Category Archives: Discernment/Wisdom

WHAT WHITE CHRISTIANS CAN/SHOULD DO

I am sixty-two years old. I am white. I was not responsible for either of these two things, but I am responsible for many other things.

A good friend asked me what we as Christians in the majority culture here in America can do with respect to the racial crisis. There are many things, but here are a few in no particular order, except for the last which is of first importance.

*We Christians need to stop being so consumed and/or afraid with how terrible we believe America is at this point in its history. Instead, we should spend our time making sure we are clear on all of God’s truth, compassionate to every person, and courageous even if it is costly. This will keep us Christians plenty occupied. It is animated by the reality that “judgment starts with the household of God.” (I Peter 4:17)

*It is great to have African American friends, but you will not have much to offer any friend if you are not grounded theologically. I used to give disclaimers whenever trying to promote the study of theology for all Christians. No longer. Knowing what and why you believe the Christian faith to be true is the most practical pursuit of life. This leads to my next thought.

*If you unable to give compelling reasons for why the trinity has much to offer not just with the racial conflict in America, but with many other pressing matters, please study up before you go out representing what Christians believe. The unity and diversity of the trinity has far-reaching implications for all sorts of things. Again, get studying if you can’t articulate in compelling and clear language all that the trinity (and other Christian beliefs) has to offer.

I have asked several Christians why the trinity is compelling including a Dallas Seminary trained pastor. Except for my wife and a handful of others, I typically do not receive a great response. Most Christians sign their church’s doctrinal statement with a thin understanding of what they are agreeing to. I concur with J.I. Packer that the most pressing issue for the church is robust education. Again, no apologies.

*We must make concerted efforts to get out of our echo chambers. Most of us live in some sort of echo chamber. In addition, we should avail ourselves of theological education that is increasingly aware of two thousand years of Christian reflection not just what happened after the Protestant Reformation. All the major Protestant Reformers would agree with me on this!

*There is a good chance many of us have significant homework to do. Homework is another word I used to apologize for when talking with adults! To quote President Bush #41 “Not going to do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.”

If you have not read it, begin with reading Narrative of a Slave by Frederick Douglass. There are many more things I would add, but that is a good place to start.

*Be aware of false dichotomies. Believing that people need to trust Jesus as Savior is not at odds nor diminished by acknowledging “structures of evil” or “institutional racism.” Or “white privilege.” If we want to be biblical, we will need to juggle many truths at the same time.

We Americans do not tend to be the most thoughtful people. The great observer of American life, Alexis de Tocqueville, appreciated several things about America. However, he saw the problem of superficial thinking in our country almost two hundred years ago. American Christians are not immune from the tendency to emphasize one (many times valid) truth at the expense of other truths.

*Last, but obviously most important, we will need God to convict, direct, and motivate us to do these things, things many of our fellow Christians either denigrate or worse still, do not think about at all.

I am grateful to my friend, Dr Vince Bacote of Wheaton College, for his input on this post. As it is always said at such points, but with good reason, I alone am responsible for the content. I am glad that Vince agreed that what I wrote should be “common sense” among Christians. Sadly, foundational truths should not be assumed in our day and age.

 

 

                                                                                                                                   

MUCH FOOD FOR THOUGHT!

