Faith for Thinkers. Tue, 16 May 2017 09:41:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 50456626 The Last ScribblePreach Award Tue, 16 May 2017 09:41:54 +0000 Dear Readers,

As many of you know by now, I’ve recently received a call to RUF ministry at the University of Missouri.

Over the weekend, several conversations and other acute circumstances have conspired together to make up my mind on something I’ve questioned: If campus ministry is going to take 50-60 hours of my week during the semester, do I have time to continue the work I’m doing at ScribblePreach?

The clear and definitive answer to that question is: Not without compromising my marriage, family, and ministry.

Providing the ScribblePreach Awards has been an absolute joy to me. But as one wise mentor said to me this weekend, “I regret all the good things I did rather than spend time with my family.” I felt the ache of that this weekend as I tried to rouse myself to prepare the awards, and finding I had to choose between this blog and my two boys and lovely wife.

So, I didn’t do it.

I feel good about that decision. I realize many of you have supported me monetarily to keep up costs here at the site at my Patreon site. THANK YOU so very much for believing in my work, and supporting it. Please consider this my clearance to either A. Transfer your support over to my ministry at Mizzou ( and type in “Nick McDonald”), or B. Give to another great cause that aligns with your mission and passions.

And finally, I want to say to all who’ve read, commented, e-mailed and enjoyed ScribblePreach: The very last ScribblePreach Award goes to you. Thank you for sharing with me a passion for Christ in our world. This has been enjoyable to me because we have done it together. Thank you.

And what of writing, you ask?

A few things:

  1. Feel free to follow me on twitter, where I’ll start channeling any resources I find around the web: @NicholasMcD
  2. I’m praying about beginning a video blog sometime next year, taking the apologetic portions of my weekly sermons to students and condensing them into a shareable format on Youtube. Stay tuned on the blog for more.
  3. I will continue to pursue my more at-length fiction and non-fiction work, as well as any guest posting opportunities when asked, and if it’s summer, and if it’s based on something I’ve already written…so not much of that guest posting stuff really.
  4. The bulk of my writing efforts will now be channeled into producing weekly sermons for students during the semester – I do invite you to partner with me in prayer for that. I want to spend myself doing this work, and I can’t let anything detract from it. I really do believe RUF is the most important ministry in the world.

And with that, I leave you with a farewell of our mutual friend:

I regret to announce – this is the end. I am going now. Goodbye.

*Disappears into the abyss*

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The ScribblePreach Awards 05.09.2017 Tue, 09 May 2017 10:00:33 +0000 From the Pub: All Marriages are Beautiful Mistakes

Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates. But the “real soul-mate” is the one you are actually married to. You really do very little choosing: life and circumstance do most of it (though if there is a God these must be His instruments, or His appearances). – JRR TOLKIEN, LETTERS

Kindle Deal of the Week: Wordcatcher: An Odyssey Into 150 Weird and Wonderful Words

This looks like a ton of fun for my fellow word nerds, for $1.99

Preaching: Tim Keller on Teaching Skeptics

The latest in the “How to Teach the Bible” podcast has been a slew of excellence.

Apologetics: Does the Earliest Gospel Claim Christ’s Deity?

This is the critique leveled by the Bart Ehrman’s of the world: Mark doesn’t claim Jesus is divine; this was added later. I thought this a good, clear, simple rejoinder.

Theology: Responding to Open Theism in 14 Words

A wonderful, concise response to this ever prevalent theological error.

A Glimpse of Truth: The Handmaid’s Tale: A Longing for Peace and Justice

Christ and Pop Culture takes a look at Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” as a longing for the gospel.

Books and Lit: James Durham on Reading

Some Puritan Principles for Provocatively Pure Perusing of Paperbacks.

Writing: Stop Thinking

“It’s funny, I teach writing, and before I taught I never would guessed the thing I say most often is: “Please stop thinking.” But people really write better without thinking, by which I mean without self-consciousness. I’m not calculating about what I write, which means I have very little control over it. It’s not that I decide what to write and carry it out. It’s more that I grope my way towards something—not even knowing what it is until I’ve arrived. I’ve gotten better over the years at accepting this. Of course, the intellect wants to kick in—and, in the later drafts, it should. But in the early stages of a book, I deal with potential self-consciousness by literally hushing the critical voices in my head. The voices that tell you: “Oh, those aren’t the words you want,” or “you shouldn’t be working on this part now,” or “why not use the present tense?”—on and on. Anyone who’s ever written anything is familiar with that chorus.” – KATHRYN HARRISON

Christians and Culture: Quiz: What Political Theology Are You?

