Shared posts

04 Jun 20:13

→ Six tips from an atheist on talking with non-Christians

Chris Stedman is an atheist, an ex-evangelical, and an assistant chaplain at Harvard. He’s written some advice to Christians who are wanting to talk constructively with atheists about faith:

As someone who lives in the tension of my evangelical past and atheist present, and as someone who maintains abiding and mutually inspiring relationships with Christians, I understand that many of my Christian friends are trying to discern how to navigate these swiftly changing times. And I definitely empathize with their frustrations over the less productive exchanges that often occur between Christians and non-Christians.

I’d like to humbly suggest six ways Christians might have more constructive conversations with non-Christians.

I’m not with him every step of the way, but it’s a fascinating insight into how these kind of conversations are perceived and how they might proceed. Worth a read.

(h/t Nic Swadling)

04 Jun 00:54

Why We Like the Sacrificial God

by Ryan Robinson

Continuing where I left off yesterday, why would we choose the Sacrificial God? According to Kevin Miller’s (biased) analysis, this version of God leads us toward negative attitudes of ourselves and others and is clearly out of line with the character of God as revealed in Jesus. But many keep being drawn to this God anyway and we should seek to understand why.

The first one is obvious:

For starters, because we have been led to believe it is the only faithful reading of the Bible. We have been taken hostage by a theological system that not only indoctrinates us with a toxic view of God, it effectively inoculates us against anyone who might come along to liberate us from it, placating us with sayings like “God’s ways are not our ways” and warning us about “false prophets” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” It’s the worst of all possible worlds.

There’s no doubt about this. For various reasons we’ve abandoned the revelation of Jesus and preferred to make God operate just like the rest of us but with more power. Some of those reasons – primarily personal/emotional ones – are listed below.

Others are historical. Since the time of Constantine, Christians have had to wrestle with the inherent conflict between the way that Jesus does things and the way that the world does things. Generally speaking, we’ve been afraid of losing power and so we’ve opted to go with the way that the world does things. It removed that cognitive dissonance that the early Constantinian Christians had, and then it was just so assumed that it remained the default way to read Scripture even when Jesus directly said the opposite. Of course there were some who opposed this approach but they were ultimately shut down entirely, allowed under the church’s authority and given its safety so long as they didn’t question it too much (monastic movements), or forced into separation from the rest of the world (the Anabaptists).

Even when people know this, though, and even when they can in theory accept that Jesus is a self-sacrificial God and not a sacrificial God, we still are drawn to that other God instead. Miller lists two emotional/rational reasons. First, the world operates on this kind of framework and it is only natural to assume that God does, too. Greek philosophy has always agreed that this is the most logical nature of the supreme being: all powerful and doling out retributive justice. Second, retributive justice is attractive because we feel like we are the “in” and those other people are “out” and what person, thanks to sin in our lives, does not appreciate knowing that they are better than somebody else?

Miller concludes by discussing how we need to present a viable alternative, which has not been done on a large scale since Constantine, and help people make that transition. It boils down to a completely different paradigm for viewing God and the world. In my own words, it’s the difference between grace and law. We are naturally drawn to law, continually eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but Jesus has shown us that God is far more interested in something incredibly radical: grace.

And this changing of our hearts and lives,changing of the very lens through which we view the world, is what the Bible calls repentance. Repentance is not easy. It requires killing our natural desires to play God by deciding who is in and who is out ourselves. It requires admitting that the “common sense” of the world has got it backwards and that the Gospel of a self-sacrificial god and calls us to do the same does appear as foolishness (1 Cor 1:18).

Update: Miller has given another follow-up post. It makes the very important point that we all tend to vacillate toward the Sacrificial God. Check it out here:

04 Jun 00:54

The Two Gods of Christianity

by Ryan Robinson

Kevin Miller, the film-maker behind Hellbound?, is apparently now a blogger on Patheos. I stumbled across this realization through a link to this particular post which unpacks the two completely different ways of understanding God that exist within Christianity and even within evangelicalism. I appreciate that he even quotes Kevin DeYoung, a staunch Reformed thinker, saying this:

At the very heart of this controversy, and one of the reasons the blogosphere exploded over this book, is that we really do have two different Gods. The stakes are that high. If Bell is right, then historic orthodoxy is toxic and terrible. But if the traditional view of heaven and hell are right, Bell is blaspheming. Both sides cannot be right. As much as some voices in evangelicalism will suggest that we should all get along and learn from each other and listen for the Spirit speaking in our midst, the fact is we have two irreconcilable views of God.

Some days I feel like that is going way too far. But other days I think that this is completely true. Christian theology has diverged in enough different directions that we really have at least two different understandings of God at a very fundamental character level.

The first god is what Miller calls the Sacrificial God, although I’m not convinced that’s the best name, and is most often associated with the “young, restless, Reformed” category (not as much with traditional Reformed theology as you might think although the elements are clearly still there). Here’s how that god is described, and I do think most of those who support this idea would agree and so I don’t think this is a straw man at all:

The primary attribute of this god is holiness or otherness. This god’s will is paramount, and violation of his will puts you in danger potentially for all eternity. The Sacrificial god gives a judicial account of sin, which means violating this infinite god’s holiness incurs an infinite penalty or debt that no human is able to repay. The only way to escape this god’s wrath is to hide behind his Son, Jesus, the sole being capable of making the sacrifice necessary to appease this god’s wrath. Because with this god, forgiveness and reconciliation can only be achieved through sacrifice.

Miller goes on to discuss some of the effects of following this God. To name a few from his list, avoiding Hell becomes a high priority, you’ll think in more binary terms (either with God or against), propositions are more important than experiences, and striving to follow the right rules in order to avoid God’s punishments.

Any regular readers would know that I, like most who claim either the emerging or the Anabaptist label, clearly side with the second understanding of God: the self-sacrificial God. This God is described this way:

This God is also holy, but what makes this God holy is not “otherness”; it’s love, particularly love of enemy:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

This God is also consenting rather than willful. Instead of imposing his will on us, this God makes room for us and only commands or directs those who make room for him. With this God, sin is a relational problem rather than a judicial problem. Sin is anything that gets in the way of perfect love. As a result, the remedy for sin is not punishment and exclusion but healing and reconciliation. And with this God, forgiveness and reconciliation can only be achieved by self-sacrifice, because self-sacrifice is the very definition of love.

That’s how Jesus defined God (himself), through his teachings and example. Who am I to argue?

Some of the consequences of this kind of God are: being more prone to think along trajectories rather than either/or binaries, other-centeredness, a hospitable religious identity, and a relational/experiential understanding of truth instead of propositional.

