Monthly Archives: January 2011

 

Jan

19

2011

Jared C. Wilson|3:25 pm CT

"The Past Offers No Refuge"

From Jay Watts, via Zach Nielsen:

I have been studying the history of abortion for about a year now, and one thing that I have confronted is that there are no “good old days” when people treated other human beings, unborn or born, with the dignity and respect those bearing the image of God deserve. Our history is filled with violence upon the young for the sake of the mature, it is just a different kind of violence to a slightly older human being. If anything, modern abortion is a sanitized version of an old evil. If the garbage bins of public streets were littered with the bodies of newborns rather than the “medical waste” of the unborn perhaps it would be unnecessary to explain to a self-professed “pro-life” gentleman why that identification impacts his daily life as I recently had to do. Perhaps the grim reality of the world we live in would be clearer to him. Seeing the daily killing of newborns is harder to live with than hearing about the statistics of the daily deaths of the unborn.

Though the past offers us no refuge to which we can point and say,”if only we could get back there”, we can at minimum remind our friends and adversaries that the laws once served to limit evil and inform our people of the nature of abortion. It would be easier to say that abortion has always been around so lets make it safe, but we would scoff at the person that made the same claim about infanticide, rape, or slavery. So we move forward calling the people around us to become something better than what we are even as we acknowledge that we do not fully know what that will look like. The alternative is to walk away and let the practice of abortion move forward without restraint or protest. If the unborn are fully human, that is just not an option no matter how much easier it would be.

Good words here.

The past offers no refuge. There is no golden age. The golden age is still to come, the day of the new heavens and the new earth, the day when “I am making all things new” becomes past tense. Our call in battling for the civil rights of the unborn, then, is not to hearken back to some good ol’ days, to whip up a militant sentimentality, a stubborn nostalgia. No, we must forge ahead into a time that has not yet come, loving and preaching and caring and supporting and adopting as if the day of safety of unborn children is rushing towards us as we rush to it.

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Jan

18

2011

Jared C. Wilson|1:35 am CT

The Purpose of the Church

“The Church exists for no other purpose but to draw men into Christ. . . If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other reason.”

– C.S. Lewis

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Jan

17

2011

Jared C. Wilson|8:20 pm CT

15 Talking Points on Abortion

by John Piper:

1. Existing fetal homicide laws make a man guilty of manslaughter if he kills the baby in a mother’s womb (except in the case of abortion).

2. Fetal surgery is performed on babies in the womb to save them while another child the same age is being legally destroyed.

3. Babies can sometimes survive on their own at 23 or 24 weeks, but abortion is legal beyond this limit.

4. Living on its own is not the criterion of human personhood, as we know from the use of respirators and dialysis.

5. Size is irrelevant to human personhood, as we know from the difference between a one-week-old and a six-year-old.

6. Developed reasoning powers are not the criterion of personhood, as we know from the capacities of three-month-old babies.

7. Infants in the womb are human beings scientifically by virtue of their genetic make up.

8. Ultrasound has given a stunning window on the womb that shows the unborn at eight weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. All the organs are present, the brain is functioning, the heart is pumping, the liver is making blood cells, the kidneys are cleaning fluids, and there is a fingerprint. Virtually all abortions happen later than this date.

9. Justice dictates that when two legitimate rights conflict, the limitation of rights that does the least harm is the most just. Bearing a child for adoption does less harm than killing him.

10. Justice dictates that when either of two people must be inconvenienced or hurt to alleviate their united predicament, the one who bore the greater responsibility for the predicament should bear more of the inconvenience or hurt to alleviate it.

11. Justice dictates that a person may not coerce harm on another person by threatening voluntary harm on themselves.

12. The outcast and the disadvantaged and exploited are to be cared for in a special way, especially those with no voice of their own.

13. What is happening in the womb is the unique person-nurturing work of God, who alone has the right to give and take life.

14. There are countless clinics that offer life and hope to both mother and child (and father and parents), with care of every kind lovingly provided by people who will meet every need they can.

15.Jesus Christ can forgive all sins, and will give all who trusts him the help they need to do everything that life requires.

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Jan

10

2011

Jared C. Wilson|3:52 pm CT

Christians and Internet Presence

Brandon Smith recently hosted a virtual roundtable discussion with Steve McCoy, Trevin Wax, and myself on topics related to the church and social media.

A snippet from one of Steve’s responses:

we can’t just stand back and listen to the hum of a million tweets with short shelf life. We have to focus in on thousands of relationships, and down to one relationship between two twitterers, and see what’s happening right now between them that’s going to last.

Read the whole thing.

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Jan

10

2011

Jared C. Wilson|3:51 pm CT

Pornography as "All That is in the World"

What makes pornography so powerful? How is it such a perfect storm of sinful appeal? I believe it is because it combines the trifecta of worldly lusters, what John calls “all that is in the world.”

1 John 2:16: For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions — is not from the Father but is from the world.

