Monthly Archives: September 2010

Five Guiding Principles for Thinking about Religion and Politics

Okay, last post about City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era by Gerson and Wehner–then I’ll move on to other books!

Here is an outline of five guiding principles they propose on thinking about the relationship between religion and politics. I think these are well-stated and wise.

    The moral duties placed on individuals are, in important respects, different from the ones placed on the state.
    The institutional church has roles and responsibilities distinct from those of individual Christians. [Here they appeal to this Richard Mouw CT article on why Carl Henry was right on this issue.]
    Scripture does not provide a governing blueprint.
    The form of political involvement adopted by Christian citizens is determined in part by the nature of the society in which they live.
    God does not deal with nations today as He did with ancient Israel.

Here’s the conclusion to this chapter (from pp. 43-44)–which gets to the heart of the matter that Christian thinking about politics requires much wisdom:

The world is a “theater of [God’s] glory,” John Calvin said, and we are all actors in His unfolding drama and His redemptive purposes. Politics can therefore be a noble and important undertaking. Yet determining the precise nature of our involvement is no easy task. It depends on facts and circumstances, and it requires judgment and wisdom, discretion, and humility. Some who have gone before us have gotten the balance just right, and many others have gotten it terribly wrong. It is a road some are called upon to travel, …

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“The Best Sermon on Christianity and Politics”

Collin Hansen says that Mark Dever’s sermon from last weekend, Jesus Paid Taxes from Mark 12:13-17, is the best sermon he’s ever heard of Christianity and politics. You can stream it below:

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Thabiti Anyabwile says this sermon is “a biblical theology of Christians and the state, at once full of unction, intellectually challenging, and affecting the heart. I’ve heard a lot of Mark’s preaching, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard him better.”

I have not had the chance to listen to this sermon, but I certainly trust Collin and Thabiti’s judgment. I encourage you to listen to it. Collin has a detailed article with notes and outline from the sermon

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City of Man

I thought readers might like to see a couple of blurbs for Gerson and Wehner’s City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era.

“Figuring out the appropriate relationship between politics and religion for Christians is a daunting task. Yet Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner have succeeded brilliantly. In City of Man, they spell out a political theology for 21st century Christians that rejects the narrow thinking of the Religious Right and the creeping secularism of the Religious Left. City of Man is a two-fer. It’s an enormously important book on politics and on religion.”

Fred Barnes, Executive Editor, the Weekly Standard

“In recent American history, the mixture of religion and politics has all too often produced inflated rhetoric, demonization of opponents, runaway hyperbole, and mindless demagoguery. City of Man is different. It pulls back from the heat of conflict to seek light from Scripture, Christian tradition, and a measured analysis of American political history. Although I have voted “none of the above” in many presidential elections, I’m confident that what these veterans of the Bush White House have written will help Christian believers of any political persuasion to act more responsibly in the public square.

Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

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Tom Schreiner on Racism and Racial Reconciliation

From Tom Schreiner’s foreword to Jarvis Williams’s new book, One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology (B&H)–a new book being praised by Schreiner, Doug Moo, Bruce Ware, Thabiti Anyabwile, Ken Jones, Kenneth Matthews, Russell Moore, David Dockery, and Preston Sprinkle.

You can read the endorsements, table of contents, and second chapter (on “The Reason for Racial Reconciliation”) here.

* * *

I am not denying that we as evangelical Christians may be able to learn some truths about racial reconciliation from those in the secular world. Also, I freely confess that Christians who have preached the gospel have too often been on the wrong side of the issue so that their words and their actions have promoted racism. As Christians who believe the Bible’s teachings, we have many sins to confess with respect to racism. . . .

Certainly, we as evangelical Christians may learn from the world, but I have a complaint as well. Why do we so often think that the world has a better answer to the problem of racial prejudice than we do? Why do we so often follow secular advice “lock, stock, and barrel”? Why do we have the very same multicultural programs with a thin Christian veneer? Why is our diversity training so often virtually indistinguishable from that of the world? I can only conclude that we as evangelical Christians believe that we must look to the world for solutions to racism. I do not have space to argue …

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President Ryken

Ligon Duncan has a helpful article here regarding Wheaton College President Philip Ryken and “the importance of this inauguration as a significant moment in the history of evangelicalism in our time.”

