Sunday, January 31, 2010
Last night, I was preparing some things to say about the devastation in Haiti. I was planning on dealing with the issue of the sovereignty of God and the suffering of the people there. Then, this morning, my wife and I watched this special sermon from Mark Driscoll, and I've been left nearly speechless. I still have a lot of theological thoughts, but John Piper is right in saying that these are things we need to teach ourselves and others BEFORE the earthquake strikes. Now is a time for the Church to pastorally minister and to give. There may come a time where we can discuss suffering and the sovereignty of God, I just don't feel, after watching this video, that now is the time for me, personally, to tackle the issue.
A few days after the earthquake happened, Driscoll was in Haiti, seeing the state of the Haitian church, and honestly, after watching it, all I can say is that the Church universal needs to see this video.
I felt convicted about a dozen times during the course of watching and hearing the things that are happening there. The most convicting part of the video was when Driscoll encountered a pastor whose daughter had been badly injured. He waited in a makeshift tent while his daughter suffered for seven days (a cinderblock had fallen on her face), and all because he didn't have the $15 needed to take a cab to get medical assistance for her. For me, at this stage in life, $15 still feels like a lot of money. But we are so wealthy here in the United States that even meager giving on my part, I'm convinced, can do a lot of good. I hope that the events in Haiti will continue to receive the utmost giving and attention by the Church around the world.
I am convinced that because the Haitian government is all by non-existent, the people of Haiti will be looking to the Church to see how much we love Jesus, and we need to show it by our generosity. This has been a tremendously convicting time for me, and I hope that you will all take the time to watch Driscoll's sermon as he relates the 36 hours that he spent in Haiti.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?
Christopher Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.
I love it. Now, all Hitchens needs to do is change his entire worldview and become a Christian, then he can keep making good points like this one.
Friday, January 22, 2010
After having received an Amazon Kindle as my early birthday present, I quickly set to reading Ayn Rand's ubiquitous novel Atlas Shrugged, a book which I have been intimidated by for years, every time I walked past it in my high school library. While I don't plan on doing an in-depth review of this book, I have finished almost half of it and wanted to share a few thoughts.
I'm approaching the book with half-delight and half-dread. Here's what I'm excited about. I know that Rand was somewhat of an anarcho-capitalist, and I have long been drawn to the libertarian/anarchistic view of government espoused by the likes Mises and Rothbard.
I somewhat dreaded reading it, in part because of her atheistic views. Now, I'm not afraid that she'll make persuasive arguments for atheism, per se. Rather what I'm afraid is that she will present a compelling defense of laissez-faire capitalism, but that it will lean completely upon her atheistic presuppositions. That, and the book's just really long.
I can report, having made it to the halfway point of the book, that her defense of capitalism, while certainly consistent with her worldview of "man as a heroic being" does not, to my mind, suffer if one holds theistic presuppositions.
One thing which I have noticed is that Rand's concept of pleasure and delight in others has tended to make me a better worshipper of God. Here is what I mean by that. At one point, Rand describes two friends:
Francisco seemed to laugh at things because he saw something much greater. Jim laughed as if he wanted to let nothing remain great.
In another passage:
Of what account are praise and adulation from men whom you don't respect? Have you ever felt the longing for someone you could admire? For something, not to look down at, but up to?
In another location, a character remarks that
If ever the pleasure of one has to be bought by the pain of the other, there better be no trade at all. A trade by which one gains and the other loses is a fraud.
Now, certainly, a statement like this applies to economics and the "looters" as Rand calls those who favor redistribution of wealth (the Robin Hood mentality). In fact, that's what she's referring to, in the context of the book. But an absolute statement like this applies broadly to many things, and what I am thinking of in particular is the implications of a statement like this for worshipping God. If Rand is correct, and this principle may be applied broadly, then worship of God should not seem like a sacrifice. Rather, it should be a matter of the creature delighting in a being who is to be greatly admired. In Atlas Shrugged, it becomes quite apparent that the concept of admiration is very important. The characters of Dagney and Reardon, early on, consider one another the only people worth admiring, and it is quite apparent that both have been looking for someone worthy of their admiration. This leads to an intense romantic relationship, but one just wants to scream at the page, "Look even higher! There is an even more admirable person whose value is infinite! You will never run out of worship if the one you admire is infinitely worthy of that admiration, such as God is."
Really, the book has convinced me that Ayn Rand has had a profound influence upon John Piper's Christian Hedonism. Now, while he has certainly said as much in his own writings, I am almost tempted to argue that the influence of Rand is the thing which causes Piper to stand out most from the evangelical/Reformed preachers of our day. There are times in Atlas Shrugged when it almost feels like Piper is the one writing. The concept of worship and delight and admiration are so prevalent in both Piper and Rand that it seems beyond coincidental. While Piper normally points to the Apostle Paul, Jonathan Edwards, and C.S. Lewis as having the greatest influence on his Christian Hedonism, it's almost as if he's embarrassed to include (perhaps justifiably) Rand in his list.
