In the wake of Robin Williams’s suicide, there was an initial and distasteful response to the effect of, “This was not a disease. He made a choice to die.” This was couched in terms of being “supportive” of those still in the struggle, but it certainly seemed to carry the implication that Williams’s was more or less responsible for his decision in the way that any of us are for ordinary moral decisions and that we shouldn’t try to explain it away. As a Calvinist, I already have a bias against treating these problems merely as “choice,” and not just from the standpoint of predestination. No, Calvinists also believe in the comprehensive corruption of the world and the person brought about through Adam’s sin. Additionally, as a pastor and one who has spent time with both “normal” depression and clinical conditions like bipolar disorder, I have also learned from experience that these issues are complicated and often mysterious. Thankfully, other more thoughtful articles have begun to come out. Continue reading
Text: Philippians 2:10-30
So far in our Philippians series we have talked about relationships in the church in a general sense. We have looked at how we are called to relate to other members of the body. Today we will sharpen our focus a little and look at the topic of leadership. What exactly is a “leader” in the church? What is he made of, and how should he relate to the rest of the body? And finally, how should the body relate to him? In this section Paul is primarily talking about pastors, but lest you think I am being self-serving here, I want to point out that the principles which inform how we are to relate to our pastors also inform how we are to relate to our elders, whether the office of elder or elders in life, and these principles also teach us how to relate to anyone who has a sort of leadership role in the faith. Everyone in this room has leaders in their lives, and, in a different sense, everyone in this room will be leaders to others in the faith. So this message is for everyone. Continue reading
As a pastor and armchair-theologian, I get to live in two worlds. I hear the ordinary anxieties and complaints of people in the pews, and then I read the complicated books and articles on theory, whether theological, philosophical, or political. What is simply unmistakable is how at odds the two stories are.
The lay-narrative is the most common. It says that things were more or less happy in the 1950s and early 1960s, due to the long legacy of a traditional Christian worldview and culture, but then “liberalism” or “progressivism” hit the scene and we have lost both our morals and liberties ever since. On the other hand, the academic narrative says that we lost our morals at the same time as and precisely because of the new definition of liberty which emerged in the 17th century (though some folks try to pin the tail a bit earlier, on Scotus or Ockham). The current “crisis” we are experiencing is thus not a departure from a “good” America, but instead the logical outworking of the original project.
Both of these narratives are partly right and partly wrong, and they both suffer from the same sort of idealism. They are looking for big culprits or master ideas in the form of ideology. Some “worldview” is to blame here, and if we can just critique the wrong worldview and extol the right worldview we will be well on our way towards a solution. The problem is that worldview, used in this way, is inconsistent with reality. As I never tire of saying, “Ideas don’t have consequences. People with ideas do.” And those people often act upon a variety of more or less consistent motivations and impulses, some rational and some visceral. Pretending that this isn’t the case and that we can solve societal problems with ideas is the surest way to never find a solution to any particular problem. We can’t let worldview, whether religious or political, become a new opium for the people. Continue reading
This morning I preached for the Pro-Life MS sidewalk counselors in front of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, or as the folks who work there call themselves “The Last Abortion Clinic.” I have done this a few times in my life, and while I know that street preaching and sidewalk counseling and protesting is not everyone’s style, I believe that this is something that I need to do from time to time. I think it is important. It is important for me to make a sort of witness, but I think what is even more important (for me at least) is for me to know what the reality of the abortion crisis is like. Obviously, the sidewalks outside the JWHO are only a small part of this reality, and they are extreme, to be sure, but they are still real. Real people go in and out of that clinic, and real decisions are made about real lives. It is important to know what the people are like who engage in pro-life activities, and it is important to know what the pro-abortion advocates are like. This morning had a particularly harrowing effect upon me.
As I was leading the morning liturgy, a service that included the singing of psalms and hymns, the reading of scripture, a confession of our sins, a homily, and praying for the clinic and world, the escorts (that is what the security guards and supporters of the JWHO call themselves) began to play the radio loudly. I understand why they do this. It’s within their rights and has its own sort of logic, but the song they played cut me to the heart. It was “Hey Joe.” Continue reading
After a lot of hard work, we’ve given TCI a makeover. Please be sure to have a look!
I wrote this at The Calvinist International, but I thought I’d reblog here as well.
Originally posted on The Calvinist International:
I reviewed Allan Carlson’s book Third Waysback in January, and since then I have been working my way through his rather enormous catalogue of work. President of The Howard Center, professor of history at Hillsdale College, and author of ten books and countless essays, not to mention the many other distinguishing appointments he has held, Dr. Carlson is prolific and treating extremely important questions. His work deals with the intersection of faith, politics, technology, and economics, all centering around the institution of the family as seen from a traditional Christian perspective. So why have I just now heard of him, and better yet, why haven’t you?
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Having focused my more academic-theological efforts over at The Calvinist International, I thought I’d like to keep this blog active as well, but turn it towards more personal and pastoral reflections. I suppose that will make it more of a traditional blog.
Being a new father, I’ve got a lot of “personal” and “pastoral” things on my mind lately. Hopefully this turn will be helpful to my old readership and even attractive for a new group of readers.
Peter Escalante and I are ready to unveil a new web project. The Calvinist International will be a new site where we will post regular essays, editorials, and book reviews. I will be focusing my energy there for the foreseeable future, and so I invite you to follow the newest material over there.
My panel is called “People of God? The Role of Political Hebraism in America.” The initial inspiration was Eric Nelson’s book The Hebrew Republic, but the papers are all broader, looking at the ways in which the Bible was used in and Israel was taken as a model for American politics. Here’s the info:
I’m sorry to have run away from this blog recently (and in the middle of my Trinitarian Series as well!). I will try to finish the current series up, explaining the monarchy of the Father and eternal generation and spiration. Afterwards, I will begin some political stuff that I’ve been working on behind the scenes. I might even give some thoughts on the Norway stuff. Don’t lose faith in me. I shall return!