Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Most Dangerous Place for an African American

I just love truth, especially when talking about the value of life:

 

Keller’s King’s Cross Releases Today at 60% Off

Tim Keller’s, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (Penguin), releases today, and will be available at Westminster Books for 60% off.

Tim Keller’s Description of King’s Cross:
“The whole story of the world—and of how we fit into it—is most clearly understood through a careful, direct look at the story of Jesus. My purpose here is to try to show, through his words and actions, how beautifully his life makes sense of ours.”

“[The Gospel of] Mark does not read like a dry history. It is written in the present tense, often using words like ‘immediately’ to pack the account full of action. You can’t help but notice the abruptness and breathless speed of the narrative. This Gospel conveys, then, something important about Jesus. He is not merely a historical figure, but a living reality, a person who addresses us today. In his very first sentences Mark tells us that God has broken into history. His style communicates a sense of crisis, that the status quo has been ruptured… Jesus has come; anything can happen now. Mark wants us to see that the coming of Jesus calls for decisive action… Therefore we need to respond actively. We can’t remain neutral. We may not sit and reflect and find excuses for not changing our lives now.”
Tim Keller (from the Preface to King’s Cross)

256 Pages
Published February 22, 2011

About the Author: Timothy Keller started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan in 1989. He is the bestselling author of The Reason for God, The Prodigal God, and Counterfeit Gods, he lives in New York City.


Homosexuality Grace, Truth, and the Need for Gentle Courage

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 13 of Don’t Call It a Comeback: An Old Faith for a New Day (Crossway, 2011), edited by Kevin DeYoung. I had the great privilege of working with Pastor Kevin DeYoung on this article. I also must give credit to Kevin for at least 90% of the final product. I am thankful that he allowed me to put my name on his ideas.) A link to the full article is provided after the excerpt.

All of the articles in the book are very well written. I encourage you to get the book for all of your college-aged students in your ministry. The book was written with the 20 – 30-something in mind.

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Homosexuality Grace, Truth, and the Need for Gentle Courage

By Eric Redmond and Kevin Deyoung

The fiasco will probably seem dated by the time this book hits the shelves, but it was a big deal for a few days. On October 1, 2009, late-night TV comedian David Letterman announced to his studio audience that he had had a sexual affair with one of his female staff members. There was a mixed reaction from the public. Some thought that Letterman was receiving his just desserts and deserved to be mocked as he had mocked others. Others said it was no big deal. As Tom Shales from The Washington Post commented, “Letterman can continue to lampoon sleazy political figures with no real fear of hypocrisy, however, because a TV comic is not an elected official responsible for the well-being of the nation or its citizenry.” So Letterman gets a pass because he’s a “comic, not a cleric or a congressman.”(1)

But then what do we make of Tiger Woods? After news broke of Tiger’s many paramours, he lost sponsorships, public esteem, and eventually his marriage. He withdrew from upcoming tournaments and checked himself in to a sexual addiction clinic. Is Letterman okay, but Tiger not?

Anytime sex is in the news, you can count on Americans being fascinated by it. What you can’t count on is the public’s reaction. For one report, there are laughs. For another, gasps. Sometimes the sins are thought egregious. Other times they are mere personal indiscretions. It’s as if our society wants sexual standards, but it doesn’t want them standardized.

Yet, in the face of this inconsistency, evangelical Christianity main- tains a theological case for a biblical sexuality that applies to all. There is a code of conduct defined and described by the Scriptures: a covenanted union of one man for one woman (until the death of either) as the Lord’s standard for all people in every society. Given this standard, Christians need to confront a variety of sins: pornography, adultery, premarital sex, unlawful divorce and remarriage. It’s not that we are killjoys, scared that people are enjoying themselves somewhere. Rather, it’s because we believe the Word of God, and believe God’s Word is good for us, that we feel compelled to uphold the Scripture’s stance on sexuality. And this stance includes the prohibition of homosexual behavior.

How to Talk the Talk

Homosexuality is a complicated and personal topic for many people. It is often difficult to discuss. More and more, many of us have friends or family who are gay. No doubt, some individuals reading this chapter struggle with same-gender attraction. So whenever we talk about homosexuality, we are talking about something very personal, often painful, and always controversial. But we cannot avoid this issue. It demands careful thought and a careful response. Homosexuality is not the only important issue for Christians, but it is one we cannot ignore.

It is unpopular in many quarters to critique homosexuality. “Progressive” justices seek to normalize and protect the homosexual “rights,” and some large denominational church bodies have approved the ordination of openly gay priests and ministers. The media presents homosexuality as acceptable and American as mom and apple pie. The Christian critique in this environment often sounds strident or bigoted. Sometimes, sadly, it is. But our attitude must be one of humility. To be a Christian is to acknowledge that we once were rebellious toward God and, in fact, are still fighting against rebellious impulses in our hearts. So we speak to those indulging in any sin from a point of meekness, as those who have been shown mercy and forgiveness, not as those worthy of God or morally superior to others. Our critique is strong, but, we hope, also humble. We have no righteousness of our own, and the only truth we speak is what we see in God’s Word.