Finally, he goes why – despite Jesus being so clearly representative of the second type – so many people are still drawn to the first. This question actually came up in our HomeChurch this week, too, and so I’m going to unpack that along with Kevin’s comments in another post.

03 Jun 23:21

Christians & Masturbation: Seven Perspectives

by Rachel Held Evans

When I first introduced our yearlong series on Sexuality & The Church, I polled you for your input and ideas, and the most popular suggestion came from a reader named Lucy who wrote: 

“With sexuality (and with singleness) could you look at masturbation from a theological perspective? I think it is something that maybe teenage guys hear about all the time, but rarely even gets whispered about among women. And it's not that I think there would be different rules, but rather I need a theological framework in which to think about it, and no one wants to even begin talking. I'm single and in my 30s and my non-Christian friends think ‘contentment in singleness’ is a euphemism for something. Are they right?”

I wanted to get a diversity of perspectives in response to this question, so I contacted several folks whose opinion on matters related to sexuality I respect, and asked them this question:

Is masturbation an acceptable component to healthy sexuality for Christians? 

Below are responses from Abigail Rine, Anna Broadway, Richard Beck, Dianna Anderson, Matthew Lee Anderson, Jenell Williams Paris, and Tara Owens.  I hope you learn as much from them as I did! 

Abigail Rine

Abigail Rine teaches literature and gender studies at George Fox University. She writes for The Atlantic Sexes and is the author of the forthcoming book Irigaray, Incarnation and Contemporary Women’s Fiction. Find her at Mama Unabridged or on Twitter. 

I am sure others are better equipped to speak to the biblical/theological dimension of this conversation, so I’ll just say that I do not see the Bible as giving any sort of indictment against masturbation, although a puritanical narrative of sexuality is often imposed upon the Bible to make it seem that way. I think that masturbation can absolutely be a healthy part of both married and unmarried sexuality. (Of course, any sexual behavior can be distorted and used in unhealthy ways, but I’m not going to go into detail about that either, because that is often where the conversation begins and ends.) Instead, I’m going to give some specific examples of how I see masturbation as a healthy part of sexuality:

1) For those who plan to wait until marriage to have sex, masturbation can be a healthy way of dealing with natural sexual desire while single. The expectation that young men and women should go ten or fifteen years or more beyond puberty without expressing their sexuality in any way – and then suddenly “turn it on” when married – is, I believe, completely unrealistic and potentially harmful. How can we expect people to embrace the sexual dimension of embodiment in marriage while pushing the message that touching certain parts of one’s own body is inherently dirty and shameful?

2) Speaking about female sexuality in particular: we have this naïve idea that all women can reach orgasm through vaginal intercourse alone, which is just not physiologically true for the majority of women. I think masturbation can be an excellent way for individual women to learn the uniqueness of their bodies and how they experience pleasure, which can then be communicated to a spouse.

3) To get a little more personal: I had a baby six months ago, and in the wake of the physical trauma of childbirth, I felt like my body had been totally rewired. For the first time, I began to dread and fear having sex with my husband, which was incredibly disconcerting. Exploring my own body has been very helpful in making me feel physically normal and like a sexual being again – and this had fed directly into rebooting my sex life with my husband. I am also glad that my husband was able to use masturbation to get sexual release while I was physically unable to have sex with him – this took the pressure off of me while I was coping with the intense physical and emotional demands of caring for a newborn and recovering from pregnancy/birth.

Anna Broadway

Anna Broadway is a writer, avid knitter, and modestly ambitious cook living near San Francisco. The author of Sexless in the City: A Memoir of Reluctant Chastity, she holds an M.A. in religious studies from Arizona State University and has written for The Atlantic website, Books and Culture, Paste, The Journal of the History of Sexuality, Christianity Today, Beliefnet and other publications. Find her at or on Twitter. 

Whether or not masturbation can be part of healthy sexuality depends on how we define the second part of the question: healthy sexuality. Based on my reading of the Bible, I believe sex is one of the many ways God created humans to bear the image of our maker in the world.

Who is that maker? According to the historic, creedal understanding, a triune God: one being, three persons. That paradox is very difficult to understand, but I think that's one reason God created both man and woman — the multiple persons in the trinity couldn't be represented in human form without different types of persons. How then are we to understand the profound unity possible between the different persons of the Trinity? I would argue the best picture God gave us was marriage — and in particular the sexual union between man and wife. 

If that's true, it's hard to escape the conclusion that the primary purpose of sex is profoundly relational: it's meant to tightly unify husband and wife in a profound, material metaphor of the self-giving love shared within the Trinity. So when it comes to masturbation, I have had to conclude that it falls short of God's intention for human sexuality. In my randiest, loneliest moments, I can certainly wish for a different conviction, but even then, what I most desire is not the freedom to masturbate with a clear conscience, but to be married and near enough to that spouse to once again fumble our way through the best earthly picture we have of the Trinity's penultimate love.

Richard Beck

In addition to being one of my favorite bloggers, Richard Beck is Professor and Department Chair of Psychology at Abilene Christian University. He is the author of Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality and The Authenticity of Faith: The Varieties and Illusions of Religious Experience.  Richard is married to Jana and they have two sons, Brenden and Aidan. He blogs at Experimental Theology

First, I'd like to bring up the issue of Internet pornography and its relationship to masturbation. With the rise of Internet porn, the consumption of pornography has reached unprecedented levels. And it's difficult, to say the least, to reconcile that consumption and the support it gives to the adult entertainment industry with the Christian commitments of justice and love. To be sure, many will battle with pornography all their lives, like an alcoholic fights daily for sobriety. There must be grace for our failures, but this is a battle that must be fought. 

And beyond issues related to justice, psychologists are only just beginning to grasp the full impact of pornography upon our brains and how those effects are creating sexual and relational dysfunction. For an introduction to the issues psychologists are beginning to examine see Gary Wilson's widely-viewed TED Talk

That issue duly noted, let me get to my main points: 

I think it is important to recognize how masturbation functions in the life of those who are single. And even for those who eventually get married, we need to note how marriage has become increasingly delayed in Western cultures. A 2011 Pew Report found that the median age of (first) marriages was 29 for men and 27 for women. In the 1960s the median averages for both genders was in the early 20s, and in ancient cultures we married as teenagers. Given this delay, how are we to manage our sex drive from the onset of puberty to wedding night? To say nothing of the sexual challenges involved in lifelong singleness. 

All that to say, masturbation may be a vital aspect in how single persons cultivate and achieve sexual chastity. That is, masturbation may be a critical part in how a single person achieves emotional and sexual well-being if they hold to an ideal that sexual relations should only take place within a covenanted, life-long, monogamous relationship.

