Tuesday, September 30, 2014

 

Growth From Weakness

John Piper says "Don't Waste Your Weakness":
In 2014, I encourage you to identify and exploit your weaknesses for the glory of Christ.
He then goes on to discuss Paul's "thorn in the flesh" passage.

I think Piper has a point, but he also misses the big point. Weakness is in large part about learning there are things we cannot control. Exploitation is all about taking control. Thus "exploiting a weakness" is in some sense oxymoronic. The only way we can really deal with out weaknesses is to lay them at Christ's feet and ask Him to exploit them for us. In the end that is not much of a strategy.

I agree that our weaknesses is one of the things that God uses to help us achieve greater maturity, but I am not at all sure they are exploitable for that end. That does not mean we give into them. Rather it means we give them up.


 

Kitty Kartoons


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Monday, September 29, 2014

 

Are We Odd?

Justin Taylor quotes A.W. Tozier:
A real Christian is an odd number, anyway.

He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen;

talks familiarly everyday to someone he cannot see;

expects to go to heaven on the virtue of another;

empties himself in order to be full;

admits he is wrong so he can be declared right;...
Ron Edmondson lists "9 Great Ways to Be Extremely Strange" and then goes on to list the Fruits of the Spirit.

All of that seems pretty true and right to me. So why do we struggle so hard to culturally relevant? Isn't such the exact opposite of "strange" and "odd"? Just sayin'


Saturday, September 27, 2014

 

Comic Art

ICONIC COVERS - Marvel Premiere #1


This one may be iconic only to me, but when I bought it originally (and the comic is still in my collection) it changed something for me and comics. Adam Warlock now features most prominently in the numerous "Infinity Gauntlet" miniseries that have erupted and they are some of the best comics of the modern era. Enjoy.


Friday, September 26, 2014

 

What To Believe About Yourself

Ron Edmondson lists "7 Lies We Believe As Pastors":
Christian leadership is a tricky paradigm. It's really not different from good secular leadership save for the fact that as Christians we cannot pretend we are actually in charge - humility demands that we not. Leading people is more art than science. I think that people who are intellectually inclined to a profession like ministry, who love to study and read and deal with things is a logical and organized fashion are going to be naturally bad at leadership because people simply are not logical and organized.

I think that when well done, that leads to greater dependence on the Lord when we find ourselves in leadership situations. But too often when let our pride get in the way. Either that or we get worried about our paychecks.

I know that the best things I have done have been when I either knew because of the enormity of the project that I could not begin to get a hold of it all, or when something went haywire midstream and I was forced to let go. God has a way of making things work.


 

Illuminated Scripture


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Thursday, September 25, 2014

 

Being Critical

Ron Edmondson:
As I see it, we often confuse critical thinking with negativity. I realize some people don’t know how to think critically without being negative, and some people can never celebrate the moment, but because of that, we often think of the word criticism and automatically take it personal. We develop turf wars over our areas. Fear keeps us from being open to critique. Critical thinking, however, when used correctly, is an effort to think towards making things better for the good of the organization and everyone on the team, not attacking a particular person or program.
He's right, but this is a problem that is far deeper than merely taking things too personally. We no longer teach people how to think in our schools or even in Christian education - we teach them how to have an opinion and express it, we teach them how to express their feelings, but to form an argument or break down a problem - not hardly.

We teach that faith is a matter of personal feeling - not a matter of rationality.

Students are no longer taught to criticize, they are taught to deconstruct.

If we cannot be objective about things outside of ourselves, learning to be objective about ourselves is virtually impossible.

That might even include objectivity about our sinful state.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

 

The Place of Theology

This piece by Dale Coulter is tough sledding. It is mostly a defense on the Wesleyan tradtions in what he views as an onslaught from the Reformed tradition:
In 2005 Christian Smith and Melinda Denton published a study of American teenagers in which they offered a “conjecture” that the dominant religion among adolescents was “moralistic therapeutic deism” (MTD). Suggesting that the MTD creed was operative among mainline and evangelical Protestants as well as Catholics, they reduced it to three basic claims: 1) being a good and moral person is central to a happy life; 2) religion is mainly concerned with feeling good, happiness, or being at peace with oneself and thus has therapeutic benefits; 3) God establishes a moral order for the universe and intervenes to take care of human needs.