In the Beginning

God’s plan from the beginning has been for one man and one woman to become one flesh in the covenant of marriage. When no suitable helper was found for Adam, the Lord God made a woman (Gen. 2:20, 22). She was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, and the two became one flesh (Gen. 2:23–24). God made the man and the woman to fit together, quite literally. In the creation, God intended for man and woman to exist in a state in which they could enjoy one another in an exclusive, lifelong “one flesh” union that would result in “filling the earth.” This kind of union only comes about in a heterosexual marriage.

We have good reason to think this one man–one woman union was and continues to be God’s design for human sexuality. For starters, marriage is given before the fall and pronounced very good (Gen. 1:31). What is good about it is not simply that Adam had a meaningful relationship, but that he was given a helper suitable for him—not an animal, not another man, but a woman, Eve. Moreover, Jesus reaffirmed God’s design for a one man–one woman marriage in Matthew 19:4–5: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” Heterosexual monogamy is God’s normative design for marriage. The Bible refuses to commend whatever deviates from this pattern—be it adultery, bestiality, polygamy, fornication, or homosexual behavior.

Sexuality in the context of heterosexual marriage is not only good, but exclusively good. Only heterosexual marriage relationships can show forth the complementary design of men and women. According to the apostle Paul, one of the purposes of marriage is to show forth the mystery of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32). If marriage can be construed as a man and a man or a woman and a woman, what is left of the glorious mystery of Christ and the church? We are left with only Christ and Christ or church and church.

Similarly, only heterosexual marriage relationships can fulfill God’s design in marriage to be fruitful and increase in number (Gen. 1:28). To be sure, sex is given for more than procreation. But just as surely, we cannot deny that God intends for children to be the result of the marriage union. Speaking about the covenant of marriage, Malachi 2:15 says, “Has not the L made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring” (NIV). Granted, some heterosexual couples cannot have children because of barrenness, impotence, old age, or other medical reasons. Their lack of reproduction does not make their union inappropriate. But that we live in a fallen world where the gift of children does not come to all couples is beside the point. What still stands is God’s design. Part of God’s plan for marriage is godly offspring. The issue is not whether every couple will be able to have children, but whether the marriage union itself reflects God’s original design for two people to come together who were given sexual organs to reproduce, one with the other.

Why Not Homosexuality?

The rest of Scripture confirms the Genesis design for marriage and sexual union. In particular, three clusters of passages teach that homosexual behavior is contrary to Scripture and displeasing to God.

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1Tom Shales, “Let’s Remember That Letterman’s a Comic, Not a Cleric or a Congressman,” The Washington Post, October 6, 2009, accessed October 21, 2009, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/05/AR2009100503982.html?nav=rss_email/components.

Read the whole chapter here. Special thanks go to Crossway for making the chapter available for posting. Congratulations to Pastor DeYoung on another great book!

DeYoung, Kevin, ed. Don’t Call It A Comback: An Old Faith for a New Day (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2011). Article used by permission.

Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”

Denny Burk on Lady Gaga’s new song which has already been played over 9 million times, in its first four days, on her YouTube page:

“Born This Way” is making a theological point. It contends that sexual orientation is an innate and immutable quality of the human condition—a trait that we are “born” with. Whether you are gay, straight, or whatever, God made you this way, and for that reason you should embrace it. Or as Gaga herself puts it, “I’m beautiful in my way ’cause God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track baby. I was born this way.”

The message of the song drinks deeply of the “is-ought” fallacy—the idea that we can determine what ought to be by observing what is. The song’s message also flies in the face of the Bible’s depiction of a fallen creation. It is true that God created human beings in His own image and that as a result every single human has intrinsic value and worth (Genesis 1:26-27). It is not true, however, that God endorses every thought and intention of the human heart. We live in a Genesis 3 world in which humanity and the cosmos are fallen and compromised by sin. That means that some of our desires are misdirected—even some of the ones that we are born with. That we desire sin from birth is not a cause for celebratory anthems but an indication of just how desperate the human condition really is (Psalm 51:5;58:3Jeremiah 17:9).

