Category Archives: Being Intellectually Virtuous

Harold Dean Trulear: “Young black men are created in the image of God, too”

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In following as much as I can on the nation’s reactions to the Zimmerman trial verdict, I missed this opinion piece by Dr. Harold Dean Trulear, professor at Howard University School of Divinity. Trulear writes,

In addition to the calls for a conversation on race, there must be a parallel public discussion of the meaning of justice. Each of us must turn to our religious traditions for definitions of justice which reflect our sacred texts and belief systems. We cannot afford to engage serious issues of public justice solely based on popular, uncritical definitions, regardless of the side which they emerge. And there exist other religious resources in our traditions which need to be applied.

One critical tenet for me is the “image of God.”

Read the full opinion here.

 

Some Revelations of Racial Regress (Three Weeks Later)

imagesThree weeks ago, I submitted the following post for consideration to a popular blog site. However, before they could make a decision on the post, the Zimmerman Trial concluded. I asked the site to withdraw the submission in light of the end of the trial. I have closed the comments.

___________________

Paula Deen’s self-justified use of the N-word, combined with the SCOTUS (U.S. Supreme Court) non-decision on Affirmative Action in college admissions, calls for a double-take concerning where we are heading on race in America. When you add to these the SCOTUS decision on the Voting Rights Act and the George Zimmerman trial, then racial progress in the U.S. looks like it is sitting on a powder keg. Consider:

1.  The political achievement of an African American President seems to be more about ideology than race. Although he was born at the tail end of the Boomer era, President Obama is the political offspring of the 1960’s liberals. If he were not as liberal as he is toward the dismantling of traditional marriage and the safeguarding of abortion, I suspect he would not have the favorable poll ratings he currently enjoys. His favor is not a commentary on our progress on race as much as it is a commentary on our regress on morality. A lowering of morality will accept any racial identity.

2.  The justification of use of the N-word by Paula Deen seems to reveal that economics makes it virtually impossible to eliminate race-based social stratification and animadversion. That is, if Paula Deen thought that she would lose business by her comments, she probably would not have attempted to justify them as suitable. Apparently she assumed that enough of her consumers shared her views on race that her label would be accepted even if she revealed it to be the face of a racist corporate owner. Certainly the consumers she had in mind were not African American. If we had known she harbored such racial sentiments, my family and I would not have patronized Deen’s The Lady and Sons restaurant on a recent visit to Savannah, Georgia.

3.  The complexities of the Zimmerman trial seem to reveal that African Americans need to make a greater assault toward countering negative stereotypes. Zimmerman is not the nation’s only racial profiler. Sadly, I am one of millions of Americans who is shocked and pleased to hear an African American professional athlete use the King’s English in a post-game interview. Also, I am one who is grateful to see an articulate African American speaking into a microphone on the nightly news. Yet this reveals that I am expecting – as are many others – a different experience.

           Similarly, in the recent AT&T, “Faster is Better” commercials, as one of my friends noticed, an African American girl says, “castses” instead of “casts,” and an African American boy acts like a buffoon while doing “two things at once,” as if his multitasking could not involve an intelligent and poised discussion. AT&T gives prominent roles to two minority children, but does not give them exalted roles; instead it gives stereotypical roles. If such stereotypes are expected and acceptable, what might happen when a hooded, unidentified African American teen, walking at night in a gated community, is sighted by a neighborhood watch figure with legal permission to stand his ground? I am not justifying Zimmerman’s actions, for I think he erred in acting on the stereotype, and in pursuing Martin when he was told not to do so. For this much he is guilty of Second Degree Manslaughter in the least, even if both Zimmerman and Martin acted in self-defense in the aftermath of Zimmerman’s initial errors.

As a parent, I have told my children with the greatest seriousness, “When you walk into a store, the camera is on you. You cannot run down aisles loudly and rudely as children of other ethnicities might be permitted to do, and you cannot touch anything.” When you do not touch items on the shelf in a store, the accusation of theft will be impossible even where stereotypes abound, and you will be working toward negating the stereotype.

4.  The SCOTUS decision reveals a naiveté about racial discrimination that harms future racial progress in the country. Greater than the issue of legal criteria for judging states’ oversight by the government is the issue of the evil in peoples’ hearts. Please, do not deceive yourself for one moment by quoting to me, “You cannot legislate morality.” A society cannot change the intents and motives of individuals, but we can codify right and wrong so that we can restrain evil and incentivize the good. Without legislation, we leave institutional change to the morality of each citizen — morality that often degrades when obtaining positions of power are at stake. I suspect a greater number of minorities will witness challenges both in being able to vote, and in making sure cast votes are counted in upcoming elections.

