Five books I enjoyed in 2014

It is the time of year for lists. Here are five non-theological works of non-fiction that I enjoyed in 2014.

1. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932, by William Manchester

I love this book. How can you beat Manchester’s prose? To understand Churchill, you have to see that he was fundamentally a relic of a bygone era called to lead the greatest conflict of the modern era. But it was Churchill’s vision of England’s greatness that made him great and equal to the task. All of his upbringing and early political life is covered in this book. The book begins, however, with a fast forward to Britain’s most desperate hour during the Second World War. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. Manchester’s description of the rescue at Dunkirk gets me weepy even now: Continue Reading →

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The Sussex Carol

My wife was singing this line from “The Sussex Carol” tonight in our kitchen, and it was like a ray of light to my soul: “Then why should men on earth be sad, Since our Redeemer made us glad?” I hope it will be a ray of light to yours as well. Continue Reading →

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A friendly response to Wesley Hill’s “thought-experiment”

I am really grateful that evangelicals seem to be moving toward a serious conversation about homosexuality. Two articles in particular seem to be driving some recent online discussions. One is a piece in World magazine profiling a lesbian chaplain at Wheaton College. Another is a piece by Michelle Boorstein in The Washington Post about the “celibate gay Christian” movement. Both of these articles have provoked disagreement and spirited discussion about what it means to be a same-sex attracted Christian.

I am not going to try and rehash all that has been said up to this point. I invite you do to take a look at the links in this post if you want to get up to speed on the points of disagreement. My aim is to engage with Wesley Hill’s recent post at the Spiritual Friendship website. He invites feedback to his “thought experiment,” so I am going to offer some.

Continue Reading →

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The “celibate gay Christian” movement: How should we think about it?

Michelle Boorstein has a must-read piece in The Washington Post about the celibate gay Christian movement. It features Albert Mohler, Wesley Hill, and some others from the evangelical movement. The article begins with a discussion about Eve Tushnet, a celibate Roman Catholic lesbian.

Today, Tushnet is a leader in a small but growing movement of celibate gay Christians who find it easier than before to be out of the closet in their traditional churches because they’re celibate. She is busy speaking at conservative Christian conferences with other celibate Catholics and Protestants and is the most well-known of 20 bloggers who post on spiritualfriendship.org, a site for celibate gay and lesbian Christians that draws thousands of visitors each month.

This is an interesting article not least because secular people tend to find celibacy strange and even subhuman. That comes out in the article, and it goes to show how far we’ve come as a culture to think that sex is the end-all be-all of human existence. But that is where we are, and that is why the average person reading about celibacy just sort of scratches their head and says, “What? Really?” The answer is yes, really. Celibacy is celebrated in scripture for those to whom it has been given (Matt. 19:11; 1 Cor. 7:7). It is no surprise that God would call some people to walk this path. Continue Reading →

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Is persecution the seed of the church?

Christianity Today has a short article challenging Tertullian’s famous statement about Christian martyrs: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Does persecution really cause Christianity to grow? According to one study, the answer is no. Here’s an excerpt:

According to the Pew Research Center, 74 percent of the world’s population live in a country where social hostilities involving religion are high, and 64 percent live where government restrictions on religion are high. Does this explain why Christianity is likewise growing worldwide?

Not necessarily, says missiologist Justin Long, who recently compared Pew’s latest tally of religious freedom restrictions to Operation World’s latest tally of Christian growth (see chart). His conclusion: Church growth is “not strongly” correlated with either governmental or societal persecution. However, Christianity “tends loosely” to change more rapidly (grow or shrink) when governmental restriction is high, and stays relatively stable when such pressure is low.

This isn’t the last word on this question, but you should read the rest of it anyway. Three quick thoughts in response:

1. We should be mindful of and prayerful for the persecuted church across the world. We rightly admire the courage of brothers and sisters being faithful through horrendous suffering, and we should pray that their suffering would end and that God would break the teeth of the wicked (Psalm 58:6).

2. We should remember that there are some places in the world where persecution threatens to exile or extinguish Christian communities. For these brothers and sisters, persecution is not a strategy for growth—at least not one that they would choose. It may providentially strengthen them in some ways, but that is not a reason to hope for evil that good may come (Romans 3:8).

3. We should be careful about glib statements about persecution in our own context. I have heard people say things like, “What we need in the American church is a good persecution.” Usually, a line like that is spoken by someone who wants to see genuine spiritual renewal in our land. But still, it’s spoken like a true American—one for whom real bodily suffering is a theoretical thing rather than a reality. No one who is shedding their blood for the gospel talks like this. They pray for deliverance, and we should too. Here’s a better way to pray for and think about potential persecution in our own context:

“I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” -1 Timothy 2:1-2

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Does the Bible teach that women can be deacons?

I have been preaching through the Pastoral Epistles at my church, and a few Sundays ago I delivered a message on deacons from 1 Timothy 3:8-16. You can listen to the sermon below or download it here.

The second point of the sermon focuses on verse 11 and deals with whether Paul intends for women to serve as deacons. This is a controversial question, and I obviously don’t treat it exhaustively in this sermon. Nevertheless, here’s where I came down.

Continue Reading →

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Is same-sex attraction sinful? Charles Hodge sheds biblical light.

A few weeks ago, I sat on a panel at the Evangelical Theological Society discussing the question “Is Same-Sex Orientation Sinful?” Owen Strachan moderated the discussion among three of us who presented papers on the subject: Wesley Hill, Preston Sprinkle, and yours truly. Both Wesley and Preston have posted on the session. Craig Sanders has written a report as well.

I am currently working on a book about sexual orientation, and much of what I presented to the panel was a rough version of what will appear in that book. So I will hold back on rehashing the entire argument here. If you want to read my paper, send me an e-mail and I’ll send it to you (contact me here).

The heart of our disagreement on the panel was over the ethics of orientation. In short, we had a disagreement about whether same-sex attraction is sinful. I argued that it is. Preston and Wesley argued that it is not. So those were the two sides of the panel. Continue Reading →

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Doug Wilson’s gut-punch to theistic evolutionists

Doug Wilson delivers a gut-punch to the theistic evolutionary group Biologos. You should read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:

The clear tendency of the BioLogos outlook is to consider young earth creationism as the ultimate academic faux pas. Young earth creationists are not just in error, they are embarrassing. But students in our schools are being taught any number of embarrassing things — like marriage consisting of one man and one woman, for example. An essential part of our training is to show our students how scholarly tongue clucking is not an argument.

So learning how to resist the academic cool shame on this point is a most excellent exercise. And we can begin by making the arbiters of all intellectual rigor answer the most basic questions about their assertions on time and the age of earth. “You say that the universe is fourteen billion years old, give or take. Where is it that age? Is it the same age at the point where the Big Bang occurred as it is out at the edges? Are there any edges? What clock are you using? What Newtonian balcony are you standing on when you measure the age of the whole universe?”

Read the rest here.

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