Tag Archives: sex

Literature Review: Reinke, DeWitt, Thoennes, Hiestand & Thomas, Wittmer

It’s time for a good ole’ fashioned literature roundup.  Here are several books I’ve gotten recently that I think are worth my, and perhaps your, attention, if I may be so bold as to suggest possible entertainers of your attention.  All of these books will build your faith and confidence in our great God.

Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke.  Crossway, 2011.  This slim, readable and fun book is a paean to reading.  It approaches the subject from a distinctly evangelical perspective and offers such helpful material as how to read a book and how to work through a chunk of literature over time.  Tony, a writer with Desiring God, makes clear throughout the text that he has read widely and deeply, a skill that is perhaps more important than any other in becoming a thinking person and a thinking Christian.  It is not simplistic to say that the only barrier to learning is a lack of discipline.  Pick up books, and especially good books of many kinds, and you cannot help but grow, especially if you engage that literature from a Chrisocentric, biblically-saturated point of view.

Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything by Steve DeWitt.  Credo House, 2012.  Do you ever wonder as you drive on long trips what the churches are like in the areas you pass?  Well, I do, which perhaps shows my oddness.  Steve DeWitt is the pastor of Bethel Church of Indiana, a place I drove past dozens of times during my studies at TEDS in Chicago.  Steve, as I have happily discovered, is a gifted pastor and an engaging writer.  His text is a series of meditations on divine beauty.  It reminded me of the work of Jonathan Edwards.  Here’s what I said in my endorsement: “With a gentle tone and many real-life illustrations, the text is an elegant for laypeople and pastors who want to learn more about beauty–and specifically God’s beauty–and who desire for their study to impact their everyday lives.”  Great book for a Bible study.

Life’s Biggest Questions: What the Bible Says About the Things That Matter Most by Erik Thoennes.  Crossway, 2011.  Erik Thoennes is theologian at Biola/Talbot in California and a pastor.  I like even his subtitle, because there are things that matter most, and they are biblical and theological ideas that do nothing but shape our very lives.  Thoennes’s first book is essentially a mini-systematic theology.  Many of us have been looking for material like this from Thoennes, as we found his notes in the ESV Study Bible so clear and helpful.  This book is just like those notes: rich, deep, and yet accessible.  Pick it up if you want to develop your understanding of theology but don’t yet have the confidence or muscle mass to read Grudem, Berkhof, or Calvin.

Sex, Dating, and Relationships: A Fresh Approach by Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas.  Crossway, 2012.  Gerald and Jay are my colleagues in the Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology and are terrific guys.  They are also gifted pastor-theologians, Gerald at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL and Jay at Chapel Hill Bible Church in North Carolina.  Their book is a new look at some of the toughest questions faced by many young believers: what is sex for?  How do I handle my drive and urges?  What is the best path to marriage?  They advocate, for example, “dating friendships,” which looks pretty similar to what I argued for a long time ago in the form of “dateship.”  This is a helpful and enjoyable book, and it will steer Christians in a faithful direction amidst a sex-crazed world.  Cool cover, by the way.

The Last Enemy by Mike Wittmer.  Discovery House, 2012.  The evangelical movement is blessed at present with many strong theologians who are also clear and witty communicators.  Mike is one of this group.  He writes in a straightforward, honest way in this book, reminding his readers that 1) they will surely die and 2) that this need not drive them to despair.  He challenges us not to romanticize death, but also to remember that our hope is in Christ and the resurrection of our bodies.  This text is aimed at believers, but it’s so clear on the gospel that I think it could be a good evangelistic gift.  Buy several copies, and give them out to friends and neighbors who are terrified of death and in desperate need of life, true life.


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Lonely Love: Seeking Marriage Through the Internet

Is it right for Christians to find a spouse through the Internet?