In all, the racial challenges in the country reveal that many hearts need a change that will promote a focus on the dignity of all people, and not simply one’s own race, ethnicity, or country. Such change will not come from education, legislation, or adjudication alone, for educators, legislators, and judges simply are people in academic, governmental, and legal roles: They suffer from racial blind spots and ethnic favoritism common to all of us. Real change must come from an influence external to every one of us.

I have witnessed Christ changing the hearts of many who are racist or ethnocentric, for Christ offers the power to see oneself humbly and others as greater than oneself (Phil. 2:3-4). His power gives life over death to all indiscriminant of race, class, gender, or social status (Gal. 3:26-29). Such power comes because Christ both died on the Cross in order to conquer sin and its curse – including racism-related sins – and rose again with power over death and all things (Gal. 3:13; Mt. 28:16-20). Obedience to the preaching of this Gospel would affect racial progress all over the globe.

Recommended: The Obamas and a (Post) Racial America? (Oxford)

Re-blog from Kevin DeYoung: Why the Arguments for Gay Marriage Are Persuasive

Why the Arguments for Gay Marriage Are Persuasive (from Kevin DeYoung’s blog).

I should have re-bloged this post the day it came out:

Why the Arguments for Gay Marriage Are Persuasive

With two landmark gay marriage cases before the Supreme Court we are already seeing a flurry of articles, posts, tweets, and status updates about the triumph it will be when America finally embraces equality for all and allows homosexuals to love each other. These tweets and posts and articles perfectly capture the reason why the arguments for gay marriage have become so persuasive so fast. Given the assumptions and patterns of thinking our culture has embraced in the last fifty years, the case for gay marriage is relatively easy to make and the case against it makes increasingly little sense.

I don’t think the arguments for gay marriage are biblically faithfully, logically persuasive, or good for human flourishing in the long run, but they are almost impossible to overcome with most Americans, especially in younger generations. By and large, people don’t support gay marriage because they’ve done a lot of reading and soul searching, just like people didn’t oppose it on high flying intellectual grounds either. For a long time, homosexuality seemed weird or gross. Now it seems normal. More than that, it fits in perfectly with the dominant themes and narratives shared in our culture. Gay marriage is the logical conclusion to a long argument, which means convincing people it’s a bad idea requires overturning some of our most cherished values and most powerful ideologies.

Think of all the ways gay marriage fits in with our cultural mood and assumptions.

1. It’s about progress. Linking the pro-gay agenda with civil rights and women’s rights was very intentional, and it was a masterstroke. To be against gay marriage, therefore, is to be against enlightenment and progress. It puts you on the “wrong side of history.” Of course, most people forget that lots of discarded ideas were once hailed as the inevitable march of progress. Just look at Communism or eugenics or phrenology or the Volt. But people aren’t interested in the complexities of history. We only know we don’t want to be like the nincompoops who thought the sun revolved around the earth and that slavery was okay.

2. It’s about love. When gay marriage is presented as nothing but the open embrace of human love, it’s hard to mount a defense. Who could possibly be against love? But hidden in this simple reasoning is the cultural assumption that sexual intercourse is necessarily the highest, and perhaps the only truly fulfilling, expression of love. It’s assumed that love is always self-affirming and never self-denying. It’s assumed that our loves never require redirection. Most damagingly, our culture (largely because of heterosexual sins) has come to understand marriage as nothing but the state sanctioning of romantic love. The propagation and rearing of children do not come into play. The role in incentivizing socially beneficial behavior is not in the public eye. People think of marriage as nothing more than the commitment (of whatever duration) which romantic couples make to each other.

3. It’s about rights. It’s not by accident the movement is called the gay rights movement. And I don’t deny that many gays and lesbians feel their fundamental human rights are at stake in the controversy over marriage. But the lofty talk of rights blurs an important distinction. Do consenting adults have the right to enter a contract of their choosing? It depends. Businesses don’t have a right to contract for collusion. Adults don’t have a right to enter into a contract that harms the public good. And even if you think these examples are beside the point, the fact remains that no law prohibits homosexuals (or any two adults) from making promises to each other, from holding a ceremony, from entering into a covenant with each other. The question is whether the government should bestow upon that contract the name of marriage with all the rights and privileges thereto.

