Were Jesus and Paul Separatists? Aphorisms for Thinking about Separation

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Read the series so far.

Please, consider reading all of the preceding articles before delving into this one. While I’ve tried to make them each stand alone, they are linked together.

Aphorism 1: The debate between Bible believing Christians about separation is fundamentally about the how to apply the passages in the Bible commanding separation.

Aphorism 2: All applications of the commands of Scripture are based on a particular context outside the Bible. Therefore unless the context is identical to what was intended by the Bible, an application cannot be as normative as Scripture itself.

Aphorism 3: Applications of the commands of separation must take into account Jesus’ and Paul’s application of these same commands as recorded in the Gospels, Acts, and the epistles. Read more about Were Jesus and Paul Separatists? Aphorisms for Thinking about Separation

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Embrace Disillusionment

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When wisely managed, disillusionment is a beneficial misery. It qualifies as what the Puritans called “a severe mercy”—a torment that purifies the soul. Since disillusionment is emotionally painful, we naturally regard it as an enemy. But to be disillusioned is to be set free from illusion, and that is never bad. Disillusionment bursts an illusion much as a pin pops a balloon. The experience is jarring; but in the case of illusions, it is equally liberating.

Illusions are, of course, not real. They are enchanted dreams, deceptive mirages. Illusions may temporarily help us cope with the challenges of life—the little boy who is a gangster’s son may profit from the illusion that his father is a brave and principled man. But illusions that persist too long damage the soul—should this boy’s illusions never be demolished, he may well follow his father into a life of crime and become nothing more than a predatory thug.

We find it particularly natural to adopt illusions in the early stages of covenantal relationships. A newly married couple entertains illusions about marriage and one another. New church members imbibe illusions about their church. But for every married couple and every church member, these illusions are eventually overwhelmed by reality. The illusion of a perfect marriage, the illusion of an ideal church, is eventually shattered. Read more about Embrace Disillusionment

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Myths of Materialism

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(From the archives. Originally posted in June of 2011 as “Materialism: It’s Probably Not What You Think.”)

Ask most people to describe materialism and you’ll hear references to big screen TVs, computers, SUVs, big houses and overpaid CEOs. A few might mention “consumerism” and “greed.” Most would agree with the idea that materialism has been a major obstacle to relieving world poverty. Some would say it’s the cause of that poverty.

Four myths of materialism

But what if materialism isn’t really what most people think? We could fall prey to materialism unawares or reject good ideas we have misidentified as materialism. In seeking to help the poor, we could waste our efforts opposing what really contributes little to the poverty problem.

So what is materialism? I’ll pursue a definition by countering four popular myths.

Myth 1: Material things are not important.

A widespread attitude, especially among Christians, is that materialism involves attaching value and importance to material things—and that these things are not truly important.

But wouldn’t that make God the first materialist? Read more about Myths of Materialism

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Books of Note - The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

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Image of Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert An English Professor's Journey into Christian Faith
by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
Crown & Covenant Pub 2012
Paperback 154

A story of conversion to Christ is always refreshing and encouraging, but the story of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield is more than that, it is faith-restoring. Her story reminds evangelical Christians that the saving power of the gospel really is bigger than the contemporary “threat” of homosexuality. The book addresses the homosexual question from the inside out, and illustrates what an incarnated gospel ministry and a church full of people who have the compassion of Christ can accomplish through Christ.

Rosaria Champagne was a tenured English professor and chair of feminist studies, at Syracuse University. She was also an outspoken lesbian. She was up and coming and making a name for herself. But then, she was abruptly stopped in her tracks through an encounter with a kind Reformed pastor who took the time to interact with her on a column she had written in the paper. She didn’t know how to classify his letter, it didn’t fit in the fan mail category, nor was it hate mail. Eventually she was drawn into a friendly exchange with him and slowly he began to shatter her perceptions about Christianity. Over time, she was drawn to faith in Jesus Christ, and slowly came to reject her identity as a lesbian and found new life in Christ. Read more about Books of Note - The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

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A Christian Response to Richard Dawkins' Atheism (Part 2)

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Read Part 1.

