"Consider what you have in the smallest chosen library. A company of the wisest and wittiest men that could be picked out of all civil countries, in a thousand years, have set in best order the results of their learning and wisdom."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Books"
It's Not About Winning, But Win Anyway.

Jeffrey Overstreet talks about sports-and-faith movies in relation to the recent film When the Game Stands Tall. He says movies of this type usually reinforce bad ideas and behaviors.

"It’s a simple formula," he says. "Show that winning and losing is fraught with trouble if the game is played for the wrong reasons (for glory, for money, for self-gratification). Then show the athletes learning some Sunday school lessons about humility and teamwork. And once they’ve learned those lessons, then give the audience the satisfaction of seeing those who are In The Right achieve personal victories (reconciling the family, winning the virtuous but skeptical girl, overcoming the bullies)… and, usually, scoreboard victories as well."

The story easily preaches that good guys or the faithful will win, and God will win it for you, supporting the common belief that a good life with earn good rewards. There's truth there, but when life gets hard or unjust, then we will crumble if our faith is in this formula, not the living God. I think the church in America needs the backbone that would come from knowing God is faithful even when we don't win.

Jeff offers a good list of ideas he would like to see challenged in a movie about sports:

  • "how the commercialization of sports ends up encouraging lifestyles that are the antithesis of teamwork, health, and wholeness;
  • how money corrupts the whole enterprise, from outrageous salaries to the excesses of the circuses that tend to surround professional sports events;
  • how sports culture glorifies youth, and finds little of value in the experience of aging, so that athletes vanish from the national stage once they are too old to dominate the stage (unless they have enough charisma to become part of the youth-worshipping media machine);
  • how “fan spirit” usually devolves into tribalism."

That's only half of his list. Have you seen this movie? What did you think of it? If you like, share your thoughts on other sports-themed movies.

Authors Donating to Iraqi Christians

A Facebook community of authors are donating September's royalties to Iraqi Christians through Voice of the Martyrs. They call themselves Authors in Solidarity. We've reviewed a few of books featured in this community. Lars is donating his royalties from Hailstone Mountain (The Erling Skjalgsson Saga Book 4). There's New Found Dream: Book Two of "A Healer's Tale", The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen, Bid the Gods Arise (The Wells of the Worlds) (Volume 1), and many more. Let us know if you join this effort to help Christians in Iraq.

Following Your Heart Will Lead to Death

"Dante shows us that you can just as easily go to Hell by loving good things in the wrong way as you can by loving the wrong things," Rod Dreher explains. He has been reading The Divine Comedy for the first time and is working on a book about it.

All the damned dwell in eternal punishment because they let their passions overrule their reason and were unrepentant. For Dante, all sin results from disordered desire: either loving the wrong things or loving the right things in the wrong way.

This is countercultural, for we live in an individualistic, libertine, sensual culture in which satisfying desire is generally thought to be a primary good. For contemporary readers, especially young adults, Dante’s encounter with Francesca da Rimini, one of the first personages he meets in Hell, is deeply confounding. Francesca is doomed to spend eternity in the circle of the Lustful, inextricably bound in a tempest with her lover, Paolo, whose brother—Francesca’s husband—found them out and murdered them both.
She says romantic poetry taught her of Love's power and held her entralled to her heart's passion. "Can love be selective?" she might ask. Can anyone control their passions?

"We know, however, that it is really lust," Dreher says, "and that her grandiose language in praise of romantic passion is all a gaudy rationalization." Dante is overcome at the end of his encounter with Francesca, but not perhaps by her fate at a seemingly small thing. He may be overcome by the idea that his own poetry encouraged her to follow her heart into death.

Tribalism, Corporation, and Reading the Bible

Politics...Anthony Bradley argues that most Christians today simply defend their political tribe using biblical language or proof-texts. They don't hold to any confession of faith, but they believe their view of the Bible is right and other views are wrong or dangerous. "Progressive evangelicals, like their liberal mainline cousins, have simply traded off, in many cases, the tools in the Christian social thought tradition for the analytical tools of the social sciences and the humanities (critical race theory, feminist theory, etc.). For progressive evangelicals, the social sciences are authoritative and are often above critique."

