Monthly Archives: August 2008

The Week-est Link: August 29, 2008

1. A hilarious Dave Barry column on the Democratic National Convention.  Fun excerpt: “This year there is high drama in the Mile High City as the Democrats gather under their official 2008 convention slogan: “A Unified Party, United in Unity Together As One, Undivided.”

2. An excellent Al Mohler article on adoption.  If you’re a parent and haven’t thought hard about possible adoptions in your family’s future plans, chew on this and see whether there might be some room for this act, which in itself is a tiny but significant picture of the gospel.

3. Speaking of Mohler, his Atheism Remix is out now.  I’m going to be reviewing it soon, but I wanted you to know about this important book, which will serve as an excellent guide for meeting the challenging claims of the “New Atheists” who have popped up throughout our culture.

4. A terrific piece on exhortation and encouragement by David Mathis, assistant to John Piper and a friend of mine. Here’s a nice chunk: “When we see issues that immediately threaten the potency of the gospel in the lives of those we love and lead, we should respond with strength and severity. This is the path of love. There is no room for toying with the gospel.  But more frequently the errors we see in others are less serious. So let us also aim to establish a pattern of loving encouragement and gentle care, handling less severe deviations with an affirming challenge.”

–Have a great weekend, everyone!  Be blessed.

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Excerpt Provocateur: Stephen Nichols’s “Jesus Made in America”

Stephen J. Nichols’s new book looks worth a read. Nichols is a historian at Lancaster Bible College who is fast emerging as a scholar of note in the evangelical movement (and even beyond it). He’s just published Jesus Made in America, which includes this little gem:

“Some, such as David Wells, have argued rather persuasively that contemporary American evangelicalism lacks a robust theological center and, what’s worse, the skill and the moral will to construct one. Such judgments don’t bode well for the future of evangelicalism, especially in terms of Christology. A rigorous and even fought-for Christology was the lifeblood of the early church. Early Christians recognized that Christianity would indeed stand or fall based on how it settled the question of Christ’s identity. So they debated. They debated the subtle distinctions between the terms nature and person, and on the issue of the Trinity, person and substance. They agonized over the biblical data. Getting it right on Christology meant everything to the early church. The church fathers labored over Christology not because they enjoyed splitting hairs and relished a good debate, but because if they didn’t, there would not be much of a Christianity at all.” (Jesus Made in America, 17)

This would be a terrific book to pick up. You’d learn a good deal about American evangelical history and you would enjoy the prose. Nichols is a gifted writer, and his provocative words will spur on much helpful thought.

See also the TOC, Q&A with Nichols, the introduction, and chapter 7 (“Jesus on a Bracelet: Christ, Commodification and Consumer Culture”).

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Books of Note: Gerald Hiestand’s “Raising Purity”

The evangelical scene is cluttered with books on dating and marriage. Those looking for a little advice and some poignant stories will not go hungry in the current market. Many texts in this field, however, fail to get to the center of the matter, and to connect dating and marriage with the gospel. I’m pleased to recommend my friend Gerald Hiestand‘s book Raising Purity as one book that succeeds in presenting a gospel-centered approach to raising children with sexual purity as the goal. Short in length, readable, written by a pastor, and gospel-focused, Raising Purity represents a sound resource for Christian parents who would seek to raise children of purity in a culture in which holiness is decidedly last season.

Here’s a nice soundbite to take away from the text:

“In the end, holiness comes only from an experiential, firsthand encounter with the life-changing person of Christ. Rules and structures are important, but if they are all we give our children, they will be no better off than the Pharisees. Our children must learn to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. The rules and restrictions that we place upon them are merely temporary stopgaps until their love for God grows. This love will take some time to develop, and their enthusiasm for their sexuality will likely precede their enthusiasm for God. Thus it is important that we as parents protect them from their desires until their love for God can take over. May God give us wisdom as we seek to set responsible boundaries for our children.” (Raising Purity, 132)

An excellent point and a needed one in a day in which much evangelical teaching, perhaps unintentionally, fails to take into account the deeper spiritual realities that produce moral behavior. I recommend Hiestand’s book and I would encourage parents to purchase a copy in order that their home and care for their children might be more gospel-centered and pleasing to the Lord.