In short, I don't think the physical act of masturbation should be moralized. The real issue in this conversation, the big elephant in the room, is Jesus' prohibition against lust (cf. Matt. 5.27-28). Masturbation per se might not be a sin but what about the attendant lust? Can you masturbate to the point of orgasm without lust being a part of that experience? 

And yet, I think this observation shifts the topic away from masturbation toward a theology of lust. What does it mean to lust? Should transitory erotic feelings be considered lust? Or is lust something more obsessive, persistent, greedy, covetous, acquisitive, and possessive in nature? 

Because if transient erotic feelings are not lust then let me make a somewhat counterintuitive point: masturbation might be a great tool to combat lust. 

Sexual arousal can be come psychically consuming, and debilitating, if not given a quick physiological outlet. We've all experienced this. When sexually aroused, it's hard to concentrate on anything else. Our mind is fixated on the object of arousal. And trying to repress these feelings often exacerbates them. How, then, to get past these feelings and impulses? Physiological release can help here. Masturbate, clear your head, and move on with your day. When masturbation is treated in this almost perfunctory manner, as a physiological catharsis, it can be a very healthy means of quickly ridding yourself of unwanted sexual feelings and distractions.

To be sure, if masturbation isn't being used in this perfunctory manner and is being accompanied by regular and possessive fantasies toward someone who isn't, say, your spouse, then more might need to be said, (along with what I said above about pornography). But again, the issue then is less with masturbation than lust and how that lust might be symptomatic of relational issues that need attention.

Dianna Anderson 

Dianna Anderson is the author of the forthcoming book, DAMAGED GOODS, out in Spring 2015 from Jericho Books. When she is not writing, she is on the lookout for a new day job. She resides in the Chicago area. Find her on her blog or on Twitter. 

Is masturbation an acceptable component to healthy sexuality?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Yes, absolutely. In fact, I might scratch "acceptable" from there and change it to "important."

I think, when thinking about this question, the first thing we need to do is separate masturbation from pornography. Masturbation is not de facto coupled with pornography, and therefore is not in itself problematic. A lot of Christians leap quickly from one to the other, and it's important to make a distinction. Pornography is a completely separate beast of a question.

Like sex itself, masturbation is sinful only insofar as you use it sinfully. And what counts as "sinfully" for one person may not be sinful for others. This, most of all, requires knowing and understanding yourself and what your limits are. If you don't feel comfortable masturbating because you feel like it takes you to a bad place where you objectify other people, then don't do it. We make mistakes in christendom when we assume that masturbation is problematic for some, so no one, ever, should do this private thing. That's a problem, because my lines about what is sinful are not your lines, and making you conform to my lines in something as intensely complicated as sexuality won't end well.

As far as it being a component of healthy sexuality, it can be a helpful tool for understanding yourself and what feels right and what doesn't before you ever enter into a sexual relationship. It can also make you more comfortable and more confident with your own body so that you are more comfortable when the time comes with a partner. Masturbation can be an important component of a healthy sexuality and can be an important part of a healthy sex life (if you're comfortable taking care of yourself, there's less pressure when you're with a partner). It can be misused and abused, like any good thing, certainly, but it can also be a great boon to understanding and becoming comfortable with yourself as well.

Matthew Lee Anderson 

Matthew Lee Anderson is the author of Earthen Vessels:  Why our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of our Exploring:  A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith.  He blogs at Mere Orthodoxy.

If our ethic is to be Christian, then it must be qualified by the cross and resurrection of Jesus.  That is to say, the pattern for our lives and actions must be shaped by a love that treats pleasure as the (sometimes delayed) fruit of our sacrificial self-giving for others, rather than a good without qualification.  

If we disconnect the experience of sexual pleasure from the moment of giving ourselves for another, to another in love, we fundamentally distort the meaning of the human body in its sexual dimension.  In the auto-eroticism of masturbation, we pursue a particular sort of satisfaction or a particular experience of pleasure.  But it is through the mutual self-giving in love that our humanity is established (whether in sex or beyond), rather than the abstract experience of pleasure or the fulfillment of a craving or felt need.  However enjoyable it might be, masturbation fails to fulfill this form of human sexuality, and as such is corrosive to the integrity of our persons and our intimacy of the Spirit. 

Jenell Williams Paris

Jenell Williams Paris is a professor of anthropology at Messiah College in Grantham, PA, and the author of The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are. 

Christians often talk about the morality of masturbation as if, were it to be definitively deemed immoral, people would stop doing it.  It seems to me that a better question is, “Given that most people masturbate, how can we see even this area of life in the light of faith?”

Social science research finds that most people masturbate, including both adolescents and adults, men and women (higher proportions of men than women), and those who are single, married, or partnered.  Some people don’t do it at all, for a variety of reasons including faith conviction or partner expectations.  Masturbation can be compulsive, but it isn’t necessarily.  It doesn’t typically replace face-to-face relationships, but for younger people today, males especially, easy and constant access to pornography distorts their drive for, and their behavior in, relationships with women. 

Masturbation is very much like all other dimensions of human sexuality, which is very much like spirituality.  There is gift, beauty, understanding, and pleasure, but also mystery and not-knowing; we live with incomplete understanding of ourselves, our intimate partners, and the sacred. There is also temptation, darkness, and sin.  In masturbation, marriage or intimate partnership, and in the spiritual life in general, we encounter confusing, disturbing, and unwanted impulses, fantasies, and behaviors.

Christianity is often reduced to a moral system that encourages (or harangues) people toward being good instead of bad.  But like life in general, sex seems to defy our attempts to be good; in both masturbation and in sexual partnership, unruly, wild, and unpredictable parts of ourselves often emerge.  If cared for, acknowledged, and brought into the light, the wildness of sex still doesn’t submit to domestication, but it can offer practice in humility, humor, and groundedness.  When we ignore it, trying to be more angel than human, what is repressed often returns in distorted and harmful forms. 

We were created human, not angels, and nothing highlights that more insistently than sexuality.  Learning to handle, acknowledge, and discuss sexuality – including masturbation – with appropriate boundaries and in trusted circles, is part of the journey toward authentic personhood.  Perhaps it even relates to something Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:28-30).

It’s no surprise that our best efforts to be good make us feel weary and burdened.  We settle for moral judgment, shame, and silence, when the ease, the lightness, and the gentleness of our Savior is right there for us.