A recent story in the New Yorker leads to questions like this for committed evangelicals. “Looking for Someone” by Nick Paumgarten paces through the recent explosion of online dating, a phenomenon that has led to real-life marriage for many couples. One selection from the piece shows the complexity of the new romantic landscape:

[T]he fastest-growing online-dating demographic is people over fifty—a function perhaps of expanding computer literacy and diminished opportunity. I recently got to know a woman I’ll call Mary Taft, who is seventy-six, has a doctorate in education, and has been married and divorced twice. She lives outside Boston. As a single mother, in her forties, she gave up men for a while….In 2000, she put an ad in Harvard Magazine. “This seemed horrible to me, but I got all kinds of responses. A nice guy from Vermont drove all the way down to see me.” And then, when she was almost seventy, she discovered Internet dating, and the frequency and variety of her assignations intensified.

The essay traces new developments in romance, but the broader reality behind the piece is ages-old: how to find someone to spend the rest of one’s life with. Civilizations and societies have offered different answers to this quandary with varying results. Whatever one thinks about arranged marriage, for example, it certainly offered a straightforward solution to the question of whom to marry. Though many choice-driven westerners would balk at such an arrangement, we cannot conclude that it does not offer a solution.

This is a matter that requires the attention of pastors and churches. How are we to help singles find spouses in our day? Do we leave them to the wilds of the Internet? I might suggest that the church take an active role in caring for its single members by stressing the essential goodness of the community of Christ. Online dating may not be wrong–it may well led to marriage in some cases–but it seems deficient in comparison to the real-life interaction and experience that the congregation creates and allows.

We might also suggest that the elders and pastors of evangelical churches take note of developments like online dating and shepherd, in even a basic way, the romantic culture of their churches. Is clear from books like 1 Corinthians that church leaders like Paul involved themselves in questions of marriage and romance (chapter seven, for example). Paumgarten’s piece helps us to see that ours is simultaneously a sex-crazed but intimacy-lacking world. Can we form a culture of purity that is also a culture of meaningful connection?

Our churches have an opportunity to show the world a better way to marriage. Perhaps, in an isolary, lonely world, we can image, however imperfectly, a greater union, the covenant of love shared between Christ the pursuer and his radiant bride, the church (Ephesians 5).


This is a post from the blog Thesis.


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Is the Bible Blind to Womanly Beauty?

Don’t know if you’ve followed this, but Tim Challies kicked up a bit of an Internet storm recently when he helpfully suggested that it was a good thing for Christian wives to give attention to their appearances for the betterment of their husbands.  He was responding to a post a few months ago by blogger Rachel Held Evans, who registered disagreement with Challies’s post.  In response to Evans, Southern Seminary professor Mary Kassian suggested something of a middle way in which womanly attractiveness matters but only as a reflection of God’s far more lustrous beauty.

I found the discussion interesting and worthwhile not because this is a matter of outsized theological importance but because it relates closely to issues surrounding men, marriage, and beauty, all topics that interest me.  Kassian’s theocentric rendering of womanly beauty jibes with material I published with Douglas Sweeney in the book Jonathan Edwards on Beauty (Moody, 2010), part of the five-volume Essential Edwards Collection.  Edwards was an aesthetician if there ever was one.  Wherever he saw earthly beauty he saw a reflection of God, who was not only beautiful but was beauty himself.

Here’s a snatch from the book which quotes Edwards’s notebook on “types” (page 49-50 of JEOB):

There are some types of divine things, both in Scripture and also in the works of nature and constitution of the world, that are much more lively than others. Everything seems to aim that way; and in some things the image is very lively, in others less lively, in others the image but faint and the resemblance in but few particulars with many things wherein there is a dissimilitude. God has ordered things in this respect much as he has in the natural world. He hath made man the head and end of this lower creation; and there are innumerable creatures that have some image of what is in men, but in an infinite variety of degrees. Animals have much more of a resemblance of what is in men than plants, plants much more than things inanimate. (Works 11, 114)

One day, the pastor took a walk that unfolded the way natural beauty reflects spiritual beauty (pp. 41-42 of JEOB):