The other side of this coin is that the overlapping areas of Rand, Edwards, Lewis, and Piper demonstrate, I think, that even in the musings of an atheistic philosopher who would most certainly repudiate the worldviews of these Christian thinkers, there is nevertheless a fascinating similarity. The desire to worship God is a universal desire and in my opinion, Rand is simply giving voice to this human need while at the same time "suppressing the truth in unrighteousness." She has taken this desire to worship the greater and most admirable and cut the possibility of God (the greatest and most admirable of all beings) out of the running. When you do that, the only thing you have left to worship with any admirable qualities is a human. In fact, Rand's views of gender roles echo this:
the essence of femininity is hero worship — the desire to look up to man...an ideal woman is a man-worshipper, and an ideal man is the highest symbol of mankind.
I could share more, but I'm only half done with the book. I'll share more, later. By the way, I know that there are like, scholars who spend their whole life studying Ayn Rand, and for my own sake I hope none of them read this, because they'll probably tell me I have no idea what I'm talking about.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
For other shows go to King and Servant
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Imagine a modest-sized Roman home of a well-to-do Christian household wedged into a thickly settled quarter of Corinth. In the lingering light of a summer evening, men, women and children, merchants, working poor and slaves, a mix of races and backgrounds have assembled in the dimly lit main room are are spilling into the central courtyard. This odd assortment of gathered believers--some thirty in number--are attentive as the newly arrived and travel-weary emissary from Paul reads from the papyrus scroll he has brought from their apostolic mentor.
But if you were to be transported to this scene you would perhaps be overwhelmed by a flood of unexpected difference. The voice of the reader recedes as through open windows the din and clamor of the city assault your ears. Hooves clunk and cart wheels grind and echo from the street while drivers shout, vendors call and neighbors gather and converse. And later, as you accompany a family through darkened and dangerous streets to their third-story tenement apartment, you might try to mask your shock at the cramped and unsafe conditions.
In The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era James Jeffers provides an informative and scenic tour of daily life during the time of Jesus and the apostles. He affords "you-are-there" glimpses of everything from legal codes to dinner foods, from social hierarchy to apartment living, from education to family dynamics. His eye-opening book will advance your understanding of the New Testament and early Christianity and enrich your reading and application of the Bible.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
We are so fortunate that Pat Robertson is continually receiving revelation from God. If it weren't for Pat's almost-super-secret link with the Almighty, we would have all simply believed this to be a terrible act of God's "frowning providence." But now, because the whole nation of Haiti apparently got together, slit their wrists in unison, and swore a big fat national pact with the devil, God waited two hundred and twenty years and then, because he all of a sudden remembered that voodoo pact that those evil Hatians' great-great-great grandparents made, He decided to level the entire country in an act of judgment.
How about this instead:
Pat Robertson is committing a most egregious sin by presuming to speak for Almighty God, most Holy Creator of heaven and earth. Instead of telling the world why Haiti is guilty, maybe he should focus on putting his own house in order.
Whether it's predicting that the end of the world would happen in 1982, predicting a massive terror attack to happen in 2007 (he conveniently claimed credit for averting it), or calling for the assassination of a world leader whose politics Robertson disagrees with, Pat Robertson has continually embarassed himself and, in my opinion, the faith he claims to speak for with his mindless and foolish prediction/finger pointing. To my mind, this is Pat Robertson's only function to society: every time a disaster strikes, he quickly moves in to make a political condemnation of the people upon whom the disaster fell.
*In light of the fact that some people have difficulty seeing sarcasm when it is in the printed form, let me assure everyone that my first paragraph is ENTIRELY sarcastic.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Granville Sharps Canon and Its Kin explains that the semantics of the article-substantive-KAI-substantive construction (TSKS) have been largely misunderstood and that this misunderstanding has adversely impacted the exegesis of several theologically significant texts. This issue is addressed from three angles: historical investigation, linguistic-phenomenological analysis of the construction, and exegetical implications. The reasons for the misunderstanding are traced historically; a better comprehension of the semantics of the construction is established by an examination of primary literature in the light of linguistic theory; and the implications of this analysis are applied to a number of passages in the New Testament.
Historically, the treatment begins with a clear grammatical principle articulated by Granville Sharp, and it ends with the present-day confusion. This book includes a detailed examination of the New Testament data and other Ancient Greek literature, which reveals that Sharps rule has a general validity in the language. Lastly, a number of exegetically significant texts that are affected by the linguistic-phenomenological investigation are discussed in detail. This enlightening text is a valuable resource for undergraduate and graduate students of religion, linguistics, history, and Greek.
Con Campbell, in his latest blog post, says the following about this new book.
