[Note: In lieu of this week’s pop culture list, I’ve decided to run a special edition of Thirty Three Things that includes all Christian items. The regular 33T feature will still be posted this afternoon.]
It has been said somewhere that the whole Law, according to the Jews, was given to Moses in 613 precepts, that David reduced them in the fifteenth Psalm to eleven, that Isaiah further diminished them to six, Micah to three, Isaiah in a later passage to two, but Habakkuk condensed all 613 into one: the just shall live by faith.
3. A Scholar’s Prayer by Thomas Aquinas
4. Theology is Clean, the Bible is Messy (From Peter Leithart’s Against Christianity , p. 47.)
(9) Theology is a “Victorian” enterprise, neoclassically bright and neat and clean, nothing out of place.
Whereas the Bible talks about hair, blood, sweat, entrails, menstruation and genital emissions.
(10) Here’s an experiment you can do at any theological library. You even have my permission to try this at home.
Step 1: Check the indexes of any theologian you choose for any of the words mentioned in the section 9 above. (Augustine does not count. Augustine’s theology is as big as reality, or bigger.)
Step 2: Check the Bible concordance for the same words.
Step 3: Ponder these questions: Do theologians talk about the world the same way the Bible does? Do theologians talk about the same world the Bible does?
6. Fact of the Week: Earning a Bachelor’s degree entails listening to an average of 1500 hours of lectures. The average New England churchgoer of the eighteenth century listened to some 15,000 hours of sermons in his or her lifetime.
7. Bible Geocoding : The location of every identifiable place mentioned in the Bible using Google Earth
8. Quote of the Week: “The essence of the Christian religion consists in this, that the creation of the Father, devastated by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and recreated by the Holy Spirit into the kingdom of God.” — Herman Bavinck, Gereformeerde Dogmatiek
9. From Soren Kierkegaard’s Works of Love: Some Christian Reflections in the Form of a Discourse :
I wonder if a man handing another man an extremely sharp, polished, two-edged instrument would hand it over with the air, gestures, and expression of one delivering a bouquet of flowers? Would not this be madness? What does one do then? Convinced of the excellence of the dangerous instrument, one recommends it unreservedly, to be sure, but in such a way that in a certain sense one warns against it. So it is with Christianity. If what is needed is to be done, we should not hesitate, aware of the highest responsibility, to preach in Christian sermons - yes, precisely in Christian sermons - against Christianity.”
11. Ira Glass, host of NPR’s This American Life , on Christians :
Christians are actually, to me, anyway, as a Jew, much more interesting in America. And weirdly, much more misunderstood. Evangelical Christians are the most incompetently portrayed group in America, in TV, in fiction, in the news. When Christians say that the media gets them wrong, Christians are absolutely right. Christian life in this country is really horribly documented, and way more interesting than is done. Generally, in the media, very religious Christians are portrayed as hardheaded doctrinaire knuckleheads. But in fact, from my experience, the most religious Christians I know tend to be incredibly thoughtful, complicated, generous to a fault, very principled and not knuckleheads. Actually, they’e sort of weirdly the opposite of the stereotype, and that includes people from the hardcore fundamentalist faiths.
When you encounter a present-day view of Holy Scripture, you encounter more than a view of Scripture. What you meet is a total view of God and the world, that is, a total theology, which is both an ontology, declaring what there is, and an epistemology, stating how we know what there is. This is necessarily so, for a theology is a seamless robe, a circle within which everything links up with everything else through its common grounding in God. Every view of Scripture, in particular, proves on analysis to be bound up with an overall view of God and man.
J. I. Packer, Encountering Present-Day Views of Scripture, in The Foundation of Biblical Authority
When people go off to secular universities or colleges, they know what they’re getting themselves into. Judging by the increase of enrollment at Christian universities, I’d say we have done a pretty good job of warning folks about the challenges and dangers of secular higher education.
But the awareness of those dangers allows forand requiresa significant degree of intentionality if Christians aim to flourish in a secular environment. Because the institutional pressures are working against cultivating a robust faith, maintaining one requires the discipline of structuring your life to make room for a deep relationship with God.
But in a Christian college, it’s easy to let the environment do all the spiritual heavy lifting. Like it did for me. I did my chapel time. I prayed before classes. I even talked to the occasional non-Christian or two on the weekends (conversations that went something like, Decaf venti white-chocolate mocha . . . thanks). Christianityand the peculiar language of “Christianese” pervaded the atmosphere. As a result, I struggled to carve out time to cultivate the spiritual disciplines of solitude, silence, Scripture intake and fasting.
there is a habit that I think is more prevalent than most folks think: considering some items tithe-deductible. Kids in a private Christian school? Thats kingdom work, so we can take that off the tithe. Supporting a Christian candidate for office? Thats kingdom work, so we can count that toward our 10% as well. Ate at Chick-fil-A? Yes, another tithe-deductible expense. Buying a copy of Fireproof on DVD? That counts too since a church made the film. Bought some Ethos bottled water at Starbucks, part of that goes to poverty relief, so it counts too.
