Christians who think that satire is an un-Christlike form of persuasion would do well to read this article.
The spirits of the prophets are alive and well!
I just read a review of a book by Jim Wallis called On God’s Side. I couldn’t help myself. I just had to leave a comment in response.
Then I realized that, in the course of writing my comment, I had finally found an analogy for what I have been trying to say for some time now about the essence of the gospel. It is not necessary to read the review to understand what I’m saying here, so I’ll just copy my comment. Here it is:
I appreciate your even-handed review. I have not read the book, nor do I intend to, at this point. But I have paid some attention to Wallis over the past several years, including the ongoing war between him and Glenn Beck. Personally, I am not much of a fan of either one. In my mind, they represent two sides of the same misguided coin. One thinks God is a Republican; the other thinks He is a Democrat.
What I want to say here, though, is this: The problem is not that Wallis (and many others like him, e.g. Shane Claiborne or Brian McLaren) “conflates the implications of the gospel with the gospel itself.” The problem is that, having recovered a lost aspect of the gospel, he then jettisons the parts which have rightly been guarded by evangelical Christianity all along. The social justice stuff is not an additive or even an “implication” of the gospel. It is the REST of the gospel.
Insofar as evangelicals have dropped the ball on social justice, we have preached an incomplete gospel. We have four books in our Bible which we call “gospels,” but what we evangelicals call “THE gospel” is really only the last couple of chapters of each. Nevertheless, the gospel–the WHOLE gospel–is the whole story of the King, including the “social justice” stuff which leads up to the climax of the story where the powers kill Him, not just so He can atone for sin, but also so He can conquer them through His death and resurrection and give birth to a crucified and resurrected people who will live in and live out His kingdom.
Wallis’ (et al) mistake, then, is not a “conflation” but a trading of one key piece for another.
To have a hot cup of tea, you need both hot water and tea leaves. It is no good to have one without the other. They are both needed. But when they are both present, the result is not two things together, but one cup of tea. So it is with the gospel. We must have the hot water of redemption from sin AND the leaves of social justice; when we do, we’ll have the actual cup of tea that the gospel truly is.
Here is the slide show that we have prepared for the Senior Send-Off event at Spring Mountain Bible Church: Tanner’s Senior Slide Show for SMBC
This blog, hitherto called “The Long War,” is getting a new name!
Almost exactly four years after my very first post, I am finally changing the name. About two and a half years ago, I seriously considered changing the name, and explained what I was thinking in a post at that time.
This last weekend, I finally realized the name that I want to use. It is still related to my theme verse, II Samuel 3:1, and it still goes with the images on my header, as I will explain below.
What the new title means…
The Greek word asthéneia is pronounced “oss-THEN-ay-ah” (with an unvoiced ‘th’ as in ‘thick,’). It is part of a New Testament word family based on the root, “sthen.” Here is a breakdown of the words in that family, together with their meanings and their frequency of use in the NT:
sthenoō — “I strengthen, make strong” (1x)
astheneō — “I am weak, powerless, sick, in need” (33x)
asthenēs — “weak, powerless, sick, ill, feeble” (26x)
astheneia — “weakness, sickness, disease, timidity” (24x)
asthenēma — “weakness” (1x)
We can see, then, that sthen has to do with strength or strengthening. The other four words all have the alpha privative prefix, giving them the basic idea of ‘un-strength.’ That, of course, would be a strange way of translating them in English, so they are typically rendered in ways like I’ve shown in this list.
It is the fourth one on the list that I have taken as the new title. Here are a few key NT texts where asthéneia is used:
I Corinthians 15:43
II Corinthians 11:30; 12:9-10; 13:4
What the new title is about…
My theme verse, II Samuel 3:1, reads:
“Now there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; and David grew steadily stronger, but the house of Saul grew weaker continually.”
The significance of this verse has not changed for me, other than to grow in intensity, since I began this blog in 2009. I see here, and in the over all narrative of the book of Samuel, the image of the struggle between man’s king and God’s king. Or as I have put it many times before, it is the struggle between what I get when God lets me have what my flesh wants and what I get when God gives me what is right and good. Across the years of my life, there continues in my heart the great struggle between the house of Saul and the house of David. And my prayer is that the house of Saul grows weaker and weaker while the house of David grows stronger and stronger. (Incidentally,the book of Samuel is part of the Hebrew Scriptures, but the Septuagint [aka, the LXX], which is the ancient Greek translation that was in common use in the time of Jesus and His apostles, uses the verb astheneō to express what happened to the house of Saul.)
Then we see the NT, particularly the writings of the apostle Paul, picking up on this theme. His letters to the church in Corinth carry it from end to end, from the first chapter of I Corinthians 1 to the last chapter of II Corinthians, until he finally writes, “For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God toward you” (II Cor. 13:4). And so you see the reason I have chosen asthéneia as the title of my blog. I want to know the power of Christ’s resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, the suffering He has done in weakness for me.
I am not changing the images on my header. They were always meant to be ironic. Now the ironic connection is directly related to the blog title. The point of the two pictures is to remind us that “the mighty have fallen”(II Samuel 1:19-27). I have written on this before and, undoubtedly, will again.
