Tag Archives: christianity today

Dear Christian: Making Money Is Good (So Is Workplace Dignity)

Do you ever think about the dignity of work, and the humanity of workers?  Christians have a powerful stake in this conversation.  The saving gospel transforms all of our lives, including the way we work, we are employed, we employ.

This article, “Productivity and Grace: Management and Labor at a Denver Manufacturer,” is about a Denver manufacturer whose leaders treat their employees with kindness and dignity.  From Christianity Today‘s This Is Our City project, it’s an inspiring piece by Chris Horst, and I commend it to you.  Much to chew on here.

Sandwiched between rail lines and a tire depot, the Blender Products factory hides in a quiet neighborhood in Denver. The nondescript warehouse looks from the outside as nondescript as most warehouses do. But the way Steve Hill and Jim Howey lead inside the building is unusual in an industry known for top-down hierarchies of management.

“The metal fabrication business is extremely cutthroat,” says Hill. “Workers are given a singular task, and maximum output is demanded. They’re simply a factor of production. As a general rule, they have no access to management. There is very little crossover between guys on the floor and guys in the offices.”

Hill and Howey aim to subvert the us-versus-them mentality. Many days they walk the shop floor, engaging their workers as peers. Employees on the floor are treated as importantly as the managers, undermining the adversarial culture simmering in many manufacturing businesses.

Here’s the whole shebang.

I am not one who would advocate for unions as a general rule.  But as I read up on progressivism, the history of American labor, and the captains of industry–an ongoing reading project involves the Industrial Titans of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries–I am keenly aware of the way some manufacturers and industry leaders of the last couple centuries have failed to treat their workers with appropriate dignity.  A figure like Andrew Carnegie, for example, shows us both the tremendous ingenuity of the capitalist and the shameful inhumanity every person is capable of.  Carnegie built libraries for his workers, but they had precious little time by which to visit them.

Christians who believe in the rightness of the free market nonetheless must also be known for their application of the doctrine of the image of God to labor and capitalism.  We don’t only care about making money in order to flourish domestically and societally (and globally); we also care about workers, people, those whom God has invested with meaning and purpose and talent.  The Blender Products leaders, Steve Hill and Jim Howey, clearly get that.  It’s beautiful to read their story along these lines.

With the above stated, don’t misread me.  I’m fundamentally for big business (and medium and small businesses), I generally trust the free market, and I think it’s intellectually facile to think wealth and wealthy people are bad.  The best program of social uplift I know of is one that involves marriage, hard work, and earning money, and there should be absolutely no shame in such things (contra what we are encouraged to feel today). But the Bible seems to be pretty clear about the need to be fair and even kind to others who need to earn money (see 1 Timothy 5:18).

In fact, let’s sharpen the point: Christian employers should be widely known for how well they treat their employees.  Failure on this point is not a small matter.  In the broader world and the political-cultural realm, we should be known not only for our belief in meaningful work and money-earning, but for our advocacy on behalf of the weak, including employees who are mistreated and who need appropriate representation. (By the way, for more resources on the goodness of work and much more, check out the Center for Faith and Work, affiliated with Redeemer Presbyterian Church of Manhattan–cool conference on this subject coming up in early November 2012.)

The image of God means that we can work, create, be entrepreneurs, be day laborers, be manufacturers, homemakers, bosses, ad consultants, teachers, and so much more.  The gospel creates a love for such work in Jesus’s name, and a desire to bring others to the flourishing and spiritual life they can never find outside of the workplace of God, the kingdom of Christ.

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Is Barack Obama a Christian?

Christianity Today just published a point-counterpoint between Judd Birdsall and me.  We were asked to answer, essentially, the question of whether Obama is a Christian or not.  Judd made a good case in arguing that he is; I, sadly, concluded that he does not seem to be.  I’ll leave you to read both and form your own judgment.

Here’s a snatch from Judd’s piece:

Conversionism: Barack Obama has a conversion story, if not an entirely traditional one. In his bestseller, The Audacity of Hope, Obama recounts how he warmed to Christianity, and the black church tradition in particular, while attending Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. One Sunday, Obama writes, “I felt God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.” Obama’s eventual decision to be baptized “came about as a choice and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear.”

And here’s a bit from mine:

The culture, not Scripture, is the primary driver of President Obama’s views. With abortion, his own values matter, not Psalm 139; with homosexuality and marriage, his daughters’ opinions matter, not Genesis 2 and Romans 1. But it is not merely President Obama’s isolated policies, troubling as they may be, that give many Christians like me pause. It is the whole worldview. As seen above, there are deeply unbiblical ideas running beneath the surface of the President’s orthodox declarations. The President’s oratory sometimes smacks of Billy Graham, but those who listen carefully will also hear the dulcet tones of Harry Emerson Fosdick. His is a no-injury Protestantism, liberal Christianity enrobed in a revivalist shell.