This is the same three-part temptation that Eve found so undeniable (in Genesis 3:6).

The Desires of the Flesh
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food . . .”

The Desires of the Eyes
“and that it was a delight to the eyes . . .”

Pride in Possessions

“and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate . . .”

Pornography contains original temptation’s nucleic acid.

The Desires of the Flesh
Is this not obvious from the sexual lust it arouses and claims to satisfy?

The Desires of the Eyes
Pornography sinks its hooks into the heart through visual appeal.

Pride in Possessions
The spiritual retardation pornography wreaks is complex. Because it exalts self-gratification, use of it is an act of pride. Because it requires more and more of it to gratify, like any drug promising a high, it encourages accumulation. One picture or video scene is enough at the beginning. The further one goes into pornography, the more pictures and scenes he or she needs to reach gratification. And there is a “secret knowledge” factor for men especially, the sense of voyeurism, the solitary exulting in something illicit (like Gollum in his cave with his birthday present, a simultaneous celebration and corruption, delight and degradation), an acquisition of esteem, of power. But it’s just smoke and mirrors.

These are the three hooks that grapple.

But there is good news for those wrapped up in the web of all that is in the world! Jesus has been tempted as we are, and he has been perfectly obedient (Matthew 4:1-11). He has resisted this same temptation!

The Desires of the Flesh
And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (4:3-4)

The Desires of the Eyes
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’” (4:8-10)

Pride in Possessions
“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (4:6-7)

Actually, those last two may be interchanged, as the offer of kingdoms is an offer of possessions and the offer to exploit his deity in such a showy manner as hosts of angels in command is as much a love of the sight of such glory as it is pride.

But the bottom line is that Jesus has conquered original sin and therefore “all that is in the world.” And he can forgive you for and redeem you from pornography. You know from experience that pornography does not satisfy as it claims; lay hold of the gospel by trusting that Jesus does.

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Jan

08

2011

Jared C. Wilson|3:32 pm CT

Covered!

Final version of the cover for my next book Gospel Wakefulness (Oct. 31, Crossway) released yesterday. The train track thing is a play off an illustration in the first chapter, and the whole vibe of the cover kind of reminds me of the (hardback) covers for Paul Auster’s Book of Illusions or Travels in the Scriptorium. Which is a good thing.

Book is already available for pre-order:
Crossway
Amazon

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Jan

07

2011

Jared C. Wilson|1:05 pm CT

Pastoral Ministry is a Life, Not a Technology

Evangelicalism suffers under the leadership of those who treat ministry like a technology and church like a business.

The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren . . . Pastoral authority can be attained only by the servant of Jesus who seeks no power of his own, who himself is a brother among brothers to the authority of the Word.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I discovered the spending a day reading thrity pages of Karl Barth’s Dogmatics helped me more in my pastoral work than a hundred of pages of how-to literature.

In my church history reading I ran into a biography of a pastor, The Life of Alexander Whyte; a personal narrative of a pastor, The Letters of Samuel Rutherford; and a fictional account of a pastor, Father Zossima in Feodor Dostyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov . . .

These books helped me a lot. But I didn’t know why stories about pastors who lived centuries ago could help me so much. I thought I was supposed to be a modern pastor, relevant to the world around me; and these books were from different worlds. But as I read these stories I felt myself caught up in the protagonists’ struggles to follow Jesus Christ in their daily lives.

These narratives pointed me to the fact that pastoral ministry is a life, not a technology. How-to books treat pastoral ministry like a technology. That’s fine on one level — pastoral ministry does require certain skills, and I need all the advice I can get. But my life as a pastor is far more than the sum of the tasks I carry out. It is a call from God that involves my whole life. The stories I read helped me to understand my life comprehensively. My life, too, is a story, and it is the narrative quality of my life that makes my ministry happen. Others see and participate in the story as it is told. I have discovered that when I follow Jesus in my everyday life as a pastor, people meet Jesus through my life.

David Hansen, The Art of Pastoring

Most churches make the mistake of selecting as leaders the confident, the competent, and the successful. But what you most need in a leader is someone who has been broken by the knowledge of his or her sin, and even greater knowledge of Jesus’ costly grace. The number one leaders in every church ought to be the people who repent the most fully without excuses, because you don’t need any now; the most easily without bitterness; the most publicly and the most joyfully. They know their standing isn’t based on their performance.

Tim Keller

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Jan

07

2011

Jared C. Wilson|1:04 pm CT

On the Christian’s Literary Frequency

Someone once wrote Roger Ebert and asked him why critics loved Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation so much while audiences in general didn’t even appreciate it. Ebert responded that the film transmitted on a different frequency than audiences are accustomed to receiving. (I was reminded of this tidbit from Ebert’s “Movie Answer Man” column only a couple days later while overhearing a conversation in a restaurant in which two men discussing of the movie revealed no hints of even knowing what it was about.)

