November 9, 2013

Bavinck vs. the Pelagians (or, Foreknowledge = Predestination)

The common Christian approach to reconciling God's predestination with human freedom is to say that God predestines based on his foreknowledge of free human actions. In his discussion of Pelagian views of divine providence, Herman Bavinck argues that divine foreknowledge must either be redundant, being fundamentally identical to predestination, or nonexistent. The choice, then, is between Predestination or Open Theism. He writes:
"Pelagianism, however, does not yet marshal its full strength when it opposes the general and special providence of God. To some extent it even recognizes this doctrine. But it comes out fighting especially when the eternal state of rational creatures, the particular decree of predestination, is at issue. Now, predestination is only a particular application of the counsel or providence of God. Just as we cannot separate the natural from the moral world, so neither can we point to a boundary line between the temporal condition of human creatures and their eternal state. With respect to the latter, however, Pelagianism has traded predestination for foreknowledge and described foreordination as the decree of God in which he determined either eternal blessedness or eternal punishment for people, depending on whether he foresaw their persevering faith or their undying unbelief. Now, however generally this view has been adopted in the Christian church (is it not the confession of all Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Remonstrant [Arminians], Anabaptist, and Methodist Christians?), it is nevertheless firmly contradicted by Scripture, religious experience, and theological reflection.
"In the first place, Scripture clearly teaches that faith and unbelief, salvation and perdition, are not just the objects of God's "bare foreknowledge" but especially also of his will and decree. God's foreknowledge (πρόγνωσις: Rom. 8:29; 11:2; 1 Pet. 1:2; c.f. Acts 2:23) is not a passive form of recognition, not a state of consciousness, but...a self-determination of God, prior to its realization in history, to assume a certain specific relation to the objects of his foreknowledge. It is most closely related to God's purpose (πρόθεσις), foreordination (προορίζω), and election (ἐκλογή), and is an act of his good pleasure (εὐδοκία). 
"Second,  it is the teaching of Scripture that faith cannot arise from within the heart of an unspiritual person (1 Cor. 2:14), that it is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29; 1 Cor. 4:7) and therefore does not precede election but is its fruit and effect (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4-5; Acts 13:48). Third, it is the unanimous witness of all religious Christian experience that salvation, both in an objective and a subjective sense, is solely the work of God. Though in theory a person may be Pelagian, in the practice of the Christian life, above all in prayer, every Christian is an Augustinian. In that connection all glorying in self is excluded, and God alone is given the honor. Augustine, accordingly, was right when he said that the ancient church's faith in God's grace expressed itself in prayers rather than in its "little works." 
"Fourth, divine foreknowledge is certainly of such a kind that its object is known in advance as absolutely certain, and then it is identical with predestination. However, if its object is totally accidental and arbitrary, it cannot have been foreknown either. According to the teach of Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran churches and even according to the Remonstrants - all of whom attempt to substitute foreknowledge for predestination - the number of those who believe and will be saved is just as fixed and certain as it is according to Augustine and Reformed theologians. Said Augustine: "The number of the elect is certain; it can neither be increased nor diminished." This is also the teaching of Lombard, Thomas Aquinas, and all Catholic theologians, although they differ among themselves in that some derive the certainty of the outcome from the will, while others, such as Molina (et al.) derive it from the knowledge of God. In later years Lutheran theologians indeed made predestination depend on foreknowledge, yet they never questioned the certainty and immutability of the outcome. In numerous passages (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:24; 25:34; John 10:28; Rom. 8:29-30; 1 Pet. 1:2-4) Scripture speaks in language so clear and strong, after all, that they can hardly deny this immutability.
"Formally, as well as materially, both in terms of quantity and quality, the number of the saved is unalterably fixed, according to the confession of all Christian churches. But when theologians recognize this fact and think it through, they have to equate foreknowledge with providence and predestination. In advance, with a foreknowledge that is eternal and immutable, God has known those who would believe. Given this foreknowledge, these people will also most certainly and infallibly come to faith and salvation in time. On this position there nowhere remains any room for "freedom" in the sense of chance and caprice. Foreknowledge, then, by definition includes predestination. says that God foreknew the fortuitous precisely in its fortuitous character, one has reverted to Augustine's line of thought and consequently has no problem harmonizing freedom with predestination. The central question is this: Can these free and fortuitous events be know from eternity with absolute certainty?
"If the answer is yes, Augustine is right and the entire doctrine of foreknowledge is redundant. If the answer is no, one has to go on and also reject foreknowledge. In that case the outcome of world history is strictly fortuitous and as such remains incalculable and unknowable. Cicero, seeing this, denied foreknowledge as well. In later years he was followed by the Socinians, Remonstrants, Vorstius, and numerous modern theologians, who in the interest of maintaining the freedom of the human creature, adopted a kind of divine self-limitation in knowledge, will, and power.
"Christian churches, however, shrank from this conclusion. All of them confess God's providence and foreknowledge. All things happen in time as God eternally knew they would. The final result and the ways and means leading to it are established in God's providence. Thus considered, the doctrine of predestination is neither just a confession of the Reformed churches, nor a private opinion of Augustine and Calvin, but a dogma of the entire Christian church. Though there are differences in the name by which it is called and the manner in which it is presented, materially there is agreement: all Christian churches and theologians confess that all things exist, happen, and reach their destiny in accordance with God's eternal knowledge. In that sense, Augustine could rightly say: "There was never a time when the church of Christ did not hold the truth of this belief in predestination, which is now being defended with fresh concern against new heretics." Although the confessions differ in the degree of attention paid to this doctrine, they all have it. In fact, it can be said that, whether one thinks along Pelagian or Augustinian lines, the matter about which one thinks remains the same. History does not change. The facts are their interconnectedness in world history are as they are regardless of the true or false notions we entertain concerning them. The sole difference is this: Reformed Christians, with Scripture in their hands and Augustine as their leader, did not stop at the consideration of secondary causes but ventured to push on to faith in the primary cause, that is, the will of God, in which alone they experienced rest for their mind and life. The doctrine of predestination finds its invincible power and severity in the facts of world history interpreted by God's Word as the implementation of his eternal counsel. Although the doctrine itself is not harsh and severe, awesomely serious are the facts on which it is built. Pelagianism fails to satisfy the human mind for one reason alone: at every point in life and of the history of humankind it conflicts with reality - a reality that is awesome indeed. Pelagianism is a veneer that, though highly deceptive, in no way changes reality." (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol II, 377-379)