If we would fall back on sound theological confessions or a biblically developed history of Christian social consciousness, we could discuss issues like believers should and find common ground aren't finding now. As Dr. Bradley concludes, "A lively discourse about the right application of Christian principles within the Christian tradition is far more fruitful and interesting to me than engaging in a tribal war that tries to prove whose tribe best represents Jesus."

Speaking of a topic on which progressive Christians fail to think, Andy Crouch writes about the shrinking legal window on corporate identity: "In her dissent, Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited approvingly the idea that for-profit groups 'use labor to make a profit, rather than to perpetuate a religious-values-based mission. The words rather than are key. In Justice Ginsburg's view, it seems, corporations cannot serve—or at least the law cannot recognize that they serve—any god other than Mammon."

Read the rest of this entry . . .

Who is my neighbor? A terrorist, apparently.

Little did I know, when I moved to Robbinsdale, Minnesota, that I was relocating to a seedbed of treason. But so it appears. Not one but two jihadist casualties overseas have been identified as former students at Robbinsdale Cooper High School. And it gets closer than that, as I’ll explain.

First, a little orientation. Robbinsdale Cooper High School is not in fact located in Robbinsdale. The historical reasons are convoluted (I don’t actually know them), but enough to say that the school district includes several inner ring suburbs. In any case, it’s close to me.

More than that, early reports (the information seems to have been redacted now; perhaps it was in error) stated that the latest casualty, Douglas McAuthor (sic) McCain, dead in Syria, lived on Oregon Avenue in New Hope.

Before I bought my house, I lived in an apartment building on Oregon Avenue in New Hope. New Hope isn’t that big. Oregon Avenue isn’t that long. We were neighbors. I very likely rubbed shoulders with him at some point.

Even so, I find it hard to generate a lot of sympathy for the young man. He was born in America, and New Hope isn’t a ghetto. He had ample opportunities to respond to the gospel. Instead he joined a death cult to murder infidels and rape women.

Still, after some consideration, I can think of a couple reasons to pity him. Read the rest of this entry . . .

On the Job

Job's Tormenters, by William Blake, 1793.

Thought thunk today: The Book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible, one of the oldest books in the world.

What does it say about humanity that in the 8,000 years since, we haven't managed to surpass it in terms of wisdom?

Update: Ori, tedious pedant that he is, pointed out that my numbers are off by slight margin of maybe 5,000 years.

I wish I were surprised. I'm always doing that with numbers. A counselor once told me that the problem wasn't in my brain, but in my emotions. Somewhere along the line I developed a fear of numbers that blossomed into functional innumeracy.

But with education, support, and billions of tax dollars you can make a difference. Give today through the United Fund.

Or just buy one of my books. Or double that and buy three.

Bullies on Mars Hill

The stories out of Seattle regarding Mars Hill Church are one of the reasons this past year has been one of my hardest. I hate this news. Many stories are coming forward through many venues.

This co-founder of the church, who left in 2007, says:

It has been written, spoke of and declared, that in order for a church to be “On Mission” that sometimes people need to be “Run over by the bus” and a large pile of bodies is a good thing. I know where this kind of thinking came from because I believed it to be true and was in full agreement. While it is true that those who desire to lead people astray (the bible calls them wolves) need to be dealt with, I believe we went way too far and responded with anger and self-righteousness’ in throwing people under the bus. I ask your forgiveness for my part in promoting and approving this kind of behavior, it was godless!
Run over by the bus? Is that a line from the Inquisition?

A long article with many stories of spiritual abuse appeared this week on Crosscut.com. It describes Driscoll's inflammatory language, the congregation's habit of shunning disgraced members, and narcissism from many leaders. Witnesses claim the church encourages misogyny and sermons are "relevant" at all costs.

Stacey Solie writes, "Driscoll also started to preach more about male privilege and sexual entitlement. This had a damaging impact on many marriages, said Rob Thain Smith, who, with Merle, was acting as an informal marriage counselor to many young couples.