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Important Essay: Michael Horton’s “Beyond Culture Wars”

I like theologian Michael Horton‘s writing.  He’s often provocative and helpful.  Even if one doesn’t always agree with him, one generally finds him a stimulating read.  The latest issue of Modern Reformation has reprinted a column entitled “Beyond the Culture Wars” published fifteen years ago that bears out a reading.  Horton’s burden in the piece is to direct Christians away from the “culture wars” and toward gospel proclamation.  He overstates things in places and comes to some conclusions that make me a bit uneasy, but his general message is, I think, challenging.

Here’s an excerpt that pushed me to consider the thoughts and intentions of my own heart:

“We have become the rock of offense rather than Christ. The irony is we have taken the offense out of the gospel–we don’t preach sin and grace anymore–and have taken it over for ourselves. We’re offensive for all the wrong reasons while we leave the gospel itself devoid of its power. The minorities, the feminists, the gays, and others who practice immoral lifestyles–people with whom we may not agree–will not give us a hearing at the end of the twentieth century. Not because we have preached the gospel and called them to repentance and they don’t like that, but because we have framed our communication with them in terms of a war for social, political, and cultural control. Contrary to the religious leaders of his day, Jesus was the friend of sinners. Prostitutes turned from their prostitution because, as Jesus said, “He who is forgiven much loves much.” The Holy Spirit will not convert a single soul through moral crusades. He will not convert a prostitute through Senate bill 242, or change the direction of the homosexual by prime-time denunciation from moralistic preachers. Yes, we are called to preach the good news and to call men and women to repentance, but that is not a political issue, that is not ultimate a moral issue, that is a gospel issue. Repentance can no more be coerced by the state than faith; both are the gracious gifts of God.”

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Books of Note: Mark Driscoll’s “A Book You’ll Actually Read” Series

It’s tough to find books to give to non-Christians that are at once accessible, helpful, and rich. I think I’ve found a great reference for you and for me as we seek to help unbelievers (and young Christians) understand the Christian faith. The “Books You’ll Actually Read” series, written by Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll, is excellent. You can order it here.

Here are a couple of recommendations:

“Mark has a gift of taking weighty ideas and expressing them in clear and lively language.” Bruce A. Ware, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Serious, informed, reverent, but not technical discussions of great themes.” D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Here’s the series blurb from the Crossway website: “Clear, biblical answers to some of the most common questions—all into concise books you’ll actually read! Mark Driscoll boils down the big ideas from hundreds of volumes of reading into 4 books that each take about an hour to read.”

This is a great example of the way Driscoll handles dense subject matter with clarity and nuance: “When looking at the names of God in the New Testament, Jesus Christ emerges as the predominant name. The name Jesus is derived from the Hebrew Old Testament work Joshua, Y’shua, or Je-Hoshua, which means “Jehovah is Salvation.” Jesus also referred to himself by the most sacred Old Testament name for God, “I am.”…The name Christ also appears throughout the New Testament and is the equivalent to the Old Testament Hebrew Messiah (Meshiach), which means “The Anointed One.” Therefore, the most common name for God in the New Testament is Jesus Christ.” (Who Is God, 40)

Bottom line: These books are all designed to be read in one sitting and an hour’s time. That may be slightly optimistic, but it’s likely that a person could read these books very quickly. As we all know, that is hugely important in reaching unbelievers. Things need to be quick and direct. In Driscoll’s book on the New Testament, for example, he summarizes each of the books of the New Testament in a paragraph or two. That’s an excellent resource. I’m so glad to see a pastor doing this kind of work. While not everyone will agree with the conclusions to which Driscoll comes in On Church Leadership, he does offer a number of practical answers to common questions regarding church leadership that I found practically beneficial.