Apologies for the script below, but what insight!  HT: Alan Jacobs
The loss of Roger Scruton, who recently died at the age of 75, is a grievous one for us all, whether we know it or not. Outside of conservative circles, Scruton is known mainly for his critiques, but critique wasn’t what he excelled at. His special gift was for celebration and praise. My friend and colleague David Corey pointed me to Scruton’s late book on Wagner’s Ring tetralogy, which I have devoured over the past few days. Scruton loved Wagner and was indeed something of a philosophical Wagnerian, and in this book he makes an extraordinarily eloquent case for Wagner’s account of human psychology and society. I don’t accept the case, but I admire the cogency with which Scruton makes it. Along the way he offers us many set-pieces on a wide range of subjects. Here’s one:
Erotic love, in its true inter-personal form, does not belong in the world of contracts and deals. Its foundation is not a contract but a vow. Contracts have terms, and when the terms are fulfilled they are at an end. Vows do not have terms, and cannot be undone by any calculation. The unity created by them is, as Hegel put it (in his discussion of marriage), a ‘substantial unity’: not a unity of purpose or place or pleasure but a unity of being. Lovers dedicate themselves to each other, and it is in part for this reason that they are so much at risk: to place a commission in another’s hands is to risk something; to place yourself in another’s hands is to risk everything. […]
In the world that we know today sex is widely viewed as a commodity, and the act of love as a ‘transaction’ involving pleasure in the sexual parts – a matter of desire and satisfaction, rather than existential commitment. We find this view already in Freud’s Three Essays on Sexuality, and shaped as orthodoxy in the writings of Alfred Kinsey. It is embodied in a certain kind of sex-education, which seeks to relieve young people of the burden of shame and guilt, and to open the path to pleasure. If this view of sex were correct then the outrage of rape would be impossible to explain. Rape would be just as bad as being spat upon: but hardly worse. The fact that, in almost all criminal codes, rape is next to murder in the hierarchy of offences, would be a mystery, a hangover from superstitions that humanity is on the way to discarding. And the trivializing of rape is what we find in a world where women are seen as instruments of pleasure, sexual ‘objects’ from which the subjective essence has been wiped away.

ON THE ROAD WITH SAINT AUGUSTINE

In lieu of a typical book review, as is my habit from time to time, allow me to mention half a dozen things I greatly appreciated about this book.  It will definitely make the list for my “Favorite Books of the Year.”

This is the seventh book I’ve read by Smith.  All of them made me think in fresh and provocative ways.  How (Not) to be Secular was my favorite. It now comes in a close second to Smith’s latest.  On the Road with Saint Augustine is now my favorite.  

So here are a half dozen things I appreciated about this book:

*There is elegant writing combined with keen insights.  It is no surprise that On the Road with Saint Augustine received a coveted starred review by Publishers Weekly.

*It makes a compelling case for why Augustine is the ideal travel partner as we make our way through life.  For me, both Augustine and Bunyan (there are others) have been indispenable to have as my vagabond friends.

*There is a thick realism in this book (take note Joel Osteen), but Smith always keeps this tethered to a compelling hope.

*Smith has a good nose for the telling quote or captivating illustration.  HIs wide-reading across various disciplines showcases the brilliance of Augustine.

*In my own teaching, and especially in my ministry of discipleship with men, this is the kind of book that I can use as a gateway of sorts to the riches of Christian history.

*I’ve always found that great books help me clarify important issues.  My marginalia reflects this reality in On the Road with Saint Augustine.  For example, in the chapter on friendship, Smith’s interaction with Heidegger resulted in my marginal comment of “Molds are everywhere, so it is impossible to break out of every single mold.”  In other words, autonomous individuals don’t exist because they can’t exist.

Whenever the time comes that sales begin to dwindle for this book, I would recommend Brazos making booklets out of some chapters.  For example, the chapter on freedom is one I would love to give to any thoughtful person, irrespective of whether they are a Christian. 

 

DEAR PASTOR JOHN MACARTHUR

I imagine many of you are aware of the recent unpleasantries (yes, a mild word!) between Beth Moore and John MacArthur.  I thought you might find my letter to Pastor MacArthur of interest:

Dear Pastor MacArthur,

I heard you preach in person right after Christmas 1977. I was with fifteen friends. We were on our way to a Campus Crusade for Christ conference in southern California. I was a young convert to Christianity. Your message clarified that my faith in Christ was real. Thank you!

In my twenties and early thirties, I was the director of Campus Crusade for Christ at Stanford University. I went through some deep waters of doubt during that time. During one of my lowest moments I heard you deliver a message over the airwaves. It was a great encouragement to me. I wrote you a letter saying so. To my surprise, you wrote back…a personal letter. I still have that letter. Thank you!

