Category Archives: Christianity

BIBLICAL AND HISTORICAL IGNORANCE

Alan Jacobs And Marilynne Robinson’s Faith

My own reflection on this important piece by Alan Jacobs:

For many years, I’ve tried to address the problem through teaching the Bible and theology. I still do so, but I am now convinced that though biblical/theological illiteracy is still a big problem with so-called evangelicals, historical ignorance is equally eating our lunch.

SECULAR, STOIC, OR SCRIPTURE ON DEATH?

I read things on a regular basis that trumpet the glories of the Stoic way of life.  It got me thinking about three options when it comes to death:

SECULAR folks think death is something we should not think of.  We need to get distracted with lesser things.  Ernest Becker talked about these things in his Pulitzer winning book, The Denial of Death.

STOICS say we ought to face death bravely as it is so “natural.”  Everyone has to experience it.  Hunker down and face the music.  Stop complaining you weak-willed soul!

SCRIPTURE tells us that death is our final enemy (I Cor. 15:26).  Satan uses death to terrorize us (Heb. 2:14,15).  Christ says he has abolished death (II Tim. 1:10).  We long for eternity (Ecc. 3:11).  Death is not the way it was suppose to be.  We can face it (contra the SECULARIST), but we don’t face it in our own strength (contra the STOIC). 

 

CHRISTIANITY AT THE CROSSROADS

What do the second and twenty-first centuries have in common?

Quite a bit, it turns out.

The second century was a time when Christianity was challenged by many philosophies and religions.  Because of this volatility, Michael Kruger, in his wonderfully conceived overview of the second century, convincingly shows that it has much to say to our own situation today.

Kruger’s book fits a huge need as the second century has been largely ignored. 

Among other things, this was the time when key defenders of the Christian faith arose to give articulate and persuasive arguments.

Kruger’s book also does a terrific job of showing that the canon was largely determined far in advance of Nicea.

Kruger is thorough without being pedantic.  He is a skillful scholar who knows how to write clearly.

TRAGIC EQUATION…OF AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY

Image result for Bored at church

When I used to teach at a Christian, high school, I put the following equation on the blackboard during the first day of class.  I called it “The Tragic Equation of American Christianity.”  It does not just hold true for high school students!

In big, bold letters I wrote A+B+C+D=E.

I told the students that each letter represented a word.  At first, they were quiet and reluctant to guess.  I helped them with A which stands for anger.  For B or boredom, a student guessed correctly.  When that happened, the proverbial dam broke.  These students definitely resonated with my equation. 

The rest of equation looks like this: Anger+Boredom+Cynicism+Disillusionment=Empty

I’ve been spending some focused time as of late pondering why so many Christians resonate with this equation.  I regularly have conversations with Christians who candidly admit to things like disillusionment and boredom.  For the most extreme, we have the new moniker of Dones, those who are “done” identifying with a church, yet still self-consciously holding on to Christian beliefs.

I had lunch with a friend last week where we talked a bit about why many church attenders simply want some inspiration for their week, but are apathetic about engaging with God’s Word and uninterested in His mission.  Among other things, these folks don’t appreciate how much they are missing out.  It is a great joy to see your feeble, fallen self used by God for His glory.

I interact with many Christians who have little curiosity about growing in their understanding of the Christian faith.  There’s really no need because they are not involved in ministries that require resources beyond their natural abilities.  They are plenty capable of living their lives in their own strength, or so it seems for now.

Most reflections later…

 

THE NEW COPERNICANS

BRILLIANT DESCRIPTION, TROUBLING PRESCRIPTION

I’ve read two of Seel’s other books. He is an insightful thinker and clear writer. He has much to offer.

I looked forward to reading The New Copernicans. I’m sorry to say it is not a book I can recommend. Here’s a few reasons why:

*The New Copernicans (roughly the millennial generation) are the ones that the church must now listen to. Though I resonate with some of the concerns The New Copernicans (hereafter TNC) have with American evangelicalism, I have my disagreements as well…at least with the stereotyped view of them that Seel offers.

The problem is that TNC have much to learn from other aged believers in the church as well. Seel says that older Christians may help TNC love the church again, but that is about the only positive contribution that is mentioned.

*Every age sees things others don’t, but they also miss critical matters. Seel seems to think the former is all that is relevant with TNC.

*When Seel speaks of TNC he speaks in broad or monolithic categories. Some millennials are in fact very interested in doctrinal fidelity and the Bible being upheld, things that Seel never entertains as possibilities. We are simply told in sweeping generalities that TNC are characterized by things such as a desire for experiences and are critical towards those who judge others.

*The old error that description does not equal prescription is an error that Seel seems to fall into throughout his book. Seel offers terrific descriptions of our cultural change and what TNC desire, but never questions whether they are wrong.

*I was hoping Seel would offer exemplars of an older generation who seem to be sensitive to TNC while maintaining a commitment to orthodoxy. Instead, folks like Rachel Held Evans, Peter Enns, and Frank Schaeffer are featured. I wonder how Seel would rate Scot McKnight, N.T. Wright (he does approvingly quote him), and Eugene Peterson, to name a few.

As one who has read most of the conversation partners Seel holds up (Charles Taylor, James K.A. Smith, and Lesslie Newbigin), I am sad to say that The New Copernicans was not the book I was hoping for.

 

DISRUPTIVE WITNESS: SPEAKING TRUTH IN A DISTRACTED AGE

Seven things I appreciated about Disruptive Witness by Alan Noble:

The writing is lucid and compelling

Terrific illustrations are peppered throughout

Teases out some practical implications from the writings of Charles Taylor

Focuses on major issues all Christians should agree upon

Good unpacking of how lethal distraction and the never-ending choices are in the modern era

Noble has a gracious, but candid style…not an easy combo!

Noble does not just complain, but offers some practical suggestions for us to adopt

Quote to consider: “The challenge for Christians in our time is to speak of the gospel in a way that unsettles listeners, that conveys the transcendence of God, that provokes contemplation and reflection, and that reveals the stark givenness of reality.”