Archive for the ‘Christian living’ Category

Allow me to get the shameless appeal portion of this post out of the way immediately:  I have recently put together a book, The Budget Record Book, and it is now available for purchase here.

This book, unlike the vast majority of my writing, is not explicitly theological. I do not discuss the doctrine of the Incarnation, I do not attack Pelagianism, and I do not explain how Open Theism is inconsistent with the doctrine of Biblical Inspiration. This book is meant to help people budget, and friends and family familiar with my theological work are looking at this book and saying “What gives?”

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Dear Pentecostals and Charismatics,

If you know me, you know I am one of you. I am an associate pastor at a Pentecostal church. I volunteer with Chi Alpha, the Assemblies of God college ministry. A Pentecostal church was founded in my paternal grandmother’s home. At times I have even undertaken to defend our doctrines from cessationist critics.

Yet I’m an awkward Pentecostal. I don’t really fit in very well. I stand between two families of Christians, Pentecostals and charismatics on one hand, and my more reformed Baptist and Presbyterian brothers and sisters on the other hand. This is not a normal place to be. My reformed friends find my belief in the gifts a curiosity, an enigma, an outlier and anomaly. My Pentecostal and charismatic friends find my Calvinism to be strange, if not antithetical to Pentecostalism itself. This despite the fact that the Pentecostal and charismatic movements have always been highly ecumenical, spanning denominational boundaries and finding homes in a vast array of theological contexts.

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The question of what the Bible teaches regarding homosexuality is one of tremendous importance and heated dispute in the current era. An increasing number of professing Christians are questioning traditional teaching on this topic, and the culture at large has strongly rejected traditional Christian teaching on it. Nonetheless, it is my contention that this questioning is not based on the biblical text, but is based on cultural predispositions to reject any form of sexual constraint. Among professing Christians the key question must always be “What does the Bible teach?” We are not permitted to disregard Scripture on a cultural whim.

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The term “biblical theology” creates a great deal of confusion among Evangelical Christians. After all, isn’t all theology biblical? Of course, the confusion comes from equivocation. Scholars and academics use the term to refer to the chronological examination of the major themes and teachings of the Bible. This is examining theology as it was revealed through redemptive history, beginning with those books of the Bible written first (Genesis and Job), and proceeding to those that follow.

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As someone who has fought for years against recreational dating (As a side, notice how many of my friends have got engaged and married lately? The answer is a heck of a lot), let me say with all the gentle tenderness that I can muster that the author of this article knows nothing. The Greek word for men in his category is something like “dim wit” or “moron.” The Hebrew word might be translated like “fool.”

First, chivalry is not dead. Granted, it is in exile from the cultural mainstream, but it’s not dead.

Second, the author asks “What happened to paying for dinners and drinks? What happened to pulling out chairs and holding doors? What happened to walking on the outside, closest to the street and all that sh*t? Where did we lose the chivalrous touch? When did it become acceptable to just text a girl, inviting her to come bang? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about those instances, I’m just saying, why have we strayed away from what has been established as the norm?”

Any man with a brain functioning at about 10% of average capacity realizes the answer is in the question. What happened to all of those things is PRECISELY that it became “acceptable” in our culture’s eyes to “just text a girl, inviting her to come bang”. What happened is that little boys like John Picciuto stopped complaining about such evils. A culture centers around what it worships, and a materialistic and hedonistic culture is incapable of sustaining any true form of chivalry for any length of time. That, my friends, obviously takes a Christian culture, and the type that we have not had for at least the last 100 years or so.

Finally, “The real problem here is that women, for one reason or another, have become complacent and allowed men to get away with adhering to the bare minimum.”

No sir, the REAL problem here is that you’re a cotton headed ninny muggins. Men lead, and you don’t get men to lead the culture back into chivalry and courtship by denying one of the fundamental truths necessary for chivalry and courtship. You don’t get men to take responsibility by denying that men are actually responsible. You can’t clamor for chivalry and sacrificial responsibility by pinning males failures off on females (which is really irresponsible).

Zondervan sent me a free copy of Jonathan Morrow’s Think Christianly for review.  The book can be purchased here.  Any parenthetical page numbers refer to this book unless otherwise noted.

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For my first term paper in seminary, I wrote a strategy paper for planting a church in Stockholm, Sweden.  I hand-picked this city because it is one of the most secular in the world.  I focused my paper on the concept of the church actively engaging the cultural worldview of the Swedish people.  Looking back, I wish Think Christianly had been available to me as I wrote that paper.

The major premise of the book is that if Christianity is true then it impacts every single area of life without exception.  This is a theme I have emphasized often, and I am very glad a major Evangelical publisher has undertaken a project like this.  Nietzsche presented a systematic view of atheistic nihilism.  Morrow argues Christians must present a systematic view of life in the City of God.

The book kicks off by explaining the current situation.  We live in a day when humanists are becoming active evangelists.  Media and technology and increasingly influential and consume larger portions of our lives (ironic to write that on a blog, I know).  34% of American teenagers are “religiously disconnected,” while another 33% are “sporadically religious” (19).  People increasingly view “science” as the only source of true knowledge.  Our engagement, or failure to engage, will determine the success or failure of the church for the current and future generations.

In light of this, the time is past for us as Christians to ignore culture.  We have to actively engage it, and “engage” means neither marriage to it nor an assault upon it.  Our culture centers around ideas, and those ideas are conducive or contradictory to the Gospel.  As Morrow notes, “Ideas have always been and continue to be our Enemy’s favorite method of undermining the work of God” (34).

But there is a catch.  Our churches are not engaging culture effectively because they are currently nor prepared or equipped to do so.  I don’t mean for that to be a blanket statement, but as a general rule it is true.  As citizens of the Kingdom of God, tasked with bearing His image and demonstrating His love (44-45), we have dropped the ball.  We have to pick it up and answer the opportunities and challenges of our modern culture.