Is meaningful engagement with Richard Dawkins about the existence of God possible?

Forming a Christian response

A thoughtful Christian response begins with the realization that Dawkins’ claims are being made from within a worldview, or frame of reference, that is quite different from a Christian worldview. A Christian’s frame of reference includes, not the possibility of God, but the actuality of God. The life of a Christian has been redefined by their relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Thus, a Christian is a person who is learning to think within a worldview that has been defined by God in the person of Jesus Christ.

This radical difference between the believer’s and the skeptic’s belief system creates a challenge for communication. A “gap” exists between their worldviews, creating a situation that resembles other forms of cross-cultural communication. Because of this “gap,” the believer and unbeliever do not actually communicate as directly as they might assume. Read more about A Christian Response to Richard Dawkins' Atheism (Part 2)

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A Christian Response to Richard Dawkins' Atheism (Part 1)

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With today’s fascination for “coming out” as something, many have decided to “come out” as atheists all over the world. Atheism is a phenomenon that surrounds us whether we realize it or not. We all likely have classmates, neighbors, or co-workers who are atheists. This situation should remind us that having atheists in our life means having people in our life, who also claim to be atheists.

Recently, I saw a woman shock her former church by announcing online: “I am an Atheist.” For her and her former church, the challenge of atheism is not just a philosophical challenge. It is a personal one. Atheism is a challenge to men and women, many of whom are young, and some of whom may even read these words.

The following apologia is my response to a particular version of modern atheism, the one recently popularized by English scientist, Richard Dawkins. In his massive polemic against God, The God Delusion (2006), Dawkins filled 374 pages with denunciations of “the pernicious delusion” of God. Dawkins summarized his claims in a much shorter piece published with the release of his book. My response to Dawkins will be based on his shorter article: “Why There Almost Certainly Is No God.” Read more about A Christian Response to Richard Dawkins' Atheism (Part 1)

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Aphorisms for Thinking about Separation: Command, Intent and Application

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Please, consider reading the preceding article before delving into this one. While I’ve tried to make each stand alone, they are linked together.

Aphorism 1: The debate among Bible believing Christians about separation is fundamentally about the how to apply the passages in the Bible commanding separation.

Aphorism 2: All applications of the commands of Scripture are based on a particular context outside the Bible. Therefore unless the context is identical to what was intended by the Bible, an application cannot be as normative as Scripture itself.

Allow me to share an explicit command of Scripture, repeated five times in the New Testament which is patently ignored at least in literal obedience by almost all churches in the United States: “Greet one another with the kiss of love” (ESV, 1 Peter 5:14; cf. 1 Thess. 5:26, 2 Cor. 13:12, 1 Cor. 16:20, Rom. 16:16). Read more about Aphorisms for Thinking about Separation: Command, Intent and Application

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"Engaging the Culture"

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“Engaging the culture” has become one of the biggest buzz phrases in American Christianity today. The idea of seeking new and better ways to connect with unbelievers so that we can more easily give them the gospel is currently enjoying immense popularity. But what if as a result Christians in America have become more interested in engaging the culture than evangelizing it?

Take Lecrae for example. Christianity’s most famous rapper has recently made waves with his new stand on producing music. Ignoring for our purposes the debate over Christian rap, I think it his new philosophy models much of what is common thinking among Christians today. Lecrae has changed his lyrics from being explicit gospel presentations to a more subtle message of Christianity in his music. As one blog put it:

Rather than preach to his listeners, Lecrae aims to form a common ground. He will not share the gospel in every song, but he’ll address issues which relate to everyone. This allows him to reach a broader audience with the gospel when he feels God give him the green light. Even when Lecrae is writing about non-religious cultural issues, he’s still doing so with a Christian worldview.

Read more about "Engaging the Culture"
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