Monthly Archives: September 2008

Game Day for the Glory of God: Reviewing Stephen Altrogge’s New Book

I recently read Stephen Altrogge’s Game Day for the Glory of God (Crossway, 2008) and really enjoyed it.  I would encourage parents, sports fans, and Christians who love sports fans to pick the book up.

Here’s a nice excerpt from the book that captures its spirit:

“God has given us the gift of sports so that we might enjoy them for his glory.  Our athletic abilities were given to us by God so that we might use them for his glory.  Let’s not receive these gifts passively!  Millions of people enjoy the gifts of sports without ever uttering a word of thanks or praise to the glorious Giver of gifts.  As Christians we know the author of every of every good and perfect git.  Let us resolve then that whenever we’re enjoying sports, whether playing or watching them, we will thank our extravagantly lavish God who gives us such wonderful gifts.” (102)

Altrogge is a pastoral intern at Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA.  His book is classic Sovereign Grace, filled with enthusiasm, humor, and the gospel.  The text does not probe intellectual or philosophical questions related to sports, instead assuming that sports are intrinsically a field for Christians to enjoy and influence.  Altrogge points out both positive and negative aspects of sports, focusing most of the time on basketball and baseball.  He approaches his subject from a strongly spiritual perspective, seeking to determine how Christian character relates to various issues and attitudes that crop up in athletic competition.  Of note are chapters that relate to the way in which parents prepare their children for sports.  This material, while generally basic, is thoughtful and will prove helpful to parents attempting to fashion a healthy worldview of sports in a world gone mad for them.

I resonated with much of Altrogge’s writing and I enjoyed the humble manner in which he wrote.  The young writer frequently references his own experiences as an overheated amateur, a category which I fit into all too often.  A major reason to read the text is its function as a mirror for people like me.  It brings out fundamental struggles that all athletically competitive people struggle with.  Time and again, Altrogge mentions the need to fight pride, a point that is both simple and essential.  More than almost any other struggle, sports bring out pride.  Athletic competition is, at its core, something of a quest for glory, and it can easily–very easily–bring out one’s prideful attitudes and thoughts.  I sometimes found myself wanting to skip over passages due to their correct diagnosis of my own thoughts and heart intentions.  I’m glad that I did not, though, because Game Day challenged me to rethink the way I compete.

The text is a bit scattered at times and sometimes cyclical, covering material for the second or third time.  In addition, I would have liked a bit more reflection on the nature of sports.  How is the grand system of athletic competition so familiar to our modern eyes infested with ungodly thinking and acting?  One needs to go beyond questions of behavior and immediate spiritual struggle to wrestle with the greater questions behind sports.

With these things said, Game Day is a fun, enjoyable, convicting read.  It would be great for dads to get a couple of copies and read it with their sons (and daughters) who are obsessed with sports.  Beyond this group, Christians of all ages who enjoy playing sports would benefit from the questions it raises and the convicting material it presents relative to one’s heart attitude.  Altrogge has crafted a fine text in Game Day and I hope that we’ll see more from him.  Until we do, athletic and competitive Christians should read the book and use it to image more of the glory of God in competition and far, far less of the glory of self.

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Sprinkle Fish Food Liberally or Else: Salvo Magazine on How the Swiss Grant “Dignity” to Fish and Flowers

I’m making it my mission to publicize a very good though little-known conservative magazine: Salvo.  I’ve mentioned it on this blog before.  There’s a new issue up that’s well worth reading.  Check the site out, and give it a bookmark or a notice on your blog in order to spread word of this punchy thought-mag.