October 29, 2013

How Deep The Father's Love For Us

 For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, HCSB)

How do you apply a passage like John 3:16? For starters, you believe. But beyond that, consider the love of God which is made manifest in Christ Jesus.
  1. The Father loved me and gave himself - his one and only Son - up for me. "How deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that he should give his only Son, to make a wretch his treasure..."
  2. The Son loved me and gave himself - his own life - up for me. "Oh, how he loves us so, how he loves us..." "Amazing love, how can it be, that thou, my God, shouldst die for me? ..."
  3. The Spirit loved me and gave me new life, opening my eyes to behold the beauty and the majesty of Christ. "Holy Spirit, living Breath of God, Breathe new life into my willing soul. Bring the presence of the risen Lord To renew my heart and make me whole. Cause Your Word to come alive in me; Give me faith for what I cannot see; Give me passion for Your purity. Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me."
  4. We are humbled, and grateful, and deeply loved. The depth of this love is manifest in who we were and what he gave up. Sinners, such a commonplace word. Rebels of the crown, enemies of the Most High...those upon whom his judgment justly rests. Yet, he leaves the glory and honor of his heavenly throne and condescends to the form of a Servant, suffering the brunt of that rebellion and enmity in his own flesh and simultaneously taking upon himself the judgment due to us. 
  5. We have hope. If our God did this that we might be saved, what shall we fear? If in his death we have been reconciled to God, how much more shall we be saved by his life? (Rom. 5:6-10) "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32)
  6. We love because he loved. "This is how we have come to know love: he laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has this world's goods and sees his brother in need, but closes his eyes to his need - how can God's love reside in him?" (1 John 3:16) "God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins...if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another." (1 John 4:9-11)
  7. We become vessels of his love. The love of Christ, which was manifest in his death for us, controls us and compels us forward, making us his ambassadors. "For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15,17-21, HCSB)

August 14, 2013

Where is Wisdom Found?