This is fun.

7 Things to Know About Conversational Prayer Tue, 09 May 2017 09:00:58 +0000 I know I’ll get flack for this, being as I am in the Reformed world, but I regularly practice something known as “conversational prayer”: I speak to God, I listen for God, and no – I’m not necessarily listening for scriptures to come to mind (as Paul Miller recommends in his “A Praying Life”).

This brings fair questions from my reformed friends like: How do I square this with the sufficiency of scripture?

To help clarify, let me make 7 quick points about conversational prayer.

  1. Conversational Prayer is Nothing New. St Augustine recorded a collection of what he called “Soliloquies”, through which he searched his own spirit through inner dialogue. It’s been an extraordinarily useful tool throughout the ages, applying what Martin Lloyd Jones called the principle of “speaking to oneself, rather than listening.” Conversational prayer is the only way I can discipline my soul to this practice.
  2. Conversational Prayer is Not Infallible. Like preaching, when I type out what I think God would say to me, I don’t take my words as infallible. God is not speaking to me in the the exact same way He does in scripture. Yet I’m not ready to say God doesn’t speak to me through conversational prayer, just as He speaks to me through the preached word. That leads me to point 3:
  3. Conversational Prayer is not Prophecy. At one time, I thought my conversations with God were equivalent to Wayne Grudem’s definition of “prophecy.” I’ve since changed my views: prophecy is infallible, unlike my attempts to apply scripture to myself through soliloquy.
  4. Conversational Prayer IS God’s voice…Insofar as it is an application of scripture. This is straight from the Westminster Confession of Faith: all scripture is authoritative, but so is whatever can be derived from “good and necessary consequence” of the scriptures. Soliloquies are the way I meditate on scripture – going from the plain statements of scripture to the “good and necessary consequence” in my own life.
  5. Conversational Prayer is not Alone – For conversational prayer to be effective, the one practicing must regularly search the scriptures and seek the council of others.  The more we know scripture, the more accurately we can judge how God would speak to us in given situations. So scripture and conversational prayer go hand-in-hand: they each resource the other in profound ways. We must also be careful not to be so arrogant as to leave the voice of the church out of our conversation with God: my pastors and fellow believers are also tools through which God speaks to me. It would be foolish for me to abandon them for conversational prayer alone.
  6. It is Never Right to Say “God Spoke to Me”…unless you’re referring to God’s authoritative word in scripture. While I do believe God uses conversational prayer to speak personally to me, it would always be wrong for me to use any portion of my conversational prayer as authoritative in the life of another. Saying “God spoke to me” in reference to conversational prayer is equivalent to “thus says the Lord” of the prophets, meaning the word is authoritative. When a preacher speaks God’s truth and applies it rightly, we are not accustomed to saying, “God spoke ____ to me” – we may say, “God spoke to me through the sermon today”, but that is not quite the same claim. As a rule, I never make reference to my conversational prayer with others in order to stay far clear of sounding anything like a modern prophet.
  7. Conversational Prayer isn’t for Everyone. I don’t believe that conversational prayer is something everyone should or could have access to – other disciplines will be more helpful to others. For me, it richly blesses me, convicts me, encourages me, and allows me to raise my affections toward Jesus. God wired this to work for me, but I realize it may not work for everyone.


10 Reasons I’m Thrilled to Join RUF @ Mizzou Tue, 02 May 2017 14:00:11 +0000 Hey Everyone,

A life update: two weeks ago, Brenna and I drove out to St. Louis, where we were commissioned as missionaries to the University of Missouri through Reformed University Fellowship. Yay! We’ve been waiting for a call to college campus pastoral ministry for 8 years, and it’s surreal to see the Lord giving us the desire of our hearts.

Here are ten reasons I’m so excited by this opportunity:

1. RUF is a natural outflow of my story.

During college, I dug deeper into the questions every human being asks. My brother’s death two weeks before my departure led me to question all of the classic theological answers to my questions about God, evil, eternity, etc. At the time, I didn’t have anyone on campus to draw me to rich theological resources for answers, so I left the church for 4 years.

By God’s grace I was hired back into the church, but obviously that won’t be most students’ story. When I look at the sea of students at RUF Mizzou, I see stories that can take a different course than mine.

