Wednesday, July 29, 2009

News Stories I Like

This from Press TV:

Coffee helps brain, liver to function better
Mon, 27 Jul 2009 08:48:54 GMT

The latest studies by German researchers have shown positive effects of coffee on human health, saying it improves functions of liver and brain. The studies run by Germany's Green Cross points out that coffee accelerates digestion, and prevents age-related diabetes, chronic liver disease and replacement of liver tissue by fibrous scar tissue. Drinking at least four cups of coffee a day is also reported to reduce the risk of liver cirrhosis by up to 80 percent. The report says coffee can help reverse some elements of memory impairment commonly seen in Alzheimer sufferers and improves concentration. Health promoting ingredients of coffee like chlorogenic acid also play important roles too. Chlorogenic acid is one of the antioxidants found in coffee that can cut nearly in half the risk of Alzheimer's Disease.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Engaging the Culture War

Several books have lately appeared encouraging Christians to engage in the culture war. The fear is that as modern culture becomes more and more secular, there will be no room for the Christian’s morality, values, and worldview. Certainly this is justified. The culture of violence, immorality, hedonism and the devaluing of human life is in no way compatible with Christian principles.

However, it strikes me as strange how Christians relate to the call to engage the culture. By and large, churches do an abysmal job in cultural engagement.

On the one hand there are the isolationists, the separatists. For them, the church becomes a monastery or a compound where only Christians are permitted. Within the compound walls we find Christian movies and videos, Christian music, Christian exercise programs, and such like. There are even Christian retirement villages. One can be born and die without ever leaving the compound.

On the other hand is the tendency to engage the culture by adaptation and stealth. This is evident in the great pains that some churches take in structuring the services and meetings of the church in such a way that a secularly minded person will feel quite comfortable and will not be put off by any overt and aggressive religious talk. This is more capitulation to the culture than engagement with it.

I am not so sure that the culture war should be our priority. Unless you are a postmillennialist or a reconstructionist, you have no delusion that the culture will be converted to Christ. An informed reading of church history demonstrates that the church and culture have always been in conflict. And while kingdoms have come and gone, the church has remained. Therefore, consider the following:

  • The church is its own culture. We have an allegiance that transcends nations and governments. We have our own language, our particular values and rituals. These cannot be compromised.
  • The gospel is – by its very nature – offensive. You cannot faithfully preach the gospel and peacefully coexist with culture.
  • Our mandate is not a cultural mandate; it is a kingdom mandate. We are to proclaim the gospel, not politics, to every nation and every culture.
  • We are sent into the world to confront sinners with the gospel. This requires invading the kingdom of darkness. We cannot do this sitting around the campfire on the Christian compound singing Kum-by yah.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gospel Starved

My recent reading has followed similar themes; namely that evangelical Christianity, though popular and profuse, is, nonetheless, “gospel-starved.” In Christless Christianity Michael Horton refers to a sermon delivered in the 1950’s by the late Donald Grey Barnhouse:

What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city…? Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia, all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say “Yes sir” and “No, ma’am” and the churches would be full every Sunday…where Christ is not preached (p. 15).

Barnhouse was speaking prophetically, according to Horton. He calls modern evangelical Christianity “moralistic therapeutic deism” devoid of gospel.

In Above all Earthy Powers, David Wells makes a similar observation. He notes that the problem with contemporary evangelicalism is its failure to distinguish itself from other forms of spirituality.

Therapeutic spiritualities which are non-religious begin to look quite like evangelical spirituality which is therapeutic and non-doctrinal. (p. 5)

Rounding out this theme is Graeme Goldsworthy’s Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture. In this work, Goldsworthy calls Christians back to the Bible as more than a collection of godly examples to follow or ungodly ones to avoid. He challenges us to see the Bible as the unfolding drama of redemption.

The gospel is the power of God (Rom. 1:16). Read the Bible for the gospel; attend church to hear the gospel; remind yourself daily of the gospel.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jesus Jr?

Once again I defer to Pastor Ray Ortland for this cutting and insightful comment. He speaks of the deity honored by many professing Christians in our culture. Read this short post here.