Tara Owens

Tara Owens, CSD, is a spiritual director, speaker and author with Anam Cara Ministries. She teaches on the topic of spirituality and sexuality in seminaries and spiritual direction training programs throughout North America. She has a book on spirituality and the body coming out with InterVarsity Press in 2014. You can connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

The term healthy sexuality presupposes that we have a good idea of what our sexuality is and does, and I would argue that, for the most part, both our culture and the Church have fairly disordered models of what sexuality is supposed to look like. Part of the reason we struggle with the question of masturbation is because we have trouble living in the tension of our desires. It’s easier (and I find the tendency in myself almost every day) to fall back onto the black and white rules that we’re often offered as answer to our struggles instead of doing the hard work of encountering our own desires and longings in relationship with God and others. For the most part, we’ve been given two sets of unhelpful “rules” for what we should do with our sexuality: (1) respond to our sexuality as an appetite, like hunger, and feed appropriately or (2) avoid or subjugate our sexuality as something to be expressed only in covenanted conjugal relationship and ignored or sublimated at all other times. This is a false dichotomy, and both of these paradigms tend to end up in dysfunction. We either find ourselves at the mercy of our “needs” which leads to a low grade despair, or divorced from the life and pleasure that sexuality brings, living in a kind of discontented numbness.

Like many of the questions surrounding sexuality, I don’t think we can find simple answers—or any answers that hold together in real life situations—outside of the context of relationship. For me, sexuality is broader than mere genital expression (intercourse, foreplay, masturbation, etc.), and encompasses all of the embodied ways that we desire connection with the world, with one another, and with God—as well as all of the ways we go about expressing that desire. While that definition can be taken to extremes, taking a broader view of sexuality allows us to see the ways that sexuality impels us to connection with one another. Taken in this context, masturbation and whether or not it is a healthy expression of sexuality for a particular individual become questions of whether or not the acts of masturbation at a particular season of life are drawing you deeper into isolation from others and from God, or into deeper connection and intimacy.

How does this play out? The answer will be different for different people in different contexts—but the principles underlying those answers will be the same. A single woman in her 20s who is discovering her body and her desires might be approaching masturbation as a celebration of sexuality and the gift of her body and desires; she could equally begin using masturbation as a place to take her sorrows, longings, and insecurities. In the former, masturbation can be a healthy expression of sexuality if kept squarely in the context of a relationship which, in her case, is with God, with her future mate, and with herself. In the latter, masturbation quickly becomes a place to go to hide from others and God, a place that, like any appetite-fulfilling activity, can quickly lead to addiction. Ultimately, the question of whether or not masturbation is healthy for a particular person springs from the question that governs all good discernment: Does this action help me love myself and others more fully and freely, and does it allow me to love God more deeply and with more of myself?

If you take this question as your baseline for the question of masturbation, a husband who chooses masturbation for a season while he and his wife parent young children can be seen as freeing and loving—a choice appropriate to healthy sexuality—as masturbation can take the sexual pressure off of the relationship and lead to greater intimacy (as long as the decision is discussed and not made unilaterally). On the other side of that situation, masturbation chosen out of frustration and expediency would push him further away from his spouse, compounding relational tension and making loving each other and God a further hill to climb in an already exhausted and exhausting situation.

I know “yes” or “no” would be easier answers to this question, but I don’t believe that our sexuality was created by God simply to be treated mechanistically. I believe sexuality is a gift and a grace that is given to us by God, and it can produce some of the most radically beautiful and loving acts as well as some of the most horrible and hateful. As the first line of the Didache says, “There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between these two ways.”


So, is masturbation an acceptable component to healthy sexuality for Christians? How would you answer that question? 

I look forward to reading your responses, and plan to share the most popular comment in a post next week! 

02 Jun 21:45

Signs of an abusive relationship

by Mary Kassian

Signs of an abusive relationship Photo | Girls Gone Wise

Over the years, I’ve encountered various situations with women who are experiencing domestic abuse and violence. These situations are often extremely difficult to deal with, because abusers are so good at controlling and manipulating their victims. An abuser in a church environment will often use Scripture as a weapon. He’ll insist that his abusive behavior is due to your lack of submission, or claim that because he is the head of the household, he has the God-given right to control and dominate you. This is a distortion of what the Word of God teaches. (Read what complementarian pastors have to say about this.)

If you’re in an abusive relationship, chances are you feel drained, depressed, frightened, ashamed, and confused. You’re probably reluctant to let your family, friends and church community know about the abuse. You might make excuses for your husband, blame yourself, minimize or overlook the abuse, or hope that he really has changed this time around.

Perhaps the abuse isn’t physical. You might think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars. But the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep. Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse–sometimes even more so.

The trouble is, without  intervention, abuse usually gets worse. Verbal, emotional and psychological abuse can progress to physical abuse. Infrequent episodes will progress to more frequent ones. Less severe episodes will progress to more severe ones. Please believe me when I tell you that it’s easier to deal with the symptoms of abuse early on than to wait until it has deteriorated into an ingrained cycle of control, destruction and violence, and the chance of saving the marriage has dimmed.

The first step to changing your situation is to acknowledge that you are, in fact, in an abusive relationship.

Signs of an abusive relationship

The most telling sign that you are in an abusive relationship is if you live in fear of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up—chances are your relationship is unhealthy. Other signs that you may be in an abusive relationship include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and increased feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation about the relationship.

An abuser will use a variety of tactics to manipulate and exert power over you, like domination, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, denial and blame.  To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.


Your inner thoughts and feelings - Do you: Your partner’s belittling behavior - Does your partner:
feel afraid of your partner much of the time? humiliate or yell at you?
avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner? severely criticize you and put you down?
feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner? treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated? ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
wonder if you’re the one who is crazy? blame you for their own abusive behavior?
feel emotionally numb or helpless?  see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
Your Partner’s Violent Behavior or Threats - Does your partner: Your Partner’s Controlling Behavior - Does your partner:
have a bad and unpredictable temper? act excessively jealous and possessive?
hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you? control where you go or what you do?
threaten to take your children away or harm them? keep you from seeing your friends or family?
threaten to commit suicide if you leave? limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
force you to have sex? withhold basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter)?
destroy your belongings? constantly check up on you?

If you are in an abusive relationship, don’t keep it a secret. Tell a trusted friend or family member, a women’s leader in your church, a pastor or a counselor. Find out more about abuse. Call an abuse hot-line. If you are being physically abused, call the police.  Whether the abuse in your relationship has just started or is getting progressively worse–you need an advocate to help you navigate through this difficult situation.

Get more information and support at Focus Ministries, a domestic violence and domestic abuse ministry for Christian women.

