“Just moments later, you’d hear her sing”

My friend Olivia shares her story,  excerpted below:

If you could rewind 3 years, you’d see the tear-streaked face of a girl who heard the news that she would have to undergo ACL reconstruction surgery. You’d feel her frustration that she is no longer able to be physically independent. You’d see her try her best to refuse help. You’d watch her self-esteem plummet as she gained weight from the injury.

A few months later, you’d see her sitting on her back porch after surgery. You’d watch her try to comprehend the phone call. “We don’t know if he’s dead or alive.” You’d watch her cry and scream as she reached the ER a moment too late. You’d watch her mourn the loss of a dear friend. You’d watch her yell at God alone in her car before physical therapy.

Two months later, you’d watch her say goodbye to the biggest idol her heart had ever known: a four and a half year relationship. You’d see her struggle with shame and anger. You’d see her stumble around, trying to find new places to feel beautiful and wanted. You’d see a broken young woman in the midst of an identity crisis.

A few weeks later, you’d see her pick up her dusty Bible and turn to Psalm 73 and read:

When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

You’d see her cry tears of absolute joy. You’d see her heart fill with sorrow that she had abandoned the God who had chosen her before the foundation of the world. You’d see her pray for the first time in years, asking Jesus to make her new again.

Just moments later, you’d hear her sing.

I love redemption! As they say,  read the whole thing.

The devil you know is still a devil

This is fantastic. Money-quote:

To vote for Trump is to validate; to vote for Trump is to participate. He is a crass, gutter-tongued, vulgar man whose self-regard blinds his ability to understand his own ignorance. A man who casually encourages the worst, enables the mediocre, and wafts aloft cartoon concepts of American greatness with gusts of flatulent banalities. It takes a certain kind of historical illiterate not to realize his facial postures are literally aping a second-rate Italian fascist.

Sorry for taking the long way; could have just linked and agreed. But the author’s points deserve interrogation. Short version: no. Long version: hell no. On the off chance history makes marks in a ledger: I will not support Trump if he is the nominee. I will not vote for him. The devil you know is still a devil, and worse yet: you don’t really know him at all.

Read the whole thing.

Dinesh D’Souza on “Gaps” as the mother lode of scientific discovery

Dinesh D’Souza has put out the first in a three part series on Life after Death. His argument appears to be built on a somewhat Lewisian appeal to the human sense of morality. Should be an interesting series.

I was intrigued especially in this first part by his treatment of the anticipated skeptics’ objection that he is only appealing to the “God of the Gaps”. His take on Gaps is one I’ve never considered before. Some excerpts:

Before we launch into our discussion, I need to anticipate and answer an objection that will already be surfacing for a certain type of reader. Skeptics will at this point be reacting scornfully to my claim that there are certain features of human nature that seem to defy scientific explanation. The phrase that will be dancing on their lips is “the God of the gaps.” What they mean is that I am appealing to God and the supernatural to account for things that science has not yet explained. As Carl Sagan wrote in The Varieties of Scientific Experience, “As science advances, there seems to be less and less for God to do.” For the skeptic, the appeal to gaps is a completely illegitimate mode of argument; just because science doesn’t have the answer now, that doesn’t mean it will not have the answer tomorrow, or at any rate someday. In this view, the God of the gaps is the last desperate move of the theist, who searches for the little apertures in the scientific understanding of the world and then hands over those areas to his preferred deity.

. . . while the skeptic typically fancies himself a champion of science, his whole line of argument is no less unscientific than that of the creationist. For the skeptic a gap is a kind of nuisance, a small lacuna in scientific knowledge that is conceded to exist as a kind of misfortune, and is expected soon to be cleared up. True scientists, by contrast, love and cherish gaps. They seek out gaps and work laboriously within these crevices because they hope that, far from being a small missing piece of the puzzle, the gap is actually an indication that the whole underlying framework is wrong, that there is a deeper framework waiting to be uncovered, and that the gap is the opening that might lead to this revolutionary new understanding.

Gaps are the mother lode of scientific discovery. Most of the great scientific advances of the past began with gaps and ended with new presuppositions that put our whole comprehension of the world in a new light. The presuppositional argument, in other words, is not some funny way of postulating unseen entities to account for seen ones, but rather is precisely the way that science operates and that scientists make their greatest discoveries. Copernicus, for example, set out to address the gaps in Ptolemy’s cosmological theory. As historian Thomas Kuhn shows, these gaps were well recognized, but most scientists did not consider their existence to be a crisis. After all, experience seemed heavily on the side of Ptolemy: The earth seems to be stationary, and the sun looks as if it moves. Kuhn remarks that many scientists sought to fill in the gaps by “patching and stretching,” i.e., by adding more Ptolemaic epicycles.

Copernicus, however, saw the gaps as an opportunity to offer a startling new hypothesis. He suggested that instead of taking it for granted that the earth is at the center of the universe and the sun goes around the earth, let’s suppose instead that the sun is at the center, and the earth and the other planets all go around the sun. When Copernicus proposed this, he had no direct evidence that it was the case, and he recognized that his theory violated both intuition and experience. Even so, he said, the presupposition of heliocentrism gives a better explanation of the astronomical data and therefore should be accepted as correct. Here is a classic presuppositional argument that closes a gap and in the process gives us a completely new perspective on our place in the universe.

Similarly, Einstein confronted gaps in the attempt of classical physics to reconcile the laws of motion with the laws of electromagnetism. Again, there were many who didn’t consider the gap to be very serious. Surely classical Newtonian science would soon figure things out, and the gap would be closed. It took Einstein’s genius to see that this gap was no small problem; rather, it indicated a constitutional defect with Newtonian physics as a whole. And without conducting a single experiment or empirical test, Einstein offered a presuppositional solution. He said that we have assumed for centuries that space and time are absolute, and this has produced some seemingly insoluble problems. So what if we change the assumption? What if we say that space and time are relative to the observer? Now we can explain observed facts about electromagnetism and the speed of light that could not previously be accounted for.

Einstein was able to test his theory by applying it to the orbital motion of the planet Mercury. Mercury was known to deviate very slightly from the path predicted by Newton’s laws. Another gap! And once again there was a prevailing complacent attitude that some conventional scientific explanation would soon close the gap and settle the anomaly. But in fact the gap was a clue that the entire Newtonian paradigm was inadequate. Einstein recognized his theory as superior to Newton’s when he saw that it explained the orbital motion of Mercury in a way that Newton couldn’t.

An interesting and new (to me, at least) way of looking at gaps. A good read, and recommended.

“Oh, we don’t need a teacher, we need a facilitator”

The quote that makes up the subject of this post is not a verbatim quote. It is rather an amalgam of various similar quotes I’ve heard in church culture throughout the past decade or so.

As a great fan of discourse and dialog (for me, the comments threads on most blogs are often the most interesting parts of them), and as someone who enjoys a good discussion in the GAP on Sunday mornings, I somewhat understand the sentiment in the desire for “facilitators, not teachers”. In addition, I’ve seen facilitation work wonders, at times, in brain-storming and design sessions at work. And, finally, we’ve all been held a captive audience to teachers in the past who probably, um, shouldn’t be teachers.

All that being said . . .

The church needs gifted teachers. If gifted teachers are hard to find, the church must redouble its efforts to find or (preferably) train them. The intrusion in church teaching efforts by facilitat-y “there’s no such thing as a wrong answer” philosophies has been a bad thing.

And that’s all I’m going to say (for now) about that.

By the way, this post was inspired by Jared’s latest missive (and, yes, I’m an unashamed Jared Wilson fanboy. Can you tell?). Sample this:

. . . as a community of believers seeks reform, as we seek the face of God and push, urge, inspire, train each other to exalt Christ and focus on the Gospel, it has become more and more urgent that we not abandon the monologue sermon, but reform the monologue sermon to greater Gospel-centrism, to a greater submission on the part of the preacher (and by extension his community) to the authority of Scripture.

And none of this is to say the community should be passive receptors, containers to be filled with information. None of this is to say we shouldn’t test what we’ve been taught, talk it out, use the community as the context for “field testing” theology, work at iron sharpening iron, hold our teachers accountable, etc. It is only to say that the worship gathering is not the right forum for the discussion.

A bit later, Jared quotes from Mark Driscoll, who recounts the velvet way he dealt with the teaching paradigm conflicts at his church:

We continued to meet on Sunday nights until Christmas, when some of the arty types started complaining that there was a preaching monologue instead of an open dialogue, as would become popular with some emerging pastors a few years later. This forced me to think through my theology of preaching, spiritual authority, and the authority of Scripture. I did an intense study of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament commands regarding preaching and teaching. In the end, I decided not to back off from a preaching monologue but instead to work hard at becoming a solid long-winded, old school Bible preacher that focused on Jesus. My people needed to hear from God’s Word and not from each other in collective ignorance like some dumb chat room.

“Like some dumb chat room” . . . heh.

Update: Oddly enough, I just looked and the latest post on the GAP website that I linked to above is a Jared Wilson quote. And, yeah, I’m the one who posted it.

People are going to start talking . . .

Holding aloft the 3-cent candle of hope

I’ve got lots of post ideas. I just haven’t found the time (or the guts, frankly) to post them. But here are some thoughts and links while I while away my lunch hour.

Remember the old cliche’ “it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness”? My candle is not that bright and I feel sometimes that I’m walking through the inky-black darkness of the blogosphere holding aloft one of those little sparklers you find on a cupcake. But, doggone it, I’m going to grit my teeth and continue to do so. Yes, we need our Jeremiah’s, our weeping prophets. And, of course, all is not well, in our country or in our churches.

But sometimes I think people can’t see the light of hope for the darkness they’ve chosen to focus on.

Maybe I’m wrong. But, for those of us living in the western world at least, we live in an age of unparalleled material blessing and freedom. Even our poorest are rich by history’s standards. And, if that wasn’t un-PC enough to say, though the church in America is badly in need of reform, discipline, and a re-focusing, it is also full of some very, very fine Christians and some brave, stalwart pastors and leaders. And many churches are holding onto the truth, while simultaneously doing honorable work among our poor and dispossessed.

Am I whistling through a graveyard? The Bride is beautiful. And much maligned, even by those who are part of her.

There’s a balance to be achieved. I’m not speaking against Godly criticism of our church culture. I have recommended (and heck, I will again) Gospel-Driven Church as an example of how to do this right. The Internet Monk is also a site I highly recommend, though he is no stranger to dark nights of the soul and confessional blogging (and getting mercilessly slammed for both). Yet he tenaciously holds on to the truth, to orthodoxy, and hope.

So I’m reading this passage in a new way today. Do you see it too?:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

– Romans 8:31-39

Also, apropos of (almost) nothing, check out this quote by J.D. Hatfield:

The New Testament is centered on Christ, and its exhortations on the holiness of believers. This is not a simple call to obedience, but to holiness. Holiness is not righteousness, righteousness flows from holiness. Holiness isn’t simply obedience; it is being set apart for God and depending on God by drawing your boundaries, as God would have them. Obedience flows from holiness, and holiness is cultivated by a right understanding of God and what He has done for us in Christ. To understand Christ more fully is to be made more holy in practice.

That’s something for me to chew on, definitely (HT Transforming Sermons).

Finally, from the aforementioned Gospel-Driven Church, It’s Not About Programming; It’s About Culture. The final few paragraphs are below:

It is wearying trying to sell our churches on the notion that what they’ve been selling for so long doesn’t work. It is difficult suggesting that the service-centered approach to reaching the lost has failed. It is a delicate thing to suggest that we have not exalted Christ and we have not glorified God and therefore we haven’t really served the people we’ve claimed to.

And yet for some of us inside this culture, slogging away at discipling the culture into a more vital discipleship, it is incumbent upon us to, in our hearts and minds, say “Here we stand. We can do no other.”

I rather like that, and I’m inspired by efforts to change the church that flow from sincere love and concern for the Bride and devotion to her Lord.

So I’m going to hold my candle aloft. And you can blow it out, but it’s the frustrating kind that bursts back into flame without having to be relit [Bill makes his “booyah” face].

And I’m also going to attempt to start policing what I read on the Blogosphere and who I link to in my Bloogroll.

It’s either that or Prozac . . .

Meandering . . .

It’s Saturday night, and I need to be preparing for my lesson tomorrow. It’s going to be a good one, because it’s about Jesus.

And I’m not kidding about that. I need every lesson to be about Jesus. He is the way.

I pray I’ll do it justice. I’m behind at this point, but there are still some hours left in the evening (and tomorrow morning).

On another note: I’m adding Letters from Kamp Krusty to my Bloogroll (thanks to Bob for hipping me to this blog). This guy’s a great writer. And he’s honest and straightforward, without (and my next statement might seem a bit out of the blue, but it’s coming from somewhere, and I might explain later) being in the T.M.I. realm of honesty and creepily bordering on the apostate, which is something I’m seeing more and more in the Christian blogosphere. That troubles me.

I may write more about that later, when I’ve got words to write. In the meantime, yes, life is hard. But Jesus is good. And we are more than conquerors, because of Him.

Now go read some Letters from Kamp Krusty. I recommend these two posts:

Preach the unpreachable, Star and Wanted: Some Awesomely Hip People to Pose With

Here’s a snippet (heck, it’s almost the whole post) from Preach the unpreachable, Star:

I was kicking lunch salad-style with this pastor-friend of mine, today, at this salad-bar place. I opted for a mix of lettuces. And I had the spicy croutons and the little meat sprinkles.

He was telling me about a cool idea for a teaching series he’d been doing. I liked it, then challenged him to do a series called, “The Verses No One Ever Preaches About Because, Frankly, We Don’t Like Them.”

I suggested starting with the part where Jesus says if somebody takes something from us, we’re not supposed to even ask for it back. Jesus even says it right smack in front of the Golden Rule, so you’d think that there would have some prime real estate, and get preached on all the time. But, even growing up fundamentalist, I never once heard a sermon on that one. Never.

I think it’s the Most Willfully Ignored Saying of Jesus.

My pastor-friend said maybe it’s because we haven’t developed an understanding of that verse yet.

Awkward pause.

Laughter! But seriously, folks. Oh, we understand it. It ain’t complex. It’s just that, you know, nobody likey. C’mon: Let’s say someone shorts you payment of something, knowing full-well what they did. You’re not even going to ask for it back? Let’s not take this too far, here, folks.

Can we do another series that sorta ties in with the “Transformers” movie?

(BTW, I was reading one commentator on this scripture. He says we’re not supposed to take Jesus literally here, because if we took his “also give him your shirt,” teaching literally for when the guy who takes your coat, we’d be supporting “nudism”. Nice effort, there, commentator-feller. The Message takes a crack at softening it here.)

So, anyway, if you’re a Christian teacher-type, you’re a star in the Krusty-book for going with that series idea sometime.

Double Krusty Points for keeping it as understandable as Jesus did. Krusty Points are irredeemable for prizes.

Double-NEGATIVE points if you twist it to retrofit our lifestyles and make it less threatening than it obviously is.

Move two spaces forward, and take another turn, if you have the innards to try this, without watering it down, and telling people to actually do it. (“The goal is…what, comrade?”)

Linkapalooza!!

Ok, that's not that great of a title, is it? Everyone seems to have a cool title for their link posts, except me. Oh well.

Some linkage for your enjoyment while the post-droubt here on Out of the Bloo continues:

Jared offers some welcome news regarding the divorce rate in Christian marriages.

Lars Walker shares some of my pessimism about the state of things these days, but ends on a good (and true) note:

And that reminded me that the Kingdom of God is bigger than my fears. God is at work today, and what He’s planning to do is probably something that hasn’t occurred to me. His instruments will come from places where I’m not looking.

Well said.

Tim Challies provides photographic evidence of his recent meeting with the one and only Adrian Warnock, who is a capital fellow by all accounts.

Jared, again, gives his take on the Emerging Literati.

The Fire Ant Gazette posits a succinct review of the movie containing the longest scenes known to man of characters staring at each other, Meet Joe Black.

And, finally, . It's nifty!

Humble Orthodoxy

GospelDrivenLife: it’s just a great blog. Check this out (and then, of course, go read the whole thing):

My point is this — while history reveals that Christians in good conscience have held to a variety of convictions, it also reveals that they held their convictions dearly — would argue for them with humility, would not step down from them, and would rather die than deny them. I can learn humility from the varied persons of history. It is humbling to me to realize I disagree with Jonathan Edwards on key points– or I disagree with John MacArthur on others. These are men I respect. But while it should humble me, it should not lead me to indifference and inclusivism in my own conscience.

I must answer questions — does the Bible teach gender roles in marriage or not? does it teach them in the church or not? Does the Bible say God chooses some for faith with no apparent reason — or does he choose them based on foreseen faith? Do certain gifts of the Spirit cease or do they remain? Shall the church be governed by presbyters or by the congregation? what is the mode and time of baptism? etc.

I must determine where the lines of church membership lie . . . and I must do so in a way that humbly acknowledges the godliness of those with whom I differ and simultaneously upholds my own convictions.

I must also determine where the line of orthodoxy lies — who is in the faith and who is not — for at some point I have to decide with whom I can fellowship. This is so against the grain of our times — so against the agenda that “as long as they are sincere, isn’t it interesting how many conclusions can be reached?” But it is the pattern of our forbears.

I do not think this is easy work — history reveals that we have more often misplaced those lines — but that does not mean we should not draw them. refusing to draw lines communicates something about truth doesn’t it?

It would be unfaithful to God to refuse to reach a clear conclusion on teachings from Scripture — all because I do not want to draw lines. What is needed to represent the Gospel well in these times is humble orthodoxy. Clear conviction, willingness to draw lines, all done with awareness of my own ignorance and the grace that has given me any light.

How does this tie into the Gospel? The Gospel is rooted in propositions about God and His Savior Jesus — they are defined and and clear and cannot be compromised without losing the Gospel itself.