Schaeffer’s Theorem

GRACE & PEACE

Francis Schaeffer was a prophetic voice to Christianity for the latter half of the 20th Century.  His treatises such as Mark of the Christian and Two Contents, Two Realities were excellent primers for Gospel-Centered & Missional Christianity long before either Gospel-Centered or Missional were coined terms.

The premise behind his philosophy has been has been summarized in this mathematical equation:

  • Truth – Love = Ugliness
  • Love – Truth = Compromise

How might this theorem, if lived out, effect the church? How could it impact your life?

View original post

If the Gospel Overtakes China…

In the news recently are reports that China’s Communist Leaders Fear Christian Population May Reach 300 Million by 2030. I first heard it mentioned on an episode of Breakpoint podcast, then later read about it from a couple of sources, including The Christian Post linked above. I have long been aware that the church in China was growing rapidly, exponentially. I have read that there are believed to be more Evangelical Christians in China than in the USA – more even than in the USA and Europe combined. But until this recent report, I don’t think I comprehended that the committed Christian population in China will soon match the total population of the USA! (USA estimates roughly 330 million population.) Astounding. Clearly God is doing an amazing thing among the Chinese people.

What has most grabbed my consciousness, however, is not the sheer number of Christians in China, but the seeming divergent tales of two cultures in response to the growing number of Christians in China and despite the growing number of Christians in China.

First, are the reports that the Communist Chinese government is aware and afraid of the growing number of Christians. They have tried persecution, executions, etc., but nothing has stopped the growth of the Church. Now realizing that the gospel cannot be stopped, and that at some point the number of Christians will lead to radical changes undermining the power of the Communist government, Party leaders fear losing their near absolute control.

Second, in contrast to the reports from China, here in the USA, many Evangelical Christians are among the Americans living in fear that the Church has lost the culture, and that China may soon take over the USA (here) – and maybe even the world! (here, here)

So here’s my question: Why is it that so many who believe the Gospel – and who believe in the God of the gospel – fear those who are afraid of the gospel that they know they are unable to overcome? Why do we not trust – and pray – that God is working out his purposes? (Habakkuk 2.14, Romans 8.28)

For those interested in learning more about what God is doing in China, check out:

Anxiety: “Do Not Be Anxious”

Three times, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs us “Do not be anxious…” (Matthew 6.25, 31, 34) The repetition is a rhetorical cue that he really means it. It could almost sound as if Jesus is doing his own version of the old Bob Newhart Stop It! sketch. Why is Jesus so resolute that we deal with our anxieties?

  1. Anxiety bears no good fruit
  2. Anxiety bears bad fruit
  3. Anxiety essentially questions God’s sovereignty
  4. Anxiety essentially questions God’s wisdom
  5. Anxiety essentially questions God’s goodness
  6. Finally, and ultimately, because the One who said “Do not be anxious…” solved our greatest problem at the Cross by receiving the punishment we deserve for our sins.

10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity

J. Gresham Machen, in his classic book, Christianity & Liberalism, writes:

In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology.

Michael Kruger, President of Reformed Theological Seminary @ Charlotte, has winsomely, and thoughtfully, explored the foundational differences between what is called Progressive Christianity, as opposed to historic expression of the Faith

In a blog post, more recently published as a book, Kruger examines the 10 core tenets of progressive (or contemporary liberal) Christianity offered by Richard Rohr, but really based on the book by Philip Gulley.

  1. Jesus is a model for living more than an object of worship.
  2. Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.
  3. The work of reconciliation should be valued over making judgments.
  4. Gracious behavior is more important than right belief.
  5. Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.
  6. Encouraging the personal search is more important than group uniformity.
  7. Meeting actual needs is more important than maintaining institutions.
  8. Peacemaking is more important than power.
  9. We should care more about love and less about sex.
  10. Life in this world is more important than the afterlife (eternity is God’s work anyway).

The liberal understanding of Christianity is not just a variant version of the faith, nor does it represent simply a different denominational perspective, but is an entirely different religion altogether. Put simply, liberal Christianity is not Christianity.

