Posts Tagged Apostle John

Intellectualism and Evangelicalism: Mental Adultery vs. the Rational Gospel

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John PiperEvangelicals have long winced with suspicion toward contributions from intellectual arenas. Whether faced with critiques about the legitimacy of the Flood, the coherency of the Trinity, or the plausibility of God himself, we are well known for responding with the “faith-that-doesn’t-need-answers” refrain. Rather than confronting intellectual challenges and engaging our minds as an act of faith, we twist such faith into a shield to be held over heads, protecting us from such conflicts as we close our eyes and mumble, “I’m not listening.”

In turn, intellectuals are quick to exploit such a response, claiming that evangelicals are nothing but a bunch of mindless zombies, brainwashed by cult leaders and clouded by happy thoughts. As Mark Noll put in his book on the subject, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”

Oddly enough, such a scandal is evident even among those who evangelicals assume comprise their intellectual front (i.e. the postmodernists). A good example of this can be found in the ongoing Rob Bell controversy, in which supposedly “anti-intellectual” conservative evangelicals are being derided left and right for engaging Bell in an intellectual challenge. Meanwhile, the supposedly brainy and overly nuanced Bell is being defended not on intellectual grounds, but on warm-and-fuzzy, “don’t-judge-me” togetherness. In one quick swoop of a Justin Taylor post and a simple John Piper tweet, Bell was quickly diminished by his defenders to being a mere “artist” rather than an impressive mind or a “serious theologian.” He is just “asking questions” we are told — having a bit of creative fun with the Scriptures in the same way a child might draw fanciful whatchamacallits on his driveway with sidewalk chalk. (“Don’t be hatin’ on the beauty, bro!”)

Making such a topic even more timely has been the entirely different (and far healthier) discussion launched by Matthew Lee Anderson on evangelicalism and natural law. This particular discussion, however, doesn’t indicate a lack of intellectualism in evangelicalism as much as it illuminates that the movement has its own unique view of the mind itself, bringing us back to the original challenge. For the evangelical, there is a transcendental tension between our supernatural understanding and our natural reason, and as is only natural (harty har), it can be hard for us to wrap our minds around it.

(Making this yet more timely still is Donald Miller’s recent post, which argues that the church’s problem is too much intellectual engagement instead of a lack thereof. Seriously.)

To cut through such tensions and offer some clarity, John Piper has released a helpful new book, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (also the topic to last year’s Desiring God conference). For Piper, the supposed faith-reason dichotomy need not be a dichotomy at all. All we need is the proper Read the rest of this entry »

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Materialistic Generosity: The Limits of Earthbound Altruism

Mary, Judas, Lazarus, Jesus, painting, perfume

In my latest post at Common Sense Concept, I explore the topic of generosity as it pertains to the Love of God and the Love of Man.

More specifically, I examine the centrality of sacrifice in the Christian pursuit and the corresponding importance of grounding that sacrifice in the divine rather than the debased.

Here’s an excerpt:

We must move beyond our humanistic perceptions of generosity, pushing energetically toward a more heavenly orientation — one that is led by the Spirit rather than the flesh. As Kelly Kapic argues in his recent book, Jesus’ death on the Cross is not just a gift, but an invitation to participate in God’s unique movement of divine generosity.

To explore this point further, I look at a story in the Gospel of John in which Mary lavishes Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment. Judas scolds Mary for wasting precious resources, claiming that they would be better sacrificed on behalf of the poor.

Jesus responds with this: “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

As I argue in the post, Jesus is pointing to Judas’ fundamentally materialistic perspective of generosity — a view that sees human individuals (and their resources) as static and predictable variables to be manipulated through “generosity.”

As far as how this might contribute to our views about politics or Read the rest of this entry »

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The Judges of Judgmentalism: Discerning Truth vs. People

The thesis of Rob Bell's forthcoming book ignited a theological firestorm.

There has been quite a bit of hullabaloo over Rob Bell’s upcoming book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. The book’s thesis, according to the publisher’s description, argues that “a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering.”

Since the book is indeed an upcoming title, the chatter has largely focused around its marketing materials, particularly a promotional video in which Bell does what Bell does best: talks like a universalist. (emphasis on “talks like”)

After perusing the available materials, as well as some advance chapters, Gospel Coalition blogger Justin Taylor concluded that Bell may indeed be a universalist, after which John Piper chimed in with a simple, “Farewell Rob Bell. These remarks spurred retorts from across the Web, resulting in a cacophony of Bell-centered banter.

Oddly enough, many of those who have been defending Bell seem to care little about the actual validity of his views and beliefs, which, although relatively vague, make some startling absolute statements about the nature of God’s love. Instead of arguing over whether Bell’s views do indeed mesh with true Christianity (and/or oppose universalism), many of his followers have backed away from matters of theology altogether — grounding their defenses in verses like “judge not lest ye be judged.”

The message seems clear: Bell’s beliefs should not be up for scrutiny because criticism is not the Christian thing to do.

This brings us to some larger questions about the role of judgment itself, particularly when it comes to Christians. Since there is already plenty of healthy debate over the contents of Bell’s book, it is here that I would like to focus our discussion.

How are we to respond to others when we disagree with them? More specifically, how are we to respond to Christians when we think they depart from the Read the rest of this entry »

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Heaven Misplaced: Christ’s Kingdom Now, Apocalypse Later

Heaven Misplaced: Christ's Kingdom on Earth by Douglas WilsonWhen we think of the End Times we usually think of earthquakes, floods, and nuclear explosions. From the hyper rants of Jack Van Impe to the silly scenes of Left Behind, evangelical culture has bombarded us with images of an apocalypse that is devastating and widespread — one that will be preceded by a big, cruel magic trick.

