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07 May 00:34

Why I'm Not a Calvinist

by (Kristen)
Calvinism/Reformed Christianity is all the rage nowadays:  the belief that humans have no free will, and that God predestines some to be saved and some to be separated from Him forever, and that He only died for those He "elects" (chooses for salvation), whom He draws to Himself by irresistible grace.

I have never been able to believe this.  Not that I just don't want to believe it.  I literally can't.

It's also not that I think I am incapable of error or that I have this perfect grasp of spiritual truth.  But the person I am, with the best heart attitude I can ascribe to and the best reasoning powers I can summon, has to believe in human free will.

Here's the way I see it. 

If God alone is responsible for saving humans, and humans really have nothing whatsoever to do with it-- then all He would have to do to save all human beings is exercise irresistible grace, and they would have to be saved. Oh, I know all the arguments about how we all deserve eternal separation from God*, and it's gracious enough of God if He just chooses to save some.

But to me, it's not. Not gracious enough. 

God created human beings-- all human beings.  If God holds humans responsible for their salvation, then they have to be capable of choosing salvation.  If they are incapable of choosing salvation, then their fate, whatever it is, is God's responsibility.

If humans are incapable of resisting His saving grace, then He is responsible for not saving them all, since it's completely within His power to do so, and no one else has any say in the matter. It's not a matter of what we humans deserve so much as a matter of impartiality in justice, and completeness in mercy. I can't believe that God exercises partiality in justice and limited mercy.  I can believe God could be infinitely better than I am able to conceive; I cannot believe that He could be worse.  That I, who love my children equally and would never set one up to receive my love and the best inheritance I can leave her, while consigning the other to total abandonment, could in my refusal to do this, be better than the God I worship.

But this doesn't mean I think humans can save themselves. (Non-Calvinists are often accused of believing this, but it isn't true.)  I don't think there's anything we can do or add to God's grace in order to be saved.  But I don't think grace is irresistible.

I think we can't come to God unless He draws us-- but when He draws us, we can choose to come towards Him, or resist and insist we don't want God. Simple as that. I think the image of God remains in us, distorted though it may be by sin. We are capable of responding to the Holy Spirit's influence for good, though incapable of moving towards the good on our own. But there are moments in our lives-- probably many, many more than one, for each of us-- where God draws us towards Himself, and that act of drawing suspends us momentarily between good and evil, allowing us to be capable of choosing -- either giving in to the drawing of God, or falling back towards wrong. He alone can make us free to choose, but He does make us free, and the choice is ours.

Could not God have enough skill and finesse to move a human heart into a state balanced between two choices so that we are in that moment free to make a choice?  Is God really incapable of drawing human beings gently enough that they don't have to come?

The idea that we have nothing whatsoever to do with it, that it's all God and there is no free will, as far as I can see, turns God into something awful. I have examined the argument that God's justice is so high above ours that what looks like injustice to us, really isn't; but I can't buy that-- especially for we who are redeemed. We can see what justice is-- and if it totally looks like something else, even after our eyes are opened to God's ways-- how can we call it justice? A God who makes creatures, claims to love them all, and then refuses to save some, is not a God of love or justice. I have tried, but the Reformed perspective simply makes no sense to me. In fact, it seems like an example of what Michael Spenser was talking about in his iMonk post, "More, Better, Most, Highest":

What I see happening . . . is an escalation of terms into the potentially useless. . . And the person willing to say the most, to make the highest claim. . . feels justifiably proud that he's climbed further out on the limb of faith than anyone else. . . 

We're justified by faith, right? Not works? Not any kind of works?

Not by saying "I believe in justification" MORE and LOUDER and with BIGGER WORDS and MORE ARGUMENTS than the other guy?

The language of the Reformed seems like that to me.  Do we believe grace alone saves us? Apart from any works? I mean ANY works? The highest we can go is to believe that it is somehow a "work" even to just give in when God draws us-- and therefore we can't even believe in humans just giving in to God, as part of grace.  No, He has to cause us to give in, or it's not grace.  But I don't think it's necessary to go that far in my belief that grace alone saves us. In fact, I can't.  My brain won't go there.

But some Reformed believers say that if I'm not willing to go as high as that, I must not really believe in "the doctrines of grace." Because they can do one better than me, with my insistence on free will.  That even surrendering to the grace of God is too much of a "work" on my part.  But I just can't see surrendering to grace as salvation by works.  It doesn't make sense to me. 

You see, I would call what I adhere to "the doctrines of grace," too-- so I disagree with appropriating that term for one particular expression of Christianity, with the implication that other traditions (such as the Wesleyan/Arminian) don't really understand grace.

The question then arises, what do I do with Romans 9:18-24? 

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.  You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Fortunately, I don't have to try to figure this out on my own.  Arminius and Wesley, and many other free-will believers, have gone before me.  (Roger E. Olson is a well-known modern example.)  I agree with them that this passage is not about salvation-- not in terms of individuals going to heaven or being with Christ in eternity. Arminians start at the beginning of chapter 9 instead of at verse 18, and note that after Romans 8, which is about individual salvation, Paul switches focus. He begins talking about Israel as a nation, and Israel's original covenant with God. Then Paul goes on to talk about Jacob and Esau, and then Pharoah-- but in terms of where their respective nations fit in God's earthly plan. The passage then begins to speak of Christians as God's new "nation," which is actually comprised of people from every nation. 

"Jacob I loved and Esau I hated" (v. 13) is not about God literally hating a human being that He created-- any more than when Jesus said we must "hate" our father and mother and even our own life in order to follow Him (Luke 14:26), He was speaking of literal hate.  This is part of a kind of poetic hyperbole which is a common feature in the Bible. Also, it's my understanding that the word "hardened" referring to Pharoah's heart would better be rendered "strengthened."  In Exodus 9:12 God strengthened (in the Scripture-4-All Online Interlinear, "made steadfast") Pharoah's resolve to do what Pharoah had already chosen to do.  But the Romans 9 passage is about Paul's looking back to the Old Covenant (which was with a nation, not individuals), and about whether God's plan for Israel as a nation has been nullified.  Paul's answer is "no."

The "vessels of wrath" are not individuals facing eternity, but nations in God's plans on the earth-- and the "vessels of mercy" are "us whom he has called" into a new covenant nation.  The destinies of these vessels are destruction vs. mercy on earth as nations-- but even though earthly nations may be "vessels of wrath," Paul goes on to show in Chapter 10 that "whoever believes in Me will not be disappointed" -- whether from the Jewish nation or a Greek one, any individual can receive eternal salvation and become part of the new covenant. Nor is this something they accomplish on their own-- but "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Chapter 10:17). Then Paul talks about how some form of "the word of God" has gone forth to everyone on earth-- through nature, when they cannot hear the the gospel (10:18).

In Chapter 11 Paul goes back to talking about Israel's calling as a nation again, and how a partial hardening has happened to that nation while mercy is being extended to the Gentiles to become part of the new "holy nation" which is the kingdom of God.

In other words, Arminians believe that God's earthly callings of nations, not the eternal destiny of individuals, is the topic of Romans 9. I think we miss this because of our overly individualistic mindset in the West. We tend to think it's all about individuals going to heaven-- but God is also interested in His kingdom, His holy nation, spreading on the earth.

With regards to other verses, this website briefly summarizes the Calvinist and Arminian positions on various Bible verses about predestination and calling.  There's no reason why any of the Reformed "clobber verses" have to be read as denying all human free will. 

The other issue I have with Calvinism has to do with "sovereignty."  I believe God is sovereign.  But I think Christians can at times get over focused on one attribute of God to the exclusion of other attributes. I think Reformed movements sometimes focus so much on God's authority and sovereignty, that they hardly have any room to think about God's humility and the freedom that Christ came to bring us. Ask some Christians what they are free from, and they'll simply say, "I'm free from bondage to sin. I'm free to live the way God wants me to." But the fact is that that we are also free from having to live in bondage to what Paul calls "the elements" of this earthly life, "do not handle, do not taste, do not touch" (Col 2:21) or the observation of "days and months and seasons and years" (Gal 4:10) or other things that are "destined to perish with the using."  Not understanding this can result in rules-based living-- though of course not all Reformed believers are legalists.

I find that sometimes a focus on God's sovereignty to the point where it almost shuts out any other attributes, seems related to a certain hierarchical view of the world-- a view that focuses on who is in authority over who, more than on service and love.  We can come to think God is all about enforcing His own authority, and that proper submission to authority is what the Christian walk is all about-- rather than, "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." But I see God as One who would deliberately choose to be born in a manger, the Son of a lowly carpenter in backwoods Galilee. I see a Kingdom of mutual submission and service, of each of us having a mind like Christ's-- in lowliness of mind considering others better than ourselves, as per Phil. 2.  I see a God Who limits His own exercise of sovereignty, by His own free will-- in order to allow us ours. 

And I believe this spirit of humility which is a true characteristic of Kingdom living, can be manifest just as much in the Reformed tradition as anywhere else.  Just because Calvinism doesn't make sense to me doesn't mean I think I have a corner on the truth and I couldn't possibly be wrong.  You see, I am not saying all this to condemn Calvinists or Reformed theology. I am simply explaining my own journey, the way my mind works, and why limited atonement and irresistible grace do not sync, in my mind, with the God Whom I have, in my human, limited way, come to know and love.

When Christ returns and we become "like Him, for we will see Him just as He is" (1 John 3:2), then these sorts of disagreements will be over and done.  But for now, I'll believe in free will.  There isn't anything else I can do. 


*Note: as an annihilationist, I don't think eternal separation from God involves eternal conscious torment, either-- but that's a post for another day. 
07 May 00:34

when i believe in Jesus, then the bible

by Preston Yancey

This week, I'm doing a series on how I approach Scripture. Today, a disjointed rumination to get our feet wet over where my belief points before we get into some of the more tangled topics the rest of the week.


I make a radical assumption, one I admit is impossible to argue convincingly: the mediative, prayerful rumination upon the Scripture, the inspired voice of God given unto His people, should be the fundamental, forming influence in the life of a Christian.

I say that this is impossible to argue for it is a claim that is only justified by the words of the Text itself and by those who experience it.

The Lord speaks to Joshua: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

The message of the Scripture about itself is prevalent, either from the poetry of God who says that what He has given as His Truth shall be inscribed on doorposts or upon hearts, or from the psalmists, the epistle writers, praising the light the Text imparts and the delight to live by its guidance. As Christians we often take these remarks for granted. We have a passing, intellectual awareness of obligation to read the Scripture, which may come from the words of the Text itself or in the form of fundamentalist compulsion, fiery sermons, or half-hearted mugs of coffee in which the only prescription for struggle is reading more, as if the pages shall bring forth divine intervention by simply having them employed.

A common rally-cry in the protestant branch of the Church is the availability of the Scripture to the average person. While this was a crucial and blessed desire of the Reformation thinkers, it is prudent to consider that in our modern age our freedom to possess the Scripture in our own hands has not always been met with the joy of actually receiving the gift we have been given.

Surveys in recent years point out that though the prevalence of the Bible in the hands of believers is on the rise, the consistency of readership beyond Sunday morning is in sharp decline. 

We have traded the Text for versions of it. Not translations, but transcriptions. Now we read novelizations of the Scripture that leave out places that are identified as either boring or of lesser importance. Or, in hope of reaching the current generation, we replace the perceived difficult language of the Scripture with modern sensibility or perspective, resulting in variations of the Bible such as screenplays or summaries.

While these expressions of modern Christians desiring to engage their congregations and the unreached with the message of Christ are commendable in intent, and in conversation with the full Text can lead to healthy and positive growth, too often the expressions are taken as the Expression, the summary as the Sum.

It is now more easy to read the Bible in one’s own language and within one’s own country than any time previous in history, yet more sermons preached on Sundays are geared toward series-based thematic approaches that use Scripture as a trump card or proof-text to validate a point as opposed to regarding Scripture as the generative field from which all Truth grows unto harvest. The over availability of the Text has, to what should be our shame, made us complacent toward it.

And I contend that the result has been that our theological imaginations are truncated, our vision of the world weakened, and our sensitivity to the mystery of the Faith grown dull.

We know historically that when there is need, there is response, and therefore it is little surprise that words like story and journey have become touchstones popular in the Christian ecumenical exchange--the common desire to reclaim a sense of rootedness and orthodoxy. However, the desire for rootedness rarely returns to a conversation of faithfulness, which is how the prophet Jeremiah described it: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.”  Often, the conversation excludes questions of faithfulness in favor of what sounds to be Gospel application, the essential to-do list of the Faith: love one another, feed the hungry, tend the sick.

While on the surface these are essentially wonderful and good things, it is not often pointed out that they are possible to achieve, at least in part, outside of a faithful relationship with God. One can love, feed, and tend without necessarily needing the presence of the Almighty active within the process. In turn, the need for Scripture becomes unapparent. If our rootedness comes from our performance of certain actions that have Gospel sounds: love, feed, tend, then who is in need of the intervening power, discernment, and transformative work of the Holy Spirit?

