Monthly Archives: January 2010

 

Jan

25

2010

Trevin Wax|2:24 am CT

Worth a Look 1.25.10

Ray Ortlund on how to wreck your church in 3 weeks:

Week One:  Walk into church today and think about how long you’ve been a member, how much you’ve sacrificed, how under-appreciated you are.  Take note of every way you’re dissatisfied with your church now.  Take note of every person who displeases you.

Meet for coffee this week with another member and “share your heart.”  Discuss how your church is changing, how you are being left out.  Ask your friend who else in the church has “concerns.”  Agree together that you must “pray about it.”

Doug Wilson’s interesting insights regarding R.C. Sproul and N.T. Wright on judging by the heart versus judging by the paperwork:

The irony is that the mistake Wright makes about first century Jews, R.C. makes about the Reformed, and the valuable insight that Wright offers pastorally about some of the tight-shoed Reformed, he declines to apply to first century Jews. In short, R.C. judges the Reformed tradition by the paperwork, and first century Jews by the heart. Wright judges the Reformed by the heart, and judges the first century Jews by the paperwork.

Here’s how the American Idol auditions really work (HT – Z):

The seemingly open auditions in front of the judges are a carefully edited myth. Embedded correspondent Richard Rushfield on the clandestine process.

Mugged by Ultrasound

Advances in ultrasound imaging and abortion procedures have forced providers ever closer to the nub of their work. Especially in abortions performed far enough along in gestation that the fetus is recognizably a tiny baby, this intimacy exacts an emotional toll, stirring sentiments for which doctors, nurses, and aides are sometimes unprepared.

 
 

Jan

24

2010

Trevin Wax|3:48 am CT

Keep Your Church Steadfast, Lord

Almighty Father,
who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles,
to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God:

Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith,
so that in our unity and peace
we may proclaim the one truth
and follow the one Lord,
our Savior Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.

 
 

Jan

23

2010

Trevin Wax|3:38 am CT

Everywhere, But Nowhere

Adam McHugh’s book, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, is well worth reading. (I have a review coming soon.) I found this section to be a good critique of technology’s ability to simultaneously connect and disconnect us from other people:

Ours is an overstimulated culture, and an insidious side effect is that our inner worlds are atrophying. As our world becomes more and more driven by external stimulation and our lifestyles mirror the dizzying speed of our technology, we focus outward at the expense of the inward. We take leaps and bounds in one direction but drift from another, which can have the effect of alienating us from ourselves, others and God.

My wife and I recently witnessed the disorienting nature of technology at a local movie theater. The next day, perhaps ironically, I recorded my reflections on my blog:

There were three people in the rows in front of us who had their cell phones open during the entire movie. They were text messaging and surfing the Internet and otherwise annoying people. As I saw those cell phone screens open during the movie, I observed that the people using them were not fully committed to being anywhere during those two hours. They were physically sitting in the theater, even sitting with others who accompanied them, but their minds and hearts were scattered all over the place. They were not fully present, in terms of their attention, to the visual and auditory experience in front of them, they were not fully present to their friends and family that they were sitting next to, and they were not geographically present to the people they were text messaging. They had a hand and foot in several different places that were disconnected, leaving them as some sort of radical amputees. They were everywhere and they were nowhere.

Aside from how piercingly bright a cell phone screen can be in a dark movie theater and how bizarre it is to text message during an intense and complex spy movie. I got to thinking about how handheld technology affects our sense of personal identity. So many people walk through their lives as ghosts, not fully present to anything, gliding through places and around people but not really seeing or experiencing or being seen or experienced.

 
 

Jan

22

2010

Trevin Wax|3:55 am CT

Trevin's Seven

1. Christian History and Biography is offering a sale of historic proportions! You can purchase 68 issues for $68, which represents an 80% savings. If you are not familiar with this magazine, you should be.

2. Lots of interesting discussion about InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and the proper doctrinal boundaries for a parachurch organization. J. Mack Stiles’ article in the 9Marks e-Journal makes the case that IVF is drifting from the gospel.

In the mid 70′s, some in the evangelical world called evangelism and social action equal partners in the missions mandate. This unbiblical principle has so worked its way into modern evangelicalism that we are threatened to go the way mainline liberal churches went in the 40′s and 50′s, and subvert the call to proclaim the Gospel in all the nations.

What’s at stake is a capitulation to a social gospel, rather than seeing social action as an outworking and implication of the gospel.

3. Michael Bird offers a rejoinder to Stiles’ article on InterVarsity, making distinctions between IVP in the U.S. and the U.K. Bird believes we should save the rhetoric against liberalism for real liberals.

A further problem is who is IVP’s constituency? Is it complementarian, ESV-only, amillennial, anti-charismatic, pro-gun, credo-baptist, home schooling only folks? Perhaps those whom IVP represents and thus caters for is broader than what Stiles himself thinks it should be and that is the problem. The issue I have with conservative evangelicalism is that they don’t mind people more conservative than them (and even tolerate strange and obscene views like KJV-only or Landmark views of baptism), but don’t tolerate anyone a smidge to the left.

4. Brent Thomas also responds to the 9Marks e-Journal, and wonders out loud if there is a growing divide within the Reformed Resurgence between those who use the term “missional” and those who do not.

It seems that, on one side, we have many moving towards what is becoming known as a “missional” approach, focusing on God’s mission to restore all things to Himself through the person and work of Jesus Christ. It might be said that Tim Keller is at the forefront of this movement. On the other side, we have the more traditional, church-focused camp spearheaded by 9 Marks Ministries and Mark Dever focusing on the supremacy of penal substitionary atonement in any talk of salvation (I’m not so sure these things are mutually exclusive, personally, but that’s not really the point). Again, this is just my sense and I could be wrong, but from my perspective, such as it is, I not only sense a growing separation, but that separation being pushed by the more traditional side.

5. Rick Warren’s Ten Commandments for Ministry Staff

6. Marty Duren’s fascinating with Pulitzer Prize winning author, Douglas Blackmon on the convict-lease system that held blacks in perpetual slavery after the Civil War. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

7. Zach is giving away copies of Piper’s new book, A Sweet and Bitter Providence.

 
 

Jan

21

2010

Trevin Wax|3:54 am CT

Book Notes: A Sweet & Bitter Providence / God the Peacemaker

A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God

Brief comments on two books I have read recently:

A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God
John Piper
Crossway, 2010
My Rating: ****

John Piper’s new book takes readers through the Old Testament account of Ruth, filling us with hope that leads to radical risk-taking for the glory of Christ. Piper excels at putting the Bible in context, exploring textual nuances that some readers may miss, and keeping the focus on Christ and his kingdom.

Some may be unconvinced by a couple of his exegetical conclusions, but all will find his treatment to be appropriately challenging and comforting. The imagery of God as the great eagle under whose wings we take refuge will stick with me the rest of my life.

God the Peacemaker (New Studies in Biblical Theology)God the Peacemaker
Graham A. Cole
IVP Academic 2010
My Rating: ****

The “New Studies in Biblical Theology” may be some of the most underrated theology books on the market today. Cole’s God the Peacemaker is a gem. Filled with solid textual analysis, Cole’s book shines light on the biblical teaching of the atonement.

At the same time, Cole keeps an eye on current discussions and debates, interacting graciously with proponents of the New Perspective on Paul and those who question the centrality of penal substitution. One section is devoted to the question of what took place on Holy Saturday.

This volume represents the bringing together of exegetical analysis, pastoral reflection, and contemporary discussion.

 
 

Jan

21

2010

Trevin Wax|2:52 am CT

Worth a Look 1.21.10

George H.W. Bush’s letter to his children before the first Gulf War:

I guess what I want you to know as a father is this: Every human life is precious. When the question is asked “How many lives are you willing to sacrifice?”- it tears at my heart. The answer, of course, is none- none at all. We have waited to give sanctions a chance, we have moved a tremendous force so as to reduce the risk to every American soldier if force has to be used; but the question of loss of life still lingers and plagues the heart.

Dostoyevksy on why you need a church:

Moral of the story for Christians: don’t say you “love” Christians unless you’re willing to submit yourself to actual body of nose-blowing believers.

How Ted Kennedy is responsible for giving his seat to Republicans:

As a friend pointed out to me in an email yesterday, the possibility of defeat for national health-care reform is the fault of its biggest champion. If he hadn’t insisted on holding onto his Senate seat until his death—if instead he’d resigned and thrown his weight behind his own choice of successor—the Democrats wouldn’t have lost his seat.

Pastors, be full of Jesus

Even angels long to gaze into the life-giving riches of the gospel of grace. We prefer to drink deeply from the well into which we’re gazing — our navels.

Pastors, inspiration sells. But only Jesus transforms.

 
 

Jan

20

2010

Trevin Wax|3:22 am CT

More on Proselytism: A Conversation with Gary

I generally do not interact in great detail with readers who leave comments on my blog. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to, but I find it difficult to blog consistently and stay active in every comment thread.

Nevertheless, a friend I used to work with in Louisville left me a long comment about my recent post in defense of proselytism. Since his comment represents the thought of many in our society today, I thought I would respond to his comment with a new post. You can read the original post and his comment (unedited) here.

Gary: Please know that I appreciate you and mean you no disrespect at any point through this missive.

Trevin: I echo the same sentiments, and I am not offended in the least by the points you raise. Even though I’m going to press you on some of your comments, I hope you’ll take them in the spirit of friendship that I offer them.

Gary: Each of us must find that way of viewing the self, world, and the divine that works best for us, that which we feel to be superior, so while an adherent of any philosophy, spiritual system of thought, or religion will likely find their path to be “the best”, what makes proselytizing a rather ugly practice, in my honest opinion, is the belief that the proselytizer’s path is *objectively* superior, not *subjectively* superior.

Trevin: You are rightly focusing on the main issue – that someone who proselytizes thinks their belief is objectively true for all, not merely true for them. That is the rub. For me to remain a faithful Christian, I cannot speak of Christianity as merely “the best way to live.” We believe that the Christian Story is objectively true.

I don’t think it’s arrogant to make a claim that is true for all people. It seems more arrogant to me for someone to make the case that their faith is superior, without making any attempt to ground that conclusion in objective reality. If faiths are merely a matter of subjective preference (like having a favorite color, or a favorite kind of ice cream), then yes, proselytism is ugly and intolerant. But if faith deals with truths that encompass all of reality, then proselytism is only natural.

Gary: He who is not called to proselytizing may follow his path to his utmost while recognizing the uniqueness of each creation and the free will upon which each creation is founded…. In this point of view, the non-proselytizer can embrace the great diversity of paths which begin from different starting points but which all, in their own time, converge upon the mountaintop at the same point.

Trevin: I believe you are contradicting yourself, and if the full text of your comments is any indication, you recognize that this is a contradiction. You believe that we should all see our faiths as “subjectively,” not “objectively” superior to another, which means that we should not proselytize, but recognize that everyone has their own subjective viewpoint.

The problem is… if you are going to hold fast to this idea, you too must admit that your mountaintop analogy is also subjective. But that’s not what I see going on here. No… you are using an objective argument (“all faiths lead to the same point from different starting points”) in order to make your case that all faiths are subjective.

Can you see the arrogance of this line of argumentation? Everyone else is blind and can’t see the whole mountain. I alone have the vision that captures it all. I alone can see that all religions are actually getting at the same thing.

Your method of argumentation actually cancels out your main point, namely – that we should see our beliefs as subjective rather than objective, since you are putting forth an argument that assumes an objective reality that encompasses all of the subjective religious beliefs. Though you claim to be just another pilgrim on a different path, your illustration betrays the fact that you actually are standing from a vantage point that takes in the whole picture. (You recognize this at the end of this section of your comment, when you admit that your belief here is also subjective.)

Gary: The proselytizer ultimately hopes to accomplish the subversion of another’s free will to choose the path that is for them – the imposition of one’s will upon the other.

Trevin: I don’t see it that way at all. The proselytizer is merely seeking to persuade someone to another point of view, which is what you are doing too in this comment thread. Nothing wrong with that!

I don’t believe you are trying to subvert my free will by trying to convince me that proselytism is “ugly”. You are making a case and seeking to persuade me. Likewise, I’m making a case for Christianity and seeking to persuade you. We are appealing to each others’ mind, emotions, and experience. I’m not subverting your free will or imposing my will on you. Neither are you doing the same to me.

Gary: I do not believe that all religions are “equal”. I believe that that while there is great commonality across the religions, especially to the eye of the mystic, there is significant difference. They are not “equal” at all. However I would contend that each path is *valid* to those who know how to properly use it.

Trevin: I am glad that you do recognize differences between systems of thought. My question is this: What do you do when the religions contradict one another?

For example, Muslims do not believe that Jesus died on the cross, but someone who looked like Jesus got crucified. Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross. These statements are contradictory. One must be true and the other false.

Likewise, Hindus believe in many gods. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe there is only one God. Atheists don’t believe in any god at all. Who is right?

My concern is that, in your effort to see commonality between the religions, you paper over these distinctions and consider all these viewpoints valid for the one who holds them. But it is wrong to consider falsehood (in any form) as valid.

If you are driving a car on a path headed toward a cliff, it would be silly for me to say, “As long as you think your path is leading up the mountain, have a good ride!” Instead, you would expect me to warn you that the path is wrong. If you told me that your religion teaches the non-existence of gravity, I would be a fool to say, “As long as that’s true for you, have fun jumping off my house.” No… I would say, “Gravity is an objective reality whether you believe it personally for yourself or not. Watch out that you don’t kill yourself.”

The proselytizer believes in something objectively true, and that is why he or she warns other people who may be adopting false beliefs.