Whatever I post on this little blog, whether serious or silly, the great theme running under all of it is the truth that I am a man of weakness who is entrusting his entire self and destiny to the One who became weak for us so that, as we share in His death, we may also share in the power of His resurrected life.
May He glorify Himself here in whatever way He may choose.
In his book, Exclusion & Embrace, Miroslav Volf includes a chapter on “Oppression and Justice.” Here are a few excerpts which I find helpful to reflect on in light of the Zimmerman–Martin conflict.
[Note: Since my current theme always puts all blockquotes in italics, I have used CAPS to render Volf's italicized words.]
We seem to be trapped in the iron logic of a syllogism of despair. Premise one: conceptions of justice depend on particular cultures and traditions. Premise two: peace depends on justice BETWEEN cultures and traditions. Conclusion: violence between cultures will never stop. Must we, however, concede the disturbing thought that the justice backed by the most able and best equipped generals or propounded by the most effective propaganda will reign? (p.196)
[A]greement on justice depends on the will to embrace the other and that justice itself will be unjust as long as it does not become a mutual embrace. (p.197)
God is all-knowing; God is perfectly just; God is not a tribal deity. All three accepted, it follows that what God holds to be just must be just for every person and every culture, apart from how any person construes justice. If God is the God of all peoples, the justice of God must be the justice for all peoples…. To be a follower of Jesus Christ means both to affirm that God’s justice transcends all cultural construals of justice and to strive for that justice (Matthew 6:33). But does the pursuit of divine justice make an end to the struggle? Does it not rather intensify the struggle?…. The question is not whether from a Christian perspective God’s justice is universal, whether God can infallibly judge between cultures irrespective of their differences. The question is whether CHRISTIANS who want to uphold God’s universal justice can judge between cultures with divine infallibility. The answer is that they cannot…. We must therefore distinguish between OUR IDEA OF GOD’S JUSTICE and GOD’S JUSTICE ITSELF. (pp.197-9)
[W]e enlarge our thinking by letting the voices and perspectives of others, especially those with whom we may be in conflict, resonate within ourselves, by allowing them to help us see them, as well as ourselves, from THEIR perspective, and if needed, readjust our perspective as we take into account their perspectives. Nothing can guarantee in advance that the perspectives will merge and agreement be reached. We may find that we must reject the perspective of the other. Yet we should seek to see things from their perspective in the hope that competing justices may become converging justices and eventually issue in agreement. (p.213)
To agree on justice in conflict situations you must want more than justice; you must want embrace. There can be NO JUSTICE WITHOUT THE WILL TO EMBRACE. It is, however, equally true that there can be NO GENUINE EMBRACE WITHOUT JUSTICE. (p.216)
If you want justice and nothing but justice, you will get injustice. If you want justice without injustice, you must want love. A world of perfect justice is a world of love. (p.223)
[S]ince “justice” is impotent in the face of past injustice, reconciliation is ultimately possible only through injustice being forgiven and, finally, forgotten. (p.224)
[O]nly in our mutual embrace within the embrace of the triune God can we find redemption and experience perfect justice. (pp.224-5)
This is the final paragraph from a pretty good little online essay, written by Trillia Newbell in response to the “not guilty” verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman:
Before long another confusing and dreadful situation will become a national news story. Most of us will know details only secondhand, though we’ll be expected to offer an opinion. So we must look first to the Word to be informed by God’s timeless guidance. And we will mourn with those who mourn as we pray without ceasing.
Earlier this week, I published a couple of posts which were responses to a section of a sermon by a pastor friend of mine. In this sermon, my friend was making a call to discipleship, a call that those in his congregation are used to hearing from him, because discipleship is his passion. It was a terrific sermon, and it was very beneficial for me to hear—the sort of thing which troubled me in some very good ways.
But there was a section which troubled me in another way. I felt that a certain brother in Christ who is something of a hero of mine (though I try to be very careful in using such a phrase) was getting very unfair treatment from my friend–to the point where I was actually a bit irked. Also, there were present a number of young people whose theological understandings I care about very much, and I was seriously concerned about how it might affect their various journeys in the Lord. So I wrote those posts to provide what I thought was a needed response.
In retrospect, however, I have decided to remove them from TLW for the foreseeable future. My reasons for this are several. First of all, I am not pleased with my choice of certain phrases which, despite my obvious attempts to declare my love and admiration for my friend, I realize could still be hurtful or at least overly pugilistic. Second, my friend and I have dialogued a bit over email in the past couple of days, and he has graciously cleared up for me some of the picture I had of his thought processes. Not for the first time in my life, I learned that my surmising about another person’s thoughts was not entirely accurate. Third, I am remembering now the fact that, in times not all that far removed from the present, my friend has endured more than a little bit of polemic and church fight falderal. And in some cases, blogsites were the specific fields of battle for my poor brother and his coworker for the gospel (who is another dear friend of mine). I have no desire whatsoever to give either of these brothers anything like another taste of that nastiness. Finally, it just seems better wisdom (now) to handle my objection to that one element of my friend’s sermon in discreet conversations off-line, as might be necessary here and there, conversations where my face and voice can be all the more clear about how much I love and admire my brother.
As a last word here, I offer an apology to my friend here for the fact that all of this comes as an afterthought, with the two posts sitting here on TLW most of the week.
I love you, brother, and continue to find in you a great example of what it can be like to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.