4. It’s about equality. Recently, I saw a prominent Christian blogger tweet that she was for gay marriage because part of loving our neighbor is desiring they get equal justice under the law. Few words in the American lexicon elicit such broad support as “equality.” No one wants to be for unequal treatment under the law. But the issue before the Supreme Court is not equality, but whether two laws–one voted in by the people of California and the other approved by our democratically elected officials–should be struck down. Equal treatment under the law means the law is applied the same to everyone. Gay marriage proponents desire to change the law so that marriage becomes something entirely different. Surveys often pose the question “Should it be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to marry?” That makes it sound like we are criminalizing people for commitments they make. The real issue, however, is whether the state has a vested interest in sanctioning, promoting, and privileging certain relational arrangements. Is it unjust for the state not to recognize as marriage your group of four friends, close cousins, or an office suite just because they want their commitments to be called marriage?

5. It’s about tolerance. Increasingly, those who oppose gay marriage are not just considered wrong or mistaken or even benighted. They are anti-gay haters. As one minister put it, gay marriage will eventually triumph because love is stronger than hate. Another headline rang out that “discrimination is on trial” as the Supreme Court hears arguments on Proposition 8 and DOMA. The stark contrast is clear: either you support gay marriage or you are a bigot and a hater. It’s no wonder young people are tacking hard to left on this issue. They don’t want to be insensitive, close-minded, or intolerant. The notion that thoughtful, sincere, well-meaning, compassionate people might oppose gay marriage is a fleeting thought.

So what can be done? The momentum, the media, the slogans, the meta-stories all seem to be on the other side. Now what?

For starters, churches and pastors and Christian parents can prepare their families both intellectually and psychologically for the opposition that is sure to come. Conservative Christians have more kids; make sure they know what the Bible says and know how to think.

We should also remember that the church’s mission in life is not to defeat gay marriage. While too many Christians have already retreated, there may be others who reckon that everything hangs in the balance on this one issue. Let’s keep preaching, persevering, pursuing joy, and praying for conversions. Christians should care about the issue, and then carry on.

And if we are interested in being persuasive outside of our own churches, we’ll have to do several things better.

1) We need to go back several steps in each argument. We’ll never get a hearing on this issue, or a dozen others issues, unless we trace out the assumptions behind the assumptions behind the arguments behind the conclusions.

2) We need more courage. The days of social acceptability for evangelicals, let alone privilege, are fading fast in many parts of the country. If we aren’t prepared to be counter-cultural we aren’t ready to be Christians. And we need courage not only to say what the Bible says, but to dare say what almost no one will say–that gay sex is unnatural and harmful to the body, that abandoning gender distinctions will be catastrophic for our society and for children, and that monogamy and exclusivity is often understood differently in the gay community.

3) We need more creativity. Statements and petitions and manifestos have their place, but what we really need is more than words and documents. We need artists and journalists and movie makers and story tellers and spoken word artists and comedians and actors and rappers and musicians who are galvanized by the truth to sing and speak and share in such a way that makes sin look strange and righteousness look normal.

4) We need a both-and approach. In the months ahead I imagine we’ll see Christians wrestle with whether the best way forward is to form new arguments that appeal to people where they’re at, or whether we simply need to keep preaching the truth and trust God to give some people the ears to hear. I’m convinced we need to do both. Let’s keep preaching, teaching, and laboring for faithful churches. Let’s be fruitful and multiply. Let’s train our kids in the way they should go. Let’s keep sharing the good news and praying for revival. And let’s also find ways to make the truth plausible in a lost world. Not only the truth about marriage, but the truth about life and sex and creation and beauty and family and freedom and a hundred other things humans tend to forget on this side of Adam. The cultural assumptions in our day are not on our side, but if the last 50 years has shown us anything, it’s that those assumptions can change more quickly than we think.

The Little Redheaded Girl and Relativism: Senator Portman and Same Sex Attractions

AP120523044556Below is a large portion of the text from the article, GOP senator reverses gay-marriage stance after son comes out, (Yahoo News: The Ticket, March 15, 2013).

A prominent conservative senator said on Thursday that he now supports gay marriage.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told reporters from the Columbus Dispatch and other Ohio newspapers that his change of heart on the hot-button issue came two years after his son, Will, told him and his wife that he is gay.

“It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have—to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years,” Portman said.

In an interview with CNN, Portman said his son, then a freshman at Yale University, told him “that he was gay, and that it was not a choice, and that it’s just part of who he is, and that he’d been that way for as long as he could remember….”

