Category: Bible and Theology

On the Law in General, Girolamo Zanchi“The goal of all good laws is first and foremost the glory of God, then the good of one’s neighbor, privately and, most important, publicly.” –Girolamo Zanchi 

The following excerpt comes from Thesis 3 (above) of Girolamo Zanchi’s newly translated On the Law in General. Though the work encompasses a range of topics, from natural law to human laws to divine laws, this particular thesis comes in his first foundational chapter on what the law actually is—its goals, classifications, and functions.

If the basis for law is, in fact, fairness—namely, that all people get what they deserve—then nothing is more fair than that God receives all honor and glory in the highest and that our neighbors receive what benefits their health and happiness of mind and body. Logically, then, it would follow that the goal of every good and just law is the glory of God and the good of human beings, first in public, then in private. The apostle Paul remarked about this primary goal, “Whatever you do,” (but we should do what the natural law and God himself have commanded) “do everything for the glory of God” [1 Cor. 10:31]. This exhortation depends on a universal premise that everything we should and can do must be done for the glory of God. In addition, Christ said about all good works, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven” [Matt. 5:16]. (more…)

Leonardo Da Vinci Horse and RiderToday is Earth Day, a great opportunity for Christians to confess with the Psalmist, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1).

An immediate corollary to this confession that the world belongs to God is that whatever we have is entrusted to us by him. We therefore have a responsibility as stewards over those aspects of creation that we have control over, most notably our bodies, souls, and property.

Over at The Federalist, I take on Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s conception of stewardship, particularly as applied in the case of the Keystone pipeline. “Tutu’s depiction aligns with a view of the environment as a pristine wilderness which must be preserved rather than cultivated and developed, and is in this way the antithesis of responsible stewardship,” I argue.

One particularly fruitful discussion of the stewardship responsibility of the Christian is contained in Abraham Kuyper’s reflections on the Eighth Commandment in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism. We published these remarks in the latest issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality:
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Have Christ and Christianity exerted a positive influence on the development of civilization? Eric Chabot summarizes the evidence that it has, touching on everything from slavery to economics to Medieval church music, and concludes his essay by pointing to an atheist scholar who agrees. What’s the upshot if Chabot is right? Something can be useful and still false, so it wouldn’t prove Christianity true. But recognizing that the Judeo-Christian tradition has benefited civilization, and to a degree unrivaled by any other worldview, should prod one at least to give Christianity a thoughtful hearing.

Discoveries in physics and astronomy offer another reason. (more…)

christ3Holy Week gives us an excellent opportunity to simply take time to look beyond ourselves. When I was little kid, lying in bed at night, I would sometimes become terrified and overwhelmed with the idea of death. I was so petrified of the notion that after death I would be snuffed out of existence for eternity. I’d turn on all the lights and desperately try to distract myself from my deepest thoughts. It didn’t help much that the first dream I can remember as a kid was being chased by the devil with a pitchfork. It made me concerned about the destiny of my eternal state. Ultimately, the only thing that cured me from these panic attacks was the Gospel and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I had to look beyond myself.

With the suffering death and resurrection of Christ, no kind of death should trouble a person clinging to Christ. As the angels said, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead?” And as Athanasius declared in On the Incarnation, “A marvelous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonor and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death’s defeat.” Often we look upon the cross and see violence foremost. It is our sin that put Christ there. But Jesus bore the entire weight of the world and it could not contain him. He was beaten, mutilated, and scourged, but the Father glorified Him in death. Hillary of Poiters noted:

The sun, instead of setting, fled, and all the other elements felt that same shock of the death of Christ. The stars in their courses, to avoid complicity in the crime, escaped by self-extinction from beholding the scene. The earth trembled under the weight of our Lord hanging on the cross and testified that it did not have the power to hold within it him who was dying.

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gerrit-van-honthorst-king-david-harpWe live amid unprecedented economic prosperity, and with the promise of globalization and the continued expansion of opportunity and exchange, such prosperity is bound to grow.

Yet if we’re to retain and share these blessings, such gifts need to be received and responded to with a heart of service, sacrifice, and obedience to God. “Man is not the owner,” write Lester DeKoster and Gerard Berghoef. “He is the overseer…Each of us is steward over those talents and those pounds allotted us by divine providence.”

