The Irreconcilable Pursuit of Christ & Coolness (Part 2)

From VOICE, July/Aug 2015. Used with permission. Read Part 1.

The Bible & Coolness

How should we live as Christians in a culture that is driven by style and worships the cult of youth, popularity, and appearances? A culture where the greatest fear seems to be becoming old-fashioned, out of date, passé?

Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes echo through the generations. There is no new thing (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10); we only forget what has come before (Ecclesiastes 1:11). We are born rebels (Ephesians 2:1-3), yet each new generation that rebels believes its insurrection is novel. Seeking to set ourselves apart from the majority, to impress the world with our unique style and way of living, is part of our fallen human nature.

Here’s something else to consider. There’s a very good reason why churches and Christianity, and indeed Christians, tend not to be noted by the world for their trendiness. The problem with trying to make Christianity fashionable is Christ Himself. He said in John 15:18-19

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Read more about The Irreconcilable Pursuit of Christ & Coolness (Part 2)

The Irreconcilable Pursuit of Christ & Coolness (Part 1)

From VOICE, July/Aug 2015. Used with permission.

My frequent travels take me to some unusual places, but one that always catches my attention is in central Indiana. There, alongside Interstate 65, is a billboard proclaiming the “Birthplace of Cool.”

James Dean was born in Fairmount, Indiana, in 1931. But it wasn’t until 1955, when his movie “Rebel Without a Cause” was released, that cool was truly born. When that film hit the theaters, youth culture exploded into middle-class white America and so did the concept of cool.

James Dean was edgy, rebellious, a misunderstood loner. He played by no one’s rules but his own. And following this most cool cultural icon came many others for my generation, especially in music. Elvis pushed trans-generational, wholesome pop singers like Perry Como and Pat Boone off the scene much to the delight of his fans. Then rockers joined Elvis and everything exploded as my generation came of age: sex, drugs and rock and roll ruled the 1960s. Read more about The Irreconcilable Pursuit of Christ & Coolness (Part 1)

Who Are the "Weak in Faith?" (Part 5)

The Meaning of “Weak In Faith”

We have been examining the “weak” of Romans 14:1, finding him to be more honorable and biblical  than his description, “weak in faith,” would suggest. Here, we will turn to the term “weak in faith” and see a way of interpreting it that fits better with everything else we read about this brother.

We have seen that when brothers differ over an issue, one is sometimes called “weak” and the other “strong.” That’s true when the issue is relatively unimportant (food—the kingdom isn’t meat or drink; food does not commend us to God). In the case of food, it becomes important when someone attaches idolatry to it in their thinking. And it’s true when biblical principles more closely apply (Sabbath days—are they of perpetual obligation?). It’s even true when the “right side” of the issue is obviously the side of the “weak.” Regarding knowledge, while the “strong” claims knowledge, the “weak” sometimes have superior knowledge (1 Corinthians 10:1). Sometimes the strong have equal claim to knowledge (Romans 14:14a). Read more about Who Are the "Weak in Faith?" (Part 5)

Book Review - Christian Bioethics: A Guide for Pastors, Health Care Professionals, and Families

Everyone has a moral standard. Everyone has a moral position on abortion, capital punishment, orphanhood, plastic surgery, etc. But while everyone could tell you what their moral position is they cannot necessarily tell you why that is their moral position. Morals tell us what we will and will not do, but ethics tell us why we will and will not do those things. Ethics are the science (or reasons) behind our morals and morals are our ethics in practice. Most people do not think far enough into the ethics behind their morals. Unfortunately, Christians do the same thing. Many don’t bother to examine the why questions and others don’t know how.

As science continues to bring new discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic, new medical therapies offer promise for many, yet along with those advancements come a whole host of ethical dilemmas that Christians must face – both medical professional and patient alike. To help believers chart through the myriad of ethical decisions they will need to make in the current bioethics world, D. Joy Riley, MD, and C. Ben Mitchell, PhD, have teamed up to bring us Christian Bioethics: A Guide for Pastors, Health Care Professionals, and Families (B&H, 2015). This is the fourth book in the B&H Studies in Christian Ethics series. What is great about this book is that we have both a theologian and medical doctor in dialogue working through the issues. This professional balance offers a more well-rounded and holistic picture of how to think through the various situations. Read more about Book Review - Christian Bioethics: A Guide for Pastors, Health Care Professionals, and Families

From the Archives: Argue Like a Saint

First appeared at SharperIron on June 25, 2008.

Verbal communication is one of God’s favorite inventions. He created speaking beings in His image and then spoke to them. Over the millennia, He gave visions to prophets and commanded them to speak or write what they had seen. And He inspired select prophets to write His words as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. He gave us a book.

So whenever we use words, we’re doing something of personal importance to God. And since we believers are at peace with God through Christ and represent God to a world that does not know Him, our writing and speaking carry that much more importance.

We should not be surprised, then, that Scripture has so much to say about how we use words. And we should attend energetically to how that instruction applies to posting in Internet forums. Read more about From the Archives: Argue Like a Saint

Whatever Happened to Literal Hermeneutics? (Part 2)

(From Theologically Driven. Read the series so far.)

This blog post is fairly ambitious, seeking to answer two questions: (1) How can we prove the existence of universally “received laws of language”? And, assuming they exist, (2) Who gets to decide what those laws are in the absence of an explicit biblical statement of those laws?

My answer to the first question may seem a bit unnerving, but hopefully I can make a recovery with the explanation. My answer, simply, is that we can’t prove the existence of universal laws of language. That’s the nature of a transcendental—it can’t be proven, only assumed. But what we can do is to demonstrate that people universally observe certain laws when they use the medium of human language; in fact, they cannot cogently do otherwise. This is what logicians sometimes call “transcendental” argumentation. Read more about Whatever Happened to Literal Hermeneutics? (Part 2)

What is Ministry Success?

For some unidentifiable reason I enjoy tormenting students with an important albeit slippery theological and philosophical question. What is good? As you might imagine, the answers I get are quite diverse. One student recently responded by citing an online dictionary that offers forty-seven definitions of the word. Forty-seven! Most, if not all, of the forty-seven were not legitimate, as they typically erred by defining the word by the word itself. As you might expect, the question itself is simple, but an appropriate answer has been far more elusive for the unaided human mind.1

Perhaps you already see how this question is critically foundational. For example, as pastors if we are to engage in ministry that is good, with the hope of good results, don’t we need to understand what good is? If we fail to understand this one issue we are in grave danger of heading in an entirely wrong—dare I say bad—direction. It would seem that if there is one thing we can’t afford to miss it is a proper understanding of what is good. Read more about What is Ministry Success?

Who Are the "Weak in Faith?" (Part 4)

(Read the series so far.)

We need to examine a few miscellaneous verses. Some of them seem to suggest Paul is on the side of the strong. These need explanation. Paul isn’t “on” either side. Others, on closer examination, suggest that he is on the side of the weak.

Romans 14:14 begins, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself.” Some take this to mean that Paul “knows” the weak brother is wrong. But Paul is not saying that. He says nothing is unclean “of itself.” In other words, things are not intrinsically sinful. But our applications of God’s principles and our motives can still make them unclean. The context of v. 14, before and after, is the importance of taking seriously the convictions of the weak and not causing him to disobey them. Therefore, contextually, the point of v. 14 as a whole is to express why these things are sinful to the weak. Read more about Who Are the "Weak in Faith?" (Part 4)