Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pro-life Texting!

I haven't done it yet but I know it's coming--texting from my phone.  (I often tell people that I'm barely in the 20th century, much less the 21st!).  I came across this great story over at Lifenews.com which tells the story of how a baby was saved (the mother too!) from the horror of abortion due to a pro-life activist texting to the mother while she was in an abortion clinic.  Read the story HERE.

Book Review and Dialogue on "Soul Survivor"

Back in late 2009 I read the book Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot which was co-authored by Bruce and Andrea Leininger.  The book narrates the story of the Leininger's son, James, who they now believe to be the reincarnation of a World War II fighter pilot James Huston who served on the ship the Natoma Bay.  I don't think I would have read the entire book except for the fact that Bruce Leininger had somewhat of an evangelical background being influenced by the writings of C. S. Lewis. I wanted to see how Bruce analyzed his son's experiences in terms of a biblical world view.  I was so engaged with the story I wrote Bruce Leininger a nine page letter detailing out my analysis and concerns regarding his seeming promotion of reincarnation.  Bruce politely responded and we corresponded a bit but then the communication stopped from his end.  Later I shortened those nine pages down to about two and published a review of the book at Amazon.com.  In response to this review a gentlemen began to engage me in a dialogue that quickly moved to many areas (historicity of the gospels in the Bible, UFO's, other "gospel", etc.)  For those interested they can access my review and dialogue HERE. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Cross and the "Question Mark" of Evil

In his masterful book The Cross of Christ John Stott has a comment regarding the problem of evil and the cross.  It is brief but profound.  Stott writes:
I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross.  The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as 'God on the cross'.  In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?  I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world.  But each time after a while I have had to turn away.  And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness.  That is the God for me!  He laid aside his immunity to pain.  He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death.  He suffered for us.  Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his.  There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross, which symbolizes divine suffering.  'The cross of Christ...is God's only self-justification in such a world' as ours.  (pp. 335-336)
 The message and reality of the cross of Christ Jesus does not "solve" the problem of evil if a solution is conceptualized in some sort of philosophical argument with a tidy bow on top.  The cross does give us a new narrative within which the struggle against evil finds new contextualization.  There may not be an "answer" but there is hope because our God has chosen not to remain immune from the evil.  He has come close and stays close.

New SugarSugar App Helps Sex Trafficking

My family is new to the Apple orchard but we have jumped in with both feet and the whole new world of "apps" is a bit bewildering and exciting.  As with all technology this can be used for good and evil.  It seems that with the new SugarSugar app Apple has given the approval for a new tool that will actually help those in the prostitution industry.  Here in Phoenix the organization Streetlight is dedicated to the eradication of child sex slavery and at their blog Holly Craw writes on this new app set to be released June 1st.  Check out Holly's comments  SugarSugar App Makes Sex Trafficking a Snap and be sure to check out her link to Change.org to sign an on-line petition against this app.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Great Book Review by Peter Jones

Peter Jones has an excellent book  review here of The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2011) by Jenell Williams Paris.  The truly sad aspect of this book by Dr. Paris is that another evangelical academic writing for an evangelical press seemingly endorses the destruction of the historic Christian sexual ethic.  Dr. Jones' review gives a theological response that is powerful and compelling.  I fear there will be more of the kind of reasoning offered by Paris and many of the younger evangelical generation will fall prey to ethical anarchy and outright scriptural rebellion.  Many thanks to Dr. Peter Jones for his efforts and ministry!  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Prostitution and the Image of God

Earlier this month I was able to hear Dr. Steven Tracy lecture on the "image of God."  Dr. Tracy is a professor of theology and ethics at Phoenix Seminary as well as the co-founder, with his wife Celestia, of   Mending the Soul Ministries.  The first part of Dr. Tracy's lecture was a basic biblical and theological introduction to the teaching on humanity's being made in the image of God.  After the break he began to speak of the implications for ministry that this doctrine has in the life of the church and society.  Dr. Tracy and his wife are both involved with the issue of child sex slavery and counsel those who have come out of this horrific lifestyle of abuse.  In speaking of this issue he made the statement that prostitution is an almost complete reversal of the image of God.  He went on to outline what he meant.

Whereas the image of God is about relationality in which man and woman partner together for a common purpose, prostitution is about slavery of a man (pimp) over a woman.

Whereas the image of God is about a mutually shared sexuality of giving and sharing within a bond of unity, prostitution is about sex in terms of taking and using another person.

Whereas the man is to image God in a certain kind of potency in which he protects and creates, in prostitution the man subjugates and enslaves a woman.

I found this to be a profound insight and application of the doctrine of the image of God.

