Worth Reading - 3/23

1. How one woman's "aha moment" led to a ministry in her community with a potential for international and eternal impact:

Many of those families came to the United States from nations torn by war, persecution or famine. They represent only a small fraction of more than 150,000 refugees in North Carolina’s Triangle region from Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries.

Unzicker saw the swelling crowd of migrants as an opportunity.

”Oh my gosh,” she thought, “we could share the gospel right now.”

Unzicker called the group together and began to tell them about the Good News from a chapter in The Jesus Storybook Bible.

Unzicker’s aha moment—the sudden realization she could tell her foreign-born friends about Jesus on an average summer afternoon—was a turning point for her and the birth of a multiplying ministry.

2. One of the central attributes of much of modernism and among many moderns is the absence of joy. This post at the Front Porch Republic discusses this unfortunate reality:

The modern age, in almost every detail, began with the flat rejection of joy. And the modern condition consists in alternately lamenting that there is nothing in which to take joy and in finding simulacra of the feeling of joy to distract us from our general joylessness.

The length of the list of joys refused should stun us. The Protestant Reformers looked upon the world and saw it as a ruin, the cosmos lapsing ever further into decay as if to ensure it would play no role in our redemption by Christ. Martin Luther’s proclamation that one should “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world” has been put to misleading purposes, over the centuries, by Catholic apologists such as Henrich Denifle and Jacques Maritain, and yet Luther’s words themselves figure decay and loss. Like the world at large, the soul of the Christian has nothing properly good to itself that should cause us wonder. To the contrary, it has sin, but this sin is “covered” by Christ Jesus. Sin remains, but is covered over; it is overcome but not extinguished. We can “rejoice” but the field of joy is in Christ’s strength alone and that strength does not extend to, but dominates, what stands outside of it.

In the wake of the English Civil War, the Puritanical regime of the Commonwealth closed the theaters, stripped the altars, silenced Sundays, and forbade Christmas. Christians had never denied that mirth and laughter had moral significance, but now only the straight sober lips of austerity could be approved.

3. Bizarrely, positive feelings toward communism are on the rise as evidenced by Colin Kaepernick's efforts to protest police brutality while wearing the image of someone famous for police brutality on his chest. Greg Forster's article at the Gospel Coalition is worth your time as we seek to explain to our neighbors that communism is inimical to Christianity as well as human flourishing of any sort:

Communism is, at heart, the belief that human ingenuity by itself—without God—can destroy the world’s political and economic evils, if only we’re willing to make the necessary sacrifices. Marx’s complex theories of surplus value, economic determinism, and dialectical history don’t establish that human ingenuity by itself can fix our problems; they presuppose it. They’re built on the assumption that natural reason, without revelation, is capable of understanding human life in a comprehensive way. This involves the assumption that there is no supernatural element in human life.

Communism isn’t a political and economic theory that happens to be associated with atheism. It is atheism—atheism as applied to political and economic systems.

Like fascism, communism is an eschatological theodicy built on, and therefore an idolatrous worship of, political movements. Communism is essentially fascism for rationalists.

If you doubt it, consider that communism was able to thrive, even to the point of almost conquering the world, long after Marx’s theories had been debunked even among communists.

The real dream of communism wasn’t that Marx had fully and finally decoded history, although Marx was foolish enough to think he had. The real dream of communism was that history can be fully and finally decoded. So what if Marx was wrong when he thought he had finished the job? The point is to keep sacrificing everything—conscience, humanity, millions of lives—to ensure we continue working on it. After all, it’s our only hope, because there is no God.

4. An engaging article at First Things by Patrick Deneen describing how the new aristocracy is asserting their superiority while claiming to pursue equality:

The new aristocrats believe we have transcended the need for Christianity, which they regard as a myth no less mendacious than Plato’s noble lie. They believe that by dispelling the old myths, they can become the vanguard of an ever more equal society. They blind themselves to the fact that this claim is a form of status maintenance, allowing denial of a deeper commonality with those they regard as benighted and backward. Elites denounce the “populists” while denying that they have fomented a class war. They deplore the obnoxiousness of Donald Trump, perfectly obtuse of their complicity in his ascent.

We are in uncharted territory. Liberalism coexisted with Christianity for its entire history, with Christianity moderating the harder edges of the regnant political philosophy, supporting forms and practices that demanded from elites the recognition of their elevated status, and hence, corresponding responsibilities and duties to those less fortunate. The thoroughgoing disdain and dismissiveness of today’s elites toward the working class is a reflection of our newfound “enlightenment,” just as is the belief among the lower class that only a strong and equally disdainful leader can constrain the elites. Liberalism has achieved its goal of emptying the public square of the old gods, leaving it a harsh space of contestation among unequals who no longer see any commonality. Whether that square can be filled again with newly rendered stories of old telling us of a common origin and destination, or whether it must simply be dominated by whoever proves the strongest, is the test of our age.

5. Derek Rishmawy writes about justice in the book of Ezekiel, countering some of the arguments against retributive justice being possible for a holy God.

It’s worth examining a few elements of the judgment of God upon Israel.

First, God’s judgment is “according to your conduct” and is a repayment “for all your detestable practices.” These phrases are repeated in the passage to be underlined. This characteristic is also present in most of the other passages. In that sense, it is retributive, and in kind. This fits with the principle of retribution articulated throughout Torah. There is no hint of arbitrariness, sinful vindictiveness, or overkill. God will, at worst, only bring “down on their own heads all they have done.”

Second, especially in the first passage, you can note that despite God declaring “I will have no pity” and “I will not spare you”, these are acts of judgment long in the works. Now, finally, after much waiting, much excuse-making, much leniency, “the time has come to act.” God has been patient. At one point, he was looking for someone to stand in the gap, to build a wall, but when no one was found, he said “enough is enough.” The rhetoric of fury should not deceive us here or mislead us into picturing God has prone to anger, or liable to fly off the hook.

Third, there is a very clear conceptual and linguistic collocation of the judgment and punishment of God with the wrath and anger of God. For God to punish and judge sin is for him to execute, expend, and pour out his wrath and anger. They are two sides of the same coin, speaking of the same reality in a different idiom. Or rather, they are dimensions of the same reality. God’s wrath is a way of speaking of the retributive dimension of God’s justice in an affective register, as a matter of his will, inclination, and action connected to his moral character.