Small pockets of Christians will vanish across the globe, disappearing from busy streets, bustling malls and crowded airplanes. News anchors and political pundits will be left speechless, unaware that they are representatives of a world full of no-good sinners, left hopelessly to self-destruct under the grip of a soon-to-rise anti-Christ. The minority of good folks will be gone and everyone else will be doomed to hell.

But what if we’ve got it wrong? What if the events leading up to the Second Coming aren’t as grim as we suspect? There will almost certainly be a tribulation period filled with conflict, but before that happens, what if those busy streets are overwhelmingly Christian instead of overwhelmingly heathen? Yes, the above storyline often accepts that the Gospel will be proclaimed throughout the world, but what if most of the world will actually receive it?

It is this question that Douglas Wilson explores in his recent book, Heaven Misplaced: Christ’s Kingdom on Earth.

His answer? Before anyone goes to the Kingdom, the Kingdom is going to come to us — and with force.

As Wilson says:

[T]he striking thing about the Second Coming is that it will be the culmination of what is happening right here, right now. The new humanity is going to be finally and completely formed and born, but it is this world that is pregnant with that glory. The relief will be great, but it will be relief from the travail of this world.

For Wilson, our planet is simply one of the “colonies of heaven,” meaning that we are not to see ourselves as a “feeder town” for our colonizing power, as we so often do. Pointing to Paul’s metaphor of “citizenship” to the colonized Philippians, Wilson makes it clear that “the mother country feeds the Read the rest of this entry »

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The Ultimate Exchange Rate: Real Value in a Material World

The Parable of the TalentsIt’s easy for us economist types to get caught up in earthly measurements of value — partly because it’s fun, but mostly because it’s important.

Even more important, however, is the pursuit of real value in heavenly terms. When it comes to this, we all struggle with getting the earthly “exchange rate” down, and as long as sin is around, we always will.

But Jesus gives us a pretty clear image of what it might ultimately look like in these back-to-back examples.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

In other words, no matter how much we have accumulated in our own lives, whether it’s wealth, skills, prestige, or status, none of it matches up to the value of a life transformed and saved through Christ.

But how do we purchase such a life? How do we make this ultimate trade-in?

The first and most important answer is that we can’t — Jesus already paid the ultimate price through his blood, which pays for our entrance into the “kingdom of [God’s] beloved Son.” It is only through this propitiation that we can be saved.

But there is still this central notion throughout the Gospel of obedience, which Jesus often illuminates by talking about trade. The question rises: If the ultimate price is already paid, what is left to trade in? What are we Read the rest of this entry »

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Supernatural Devotion: Oswald Chambers on Self-Denial

Oswald Chambers

Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)

Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest is perhaps the best devotional I’ve ever come across. Thus I am currently reading it for the second time (albeit off schedule).

This morning’s selection stuck out to me, particularly because it points to yesterday’s subject of self-denial and redirecting natural inclinations. The selection is titled “Why Can I Not Follow You Now?” and you can read it by clicking here.

Chambers is talking about how we often want to jump-start God’s will in our lives. Perhaps there is a vision or a calling that God has made clear to us, but we don’t feel like God has given us the final go-ahead to execute it.

As Chambers explains:

At first you may see clearly what God’s will is — the severance of a friendship, the breaking off of a business relationship, or something else you feel is distinctly God’s will for you to do. But never act on the impulse of that feeling. If you do, you will cause difficult situations to arise which will take years to untangle. Wait for God’s timing and He will do it without any heartache or disappointment. When it is a question of the providential will of God, wait for God to move.

When we think of Biblical self-denial, we tend to think of denying things that are “bad” (e.g. dishonesty, lust, selfishness, etc.). But although we must certainly deny our flesh when it comes to blatant sins, such self-denial may also be necessary when it comes to the actual things God has called us to.

This is where following the Holy Spirit is crucial. There will not always be a clear-cut Bible verse to tell you what your individual path looks like. Although we must align all of our pursuits to God’s Word, it is often the Holy Spirit that tells us which job to take, which person to marry, or which city to live in.

But even when we know God’s will (e.g. the job, the spouse, the city), our flesh still has the potential to distort the timing and the execution. For instance, Jesus’ death was the ultimate Read the rest of this entry »

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Freedom from Porn: Steve Jobs Shapes Culture

Steve Jobs

Apple CEO Steve Jobs wants to offer "freedom from porn" to his consumers.

Steve Jobs has been making waves by saying that he wants the iPad and other Apple products to be “porn-free.”

Jobs has offered several reasons for this, but all of his statements seem to indicate a general desire to shape the culture of his company, as well as its consumers.

For a glimpse into Jobs’ views on the matter, I recommend reading his e-mail exchange with blogger Ryan Tate, which seems to be getting the most attention from the media.

Tate began the exchange by sending Jobs an e-mail that said the following:

“If [Bob] Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company? Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with ‘revolution’? Revolutions are about freedom.”

Surprisingly, Jobs actually responded to Tate’s e-mail, and his response included this jab:

“Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’, and some traditional PC folks feel their world is slipping away. It is.”

There are plenty of interesting facets to this situation — particularly regarding the recent goings on between Apple and Adobe — but what I want to focus on is Jobs’ statement about “freedom from porn.” What strikes me is that it echoes a Biblical concept that plenty of Christians don’t even grasp. I doubt that Jobs is rooting his worldview in the Bible (he’s a Buddhist), but I think it’s encouraging to see such a prominent figure making these arguments.

Many “liberation” types argue that freedom means the right to do anything you want, which may be true from a purely literal perspective. But holistically speaking, the Bible depicts freedom as something a bit more complex. In the Bible, real freedom isn’t as much about Read the rest of this entry »

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