Category: Bible and Theology

Good Seed, Good Soil, Abundant HarvestThe faith-work movement has risen in prominence across evangelicalism, with more and more pastors and congregations grabbing hold of the depth and breadth of Christian vocation and expanding their ministry focuses in turn.

In an article at Missio Alliance, Charlie Self offers a helpful snapshot this trend, explaining where we’ve come from and why this shift in arc and emphasis is a welcome development for the church. To demonstrate its power and promise, Self begins with the story of Scotty, a mechanic and member of Self’s church, who after 40 years in the business finally came to understand the fuller meaning and purpose of his work.

“Pastor Charlie, I just realized I am as much a minister as you are!” Scotty told him one day. “I meet people in crisis, have as much knowledge as some doctors, solve problems quickly and continually update my information and technology…not to mention keep up with all the regulations and taxes. People share their lives with me. What an awesome responsibility.” In addition to providing these basic services, Scotty lives a life of active generosity and evangelism, constantly reaching out and connecting the day-to-day material to the day-to-day spiritual in other people’s lives. “Scotty is helping an entire community flourish and he is part of God’s reign, bringing hope and justice for many,” he writes. (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
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Today over at Think Christian I explore how Christmas relates to material goods, and specifically how we are to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).

grinchstore

In a remarkable collaborative effort led by Dan Stevers involving 11 Christian animators and artists, the YHWH Project has released its final product: a sweeping and striking short film that paints a beautiful portrait of God’s abundant love and active presence.

Watch it here:

I’m reminded of that powerful bit by Alexander Schmemann: “All that exists is God’s gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God…God blesses everything He creates, and, in biblical language, this means that He makes all creation the sign and means of His presence and wisdom, love and revelation.” (more…)

imageIn an increasingly atomizing and alienating culture, what role does the church play in holding the fabric of civilization together?

Over at the Evangelical Pulpit, Bart Gingerich offers a hearty response, albeit by way of answering a rather different question: Why do folks abandon the church, particularly those who still believe in Jesus?

Although plenty of disaffected church-ditchers have undergone deep shifts in basic doctrine and belief, Gingerich observes that, for many, “the abandonment testimonies seem fueled more by embarrassment and bad experiences.” If this is the key driver, he continues, such departures may have just as much to do with the typical failings of human organizations in general as they do with the church in particular.

“Humans in groups can be jerks, make mistakes, have blind spots, and mishandle all sorts of cases,” he writes. “Many of the ‘I’m leaving or taking a break from church because people hurt me’ manifestos could just as easily been authored about the local Ruritans, Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Garden, or Women’s Club.”

But therein lies the issue: “Few under the age of 40 participate in such societies any more.” (more…)

humanumMy favorite psychology professor, when I was an undergrad, had a saying: “We are all more alike than we are different.” While most of us would never know the horror of paranoid psychosis, he said, we all know the fear of walking into a room and thinking, “Why is everyone looking at me? Is something wrong?” It’s in this realization of the common human experiences that we could begin to see even the most ill person in a compassionate manner.

It seems as if Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, has come to a similar revelation. After taking part in the Vatican’s Humanum conference, Warren came to this conclusion:

I think the beauty is that we have far more in common than we have what separates us. When you think about it, what is a Christian? They believe in the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They believe in the Resurrection. They believe in the Bible. They believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins. If you believe those things, we’re on the same team. We may have different disagreements on other issues, but if you love Jesus Christ, you’re my brother, my sister.

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Christianity sets forth that humans are made in the image of God — that we have particular God-like characteristics when it comes to creation, cultivation, compassion, relationship, and so on. Such a remarkable truth tells us something deeply profound about the world we live in, as well as how we ought to respond in any number of situations.

In an excerpted video from the PovertyCure series, John Stonestreet explains how the Christian worldview transforms our approach to poverty:

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It has become a regular occurrence at conservative publications to note the strong correlation between traditional marriage and family and higher income levels. Take, for example, Ari Fleischer, who wrote the following in the Wall Street Journal last June:

If President Obama wants to reduce income inequality, he should focus less on redistributing income and more on fighting a major cause of modern poverty: the breakdown of the family.

He continues, “One of the differences between the haves and the have-nots is that the haves tend to marry and give birth, in that order.”

Despite my traditionalist leanings, I’ve always been a bit skeptical of these sorts of editorials. For example, contrast this with Ben Steverman’s recent article in Bloomberg:

Divorce among 50-somethings has doubled since 1990. One in five adults have never married, up from one in ten 30 years ago. In all, a majority of American adults are now single, government data show, including the mothers of two out of every five newborns.

These trends are often blamed on feminists or gay rights activists or hippies, who’ve somehow found a way to make Americans reject tradition.

But the last several years showed a different powerful force changing families: the economy.

He goes on: (more…)

The Bible teaches wise welcome, not blanket amnesty. Biblical teaching would give first consideration to foreigners applying to come to America as blessing, and lawfully (there are four million who’ve applied and are waiting). I believe blanket amnesty of many millions more is unwise. Amnesty is unkind to nearly 20 million Americans who are currently looking but cannot find a job. Wisdom and kindness would bring millions of jobs to America before more competition for scarce jobs. Biblical wisdom would protect Americans from open borders and the risks associated with amnesty: illegal entry into the country by violent Islamists, narco gangs and those who knowingly enter with dangerous diseases like Ebola. Our goal is not hostility, but hospitality.

Economist Thomas Sowell puts it this way:

Not only the United States, but the Western world in general, has been discovering the hard way that admitting people with incompatible cultures is an irreversible decision with incalculable consequences. If we do not see that after recent terrorist attacks on the streets of Boston and London, when will we see it? ‘Comprehensive immigration reform’ means doing everything all together in a rush, without time to look before we leap, and basing ourselves on abstract notions about abstract people.

God loves us all and yet nowhere in Scripture do we find support in God’s teaching for blanket amnesty. Rather, we see the respect of boundaries, borders and admonitions to remember and to advance the teachings of Godly wisdom for human and cultural thriving. We see welcome of the lawful immigrant who comes as blessing, such as Ruth and the Good Samaritan. And we see Ezra and Nehemiah leading a nation in the rebuilding of walls for cultural healing and renewal. (more…)

In his reflections on art and common grace, Abraham Kuyper affirmed that “the world of beauty that does in fact exist can have originated nowhere else than in the creation of God. The world of beauty was thus conceived by God, determined by his decree, called into being by him, and is maintained by him.” Beauty is, in this deep sense, a creational good, and even though beauty is often pressed into the service of evil, beauty, like all good things, is a creation of God.

During last week’s symposium at Calvin College on common grace and business, Dr. Vahagn Asatryan of Redeemer University College presented on marketing and common grace. To open his paper, Dr. Asatryan used this advertisement. Be sure to watch to the end and pay special attention to the message at the conclusion of the commercial:

Asatryan noted the deep beauty of the story told in this piece, and yet ultimately it depicts a situation that conflicts with God’s will for human social life. In the old days it was referred to as “living in sin.” What might a marketing piece that is more affirming of God’s common grace as reflected in his will for the human institution of marriage look like?
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Kuyper BavinckIn this week’s Acton Commentary, “The Soul of the System,” I examine a number of images and distinctions related to Hunter Baker’s latest book, The System Has a Soul. In describing Herman Bavinck’s images of the kingdom of God as a pearl and a leaven, and a complementary distinction from Abraham Kuyper of the church as an institute and an organism, a question naturally follows about the relationship between each element of the pairings.
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