Lost in the darkness of night, where fog hides the way
I can here the voices calling, pleading that I come
Who then will I trust? Who will answer when I say:
Where is wisdom found? Does someone know where he stays?

Follow me and I can show you, you need not fear
Just over the yonder hill, wisdom calls this his home
Enter in through the gate, as wide as it is near
Enter and celebrate, we will dry your every tear

No, no, do not heed that voice, it will lead astray
Though a tempting choice, there wisdom is not to be known
No room for wisdom, though ease and comfort make play
Where is wisdom found? Does someone know where he stays?

Yes, you see ever so clearly, I'll be your guide
The way of learning you see, follow me through the deep tome
Words of wisdom to be found, mysteries they hide
Study, learn and know, we will satisfy your mind

No, no, do not heed that voice, it will lead astray
Ships frequent her shores, captains retire in her deep tombs
Wisdom knows his knowledge, but that is not the way
Where is wisdom found? Does someone know where he stays?

Take heed, poor traveller, lay aside every care
Wisdom's search is long, and your resources are near gone
Come in and be filled, lest you fall into a snare
Abundant provision awaits, to help you get there

No, no, do not heed that voice, it will lead astray
Many lodge to refresh but are never away gone
Wisdom is light in travel, keep on in the way
Where is wisdom found? Does someone know where he stays?

Wisdom's light never to be found wandering the night
You must search for day, then with light you make him known
Strike a match, light a lamp, wait for sunrise to bright
Then you'll see clearly to find wisdom your delight

No, no, do not heed that voice, it will lead astray
Enlightenment brings a wisdom, but not as you had hoped
Nay, wisdom is light and brings with it true day
Where is wisdom found? Does someone know where he stays?

Dear friend, you tremble in fear and do rightly so
Wisdom is not to be found and he names no home
You search and grope and wander but still do not know
Pay no heed to those calling, voice of many foes

Wisdom you won't find, because it is you he seeks
Standing in your midst, though ever humble and meek
No doubt you know my voice, and the words that I speak
Dressed as folly to foes, I bring strength to the weak

Dear friend, you tremble in fear and do rightly so
Wisdom begins with fear of him whose name you know
He entered your dark, died your foes to overthrow
Life dressed in death, and wisdom in folly clothed

Here wisdom is found, and with me ever to stay
Guiding through the dark, he brings me to the true day
Every rhyme is off beat and every chord misplayed
Until he enters and brings healing to decay.

March 30, 2013

This Is Life

Flesh and blood - Heart beating,
Tears streaming, Lungs heaving.
This is life.
He owns it, He made it.
He wants it, He'll save it.
Why now and how?
So much to bring, So much to offer,
So much but now - Nothing.
All our hopes are gone, All our fears are come.
Everywhere I look and see -
First one, then two, then three:
Death, theft, hate -
Where is love? Where is generosity?
Where is life?
This is life.
Lungs heaving, Tears streaming,
Heart beating, Flesh and blood.
He wrote the play, This is his day.
They cut him off in his prime,
But he chose this time.
All our hopes are gone, All our fears are come.
It must be so -
Hope must go, Fear must grow,
The world must know:
Its own wisdom reigns.
It can't answer the pains.
It can't answer the chains.
On its own tree life hangs.
Nothing to bring, Nothing to offer,
Nothing but now - Death.
This is the end of the line.
No exit and no rewind.
An unscalable wall.
An unmovable stone.
This was his day, He wrote the play.
Now what?
First one, then two, then three:
Death swallowed up in victory.
This is life.
Lungs heaving, Heart beating, Tears streaming -
All our hopes are come, All our fears are gone.
It must be so -
The world must know:
Wisdom reigns.
He took the pains.
He broke the chains.
On him life hangs.
Nothing to offer, Nothing to bring,
Nothing but now - To kneel and sing:
Worthy is the lamb who slain,
Worthy to receive power and wealth,
Worthy to receive wisdom and might,
Worthy to receive honor and glory and blessing.

