Monthly Archives: February 2008

The Week-est Link, February 29, 2008: Biblical Training Galore

1. If you have not ever checked out the site called “Biblical Training”, you must. It has a treasure trove of theological resources, including full-length classes taught by a number of eminent scholars. For example, you could take a class on systematic theology from my father-in-law, Bruce Ware. Here’s the thing: it’s all free! And more than that, you won’t have to take one of Dr. Ware’s excruciating quizzes like I did. (I’m not sure which is better between the two.) In all seriousness, this is an incredible way to attain excellent theological training from your home without paying a cent. Check out the site, and pass along the word.

2. Did you know that actor Brad Pitt was raised a Southern Baptist? I personally was not aware of this. This is about the most celebrity gossip I’ll ever dig into on this blog, but I did find this article interesting. Pitt’s comments reveal a heart that is sadly turned against the idea of God as sovereign and worthy of His sovereignty. Anyway, the article provides an interesting factoid and a reason to pray for the actor and for the health and vibrant witness of Southern Baptist churches.

3. Another very helpful and challenging piece by theologian Russ Moore, this one on a “theology that bleeds”. Dr. Moore evinces an Edwardsean ability to marry rich theology with expressive, moving language, and I think that this piece shows both of those traits and motivates its readers to become more passionate about the gospel. His focus on evangelism as the heart of theology is commendable and challenging, and I would encourage you to read the short piece.

4. An interesting conversation between 9Markers Jonathan Leeman and Greg Gilbert on social restoration and its relation to the ministry of the local church. They present the subject by means of an Instant Messenger-like conversation, which makes this thought-provoking piece fun and easy to read.

5. Have you heard of Fernando Ortega? If not, you should have. He makes rich music and uses it to express beauty and powerful theological truth. You could order just about any one of his cds and find it spiritually nourishing and musically enjoyable.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

When a Trailer Park is Just Right, Part Two: Responding to Thoughtful Comments on the Issue

I wasn’t planning on writing more about this issue, but the comments from yesterday’s post were so thoughtful that I thought it necessary to do so. To all who responded, I really appreciated your thoughtful comments. I’ll interact with them briefly below in an edited form, and you (and others) can feel free to respond back.

Anonymous 1: “From a woman’s perspective, I wouldn’t care if we lived in a trailer, but I would feel very poor for the lack of my husband’s time and energy at home if he was pouring himself into 2 jobs. I know provision is a big drive for men, but for women emotional security is more important than financial security. I don’t care HOW we live, as long as it is together and the quality of our time together is real. When the focus becomes work for whatever reason, then the marriage relationship can so easily become a case of two ships passing in the night. I think the definition of provision needs to include spiritual and emotional provision, and centre less around money.”

Anonymous friend, you make good points here. Please note that I would concur in not wanting to pit emotional security against financial security, and that I was not attempting to encourage men to do so. What you and I are saying is not unrelated. I think that you might have misread me such that you think that I am saying that a man should work as much as possible to provide as much possible because I understand this to be a man’s role. This is not what I am saying. I am saying that I believe that Scripture calls a man to provide for his own. If he must tax himself to do so, then so be it. But I am nowhere encouraging men to work so much that they have little home life. No, a man should work hard such that his family has shelter and food and a certain level of comfort. These are the basic needs of life, and anyone who does not so provide for his family is worse than a pagan. (1 Tim. 5:8)

Depending on what a man does, this may mean some long hours, and that may in turn mean a loss of time with family. The basic needs of shelter and food are so significant to a biblical definition of manhood, though, that according to the Bible, this man is acting rightly, even if we can all agree that the situation is less than ideal. The “two jobs and a trailer” lifestyle is not the model, and I would hope that it would be the uncommon exception rather than the rule. It may, however, be necessary in some situations, and though that is regrettable on one level, the man who cares in such a way for his family is honoring God, though he must still strive with all his might to emotionally care for his family.

You and I have significant agreement which could be confused in this discussion. I actually explicitly encouraged men not to work in such a way that their home life was compromised. The ideal, as I can see it, is for a man to both provide well for his family and have significant time with them. A man should attain all the training he can, all the education he can, in order to fit himself for a vocation (or calling) that uses his God-given gifts and that enables him to meet his family’s material needs while giving him much time to spend with them. He should then go out and work and meet his family’s material needs but do so, ideally, in such a way that he can cherish, care for, and disciple his wife and raise his children in the fear and admonition of the Lord by means of a loving, gentle, courageous spirit.

