The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

Day Six of Creation and Christian Ethics

by Uri Brito

When God made the world he made it in divine priority. He made all things with an agenda, and to use the oft-repeated line, “he saved the best for last.” He made man on day six, and at the end he breathed with the breath of perfection (Gen. 1:31): “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

Could God have created man on day one or day three? No. This was a divine priority. Man was created last purposefully. He made him on day six and then affirmed (Gen. 1:26-28) that he was to be over all things. Man receives a place of honor in creation because he is made in the image of God.

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Book Review: The Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor

The Incarnational Art of Flannery O'ConnorThe Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor by Christina Bieber Lake

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is just phenomenal. Christina Bieber Lake is amazing in this book. She is interesting and keeps you moving through the book. She brings in philosophers and authors to shed light onto O’Connor’s writings. She frequently references books that O’Connor read or underlined and often does so in the context of O’Connor having read that book while writing a particular novella or short story.

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Contextualizing Missions

Written by Special Guest Contributor R C Sproul Jr

warning_banana_peelIt is just about the time that we begin to mock our fathers that we find ourselves slipping on the banana peels they have left behind. Consider our fathers’ failure to contextualize in missions. Generations ago great heroes went forth carrying the good news of Jesus Christ to unreached people. That’s good. They also, at least we are told, carried with them deep into untamed interiors, musical organs. Because, you know, these new converts had to, in order to be Christian, sing western music with western instruments. Like Christians do.

I’m afraid we haven’t quite gotten past this. We may not send out organs, but we do send out our own traditions, our own way of doing things, and perhaps too often, our own people. I’m not, of course, opposed to going. That’s a good thing. But when we go we go to grow and encourage the church of Jesus Christ. Which means we go to grow and encourage the local believers. Which means we encourage them to follow Jesus, not us.

We know how churches operate. A man is gifted and called to serve as its pastor. He sets up his shop, and works to persuade consumers to shop at his store. As he succeeds the church grows and the pastor then begins to think in terms of franchising himself. More church plants. Fancy letterhead and a whiz-bang website.  When we go overseas, however, we find something different. We find pockets of believers, oftentimes in hiding. We find them struggling to put food on their tables. And we find them well served by pastors with whom they share a common life.

Now I believe it is a good and fitting thing to pay a pastor (I Timothy 5:17). But I think we just might be guilty of cultural imperialism if we determine this is necessary, or even helpful in all circumstances. Worse we do the same thing with any number of western traditions that have even less biblical support. We send off missionaries to train locals on how to host a youth group. We raise money to build church buildings. Or we establish seminaries to make the local pastors as petty and confused as we are. All because this is how we do it here. Read more…

To Push Out A Tyrant You Need Space

crosscrownby Mark Horne

I’ve written a few posts about the rule of law and related issues. I supposed I could write a few more if I had the time. In my mind I am going in a certain directions with these posts. I’ll go ahead and get to the point in this post:

Revolution is a really stupid idea.

Perhaps I’ve left out some steps in the argument. Let me try to make it obvious.

I’ve argued (or at least claimed, hopefully with some degree of credibility) that the rule of law is a social custom. It involves a set of rules that is enmeshed in a society so that “everybody” knows them. It is analogous to a language, with a similar role for teachers and the liability to degradation—but with a similar imperviousness to planning committees. It exists apart from the government or the state. It can be found in societies that had no state (i.e. Medieval Iceland, both in its pagan and Christian forms) and in societies with a well-developed state. Read more…

Happy Birthday, GKC

g-k-chestertonby Marc Hays

One-Hundred and thirty-nine years ago today, Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in Kensington, England.  I tend to keep track of the anniversary of his birth, because I was born 100 years and 2 days later.  (It would be way cooler if the “2 days” part was not there, but it is what it is.)

Since you’re here, and  given the small amount of time you have to devote to reading blog posts, I am going to give you the gift of brevity for Mr. Chesterton’s birthday, i.e. I’m going to hush and let GKC speak for himself.  If the best gift you can give an author is to quote him, then Mr. Chesterton, having perfected the art of  quotability, must be one of the easiest people in the world to buy for. Read more…

Zero Dark Thirty or: How I Learned to be Ambivalent Toward Torture

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For Memorial Day yesterday, we watched ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ Here are a few thoughts: 

1. It is an amazing piece of 21st Century propaganda. I can scarcely believe that the USSR or any other despotic state would ever have made a movie justifying, and perhaps even glorifying, torture, much less even publicly admitting that did it. But that is just what Zero Dark Thirty does. And even I, never one to acquiesce to utilitarianism, almost came away thinking, “Wow. That’s disgustingly awful, not to mention illegal, but I guess that’s how they got bin Laden.” 