February 7, 2013

Whence came sin?

"Sin exists, but it will never be able to justify its existence. It is unlawful and irrational." - Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

Following his discussion of why God would allow sin in his creation, Bavinck acknowledges that even this does not ultimately solve the mystery as to the origin of sin. How is it that a being created in the image of God, in righteousness and holiness turn away from him? He suggests keeping these things in mind:

  1. The possibility of sinning is from God. It must have first been conceived by him for it to exist. He writes: "God eternally conceived sin as his absolute polar opposite and thus, in that sense, included it in his decree, or else it would have been able to arise and exist in reality. It was not Satan, nor Adam and Eve, who first conceived the idea of sin: God himself as it were made it visible to their eyes. By means of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the probationary command, he clearly showed human beings the two roads they could take. And before the fall he even permitted an evil power from without to insinuate itself into Paradise, using the snake as its medium, and to discuss with Eve the meaning of the probationary command." (66)
  2. God so created angels and humans that they could sin and fall. "Human beings, though they walked on the right road, could stray onto a side road. They were good, but changeable so. God alone is fully existent in all his attributes and therefore immutable. Creatures, however, become and can therefore also degenerate. All that has been created can change...Moral freedom, however vigorous, is inherently distinct from logical necessity and physical force. A creature naturally incapable of sin, therefore, is a contradiction." (67)
  3. There is some relationship between the origin of sin and the faculty of imagination. "Thomas à Kempis describes it: "At first it is a mere thought confronting the mind; then imagination paints it in stronger colors; only after that do we take pleasure in it, and the will makes a false move, and we give our assent." The mind entertains the idea of sin, the imagination beautifies and converts it into a fascinating ideal, desire reaches out to it, and the will goes ahead and does it. Thus in the case of both angels and humans, the imagination was the faculty that made the violation of the commandment appear as the road to equality with God." (67)
  4. The cases of humans are angels are different. Unlike humans, who are made of dust then breathed with life, who were tempted and had sin aroused in them from without through the lust of the eyes, the craving of the flesh, and the pride of life, "temptation did not come to [angels] from without. They fell by their own agency. Jesus says that the devil speaks "according to his own nature" when he lies. He became discontented with his status and power on his own, that is, by his own thinking; he produced the lie from within himself and projected it as a realm, a system, over against the truth of God...The origin and essence of sin has a very different character in the case of humanity that in that of the angels." (68)

Even with these considerations, all that is settled is a possibility of sin, with the answer as to why the possibility was realized still shrouded in mystery. Ultimately, the explanation escapes us because it is an irrational absurdity.

"Here we enter the mysterious area of moral freedom and face a phenomenon that in the nature of the case, as it concerns its origin, escapes explanation. A moral act, after all, is never equivalent to a conclusion from a premises nor to a physical or chemical result. It essentially differs from both and has a character of its own. The moral life is utterly unique; it is always a life of freedom and that, in the nature of the case, is a riddle...Sin cannot be physically or logically deduced from antecedent circumstances, reasonings, or considerations. Above all, it cannot be inferred from a holy nature created ion God's image. One who understood and explained sin, that is, could demonstrate that it necessarily followed from antecedent factors, would fail to do justice to its nature, erase the boundaries between good and evil, and trace something evil to something good. The sinful act is caused by the sinful will, but who will indicate to us the cause of this sinful will?...Sin started with lying (John 8:44); it is based on illusion, an untrue picture, an imagined good that was not good. In its origin, therefore, it was a folly and an absurdity." (69)

February 3, 2013

Living For Tomorrow (The Economics of Christian Belief)

There is a concept in economics known as time preference. Very basically, it is the notion that, all other things being equal, present satisfaction of our wants is to be preferred over future satisfaction. That is, if we can't achieve our ends now, we want to do it as soon as we can. This means that we place a premium on delayed attainment of those ends. If I say, "you can have a $100 now or $100 in six years," you would likely choose now without much consideration. However, if I were to say, "you can have $100 now or $1000 in six years," you would be forced into thinking about the premium placed on the future money and whether it is sufficient to forgo the present ends you could attain with the $100.