It works the same way with books, I think, particularly as it relates to the dulling of the evangelical artistic palate. Is it too much to say that Christian readers have a distinct taste for mediocrity? I know evangelicals take a lot of hits for poor artistic sensibilities, but maybe the critique is a cliche for a reason?

Is it a supply problem or a demand problem? I think it’s both, which means the Christian publishing industry (and Christian retail in general, really) is in a vicious cycle of sorts. Publishers print what sells and until readers start buying substantive literature, publishers won’t produce it. But if publishers aren’t producing it in the first place, then readers don’t even have the opportunity to buy it. So basically, Christian readers are consuming what’s available because they don’t perceive any other option (in the Christian bookstore, that is).

The unfortunate side effect of that, though, is that we are producing generations of Christians whose literary appetites are for junk food.

Quickly and surely, Christians have developed a different literary frequency. It’s part of the larger culture, to be sure. It’s certainly not limited to Christians. Our country has set its dial to King, Clancy, and Grisham. Not that there’s anything really wrong (or even dumb) about those authors or others who fall into the wide swath of pop fiction. But folks programmed to receive only on those frequencies will likely miss the deeper, more insightful, more poetic messages of the classics. Or even contemporary literary novelists. Ever read a book by Don DeLillo? How about J.K. Rowling? I’d be willing to bet more of you have read authors like the latter than authors like the former.

Which is not to say anything negative about J.K. Rowling, or about pop fiction in general. I’m a fan of Stephen King myself. But when intelligent friends of mine say, for instance, that they have no taste for poetry, I get a little concerned. Not only does it mean we are lessening the chances of publication for future writers of intelligent and substantive literary Christian fiction, but it also means that we are losing touch with those who have gone before us. Because our senses have been dulled, we are unable to appreciate (and sometimes to even understand) what is written in the classics, including the classics of Christian fiction. (Yes, there are some.)

C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy was published only about sixty years ago. At the time, it was considered unabashed genre fiction — science fiction, to be specific. These days, I’m afraid Lewis’s Trilogy is felt by many too difficult, too thick, too confusing for modern readers.

Here’s an excerpt from his That Hideous Strength, the passage that inspired this rant of mine:

But it did not matter: for all the fragments — needle-pointed desires, brisk merriments, lynx-eyed thoughts — went rolling to and fro like glittering drops and reunited themselves. It was well that both men had some knowledge of poetry. The doubling, splitting, and recombining of thoughts which now went on in them would have been unendurable for one whom that art had not already instructed in the counterpoint of the mind, the mastery of doubled and trebled vision. For Ransom, whose study had been for many years in the realm of words, it was heavenly pleasure. He found himself sitting within the very heart of language, in the white-hot furnace of essential speech. All fact was broken, splashed into cataracts, caught, turned inside out, kneaded, slain, and reborn as meaning. For the lord of Meaning himself, the herald, the messenger, the slayer of Argus, was with them . . .

Besides the sheer beauty of the composition here, I see also a peculiar prescience in these words. For most readers weaned today on what most genre fiction has to offer (which is usually what sells best), this passage (not to mention the entire book) would be completely confounding. You won’t find “the very heart of language, the white-hot furnace of essential speech” in Left Behind; some clunky and cliched phrasing propped around cardboard characters, maybe, but certainly nothing that would benefit those with “some knowledge of poetry.”

There is some hope, though. Browse through the featured fiction section of your local Target sometime and notice that it primarily consists of what one could consider literary works — literary novels, historical mysteries, memoirs, essay collections, etc. And for all that the idolatrous therapeutic cult of Oprah has wrought, her book club selections were always well chosen. Her latest selection is Dickens. No chick lit or fiction lite for Oprah’s readers. That’s encouraging, I think.

If only these trends would carry over into Christian readership. If only these trends were pioneered by Christian readers!

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Jan

06

2011

Jared C. Wilson|12:56 pm CT

10 Best Books I Read in 2010

Not all these books released in 2010, but these are the best books I read in the previous year. They are in no particular order, but the bolded title was the best of the best.

Counted Righteous in Christ by John Piper

World War Z by Max Brooks

Vermont: A History by Charles T. Morissey

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Too Far to Go by John Updike

For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper ed. by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor

Commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther

Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer

The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes

What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp

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Jan

06

2011

Jared C. Wilson|12:56 pm CT

Never Late, Never Early

Galatians 4:1-7:
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.
But when the fullness of time had come . . .

What a wonderful phrase! “When the fullness of time had come.” It is the gospel counterpart to the biblical lament “How long O Lord?”

That there is a fullness of time reminds us that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness” (2 Peter 3:9).

I am reminded of Gandalf’s words to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring: “A wizard is never late, nor is he early; he arrives precisely when he means to.”

For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.

– Habakkuk 2:3

There’s a date set! It will not delay.

Are you waiting for deliverance from something? Are you longing for the Lord’s return?

God’s timing is perfect. He’s never late nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.

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