Kyle E.: “How do you pursue your Ph.D. studies and uphold providing at the same time? I experience the tension between study and work right now too–I’m a 2nd year M.Div. at Trinity. Thanks!”

Kyle, how nice to get a comment from a fellow TEDS student. I appreciate it, and thanks for writing on this humble little slice of the web. The easy answer is this: there is no easy answer! For me, providing for my family to this point in my life has meant a pretty busy life. My MDiv at Southern Seminary was a whirlwind for my wife and me. We existed in that “non-ideal” realm I mentioned above. It was difficult, and there was no getting around that. At the same time, though, we did what we had to do. We needed to pay bills, put food on the table, and be able to save a bit for the future, and so I worked, and my wife worked, though she did so to supplement our income and not because she had to. I would have been happy for us to have less money and for her to be home, but she was fine with working at that time, and so she did.

Essentially, I worked seven days a week for a year and a half. Monday through Friday I had work and class (four of them, and I did the language-intensive track), Saturday I caught up on the homework I couldn’t do most weeknights due to the need to spend time with my wife (and due also to my own exhaustion), and Sunday I did work in between church services. It was a blistering pace, and I thank the Lord that we are out of it. That’s one of the realities of certain seasons of life like that which the MDiv brings for most of us seminarians–I don’t really see any way to remove some level of difficulty and hardship. If you stretch it out, you’re in school forever and you can’t minister like you want to. If you speed it up, you put your family through the grinder (if, it could be hoped, for a brief time). I chose as the head of my home to go hard and fast through seminary, and though it was hard and less than ideal, I think it was the right choice.

My PhD and job are actually more manageable than my MDiv and job. I’m not sure that’s normal, but that’s how it worked out for us. Whatever taxing degree program one is in, though, one has to commit oneself as a man to working hard for the good of his family, to taking the load on his own shoulders, and not placing it on his wife’s shoulders (particularly when kids enter the equation). For me and many friends I knew, that meant long nights, sleepy days, and less time than we would have liked with our dear families. In the end, though, one makes it out, and perhaps the next season is all the sweeter for what one has just come through. Maybe that is the Lord’s gift to us.

Anon. 2: “I worked two full time jobs and lived in an apartment in an old building so that my wife could be a full time caregiver. If only she had considered me and her son to be more important than television and drugs, it might have been worth it.”

Anonymous (number two), I am so sorry to hear this. I don’t know if I know you, but this sounds like a heartbreaking situation. If you are a Christian, I can only say to you that your hard work was honorable to the Lord, and will be rewarded, I am sure, on the last day. If you are not a believer, I commend you for your commitment to your family, and would encourage you to consider another costly example of sacrificial love–the love of Christ. This love will save your soul even as it frees you to forgive those who have caused you great pain on this earth.

Thanks to the commenters. Please note that I do not present this matter as uncomplicated, as neat-and-clean. As the responders have noted, the duty of masculine provision will often involve seasons of difficulty and hardship. Sacrifices will perhaps be called for. God never promises us that doing the right thing means that our lives will be neat and clean. No, doing the right thing often means the opposite. Difficulty must not turn us away from truth, however. More than this, it must not turn us away from joyful service in God’s name. Whatever comes, we must gloss all our work with the remembrance that what we do, we do for God. That may sometimes be our only reward, but that is all the reward we need, is it not?

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

When a Trailer Park is Just Right: On Manhood and the Duty to Provide

“A man who really gets Ephesians 5 is the kind of man who will be willing to work two jobs and live in a trailer to enable his wife to be the primary caregiver of his children.”

This line comes from a recent blog post and CBMW journal contribution by Dr. Russ Moore. I appreciated Dr. Moore’s post, entitled “Pastoral Leadership and the Gender Issue: What Does Courage Look Like?” Moore raised a number of good points in the brief post, but none affected me more than that made in the line quoted above. In our milieu, I would imagine that this comment would sound strange to many ears. Why on earth would anyone live in a trailer park if they don’t (absolutely) have to? In a materialistic society (and a materialistic church, maybe?), there is perhaps no sharper ideological razor to be applied in making familial decisions than that of economic concerns. Ockham would (not) be proud.

What do I mean here? Simply this: many of us in American evangelicalism so prize material comfort that we will allow almost nothing to impede our pursuit of it. So, for example, when it comes down to determining such basic questions like where we will live and how we will live, we are often quite ready to sacrifice things like family time, home life, and discipleship with things like a nicer home, more cars, better accouterments. I am not against these things or a nice standard of living on their own terms, but I am against them when they compromise the quality of our family life. Somehow, we have allowed the culture to whisper into our ear and convince us that it is better to be wealthy–on whatever scale and by whatever measurement–than it is to be together. We don’t realize in making this exchange that we have taken the culture and its ideals as our guide. Accordingly, we have left the Word and its wisdom behind. The Scripture teaches us that the things that truly matter cannot be measured in dollars and cents, even though many–the Proverbs famously groups the materialistic masses under the moniker “fool”–believe the opposite. They think, in their fallen condition, that it is actually better to have cars than laughs, toys than time, renovated bathrooms than healthy marriages. The result? Husbands and wives alike work themselves into the ground, and the children suffer and grow angry, and the family slowly falls apart, the cycle to be damningly repeated again a generation later.

It is in the backdrop of such tragedy that Dr. Moore makes his point, and that I concur. If we could accept a little less luxury, many of our families would know far more health than they do. If we would accept a lower standard of living, more of our mothers could mother, more of our children could flourish, and more of our churches could know a fresh level of quality by the investment of older women in the lives of young women. If we could reject the American “dream” of material prosperity and see a trailer-park or an apartment complex through gospel lenses, we would see that it is no horrible thing to live as poor people when we have a joyful, gospel-centered, God-glorifying family that pulses with love and hope. Nowhere do the biblical authors instruct us to see such circumstances as a curse. No, if God is the Lord of the home, and the husband and wife fill their roles, and the children obey their parents, then the family is rich, rich beyond the wildest dreams of the wealthy secularists up the street who has great wealth in the bank but tragically little in the heart.

Again, this is not to say that wealth is wrong. It is not, and some Christians have a great deal of it and do not allow it to compromise a healthy home. Sadly, though, many do allow earthly values to drive their decision-making and home life. This problem–and its solution–begins with the husband. If he will commit to taking on the burden of the family’s finances, to providing for his home though it may cost him much, then he sets his family up to flourish. If he gives them a vision of life together that is not driven and dictated by the culture and its ideals, but a biblical vision that prizes the principles of God’s Word as they relate to the home, then he charts for them a course of great blessing. With his family, he may know times of great hardship and trial. He will have difficult nights, and sleepless days. He will see others entertaining themselves more and exhausting themselves less, and he may even question the wisdom of his path. But he will turn over and over to God’s Word and its vision for masculine leadership and provision, and he will know, if only by the mustard seed of faith, that if it must be, a trailer park is not only enough–it is just right.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Becoming a Research Assistant: Or, How to Best Pursue Your Dreams of Assistantship-Based Glory

I’ve done a number of internship and worked as a research assistant a few times in my young life. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to label myself a “career intern” due to my completion of no less than five internships to this point in my life. In the course of my glorious and seemingly unending intern career, I have gotten the following question a number of times: what does one do to get such opportunities? I thought that I might take a stab at this question in hopes of passing on a few words to those who seek evangelical assistantships and the accoutrements–jacuzzis, BMWs, and global renown–they provide.

In all seriousness, I count myself quite undeserving of the opportunities I have had to study under godly, gifted men in preparation for pastoral and academic ministry. The Lord has blessed me richly by giving me opportunities to study under men like Mark Dever and Al Mohler. How, then, did I get such opportunities? The quick and easy answer is that there is no easy answer. As with every blessing that you and I receive, the Lord decides in His will when to give us gifts. I didn’t figure out a magic formula by which to fit certain positions into my life. I simply lived the Christian life and, as we all do in different days, experienced the Lord’s kindness in many ways.

With that said–and it must be said–young men who desire training under godly, gifted men in preparation for a life of sacrificial, self-denying service for the Kingdom can do a few things to win such opportunities. Here are a number I’ve thought of, though I state them without any pretense to systematic or definitive thought and without any belief that I have practiced these points with great success. Take these as humble thoughts from one young man to others.