He also told CNN that he sought guidance from former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter Mary is gay.

Portman said Cheney’s advice to him was simple: “Follow your heart.”

This report of Senator Portman’s reasoning on same sex marriage is so simplistic, it is almost unbelievable that we are entrusting this man to make decisions for our country. First, if his basis for a “new perspective” on a national issue with moral implications only considers a limited personal experience – Portman’s marriage – and a positive value judgment on it, then he is admitting that he cannot separate biased personal feelings from political decision-making. Yet he also is admitting that he has no objective basis for making decisions of this type or magnitude.

Second, if Portman believes his son has been “that way” since childhood, he is not able to discern the difference between the confused, private urgings of a child and the moral choices of an adult who chooses to participate in homosexual behavior. Yes, many members of the homosexual community claim to have had same-sex urgings for as long as they can remember – for almost as long as I have been African American – and that not by any choice of their own. However, I would hope a man who is responsible for participating in our democracy’s lawmaking would consider that if his son had spoken of his “way” to his parents when he a child, then he might have been able to help his son distinguish between immature confusion about primary age infatuation and what it means to be “gay.” Certainly Portman does not think his son desired to participate in acts of intercourse at the age of four. Instead, if the son had expressed his feelings and thoughts to dad at that age, and if the thoughts had been toward a four year old girl, Senator Portman probably would have thought, “That’s cute, son,” and not, “Son that’s a gross thought for someone your age!” He might have communicated to his son that it is natural to look at “the Little Red-Headed Girl,” as did Charlie Brown. But he would not have communicated, “Well son, it’s not too early for us to talk about safe sex.”

safe_image.phpThird, are we to believe that one with Senator Portman’s stewardship makes decisions by following his heart alone, and that he sees this as wisdom? I will give the senator the benefit of the doubt: What Senator Portman means is that he should follow his heart once he is past his initial feelings of shock (and maybe even some feelings of disappointment, rejection, embarrassment, and anger). Otherwise he would have made a very impulsive, possibly regrettable, decision. I hope, however, that he would follow his mind also, before he makes a policy decision based on emotional and/or physical urgings alone. But it seems that the senator is going to follow in the train of his son, rather than lead our country intelligently, and with prudence.

I guess I should be grateful that Senator Portman’s son does not want to give military aid to North Korea or marry a warthog.

Related Resource: Relativism: Feet Planted Firmly in Mid-Air

The Most Widely Misunderstood and Misrepresented Supreme Court Opinion of All Time

From Justin Taylor’s blog: The Most Widely Misunderstood and Misrepresented Supreme Court Opinion of All Time.

Francis Beckwith, author of the important and learned Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007), writes:

It is no exaggeration to say that no U.S. Supreme Court opinion has been more misunderstood and has had its arguments more misrepresented in the public square than Roe v. Wade (1973). There seems to be a widespread perception that Roe was a moderate opinion that does not support abortion on demand, i.e., unrestricted abortion for all nine months for virtually any reason. . . .

In order to fully grasp the reasoning of Roe, its paucity as a piece of constitutional jurisprudence, and the current state of abortion law, this article looks at three different but interrelated topics: (1) what the Court actually concluded in Roe; (2) the Court’s reasoning in Roe; and (3) how subsequent Court opinions, including Casey v. Planned Parenthood, have shaped the jurisprudence of abortion law.

You can read online the whole analysis: “The Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, and Abortion Law.”

For shorter summaries of the serious flaws in the legal reasoning, see Beckwith’s blog posts on (1) The Court’s Failure to Address the Question of the Unborn’s Moral Status, and (2)The Court’s Two Unwarranted Stipulations.

The President’s Expression of Christian Hope

Obama-speaks-at-Newtown-vigil-2-on-stage-jpg“Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests, scripture tells us, ‘Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.’”

(Text of President Obama’s Speech at Newtown, Connecticut memorial service, December 16, 2012, quoting 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1 (NIV [2011]).

I have been an outspoken critic of the apparent disconnect between President Obama’s professed Christian belief and his actions as President. The President has given his support to same-sex marriage, which clearly violates Scripture’s prohibitions against homosexuality and disregards the Divinely established institution of heterosexual marriage. Arguably he is the most pro-choice President in modern history, showing no regard for the sacredness of the lives of the unborn or the Sixth Commandment’s, “You shall not murder.” Moreover, he rarely participates in a public worship service unless it is related to a national event.

