We Need Heretics—Here’s Why

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We all need a good heretic.

Richard Mouw, writing for First Things:

…it is a good thing to have a couple of favorite heretics. Some false perspectives are illuminating, and it can be healthy for Christians who love ideas to be challenged regularly by perspectives that we can disagree with in productive ways.

Mouw concludes:

Perspectives that are both false and illuminating are in short supply these days.

Read Mouw’s article on how Nietzsche, Sartre, Bertrand Russell and other heretics are good for Christians here.

Engaging With God Popularized

David Peterson, who’s masterful book Engaging With God:  A Biblical Theology of Worship is the most referenced and footnoted resource on worship, recently (and quite quietly) released a more practical follow-up, Encountering God jpegTogether: Leading Worship Services That Honor God, Minister to His People, and Build His Church

In a recent interview with the book’s publisher, Peterson was asked what inspired him to write Encountering God Together:

Many peo­ple have urged me to apply this teach­ing more specif­i­cally to con­gre­ga­tional gath­er­ings and to write at a more pop­u­lar level on wor­ship. So my lat­est book is the result and I hope it meets the need that has been expressed.

Here are the chapters:

  1. The Gathering of God
  2. Worshipping God
  3. Edifying the Church
  4. Patterns of Service
  5. Listening to God
  6. Praying Together
  7. Praising God
  8. Singing Together
  9. Baptism
  10. The Lord’s Supper

I’ve read it, and it’s fantastic. Whether you’re a pastor, church planter, elder, music leader—in short, have anything to do with leading congregational worship—this book’s for you. It’s a fairly quick read and will stimulate your thinking and practice about worship and the church.

Read the first chapter here.

Bono, Tim Keller and John Piper for a Sit-Down Conversation? What Might Have Been

Several years ago I had a crazy idea.

I had tickets to U2’s upcoming concert in Minneapolis. Desiring God’s headquarters were 1.5 miles from the stadium where U2 was scheduled to perform. Bono had a history of partnering with well-known evangelicals, including Rick Warren. So would he be open to meeting with Tim Keller and John Piper for a sit-down conversation and be willing to have it captured on video?

There was only one way to find out.

After a bit of sleuthing, I directly corresponded with U2’s people at their modest Dublin office. No joke. They were interested in the possibility, but just wanted more information.

I then contacted Keller’s people. He was scheduled to be on a summer sabbatical. Crazy idea was officially nixed.

But I wondered: what would have happened with Bono, Keller and Piper in a moderated discussion?

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imgres-1We’ll never know. But it piques the imagination, no?

Catechizing for the 21st Century: John Murray Article Refreshed, Repurposed, and Republished

Former Westminster Theological Seminary professor John Murray the Scottish theologian who wrote Redemption Accomplished and Applied (a book that deserves multiple readings), also wrote a little-known apologetic called “Catechizing: A Forgotten Practice” in 1962 for the Banner of Truth Magazine.

While the content is the same, I reformatted the article for readability and received permission from Banner of Truth to publish it.

In the article Murray, with frequent nods to Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Baxter (and others), covers a lot of ground:

  • The Origins of Catechizing
  • The Development and History of Catechizing
  • The Need for Catechizing
  • Catechizing and Preaching
  • Difficulties of Catechizing
  • Difference Between Catechizing and the Use of a Catechism
  • Catechizing and Catechisms Not for Children Only
  • The Case for Catechisms
  • The Benefits of Catechizing

May Murray’s retooled article find new life amid today’s growing catechetical renaissance.

Read, print, or download on your e-reader Murray’s “Catechizing: A Forgotten Practice” here.

Note: After this post was published, I discovered there are two John Murray’s—both Scottish, both of whom also had writings published via Banner of Truth. The John Murray who taught at WTS was simply John Murray, while the John Murray who wrote the above catechetical apologetic is John J. Murray. The former is deceased, while the latter is very much alive. My apologies for the unintended confusion.

Richard Attenborough’s Favorite Film? Not What You Think

In light of Lord Richard Attenborough’s death this past week, NPR’s Morning Edition aired a special remembrance of his life. In a 2009 Scottish TV interview, Attenborough recalled his favorite film as a director. It wasn’t what you’d expect, i.e. Gandhi (for which he won an Academy Award in 1983), but instead Shadowlands, about the love-life of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman.