1. Pursue godliness: Strive first and foremost to be a godly man. Do not strive to be a famous or successful or well-known man. Strive to be holy, to live in a way that glorifies Christ, and to do what will honor Him with your life. If you determine that you are called to some form of future leadership that will be enriched by training under a godly, gifted man, then pursue research assistantships (or internships, or whatever they may be). But don’t pursue them for your own glory. Mark this first point carefully. Many men do not, and you can spot them. They are the ones who don’t care a great deal about holiness, about God’s mission in the earth, and about preparation for ministry. They care more about fame, reputation, and success. If you are interested in training opportunities for these reasons, please, repent. After you learn in the context of a local church how to pursue things rightly, then consider pursuing ministry opportunities. But don’t start out doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

2. Work hard: If you and others around you perceive that you are called to leadership of the church of some sort, then work very diligently in all that is before you. Don’t seek the rewards of labor without engaging in the labor itself. By this I mean that ambitious young men should tax themselves to sharpen their minds and hearts for the glory of God. Men who need assistants and interns aren’t looking for sycophants to tell them how great they are, they aren’t looking for staff who are interested in basking in their reflected glory, and they aren’t looking for lazy stair-steppers who are zealous only to climb the next step. Such men are looking for workers who can make a meaningful contribution to their scholarship and ministry. If you want to work under them, then, work very hard to make your mind and your spirit useful to such a man. Take hard classes, participate in ministry, speak up in class, get to know other action-oriented guys, and pray that you’ll work well and humbly in all that you do. I’ve come into contact with many guys who think one’s resume is shaped by one’s connections. This is true to a degree, but the most important earthly factor is being a person who others would refer and who leaders can use in their work for the Lord. The men I’ve worked for prized the ability to think critically, to think quickly at times, to anticipate needs and requests, to bring a level of knowledge to one’s work, and to work with a spirit of zest and energy. Cultivate these qualities as you seek opportunities.

3. Practice humility: This is a subset of point one, admittedly, but it is so important as to bear stating. The Bible teaches us clearly that the Lord blesses the humble. Above all, pursue humility in your walk with Christ. Do not seek to glorify and exalt yourself. Seek to humbly serve the Lord and His church by the application of your gifts and abilities to a vocational calling. As you gain opportunities, speak little of them. Talk little about what you’ve been able to do and who you’ve worked under. Talk much about Christ and His kingdom. Concern yourself with what truly matters. It may be well and good to write articles, to pen books, to lead ministries, to work for evangelical dignitaries, or whatever else you may be able to do, but these things are not ends in themselves. They are merely channels by which you can send some glory to God. This is one of the hardest things to remember in life, but it is one of the most essential. Pursue humility.

4. Seek opportunities in alignment with your calling: Don’t seek opportunities for their own sake. You might have snagged a killer internship, but what good will that do you if it has no bearing on your future life? Take care not to be jealous, then, of those who are getting opportunities that have little relation to what you want to do. (Take extra care not to be jealous of those who have the positions you seek, of course!) Focus on what your heart and your church members and friends tell you they perceive to be your calling. Don’t chase glory. Chase preparation. If an internship under an unknown pastor will prepare you for ministry better than one under a big-name pastor, take the former. Remember, you’re not seeking a slick resume. You’re seeking a godly heart, a seasoned mind, an experienced hand at the vocation God seems to be directing you toward. Seek what will furnish you with these qualities.

There are a few thoughts for those who are seeking ministerial opportunities. There’s much more that could be said, but I hope that this is at least minimally helpful. If I can leave you with just one thought, remember that you are not working for your own glory in this life, but the glory of God. Those who seek opportunities are often ambitious young men. There is nothing wrong with ambition in itself, as it can be directed to godly ends, but the execution of this matter makes all the difference in the world as to whether you end up a profitable, useful servant of the Lord or a self-centered, opportunistic, self-glorifying servant of your own ego. Be ambitious, then, but be ambitious for the Kingdom. That is a skill and a qualification that fits you not only for earthly work, but for a heavenly rest.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

NPR, Child’s Play, and the Importance of the Imagination

A friend recently tipped me off to a great NPR article on the importance of child’s play. Here’s a key quotation on how child’s play has changed in the last half-century:

“Instead of spending their time in autonomous shifting make-believe, children were supplied with ever more specific toys for play and predetermined scripts. Essentially, instead of playing pirate with a tree branch they played Star Wars with a toy light saber. Chudacoff calls this the commercialization and co-optation of child’s play — a trend which begins to shrink the size of children’s imaginative space.”

Aside from the clearly unfortunate nature of this development from an “enriched life” standpoint, the loss of imaginative, undirected play has had quantifiably negative effects in the physiology of children. Here’s a very telling quotation:

“A recent study replicated a study of self-regulation first done in the late 1940s, in which psychological researchers asked kids ages 3, 5 and 7 to do a number of exercises. One of those exercises included standing perfectly still without moving. The 3-year-olds couldn’t stand still at all, the 5-year-olds could do it for about three minutes, and the 7-year-olds could stand pretty much as long as the researchers asked. In 2001, researchers repeated this experiment. But, psychologist Elena Bodrova at the National Institute for Early Education Research says, the results were very different.

“Today’s 5-year-olds were acting at the level of 3-year-olds 60 years ago, and today’s 7-year-olds were barely approaching the level of a 5-year-old 60 years ago,” Bodrova explains. “So the results were very sad.””

The loss of self-regulation is, perhaps surprisingly, intimately connected with the loss of spontaneous, child-directed play that nurtures the imagination. Thus, when one loses a connection with the imagination, and when one couples this loss with a permissive society, one is left with a generation of children who have little self-control and a host of corresponding personal problems. What, after all, is more integral to maturity than self-control?

I would encourage you to read the whole article–it’s worth it, as it will stimulate much thought among Christians. If the studies mentioned in the piece are true, and they certainly seem to be, then we Christians will need to make sure that we reserve a substantial place in our child-raising for the cultivation of the imagination. Furthermore, we will need to make sure that we do so not primarily by placing toys with preprogrammed stories in the hands of our children, but by thrusting our children out the back door with the lively admonition to, well, “Play!” That is to say, articles like the one cited in this post only encourage us to do what many parents, following their common sense intuition, have been doing for many hundreds of years: encouraging kids to be kids. This is not to say that such parents do not push their children on to maturity and seek to develop them in spiritual and social terms such that they become God-fearing men and women capable of contributing to home, church, society, and the broader kingdom. No, they do. But good parents do so while realizing that the seasons of life are precious and that a key part of the season of childhood is the development and exercise of the imagination.

I am not yet a father. I cannot wait to be (and my wife, praise God, is fourteen weeks along!). I do not speak, then, as an authority, but as one who was blessed to be raised in a home where the imagination was not simply tolerated but was stimulated and allowed to develop. To this day, one of my favorite things to do is to engage in creative exercise through basketball games. I may not invent tales of knightly heroism or dashing rescue anymore, but I do still allow my fun side to run wild, quite literally, on the court. That’s a gift that my parents gave me–and that I hope many Christian parents will continue to give in days to come. What’s at stake, after all, is not simply well-rounded children, but children who understand and delight in the gift of imagination and then go on to live self-controlled lives while glorying in the message of the Bible, the story that in its incredible genesis, action-packed body, and fantastic resolution crests all other tales in majesty and truth.

Leave a comment

Filed under child's play, imagination, npr, parenting

NPR, Child’s Play, and the Importance of the Imagination

A friend recently tipped me off to a great NPR article on the importance of child’s play. Here’s a key quotation on how child’s play has changed in the last half-century:

“Instead of spending their time in autonomous shifting make-believe, children were supplied with ever more specific toys for play and predetermined scripts. Essentially, instead of playing pirate with a tree branch they played Star Wars with a toy light saber. Chudacoff calls this the commercialization and co-optation of child’s play — a trend which begins to shrink the size of children’s imaginative space.”

Aside from the clearly unfortunate nature of this development from an “enriched life” standpoint, the loss of imaginative, undirected play has had quantifiably negative effects in the physiology of children. Here’s a very telling quotation:

“A recent study replicated a study of self-regulation first done in the late 1940s, in which psychological researchers asked kids ages 3, 5 and 7 to do a number of exercises. One of those exercises included standing perfectly still without moving. The 3-year-olds couldn’t stand still at all, the 5-year-olds could do it for about three minutes, and the 7-year-olds could stand pretty much as long as the researchers asked. In 2001, researchers repeated this experiment. But, psychologist Elena Bodrova at the National Institute for Early Education Research says, the results were very different.

“Today’s 5-year-olds were acting at the level of 3-year-olds 60 years ago, and today’s 7-year-olds were barely approaching the level of a 5-year-old 60 years ago,” Bodrova explains. “So the results were very sad.””

The loss of self-regulation is, perhaps surprisingly, intimately connected with the loss of spontaneous, child-directed play that nurtures the imagination. Thus, when one loses a connection with the imagination, and when one couples this loss with a permissive society, one is left with a generation of children who have little self-control and a host of corresponding personal problems. What, after all, is more integral to maturity than self-control?

