Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Link: January 30, 2009

croft1. If you are a young or aspiring pastor and/or elder, you need to get pastor Brian Croft’s Visit the Sick: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Illness (Day One, 2008).  I first heard about this book from my friend Adam Embry, and recently read through it.  It is highly valuable as a practical resource for visitation grounded in the rich theology of Scripture.

To give just a couple of examples, I found sections like that on having “fresh breath” of great help (53).  I’m not sure I would have remembered how important this is to a suffering person without the counsel of this wise, godly shepherd. Also, Croft recommends leaving a note for people we happen to miss, noting that the sufferer “can read these notes over and over again for their encouragement long after you have gone.” (45) Amen–this is as thoughtful as it is kind.

Seminarian, pastor, deacon, Christian–get this little book, soak up its wisdom, and live out its mission.  I certainly intend to before I visit the sick and am thus quite thankful for it.

2. This Southern Seminary conference on how Southern ties in to American Christianity looks excellent.  I am planning on being in Louisville on February 18-19, and I hope you will as well.  There is a TEDS contingent making the trek for this notable conference, which includes eminent historians like Grant Wacker of Duke (soon to publish an essential Graham biography), D. G. Hart (confessionalist and Machen expert), and Stephen Nichols (readable, prolific Americanist).  The conference is inexpensive
and jam-packed with provocative topics.

–Have a great weekend, all.

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“So What?”: The Chronicle Review on The New Educational Epistemology

From the most recent edition of The Chronicle Review comes a compelling and must-read article by Tim Clydesdale, “Wake Up and Smell the New Epistemology,” about how today’s students approach education (not available online):

“For decades, we professors and administrators drank deeply of notions like “knowledge for knowledge’s sake” and “the transformative power of the liberal arts,” paying little heed as the American populace shifted from widespread respect for the academy to considerable skepticism of it.  Today our students occupy the leading edge of that popular shift, with no real interest in the elitist notions that we consume so readily.  But they are wise enough to keep their views private, given the economic necessity of attending our party.”

The author, Tim Clydesdale, continues:

“One of my students put it this way: “It is imperative that someone studying this generation realize that we have the world at our fingertips–and the world has been at our fingertips for our entire lives.  I think this access to information seriously undermines this generation’s view of authority, especially traditional scholastic authority.”  Today’s students know full well that authorities can be found for every position and any knowledge claim, and consequently the students are dubious (privately, that is) about anything we claim to be true or important.”

So what does this mean for teachers?

“So let me be perfectly clear: I am not asking for more entertainment and less substance in our classrooms.  I am asking for a paradigm shift in how we approach our students that parallels the paradigm shift in the broader culture.  I am asking instructors to see the two questions that the new epistemology emblazons across the front of every classroom–”So what?” and “Who cares?”–and then to adjust their teaching accordingly.”

It is my guess that some instructors have already intuited what Clydesdale calls the “new epistemology” and have adjusted their teaching to persuade many of today’s students of the important of given subject matter for their lives.  But many have not, and what’s more, many pastors and Christians have not realized that many people of this age bring this same attitude to the church and questions of faith.

Much of my generation is deeply cynical, relentlessly anti-authoritative (unless the authority couches itself in the counter-culture and achieves the coveted label of “cool”), and technologically hyper-literate.  I frequently observe students (seminary students, at that) googling the subject their professor is discussing in class.  Just think about that and how it fits perfectly with what Clydesdale argues above.  Students in a lecture fifty years ago would have dutifully noted the teaching of their professor, taking it down by dictation.  Students today pull up Wikipedia as their professor teaches, where they instantly acquire an easily digestible flood of information, including, it is often likely, material that challenges the teaching of their professor.  This kind of access changes the education process altogether.

Good teachers, then, while surely keeping in mind that the liberal arts are transfomative, and that knowledge for knowledge’s sake is a beautiful thing, will also stretch to meet this jaded, immature, easily distractible generation by showing their students why their subject material matters and how it affects their lives.  In the end, that isn’t really that bad of a thing, one supposes; while such an approach can make education hopelessly pragmatic, it can also coax professors out of rote recitation and force them to communicate the passion they possess for their subject.

For those of us in ministry, this article offers wisdom as well.  The “new epistemology” approach to education, in which the learning process hinges on the usefulness of material and its connection to the lives of students, applies to the approach of many people to faith.  What can God do for me, many ask, and how does this all affect me are common concerns of our age.  Preachers need to steer well clear of religious pragmatism, but they also need to realize that in order to connect with many people today, they need to impart the power and beauty of Christian teaching.  No shortcuts allowed today.