2. The university is a strategic place for world missions.

Imagine one central location where people from every tribe, tongue and nation flocked with the express purpose of learning truth. That’s the university – I get the opportunity to speak the gospel to over 35,000 students at Mizzou who come from countries all over the world. During our visits to RUF Mizzou, we met students from Russia, Asia, and all over the United States. How exciting to think of the ways God will use them to reach the nations for His glory!

3. The university is a strategic setting for hearing truth.

I’ve been encouraged by the sheer number of believers who’ve told me they came to Christ through a college ministry, and, it makes sense: you’re uprooted from patterns that have established your worldview, and you’re seeking truth on your own. Statistics support this as well: People are 15x more likely to become Christians in their college years than afterward (of course, God loves to beat the odds).

4. RUF prepares students for the long haul.

I love that RUF’s gauge for success is not how many students we have in our weekly large group, but rather how many of our students are faithfully attending a local church 10 years afterward. Having been in youth ministry the past 8 years, I’ve seen way too many youth and college ministries blow their numbers by sacrificing the content of the gospel…only to be stunned by their attrition rate afterward.

5. RUF is both deep and wide.

Despite the fraternizing and partying, I’ve found deep down most college students are looking for someone to tell them the truth. RUF emphasizes on commissioning men with theological training (an M.Div is required) for this very reason: they want people equipped to answer student’s hard questions with rich theological content.

6. RUF is a clear pathway to diversity in the reformed world.

The group at Mizzou is notably more diverse than the PCA churches I’ve been in, and that’s the future of the reformed church. College is an opportunity for students to step out of their comfort zone, and thus a most excellent opportunity to pursue God’s plan for diversity in His church.

7. RUF trains students for cultural transformation.

RUF purposefully avoids stacking the schedule for students with events. It also avoids spiritualizing being a missionary/campus minister/pastor over and against other callings. RUF emphasizes that doing your homework is an act of worship itself, not merely something to get out of the way to do “real” ministry. That’s a recipe for bright young minds filling workplaces with excellence, truth, mercy and justice.

8. RUF is the biggest highway into reformed theology.

To paraphrase Tim Keller, RUF is currently the biggest inroad to the PCA that exists right now. Why? See reasons 2-7!

9. RUF provides world-class leadership development.

As my area coordinator likes to say, RUF is the “Special Ops” of campus ministry. As campus ministers, we receive world-class training multiple times per year (last summer’s intensive was done by Tim Keller), and we invest that training into our interns and student leaders. As one member of a nearby church told me, just about every clear, thriving, disciple-making spiritual leader in his (large) church is a product of campus ministry.

10. We are perfectly wired for RUF Ministry at Mizzou!

As we’ve pursued our call to RUF, the journey has been tough. But each time the road ended, we’ve looked each-other in the eyes and said: “What can we do with our gifts that will allow us to look back and say, ‘We haven’t wasted one second of what God has given us?’ The answer is always the same: RUF.

I whole-heartedly believe this is the most important ministry going on in the world right now, and I’m beyond honored to join the ranks.


Of course, if we’re going to make this journey, we’ll need to partner with YOU to see it happen. As our first RUF partner family said: “This is our way of going along with you.” Exactly!

So this is my personal invitation to set up a skype/lunch/coffee/google chat/phone-call/e-mail exchange with me to talk about RUF:

And here’s my invitation to partner now, and ask questions later!

(Type in Nick McDonald in the search field – I’m considered an “intern” right now).

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ScribblePreach Awards 04.29.2017 Sat, 29 Apr 2017 09:52:38 +0000 From the Pub: The Church Through the Dark Ages

“If our faith had been a mere fad of the fading empire, fad would have followed fad in the twilight, and if the civilization ever reemerged (and many such have never re-emerged) it would have been under some new barbaric flag. But the Christian Church was the last life of the old society and was also the first life of the new. She took the people who were forgetting how to make an arch, and she taught them to invent the Gothic arch. In a word, the most absurd thing that could be said of the Church is the thing we have all heard said of it. How can we say that the Church wishes to bring us back into the Dark Ages? The Church was the only thing that ever brought us out of them.” – GK CHESTERTON

Kindle Deal of the Week: The Pursuit of God

A.W. Tozer’s classic, with a study guide, for $3.79.

Preaching: Should We Preach Like the Puritans?

This article is a goldmine of quotes and analysis, and it’s spot on.

Apologetics: Bill Nye, Ideology, and Science

I don’t think an argument from nature will ever get anyone anywhere. But I do think Alastair has a great insight into the way ideology is directing the current debate over gender. He has some shall-we-say obvious but awkward reasons for doing so.