'He created enormous abuse of wives,' Smith said. 'He helped young men objectify women, by his over-emphasis of sexualization of women and subservience.'"Read the rest of this entry . . .

Are reader-friendly Bibles just marketing hype?

J. Mark Bertrand echoes another reader of the ESV Reader's Bible in finding he reads more in this edition than in other editions. Readability, he says, is a thing, and it influences how we read. "Yet, like Steve, I’ve found myself getting sucked into the reader, coming up for air much later than expected."

How Orthodox Must a Christian Publisher Be?

The National Religious Broadcasters has pressed WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, to resign from its organization over the publishing of a book under a new sister imprint, Convergent Books (for more on that book: "'Biblically Based' Author Argues Against Biblical Morality"). Convergent is a little more than a year old. I could care less about this, because I've been ramping up to lead the Lars Walker's Awesomest World Publishing Group for the last few months. Soon that will be the only label you'll want to watch for. You heard it here first.

But seriously, NRB President Jerry Johnson explained the problem in a letter to his board. According to Christianity Today:

"Unfortunately, while the Multnomah Publishing Group is separate from Convergent, as a legal and business entity, the staff of the Multnomah and Convergent operations are substantially the same," Johnson wrote. "Most notably, Steven W. Cobb serves as the chief publishing executive for both groups. … Other Christian workers do so as well. … This issue comes down to NRB members producing unbiblical material, regardless of the label under which they do it."

I understand how the book in question is unbiblical, but what about other books? For years, thoughtful Christians have criticized Christian bookstores for selling pablum and heresy. Are these publishers accepted in the NRB? It's one thing to sell The Prayer of Jabez; it's another to sell Joel Osteen's Break Out. Jabez was a mid-90s book from Multnomah. Osteen is published by Faithwords, a division of Hachette.

The publisher's About page shows its diversity: "Based near Nashville, Tennessee, FaithWords has grown dramatically by acquiring a solid list of faith-building fiction and high-profile authors with edifying messages, including bestselling authors Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, John Eldredge, and David Jeremiah. Several FaithWords titles have appeared on national bestseller lists, most recently Every Day a Friday, by Joel Osteen, Living Beyond Your Feelings, by Joyce Meyer, and I Never Thought I’d See the Day!, by David Jeremiah."

Two sister imprints to Faithwords target mainline and "uplifting" divisions in the broadly based spiritual book market, and none of them are members of NRB.

Barnabas Piper is a Pastor's Kid

The Pastor's Kid, by Barnabas Piper

Barnabas Piper's new book, The Pastor's Kid, is out today. In his interview with Matt Smethurst, Piper talks about his own feelings and what he learned from other pastors' kids.

Your book is based on what you learned from hundreds of conversations with pastors’ kids over the years. What surprised you most as you interacted with other pastors’ kids?

Two things surprised me. The first was the consistency of the stories and experiences regardless of context. Even the phrasing of answers and the quotes they shared of what people in their churches had said to them were almost verbatim. While I expected similarities, it was almost like a bunch of people had copied the same answer on a test or something. It gave me real clarity about what needed to be addressed as well as assurance that my own experiences weren’t the outlier.

The second thing that surprised me was how many PKs are now in vocational ministry. The stereotype is of PKs who turn their back on the church, but I connected with dozens who, despite their struggles, love and serve the church.
The tendency for judging pastors' kids was a dual expectation of perfection and rebellion. People thought these children should be models of the Christian life while also believing they would rebel and reject the church. It's an impossible standard.

Publisher Put a Hold on Mark Driscoll's Next Book

"Tyndale House confirmed to The Daily Beast that it does not plan to reprint Driscoll’s 2013 book, A Call to Resurgence, and have put his forthcoming book, The Problem with Christianity, on hold. Once slated to be released this fall, The Problem with Christianity now has no publication date scheduled." (via Prufrock)

Happy 180th Birthday to Charles H. Spurgeon

“God’s mercy is so great that you may sooner drain the sea of its water, or deprive the sun of its light, or make space too narrow, than diminish the great mercy of God."