It is rare to be invited to review a book that is both a landmark and robust to the point of seeming virtually irrefutable. It is a landmark book because it has in my opinion put to rest the debate about Sharp’s rule, and has shown that it is of enormous importance both to Greek syntax and to theological exegesis of the New Testament. Truly, the humble Greek article reaches the heights of the deity of Christ! The book is robust in that it is difficult to imagine its key conclusions being overturned any time soon, if ever. If such claims appear grandiose, the following is more so: this book will stand the test of time as one of the best contributions to Greek syntax of the twentyfirst century. Dr Wallace is to be congratulated, and all serious students of the Greek New Testament should read his book, and will do so to great profit.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Language is not only the centerpiece of our everyday lives, but it gives significance to all that we do. It also reflects and reveals our all-sustaining Creator, whose providential governance extends to the intricacies of language. Writes Vern Poythress, "God controls and specifies the meaning of each word-not only in English but in Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Italian, and every other language. When, in our modernism or postmodernism, we drop him from our account of language, our words suddenly become a prison that keeps us from the truth rather than opening doors to the truth. But we will use our words more wisely if we come to know God and understand him in relation to our language."
It is such biblically informed insights that make In the Beginning Was the Word especially valuable. Words are important to us all, and this book-written at a level that presupposes no knowledge of linguistics-develops a positive, God-centered view of language. In his interaction with multiple disciplines Poythress offers plenty of application, not just for scholars and church leaders but for any Christian thinking carefully about his speech.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Sex. Race. Scripture. Sovereignty. The book of Ruth entails them all. So readers shouldn't be fooled by its age, says Pastor John Piper. Though its events happened over 3,000 years ago, the story holds astounding relevance for Christians in the twenty-first century.
The sovereignty of God, the sexual nature of humanity, and the gospel of God's mercy for the undeserving-these massive realities never change. And since God is still sovereign, and we are male or female, and Jesus is alive and powerful, A Sweet and Bitter Providence bears a message for readers from all walks of life. But be warned, Piper tells his audience: This ancient love affair between Boaz and Ruth could be dangerous, inspiring all of us to great risks in the cause of love.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Ricky Gervais (you might know him as the boss from the UK version of The Office) plays Mark Bellison - the world's first liar. After evolving the ability to say something that "isn't," he realizes that he can create the world he wants for himself thanks to gullible humanity, who have yet to evolve the need to detect a liar. His lies range from the mundane ("My name is Doug") to the audacious ("I'm an Eskimo"). What caught my attention, however, and prompted me to write about the movie here is a rather large "lie" which Mark tells to his mother on her deathbed.
Facing an "eternity of nothingness" and nihilism, his mother expresses her fear of an empty afterlife. Quickly, Mark makes up a fabulous lie. He tells her that she's wrong about what happens when you die. He tells her that where she is about to go, she will see family who have passed on, and there won't be any pain or sadness. He tells her that there will be only love and happiness and that everyone gets a mansion and gets to be young again.
After his mother dies, the doctors beg Mark to tell them more about what happens when they die. "I get to see my mother again!" remarks one of the nurses. Soon, Mark has a following, and all of humanity want him to explain metaphysics, theology, and the afterlife to them. Eventually, Mark has to explain a whole system of who God is ("There's a man in the sky who controls everything") and what sends a person to "the bad place," ("Three awful crimes like rape or murder"). Mark Bellison also apparently favors a quasi-Calvinistic God who "decides who goes to the good place and who goes to the bad place; he also decides who lives and who dies." He explains that this man in the sky causes all natural disasters and all sicknesses. The people react with violent anger: one man screams out, "I say [expletive] the man that lives in the sky!" A woman says, "We need to stop that evil [expletive] before he kills us all!" (We certainly get a taste of what the natural man thinks of a sovereign God now, don't we?)
He then goes on to explain that the man in the sky is also responsible for all the good things that happen to us, as well. The people conclude, then, from Mark's "revelation" to them that life is "kind of a test." A montage of hilarious newspaper headlines then follow: "FINALLY - A Reason to be Good," "Man in Sky Continues to Give AIDS to Babies," "Man in Sky Murders Forty Thousand With Tsunami," and my personal favorite, "Man in Sky Allows Woman to Live to 104 Years."
My first reaction to the film was outrage at the film's blasphemous concept. I mean, clearly the film is presenting God as a fiction which is only made up by liars. I stewed about it for a couple of days, but then something occurred to me. The film is blatantly telling us something about the writers of the film: they don't believe that God is real. That's obvious. But it tells us something even more important about the atheistic worldview. By the film's own admission, the atheistic worldview is inadequate to address the true needs of humanity. Give the atheistic worldview, according to the film, people have no reason to be good. Given the atheistic worldview, according to the film, people have no satisfying way of bravely facing death.
I would have preferred that the filmmakers had steered away from doing religious satire altogether, but there are definitely layers on this onion that can be peeled back. What one finds is the subjective truth that the filmmakers are biased against God, but one also finds the objective truth about humanity that they need God in order to be full, good, and complete persons.
Also, I couldn't help but laugh, wondering how many arminians in the theatre got mad at the man in the sky when they found out that he controls everything. Oh, how I laughed. Like I said, you've never seen a film like it before.