[Reference: Domestic Violence and Abuse]

01 Jun 20:45



The 40 Cutest GIFs In The History Of The Internet


01 Jun 20:29

The image of God

Never confuse the person, formed in the image of God, with the evil that is in him, because evil is but a chance misfortune, illness, a devilish reverie. But the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement.

- St. John of Kronstadt

31 May 11:21

A Heart for the Poor -- and a Mind for Economics

by Acton Web

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  -- Luke 10:27

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30 May 00:59

R.C. Sproul's Crucial Questions eBooks Now Free Forever

by Nathan W. Bingham

To further help Christians know what they believe, why they believe it, how to live it, and how to share it, from today the eBook editions of R.C. Sproul's Crucial Questions series will be free forever.

Please share these resources with your church, family, and friends.

Frequently Asked Questions (from our FAQ section)

What kind of devices read ePub files?

iPhones, the iPod Touch, iPads, Sony Readers, and Nooks are a few of the devices that read ePub files. You may also view ePub files on your computer by using Adobe Digital Editions ( Additional devices and reader applications may be found here:

If you have a different device that one listed here, please check with the manufacturer to ensure it can read ePub files. The Kindle does not read these files, but Amazon does sell all Reformation Trust titles in the Kindle format.

How do I download my ePub?

After purchasing the eBook, you will be directed to your Dashboard (you must set up a Ligonier account to access your Dashboard and all electronic files). You will see the title listed as well as a "File" link. Click on "File" and the ePub file will be downloaded to your computer. You may then move the file to your designated software and upload to your device.

iTunes instructions on adding ePub files to iBooks:

29 May 13:57

Viva La Library (The Information Literacy Song)

by James F. McGrath

Click here to view the embedded video.

I was looking recently for an amusing song to convey key points about information literacy to students. Since I didn’t find something that was in a style I could relate to, I made this. It is goofy, but it’s supposed to me. Hope you enjoy it!


Viva la Library (The Information Literacy Song)

I used to search the web
Believing stuff random people said
Thought that my roommate was such a nerd
When to the library he referred

I used to roll the dice
Type some keywords and close my eyes
Push the button, trust it would bring
Answers to all my questions, everything

I thought that Google held the key
Until I saw my grade was a “D”
And I discovered that success depends
Upon wise use of sources I understand

JSTOR has stuff that’s peer reviewed
Wikis are written by God-knows-who
Google Books keeps so much concealed
‘Til I add “scholar” in the search field

I need  reasons I can explain
Research takes so much more than
Making a random guess
The way I used to search the net

It was the wicked and wild wind
Made me decide I had best stay in
I need to pick a librarian’s brain
But without going out in the pouring rain

They were waiting all this time
Ready to chat with me online
Just to tell me things I should have known
Oh who knew you could research from home?

EBSCO has much you’re looking for
NetLibrary, ebooks galore
I use articles, I use books
But even then take a closer look

These authors have real expertise
Just look at their online CVs
Finding an honest source
That’s what helped me pass the course

JSTOR has stuff that’s peer reviewed
Wikis are written by God-knows-who
Knowledge by Google Books revealed
When I add “scholar” in the search field

Now I’ve reasons – I can explain
That’s a scholar – I searched their name
No more a random guess
The way I used to search the net

29 May 13:19

I hope…

by Oscar


The post I hope… appeared first on The Meta Picture.

28 May 07:09

14 Characteristics of Theological Legalism

by Peter Cockrell

By C. Michael Patton:


Here are some ways to know if you are a theological legalist:

  1. You don’t think there are “minor theological issues”
  2. You always define yourself with the word “true” in front of it (e.g. “I am a ‘true’ Calvinist,” “I am a ‘true’ Baptist,” “I am a ‘true’ Christian).
  3. Your statement of faith or catechism is so detailed that no one but your particular tradition can sign it.
  4. Your passions focus on the small issues and this finds expression in your personality.
  5. Most of your theological writing and/or discussion focuses on where other Christians have gone wrong.
  6. You have a bulldog mentality with regard to your “pet” issues; you cannot let things go emotionally. You have to leave the room.
  7. When one disagrees with you they are forever defined by that disagreement (“There goes Joe the Arminian” or “I would like to introduce you to Katie the complementarian.”
  8. You think belief is either black or white, you either have it or you don’t; there is no in-between and certainly no room for doubt.
  9. You think all those outside of your tradition are either going to hell or are less spiritual than you are (i.e. all Catholics are going to hell, all Protestants are going to hell, all those who suggest otherwise are going to hell, etc.)
  10. These are the only three reasons why people disagree with you: 1) they don’t have enough or the right knowledge, 2) they have compromised, and/or 3) they are justifying in some sin.
  11. No one outside of your tradition wants to talk theology with you (and you take it as a badge of honor).
  12. When you write about other Christians, you continually find yourself putting the word “Christian” in quotes.
  13. Your statement of faith is so qualified no one can understand it.
  14. You are always shutting conversation down by accusations of logical fallacies ad absurdum.

Of course we all have these problems from time to time. And I am not saying that the word “Christian” should not be place in italics for some people. But if you find yourself identifying with many on this list too often, you may have the problem of doctrinal legalism which, in my opinion, is the most dangerous trap out there for those of us who love theology. I have been there and still wrestle with my own theological legalism. But this is something we all need to repent of and teach our students and children about its dangers.

If you love theology, please be the first to put on the attitude of humility. When someone speaks about you in this regard, don’t have your goal for others to think you are smart or right, but humble and meek. When others talk about your personality with regard to theological discourse, would they say you are arrogant and legalistic, or gracious and meek? This does not mean we sacrifice our passions or beliefs, it just means we temper ourselves for the sake of the Gospel. The truth is too important for us to lose our witness due to theological legalism.

Titus 3:2
[Instruct them] to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.

Phi 4:5
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.

2 Tim 2:25-26
With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

27 May 20:56

The Justice Side of Porn

by marneymcNall
How porn is far more than a moral issue.

The moral arguments against pornography are well-known. However, even apart from questions of fidelity and objectification, there is an inescapable problem with porn.

The truth is, porn performers might have far more in common with victims of human trafficking than you might think. A growing body of evidence suggests that pornography fuels demand for prostitutes—and therefore, human sex trafficking victims, who often end up ensnared in both trades.

27 May 07:51

From The Archives: Cones & Holes

by Shaun Groves

Originally posted in October of 2010, this reposting of “Cones & Holes” is for anyone who struggles with the tension between law and grace. I sure do.

Enjoy, while my family and I steal away together for a couple days.

God dug holes and called them Law.

God’s people were warned not to step in the holes so no one would get hurt. Or stuck.

