My friend David Dorn of The Preposterous Project posted this the other day…I cannot recommend watching this enough.
So, these days I don’t have much else to offer beyond a book review. Several are coming, as I’ve had a lot of reading to do and not so much personal writing time, so I hope that you’ll forgive me for my absence. One more month of this crazy semester and things will be a good bit more active on this site.
I want to throw out an excellent book, The Easy Burden of Pleasing God by Patty Kirk (IVP, 2013). This is a classic waiting to be realized. This book, published this year by InterVarsity Press, is a much needed reminder of Christ’s words: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11.30). In a day and age in which technology, job requirements, family life, social expectations, educational goals, career incentives, etc. rule our daily lives, we need a reminder that our Christian life is not meant to be another over-bearing factor. Many, unfortunately, adopt a mentality in which Christianity is another think to be checked off the list of things to do or that it is a lifestyle of legalism. For most people, this fails to resonate with living in what it means to live in “the real world” and the result is a never ending pursuit of perfect and a never ending result of shame and failure.
Kirk is personable in this book, bringing in her own experiences and trials as she came to realize the fact that Christianity is meant to bring freedom. Often enough, Kirk says, we pretend like Christianity is our thing to do, as if we either do it right or we do it wrong. We life the burdens, we bear the struggles, we enter into guilt and regret and shame. But that is man’s religion, not the way God envisions things. He seeks to free us from ourselves and in doing so, takes our burdens to the cross.
Kirk’s book is not a revelation; it is a reminder. Along with Ruth Haley Barton’s, The Sacred Rhythms, I think much can be devoured from this book. Read through it slowly. Meditate on her words which meditate on God’s. “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
“Emmaus never happened. Emmaus always happens.” This quote (197), from J.D. Crossan’s popular book Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (HarperCollins, 1995), characterizes a view which is becoming increasingly popular in our seminary programs, theological schools, and our churches. There is this funny notion that post-Enlightenment thought has rid us of any ability to rationally believe in something like “the resurrection of Jesus” and that if one believes in it, the foundations of that belief are built upon a Christianity divorced entirely from supernatural intervention. In other words, as some like Crossan have suggested, the resurrection is true, but only in the same sense that the story of The Prodigal Son is true.
It seems to me that the most severe problem with such a conclusion is the fact that it’s becoming the normative view of many within the Emergent movement. This is not to say that all endorse such a view (there are a number of different streams within the movement), but it is to say that Crossan and, more recently, Marcus Borg (see, Jesus, HarperSanFransisco, 2006) have become the New Testament scholars placing themselves within that camp, severing the importance of the resurrection from the actuality of it and, on a grander scale, much of the Bible. In other words, these scholars–and those following after them–have built up a view of Christianity in which miracles don’t occur, God remains on the sidelines unable (or uninterested) intervening in world affairs, and the body of Jesus remains tragically in a lost grave, decayed and left to the dust of history.
So, as I’ve fallen a little bit off the edge of the blogging world. That’s okay. Between work, school, and family life I’ve been a bit swamped, as you may be able to tell from the long standing Guest Post by Jeremy Spainhour on why he thinks apologetics is inimical to Christian proclamation. I will, in due course, respond to his post. There are many things which I find myself agreeing with and many things which I don’t. But I am big on starting conversations and from the attention that post received this seems to have been the case. This is always a good thing and I know he appreciates the thoughts.
I’ve read a few books on lately which I want to throw out there. Let me tell you about one of them today. Ron Highfield’s God, Freedom, and Human Dignity: Embracing a God-Centered Identity in a Me-Centered Culture (IVP, 2013). Highfield is Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University and this book comes out of some of his classroom experiences there. Highfield notes that one of the things which he has been convinced of as of late is the general sense that God somehow threatens our freedom and dignity.
The book is broken up into two parts: 1) The Me-Centered Self; 2) The God-Centered Self. Constituting these two parts are sixteen chapters devoted towards the development of these two ideas in Western thought. For example, Highfield walks us through how modern philosophy has developed the idea of the autonomous self as the most free and dignified entity possible. From Plato to Kant to Nietzsche, Highfield notes the evolution of the modern self in philosophy and, now, into theology. This Me-Centered Self, as he argues, is to be contrasted with a God-Centered Self, which he finds to be the essence of our identity as portrayed in Scripture.