A corollary to this concept is the idea of time horizon, which is the period of time into the future in which we make plans to attain our ends. Some people live with today in mind, and others live with the next 30 years in mind, and they both plan accordingly. A combination of our time preference and our time horizon will have a big influence on how we make decisions. In the example above, the assumption is that your time horizon extends to at least 6 years, otherwise you would never consider forgoing the present satisfaction for the future greater satisfaction. Young children are notorious for having a very short time horizon. If I tell my 4 year old daughter, "you can choose between having one piece of chocolate today or having 5 pieces of chocolate in a week," she will choose today's chocolate without hesitation.

If you've ever known someone who appears to make unsound financial decisions, as if they are giving no thought for tomorrow, it's very possible that they aren't. A short time horizon is an important factor at play in why many people in a condition of poverty will often persist in that condition, even when opportunities have arisen that would allow them to improve their living condition.

I had a friend who was extremely poor, having just come off the streets and received housing assistance. He had just cleared the hurdles to begin receiving financial assistance and the checks had started to come in, with amounts sufficient for his living expenses plus some additional. Just a couple weeks later, he told me that he was trying figure how he would pay rent and buy groceries this week because he didn't have any money. When I pressed him on the financial assistance he had received, he said he got the check but had used the money to buy a couch for his new apartment. It really never dawned on him during the course of making that decision that he might need to forgo the present good of a couch (or find a cheaper one) for the sake of the future good of being able to pay rent and buy food in two weeks.

One of the things that necessarily happens when someone is converted and becomes a follower of Jesus Christ is that they face a radical disruption in their time horizon. Whether the person previously lived for tomorrow, or lived for 30 years from now - either way, their time horizon is immediately extended beyond this life and into eternity. The effects of this cannot easily be overstated. When you are factoring in the goals and attainments, not only of this world, but of the world to come, it will influence every decision you make. For those who previously had a short time horizon, the immediate effect would be a recognition that they need to think beyond just today and you will notice a change in behavior accordingly. However, even those with a long time horizon will be impacted. For example, I may already believe that it's beneficial for me to forgo a present satisfaction in order to enjoy the future satisfaction of a peaceful retirement. However, with eternity in mind, all of the sudden I may be forgoing even that peaceful retirement for the sake of something much greater.

Isn't this essentially the argument that Jesus and Paul make repeatedly in the New Testament (Matt. 6:19-21; Matt. 19:21; Luke 18:29-30; 1 Tim. 6:17-19)? This goes beyond just what you do with money, but affects every action you take. Why would you willingly forgo present comfort and endure much suffering and hardship, even potentially dying? It may make no sense with a time horizon of 1,10, or even 50 years, but with a Christian time horizon, all of the sudden it's the only thing that makes. As the missionary martyr Jim Elliot said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, gour inner self his being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison... (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us... (Rom. 8:16-18)

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied...Why are we in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Cor. 15:19, 30-32)

Let this mind be in you, as it was in Christ Jesus, who for the sake of the joy set before him endured cross, despising the shame (Heb. 12:2). In every decision we face, let us consider the kingdom and the inheritance in Christ which awaits us beyond this day.

February 2, 2013

Why Did God Allow Sin to Exist?