Theology: Calvin on the Duties of Political Leaders

“Your duty, most serene Prince, is, not to shut either your ears or mind against a cause involving such mighty interests as these: how the glory of God is to be maintained on the earth inviolate, how the truth of God is to preserve its dignity, how the kingdom of Christ is to continue amongst us compact and secure. The cause is worthy of your ear, worthy of your investigation, worthy of your throne.

The characteristic of a true sovereign is, to acknowledge that, in the administration of his kingdom, he is a minister of God. He who does not make his reign subservient to the divine glory, acts the part not of a king, but a robber. He, moreover, deceives himself who anticipates long prosperity to any kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God, that is, by his divine word. For the heavenly oracle is infallible which has declared, that ‘where there is no vision the people perish’ (Prov. 29:18).” – JOHN CALVIN, INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION

A Glimpse of Truth: Save the Mainline

With the NY Times taking jabs at both “atheists” and mainliners, who could resist, really?

Books and Lit: The Importance of Reading Black and Brown Authors

I’ve been very convicted by this topic lately – have a read, from a professor at SBTS.

Writing: Writing the Music in Your Head

“I strongly believe that writing is an act of courage. It’s almost an act of physical courage. You get up and you have this great idea. Maybe you were hanging out with your friends—you guys were having beers and you were talking about something. You had this idea and they said, “Wow, that’s brilliant! Someone should go write it.” And you sit down to write it and almost always what was brilliant before, when you were sitting around talking, is somehow not so brilliant when you go to write. It’s as though you have a certain music in your head, and trying to get that music out on a page is absolute hell. And so you fail. If you’re doing it correctly, what happens is, the translation of what you hear in your head, what your idea is in your head, will almost always come out really badly on the page when you first write, okay? But what you have to do is you have to give yourself a day, go back, revise over and over and over again until you get something that is at least maybe 70 percent of what you wanted to do. You try to go from really bad to okay to acceptable. Then you know you’ve done your job. I never really get to that perfect thing that was in my head, so I always consider the entire process about failure. I think that’s the main reason why more people don’t write. It’s very depressing in that way.”     – TA-NEHISI COATES

Christians and Culture: Tweeting Yourself Into an Identity

Derek Rishmawy writes on something I’ve been wrestling with the last year. Not a big tweeter, but it applies to all social media.


ScribblePreach Awards 04.22.2017 Sat, 22 Apr 2017 09:43:52 +0000 From the Pub: Our Ally and Enemy

“It is no use either saying that if there is a God of that sort – and impersonal absolute goodness – then you do not like Him and are not going to bother about Him. For the trouble is that one part of you is on His side and really agrees with his disapproval of human greed and trickery and exploitation. You may want Him to make an exception in your own case, to let you off this one time; but you know at bottom that unless the power behind the world really and unalterably detests that sort of behavior, then He cannot be good.’

‘On the other hand, we know that if there does exist an absolute goodness it must hate most of what we do. This is the terrible fix we are in. If the universe is not foverned by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again. We cannot do without it, and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies.’

‘Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of an absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. they are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger – according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way.” – CS LEWIS, MERE CHRISTIANITY

Kindle Deal of the Week: Present Concerns 

C.S. Lewis apparently has a collection of newspaper and journal articles I knew nothing about, for $1.99.

Preaching: Bunyan and the Hidden Perils of Preaching

Bunyan expresses so well the full weight of duty upon a preacher, as well as our freedom given in Christ.

Apologetics: Tim Keller’s Free Apologetic Lectures

Kevin Halloran rounds up several of Keller’s lectures given at Oxford University, each talking points through his new work, “Making Sense of God.” I’m eager to put these in my earbuds.

Theology: B.B. Warfield’s Old Testament Analogy for the Trinity. 

“The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or even not at all perceived before.

The mystery of the Trinity is not revealed in the Old Testament; but the mystery of the Trinity underlies the Old Testament revelation, and here and there almost comes into view.

Thus the Old Testament revelation of God is not corrected by the fuller revelation that follows it, but only perfected, extended and enlarged.”

A Glimpse of Truth: Nihilism or Wonder: The Alien Story

Literary Hub has an interesting perspective on how worldviews have morphed our outer space narratives, preferring the less nature is red, tooth and claw approach…but why? Because we’re not wired to resonate with a false narrative. That’s why.

Books and Lit: A Father’s Final Odyssey

This had me in tears. It’s long form, but you will be captivated by this literary and physical final journey of father and son.