Central to Highfield’s argument is the rejection of the notion that we are somehow in “competition” with God (46). “It should not surprise us, then, to find that the modern person feels a weight of oppression and a flood of resentment when confronted with the demands of traditional morality and religion. In the face of these demands the me-centered self feels its dignity slighted, its freedom threatened and its happiness diminished” (17-18). Continue reading
The following article is a piece by my good friend Jeremy Spainhour, a former M.A. Biblical Studies student at Asbury Seminary . He is a committed believer, a relationally involved youth pastor, and a solid thinker whom I respect immensely. As someone who does apologetics in some shape and form, I found this article extremely thought provoking and in need of some internal evaluation. My own views of apologetics, ever since starting Ratio Christi, have shifted drastically and have become much more nuanced than they were early on. Much of this has to do with what Spainhour calls “the perceived answers” and the fact that apologetics, often, has an ability to distance one from the faith rather than bring them towards it. I am not in agreement with all that is said (see my article Incarnational Apologetics), but I can say up front that I think he is largely correct in his general thesis (though, perhaps overstating it with the term ‘parasitic’). I will follow up in a week or so with a rejoinder, pointing out areas of agreement and disagreement. Nonetheless, what are your thoughts. Share them below!
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with persuasive speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
Christians and nonchristians alike have sought to discover or verify the truth of the Christian faith by way of interrogation at least since Pilate’s question—What is truth?—to which Jesus responded with definitive silence. From the theological questions of Nicea to the existential questions of Heidelberg to the philosophical questions of Westminster to the ecclesiological questions of the Vatican to the cosmological and moral and historical questions of modern apologetics, the people of the world have sat with Pilate on the judgment seat to demand a word of truth from God in response to their questions. From its inception the perceived responses have formed and reformed the Church in a never ending dialectic–something like Hegel’s history–sometimes for good, sometimes for ill, sometimes inspired, sometimes not.
The problem is not the questions or the answers, per se; the problem is that the Church’s understanding of proclamation often finds its grounding in the perceived answers. This is never-ending dialectic may be necessary for Christian theology, but it is a never-ending threat to Christian proclamation, because Christian theology is always tempted to shove aside the Christian kerygma, such that the only time we hear the its words–Christ crucified; Christ is risen; Jesus is Lord–are in the context of a description rather than address. We might speak about the death and resurrection of Christ to the arbiter of midair or the microphone of a public forum in such a way that anyone so persuaded might reach up and claim these words for themselves, but they will claim them as the people’s word about God, not God’s Word to the people. The effect is that our descriptions, whether creeds, catechisms or cosmology, replace our prophetic role to bring “You!” and “God!” into the same space. We may come to believe in David’s God, but we will not hear David’s God say to us what he said to David, “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12:7). Continue reading
Perhaps more ink has been spilled on the subject of God and evil than any other philosophical objection to Christianity. The question of why we suffer creates a dilemma which plagues the world in immense and incomprehensible ways and the universality of the problem means that on some level all of us have to face it. Of course, both the intellectual and emotional issues which the problem of evil creates do not affect Christianity uniquely but it’s true that they affect Christianity in a unique way. This means, naturally, that any response by Christians to the problem(s) of evil must itself be unique and unbridled in its attempt to answer the various obstacles which evil provides.
It is in this vein that the editors of God and Evil: The Case For God in a World Filled With Pain (InterVarsity Press: 2013) present readers with some excellent contributions to engage both the intellectual (and sometimes) emotional problems which suffering creates. This is no ordinary compilation of essays. The writers, including W.L. Craig, G. Habermas, P. Copan, F. Collins, J. Walls, R. D. Geivett, and many more, are among some of the leading Christian thinkers in various fields and their specific essays reflect their specialty disciplines’ attempt to wrestle through the issues in respect to evil.