God’s excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in everything; in the sun, moon and stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water, and all nature; which used greatly to fix my mind. I often used to sit and view the moon, for a long time; and so in the daytime, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things: in the meantime, singing forth with a low voice, my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. And scarce anything, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning. Formerly, nothing had been so terrible to me. I used to be a person uncommonly terrified with thunder: and it used to strike me with terror, when I saw a thunderstorm rising. But now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God at the first appearance of a thunderstorm. And used to take the opportunity at such times, to fix myself to view the clouds, and see the lightnings play, and hear the majestic and awful voice of God’s thunder: which often times was exceeding entertaining, leading me to sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God. And while I viewed, used to spend my time, as it always seemed natural to me, to sing or chant forth my meditations; to speak my thoughts in soliloquies, and speak with a singing voice. (Works 16, 794)

This material reveals that Edwards felt free to find resonances of a much greater beauty in the eye-catching things of this world.  In fact, the pastor-theologian made the case for finding “types” in this world.  If we buy Edwards’s argument–and I think we should–then surely we can find images of a greater luster in a flower, a sunset, and the face of a loved one.

I love Edwards’s aesthetics.  He has a major place for beauty in his theological-philosophical system, so much so that some view him as the theologian par excellence of beauty.  By the way, this is part of why he is so relevant for today.  We live in an image-obsessed culture (part of the problem Evans rightly decries), and we can use Edwards to point people to a better way, a far more fulsome and healthy vision of attractiveness than one can find in the ambient culture.

The Bible, by the way, has much to say about physical beauty, contrary to what many think.  Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was beautiful (Gen. 12:11); Rachel was beautiful “in form and appearance” (Genesis 29:17); David “had beautiful eyes and was handsome” (1 Samuel 16:12); Esther had “a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at” (Esther 2:7!); Job’s daughters were the most beautiful of their day (Job 42:15); the man speaking in the Song of Solomon finds his wife “beautiful” to say nothing but the very least; Moses was beautiful as a child (Hebrews 11:23).  Beyond all these realities, the Lord, as Edwards knew, is pictured in Scripture as very beauty himself.  David wished only to “to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD,” Psalm 27:4.  We could go on.

What does this mean?  Well, for starters, the biblical authors and figures are not blind to physical beauty.  Far from it.  They don’t suggest that it is of great importance in itself.  That’s clear.  Neither, however, do they ignore it, just as we do not ignore it, try or not.  We’re all quite conscious of physical beauty.  One could say this is because of our genetic wiring, or our consciousness, or perhaps most satisfyingly, our natural understanding of the way earthly attractiveness prefigures God’s magnificence.  All of these reasons have credence.

In the context of marriage, this means that it is no bad thing to celebrate one’s attraction to one’s husband or wife.  It is in fact a good thing.  We should not make the cultural mistake of grounding our spousal love in physical beauty.  Anyone who has ever heard a pop song knows how common this is, and how laughable.  Those who think that a relationship can stand firm by physical attraction alone clearly have precious little practical experience in actual relationships.  Those who are married know that attraction is an important part of marriage–perhaps very important–but that like any covenantal relationship, marriage requires a continual exercise of the will for its flourishing.  It is the Christocentric and Christotelic dimensions of marriage that are most significant.  Husbands loving wives as Christ sacrificially loved the church, and wives submitting to their husbands as the church submits to Christ in love are the transcendent, indeed transforming, realities of marriage.

But in landing this plane let’s bring our altitude down a bit.  Physical attraction matters in a marriage.  The Song of Solomon makes this abundantly clear, as any red-faced teen knows in hearing it read in church.  No one is suggesting that Christian women should hold themselves up to the (relentlessly airbrushed and digitally edited) cover-girl.  It is, however, a good thing for both husband and wife to take the physical dimension of marriage seriously.  Men shouldn’t nurse a gut, and women shouldn’t let themselves go.  Both should care for the other by devoting a reasonable–and the world’s standards are often unreasonable!–amount of attention to their bodies.