In my late thirties and early forties, I had a radio show here in Austin. Most of the time I interviewed authors and leaders of various backgrounds. You were one of my guests and stayed for the entire hour. That alone is quite a commitment, but my show was on Saturday afternoons. Since Sunday is a big day of ministry for you, I was impressed you would give me the entire hour. Thank you!

Most recently, I met one of your sons. Business brought him to Austin. We had breakfast together. I couldn’t believe how much he looks like you! I thought I was looking at the man I heard preach when I was that three-month old Christian. Your son said you are the real deal: a great dad who is uncomfortable with the praise of men. I was tremendously encouraged to hear all that. Thank you!

My own convictions about men and women in the home fall roughly in the complementarian camp, though I might be one of the “softer” types that seems to be a non-category for you. I won’t get into the hermeneutical weeds on that issue because this a short letter not a theological treatise.

I humbly ask you to reconsider the tone of what you said about Beth Moore. For the record, I’ve had my own concerns about her teaching as well. However, your tone came across dismissive and condescending. At the very least, it seems one of you should have mentioned to the chortles of the crowd that this was no laughing matter. Instead, it seemed that you, Todd Friel, and Phil Johnson had no problem with the loud laughter of those gathered that day.

I am now sixty-one and the beneficiary of over forty years of your ministry. From listening to you over the years, I have every confidence that you will seriously consider what I say in light of Scripture. Thank you!

In Christ,

David (George) Moore

STEPPING INTO CONTROVERSY INVITATION

Here’s the official announcement from Hill House.  And yes, the meals are free!
2104 Nueces Street (Austin, Texas)
Garage parking available across the street and parking can also be found on the street
Simply RSVP to me here.
Starting Wednesday, June 5
and running through Wednesday, July 17 
from 6-8 pm we will be hosting a weekly dinner and study at Hill House
taught by Dave Moore.    
Students and non students alike are welcome to attend. 

STEPPING INTO CONTROVERSY…WITH COURAGE AND CHRIST-LIKE CHARACTER

IS IT POSSIBLE IN OUR DIVISIVE AND TURBULENT TIME?

Taught by Dave Moore

Imagine that you are at your favorite coffee shop.  Everything about the place is great, except the tables are a bit too close to one another.   This, of course, makes it difficult to avoid eavesdropping.  Your reading tends to zone you out from the conversations of others, but not on this day.  To your utter amazement you listen in on a conversation between an ardent Trump supporter and one who gladly voted for Hillary Clinton.  It is not the various arguments that are being mustered for one candidate over the other that intrigues you.  Rather, it is the evident respect each person has for the other even while articulating their significant disagreements. 

It is hard to go back to your reading for the day.  You become preoccupied with why the kind of exchange you just heard is as rare as it is refreshing…even in your local church.

For seven weeks we will discuss several areas that can hurt or help us as we discuss controversial subjects.  A sampling of these include:

*Taking honest inventory of our own failure to be prepared and/or interact with grace

*The need to slow down and pay more careful attention to the definition of words

*Diagnosing how much of an echo chamber we live in

*The need to read and listen to those who make us angry…and to pay close attention to what our “opponents” can teach us

*Why the focus must be on our own challenges rather than being frustrated with those we disagree with

We will also be looking various points raised in How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs.  Copies will be available. 

THE BED OF PROCRUSTES

From Amazon:
The Bed of Procrustes takes its title from Greek mythology: the story of a man who made his visitors fit his bed to perfection by either stretching them or cutting their limbs. It represents Taleb’s view of modern civilization’s hubristic side effects—modifying humans to satisfy technology, blaming reality for not fitting economic models, inventing diseases to sell drugs, defining intelligence as what can be tested in a classroom, and convincing people that employment is not slavery.
From Me:
Insightful
Entertaining
Overstated
Lots to ponder
Some to dismiss
Glad I read