Attenborough reveals his affinity for Shadowlands at the 6 minute mark:

And here’s the movie trailer for Shadowlands:

 

 

 

Your Mind Is Not a Vacuum

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David Brooks writes about the relationship between the mind, morality and character in The New York Times op-ed article “The Mental Virtues”:

…[the]mind is embedded in human nature, and very often thinking well means pushing against the grain of our nature — against vanity, against laziness, against the desire for certainty, against the desire to avoid painful truths. Good thinking isn’t just adopting the right technique. It’s a moral enterprise and requires good character, the ability to go against our lesser impulses for the sake of our higher ones.

Read Brooks’ “The Mental Virtues” here.

Using Your Imagination to Fight Sexual Sin

Like most men with a healthy libido, I too struggle with my oft sin-tinged imagination (yes, even as a very happily married man with a great wife and five kids.) And while I can quickly recall the seventh commandment regarding adultery and know Jesus’ words, “that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28), sadly sometimes those texts (and similar passages) aren’t enough to curb the imagination.

But herein lies the problem. I’m not called to merely curb my lustful imagination. I’m called to kill it.

Or am I?

God doesn’t call us to kill our imaginations as much as redeem them.¹ Jesus didn’t come merely to redeem your soul from hell. Rather, he came to redeem all of you for himself. So how do you redeem lustful thoughts? Surely there’s no one right way, but here’s what I often do: I imagine.

I imagine that 30 years from now, my three sons and I are gathered together. One of them asks, “Dad, were you faithful to mom all these years?” Then I imagine what would happen if I weren’t faithful to her, looking into my sons’ eyes and shamefully telling them I wasn’t faithful. I imagine how this might affect their marriages, their fight with sexual sin, their raising their children in a hyper-sexualized culture.

But then I also imagine a very different answer. I imagine that I have been faithful to their mother all of these years, and I could look into my sons’ eyes, and without a shadow of doubt truthfully say, “Yes, I’ve been faithful to your mom all of these years. It wasn’t always easy. In fact, it’s hard. But, by God’s grace I’ve been faithful to her.”

Yes, by God’s grace. But also with no small amount of redeemed imagination.

¹I fully realize that killing sin, i.e. mortification, is not an option for the Christian. But I consider the above exercise as a form of mortification, not antithetical to it. I also realize that the relationship between thoughts, imagination and fantasy is often complicated, as well as how sin influences both. Bottom line: there are many ways to kill sin (negative) and foster sanctification (positive). This is just one of the many tools in my arsenal that has helped me over the years. Your situation may be very different from mine (i.e. female, married/single, no kids, etc.). The question before us all is the same: How might a redeemed imagination look given your context? 

From Deformed and Malformed to Conformed (or, Why Teach?)

The goal of conformity to the likeness of Christ then is a second and clear answer to the question, “Why teach?” But we need to recognize that such a process does not begin with persons who are simply unformed. It begins, rather, with persons who are deformed or malformed. Therefore, the ministry of formation must involve serious attention to these deformities, the tragic malformation in the lives of those we serve (and in our own selves as ministers of the Gospel).

—Gary Parrett and Steve Kang, Teaching the Faith, Forming the Faithful: A Biblical Vision for Education in the Church (p. 54).

Time for a Renaissance (with Guinness in Hand)

Contrasting the sober culture change realists James Davison Hunter and Andy Crouch, Os Guinness’ new book Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times refreshingly reminds us of 9780830836710the Gospel’s life and culture-changing power and hope.

I intend on writing a review of Renaissance soon, but from what I’ve read it’s a timely and necessary book given our present cultural moment. Reading Guinness’ Renaissance in one hand while holding a Guinness in the other hand seems most fitting. (Os is a great-great-great grandson of Dublin brewer Arthur Guinness.) 

Most websites provide a brief sample of Renaissance, but you can read the entire first chapter here.

For the past two years Guinness has been making the rounds speaking on what it means to have a Gospel renaissance. The most recent talk was at a recent Anglican conference in June 2014, beginning at the 37th minute: