A good interview with the author of a book I’m still processing…
A good interview with the author of a book I’m still processing…
There are many things to like about this book, no matter which one of the big three traditions (Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox) you belong to.
Chaput is a lucid writer who has clearly done his homework. His book ranges over many significant thinkers, past and present. His analysis of our cultural moment is sobering, but never gloomy. He well understands the indispensable virtue of Christian hope.
I read Dreher’s The Benedict Option, but find Chaput’s approach much more in keeping with the entire record of Scripture.
*Have you ever heard a sermon on a developing a theology of work? If you have, did Bezalel and his buddy, Oholiab, figure prominently?
*Have you ever heard an entire sermon on a theology of rest?
*How often do Christians ask what you are learning from God’s Word?
*With respect to the previous question, how often do you ask your Christian friends?
*Has anyone ever told you that a minor prophet was formative in their spiritual development?
*With respect to the major prophets, has anyone ever mentioned Ezekiel?
*Have you ever heard a sermon on the silence of God?
*Have you ever heard a sermon on biblical rewards?
*Have you ever heard a sermon on how to obey the two commandments of Jesus in Mt. 10:16: Being both shrewd as a serpent and innocent as a dove?
*Have you ever heard a sermon on not confusing the flag with the kingdom of God?
*Have you ever heard a sermon on how we ought to treat “foreigners,” especially as applied to refugees?
It is common to see Christians use the 1+1+1=1 equation to describe the trinity. Their intention is good, but I think utilizing this equation as an illustration of the trinity is misguided.
When we look at the equation we conclude that the trinity is irrational. All our lives we have known 1+1+1=3 not 1. But now we are instructed that there is a heavenly math of sorts where it equals 1.
I was sharing the gospel with a Muslim years ago at the University of Texas in Dallas. He said he could never become a Christian because the trinity was irrational. I shared with him that irrational was not the right word. Mysterious to be sure, but not irrational.
Irrational would mean we are saying God exists simultaneously as one Person and three Persons. Another irrational option would be to say God exists simultaneously as one Being and three Beings. But of course, Christians don’t believe either one of these things.
We do believe that God is one in His Being or Essence, yet three in Person. Each Person is fully God not 33.333% God. That is why you can’t conceptualize the trinity. It is indeed beyond our understanding, but that does not make it irrational.
I asked my Muslim friend if he could conceptualize everything about Allah. He conceded that he could not. He could not get his head wrapped around such things as God being uncaused or self-existent. I asked if he thought uncaused or self-existent would be irrational. “Not if He is God,” he replied. Of course, it would be irrational to say God is both self-existent and dependent on someone/thing else for His existence.
So let’s drop the 1+1+1=1 for the trinity. We don’t want to give the impression that belief in the Christian God is irrational. Mysterious and beyond our comprehension to be sure, but not irrational.
Sobering. A terrific treatment of the various dynamics involved in gambling addictions can be found in one chapter of Matthew Crawford’s book, The World Beyond Your Head.
“Evangelicals are not alone in shifting their view of the role moral character should play in choosing political leaders. Between 2011 and last year, the percentage of Americans who say politicians who commit immoral acts in their private lives can still behave ethically in public office jumped to 61 percent from 44 percent, according to a Public Religion Research Institute/Brookings poll. During the same period, the shift among evangelicals was even more dramatic, moving from to 72 percent from 30 percent, the survey found.”
I dare you to sing just once! HT: David Alan Black
I very much agree with this approach. I have used a similar method for many years. And yes, by all means, throw out your yellow highlighter! Get something more elegant. I like a red pencil along with a fine, black pen for marginal notes.
Collin Hansen is the author and editor of several books, the most noteworthy being Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists. Hansen is editorial director for The Gospel Coalition.
Hansen’s latest book is Our Secular Age: Ten Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor.
Moore: For those who are not familiar, tell us why an entire book is devoted to the work of Charles Taylor?
Hansen: Charles Taylor’s 2007 book A Secular Age might be the most ambitious work published in the last 10 years. He aims to account for nothing less than the decline of religion and rise of secularism in the industrialized West. The way he pulls together philosophy, history, sociology, and theology in order to tell the story makes him a fruitful conversation partner, even when we disagree about the conclusions. Nobody has been more helpful to me personally as I look behind and beyond the headlines to understand larger trends and factors that make evangelism and discipleship so exciting but also difficult today.