This study launched a small publishing enterprise in which evangelical writers employed MTD to critique evangelicalism. The criticisms came especially from the Reformed branch of evangelicalism with Michael Horton , Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears , and others using MTD to talk about “Christless Christianity,” or writers like Collin Hansen employing it as a descriptor in his journey from Methodism to Calvinism.

[...]

I know that I’m getting into the weeds a little here, but my larger point is that there is a tradition of therapeutic Christianity that some versions of Reformed Christianity tend to equate with semi-Pelagianism, Gnosticism, or some modern spirituality because it does not fit with a strong equation of the gospel and justification by faith alone. Smith’s and Denton’s use of MTD to describe the modern adolescent approach to religion merely complicates any discussion of this historic tradition of a therapy of the soul. Wesleyans should resist the tendency of certain Reformed theologians to see the Wesleyan vision of Christianity, whether in its Methodist, Holiness, or Pentecostal versions, as part of the problem rather than an important contribution to the solution.
I'll but that but only to a point - the "don't throw out the baby with the bathwater" point. All traditions have something good to offer and we sold seek what is best from them. But we should also not overplay our hands. Coming from and being firmly rooted in the Reformed tradition, I do not doubt the contributions of the Wesleyan traditions, nor do I have a problem with acknowledging the shortcomings of my own.

None of Coulter's discussion acknowledges the fact that the MTD trend is real. I for one do not want to blame Wesleyans and I have one heck of a problems with a good bit of Pentecostalism - but that;s not the point. The problem is real and maybe, just maybe the solutions to the problem lie in the Reformed, or even the Lutheran or Catholic traditions. We have to have enough humility about ourselves and our theology to look at things honestly. Why do we try to defend systematic systems when we have a real problem and the solution might just lie in a synthesis of the systems. There is a bit of mental masturbation going on here.

We're sinners and nothing we can conceiove of will capture the whole truth. Get over it and deal with the issues.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

 

Capturing Culture

The Jesuit Post looks at the decline of "Catholic Literary Culture." It's an interview with Dana Gioia who says:
There is no single cause for the decline of Catholic literary culture. The reason my essay was so long was that the situation is complicated. The decline resulted from half a dozen converging trends– both inside and outside the Church. Internally, there was the assimilation of educated Catholics into secular society, the lack of support for the arts by the Church, the confusion in the Catholic community following Vatican II, the decline of interest in culture by the Catholic media as it became increasingly obsessed by politics, and the failure of Catholic universities to celebrate and champion our literary heritage. These trends occurred as American intellectual life first grew more secular and then turned increasingly anti-Christian. Meanwhile in the broader society there was the steady erosion of print culture—the magazines, newspapers, and publishers which had traditionally supported serious writers. This erosion probably affected Catholic writers disproportionately since they appeared to be out of sync with both the cultural and commercial mainstream.
There is really two halves to that paragraph - the first part is church failings and the second is changes in the publishing industry. The second half is happening in the publishing industry generally and it is simply time to adapt - for everybody that wants to write. The first half is a different story.

Gioia succinctly captures what I would call "the evangelicalization" of the Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic church is too large and too diverse to ever go full on Evangelical, but what Gioia is describing is the church, especially in America, moving in the direction of Evangelicalism. It is a reasonable description of all the problems that plague Evangelicalism writ small. Simply put, the focus is entirely too narrow to every have a hope of capturing culture.

I find is fascinating that the as the government pushed increasingly to reduce religion to a Sunday only thing, we have aided and abetted that effort. We focus on Sunday services at the exclusion of all else. We no longer have a church culture - we just have the church show that people can attend.

I worry that as society secularizes we will not have a sub-culture to retreat into - we will only have a show to watch.


 

Kitty Kartoons


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