One day well-meaning religious leaders, who loved God and His people deeply, decided to lay cones around the holes. With cones in place, no one would ever get too close and accidentally slip in.

God’s Law said, “Keep the Sabbath day holy; don’t work; rest.”

A leader scribbled his circle of cones around it: “Do not break a sweat on the Sabbath,” he wrote and “Don’t carry a needle in your clothes while walking or it could move around and accidentally sew.”

Then another religious leader declared another ring of cones to keep people from bumping into the first circle of cones: “Don’t light a fire on the Sabbath,” he said and “Don’t take more than x number of steps on the Sabbath.”

For the protection of God’s people and out of love for God, they went on and on like this for generations.

The cones of men became as revered as the holes of God. Cone crashers were excommunicated, cut off from family and church, and sometimes even killed.

Some people loved the cones more than each other. Sometimes even more than God.

Then the Law Giver put on skin and walked among the people – walked right through their cones, out onto slippery slopes, dangerously close to the holes. Sometimes he even reached down into holes to lift people out. He showed the people how to love without getting stuck in a hole.

Jesus crashed through the cones and right into a party where he turned water into strong wine. He stepped over cones and into the Temple where he healed a withered hand on the Sabbath. He kicked the cones out of His way to touch the dead and leprous. He kicked the cones out of His path on the way to lunch with crooked Roman tax collectors and prostitutes. He crushed the cones and sent an adulterous woman’s accusers away empty-handed.

Jesus hates our cones. No matter who lays them and how well-intentioned and helpful and old they may be.

I’ve laid some cones and called them holes. And I’ve got bruises from stones thrown when I bumped into someone else’s.

Don’t watch TV. Don’t date. Don’t get a tattoo. Don’t trick or treat. Don’t go to movies. Don’t buy an iPhone. Don’t listen to “rock music.” Don’t drink alcohol or go to places that serve it. Don’t play cards. Don’t get that haircut. Don’t send your kids to public school. Don’t buy Christmas presents. Don’t read Harry Potter. Don’t wear make-up. Don’t vote Democrat. Don’t do yoga. Don’t…

Now if your balance is a little off and you’re out walking alone, you might not want to venture too far past some of the cones right now lest you fall into a hole. It is slippery out there in some places. Use discernment.

But if you’re pretty good on your feet, for God’s sake…

Crash the cones.

Especially to love someone in a hole.

26 May 22:03

When He Met Me at the Mailbox

by Tamara

'Mailbox Peak - Sunset 1' photo (c) 2009, laffertyryan - license:

I was walking down the long driveway to the mailbox– long enough to feel the discomfort of his presence, not long enough to get away. When I was almost there, he broke the heavy silence.

“Let me hold you,” he said, but it was an entreaty, not a demand.

“I can’t.” I turned my face.

“Why not?” But we both knew the answer– the space between us was filled with too much shame.

“I’ve ignored you.” I reached for the black metal box.

“I know. It’s not between us.” He came a little closer.

“I’ve run from you.” I grabbed the junk mail.

“I know. It’s not between us.” He came a little closer.

“I’ve loved someone else.” I faltered my step.

“I know. It’s not between us.” He came a little closer.

I burst. “But I’m not who I thought I was, who I wanted to be, and it’s all wrong, I’m all wrong, and you could never love me like this, and I can never be anything but this, and so you can never really love me– and there is no way we can ever be together.”

He closed the space. “There is nothing between us.”

And right there at the mailbox, I let him hold me.

Silence fell again softly, but it was a different sort. I turned back up the drive, the small stack of envelopes in my hand, and I was glad for the long walk ahead.


26 May 09:42

God is not a belief-system.

by jimpalmer1


“God is not a belief-system.
Jesus is not a religion.
Christianity is not a check-list.
Church is not an address.
The Bible is not a book of doctrines.
Community is not a meeting.
Grace has no exceptions.
Ministry is not a program.
Art is not carnal.
Women are not inferior.
Our humanity is not the enemy.
Sinner is not our identity.
Love is not a theory.
Peace is not a circumstance.
Science is not secular.
Sex is not filthy.
Life is not a warm-up for Heaven
The world is not without hope.
There is no “us” and “them.”
Tattoos are not evil.
Loving the earth is not satanic.
Seeing the divine in all things is not heretical.
Self-actualization is not self-worship.
Feelings are not dangerous and unreliable.
The mind is not infallible.”

Jim Palmer, Notes From (over) The Edge

24 May 19:05







Read the homily here.

Note the difference between universal redemption (everyone can now be saved through Christ’s death) and universal salvation (everyone is saved). Guess which one the Pope actually said.

24 May 18:53

Why I Need Poetry

by bgosden

> “Poetry is thoughts that breathe; words that burn” (Thomas Gray)

Why do I need poetry?

Poetry is the language that puts words on the sounds and silences that make up our lives. It is the power to name that which is un-nameable. It is the grace to name something “Mystery” and to take comfort in that.

Why do I need poetry?

Poetry is the force that allows us to speak with fierce honesty about ourselves and the world we live in. It shatters the glass cases we use to contain things like faith, love, hope, and God. Poetry scoffs at our clichés because it knows those are merely our attempts to avoid life as it really is.

Why do I need poetry?

Poetry challenges me to see that the world is made up of more than just myself and my own junk. It dares to set free that which I try to put in a neat box. Poetry calls me to the silence and beckons me to be present in it.

Why do I need poetry?

Because on days when I am consumed with my own busyness, and pretend like I have all of the answers, I need to be reminded that in order to truly live, I stop pretending, slow down, and learn to sit with my own questions. For that is where God will meet us.

24 May 09:55

One Time Thing

One Time Thing
23 May 07:13

Spiritual Sins And Sins of the Flesh ~ C.S. Lewis

by MarlenaGraves

“If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting; the pleasure of power, and hatred….a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute.”

23 May 06:53

Belong (Antidote for Gnosticism)

by Brian Zahnd

Saturday Morning

(Antidote for Gnosticism)

Let Christ inform all of life
Don’t be a religious cliché
Be a real human being
Belong to the human race
Belong to the woods
Belong to the city
Go for long walks
Learn to appreciate art
Take up the violin
Cultivate culinary skills
Read War and Peace
Laugh more than you do
Weep now and then
Listen to live jazz
Eat a peach
Do something ridiculous
Go dancing
Stop judging
Start loving
Plant a garden
Climb a mountain
Memorize a long poem
Learn some astronomy
Become a bee-keeper
Go back to college
Take up a new hobby
Make some new friends
Read the Bible
In a new translation
Get rid of bumper stickers
Learn a foreign language
Watch a foreign film
Change your mind
Drink only good coffee
Trust the sommelier
Talk to your neighbor
Not about religion
Go to church
Go to the circus
Don’t confuse them
Be human


(The artwork is Saturday Morning, Painted by Anthony Duce.)

