Opt In Image
Want Me to Save You 10 Years of Writing Frustration?
Sign up, and receive:
  • Weekly round-ups of the best in the blog world.
  • The top 150 Fiction Books of All-Time.
  • 25 Mistakes I Made Before Getting Published.
  • The Elements of Style Quick-Edit Guide
  • ...And more! Click here for more info.
Starter

Weekend Java 07.24.15

Apologetics Award: “Os Guinness: Welcome to the Grand Age of Apologetics” – A fascinating interview.

Platform Building Award:Why Bloggers are Calling it Quits” – Tim reminds us why we can’t just leave blogging behind. Books need it.

Non-Fiction Award: “Lay Vs. Lie (vs. Laid)” – I ALWAYS get this one wrong. Finally, a clear answer.

Fiction Award: “Learning the Craft” – Pressfield is the man. There’s something that can’t ever be taught, by nature, in writing, and it’s this: your voice.

Preaching Award: “10 Marks of John Calvin’s Preaching” – Some of these are surprising, like the fact that Calvin, the systematic person though he was, always preached extemporaneously.

A Glimpse of Truth Award: “Inside Out and Christian Sadness” – Why is Hollywood better at being real than we are?

Reading and Literature Award:100 Thoughts on Kafka’s Metamorphosis after 100 years” – This is quite long….but pick out a few, and read. Pretty fascinating.

Theology Award:Is the Hope of Heaven Beautiful or Boring” – John Piper explains why he used to be afraid of heaven…and why we shouldn’t be.

Spiritual Life Award: “7 Subtle Symptoms of Pride” – These are taken from Jonathan Edwards, and the only correct response, from me anyway, is: Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Motivational Award: “Morning and Evening Routines” – You want to achieve your writing goals? Start here.

Fun Award: “5 Times the Queen’s Guard Wasn’t so Serious” – I wonder what ever happened to that guy who made faces at everyone…

Christianity and Culture Award:I Thought Planned Parenthood Was About Family Values” – Rosaria Butterfield is a wonderful, wonderful voice for Christians wanting to engage today’s culture. She helps us understand both sides of the issue, with a little dash of Frankincense, I mean Frankenstein, thrown in to blow your mind. Read this.

NEW! Church Leadership Award: “10 Reasons Every Believer Should Take Care of Their Bodies” – I’ve found something in this category nearly every week, but didn’t officially have the category…so here it is.

Opt In Image
Want Me to Save You 10 Years of Writing Frustration?
Sign up, and receive:
  • Weekly round-ups of the best in the blog world.
  • The top 150 Fiction Books of All-Time.
  • 25 Mistakes I Made Before Getting Published.
  • The Elements of Style Quick-Edit Guide
  • ...And more! Click here for more info.
stonehenge-3-1543424

6 Ways to Be a Pagan Christian.

If you have grown up in the American church, you are familiar with the insipid nature of Western Christianity. We are, often times, a flavorless people, baptizing what we imagine are the ‘new ways’ of the church, only to find later we’ve been hoodwinked into carbon copying the culture around us.

stonehenge-3-1543424

So goes the case in Dr. David Wells’ magisterial work “No Place for Truth”.

In perhaps the most penetrating section of the book, he attempts to square into view the modern church by making a comparison of God’s people in the Old Testament to the pagan nations surrounding it. In this brilliant section, Wells begins by showing 6 distinct marks of pagan nations throughout scripture:

1. “Insofar as they were known, the gods were known through nature.” Unlike Israel, pagan cultures reasoned their way to their god, from the ground up. “If life is like A, then God must be like B.”

2. “Pagans proceeded from the basis of their experience to the supernatural.” The gods were more or less a way to explain experiences in life, and since there was no other way to understand the supernatural anyhow, life was “sola experiential”.

3. “The supernatural realm was neither stable nor predictable.” The gods were ornery, whimsical, and temperamental. Because of this, sacrifices were made for no apparent reason other than appeasing the unknowable yet irascible deities.

4. “The pagan deities were sexual, and this meant that their religion had sexual overtones as well.” The closest we could come to experiencing god, then, was through the ultimate act of sexual pleasure. This was heralded as the culmination of human experience.

5. “The pagan mind had no moral categories superseding the relativities of daily life.” In other words: doing what was right was, ultimately, an exercise in pragmatics. Doing right meant doing what worked.

6. “History had no real value for the pagans; their lives were centered in the experience of the moment.” The pagans disregarded the old, dusty books of the past – they looked forward to the future, and focused on, to put it pejoratively, living in the now.

Over and against this type of religion, which to me sounds eerily reminiscent of what we call the “American Church”, Israel held tightly to views about God which swung defiantly in the opposite direction. In what I believe is Wells’ most powerful passage in the book, he describes the weightiness of Israel’s views about God, especially as they climax in the person of Christ:

“The resurrection of Christ…challenged every other ancient religious worldview…The early Christians did not preach their experience of Christ; that would have been to promote a form of religion like any other form of religion. Rather they preached the Christ of that experience…God had raised him from the dead, and this was a matter of history, not simply of internal perception.”