We are not Platonists.  We live in bodies.  The body is good.  God designed the body, manly and womanly, for his glory.  He gave sex and attraction and passion to couples for their good and his renown.  Marriage in its fullness is to provide the world with a picture of a far greater reality, the devoted loving union of Jesus Christ and his blood-bought church.  We do not obsess over our appearances; we do not worry about physical changes over time; we do not obsess over our frames and forms.  But we do love one another by caring well for the bodies God has given us.  Whatever we do, we seek God’s glory–whether praying in church, church-planting in an unreached land, fixing a leaky faucet, comforting a crying infant, teaching philosophy in a secular college, or running another mile to keep the pounds off (1 Cor. 10:31).


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Hunter Baker on Sex, Science, and the Left

Hunter Baker is a sharp dude out of Houston Baptist University who just published a piece on the Salvo magazine website entitled “Facts Evasion: When it Comes to Sex, the Left Hates Science.” I commend the piece to you–it’s apologetically quite useful.  Hunter just published The End of Secularism, I might add, which will make you much smarter than you are now if you read it.

In Hunter’s article, he takes aim at the common misconception that the political left works from a scientific standpoint on matters of social policy while conservatives work from a merely ideological perspective.  His article makes several excellent points, and I’m going to block quote a big section of it because it is highly worth your time as a thoughtful Christian person engaging cultural matters for the glory of Christ:

How well does it work to encourage promiscuous sex accompanied by birth control pills and condom use? Ask an obstetrician-gynecologist about the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases in young women. The rate is exceptionally high. We may well reap a demographic disaster of infertility down the road. Let’s pray that P. D. James, who wrote The Children of Men, is no prophet.

Abortions continue to be performed in huge numbers despite the past assurances of some on the left that modern birth control would eliminate the need for the grisly procedure. And of the children who are born, an alarmingly high number are born to single mothers. As a group, these children are substantially more likely to do poorly in school, abuse drugs, commit crimes, require governmental assistance, and serve time in jail—and to see the cycle repeated when they have children of their own.

Is it a scientific outlook that would maintain that this state of affairs is somehow conducive to human flourishing? Or would the evidence-driven observer be more likely to affirm that sex within marriage is far more advantageous to women than promiscuity? A more logical mind could also see very well that social support for traditional marriage would help with the recurring problem of convincing men to raise their offspring rather than simply siring them.

And let us dwell for a moment on the record of the secular left’s “rational” approach in the matter of procreation. In the case of the unborn child, for example, pro-choicers for a long time stubbornly clung to the notion that the child inside the womb was no more than a cluster of cells, undifferentiated tissue, and/or a tumor-like growth. They maintained this stance long after Lennart Nilsson’s landmark photos of fetuses were published in Life magazine in 1965, and even beyond the advent and regular use of ultrasound technology.

It has only been within the past decade, when major corporations began using images of unborn children in their advertising and parents began purchasing ultra-detailed images of their in utero babies, that supporters of broad abortion rights began to abandon the dehumanizing and, yes, anti-scientific language of the fetus as inert matter. Some years ago, the famed feminist Naomi Wolf broke ranks with her side just enough to plead for recognition of the humanity of the fetus, lest the battle be lost through a failure to acknowledge what is obvious to non-ideologues.

The whole piece is worth reading, and Baker’s chief argument is worth noting and using extensively.  We Christians are not behind the 8-ball when it comes to science.  We’re squarely in line with it.  To an extent that we too rarely cite, it is on our side.

Too often we operate culturally from a position of weakness instead of a position of strength.  Selections like this show us the importance of evaluating rhetoric and thinking clearly about science, faith, and the way in which the former, when handled well, serves the latter.

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Preaching on Sex: How?

