What I Read Online – 09/23/2010 (a.m.)

23 Sep
    • Initiating and building momentum for this type of ministry I think depends very much on the support of church leadership.
    • First, I think it is critical to get support from the leadership of your church.  As I mentioned, my pastor and the board of elders have been invaluable in promoting apologetics in our local congregation.  Second, be a voracious reader.  The task of the apologist is never complete, and I have found that the more I read, the more I know, and the more I find that I don’t know.  So, read, read, read.
    • Third, stay current.
    • Fourth, write down your thoughts, perhaps in a blog.  It is amazing how writing down your thoughts and wrestling with them brings clarity.  Fifth, a great opportunity for help in your apologetics ministry is through networking on social media like Facebook and Twitter, as well as through the blogosphere.
    • There’s an awful lot of negativity around today, especially in Christian circles, about technology and the damage it is doing. Here’s an infographic that re-dresses that imbalance by showing how technology is helping us to fulfill God’s mandate to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion …” (Gen. 1:28).
    • Listening to her on Monday, I was reminded of a comment made to me in the 80s about the student activism of that time: student politics is all about sincere people getting superficially involved in very deep issues.  If that applied to relatively articulate and intelligent students at Cambridge in 1985, it would seem to apply in spades to the barely articulate synthetic celebrities who now consider themselves to have the right to lecture the rest of us (via ghost written speeches made up of emotive blather) on how society should be organised.  Personally, I blame Bono.  That you have the ability to wear ridiculous sunglasses with confidence and the ability to write lyrics that sound cool but do not actually mean anything should not qualify you to have any more significance in the shaping of society than the single vote your nation’s constitution allows you come election time; and, in my opinion, as soon as rock music starts to take itself seriously, something crucial (I think it is called `fun’) in the genre dies.  Whatever one thinks of Bush’s legacy, I trust that we can all agree that taking the U2 frontman seriously and giving him a platform was one of his least helpful actions during his tenure as US President.
    • Such celebrity authority brings to the fore a number of unfortunate aspects of the contemporary world.  First, there is the assumption that what young people have to say is actually something to which it is worthwhile paying attention.   Wrong, wrong, wrong.  These are the same young people who think that the Twilight movies are actually watchable and that no English sentence is complete unless it contains the word `like’ at least three times.  And have you listened to their music?
    • The unspoken wisdom of the day seems to be that those with less experience of the world, and thus presumably less `baggage,’ are better equipped to solve its problems.  That’s theologically Pelagian and technically nonsense.  I have no problems in my daily life — from a leaking waterpipe to a serious illness — that are not best addressed by consulting someone with experience in the field. When my toilet system breaks down, I want someone with `baggage’  from the world of plumbing (I believe plumbers call it `appropriate training’) to sort it out, not some ghastly sixteen year old with a record contract and a bizarre hairdo who just knows in their heart that, if we can all, like,  totally get rid of nuclear weapons, prejudice, and Third World Debt and stuff, my loo will be, like, back in working order, you know, by nightfall.  Awesome, as they say. Strange, therefore, how our culture seems to think that the really big problems in the world — war, hunger, justice etc — are always best solved by those with least experience of said world and little apparent ability to listen to the views of others who are older than themselves. 
    • Goo goo for Gaga?  Of course not.  But the tough question is this: to what extent is this gagafication already at work in the church?  Indeed, is the church already gagafied?  To what extent has the assumption that youth has the answers captured the imagination of our churches?   When we say we want to look for a `young, dynamic pastor,’ is it not arguable that we intend the phrase as a tautology, that we are actually identifying the notions of `young’ and dynamic’? Paul seems to assume that elders will be older men (to such an extent that he has to encourage Timothy precisely because he is young); that Pauline norm seems these days to have been lost in the fear of `losing the youth.’    And I will not even bother touching the issue of ministers the wrong side of thirty who feel a compulsive need to dress like teenagers.  Again, I blame Bono: he is older than me and he still wears leather trousers?  Who is he trying to kid?  