This, says Wells, called into judgment every form of experiential religion, because it was rooted in grounded in an objective, historical event. The resurrection of Jesus was not one item on the Lazy Susan – it was the objective centerpiece to it all.

He goes on to detail to consequences of this radical idea: “The fact that God’s truth was transmitted through events external to the individual meant that it was objective, and the fact that it was objective meant, further, that his truth was public. It was truth for the open market, truth for the nation, truth for other nations…Those who were trained by biblical revelation could not follow the path of the pagans, who established their faith on their experience of nature and their intuitions regarding human nature. Their faith was grounded solely in the objective and public nature of God’s Word.”

It is because God has revealed Himself to us – he has, as theologians put it, condescended to us – that our experiences lose all authority claims: “Inasmuch as the meaning of God’s redemptive acts was not discovered by human insight and sagacity but was rather given by God himself, that revelation was authoritative…It is not the narrative of God’s acts that makes it hard for us to believe in the authority of their meaning; it is the modern world.”

The central claim Wells is making is simply this: we, the American church, have slipped ever increasingly into seeing God through cultural (read: pagan) lenses. And now, returning to those six marks of paganism, let me add my own notes to each:

1. We allow nature to determine our theology – ala, whatever I feel in my nature dictates what scripture says. If I feel I am this, than scripture must cave.

2. We reason from our experience to the supernatural – for example, to place our faith in some spiritual experience (raising a hand, praying a prayer, getting goosebumps when the band struck it up), and to give testimony to it, rather than resting in the objective, finished work of Christ.

3. We moralize our experiences, tending to oversimplify them into systems which allow us to avoid God’s displeasure and incur His divine favor, which we see, typically, as a right expressed in health, wealth, and personal happiness.

4. Our churches demonize or idolize sexuality, so that by finding that perfect soul-mate on e-harmony or via ‘kissing dating goodbye’ we can court our way to our best life now.  This is, in reality, what we perceive to be our ultimate connection to God Himself.

5. We have, unwittingly, succumb to a pragmatic ethic. Let’s face it, you’re not reading the book from the guy who pastors a small church in Nebraska. Doing what is right means doing what works, does it not?

6. We’ve lost concern for history, or, the real meaning of an old, dusty book – we are more concerned with satisfying our personal quest for spiritual experience. We do not want to hear what God says, we want to tell God who he is, and use him to get our spiritual giggles out for the week.

There is one solution to all this, and it is, as Wells says, perhaps not Revival but Reformation. It is to return to God’s self-revelation as our source of truth, to filter our lives from it, to allow His own words to color the lenses through which we view the world. Only when we do this will we become distinctive, unique, and, in that sense, a light to the pagan culture surrounding us.

Opt In Image
Want Me to Save You 10 Years of Writing Frustration?
Sign up, and receive:
  • Weekly round-ups of the best in the blog world.
  • The top 150 Fiction Books of All-Time.
  • 25 Mistakes I Made Before Getting Published.
  • The Elements of Style Quick-Edit Guide
  • ...And more! Click here for more info.
Starter

Weekend Java 07.03.15

Apologetics Award: “An Interview with John Frame On Apologetics to God’s Glory” – John Frame is absolutely brilliant, and this is a great introduction and defense of his apologetic method.

Platform Building Award: “5 Reasons Publishers Love Bloggers” – It’s not just a platform thing. There are other good reasons publishers love bloggers.

Non-Fiction Award:Master the Particulars of Grammar with this Pop Culture Chart” – Now you can show off your knowledge of participles with this neat infographic, thanks to Pop Chart Labs.

Fiction Award: “Writing is Not Self-Expression” – “Writing fiction is not “self-­expression” or “therapy.” Novels are for readers, and writing them means the crafty, patient, selfless construction of effects. I think of my novels as being something like fairground rides: my job is to strap the reader into their car at the start of chapter one, then trundle and whizz them through scenes and surprises, on a carefully planned route, and at a finely engineered pace.” – SARAH WATERS

Preaching Award: “You Aren’t As Smart As You Think You Are…So Don’t Manuscript Your Sermons” – David Prince wisely critiques a recent 9 Marks article espousing preaching with notes. Essentially, manuscripting your sermon creates huge hurdles to effective oral communication, and only the very, very best and most talented preachers have the gift of instinctively overcoming them. 

A Glimpse of Truth Award: “The Writer’s Skill” – I’m always amazed at the ways Steven Pressfield ties his art into spiritual matters. He’s not a Christian, but essentially he concedes that the act of creating presupposes a Creator. Great stuff.

Reading and Literature Award:10 Little Known Shakespearisms” – Because how many times have you thought, “An old cloak makes a new jerkin!”

Theology Award:Why Tradition Matters in Interpretation” – I’ve heard far too many Christians abandon tradition in the name of Sola Scriptura. The Westminster divines placed a very high value on tradition – they just put it in its proper place. Sola scriptura, not SOLO scriptura, folks.

Spiritual Life Award: “You’re Not a Leader if You Never Say You’re Sorry” – Eric Geiger on the money, here. Someone said to me this week that pastoring is about leading with repentance – it stuck with me, and this blog post is hammering it home.

Motivational Award: “The Two Deep, Dark Secrets of High Producing Novelists” – Jerry B. Jenkings on what it takes to start PRODUCING.

Fun Award:What TEDx Talk Are You?” This is ingenious and awesome and fun. I got “the comedian”, even though I was trying to sound really profound…

Christianity and Culture Award:You Will Be Persecuted With Words” – I’ve been guilty of saying Christians don’t experience persecution in America. But biblically speaking, that’s not true.

Opt In Image
Want Me to Save You 10 Years of Writing Frustration?
Sign up, and receive:
  • Weekly round-ups of the best in the blog world.
  • The top 150 Fiction Books of All-Time.
  • 25 Mistakes I Made Before Getting Published.
  • The Elements of Style Quick-Edit Guide
  • ...And more! Click here for more info.
1439539_30967932

What is “Christian” Art?

Any reader who isn’t as revolted at this question as Wolfgang Puck to a microwaved corndog probably shouldn’t be reading. It’s absurd. There is no Christian art, there is only “more Christian” and “less Christian”. Why? Because truly Christian art is perfect. It is perfect, as it’s Heavenly Father is perfect. And as of yet, no such art exists.

A better question, perhaps, is, “What does the Christian artist aim toward?” That is a good question, because it means something. And the answer is: “Truth.” By “truth” I don’t mean mere factual accuracy, but the ability to capture life as it is, in all of its spiritual and physical beauty and horror.

It’s more difficult than you think.

Why?

Because we suppress the truth (Romans 1). So the world creates art which is “suppressed art” – it is suppressed truth. It doesn’t have the proper anchor; it isn’t grown in the right soil. The world’s art is true like a Van Gogh is true in fluorescent lighting. “Yes, but…no”. It’s true, but untrue. Adam wrote the first work of fiction when he bit the apple – he exchanged the truth about God for a lie. The world continues to rebel, with Adam, as it creates worlds unlike our world.

The world loves Creation, then, like a maniac loves his sleeve as a dinner mint. It loves Creation not for what it is, but for what it wishes it to be. The world is afloat on the ocean, suppressing the buoy of reality between their legs. They have not been content with the world as it is, and so have dug the wells of another. When the Apostle Paul said we see as through a glass dimly, he implied not only the Creator but all Creation as well – without Christ, we cannot even see the world.

But the Christian loves creation for what it is. Why? Because the Christian loves the Creator. I have sitting before me my son’s work of art, complete with dinosaurs, soccer players and an airplane shooting lasers (why not?). I love it. I love it because I love him. If I didn’t love him, it would be meaningless – it would be just as well to me as a Kleenex. I couldn’t love it for what it really was unless I loved the one who made it. And I do.

The Christian loves Creation, because it loves the Creator. It loves Creation not for what it wishes it to be, but for what it is. And out of that love flows Christian art. We present the world not merely accurately, but mythically – life in all its spiritual, psychic and mechanical dimensions. We look at life, as best as we are able, from its Throne. We are craggy-cheeked watchman, sitting at the lighthouse, bellowing the foghorn of (R)eality.

But why artists? Because art infiltrates. There is a certain visceral ethos to one who sees life as it is – we trust the artist implicitly, because he understands. The surest way across the ocean, after all, is with the man who knows his way to shore. It is a principle rule of life that we begin to understand when we feel we are understood, and there is no more profound act of understanding than artistry. Art leads us to the shore, and in this way, the artist gains the credibility to lead beyond.

How does the artist do this? With subtlety. This is the unique trick of the Christian artist. Writing is, as one artist has put it, “A lie that tells the truth.” It is seed planting: a small work, a humble work – but the work that sprouts the wood. And so it is with Christian Art – it is the subtle planting of reality into our chests. It is the glass of water into which the pill of truth is slipped. Artists are only doctors dressed as jesters.

Is this a case for realism? Yes and no. Just as a mirror at once reflects us perfectly and oppositely, so art may look wholly different from our world, yet perfectly reflect it. Fantasy may be more true than biography, depending if one looks with the Divine Eye. In fact, the less it looks like our world, the subtler, and, perhaps, the truer.

Opt In Image
Want Me to Save You 10 Years of Writing Frustration?
Sign up, and receive:
  • Weekly round-ups of the best in the blog world.
  • The top 150 Fiction Books of All-Time.
  • 25 Mistakes I Made Before Getting Published.
  • The Elements of Style Quick-Edit Guide
  • ...And more! Click here for more info.
Starter

Weekend Java 06.26.15

Apologetics Award: “Haunted by Nature in Our Secular Age” – A great little piece of writing on how the power of nature forces us into an experience of transcendence.

Platform Building Award: “Why Content Goes Viral” – This is a collected analysis of over 100 million articles. The insights are great.

Non-Fiction Award: “Omit Needless Words” – “Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.” – WILLIAM STRUNK, JR. and E.B. WHITE

Fiction Award: “4 Hidden Dangers of Writing Groups” – Heaps of great, practical insights, borrowing from Catmull’s book “Creativity Inc”.

Preaching Award:Is Preaching Really Foolishness?” Yes. No. Sort of. I’ll take “How did Paul Mean it?” for $5000.

A Glimpse of Truth Award:A Novel Every Christian Should Read” – I was really encouraged to read R.C. Sproul’s takeaway from Moby Dick…I felt the same way, but thought maybe I was crazy or completely inept.

Reading and Literature Award: “15 Things You Might Not Know About the Count of Monte Cristo” – Including the fact that it was inspired by a true story about a shoe cobbler.

Theology Award:A Q&A with Kevin Vanhoozer on the Pastor as Theologian” – I’ve never seen Vanhoozer in person, and this little interview met all my expectations. Bright, brilliant, God-fearing, clear-headed. Gotta love the guy.

Spiritual Life Award: “Hello, I am an Idol” – I guess it’s kind of obnoxious to give myself an award…But hey, you should read this anyway.

Motivational Award: “When Resistance is a Compliment” – Pressfield’s book, “The War of Art” talks quite a bit about the ‘resistance’ that keeps us from creating. Here’s a great little snippet about when resistance is the strongest.

Fun Award: “If Star Wars Invaded…” Some eerily realistic photos of what the world would look like if Star Wars invaded our major cities.

Christianity and Culture Award: “Tim Cook on Values in the Workplace” – I’m really enjoying Trevin Wax’s series analyzing graduation speeches for nuggets of Christian truth, or secular compromise.

Opt In Image
Want Me to Save You 10 Years of Writing Frustration?
Sign up, and receive:
  • Weekly round-ups of the best in the blog world.
  • The top 150 Fiction Books of All-Time.
  • 25 Mistakes I Made Before Getting Published.
  • The Elements of Style Quick-Edit Guide
  • ...And more! Click here for more info.
1409594_29311718

Should Christians Care About the 10 Commandments? J.I. Packer on 6 Wrong Views.

I grew up in a Lutheran church. I learned Luther’s small catechism, the centrality of Christ’s work for justification, and that being a pastor must be a nice gig since few other professions allow you to wear your robe to work and drink on the job.

But one thing was conspicuously amiss: the law.

The law, after all, was for Old Testament people. Legalistic people. People without the Spirit. The law was good in the same sense that Great Aunt Martha’s refried beans were good: you toughed them out to get to the gospel dessert. They were the no-name cover band that played before the REAL concert of Jesus Christ Superstar.

But then I started reading my Bible. I read the Sermon on the Mount, in particular. And here’s what I read: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

“Of course,” I reasoned, “He means he’ll abolish them BY fulfilling them.” But then there were those uncomfortable, lengthy discourses about cutting off hands that sin, managing conflict, giving to the poor – all this stuff that sounded strikingly similar to the Old Testament, yes even LEVITICAL law (which is where that bit about “loving your neighbor as yourself” came from (Lev 19:18))

And I thought: “No wonder I see so many hypocrites. Jesus said we’re supposed to be DOING stuff with our faith. Forget this free-license gospel stuff. We need the law.”

And that’s what I preached. I preached it to Bible-studies, small groups, adult Sunday School classes who were too stiff to see reason, and later to my own youth group and others: law, law, law. Do. Do. Do. Jesus, well, Gandhi too, and C.S. Lewis and yes also anyone do-gooder who has great ideas about being radical and changing the world.

I’d climbed up one cliff-face, in other words, and fallen off the other side.

Neither License nor Legalism

Later, through some faithful Bible expositors, I learned that obedience to the law is, in fact, preceded by faith in the finished work of Christ. The gospel doesn’t save us from the law – it gives us hearts that accord with the law. As Spurgeon once brilliantly quipped: “Before Christ we were under the law as a burdensome weight. After Christ, we walk over the law as a delightful guide.”

Now, get that second part. Because I feel that’s missing. It was missing from my Lutheran background, and it’s missing from many Christian circles today: the law is a delightful guide to life. That means: we still use it. We’re still corrected by it. We’re still guided by it’s commands. It’s not “replaced” by the Spirit, or the “law written on our hearts” or the “new law to love one another.”

But I hear phrases like these ALL THE TIME.

This isn’t a new problem. It’s old enough to have a name: Antinomianism (anti-law). It’s something Paul struggled with in the early church, and it’s something I see commonly in protestant/reformed settings (actually, this was the view held by Tullian Tchividjian who recently confessed to an affair – correlation is not causation, but sometimes the correlation makes more sense than others).

6 Wrong Views

That being said, I turn the mic to J.I. Packer, who outlines 6 common ways modern Christians fall into Antinomianism in his book, ‘Concise Theology’. See if any of this sounds familiar:

Dualistic antinomianism – “Appears in the Gnostic heretics against whom Jude and Peter wrote (Jude 4-19; 2 Pet. 2). This view sees salvation as for the soul only, and bodily behavior as irrelevant both to God’s interest and to the soul’s health, so one may behave riotously and it will not matter.”

Spirit-centered antinomianism – “Puts such trust in the Holy Spirit’s inward prompting as to deny any need to be taught by the law how to live. Freedom from the law as a way of salvation is assumed to bring with it freedom from the law as a guide to conduct. In the first 150 years of the Reformation era this kind of antinomianism often threatened, and Paul’s insistence that a truly spiritual person acknowledges the authority of God’s Word through Christ’s apostles (1   Cor. 14: 37; cf. 7: 40) suggests that the Spirit-obsessed Corinthian church was in the grip of the same mind-set.”

Christ-centered antinomianism – “Argues that God sees no sin in believers, because they are in Christ, who kept the law for them, and therefore what they actually do makes no difference, provided that they keep believing. But 1 John 1: 8– 2: 1 (expounding 1: 7) and 3: 4-10 point in a different direction, showing that it is not possible to be in Christ and at the same time to embrace sin as a way of life.

Dispensational antinomianism – “Holds that keeping the moral law is at no stage necessary for Christians, since we live under a dispensation of grace, not of law. Romans 3: 31 and 1   Corinthians 6: 9-11 clearly show, however, that law-keeping is a continuing obligation for Christians. ‘I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law,’ says Paul (1 Cor. 9: 21).”

Dialectical antinomianism – “As in Barth and Brunner, denies that biblical law is God’s direct command and affirms that the Bible’s imperative statements trigger the Word of the Spirit, which when it comes may or may not correspond exactly to what is written. The inadequacy of the neo-orthodox view of biblical authority, which explains the inspiration of Scripture in terms of the Bible’s instrumentality as a channel for God’s present-day utterances to his people, is evident here.”

Situationist antinomianism – “Says that a motive and intention of love is all that God now requires of Christians, and the commands of the Decalogue and other ethical parts of Scripture, for all that they are ascribed to God directly, are mere rules of thumb for loving, rules that love may at any time disregard. But Romans 13: 8-10, to which this view appeals, teaches that without love as a motive these specific commands cannot be fulfilled. Once more an unacceptably weak view of Scripture surfaces”.

Sound familiar?

It does to me, too.

But that’s not all. As Packer says in his closing comments: “The Spirit is given to empower law-keeping and make us more and more like Christ, the archetypal law-keeper (Matt. 5: 17).” The Spirit who inspired the OT law is the Spirit of Christ, and He is the Spirit living in us. 

In other words, Christ fulfills the law in part by being the law-keeper. But he also continues to fulfill it in our own lives: as we let the rays of his grace shine ever more brightly on us, we see the beauty of the rock-carved paths he’s etched for us in the law.

Take law without grace, and you have legalism. Take grace without law, and you have license. Take Christ at His word, and you have neither. Would that we preached both, and drove less sheep off either side of the cliff.

 

Opt In Image
Want Me to Save You 10 Years of Writing Frustration?
Sign up, and receive:
  • Weekly round-ups of the best in the blog world.
  • The top 150 Fiction Books of All-Time.
  • 25 Mistakes I Made Before Getting Published.
  • The Elements of Style Quick-Edit Guide
  • ...And more! Click here for more info.

Weekend Java 06.12.15

Apologetics Award:Justin Martyr: The First Christian Apologist” – Just a note on this one that the Talbot folks failed to highlight: when Martyr talks about ‘free will’, he doesn’t mean it in the sense of ‘neutral will’ as we do today. He’s arguing against Greco/Roman fatalism. Point done.

Platform Building Award: “6 Twitter Secrets Ever Writer Needs to Know” – My publisher says I need to beef up my tweeting. Thus, the beef recipe.

Non-Fiction Award: “Who/Whom for Dummies” – It’s a little dense, so watch the video. Boy, you really feel like a dummy when you can’t understand a “for dummies” article at the first glance…

Fiction Award: “Five Writing Tics to Eliminate in Your Revision” – These are difficult to catch because they’re not always obvious, but the author is right on.

Preaching Award: “How Younger Preachers can Help Their Hearers” – These 8 points are wise and very valuable to us young preachers.

Christianity and Culture Award: “The Future of Christianity: An Interview with Rodney Stark” – Rodney Stark, if you know not his name, is an amazing sociologist and 1st century historian. His insights here are fantastic.

Reading and Literature Award: “11 Contemporary Authors All Christians Should Read” – This introduced me to a couple of names I want to be more familiar with.

Theology Award:Not Your Average Paedobaptism” – I’ve avoided most of these articles for my theology awards, but I wonder how baptists would respond to this.

Spiritual Life Award: “Jonathan Edwards Would Like to Ask a Few Questions of Your Troubled Soul” – These are heartwarming and soul-searching, as always with Edwards.

Motivational Award: “How to Find the Right Critique Group for Your Writing” – Writing groups are great for motivating us to write, every week. Here’s how to find the right one.

Fun Award: “The Tree of Languages Illustrated in a Big, Beautiful Infographic” – THIS is pretty fascinating.

The Glimpse of Truth Award:Stephen Colbert’s Commencement Speech” – T. Wax examines the pluses and minuses of Colbert’s speech to Wake Forest.

Opt In Image
Want Me to Save You 10 Years of Writing Frustration?
Sign up, and receive:
  • Weekly round-ups of the best in the blog world.
  • The top 150 Fiction Books of All-Time.
  • 25 Mistakes I Made Before Getting Published.
  • The Elements of Style Quick-Edit Guide
  • ...And more! Click here for more info.
Screen-Shot-2015-05-12-at-10.02.51-AM-960x500

Dealing With Doubt: An Interview with Barnabas Piper

A few weeks back, Barnabas Piper sent me a copy of his forthcoming book, “Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith”. It’s a helpful treatment of something we all struggle with, and it provides clear direction without pat, easy answers. Here are a few questions Barnabas has graciously answered for us here at Scribblepreach:

In your book, you talk about the popular bumper sticker/mantra: “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.” What’s wrong with this type of thinking?

The short answer is that it’s simplistic. That mindset fails to take into account human nature and our wavering faith. It is often more of a mantra than actual belief, something people mindlessly repeat instead of taking to heart.

It also fails to recognize the incredibly complex and deep aspects of scripture. The Bible is not an easy book to understand or believe in parts. It is a revelation of an infinite God, not all of Him, but the parts that He wanted us to see. It raises as many questions as it answers, so to comfortably land on “I believe it and that settles it” seems trite. Ultimately the Bible is every bit of truth we need for faith and reveals exactly those aspects of God’s being and character that He wants us to have. But that does not make it simple or easy.

You distinguish in the book between “doubt” and “unbelief”. Could you articulate, briefly, the difference?

Doubt is akin to not yet being able to see something. It isn’t quite in focus. It is just over the horizon. You believe it, but at the same time you doubt it. “Unbelief” is akin to “anti-belief,” a willful rejection of something. Instead of straining to see it and not being quit there (like doubt), unbelief closes its eyes or turns away altogether.

The implications of this are wonderful and terrible. It means that doubting is not a sin so long as you are straining to see. We can be free from guilt for our doubt as long as our hearts yearn after God’s truth. But unbelief is rebellion against God. It can even disguise itself as belief, cloaked in right answers and truisms.

One of the most striking parts of your book is the way you lead us away from “answers” to tough questions, and toward a relationship with God. Why is this so important?

Many of those tough questions simply don’t have answers we can understand. To insist on answers is to demand that God reveal something to us that our minds cannot comprehend. As finite beings we are always inside walls of knowledge, inside limits. As an infinite being, God’s reality expands limitlessly beyond our comprehension. That means huge amounts of truth that He ordains happen outside of our borders of knowledge. If we expect that every hard question have an answer we can grasp we are demanding that God be equal to or lesser than us.

But if we are in a genuine relationship with God we know something of Him that is far richer than any answer: His character. Just like children often don’t understand their parents’ reasons or actions but trust their intentions, so we are with God when we know Him. We ask “why?” and “how?” like a child, but when the answer isn’t forthcoming our closeness to Him allows our faith to remain strong. We look for answers, we ask for answers, we seek truth, and we rest in His goodness.

You mention in the book that we often skirt aside some difficult Bible passages. What is the benefit of diving into the more difficult sections of scripture?

God didn’t include those in scripture for nothing. Just because we are limited in our ability to understand God’s fullness doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!  Many of those difficult passages aren’t just complex (sovereignty vs. free will, a Triune God, etc.), they’re hard to stomach – death, tragedy, war, plagues. We must be willing to read them all and see that God’s nature and wisdom and sovereignty are so far beyond our comprehension that it puts us in our place. We must come to a place of acknowledging what we can’t understand and declaring what we do side-by-side. To ignore the hard passages is to shrink God. To declare God to be bad because of the hard passages is to shrink Him. The hard passages are the ones that reveal most about His divinity and our humanity.

If you could give someone a few tips on developing a deeper relationship with God today, what would you say?