Suggested Reading:

Christianity & Liberalism and Hermeneutical Presuppositions by Vern Poythress

Race in America: Some Thoughts About the Existence of Systemic Racism

Though it should not be, the issue of Racial Reconciliation is complex. It should not be simply because all people are created in the image of God, and therefore are worthy of dignity. This fundamental reality puts all of us, regardless of race, on the same common ground. However, we live in a world broken by sin, and the effects of sin have seriously complicated even those things that should be simple.

Racial Reconciliation is further complicated by, among other things, the politicalization of racism, different definitions of what racism is and isn’t (i.e. is it an attitude? actions? or an inherent characteristic of one born into a majority culture?), and different experiences. Our experiences significantly shape our perceptions.

One of the most crucial questions in our discussions about racism in the United States is whether or not it is systemic; and if it is systemic, in what ways, and to what degrees? Even these seeming basic questions can be, and are, too often more complicated than we would think they should be. Some answer the question of whether or not racism is systemic with an easy “of course it is!”. Some are denying that there is any systemic problem.  (I have seen a video with Conservative pundit, Ben Shapiro, even trying to “debunk” the idea of systemic racism.)  And others are asking how “systemic” is being defined or measured.

To those sincerely inquiring if there is such a thing as systemic racism, my answer would be an unequivocated: “Yes. There is.” Although it may be easy to overlook, if it is not effecting you or me.

Consider what Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, expressed on a recent episode of his podcast, The Briefing:

In its simplest understanding, the biblical conception of sin begins with sin as an offense to God, a breaking of God’s law, a transgression on the part of a human sinner. Human sinners together, as we form societies, neighborhoods, villages, institutions, congresses, legislatures, etc, we also bring that sinfulness into the making of laws, into the establishment of policies.

What Mohler shows is the viral nature of our sin. What we may think is merely personal sin, or what we might theologically call “private sin”, is still sin, and sin is infectious; our sin effects others. At times our sin gets ratified and embedded into our civil codes. Sometimes this is quite obvious, such as clear segregation laws; other times it can be more subtle, or even almost invisible – to those it does not effect.

I found the video above, by Phil Vischer, of Veggie Tales fame, to be insightful, and both winsomely and compellingly presented.  He lays out facts – facts of history and contemporary facts – that contribute to systemic or structural racism and racial disparity. Some of these may be unintended consequences of what some may have thought to be good ideas. Some of these may be lingering effects of past racially discriminatory policies that we assumed had been eradicated. Some cannot be explained by anything other than the sin of racism.

My hope in posting this video, as many have done in other mediums, is to encourage those who are sincere in their question of whether systemic or structural racism really exists to see that it absolutely does.  My prayer is that seeing will lead to understanding, and that understanding will lead to a new sensitivity, and that this new sensitivity will lead to new perception, and that this new perception will lead to a new way of thinking, and that this new thinking with a new perception, will lead to wise and godly actions.  This is a foundational issue. Where someone comes down on the question of whether there is systemic racism in our culture will determine much, if not everything, about ones ability to engage in healthy dialogue and to effect healthy change.

Race & Racism from a White Guy’s Perspective

A few days ago I posted the video of an interview done with Bryan Stevenson, of Just Mercy fame, and Timothy Keller, discussing grace, race, and justice. As a follow up, I thought I’d post this message by Keller.

In this video Tim Keller tackles the tough subjects of Race and systemic racism.  While these terms can be loaded, I hope you will take the time to listen to the perspective that Keller lays out.

Grace, Justice, and Mercy

Last night, my wife, daughter, and I watched the film, Just Mercy. It was powerful.

With the popularity of the film, currently among the Top 10 viewed on Netflix, this video offers an opportunity to go a little deeper with the main character of the movie, Bryan Stevenson.  This video is of an interview with Stephenson and Tim Keller, discussing issues of race, justice, mercy, and grace. (This interview was filmed 4 years before the release of the movie.)

