Friday, July 31, 2009

Awesome Series from Possessing the Treasure

Mike Ratcliff has been writing some awesome and insightful devotions at Possessing the Treasure. In case you don't subscribe, you might want to check him out:

October 2-3 back on the table

.. and the good news is that now that I'm not committed to the conference in Anaheim any longer, I'm available to attend this great seminar again this year -- Women in the Word Brochure.

I'll be looking for others who might want to go too.

What's so unique about Christians? Romans 12:14-21

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Try to do that in your own stength. I don't think it's possible.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Polemic Theology: Slippery Slope & Unavoidable Reality

D. A. Carson's latest article on Polemic Theology was extremely helpful to me this morning, in the wake of processing my interactions with another Christian group that our church is exhibiting with at the local fair.

The group next to us is unapologetically apologetic for their own non-denominational brand of Christianity. And I have a weakness that when challenged, I'm more of a "fight" rather than "flight" kind of person on topics about which I feel passionately. Within the sweep of a few mere sentences, I found myself readily on defense, answering a barage of charges being waged against Calvinism and reformed theology.

This where it gets 'dangerous' for me, because I often find I can't help myself when our faith is so gravely mischaracterized. I want desparately to set the other side straight on where they have misunderstood or miscast the reformed view, such as:
  • The opposite of free will isn't no will, it's a slave will (slave to sin/slave to righteousness)
  • That predestination isn't wrong because it means that people are sent to hell who have never had a chance to respond to the gospel. People are condemned to eternal damnation, to suffer the Wrath of God, because they have knowingly sinned against a Holy God. They have broken the law, which has been revealed to everyone - to the religious through the law of God found in Holy Scripture, and to the irreligious through creation, nature and what has been written on their hearts. Everyone has sinned and everyone is without excuse.
  • That it's not fair that some people go to hell, even though everyone deserves hell because they have sinned. God's Grace is that He calls and saves people who do not deserve it.
  • That it's not fair that places where missionaries have not gone yet would still have people there that will go to hell. But God's sovereignty doesn't depend on man's choices. It is God who calls and equips His missionaries, preachers and even all Christians to share the Good News. And He foreordains the particular times, particular places, and particular people.
But here's an excellent twist that D.A. Carson writes about and might be a helpful starting point in learning how we might love our neighbors (and enemies), even as we try to engage them:

I had always loved argument, and over the years I had become quite good at identifying weak points in an opponent’s defense and bringing concentrated fire
to bear on them. This is what virtually all polemicists have sought to do since ancient times, even the most famous of them. But Popper did the opposite. He sought out his opponents’ case at its strongest and attacked that. Indeed, he would improve it, if he possibly could, before attacking it. . . . Over several pages of prior discussion he would remove avoidable contradictions or weaknesses, close loopholes, pass over minor deficiencies, let his opponents’ case have the benefit of every possible doubt, and reformulate the most appealing parts of it in the most rigorous, powerful and effective arguments he could find—and then direct his onslaught against it. The outcome, when successful, was devastating. At the end there would be nothing left to say in favor of the opposing case except for tributes and concessions that Popper had
himself already made. It was incredibly exciting intellectually.

Bryan Magee's experience in polemics that he learned from Popper and writes about in: Confessions of a Philosopher: A Personal Journey through Western Philosophy from Plato to Popper [New York: Modern Library, 1999, (152–53)]

Rather than "attacking" and "devastating" them as one might do in a trial case or a formal debating platform, I could see using this technique to have a constructive conversation that:

1 - Seeks to understand the other's position, motivations, and strongest points of belief

2- Once grasping their position and gaining their respect by demonstrating that understanding, gently suggesting the alternate point of view which is either antithetical to the strongest reason for adopting their belief or antithetical to the core presupposition that is holding their framework together.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Two Ways of Doing Life: Sweet vs. Bitter; Psalm vs. AntiPsalm

David Powlison's "Sane Faith" article at Boundless, via Between Two Worlds

Here is an excerpt:
Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Antipsalm 23

I'm on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing's quite right.
I'm always restless. I'm easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It's a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It's a desert — I'm thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can't fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life's confusing. Why don't things ever really work out?
I'm haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I'd rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I'm alone ... facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can't really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I'm so much all about ME, sometimes it's sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I'm left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, "Hell is other people."
I have to add, "Hell is also myself."
It's a living death, and then I die.

Can you taste the difference? Go Psalm 23 -- (which is our church's OT reading for tomorrow's Lord's day!)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Broken Down House by Paul Tripp

I'm really looking forward to digging into the latest book from Paul Tripp, called "Broken Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad" that I just ordered from the Westminster Bookstore.

Read inside (PDFs): Book Introduction

Watch the video Preview:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The New Shape of World Christianity at Challies

Absolutely fascinating numbers about the migration of the Church from the West to the East and South! The New Shape of World Christianity from