I would particularly recommend On Who Is God? and also On the New Testament and On the Old Testament. The first, however, will be especially helpful in introducing unbelievers to the faith. One need not agree with all of Driscoll’s cultural and theological positions to use these books and see them bear fruit in the lives of others. I’m thankful for a resource like this, and I hope to see more of this sort of resource from Driscoll in the future. His heart for his people (the books were originally pamphlets written for his church) and his love for the Lord is apparent throughout his writing. One hopes that this ministry of writing will draw many people to faith and clear up much confusion for unbelievers, all for God’s glory.

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Warrior Girls and its Importance

Some time ago I blogged about a new book, Warrior Girls, that covers in an in-depth way the unique challenges faced by female athletes.  That book is now out.  I would encourage Christian parents and leaders to buy it, read it, and think about the implications of its conclusions for a Christian worldview.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent interview by the Chicago Tribune with the book’s author, Michael Sokolove:

Tribune: Is it overstatement to suggest that girls might be physiologically ill-equipped to compete in high-level athletics?

Sokolove: I think that is an overstatement. But we do need to recognize differences. As girls and boys go through puberty, they diverge, physically—boys add muscle, and even without much effort, get stronger. Girls do not get appreciably stronger, but they become more flexible. When knees and other joints are not kept stable by sufficient muscle, they are vulnerable to injuries–including tears of the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee, which is the scourge of women’s athletics. Girls and young women suffer ACL tears at rates eight times higher than male athletes in sports the sexes play in common and by essentially the same rules, including basketball and soccer.”

The fact that girls suffer eight times the amount of ACL tears in high-contact sports (detailed in the book) tells us something about the unpopular but also undeniable reality that when it comes to physiology, girls and boys are different.  Put simply, the bodies of girls and women are not built to take the same amount of stress and abuse as are the bodies of boys and men.  This is a hard fact for many to acknowledge, but it is a necessary one, and it should factor into the decisions we make regarding our children and the sports in which they engage.  The gender-neutral society is a sham.

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Excerpt Provocateur: Will Mancini’s “Church Unique”

On this new blog, we’re going for bigger and better. I want to update this site more often than I did the old one and keep things really humming along. Here’s a new feature I hope to use often: “Excerpt Provocateur”, which will give an interesting quotation that you (and I) might agree or not agree with. The point is not to simply post what I think, but to get your thoughts going. I’ll try to interact with your reflections on the excerpt as we go.

Today’s excerpt concerns the idea of “vision-casting”. From Will Mancini’s new Church Unique:

“Great vision-casting moments start by looking back momentarily before looking forward. It is critical that you draw attention to shared connections and experiences. You have to remind people why they would want to listen to you. Who are you to them, anyway? Many times the leader is relationally close to the people and doesn’t feel the need to retell the stories. But this is shortsighted. Other times, the leader is vision casting in a larger environment and is anxious to get to the meat. But you cannot deliver the meat of your vision without connecting first. My favorite quote from John Maxwell is that “leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.” (185)

As a young, maturing man, I want to be open to wisdom from all sources. There seems to be something to this matter of connecting with one’s audience and, when possible, making a “heart” connection.

Of course, this sort of thing can get way out of hand, and the language in the excerpt (as with the book it comes from) can be rather business-focused. However, if one wants to be a leader (and I do, and I hope you as a reader do as well), one who helps people and blesses them by giving direction and inspiration, it makes sense to seek to help and connect with people.

Your thoughts?

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Blog Address Has Changed: owenstrachan.com

If you’re looking for content from Owen Strachan (the writer of consumed) , please visit the following site: http://owenstrachan.com

Also, please bookmark the site or change your feed address, as I’m no longer blogging here.

See you at http://owenstrachan.com

Many thanks!