Herman Bavinck gives a superb answer:
"The answer is implied in the providence of God as it pertains to sin. Scripture repeated states that God uses sin as punishment of the wicked (Deut. 2:30; Joshua 11:20; Judges 9:23-24; John 12:40; Rom. 1:21-28; 2 Thess. 2:11-12), as a means of saving his people (Gen. 45:5; Gen. 50:20), to test and chastise believers (Job 1:11-12; 2 Sam 24:1; 1 Cor. 10:13; 1 Cor. 11:19; 2 Cor. 12:7), and to glorify his name (Exodus 7:3; Prov. 16:4; Rom. 9:17; Rom. 11:33). Precisely because God is the absolutely Holy and Almighty One, he can use sin as a means in his hand. Creatures cannot do that; with the least contact, they themselves become polluted no impure. But God is so infinitely far removed from wickedness that he can make sin, as an unresisting instrument, subservient to his glorification. There are countless examples that prove that also in this connection "when two parties do the same thing, it is not the same." It was God's will that Shimei cursed David, that Satan tested Job, that Jews and Gentiles wanted to give up God's holy servant Jesus to death - still in all these iniquities, human creatures are guilty and God is innocent. For even when he wants there to be evil, he only wants it in a way that is holy: though using it, he never commits it. And for that reason, he has also allowed sin into his creation. He would not have tolerated it had he not been able to govern it in an absolute holy and sovereign manner. He would not have put up with it if he were not God, the Holy and Omnipotent One. But being God, he did not fear its existence and its power. He willed it so that in it and against it he might bring to light his divine attributes. If he had not allowed it to exist, there would always have been rationale for the idea that he was it in all his attributes superior to a power whose possibility was inherent in creation itself, for all rational creatures as creatures, as finite, limited, changeable beings, have the possibility of apostatizing. But God, because he is God, never feared the way of freedom, the reality of sin, the eruption of wickedness, or the power of Satan. So, both in its origin and its development, God always exercises his rule over sin. He does not force it, nor does he block it with violence but rather allows it to reach its full dynamic potential. He remains king yet still gives it free rein in his kingdom. He allows it to have everything - his world, his creature, even his Anointed - for evils cannot exist without goods. He allows it to us all that is his; he gives it opportunity to show what it can do in order, in the end, as King of kings, to leave the theater of battle. For sin is of such a nature that it destroys itself by the very freedom granted it; it dies of its own diseases; it dooms itself to death. At the apex of its power, it is, by the cross alone, publicly shown up in its powerlessness (Col. 2:15)." (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 3, 64-65)

January 24, 2013

Random Links (1/24)

How Much Money Am I Supposed to Give Away
"It is a question every pastor faces on a regular basis. It is a question every conference speaker faces in panel discussions or Q&A sessions: How much of my money do I give to the church? How much should I give to the church?"

Why Wearing Clothes of Mixed Fabrics (Lev. 19:19) Was Wrong
"Unbelievers love to prove how unreasonable it is to believe in the Bible through bringing forth unreasonable commands, like Leviticus 19:19: “You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material." It certainly seems odd, doesn't it?"

Marriage in the Cosmic Plan of God
"As men and women who live out God-given roles, we discover Christ’s cosmic work is reflected inside our homes. This God-honoring marriage then shines like a light in our neighborhoods to announce to the rulers and principalities the victory of Christ. Christ-honoring marriages are a living proof of the cosmic victory of Christ."

Three Important Tips on Reading
"I read. A lot. Well, it doesn’t feel like I read enough, but compared to normal people, yes, it’s a bit obsessive. (What can I say? I’m Reformed.) In any case, while there have been a number of pieces of advice on reading that I’ve found, received, or formulated over the years, but three in particular have shaped my reading habits and formed me, I think, for the better, as both a reader and a thinker."

The Acting Alone Fallacy
"The idea that you're "alone" unless you're being directed by the government strikes me as dehumanizing and almost abusive. So I resist this scare tactic of presenting the government as the alternative to being "alone.""

January 18, 2013

Random Links (1/18)

Top 5 innovations that will change the way you work in 5 years

"Each year for the last seven years, the scientists at IBM have released their list of five innovations that they feel have the greatest potential to change the way we work and live during the next five years. Here’s what they came up with this year..."

How Do We Know If God Is Disciplining Us?