Biblical Foundations of Justice

Paul, the Apostle, wrote to the Church in Corinth:

The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Corinthians 10.5)

Taking our thoughts “captive” simply means to be aware of what we are thinking, and exercising control over our thoughts by subordinating them to what God says; it is forming our opinions and convictions upon Scripture above any other sources of information. Even over our own experiences.

To the Romans Paul wrote similarly:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12.2)

Again, Paul is asserting the importance of thinking biblically.

As a culture, we are thinking and talking politically and sociologically about justice, but not theologically or Biblically.  Perhaps this is what we ought to expect of the culture. But it is also true of the American Church. It is true of the Church, largely, because we are not, and we have not been, talking about the issues in our churches.  Consequently, church members, Christians who are inundated with the socio-politcal perspective from the daily news and common rhetoric don’t have a biblcial framework through which to filter, and talk about, these issues.

This panel discussion, from The Gospel Coalition 2015 Conference, consisting of panelists Tim Keller, Vauddie Baucham, Thabiti Anyabwile, John Piper, and Miguel Núñez, is five years old, but it is compellingly applicable to our current cultural discussion.

Biblical Justice

Justice is a felt need in our world today. Justice is also a hot and controversial subject. But what is justice, exactly, and who gets to define it? In this video, the folks from Bible Project explore the biblical theme of Justice and discover how it’s deeply rooted in the story-line of the Bible that leads to Jesus.

Additionally, the folks from Bible Project elaborate on this subject, with another short video and succinct explanations with graphics, in this link: Biblical Justice.

Nothing More to Gain, Nothing to Lose

Sojourn (1)

“We are not citizens of this world trying to make our way to heaven; we are citizens of heaven trying to make our way through this world. That radical Christian insight can be life-changing. We are not to live so as to earn God’s love, inherit heaven, and purchase our salvation. All those are given to us as gifts; gifts bought by Jesus on the cross and handed over to us. We are to live as God’s redeemed, as heirs of heaven, and as citizens of another land: the Kingdom of God. We live as those who are on a journey home: a home we know will have the lights on and the door open and our Father waiting for us when we arrive. That means in all adversity our worship of God is joyful, our life is hopeful, our future is secure. There is nothing we can lose on earth that can rob us of the treasures God has given and will give us. ”

~ from The Landisfarne

Puritan Perspective Pertaining to Our Present Pandemic

Pandemic2

Puritan Thomas Watson, in his Body of Divinity, gave thought to circumstances that presently pertain to us today in the midst of pandemic. Perhaps most particularly for Americans, who have been blessed with a measure of freedoms rarely matched, and certainly never exceeded, in all of history, the current “stay at home” mandates by a number of our Nations governors causes many to chafe.  There is a feared oppression of religious freedoms. Whether those fears are valid or merely presumed may yet to be determined.

Watson wrote, applying the 6th Commandment:

“Thou shalt not hurt thy own body.  One may be guilty of self-murder…  Indirectly and occasionally, as:

First, When a man thrusts himself into danger which he might prevent; as if a company of archers were shooting, and one should go and stand in the place where the arrows fly, if the arrow did kill him, he is accessory to his own death.

In the law, God would have the leper shut up, to keep others from being infected. Now, if any would be so presumptuous as to go in to the leper, and get the plague of leprosy, he might thank himself; he occasioned his own death.

Secondly, A person may be in some sense guilty of his own death, by neglecting the use of means.  If sick, and use no physic, if he has received a wound and will not apply balsam, he hastens his own death.  God appointed Hezekiah to lay a “lump of figs upon the boil”. (Isaiah 38.21)  If he had not used the lump of figs, he had been the cause of his own death.

And on the 7th Commandment:

Come not into the company of a whorish woman; avoid her house, as a seaman does a rock. Proverbs 5.8: “Come not near the door of her house.”  He who would not have the plague, must not come near houses infected; every whore-house has the plague in it.

Not to beware of the occasion of sin, and yet pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” is, as if one should put his finger into the candle, and yet pray that it may not be burnt.

Thoughts During a Pandemic

Rain Drops

Scottish Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs mused:

All men are afraid of afflictions and troubled at affliction, but where is the man or woman that fears sin and flies from the serpent, and is troubled at sin more than any affliction?