–Owen Strachan

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New 9Marks eJournal Is Up: A Theology of Children

The new eJournal is up and it looks excellent. Here are a few snapshots from the current issue. As always, the content is free and very beneficial. It’s theologically rich but quite readable.

The Cline family on doing missions as a family:

“For various reasons, few families today choose to go overseas, and the leaders of these families (the fathers) will often say that “the family” is what keeps them from doing so. They regard their families as burdens in missions work rather than as valuable assets, so they hesitate to commit to full-time cross-cultural disciple-making. Meanwhile, the single man or woman is treated as the prime candidates because he or she is unhampered and available.

Singlehood is indeed a good time to pursue missions without the added cares of family. But having a family should not prevent overseas work. When it does, the family may have become an idol.”

Andrew Nichols on how the image of God affects our theology of children:

  • It keeps us from viewing children as obstacles. Some evangelicals seem to think that having children is not that important, and can even be a barrier to godly ambition and valuable Christian service. But if parent-child relationships are commanded and bear witness to God’s very nature, then nothing could be further from the truth. Children are not obstacles to ministry; their very presence and our relationships with them are a kind of ministry.
  • It keeps us from viewing children as idols. Others in the church seem close to worshipping their children. Fathers and mothers—and pastors—who put children on pedestals need to be reminded that God did not imbue families with the divine image so that we can worship them, but so that we can worship Him. By all means build up the homes in your church—but as a means to building the family of God to the glory of God!”

Matt and Eli Schmucker offer numerous excellent parenting tips (we should have to pay for this):

  1. “The saying goes, “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” We believe daddy is actually the problem. From a complementarian’s viewpoint one needs to conclude the above saying with, “And if daddy ain’t happy in the Lord, ain’t nobody happy.”
  2. In a stay-at-home-mom scenario, dad tends to back away from discipline when mom has been with the children all day. In one sense this is wise as he has not observed the rhythm and rhyme of the day. However, dad needs to catch up and jump in.
  3. Talk to both good and not-so-good parents; you’ll learn lessons from both.
  4. Talking to really old parents may not prove to be fruitful as their memories fade and they’ll remember raising kids as either a nightmare or a glorious experience. Talking to parents 5-10 years ahead of where you are seems most fruitful (Prov. 15:22: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed”).”

Another excellent journal from 9Marks.

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The Week-est Link, August 22, 2008: Final Link

1. Ligonier Ministries, the ministry outfit of R. C. Sproul, is offering extra copies of its current issue which covers what is commonly called the “New Atheism”. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and others have popularized this brand of thought. See if you can get a hold of this magazine issue, and equip yourself (and your small group, or your church) to meet the worldview challenge of the day. (HT: Challies)

2. It came out recently that Barack Obama had make a mistake in recalling his voting record on abortion. In fact, he said that those who in fact had the record straight were liars. Rich Lowry details the sad truth about Obama’s record on abortion, showing that he is not a moderate at all on this issue but an extremist who worked to defeat a bill that would have saved babies accidentally born during abortion procedures. An Illinois hospital was leaving these babies to die; thankfully, most of the Illinois legislature supported the bill that would have made such action illegal. As an abortion extremist, however, Barack Obama sought the defeat of that bill (even after a clause was inserted that made the bill neutral in terms of Roe v. Wade and the larger issue), and succeeded. Such action is utterly inexcusable, morally reprehensible, and leaves little doubt about Obama’s past stance on abortion.

3. Bookmark this blog on biblical theology. It’s led by Jim Hamilton, an exciting young theologian, and should prove very insightful. The trend toward biblical theology is very exciting and will be helpful for preachers who want to understand the full scope of scriptural theology when preaching a given passage. (HT: Justin Taylor)

4. Signing off for consumed. Thanks for reading. It’s been a great run. I’ll pick up on Monday at http://owenstrachan.com.

–Have a great weekend, all!

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