(Image: Bossip.com)

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Who Is Marco Rubio? A Brand-new Interview

Sarah Pulliam Bailey of Christianity Today just interviewed Florida Senator Marco Rubio about his faith and political views.  It’s a great introduction to Rubio, who is one of the GOP’s most popular–and promising–young politicians.

Q: Would you describe yourself as an evangelical?

A: I’m a Roman Catholic. I’m theologically in line with the Roman Catholic Church. I believe in the authority of the church, but I also have tremendous respect for my brothers and sisters in other Christian faiths. I recognize, as the Catholic Church does, that there are excellent teachings of the Word throughout other denominations. The elements of salvation are found in these churches as well. Some unifying principles bind all Christians: that God became a man and died for our sins, and that without that sacrifice, all of us would be doomed.

Read the whole thing.  If you want to find out how Rubio defines himself spiritually and politically, this is a good place to go.

(Image: ABC News)

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Christianity Today Covers the SBC Calvinism Debate

Just yesterday, Christianity Today published coverage of the recent debate over a statement on Calvinism:

A statement by a non-Calvinist faction of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has launched infighting within the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, and tensions are expected to escalate Tuesday as church leaders descend on New Orleans.

While the election of the denomination’s first African American president in its 167-year history will dominate the meeting’s headlines, water-cooler talk is sure to be fixated on a theological dirty word that, for the past two weeks, has spiked the blood pressure of theologians as much as it has Baptist visits to Wikipedia.

The May 30 document, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” aims “to more carefully express what is generally believed by Southern Baptists about salvation.” But both Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler and George W. Truett Theological Seminary professor Roger Olson, in separate blog posts, said that parts of the document sound like semi-Pelagianism, a traditionally heretical understanding of Christian salvation.

Read the whole thing.  This is careful reporting on an important issue.  And please pray for the SBC, meeting this very week, that the convention will be biblically grounded to the core and will not sacrifice unity in the gospel.  Satan roams like a lion, and does not need any help in his work of devastation and disunity.

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Life in a Romanian Orphanage: “A Mixture of Excrement and Open Wounds”

Global financier Arpad Busson is not one you might initially think would be an advocate for adoption.  He’s dated famous actresses and lives a lavish life.  I somehow came across a piece on him, though, and found this heartrending description of a Romanian orphanage:

For Busson, whose personal wealth is around £200 million, his Damascene moment came a decade ago, when he was setting up ARK. That first visit to a Romanian orphanage remains a vivid and deeply disturbing memory. “The most heart-wrenching thing is the smell. The awful gagging,” he recalls. “The institution was in a remote, poor region. But nothing prepares you for the moment you open the doors. That first woosh of fetid air. It is a mixture of excrement and infected wounds. Because they couldn’t afford heating, the windows were never opened. The children were emaciated because they were never given solids, only soup. They were strapped in cots. In one room there must have been 40, all banging their heads on the walls. They were naked and filthy. My son, Arpad Flynn, was just three then [he's 13 now, while Aurelius Cy, Busson's second son with Ms Macpherson, is eight] and the sight of those tiny children in such filth… with no hope. Like zombies. It made me utterly furious.

Russ Moore has talked about this kind of setting in his important book Adopted for Life (he also references orphanages in a powerful Christianity Today piece).  I would encourage you to think about whether there are things that you can personally do to give gospel-driven hope to those in such awful situations.  Also visit Together for Adoption for help and information about how to get involved.

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God Is Not a Genie in a Bottle

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Eric Bargerhuff, author of The Most Misused Verses in the Bible: Surprising Ways God’s Word Is Misunderstood (Bethany House).  The interview was published in Christianity Today.  Eric is a keen thinker (and a fellow PhD graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School).  He’s written a helpful, readable book that I commend to you.

Here’s a swath of the CT interview:

You critique prayers that uncritically expect God to grant us, well, anything. Like John 14:13: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

God is not a genie in a bottle. Yes, he has a good, pleasing, and perfect will. But this doesn’t mean we should pray for whatever we want. We are sinful people and don’t even know what’s best for us, as the Book of Romans says. Sometimes we pray with wrong motives. Praying random prayers that are self-centered is not God-honoring. We should seek his will when we pray.

What would you say to athletes who latch onto Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all this through him who gives me strength”)?

In that passage, Paul is teaching on contentment and arguing that no matter what our situation is, we should learn to be content. The ability to be content, whatever the situation, is contingent on what Jesus gives us. This verse doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus will give the player victory, but rather that he can be content either way because of God’s strength in him. It’s not about God giving you the strength to dunk the basketball as much as it is him working in you to be content no matter what happens in the game.