Writing: Only One Platform Will Last

Karen Swallow Prior nails it on this one, and I have an icky feeling I’ve been part of the problem (which is why I backed off links-to-these-ends last year).

Christians and Culture: The Need for Cultural Humility

I was just talking to a friend about how my various experience across North America have given me more cultural humility than I began with. My judgment of various NA cultures stemmed more from my faults than theirs.

Micro Book Review: Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family

I’m torn by this review. On the one hand, I want to say that this book really hit me where I needed it as a parent. I was moved and stretched all over these pages. So, I thank God for Paul Tripp’s ministry for me now.

On the other, being familiar with Tripp’s work, I felt these was his least good. It felt as though perhaps the book had been whipped up in a rush – lots of repetition, unclear categories, no research or citations behind anything, etc. Just Paul Tripp saying what he says. The 14 “principles” are more like 14 words or biblical concepts that Tripps riffs off of…so I didn’t exactly walk away knowing what I read, and I wasn’t sure whether I agreed, since Tripp doesn’t really attempt to argue his points, he just states them.

But again, I remember specific points of challenge and encouragement.

So, 3 out of 5 stars.

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The ScribblePreach Awards 04.15.17 (The Benedict Option Special) Sat, 15 Apr 2017 09:57:55 +0000 From the PubTolkien’s Easter Egg

“Noon?” said Sam, trying to calculate. “Noon of what day?”

‘The Fourteenth of the New Year,’ said Gandalf; ‘or if you like, the eighth day of April in the Shire reckoning. But in Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell, and when you were brought out of the fire to the King. He has tended you, and now he awaits you. You shall eat and drink with him. When you are ready I will lead you to him.’


“No one any longer celebrates the twenty-fifth of March, and Tolkien’s point is accordingly missed, as I think he intended. He inserted it only as a kind of signature, a personal mark of piety. However, as he knew perfectly well, in old English tradition, 25th March is the date of the crucifixion, of the first Good Friday. As Good Friday is celebrated on a different day each year, Easter being a mobile date defined by the phases of the moon, the connection has been lost, except for one thing. In Gondor the New Year will always begin on the 25th of March… One might note that in the Calendar of dates which Tolkien so carefully wrote out in Appendix B, December 25th is the day on which the fellowship sets out from Rivendell. The main action of the Lord of the Rings takes place, then, in the mythic space between Christmas, Christ’s birth, and the crucifixion, Christ’s death.” – TOM SHIPPEY, ‘TOLKIEN: AUTHOR OF THE CENTURY”

Kindle Deal of the Week: Dead White Guys: A Father, His Daughter, and the Great Books of the Western World.

I knew you’d like this – $1.99.

Preaching: The Necessity of Preaching.

I don’t centralize preaching the way other reformed folk do…but this article gave me pause, which makes it worth at least a mention.

Apologetics:  Why an Award Winning Writer Turned Her Attention to Evangelicals

I imagine I’ll be picking this book up (this is a review) and quoting it to those who stereotype evangelicals as being overly political and naive. It’s very useful, especially coming from a secular source who’s willing to engage and understand, not just lob false grenades.

Theology: God Died on the Cross.

Depending on what you mean.

A Glimpse of Truth: Is It Really That Bad? Christianity, Secularism, and the Apocalypse.

An apocalyptic review, to boot. I love the way Jake Meador exegetes our cultural narratives (Breaking Bad, Her, Daredevil, etc) through the lens of the current conversation about Christians and culture.

Books and Lit: 10 Words to Win You the Game of Scrabble.

Since that’s really the point of reading literature, anyway. I’m off to grab some za.

Writing: Kurt Vonnegut’s Best Writing Advice.

It was a tossup this week. But this – this is so, so epic. Well researched, easy to understand, hilarious, and true to the core.

Christians and Culture: The Daily: The Climate Change Battle Through One Coal Miner’s Eyes

The NY Times started a new, daily, 20 minute podcast two months ago. I’ve listened to every. single. episode. Is it biased? Yes, like everything. But not in the arrogant, elitist fashion of the the NY Times editorials, nor in the deceitfully oversimplified and frankly dishonest “fair and balanced” approach at FOX. What makes it truly balanced and fair is Barbaro’s sheer honesty about his bias, and his willingness to question himself. The thing listens like a daily Radio Lab of the world – it’s erudite, warm, informative, dynamic, riveting, and provocative all in one.

I implore you to give it a chance – start with the episode above, which I can almost guarantee will win a prize for journalism this year. I imagine I’ll sit on my porch 50 years from now saying, “I’ve listened to every single episode, youngsters, and it started in 2017!”