"Hebrews 12:6-7 reads: "For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?" Does this mean that hardships, sickness, disease, and the like happen because God is disciplining his children? (Moreover, what about hardships that happen to unbelievers? If this is not God's discipline in their lives, then why do these events happen? Is it God's punishment?) Does this mean every bad thing (or only some bad things) that happens to Christians, happens because God is disciplining us? If a Christian gets the flu, or a cold, or cancer, or gets in a car crash, or loses a job — should these hardships be seen as God's discipline? Of course God is sovereign over all things--but when bad things happen to Christians, should these happenings be seen as God's discipline, or God's soverign use of evil for our good, or results of sin and the Fall, or all of the above?"

Given Tablets But No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves

" With 100 million first-grade-aged children worldwide having no access to schooling, the One Laptop Per Child organization is trying something new in two remote Ethiopian villages—simply dropping off tablet computers with preloaded programs and seeing what happens.The goal: to see if illiterate kids with no previous exposure to written words can learn how to read all by themselves, by experimenting with the tablet and its preloaded alphabet-training games, e-books, movies, cartoons, paintings, and other programs."

Against the Objectification of Females

"The movement to liberate women from the supposed shackles of male oppression in the U.S. celebrated the right of women to assert themselves, to use their feminine wiles to their lasting advantage. “If you have it, flaunt it,” was expressed by more than one approving feminist. But a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to, or perhaps as a result of liberation: objectification. One end of liberation has clearly been a loss of respect. Men have certainly lost respect for women, but women have also lost respect for themselves. When primary expressions of liberation include women making objects out of themselves someone needs to ask, “Is this all there is?”"

January 11, 2013

There is a higher throne

Ezra 3-10

It's comforting to read of the exiles in Persia being guided by God's providence to be able to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and the temple. In the midst of opposition, under the rule of a pagan king, not only are they permitted to complete the project but it is fully funded for them. When the Lord has promised something, he will bring it about and no one can stay his hand. As Christ builds his church on the earth, this is a great comfort because there is opposition on all sides, from spiritual oppression, to government intervention, to local antagonism, to lack of funding, and to internal disputes or disobedience among the people of God themselves. Knowing that the sovereign Lord works to bring about his purposes through and in spite of these circumstances gives us cause to rejoice.

We are the temple of the living God, being built by the Holy Spirit with Christ as the cornerstone. We do not rely on the edict of earthly kings but are under a King who has all authority in heaven and earth and neither Cyrus, nor Artaxerxes, nor Darius, no Caesar, nor the emperor, nor the Prime Minister, nor the Congress, nor the President can overrule his decree. Despite any attempts to the contrary, they will carry forward his plan and will. History ebbs and flows, with kingdoms and lords, ideologies and philosophies, armies and great powers rising and falling by the hand of enemies without and strife within. Yet through it all there is one Lord of history whose kingdom continues, without armies, without warfare, but with a powerful word and the love Christ, and it will one day contain people from every tribe, tongue, and nation on the earth.

The Lord said to his Son, "Ask of me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance." One day we will hear the angelic voices announcing that, "the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and he will reign forever and ever."

Come, Lord Jesus.

January 10, 2013

Our Great High Priest

Reading the account of Peter and Dorcus is Acts 9, I was struck when he said to her, "Tabitha, get up." This immediately brought to mind Jesus raising Jairus' daughter and saying to her, "Talitha, cume" or "Little girl, get up." Peter is continuing in the footsteps of his Lord Jesus, bringing life and healing. Christ ascendedto the right hand of God but continues his work in the Holy Spirit through his Church.

In that same chapter, Saul is stopped on the road by a vision of Jesus himself, who says, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?...I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." Paul's threats and murder against the church are threats and murder against Jesus. He takes us into himself, identifies with us, so that our life becomes his life. This is a great comfort and hope - Jesus, seated at the right hand of God the Father, and us seated with him. He forever intercedes with us, standing before God making his plea on our behalf - this is what Stephen saw, Jesus standing (not sitting), as Stephen made his faithful witness. Stephen confessed Jesus before men, and Jesus confessed Stephen before his Heavenly Father. Our great high priest, our savior.