I doubt that most of these folks would do these substitutions on their taxes, but in the case of the local congregation, it means the difference between supporting ministry and not supporting ministry.
21. Jordan Ballor on what it means to love the sinner but hate the sin
There are two errors that are often committed in these areas. The conservative error is to reject both the sinner and the sin in the interests of purity and holiness. The liberal error is to minimize or even celebrate the evil of the sin as good in the interests of acceptance, tolerance, and “love.”
Augustine helps us to avoid both errors. If we are at pains to legislate against certain types of behavior but are not undertaking evangelistic efforts to convert those who need it most, we engage in Pharisaic legalism. If we do nothing to rebuke sin, we engage in licentious antinomianism.
23. Ironic Question of the Week : “It’s funny, but why is it that pastors who want to build mega-churches, after having accomplished that goal, end pushing their congregations into being members of “small groups?”
24. Jared Bridges on how evangelicals “soften sin and sidestep guilt” :
If you’re an evangelical Christian, you’ve no doubt heard a phrase like this, “I’m struggling with ____.” Within that blank is any number and manner of sins. These days, it seems, a person doesn’t sin anymore so much as they struggle with sin.
A person who lusts becomes a person who is “struggling with lust.” Someone who is proud becomes someone who is “struggling with pride.” A person who views sexually explicit material becomes one who is “struggling with pornography,” and so on and so forth.
25. Mark Dever on evangelism :
One part of clarity sometimes missed by earnest evangelists, however, is the willingness to offend. Clarity with the claims of Christ certainly will include the translation of the Gospel into words that our hearer understands, but it doesnÄôt necessarily mean translating it into words that our hearer will like. Too often advocates of relevant evangelism verge over into being advocates of irrelevant non-evangelism. A gospel which in no way offends the sinner has not been understood.
26. Bible Mapper
Of all the tiny fragments of Old Testament vocabulary to have washed up on the shore of secular culture, one of the oddest is the old bit about knowing in the biblical sense. People who dont know or care to know (in any sense, biblical or otherwise) about anything from the Old Testament somehow got the word that Adam knew Eve, and she bore him a son. So know must mean some activity that results in babies, eh? Wink wink, nudge nudge.
28. Enthymeme of the Week: “It is an infinite sin to prefer anything to the infinitely attractive God. Therefore, hell is just.” John Piper
29. Amy Hall defends the complementarian view in “An Argument for Hierarchy”
I’ve changed my perspective on these things quite dramatically over the past 10 years, and I still have not settled my understanding of all the details. At first the change came in submission to biblical truth, but from that moment to this, my life experiences have consistently proven its wisdom and strengthened my complementarian view. I’ve come to see male leadership as being a result of the positive qualities of women rather than a consequence of women’s lack of masculine qualities.
31. Theologian N.T. Wright on the mission of the church :
For generations the church has been polarized between those who see the main task being the saving of souls for heaven and the nurturing of those souls through the valley of this dark world, on the one hand, and on the other hand those who see the task of improving the lot of human beings and the world, rescuing the poor from their misery.
The longer that I’ve gone on as a New Testament scholar and wrestled with what the early Christians were actually talking about, the more it’s been borne in on me that that distinction is one that we modern Westerners bring to the text rather than finding in the text. Because the great emphasis in the New Testament is that the gospel is not how to escape the world; the gospel is that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Lord of the world. And that his death and Resurrection transform the world, and that transformation can happen to you. You, in turn, can be part of the transforming work. That draws together what we traditionally called evangelism, bringing people to the point where they come to know God in Christ for themselves, with working for God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. That has always been at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer, and how we’ve managed for years to say the Lord’s Prayer without realizing that Jesus really meant it is very curious.
Our Western culture since the 18th century has made a virtue of separating out religion from real life, or faith from politics.When I lecture about this, people will pop up and say, “Surely Jesus said my kingdom is not of this world.” And the answer is no, what Jesus said in John 18 is, “My kingdom is not from this world.” That’s ek tou kosmoutoutou . It’s quite clear in the text that Jesus’ kingdom doesn’t start with this world. It isn’t a worldly kingdom, but it is for this world. It’s from somewhere else, but it’s for this world.
33. What is the Bible Basically About?