2. The fact that our government will torture people, but moralisticly set limits on it (as if theirs is “good” torture and anything beyond this arbitrary line is “bad” torture), is tragically comical. We won’t break bones and fingers, use sharp objects to inflict pain, put bamboo underneath a man’s fingernails and glass in his urethra. No, that’s all bad. We’ll just deprive him of sleep, food, and water, hang him from ropes, walk him like a dog, confine him a small box, and pour water down his throat, and do it all for the rest of his life. This is like a pirate ship with a strict code of “honor,” that justifies its piracy because they only pillage, whereas the “evil” pirates pillage, rape, and murder. 

3. Another movie that also graphically portrayed a Western State torturing Muslims was ‘The Battle of Algiers.’ Except this was an anti-war movie that was banned for five years in France because it made the French Government look bad. Contrast that with ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ Here we have torture graphically portrayed, but rather than revolting the viewer and forcing him to rethink his nation’s foreign policy objectives, it is portrayed as a necessary evil serving the interests of the foreverwar. Every time the portrayals of torture bring you to the point of being sickened, another terrorist attack will be re-enacted on screen to show you just how “worth it” torture is. How we can go from a society that is sickened by torture to one that cheers (or at the very least is ambivalent toward it) in little more than a generation is amazing.

4. As a has friend pointed out to me, one of the major themes running throughout the film is that we are made to feel empathy for the CIA agents who are doing the torturing. This is true. Both Maya and Dan, the CIA Agents in the film who participated in torture, are visibly fatigued by years of that work. Dan eventually leaves for another assignment, due to the gruesomeness of the work (and, oh yeah, fear of being held accountable for his crimes). Maya, though, consumed with zeal after the death of her friend at the hands of a suicide bomber, presses on. However, in the final scene, we are supposed to come away with the thought that years of her barbarous work have taken their toll on her. It seems what director Kathryn Bigelow wants us to believe is that the ends justify the means and that if there is a cost for having tortured people, it is only the torturers who pay it. Never are we in any way made to put ourselves in the place of the men who are being tortured. They, of course, are subhuman. Empathy toward the tortured and empathy toward those abducted from their homes and interned in camps for the rest of their lives is not something this film makes us feel. And lest anyone mistake me for an Al Qaeda sympathizer, most of these men are murderers or men who have aided and abetted murderers, at least allegedly (of course, few have actually ever stood trial). The reason we should feel empathy for these men is not that we should sympathize with radical Islamic Jihadists, but that if the American State can break its own laws and torture truly evil men and hold them without trial, how long is it before the IRS, for instance, can do that to any one of us? And you think audits are bad. 

Roots of a British Awakening?

A guest post by Thomas S Kidd

My family and I just returned from two weeks in the U.K., and while we were there, several major British religion news events transpired. First, on a day we happened to be in Edinburgh, Church of Scotland delegates voted to allow gay ministers. Then, when we returned to London, came the appalling murder of a British solider by two Muslims, one of whom was arrested in Kenya in 2010 for seeking al-Qaeda training. Finally, a new study of U.K. census data indicated that within a decade, perhaps less than half of all people in Britain will identify even nominally as Christians.Michael-Adebolajo-1912414

These disparate developments suggest several religious patterns: first, prominent churches in the U.K. seem generally inclined to follow the lead of mainline denominations in the U.S. and Canada on issues related to gender and homosexuality. The Church of England has recently decided to ordain celibate homosexuals as bishops, and has issued a new plan to ordain women bishops within two years. These developments make inevitable more difficulties between the shrinking mainline churches in the west, and the burgeoning ones in the global south, which are generally more traditional on issues of sexuality.

Second, the U.K. (like much of Eurjeffertsschori_2_300(1)ope) has a pressing problem of how to handle its growing Muslim population, some fraction of which are jihadist sympathizers. (Anecdotally, I was struck by how ubiquitous the signs of Islam are in the U.K., from mosques to burqa-clad women.) While America’s Muslim population remains proportionately low, especially outside of large cities, in the U.K. a tenth of the under-25 population is now Muslim, and the self-identifying Christian population is stagnant and aging. If it were not for Christian immigrants to the U.K. from sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, Christianity would be in utter free-fall as a percentage of the British population.

Abandoned_ChapelThird, the legal establishment of the Church of England looks increasingly strange and antiquated, when you consider how Christianity (Anglican or otherwise) is losing even a nominal hold over much of the population. It is hard to imagine how the church will survive calls for its disestablishment (meaning withdrawal of state financial support and other trends toward stronger separation of church and state) unless a very different pattern emerges in the next generation. In a democratic country, it seems impossible to justify an established Christian church when so few actively practice Christianity, and when even nominal Christianity seems destined to command no more than a plurality of the population’s  adherence. Yet the British government – particularly the monarchy – is still closely identified with Christianity. They still pray “God save the queen” in Anglican liturgies.