Our churches and individual lives are mired in our desire to have a plan of action that looks like good religion while all the while we have lost the original call of the Spirit upon our lives, which is at once staggeringly difficult and remarkably simple: be transformed, ever and always, into the image of Christ our Lord. Indeed, a transformation that is not about having a memory bank of Scriptures to use to patch any situation or a categorical understanding of doctrine and dogma, but a quiet, daily transformation of the whole being in which Scripture is the formative influence of how we live and move within our world.

But we cannot forget, ever, in the midst of all of this, that only Jesus is the means of our salvation.

Scripture is only and ever in the service of Him.


The Word of God is not the Bible.

The Word of God is Jesus Christ.

A conflation of the words for Scripture and Word have made us poor exegetes and engagers with the biblical text. When God says that His word does not return void, in the larger context of the passage it means that the action of redemption he has set in motion shall not fail. That action, of course, is Jesus Christ, something that John seemed to be aware of when inking his Gospel.

In the beginning was the Word.

The Bible, like John the Baptiser, testifies to that Light, preaches of that Light, but is not that Light.

How goes the old hymn?

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.


In the Gospel of St. Matthew, after Jesus is baptized He departs for the wilderness by the direction of the Spirit, where He fasts for forty days and forty nights before He grows hungry and the Tempter comes to Him: ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’

To this, Jesus quotes a portion of Deuteronomy 8:3, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’  There is extensive commentary on this passage, brilliant commentary, but I would like to suggest something simple: when Christ is first shown to us as being tempted, His response is not to quote Scripture as proof text but to quote Scripture as an exercise in active engagement with the Text itself. He does not simply know the Text in passing, but He speaks forth the Text with authority and discernment.

This is further revealed to us by what happens next.

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning you’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’’ 

Here, Satan quotes Psalm 91:11, 12. He knows the Scripture as well. Instead of his previous temptation based on the physical, immediate needs of Jesus, he now suggests that the Scripture gives permission for what he proposes.

But to this Jesus responds with Deuteronomy 6:16, ‘On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’’

Returning to our simple proposition that Christ’s knowledge of the Scripture is beyond rote knowledge and is active engagement, we see that He puts the Scripture in conversation with itself. A portion of the Text does not exist in isolation, but in direct relation to all other passages. Accordingly, Christ’s dismissal of the Tempter upon his third attempt follows the same momentum.

If we continue in Matthew, this passage leads into the beginning of Jesus’s ministry and the calling of the first disciples. (We’ll return to this later.) But in the Gospel of St. Luke, there is an interlude between the temptation and the calling of the disciples that I think imperative for our discussion of Scripture as central.

We read in Luke:

And He came up to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach
the gospel to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release
to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind.
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of
the Lord.
And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 

I find it interesting that Luke orders his Gospel with a careful progression: Christ first shows His authority over the Scriptures by revealing His understanding of them against the Prince of this world. He then shows that same authority over the leaders of this world. Therefore, by the time He calls the first disciples, we have been introduced not only to the Messiah as One who heals the sick and raises the dead, but as One who fulfills the Scripture by completely understanding them and interpreting them with perfect clarity.

As modern Christians, we perhaps take this for granted; but, if we are reading or hearing these Gospels as first or second century believers, we are being introduced to this Man—fully human, fully God—and it is telling that emphasis is placed on revealing Him as intimately engaged with the Scripture that speaks of and points to Him.

Familiarity and understanding comprise the habit of being Christ embodies toward the Text. Whereas He could have rebuked Satan through His authority as God, He rebukes Him through His authority anchored in the Scripture. Whereas He could have stood in the synagogue and declared Himself the Messiah, He reveals this exceptional mystery through the authority of the Scripture.

Could it be, then, that when He called us unto Himself, as He would soon after call the disciples, that it was to this same reverence, engagement, and understanding?

Juxtapose this sort of Scriptural thinking with the modern condition and we may see a disconnect. The end goal is not a set of arguments or the weight of proof, but an approach of openness to the Scripture whereby we read it with the expectation that it is alive, inspired, vibrant, and is in the process of reading us as much as we are attempting to read it.

The Scripture is opening us, changing us, causing us to inhabit the world differently, approaching the creation with a heart being molded into that of the Creator.

While the expressions—the summaries and screenplays and novels and films—have been designed to remind us to love, feed, and tend, they have not been designed to adequately replace. We must still affirm the words of Christ: ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ 

Every word.

The first to the last, even the boring bits, even the hard bits, even the things we wish we could ignore or explain away.


There is a church somewhere that begins its services with the congregation raising their Bibles over their heads and reciting a short statement of faith that its contents determines who they are.

They are people of the Book.

They are a people who affirm who they are by the Book.

While I understand the desire, while I understand the sense of rootedness, the love I too have for the Scripture, what is most important is that who I believe in is Jesus Christ.

I am eternally grateful for the Bible. I believe the Bible is true, is gift of God for His people, but the Bible does not determine my salvation.

The Bible does not determine if I'm a Christian.

The Bible does not determine everlasting life.

I am a believer in small things.

That is, I think even tiny changes in history have huge consequences, that the flapping of butterfly wings has everything to do with motion of the seas and the price of gas in south Texas.

In 1646 the Westminster Confession made a theological choice when they began their statement of faith first with an affirmation of Holy Scripture and then with an affirmation of God.

Though they were well-meaning, they may have thumbed their noses at the whole of the Tradition that came before them. For all the ills of the historic creeds of the Church, at least the variations all had the good-sense to put God first.

We believe in one God, begins Nicene.

I believe in God, begins the Apostle's.

But Westminster confesses the Scripture before it confesses the Saviour and if we draw out the lines, Westminster became the confessional position of the puritans, became the internal logic of those who boarded ships in search of religious freedom, who settled in America, and these people of the Book became the same people, generations later, who thought the Bible was synonymous with the Word because their confession, if taken at face-value, meant that the Bible was where there faith came from.

I'll point out that Scripture itself doesn't stumble into this problem.

In the beginning, God.


You said live out loud, and die you said lightly,
and over and over again you said be. 


I have gestured toward a proposal here, that Scripture is the crucial, transformative instrument of the Holy Spirit to change us from glory to glory into the image of our God, to journey beyond the start of life and tread careful toward our hour of death, to inhabit this space between with the active purpose of being, of living in the midst, in the context, in the imagination the Scripture imparts to us.

But I have also said that faith is rooted first and foremost in Christ Jesus.

This is the tension, to be people of the Book without being people without a Saviour.

To read the Scripture is to pray the Scripture, for the apostle writes the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Surely, the Spirit turns within us when we enter into the words of the Text, surely it quickens us, even if we should not know it. Those groanings, those things we cannot see in present time that are journeying us forward into relationship with the extraordinary God in our ordinary lives, the wonder of the Incarnation made known to us day by day, again and again.

We are on the path of this being, as Rilke called it. This abiding.

But, again, rooted first in Christ.

As Jesus said to the disciples, I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 


Faith is not dependent on the Bible alone.

If it were just me, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit for the rest of my life, I am absolutely certain I'd be a heretic.

Lauren Winner.

It's too easy to read the Gospel of Luke and think that Jesus isn't divine, just sent by God. It's too easy to read the Apocalypse and presume that those flying men with the scorpion tails are helicopters.

And when I say Bible, what do I mean?

Do I mean an English translation? A combination of Hebrew and Greek?

If I say the Old Testament, do I mean the Septuagint or the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The Bible did not save me.

Jesus Christ saved me. Jesus Christ is the Messiah. And for all the Bible is, it is not the Source of my election in Christ, it is not the means by which I have been grafted into the family of God.

Not by works of righteousness--nor by a handful of texts--but according to His mercy.


I believe in Jesus Christ.

I broaden, refine, explore, nurture that belief through faithful study and engagement with the Scripture that attests to, testifies to, and witnesses to that once crucified, eternally risen Jesus.

But were all the Scripture to be lost, were we like a sojourning people under a Josiah rule vagabond seekers without a Law, God would be no less God, His Messiah no less His Messiah, His Spirit no less His Spirit.

I love the Scripture, but I love Jesus more. I love the God that Scripture proclaims more than the Scripture itself.

I heard tell once of a commandment: Love the Lord your God ...

Not a Text. Never first a Text.

Delight in the Text. Love by the Text. But the commandment is first a love of God.

Were I never to see a word of the inspired again, He would still be near.

He would still be not far from me.

07 May 00:34

10 Ways to Boost Daily Productivity (infographic)

by Marc Cortez

I am pretty sure that spending too much on reading infographics about productivity is not a good way to boost daily productivity. So if you’re just reading this as a way of avoiding something more important, feel free to stop and get back to what you were doing.

But I still thought this was a well-designed way of summarizing useful tips about how to get things done. And, if you’re a student, please pay attention. “Productivity” isn’t just for the workplace. All of these are great tips for managing that daunting pile of homework.

via Lifehack

The post 10 Ways to Boost Daily Productivity (infographic) appeared first on Everyday Theology.

07 May 00:34

Top 60 Online Resources for Battling Porn

by David Murray

Previous posts in this series:  Top 200 Online Preaching ResourcesTop 200 Online Leadership Resources, and Top 300 Online Counseling Resources. Now, here’s the Top 60 Online Resources for battling Porn.

Usual disclaimer: Link does not imply full agreement or endorsement.

Raising a Pure Son In a Sex-Crazed World — We are THAT Family

The Bible and the Brain: Scripture strengthens neurological pathways

F.L.E.E.—A Strategy for Pursuing Sexual Purity – The Gospel Coalition Blog

A Warped Worldview: Another Moral Effect of Pornography | Al Mohler

Raising Kids in a Pornified Culture | Take Your Vitamin Z

How do you counsel a wife who has been harmed by her husband’s struggle with pornography? | Practical Shepherding

The Science of Porn Addiction | Take your Vitamin Z

How do you counsel a husband who has revealed a struggle with pornography to his wife? | Practical Shepherding

“What Do I Do If My Child Is Looking at Pornography?” | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

Porn and the contemplative life | Joel Miller

Book Reviews: Sexual Sanity For Men | The Gospel Coalition

Why is Porn Addictive? | Covenant Eyes

I Get By With A Little Help From My Readers…-Housewife Theologian

Porn-Free Church: Sex, God, and the Gospel – The Gospel Coalition Blog

How to Confess the Sin of Pornography to Your Wife (And How Not To), Part 1 | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

The Urban Gospel Mission – THE PORN GATEWAYS

Sex in the Media – The Price Our Kids Pay | Covenant Eyes

Pornopoly – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Counseling Single Men (and Men in General) Toward Lasting Freedom from Pornography | Covenant Eyes

Is bad sex killing the great commission? Between The Times

The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage, Part One | Al Mohler

Fake Love, Fake War: Why So Many Men Are Addicted to Internet Porn and Video Games – Desiring God

D.A. Carson on Overcoming Porn Temptation | Take your Vitamin Z

Overcoming Sexual Sin (Video 1 of 9) | Brad Hambrick

Porn-Free Church | Free E-book for Pastors | Covenant Eyes

Raquel Welch Says Pornography “Annihilates” Men | Denny Burk

Take Your Vitamin Z: Teens and Porn: 10 Stats You Need To Know

Free E-book: Your Brain On Porn | Covenant Eyes | Covenant Eyes

Escaping pornography | The Briefing

Backward Porn Addiction: when women draw attention to themselves | Rick Thomas

When Does Viewing Porn Disqualify a Church Leader for Ministry? | Covenant Eyes

Closing the Window | Challies Dot Com

Confessing Lust to Your Wife: How Detailed Should You Be? | Covenant Eyes

ANTHEM: Strategies for Fighting Lust – Desiring God

Piper, Keller & Carson on How the Gospel Helps Us Overcome Pornography – From Age to Age

Spiritual Healing in the Midst of a Husband’s Addiction to Pornography | Challies Dot Com

For Pastors Who Struggle with Pornography | Covenant Eyes

This Is Your Brain on Porn – Justin Taylor

Pornography and Gypsy Moths – Pure Church by Thabiti Anyabwile

The Weight of smut | First Things

Counting the costs | Warren Cole Smith

Girls Snared by Porn and Cybersex

Breaking Pornography Addiction – Part 1 | CCEFIt’s Not Just a ‘Guy Problem’

Break Pornography Addiction – Part Two | CCEF

The Brain on Lust 

Forgiving Your Spouse After Adultery

Sexual Sin in the Ministry

Counseling Stories

Two Time Tables of an Affair

A Wife’s Shame [Q&A]

Confessing Lust to Your Wife: How Detailed Should You Be?

Hijacking the Brain — How Pornography Works

Breaking Pornography Addiction – Part 1

Discussing and Dealing with Pornography

Sexual Integrity Resources for Teens

Sex Before Marriage: How Far Is Too Far?