Micro Book Review: The Benedict Option.


I disagree with those who say Dreher is calling us to disengage with culture. He’s providing an alternative way to engage.

I disagree with those who say Dreher is racist…sort of (see below).

I disagree with those who say Dreher is obsessed with sexuality – that IS the conversation.

I disagree with those who critiqued Dreher for not writing the dreary, meddlesome scholarly text they would have. It’s only their slip showing.

I disagree with those who complain about Dreher offering “nothing new” and it all being a marketing ploy. Well? What’s the critique? What are you doing, exactly? He’s translating the gospel, which is what I believe we are all trying to do here?

I disagree with those who say Dreher is anti-evangelism. You didn’t read the book.

I disagree with those who hone in on the flood analogy at the expense of everything else – it’s a clever metaphor. You can’t make a stool stand on two legs. It’s not called “The Flood Option” for a reason. Plus read the ending, as he twists the metaphor to dispel those petty objections.

Second: I don’t see this book lasting long.

The reason? Dreher gives too many answers. I like the way Dreher has thought through his own cultural context. But he does us a disservice by prescribing his answers to our situations. At the risk of sounding the shallow evangelical, I think this is straight up legalism, NOT because of the prescriptions themselves. Liturgy, good. Discipline, good. Rules of life, good. But it becomes problematic as a prescription for everyone. That’s legalism – making my situation, preferences, personality and culture a mandate for everyone else. It’s becoming a law unto myself. And that’s where Dreher’s prescriptions cross the line.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have much critique for Dreher’s specific decisions. They all sound fine. But if he’s going to prescribe it to the rest of us, he leaves himself  wide open to the fair critique of ethnocentrism – our most blatant cultural display of legalism. It’s not that Dreher is anti-black (or Asian, or Hispanic), it’s just that he’s exclusively white (or should I say Greek Orthodox First Century Hellenistic white?). It’s not racist for being hostile, but for being monolithic – it’s for Dreher’s cultural choices, and against everyone else’s. Again – that’s legalism.

So, the book is a good conversation starter. But the alarmism tires me (as it doesn’t align with the New Testament’s vision of the kingdom, for one), and while I have no problems with Dreher’s own application of God’s law, I wish he would have provided tools for the rest of us, rather than culturally limited answers. Instead he did the math on his own small patch of geography, then told us we’re wrong to dress warm in Michigan because Baton Rouge is sweltering.

If we’re going to respond dynamically to the complexity of culture, an “option” won’t do. We need discernment in exploring all our options, because God in His grace has given us different situations, each which will require a different spin than Dreher’s.

But let me end on a positive: I think the people who read this book need it the least. Everyone who’s disinclined should be made to choke it down, because Dreher’s most valuable contribution is his level-headed filter for cultural norms – smartphones, public schools, politics – he runs the gamut. Most evangelicals are drifting brainlessly along, awash in the sea of secularism, and those are the folks that need to hear Dreher’s rightly critical voice.

I’m only sorry his invitation is from one extreme to the another.

3 out of 5 stars.


ScribblePreach Awards 04.08.2017 Sat, 08 Apr 2017 09:00:14 +0000 From the Pub: Learning to Ride

“To shrink back from all that can be called Nature into negative spirituality is as if we ran away from horses instead of learning to ride. There is in our present pilgrim condition plenty of room (more room than most of us like) for abstinence and renunciation and mortifying our natural desires. But behind all asceticism the thought should be, ‘Who will trust us with the true wealth if we cannot be trusted even with the wealth that perishes?’ Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body? These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world- shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else— since He has retained His own charger—should we accompany Him?” – CS LEWIS, MIRACLES

Kindle Deal of the Week: Outlaws of Time

This YA book by ND Wilson has 120 reviews on Amazon at 5 stars. I’m in, for $1.99

Preaching: 15 Lessons from Calvin’s Biography

I’m posting this one for what will probably go down as one of my life quotes now that I’ve stumbled upon it,  since it encapsulates so much of what I try to do here at ScribblePreach, and since the failure to distinguish between these two is the cause of so much bad critique: “There are, as you know, two kinds of popularity: the one, when we seek favor from motives of ambition and the desire of pleasing; the other, when, by fairness and moderation, we gain their esteem so as to make them teachable by us”.

Apologetics: Why Practicing Catholics Have the Best Sex

Of course as a protestant I don’t share the Catholic view on contraceptions (though I’m probably closer than most). However – I love the way First Things is highlighting the positive vision of sexuality in the Christian life this week. We need so much more of this. Well done.