It got me thinking. What if I borrowed and re-purposed Burroughs’ question:

All are afraid of affliction and troubled by the fear of this virus. But where is the man or woman who fears sin and is troubled by sin more than he or she is troubled by and fears  the coronavirus?  Where is the man or woman who is as vigorous about protecting our hearts from the infection of sin within as we are presently about washing our hands and covering our faces to prevent the virus from infecting our lungs?

An even more immediate crucial question: Am I such a man?

Note to Self During Our Viral Outbreak

Luther Plague

I admire Martin Luther’s attitude in the midst of the bubonic plague:

“I shall ask God be merciful to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, He will surely find me, and I have done what He has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person. I shall go freely… See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Note to Self: May I live to honor God by loving and serving my neighbors to the best of my abilities during our present health crisis.

Repenting of Toxic Masculinity

bare knuckle

Columnist Ross Douthat, in response to recent discussions about “toxic masculinity”, penned a piece for the New York Times, In Search of Non-Toxic Manhood.

One of the frustrating tics of our society’s progressive vanguard is the assumption that every evil it discovers was entirely invisible in the past, that this generation is the first to wrestle with dominance and cruelty.

This forgetting of human experience, this perpetual present-tenseness, pervades the latest flashpoint in the culture war over the sexes — the new guidelines for treating male pathology from the American Psychological Association.

The trouble with men, the guidelines argue, is that they’re violent and reckless, far more likely than women to end up in prison or dead before their time. But the deeper problem is they’re prisoners of “traditional masculinity,” which the guidelines describe as a model of manhood marked by “emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance and competitiveness.” This tough-guy ideal encourages “aggression and violence as a means to resolve interpersonal conflict,” and tempts men toward rape, drug abuse and suicide.

Douthat’s OpEd reminded me of an article I had read several years ago, written by Kyle Worley for Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) titled Repenting From ‘Biblical’ Manhood. It was the 10th and final part of a series titled Manhood Marred.  The series explored a variety of ways that sin has corrupted, or marred, manhood.  So in a very real sense, CBMW was way ahead of the American Psychological Association – and Gillette Razors.

In Repenting From ‘Biblical’ Manhood, Worley introduces the subject with these words:

While we firmly believe that God has ordained complementarianism as the governing sexual and marital ethic of the Christian life, we acknowledge that a corrupt complementarianism and those false ways of living that some may have treacherously called ‘biblical’ manhood have led to the perversion of the wonderful truth that God has laid out for human flourishing in the home, in the church, and in the culture.

Worley continues:

So, in the vein of those prophets who plead for the sins of their kinsman, it is time that we corporately repent and lament the perverseness of a manhood that has been shaped by sin and not by the authority of Scripture.

Then, in the “vein of the prophets”, Worley offers the following memorable, and beautifully humble, prayer of confession and repentance:

Lord, We confess that we are broken and are in need of your grace. May you draw our gaze to the God-man Jesus Christ and the full scope of scripture as the authoritative revelation for what biblical manhood should resemble.

  • We repent for the sins of our passive brothers, unwilling to lead when it counts.
  • We repent for the sins of our chauvinist brothers, covering up abuse in the name of authority and male leadership.
  • We repent for the sins of our brothers who refuse to grow up, Lord would you call them to greater maturity.
  • We repent for any machismo that has seeped into our churches, may we be disgusted with misogyny in all its forms.
  • We repent for men who are trying to escape from the responsibilities you have entrusted to them, may they find joy in their stewardship.
  • We repent for men who are attempting to “lone wolf” their lives, Lord may they find your church as beautiful as you do.
  • We repent for men unwilling to sacrifice their control and comfort to lead in all spheres of life, may they look to He who laid down His life for His bride.
  • We repent for men who are so jaded with cynicism that they lose love for the King and hope for his coming kingdom.

We pray that you would rescue women who are trapped in abuse and that you would crush the purposes of abusers who treacherously call themselves “complementarians” or “biblical men.” Bring them to repentance and comfort those who have been bruised and broken beneath their hands.