Gary: The narrow-minded need to foist Jesus upon another, rejecting that which the individual has learned and gained upon their sacred journey and supplanting it with a *personal*, subjective vision of truth. The act which you describe says loudly, “I personally know what is best for you… over and above what **you** think is best for you.”

Trevin: The biggest source of our disagreement is in how you define religious truth. You would proselytize me into believing that Christianity is just one of many paths to the same (nebulous, undefined) god. You would have me not proselytize, even if Jesus commands me to make disciples. You would have me abandon the radical, unique truth claims at the heart of the Christian faith.

I cannot adopt your idea of religious truth as being subjective and personal without cutting out the very heart of my faith. You want me to be true to Christianity as a religion true for me. But that is not how Christianity works.

Christians believe that God entered the world as Jesus Christ, died as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and then rose again bodily to new life on the third day after his death. The death and resurrection at the heart of Christianity are historical events that change things objectively. We believe these events are objectively true regardless of how many people believe in them. For me to see Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as a “personal, subjective” belief is to abandon legitimate Christianity and replace it with something else.

In the end, I go back to my initial defense of proselytism. Both of us are involved in proselytism, Gary. I just wish that you would recognize your version of it. You make your case as if your belief is objectively true and encompasses various religious beliefs (and should be adopted by proselytizers like me!).

There’s nothing wrong with that… We can have a further discussion about religion if we can at least agree on the basic tenet that there are objective truths in the world that are true for everyone, and if you will admit that you are putting forth an objective viewpoint in an effort to persuade me as well.

 
 

Jan

20

2010

Trevin Wax|2:26 am CT

Worth a Look 1.20.10

Francis Chan has a challenging and convicting post about a pastor’s public passion versus private devotion:

It is hard to be rejected. I hated it in junior high, and I still hate it today. It didn’t take long to learn how to fit in, in order to avoid the pain of rejection. That ability has stayed with me and begs me to use it. I know how to keep people from rejecting me and leaving the church. I know what words to say and which actions to take to keep people around. But when I do that, I’m no longer leading. I’m being led by the right or wrong desires of the people.

Looking for a newer, new perspective on Paul? Here are two.

I’m very grateful for Bob Kellemen’s review of Holy Subversion now posted at DiscerningReader.com. This is the first official review that has come out:

In a mere 130 pages of text (excluding the front and back matter), Trevin Wax has walked us through a practical theology of salvation, discipleship/Christian living, and evangelism. In the spirit of the Puritans, he shows us the way of the world and loads our conscience with guilt. Also in the spirit of the Puritans, he clarifies the way of the Word and lightens our conscience with grace. He is a subversive–a holy subversive.

Watch this video on the most abortion-targeted neighborhood in America. (The flyer for discount abortions will make you sick.) The good news is, Heartbeat International is working to change this.

 
 

Jan

19

2010

Trevin Wax|3:27 am CT

Reflections on the Release of My Book

Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of RivalsAs of today, Holy Subversion is officially in stock at Amazon.com and will soon be in bookstores across the country.

Last Wednesday, I received my first copy of the book, graciously Fed-Exed to me by Crossway. It is indeed a wonderful feeling to hold your own book in your hands.

Now that the book is out, I’d like to mention a few things that I’ve learned about writing and about myself:

1. Writing is harder than most people realize.

As Corina looked through the book last week, she asked, “Can you believe that all these words are yours?” I looked at her and with a chuckle replied, “Frankly… YES!”

A writer slaves over his words for months. No matter how much you enjoy writing, you will find yourself bogged down in endless edits and continual rephrasing of your sentences.

It is absolutely imperative that you be passionate about your topic before you sit down to write a book. Passion keeps you going when the going gets tough. Have you ever found it harder to write a 5-page book review for a book you didn’t like than to write a 20-page research paper about a subject you found fascinating? Passion makes up the difference.

2. Writing is deeply personal.

Every writer puts a piece of his soul in his book.

As I looked through Holy Subversion last week, I scanned chapter 5, the chapter on subverting Leisure and Entertainment. Every time I look at that chapter, I remember where I was when I wrote it. That particular chapter came together the day that our daughter Julia was born. (No… I was not feverishly finishing the chapter while Corina was giving birth in the other room! I worked on that chapter all day, and Corina went into labor that evening. Just in case you were wondering…)

Likewise, I came up with the structure of the final chapter (“Subversive Evangelism”) while taking a walk one summer day through the downtown streets of our city. Even now, when I look at some of those sections, I can see the distinct buildings beside the road in front of me.

Writing is personal. That’s why, regardless of the nature of the book, authors take criticism of their work so seriously. Whenever you critique someone’s book, you are critiquing a part of their life, questioning ideas that they have devoted time and attention to.