However, last night, during his speech in Newtown, Connecticut, the President did something different: He maintained his Presidential responsibility to comfort the country in a time of national tragedy while also expressing a Christian vision of hope. Three things stood out.

First, President Obama opened his speech quoting Paul’s hope of the “eternal weight of glory” eclipsing the suffering of this life. This is different than quoting The Golden Rule while hollowing out the rest of the teachings of Christ. By referencing the 2 Corinthians passage, the President offered an apostolic view of suffering and hope as the means by which he is making sense of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. To suggest that the deaths of more than a score of 6 – 7 year olds at the hands of a deranged gunman poses “a momentary and light affliction” for their parents, that community, or the nation, is a view that is uniquely Christian. To anyone else, such belief should seem ludicrous at best and completely insensitive at worst.

Second, the President litters much of his speech with references to Christian concepts of depravity and redemption. Consider this paragraph:

“As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other. You’ve cared for one another. And you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered, and with time and God’s grace, that love will see you through.”

Inserting “God’s grace” proclaims to the Newtown citizens that human effort alone is not sufficient to provide the strength necessary to return to a sense of normalcy in the future. The President returns to this idea later in the speech:

“We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.

We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.”

The allusions to Romans 3:23 and James 3:2 also are unmistakable as we “fall short” and “all stumble” while trying to discern “God’s heavenly plans.” Later in the speech, in this sovereign plan, the President says God also “calls [the slain children] home.” Rather than grasping for the ubiquitous “rest in a better place” rhetoric, President Obama pulls his understanding of death from Christian themes.

Third, the President directly quoted Jesus as a historical figure. What he did not say is important: He did not say, “The Bible says that Jesus said,” possibly suggesting Jesus is a literary figure of the Christian textual tradition. Instead, he said “‘Let the little children come to me,’ Jesus said, ‘and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven,’” drawing upon Matthew 19:14. For our Comforter in Chief, the slaughtered children landed in the arms of Christ.

In spite of making one mention of “all the world’s religions,” the President left no option of eternal hope or life after death through any other religious schemes or houses of worship. He risked offending every Muslim, Jew, and atheist. Yet he provided powerful words of comfort for the entire listening audience – and he did so by looking to heaven through Christ.

I recognize that the rest of the speech is typical, full of the common condolences the American people have come to expect and respect in the wake of national tragedies. I also know that these remarks might not reflect a full working of the Gospel in the heart and mind of President Obama. Yet itis a good start, and a welcomed sign of Christian-like convictions. I only pray and hope that this will be a sign of the influence of Christ in all that the President will do the next four years.

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bring the great comfort of heaven to the families and community of Newtown, Connecticut who lost their loves ones during last’s week’s tragic and senseless act of violence.

 

 

The 2013 Calvin Reading Group

Reblogging, from Lumbering Brown:  The 2013 Calvin Reading Group.

November 16, 2012 by Aaron

I spoke on the phone yesterday with Bliss Spillar IV, with whom previously I had only limited but encouraging interaction with over Twitter and Facebook. He’s the kind of man you only have to talk to once to know he has great enthusiasm for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a love for the people in his community. He is a self-professed “Jack of all Trades and Master of Few”, assistant to the lead pastor at Portico Churchblogger, as well as theActs29 Network coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic region. And pertaining to this post, he is the organizer of the upcoming 2013 Calvin Reading Group. Bliss was both grateful and surprised to have discovered that his webpage, which is dedicated to this reading group, was featured among the link list (“Right Now“, Nov. 14th) on the Gospel Coalition. I was too. It’s great that this reading group is getting some exposure, and I hope to proliferate that exposure by blogging about it.

I spoke with Bliss because he had accidentally been kicked out of his own Facebook group. He subsequently made me an admin so I could allow him back in. Feeling like I should at least talk to the brother, I obtained his number and gave him a ring. My involvement now is only as an administrator on the group’s Facebook page. However, I plan to be participating in our future, online Google hangouts (facilitated by Bliss), and chronicling the group’s progression here on my blog.

As any one of the three people who read Lumbering Brown, or anyone who knows me otherwise would attest to, I am the most milquetoast and understated advocate of Reformed theology (summarily referred to as Calvinism). Irony intended. On January 1st, I will be joining the growing flock of Christians who desire community, interaction, accountability and mutual-edification, as we endeavor to read through one of the greatest and most influential pieces of literature in the history of Christian theology: John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.

