Category Archives: Faith

Supporting World Vision

Each person  only has so much money to invest in charitable causes and there are plenty of options.

If World Vision had announced that in the spirit of grace they were employing known racists, former child molesters, or members of Westboro Baptist, I’d say “thanks, but no thanks.” There’s plenty of other organizations to partner with.

So if (a) you don’t think that a settled homosexual lifestyle is a secondary issue like baptism or the gifts of the Spirit or such, but rather (b) think it’s consistently presented in Scripture as one of the many sins for which Christ died and which are antithetical to the life of the Spirit, then you’re going to have reservations about partnering with an organization that wraps Christianity in a modern American social ethic, which will (and it will) be offensive to the majority of people they are trying to help in the Majority World.

Supporting World Vision is an individual decision that can be defended well from either side. But progressive Christian friends: a decision to not support World Vision can be something else than culture-war-styled fundamentalism making a point on the backs of orphaned children.

 

World Vision And The Global Christian Church

worldvision_map-0f324e73cd0fb35ae89504df00841c9fAs a long-time financial supporter of World Vision, I was grieved to hear today of their decision to affirm homosexual marriage by removing it from the category of unethical conduct and relegating it to the category of debatable secondary matters.

 

Five Implications For the Global Christian Church

1. In the ongoing debate regarding the definition and parameters of the Christian faith, this incident illustrates with clarity that “Jesus as the center” alone is not sufficient. Followers of Jesus believe certain things and act in certain ways. In other words, there is, of necessity, a theological and ethical center to the Christian faith. Christianity has a core and boundaries and it is essential to flesh this out with clarity.

2. Leaders of para-church organizations must not disengage from this debate, but rather lead with clarity and conviction. If para-church organizations serve churches, they need to know what constitutes the Church they are serving. World Vision has a particular understanding of what comprises Christianity and it leads them to make decisions accordingly (Stearns said one of the impetuses for revising their policy was that churches and denominations they serve have changed their position on same-sex marriage). The seeds that produced the fruit of March 24, 2014, were sown years ago.

3. One of World Vision’s primary arguments for their decision was the desire to foster unity among Christians despite differences over secondary matters. This is certainly commendable! Unity in the Christian faith is always found around the truth of the Gospel, sometimes despite significant differences over non-essentials. But one thing we can learn from this is the need for evangelicals to clearly articulate what is essential and non-essential to the faith and why. What is the Gospel? What are the necessary entailments of the Gospels? Why is homosexual marriage not like baptism or the ordination of women? We cannot assume these things.

4. The work of poverty alleviation, community development, and orphan care is an urgent, necessary, beautiful, Christ-like work. My wife and I supported World Vision because they are very good at this–they are smart, informed, efficient, and resourceful. This decision, however, will undoubtedly cause many evangelicals to lose confidence in World Vision and withdraw their support (e.g. we have discontinued our support). But let me plead with those who make this decision: continue to financially support ministries doing poverty alleviation, community development and orphan care. Let’s be slow to start new organizations that will take years to develop infrastructure, relationships, and best practices. There are already excellent organizations that do this sort of ministry in a way that is sociologically smart and theologically faithful (e.g. Compassion International).

5. For conservative evangelicals in the United States, it behooves us to speak on this issue, not only for the sake of faithfulness to the Scriptures, but in an effort to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world. I’m in regular contact with evangelical pastors in a broad range of denominations all over the world and this much is clear: the acceptance of same-sex marriage by liberal Christians in the United States is an extreme minority position among Christians worldwide. World Vision is exporting a decidedly American social ethic. Let’s uphold a distinctly Biblical one.