© David Murray for HeadHeartHand Blog, 2013. | Permalink

07 May 00:33


by 爱看编辑






约翰·派博(John Piper)


美国明尼苏达州明尼阿波利斯城的伯利恒浸信会主任牧师约翰·派博是改革宗的背景,今年3月底刚从教会退休。透过他“渴慕神”(Desiring God)福音机构历年所发行的讲章、视频和书籍,他对福音派的影响巨大。
































此外,明尼阿波利斯城另外一位著名的牧师,里实·安德逊牧师(Leith Anderson)不约而同地也采取了与派博同样的立场。安德逊是“国家福音派协会”(National Association of Evangelicals, NAE)的主席,NAE是美国福音派最大的组织。


提姆·凯勒牧师(Tim Keller)




今年3月底,正当同性婚姻的辩论在联邦最高法院展开的时候,凯勒牧师正好在一个保守的论坛EPPC(Ethics and Public Policy Center),向着一批记者讲话。无可避免地,他被问到同性婚姻的问题。凯勒牧师承认,公共意见转变迅速,同性婚姻合法化已是迟早的事。


不过,凯勒牧师认为,因为圣经明显的教训,基督徒,包括年轻基督徒的观点不会很快改变,至少不会在未来20年,甚至50年内改变。然而,有些基督徒虽然认为同性恋行为是个罪,但是,他们支持同性婚姻合法化。他举出重洗派的传统为代表,或是象杜克大学的神学教授与著名的公共知识分子斯坦利·豪尔瓦斯(Stanley Hauerwas)。他们的想法是:如果你要把这个世界变得更象教会,结果却是教会变得更象世界。我想,豪尔瓦斯的意思不是要基督徒在道德上退却,而是因为相对地“保持纯度”,基督徒的次文化会更加衬托得鲜明。

















07 May 00:31

Love is a Beautiful Way to Live…and Die

by ReKnew


 Hartwig HKD via Compfight

Richard Beck posted a reflection this last week called Love is the Allocation of Our Living and Dying. Greg has a regular practice of imagining his own death in order to live rightly while he’s alive. In this reflection, Richard discusses the idea of “giving our lives away” and what that really means.

From Richard’s blog:

Life is a finite resource always slipping away. Every minute that passes is a passing of life, a movement toward death. Every moment we are being expended and used up.

But we have some choices in how we are expended. We can allocate our dying. We can specify the times and places of our dying.

My point here is that, because life is a finite resource, giving ourselves to others is a very real sort of sacrifice. It’s not suicidal or dysfunctional, but it is sort of martyrological in that I am literally dying the minutes I spend with you. To be with you–to love you–is to die a little bit. A sacrificial giving of my life to you.

07 May 00:29

Why I would fail Michael and Debi Pearl’s parenting class

by Morgan Guyton

I read a very disturbing post on Patheos by a woman named Libby Anne who grew up with parents who were influenced by the parenting philosophy of Michael and Debi Pearl. The Pearls are very popular in the homeschooling world; they could be described as an extreme version of Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson. The idea is that your most important task as a parent is to break the will of your child so that they will be obedient. My four-year old Isaiah is a very strong-willed child, and I often let him get his way, so I would fail Michael and Debi Pearl’s parenting class if I were taking it.

I. Hope’s story

Libby Anne shares the following passage from Michael Pearl’s To Train Up a Child which represents his core assumption about how parenting is supposed to work:

Be Assured of Two Things

First, almost every small child will have at least one time in his life when he will rebel against authority and attempt to take hold of the reins…. This act of stubbornness is profound—amazing—a wonder that one so young could be so dedicated and persevering in rebellion. It is the kind of determination you would expect to find in a hardened revolutionary facing enemy indoctrination classes. Parents who are trained to expect it, and are prepared to persevere, will still be awed at the strength of the small child’s will.

Second, if you are consistent in training, this attempt at total dominance will come only once in a child’s life, usually around two years old. If you win the confrontation, the child wins the game of character development. If you weaken and allow the child to dominate, the child loses everything but his will to dominate. You must persevere for the sake of the child. His will to dominate must be dominated by the rule of law (that’s you.)

Based on this assumption about what parents are supposed to do with stubborn children, Libby Anne’s parents got into a standoff with her little sister Hope when she was 18 months old. Hope had just learned how to say “peez” before getting a bite of food, so her parents wanted to train her in this basic foundation of table etiquette by prompting her to say “peez” each time they fed her.

Well one night, she refused to say it, and her parents said uh oh, this is the decisive moment when we’re supposed to break her will, so they didn’t give her any food that night. Later when her mother prepared a bottle of milk for her for bedtime, she asked Hope to say “peez” but she wouldn’t do it. So she didn’t give her the milk. The next day, there was no “peez” either so Hope’s older siblings were panicked. They tried really hard to get her to say it. Finally she said something like “peez” that night so she got a six ounce bottle of milk. The next day, there was no “peez” either which meant no food or drink. Libby Anne shares:

By this time, my parents were becoming extremely concerned about the situation. In some sense, they were stuck. They believed, based on the Pearls, that if they gave in and gave Hope food or a bottle they would be allowing her to conquer them—they would be submitting their will to hers rather than the other way around. The Pearls teach that even giving in once—just once—will set back everything that had been gained and even threaten to ruin the child forever.

That night, Libby Anne’s mother had a dream that Hope had died. She decided the dream was from God, so she gave her daughter food and drink and the story had a somewhat happy ending. They kept on parenting with the same philosophy of dominating the child’s will, but they never again did anything that threatened the physical health of their children.

II. Isaiah the emperor of the universe

My four year old son Isaiah is the emperor of the universe. His need to control what other people do is at a much higher level than other kids his age. It’s genuinely pathological, perhaps some variation of OCD. He breaks into tears if I drive the “wrong” route home from his occupational therapy appointment.

We have a very specific and exhausting bedtime routine that includes a piggy back ride through at least three rooms in the house and then throwing his blankets on top of him one by one so that they cover his face. He keeps on trying to add elements to the bedtime routine like pretending he’s a rock under his blankets that I accidentally trip over because I did it once and he thought it was hilarious, so now it has to happen every freaking night.

He is also an extremely picky eater. If we tell him something is for dinner that he doesn’t like (i.e. everything except cheese and peanut butter), he says, “I don’t want dessert,” because he knows that he won’t get dessert without dinner.

We have tried with varying degrees of effort over the past couple of years to set good boundaries for him. He and I had a battle of wills over chicken nuggets about a year ago. It had nothing to do with whether he said please or not. I’d just had enough of him only eating cheese and peanut butter so I decided that the chicken nuggets he didn’t eat for dinner would be his only option for breakfast, lunch, and dinner the next day. They got pretty nasty after a while. I can’t remember who won the battle. I had a running commentary on Facebook.

Lately, I’ve been lazy. When I have to be in charge of dinner, I just give him what he wants pretty much. When he said he didn’t want dessert because we were having chicken on Monday night, I didn’t want him to be hungry so I told him I would give him a peanut butter or cheese sandwich but he still wasn’t going to get dessert since he didn’t eat what was offered. He said he wanted both peanut butter and cheese on the sandwich at the same time, and furthermore, he wanted chocolate peanut butter. I guess I shouldn’t admit that I agreed to that; I’m not sure why I did. He got it all over himself, but at least he was eating outside.

On Tuesday nights, we take my older son Matthew to gymnastics. It’s become a ritual to run holding hands back and forth across a metal sheet that’s about 30 yards long. Well, it started raining so I dropped Matthew off at the door and went to park the car. Of course Isaiah didn’t care that it was raining. He wanted to run on the “bwidge.” I’ve always been somebody who thinks that umbrellas are silly because a light rain is actually somewhat pleasant, so I ran on the “bwidge” with him.

When Matthew was done, we came outside and it was raining even harder. Again, no raincoats or umbrellas. My car was parked a lot closer to us than the “bwidge” was. For a second, I thought about doing the reasonable thing, but both Matthew and Isaiah hollered, so we went and ran on the “bwidge” anyway and got pretty wet as a result. And yet when they wanted me to drive over to the train station and park for ten minutes to wait for the train to go past, I put my foot down and they only whined for a minute or two about it. I think what I’ve decided is that I’ll accommodate my emperor son’s wishes as long as it’s something I enjoy doing anyway.

This past December, I felt differently. I was tired of Isaiah being bossy, so after we went on the Santa train and he wanted to climb around on one of the cabooses by the train station, I said, “No! We’re leaving!” not because we didn’t have time or I didn’t want to, but simply because I wanted to force him to learn how to cope with not getting his way, He cried for 20 minutes. I felt terrible. I even drove by the caboose to see it as a consolation but there was no consoling him.

It didn’t work for me as a daddy to contradict him for the sole purpose of breaking his will when there wasn’t any reason other than that to refuse his request. So I decided from then on that I would honor his requests to do things like drive on the roller coaster road, go through the tunnel (the bank drive-thru), etc. as long as they weren’t a major inconvenience to me or create socially awkward situations.

III. What’s the difference?

I think what creates the fundamental difference I have with James Dobson, the Pearls, and other conservative evangelical homeschooling world parenting gurus (bracketing aside the question of corporal punishment) is that obedience is not my only goal in parenting and rebellion is not the only paradigm for which I understand the nature of my child. I believe that children have a worshipful nature that adults have lost partly because we’re overly obedient to a ton of different social influences and expectations that have evaporated our spirit.

Obedience isn’t my goal for my sons. It’s inspiration, which is a different way of framing obedience. Inspiration means literally to be “breathed into.” To be inspired by God means you have to listen for God and be willing to do what You hear Him say, so it really is obedience, but it’s submission to a God who speaks in a still small voice and allowed Himself to be represented by a Son who submitted to our sin on the cross. That’s different than wilting under the fierce totalitarianism of a father who wants to be known for laying down the law above else.

I want my sons to worship God so organically that their lives look like Jesus’ depiction of inspired life in John 3:8: “The windblows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

This is not to say that I want them to be self-indulgent. That’s a very shallow, unimaginative way of living. I just don’t want them to deny themselves on account of feeling like they’re supposed to prove to a cruel slave-master Father that they put Him first, because that’s what makes people into bitter Pharisees like the older brother of the prodigal son (Luke 15:29). I want my sons to choose the rich beautiful mystery of letting God breathe His vision into their lives because they are inspired by the beauty of God’s kingdom.

My hope is that running across the “bwidge” in the rain with them now will lay the groundwork for a relationship of trust in the many kingdom-seeking adventures we will have together in the future. I do need to set better boundaries for my sons when my laziness is what’s getting in the way as opposed to a genuine open-mindedness. But I’ve decided I really am okay with being a reject as a parent according to the approach of Michael and Debi Pearl.

Filed under: Church Culture, General Topics
07 May 00:28

The Sex Lives of Unmarried Evangelicals (infographic)

by Marc Cortez

Yet another reason to read statistics cautiously and skeptically.

premarital sex evangelicalism

via Christianity Today

The post The Sex Lives of Unmarried Evangelicals (infographic) appeared first on Everyday Theology.

07 May 00:28

The ‘Common Life’: Five Reasons Why and How Theological Controversy Can Be Edifying

by Bobby Grow


I have had a long and varied blogging career (since 2005, so relatively speaking), and in that career lots of life has happened. One part of that happening has been continued theological development, hopefully toward the unity of faith that has already found its terminus in Christ’s unity for us with the Father by the Spirit. Some of you have been with me for my entire blogging career (almost), and others started with me mid-career, while others of you are just new comers. Much of my career has been characterized by polemical speech. In the beginning of my career, being new to the online world, I was more intrigued than anything else; and the sense of anonymity coupled with being too close to the halls of Bible College and Seminary dorm life, fused together in a way that found ultimate expression in online debates about minutiae that might only be characterized by Fundamentalist idiosyncrasy, and zeal. This zeal, though, I can honestly say, was not born out of a vindictive heart, or a desire to show people that I was smarter than them, or better at rhetorical wit (well, maybe sometimes it could be so reduced!); but really, I have always had a passion for the truth of the Gospel and the edification of the body of Christ. My zeal for the Gospel, in its best moments could be stated this way and for this end:  ”Zeal is public passion for gospel truth; without it the church drifts into indifference, weariness or irony of the late career religious professional.” [John Webster, The Domain of the Word, 167.] I don’t ever want to experience this kind of drift, but a growing in zeal with knowledge. And I would like to believe that most of my blogging career has been characterized not by wandering polemic aiming at a bunch of moving targets; but a ‘zeal’ and ‘public passion for gospel truth’!

In this spirit, John Webster offers five reasons wherein theological controversy can be fruitful and edifying. I was contemplating only emphasizing the last thesis statement by Webster, but I think I will give it a go, and transcribe all five reasons; because, well, they are that good! I will offer each thesis, and then provide a summary/response at the end.

[F]irst, and most generally, theological controversy must be an exercise within the communio sanctorum. Those who contend are saints, not mere ‘civil neighbours’. They are bound together by bonds beyond the natural, together placed in the tranquil realm of reconciliation. It is as reconciled and sanctified persons that they engage in controversy; reconciled and sanctified controversy is a very different exercise from its unregenerate counterpart. Moreover, the end of controversy is the furtherance of communion, not its erosion. Righteous conduct in theological controversy requires charity, and therefore resists the flight from society which contests commonly precipitate.

Second, theological controversy must be undertaken in a way which displays and magnifies the truth of the gospel whose author and content in is peace. This principle brings with it a remarkably demanding ascetical requirement: controversy will only serve peace in the church if it has an external orientation, if it is a movement in response to an object beyond the contending parties. Without this reference to the object – an object, we should remember, which is primarily and antecedently a divine subject, living, personally, active communicative and directive – controversy will simply reinforce discord by embedding in the public life of the church the self-absorption of sensuous minds which, the apostle tells us, do not ‘hold fast to the Head’ (Col. 2.19). may controversy be conducted without self-conceit, mutual provocation and envy (Gal. 5.25), and assist in the uniting of the hearts and minds of the saints in a common object of delight.

Third, theological controversy must not allow divergence of opinion to become divergence of will otherwise it will fail as an exercise of charity. ‘Concord is a union of will, not of opinions’. In many cases, however, we allow divergence of opinion to become inflamed, and so to erode concord, failing to rest content with the fact that those from whom we diverge in opinion may be at one with us in a commonly cherished good. There are, of course, conflicts which are generated from fundamental divergences about the gospel, and which cannot be contained within concord, there being no common object of love. But these are not conflicts within the church so much as about the church. In such cases concord must wait for conversion to the truth.

Fourth, theological controversy must have an eye to the catholicity of the object of Christian faith and confession, an object which exceeds any specification of it which we may make. The object which constitutes the peace of the church and which is the substance of common Christian love is infinite and inexhaustible. This does not give licence to any representation which may court our favour – the object of common love is this one, not a formless reality. Yet, of all possible objects of love, this one is not such that we can ever end our dealings with him, determine him in such a way that we put ourselves beyond learning from our companions. Controversy turns into conflict when opinions become weapons of the will, that is, when some one reading of the gospel becomes that to which others must conform even at cost to that friendly concord in which ‘the hearts of many are joined into one focal point’.

Fifth, and most of all, theological controversy must be undertaken with tranquil confidence that, with the illuminating power of the Spirit, Jesus Christ will instruct and unify the church through Holy Scripture. Properly conducted, theological controversy is an exercise in reading the Bible in common with the calm expectation of discovering again what makes up peace and builds up our common life. We often talk ourselves into (or perhaps allow ourselves to be talked into) a kind of barren naturalism according to which appeals to Scripture founder on irresolvable exegetical and hermeneutical conflict. Once confidence in the power of Scripture to determine matters in the church is lost, the politics of the saints quickly slides into agonistic practices in which we expect no divine comfort or direction. This is not a new experience in the history of the church; it has afflicted Western Protestants since at least the early seventeenth century – John Owen, in a melachonly aside, lamented that ‘men do hardly believe that there is an efficacy and power accompanying the institutions of Christ’. The only corrective to loss of trust is recovery of trust. Because there are divine institutions, because there are prophets and apostles in service to the prophetic presence of Christ, we are not devoid of divine assistance and we may be confident that exegesis, rightly and spiritually ventured, will not exacerbate conflict but draw its sting, and guide our feet into the way of peace.[1]

All of these are good (even excellent, at points!). But let me close by focusing on the fifth point. This is one that I have struggled with over the years, and what Christian Smith has called the problem of Pervasive Interpretive Pluralism; the idea that we all have our own kind of Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. And given this reality, coupled with the ‘Reformed’ Priesthood of All Believers, it becomes almost terminally difficult to come to any commonly held interpretive conclusions around the text of Scripture. And so in argument, among ourselves (per some of the dictates highlighted by Webster), we all appeal to Scripture, but we proof text right past each other. I have often argued in the past that we need to become aware of the theology that we are committed to prior to using Scripture to challenge each other’s conclusions; but what I have fallen prey to, is what Webster cautions us to. That is, a sequestering of the text of Scripture by theological concerns, such that Scripture no longer really has any kind of norming norming effect or centrality of place in our theological discussions. Scripture becomes a relic and trophy of our  heritage, but not the place where the Lordly Word can accost us in such a way that it can strip all of us bare and level us out in a way where we all are kneeling together at the foot of the cross, which is the preamble and shape of the throne at the right hand of the Father. So I am convicted by Webster’s last point! And the rest too …

[1] John Webster, The Domain of the Word:Scripture and Theological Reason, (London: T&T Clark, 2012), 169-70.

07 May 00:27

Reflections on a Year without the Internet

When tech writer Paul Miller decided to go a year without the Internet, he had grand ambitions of exploring the freedoms that an analogue life could offer. And at first, things started off great. He read more, got in shape, visited with family and even wrote half of a novel. But months into the experiment, things started to change: He became lonely, isolated and lost motivation to explore his offline “freedom.” In the end, he came away with this revelation: “… the Internet isn't an individual pursuit, it's something we do with each other. The Internet is where people are.”

The full essay is a really interesting piece about the role technology plays in community, how relationships develop in the digital age and the positive side of being online with the rest of the world …

07 May 00:27

Why Don't Christians Play Nice?

by tylerbraun
On learning to put our will to be "right" second to our call to love.

Several years ago, I got into a debate with a close friend and the conversation went quickly south. What began as a discussion about our theological and political differences ended up in a shouting match in which each person's character was called into question.

07 May 00:26

The incomplete jigsaw puzzle of Biblical interpretation (Christian Smith)

by Morgan Guyton

The 2nd century Gnostic heretics were very good at constructing airtight, scripture-based arguments for their beliefs. In response to this, church father Ireneaus wrote that the verses in the Bible are like a mosaic of painted tiles that can be arranged in any order. He said that the same set of tiles that ordered correctly create the mosaic of a beautiful lamb had been reordered by the Gnostics to make a fox. This is a very important point about the problem of proof-texting Bible verses out of context and the naivete of assuming that we can or should give perfectly equally weight to each verse. In Christian Smith’s book The Bible Made Impossible, he takes this metaphor a step further.

The Bible functions something like… a particular, enormous jigsaw puzzle with a huge number of pieces… This is a very unusual puzzle… Different pieces can be fit together in different ways to form distinctly different pictures. Nearly all of them are portraits of people. One is of a scowling old man, another of a sweet young girl, yet another a pregnant woman, and still a fourth is a tired-looking police officer…

The puzzlers discover that many of the pieces that make one portrait can be rearranged differently, with some pieces removed and others added, to make other portraits. Not only that, but in any given picture, enough of the pieces fit together to fill in most of the image, but not all of it. Every picture, no matter how well it is put together, still has some missing puzzle pieces. [45-46]

I think this is a very helpful metaphor for describing the inherent nature of interpreting any text. It’s important to name what he’s saying and what he isn’t saying. It isn’t that the Bible is somehow “incomplete.” It’s simply that the Bible is irreducibly multivocal: “it can and does speak to different listeners in different voices that appear to say different things” (47). We should not have the goal of coming to agreement on what each and every part of the Bible says because it’s impossible to do so. It’s impossible for us to read the Bible without giving one part of it more weight than other parts.

Because of who we are and how God has shaped us, one verse is going to speak to us more than another. The verse that resonates with us will not only be more important than the one that doesn’t, but we will, without realizing, interpret the verse that doesn’t resonate through the one that does. Well, because verse A says X, then verse B can’t mean Y even though Y is what it says at face value.

Here’s an example. If we cannot be justified before God by anything other than faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23-24), then we cannot take at face value what Peter says to Cornelius in Acts 10:34-35: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” I had to coach a scandalized John Piper disciple through preaching this passage once.

If your whole world comes crashing down without the Four Spiritual Laws which are based upon elevating Romans 3:23-24 over every other Biblical text, then you have to say either Peter didn’t really mean what he appears to say or maybe he didn’t fully understand the gospel at that point, but Cornelius accepted Christ anyway, so it was all good. It’s much harder to admit that parts of the Bible defy our attempts to systematize it exhaustively, and perhaps God did this to deter hubristic theologians from trying to do so.

For much of American evangelical Christianity, following the lead of the Protestant Reformers, all of scripture is interpreted on the basis of the book of Romans which is the canon within the canon and Romans 3:23-24 which is the uber-canon of the canon. But as many evangelicals in recent years have protested, this leaves us with an impoverished view of the gospels and the kingdom of God which they emphasize a lot more than the gospel of justification by faith, which by itself turns into an anthropocentric, consumeristic “personal afterlife insurance” gospel.

So one portrait of the Bible is the Romans Road portrait that creates the individualist consumerist account of salvation that works so effectively in our capitalist society. Another portrait could be based on giving more weight to the direct quotes from Jesus, the “red letters.” Other portraits might emphasize the Hebrews epistle or the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament. But none of these portraits representing different interpretative possibilities can ever do absolute justice to the text.

We will always be missing puzzle pieces, not because anything is missing from the Bible, but because any attempt to say it’s “all about” love or holiness or even holy love is always going to be met with a few verses that completely contradict whatever we’re saying the whole thing is about and we can either ignore those verses or admit that our solution to the jigsaw puzzle is imperfect. By all means, we should keep on trying to solve the jigsaw puzzle. Honestly, I think it should be a comfort to us that we will never have a perfect fit. It’s a game that thankfully lasts forever. Because what would we do after we finished if we ever did?

Filed under: Bible, General Topics
07 May 00:23

The Single Hardest Question You’ll Ever Ask As A Christian

by Margaret

The Single Hardest Question You’ll Ever Ask As A Christian

What is the single hardest question you’ll ever ask as a Christian? [Tweet this]

I believe it’s a question posed through a new study by the Barna Group in conjunction with John Burke, author of Mud and the Masterpiece. Through a series of pointed questions, they examine how well Christians seem to emulate the attitudes and actions of Jesus. Their study boils down to one tough question:

Are you more like Jesus or more like the Pharisees? [Tweet this]

Most of us wants to throw up our hand, “I’m more like Jesus!”

But David Kinnaman  and the team behind Barna’s study found that more often than not, our responses resemble those of the ancient religious zealots rather than Christ.

In their study, the Barna team developed 10 statements that represented the attitudes and actions of Christ such as:

-I see God-given value in every person, regardless of their past or present condition.

-I see God working in people’s lives, even when they are not following him.

-I am personally spending time with non-believers to help them follow Jesus.

-I regularly choose to have meals with people with very different faith or morals from me.

Then the team developed 10 statements that represented attitudes and actions of the self-righteous or Pharisees such as:

-It’s not my responsibility to help people who won’t help themselves.

-I believe we should stand against those who are opposed to Christian values.

-I try to avoid spending time with people who are openly gay or lesbian.

-I like to point out those people who do not have the right theology or doctrine.

The finding revealed 51 percent self-identified Christians in the U.S. are characterized by having the actions and attitudes of those identified as the Pharisees.

The study is well worth reading. Click here for the full report.

But the study pierced my own heart, forcing me to ask one of the toughest questions we ever have to ask ourselves, In what areas of my life am I more like the Pharisees than Jesus? [Tweet this]

The Single Hardest Question You’ll Ever Ask As A Christian

I thought of people I’d withdrawn from, refused to get involved, refused to help. I thought of attitudes of arrogance, pride, being judgmental, and hypocrisy that so easily slip in. I realized that once again I needed to ask for forgiveness and a change of heart.

My prayer is so simple: Help expose those areas of self-righteousness. Jesus, make me more like you.

Will you join me in asking God a tough question today:

Where have you allowed yourself to become more like the Pharisees than Jesus?

The post The Single Hardest Question You’ll Ever Ask As A Christian appeared first on Margaret Feinberg.

07 May 00:23

Center and Heart of Orthodoxy

by Fr. Milovan Katanic
“Among Orthodox believers we do not observe primarily a docile submission to the Church’s hierarchy, nor a tendency to make an assiduous study of the word of God. The distinctive characteristic of Orthodoxy is to be found in an ardent … Continue reading →
07 May 00:22

Worldviewism and the nature of truth

by Morgan Guyton

I had an outbreak of worldviewism today on my Facebook page today after I shared my post on privilege and Biblical interpretation. Worldviewism is a school of thought within the evangelical world, particularly among the homeschoolers and tribulation preppers, that divides the world into thought-systems (there are often said to be four) which are completely self-enclosed, disconnected, and incompatible with one another. Your task as a Christian is to make sure that your Christian worldview hasn’t been infiltrated by traces of other ones (except for capitalism which isn’t one of the other three worldviews since capitalism is just the way God created the world to work ;-) ).

So this is the comment that got tossed in my face from a guy whom I’d never met before.

We ought to realize that “privilege” and feminist concerns as concepts are foreign to the biblical text and echoes a more Marxist view than some might like to admit. Liberation theology runs deep in certain Catholic circles, especially when it’s bolstered by the unquestioned assumption of Christ’s and the Holy Spirit’s appearing at Mass in a way his original followers could never have imagined. All this comes from without rather than from within the text of Scripture and so those of us not so concerned with these things must be ready to question their inherently foreign nature when it comes to the God-breathed Word. For those who can’t help themselves, we should be listening when God speaks instead of trying to formulate our understanding of his word within the present matrix previous ideological commitments make clear. Maybe it’s time to drop some of your long-held beliefs and take God’s Word for what it actually says rather than what you’d like it to say.

