Monthly Archives: September 2012

 

Sep

30

2012

Trevin Wax|3:58 am CT

In Evil Long I Took Delight

In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.

I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.

Sure, never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.

Alas, I knew not what I did,
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.

A second look He gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou mayst live.”

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.

With pleasing grief and mournful joy,
My spirit is now filled;
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by him I killed.

John Newton

 
 

Sep

29

2012

Trevin Wax|3:45 am CT

A Marvelous and Mighty Paradox

“He, the Life of all, our Lord and Saviour,
did not arrange the manner of his own death
lest He should seem to be afraid of some other kind.
No. He accepted and bore upon the cross
a death inflicted by others,
and those other His special enemies,
a death which to them was supremely terrible
and by no means to be faced;
and He did this in order that,
by destroying even this death,
He might Himself be believed to be the Life,
and the power of death be recognised as finally annulled.

A marvelous and mighty paradox has thus occurred,
for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonour and disgrace
has become the glorious monument to death’s defeat.”

- Athanasius, On the Incarnation

 
 

Sep

27

2012

Trevin Wax|3:40 am CT

Who Are the Great Theologians? A Conversation with Gerald McDermott

Today we are revisiting a past Kingdom People interview with Gerald McDermott, professor of religion and philosophy at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. His new book is The Great Theologians: A Brief Guide (see my review here). He is also the author of Seeing God: Jonathan Edwards and Spiritual Discernment and God’s Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions? Insights from the Bible and the Early Church.

Trevin Wax: Your new book profiles eleven theologians throughout Christian history. Why are these theologians (many who lived more than a thousand years ago) relevant to the Christian today?

Gerald McDermott: Let me try to answer that question with an illustration.

Suppose you know there is a great woman of God in your church who has read the Bible and theology for forty years. She not only has deep knowledge of Scripture and how to interpret it for life and culture, but she also walks a holy life. People often remark on her humility and love.

What if you were to take the attitude, “I’m going to construct my own theology (which, remember, is your view of God) on my own, simply reading the Bible and theology books by myself.”

Wouldn’t that be odd, when you have a godly theologian in your midst? In fact, doesn’t this seem to illustrate sinful pride? It calls to mind the warning of Proverbs: “Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (1:7b).

To ignore the great and godly minds of the church who have been ruminating on God for thousands of years—when now we have them at our fingertips through books and even the Internet—seems to be a kind of arrogance and presumption. It ignores the biblical reminder that there is wisdom in “the multitude of counselors” (Prov 11:14).

It also forgets another biblical observation that learning from other godly minds and comparing our thoughts with theirs is like “iron sharpening iron” (Prov 27:17), making our thinking about God sharper and clearer. The result will be deeper knowledge of God, which Jesus said is “eternal life” (John 17:3).

Trevin Wax: Why did you choose these particular theologians?

Gerald McDermott: Generally, these are the eleven whom I consider to have had the most influence on the history of Christian thought.

  • Origen’s way of reading shaped Bible interpretation for the next 1500 years.
  • Athanasius saved the church from degenerating into a little sect of Greek philosophy.
  • Augustine was perhaps the most influential of all theologians—East or West—teaching us all, for instance, the meaning of grace.
  • Thomas Aquinas was declared by the Catholic Church to be its foremost Doctor (teacher), and showed us all how faith relates to reason and the meaning of “sacrament.”
  • Luther’s efforts to reform the Catholic Church were the principal stimulus to the rise of Protestantism.
  • Calvin was the first and greatest teacher of that second great Protestant tradition, the Reformed movement.
  • Edwards was the greatest religious thinker to grace the American continent and also the premier Christian thinker about how God relates to beauty.
  • Friedrich Schleiermacher was the father of liberal theology.
  • John Henry Newman was the great reformer of the Church of England who famously became a Catholic and showed us how doctrine develops through time.
  • Barth was the most influential of all 20th-century theologians.
  • Von Balthasar, a contemporary of Barth, is fast becoming the most important Catholic theologian for this new century.

Trevin Wax: I’m curious as to the reasoning behind some of your picks, particularly John Henry Newman and Hans Urs von Balthasar, when I would probably have put the Basil the Great or Irenaeus first.

Gerald McDermott: Basil and Irenaeus are both great minds and had enormous influence on our thinking. But, as I say in the Introduction to the book, I wanted to keep the list to ten or so, and I wanted to limit myself to those with the greatest influence.

Balthasar is a rising star in Catholic theology, and is becoming the most influential among Catholic 20th-century thinkers. Newman is a personal favorite, not only because he was Anglican (as I am) but also because of his journey from evangelicalism to high church. I also find that I never cease to learn from him, unlike so many others who seem to repeat what has already been said.

Trevin Wax: How do we learn from the strengths of each of these theologians while avoiding their weaknesses?

Gerald McDermott: By reading more than just one or two. This is the glory of the Great Tradition. By reading it over the centuries, and not limiting ourselves to one or two thinkers, or one or two periods (such as today and the Reformation), our knowledge and wisdom become more balanced. We see the weaknesses of one period by comparing with other periods.

Trevin Wax: Of the eleven you picked, which one is your personal favorite?

Gerald McDermott: Edwards.

Trevin Wax: Why?

Gerald McDermott: I have spent the better part of my scholarly life reading and writing about him (I am writing my 5th book devoted to his corpus). Better than anyone in America and perhaps ever, he combined keenness of intellect with passion for God.

Trevin Wax: One of the messages that comes through very clearly in your book is that theology has consequences, both positive and negative. Each of these great theologians had their weaknesses. What are some of the unfortunate consequences from their weaknesses?

Gerald McDermott: Well, I’ll start with Edwards, who opposed the slave trade yet had slaves himself. He reminds us that no theologian gets it all right. While his own son and top disciple (Samuel Hopkins) were leaders in the abolitionist movement, he himself couldn’t quite see it.

Then there were major negative influencers such as Schleiermacher. I include him, the father of liberal theology, because orthodox Christians need to learn what to watch out for. He is a lesson in how not to do theology.

Trevin Wax: How can we be good theologians?

Gerald McDermott: By being steeped in the Great Tradition. We need to be humble, and learn from the great minds and hearts that have spent thousands of years (collectively) meditating on God’s Word, listening to God’s voice, and learning from one another. If we proudly think we can do it on our own, or simply with the latest books by contemporary writers, we will inevitably go astray.

 
 

Sep

27

2012

Trevin Wax|2:53 am CT

Worth a Look 9.27.12

Kindle Deal of the Day: NIV Once-A-Day 31 Days of Wisdom. FREE.

This 31-day reading from the book of Proverbs from the New International Version of the Bible will speak to your deepest needs as you engage with God’s Word. Practical and insightful, these devotions—written by the staff at trusted ministry Walk Thru the Bible—will fill each day with wisdom and understanding about who God is and what he has intended for the lives of his people.

A Dissatisfied Faith:

The church must be vigilant in guarding against the dissatisfaction touted by the world. We should want more, but not the more of stuff, things, and reputation. If a church family primarily wants more moving lights, programs, publications, and land, then an evaluation is in order. But the same can be said of those who want more of the “less” regarding church life. Simplicity can become a task master as well. Desiring a culture of less programs, less structure, and less physical property can be a way of more other things can become a short path to more centralized power. Ego is a danger whenever the amount of humanity is involved. So what should we want more of?

Changing the World Begins with Prayer:

The work of reaching and changing the world is, indeed, a work done on our knees. And, it is a work that takes on the nature of fierce and intense warfare. After all, one of Satan’s chief weapons is to cut off communication with God, communication that takes place in prayer.

 FactChecker: Divorce Rate Among Christians:

“Christians divorce at roughly the same rate as the world!”

It’s one of the most quoted stats by Christian leaders today. And it’s perhaps one of the most inaccurate.

How the Doxology Shapes Us:

One drop of water on a rock has little effect, but a steady dripping will eventually wear a hole into a seemingly impenetrable stone. Singing the Doxology every week is like getting a steady drip of life-giving Trinitarian water over hardened hearts.

 
 

Sep

26

2012

Trevin Wax|3:48 am CT

From My Library: Reviews of 4 Notable Books

Here are some of my reviews of noteworthy books released in the last few years.

 Total Church:
A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community

Steve Timmis and Tim Chester

When I first began reading, I was not expecting their vision of church to be so comprehensive. It is indeed total church – in that this book addresses a wide variety of important issues facing the church. This book will lead to fruitful discussion about the church and the gospel. Total Church deserves to be read, pondered, discussed, and practiced.

See full review here.

 God Is Not One:
The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World-and Why Their Differences Matter 

Stephen Prothero

Prothero not only seeks to convince Americans of the need for religious knowledge; he also believes we need to put an end to the idea that all religions are fundamentally the same. Not only does religion matter, our religious differencesmatter too.

Prothero believes that many scholars are unable to understand each religion on its own terms because of their mistaken foundational belief that all religions are fundamentally the same.

See full review here.

 The King Jesus Gospel:
The Original Good News Revisited
Scot McKnight

The King Jesus Gospel deserves an award for being the “most marked up” book I’ve read this year. I’ve got all sorts of passages highlighted, with notes in the margins, question marks here and there, exclamation points (both good and bad!), and worn-out pages. Put simply, I agree with much of Scot’s proposal, and yet there are places where I think he presses us into making some false choices.

Here is my review of the book in two parts – “Points of Agreement” and “Points of Concern” as well as an interview with Scot about the Christianity Today cover story that preceded the book.

 After You Believe:
Why Christian Character Matters
N.T. Wright

The best part of Wright’s proposal is that he does not speak of virtue or character formation in a general sense. He makes the case for distinctively Christian virtue, showing how the New Testament authors go above and beyond Aristotle by promoting a view of virtue that is cross-shaped and hope-driven.

Read the full review, or check out my interview with Wright about the book. Michael Horton’s critique is also worth reading.

 
 

Sep

26

2012

Trevin Wax|2:33 am CT

Worth a Look 9.26.12

Kindle Deal of the Day: C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography. $2.99.

Spurgeon was a prolific author of many types of works including sermons, an autobiography, a commentary, books on prayer, a devotional, a magazine, poetry,[4] hymnist,[5] and more. Many sermons were transcribed as he spoke and were translated into many languages during his lifetime. Arguably, no other author, Christian or otherwise, has more material in print than C.H. Spurgeon.

Preaching for the “Home Run”

My question is, “How does a pastor handle the pressure of preaching every week?” If I’m being honest, I feel that I have to hit a home run* or I have wasted everyone’s time that week. Does the pastor prepare his sermon so that it’s a base hit* or do you swing for the fences* every week?

Religion is Wasted on the Young:

My students are often Christians who are old enough to mock mercilessly the people that gave of their time sacrificially to disciple them when they were young but who are not yet mature enough to be able to disciple others. I often find them quick-off-the-draw-ready with a forceful and sophisticated critique of most any traditional religious belief or practice.

They can be sadly flummoxed, however, by a simple request to explain what is true.

A good example why businesses should think long-term and not only about the newest and most immediate thing:I Love Lucy Still a Cash Cow for CBS

The show brings in around $20 million to the studio annually, according to CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in New York Thursday.

“The world is a beautiful place, we’re going to get paid more and more,” Moonves said.

The Dead at Antietam - How Matthew Brady’s Photos Changed the Way Americans Look at War:

“The Dead of Antietam” both horrified and fascinated people. It was the first time in history that the general public was able to see the true carnage of war. One reporter wrote, “Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our door-yards and along streets, he has done something very like it.”

 
 

Sep

25

2012

Trevin Wax|3:45 am CT

“Well, At Least I Had a Good Time…”

Talent shows are ever-present on TV. Here’s one of the things that still bugs me about the way contestants sometimes respond to criticism.

american-idol-8-four-judgesWhenever Simon Cowell gives a brutally honest assessment of an American Idol performance, all of America watches the response of the contestant.

What will they say?

Will they take the criticism in stride?

Will they incorporate the truth and become better?

Or will they lash out against Simon (who is usually right)?

For years, we have heard the common refrain from contestants: “Well, Simon… That’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it.” Perhaps this reply showcases our culture’s resistance to seeing anything as objectively good or bad. Is beauty only in the eye of the beholder? Or are there transcendent standards of beauty and goodness?

This year, contestants have been more apt to admit that they might have performed badly. But they have often sought to justify themselves by saying: “But at least I had a good time.” Or: “Well, I was having fun up there.”

In other words: “It doesn’t matter whether or not I sounded terrible. It doesn’t matter if the arrangement stunk or if America and the judges thought the performance was lacking. What matters is that I had ‘fun’.”

It has been funny to watch Simon and the other judges respond politely, saying “Good for you” while probably thinking, America doesn’t care if you were having fun. Are you good enough to go on to the next round or not?

I wonder how many people in our society respond to the consequences of their bad decisions in the same way. “At least I had fun.”

I lost my job because I was looking at pornography at work, but at least I had a “good time.”

My wife left me because I was committing adultery, but at least the “affair” was “fun.”

My kids are rebelling because I have been an absent and distant parent, but at least I have had “fun” in all the extracurricular activities I was involved in.

However, people never really look back on their failures and think of how fun it was at the time. Equipped with 20/20 vision into their past, they see the whole picture and regret their failings. Sadly, those without Christ will race forward blindly lacking wisdom, discernment and direction and inevitably slam into more walls of failure and regret.

Our society believes that enjoyment of this life is the primary purpose of life. We are Epicureans now. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Negative consequences may come to us because of negative choices, but we can justify those consequences by appealing to “fun” and “pleasure.”

It is sad to watch people who appeal to the “good time” get voted off the next week. Real life comes crashing down. We face judgment for our choices. Perform badly for the judges on American Idol and the American public who is watching at home on TV and you will be sent packing, whether you had a good time or not.

The judgment of God is similar. Our performance before a holy and righteous God is sadly lacking. We have not reflected him rightly. We have not fulfilled the human vocation he gave us in the Garden. We have rebelled against his rule.

How many people will face the judgment of God in the same way? When those who refuse to bow the knee to Christ (the only one to offer God a perfect performance) will stand before his throne and hear the chilling words, “I never knew you,” how will they respond?

“Well, at least I had a good time…” could be the sad, last words of the sinner doomed to destruction.

- first posted in April 2009

 
 

Sep

25

2012

Trevin Wax|2:08 am CT

Worth a Look 9.25.12

Kindle Deal of the Day: G.O.S.P.E.L. by Damon Horton. $2.99.

The fusion of Christian community and the hip-hop culture is very real, very significant, and-sadly-very incomplete. While Christian themes and concepts are prevalent among the listeners to Christian hip hop, it often comes with little theological depth beyond a 3-minute rhyme. They lyrics are meaningful, but that meaning escapes the majority of its audience. To fill this critical gap of understanding Pastor D. A. Horton (aka hip hop artist Azriel) has written G.O.S.P.E.L. in the language of hip hop with the crystal-clear power of Scripture. It’s a sound, compelling presentation of the life-changing truth many professing believers fail to grasp: the gospel. Undiluted. Unmistakable.

Church Relevance has released an updated list of the Top 200 Church Blogs:

Some focus exclusively on ministry, while others are more like theology or news blogs. Regardless of how you label them, these are the world’s most popular church blogs written by many of today’s most influential church leaders, journalists, theologians, and Christ followers.

The Jetsons turn 50. Did their predictions hold up?

Even if we can imagine Rosie the Robot helping out around the house in the future, the prospects for a three-hour workday don’t seem as rosy.

Email Etiquette for the Office:

I hate email. It’s dying, but not fast enough for me. And since we still need to use it to communicate, I would like to offer some email etiquette guidelines that would make the use of such an antiquated communication tool more, well, bearable.

Rick Warren: “Leaders are Readers – 9 Tips for Picking Good Books”

More than 1,000 books are printed every day in the world, and several thousand new religious titles come out each year. So how can you recognize jewels from junk when you’re looking for a book?