For me it is in knowing Jesus. Jesus is the glory of God incarnated, in person, for us to relate to. The thing that drew me into profound belief was seeing Jesus’ person and character and work in the gospels. When you start there and become attached to Jesus and then expand your view to see that He was sent by the Father it is stunning. This God, this infinite God, sent Jesus on my behalf. It is so Sunday school we brush right past it, but it is the key to knowing God.

When you know Jesus and read the Old Testament the lens is different. When you know Jesus and get bogged down in theological conundrums they are less threatening. When you know Jesus and face a life circumstance that is devastating you can remember the character of God to care for His loved ones.
So I guess my advice is to dig into the gospels to see all they have to say about Jesus. If you have been raised in church do your best to start fresh, to take off the Sunday school glasses and see Jesus anew. As you see you Him you will love Him, and that love will frame so many other things that are burdensome or confusing.

Thanks for this, Barnabas! We’ll look forward to your book launching on July 1st!

Help My UnbeliefYou can pre-order “”Help my Unbelief” here. 

Barnabas Piper is a Christian writer exploring the connections between ideas, faith, and people. He writes weekly for WorldMag.com and The Blazing Center Blog and has contributed to “Leadership Journal,” “Tabletalk Magazine,” Relevant.com, The Gospel Coalition blog, and DesiringGod.org. He is an avid reader of all sorts of books, a learner, and he loves a good story.

Barnabas lives in the Nashville area with his wife and two daughters. Originally from Minnesota, he has never been able to (or wanted to) shake his allegiance to to the Vikings, Twins, and Timberwolves. No matter how much pain they cause him.

Follow Barnabas on twitter @BarnabasPiper, on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/bpiper) and at his blog (http://www.barnabaspiper.com).

 

Opt In Image
Want Me to Save You 10 Years of Writing Frustration?
Sign up, and receive:
  • Weekly round-ups of the best in the blog world.
  • The top 150 Fiction Books of All-Time.
  • 25 Mistakes I Made Before Getting Published.
  • The Elements of Style Quick-Edit Guide
  • ...And more! Click here for more info.
Starter

Breakfast Blend 06.05.15

Apologetics Award: “Tim Keller on Matthew Vines and the ‘Biblical Homosexuality’ Movement’” – This reply from Keller is gracious, brilliant, and as always, demonstrates how the proponents of this movement cut their own knees from under them.

Platform Building Award: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of a Best-Selling Book Launch” – Jeff Goins shares all. Lengthy, but good.

Non-Fiction Award:The Most Neglected Part of Writing” – AKA: Having something to say. yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

Fiction Award: “How Writers Can Be Story Showers Instead of Story Tellers” – Some great, practical ways to make your story come alive.

Preaching Award: “The Winston Churchill Guide to Public Speaking” – This article is absolutely fascinating, and convicts me somewhat as a preacher…much to learn here, from one of history’s greatest orators.

Christianity and Culture Award: “Christian: Are You Ready for Exile Stage Two?” – Stephen McAlpine with an interesting take on our comparing America to Athens…he says it’s more like Babylon.

Reading and Literature Award: “21 Famous Authors’ Favorite Books” – I confess I’ve read shockingly few of these. Then again, it’s sort of obligatory that famous authors choose obscure books as their favorite.

Theology Award:What is the Gospel?” – This article not only details Paul’s description of the gospel…it also shares some helpful insights on how and how not to phrase the core gospel principles for maximum clarity.

Spiritual Life Award: “Leave not off reading the Bible till you find your hearts warmed…Let it not only inform you but inflame you.” -Thomas Watson (RT @DonWhitney)

Motivational Award: “How to Write a Bestseller” – This article is great. It’s time to stop worrying about writing something that will sell. 

Fun Award: “12 Things You Might Not Know About the Screwtape Letters” – Number 5 had my wife and I howling.

The Glimpse of Truth Award: “17 Words of Wisdom from Les Miserables” – Trevin Wax with an awesome collection of Les Mis quotes (from the BOOK, people!)

Opt In Image
Want Me to Save You 10 Years of Writing Frustration?
Sign up, and receive:
  • Weekly round-ups of the best in the blog world.
  • The top 150 Fiction Books of All-Time.
  • 25 Mistakes I Made Before Getting Published.
  • The Elements of Style Quick-Edit Guide
  • ...And more! Click here for more info.
FakerFBQuote

An excerpt from my new book “Faker”…(and a note from me).

I’m very excited that this week, my book “Faker” has launched in the UK (hint, hint UK readers!).

Hand in hand with that, The Good Book Company has posted an article I’ve written that some of you may have seen already: 9 Ways to Get Your Teenagers Reading. Parents and Youth Pastors – enjoy.

Even more exciting, the publisher has also posted an edited excerpt from my book, “Faker”, which you can read below. If you click through the link, you’ll also see some of the great visuals that decorate the pages.