Admittedly, I didn’t respond in a very Christian way to this. I ended up having to block the guy because he was bringing out the Satan in me. But I’m not sure you can expect to get a charitable response when you open with something like that. That last sentence really made my blood boil: “Maybe it’s time to drop some of your long-held beliefs and take God’s Word for what it actually says rather than what you’d like it to say.”

If you’ve been reading me long, you know how hard I’ve resisted the temptation to drop-kick verses out of the Bible that I didn’t like and you’ve seen the fruit of the wrestling that I did with things like wrath, the fear of the Lord, the blood of Jesus, predestination, etc. I’ve simply read the Daily Office; I didn’t handpick the verses that I read. Each day that I’ve actually read it (it’s not daily), God has been faithful in giving me what He wanted to show me. “What you’d like it to say.” Wow.

So examining my privilege is a concern that’s “foreign to the Biblical text?” And trying to be introspective about my obliviousness to what other categories of people experience makes me a Marxist? I thought it was just part of the process of learning how to speak the truth in love to other people (Ephesians 4:15). I thought it was part of learning how to be a servant to all (Mark 10:44). I thought it was part of cultivating love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

The irony is that being introspective about your privilege, bias, worldview, or whatever you want to call it is precisely what worldviewism purports to be about (though I’ve only seen it deployed as a red herring tactic to torpedo other peoples’ arguments). It’s actually a populist bastardization of postmodern deconstructionism if you think about it. The idea of trying to comb through another person’s arguments for evidence of unacknowledged motives or agendas is what deconstruction is, whether you’re looking for “Marxist secular humanism” or looking for privilege. So worldviewism itself is already “corrupted” by postmodernism and self-invalidated according to its own impossible rubric.

The reason that I don’t fall over when somebody tries to throw out the “Marx” bogeyman on me is because I believe that all truth belongs to God. Atheists can know truth. Buddhists can know truth. I just believe the Christian story is the truest representation of reality. But it’s certainly not the case that everything outside of Christianity is utterly bereft of truth. And whatever truths Marx or anyone else has discovered are just remixes of truths that have been revealed before using different language and slightly different paradigms, some of which are canonically bound inside of scripture.

Marx has helpful insights to offer about the way that capitalism sucks the intrinsic value out of life by making the exchange of value the central activity in the universe, which causes us to look at the world as a marketplace of commodities rather than a garden of God’s gifts (or see the church as a conversion-experience producing enterprise rather than a kingdom of disciples).

Marx completely misunderstood religion because he’s a materialist, the tragedy being that sacraments are the only real resistance to the monstrous force that is turning everything in our world into commodities. Without any concept of transcendence, there is no escape from the hegemony of the market. The only effective antidote to capitalism is not communism but fully sacramental, kingdom-based Christianity (as opposed to the fake religion of suburbianity that goes by the name “Christian” throughout America).

I didn’t need to read Marx to know that. I only needed to read Augustine. Marx did give me more precise language by providing the term commodity. Augustine would have just talked about the ways of the city of man. Of course, Augustine needed a little Platonism to understand how to explain what it means that “in [Christ] all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16), using the eternal/temporal duality to explain the sacramental infusion of Creator in creation.

Throughout Christian history, God has used non-Christian resources to help Christians gain a better grasp of our canonical truths. In some cases, this has gone poorly. The Platonism really did major damage to the Christian theology of the body. But none of us can retreat to some solipsistic Cartesian study in which to read our Bibles; we will always bring our context with us.

Recently, I read James K.A. Smith’s The Fall of Interpretation which critiques the modernist quest for an unmediated encounter with truth, or as our friend put it: “what [truth] actually says rather than what you’d like it to say.” Smith’s point is that we are always already in a mediated context when interacting with any kind of text. There is no vantage point that provides a univocal “what the text actually says” because the text always says what it says to people in a context.

One of the main projects of modernity has been to pretend that white people don’t have a context. We don’t have cultural biases like those people with ethnicity and customs and traditions do. We are simply rational. The reason that I talk about privilege is not because I secretly want to overthrow the US government and establish a communist dictatorship. It’s because I want to be cognizant of the ways that I’m making truth “what I’d like it to be” even though it’s impossible to purge them completely out of my system.

People who try to squelch any analysis of their privilege in Biblical interpretation reveal an anxiety that they will be caught claiming to “take God’s word for what it actually says” when in fact their privilege causes them to selectively hear “what they want it to say.” Hey just skip over that Matthew 25 chapter if you don’t like “liberation theology.” Be sure not to read about the Good Samaritan. Liberation theologian Jon Sobrino spent his whole book El Principio Misericordia meditating on the implications of that story. And be sure to cross Matthew 9:13 out of your Bible, because it’s dangerous to tell people to “go and find out what this means: ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.’” That’s what ruined my life.

Filed under: Church Culture, General Topics, Theology
07 May 00:21

Basically Good or Basically Bad?

by (perfectnumber628)
"People are basically good."

Most of the times I've heard that statement, it was presented as a commonly-held idea that must be refuted while sharing the gospel. The Christian would ask, "If you died today, would you go to heaven?" and the non-Christian would say, "I'm a good person, so... I guess I would" or "people are basically good" or something like that.

And then the correct Christian response is to say no no, people are not basically good, not by God's standard. Here, look what it says in Romans 3:23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And here in Psalm 53:3, "Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one."

Basically, the message is, "No matter who you are or what you've done, you're a failure and a bad person and you deserve nothing good- you deserve hell. But Jesus can get you out of that so better sign up with him."

And yes, the message typically comes with some more positive statements about God's love and having one's life transformed- but so much emphasis is on SIN and how we must be on guard against this fallacy of "being a good person." No one is good. The bible says so.


It's not true. It's just not. It's not true that SIN is the defining characteristic of any random stranger you meet, it's not true that SIN is all we need to know about human nature.

Because reality. Because I know a lot of genuinely kind and good people who really love helping others and want to make the world a better place, even if it's not easy. Some of these people are Christians, some are not.

How do you explain that, if people are basically bad?

Image source.
Let's go back to the bible and start at the very beginning. Genesis 1:27 says, "So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." And then in verse 31, "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."

The image of God. And it was very good.

But then in chapter 3, there's sin and the fall and the curse. So humans are basically good, created in the image of God. But humans are also basically bad, with a sinful nature.

Basically good. People have a natural capacity for love and empathy and compassion. A conscience and a general understanding of right and wrong (though we may disagree on some details). Many many people work so hard to help others. And also, people are pretty freaking awesome! Intelligent, creative, fun. Humanity is so good!

Basically bad. People have a natural tendency towards selfishness. Taking advantage of others. Judging and rejecting others. Pride, hatred, anger. The world has so much violence and injustice. Humanity is so bad.

So are people basically good or basically bad? Well, both. And I'm very suspicious of any philosophy that emphasizes one over the other. It's both. We have so much capacity to do good, and we have so much capacity to do evil.

And one more thing I'll say about some Christians' over-emphasis on sin: They are making the point that we cannot earn God's love through our actions. Yes, I agree with that. We do not earn God's love through what we do. We already have God's love through who we are.

Are people sinners? Yes. But far more important is God's love. God does NOT believe we are worthless because of sin, deserving of nothing good. No, God loves us and valued humanity enough to send Jesus, God in human form, to live with us and die and then rise again, can I get an amen?

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) Love. God so loved the world.

We bear God's image, and we are loved and valuable.


This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 53. To read other people's posts, click here: Reading from a Place of Privilege.
07 May 00:20

The Science Of Internet Porn - What Happens To The Brain & The Body

by (Marcel)
Something everyone should watch.

WARNING - Not for the lighthearted! Sex is treated flippantly in parts of the presentation. Nor is it for those that don't want to be shocked by the facts.

Here are some startling statistics compiled from a variety of academic and popular sources. I am sure you have heard how much money porn makes, how much there is, etc. But, what many don't see as much is the impact porn is having on individuals and society.

Here are some stats I have found (links give sources).

*Porn is more addictive than cocaine or heroin.

*it isn't as widely accepted as some might make you think.
  • 76% of U.S. adults disagree that viewing hardcore adult pornography on the internet is morally acceptable;” 
  • 74% disagree that “viewing hardcore adult pornography on the Internet provides, generally, harmless entertainment;”
*According to a survey published in the Journal of the American Psychological Association, 86% of men are likely to click on Internet sex sites if given the opportunity.

*34% of female readers of Today's Christian Woman’s online newsletter admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn.

*According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, prolonged exposure to pornography leads to:
  • An exaggerated perception of sexual activity in society
  • Diminished trust between intimate couples
  • The abandonment of the hope of sexual monogamy
  • Belief that promiscuity is the natural state
  • Belief that abstinence and sexual inactivity are unhealthy
  • Cynicism about love or the need for affection between sexual partners
  • Belief that marriage is sexually confining
  • Lack of attraction to family and child-raising
*According to sociologist Jill Manning, the research indicates pornography consumption is associated with the following six trends, among others:
  • Increased marital distress, and risk of separation and divorce
  • Decreased marital intimacy and sexual satisfaction
  • Infidelity
  • Increased appetite for more graphic types of pornography and sexual activity associated with abusive, illegal or unsafe practices
  • Devaluation of monogamy, marriage and child rearing
  • An increasing number of people struggling with compulsive and addictive sexual behavior
*The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (divorce lawyers) reported that the most salient factors present in divorce cases are as follows:
  • 68% of the divorces involved one party meeting a new lover over the Internet.
  • 56% involved one party having “an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.”
  • 47% involved spending excessive time on the computer.
  • 33% involved excessive time spent speaking in chat rooms.
*According to research from Family Safe Media, the largest group of viewers of Internet porn is children between ages 12 and 17.

*According to a study cited in the Washington Post, more than 11 million teenagers view Internet pornography on a regular basis.

*When a child or adolescent is directly exposed to pornography the following effects have been documented:
  • Lasting negative or traumatic emotional responses.
  • Earlier onset of first sexual intercourse, thereby increasing the risk of STD’s over the lifespan.
  • The belief that superior sexual satisfaction is attainable without having affection for one’s partner, thereby reinforcing the commoditization of sex and the objectification of humans.
  • The belief that being married or having a family are unattractive prospects.
  • Increased risk for developing sexual compulsions and addictive behavior.
  • Increased risk of exposure to incorrect information about human sexuality long before a minor is able to contextualize this information in ways an adult brain could.
  • And overestimating the prevalence of less common practices (e.g., group sex, bestiality, or sadomasochistic activity).
*A study of youth between the ages of 10 and 17 concluded that there is a significant relationship between frequent porn use and feelings of loneliness and major depression.

*51% of male college students and 32% of female college students first viewed pornography before teenage years (12 and younger).


*In 1994, a survey showed 91% of men raised in Christian homes were exposed to pornography while growing up (compared to 98% of those not raised in a Christian home).

*In August 2006, a survey reported 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography. 60% of the women who answered the survey admitted to having significant struggles with lust; 40% admitted to being involved in sexual sin in the past year.


**What Is Wrong With Porn?
**Porn and Support for Same-Sex Marriage
**Pornography Research
**Porn is More Addictive Than Cocaine and Heroin
07 May 00:20

Top 10 Things I Love to Hear from Intellectually Honest, Humble Christians

by Carson T. Clark

*Adapted from a Facebook status update on 4-10-2013.

10. I meant well, but I’ve been wrong about that.

9. I’d like to offer a little good-natured push-back.

8. While I still disagree, I have a better sense of where you’re coming from.

7. I let my experiences and emotions get in the way of the facts. My bad.

6. Wasn’t aware of that (fact, logical fallacy, etc.) before. Thanks.

5. Huh. Hadn’t thought of that before. I’ll have to consider it.

4. I stand by the content of what I said, but the tone wasn’t gracious. Sorry.

3. I’m confused but don’t want to assume. Can you please clarify what you mean?

2. Yeah, my perspective probably could use a little more nuance.

1. I’ve been thinking about what you said…

07 May 00:19

Christian Skepticism

by ReKnew


 Beshef via Compfight

Christopher Hutton wrote a piece that was featured on the Christ and Pop Culture blog called Skepticism for Christianity: Why Doubt it Our Best Friend. Greg’s upcoming book Benefit of the Doubt deals with the topic of doubt extensively and we thought this was an interesting voice in the conversation.

From the blog:

Doubt is a thing which many Christians see as opposing their faith. Many have fought it and its prevalence in the modern minds of man. 19th century pastor Robert Turnbull once  stated that “Doubt, indeed, is the disease of this inquisitive, restless age.” Many people react negatively towards any feelings of doubt that they may have, fearing that this doubt means that they aren’t fully committed to God.

However, this fear of doubt is dreadfully dangerous. Not every man who doubts his faith loses it. And if they look at most human lives, they’ll find that if one doesn’t doubt, then one isn’t human. It is a necessary idea for any believer, for it acts as the catalyst and tool for a man or woman to grow. Timothy Keller explains the necessity of faith extremely well:

A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection. Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts—not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’.

07 May 00:19

How Not to Help Someone After a Breakup

by Sharon

Every now and then, God nudges my heart with a topic that I think someone out there needs to hear. Most recently, the topic is one I know quite a lot about: breakups. Although it’s been awhile since I was single, I had my fair share of breakups, and I remember them well. They were extremely hard, but I also learned a lot.

If you’ve never been through a breakup, you would probably be shocked at just how devastating they can be. Not all breakups are equally heartbreaking, but when a serious relationship ends–especially one that was either long-term or headed toward marriage–it can shatter you.

In many ways, a painful breakup is like a death. When a relationship ends, one witnesses the demise of a dream and a hoped for future.  Simultaneously, everything changes: the most significant person in your life is now gone, and your plans are completely upended. For some, the upheaval launches them into a season of depression, self-doubt, and deep-seated grief.

However, breakups don’t always receive the same attention and community care that other losses do. Granted, the loss of a breakup is qualitatively different from other losses, but the grief is still very real. Clichés and simplistic encouragements are no more comforting after a breakup than they are after any other deep loss.

On the heels of a breakup, my anguish was sometimes made worse by thoughtless or insensitive comments from friends. Which is why, looking back on it, I would offer the following advice to those of you who know someone going through a breakup:

1. Don’t rush the healing process–Although there comes a point after every breakup when it is time to move on, don’t rush the process. I never felt more isolated and alone than when my friends didn’t let me grieve. They wanted me to accept God’s plans and timing and get on with it. As a result, I felt ashamed and embarrassed about my feelings, which compounded my pain all the more.

2. Don’t pick sides–The friends of a broken-up couple should never be asked or expected to choose sides. Picking sides is unfair, it causes division, and the “picking” itself can be horribly misguided–unless you witnessed wrong-doing firsthand, you can never know whose side of the story is really true.

Picking sides also adds heartache to an already broken individual. Speaking from personal experience, the only thing worse than losing my boyfriend was losing all my closest girl friends too. I remember feeling lonely to the point of despair. In retrospect, I think some of my friends confused “supporting” and “siding.” I didn’t need them to be on my side, but I sure did need their support.

3. Don’t give easy answers–Breakups raise a lot of questions about ourselves, our futures, and even God. It takes time to work through those questions, and unfortunately cliché answers usually don’t help. It doesn’t help to hear, “You’ll meet someone better!” when you can’t even begin to think about dating again, or the only person you want to be with is your ex. And it doesn’t help to be told, “It just wasn’t God’s will” when you were SO SURE it was.

If you have a friend going through a breakup, treat them the way you would any grieving loved one: Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Make space for them to mourn. Call them. Sit with them. Check on them. Pray for them. Breakups are awful and hard, but having a caring community surround you in the process can make it just a little easier.

And if you are going through a breakup right now, my dear one, take heart! The pain you feel is real and serious, so don’t ever think you are weird or pathetic or weak for the depth of your sorrow. Know that you are not alone–so many of us have been there, or are there right now. But also know that it doesn’t feel like this forever. Little by little the pain will fade until, one day, amazingly, it will be gone.

Until then, spend time with people who love you. Read the Psalms. And don’t stop talking to God. When you’re in great pain it can be difficult to open your heart up, even to God. But He is there for you, He loves you, and He will resurrect your heart, and your dreams.



The post How Not to Help Someone After a Breakup appeared first on She Worships.

07 May 00:19

I Don’t Want to be a Good Christian Anymore

by Micah

Good Christian

God, sometimes I feel
like I’m not a good Christian in Your eyes, 
like You’re a Father disappointed in me,
frustrated, wishing I would do more, be more,
and I wonder are You proud of me?

Am I a good Christian?
Do I make You smile?

I don’t want to fail.
I don’t want to disappoint You.
and sometimes I feel like I’m
not as spiritual as I used to be.
I’m afraid that I’ll slip away from You,
slowly fade and become lost.

I don’t want this.

Can I stop trying to earn Your love?
Can I stop trying to be a good Christian?

-  from my journal, 2008


For years I tried.

I read through my Bible in a year more times than I can remember. (Once, I spent a New Year’s Eve party reading the entire book of Revelation, beating the deadline by thirty minutes.)

I memorized several books of the New Testament. I was an All-Star Bible Quizzer.

I attended Teen Camp, and went forward at nearly every invitation. Not to get saved (I had prayed that prayer when I was nine years old), but to rededicate my life to God, to repent of all my unconfessed sins, to dedicate my life to full-time Christian ministry.

I carried tracts with me and tried to get strangers saved – at parades, at picnics, at gas stations.

I spent three years in discipleship and ministry after high school. Reading the Bible. Searching for new insights. Memorizing verses. Claiming God’s promises. Trying to be on fire for the Lord.

I attempted to stifle the desires in my heart that competed with God for my affections. My aching for friends, for beaches and mountains, for music, for a girl by my side – I stuffed them inside, repented, tried to find my delight only in God.

I raised my hand when the preacher asked, “Who will commit to pray for an hour a day, every day for the rest of their life?” I raised my hand every time a preacher asked us to make a commitment, really. If there was a way to be a better Christian, I would do it. No matter the cost.

I wanted so desperately to please God.


It was summer, and we were on the tail end of a weekend camping trip. We chose Hardee’s, because where else can you get a 2/3-pound burger? I sat across the little table from my future father-in-law just a few months before the wedding. Over burgers and curly fries I told him all the worries and fears I carried in my heart.

“I feel like I’m not a very good Christian anymore”, I confessed.

I was in Bible College now, but constantly felt like I was disappointing God. It had been years since the last time I’d raised my hand and made a commitment to be a better Christian. I wasn’t on fire anymore, and it worried me.

“I’m not as spiritual as I used to be. I don’t read my Bible. I don’t pray as much as I should. I’m more worldly,” I told him.

He looked at me and shook his head.

 “You’re right, you have changed. You’re less judgmental now. More loving. Right now, you’re more like Jesus than you’ve ever been.”

I didn’t believe him.


There is no fear in love, but fear had wrapped itself around me like a chain. Whenever I paused to hear the voice of the Father, only condemnation echoed in my heart.

Am I good enough for You yet? 

The question tormented me. When I knelt to pray, what came out of my mouth was stammered apologies for my inconsistency. I nearly gave up on reading my Bible; all I could think about was all the days I hadn’t. All the days I had disappointed God.


I always thought it was the big moments that defined my faith – the altar calls, the church retreats, the commitments. The kind of thing you write in the back of your Bible to remember later on.

But it didn’t happen that way.

I couldn’t tell you the day I made that decision, when I gave up on being a “good Christian”.

The best way I can tell it to you is that I was drowning, desperately thrashing against the water and slowly falling limp.

I drifted lifeless. Then He saved me all over again, as if for the first time.


I don’t want to be a “good Christian” anymore.

The constant wondering if I’m good enough, the nagging fear that I’m not. The guilt. Those were miserable years.

But this, this is life!

I’ve given up on trying to please God, on being good enough for Him.

I’ve given up on earning His love, but it fills my heart anyway.

This is freedom.

Now I’m falling, over and over again, into love that will not let me go.

I can feel the Father’s smile, and I’m smiling too.

[ Image: ]

07 May 00:18

Matt Emerson outlines methods for interpreting Scripture

by Brian LePort
Matt Emerson

Matt Emerson

Matt Emerson of Cal Baptist University has been writing a series of posts discussing various theological methods used by Christians when interpreting Scripture. He provides quick and readable summaries of the following:

- Method (Intro)

- Christocentric Method

- Pneumatological Method

- Canonical Method

- Narrative Method

Go on over to his blog to read the posts and interact.

Filed under: Hermeneutics, Matt Emerson, Other Blogs/ Resources
07 May 00:18

How influential are Michael and Debi Pearl? And how harmful?

by Jonathan Merritt
Michael and Debi Pearl may not be as influential as some presume, but their teachings are still dangerous and deplorable.

Michael and Debi Pearl of “No Greater Joy Ministries” may not be as influential among Christians as some presume, but their teachings are still dangerous and deplorable.

In Kathryn Joyce’s Mother Jones article published last week, she offered a series of stories that she believes prove evangelical Christians have “orphan fever.” That is to say, a contagious illness is infecting American churches that is harming children by placing orphans in abusive Christian homes so they can be proselytized.

In my response to her article, I did not deny that her stories and examples were truthful or accurately reported. From all I can tell, Joyce is a solid reporter who has gathered stories from various sources on the topic, and I look forward to reading a fuller treatment of the topic in her forthcoming book. But I did (and do) question whether or not the stories told in her article are representative of the large and diverse Christian community in America. One comment I made particularly rankled readers:

“And [Joyce] references a self-published book, To Train Up a Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl, two pastors I’ve never heard of.”

I received numerous emails, tweets, and comments after my response ran informing me that the Pearls were far more influential than I realized. After poking around, I noticed that the Pearls have received some fairly high level media coverage over the years, though of course, hearing about someone or something doesn’t equal influence. So I decided to do some more research.

One of the primary pieces of evidence cited for the Pearls’ influence is the book sales of their self-published work, To Train Up a Child. Joyce herself notes that it “has sold nearly 700,000 copies,” a figure cited in other places as well that seems to originally emanate from Wikipedia. This an impressive number when you first read it, but where does it come from?

As something of a student of the publishing industry, I know that a book’s sales numbers can be hard to track down. Since 2001, the industry has looked to Nielsen Bookscan, which records any books purchased through about 80% of America’s retail outlets and book stores. For example, books bought through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the now-defunct Borders, all report to Bookscan. So what are the Bookscan numbers for To Train Up a Child? As of the end of last week, the lifetime sales reported were—drumroll please—9,579.

Granted, this number only represents sales since 2001, and the book was published in 1994. Additionally, Bookscan does not record Christian bookstore sales, which were presumably where many of these books were sold. Christian publishers say that in order to get a more accurate sales figure of their titles, you should double or even triple the number to estimate how many sold in both secular and Christian markets. If we take the more generous recommendation, that leaves us with an industry estimate of 28,737 total sales from all retail outlets since 2001.

So where does this “nearly 700,000” figure come from? Did the Pearls sell approximately 650,000 books between 1994 and 2001, but only 28,737 between 2001 and 2013? No one knows, though it seems unlikely. Had the book been traditionally published, we could just call up the publisher and ask for a sales report. But in this case, the publisher is the Pearls’ “No Greater Joy Ministries.”

Even if nearly 700,000 units have been printed and released to the public—and there is no way to verify that with any level of accuracy—it still may not tell us what some think it does. I’ve spent enough time around Christian ministries to know how easy it is to inflate self-published book “sales.” For example, a ministry might raise money for a campaign where they purchase a random mailing list for Christians and send their founder’s book (which they may purchase for as little as $1.00) to each address. These books weren’t purchased or even requested, and there is no reason to believe that any of the thousands of books mailed were ever read. But they will show up as product sales in the ministry records.

While Joyce et al may trust the self-reported sales number, it is simply not reliable enough to construct an argument about their influence.

That led me to the second piece of evidence presented to me as an indication of the Pearls’ influence: their ministry financial records. “No Greater Joy Ministries” takes in more than one million dollars annually. (It’s important to note that the last year on record that I can find is 2010-2011, in which the ministry ended up almost a quarter of a million dollars in the red).

Again, this number sounds pretty impressive at first. For those of us who earn an average wage, a million dollars a year sounds like lottery-level income. But in the world of evangelical Christian ministries, it’s not nearly as impressive.

For example, I looked at some of the ministries around where I live in metropolitan Atlanta, GA. Crown Financial Ministries, a financial stewardship ministry less than 10 miles from where I live, reports annual revenue of more than $23 million. Adventures in Missions in Gainesville, GA reports $15.4 million in annual revenue. Dr. Michael Youssef’s “Leading the Way” and Chip Ingram’s “Living on the Edge” report annual revenues of 13.5 million and 6.5 million, respectively. South of my home, MAP International in Brunswick, GA reports $140.4 million in annual revenue.

Or we might look at a truly influential evangelical, Charles Stanley, whose “InTouch Ministries” is headquartered not far from where I live. With approximately $90 million in annual revenue, InTouch collects the Pearls’ total annual receipts every four days, on average.

You may or may not have heard about any of these ministries or leaders—which don’t include some of the more notable national ministry giants, such as Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer—but they give you an idea of what evangelical Christian organizations look like from a financial standpoint. If the Pearls’ “No Greater Joy Ministries” were based outside of Atlanta, we can surmise they might be listed somewhere in the bottom quarter of evangelical ministries in the metropolitan area of our city alone.

This information is even less helpful when you consider that we don’t know the breakdown of their funding sources. If one donor gave a one million dollar gift, for example, it means something altogether different than if one million donors gave a one dollar check. Their annual revenue is unhelpful at best, and at worst, undermines the arguments it is being used to make.

This says nothing of the social media reach of “No Greater Joy Ministries” (14,168 Facebook “likes” and 524 Twitter “followers”), which can easily be compared to other evangelical leaders and ministries. And it doesn’t explore the type of crowds they draw at their events. Their “Big Texas Shindig” event, for example, shows 109 people registered through Facebook for the October 2012 event. That’s less than the attendance of some Sunday School classes at many evangelical mega-churches.