So when I stand in the world, Christ stands with me. When I suffer in the world, Christ suffers with me. When I speak to the world, Christ speaks through me. When I stand in the world, I know that Christ stands before God on my behalf. When I suffer in the world, Christ has suffered on my behalf. When I testify of him to the world, Christ testifies of me to the Father of my behalf.

January 5, 2013

Random Links (1/5)

The Christian Introvert
"I believe that God made me introverted. It seems clear that some of us are naturally more outgoing while others are naturally inclined to be quiet. I am naturally quiet and this is part of God’s good design. Neither one is inherently wrong and neither one is intrinsically better than the other. But what Cain does not acknowledge, writing as she does from a secular perspective, is that we inhabit a world of sin where any trait or quality can be used for God-glorifying ends or for self-glorifying ends. Not only that, but God calls us to be always willing to deny our desires in order to serve others. Both introverts and extroverts will face particular temptations to sin. My temptation as an introvert is to run away from people instead of serve people. It is to be selfish instead of giving."

Hey Extraverts: Enough is Enough
"So, extraverts of the world, I invite you to make a New Year’s resolution: Refrain from organizing stuff. Don’t plan parties or outings or, God forbid, “team-building exercises.” Just don’t call meetings. (I would ask you to refrain from calling unnecessary meetings, but so many of you think almost all meetings necessary that it’s best you not call them at all.) Leave people alone and let them get their work done. Those who want to socialize can do it after work. I’ll not tell you you’ll enjoy it: you won’t. You’ll be miserable, at least at first, because you won’t be pulling others’ puppet-strings. But everyone will be more productive, and many people will be happier. Give it a try. Let go for a year. Just leave us alone."

The Pro-Life Cause is Winning
According to Time Magazine, the pro-life cause is winning (a reality which they lament). Russell Moore disagrees: Is the Pro-Life Cause Winning.

A Technology Consumption Resolution
"Even though I regularly write, think, and speak about faith and technology, that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the lure of “technology addiction.” Specifically, one area that I often struggle in properly disciplining is avoiding unnecessary email and social media checks when I’m home with my family. Sometimes when I pull out my phone “just to check the time,” I find myself wanting to check various apps and clear out unread items. That’s not to say I’m always on my phone. Judging by other dads around me who are often glued to their glowing rectangles, I think I do a pretty decent job of keeping my phone in my pocket. Yet, the battle seems tougher than it needs to be, and being a rather lazy soul, I wanted to find a way to make things easier on myself."

January 3, 2013

Random Links (1/3)

Chinese Worker Scrawls Plea For Help in a Product He Made
"An Oregon woman was surprised to find a handwritten letter stuck in some Halloween decorations she bought at Kmart. The note purported to be from a Chinese worker in a labor camp…"

Dying Regrets and New Year Reflections
"Earlier this year, The Guardian reported about Bonnie Ware, a palliative nurse, who had spent 12 years documenting the last words and dying regrets of those under her care (which eventually resulted in a book). Ware said that people at the end of their lives have “phenomenal clarity of vision,” and therefore we should consider what we might learn from their wisdom. Ware listed the top 5 regrets (most commonly mentioned) of those on their deathbed."

Maybe the US isn't as Violent as we think?
Surprising results when violent crime statistics are compared between nations.

Let's Give Up On the Constitution
A stunning editorial from no less than a University professor of constitutional law. If my children ever decide to study law, I think I will steer them away from Georgetown. "As the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions." A response and critique found here: Let's Give Up On Professor Lewis Michael Seidman

Les Miserables and the Surprising Gospel of Grace
"Jean Valjean, the fugitive on the run, was nevertheless the one who knew the meaning of freedom; and even more so after he came out of hiding and gave himself up to Javert. He had discovered grace: the principle that doing good and being good are gifts from God, given to those who know they do not deserve them. He was simultaneously softened and strengthened by grace: strengthened to do what was right, with great courage and self-sacrifice; and softened to do it beautifully and well. In their final dramatic encounter Javert is forced to recognize that Valjean's virtue is truer and nobler than his own. The realization kills him. Law was kept in bondage until the very end. Grace prevailed. This is the way of the Gospel; it is the way of Christ."