The latest issue features an article entitled, seriously, “Yodelay Cuckoo: The Swiss Go Crazy–Literally–Over “Dignity”” by Michael Cook.  See, with a title like that, you need to read the article.  Here’s an excerpt from the amusing and enlightening piece:

“Their penchant for yodeling notwithstanding, the Swiss must be counted among the most dignified people on the planet. Now their parliament has decreed that Swiss goldfish, too, must be treated with dignity. And not because they are gold, but because they are fish. Beginning in September, a new law will set rigorous standards for the treatment of all “social animals.” Swiss aquariums must have an opaque side to allow the fish to live in a natural cycle of day and night. It will also be an offense to keep a lone goldfish, guinea pig, or budgerigar. Or one rhinoceros, apparently, because the law also covers pet rhinoceroses.”

Here’s another shocking report:

“[Some believe] that “decapitation of wild flowers at the roadside without rational reason” is essentially a crime. In fact, the committee was unanimous in its agreement that any “arbitrary harm caused to plants [is] morally impermissible.” Genetic modification of plants would be permitted—but only if their “independence,” including their reproductive ability, is ensured. This could mean that producing sterile roses or seedless fruit will be an offense under Swiss law.”

Dignity is losing all semblance of coherence, according to Cook:

“[T]here seems to be no bottom to the ever-deepening spiral of non-human dignity. Somewhere above spiders and slugs, perhaps. But the Swiss experience suggests otherwise. Once the DNA of human dignity has been tampered with, it keeps expanding by some crazy logic, unfettered by common sense, until it includes plants and even “other organisms.” Now it threatens to turn treading on wildflowers into a crime. And it might not stop there. What constitutes respect for the dignity of bacteria and viruses must send shivers through the Swiss pharmaceutical industry. The Swiss need to recover the conviction that human beings deserve a special status because they are unique in the universe, the only beings with reason and free will.”

So there you have it.  Ladies and gentlemen, you need a “rational reason” for plucking or “crushing” a flower in Switzerland.   Also, you need at least two goldfish in your tank; one alone threatens the goldfish, a “social animal”, with paranoia.  That, after all, is why goldfish swim in such unpredictable patterns, their eyes bugging out, mouths open.  It’s because they’re alone, desperately alone, racked by angst, devastated by loneliness, unable to do anything but swim, and swim, and sometimes eat little flakes of fish food that smell a lot like old pepper.

All jesting aside, there are serious theological issues in play here.  The Swiss have lost all sense of the imago dei and thus are extending rights due humans to all kinds of creatures, including socially depressed rhinos.  This sounds crazy, and it is, but it is also a sure sign that the Swiss have lost the gospel.  We should read stories like this and laugh, yes, but we also should pray that people will give up their lives in their home country and go to Switzerland to witness about God and the truth of His world (start with Genesis 1 and Romans 1 on the imago dei).  We also should hope that the Swiss church will faithfully proclaim the scriptural foundation for human dignity, namely, the fact that humanity is the creation of God and thus invested with certain unique abilities and features that set it apart from plants, animals, and all else.

So there you have it.  Pray for Switzerland, teach the image of God in your churches and homes, and sprinkle fish food liberally.  That’s all the goldfish have, because they can’t read Salvo magazine like you and I can.

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The Week-est Link, September 26, 2008

1. Some suggest that having President Bush, a pro-lifer, in the US presidency, has had no discernible positive effect on the pro-life cause in this country.  Aside from the breathlessly naive way in which this claim overlooks the appointing of two pro-life Supreme Court justices, and the way in which the court’s makeup could lead to an overturning of Roe v. Wade and thus the saving of many helpless infant’s lives (many states, after all, would overturn the law, saving hundreds of thousands of babies), a DC insider shares several ways in which the Bush presidency has helped the pro-life cause. (HT:JT)

2. Interesting looking conference to be held at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in DC on mobilizing churches for Christian mission.

3. Send Billy Graham a birthday message.

4. A recent story covers the issues the Graham family has with the upcoming film on Billy Graham’s early years as a preacher.  The film’s official website is here.  Looks interesting, if a bit soft-focus.

5. The LA Times reports that some preachers, including a prominent Southern Baptist, are planning on preaching politically oriented sermons in coming weeks.