Among the materials handed out at the lecture was an article from the Sept/Oct 2007 edition of Prism magazine.  The article was entitled "Portrait of Exploitation: The Real Face of Prostitution" and was written by Laura Coulter.  In the article there appeared the following citation in one of the side-bar columns.
For the vast majority of the world's prostituted women, prostitution is the experience of being hunted, dominated, harassed, assaulted, and battered...In prostitution, demand creates supply.  Because men want to buy sex, prostitution is assumed to be inevitable, therefore 'normal.'... Prostitution must be exposed for what it really is: a particularly lethal form of male violence against women.  The focus on research, prevention, and law enforcement in the next decade must be on the demand side of prostitution.   (From "Prostitution: A Critical review of the medical and social literature" by Melissa Farley and Vanessa Kelly in Women & Criminal Justice (2000, Vol. 11), available at ProstitutionResearch.com.) 
Demand creates supply.  One of the desperate needs in combatting prostitution and all its attendant evils is for the demand to be reduced.  The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has this power (Titus 2.11-14).  We must pray for its unleashed power in our time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Moral Formation in the Church

A number of years ago Mark Noll alerted the Christian community to "the scandal of the evangelical mind."  Evangelical ethicist J. Daryl Charles echoes these thoughts in his book Between Pacificism and Jihad: Just War and Christian Tradition (IVP, 2005).  Although written to address the ethics of war and the Just War tradition, Charles has some introductory comments that are much broader in application for evangelical social ethics.
In The Unformed Conscience of Evangelicalism I lamented the absence of moral formation in the church's teaching and preaching and in congregational life.  My basic argument was this: there is no such thing as an evangelical social ethic or a broadly Protestant ethic, for that matter.  To be sure, we have elevated church growth to a virtual science.  We have written and sold millions upon millions of heart-warming and inspirational Christian "breakthrough" books.  We have made endless forays into the contemporary music scene.  And we are as "seeker-friendly" as any group on the face of the earth.  But when it comes to giving a reason for the hope within or presenting a rationale for Christian social ethics or offering an explanation of the church's traditional teaching on perennial ethical issues, we are all but clueless.  (pp. 10-11)
Charles goes on to offer some reasons for this lack of evangelical social ethics.
Is it likely that the evangelicals' relative absence in the public square is due, among other things, to an underdeveloped theology of creation, humanity and culture?  Have all of these been overshadowed by a skewed eschatology?  (I have in mind our fixation with end-time scenarios--often understood as "biblical prophecy"--that hamstrings the church's ability to wrestle with the already-but-not-yet tension of the kingdom of God).  (p. 12)
And, again, at the end of his book, Charles brings home the implications of this short-sighted eschatological viewpoint.
If Christ is indeed returning in our lifetime, as we have been taught to fully anticipate, then it is supremely difficult--nay, nonsensical--to pursue other matters over the long term that require considerable energies, strategies, finances and personal investment.  I have in mind, for example, education or certain types of vocational careers.  With Tertullian we answer the question, What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem? with a firm resolve: Well, absolutely nothing.  No wonder, then, that evangelical Protestants (for example) tend not to be found among social scientists, economists, educational theorists, political scientists, legal theorists, policy analysts, politicians (football players excepted), ethicists and so on.  Why?  Because such endeavors require a vision that takes culture seriously and views "occupying" (Jesus' word) as both a Christian mandate and a high calling.  All of these vocations require a long-term perspective, and at minimum, an interest in society.  (p. 172)
Charles' words are poignant and precise.  There is a desperate need for biblically informed and theological driven reflection on today's social issues.  The church needs to step up and provide an arena for such reflection.  Discipleship of the mind is an endeavor to be taken seriously by the evangelical church.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Nothing But Christ Crucified"

These familiar and powerful words come from Paul in 1 Corinthians 2.2.  I've been preaching a series of sermons on the cross of Christ and I began the series with this passage from 1 Corinthians.  Along the way I've come across some outstanding quotations on the cross of Christ and I hope to post some of them here.  One of the most moving statements that has been incorporated into at a few sermons comes from D. A. Carson.  Dr. Carson is a professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has written scores of books and articles.  In his wonderful little book The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians he states the following:
Western evangelicalism tends to run through cycles of fads.  At the moment, books are pouring off the presses telling us how to plan for success, how "vision" consists in clearly articulated "ministry goals," how the knowledge of detailed profiles of our communities constitute the key to successful outreach.  I am not for a moment suggesting that there is nothing to be learned from such studies.  But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without employing these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature.  But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel.  Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible.We depend on plans, programs, vision statements--but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning.  Again, I insist, my position is not a thinly veiled plea for obscurantism, for seat-of-the-pants ministry that plans nothing.  Rather, I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight.  Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.  (pp. 25-26--emphasis added)
Powerful words.  Christ and his cross kept central or idolatry--these are choices set before the church.

Welcome to the White Rose Review!

I'm hoping for this to be an occasional blog devoted to biblical/theological perspectives on almost anything and everything!  I figured I would use this tiny piece of cyberspace to hone my writing skills and, hopefully, be of use for others.