Here’s an excerpt:

A few months ago Joel Belz of World asked Phil if Wheaton still deserved the reputation of being the flagship institution of evangelicalism. Phil’s answer was deft and succinct: “By the grace of God, Wheaton continues to set a high standard of excellence in Christian liberal arts education. Wheaton is also a definitional institution. People both inside and outside the evangelical community look to the college for clarity about what it means to be evangelical. Although we do not claim a position of leadership for ourselves, we do seek to provide leadership where it is looked for.” I do not believe that answer could be improved upon. Not a syllable is wasted. It is indicative of Phil’s humility and his determination to promote a strong institutional self-understanding and humility. It was clear throughout the inaugural festivities that Phil intends that Wheaton be clear about who she is, what her role is, what her mission is, and what her accountabilities and responsibilities are. Even the title of his inaugural address captures this: “A World Servant in Christian Liberal Arts Education.” Don’t miss the word servant–it is not a mere slogan in the lexicon of Wheaton’s new president but …

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Tim Keller on Christians and Politics

Below is Tim Keller’s foreword for an excellent new book, City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era, by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, due out next week from Moody Publishers. This is the inaugural volume in “A Cultural Renewal Series,” edited by Keller and Collin Hansen.

(Foreword posted with permission.)

* * *

In the mid-twentieth-century, H. Richard Niebuhr wrote his classic Christ and Culture, which helped mainline Christian churches think through ways to relate faith to politics. In the end, Niebuhr came down on the side of universalism, the view that ultimately God is working to improve things through all kinds of religions and political movements. The result of his work was to lead mainline Protestant churches to become uncritical supporters of a liberal political agenda (though Niebuhr himself opposed such a move).

However, the mainline churches have shrunk and aged. Today, it is the more theologically conservative evangelical and Pentecostal churches that are growing, and they now outnumber mainline Protestants. Yet at the very same time, the number of secular Americans–those who claim not to believe in God, or at least to have “no religious preference”–are also fast rising in number.

This creates a far more complicated situation than the one that Niebuhr faced over half a century ago. In today’s society we have both rising secularism and rising orthodoxy. We have political polarization that would have been unimaginable a generation ago. And we have an evangelical constituency that is growing and institutionally powerful, but which …

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A Free Preview of John Piper’s New Book, Think

John Piper’s new book is entitled Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God. It ships next week from Amazon, but is already available as a Kindle Book and Desiring God has them in stock.

Check out Crossway’s new way of previewing books below (though you can still download it as a PDF as well). You can virtually flip through the foreword by Mark Noll, the table of contents, the introduction, and the first chapter. Click on the image to make it fullscreen, or click on the right-hand border to turn the pages:

Here’s a one-minute explanation from Piper about what he is trying to accomplish in the book:

And here are a couple of the blurbs:

“Piper has done it again. His outstanding book Think promises to shepherd a generation about the Christian commitment to the life of the mind. Deeply biblical and uniquely balanced, Think practices what it preaches: It is an accessible, intellectually rich study that calls the reader to renewed love for God and others.”

J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology

“John Piper has written a wise and passionate book about the importance of loving God with our minds. After all, we are commanded to do so! But as Piper explains, Christians have not always been very attentive to that commandment. With clarity and directness, he reveals the obstacles that prevent us from using our minds as God intended–but also shows the delights and benefits of doing so. Especially …

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The Holy Spirit’s Hidden Floodlight Ministry

J.I. Packer:

The Holy Spirit’s distinctive new covenant role, then, is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far as this role was concerned, the Spirit “was not yet” (John 7:39, literal Greek) while Jesus was on earth; only when the Father had glorified him (see John 17:1, 5) could the Spirit’s work of making men aware of Jesus’ glory begin.

I remember walking to a church one winter evening to preach on the words “he shall glorify me,” seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed.

When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you see it properly. This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.

Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder, on Jesus, who stands facing us.

The …

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The most high-minded protest sign seen during the Pope’s visit to the UK:

For those unfamiliar with filioque, here is a quick overview from Graham Cole:

Filioque: Lat., “and from the Son.” Refers to the procession of the Spirit within the triune Godhead. Added to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed in the West without Eastern Church approval. According to Eastern theology, the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. A key point of contention between creedal Western churches and Eastern ones, especially since the split of A.D. 1054.

HT: Scotteriology via Euangelizomai

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An Interview with Paul Miller on Prayer

Paul Miller, executive director of See Jesus and the author of The Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, was recently interviewed on FamilyLife Today. Below are links to the audio, descriptions of the session, and transcripts.