Atlanta pastor Aaron Menikoff has some wise thoughts over at the 9Marks blog on a topic that many of us want to handle well but have little wisdom about:

“I would be quite happy to preach about the purpose of sex in a Sunday morning service. When I say “happy,” I should add that it would be a privilege to address that because Scripture addresses it. Also, specific sexual sins can and should be addressed (thinking about your Proverbs sermons). I recently went to a meeting about fighting sex-trafficking in Atlanta. From the stats I was given, there is more sex-trafficking going on in Atlanta than in any other U.S. city. One detective said it was not uncommon to find “johns” with car seats in their cars–in other words these were everyday dads indulging their sinful desires! A question was asked, “How can we fix this problem?” My first thought was that the Lord has called me a responsibility to shepherd a particular flock. At the very least, I can preach for the sexual purity of those within my congregation and equip us to resist temptation.

My point: There is no easy answer on how frank to be in the pulpit. I think wisdom would dictate sensitivity to children and even to the weaker brother. However, that the topic must be addressed, frankly and graphically in the context of church life is clear.”

As I’ve said, many of us want to be able to preach helpfully about sex, but it’s difficult to know how to do so without offending folks or leading them to stumble.  Today’s sex-saturated culture, however, necessitates that we confront this topic.  As Menikoff says, pastors will differ on how exactly to handle this matter; indeed, different settings and locations require that pastors do so.  Yet this should not mean that we shy away from hard topics.  People today prize honesty and directness, and church members need to have the church, not MTV, shape the way they view sex.

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The Link 6.12.09: NPR on Sex, Inner-City Transformation, and Patrick Henry College

dating1. My TEDS buddy Andrew Lisi recently wrote a thoughtful blog on a report by NPR about how sex is, for the younger generation, almost completely separated from any lasting connection or bond. (Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts, NPR)

2. A Wheaton PhD student and friend of mine, Jeremy Treat, shares a stirring story about one inner-city Chicago high school’s transformation.

3. Newsweek has an audio slideshow up featuring a book on Patrick Henry College students by Jona Frank called Right.  It’s worth looking at and listening to, even if it comes from a liberal perspective.

4. Armchair basketball analysis: The Magic-Lakers game last night was quite frustrating.  Orlando deserved to lose, with Howard and Turkoglu unable to make free throws.  Too bad.  This will conclude our analysis.

5. So much for the whole “need-blind” admissions policies of some American collegesReed College of Portland, OR has been hard hit by the financial downturn.

6. Kevin DeYoung cites a helpful apology for the pro-life position made by Scott Klusendorf’s The Case for Life:

“Use the acronym SLED. Size: are big people more human than small people? Level of Development: Does self-awareness make us human? Are older children more valuable than infants? Are those with dementia less valuable? Environment: Do your surroundings determine your humanity? How can a journey eight inches down the birth canal change the essential nature of the child? Degree of Dependency: Does viability make us human? Are newborns or those who need dialysis not deserving of human rights? (28)”

–Have a great weekend, all.

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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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Pastor Calls for More Sex; Celebrity “Rehab”?

I’ve been websurfing a bit this morning, and I can’t limit myself to citing just one article.  So here are a number of especially compelling pieces for you to check out:

1.  Stanley Fish just wrote an interesting piece on academic freedom for the New York Times.  Quick excerpt: “Indeed, to emphasize the “personal” is to mistake the nature of academic freedom, which belongs, Finkin and Post declare, to the enterprise, not to the individual. If academic freedom were “reconceptualized as an individual right,” it would make no sense — why should workers in this enterprise have enlarged rights denied to others? — and support for it “would vanish” because that support, insofar as it exists, is for the project and its promise (the production of new knowledge) and not for those who labor within it. Academics do not have a general liberty, only “the liberty to practice the scholarly profession” and that liberty is hedged about by professional norms and responsibilities.”

2.  The New Yorker covers the strange phenomenon that is luxurious celebrity rehab.  “Rehab” seems to end up looking a lot like “vacation”–or is it just me?  That aside, it is startling to see how painfully these people feel.  They talk about the “Beast,” the force that drives them to use drugs, but they are so far from recognizing the true beast.