This can be a bad thing, of course, or it can be a good thing, challenging us to preach and teach and minister and evangelize with force and passion.  The jaded generation, having grown up on divorce, outed corruption, the widespread loss of religious commitment in the culture, and other factors, demands to know why Christianity matters.  Whether a pastor, teacher, janitor, lawyer, homemaker, student or any other calling, Christians are well poised given the riches of Scripture and the depth of Christ’s gospel to give an answer.

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Live-Blogging the “Making Men Moral” Conference

union1From February 25-27, 2009, I have the privilege of blogging Union University’s “Making Men Moral” conference in honor of conservative public intellectual Robbie George.  I can’t tell you how excited I am to live-blog this event in Jackson, TN, which features such conservative and Christian all-stars as George, Hadley Arkes, Jean Belke Elshtain, Russ Moore, and Greg Thornbury.

Here’s the conference purpose:

“Times change, but the challenge of applying moral principles to contemporary politics remains. Join several prominent thinkers as we wrestle with how to promote a healthy moral ecology in an uncertain age.

This conference commemorates the 15th anniversary of Making Men Moral by Robert George.”

The conference is less than a month away; here’s where to register.  It’s $75 for what looks like the year’s preeminent conference on the subject of Christianity and the public square.  My posts will feature less dictation and more interaction, a format that I think will work well with a lineup of this horsepower.

Please do join us for the conference in late February; if you can’t, please come back to this blog in several weeks’ time for the live-blogging.  I’m really looking forward to it and am thankful for schools like Union that have the vision and resources necessary to put on such a stimulating and constructive conference.

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Handling Theological Mystery, According to Edwards

In an age when many pastors are thoroughly confused about how to handle mystery, and many theologians offer less-than-satisfactory solutions, Jonathan Edwards offers some of the soundest advice around (though he may not always have taken it himself):

“Don’t perplex your mind with the secret decrees of God, and particularly about the eternal decrees of God with respect to yourself, prying into those secrets which are hidden from men and angels, laboring to unseal that book which is sealed with seven seals and which no man in heaven or earth is worthy or able to open or to look thereon. When men get into a way of perplexing their minds with such things, they are in a very unhappy way. The devil has ‘em in a dismal snare. Therefore diligently avoid such a snare and let the revealed will of God be enough for you. Mind what God commands you, what counsels and directions he gives. Let your whole heart be intent upon those things. This is the way for you to prosper. But if you entangle and tease your mind with thoughts about the secret, eternal counsels of God, you will be out of the way of your duty and in the way to your own mischief and will expose yourself to ruin.

From “The Reality of Conversion” in The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader, ed. Kimnach, Minkema, and Sweeney, 102.

Trust the Bible; believe what the Bible says; don’t try to unthread what God has said and done.  God, it seems, has meant us to live with tension, unanswered questions, and mystery.  Remembering that will do a great deal to save the souls of theologians, and many others besides.

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The Link, January 23, 2009

urbanglory1. If you haven’t heard of the Urban Glory website, you should have. My friend Brad Cochrane has a great thing started over there, including a podcast with SBC President Johnny Hunt. Check out the site and its slick design.

2. Another great podcast to keep an eye on is the InSight podcast produced by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. One recent podcast featured an interview with cutting-edge ecclesiologist Ed Stetzer; the most recent edition focuses on marriage, and includes a number of thoughtful Baptist leaders.

3. Speaking of Southern Baptists, I am hoping to see a bunch at the upcoming Gospel Coalition conference in April. If you’re a seminarian, you need to be at this event. Check out the site and registration at the TGC website.

4. Check out some responses to the inaugural prayer of Rick Warren from across the span of American culture and thought. Quite interesting to see how people react to an explicitly Christian prayer in a public setting.

Have a richly blessed weekend, all.

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Happy Birthday, Carl Henry

From a nice post on the man:

“Carl F. H. Henry was born on January 22, 1913. He has only been dead for a few years now (since late 2003), and it’s still a little hard to believe he’s gone. Henry stamped his identity onto some of the central institutions of the evangelical establishment: Christianity Today, the National Association of Evangelicals, Fuller Seminary, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Generationally, he belongs to what Tom Brokaw calls “the greatest generation,” that age cohort that excelled in building up institutions and shared cultural forms. Henry certainly did his share of that.”

