Dr. Kelly Flanagan on “cheap, crappy hope”. When disappointment and hopelessness is all we’re used to, we’ll suck in and consume the first “cheap hope” that shows up (tv, relationships, etc). I’m not sure what Flanagan’s religious affiliation is (if at all), but the way his words drip with hope reminds me of this great book I finished a month or so ago:
I listen to similar stories of this-is-all-there-is brokenness every day. Stories in which anger has been the only way to feel and to relate, in which painful and violating touches have been the only way of life. Stories in which parental breath smells like beer and fathers go directly from work to the Lazyboy. Stories resulting in the logical assumption that parents aren’t supposed to be interested in their children. Stories in which believing in something means hating everyone who doesn’t. Stories in which pimples and peers were a devastating combination. Stories in which perfection was not considered an unattainable goal, but a daily expectation with shameful consequences. We live these stories, and a life of pain and suffering becomes a given, like the ground you walk on or the sky over your head.
Yet, people cannot live without hope.
We are terribly resilient. Deep down, we know that we need hope like oxygen, so we refuse the fate of a hopeless life. So, living blind to the possibility of real transformation and healing and flourishing, we settle for cheap, crappy hope. We latch on to small, cheap objects and promises, and we suck heavily on the thin air of crummy hope. This kind of hope comes to us in so many disguises: the release of a new video game, a bottle, good grades and a prestigious college, the triumph of our favorite athletic team, a new outfit that turns heads and earns attention, a better job, a Facebook comment, a better house in the best school system, the promise of a spouse who will never disappoint us, or the achievements of our children. These are good things, even wonderful things. They bring enjoyment to life and they are meant to do so. But the moment they become our hope, we are in trouble. Because when the video game starts to bore you, or the team loses, or the outfit gets too tight, or the spouse turns out to be human, or the kids turn out to be kids, our wispy-thin hope gets shattered. Cheap hope feels good for a while. But it has an ugly underbelly—when we settle for breathing the depleted air of cheap hope, the redemptive chapters of our stories go unwritten, awaiting an author with a vision for something more.
Michael Kelley on how fathers & husbands can maximize their commute home from work by readying their minds and hearts for the transition from the office to the household. As Kelley writes, all men are bringing something home, but fortunately, we have the power to direct whatever it is we’re bringing home towards a positive direction:
But let me, if I could, challenge you to try something else with your 20 minutes:
Consider what you’re bringing into your house this afternoon. Because you are bringing something.
To put it another way, it’s realizing that the temperament of your wife and your kids is going to be altered in some way upon your arrival. It might be that you’ve had a hard day, and you want nothing more than to sit down and watch the news because, after all, you’ve earned it. It might be that you’ve been missing your family all day and you’ll bring laughter and joy with you. Whatever the case, you’re going to bring something. Here, then, is where we get to the challenge.
From TGC – Ray Ortlund on common grace and music. For me, although I love Christian music (Hillsong, Phil Wickham, Lecrae, etc), the bulk of my favorite music are lies outside the explicitly-labeled “Christian” music scene. Similar to Ortlund, I think God has gifted this world in many ways, and that includes music – whether it comes from a believer or not. Here is Ortlund on distinguishing categories of music:
That gives me three categories of music — since music is what we’re talking about here. First, music devoted to God. Hopefully, this is great music everyone will fall in love with. Second, music opposing God. Hopefully, this will be rotten music people cannot stand. Third, music neither devoted to God nor opposing God. If it happens to be good music, by God’s common grace, I for one will enjoy it. Good music does not have to be devoted to God for me to be okay with it — though if it were devoted to God I’d be thrilled.
From TGC – Cameron Cole on Youth Ministry’s tendency to bend towards legalism. Personally, I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. On the one hand, it has frustrated me to feel like I’ve been faithful in service only to have the kids I serve blow up in my face. On the other hand, I do realize that part of serving in Sunday School is to simply be a loving role-model and help point the kids towards the gospel as they grow up and move on. Here is Cole on his observations on youth ministry:
Based on my experience in youth ministry, if I had to identify the greatest theological problem in the field, it would be the absence of the gospel in teaching on sanctification. Most youth ministries faithfully preach justification by faith in Christ alone. In fact, I may even credit youth ministers with being more faithful than senior pastors in helping their flock understand Christianity as saving relationship rather than cultural religion. However, in the space of sanctification, youth ministry often focuses on emotional exhortation and moral performance. A legalistic tone frequently characterizes the theology of sanctification in youth ministry.
From TGC – James Anderson discusses logic, proof and persuasion in the context of arguing about the existence of God. Anderson spends much of the article talking about the forms and foundations rather than the details of the argument, and the conclusion he arrives at echoes my own sentiment of “tasteful intentionality” - that we can’t impersonally bludgeon people with the same religious jargon but that we need to be tasteful and be sensitive to each person’s background and where they’re coming from, living out what Paul says in 1 Cor. 9:19-23. Here is Anderson’s proposal with regard to proofs and arguments:
Here is my modest proposal: We should think of proofs in terms of proofs for a particular person. In much the same way that mathematical proofs are system-dependent, so proofs of the existence of God need to be seen as person-dependent. The question “Can we prove the existence of God?” then becomes “Can we prove the existence of God to so-and-so?” My suggestion is that if we can show, without begging the question, that the existence of God logically follows from propositions that a person already accepts, or is willing on reflection to accept, then we have indeed proven the existence of God to that person. If they fail to see that the existence of God follows from what they already believe or take for granted, or if they prefer to abandon other beliefs rather than to affirm the existence of God, the problem doesn’t lie in the proof.
What does this mean for our test-case argument? If we understand proof along the lines I’ve suggested, the argument is indeed a proof for particular people, not necessarily for everyone. What’s more, on this understanding there are numerous proofs of God’s existence. There are many arguments that demonstrate the existence of God from beliefs or assumptions that people already hold. (Consult the resources listed below for examples.) Some of these proofs might be deemed more effective or more persuasive than others, depending on the target audience, but as we’ve seen, proof and persuasion are two distinct things.
From CT – Mark Galli’s very thorough response to Andrew Sullivan’s blog post. In a previous post (the last two links), I linked to and shared some brief thoughts on Sullivan’s post and Trevin Wax’s (from TGC) response to it. Here is Galli on why we can’t give up on the church:
All signs of a failing and dying institution, no? But here’s the thing. This supposedly failed institution has yet to fail. This organized religion on the verge of collapse still stands. This faith that is in crisis, well, it’s still in crisis—and still upheld and loved and used by a gracious God.
Then we have Jesus’ method of brand management: He creates the church and puts his brand on it, and calls it “the church of Jesus Christ.” And yet this institution, time after time, age after age, fails to exhibit his character in any consistent way. It constantly disappoints people’s expectations—and I would think Jesus’ expectations. If Jesus were like Christianity Today, he would dissolve this product line or sell it to the highest bidder. Anything to get his brand taken off the product called the church.
And yet he leaves it there, for everybody to see: “See these broken, sinful, selfish, corrupt people?” he says. “They’re mine, all mine. I can’t explain it, but I love them, and I will not let them go.”
When put in this light, it becomes apparent that if we give up on the church, we are giving up on humanity. Because the church is the promise and presence of a redeemed humanity in Christ. If you can’t get along with people in the church, I guarantee you will never be able to get along with anyone anywhere. Because what you find in the intense community called the church, you’ll find everywhere. And if you want to learn to love other human beings, and to learn mercy and forgiveness, there is no better place than the church. There are many theological reasons Jesus established his church, and one of them is this: It’s an incubator of love, a place to learn how to get along with believers from all walks and theologies and ethics.