Friday, February 25, 2011

Samson Agonistes

I have been bringing the morning devotions at the Mission where I work/minister. I try to take a passage from each book in the Bible, in canonical order, and bring out some devotional thought as an encouragement or exhortation to our staff. My next session takes me to Judges where I land on chapter 16. This, of course, is the final chapter in the life of Samson, probably the most well known figure in this book. As we read of the last days of his life as a Judge of Israel, I find several warnings. And since Judges is mostly about warning, I will phrase these as cautions.

  • Don’t imagine that usefulness in the past builds up credit that will cover foolishness in the present. Serving Christ is our daily duty. Doing so well does not accrue merit points to offset demerits later. Our attitude in serving Jesus is best expressed in the parable found in Lk. 17:7-10: “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (v.10).

  • Don’t assume that the reasons for one’s usefulness by God will always be apparent. It seems that there was nothing about Samson that would give a clue as to the reason for his astonishing strength (Judges 16: 5-6). In fact, God delights in using the foolish and diminished things of this world so that He might receive the maximum glory (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

  • Don’t expect to be fireproof when you play with fire. Samson may have enjoyed the “pleasures of sin for a season,” but it was only for a season. Sin is deceptive. Even believing people can be deceived by sin. It is true that our sins have been paid for by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ as “he (God) made him to be sin, who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). It is also true that for those in Christ, there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1). But though there is no condemnation, the life of Samson shows us that there will yet be consequences for sin. Those who play with fire are sure to get burned.

Although there is a morbid word of commendation upon his demise (Jud.16:30), he did not end well. May we take heed that we might end well.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Many have taken pen in hand examine the dismal record that we evangelicals have regarding the life of the mind. Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Os Guiness’ Fit Bodies, Fat Minds, and Love God with All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland and Dallas Willard are notable among these treatments. John Piper throws his hat into the ring with Think, the Life of the Mind and the Love of God.

Piper challenges us to think clearly, deeply and accurately about God and His Word. His aim, however, is not to produce a generation of evangelical theologians who can pontificate on matters of deep theology. Instead, he encourages deep intellectual exercise to the ultimate end of knowing, loving, and delighting in God.  

When it comes to the life of the mind, we Christians love to castigate ourselves. Certainly, when like lemmings we follow every fad, gimmick and innovation that parades itself before us without even considering whether or not it is doctrinally sound; when the perceived leaders of our movement are those whose primary qualification is that they have a great media presence; and when we announce Armageddon every time a camel blinks in the Middle East, then there is certainly room for criticism. But I wonder if some are critical of “the evangelical mind” solely on the grounds that, by and large, evangelicals are not taken seriously in academia.

In one sense, should this not be expected? How can people who, for good and sufficient reasons, hold to the inerrancy of Scripture expect to find themselves taken seriously at Harvard or Yale? We can see the reasonableness of believing in a God Who has revealed Himself in His Word and His world; but if we understand His Word, we know that the unregenerate mind will not and cannot grasp what makes sense to us.

This is not an endorsement to return to the days of a stick-your-head-in-the-sand, retreat-from-the-culture fundamentalism. Nor does Piper insist that advanced degrees are required to adequately serve God. He is not arguing for academics as such. He does argue that the time has come for Christians – those who display the mind of Christ – learn to really use their God-given ability to think hard on God and His Word. Good advice, and well worth the read.