–Have a great weekend, all.

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Tim Keller on Preaching Hell in a Tolerant Age

Found this over at the Christianity Today site.   Tim Keller, whose recent book The Reason for God took flack from some for what was viewed as a light treatment of the evangelical doctrine of hell, wrote “Preaching Hell in a Tolerant Age” in 1997.  Leadership Journal just reprinted it, and I’m thankful that they did.

The piece could stoke some conversation as it visits an idea mentioned a while back on this blog that Keller also articulates, namely, that one preaches doctrines differently to certain groups of people.  Keller lays out in the article how he preaches hell to traditionalists and how he preaches it to postmoderns.  Readers of this blog will know the concerns I have with this approach, though I should also say that I’m certainly open to learning from Keller, who has had great success in reaching a very tough New York City crowd of primarily young people.

Here’s a great excerpt from the article, which I would encourage you to read and mull over:

“Following a recent sermon on the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, the post-service question-and-answer session was packed with more than the usual number of attenders. The questions and comments focused on the subject of eternal judgment.

My heart sank when a young college student said, “I’ve gone to church all my life, but I don’t think I can believe in a God like this.” Her tone was more sad than defiant, but her willingness to stay and talk showed that her mind was open.

Usually all the questions are pitched to me, and I respond as best I can. But on this occasion people began answering one another.

An older businesswoman said, “Well, I’m not much of a churchgoer, and I’m in some shock now. I always disliked the very idea of hell, but I never thought about it as a measure of what God was willing to endure in order to love me.”

Then a mature Christian made a connection with a sermon a month ago on Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb in John 11. “The text tells us that Jesus wept,” he said, “yet he was also extremely angry at evil. That’s helped me. He is not just an angry God or a weeping, loving God—he’s both. He doesn’t only judge evil, but he also takes the hell and judgment himself for us on the cross.”

The second woman nodded, “Yes. I always thought hell told me about how angry God was with us, but I didn’t know it also told me about how much he was willing to suffer and weep for us. I never knew how much hell told me about Jesus’ love. It’s very moving.”

It is only because of the doctrine of judgment and hell that Jesus’ proclamation of grace and love are so brilliant and astounding.”

In a provocative and perhaps even controversial essay, that is an idea that surely all Christians can affirm.

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The New York Times on the Difficulty and Glory of Writing

Anyone who writes regularly knows that it is difficult stuff. A recent article by David Gessner in the New York Times magazine, entitled “Those Who Write, Teach”, captured some of the storm-and-thunder involved in wrestling through the creation of words that form stories and arguments and descriptions and so on. Gessner is a young professor who is currently struggling with the desire to write in the midst of a busy life. Whether you’re a professor or not, his words are worth reflecting on:

“Even if we grant that you can be as original within the university as up in your garret, we must concede the possibility that something is lost by living a divided life. Intensity perhaps. The ability to focus hard and long on big, ambitious projects. A great writer, after all, must travel daily to a mental subcontinent, must rip into the work, experiencing the exertion of it, the anxiety of it and, once in a blue moon, the glory of it. It’s fine for writing teachers to talk in self-help jargon about how their lives require “balance” and “shifting gears” between teaching and writing, but below that civil language lurks the uncomfortable fact that the creation of literature requires a degree of monomania, and that it is, at least in part, an irrational enterprise. It’s hard to throw your whole self into something when that self has another job.”

I like this description a good deal. It makes me laugh to think of traveling “to a mental subcontinent”, but it’s true. To write is to leave this earth for a while and anchor somewhere else. Furthermore, it’s not easy, light-hearted work. Writing is indeed an exercise of “anxiety” and “exertion”. It involves pushing through mental tiredness and clutter and earthly distraction in order to get to that far-off subcontinent. I find that I often have trouble interacting with real-world people after living in the fantasy world in which I am creating a written work. Much like a mad scientist fresh out of the basement chamber has a difficult time chatting about the weather, so too does a writer (a kind of mad scientist, one supposes) struggles to enter back into ordinary conversation and action.