“A Jesus who never wept could never wipe away my tears.”

“If you are to go to Christ, do not put on your good doings and feelings, or you will get nothing; go in your sins, they are your livery. Your ruin is your argument for mercy; your poverty is your plea for heavenly alms; and your need is the motive for heavenly goodness. Go as you are, and let your miseries plead for you.”

Relevant has 20 Spurgeon quotes for today. I think I'll tweet Spurgeon quotes all day. (via Jared C. Wilson)

Francis Schaeffer on Sharing the Gospel

"Francis Schaeffer was asked what he'd do if he had an hour to share the gospel with someone. He responded by saying he'd listen for 55 minutes and then, in the last 5 minutes, have something meaningful to say. In other words, he listened in order to speak the gospel.

Our evangelism is often unbelievable because we don't listen at all. All too often the gospel we share is an information download, not a loving articulation of how the good news fits into the needs, fears, hopes, and dreams of others' lives."

-- Jonathan Dodson, Unbelievable Gospel: How to Share a Gospel Worth Believing.

It Wasn't an Affair. It Was Rape.

To anyone who flirts with the idea that words are meaningless, I ask you about the difference between the words rape and affair.

Did you see the article in Christianity Today's Leadership Journal several days ago from a convicted rapist who described his crime as a warning to others? He was a youth pastor at the time, and his victim was a minor. This detail wasn't revealed until the end of a long piece on how hard his temptations were and how badly he feels now. He gave little, if any, time to the pain his victim feels or her family and friends. More than this, he cast his sin in terms of adultery.

"The anonymous article was saturated with a self-pitying tone, some horrifying reframing of his sin (statutory rape is not an 'affair'), and a stunning lack of concern for the young woman upon whom he preyed," Michelle Van Loon explains in an article about how sexual abuse is common in places it should be rare.

The editors of Leadership Journal noted at one point: "Some of the language in the article did appear to portray the 'relationship' he had with his student as consensual. We regret any implication of that kind and strongly underscore that an adult cannot have a consensual sexual relationship with a minor. This was not an 'affair.' It was statutory rape." They have removed the article completely now and apologized for posting it.

I can't find the full article now, but it's probably somewhere. Author Mary DeMuth gives you all the information and response to it you need.

If the convict had taken the full blame for his crime, the article would have been better. If the convict had considered his victims instead of himself, it would have been better. But importantly, if he or his editors had pushed themselves to call things by their proper names, the reaction would not have been as harsh as it was.

In their apology, the editors state, "The post, intended to dissuade future perpetrators, dwelt at length on the losses this criminal sin caused the author, while displaying little or no empathic engagement with the far greater losses caused to the victim of the crime and the wider community around the author. The post adopted a tone that was not appropriate given its failure to document complete repentance and restoration."

Perhaps if the man had cast his words in terms of how he excused himself at the time, he could have kept half of what he'd written, but on his suffering of consequences, he has no room to complain. No one wants to listen any more.

Life as a Hermit Isn't What It Used to Be

Solothurn, Switzerland, needs to hire a resident for its hermitage who doesn't mind a constant stream of tourists. The last one quit after five years because she got too many visitors.

Book Auctions for Missions

Scattering Seed Ministries sells great, vintage Christian books at auction to support the spread of the gospel to unreached people. These aren't reprinted books. These are actual first editions of doctrinally sound works.

The Methods or Miracle of Revival

Is revival in a church or area a work of methodology or the Holy Spirit? Charles Finney says, "It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means—as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means." Martin Lloyd-Jones says, "It is a miraculous, exceptional phenomenon." Take for example the Welsh Revival of 1904. Men and women prayed, and the Lord responded with great favor. You can't plan that, except by planning to hold closely to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Tullian Apologizes. Thank You, Sir.

I noted earlier that Tullian Tchividjian had separated from The Gospel Coalition (TGC) over what I understood to be somewhat doctrinal, somewhat pastoral issues. That didn't bother me much, despite my appreciation for Pastor Tullian and the many people at The Gospel Coalition. I usually like to think of everyone I like being on the same team, so a deliberate separation like this is a little disturbing. But what irritated me far more was the dialogue and comments about it I heard this week.