Writers have to grow some tough skin. You write a book because you want your ideas to be made public. You invite criticism. It’s the nature of publishing. A solid critique should not be taken as a personal attack, but given the personal act of writing, it sometimes feels that way.

3. Every writer is deeply influenced and inspired by others.

The last few weeks, I have been filled with gratitude for the people who have poured themselves into my life – people like my former pastor Ken Polk, under whose expository, evangelistic preaching I sat for more than a decade growing up. I am thankful for my pastor Kevin Minchey, who has showed me what pastoral care looks like and has supported and taught me during this stage in my life.

I am thankful for parents who have encouraged me to live in light of God’s kingdom. They have always believed that ideas matter and are worth discussing, debating, and deliberating. Whenever my family gets together (brothers and sister and everyone), we don’t sit around and talk about the weather. We discuss and debate whatever theological or political issue seems most important at the time. Such conversations stimulate the mind and sharpen our thinking.

I am thankful for the quality education I received at Emanuel University in Romania and Southern Seminary in Louisville.

I am also thankful for the subscribers of this blog. I am honored by the fact that so many people would visit this site and read my book reviews and other articles. I am grateful for the writers who have participated in interviews here, and for the other bloggers who link to my work.

The good folks at Crossway have been great to work with. I will be forever grateful that they believed in this project enough to take on the risk of publishing an unknown, first-time author.

4. Authors are never fully satisfied with the final product.

Much time goes by in between the submission of a manuscript and the release date of a book. I began writing Holy Subversion in the summer of 2007. I finished the first draft in late summer, 2008. The final edits were approved in May 2009. The book hits shelves now, in 2010.

As I look back over the work, I find phrases here and there that I would tweak. A writer is never fully satisfied with his project. By nature, we are “word-tinkerers”. We keep playing with them until the publisher says, “That’s it. Time to hit the press!”

5. It is difficult for the Christian author to realize where book promotion ends and personal ambition begins.

It is not easy to separate book promotion and self-promotion. Since writing a book is such a personal endeavor, it is no wonder that it is difficult to separate the two.

A friend at church told me, “Trevin, as long as your motivation is to do good for the kingdom, you don’t need to worry about the sin of self-advancement.” That’s easier said than done. Truth be told, even my best motivations are tainted by sin, and I recognize them as such.

As I have weighed my own motivations and feelings as the release date has drawn closer, I’ve come to realize that two statements are true:

  1. If the book did not result in bearing fruit for God’s kingdom, I would be disappointed.
  2. If the book did not result in advancing my own name, I would also be disappointed.

The first statement is gospel-driven. The second is idolatrous.

I recognize that I am a mixed bag with mixed-up motives – some that need to die, and some that need to live. Writing a book and hoping it does well can be a terrible temptation to pride. I am praying that God would humble me so that he can use me.

The more I pursue humility, the more I realize that humility is a by product of pursuing something else – namely the kingdom of God and the fame of Christ. So I am constantly asking God to root out the wrong motivations and replace them with love for my King and his kingdom.

I am challenging believers to a life of holy subversion. There is no one who needs that challenge more than me.

 
 

Jan

19

2010

Trevin Wax|2:19 am CT

Worth a Look 1.19.10

Marty Duren posts the first installment of an excellent interview with author, Douglas Blackmon. The topic is Blackmon’s book, Slavery by Another Name, which explores the ways in which Southerners in the late 1800′s were able to get around the Emancipation Proclamation.

What [the convict lease system] did was create a market for people in a society which, when this began in the 1870s, was just 10 years removed from when people owned people and the idea of buying and selling humans was still natural. This new economic market mechanism for valuing men and trafficking in them, very quickly many people realized a new way to again take possession of a black man who had been their slave only a decade before.

Russell Moore on why King’s vision overcame “Christian” white supremacy:

The arguments for racial reconciliation were persuasive, ultimately, to orthodox Christians because they appealed to a higher authority than the cultural captivity of white supremacy. These arguments appealed to the authority of Scripture and the historic Christian tradition.

As we reflect on Martin Luther King, Jr., other forms of discrimination continue. Martha Coakley, candidate for the Massachusetts Senate, tells pro-life doctors and nurses that they should not work in the Emergency Room.

Paul Copan’s advice to a future seminarian:

As you go on for further pastoral training, continue to develop Christ-oriented, soul-shaping habits outside the classroom. Seminary students often neglect spiritual nourishment, falsely assuming that doing homework in biblical studies and theology will suffice. Meanwhile, their spirit shrivels or, at best, becomes stunted.