Theology: Graceful Law

I’m linking to the first of two sermons I gave on the role of the law in the Christian life. I don’t normally link to my own sermons (have I ever?), but I feel like this was revolutionary for our congregation, and that’s because this topic is so severely misunderstand in evangelicalism. Here’s part two. I benefited greatly from putting these together, and I think you will too.

A Glimpse of Truth: The Strange Persistence of Guilt

David Brooks nails it in the NY Times, here. Share this with your secular friends.

Books and Lit: 10 Essential Terms for Poets (And Everyone Else)

I didn’t know most of these – this is a little long, so set aside a bit to get your bearings.

Writing: Self Doubt Can Be an Ally

“Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” – STEVEN PRESSFIELD

Christians and Culture: Campus Wars of Religion

I’m not a Wall Street Journal Subscriber, but I appreciate the excerpts from a recent WSJ article on how the campus hysteria we hear about goes also by a different name: religious fervor.

Micro Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy

This was an easy read that was enjoyable – though difficult at times in content – from beginning to end. It’s not brilliant prose, but it’s also not icky and self-conscious, which makes it better than most. But the book isn’t about style – it’s about opening our eyes to a slice of the American pie that gets smothered in the news: hillbillies. J.D.’s story journey from mountain town to Yale shows just how many hoops the white poor have to overcome to make it…anywhere other than home.

I can’t say I resonated with the stories here like others did. This simply wasn’t my context. But it does help me to understand the stories of so many around me.

A fair, critical yet compassionate, but above all honest view of impoverished white culture makes this book a superb and necessary read for every American.

4 out of 5 stars.

ScribblePreach Awards 04.01.17 Sat, 01 Apr 2017 09:51:03 +0000 Hello All,

ScribblePreach has been out of commission for the last two weeks, as Brenna and I have explored a potential call to a Reformed University Fellowship opportunity. I’m back today, obviously, with three weeks of curated gold, just for you. But if you would lift my family up and prayer as we discern, and ask God’s provision if He so calls us, I would be deeply grateful.

From the Pub: The Universe is Perfectly Lonely

“The universe is of necessity the perfectly lonely thing. You may state the eternal problem in the form of saying: “Why is there a Cosmos?” But you can state it just as well by saying: “Why is there an omnibus?” You can say: “Why is there everything?” You can say instead: “Why is there anything?” For that law and sequence and harmony and inevitability on which science so proudly insists are in their nature only true of the relations of the parts to each other. The whole, the nature of things itself, is not legal, is not consecutive, is not harmonious, and not inevitable. It is wild, like a poem; arbitrary, like a poem; unique, like a poem.” – GK CHESTERTON

Kindle Deal of the Week: The Great Divorce

One of my favorites of C.S. Lewis, for $1.99.

Preaching: Personality and Preaching

Why do some preachers seem so electric, while others put us to sleep? One answer is personality: which means, the answer is always the same and never the same.

Apologetics: Secularism and Our Christian Hope

Here’s a good little intro to the way we might think of secularism from a presuppositionalist perspective.

Theology: Preaching the Ten Commandments

As I’ve been preaching through the commandments the past two weeks, I found this article impressively clear and concise.

A Glimpse of Truth: Silicon Valley’s Quest to Live Forever

Fascinating, sad, horrifying, honest – I don’t know what to say about this article, except that so many elements of the gospel-less human condition are herein contained.

Books and Lit: Here’s How Many Books You Can Read Before You Die.

So choose wisely, and get reading.

Writing: 4 Things Beth Moore Taught me About Writing

I’m not a huge Beth Moore follower – okay, not at all – but she is an impressive communicator. This article brings out some reasons why.

Christians and Culture: The Benedict Option: Good Solution, Bad Posture

I’m most of the way through Rod Dreher’s new book. I’ve found it really stimulating, although on the whole I don’t see how I can get on board with Dreher’s worldview. Trevin Wax articulates why better than I.

Micro Book Review: Saturate

Saturate is Jeff Vanderstelt’s introduction to missional communities – I found the anecdotes very illuminating and inspiring, but in the end, his prescription was a little too complicated for me and ill-defined. For example, one of the core values of a missional community is “Listening”, which apparently means hearing one another’s stories, as well as “listening to God on others’ behalf” (whatever that means…it seems like a dangerous concept), as well as “listening to God” as a group, and as individuals…it’s just not a very clean category.