Moore: The philosopher, James K.A. Smith, has also written a book on Taylor. How is yours different than Smith’s?
Hansen: I’m thankful for Smith, who has helped me and many other of this book’s contributors understand the significance of Taylor’s project. Smith does a lot to translate Taylor, who’s not the easiest writer to understand. It can feel like you’re joining a conversation already in progress, and you don’t know if you’re welcome. Several of the contributors to our book, most notably Michael Horton, engage Taylor in more critical ways, especially as it relates to the legacy of the Protestant Reformation. And throughout the book we give more attention to applying Taylor’s work to a wide array of ministry scenarios, from preaching to discipling millennials to forming worship liturgies and more.
Moore: In your introduction you wrote, “We don’t yet know, then, whether the children of the “young, restless, Reformed” will imbibe more of the restless or the Reformed. (Emphasis yours) Would you unpack that a bit for us?
Hansen: I talked with a friend in ministry who instinctively understood one of my motivations for this book. He described his undergraduate years in a Reformed college. Everyone there had grown up Baptist but as a teenager shifted more Reformed in contrast to their parents and home churches. But then they got to this school, and they no longer stood out. Everyone else had the same story! So they searched for new ways to express their individualism: they dropped John Piper for N. T. Wright or converted to Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. Taylor would recognize elements of the secular “subtraction story” in this narrative. In an age of “expressive individualism,” just about anything can be co-opted for stylistic projection, even if for a time it looks like settled conviction. If the Reformed don’t dig into and catechize the riches of this biblical theology, then they’ll set up their children for another reaction in some unknown new direction.
Moore: Several of the contributors have important points of criticism with Taylor’s work. In that regard, I am thinking of Carl Trueman’s observation that the automobile may have more impact than Taylor appreciates: “Perhaps it is not so much Luther who created religious choice at a practical level but Henry Ford.” Carl says he is exaggerating there, but his general point remains. What do you think about Carl’s comment about the car?
Hansen: That’s one of the standout observations from the book. And as an appreciative reader of Wendell Berry, I couldn’t help but agree with Trueman. How can you practice church discipline if anyone can just leave your church and join another one down the road? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to technology. What’s so special about your pastor’s preaching when you can watch someone better on television or listen to someone who tickles your earbuds via podcast? Why worry about sexual ethics if the pill and abortion separate intercourse from childbirth? Taylor has an unparalleled grasp on the philosophical factors, but he undersells the technological dimension to cultural change.
Moore: Let me ask this next question by invoking Yuval Levin’s masterful book, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Left and Right. Levin makes the point that radicals like Paine are not going to be moved to reconsider why tradition is worth keeping unless they see its beauty. I would give us “Evangelicals” high marks on defending the Bible’s truthfulness, but very low marks on showcasing its beauty. Do you think Taylor has much to offer in this regard?
Hansen: Taylor doesn’t so much show us how to do it, but he at least reminds us of the opportunity before us, to showcase the beauty of Jesus Christ and his gospel. Let’s keep preaching and writing books like this one. But let’s also take up the challenge issued by Alan Noble in his chapter on the “disruptive witness of art,” and let’s appreciate what Mike Cosper captures about the longing for transcendence despite the “immanent frame.” We do not live in a secular age in the sense that our neighbors reject anything extra-sensory. We’re secular in the sense that we look to the self, not to outside authorities, for meaning. When we can stir the self to appreciate the beauty of the gospel, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for sinners drawn from every tribe and tongue for everlasting praise, we see that our secular age still longs for hope and eternity.
Moore: What are a few things you would like your readers to gain from your book?
Hansen: First, I want them to see that secularism isn’t just a problem outside the church but our primary challenge for discipleship inside every Christian home. If we don’t catechize ourselves and our children in the ancient gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in God’s Word, the culture will catechize us in ways that undermine our faith. Second, I want them to know they can learn from Taylor without agreeing with him on everything. Certainly I would disagree strongly with his relatively positive assessment of Roman Catholicism before the Protestant Reformation. And third, I want them to see there is hope in our secular age. Even if we could turn back the clock, we wouldn’t want to. There are challenges to faith at the dawn of the information age, no doubt. But God is at work, if we will only look for him.