In this second excerpt Gessner describes the urge to write that currently is building inside him like pressure in a bottle:

“I don’t know how long I can survive in captivity. For the time being I will continue to throw myself into teaching and try to take Stegner’s advice about the summers, while hoping my job doesn’t get in the way of my work. I do love teaching and recognize how lucky I am to be living for at least a part of each day in the real world, but while I try to be commonsensical, lately I have begun to feel something rising up inside me. A part of me misses the glee and obsession and even the anger. And a part of me worries that my work has become too professional, too small, and worries that I don’t spend as much time as I should reading or brooding or even fretting. Yes, my lifestyle is more healthful, but is health always the most important thing? The part that answers no to that question is now lying in wait, looking for ways to undermine my so-far-successful teaching career. In fact you could argue that that part of me had a hand in writing this essay, which I am finishing now, a few weeks before going up for tenure. After all, what would that part, my inner monomaniac, like more than to tear off his collar and sabotage the job that keeps him from running wild?”

I understand the bohemian desire to leave the 9 to 5 world behind and go off somewhere to write. I feel it myself at times. The soul of the writer is, I think, a little wild. One has to be a little crazy to work very hard for a long period of time on one piece of work. Of course, in the craziness, in the wildness, one seems to find some deeper purpose, something like the communication of the soul, the unleashing of the mind. If this is surely not the highest purpose in life (being the glorification of God through a heart redeemed by Christ), is it not yet a powerful, soul-gripping endeavor?

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Christians and Social Ministry: Carson Commends Clarity

The new edition of Themelios is out.  For those who don’t know, Themelios is a product of New Testament scholar D. A. Carson and the group of pastors he leads, The Gospel Coalition.  Here’s the info blurb on the journal from the Coalition website:

“Themelios is an international evangelical theological journal that expounds and defends the historic Christian faith. Its primary audience is theological students and pastors, though scholars read it as well. It was formerly a print journal operated by RTSRTSF/UCCF in the UK, and it became a digital journal operated by The Gospel Coalition in 2008. The new editorial team seeks to preserve representation, in both essayists and reviewers, from both sides of the Atlantic.”

The latest journal carries a very thoughtful editorial by Carson on the question of “mercy ministry”, a subject that I think many young evangelicals are grappling with.  How do we handle this aspect of ministry?  Is it a function of the corporate church?  Is it carried out only by individual Christians enfranchised by the church?  Or are both, in some form, to do this type of ministry?  What does the Bible teach on this, exactly?  Here are some good words for reflection from Carson, who notes two important matters to keep firmly in mind as one seeks an answer to the question:

“First, it is helpful to distinguish between the responsibilities of the church qua church and the responsibilities of Christians. Some writers flip back and forth between references to “Christians” and references to “church” as if there is no difference whatsoever. But many Christian thinkers, from Kuyperians to Baptists, have argued that if the church qua church is responsible for some of these substantial works of mercy, such works of mercy ought to come under the leaders of the church. It is very difficult to find any warrant for that step in the New Testament. Even before there were pastors/elders/overseers, the apostles themselves, according to Acts, recognized that they should not be diverted from the ministry of the Word and prayer, even by the inequities of food distribution among the faithful, so they saw to it that others were appointed to tackle the problem. Ministers of the gospel ought so to be teaching the Bible in all its comprehensiveness that they will be raising up believers with many different avenues of service, but they themselves must not become so embroiled in such multiplying ministries that their ministries of evangelism, Bible teaching, making disciples, instructing, baptizing, and the like, somehow get squeezed to the periphery and take on a purely formal veneer.