3.  Interesting article on the power of Google.  It’s especially interesting to see people like the author, one who “tuned out” from mainstream media and culture in the 60s, embrace the technological revolution of our era.  Colors all those psychedelic pictures from Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane concerts, doesn’t it?  Little did those people know that they would be participating in just a few short decades in the most powerful capitalist market the world has ever seen.  Idealism, you old dog, you die a hard death.

4.  The Times looks into one pastor’s call for “congregational copulation.”  You know, we come off looking pretty weird in this one, and I’m not sure that I would do the same, but how weird are evangelicals, really, in a world that can’t sell anything–chapstick, gum, music, books, you name it–without reference to sex?

I’m not sure what posting will look like this week, but these should tide you over for the time being.

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The New Yorker’s Take on Evangelicals and Abstinence Education

Found this in the New Yorker and thought that this outsider’s take on evangelicalism and its approach to sex was quite worth reading, if over-heated and wrong-headed in places:

“The “pro-family” efforts of social conservatives—the campaigns against gay marriage and abortion—do nothing to instill the emotional discipline or the psychological smarts that forsaking all others often involves. Evangelicals are very good at articulating their sexual ideals, but they have little practical advice for their young followers. Social liberals, meanwhile, are not very good at articulating values on marriage and teen sexuality—indeed, they may feel that it’s unseemly or judgmental to do so. But in fact the new middle-class morality is squarely pro-family. Maybe these choices weren’t originally about values—maybe they were about maximizing education and careers—yet the result is a more stable family teens1system. Not only do couples who marry later stay married longer; children born to older couples fare better on a variety of measures, including educational attainment, regardless of their parents’ economic circumstances. The new middle-class culture of intensive parenting has ridiculous aspects, but it’s pretty successful at turning out productive, emotionally resilient young adults. And its intensity may be one reason that teen-agers from close families see child-rearing as a project for which they’re not yet ready. For too long, the conventional wisdom has been that social conservatives are the upholders of family values, whereas liberals are the proponents of a polymorphous selfishness. This isn’t true, and, every once in a while, liberals might point that out.”

–From “Red Sex, Blue Sex” by Margaret Talbot.

There are several matters with which to (strongly) quibble here.  The idea that children born to working parents who had children later in life are better off than children from more traditional evangelical families is shaky at best, for example.  By what standard–stats?  That’s not enough for me.

The article generally tries to make the point that despite strenuous sex education efforts, evangelicals turn out children who are more sexually promiscuous than the children of non-evangelicals.  It follows the line of a recent book entitled Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers by Mark Regnerus.  Though one would certainly cite some different factors than do either Talbot or Regnerus for this phenomenon, it seems that they are onto something.  Evangelicals as a culture do seem to be failing at sex education.  Talbot’s words in the above paragraph heap shame on us, for even a writer for the New Yorker realizes that we do a poor job of practical instruction of our children when it comes to sex.

This is a travesty, a recipe for disaster, because we live in a sex-drenched society.

What is the solution?  Local churches that train parents not simply to answer tricky questions about sex, but to provide a personally enveloping and spiritually captivating worldview that approaches sex from a deeply theological point of view.  Children need to learn that sex, like all things, was created for the glory of God, that it is not dirty or unmentionable but is inherently good, and must not be enthroned as the chief good of life.  Instead, sex, like all good gifts, must be carefully stewarded in service to Christ.

Boys and girls and men and women who preserve themselves sexually do not merely check off the right boxes, but do something far greater than merely gratifying their pleasures.  They reflect glory back to God and stand with Christ in the great story of the ages, preserving their souls and bodies for the realm of heaven.  To sinfully gratify, then, is to offend God and to coarsen our existences, to choose something lesser for ourselves.  To preserve ourselves is to honor the Lord and participate with Him in the great and glorious fight against darkness.