The second major section of the book focuses on preparing for such engagement.  We have to have the intellectual, spiritual, and relational resources to engage well.  Morrow discusses these in various chapters, focusing first on how Christianity constitutes objective knowledge, second on how lifestyle change is brought about through spiritual disciplines, and finally on how the church can address culture as a community.

The final section takes the foundational ideas of the first two sections and begins applying them to various modern issues.  Morrow addresses such things as the reliability of the Bible, sexuality, social justice, and bioethics.  The topics here are wide-ranging, but appropriately demonstrate how Christianity can address every aspect of life.

Having (very!) briefly summarized the book, we can now turn to more specific critiques.  First, I know some people will fear this is merely another book on apologetics and is only for the intellectual elite.  This dear friends, is not at all true.  Yes, Morrow is a very smart person.  But this book is written for all Christians, and deals with obligations regarding evangelism and outreach that all Christians share.  If you take the Gospel seriously and think that it should impact how you live, this book is for you.

Second, I learned a great deal.  The work is intensely practical, as Morrow lays out specific plans for transformation and strategies for application (a whole appendix is devoted to this, in fact).  For those of us accustomed to ivory towers (I’m a seminary student), it’s nice to step down and actually feel the grass and breath fresh air.

Third, Morrow presents good apologetic answers to serious questions of our day.  Let’s be honest, most apologists are not addressing issues of human sexuality and “God’s design for sex” (175).  But good apologetics responds to the objections actually being raised against Christianity.  One of the primary objections in our culture is that of sexual freedom.  Shouldn’t we be addressing it?  Of course.  And we should do so winsomely and strategically, even as we refuse to compromise biblical truth.

Fourth, after each chapter Morrow has an interview with a scholar/activist on a given topic.  These are wide-ranging, but very interesting.  My only complaint is that some of these could have corresponded more appropriately with given chapters (the interview on “Making the Case for Life” would have gone well with the chapter after bioethics).  But this is merely a formatting issue and did not detract from the work itself or the ideas presented.

Last, the recommended resources at the end of each chapter are incredibly useful.  There are many chapters that showed weaknesses I have in my own studies, and so I found these recommendations helpful and a great resource.

On the whole, Morrow’s book is excellent.  I highly recommend it.  We in the church have to recognize that the Gospel impacts everything we do.  Morrow drives this point home, and makes good strides in applying the Gospel to all of life.  We’d greatly benefit from further dialogue in this regard.

The only question we need to answer is how will we apply this?  What will we do differently as a result of the Gospel impacting everything?  I would love to know what Morrow would suggest for engaging an older audience/congregation that might not see the value in some of these issues.  But how we apply this is a question we all must answer for ourselves.

Ultimate Fighter contestant Dakota Cochrane represents a good case study in the major point of contention between Evangelical Christians and gay rights activists.  This is so primarily because of his past in gay porn.  Cochrane has said he is not gay, he just did it for the money.  He now regrets this decision, he says.

This is odd, to say the least.  It shows the misunderstandings about sexuality in our society.  People want to define their sexuality by orientation or predisposition, not by actions.

It is this type of thinking that we Evangelicals reject.  Sexuality is defined primarily in terms of actions and behaviors.  What we view as homosexual sin is the act of having sex with a member of the same biological gender.  Someone with a predisposition to act homosexually, or someone attracted to members of the same sex, is not gay in virtue of that predisposition or attraction.  Homosexual sin is a matter of acting homosexually, whether a predisposition or attraction is there or not.

This is not how modern gay activists view the matter.  They define homosexuality in virtue of the predisposition or attraction.  The actions, in their view, are simply the necessary consequent.  They are the out-working of the predisposition that is already present.  What makes someone gay is not acting homosexually, but having a homosexual desire.

Enter Dakota Cochrane.  Here is a man who has acted homosexually, but did so only with the intention of earning money.  He says he did not enjoy acting in gay porn, and that he is not “gay.”  A man that has sex with men is, well, straight?  That’s what Cochrane argues.  And to do so he must assume that heterosexuality and homosexuality are a matter of predisposition and attraction.  Cochrane says he has no attraction to men, I believe him.  But he still acted homosexually, and those acts constitute one as homosexual.

Biblically, homosexuality is “coitus with a man.”  By this standard, Cochrane committed homosexual sin.

People will of course see this view as bigoted and intolerant.  But it’s completely rational to say that predispositions are not determinative.  What is truly immoral is telling people that they must be defined by and act according to predispositions about which they have very little, if any, control.  To tell someone they must act according to a predisposition, even if they don’t want to be predisposed to same-sex attraction, is to ignore a human’s right to make a choice.

As Evangelicals, we don’t claim gays can choose their predisposition to be attracted to certain people.  We claim they can choose to act on or resist those predispositions.  And that choice is one that all people make in relation to all sorts of other types of predispositions every day.  I’m predisposed to tell lies, but I love my Savior and by His grace I choose not to lie.

There is not a single sincere Christian who would deny their own predisposition to act in certain ways that are not morally beneficial.  Alcoholics have one type of predisposition that must be overcome, liars another.  Those prone to anger have a certain predisposition that, as Christians, must be resisted.  This is true of all sinful behavior, including homosexual behavior.

We Evangelicals don’t hate homosexuals.  We hate the deterministic lie they are being fed.  We mourn the fact that broken and hurting people are being told to freely follow certain predispositions when doing so will only lead to further pain for them.  We offer hope not by appeal to deterministic falsehoods, but by offering people a true choice through a Savior who was tempted in every way that we are but did not sin.