We pray for those men who are trapped in sexual immorality. Lord, would you break the chains of pornography in the life of the church. Those wicked chains that place men in shackles next to the sex trafficking victims, pornographers, and orphaned.

We pray that you would continue to renew a movement towards good, beautiful, and true complementarian practice. May the witness of those men and women who have been created in your image, given distinct roles in the world, and who treasure the gospel tell the true story of complementarianism. May the lies that creep in under the banner of complementarianism in churches, homes, and communities across the world be crushed by this witness.

Comfort the woman abused, the child orphaned, the widowed mother, the widowed father, the church filled with faithful women.

Comfort the young woman not righteously pursued, the young boy with no father to learn from, the wife who serves the belligerent and lazy husband.

Confront those trapped in sexual immorality, confront churches filled with passive men, confront the young men unwilling to grow up.

Crush abortion, crush the movement to undermine the beauty of Christian covenant marriage, crush the porn industry, crush abuse at home and in the church.

Come, Lord! Come, Lord! Come, Lord, would you come?

To borrow a theme and turn a phrase, “CBMW was anti toxic masculinity before toxic masculinity was un-cool”.  We would do well, and it would be timely, for the Church to reaffirm our commitments, and acknowledge our failures on this front; humbly repenting before our Holy God, and prophetically proclaiming God’s design for masculinity rather than leaving the final word to the APA, or to some other organization.

Believing & Belonging

scottish kirk

I found these words from John Stonestreet to be on target, well grounded, and a great truth around which we would do well to periodically re-orient our priorities and calendars:

The central practice of the Christian life, at least biblically speaking, is gathering together as Christ’s body for corporate worship, for hearing the Word, and for participating in the sacraments. “Going to church” as we say somewhat inaccurately, is the means that God has designed and determined to feed us spiritually, and to allow us to participate in that kingdom where God’s will is done on earth as in Heaven.

Stonestreet goes on to say:

But just attending church isn’t enough either. Each Sunday, Christians declare not only that God’s kingdom has arrived in Christ Jesus, but that it’s being established in our lives, our families, and our congregations. That’s why no Christian is called to only a one-on-one relationship with Jesus, but to a communion that belongs both to and with one another. In other words, we’re not called to mere attendance.

The Church is designed by God to be an instrument for our spiritual nourishment, growth, and health. Each member and participant in the church is a tool God uses to shape and sharpen the others.  (See Proverbs 27.17) Only through relationships with others can we more fully understand who God has made us to be.

C.S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, beautifully illustrates this principle when he shares the story of the loss of one member of his closest circle of friends, which included theologian Charles Williams and writer J.R.R. Tolkien (“Ronald”). After Charles Williams died, Lewis made this observation:

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth. . .We possess each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases. In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to Heaven. . . For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah 6.3) The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.”

Reflecting on what Lewis had written, Tim Keller noted:

“Lewis’ point is that even a human being is too rich and multifaceted a being to be fully known one-on-one. You think you know someone, but you alone can’t bring out all that is in a person. You need to see the person with others. And if this is true with another human being, how much more so with the Lord? You can’t really know Jesus by yourself.”

Again, when Charles died, Lewis did not have more of Ronald now that they had only each other, he now has less of Ronald, and Ronald has less of Lewis, because there are aspects of both Lewis and Ronald that only Charles can bring out. The same is true of our relationships in the church, in our small groups, in any of our circle of friendships. There are things in each of us that are only evident in our communion with other individuals. In community we see more of each other because of what each draws out of the other; and we see more of ourselves because of what others draw out in us.

“Community is the key to true spirituality as we grow to know God by learning to know one another in relationships.”

This is among the reasons the writer of the Book of Hebrews was so adamant that we not neglect participation through regular and frequent, even weekly, assembling together as the church:

24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10.24-25, NLT)

Stonestreet’s words come from his January 22, 2019 Breakpoint podcast, Believing Means Belonging.  Click the link to read the transcript or to listen to the entire 4 minute program.