Carl Henry had his quirks and flaws, but he was fundamentally an important, incisive, and faithful theologian who strengthened the church and accomplished much for the kingdom.

Though he is unjustly pooh-poohed in some circles, he deserves to be emulated by a rising generation of scholars.  His love for God and church, his desire to engage the lost (and the lost mind, especially), and his tireless work for the Lord are a model to us all.  He did not content himself with mediocrity, but attempted to master his field and make a very significant and thoroughly evangelical (and Reformed) contribution to it.   We don’t need less Henry (and Henrys), we need more.

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Anyabwile on Hip Hop; Catholics on Life

Check out some great videos on interesting topics:

1. Desiring God talks with pastor Thabiti Anyabwile on Christian rap.  Great little interview that’s only a couple of minutes long but offers good perspective.  If you’re not familiar with Thabiti, you should be–he is an exceptional preacher and Christian leader.

2. The Catholic pro-life league has produced a moving 40 second video about the importance of giving all babies a chance to live.  The ending will surprise you.

3. This isn’t a video, it’s a discussion at the provocative website Christ and Pop Culture on Christian rap.  The article is well-done, and the comments include a ton of interesting discussion.  Check out the insightful comments made by Ahred, a Christian rapper.  Pontifex and Ahred get into an informative discussion in those comments, with Pontifex asking some good questions.  The main issue is, “Why is there so little exceptional Christian hip hop?”

So there you go.

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Obama Contemplating Executive Order on Abortion

From CNN, this is not good news for those in the pro-life camp:

“President-elect Barack Obama is considering issuing an executive order to reverse a controversial Bush administration abortion policy in his first week in office, three Democratic sources said Monday.

Obama’s second full day as president falls on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States.

The sources said Obama may use the occasion to reverse the “Mexico City policy” reinstated in 2001 by Bush that prohibits U.S. money from funding international family planning groups that promote abortion or provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion services. It bans any organization receiving family planning funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development from offering abortions or abortion counseling.”

One prays that our new president will not go forward with this action.  If he does, the irony will be as striking as it is tragic.  A black man as our president, symbolizing undeniable racial progress and triumph to some extent, for the oppressed, enacting legislation that will enable the slaughter of thousands and perhaps millions of another oppressed group.

May it not be so; I fear that it will be.

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Week-est Link, January 16, 2009

1. DTS had a rapper get a ThM and has the video to prove it.  Fans of Christian rap (and good rap in general) will recognize The Ambassador in this one.  Southern has Flame; TEDS, to my knowledge, only has Crosswords.  Who is he?  That’s a mystery for another day…

2. Chelsey Scott has the best song I’ve heard in a while, regardless of genre.  You must hear “Give Reviving” on her Myspace page.  Honestly, this isn’t one of those songs you can read about on this little blog, and think, ah, it’s probably not that good.  This is a tremendous bluesy-folk song, the this-should-be-written-about-in-the-New-York-Times type of musical excellence that Christians, frankly, don’t usually produce.  Get the song, buy her ep on iTunes, support this artist.  Seriously.  From this song, she sounds freakishly talented.

3. A bunch of friends’ blogs made it to a Top 100 Christian blogs list: Andy Naselli, Christ and Pop Culture, and others.  Congrats to them!

This blog is slowly creeping back to life, but please keep your expectations low.  Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.

“Give reviving…”

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The Gospel of Sex Vs. The Gospel of Christ

jones1Recently read The Gift of Sex by New Testament scholar Peter Jones of Westminster West (CA). In the text, Jones argues provocatively that in this world two options, in essence, vie for the mental and spiritual embrace of humanity. The first is “pagan monism,” which “abhors the Creator, hates his creation and creation’s structures, and promotes anything-goes “liberated” pansexuality.” The second is “biblical theism,” which “loves the Creator, celebrates the creation he has made, and submits to the structure of heterosexual monogamy” (194).

It may not appear at first glance that only two options confront us, but Jones, in the final analysis, is right. After all, either God—and His plan for humanity—is true and best, or He (and it) is not. If He lives and rules over all, then we must obey Him. If He does not exist and therefore does not reign, then we may live any way we please.

Some people seem to not believe in God and thereby pursue sexual gratification as they see fit; others disavow belief in God as a means to unbounded sexual gratification. Both groups make a tragic mistake, and neither tastes the goodness of God and His plan for creation.

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