The post Belong (Antidote for Gnosticism) appeared first on Brian Zahnd.

21 May 14:41

7 Tips on “How to Meet Reformed Men”

by Derek Rishmawy

Ah yes, the classic “let me show you a verse” move.

I’ve written enough articles over the last few months that I now get readers coming to my blog off of random Google searches. Sometimes they make sense, others not so much, and a few make me laugh. One particular search caught my eye the other day: “how to meet Reformed men.” Apparently there is at least one single Christian woman out there, looking for a man with a sound grasp of the doctrines of grace. Now, I’m not sure she found what she was looking for here, but in the spirit of brotherly love, I thought I’d list a few helpful, possibly humorous, suggestions from friends and family on “how to meet Reformed men”:

    1. Go to a local Reformed church and look for one. 
    2. If no Reformed church is available, look for the guy in the back of your local non-denominational church, furiously writing notes during the sermon in order to write the pastor an email filled with corrections.
    3. In that same church, mention words like “covenant”, “doctrine”, “election”, or “fatherly hand” in conversations with any single men and look for the twinkle in their eyes. (HT: Sean McLeish)
    4. Frequent local coffee shops with a copy of Calvin’s Institutes lying out on the table. Make sure you’ve read some of it, though, and include sufficient highlights and underlining.
    5. Repeat #4 in local breweries and pubs (unless Baptist).
    6. Move to Louisville, walk around Southern’s campus without a wedding ring on. (Reformed Baptist; HT Lauren Rambo)
    7. For those favoring the online approach, offers to fill the gap. Unlike other dating sites this is a place where: “Our members are prepared for marriage by reading a wide variety of articles on marriage, dating pitfalls, courtship, divorce and remarriage, and more. Our Members’ identities have been verified by their pastor so people you meet really are who they say they are. Finally, our members know that their futures are predestined by our heavenly Father and rest in His kind hands.” (HT: Alan Noble)

Although I’ve limited myself to 7 tips, on biblical grounds, I’m sure our sisters would love some more (appropriate) suggestions from the readership in the comments. Blessings on the search.

Soli Deo Gloria

18 May 17:45

Dirk Willems (d. May 16, 1569)

by (Joshua Paul Smith)
13 May 03:16

The Good, the Bad, and the Terrorist

by Marlena Graves

Searching for an explanation for evil.

In the weeks since two bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, we've learned much about the two young men first introduced to us as "Suspect 1" and "Suspect 2" in blurry images released by the FBI. The ongoing investigation into the lives of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his now deceased brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, have revealed detail after detail about their family, friends, education, hobbies, travels, religious practices, politics, and personalities. But no degree of in-depth reporting or FBI investigation will be able to answer our biggest question: What makes someone commit such unimaginably evil acts?

That's what we really want to know. What terrible things could've burrowed deeply into Dzhokhar's soul? What horrors drove him and Tamerlan to unleash a nightmare reality upon the innocents of Boston? The questions loom larger for Dzhokhar, the surviving younger brother, now in a prison medical facility. By all accounts, he was a good guy, and his friends never dreamed that he'd be involved in this kind of crime. High school teacher Larry Aaronson notes:

There is nothing in his character, in his deportment, in his demeanor that would suggest anything remotely capable of any of these things that he is now suspected of doing. He was so grateful to be here, he was so grateful to be at the school...he was compassionate, he was caring, he was jovial.

Is it any wonder that Dzhokhar's mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, refuses to believe that her sons are the jihadist kind, repeatedly telling the media they were framed? While we may shake our heads in utter disbelief over her refusal to face reality, I suppose that it's hard for any of us, at least initially, to ...

Continue reading...

09 May 18:01

"God does not 'love' us without liking us..."

by Rachel Held Evans

From Dallas Willard:

“We must understand that God does not 'love' us without liking us - through gritted teeth - as 'Christian' love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core - which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word 'love'.” 

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God

Willard died today after losing a battle with cancer. He will be profoundly missed. 

Do you have any favorite books, quotes, or memories from Willard you wish to share?

07 May 22:24

Boston Terrorism Brings Reality of Evil Close to Home

by Institute on Religion and Democracy
Weeping Angel

As Romans 12:15 reminds us, we should “weep with those who weep.” (Photo credit: Doctor Who)

By John Lomperis (@JohnLomperis)

The dust has settled. The lockdown has concluded. Further arrests have been made. Details keep trickling in to give us a more complete picture. And my own travel schedule has settled down enough for me to have more time to reflect on the attack on the area that was my own adopted hometown from 2008 through 2011, while I studied at Harvard Divinity School.

It is one thing, as a broad principle, to acknowledge the existence of Evil “out there.” The extreme examples are too readily available to dismiss, from Nazi genocides and Soviet gulags of history to more current atrocities such as the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

But this evil struck close to home. The festive atmosphere of the Boston Marathon was suddenly ripped apart with explosions that killed three innocent people while permanently maiming or seriously wounding many others. By bombs planted on a sidewalk where I have walked. Apparently by brothers who at least occasionally attended a mosque by which I often passed. Who had attended a high school I walked by all the time. Who lived close to where I lived, and about a literal stone’s throw away from where I used to meet with my accountability partners.

After the attacks, I was grateful to learn of the lack of direct physical harm to my friends in the area – while haunted in the back of my mind by questioning if that meant I was feeling grateful that other people were the ones to be included in the casualty statistics. I did discover that the wider circle of friends of my friends included a grad student murdered in the bombings and a family whose home was invaded by bullets from the chase.

I am grateful for the good work done by law-enforcement personnel, for the all the heroic ways bystanders jumped into helping their neighbors, and for further bloodshed being prevented. I pray for the work of those seeking to administer justice and prevent further such attacks. And I pray that public reactions may not be dominated by the extremes of either hateful, collective-blame-casting xenophobia or of the sort of liberal, politically-correct naiveté that stubbornly refuses to acknowledge important realities.

Yet I am still struck by a recent episode of a talking-head cable news program, in which the host kept pushing variations of the question of when we could finally be “safe.” The guest, a counter-terrorism expert, talked about how Americans can and have been made relatively safer from such attacks, but pointed out that those with some of the world’s highest levels of safety from such terrorism are North Koreans, who trade the evil of vulnerability to terrorism for the evils of living in a brutally tyrannical police state.