I would encourage you to read the whole article–it’s worth it, as it will stimulate much thought among Christians. If the studies mentioned in the piece are true, and they certainly seem to be, then we Christians will need to make sure that we reserve a substantial place in our child-raising for the cultivation of the imagination. Furthermore, we will need to make sure that we do so not primarily by placing toys with preprogrammed stories in the hands of our children, but by thrusting our children out the back door with the lively admonition to, well, “Play!” That is to say, articles like the one cited in this post only encourage us to do what many parents, following their common sense intuition, have been doing for many hundreds of years: encouraging kids to be kids. This is not to say that such parents do not push their children on to maturity and seek to develop them in spiritual and social terms such that they become God-fearing men and women capable of contributing to home, church, society, and the broader kingdom. No, they do. But good parents do so while realizing that the seasons of life are precious and that a key part of the season of childhood is the development and exercise of the imagination.

I am not yet a father. I cannot wait to be (and my wife, praise God, is fourteen weeks along!). I do not speak, then, as an authority, but as one who was blessed to be raised in a home where the imagination was not simply tolerated but was stimulated and allowed to develop. To this day, one of my favorite things to do is to engage in creative exercise through basketball games. I may not invent tales of knightly heroism or dashing rescue anymore, but I do still allow my fun side to run wild, quite literally, on the court. That’s a gift that my parents gave me–and that I hope many Christian parents will continue to give in days to come. What’s at stake, after all, is not simply well-rounded children, but children who understand and delight in the gift of imagination and then go on to live self-controlled lives while glorying in the message of the Bible, the story that in its incredible genesis, action-packed body, and fantastic resolution crests all other tales in majesty and truth.

Leave a comment

Filed under child's play, imagination, npr, parenting

NPR, Child’s Play, and the Importance of the Imagination

A friend recently tipped me off to a great NPR article on the importance of child’s play. Here’s a key quotation on how child’s play has changed in the last half-century:

“Instead of spending their time in autonomous shifting make-believe, children were supplied with ever more specific toys for play and predetermined scripts. Essentially, instead of playing pirate with a tree branch they played Star Wars with a toy light saber. Chudacoff calls this the commercialization and co-optation of child’s play — a trend which begins to shrink the size of children’s imaginative space.”

Aside from the clearly unfortunate nature of this development from an “enriched life” standpoint, the loss of imaginative, undirected play has had quantifiably negative effects in the physiology of children. Here’s a very telling quotation:

“A recent study replicated a study of self-regulation first done in the late 1940s, in which psychological researchers asked kids ages 3, 5 and 7 to do a number of exercises. One of those exercises included standing perfectly still without moving. The 3-year-olds couldn’t stand still at all, the 5-year-olds could do it for about three minutes, and the 7-year-olds could stand pretty much as long as the researchers asked. In 2001, researchers repeated this experiment. But, psychologist Elena Bodrova at the National Institute for Early Education Research says, the results were very different.

“Today’s 5-year-olds were acting at the level of 3-year-olds 60 years ago, and today’s 7-year-olds were barely approaching the level of a 5-year-old 60 years ago,” Bodrova explains. “So the results were very sad.””

The loss of self-regulation is, perhaps surprisingly, intimately connected with the loss of spontaneous, child-directed play that nurtures the imagination. Thus, when one loses a connection with the imagination, and when one couples this loss with a permissive society, one is left with a generation of children who have little self-control and a host of corresponding personal problems. What, after all, is more integral to maturity than self-control?

I would encourage you to read the whole article–it’s worth it, as it will stimulate much thought among Christians. If the studies mentioned in the piece are true, and they certainly seem to be, then we Christians will need to make sure that we reserve a substantial place in our child-raising for the cultivation of the imagination. Furthermore, we will need to make sure that we do so not primarily by placing toys with preprogrammed stories in the hands of our children, but by thrusting our children out the back door with the lively admonition to, well, “Play!” That is to say, articles like the one cited in this post only encourage us to do what many parents, following their common sense intuition, have been doing for many hundreds of years: encouraging kids to be kids. This is not to say that such parents do not push their children on to maturity and seek to develop them in spiritual and social terms such that they become God-fearing men and women capable of contributing to home, church, society, and the broader kingdom. No, they do. But good parents do so while realizing that the seasons of life are precious and that a key part of the season of childhood is the development and exercise of the imagination.

