Monthly Archives: July 2013




As I mentioned this past Friday in a post called “Atheism is Good for Christians,” there are things to learn from those who don’t believe in God.  And those things can be insightful and helpful in our relationship with God.  

I read a terrific piece on great books being published this year which led off with some very important words by Nietzsche.  Before you read it, think of how many times you criticized some author without having read them.  Also, consider how many times slow, meditative thinking seemed impractical, a veritable waste of time.  Last, note in the second paragraph of the Nietzsche quote how we Americans are so frantic that the almost equally frantic pace of Eurpopeans looks slow by comparison.  And by all means, get off the train!

In Human, All Too Human, Friedrich Nietzsche lamented, “Because there is no time for thinking, and no rest in thinking, we no longer weigh divergent views; we are content to hate them. With the tremendous acceleration of life, we grow accustomed to using our mind and eye for seeing and judging incompletely or incorrectly, and all men are like travelers who get to a land and its people from the train.” 

“The farther West one goes, the greater modern agitation becomes; so that to Americans the inhabitants of Europe appear on the whole to be peace-loving, contented beings, while in fact they too fly about pell-mell, like bees and wasps. This agitation is becoming so great that the higher culture can no longer allow its fruits to ripen; it is as if the seasons were following too quickly on one another. From lack of rest, our civilization is ending in a new barbarism. Never have the active, which is to say the restless, people been prized more. Therefore, one of the necessary correctives that must be applied to the character of humanity is a massive strengthening of the contemplative element. And every individual who is calm and steady in his heart and head, already has the right to believe that he possesses not only a good temperament, but also a generally useful virtue, and that in preserving this virtue, he is even fulfilling a higher duty.”

For those who are interested, Christopher Benson’s thoughtful reflections on important, new books, can be found at:


Atheism can help us Christians in many ways.  Christian philosopher, Merold Westphal, wrote a terrific piece called “Atheism for Lent.”  In it, he mentions how Marx, Nietzsche, and even Freud can help us better reflect the humility Scripture so regularly encourages.  Even though it is not Lent, these insights are valuable to consider any time of the year!


File:WilliamJames JosiahRoyce ca1910 Harvard.png

For those so interested, here is a fascinating and important essay on “pragmatism.”  Pragmatism has many varieties and is easily misunderstood.  It does pose a challenge to the Christian faith or to anything that purports to have a fixed truth.  As Walter Lippmann said, “…our primary care must be to keep the habits of mind flexible and adapted to the movement of real life…”  In other words, there are no fixed rules or beliefs.

William James, the good looking fella on the left, is the focus of this piece:






A few preliminary matters…

Wayne Grudem approached me in 1992 to be the first director of what has now become the “Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.”  I said “no” mainly because my interests are far too diverse to focus on any single issue.

I lean towards a more “conservative” (or commonly called complementarian position) when it comes to gender roles.  I use the word lean by design as there are some practical implications which continue to nag.

Recently, I had an email exchange with a gracious person who holds a Ph.D in New Testament and who happens to hold a complementarian position.  We talked about my concerns, but I found his perspective less than persuasive.  Here are three issues I shared:

•It strikes me as arbitrary to allow women to teach the Bible when it comes to the written word, but not to the oral word.  For example, many conservatives used to quote Susan Foh’s work, Women and the Word of God, but they would not have someone like her preach from the pulpit.  So her book can inform the sermons of pastors, but she wouldn’t be allowed to preach.  Many other examples could be added.

•Most complementarians extol the value of women teaching children’s Sunday school, yet would not allow women to teach adult males.  Are we then saying that children have less value or that it is not so dangerous to deceive the minds of our little ones?  Jesus had some pretty tough things to say about those who lead children astray.

•Why the virtual silence about Beth Moore speaking at the Passion conference?  John Piper, whom I respect very much, has never to my knowledge raised any concern.  Why the silence not just from him, but of so many others?  My interlocutor believes things like the Passion conference are different from the local church.  Granted, one could argue there is some distinction, but I find making a sharp disjunction unpersuasive.

So what do you think?  I have read many of the answers of complementarians on these matters and they strike me as forced.

I believe women can teach mixed groups as long as they are under the authority of godly men.  I gladly admit I could be wrong, but I also find it odd that my own position is hardly ever mentioned as a viable one within the complementarian camp.










File:Michelangelo, profeti, Isaiah 01.jpg

I am currently meditating through Isaiah.  Many things struck me in chapter one, but the last verse was especially sobering:

“The mighty man will become tinder

and his work a spark;

both will burn together,

with no one to quench the fire.”

Sin is not life-giving.  Sin destroys us.  Sin fools us.  Sin eventually delivers what we never expected!



Listen to this one minute of excitement (starts at 21:30) about the endless riches of the Civil War.  Professor Gary Gallagher, an eminent scholar of the Civil War, is unashamed to gush about how thrilling it is to study the Civlil War.

Why do so many of us not have this level of enthusiasm when it comes to studying the Bible?


I did not know Edmund Morgan, but several of his books are some of my favorites in studying and teaching American history.  Two books on the Puritans were early reads and ones I have gone back to on many occasions since.  His book, The Challenge of the American Revolution, was a companion on a trip back east and his biography on Franklin was my most recent read of his books.  He was that rare historian who could write lucid, interesting, insightful, and competent works.  Scholars had to pay notice, but anyone could read Morgan.  He was not afraid to be clear.

There are many tributes about Morgan, but here is one by Joseph Ellis, who studied under Morgan.  Not surprisingly, Ellis also writes competent and accessible books.  Founding Brothers, which won the Pulitzer, is a book I have read and reread with great profit.