For anyone new to the Reformed tradition, anyone for or against Calvinism, anyone who has been Reformed all of their lives, or anyone simply curious, I encourage you to join. Make sure you check out Bliss’ blog for details.

A Helpful Resource (so I hear):

Greg Forster is interviewed by Justin Taylor about his book, “The Joy of Calvinism.” Admittedly, I haven’t read the book. But it is sitting on one of our shelves, dog-eared from both my wife’s reading and the one person to whom she had lent it. I’ve heard nothing but good about it.

I will post other resources from my own bookshelf in the months to come.

Deepening the Next Generation: The New Macedonia Baptist Church Family Conference 2012

The New Macedonia Baptist Church in Northeast Washington, DC, kindly invited me to lead a workshop at their Family Conference 2012 entitled, “Big Truths for Little Kids—Preparing the Next Generation to Advance the Kingdom of God.” In the workshop I speak on the benefit of using historic catechisms in order to discuss the truths of Scriptures with our children daily. I wish that I could convince all Christian parents to do such. Part of the intent of the historic catechisms is to train families in the faith so that children will continue in the practice of the faith as part of their daily lives. This would be repeated over and over again in successive generations.

I gave examples of how to utilize the catechism from Starr Meade’s, Training Heats, Teaching Minds (P&R). I have found this work extremely beneficial in bringing my own children along in the faith, or, as our church covenant says, “[educating] religiously our children.” As noted in the class, once we do the daily reading of the catechism, the devotional help by Meade, and the reading of the Scriptures, my children ask all of the questions. Much of what I do is facilitate a discussion about the truth. As a parent, you do not need to know all Biblical and theological things in order to lead your children to deepen in their faith. You simply need grace from Christ to pray and be faithful.

This year the Redmonds’ used the Heidelberg Catechism for the first time, after many years of using the Westminster Shorter Catechism. We almost have finished the entire Heidleberg. I also would recommend it for daily family times centered around the word of God.

If you need more argument for the importance of daily teaching of our children the truths of the faith, I would recommend J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett’s, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old Fashioned Way (Baker). If your real fear in training your children is that you do not know enough Bible and theology to answer potential questions from them (and your real problem is not that you simply do not wish to make the effort to faithfully meet with your family responsibly – cf. Dt. 4:9; 6:1-9; 11:19; Psalm 78:1-8; Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:15), I would recommend too Packer’s, Growing in Christ, Concise Theology, 18 Words, and the Knowing God Devotional Journal. You could make each of these works part of your own daily, personal Bible study for all of 2013. You would greatly increase in your knowledge of God in Christ, and your joy in him, by giving only fifteen minutes a day to such an endeavor. Your family and your church will benefit greatly from your growth too. I would recommend these works also for those who have no children to raise, but simply wish to grow more in the faith.

Misunderstanding Calvinism? A Very Lively (and Sometimes Ugly) Facebook Exchange

Recently there was a very lively exchange on my Facebook page about Calvinism. I will reproduce the conversation for you here, removing unrelated comments:

ME: Just completed my first church meeting at my new church home! Even my Presbyterian and CHBC friends would have been impressed. I only have seen as much love in a church meeting at Reformation Alive Baptist Church.

FB Friend1: Hm-m, I’ve never seen love at a reformed church; only coldness and pride.

FBF1: But since Calvinists deny that Jesus died for most people, then I can see why I haven’t found love at a Reformed church.

FBF2: That’s interesting. I go to a Reformed church and it is one of the most loving and caring places I’ve been in. I think it’s kind of cold and prideful to judge a church based on past experiences.

ME: (FBF1), may I apologize for my cold brethren? Calvinists should be the holiest, happiest, most humble, and most grateful people in the world. A simple reading of Tit. 3:1-8 should lead any Calvinist to the greatest humility. If you are ever in DC, come experience loads of love at New Canaan Baptist Church. I have been blessed by real love at this church.

FBF1: LOL. They sure do pride themselves on their humility…and everything else. :) That’s their downfall. “He who exalts himself will be humbled.” Indeed. :)

ME: (FBF1), not “they,” but “some.” :-)

FBF1: All 5 pt. Calvinists and “all’ means “all” like Jesus being the Savior of ALL men. ;) 1 Tim. 4:10. :)

ME: (FBF1), that’s funny! But not all Calvinists are proud; not one believer is as meek as Jesus.

FBF1: Sorry, Eric, but any group of people who disagrees with God that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world are ruled by pride because they think they know better than God does.