Second, one pastor astutely urged, “Preach hell.” Two things follow from this. (1) By adopting this priority we remind ourselves that as Christians we desire to relieve all suffering, from the temporal to the eternal. If we do not maintain such a panoramic vision, the relief of immediate suffering, as important as it is, may so command our focus that we fail to remind ourselves of Jesus’ rhetorical question, “What good will it be for you to gain the whole world yet forfeit your soul?” Read the closing lines of Revelation 14 and Revelation 20 when your vision becomes myopic. (2) As long as you are prepared to plead with men and women to be reconciled to God and to flee the coming wrath, you are preserving something that is central in the Bible, something that is intimately and irrefragably tied to the gospel itself—and those who want to shunt such themes aside and focus only on the relief of present suffering will not want to have much to do with you. Thus you will be free to preach and teach the whole counsel of God and to relieve all suffering, temporal and eternal, without being drawn into endless alliances in which people never focus on anything beyond threescore years and ten.”

Read the whole journal–it’s all quite worthy of careful reading.

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Children as the Ultimate “Experience”: Driscoll and Mohler on the Family

Two separate pieces, published recently on blogs, highlight the importance of the family as constructed and formed by the Bible. Mark Driscoll wrote a stirring and fun tribute to his wife, Grace, and Al Mohler wrote a scathing and hilarious critique of the “superiority of small families” argument. I would encourage you to read both of them and drink deeply from them.

Here’s an excerpt from Driscoll’s piece (see also Part One):

“Grace is an amazing mom to our five children. She works incredibly hard, never complains, and has sacrificed a great deal over the years for me, our children, and our ministry. She feels the pain of my critics and gets furious when people assume they know me but have no idea since they see me for an hour a week on the stage and have no clue who I am or what I am like the rest of my life with her and the kids. She’s had people pretend to be her friend just to try and get into our life because they want power, influence, and/or employment….I can be brash, intense, overbearing, ill-worded, and the like. She is patient, loves to counsel people, has hope for everyone, and serves anyone. I learn a lot from her example, and praise God I have gotten to grow up with her through high school, conversion, and college, all the way from our teens to our thirties.”

Here’s an excerpt from Mohler’s piece in which he responds to Prince Philip’s argument that small families conserve the earth’s waning resources and are therefore better than large families:

“He continued by arguing that rising food prices should be blamed on large families. “Everyone thinks it’s to do with not enough food, but it’s really that demand is too great – too many people,” the duke asserted. “Basically, it’s a little embarrassing for everybody. No one quite knows how to handle it. Nobody wants their family life to be interfered with by the government.”

Just taking that argument at face value, the duke states that the problem is not that there is not enough food, but that there are “too many people.” Speaking as delicately as those words allow, that argument is stunningly stupid. If food was in abundance, would the duke argue that people are too few? How does he arrive at the “right” number of people?”

I love both of these pieces. Driscoll really models the way in which a husband is to honor his wife. He doesn’t crack jokes about her or belittle her, he lifts her up and praises her publicly, extolling her virtues. That’s a very biblical way to husband. I love Driscoll’s emphasis on the family, and I pray that his influence in this area only spreads. Mohler is uncharacteristically tarty in his piece, and it’s really fun to read. He goes after the foolish arguments of the “small-family” contingent like a shark to blood. “[Ehrlich] once predicted that there was a good chance that London would not even exist in the year 2000. We can assume that the interview with Prince Philip is a sign that London still exists.” Whew. Ouch. In all seriousness, a piece with terrific punch and a stoutly biblical point to make.

Mohler’s piece in particular points me to reflect a bit on the awesome nature of raising children. I knew that having kids was a big deal before I entered into marriage, but now that I have a daughter, I am transfixed. My little girl captivates me. She is far and away the most significant thing I have ever created or could hope to create. She is a living emblem of joy and delight. Certain voices in secular culture have exerted considerable influence on the Christian church, and have convinced many parents that children, like caviar, are great, yes, but only in moderation. Can’t have too much of them or everything falls apart. Better to have just a little taste, and that only when one’s taste buds are ready.