Chris Fabry ran a prerecorded show on Monday (Memorial Day) with Tullian, essentially throwing Tim Keller, Don Carson, and others (none of them by name) under the bus of the disagreement. They didn't discuss the issues directly. They talked around it and suggested some of the people at TGC were becoming a denomination unto themselves. These unnamed critics were quick to complain about other people's theological missteps and slow to see any missteps of their own.

Add to that someone on Patheos.com saying when your purpose is to contend for the gospel, then you have to make sure you have enemies to contend with. TGC is a fight club now, picking out the splinters in everyone else's eyes.

I know good people disagree on important things, but the people named above are very godly men. How can these common complaints be true of these men, even Chris Fabry, our humble radio host and fiction author? I have a very hard time believing they would deliberately misrepresent the facts or "flat out lie," as one accusation put it.

So I am relieved to read Tullian's apology on his blog today:

I’m sorry for saying things in my own defense. One of the things that the gospel frees you to do is to never have to bear the burden of defending yourself. Defending the gospel is one thing. But when a defense of the gospel becomes a defense of yourself, you’ve slipped back under “a yoke of slavery.” I slipped last week. I’m an emotional guy. And in my highly charged emotional state, I said some things in haste, both publicly and privately, that I regret. I never want anything I say to be a distraction from the mind-blowing good news of the gospel and last week I did. I got in the way. When you feel the need to respond to criticism, it reveals how much you’ve built your identity on being right. I’m an idolater and that came out last week. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose…and last week I fought to win. I’m sorry you had to see that. Lord have mercy…
There's more to it, but this is a critical part. Thank you, sir. The Lord is faithful and merciful. May he continue to bless your ministry for the expansion of his kingdom throughout the world.

9 Things You Should Know About John Calvin

On the 450th anniversary of his death, Joe Carter gives us 9 things we should know about the great reformer, John Calvin.

God-blogging Is Replacing Deep Thinking

Bart Gingerich writes that young people are being led by untrained writers who claim to understand the deep wisdom of God better than anyone who came before them:

[W]e are starting to observe firsthand that the radical democratization of knowledge has led to what John Luckacs calls “an inflation of ideas.” Everyone has been given just enough knowledge and literacy to get them into trouble and yet none of the patience or discipline to get them out of it. Everyone with a blog or Twitter account can shoot out lots of small ideas that lack depth, grounding, and merit. Thus, American Christians are confronted with more and more theological ideas that have less and less worth.
Seminaries are both suffering from this and contributing to this problem. (via Anthony Bradley)

The Gospel of Grace for Mormons

John Wallace knows Latter-day Saints. He held temple recommendation and Elders Quorum presidencies for years. He examined the Bible for what he believed and read the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover repeatedly. But a seed of doubt was planted in him during his high school years that eventually grew too large for him to stay a Mormon. He knew he could never be perfect on his own. He could not prove his worthiness to return to live with Heavenly Father. If he had to be made perfect, it would have to be by someone else.

In this book, Starting at the Finish Line: The Gospel of Grace for Mormons, John spends almost all of his time exploring what Christ Jesus did for us on the cross. He shows what the Bible teaches about our sin, God’s unapproachable holiness, Christ’s eternal deity and righteousness, and how his death on the cross cancels the power of sin in our lives without any work from us.

Is Christ Jesus completely righteous? Yes, but he was made sin on our behalf and punished for our sakes. Does He give us His righteous completely? Yes. We cannot earn it. We cannot improve on it. When the Lord Jesus Christ said from the cross, “It is finished,” he paid for everything for us. His perfection became ours in the eyes of God.

John says, “Mormons believe the Bible to be the Word of God ‘as far as it is translated correctly…’ I aim to show my readers that the Bible has been translated correctly and that it points to the cross of Christ Jesus.”
Moreover, the Bible is not compatible with LDS doctrine. Speaking to Mormon readers, John remembers that Latter-day Saints believe that God will look down on us and if He sees that we are trying to obey Him in everything, He will give us eternal life. Moroni 10:32 says almost exactly that, but the Bible says salvation is by grace through faith, not by works so that no one can boast of earning anything.

