Theology

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.        Proof that the Sexual Revolution Got Sexual Satisfaction All Wrong: David French reflects on surprising findings: " In a time when our nation has erased sexual taboos, cast off moral restraints, and become “more tolerant of sex in just about every permutation,” young Americans are having less sex. And one of the prime reasons is the “decline in couplehood among young people.” Married people have more sex than single people, yet fewer people get married, and the people who do marry “have been marrying later.”"

2.        Ergonomics Expert Explains How to Set Up Your Desk: Three worthwhile minutes for anyone who works at a desk.

3.       Against Open Doors: This is the second article I've posted pushing back the interpretation of interpreting God's will by interpreting open doors. Aaron Denlinger reminds us that Paul and Silas once had a prison door open in front of them and instead of seeing it as God's miraculous hand in freeing them, they saw it as an opportunity to save the jailer. Maybe we need to reconsider how we interpret open doors in our lives.

4.       5 Reasons to Treasure the Trinity: Each of Jerod Gilcher's five reasons opens up the fresh beauty of our Triune God. The first is: " The eternal relationship of the Trinity informs us that God is the happiest, most joyful Person in the universe. God has been infinitely happy because, within the context of the Trinity, He has been eternally enjoying, loving, and rejoicing in Himself. The fountain of our joy as believers is the joy that has always abounded within the Trinity."

5.       The Literal Translation of Every Country's Name: This is pretty fun. I like "Red Like An Ember," "Land of Burnt Faces," "I Go to the Beach," and "In the Naval of the Moon." What are your favorites?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Don't Let the Sexular Culture Leave Women as Also-Rans: Stephen McAlpine tells the story of a woman who was not awarded a prize in an Australian race despite being the first female finisher because of the organizer's attempt to be gender-blind. McAlpine reflects, " If it’s not bad enough that women are constantly the victims of testosterone-laden men off the sporting field, women are now becoming victims on the sporting field of testosterone laden men self-identifying as women.  There’s real anger, but it has to be muted by women, lest the culture warriors who promulgate the Sexular narrative hunt them down."

2.       Five Ways the Bible and Economic Principles are Connected: Shawn Ritenour makes the argument for why and how the Bible influences are understanding of economics.

3.      Why Are Calvinists So Mean?: As a Calvinist myself (although I typically prefer to describe myself with different language because of this very reality), I appreciate Jared Wilson's diagnosis. He concludes, " And if we are frequently charged with treating others in uncharitable ways, the humility necessary to the doctrine ought to produce a humility in its doctrinaires to ask if our lives actually contradict the doctrine we preach with our mouths."

4.      How You Have Been Training Artificial Intelligence for Free: Amazon and Google are two companies who have brilliantly (and perhaps mischievously) been using all sorts of ways to harness what we are already doing for their benefit.

5.      The Weird World of Recycling: Oh man, I've read a handful of articles recently on the realities of recycling that make me so disappointed. Here's to hoping someone can figure out a solution to this issue. 

Can Yoga be Christian?

Can Yoga be Christian?

Would it surprise you to know that according to at least one study, 20.4 million Americans practice yoga?[i] Can Christians do yoga? Should Christians do yoga? When my wife approached me with an interest in considering practicing Holy Yoga (Christian yoga) I admit my default position was skepticism. For me, it smacked of the Oprah Winfrey-ization of contemporary American Christianity. I expected it to be seeped in self-help-ism and having the thinnest of Christian veneers.

Others have even stronger objectives: how can yoga, a practice developed first by Hindus, be able to be used by Christians? Isn’t that akin to Christians sacrificing on pagan altars? Stronger still: doesn’t yoga open Christians up to the presence of demonic presences?

Yoga means “to yoke.” In a Hindu context, it is understood that the goal of yoga is to free oneself from attachments to yoke together mind, spirit, and body with the Divine. For Hindus this is accomplished by emptying oneself to become part of the Supreme Consciousness.

Hindu yoga practice believes that the postures in yoga pay homage to open oneself up to spiritual energies (chakra theory). Some believe that Ishvara, who is mentioned in the Yoga Sutras, is a personal god (others argue Ishvara refers to a “special self” or “spiritual self”.[ii]  Some argue that the often-repeated “Om” breath in traditional yoga refers to Ishvara.[iii] It is argued is not a “religiously neutral practice that Christianity can be plugged into.”

Some argue that yoga predates its relationship with Hinduism,[iv] but whether or not that is true, it is clear that Hinduism was the ground that yoga grew up in and was propagated. Furthermore, there is no doubt that yoga, as traditionally practiced, is not religiously neutral.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       How 32 African Slaves Turned Into Millions: This year we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the tragic start of the slave trade to the Americas. This powerful info-graphic rich article shows how 32 slaves ballooned into millions. 

2.       Why People Don't Think You Appreciate Them Even When You Do: Suzanne Vickberg with helpful advice for any leader. She begins by quoting Gladys Bronwyn Stern: "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."

3.       Why Calvinists Should Be the Gentlest: John Newton, in his letter to fellow Christians exhorts gentleness and cautions a lack of gentleness, " If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable."

4.       Eternity and Mortality: Jennie Cesario with a beautiful reflection on how a scrape with death shaped her perspective about herself, God, and parenting.

5.       The Ugly History of Mass Incarceration: The United States imprisons more people than any country in the world. And with a disproportionate number of those inmates being black, it is an issue fraught with difficulty. As a former Detention Officer, the complicated history of and solution for our incarceration problem hits close to home. 

Recapturing the Wonder by Mike Cosper

Recapturing the Wonder by Mike Cosper

In Recapturing the Wonder, Mike Cosper has written a unique book that explores spiritual disciplines in our secular context. Cosper says that his book is “an attempt to sketch out the spiritual landscape of an age that has been called a ‘secular age,’ an ‘age of anxiety,’ and a ‘culture of narcissism,’ and an effort at finding a path into a different way of life.”

Cosper begins to explaining what it means that we live in a secular age. He explains that a secular world is a disenchanted world: “A disenchanted world has been drained of magic, of any supernatural presences, of spirits and God and transcendence. A disenchanted world is a material world, where what you see is what you get.”

The secular world responds to the religious world: “You can believe whatever you want so long as you don’t expect it to affect your everyday experience.”

In this world, spiritual disciplines are a counter-cultural act. They are not just formation: they are counter-formation. They shape us against the world we inhabit. It also means that these disciplines are going to be hard for us. “In a disenchanted world,” Cosper says, “solitude is terrifying.” As Christians, “We’re not called first to act but to cease.” Cosper continues, “As we take up ancient practices like prayer, Scripture reading, and fasting, we will see the way they confront our disenchanted way of knowing the world.”

Where the secular world creates religion of display, in Christ we can experience the reality of peace with God. “The alternative to the disenchanted religion of display--a life spent seeking affirmation in the mirror of the world—is to find rest in Jesus.” Cosper says we don’t need to manufacture spectacle, we need to experience the presence of God in daily disciplines.

What does your interior life look like? Who are you when you’re not displaying yourself?

Why We have a 37 Page Doctrinal Statement

Why We have a 37 Page Doctrinal Statement

In the world of non-denominationalism, the tendency is to scrape theology down to its bare minimum. I appreciate the spirit behind that move: to not create division where there shouldn’t be division. Why can’t we join together as a church in unity despite our minor disagreements?

New Life is swimming against that current. In a day and age many church’s doctrinal statements could be printed on written out on a napkin, we have a 37 page doctrinal statement.

I discovered New Life’s doctrinal statement when I began considering whether God might be calling apply to serve on staff. I was pretty surprised. I was also grateful. I’m even more grateful for the doctrinal statement today. Here are 7 reasons why:

When Should You Fight Evil with Evil?

When Should You Fight Evil with Evil?

One of my Christian heroes is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I even asked my wife if we could name our son Dietrich. For some reason she didn’t like that idea. Go figure.

Bonhoeffer is a fascinating figure for all sorts of reasons, but one of those is that his ministry took place during the rise of Nazism in Germany. Born into an upper-middle class family in Germany and studying at some of finest schools, he ended up rejecting the German national church, which was controlled by the Nazi party. Instead he threw his energy behind the Confession Church, a church that resisted the Nazi party.

Ultimately Dietrich Bonhoeffer would do more than theologically resist the Nazi party; he would actively participate in helping Jews escape and would ultimately be party to an assassination plot against Adolf Hitler.[i]

Although, for obvious reasons, Bonhoeffer never discussed the plot nor his reasons for the decision, it is clear in his letters that he expended a lot of energy working through what his ethical responsibilities were throughout the war. Those who believe he participated in the assassination conspiracy point to his words in Ethics where he says, “the structure of responsible action includes both readiness to accept guilt and freedom.”[ii] Is Bonhoeffer saying that there are times where following Christ means that we might actually be called into guilt (and therefore to sin)?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Why the Devil Didn't Think He Won When Jesus was on the Cross: I hadn't thought this through as clearly until I read this JA Medders post. His final reason is the strongest: " Fifth, as Jesus was hanging on the cross, he is tempted to get himself down from the cross. Why? This would cease his substituting death for us—Satan wouldn’t be disarmed and defeated. But Jesus did the Father’s will, he died and rose again for us. Defeating Satan every step of the way."

2.      How to Mend a Relationship That has Been Broken for Years: Vital Signs delivers consistently difficult, but healthy advice on matters related to conflict: Joseph Grenny offers, " I have come to believe that my capacity for joy in life is a function of my capacity to love imperfect people. And the most aggressive calisthenics of that capacity is practicing vulnerability at times of the most acute emotional risk."

3.      Seeing the Individual's Face: Jennie Cesario with one of the most beautiful reflections I've read in a while: "[T]o grow in the love of God is to expand my heart and vision in this way. To, little by little, allow more faces to become particular to me, more faces to become dear — whether they’re next to me in a church pew or against me in the voting booth; whether they’re my kindred or my worst enemies."

4.      What Teens Value Most: Helen Gibson reports on Pew Research Center's latest poll on teens. In it, having a career they enjoy ranks first, then helping others who are in need, and third is having a lot of money. Getting married is fourth and having children is fifth with less than 40% of teens saying they desire to have children one day.

5.      Is God Anti-Gay? Sam Alberry reflects on this big question during a Gospel Coalition panel (this is a podcast).

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

Who is God? Michael Reeves asserts that the essence of the fullest answer to that question is “a Trinity.” Reeves believes that while the Trinity is something many Christians shove to the back corners of their minds when it comes to relating to God, or perhaps explore with a sort of mechanical interest, with clumsy charts and worse analogies, reflecting on the Trinity is something that should stir delight in us.

Reeves quotes Karl Barth, who once said, “The triunity of God is the secret of His beauty.” Reeves contrasts the Triune God with a singular conception of God (like the Islamic understanding of God), who has a very different relationship with creation. Reeves says that “Absolutely singular supreme beings do not like creation.”

In contract, “Everything changes when it comes to the Father, Son and Spirit. Here is a God who is not essentially lonely, but who has been loving for all eternity as the Father has loved the Son in the Spirit. Loving others is not a strange or novel thing for this God at all; it is at the root of who he is.” That is to say, the relationships within the Triune God are that which defines God himself. God is relational and loving in his very essence.