On the contrary, I want to affirm with a boldness that I hope is righteous that having children beats anything else I’ve ever done and, in a way, that I ever will do. There is something positively mystical about creating (or adopting) a child and caring for it on a daily basis. It is a responsibility that no other task approaches in terms of import. Furthermore, one cannot purchase or sample this experience; you can’t rent a kid for an hour and get all the delights of parenting without the difficulties. You have to create (or adopt) a child to truly experience the full joy of children. Sure, you can have fun with other people’s kids, and yes, pets are sweet gifts from God, but for those who can have children (and some who want to cannot, sadly), there is no substitute for bringing life, albeit personalized life, into the world. It’s fun to work with kids or spend time with them, and it’s a joy to own a cat or a dog, but in a culture that sometimes encourages us to merely “sample” children or to think of “parenting” a pet as a significant undertaking, Christians need to affirm by principle and action the utterly unique and wonderful reality of creating (or adopting) and raising children for the glory of God.

This is the funny thing: many young people of my generation want to delay traditionally “adult” responsibilities in pursuit of “experiences”–travel, games, sports, shopping, and forms of indulgence of one’s natural interests. I like those things as much as the next guy, but I can tell you from my very limited experience as a husband and a dad that there is not a two-week vacation in the world that compares with fatherhood. Yesterday I snapped some pictures of my daughter when she was smiling; today, though an unsentimental man who usually cares little for pictures of babies, I looked at them over and over and over. My daughter is a little wonder. She is beautiful and (mostly) full of sweetness. Her smile can be heartbreaking. I see it, looking at it time and again on my phone, and I know what evil there is in the world–and sadly, lurking in her heart–and I yearn for her not to taste it. Such innocence, and yet such evil awaits.

This fills out my original point: just looking at my daughter’s smile blows away experiences I’ve previously loved–playing a good game of basketball, reading a good book, whatever. Parenting a child is an astounding thing. Yes, it’s hard. It is. No two ways about it. But it’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, and I’m only at the two-month stage, where my precious baby girl can barely smile. When she smiles at me, or plays little games with my hands as she sits on my lap, or makes strange sounds that sounds like a cat lifting off for extraterrestrial investigation, she reaches an area of my heart that nothing has ever touched. Spending time with one’s child brings one to a joy that cannot be reached otherwise, like a language one cannot speak without countless hours of study.

If you want an “experience”, then, don’t look for it in things, in passing, fading things of this world. If you’re married, or are likely going to be married, look for it in the most significant physical thing a person can do, God willing: create (or adopt) a child. Create a tribe of children. You’ll gain joy for yourself that you could not otherwise ever touch in this life. You’ll do something far more significant than anything work or play will allow you to do. You’ll leave a legacy in the form of a child, a living person, not a piece of paper or a deed to be spoken of. Vacations are fun, and books and movies and time with friends is great, but if you seek significance, and transcendence, and deep, untouchable joy, try children, the oldest, most traditional form of earthly delight.

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The Week-est Link: September 19, 2008

1. Acts 29 is staging a cool conference in St. Louis in a few weeks.  Looks very interesting.

2. Tim Keller speaking at Google.  Glad to see Keller getting such a powerful evangelistic opportunity.

3. Mark Driscoll’s new book, Death By Love, looks moving.  The graphics are, anyway.  Check out the website. Driscoll uses a real-life story of transformation to highlight an aspect of Christology.  Here’s a paragraph from the news release on the book: “Driscoll, one of America’s most influential pastors, and Breshears, a respected theologian, explain that Christ’s death has real-life implications for AIDS, demonic oppression, adultery, divorce, molestation, and suicidal ideation—for every manner of sin committed by or against a person. Each chapter includes a brief description of the life story of the person to whom most of the chapter is written, a letter to the person explaining one aspect of the cross and how it applies to him or her, answers to common questions about issues raised in the chapter, and discussion questions.”

4. Did you see the new site devoted to a speaking event with John Piper and D. A. Carson? If not, you should check it out.