I was reminded of this while reading King David’s powerful prayer at the end of 1 Chronicles. David had called on Israel to give generously for the construction of the template, and God’s people responded in turn. David gave his “personal treasures of gold and silver,” and the people “gave freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord.”

The story provides a basic lesson in generosity and obedience, but David’s subsequent prayer demonstrates something deeper about the heart of Christian stewardship, offering a fine portrait of how our overarching attitudes and allegiances ought to be aligned: (more…)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11

jeremiah29

Jeremiah 29:11 is a popular verse among many of today’s Christians, as Evan Koons humorously points out in a new article at Q Ideas.

Christians love this verse,” he writes. “It has all the ideas and values we crave: prosperity, safety, security, hope, longevity. It’s the verse we most associate with the book of Jeremiah.”

Yet, as Koons is quick to remind us, the “bigger picture” of Jeremiah 29 is far less rosy. Jeremiah is writing to a displaced people living in a strange land, struggling to understand how they might live peacefully and fruitfully in the here and now while keeping their sights and spirits focused on the not yet.

“Somehow, we’ve forgotten that Jeremiah 29:11 is written in the midst of unspeakable calamity,” Koons writes, and perhaps it’s because “we fail to recognize that all of Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles, not just Jeremiah 29:11, still applies to us today.” (more…)

Selfsmall“Christian discipleship is nothing less than conformity to Christ—as individual believers and as local communities,” writes Charlie Self in Flourishing Churches and Communities, CLP’s Pentecostal primer on faith, work, and economics. “The very life of God is in us.”

Most of us have heard the Great Commandment and the Great Commission in their basic forms, but understanding the relationship between the two and living out that combined imperative can be difficult to wrap our minds around.

How do we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind? How do we love our neighbor as ourselves? How do we love ourselves without descending into selfishness?

Self argues that “all of these ‘loves’ grow together,” and thus, we should be wary of drawing unhealthy divides, focusing on one area or group of areas to the detriment of the other(s). Fruitful stewardship depends on a healthy and holistic focus not just on who we ought to be serving, what we ought to be doing, and how we ought to be doing it, but first and foremost, from where such activities are sourced and directed.  (more…)

The following flowchart comes from “Theology That Works,” a 60-page manifesto on discipleship and economic work written by Greg Forster and published by the Oikonomia Network.

Given our tendency to veer too far in either direction (stewardship or economics), and to confine our Christian duties to this or that sphere of life, the diagram is particularly helpful in demonstrating the overall interconnectedness of things.

Oikonomia flowchart, diagram, faith, work, economics

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Jacopo_Tintoretto_-_Moses_Receiving_the_Tables_of_the_Law_(detail)“Are there then no laws in the legal sense in the law of Moses?” asks Cornelis Vonk, the Dutch Reformed pastor and preacher.

“Of course there are, but there is much more besides.”

This, and what follows, comes from Vonk’s newly translated Exodus, the second primer in CLP’s growing Opening the Scriptures series:

Through his law, the Lord also taught Israel what sorts of social measures did and did not please him… Neither did the Lord forget to teach his people through the torah how they could please him through wise and generous economic measures…

…In the torah the voice of a Father is heard. God was teaching his chosen people what life is really all about so that they would follow his example and model themselves after his image.

He wanted them to be friendly and merciful, righteous and wise in daily life. Time and again the torah tells the Israelites, “You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today” (Deut. 15:14–15). The Lord’s commands to Israel often had such a reason or motive attached to them. The torah had its basis in the deliverance from Egypt, which was the liberation of life. That’s why the various social, economic, and legal measures all contain a hearty echo of the gospel. (more…)

Lorde LikenessAt Reason Thaddeus Russell argues that Macklemore and Lorde embody a kind of progressive cultural critique of capitalism, captured in the attack on “conspicuous consumption” made famous by Thorstein Veblen. Russell traces the “progressive lineage” of this critique: “Their songs continue a long tradition, rooted in progressivism, of protests against the pleasures of the poor.”

Having never listened to him, I have no opinion about Macklemore. Russell’s piece makes me want to take a moment to hear “Thrift Shop.” But over at Q Ideas today, I argue that in Lorde we find some cultural resources to inoculate us against the corrosive effects of envy.

The Christian tradition has long recognized that the poor can be just as materialistic and greedy as the rich. The poor just don’t usually have the same resources to bring those vices to such “conspicuous” manifestation. And it really is a stewardship problem to spend money on luxury goods when basic necessities are given short shrift.
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