Read the whole interview.

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To Launder or Not to Launder? Christianity Today Hosts Debate on “Dad Moms”

Some of you took note of the “Dad Mom” post I ran a couple of weeks back in reference to a commercial by Tide detergent.  The ad showed a man folding laundry and avowing that he loved “being awesome” and working at home while his wife brought home the bacon.

I wrote a short response to the commercial which drew an intense response on the part of evangelical egalitarians.  Christianity Today took note of the conflagration on Twitter and elsewhere and soon agreed to run a two-part debate on the subject between Laura Ortberg Turner, daughter of prominent California pastor John Ortberg, and me.  As of today, both parts have been published.  I strongly encourage you to read them both.

Here’s a snatch from Laura’s piece, which critiqued my original blog post:

More even than that, however, is the notion that Jesus would have insisted on maintaining a masculine image that would have kept him far from the laundry room, the kitchen, and anything that might smack of femaleness. It is hard to imagine the Jesus who washed his disciples’ feet and cooked them breakfast and said that slaves were the model of greatness turning up his nose at laundry as something beneath his masculine dignity. We can imagine many figures in the ancient world who would have ferociously guarded their masculine dignity—Samson, Alexander the Great, Caesar Augustus. Jesus, it seems to me, would be at the bottom of that particular list.

Here’s some of my response to Laura:

The question, though, is whether I am to take on the burden of such work as a man. My read of numerous scriptural texts is that I am not. I try to help out where I can, but I am called of God to break my back to provide for my family so that my wife can care for my children and also my home in order that they and it might flourish. The pattern for such a life comes from texts both obvious and less expected. Genesis 3:16 shows that the Fall brings the curse to bear on the woman’s sphere of cultivation: children. Verse 18 shows that the Fall brings the curse to bear on the man’s sphere of cultivation: provision, whether located in the four walls of the house or outside it. We are redeemed from the curse, but not from God’s wise plan—and childbearing and provision are not effects of the Fall.

It is men who are out in the fields and tending the sheep in the Old Testament, not women; that seems so plain as to be obvious. The proverbial husband is outside the home in Proverbs 31, providing and leading, while the proverbial wife cares for and nourishes the home and family. Titus 2:5 upholds exactly this kind of arrangement. Women, not men, are to work at home.

I would encourage you to go to the Her.meneutics blog and read both pieces (Laura’s and mine) and scrutinize them according to Scripture.  It is not my word that should be trusted, after all, but God’s.

I appreciate the CT Her.meneutics blog hosting this debate and for giving this self-professed “Dad dad” a chance to talk respectfully about disagreements in the evangelical camp.  It’s clear that Laura is a sharp thinker and a strong writer, and I’m always thankful for a principled conversation.

Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve got to get back to “being awesome.”

 

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Dad Moms, the Man Fail, and the Incredible Potential of Godly Women

If you chanced across this little piece of virtual real estate last week, you might have seen that I blogged about a Tide commercial featuring a self-identified “dad mom.”  I suggested, based on my read of Scripture, that this was a “man fail.”  To use an excruciating economy of words, I received a good deal of feedback on these matters.

[Update: I will be writing an essay for the Journal of Biblical Manhood & Womanhood on this topic and will flesh out further nuances in the complementarian position, many of which I discussed in the comments.]

One of the primary responses in the comments to that post related to the role of Christian women as sketched out in Scripture.  Some read me to be restricting women to the home, when in reality, the saying went, biblical women were far more active than one might initially think.  In response to that response, I thought that I would quote from a 9Marks piece I wrote a year or so ago entitled “The Genesis of Gender and Ecclesial Womanhood.”  The many readers of Christianity Today‘s Her.meneutics blog that flooded my site might be interested in my take presented here.  Many will still disagree with me, but you’ll see in a more fulsome sense how it is that I and other complementarians think about the role of women.

I’ve italicized the 9Marks content below (it’s just a snatch from the larger essay):

The gospel leads directly away from libertarian notions of freedom and identity and offers better ones.[10] In dying to self and trusting Christ as Savior and Lord, we live. Here there is “no male or female,” as Paul puts it (Gal. 3:28). But once freed from the shackles of sin, men and women both are free to fulfill what God distinctly intended for them in creation. After all, biology does not change upon conversion. The gospel is at the center of biblical womanhood (and manhood) and, in saving women from sin and hell, it empowers them to live in the fullness of God’s good plan for them.[11] 

When we turn to the pages of the New Testament, we find many examples of women freed in the gospel. Women served the church and its leaders in diverse and creative ways. Here are a few of the most significant:

  • Joanna, “the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,” likely contributed generous sums to Christ and his band of disciples (Luke 8:3).
  • Prisca helped her husband Aquila disciple Apollos, a learned and eloquent preacher (Acts 18:26).
  • Timothy had both a godly mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 3:15).
  • Tabitha was “full of good works and acts of charity” (Acts 9:36).
  • In a climate hostile to Christianity and thus dependent on home fellowships, Lydia and Mary each hosted gatherings of Christians (Acts 12:12; 16:13-15, 40).
  • Phoebe was a “servant of the church at Cenchrae,” a “patron of many and of myself as well,” Paul noted in his letter to the Romans (Rom. 16:1-2).
  • Junia (Rom. 16:7) and Appia (Philemon 2) seem to have partnered with their husbands in gospel ministry, whether through evangelism in the case of Junia or hosting a church in the case of Appia.
  • In the examples of Mary, Anna and others, we find women of persistent, reverential, bold, effectual prayer (Luke 1:46-55; 2:36-38).

Here’s the whole piece.

This conversation is not going to cease anytime soon.  I do appreciate the dialogue, the sharpening responses, and I hope that in coming days that evangelical churches will increasingly hew to Scripture and not to culture.

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Why Forbidding Little Girls from Wearing Victoria’s Secret Is Deeply Christocentric

Dads, you should be aware of what your little girl is wearing at all times.  It’s not something you necessarily understand perfectly, but this matter requires your fatherly care and leadership just as much as what church to go to or what devotional book to read together.  The issue covered below is only going to heat up in coming days, so I encourage you to read on.

Over at Christianity Today, I’ve written a piece entitled “Tiger Dads vs. Sexualized Daughters” on gospel-driven modesty inspired by LZ Granderson’s recent CNN column decrying tiny girls dressing sexy.  The CNN piece got 440,000 “likes” on Facebook, so I thought it worth considering in light of a redemptive cultural hermeneutic.

Here’s a snatch:

Should you get Botox for your ten-year-old daughter? What would you think of breast augmentation for your eleven-year-old girl? These and similarly startling issues cropped up in a recent CNN column by LZ Granderson. Writing in an outraged style, Granderson tackled how parents allow the culture to sexualize their daughters. The piece, entitled rather prosaically “Parents, don’t dress your daughters like tramps,” began with a word of personal experience (from Granderson):

“I saw someone at the airport the other day who really caught my eye.

Her beautiful, long blond hair was braided back a la Bo Derek in the movie “10” (or for the younger set, Christina Aguilera during her “Xtina” phase). Her lips were pink and shiny from the gloss, and her earrings dangled playfully from her lobes.”

Go here to read my response to this important essay.  I try to show how care for our little girls is a more prominent–and precarious–scriptural topic than one might initially think, and how our care images either the father God or the prince of darkness.

(Cross-posted from the blog of Vitamin Z, where it originally appeared)

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The Man Who Stole Hitler’s Pistol

John Woodbridge of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School has just published a book with Pulitzer-prize winning journal Maurice Possley that tells a fascinating story: how a gun owned by Adolf Hitler ended up in the possession of his family.  That is already an interesting tale, but the book, entitled Hitler in the Crosshairs: A GI’s Story of Courage and Faith (Zondervan, 2011) delves into another story, the strange and faith-building life of an unknown man named Teen Palm, who before helping bring back the gun had traveled a twisting path that led to Jesus Christ.

Here’s what a brief review at Christianity Today said about the book:

Many evangelicals know church historian John Woodbridge for his masterful scholarship. Surely very few know about his personal connection to an astounding World War II heirloom: a golden pistol owned by Adolf Hitler. Nearly six years ago, a news notice of the weapon’s impending auction triggered a flashback, sending Woodridge scrambling to locate surviving relatives of the devout young soldier who snatched it up and gave it to his father. With award-winning journalist Maurice Possley, Woodbridge reconstructs the adventures of Ira “Teen” Palm—whose team raided Hitler’s Munich apartment—and the golden gun this man of faith found in lieu of the Führer.

Collin Hansen at the Gospel Coalition had this to say:

[T]his is a book about Teen Palm’s Christian faith, which sustained him through the travails of war as friends fell before him. This is a book about Hitler’s pistol, its discovery, theft, and present-day whereabouts. But the authors seek to do much more. They juxtapose Palm’s life, recounted primarily through letters sent to and received from his affectionate wife, with Hitler’s chilling rise to power in Germany. The contrast illustrates how hundreds of thousands of citizen soldiers helped bring down one of history’s most notorious mass murderers.

I look forward to reading this book in full.  I got to read draft chapters while at TEDS and thoroughly enjoyed them.  This one would be a great summer beach-read.  It’s also an example of how a Christian can tell a compelling and accessible story that many people will find interesting.

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