5. Andy Naselli highlights one of the 100+ videos from the Gospel Coalition resources.  This one features my pastor, Mike Bullmore, on natural disasters.

6. In the New York Times, a middle-aged woman ruminates about the significance of her life. Some thoughtful parts.  Life is fleeting, and people come to realize that, whether they are saved or not.  It’s interesting that this realization leads most often to sadness.  The human heart can sense danger, it seems.

–Have a fun and spiritually nourishing weekend, all.

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Sarah Palin, Maureen Dowd, and the Reality of Evangelical Paradox

Maureen Dowd has a fun if slightly snarky column on a recent visit to Wasilla, AK, Sarah Palin’s hometown. Dowd opens her piece with a comment by Carly Fiorina, the female former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who has apparently said that Palin couldn’t adequately manage HP as a company. Of course, Fiorina failed at this attempt herself (as Dowd points out), so one wonders if Dowd hasn’t undermined her own dig at Palin by quoting her.

Dowd meanders through her column as she meandered through Wasilla a few days ago, making observations as she observes various groups and folks in the little town up north. She shows a general bias against evangelicals and their stances and seems to link the town and its moral backwardness with rural areas. Palin clearly has not come from an august city like New York but is disappointingly from “a town that is a soulless strip mall without side walks set beside a soulful mountain and lake.” Well, at least the mountain and lake are redemptive.

The piece fails to surprise, really. Dowd concludes it with a quote from an anti-Palin demonstrator who notes with a subtlety born out of the purest moderation that Palin is “one of the popular girls, but one of the mean girls. She is seductive, but she is invented.” There you have it. Palin isn’t a mother of five, after all; she’s one of Lindsay Lohan’s pack, just waiting to snicker about a girl for wearing spring colors in fall. Who knew?

All overwrought commentary aside, as I’ve thought about the Palin-McCain ticket, it strikes me that she presents complementarian evangelicals with something of a dilemma, a paradox. Those of us who believe that a man is to be the head of his home and the provider for his family face something of a difficult election choice when it comes to the Alaskan candidate. I’m not referring here to the issue of whether the Bible allows for women to serve in secular leadership capacities. That’s a matter I don’t care to touch right now, as it’s a pretty tricky one that takes careful thought and exegesis. No, I’m talking about how a Christian views Palin’s candidacy in light of Titus 2:3-5, which reads as follows:

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

The key phrase here is “working at home” for women who have “children”. Paul’s burden in laying out this prescriptive picture of the Christian home is that “the word of God may not be reviled”, a powerful burden indeed. Complementarians understand this verse, then, to teach that men, providing for the primary financial needs of the home, are to free up women are to be homemakers and caretakers of their children.

So what does this mean for the discussion on Sarah Palin? Palin has five children. She and her husband have by the grace of God created a beautiful, sweet family. From my limited reading on Palin, she and her husband seem like great Christian people, those very much concerned to live godly lives and to love their children. I of course know very little, ultimately, about Palin, but that’s the read I have on her. She’s a professing Christian and seems to have backed up her profession with a godly track record. Yet on the issue of gender roles, I fear that she has stepped into a role reserved by Scripture for her husband.

Which places complementarians like myself in a bit of a stitch. I personally appreciate much of what Palin stands for politically and ideologically. In political terms, to boot, she is a dream, an almost inconceivable political creation, because her combination of gifts, personality and natural background make her an almost perfect trump card as a candidate. She is, incredibly, more magnetic and winning and heartwarming than Barack Obama, the golden-boy. Who would ever have thought this possible at this juncture? A few months ago, conservatives were preparing for inevitable failure as Obama hit one home run after another, politically speaking. Now, Obama’s on his heels; an ad I saw on the New York Times website mentioned how “to get Barack back on track”. Honestly, that’s incredible. How far the conservatives have come in just a few short weeks–and it’s due in considerable measure to the advent of Sarah Palin.

