In Case You Missed It

Recently at The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax asked: “Can we ‘agree to disagree’ on sexuality and marriage?“. Trevin writes:

The biggest issue confronting evangelicalism today is not over homosexuality and marriage, but whether or not these are “agree-to-disagree” issues.

The question takes various forms:

 

  • Can progressive evangelicals who advocate same-sex marriage share a measure of unity with the rest of the global church?
  • Is it possible to see one’s view of sexual ethics as a dividing line between evangelical churches (similar to debates over baptism, speaking in tongues, etc.), but not something that necessitates a divorce within evangelicalism as a whole?
  • Can believers simply “agree to disagree” on this contentious issue and allow various views to exist within what is commonly accepted as “orthodoxy?”

In a recent blog post, Dr. Jamie Dew reflects on why he loves Anselm. Dr. Dew writes:

“Teach me to seek You, and reveal Yourself to me as I seek, because I can neither seek You if You do not teach me how, nor find You unless You reveal Yourself. Let me seek You in desiring You; let me desire You in seeking You; let me find You in loving You; let me love You in finding You” (Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion, ch. 1).

 

What a prayer. Over the years and through the seasons of questioning, wondering, and even doubting, these words from Anselm have been the cry of my heart. Allow me to introduce you to Anselm, to the Proslogion, and to one of the greatest theological works ever written. If you are looking for a good paperback version, I recommend this one.

 

I’ve had the great pleasure of studying and teaching Anselm for over ten years in my Philosophy and History of Ideas courses. His insights and reflections are constantly nourishing to my soul. Theologically speaking, the Proslogion is dense and meaty. But, it is rather short and each chapter is brief, making it easy to work through. In fact, it can be read in one sitting if you so desire. Nevertheless, we’ll take the next few weeks to highlight a few key chapters and reflect on some of the most important points that Anselm makes. There are 26 chapters in the Proslogion, and each one is no more than just a few hundred words.

Let’s begin with chapter 1.

Joe Thorn recently published an article reminding pastors that the sheep aren’t stupid.

Pastors sometimes say stupid things. Sometimes those stupid things are catchy and wind up being repeated by many other pastors. One of the more preposterous statements I’ve heard many preachers say is, “Sheep are dumb.” They say this as shepherds in reference to the sheep of the church—the congregation. The idea is that sheep are dumb, and must be led well. We shouldn’t be surprised when they do stupid things.

 

My problem with this statement is that it disrespects people made in God’s image and redeemed by God’s Son. Its mocks the church and exalts the self. The church isn’t stupid. Sinful, yes. Stupid, no. Speaking of the church in this way will get a chuckle from some leaders (who aren’t already bored by the worn-out expression), but will create distance between leadership and the people pastors are called to lead.

 

The sheep aren’t dumb. In fact, we would do much better if we thought of the sheep the way the Puritan Thomas Watson (1620–1686) described them in his sermon, “The Good Shepherd.

The Amazing Word of God was the subject of a recent blog post by SEBTS PhD student Spence Spencer. At the end of this post, Spence shares a great video which gives the account of how a seemingly chance interaction with Scripture led to Salvation.

The word of God–the Bible–is an amazing thing. God has spoken through prophets, through poets, and through the pens of the people who wrote the Old and New Testaments by divine inspiration.

 

This is often difficult to prove from deductive arguments. If someone assumes that Scripture is not the word of God and thus not authoritative, then citing passages within Scripture that affirm the reliability, authority, and inspiration of Scripture is likely to have no effect.

 

But, the word of God is infused with life through the Holy Spirit.

In a guest post at Dr. Jamie Dew’s blog, Dr. Stephen Ladd gives an invitation to logic. Dr. Ladd writes:

One of the great joys I have in academic life is teaching an undergraduate course in traditional logic. It is also called formal, predicate, term, or syllogistic logic, but because Aristotle’s method for making valid arguments was the earliest treatment of the subject (Prior Analyticsand De Interpretatione in Aristotle’s larger workOrganon), his method developed into the traditional version taught for centuries also known as Aristotelian logic. All refer to the same discipline, however, and it has generally been taught to young people (middle school age) as the way to develop clarity in the reasoning process.

In Case You Missed It

In a recent article at the Intersect Project website, Dr. Bruce Ashford writes about how to engage culture like C.S. Lewis.

As Lewis scholar Michael Travers has noted, Lewis viewed evangelism as the main purpose of a Christian’s life. Lewis’ literary career can be viewed as an extended exercise in evangelism. Not only in his explicitly theological books, but also in his literature, Lewis wanted to translate Christianity into popular language for ordinary people who were not theologians. In his fiction texts, he tried to create in his readers a longing for God, and to help them “see” the gospel in concrete form. He called this type of writing praeparatione evangelica, or “preparation for the gospel.”

So for Lewis, “evangelism” is something that Christians do with their whole lives, not only through interpersonal encounters, but in the work they undertake and the shape of their professional lives.

We can learn many things about Christianity and culture from Lewis’ life and writings. Three significant lessons stand out.

At the Southeastern Literary and Art Magazine, Rebecca Byrd has written the worn-out student’s guide to break reading.