FBF1: So stay away from the Reformed church. What they’re showing you is not real love any more than any cult shows true love even though the cult members see it as love.

ME: (FBF1), that would be pride! But I have met many, many humble and loving Calvinists. I am sorry you have met proud Calvinists.

FBF1: Eric, they are preaching a false gospel. Since they deny that Jesus died for most people, they can’t even preach repentance or salvation! And since they don’t know who Jesus DID die for then they can’t preach repentance to ANYONE without lying to most people. But that’s what heresy does; it backfires on the heretics the most. So just stick to the bible, Eric. You seem like a great guy and I don’t want to see you brainwashed. take care. :)

FBF3: (FBF1), Calvinists neither deny that Jesus is the Savior of all, nor do they deny that he is especially the Savior of all who believe (1 Tim. 4:10). Calvinists understand that everyone’s salvation depends on God’s kindness, philanthropy, mercy and grace, not on works of righteousness which we have done (Titus 3:3-7). This divine initiative kills our pride, so that our boast is in God alone, and we walk humbly with God and others.

ME: Thanks, (FBF1), for your loving concern for me! I am grateful. I will try not to get brainwashed. I will stay open to views and opinions of others with discernment but not rigidity. I am glad Jesus died for us. I will stay aware of the sort of Calvinist you mentioned. May the Lord grant you a chance to run into one who loves people with the love of Christ. Blessings!

FBF4: (FBF1), what ‘Calvinists’ have YOU been in contact with? What you describe is a strawman (at least in terms of theology and evangelism). I’ve been Reformed for a bit o’ 12 years now and I’ve met arrogant Calvinists, arrogant and argumentative non-Calvinists who seek out Calvinists to argue with, as well as humble folk who only seek to know and do what the scriptures say we are to do and believe.

FBF1: Let’s see, CH Spurgeon, AW Pink, John Piper, John MacArthur, and every other 5 pt. Calvinist who denies that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. I’ve already blocked hundreds of them on FB. :)

FBF1: But like all cults, Calvinists love their false teachers because their teachers are the one[s] who gave them that false gospel because the bible says the opposite. :) But actually, it’s not a “gospel” at all that they preach because the word “gospel” means good news. And it’s definitely NOT good news to claim that Jesus didn’t love most people. :)

FBF4: Yet, you have Eric, Mark Dever, Justin Taylor and others on your friends list. LOL. Have a nice night (FBF1). Methinks you’re kidding around. LOL

FBF5: (FBF1), your rant should have ended with Prof. Redmond’s 1st or 2nd Response… now you are becoming a stumbling block and offending people…. aside from the issue of doctrine.

FBF6: Wow!! Read the dialogue and still I’m taken back a few steps. 5 point Calvinism I guess you gave in on that fifth point? If that’s what I’m taking from the dialogue.

FBF7: “He who is spiritual” is the one who seeks his brother’s repentance. He who is angry has their own plank to repent of… I suppose the shock of some at Limited Atonement causes many to bristle up. However, to be unloving and to call people names and at the same time to call a whole group of people unloving, generalizing them, is inconsistent. Hatred in the heart is murder (FBF1). Smug smiley faces don’t help either. Truthfully, everyone limits the atonement except for Universalists, either in its intent or in its application. I don’t know if or where (FBF1) may have gone to seminary, but pray for her, that she would see the truth and that the love of God would bring her to love her fellow man. (FBF1), I forgive you. You obviously don’t understand what Calvinists believe.

FBF1: (FBF4), I have MANY on my friend list to witness to.:) Calvinists and other false teachers need to hear the truth from SOMEONE! So as usual, a Calvinist has made a false judgment. :)

FBF1: I’m becoming a stumbling block to false teachers, (FBF5). So far not ONE person besides me has discussed what Scripture says about what Calvinists believe because most people don’t care if they blaspheme God; they’re just out to defend themselves, not Scripture. Like the Pharisees, one of the mottos of Calvinists is; “Let’s defend ourselves, not Scripture.” :) And you guys are only confirming that. :)

FBF8: (FBF1) — sister (assuming you are a sister in Christ), this is one of the most unloving, wrongly aggressive, fight-picking series of comments I’ve ever read on FB. I would encourage you to repent of this ungodly insistence on being “right” on a matter that sincere, Bible-believing Christians have disagreed on for the last 1,60 years. I would think this is one of the very things you would accuse Calvinists of.