PS: If you’re a US reader, you can STILL pre-order a copy from the good book’s website (go to their American website: www.thegoodbook.com)

A note from me

Let me preface this all by saying that this book has been stretching for me. Yes, I know, it’s geared toward teenagers/college students. But I wrote it out of a vulnerable place in my life, and some of the adults I’ve handed it to have expressed something similar: although it’s geared toward teens, Jesus’ message is one we all need to hear. As author Jonty Allcock has said: “This book took me on a journey…”.

It took me on a journey, too. And writing it has transformed my life. If you’re anything like me, you can grab some for kids in your youth group, your own kids, grandkids, or college students as a graduation or going away gift…but save a copy for yourself. Get past some of the youth culture illustrations, and I think you’ll find Jesus’ words speaking to you, as they did me.

Here’s the excerpt:

“Have you ever felt like a Faker?

I have.

I’ve felt like no one in the world knew who I was. I’ve felt like I had to be someone I’m not. I’ve felt like, no matter who I was, no one would care.

I’ve felt alone. I’ve felt like I was living with a mask. And I’ve seen others wearing masks, too. Maybe you’ve looked around your work or school and thought: “What are we all doing? Why are we all trying to impress each other? Why can’t anyone accept me for who I am?”

All of us turn, again and again, to whatever “mask” we’ve created for ourselves—the Jokester, the Smart Kid, the Athlete, the Fashionista. Even being a social outcast can become a mask—we start doing everything to “not be like the sell-outs,” and so we stop being ourselves.

And we do it all because, deep down, we’re afraid. What if the mask comes off? What if people knew what I know about me? What if the people who hate me are right, and the people who love me are wrong? What then?

Where fear comes from

So fear is what leads to faking it. And in his parable in Luke 18 v 9-14, Jesus shows us where that fear comes from. It comes from us deciding what will make us good, right and worthy of love: trusting in ourselves that we are righteous.

In my own life, I’ve seen this happen in three ways:

“They will like me when…” syndrome. When I was at school, there were the skaters I tried to fit in with. The jocks I tried to hang out with. The nerds I tried to keep up with. I even tried the cross-country kids. Later, it was the boss I wanted to impress. Parents I wanted to please. My wife and kids I wanted to look up to me. In every case, everything I did was measured by: “Will they like this?”

“I will like me when…” syndrome. I’ve been here many times: I will like me when I publish a book. When I get good grades. When I have more money. When I become a professional hockey player. (Yes, I thought that would happen—I’m not sure exactly why.) On the list goes: things I had to achieve before I was likeable. But all of these things send me down the faker roller coaster—when I do well, I look down on others; when I don’t, I feel terrible.

“God will like me when…” syndrome. This is a tricky one, because it sounds good. God will like me when I stop looking at porn. When I have my anger under control. When I go to church. When I read my Bible. When I quit my addictions. When I achieve nirvana (if I’m a Buddhist), or keep Adhan (if I’m a Muslim), or become one with the universe. The problem with this approach is this: it’s self-righteousness in disguise. Think about it: did GOD ever say he would like you when you achieve these things? Or, was that you, or some other mere human? People who have this problem often say things like: “I know God forgives me, but I just can’t forgive myself.” And really, that makes US God, doesn’t it?

Read the rest of the excerpt here.

I’ve got some cool ideas to introduce the book to my US readers over the next couple of months – so stay tuned!

Also, if you click on the link to the book, and click on “Look Inside”, you can read the first chapter for free!

If you find any of this helpful, do please share below on Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, or whatever your social media platform of choice. You, my faithful readers, are my army. I can’t do any of this without you. Even if you just click “share”.

(Also, if you’re a blogger and would like a pre-release copy for review, I have a limited number I’d be happy to give away. Just e-mail me at nick.youthwriter@gmail.com Topic: Faker Book Review).

Opt In Image
Want Me to Save You 10 Years of Writing Frustration?
Sign up, and receive:
  • Weekly round-ups of the best in the blog world.
  • The top 150 Fiction Books of All-Time.
  • 25 Mistakes I Made Before Getting Published.
  • The Elements of Style Quick-Edit Guide
  • ...And more! Click here for more info.

About Me.

Hi. I'm Nicholas McDonald, and I'm a student pastor, blogger, preacher and author of the forthcoming book, "Faker" (Good Book Company 2015). I've studied creative writing and mass communication at ONU and Oxford University, and am finishing up my M.Div at Gordon Conwell along with my lovely wife and two hearty boys. I write about all of the above.

My New Book!

 
 
 
Opt In Image
Want Me to Save You 10 Years of Writing Frustration?
Sign up, and receive:
  • Weekly round-ups of the best in the blog world.
  • The top 150 Fiction Books of All-Time.
  • 25 Mistakes I Made Before Getting Published.
  • The Elements of Style Quick-Edit Guide
  • ...And more! Click here for more info.