Final papers and exams are turned in. The mild shakiness of a days-long caffeine overload wears off. The semester’s books are relegated to the (ever-expanding) bookshelf in a triumphant gesture of victory. You actually sleep… for the whole night! Now it is time for one of my favorite celebrations: finding my break reading! While you may have just spent the entire semester with your head in your books, this type of reading is different because YOU get to decide what to read. I’ll acknowledge that some people may just want to put the books down for a while, and that’s okay. But for me, I like to take those weeks or months (if it’s summer!) to read something different. Here is a list of some possibilities for your break reading if you don’t know where to start

Dr. Andreas Köstenberger recently added a post to his blog titled “Christmas: A Call to Witness.” Dr. Köstenberger writes:

As a little boy, I was blessed to grow up in the small country of Austria, the land of “Silent Night, Holy Night” and of The Sound of Music. Christmas was truly a special time of the year, and many Christmases were in fact white. My sister and I would leave our wish list for the Christ child on our window sill the night before Christmas (we celebrated on Christmas Eve), and then, on Christmas Eve, behind closed doors, we heard our Christmas tree being set up and decorated by (we surmised) angels. Later that evening, we would enter our living room, and, lo and behold, find most of the presents we had wished for. What a joy for a child’s heart! Receiving presents! Little did it dawn on us that Christmas was not only a time to receive presents but, at least in the original instance, entailed a call to witness.

Chris Martin writes at his personal blog about three ways to encourage people in a world of negativity.

Perhaps what could set Christians apart most in this cultural moment isn’t a baptized belly-aching, but an atmosphere of encouragement. Everyone is angrily advocating for their value systems with every passing tragedy. What if we just took a break from that and tried to lift each other up? I don’t know. I’m just tired of being upset—sad, angry, or otherwise—and I would love to see a bit more positivity in general.

Here are three ways I try to encourage people from time to time. I value words of affirmation and encouragement, so I am most likely to do #1 below, but any of them (and more) are great. Maybe you need to encourage family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, cashiers, waiters, or others. Here are just a few general ways you can encourage people.

Spence Spencer recently published an article discussing the importance of amateur theologians.

There are two very important aspects of the Christian theological enterprise that need to maintained in order for the church to be (or become) healthy. First, there need to be professional theologians. Second, the discipline of theology needs to be accessible to amateur theologians.

The terms “professional” and “amateur” are intended to refer to more than the status of being paid for thinking and writing. It is certainly true that someone who is paid to think theologically and express those thoughts cogently (we hope) for others to read should be able to be more productive theologically and, perhaps, research and think more deeply. However, the bigger concern here is the training for becoming a theologian. The discipline of theology needs to be accessible to those that have the professional credentials (read advanced degrees) in the discipline and those that don’t.

Recently, a group of professional Catholic theologians got together to call on the New York Times to silence columnist Ross Douthat. It wasn’t just any Catholic theologians, it was a group of leading Catholic thinkers from Georgetown, Loyola, St. Thomas University, Yale, Harvard, Lasalle, and more. In other words, a pretty big group of well-credentialed theologians got together to call for the muzzling of one journalist.

 

In Case You Missed It

Yesterday, Jason Deusing shared this helpful post on his personal blog on how why and how he encourages his students to write and improve their writing. Dr. Deusing writes:

As I explain on the first day of class, one of the side effects of a journey with me as professor is that, whether one hopes for it or not, I use my courses to help improve writing skills. In the ministry assignments to which most of the students in my classes will go, the ability to communicate clearly their thoughts will prove crucial for their own efforts of building trust, strengthening relationships, resolving conflicts, organizing and casting visionary leadership, and, most importantly, communicating the gospel message well (Col 4:4). For those who find themselves set apart for the ministry of the Word in preaching, the ability to convey their message in written word only helps insure they will do even better verbally.

Spence Spencer recently published an article at the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics discussing C.S. Lewis and the surprising reason we desire fulfillment at work.

When Friday afternoon arrives, sometimes we feel the sense of elation that we will cast off the bonds of our vocational labors and embark on a journey of recreation and rest.

Too soon it seems that Monday morning is looming, and we are back in the harness again for another week of toil.

In the midst of this cycle, we feel a deep longing in our souls for meaning in our weekly work beyond our paycheck and the sometimes minor progress we see.

In The Weight of Glory, a sermon preached in the Oxford University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in 1941, C. S. Lewis describes some of that deep longing and offers hope for its fulfillment.

Gavin Ortlund posted at Desiring God discussing five ways to encourage your pastor (without exalting him).

Plenty have lamented the problem of “celebrity culture” in the church, and usually that phrase brings into our minds famous pastors and leaders in the church today. But “celebrity culture” can be an equal challenge for non-famous, local ministries — and some of its most insidious effects crop up there.

The dangers of “celebrity culture” lurk anytime pastors become isolated from the normal, mutual processes of accountability and encouragement in the body of Christ — anytime leadership is characterized by Hebrews 13:17 authority without Hebrews 3:13accountability:

  • Authority: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls.” (Hebrews 13:17)
  • Accountability: “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13)

How do we encourage both Hebrews 3 and Hebrews 13 dynamics in our church cultures? In other words, how do we affirm our pastors in their leadership over us without exalting them into some separate category above the sheep?

Who are the Millennials? Waylon Bailey discussed this at his blog recently.

Who are the Millennials, and what do we know about them?

The youngest adult generation in America is popularly known as the Millennials (some people call them Generation Y because the previous generation is known as Gen X).

The Millennial’s were born between 1980 and 2000. They are generally 15 to 35 years old. Other demographers would make them between the ages of 18 and 35.

What do we know about the Millennial’s? There are four very important benchmarks you need to know about the Millennial generation.

Earlier this week, Sam Storms posted a helpful blog entry discussing how forgetfulness is the fuel for idolatry.

“Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you” (Deut. 4:23).

Forgetfulness is the fuel for idolatry. Spiritual amnesia often leads to apostasy. This is the most important lesson for us in Deuteronomy 4:1-40. God’s concern is that his people might “forget the things” that they had seen and that the memory of their gracious deliverance might “depart” from their hearts. Thus we read here of the crucial importance of remembrance, of calling to mind again and again the history of God’s dealings with us and his faithfulness at every turn.