Worth Reading - 3/3

1. Trevin Wax released a new book this week. He's been doing analysis on the contemporary cultural soup. One recent piece of that is a hope for more (better) arguments online.

In his autobiography, G. K. Chesterton remarked that the bad thing about a quarrel is that it spoils a good argument! He hated when bad feelings overshadowed the making and countering of good arguments.

The ability to argue well is the hallmark of a civil society, and it should be the goal of thoughtful Christians. Chesterton provided a model of this in his frequent debates with George Bernard Shaw, a lifelong friend who saw the world almost completely differently than he did. The two of them argued, but they did not fight.

C. S. Lewis did the same. Michael Ward says Lewis “relished disagreement and debate.” He mentions one student, Derek Brewer, who remembered how Lewis would sometimes say, “I couldn’t disagree more!” But Lewis never “indicated he was offended or that Brewer was somehow unjustified in holding an opinion Lewis considered mistaken. Though they often differed, this led to a ‘fruitful dichotomy of attitudes,’ not to a chilling of their pedagogical relationship.”

2. Imaginations should be exercised because it helps us love those who are opposed to us.

It’s not just the sacrifice of love that’s hard. It is getting far enough outside ourselves to remember that other people experience the world differently, and have needs, desires, and insecurities apart from ours.

The less imagination we have, the less we are able to empathize with those in need. And the less we empathize, the more likely we are to miss the deeper issues. (Issues in the old sense, that of waters which seep up from subterranean deposits, poisoning clear streams with the alkalines of rejection or fear.)

If we cannot imagine, we are likely to see others’ sin as alien (and worse!) than ours. To say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I” depends on a vibrant imagination. It needs the ability to see similarities between ourselves and the fallen, and to understand by imagination what our sinful natures would do without divine mercy. Without imagination, this saying becomes the prayer of a Pharisee: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.”

3. Samuel James at Mere Orthodoxy wrote about the over-reaction of the anti-purity police to a well-intentioned, but over-reaching article calling for guards on marital fidelity. He rightly wonders whether the reaction is due to concern over perceived patriarchy or a rejection of the call of holiness in Scripture.

Is there a point to be made about unnecessary sexualization of male-female friendships in the church? You better believe it. A church body that looks like a middle school dance, with boys on one side and the girls on the other and awkwardness in the middle, is a deeply sad sight. When the Bible says to love, serve, prefer, forgive, bear with, rejoice with, admonish, and care for one another, it is not addressing only males or females. And evangelicals have often failed to grasp this. I heard a man once advise single guys in the church not to date the girls there because a breakup would cause awkwardness on Sunday morning. That kind of advice reinforces all kinds of bad ideas about how men and women should relate to one another in the body. We can, must, do better.

But I’ll be honest. I don’t think we’ll get there if we make critiquing purity culture a priority. The article about texting was written by a man who sounds like has some ill-formed notions of what the church community should look like. But that doesn’t mean all of his notions are wrong. He is absolutely right that 1) adultery is wicked, 2) sexual sin begins way before the clothes come off, and 3) preventing sin, abuse, and devastated families requires active obedience, not just passive. Do many of the people calling his article “outrageous” and “sexist” and “ridiculous” agree with these 3 points? If so, why the outrage? Why the scorn? Why can’t we admonish someone for following his noble intentions to an ignoble end? Why is the reaction to an article like this so fervent, so incandescent in its sarcastic dismissal of the very idea that we ought to fight for sexual purity, rather than merely hope for it?

4. At World, Anthony Bradley critiques the current overemphasis on urban ministry in much of the evangelical church. It is certainly strategic, but it neglects the importance of ministry to small, rural towns.

While the city church planting emphasis emerged as a needed corrective to the suburban focus of evangelicals in the 1980s and ’90s, today’s “missional” efforts tend to neither encourage future leaders nor raise money to reach the white underclass, people from Rustbelt towns, and working-class white populations in metropolitan areas. Why? Because those people don’t live in urban centers, and there won’t be much “multiplication” due to low population density. These communities, however, are the very communities where we get America’s white police officers, construction workers, truck drivers, mechanics, teachers, and active voters.

By overlooking the working class and small towns, we are inadvertently missing new opportunities to bring the gospel and holistic redemption to areas where the majority of America’s poor people live, where suicide rates are surging, where we find the new frontier for America’s worst HIV problems, where the mortality rates for middle-aged white women are at all-time highs, where manufacturing is dying out, where Americans are the most depressed and nihilistic about life, where America’s drug use is the highest.

5. Chuck Quarles delivered a phenomenal sermon on evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Take the 40 minutes or so to watch it.