Needful Conditions of Discernment

When I was an Undergraduate student at the University of Arizona one of my mentors made a comment I have never forgotten. He stated that great books had become his good friends. He went on to explain that through his consistent reading of Christian authors they had, through their writings, counseled him and he had personally engaged them and learned from them. Since then I have asked myself why this had been true for him. The conclusion I came to was this: He had an open heart and was eager to learn. He was willing to listen to those Christians who had lived before and had passed on what God had taught them. Thus he was blessed because he was willing to listen and learn from them—to actually change his mind and his actions based upon the truth he found in those writings.   One of the decisive characteristics of the mindset of the flesh, of worldlings, is that they cannot and will not submit themselves to their Creator. Since this is the case they will not listen to God’s people nor

The Foundation for True Progress

One of the most important yet also most vacuous term used by modern Western people is “progress.” This term is bantered about in popular writing as well as by academics in the Universities and even by judges in the United States courts. It is used in an ambiguously positive sense to apply to everything from the continuing expansion of knowledge based on scientific study, to shifting moods regarding moral standards (on various subjects), to changes to the law (whether by legislation or the courts or executive fiat) or to shifting views among historic Christian churches on doctrinal and moral questions. Like all terms we human beings employ it is critical that we understand what it means and how to think rightly about it. This will be helpful particularly for us Christians because we can gain clarity about the foundation for true progress. Theologians and Christian philosophers far more intelligent and more learned than myself have made the argument that modern Western culture’s values a

The New Tribalism

The era of human history in which most human beings live now (or have been profoundly influenced by) is known as “modernity” or simply the “modern era.” This period of history can be differentiated from eras prior in at least one primary way: The modern era is dominated by ideology rather than theology. On the one hand, theology is a conviction and perspective about the nature of reality, of the meaning and purpose of human life and the reasons for ethical and moral imperatives; this is explicitly rooted in a particular understanding of God and revelation granted to humans by God. On the other hand, ideology can be described as a comprehensive philosophy which asserts an explanation about the nature of reality, the meaning and purpose of human life, and gives an explanation for the ethical and moral imperatives people recognize and value. What makes an ideology different from a theology is simply that ideology allows no space for the Deity which its philosophical framework and e

Grappling with Contemporary Issues

There are certain Christian leaders and authors in every generation who by grace leave a profoundly good influence upon the Christian community and even unbelieving people. John Stott is one of those leaders. Among his many excellent books I want to highlight one in particular. That one is Issues Facing Christians Today (4 th edition). I think that this book is essential reading for anyone who identifies him or herself as a disciple of Jesus the Christ because Stott has outlined and modeled how we can face the task of grappling with contemporary issues. As is characteristic of Stott’s writing, he introduces the contemporary issue (topically), lays before the reader the relevant biblical doctrines and/or passages, the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary approaches to understanding and addressing the issue and then presents what he is convinced is the biblically rooted and reasonable way to think about it (intellectual) and means to address it (practical response). The stren

The Abolistionists Legacy (Part 2)

Like all reform movements, the abolitionists legacy is not without fault. We look back upon the prior generations greatest achievements and we can critique them and perceive how those social or legal reforms could have been enacted more effectively (and perhaps justly). To not ask critical questions of the views and actions of our forebearers is folly and leads us into a blind repetition of the ways of the ancestors for sake of imitation and preservation of culture. The biblical revelation leads us to critique cultural norms and customs because it presents God as present in the world as Savior—creatively intervening to redeem and restore human beings. And with human redemption and restoration comes the reformation of cultural norms. God has placed us together as God’s people in our time in order to work for the good of the other and ultimately for all people—to partner with God as the Holy Spirit builds the Kingdom of God on earth. This is spiritual work precisely because it is expre