Worth Reading - 5/26

Seminary is, in many ways, a very positive experience. Your thinking will be stimulated beyond what you ever imagined. I’ve never known a graduate of any seminary whose thinking was not greatly influenced by his seminary work. You’ll make some terrific friends, meet a number of people to whom you’ll turn all through your life for counsel. You’ll experience some formative times of worship, discussion, fellowship, and play.

Still, there are a lot of perils in the road toward ministry. Some students expect, at least subconsciously, that theological study is like a summer camp “mountaintop experience,” in which everything seems to motivate you almost effortlessly toward spiritual growth. Students with that romantic notion tend to be gravely disappointed, for they discover that theological study can be a major spiritual trial. Much about seminary can be a great blessing, but make no mistake: Satan is particularly interested in attacking those who are studying God’s Word intensely. And in addition to financial difficulties, intellectual problems, and juggling responsibilities of family, study, church and job, there is the problem of the sin within your own heart.

2. The end of casual Christianity. Another reasoned take on the Pew Research data:

In spite of what you may have read or heard, the recent Pew Research Center report “America’s Changing Religious Landscape” was better news for Christians than this. “Is Christianity in America Doomed?” asked one headline, about a faith with which 71 percent of Americans still identify.

Most of the actual decline in believers from 2007 to 2014 was concentrated among Roman Catholics and the Protestant mainline, and among those most loosely tethered to religious faith. Evangelical Christians held pretty steady, which set up an odd chain of reactions. Secularists were pleased about the decline of Christianity. Some conservative Christians were pleased about the decline of theological liberalism. The latter is evidence of an old grudge.

3. Kathy Keller on being kept safe through death:

“Write what you know” is an ancient maxim. For the last 11 months I’ve known anxiety, fear, emergency plane rides, surgery, more surgery, emergency surgery, more emergency surgery, infection, infections that occurred while on antibiotics from the previous infection, non-healing surgical wounds, more surgery, and, not least in my litany of self-pity, twice-daily dressing changes for wounds that will not go away.

In all of this, God has been at work, encouraging me to “run with perseverance the race set before me” (Heb. 12:1). If I can glorify him before so great a cloud of witnesses (mostly unseen), then I feel privileged to be given that assignment. But I have also longed for it to end, as well. Never before have I so fully understood the passion behind the twin prayers “Let this cup pass from me” and “Thy will be done.”

4. Another sexual abuse scandal related to a conservative Christian. Is repentance enough? Russell Moore explains why unlike simple fornication, sexual abuse is not a matter of simple repentance and forgiveness. It falls into the realm of the State:

The first step is to recognize that sexual abuse is not merely sexual immorality. Sexual immorality, any sexual contact outside the bounds of covenantal marriage, is sin and comes under the just condemnation of God’s law. Immorality is a matter of a sin against God and, usually, sin against others—a spouse, the other party, and so forth. Immorality, by itself, is dealt with in terms of a call to repentance and the sort of discipleship it takes to overcome sinful patterns by the power of the Spirit and, where possible, to restore broken relationships.

Sexual abuse is immoral, but it is far more than just sexual. Sexual abuse is an act of violence, in which one leverages power to sexually violate the helpless. The resulting aftermath is not just a guilty conscience awaiting judgment on the part of the perpetrator, but a victim who has been assaulted. Sexual abuse is not just a sin but also a crime, not just a matter of personal unrighteousness on the part of the perpetrator but also a matter of public injustice.

This means that sexual abuse in the context of the church must be handled in terms of both authorities responsible—both the church and the state. The state has been given the sword of justice to wield against those who commit crimes (Rom. 13:1-7). The church has no such sword (Matt. 26:51-53). This means that the immediate response to allegations of sexual abuse is to call the civil authorities, to render unto Caesar the responsibility that belongs to Caesar to investigate the crime. The church may or may not know the truth of the allegations, but it is the God-ordained prerogative of the civil authorities to discover such matters and to prosecute accordingly. When faced with a question of potential sexual abuse, call the authorities without delay.