols” before God – want evidence of that? Check out my bank statement!

Those who put doctrine over ethics, the pharisees, received some of the harshest of Jesus’ rebukes. (though they didn’t have good doctrine either) Do I fall into the same mindset as them, so convinced that they are correct that they weren’t even able to recognize the Son of God when he came? What about those to whom Jesus ministered to? He didn’t go for the best of the best, he came for those who were sick, outcasts, neglected, those who clearly did not have it all together. For his disciples he chose men who were not of high social status, but blue-collar guys who would faithfully follow him. So often we create our discipleship models by the same standards of the world, choosing the “natural leaders” and neglecting those whom the world neglects. We choose those who are fun to be around, in which we are no different from the world. That is, if we are choosing anyone at all! I don’t mean to criticize those who are investing in younger generations…you are a blessed minority! We all need to consider how we can serve the needy in our world, across the globe AND in your neighborhoods!

These are just a few thoughts from the semester, hopefully I can share more thoughts over the next few summer months. I am not claiming to have this all figured out, but those above reflect some of the questions that I have been struggling through over the past few months. I would love to hear your feedback or reactions…where you agree or disagree.

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Favorites in…

Streaming: John Piper’s address to President Obama on abortion.

Reading: The book I’ve reading lately is called Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch.  It came highly recommended and has lived up to the hype two-thirds through.  Here is a link to a trustworthy review.

Blogging: I think I post something from Kevin DeYoung every week, but oh well.  Here is another good one called Why I am a Calvinist.

The influence of Calvinism is growing because its God is transcendent and its theology is true. In a day when “be better” moralism passes for preaching, self-help banality passes for counseling, and “Jesus is my boyfriend” music passes for worship in some churches, more and more people are finding comfort in a God who is anything but comfortable. The paradox of Calvinism is that we feel better by feeling worse about ourselves, we do more for God by seeing how He’s done everything for us, and we give love away more freely when we discover that we have been saved by free grace.

Podcasts: Want to better understand Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism?  The Theology Program put up free sessions at itunes. (HT: JT)

Weather Photos: Need new wallpaper for you desktop?  Here are some great shots from local storm chaser Mike Hollingshead.

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Favorites in…

Blogging: C.J. Mahaney just completed a four month long blog series on productivity.  Very helpful.

Health (and fun): John Mark Reynolds gives Ten Unexpected Cultural Results of Swine Flu.

Reading: Justin Taylor recommends some must reads from D.A. Carson.  “When D.A. Carson writes a book, buy it.” – Al Mohler

Listening: Not a link, but if you have itunes, search for Campus Impact (college group at Lincoln Berean) and listen to the message from Christopher Yuen on April 28.  It is an incredible account of his journey through drugs, disease, and homosexuality.

Bible Study: John Piper’s method for studying the Bible.  Here is his podcast explaining it a bit.

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Weekly favorites in…

Listening: John Mark Reynolds of Biola University lectures at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on the relationship between science and religion.  This is excellent stuff!  See the following post for notes on the first of three lectures.

  1. We Beheld His Glory: How a Christian Worldview Produced Science
  2. Full of Grace and Truth: An Epistemology of Belief in a Skeptical Age
  3. The Glory of Jesus Christ: The Way Forward in the Dialogue Between Religion and Science

Weather pix: Satellite images of Denver, CO before and after the recent early spring snow storm.

More Weather Photos: 30 photos of the Red River flooding in North Dakota.  Incredible.

Blogging: Trevin Wax puts on a good Screwtape as well.

Health News:  Do I need another reason to drink coffee?  Probably not, but I’ll take it!

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Favorites in…

Listening: D.A. Carson’s recent messages at Bethlehem Baptist Church about preparing for Christ’s return, called “How to Wait for Jesus.”

Watching:  The premier episode of NBC’s Kings, based loosely on the life of King David.

Weather pix: NASA’s Aqua satellite caught this image of a submarine volcanic eruption in the south Pacific.

Blogging: Mark Dever responds to his critics after writing in a recent essay that he sees the practice of paedo-baptism sinful.

Upcoming events: Desiring God’s 2009 National Conference has been announced, “With Calvin in the Theater of God

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False belief systems always seem to downplay human depravity.  Some even deny it altogether, insisting that people are fundamentally good.  This is a tendency of nearly all quasi-Christian heresies, humanistic philosophies, and secular worldviews. (John MacArthur, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion Doctrine & Doxology, p. 129)

This is precisely the point that William Wilberforce makes in the second chapter of his classic book, Real Christianity.  He begins the chapter with the bold accusation that the majority of “educated, professing Christians either overlook or deny the corruption and weakness of human nature.”  Why do they do this?  Because they see sin as “petty” or “occasional”, and ultimately and inherently believe that man is good and “naturally pure.”  He continues:

Vice to them is an accidental and temporary event, rather than a constitutional and habitual disorder.  They view it like a poisonous plant or weed, which lives and even thrives in the human mind, but is not the natural growth and production of the soil. (p.10)

Ultimately then, whom Wilberforce is arguing against, is those that disagree with original sin.  And amazingly, those whom he is arguing against are professing Christians.  He argues with them by addressing Scripture and then making observations on ancient and modern civilizations.  Of Scripture he states:

The Holy Scriptures speak of us as fallen creatures.  In almost every page, we shall find something that is calculated to bring down man’s loftiness, and to silence his pretensions. (p.15)

Of civilization:

Wherever we direct our view, we discover the depressing proofs of our depravity.  Whether we look to ancient or modern times, to barbarous or to civilized nations, to the conduct of the world around us, or to the monitor within the breast, or even to what we read, hear, act, think, feel, the same humiliating lesson is forced upon us. (p. 14)

What is to be done, then, with this truth of the corruption of sin, asks Wilberforce? We must embrace it.  He says, “It is not enough to assent to the doctrine; we must feel it.”  It may cause “humiliation” and “anger and disgust” but “it is here that our foundation must be laid.  Otherwise our superstructure, whatever we may think of it, will one day prove tottering and insecure.”

Again, it is important to understand the author’s intent in this book and when it was written (18th century).  His intent was to delineate that which is “real” Christianity from that which is nominal, hence the full book title, A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity.

Do you agree with Wilberforce on his observation of most professing Christians?  Or may this be too harsh?  Do you think his observations apply today?

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