Wow!!! Some great things to think and pray about.
Steve McCoy is a pastor/blogger that both Matt and I have read for a number of years. While neither of us have met him we both like his music tastes and pastoral wisdom. His blog is also linked on the left side of ours.
Steve’s wife has had to undergo multiple brain surgeries in the last few years and is still battling some major medical issues. I am not a guy who tears up often but for some reason I read this post that Steve wrote about his community coming together around him and his family and my eyes began to well up. As I read it I realized just a what a rich man Steve and his family are, and how amazing it looks when God moves to bless us in our trials. Amazing.
Francis Schaeffer is quickly becoming one of the most influential voices in my life. I was exposed to much of his writings in seminary, but now find myself revisiting them as I continue to grasp the intergration of Church, culture, and faith. Schaeffer was way ahead of his time and his writings have proven to be classics in the sense that they transcend his time. Schaeffer’s writings are very accessable for people of all educational backgrounds and I would highly recommend everyone read his works. He will be a tremendous help seeing your worldview from an outside perspective and allow to think beyond it. Here is one quote I came by today that was especially worth considering.
The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us. All these are dangerous but not the primary threat. The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.
Pay real close attention to the last sentence. It precisely nails why much of the church is futile in it massive array of campaigns, programs and events. Why the church seems to spin it wheels in its engagement of the culture. Our western corporate mindset drives us to act, plan and measure with quantifiable metrics. Our fight is not one of flesh and blood but one of the spirit.
Well to anyone who has not been hanging out in Afghanistan for the last month, or has not been reading this blog, you know that the economy is kind of a big deal right now.
So much so that Obama appears to now be a clear favorite to win the Presidency, and “Joe the Plumber” has become a political lightning rod. Obama and McCain both speak solely in cliche statements about “main street vs. Wall street” or “Joe the Plumber vs. Joe the hedge fund manager.”
Of course many are paranoid as the government has pumped and invested trillions of dollars into our banking system, making it seem as if our financial industry has become nationalized. On both sides of the debate fear is high, as unemployment is skyrocketing and the stock market is more unstable than Adam “don’t call me Pacman” Jones.
No matter where we stand on these issues (and I appreciate all the spirited discussion on the economic issues we have had on this blog) class warfare is bubbling like no time I can remember. And while I know even such words as communism, and socialism can make baby boomers be overcome with a cold shiver; my generation (especially because we did not pay attention in history class) does not have those same nightmarish memories of the Cold War and socialism that Baby Boomers do.
For many, capitalism seems to have failed to deliver on all of its promises. As they look at their future they fail to understand how capitalism can give them their promised American Dream. Globalization has set in, and outsourcing has made jobs, at least good paying jobs, somewhat scarce. These same Americans suffer from sleepless nights wondering if that cough their child has might be more serious, but know they can’t find out because they have no health care. They wonder how they will pay their mortgage, or if the government will bail them out like it did Wall Street. Life is scary for many folks and they are angry that while they suffer, rich executives who bankrupt companies, leave with more than enough millions to spend their lives on a warm sunny beach.
All of this to say, this election will serve as a referendum in some ways on socialism. What role will we give government? How will we “spread the wealth around?” What does government owe me?
Hear me well. I am not advocating socialism, nor saying this is a good thing. I am simply commenting on what seems to have become a major political reality in our country right now. What do you think?
Let me start with a quote from “A Primer on Perspectivalism” by Reformed Theologian John Frame:
“Sometimes our divisions of theology and practice are differences of perspective, of balance, rather than differences over the essentials of faith.”
Let’s apply two different (very condensed) gospel presentations through this filter:
(note: when using the terms Reformed and Arminian, I am referring to the practical expression of these theological teams today not their classical finer points)
Reformed: You are a depraved dirty rotten sinner that hates God. God has taken his wrath out on Jesus in your place. Won’t you repent of your sins and follow Jesus to confirm your election as one of his chosen people?
Arminian: You are completely lost and unable to do anything to save yourself and have a relationship with God. In Jesus God has provided a way for you to be saved and enter into relationship with him. Won’t you accept Jesus and enter into relationship with him?
Now we can safely say that these are two polar (if not hyperbolic) examples of how the two teams share the gospel. Is there a biblical basis for both examples? Yup, I would say the book of Romans covers both adequately (note: this is my sorry excuse for quoting the Bible in this post. I don’t have the time to get verse examples for all I am writing, nor to I think proof-texting is exegetically sound. This is my way of appeasing both.) Can we say that neither really attacks the essentials of the faith? Yup. Can we say that both examples represent a balance of the what God has done in salvation? Um, actually, no.
One way to really take this rethinking deeper is to focus on salvation. Namely, what we are saved from. The two teams mentioned focus on different biblical examples of what we are saved from:
Reformed: God (primary), Satan sin and death (secondary)
Arminian: yourself (primary), Satan, sin, and death (secondary)
The main theological quandary here is as follows: what does it look like to have a balanced theological view of what we are saved from, so that we can have theologically balanced gospel presentations? Are we primarily saved or primarily lost? Surely we are not equally both? Are we? Wait, doesn’t our lostness lead to our depravity, or is it the other way around? Doesn’t God’s justice and love for his glory outweigh his benevolence and desire to see “all saved”? Is a church that only preaches one unbiblical?