For which many conservatives give thanks. Those conservatives who are complementarian, however, find themselves in a paradox. We love Palin politically, but we worry about her familial role. Speaking personally, I’ll vote for McCain-Palin, I’m quite sure, but I’ll do so with a divided heart. I fear that Sarah Palin occupies the wrong role in her family, and I worry for her children as she could possibly enter one of the world’s most important and personally consuming occupations. This is no insignificant thing.

At the same time, though, evangelicals often find themselves in such positions in this world. We’re often not faced with the best of both options, but with a mix of things. There is real good married with real negatives in so much of what we must choose in this world, especially, one might say, in the political realm. Politics are tough on ideals and idealists. In the upcoming election, I think that strong complementarians like myself will taste this toughness. That won’t send me into sobs or stop me from voting, but it will give me pause as I cast my vote. In voting, as in so many things in life, I must live in paradox as a Christian. Soulful mountains beside soulless cities, indeed, until one day the King returns and all is made right.

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Raising Up a Generation of Pastor-Theologians: A Coming Event with John Piper and D. A. Carson

In April 2009, the Henry Center, my employer, is hosting an event that I am personally excited about.  It’s called “The Pastor as Scholar, and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry with John Piper and D.A. Carson”.  You can read more about it at the new site for this event.

Here’s the event synopsis: “On Thursday, April 23, 2009, at Park Community Church in Chicago, IL, the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School will host an evening of free lectures and discussion with Dr. John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church and Dr. D. A. Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The event will begin at 7:00pm and conclude around 10:00pm. Titled “The Pastor as Scholar, and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry with John Piper and D.A. Carson”, the evening will feature hour-long lectures by Drs. Piper and Carson that offer reflection of a theological and personal nature on the work of the pastor and the scholar, respectively.”

The following sums up the vision behind the event: “The Henry Center desires to participate in the cultivation of pastors and scholars who have a passion for theological nourishment of the church. In a day when pastors are encouraged to focus less on theological engagement and more on the practice of ministry, and scholars are challenged to work less for the church and more with the academy in mind, the Center desires to see both pastors and scholars embrace a robustly theological view of ministry that centers in nourishment of the local church, the nucleus of God’s kingdom work.

Toward this end, the Center desires to participate in the formation of pastor-theologians who practice affectionately zealous, scripturally faithful, rigorously intellectual shepherding. The Center believes that such labor embodies both the scriptural portrait of the pastor and the dominant historical model. Pastors from Luther to Edwards to Ockenga have brought great blessing to local churches and the broader Christian movement through their preaching, thinking, and writing. It is hoped that Dr. Piper’s personally reflective theological lecture on the work of the pastor will inspire a movement of God’s Spirit resulting in the adoption of the model by hundreds and thousands of pastors.

The Center also desires to participate in the cultivation of ecclesiastical scholars, those who, like Dr. Carson, produce Christian scholarship that is academically excellent, spiritually nourishing, and ecclesiastically concerned. Far fewer opportunities and positions exist for such teachers, though the evangelical community has great need of scholars who work and write with the local church in mind. The Center seeks through Dr. Carson’s theological reflection on the scholar to challenge certain students of extraordinary intellectual and academic gifting to assume this role.”

This is the final word on the matter:The Center seeks through the reflections of Drs. Piper and Carson to speak a personal word to the rising generation—and the current generation—of evangelical leaders that will set their hearts aflame and raise up pastors who are scholars, scholars who are pastors, all for the strengthening of the local church and the greater glory of God.”

This is a vision that I hope will spread far and wide.  Though this event is months away, I hope that you will bookmark it and, if you can, attend.  Park Community Church in downtown Chicago’s River North district seats around 1000 people in a brand-new multi-million dollar facility, so seating will be limited–make sure that you plan accordingly.  We at the Henry Center hope that this event is richly used for the betterment of God’s church and kingdom.

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