What does all of this tell us? It says that while the Pearls may have some amount of influence, it is disproportionate to the amount of space many writers have given them in articles, and it says that pretending that they or their book or their ministry are influential among evangelicals on any large scale is, frankly, disingenuous.

If you take all Christians in America and chop off Catholics, and then you take all Protestants and chop off mainline Protestants, and then you take all evangelicals and cut off progressives, and then you take all conservative evangelicals and chop off egalitarians, you’ll be left with a cohort of conservative complementation evangelicals. Within this faction, as best as I can tell, there is a small group of people who are influenced to any degree by the Pearl’s teachings. Their impact is particularly felt among the small but vocal Christian homeschooling community.

Do they have some influence? Yes.

Are they as influential as some believe? No.

Can we assume that their beliefs and views represent a sizable faction of the larger American Christian community? No.

But that leaves us with a more important question. Even though the Pearls are not as influential as some contend, there are some who have taken the Pearls’ teaching very seriously. So just how harmful are the Pearls and their teachings?

The answer to this question, in my estimation, is very harmful.

The Pearls’ teachings are harmful to women. Their teachings about how to be a Biblical woman and Biblical wife are regressive and oppressive, devoid of the love, compassion, and mutual respect the Bible commends in marriage. But worse, their teachings are harmful to children. In fact, harmful isn’t a strong enough word. They are flat-out dangerous.

The Tennessee couple advocates using “switches” to spank children as young as six months old. They encourage parents to use belts or even plumbing tubes to beat children into submission. Their teachings have been linked to the physical abuse of many children and multiple deaths, including one seven-year-old who was beaten to death by her parents with plastic tubing for apparently mispronouncing a word.

This kind of behavior is deplorable. It is vile. And I’m embarrassed that any who bear the name of Jesus Christ have put a single dollar into their bank accounts. People like the Pearls give others who follow Jesus a bad name.

In the end, I’m grateful to have been urged by readers to investigate this couple and their beliefs. My research tells me that though their impact may be smaller than some presume, the depravity of their teachings far exceeds their influence. The Pearls do not represent the vast majority of Jesus-followers in America, and Christians everywhere should prove it by repudiating their teachings.

The post How influential are Michael and Debi Pearl? And how harmful? appeared first on On Faith & Culture.

07 May 00:18

Stop Quoting the Bible

by Nicole Cottrell

There used to be a time when I memorized scripture at a furious rate, filling myself up with verse after verse, like a kid with birthday cake.

Now, I glance at my Bible from time to time. Or read, really read, once a week wherein God gives me some perfectly timed, needed encouragement or admonishment. I’ve ditched the church-imposed idea of morning/daily quiet times. 

But, some of us have begun to reduce the Bible to a series of catchphrases or quotes. As if the Bible is analogous to the latest bestselling self-help book:

7 Easy Verses to a Better Life

Read the Bible to Win at Life

Success: It’s only 5 Short Verses Away

Because the Bible is a lot of things, but one thing it is not is the Christian version of self-help non-fiction.

More than that, when crisis strikes, as it always and inevitably does, that is when so many us begin frantically quoting scripture–pulling out all of the usuals:

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

We begin quoting verses we haven’t read in months, maybe years. We tend to cling to the Bible and its contents as a miraculous cure-all, imbued with the power to “fix” our messy situation. In that moment, the Bible becomes our magic wand, our rabbit in the hat, our hail mary, reduced to nothing more than superstition.

And why do we read the words of God? Why read the Bible in the first place?

We are not called to be Bible-quoters. We are called to be over-comers.

This Christian life isn’t simply about quoting the Bible, it’s about becoming the Word.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

And if Christ was the Word made flesh, and we are His body, then we too are living by the Word.

The Living Word itself–that is Jesus–lives in us.

“You are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” 1 John 2:14

Think on that. Let that trip you out for a minute…

It is not enough to reach for scripture when trouble comes or when things feel impossible. It is not enough to casually and callously throw around scriptures in an attempt to use them as a bandaid for our hemorrhaging lives.

Because it is so much more…

It is not a band-aid. It is not a quick-fix solution. Scripture is able to perform spiritual surgery–slicing deeply to the root of our very being.

Because when we reduce the Bible to a self-help manual and a patch job we are acting as “hearers” of the word and not “doers” of the word (James 1:22). We cannot simply fold scripture into our old lives when necessary. We must recognize instead, that we have  been given completely new lives.

We are no longer slaves to problems, but instead are freed by His promises.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 2 Corinthians 1:20

For we no longer live on the teetering edge, bound by fear, and desperate for hope. We live our lives on the solid Rock,“rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as [we] were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:7

It’s the difference between quoting scripture only when a need arises or letting scripture transform us on an ongoing basis. One is reactionary, the other proactive. One is patching holes, the other being made whole.

Not just Bible-quoters, but over-comers. Not patched up, but wholly new.

Thoughts? Reactions? Do you ever use the Bible as a quotable self-help book? Do others around you? How do we stop?

07 May 00:15

losing beliefs, not faith.

by kathyescobar

faith is khalil gibran

it’s been a wild and sad week around here. i’ve been around some pretty amazing open broken hearts and i am grateful.  thanks, too, for all your love & prayers for our little community; they mean more than you know. sometimes what happens when it comes to blogging is that i get an idea, know exactly what i want to say about it, never take the time to write it down, and then some kind of crazy thing happens and it gives the whole thing new perspective. a few weeks ago we finished up our walking wounded: hope for those hurt by the church class. it’s always such an amazing experience, to have a safe place to process grief and loss and find a way to move forward and a lot happens in those 4 weeks.

a big topic for so many of us is how hard it is to untangle our experiences with people & the system from our experiences with God.  they are so enmeshed with each other that as we separate from church-as-we-knew-it, we often don’t know how to still hold on to God.

the same thing can happen with belief and faith.

beliefs become so tangled up based on our church experiences and what we’ve been taught for so many years that we are supposed to “believe as a true-blue Christian”  that as we shed, unravel, deconstruct certain beliefs, we wonder if we’re actually losing all of our faith.  wondering if the last belief falls to the ground, any other last shred of faith will dissolve into the air and we’ll be left with absolutely nothing.

oh, how many times i have wondered this!  especially when i look at doctrinal statements or “what we believes” for certain ministries that i can no longer fully align with and keep my integrity.  as a pastor who really is passionate about Jesus and healing and transformation, it can feel really scary and i wonder “is what’s still left enough?”

i keep finding it is.

faith is different from beliefs or dogma. 

in so many ways, faith is what’s left when everything else is stripped away.

it’s that enduring crazy unexplainable thing that sustains when nothing else can.

it’s more powerful & stronger & more enduring than a list of beliefs and boxes to check or initial.

it supersedes language.

i keep remembering that doctrinal statements don’t save people or draw people to God–faith does.

i think of how many times in the gospels Jesus tells people “your faith has saved you” in some shape or form. not “your belief in all the right things has saved you”

to the “sinful” woman who busts into simon the pharisees house, “your faith has saved you” (luke 7:50)

to the hemorrhaging woman who desperately touches his robe for healing and blind bartimaeus who wanted to see, you faith has healed you” (mark 5:34 & 10:52).

to one leper out of ten who went back to thank Jesus for healing, “your faith has made you well” (luke 17:19)

for each of these versions (saved, healed, made you well), the greek word is sozo, which means “to save, to keep safe and sound, to make whole, to heal, to restore to health.”  sozo comes from the root word soaz which means “safe.”

i love this imagery. our faith helps us be made more whole, more safe, restored to greater health.

these people knew nothing, really, except a belief that maybe Jesus could help them.  they had a humility, a desperation, a desire, a hope.  that’s all they needed.

our systems have set up so many hoops for people to have to jump through, so many bullet points to memorize, so many belief statements to commit to, so many barriers to a free & wonder-filled faith.

after a week like this past week, when someone you love and care about takes their life, a long list of beliefs doesn’t really seem to bring any relief, healing, or wholeness. what does, though, is a crazy enduring faith that God is with us no matter what, that emmanuel-ness can never be shaken, that God shows up despite different theologies or doctrinal statements or words that even make sense.  that Jesus loved her deeply, fully, madly, and somehow knew the depth of her suffering.  that love covers a multitude of sins. that in some bizarre and unexplainable ways light always creeps out of the darkness, reminding us of what’s really important and it’s a very short list.

so many times i am in conversations with such dear and amazing people whose beliefs are unraveling and they think they’re losing all of their faith. when really maybe it’s actually just the opposite.

as the list of “i’ve got to believe this to belong and keep God happy” decreases, a faith that is less list-driven and more heart-driven, less good-behavior-focused and more freedom-focused, less fear-based and more love-based slowly & surely increases.  

yeah, Jesus said a mustard-seed was pretty darn powerful.

we can shed all kinds of beliefs and still have a strong faith.

this week, doctrinal statements didn’t help me. all the things i used to hold on to so tightly out of fear didn’t save me.

but my faith in a God who is in the darkest of the dark with us and cares very little about a long list of beliefs, yet cares very deeply about our hearts sure did.

07 May 00:14

Belief in an Angry God Will Make You Sick

by Tony Jones


The researchers found that belief in a punitive God was significantly associated with an increase in social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion. Conversely, belief in a benevolent God was associated with reductions in those four symptoms. Belief in an indifferent God was not linked to any symptoms.

So does this mean that God-fearing individuals are more anxious because of their beliefs, or that individuals who believe in a loving God have less to worry about? Possibly both, say the researchers.

Read the rest here.

07 May 00:14

7 Things To Remember When Talking About Modesty & How People Dress.

by / / / / lauren nicole / / / /

This weekend I read another delightful article from a well-meaning man, talking about how if you dress modestly, you’ll attract a man for who you are, and if you wear revealing clothes, you’ll only attract men who are interested in your body.

After being calmed from my hysterics by my dear husband and his friend, and talking it all out, I decided to pen a few words that I believe all of us girls should remember when reading or listening to other people talk about how we should dress and what our clothes say about us as a person.

1a. How People Work. Yes, your clothes have the ability to say things about you. But one thing we leave out of this conversation is the nuts + bolts part of how communication works. What we say isn’t always what people hear. People hear and read (make discernments and assumptions) based on their worldview, and that is utterly uncontrollable. If you wear something to express beauty and someone else “hears” that you’re an immoral or too-sexually available woman, that’s not your fault or responsibility.

1b. Clothes and Assumptions. We all use clothing as a form of expression. Sometimes they express styles and color palettes we love, and sometimes they express that we are confident in ourselves, or that we aren’t. [On late Sunday nights, my sweatpants express that I’m exhausted and comfort trumps anything anyone thinks about me, hah.] What they can’t do is express the position of someone else’s heart or what kind of value they have as a person, or what they believe spiritually or religiously. Never let someone tell you that your sexy self on a Friday night out reflects the fact that you have Daddy issues or low self-esteem or don’t have a close relationship with Jesus. Just because a person exudes confidence or appreciation in their body doesn’t mean they are shallow. Study up on the logical fallacies, darlings.

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT NOTE TO MY GIRLFRIENDS: Making assumptions about a girl’s character or priorities based on how she dresses SLAUGHTERS our ability as women to befriend other women. It’s not a competition or a Holiness Assessment Game unless you decide it is, and that will keep you from making friendships with incredible girls.

2. Individuals Don’t Speak for Everyone. No man can speak for all men, and no woman can speak for all women. A lot of us girls like to hear men’s opinions on things, AS WE SHOULD. It’s awesome when genders interact. However, we often make the mistake that one man giving his personal opinion about how he perceives women when they dress a certain way is what ALL men perceive. That “awesome man” writing that “awesome article” about sexiness or modesty in women? Remember that he had parents, was raised a certain way, had certain life experiences, went to certain churches, lives in a certain city, had men and women in his life tell him certain things – – and that’s how all of our beliefs get molded and defined, and in the end, they are individual opinions and views. “He” doesn’t necessarily think like all other potentially dateable men, all other good men, or your husband.

3. Cultural context. Clothing is cultural, and I don’t mean just international. There are plenty of outfits in my wardrobe as a 25 year old woman in Los Angeles that I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing in Alabama or Ohio or even the Carolinas. And that’s not because I’m suddenly more convicted when I’m on the East coast, or because men there are more susceptible to lust. It’s because cultural dress is very different in Los Angeles, and what would be shocking to a midwestern small town is “totes adorb” and quite normal here in Hollywood. I dress to be comfortable, attractive, and sometimes sexy if I feel like it that day – but I personally don’t go for the gawked-at outfits. (If you do, MORE POWER TO YA, WOMAN.) The Internet is awesome, but it often means we’re living in one place listening to another person speak about how what’s culturally acceptable in their city or country, not ours.