Given all this, is there hope for Christian revival in Britain? Christians, of course, always believe there is hope for redemption and renewal, because of God’s power. The observable facts are not promising, but there are certainly pockets of flourishing Christianity in Britain. The Kingsway International Christian Centre, an African Pentecostal congregation which is London’s largest church, attracts as many as 12,000 attendees every Sunday, and there are many other growing immigrant-dominated congregations across the U.K. Evangelical renewal efforts within the Anglican Church include the Alpha Course, pioneered by Nicky Gumbel (see more on the Alpha Course in this Anxious Bench post by Philip Jenkins).

While my family was blessed to attend Evensong services at both St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, the most vital church we visited was an evangelical Baptist congregation in Stirling, Scotland, which sits prominently in the city center. While nowhere near the scale of Kingsway, it is filled with young Scottish families. The worship is heartfelt, the preaching biblical and accessible, and community life and prayer support are vibrant. Those factors, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, would seem to be essential ingredients for revival in the U.K. and beyond.

@ThomasSKidd on Twitter

Thomas Kidd is a contributing scholar to The Kuyperian Commentary. His newest book is Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots, published in 2011 with Basic Books.

[This article first appeared at The Anxious Bench. Read more from Dr. Kidd there.]

To Be With Christ

by Marc Hays

Earlier this year I was sick. I slept most of a Saturday. On Sunday afternoon I tried to redeem some of the time by listening to a few lectures on my ipod. Shortly after beginning to listen, my six-year-old son, Seth, came into the bedroom and asked to lie down beside me. I told him that he could and rolled over on my side. He laid himself down behind me and began to rub my back. For the next three hours, Seth did nothing except spend time with me. He would periodically rub my back and ask if it felt good. Sometimes he would watch the clock countdown on the ipod and tell me how many minutes that I had left in a particular lecture. He didn’t need toys, books, or movies to keep him occupied, because he was completely occupied by simply being with me.

I remember reading once that Jonathan Edwards recommended using a time of illness as an opportunity for self-examination. This should come as no surprise; there weren’t many periods in one’s life that Edwards did not recommend as being appropriate times for self-examination. He said that one should not see the illness as a direct result of one’s sin, but wasting the time spent flat on your back would be foolish.

Christ in the House of Mary and MarthaSo there I lay–flat on my back, receiving the undivided attention of my son, examining myself, and realizing that I am much more like Martha than I am like Mary. I need purposes, goals, aspirations–something to “do” to show my love. Give me a schedule or a deadline, and I can prove that I mean business. But like Mary, Seth knows of a better way to show devotion. He can just sit at my feet, or lie beside me as it were, because he loves me. Where I am, is where he wants to be.

Paul told the Philippians that for him to remain in the flesh meant fruitful labor, but to depart and be with Christ was far better. When it comes to “fruitful labor”, I know how to keep a day jam-packed with profitable things, but Paul taught us that the better thing is “to be with Christ”. I don’t think I’ve begun to understand “being with Christ”. Maybe I can begin to see by remembering the guileless attention of my son, who paid his father the highest honor imaginable by simply wanting to be with him.

Trinity Sunday: Divine Love

The Church celebrates this Sunday the blessed, Holy Trinity. God is Three and One. In the calendar, Trinity Sunday follows Pentecost. Pentecost was the pouring of the Spirit (The Third Person of the Holy Trinity) upon an infant Church. Pentecost enabled the Bride of Christ to be the instrument of change in the world. She has become the fiery sword that conquers evil and puts foreign armies to flight. Pentecost was the undoing of Babel. The unclean lips of Babel have become–by the Spirit– the clean lips of the messengers of Yahweh going to all the ends of the earth.

The Trinity seals this mission with divine approval. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have covenanted together to see that the divine promises are fulfilled. Trinity Sunday is the renewed call to go into the world not in the name of some unknown God, but in the Name of the True God who reveals Himself in Three Persons. Read more…

More Mouths to Feed

by Luke Welch

We worship God for his glory, and glory means he is ever overflowing with beauty, truth, and goodness. We go to him with praise, because that’s where all the praise worthy stuff is. And when we get there, the glory of God isn’t a mere morsel that we would consume if we tasted it. The glory of God is like the feast of a great chef. If you heard the finest chef was presenting his most triumphant culinary successes to you – you would go. You would go with your fork in hand. Hunger would be a virtue, and wide eyes would be welcome. Wanting what the maker gives would be a praise to the maker.

You have begun going to this chef all the time for his manna, and for his fish, and for his loaves, and for his oil. And over time you have realized that you can take as much food as you can eat, and that at the end of every feast there are twelve baskets of leftovers. Not even a myriad munchers can out consume the service of such a chef. He never runs out, and it is as if at his right hand are delicacies forevermore. As if. Read more…

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