Before I give an argument for how this should be practically lived out (in a later post) I would like for us to discuss it first. I mean, if we can get 50+ comments on the election then surely we can produce a lively discussion on this topic. So what say you on the questions I posed and any other that this subject brings up?
Things have gotten pretty scary for some people these days. Fear and anxiety runs rampant in the lives of many as we worry, and deal with massive amounts of pressure and stress, as we wonder how we will meet life’s obligations. Here is a good reminder that we have a God who is more thoughtful and concerned about our care and sustainment than we ever even realize or understand.
He waters the earth and causes it to be fruitful for everyone, whether he is acknowledged or not.
Every meal we eat is an expression of his sovereign care. Sometimes we pray and give thanks; more often we just eat and assume that the grocery store will have what we need for tomorrow.
He heals us day after day. Some researchers believe that cancer is always present in our bodies, but God sustains our bodies in a way that wards off its advances.
How many times have you had colds, infections, food poisoning, and a host of other physical maladies that you no longer have?
He protects us, without us knowing or asking, while traveling on an interstate when everyone around us is engrossed in their cell phone conversations.
How many times has the Good Shepherd fought wild beasts to keep us safe while we peacefully grazed, unaware of his heroic care?
Ed Welch, Running Scared.
My buddy Michael Foster and myself have been having a discussion on Facebook about the election and moral responsibility. Here’s how it’s gone:
Mike: I will not vote for the lesser of two evils. The child-murder supporting socialist or the old war-monger with his ill-equipped hockey mom? No, no.
Me: perhaps voting based off highest level of efficacy in achieving the highest amounts of your ideals?
Mike: Matt, isn’t that same thing as lesser of two evils but reversed.
Me: I can completely understand having a moral issue SUPPORTING either candidate. I am not convinced the same issue exists in VOTING for a candidate. In the case we are faced with another moral dilemma that our postmodern hearts have grown hard to: civic responsibility. We all comprise a Representative Democracy, which in terms of being “subject to one’s authorities”, might just mean that we are subject first and foremost to the constitution.
So how can we think that the blatant evil policies of both candidates somehow abdicates us from the moral responsibility of participating in the political process? Which has led me to ask the question, “Of the policies that I am morally convinced are good for people, which candidate can most effectively accomplish them?”
Does this leave the blood of innocent children, either here or in Iraq, on my hands? I am an American, their blood is already there.
Care to join the discussion?
Adam made an interesting comment about how a coming recession would provide unique opportunities for blessing others and the Kingdom of God to show through. It really got me thinking about how much truth is in that comment when we remember that much of the New Testament was written to communities in exactly that situation. They were facing dire economic situations and circumstances and Paul called them to care for each other and come together in unity. The book of James is a great example of this as community and care amongst believers was not a small group sign up type of thing, but we must in order to survive type of thing.
Being that the Kingdom of God is routinely paradoxical, it would make perfect sense for God to use something like financial calamity for the good of those who love him. If we would listen to our developing world brothers and sisters we would understand that God has been doing that for centuries. Some of God’s greatest gifts and blessings are often those that are forced upon us, through circumstances we would not on our own choose. Yet even as I type this and think about how a severe recession would have many communal blessing, I bristle at the idea. Why?
Well just like most Americans I am an individualist. I want to do my own thing. And at the core of the matter being reliant on others is a scary and foreign idea to me. I think most Americans feel this way and that is why when panic sets in, or our needs seem to be in danger of not being met, we look to the government to make it better. The government is better to be reliant on because its impersonal, not like community where there is true vulnerability in admitting need and weakness. That is much more personal. I am already hearing rumblings of a SECOND stimulus check possibly in the works. In addition, all that I have heard both McCain and Obama talk about is how they will make people’s lives better. How different this is then the clarion call of JFK, instructing us “to not ask what our country could do for us, but what we could do for our country.” We have strayed into deep individualism and the consequences are that we now view government as having the sole responsibility of maintaining that.
Now I know there are serious issues going on that deeply effect people’s lives, and they are thinking about how they can take care of their family and make their house payment, I really don’t want to make light of that. My point is simply that all the political discourse we now have is centered around what is best for people right now. There is no discussion about the long term good of the nation, or the generations to come. Nope politicians have become functional saviors/Santa’s that we go to their rallies and metaphorically sit on their lap, and tell them what we want. And if they do not deliver, well than “he’s not my President.”
Well we have had some of th most spirited and intense debate on the blog in the last week about politics, economics. It has made for a fun and interesting week that really required me to do some thinking about how I am going to cast my vote for President.
With so much to consider and having sat on the fence for so long about who I would vote for I read numerous articles this weekend weighing all the issues, but after seeing this I have finally made up my mind. I think after you see this you to will be convinced who the right man for the job is.