Once a worldview is in place, then parents need, under the headship and accountability of the local church, to involve themselves very carefully in the lives of their children, helping them choose good friends, participate in helpful social circles, discern good and bad in culture, and learn to love what is beautiful and good and true.  Biblical education of an ongoing, world-encompassing sort, the kind advocated in Deuteronomy 6 and taught in the van, at the dinner table, on walks, and after church, will do far, far more to train children in righteousness than pawning one’s kids off on the local youth minister, which many parents today seem to do.  You cannot franchise out your child’s spiritual development; we who are parents have to take up the continual work and stay close to our children if we would see them become holy in an unholy world.

When the New Yorker is lecturing us on parenting, it’s time to take it with deadly seriousness.  For generations, we’ve let others–coaches, teachers, youth ministers–train up our children, and we’ve acquiesced to a wealth culture that harms the traditional family by removing Mom and preoccupying Dad.  The results are disastrous.  Perhaps we will see a return in the church to the simple but powerful way of raising children: close to the hip, saturated in the gospel, practical and honest to the end.

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Is There a Wilberforce Out There?

obamaI in no way style myself a political pundit, and for good reason.  If you’re interested in coverage of the historic election of Barack Obama as president, check out the New York Times’s front-page article.   Justin Taylor is soliciting feedback from some fine Christian thinkers; I would encourage you to read Randy Alcorn’s hope-filled piece, and I loved Eric Redmond’s essay on voting pro-life as an African-American.  Al Mohler has some characteristically incisive and strong words on how Christians should proceed from here.

All of these commentators have helpful words for Christians.  I have little else to contribute.  I would say, though, that this election reminded me of the need for politically minded Christians.  I’m not talking about bloggers and book-readers.  I’m thinking specifically of bright young Christian people who will go to good colleges, get political experience, work their way through the system, and run for office.  Once elected, they will withstand the temptations of secular public life and stand as a force for righteousness and justice.

Don’t get me wrong.  I see no lasting future for politics.  One day, this process will end.  Then, we’ll have a one-party system for sure, a righteous reign that never ends, that never causes weeping, that never breaks a home, that never oppresses people of color, that never kills an innocent.  Until that day, the church, not the political system or the social justice world, is the repository of hope in this world.  The church bears the evangel, the gospel, and this is the only hope of any person.  Many of us would do well to invest far less in things that fade, including politics, and far more in things that last, including the local church and the ministry of the gospel.

But we cannot turn our back on this world, can we?  We must channel our energy into our local churches, and live “missionally,” and do all we can to send missionaries to the lost.  These are our first priorities as believers, whether in vocational ministry or not.  Beyond these things, though, we should encourage the development of young Christian political talent.  We should do so not to pass silly laws or to puff ourselves up, but to work for the spread of righteousness and justice in this darkened place.

Let us give priority, then, to raising up Christ-centered believers who live and work for the spread of the faith, whether from the home, the corner office, the academy, or the ministry.  But let us also seek to raise up a generation of evangelical politicians who spread the faith, yes, but who also work with great diligence in state, national, and global politics.  We can over-spiritualize our movement.  We live in this world, after all.  People suffer in this world.  Babies get murdered in this world.  Marriages crumble in this world.  Sex trafficking happens in this world.  How important, then, that we nurture a small movement of Christians who are gifted in the political realm.  We would not seek to exalt these people, but neither would we teach them that their calling has small significance.  It certainly does not.  We would teach them that they have a great responsibility, and that as congresspeople and judges and lobbyists and political appointees they must work to spread justice and righteousness, to defend the oppressed, to loose the captive, to share the faith from their unique position in the world.

Is there a Wilberforce out there, a person whom God may use to do something titanic like overturn Roe v. Wade or end sex-trafficking?  Are there bright young Christians who are not called to the ministry but who can use their gifts in the political realm in service to Christ?  Do we sometimes teach young Christians that only lesser believers enter the political realm?  We must not.  We must celebrate the ministry, but we must also recognize that many–most–are not called to it, and that there is a tremendous need in America and many other countries for courageous Christian statesmanship.  Politicians can be self-serving, and politics cannot inaugurate the salvation of the world, but so too can a righteous person accomplish tremendous good in the public square.  We must not forget this, and we must not fail to teach it to our children.


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