 

HT: JT, Between Two Worlds


The John Carlos Story: Available for Pre-Order, So Get Yours

Now’s here’s a book I am eager to read when it is available: The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment that Changed the World (Haymarket Books, 2011) will give me insights into the life of a man with a sports image more memorable than Dwight Clark’s catch or ABC’s Wide World of Sports’, “and the agony of defeat.” As far as the history of the progress of race and sports in America is concerned, John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s protest at the 200-meters race medal ceremony stands alongside of Jesse Owen’s victory’s in the face of Hitler and Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier in professional baseball. Carlos and Smith did not allow small achievements in racial relations in American sports to obscure the need for greater progress on race in the entire country. The 1968 Olympics gave them a platform for speaking to the nation. If one does not allow revisionism to interpret the moment of the protest, even Carlos and Smith’s choice of Black Power symbols now can be understood with sympathy and gratefulness.

Dave Zinn, the author, is a great sports writer.

Here is more on the protest from The Beachside Resident (with cover image from amazon.com):

Tommie Smith and John Carlos Raise Their Fists

They stood barefoot on the medal podium at the Mexico City 1968 Olympics, beads dangling from their necks. As America’s national anthem commenced, sprinters Tommie Smith (b. 1944) — the son of a migrant worker — and Harlem’s John Carlos (b. 1945) raised their black-gloved fists in the air.

Dave Zirin calls it, “arguably the most enduring image in sports history,” but hastens to add, “the image has stood the test of time, the politics that led to that moment have been cast aside by capitalism’s commitment to political amnesia; its political teeth extracted.”

“I didn’t do what I did as an athlete; I raised my voice in protest as a man,” John Carlos told Zirin in 2003. The protest voiced by Carlos and Smith produced a firestorm as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not only forced the U.S. Olympic Committee to withdraw the two world-class sprinters from the upcoming relays, the IOC had them expelled from the U.S. Olympic team.

“We didn’t come up there with any bombs,” says Carlos. “We were trying to wake the country up and waken the world up, too.”

Contrary to Rosa Park-like rumors, Carlos and Smith were not acting alone or spontaneously. Teammates at San Jose State College, they had both been involved in a planned Olympic boycott by black athletes. “In the fall of 1967, amateur black athletes formed Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) to organize a boycott of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City,” Zirin explains. The OPHR founding statement read, in part:

“We must no longer allow this country to use a few so-called Negroes to point out to the world how much progress she has made in solving her racial problems when the oppression of Afro-Americans is greater than it ever was. We must no longer allow the sports world to pat itself on the back as a citadel of racial justice when the racial injustices of the sports world are infamously legendary… any black person who allows himself to be used in the above manner is a traitor because he allows racist whites the luxury of resting assured that those black people in the ghettos are there because that is where they want to be. So we ask why should we run in Mexico only to crawl home?”

The OPHR also demanded the restoration of Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight title (stripped due to his resistance to the military draft), the removal of white supremacist Avery Brundage as head of the United States Olympic Committee, and the “disinviting” of two apartheid states, South Africa and Rhodesia.

The IOC made the gesture of conceding on the third demand… a move that cleverly blunted the threat of a boycott. Carlos and Smith were far from satisfied. Thus, on the second day of the Games, when Smith set a world record in the 200 meters and Carlos placed third, they had a stage on which to stand barefoot.

“We wanted the world to know that in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Central Los Angeles, Chicago, that people were still walking back and forth in poverty without even the necessary clothes to live,” says Carlos. “We have kids that don’t have shoes even today. It’s not like the powers that be can’t provide these things. They can send a spaceship to the moon, or send a probe to Mars, yet they can’t give shoes? They can’t give health care? I’m just not naive enough to accept that.”

The beads around their necks were for “those individuals that were lynched, or killed that no one said a prayer for, that were hung tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the Middle Passage.”

Again, contrary to whitewashed history, the two men were not acting without support. “When the silver medalist, a runner from Australia named Peter Norman saw what was happening, he ran into the stands to grab an OPHR patch off a supporter’s chest to show his solidarity on the medal stand,” Zirin adds.

As the American flag began its ascent up the flagpole and the opening notes of the “Star Spangled Banner” played, Carlos and Smith stood barefoot with heads bowed and fists raised in a black power salute. The fallout — both positive and negative — was instantaneous.

“They violated one of the basic principles of the Olympic Games: that politics play no part whatsoever in them,” Brundage declared. The Los Angeles Times called the raised fists a “Nazi-like salute.”

Wyomia Tyus, anchor of the women’s gold medal-winning 4×100 team, dedicated her team’s gold medal to Carlos and Smith, while the all-white crew team issues a public statement announcing their “moral commitment to support our black teammates in their efforts to dramatize the injustices and inequities which permeate our society.”

“It was a watershed moment of resistance,” writes Zirin.” But Carlos and Smith are not merely creatures of nostalgia. As we build resistance today at war, theirs is a living history we should celebrate.”

“It’s not something I can lay on my sheld and forget about,” concludes Tommie Smith. “My heart and soul are still on that team, and I still believe everything we were trying to fight for in 1968 has not been resolved and will be part of our future.”