 
 

Sep

24

2012

Trevin Wax|3:39 am CT

Your Church Prepares You for Judgment Day

This week, I’m getting away with the family for a few days for some rest and refreshing. I’ve picked a few blog posts from the archives to run this week until I am back in the saddle. Here’s one from a couple years ago about the church preparing us for Judgment Day.

One reason that Christians need to be part of a church too often goes unmentioned.

I need the church in order to be prepared for the Day of Judgment!

It is frightening to think that I would allow myself to be the sole judge of my spiritual condition here on earth. I know how easily I deceive myself. Am I so bold as to say I am the best judge of my spiritual character? No… I need the church to affirm my faith in Christ, to assure me when I doubt, and to lovingly rebuke me when I err. Judgment day is coming!

Have you ever noticed that older people tend be more faithful to church than young people? This isn’t true everywhere, of course. But even in multi-generational churches, it’s often the older people who are the most faithful.

There may be a variety of reasons for this fact, but I think one reason is clear: people who are older know that the Day of the Lord is drawing near. Either Jesus will soon come back, or they will soon go see Jesus. And the closer you get to the end of your life, the more likely a Christian is going to realize the seriousness of walking with Christ.

Why is that so many people showed up at church after September 11?

Why is the youth group room filled whenever a young person is killed in a car crash?

Because, for a moment, we are shaken out of our slumber. The brevity of life hits us hard. We realize that life is short and that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. If you live for Christ well, you will die with him well. One aspect of the Christian life is preparation for dying well.

One of the benefits of answering the summons of King Jesus to gather with the church – to be shaped by our confession and our practices, to be strengthened by the Body of Christ – is that it prepares you to be the kind of person who can face death boldly. You are shaped into someone who can deal with death.

When your wife has the sudden car crash, when your child dies of swine flu, when you get the bad diagnosis… The Christian can boldly look death in the eye and say, “You’re an enemy of God’s good creation. I’ll fight you with every fiber of my being. But even if I succumb to the cold clutches of death, I know that you are defeated. Your sting is gone. I will soon be with my Savior who has conquered you, and even my grave will one day release my glorified body.” And it’s your fellow church members who will minister to you, comfort you, cry with you, and – eventually – mourn your death and rejoice over your life.

first posted in August 2010
 
 

Sep

24

2012

Trevin Wax|2:09 am CT

Worth a Look 9.24.12

Kindle Deal of the Day: In God’s Underground by Richard Wurmbrand. $1.00.

Imprisoned by the Romanian Communists for his work in the Christian Underground, and subjected to medieval torture, Wurmbrand kept his faith—and strengthened it. For fourteen years, he shared that faith with suffering cellmates and gave them solace. In solitary confinement, he tapped out his message of hope and Christian love. In Room Four, the “death room”, he helped dying patients even though his lungs were riddled with tuberculosis and his body lacerated and bloody from whips and kicks. Anguished over the fate of his wife and son, he could still tell jokes and stories to make despairing prisoners laugh. Sorely tempted by the promise of release and reprieve, he refused to become a Communist collaborator. And the miracle is that he survived. With humble gratitude to God and Christ, he tells his personal story. It’s an inspiring drama of triumphant faith.

Some memorable quotes from Max Lucado’s Grace:

What Lucado does is give one of the greatest pictures of what God’s grace is, how far it reaches, the goal that it has and that it always accomplishes what it sets out to do.

Anne Rice Video on How She Entered and Left the Faith

Is Tim Tebow a Chauvinist?

When Tim Tebow says he wants a wife with “a servant’s heart,” he is, like any Christian man, hoping also for a woman who is seeking a husband with “a servant’s heart.” It doesn’t mean he wants a doormat. It just means he wants a Christian.

Boring is Productive:

Making too many decisions about mundane details is a waste of a limited resource: your mental energy. In the late 1990s, Roy Baumeister (a professor at Florida State University) and colleagues performed several experiments showing that certain types of conscious mental actions appeared to draw from the same “energy source” — gradually diminishing our ability to make smart decisions throughout the day.

10 Myths about Premarital Sex:

This blog is adapted from the last chapter in the book entitled, “The Power of Stories and Ten Myths about Sex in Emerging Adulthood.” The empirical data suggests that these are not true most of the time. There are exceptions, of course.