FBF1: Well, since it’s not a sin to correct and rebuke people who blaspheme God, (FBF8) (2 Tim. 3:16), I have nothing to repent for. :) The people who should repent are the ones who could care less about what Scripture says but only seek flattery and praise. That would be the ones on here who are angry that I exposed the heresy of Calvinism. But at least I haven’t called them snakes and a brood of vipers yet like Jesus called the Pharisees, but I probably will if I listen to them defend their blasphemy any longer. So I’ll bow out from this thread now. Good day. :)

FBF5: The thing about it was that I did not see Prof. Redmond claim the attributes you prescribed to a Calvinist, so why defend something he does not endorse. I’m not a Calvinist so I’m not speaking on it. I’m purely speaking on your approach, which isn’t helping anyone on this post. As you can see they have rejected your words; might I say it is probably because they are w/o salt.

FBF9: Its interesting that this post was about a man rejoicing in the unity that he experienced in a church meeting, which is a sign of the presence on the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the comment stream is a sign that there will always be opposition even when there’s unity.

FBF1 de-friended me on Facebook immediately after the exchange.

Calvinism often takes a bad rap, and sometimes it is deserved. The theology is God-honoring, but we, the ardent supporters, sometime display that we all are sinful people when we are arguing for Calvinism’s precious truths. How grateful, therefore, I am for Kenneth Stewarts’, Ten Myths About Calvinism. (Kenneth graciously signed a copy for me while I was visiting Covenant College this past week.) Ken addresses several of the concerns that contribute to wrongful ideas about Calvinism. Earlier this year I noted how helpful is Greg Forster’s, The Joy of Calvinism, in this same vein.

I think it is important to give a fair hearing to positions we oppose by reading primarily literature by those holding the opposing view(s). If you have been wounded by a Calvinistic congregation, a self-proclaiming Calvinist, or the way in which Calvinist theology has been taught, I would encourage you to read about the richness of this tradition from its own writers. Then evaluate it on its own merits, and on whether or not your experience is reflective of what Calvinism actually teaches. Please also forgive my fellow Calvinists and me where we have erred in our treatment of you and others. I am sorry for our lack of love on some occasions.

Listed below are several other works I have found helpful for explaining Calvinism (but not Calvinists):

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

Charity and Its Fruits

For Calvinism

Whosoever He Wills

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Killing Calvinism

Here is a helpful way to whether Calvinism teaches what Scripture teaches:

1. Year 1: Read through the whole of Scripture over the course of a year, while working with a solid devotional on Scripture, and working through a confession like the Westminster or Westminster Shorter.

2. Year 2: Follow that year by working through the whole of Scripture for another year, while also working with a solid devotional on Scripture, and work through Calvin’s Institutes (with a reading plan, and some encouragement).

3. Year 3: Take a third year to work through the whole of Scripture for another year, while working with a solid devotional on Scripture, rereading the Institutes, and working through one book of the Bible utilizing one of Calvin’s commentaries (like Psalms or Acts). I would suggest you work through a book from which your Pastor is preaching that year so that you do not feel overwhelmed by too much study.

Posts Related to African American Culture for my Friends at Covenant College

This week I had the joy of speaking on, “The Advancing Gospel and Cultural Conflicts,” for Covenant College’s Global Gospel Advancement Week. Covenant is an outstanding school. I am grateful for their invitation, hospitality, and an overall gracious visit.

The links below are to some blog posts and other articles reflective of my attempts to interact with culture – African American culture in particular – as a Christian, as I mentioned before my Friday morning talk. For members of the Covenant community who are looking for my book that makes an attempt at cultural apologetics and evangelism toward the skepticisms of African American men, please click on the book cover in the right margin, or the “Where Are All the Brothers?” tab at the top of the page. Also, my social media contact links are listed.

Covenant, may your tribe increase! Thank you for a great week.

On Culture

No Rights on Maryland Question 6

Julian Bond is Wrong on Same Sex Marriage

Atheism Behind the Black Church Veil

Reaching Men: Culture, Church, and the Gospel

Obama, Gay Marriage, and the Black Church Vote

The President’s Church Dilemma

The Gray Matter of African American Syncretism: Giving Honor to the King of Pop

How Can Any Christian African American Vote for Obama? Throwing the Race Card on an All Black Table

Living Soli Deo Gloria Under Obama

Review of John: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Reformation Trust), by R. C. Sproul, Themelios 35.2:302-304 (See the last two paragraphs.)

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