I am not yet a father. I cannot wait to be (and my wife, praise God, is fourteen weeks along!). I do not speak, then, as an authority, but as one who was blessed to be raised in a home where the imagination was not simply tolerated but was stimulated and allowed to develop. To this day, one of my favorite things to do is to engage in creative exercise through basketball games. I may not invent tales of knightly heroism or dashing rescue anymore, but I do still allow my fun side to run wild, quite literally, on the court. That’s a gift that my parents gave me–and that I hope many Christian parents will continue to give in days to come. What’s at stake, after all, is not simply well-rounded children, but children who understand and delight in the gift of imagination and then go on to live self-controlled lives while glorying in the message of the Bible, the story that in its incredible genesis, action-packed body, and fantastic resolution crests all other tales in majesty and truth.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Week-est Link, February 22, 2008: Mohler, Carson, and One Powerful Song

1. Andy Naselli, a friend from TEDS and PhD student in New Testament (and D. A. Carson’s research guy) blogs about the online history of Southern Seminary that I worked on a few years back. I’m linking to it here because Andy lays out the site’s content in a really helpful way. If you’ve never looked at the site, I encourage you to–a number of us worked hard on the site to make it excellent. The seminary archivist, Jason Fowler, a personal friend, did terrific work in pulling it together, writing some content, and finding great photos for the various content pages.

2. This is a great article on how children’s play has changed in the last few decades. The aforementioned Andy Naselli passed it on to me by email. Pretty depressing. I’m thankful that my parents strongly limited the amount of tv that my sister and I could watch. We were forced to use our imaginations, and we did. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are simple times in the backyard. How many kids–and Christian kids, shockingly–will never develop such memories?

3. Great Collin Hansen piece on the new book by New Testament scholars D. A. Carson and Greg Beale on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. There is such confusion on this subject. I attempt on my own little corner to push for healthy, full-canon biblical exegesis, but I am just a little fish–a minnow, perhaps. It’s great to see a couple of sharks publish some meaty stuff on this important topic. Collin is also a TEDS student and is one of the best young writers around–make sure to get his new book when it comes out.

4. Future historian of eminence Matthew Hall blogs thoughtfully as ever about new studies in Mormonism. I’ll have to think more about this before I comment, but it is interesting to observe the mainstreaming of Mormonism.

5. Al Mohler on a recent report of America’s most sinful cities. His comments: “In reality, the whole world is a Genesis 3 world — a fallen world inhabited by sinners. Sin is a universal problem and every single human being is a sinner. Put sinful humanity in close quarters, and sin inevitably multiplies.” So true. It’s fun to think about the morality of towns versus cities. Maybe a post for another day.

6. If you want to be edified and lifted up, you need to get this cd and listen to the song “Oh Lord Your Love.” It is stirring and inspiring, and it never fails to direct my thoughts to the hope and joy that I have in Jesus Christ because of His death and resurrection on behalf of his church. Great work by Caedmon’s Call.

Have a great weekend, all.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

How Does a Christian Deal with the Obama Phenomenon?

I’ve become aware in recent days that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is drawing a fair amount of interest and perhaps even support from evangelical Christians. This topic interests me not because I am concerned about Christians supporting a Democratic candidate but because Barack Obama is one of the most pro-abortion candidates for the nation’s highest office that we’ve ever seen.

This last statement draws us into a question that I’ve heard debated a good deal in the last few years, the matter of single-issue voting. Some Christians say that it is right to vote for candidates based on one major issue (or perhaps a few) while others decry this sort of mindset, painting it as narrow-minded and undeveloped. I can understand the critique of this second group. Many who make it are, I think, reacting to a troublesome tendency evinced by many of us to not think solidly, soundly, and roundedly about things. That is to say, we get stuck on our biases, on our natural bent(s), and never advance past them. We become so anchored in historic truths and positions that we fail to consider current trends of thought and legitimate issues being raised in the current day. Today, for example, we would put in this class things like global warming and care for the poor. Sadly, I think that many conservative evangelicals like myself fail to give adequate attention to these matters. Because we so concentrate on matters like abortion and euthanasia, matters of life and death, we have a tendency to automatically write off other less-pressing matters simply because, well, they’re less pressing. Though we are to be commended for prioritizing matters of life and death, we are to be chided for making the mistake of converting issues of less importance into issues of negligible importance.