With painful honesty, John describes his personal walk of faith toward God’s all-sufficient grace. He lovingly explains what the Bible teaches and how it conflicts with LDS teaching by quoting LDS prophets, elders, and sacred writings. His focus, however, is not to criticize the Mormon church. It is to explain how God’s grace is so much better than the “miracle of forgiveness” taught at LDS temples. It’s something to celebrate.

John writes: “If nothing else, I want my LDS reader to come away with these three things:

  1. The Bible is the Word of God. It is trustworthy and reliable, able to teach you and guide you through his life and into eternal life.
  2. Christ on the cross, suffering and dying to pay the penalty for your sins, is the gospel. There is no other gospel, and there is no other name (or combination of names) under heaven by which you can be saved.
  3. Any attempt on your part to add to Christ’s sacrifice with your own efforts nullifies God’s grace and severs you from Christ as Savior. He is the Way—and He’s not asking for help.”

Mahaney, Harris leave The Gospel Coalition

World magazine reports on the civil suit against a former member of a church once led by C. J. Mahaney and now by Joshua Harris. Last week a jury found the man guilty of molesting three boys in the 1980s, and questions have come up about whether church leaders, not just these two men but many more, knew about the problem and did not report it or handle it properly. Harris believes he should take full responsibility for part of the mishandling and has asked for a leave of absence along with four other church leaders. He steps down from The Gospel Coalition, he says, "because I don’t want the present challenges at my church to distract from this terrific ministry."

Harris comes at the end of this case and appears to be taking the high ground. He has even talked about suffering abuse as a child himself. I'm less sure about what high ground Mahaney can take at this point. Here's a report from last year about his part in the lawsuit. At the time, evangelical leaders were rallying to his support, saying they stood by him and "his personal integrity."

I can make no judgment call here. It's difficult for anyone at this distance to sort the facts and accuse these men, and we don't have to. Let's pray for them and their congregations. Let's do what we can in our own churches and cities to protect each other and call people to account for their sins in godly ways.

The Gospel Coalition (newly redesigned) has a couple links on this subject:

Osteenification of American Religion

Hank Hanegraaff must have read all of Joel Osteen's books, because he quotes them all in this article on Osteen's heresies.

Osteen is the hip new personification of God-talk in America... Behind Osteenian self-affirmations—“I am anointed,” “I am prosperous,” “My God is a ‘supersizing God’”—there lies a darker hue. Behind the smile is a robust emphasis on all that is negative. If you are healthy and wealthy, words created that reality. However, if you find yourself in dire financial straits, contract cancer, or, God forbid, die an early death, your words are the prime suspect. Says Osteen, “We’re going to get exactly what we’re saying. And this can be good or it can be bad” (Discover the Champion in You, May 3, 2004). In evidence, he cites one illustration after the other. One in particular caught my attention: the story of a “kind and friendly” worker at the church. He died at an early age, contends Osteen, “being snared by the words of his mouth” (I Declare [FaithWords, 2012], viii–ix).
That snare is meant to be an application of Proverbs 6:1-2, but read those verses to see if you get the same application as Osteen does.

Hanegraaff says Osteen's gospel is a version of New Thought Metaphysics, the idea that our words are a force of magic in the real world. In Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now, he writes, “You have to begin speaking words of faith over your life. Your words have enormous creative power. The moment you speak something out you give birth to it. This is a spiritual principle, and it works whether what you are saying is good or bad, positive or negative.”

Hanegraaff has written on this at length in his new book, The OSTEENification of American Christianity, which is available for a gift of any amount to the Christian Research Institute.

Doing my homework online

Georg Sverdrup Sven Oftedal

I've been neglecting you folks recently, because of the pressure of graduate school work. Tonight I'm going to compound the offense by using this space for homework purposes.

The two fellows you see above, reading from top to bottom, in photographs from the H. Larson Studio circa 1904, are Georg Sverdrup and Sven Oftedal, professors at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, and founders of the Lutheran Free Church, of which my current employer, the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, is the spiritual descendant. Both born in Norway and respected scholars, they are nevertheless best remembered for the bitter controversies they were involved in (and often initiated), especially in the 1880s and '90s.

As an assignment for one of my classes, I have to help assemble a "Digital Library Project" at Omeka. This involves posting, and coding with metadata, certain items relating to the theme of a group project. My project involves Scandinavian Culture in the Upper Midwest. Two of the items I chose to post were the above photographs, which reside in the archive I oversee at work. I took the pictures myself (obviously), and my lack of competence is apparent. But the instructions require a link to an external source for the photographs, so I'm making this blog post the source. (I'm not even sure that's ethical, but I can't think of another way to do it.)

But since I'm posting anyway, I want to discuss something shocking I've learned in my studies of these two men. Read the rest of this entry . . .

Guite's "Through the Gate"

In his new collection, The Singing Bowl, poet Malcolm Guite offers this poem inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy: "Through the Gate"

The GateBegin the song exactly where you are

For where you are contains where you have been

And holds the vision of your final sphere

And do not fear the memory of sin;

There is a light that heals, and, where it falls,

Transfigures and redeems the darkest stain

Into translucent colour. Loose the veils

And draw the curtains back, unbar the doors,

Of that dread threshold where your spirit fails,

The hopeless gate that holds in all the fears

That haunt your shadowed city, fling it wide

And open to the light that finds and fares ...

Read the rest on the poet's blog.

"My own poem," Guite says, "is written in the conviction that that there is no depth or recess, no sin or secret, in me or in anyone, beyond the light of Christ, but we have to open the gate and let him come down to our depths, let his Light reveal and name and heal what we have hidden."

Guite has written nine poems inspired from Dante's great work.

Understanding the Bible Yourself

John Piper has a new plan to teach people to understand the Bible on their own. He's calling it "Look at the Book," and at first blush it looks to be inductive Bible study, something Precept Ministries and Bryan College have done for years. Not that it isn't worth doing again by other people. I'm just making the connection.

Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay Apologizes, Offers Context

The lead singer of Jars of Clay, one of my favorite bands, cannonballed the Twitter pool repeatedly this week with commits and questions on gay marriage. Dan Haseltine asked if ruling out gay marriage was really as bad as many say it is. I'm tempted to reenact the drama for you. I got caught up in it somewhat. I saw Dan's tweet splash down: "I don’t particularly care about Scriptures stance on what is “wrong.” I care more about how it says we should treat people," and my heart sank.

But yesterday, Dan explained the context of his tweets, what he was trying to say, and how he messed it all up. He says he came from a panel discussion on gay marriage in Australia last week where many things were said that provoked him. He hadn't thought about it much before, so on Twitter, not the best platform for this, he wanted to ask questions outside of his own box, to assume he didn't have all the answers and to wonder where his blind spots were, if any. And he said things that easily misrepresent his views.

It's encouraging. I like this guy and his music. One of his recent songs says we "don't know enough about love, so we make it up." It seems to call our current sexual chaos into question. Some of us talk love but we don't know anything about it. In one of his books, Jared C. Wilson notes that God is love, but love is not God. We can't define love however we feel is right and then say that's god. It doesn't work that way.

I feel we're in a similar situation with homosexuality and the civil marriage debate. Read the rest of this entry . . .

Like Saying It Was Magic

Dr. Vern Poythress has written a book on chance and the sovereignty of God. In fact, that's the title. He says he was thinking about one of his previous books, Redeeming Science, when he developed the concept of chance for this book. People have appealed to chance almost as an intelligence behind questions of our origin, but to say it happened by chance when the odds are inconceivably high against it is like saying it was just magic. It's nonsense. The real problem, Dr. Poythress explains, is that many scientists have insisted that their naturalistic philosophy is the only way to interpret the data:

Evolutionary naturalism is the view that all forms of life came about through merely material processes, with no guiding purpose at any point. But the narrow study of material causes can never legitimately make a pronouncement about God’s involvement or God’s purposes in the processes. And scientific study ought not say that there can be no exceptions, that is, events in which God acts in surprising ways.

Many pronouncements made these days in the name of science use the successes of science and the prestige of science as a platform from which to advocate the principle that there are no purposes and that God is absent. But such pronouncements represent a form of philosophy; the advocates of materialistic philosophy are importing their own assumptions into their interpretation of the scientific data.
Many of them say they will entertain any theory that explains the data well, but we have seen plenty of examples where this has not been true at all. Even the suggestion that a god of some kind may explain the patterns seen in the data is enough to raise the ire of Darwin's watchdogs. That's what the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is about.

Keeping Quiet about Creation

I don't think I wrote here that I thought the Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye debate was less than great. The fact that you can still watch it is impressive, but the debate itself disappointed me. I thought Ham posed a question he did not answer. Though Nye appeared to be prepared to go toe-to-toe with him on specific scientific claims, Ham didn't want to wrestle for some reason. The next day, his group announced that he would answer all of Nye's objections that evening, but I want to know why he didn't do it during the debate. It's a day too late, sir.

A few years ago, I visited The Creation Museum in Kentucky with my family and enjoyed it. My only complaint at the time was the occasional straw man you saw characterizing evolutionists. I would have been much more impressed if certain presentations had presented teachers of Darwinian evolution as serious scientific people who could handle the data. Other than that, it was a great museum. But we need more than this to overcome the big problem as Joel Belz presents it today:

"The big problem more and more is that those of us who profess to be believers have to such a large extent joined them in their silence. So theoretically, we are still creationists. But practically speaking, we don’t let our allegiance to that great truth affect us much in everyday life."

Science is not a godless field of study, and Christian need not cede it to them. As Dr. Poythress explains in his booklet, Did Adam Exist? Darwin's model of evolution is only one valid way of interpreting the data--not the best way and not the only way. Interpretations that include God's designing hand are also valid.

Twelve Reasons Why God Can't Get Tenure, Rebuttal

Twelve top reasons why God can't get tenure (from the Internet of Yesteryear)

  1. He's authored only one paper
  2. That paper was in Hebrew
  3. His work appeared in an obscure, unimportant publication
  4. He never references other authors
  5. Workers in the field can't replicate His results.
  6. He failed to apply to the ethics committee before starting His experiments on humans.
  7. He tried to cover an experiment's unsatisfatory results by drowning the subjects.
  8. When subjects behavior proved his theory wrong he had them removed from the sample.
  9. He hardly ever shows up for any lectures. He merely assigns His Book again and again.
  10. His office is at the top of a mountain, and He doesn't keep office hours anyway.
  11. When He learned that His first two students sought wisdom, He had them expelled.
  12. His exams consist of only ten assigments which most students fail.

Rebuttal: Why God Did Receive Tenure.
  1. The one publication was a Citation Classic.
  2. The Hebrew original was widely translated courtesy of the author.
  3. Being written before journals existed, references were hard to come by.
  4. Original treatises that found a new area often require their own monograph.
  5. Although research has been sparse since the Creation, the professor has taught a number of courses: Human anatomy 212; Ancient Middle Eastern History 101, 102; Hydrology 207; Human Development 350; seminar on Egyptology; extended field trips to the deserts between Egypt and Palestine; Politics of Theocracies 277; Military Science Special Topic: Use of Voice as a Municipal Assault Weapon; Criminology 114; guest lectures in the Vet School: Digestive Anatomy of Whales; Wisdom & Ethics 550; Special seminar: Fertilization without sperm; Winemaking 870; Healing by miracle 987; Theology 101, 102, 230, 342, 350, 466H, and 980.
  6. The substitute teacher (son) was highly committed to his work.
  7. The substitute teacher cancelled the original ten requirements.
  8. The twelve teaching assistants formed numerous discussion groups.
  9. The substitute teacher knew students names without an attendance sheet.
  10. The professor's weekly Sunday lectures by surrogate instructors are attended by 974 million students.

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