Excerpted from the book “50 Revolutions You’re Not Supposed To Know” by Mickey Z., courtesy of The Disinformation Company (www.disinfo.com).

Classics and Howard University

A rerpint from the guardian.co.uk:

A letter in the current Times Literary Supplement – alas, I can’t find it online – outlines a troubling scenario at Howard University, the American institution initially founded shortly after the Civil War as a seminary for African-American clergy, which quickly became a college specialising in the liberal arts and medicine. From the beginning, it had a classics department. And this was a serious business, in an era when Matthew Arnold expressed surprise at hearing a black student reading Greek aloud because he thought “the tongue of the African was so thick he could not be taught to pronounce the Greek correctly”.

Now, according to the letter, which comes from classicists Joy Connollyand Helen Morales, the board of trustees at Howard wishes to close that department of classics – which has produced distinguished alumni, not least Nobel laureate and Toni Morrison – and merge it into a school with religion and philosophy.

According to Connolly and Morales: “The Howard provost explains the reorganisation of Classics as part of an effort to meet ‘the future needs’ of students and the ‘wider society’.”

The letter concludes:

“There are graver dangers in the path Howard may chart, a path many universities in the USA may soon pursue, the dismissal of the creative imagination and devalutation of eloquence in favour of technical expertise. The inequities that motivated the founding of Howard are far from fully erased. And in a rapidly changing world requiring deep understanding of history and unfamiliar habits of thought, the liberal arts make a robust and irreplaceable contribution to sustaining democratic culture. It seems a poor time, therefore, to say to black students, ‘study practical matters, not Classics’.”

This controversy seems to me to exemplify – albeit in particularly stark and sinister fashion – the assault on the liberal arts on both sides of the Atlantic. Lacking apparent utility and “relevance”, the liberal arts, and in particular seemingly arcane subjects such as classics, get squeezed. Just when the world needs, as Morales and Connolly point out, “that deep understanding of history and unfamiliar habits of thought” that are the bulwark against ignorance, prejudice and lazy thinking.

Learning the classics is about an engagement with a world of ideas that goes far beyond notions of “relevance” to those of a particular class, race, nationality or gender. Novel laureate Derek Walcott, who once taught at Howard, took Homer as his model when writing his epic retelling of the Iliad and Odyssey set on St Lucia. No matter that St Lucia has nothing to do with the Mediterranean of the darkest antiquity: Homer is a place of the imagination, a poetic geography. That said, I sometimes wonder whether there is a kind of utility in a story that could be told, but rarely is, of Britain’s earliest African history – a history that vastly predates the Atlantic slave trade and the British empire, but tells instead of the days when an African, Clodius Albinus, was the Roman governor of Britain and fought another Roman from Africa, Septimius Severus for the purple.

 

The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind on Kindle

Yesterday I finished Carl Trueman’s, The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Moody, 2011). It is only available on Kindle for $1.59. It is worth the investment of pocket change. Trueman’s work is very important to the current discussion on homosexuality within evangelicalism, and to evangelical identity in general. Also, it has significance to the identities of evangelicalism’s confessional institutions, and evangelical students and scholars’ place in the future academic world.

I have recommended the work – only 41pp. – to all of my colleagues and students, my church leaders, and to several friends in the SBC. If I had access to the work prior to establishing my syllabi for this semester, I would had made it part of my required reading for my Pauline course and for my Historical Books course’s readings related to postmodernism.

Many of you probably are aware that you do not need a Kindle device in order to receive Kindle-formatted works. Kindle has an app for many smartphones and handheld wireless devices. I would encourage you to download the work. You also might wish to recommend the work to your pastor and elders.

Product Description

What is an evangelical . . . and has he lost his mind? Carl Trueman wrestles with those two provocative questions and concludes that modern evangelicals emphasize experience and activism at the expense of theology. Their minds go fuzzy as they downplay doctrine. The result is “a world in which everyone from Joel Osteen to Brian McLaren to John MacArthur may be called an evangelical.”

Fifteen years ago in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, historian Mark Noll warned that evangelical Christians had abandoned the intellectual aspects of their faith. Christians were neither prepared nor inclined to enter the intellectual debate, and had become marginalized. Today Trueman argues, “Religious beliefs are more scandalous than they have been for many years”-but for different reasons than Noll foresaw. In fact, the real problem now is exactly the opposite of what Noll diagnosed―evangelicals don’t lack a mind, but rather an agreed upon evangel. Although known as gospel people, evangelicals no longer share any consensus on the gospel’s meaning.

Provocative and persuasive, Trueman’s indictment of evangelicalism also suggests a better way forward for those theologically conservative Protestants once and formerly known as evangelicals.