Speaking of the “Listening to God” category, I do feel Vanderstelt falls prey to the critique often leveled at the missional community model: it’s truly not word-centered. Lots of talk about how communities bring people to Christ – even by skipping the proclamation on the word on Sundays to serve them – and little about how God’s word is the orchestra for those communities.

So, overall, I still prefer Brad House’s “Community” for most small group leaders, although I’d happily hand this out for someone looking for inspiration in pulling it off.

3 out of 5 stars.

Blind, Deaf, Dead: Taking the Metaphor Too Far. Tue, 14 Mar 2017 09:29:36 +0000 Here are two recent direct quotes I’ve read from otherwise wonderful, gospel-centered, reformed resources:

“It doesn’t make any sense to get mad at somebody who is lost. It doesn’t make any sense to make it a matter of personal offense against you. It doesn’t make any sense to condemn a lost person with words or throw a punishment at them and walk away. Lost people need understanding and compassion.” – Paul Tripp, “Parenting, 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family”

“Why do we raise our voice when talking to someone who is blind? They aren’t deaf; they just cannot see…A blind man will not see, no matter how hard or loud you yell at him. We cannot fault a man for being blind and demand him to see. We can only pray that Jesus would give him sight and thank Jesus for healing our own blindness.” – Brad House, “Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support”

These are two books I heartily recommend. Yet I was dumbstruck by these two paragraphs.

This view of sin is well beyond the pale of a Reformed view of sin. The Bible does indeed talk about a certain lack of ability to obey God’s law apart from Christ. Yes, and Amen. But the problem with statements like those above is that they treat sin as merely an outside force, and therefore more worthy of compassion than judgment. But if sin is merely an outside force, shackling us to its symptoms like a warren over a prison, then God would not be just in condemning us. It would be like sentencing a man to life in prison for having cancer. 

Sin is not merely a disease like ovarian cancer or diabetes. It is a disease for which we are culpable. As Romans 1 so blithely states: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” According to Romans 1, then, blindness is a result of sin, not the other way around

Jonathan Edwards dealt with this own misunderstanding in his day. The problem with the reformed view, said Edwards’ Arminian opponents, is that “God would not require what he does not allow”. He cannot punish us for sin if we are unable to obey. In response, Edwards asks his readers to imagine two scenarios:

In situation one, a man sits in prison, the door locked from the outside. The warren invites him to freedom, but the man says, “I can’t.” In this case, what he means is: “Though I want to be free, I am trapped.” This is not, Edwards notes, the way to think about slavery to sin.

Rather, he says, imagine a man sitting in prison with the door wide open. The warren genuinely invites the man to freedom. The man says, “I can’t.” In this case he does not mean: “I want to be free, but I’m trapped.” Rather, he means: “I do not want to be free, and you cannot force me. Here I am god, and here I’ll stay.” This, says Edwards, is the true nature of our captivity: yes, we are prisoners – but the prison is of our own hardened, self-centered hearts. In the second case, the prisoner is both imprisoned and culpable – and that is just the way it is with sin.

So when Tripp says: “It doesn’t make sense to make [sin] a a personal offense against you,” we must say that’s a gross misunderstanding of sin. Sin is a personal offense against me! The fact that the offending party is blind to her own sin only makes it the more despicable, because the blinding is self-willed. It allows us to sin without feeling, or thinking about, the weight of our own rebellion. House says: “We cannot fault a man for being blind…” Sure we can! Why? Because our blindness is our choice.

Unlike these statements from two otherwise wonderful authors, the Bible never minimizes sin in order to encourage forgiveness. Rather, it maximizes grace: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” There’s no talk here of excusing sin because it is a symptom of helplessness. That would be like excusing sin in the name of sin!

Rather, the writer of Ephesians gives us permission both to look squarely at the radical nature of sin and the radical grace of God in the gospel. Such thinking won’t make us bitter, judgmental people. Rather, it will make us radically kind and compassionate to sinners. Why? Not because sinners deserve our compassion, but because we too are self-blinded sinners who received a compassion we didn’t deserve.

So yes, be gentle. Be kind. Speak the truth in love. But not because sinners are innocent – they aren’t! Do so because Christ, the only truly innocent victim of sin, suffered for us “while we were yet sinners”. Through Christ, our hearts have been transformed from self-made prisons into temples of God’s glory. As we extend that miraculous gift to others, we become vessels of that transformative grace in the lives of others.

It’s true that yelling, screaming and arguing won’t change people. But the grace of God, flowing from recipients of that same grace, certainly can. Thanks be to God!

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