4. Fear Of Beauty and Sexuality. Don’t be modesty-ed into being terrified of being noticed or being attractive. Often when we say things like “the good men will notice you if you’re modest!” and, “selfish men will just want your body if your shirt is revealing!” we come, naturally, to the conclusion that to be noticed for our beauty, sexiness, or good looks will be terrifying and even dangerous. Not only is this conclusion harmful to both us and men, it’s simply not true. All men (and women) notice attractive people, and that’s totally okay. We all notice how people look before anything else. That isn’t shallow; it’s how our eyeballs work. It used to be that if a guy openly noticed me for my looks or complimented me, I felt like my boundaries had been plowed down and that he’d thought I was an easy girl who would say yes to going home with him. In the real world, he was just complimenting me. But in my terror-by-way-of-modesty-brain, I assumed he was making judgements about my character or revealing his own.  And HOLY CRAP that makes normal conversations with strangers and friends nearly impossible. It also can force us into choose each mornings whether or not we’re going to “be good and not feel attractive” or if we’re going to say, “to hell with it, I just want to look awesome today.” 

5. If You Want Guidance On How To Dress. If you’re set on dressing in a way to please or attract good men, remember that good men (and nearly all men) are attracted to confident women, and they can determine that based on your posture and whether or not you “hide” [physically and emotionally] in your clothes. I put this pretty brutally because it’s a painful war I’ve been fighting since I got married to The Best Husband Ever. I feel the sting myself as I say it, and I write it to hopefully nudge a few of you girls into learning to be confident in your body. My husband can tell when I’m hiding my body either in fear or because I’m ashamed of it, and he tries to help remind me that I’m a beautiful woman and can be confident in that. He loves when I wear things that fit well, that show off my figure, and give off the comfortable-in-my-sexiness vibe. Not because he’s just looking to see a little more boob, but because he wants me to embrace the woman that I am.

6. Lust vs Attraction. Hey dudes – Just want to make sure you know that noticing how sexy or attractive a woman is ISN’T lust. This is probably really relieving to some of you. You don’t have to guilt trip yourself for your sin every time you notice a pretty girl or a hot girl. Also, if you try to assess which girls are morally sound, are emotionally healthy, and love Jesus, DON’T SKIP OVER THE SEXY ONES. She didn’t choose that body just for you, God gave it to her. That body doesn’t define what kind of person she is. And she isn’t necessarily whoring out her cleavage, she just feels confident and beautiful in how God made her. I’ll say it again: observing isn’t lust.

7. You have the right to be you, whoever that is. How you dress is up to you, it’s no one’s place to assume things about your moral caliber by it. If you choose to dress more on the covered side, there is NOTHING wrong with that! For those of you new to “the modesty debate,” I’m sure you’re relieved to hear someone say it’s okay to show a little more leg. But for those of you familiar with the modesty culture discussions, I know you can feel judged for wanting to show less than others. At the end of the day, remember that how you choose to dress is none of my business. And I will never assume something about you because of how much you reveal, or how little you do. Make your what-do-I-show and what-do-I not decisions on what is appropriate for where you’ll be today, and what will make you comfortable and confident. Don’t make those decisions to protect men from their ‘uncontrollable thoughts’ or because it will take a hit on your morality or value as a person.

END THOUGHT: As Christians, we should view everyone as a person with immeasurable value who was created by God and who is our equal in all things, and letting someone’s clothing choices alter that view should have no place in our life. End of story.

FOR DISCUSSION: A lot of us have been pulled aside or confronted by people in our church to be rebuked for how we dress. How have you handled it? What words did you use to explain yourself? A lot of us simply don’t know what to do or what to say in this moment. What’s a good way to stand up for yourself graciously and respectfully?

Comments arguing for modesty absolutism or our responsibility to keep men from lust will be moderated. Thank you in advance for understanding the intended nature of this post. 

07 May 00:14

The most oppressive Bible verse that never was

by Jonathan Merritt
Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons:

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons:

“The Bible says, ‘avoid even the appearance of evil,’” the youth group volunteer chided, her bony finger wagging.

I’d been standing in a hallway with some friends having a harmless conversation about schoolwork, but that mattered not. It appeared that we might be up to no good, and this was sinful enough.

This verse is popular among conservative Christians, but there’s just one not-so-tiny problem: it doesn’t exist. At least, not technically. The youth worker’s phrase appears in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, but only in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. It reads differently in modern translations, but the KJV seems to be unusally popular. If you Google most verses, the number one result is usually the rendering from the New International Version; in this case, the KJV tops the list.

As a child, I never questioned why the phrasing could only be found in one nearly 500-year-old rendering or why the Epistles would command something so utterly irreconcilable with the life and ministry of Jesus. My elders believed it, so I accepted it as gospel truth. Who was I to argue with God’s word?

It was the most oppressive verse I could imagine, promoting a cloistered life that was hermetically sealed off from any people or places or activities that any onlooker might raise a brow over. It created squishy boundaries where nearly everything except going to church was morally suspect. As a result, I drove myself mad by perpetually self-evaluating what other people might be thinking of me. If a restaurant’s dining room was full, I refused to sit at the bar lest someone think I was palling around with riff-raff. I wasn’t to be seen outside a theater hanging with “the wrong crowd,” because, well, there was some saying about birds of a feather that prohibited it. Earrings on a man meant he had questionable sexuality, a bottle of wine on the dinner table meant the diners might be alcoholics, a boy and a girl caught in a room alone together meant they probably just got freaky.

Most scholars now agree that the proper translation of 1 Thessalonians 5:22 is something like, “avoid every kind of evil.” Or more directly from the Greek, “No matter what form evil takes, abstain from it.” Rather than yoking Christians, the passage liberates them to live in healthier life-rhythms and “hold fast to that which is good” (vv.21-22).

Many well-meaning pastors and parents favored this one mistranslation as they sought to protect their children and/or congregants. Others simply cherry-picked. Mistranslation leads to misapplication, but too few Christians do their homework when it comes to the Bible. Instead, many exhibit a dangerous tendency among many Christians and churches today: ignoring any translations or interpretations except those that support one’s predetermined viewpoint.

Another example of this tendency is seen in 1 Corinthians 6:19:

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (NIV)

The problem in this verse is due to a shortcoming in the English language. Unlike Biblical Greek, which can differentiate between the plural and singular forms of “you,” English just gives us the one word and we’re left to guess which is the case here. Unfortunately, some culturally conservative Christians have guessed wrongly. In the Greek, the you is plural and the temple is singular.

“Paul is saying, ‘All of you together are a singular temple for the Holy Spirit,” write E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien in a book I highly recommend, Misreading the Scripture with Western Eyes. “God doesn’t have billions of temples scattered around. Together we make the dwelling for the Spirit.”

Favoring a mistranslation here takes us down the same path as the first one. As Richards and O’Brien note, if you accept the popular mistranslation, the application might be, “I need to quit smoking.” If you do your homework, the application is that faith communities should behave and operate in ways that would please God.

This verse isn’t about policing individual behaviors, but rather about the nature of the Church collectively. Paul is saying, as I’ve heard some put it, “While in the Old Testament, God had a temple for his people; In the New Testament, God has a people for his temple.”

What’s my point? Not that we all need to be experts in Biblical Greek—I’ve probably learned less Greek than some of my readers have forgotten—but we do need to do our due diligence when it comes to the Bible. We need to learn to hold our interpretations loosely, recognizing there’s often more to the text than meets the eye. I suspect there are many more verses like these floating around that are being used by some to bludgeon fellow God-followers.

The more I read the Bible, the more I find it liberates rather than oppresses those who choose to live by it. And the more I follow Jesus, the more I believe He wants us to live liberated rather than oppressed lives. Following Jesus is nothing if not an embrace of freedom (Jn 8:32; Jn 8;36; Gal 5:12; 2 Cor 3:17). Jesus is better than we imagined because he shatters our strivings for sterility with a radical invitation to live free. Free from unhealthy, unjust, sinful patterns, yes. But also free from moralism, free from legalism, and free from condemnation.

Rather than obsess over appearances, let’s focus on leaning into the lives of freedom that are ours for the taking. Too many Christians are languishing in self-made, religious prisons when their cell door has already been opened by Another on the outside.

The post The most oppressive Bible verse that never was appeared first on On Faith & Culture.

07 May 00:13

Honest Talk about Marriage in the Middle of Life

by prodigal

If 30 is the new 20 then maybe 40 is the new, I don’t know, 27? At least I hope it is as I move every day closer to four decades of life.  My husband and I will have been married 17 years in a few months and people told us it would get easier and easier.  

I’m not sure if that was entirely true.

Whether we have just graduated from college with a year of marriage under our belt or we are looking at high schools and colleges with our teenagers, we are in busy times.  Maybe we have a couple-o-kids and rent to pay and a car to fix and jobs to keep, and to be honest, it is exhausting. 

Life in this stage is a little like being in the first weeks of pregnancy.  

In the first trimester a woman is absolutely drained. When I was only about 10 weeks pregnant with my oldest daughter I remember wondering how on earth did I need to take a nap at 8:30 in the morning? I was a school teacher at the time and there I was, nearly snoozing at my teacher’s desk as I welcomed my middle school homeroom class for the day.  

A mom-friend of mine whispered to me as I almost nodded off in church the next Sunday: It’s because your body is building all of the systems for a complete other body! No wonder you’re tired! 

Ah. Yes, well that makes perfect sense. 

It’s the same in this middle-section of life. We’re building jobs and families and those life-long relationships that we hope we’ll have after we’ve been there and done all of that. We are in a period of constructing and making and our hearts and bodies are spent. How can we not be exhausted, stressed and in need of a “life-nap” at any given moment? 

I think the first thing we need to recognize is that our relationships, including our marriages, need a little grace.

Life is full of stages and this stage is a particularly difficult one. 

A couple years ago, my husband and I entered what I can only describe as a dark period of our marriage. There were no real giant moral failures (at least not like there has been in the past for us) but we entered a season of anger, passionless intimacy, selfishness and mutual hurt and we are only now starting to climb out. 

Some of it was due to poor spiritual and emotional choices on our part, but some of it was just the place in life that we were in. We were in the middle of middle-life and it was hard to take time for each other, it was difficult to listen, and it has been almost impossible to truly see one another. 

All the sermons on marriage and the classes tell us the same things, don’t they? 

Have sex more. 

Spend time with each other.

Date again.

Rekindle the fire.

Recognize that the person you married is still there. 

But let’s talk honestly.  All that stuff is great for “Kristy” and “Shawn” who live next door. But for me? You can’t just tell me to have sex more. That doesn’t work. And sometimes when I hear the how-to-rekindle-the-fire talks, I really just want to say are-you-kidding-me? You don’t live my life. You don’t walk my halls.  

So I believe the second thing we need to do is to be honest. 

Sometimes there isn’t real time for regular date nights. Not when we’re shuttling girls to Daisy’s on Friday nights and kids to Little League on Saturday afternoons. 

Sometimes sleep really is more important than sex, even if you’re a guy. When we’ve been up since three am with a baby who is cutting her teeth, the last thing we want to do at nine at night is get naked and party.  We just want to curl up with our pillow, {the one we hug} and close our eyes. 

And sometimes that person you married has changed and it’s not a matter of finding the person you married deep within his new beard or new job; it’s getting to know a new person all over again.

Life and hardship change a person and a lot of love is trying to fall for a “new” person all over again. 

And maybe you don’t actually cheat but there are crushes and wonderings and feelings of longing for something new.

Let’s face it, that exhilaration of first lips against lips and the excitement of promises whispered in ears is really never the same after the beginning of life with your spouse. 

But this is the stuff no one talks about. Not even our closest friends. We don’t talk about it because we think no one else feels the same. 

But we aren’t alone. Many of us are in the same middle-lifed boat. 

I don’t have the answers, but I do know that it begins with grace and honesty. Once we can recognize with clarity (which is actually self-honesty) that we really are in a hard section of life and we can be honest about it with our spouses and our friends, then we begin to see relief. 

Does marriage get easier? Maybe in some ways it does. But the promise and commitments we make to this one person at the beginning becomes a life long exercise in grace, love and in transparency. Let’s move forward with grace and with honesty and perhaps we can walk through this middle of life with joy that outweighs the exhaustion. 

Have you had struggles in the midst of your marriage? Have ‘programs’ been helpful or not?

Sarah Markley is a full time mother, speaker and writer. She lives in Southern California with her two daughters, Hope (10) and Naomi (6) and her husband, Chad and just celebrated 16 years of marriage. She blogs at and speaks regularly for conferences, MOPs meetings and church groups. She is a staff writer for (in)courage and a monthly columnist for A Deeper Story. She believes wholeheartedly in second chances, radical grace and the belief that everyone has a story to tell.

[Photo: seanmcgrath, Creative Commons]

The post Honest Talk about Marriage in the Middle of Life appeared first on Prodigal Magazine.

07 May 00:13

A Non-Calvinist, Relational View of God’s Sovereignty

by rogereolson
I gave this talk at this week’s Missio Alliance gathering in Alexandria, Virginia. For those who are watching me carefully (from the Arminian camp) I must say I make no claim for this being “the” Arminian view. It is simply my view and I’m an Arminian.     A Relational View of God’s Sovereignty   [...]