    • More broadly, how much of the language used by Christians in argument is really aesthetic in its power?   Christian engagement in politics is an obvious example, where words like `liberal,’ `conservative,’ `Marxist,’ and `Fascist’ are thrown around with little regard to any philosophical content or actual analogy that may exist between the historic reference of such terms and the actual application in the here and now.  All the force comes from the buzz — the aesthetic resonances — of such terms.  Such words bypass the brain and pull straight on the emotional heart strings, short-circuiting real engagement. They also preempt any intelligent discussion.  Ironic, is it not, that some of the most anti-postmodern figures in the Christian political firmament are, through their appeal to visceral, aesthetic language, among the most postmodern in their actual forms of argument.
    • Certainly, we as evangelical Christians may learn from the world, but I have a complaint as well. Why do we so often think that the world has a better answer to the problem of racial prejudice than we do? Why do we so often follow secular advice “lock, stock, and barrel”? Why do we have the very same multicultural programs with a thin Christian veneer? Why is our diversity training so often virtually indistinguishable from that of the world? I can only conclude that we as evangelical Christians believe that we must look to the world for solutions to racism. I do not have space to argue for this here, but we need to evaluate critically the multicultural and diversity programs that are rife in our culture. In many ways they are contrary to the gospel, and instead of advancing racial reconciliation, they actually foster and encourage racial polarization. We as Christians have a better answer to racial problems—an answer that goes back to Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul, and others who wrote sacred Scripture. In other words, we as Christians believe that the answer to racism is found in the Bible. The answer is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    • If the answer is found in the gospel, why have Christians so often been on the wrong side of the issue? Too often we do not live by the gospel we proclaim. Cultural norms and sinful patterns crowd out the liberating message that Jesus taught. Even as Christians we easily forget about the good news and live by another norm. But our failure to live consistently by the gospel does not mean that we should abandon the gospel as the answer. Rather, the gospel calls upon us to confess our sins, repent of our evil, and commit ourselves anew to Jesus Christ. Many Christians today are convinced, as they adopt wholesale the multicultural and diversity agenda of our culture, that they represent the vanguard of righteousness. But insofar as they promote a norm other than the gospel, they lead us astray.
    • Jarvis Williams believes that the gospel of Christ speaks to our racial sins and prejudices today, and he shows through careful exegesis what the gospel has to say to our churches and our world. All of us who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters. We are all descendants of Adam (Acts 17:26; Rom 5:12–19), and we have all sinned and fall short of what God requires (Rom 3:23). We are all justified in the same way through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:28–30), and we are reconciled to God and one another through Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:14–18). As Jarvis Williams shows, our fundamental task is not to become one, but to live out the oneness that has already been accomplished in Christ. We are brothers and sisters because we belong to Jesus Christ. May we live out this glorious gospel! May the world know that we are Christians by our love for one another (John 13:34–35)! Jarvis Williams’s book does not pretend to provide the answer to all the questions before us, but it provides a rock-solid foundation and starting point.
    • Don’t talk the moment away.  First, just sit with them.  Hold their hand.  Tell them you love them.  Tell them you will be there with them through this time.  Sometimes it is best to do nothing but “weep with those who weep.”
    • Once you speak, tell of the glorious character of God and His promises in Christ.
    • There are few things more disheartening as a congregant than hearing a forty minute preacher preach for fifty minutes, a thirty minute preacher preach for forty minutes, or a twenty minute preacher preach for thirty minutes.  Somehow, that last ten minutes can weaken and even destroy the impact of all that has been said in the sermon to that point.  There is no virtue in length for the sake of it.  I think I’ve heard two preachers in my entire life who could preach for an hour; and most preachers I know would be much better if they shaved at least five or ten minutes off their typical length.  Get up there, say what you’ve got to say as clearly as you can, and then sit down again.  That’s all that’s necessary.   As Luther says elsewhere in Table Talk (2643a), `I hate a long sermon, because the desire on the part of the congregation to listen is destroyed by them, and the preachers hurt themselves.’   And, as usual, Luther got it right.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


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