Cynicism: Low-Level Doubt

Let’s face it, prayer is hard work. Today Paul Miller . . . talks about the why, when and how-to’s of prayer. Paul encourages listeners to talk unreservedly to God as children do their fathers, and warns against giving into cynicism when it appears God isn’t listening or not following our plan. (Download Transcript)

Persisting in Prayer

Is prayer often the first thing to go when life gets busy? Today prayer warrior Paul Miller explains how praying to God should be just like having dinner with an old friend; you love being with Him, you don’t have an agenda, and you can talk about anything. Paul tells how the birth of his autistic daughter, Kim, has taught him to value and persist in prayer. (Download Transcript)

Pray Like a Child

How’s your prayer life? Today Paul Miller, author of The Praying Life, reminds us of how dependent Jesus was on his heavenly Father, even to the point where he said he did nothing on his own. As Jesus prayed then, so must we, coming to God with child-like faith. A special guest on today’s broadcast is Paul’s mute autistic …

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Green Is Not the Gospel

Kathleen Nielsen examines a new booklet Green Awakenings, distributed by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), which is a report from “Renewal”–a movement of Christian college and university students in North America who are caring for creation.

Dr. Nielsen applauds their intentions, but makes “four observations, in light of the biblical gospel, concerning the presentation of creation care in Green Awakenings“:

    This booklet co-opts language of the biblical gospel to articulate the work of creation care.
    Green Awakening‘s articulation of renewal suggests, at times, a replacement of the transcendent God of the Bible with another god: the earth itself.
    The renewal presented in this booklet defines the role of human beings differently from the way the Bible defines it.
    This articulation of Renewal skews the whole biblical story, from beginning to end–because it misses the central point.

Here is her conclusion:

The biblical gospel, with Jesus Christ at the center, must be at the heart of everything we do–even at the heart of our loving care for the world God made and gave to us to fill and subdue and work, until Christ comes again. There are indeed young people who believe the biblical gospel and who aim to offer their environmental efforts as one of the many ways they serve the Creator God as his redeemed sons and daughters, all for Christ’s glory and for the advancement of his kingdom. As we communicate this gospel perspective to the next …

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Do You See the Glory of God in the Sun? C.S. Lewis’s Crucial Distinction

From C.S. Lewis’s “Meditation in a Tool Shed“:

I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam.

From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun.

Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.

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Do You Argue with God in Your Prayers?

Charles Spurgeon says you should argue with God in your prayers–not to be argumentative, but to beseech the Lord with holy arguments with biblical precedence.

An excerpt:

The best prayers I have ever heard in our prayer meetings have been those which have been fullest of argument. Sometimes my soul has been fairly melted down where I have listened to the brethren who have come before God feeling the mercy to be really needed, and that they must have it, for they first pleaded with God to give it for this reason, and then for a second, and then for a third and then for a fourth and a fifth until they have awakened the fervency of the entire assembly.

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Recommended Film: Temple Grandin

This weekend my wife and I watched an excellent HBO movie, now on DVD, that is well worth renting: Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes as Temple Grandin in an award-winning role that depicts her struggles and achievements through autism in the 1960s and 70s, where more preconceptions existed than they do today.

Here is Amazon’s review, which summarizes the film nicely:

It doesn’t take long to see that Temple Grandin, the main character in this eponymous HBO movie, is, well, different–she (in the person of Claire Danes, who plays her) tells us before the credits start that she’s “not like other people.” But “different” is not “less.” Indeed, Grandin, who is now in her 60s, has accomplished a good deal more than a great many “normal” folks, let alone others afflicted with the autism that Grandin overcame on her way to earning a doctorate and becoming a bestselling author and a pioneer in the humane treatment of livestock. It wasn’t easy. The doctor who diagnosed her at age 4 said she’d never talk and would have to be institutionalized. Only through the dogged efforts of her mother (Julia Ormond), who was told that “lack of bonding” with her child might have caused the autism, did Grandin learn to speak; to go to high school, college, and grad school; and to become a highly productive scientist, enduring the cruel taunts of her classmates and the resistance of many of the adults in her life (most of whom are shown as either …

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What Is Yom Kippur?

Todd Bolen helpfully and briefly explains that today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, still celebrated by the Jews. He encourages all readers and their kids to watch nine-minute video that helps us understand the background to the atoning sacrifice of Christ the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Here’s the video:

The Sacrificial Lamb from SourceFlix on Vimeo.

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