This new, dramatic attack on American soil – in an area where so many Americans live, previously lived, know loved ones, and/or have attended school – shattered illusions that we are living in a “safe” world.

We desperately want to move on, get back to our routines, and regain our illusions of safety, of being in charge of our own lives, and of feeling comforted by empty rhetoric about “the persevering goodness of the human spirit.” We desperately want to think of the great evil committed as an aberration rather than the natural fruit of the endemic evils of our fallen world.

And yet we cannot do this without sacrificing our intellectual honesty.

The Boston attacks once again demonstrated to relatively comfortable Americans what many throughout the world already experience on a daily basis: that we live in a world that full of great evil. Evil that is a lot closer than we would like to think. Evil that can in one instant, without warning, tear open the beautiful, divine-image-bearing bodies of dozens of people in one of the “safest” neighborhoods of your own city. Evil that can prematurely, mercilessly, brutally end the lives of any of us, our family members, or our dear friends. Evil in such forms as the unknown terrorist plotting of neighbors who live just down the street.

We are right to be outraged at the terrible, despicable, inexcusable evil committed by the perpetrators of this attack. We are right to remember that divine wrath and eternal damnation are important realities without which the God of the universe would be neither just nor truly loving.

But here I find myself convicted by the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“The Cross of Jesus Christ destroys all pride. If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all. He who would serve his brother in the fellowship must sink all the way down to these depths of humility. How can I possibly serve another person in unfeigned humility if I seriously regard his sinfulness as worse than my own? Would I not be putting myself above him; could I have any hope for him?”


Of course, no perpetrator of this attack appears to be a “brother in the fellowship” of Christian disciples. And I see little value in credibility-straining denials of obvious degrees of difference between the specific sin of bombing hundreds of marathon-goers and sins that do less damage.

I also realize that I want to self-righteously justify myself with such self-delusions as “Granted, I am not perfect, but obviously John Lomperis is nothing like a terrorist who kills and maims all those people!”  But the fact is that I have a lot more in common with the Tsarnaev brothers than simply having lived in the same place.

Before I truly became a Christian (but while I was already a member in good standing of the United Methodist Church), probably my most hated passage of Scripture was Paul’s teaching in Romans 3 about the universal sinfulness of all of humanity, in which I could find no loophole to except myself.

But if God is truly God, any sinning creature necessarily falls short of His glory. And the fruit of the sin I regularly produced – even over and above what I tried to ignore, minimize, or rationalize – revealed the root character of my own heart.

Number VII of the Methodist Articles of Religion declares that original sin is more than just a matter of committing individual acts of sin, but is rather a basic corruption of the moral nature of all of humanity since Adam.

Fundamentally, the difference between those other people’s sin when they bombed the Boston Marathon and my own sin when I have harbored feelings of hatred or unjustified rage towards others is more of a difference of degree than of kind.

Horrific evil is indeed a lot closer and more ever-present than we would like to think, closer than even next door.  It is within the corrupted nature of all of us.

And yet despite our self-centered orientation away from the One who gave us existence, life, and all good things, despite our blasphemous rejections of Him, and despite our abusive treatment of others created in His image, He did not simply abandon us to our chosen fate. On the cross, the Lord Jesus chose to suffer greater torture and pain than anyone on Earth has ever experienced, for the sin of Adam, John Lomperis, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and every other human being – so that through His blood we may have the offer of forgiveness, healing, and new life in Him.

So along with the important work of comforting those in pain and mourning with those who more, the only response to the great evil of the Boston bombings I can offer is to point to God’s response on the cross to such evil. And to reflect on my own sinfulness.

If prayers are answered for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to one day repent, believe, and surrender his life to the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians will have no choice but to somehow accept him as a “brother in the fellowship,” despite whatever pragmatic issues his legal status may cause.

Because we serve a just but also merciful God who personally paid the penalty earned by humanity’s sin.  Even very extreme sinfulness.  Even sinfulness as detestable as our own.


Filed under: News Tagged: Boston, Boston Marathon Bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnae, Harvard Divinity School, John Lomperis, United Methodist Church
07 May 00:39

This New STD Can Kill In a Matter of Days

Doctors are grappling with a lethal new strain of gonorrhea (your great-grandparents called it "the clap") that's immune to antibiotics and can “put someone into septic shock and death in a matter of days. This is very dangerous," said Alan Christianson, who is a doctor of naturopathic medicine in Phoenix. "We need to move now before it gets out of hand.” The strain was discovered in a Japanese sex worker back in 2011, and has so far baffled scientists who are trying to treat it. If it starts to spiral out of control, doctors warn that it “might be a lot worse than AIDS” ...

07 May 00:38


by 爱看编辑



按语:写完《山下之城 –基督徒与世俗政治》之后,我感觉有必要把这个议题往深处再推一步,探索圣经如何看待宗教与社会的互动,以把立论建筑在比较坚实的基础上。这就是本文写作的目的。




















提姆·凯勒牧师在2010年10月出版的《慷慨的正义:上帝的恩典如何使我们公正》(Generous Justice, How God’s Grace Makes Us Just)一书里,根据《圣经》的观点,对信仰与今世的责任,特别是正义与慷慨间的关系,有很精辟的分析,是本文立论的根据。(注:英文的justice可以翻译成:公正、公义、正义、司法。)






首先,让我们看:“世人哪,耶和华已指示你何为善。他向你所要的是甚么呢。只要你行公义、好怜悯、存谦卑的心、与你的神同行。”(《弥迦书》6:8)凯勒牧师解释说,这段话是上帝劝告以色列人应当如何生活的一个总结。它的意思是:“要与上帝同行,那么我们就必须用发自怜悯的爱心去行公义。”(To walk with God, then we must do justice, out of merciful love.)爱心、怜悯与公义在这里结合在一起了。







“我所拣选的禁食,不是要松开凶恶的绳,解下轭上的索,使被欺压的得自由,折断一切的轭么?不是要把你的饼分给饥饿的人,将飘流的穷人接到你家中,见赤身的给他衣服遮体,顾恤自己的骨肉而不掩藏么?” (《以赛亚书》58:6-7)


另外,《旧约》还有一个关键字tzadeqah。这个字是“公正的”、“公义的” 行为与关系。在《旧约》里面,它经常用在“人在日常生活上,无论是家庭还是社交,总是以公平合理和慷慨的行为待人。”















































他回答说:“因果关系:上帝的恩典使得你公正。福音的信息告诉我们,我们虽然不是因着好行为得救,我们是因着恩典和信心得救 -这个信心会改变你的生命,使得你会有好行为。根据圣经的教导,如果你真被上帝的恩典所改变,你就会去关心穷人。”