Sidestepping Transcendence: George Ladd, St. Paul, and John Updike on The Historicity of the Christian Faith

george laddGeorge Ladd

“The uniqueness of the scandal of the Christian religion rests on the mediation of revelation through historical events. Christianity is not just a code for living or a philosophy of religion. It is rooted in real events of history. To some people this scandalous because it means that the truth of Christianity is inexplicably bound up with the truth of certain historical facts. And if those facts should be disproved, Christianity would be false. This, however, is what makes Christianity unique because, unlike other world religions, modern man has a   means of actually verifying Christianity’s truth by historical evidence.”

 

061206_stPaul_vmed_8p.grid-4x2The Apostle Paul

“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so if your faith.”

 

 

 

john updike

 

John Updike

 

 

“Make no mistake: if He rose at all

it was as His body;

if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse,

the molecules reknit, the amino

acids rekindle,

the church will fall…

 

Let us not mock God with metaphor,

Analogy, sidestepping transcendence;

Making of the even a parable, a sign

painted in the faded credulity of

earlier ages:

Let us walk though the door.

 

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,

Not a stone in a story,

But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow

grinding of time will eclipse for each of us

The wide light of day…”

 

Art Is Not A Megaphone, It Is A Dog Whistle

5things1Daniel Siedell, Presidential Scholar and Art Historian in Residence at The King’s College in Manhattan, has written a fascinating article on what art is not. It will probably cut across some of your preconceived notions–it did mine! It’s a thought-provoking piece. I still wonder if number four is more a both/and than either/or, while I think number five is particularly instructive for Christians. What do you think?

 

The basic outline is included below, but you can read the entire piece here. 

1. Art is not an abstract category. 

The artist Barnett Newman once quipped, “aesthetics is for artists what ornithology is for birds.” As useful as theoretical and philosophical reflection can be in moderation, I tend to agree with him.

2. Art is not a political weapon

The value of art is not found in its capacity to effect political change “out there” but to work on us—you and me…

3. Art is not easy.

The “right eyes” take time—a lot of time.

4. Art is not a visual illustration of the artist’s worldview. 

We often presume that a work of art represents the “worldview” of the artist. This is simply untrue. An artist does not paint a picture to express what she already knows or believes. She paints to learn something about herself and the world—something she doesn’t already know.

5. Art does not form virtue. 

Art is not a megaphone. It is a dog whistle. And only those who suffer and hope can hear it.

If You Love Like Jesus, You Will Be Misunderstood

John 13: 34-35: “A new command I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

wash20feet

 

I had coffee with a mentor last week in a quaint little corner shop owned by an Ethiopian Christian. We were talking about difficult decisions Christians sometimes have to make in how we will relate to others, and he made an observation that struck me.

He said he’d rather be “caught” seeking to show someone love, than to “play it safe” and not love. He said he’d rather be misunderstood because he was attempting to show love, than understood by not. His comments, coupled with reading the Gospel of John, got me thinking.

Jesus Calls Us To Risky Love

Love can be risky. It often calls us to do hard things. Sometimes it takes courage. I’ll risk using a well-worn term, because I think it’s the best descriptor possible– Jesus’ love was radical. It caused him to be misunderstood and criticized. It put him in some tight spots. It meant he was often found serving.

And this is the kind of love Jesus calls us to–a risky, radical, self-denying, others-serving kind of love. We’ll know it’s Christ-like love when we’re occasionally misunderstood or criticized for it. We’ll recognize its authenticity when we regularly find ourselves doing things like washing feet.

The Only Explanation Is Jesus

Here’s my take-away from that coffee shop and from John 13: I want to be known as someone who so deeply believes and rests in God’s love for me, that I go a really, really long way in loving others. The way others will know I am a disciple is not by “playing it safe,” “erring on the side of caution,” and loving in the exact ways everyone would expect. They’ll know it when my love is so puzzling there’s really only one explanation–Jesus.