What does all this have to do with Barack Obama and his presidential campaign? Well, I think that many Christians are drawn, as many people are, to Obama by virtue of his youth, his eloquence, his “coolness”, his purportedly fresh-thinking manner. I can understand some of this interest, though I am not as charmed by Obama as some. I am concerned, though, when I hear that fellow Christians are not simply impressed by Obama but won over by him. That is to say, I am distressed when I hear that Obama is gaining support among conservative Christians. Remember that Obama is pro-choice, and not just pro-choice, but ardently so. (See here for more on this matter.) On a matter like abortion, we are not being small-minded when we prioritize it. We are being logical. Matters of life-and-death must take priority in our political philosophy. However much we may be charmed by a candidate’s native gifts or his perceived ability to unite people, we must evaluate him by his positions, and his positions on the most important matters must take intellectual precedence. It is no bad thing to want a candidate who cares for the environment or the poor–we would hope for such candidates!–but it is only biblical to first and foremost desire a candidate who will actively work to stop the slaughter of millions of babies.

In adopting such a mindset, we may well draw derision from some as “narrow-minded” or “intellectually unsophisticated.” We will need to work to show such folks that we are in fact thoughtful. Accordingly, we should not merely bite back, and we should show them the reasons biblically for our thinking. However, ultimately, if it is our fate to be labeled such, we must accept this fate. We must stand for the truth on matters of life and death. We must not allow fear of intellectual sophisticates to drive our decision-making. Much as we may admire aspects of Obama’s person, we must oppose his program, and thus actively oppose his campaign. Though he has a great smile, and a charming manner, he is a pro-death candidate. We may well draw sneers for saying this, and standing for it, but this is the price we pay for standing for truth in a fallen world. May we not be so charmed by talent, or so afraid of opprobrium, that we will not stand for truth–and life.

12 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

One of the Most Helpful Posts on Guidance I’ve Read: Dever on Subjectivism

Update on 2/21/08: Apparently I linked to the wrong blog yesterday. Thankfully, Mark Dever caught my error and corrected it, as you can see in the comments. I’m pretty sure that this is the first time he’s ever seen this blog, so I’ll have to err more often.

I came across a very helpful little piece on guidance today. It’s by Mark Dever and it can be found at the Together for the Gospel blog.” (HT: Justin Taylor) The post is titled “The Bondage of “Guidance” and it is well worth the five minutes it takes to read it. Here’s a helpful excerpt from it:

“I do believe that God’s Spirit will sometimes lead us subjectively. So, for instance, I am choosing to spend my life here on Capitol Hill because my wife & I sensed in 1993 that that is what God wanted us to do. However, I realized then (and now) that I could be wrong about that supposition. Scripture is NEVER wrong. I was free in 1993 to stay in England, or teach at a seminary, either of which would have been delightful opportunities. I understand that I was free to make those choices. But I chose, consulting Scripture, friends, wisdom, and my own subjective sense of the Lord’s will, to come to DC. And even if I were wrong about that, I had (and have) that freedom in Christ to act in a way that is not sin. And I understand my pastoring here not to be sin. So I am free. Regardless of the sense of leading I had.”

And here’s another:

“A subjective sense of leading–when we’ve asked for it (as in James 1:5 we ask for wisdom) and when God freely gives it–is wonderful. The desire for such a subjective sense of leading, however, is too often, in contemporary evangelical piety, binding our brothers and sisters in Christ, paralyzing them from enjoying the good choices that God may provide, and causing them to wait wrongly before acting.”

This is great stuff. I’ve encountered a good many Christians who are genuinely confused about this question. In fact, I’ve been one of those Christians (and still am, sometimes). Those of us who tie ourselves up in knots over the issue of discovering God’s will go beyond the Scripture, I think. That is to say, the Bible does not expect us, I think, to perfectly know God’s will for every decision we make in our lives. It is no bad desire to want such leading–in fact, I think it shows a healthy respect for the sovereign will of God as applied to our lives–but the Bible does not prescribe any sort of process by which we may automatically discern what it is that God wants for us. We are to pray, clearly, and we are to take counsel, and search the Word, and use wisdom conformed to biblical thought patterns, but beyond these things, as Dever writes, we are free to make what we believe to be the godly choice. This is a strange concept for some of us, this idea of freedom, but we must remember that this is a gift that Christ has graciously given to us. We must remind ourselves of the scriptural truth that the blood of Christ has not subjected to us a decisional bondage, but liberated us to live freely and joyfully under the reign of Christ. Hopefully, we’ll be able to remember this truth as we live, and so free ourselves from a paralysis of will that, however well-intended, ultimately loses sight of the Christ-given gift of freedom.

Leave a comment

Filed under 9Marks, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, church matters blog, Jesus Christ, justin taylor, Mark Dever