One last thought: if this sounds “soft” or “liberal” to you, or looks something like the cragged precipice of a slippery slope; then go back, read the Gospel of John, and listen to Jesus. He’ll model a surprisingly risky and servant-hearted love. And then he’ll say “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

HEART: Mid-Winter Spiritual Refreshment

1Each winter Northland International University hosts their HEART Conference, which is designed for men to come together to an out of the way place and be refreshed by Christ-exalting worship, fellowship, and teaching. This year the general sessions and workshops will revolve around the theme “Holiness: God’s Character and the Church’s Call.” The topics for the general sessions are as follows:

bbixbyBob Bixby: “Set Apart Together: God’s Holiness and Racial Reconciliation”

 

 

 

edward-copelandEd Copeland: “God’s Holiness and the Church”

 

 

 

CrabbDavid Crabb: “Set Apart for Missions: God’s Holiness and the Call to Go”

 

 

 

Bob-182x137Bob Johnson: “God’s Holiness and the Cross”

 

 

 

dpatz-thumbnail-updateDaniel Patz: “Holy, Holy, Holy”

 

 

 

Thomas-SchreinerTom Schreiner: “Praise God for His Trinitarian Work”

 

 

 

Justin_taylorJustin Taylor: “John Owen, the Gospel, and the Pursuit of Holiness”

 

 

 

Registration opens today (11/11). You can register here.

Student Global Impact Conference: January 2-3, 2014

sgi-final-logo-450x327

Every two years the Student Global Impact Conference is held in the Metro Detroit area. It’s a mission conference for college students and young adults designed to provide solid expositional Bible teaching from pastors and missionaries, scholarly and practical workshops, and ample opportunities for networking. All of this is done with the goal of mobilizing a generation of young adults who will be passionately committed to the work of the Great Commission.

I attended this conference throughout my years in college and seminary and it had a lasting, formative influence on me. The Lord saw fit to use this conference and the influence of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary to give me a God-centered view of the Great Commission and compel me to wrestle with my place in the missions mandate. I couldn’t be more grateful and I can’t recommend the conference highly enough.

 

Here’s some information:

General Session Speakers:

DoranDavid Doran - Senior Pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church in Allen Park, MI

 

 

 

BR-Profile-PicJeremy Farmer - missionary, Cambodia

 

 

 

 

David  - missionary, Southeastern Europe

 

465974_520457061324010_1571511260_oJonathan Hutchins - missionary, Porto Alegre, Brazil

 

 

 

Date: January 2-3, 2014

Location: Inter-City Baptist Church   Allen Park, MI

Age Group: College Students and Young Adults

Included: Food, Lodging, and Conference Materials

Registration Rates:

  • Register here: sgi2014.eventbrite.com
  • $70 early bird rate: until November 30, 2013
  • $80 regular rate: from December 1 – December 20, 2013
  • $90 late rate: from December 21 – December 27, 2013
  • $100 walk-in rate: after December 27 (register and pay upon arrival)

Register now.

 

What Does It Mean To “Leave and Cleave?”

meaning of marriageIn his book “The Meaning of Marriage” Tim Keller notes that many people have significant marital problems because they haven’t really “left” their parents to “cleave” to their spouses. How do you know if you have failed to “leave” and “cleave?” Keller mentions two ways (both are particularly insightful, but the latter is rarely noted):

(1) “You have failed to leave your parents if you are more driven by their wishes and expectations than by your spouse’s.” In other words, what your spouse thinks should now matter more than what your parents think. Your first priority is to please your spouse, not your parents. Some try to put the two on an equal footing and thus cause deep problems in the marriage, because they fail to give their spouse the priority God intended. Keller says “when you marry, you commit to becoming a new decision-making unit.”

(2) “But you can also fail to leave your parents if you resent or hate them.” In other words, if you deeply resent your parents or upbringing. you will make decisions that swing the opposite the way. Keller gives an example: “I won’t bring my kids to church because my parents did that and I hated it! But this means you are being controlled by your parents. You aren’t making the choice based on what your children need but based on repudiating your parents.” This kind of “pendulum-swing” approach to decision making is more common in 20s/30s (and 40s/50s!) somethings than many care to admit.