Worth Reading - 3/24

1. Harry Emerson Fosdick's famous sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?," shaped a generation of revisionist Christians. That sermon, calling for steadfastness in rejecting Christian heritage motivated mainly in the liberal denomination to resist biblical doctrine. John Piper's 2000 sermon, "You Have One Life - Don't Waste It," preached at the One Day event that brought about 40,000 college students together may have had a similar impact. Time will tell. This post at The Gospel Coalition on the influence of that sermon is worth reading. The sermon itself is also worth your time.

The morning of May 20, 2000, dawned damp and grey over a grassy field in Memphis, where a portable city had sprung up overnight. Thousands of muted tents stood in wet rows; fog made everything hazy.

About 40,000 college students had arrived for the fourth Passion Conference, its first outdoors. It was a day they wouldn’t forget, one they describe with words like “special” and “holy” and “weight of glory.”

Even people who weren’t there remember it, because that day author and pastor John Piper gave his famous “seashells” message.

“What an epic message it was!” said Desiring God executive editor David Mathis. “When we trace the history of Desiring God and John Piper’s rise in influence over the years, One Day 2000 may be the single most significant event in terms of exposing a wider audience to Piper.”

Before he spoke, Piper asked God for “a prophetic word that would have a ripple effect to the ends of the earth and to eternity.”

He got it. The message exploded out, sparking a book, a study guide, tracts, and even a rap song.

2. The promotion of a wellness lifestyle by the government and big business is a gateway to being controlled by others. This article at First Things argues that point well:

Promoting wellness is becoming a means for government and big business to exercise control over our lives.

The pretext is cost-cutting—the idea that if employers and government can persuade us to live healthier lifestyles, then society will benefit from less government spending on health care and reduced business costs from lowered health-insurance premiums and fewer employee sick days.

But when does helpfully promoting wellness—say, by providing exercise classes, or professional assistance to employees who decide to quit smoking—become an intrusion into personal privacy? When does a laudable desire to reduce healthcare costs become an obsession with controlling how we live our lives?

Here’s one example. Republicans in the House of Representatives want to empower employers to induce their employees to be genetically tested so that the obtained information can be compiled and used in fashioning company wellness programs. Currently, employees can volunteer to be genetically tested if their employer’s wellness program offers the service. However, it is illegal under federal law—the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—for an employer to punish those who refuse such testing or to offer incentives to persuade workers to allow their genetic makeup to be assessed.

3. The ongoing Russell Moore kerfuffle in the SBC has had the potential to distract from the promulgation of the gospel. This week, the Board of Trustees of the ERLC issued a statement. Russell Moore also issued an apology. Hopefully this is a step toward reconciliation and continued pursuit of the Great Commission.

As the year progressed, I felt convicted—both by my personal conscience and by my assignment by Southern Baptists—to speak out on issues of what the gospel is and is not, what sexual morality and sexual assault are and are not, and the crucial need for white Christians to listen to the concerns of our black and brown brothers and sisters in Christ. I stand by those convictions, but I did not separate out categories of people well—such that I wounded some, including close friends. Some of that was due to contextless or unhelpful posts on social media about the whirl of the news cycle. I cannot go back and change time, and I cannot apologize for my underlying convictions. But I can—and do—apologize for failing to distinguish between people who shouldn’t have been in the same category with those who put politics over the gospel and for using words, particularly in social media, that were at times overly broad or unnecessarily harsh. That is a failure on my part.

I was aware that there were many—including many very close to me—who were quite vocal in critiquing on those areas even candidates they were able to support. These people made clear what they were supporting and what they were rejecting on the basis of the biblical witness, and did not celebrate or wave away the moral problems. I did not speak much about those people because I wasn’t being asked about them, and I didn’t think they were causing the confusion that frustrated me as I was talking even to people I was seeking to win to Christ. But I didn’t clearly enough separate them out. Again, that is a failure on my part, and I apologize.

4. Fake news isn't a new thing. This is a really interesting article in the Smithsonian Magazine about how fake news (a.k.a., propaganda) helped to turn the tide in World War II.

Although this was hardly the first instance of a wartime disinformation campaign, Delmer’s “Black Propaganda,” as he called it, shared plenty with today’s “fake news.” It was agitprop masquerading as inside dirt. To be sure, British intelligence agents played a role, but it was behind the scenes, unlike traditional government propaganda. By most accounts the broadcasts were insidiously effective: Hitler’s high command repeatedly attempted to block the signal.

It turns out that Delmer, the subject of a new documentary, Come Before Winter, developed a fake news factory aimed at disrupting the Nazis. He introduced several other radio stations, including one anchored by a young German named “Vicki,” who read a mixture of real news culled from intelligence sources and fake items, including a fabricated report about an outbreak of diphtheria among German children.

In November 1943, Delmer ended Der Chef’s reign of error by penning a script that had Nazi troops storming the studio and “shooting” him mid-broadcast, but many other ruses lived on. Beginning in May 1944, he produced a German-language newspaper called Nachrichten für die Truppe (News for the Troops), which was air-dropped to soldiers on the Western front.

5. Bruce Ashford of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary takes on the common assertion that Jesus was not political during his time here on earth.

So, was Jesus “political” during his time on earth?

In certain contemporary American senses of the world “political,” no he was not. He never took out newspaper ads telling the folks in Nazareth to “vote for option C in the sewage referendum.” He was not a government official and never ran for public office. He never spent his free time on Facebook yelling at people from the other side of the political aisle, employing a generous use of the CAPS LOCK and !!!!!!!!!! keys to make his points.

But in a deeper sense, Jesus’ ministry was profoundly, thoroughly, and inescapably political.

6. If you are interested, I had an article published in the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies. In the article I argue that work has value inasmuch as it glorifies God. Work is not valuable in and of itself.

In his 1972 book, Working, Studs Terkel begins with a startling description of the purpose of his book and the nature of work. He writes, “This book, being about work, is, by its very nature, about violence––to the spirit as well as to the body. It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations.” But he goes on to note that the book is “about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash . . .; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.” For Terkel the reality falls far short of the ideal, but there is an ideal for which people earnestly yearn. For Terkel’s subjects, work is instrumentally necessary to earn a living but lacks deeper value. He interviews dozens of workers and mostly finds out how unhappy they are. The accounts are poetic, rich, and raw. His work is powerful, but it leaves the reader longing for a better ending. It conveys the deep human longing to find value in work.

Worth Reading - 7/22

1. Bernie Sanders is right. The economy is rigged. However, a recent article at Vox argues that the rigging of the economy is more a function of union protectionism and licensing boards than a corporate conspiracy.

Dentists rig the system against dental hygienists by working to make it illegal for hygienists to clean teeth without totally unnecessary supervision by dentists. Taxi medallion oligopolists rig the system against regular folks with cars who would like turn a buck giving people rides. Beauty school cosmetologists rig the system against hair braiders and sidewalk hair-clipper artistes. "Massage therapists" rig the system against anybody with strong hands who might want to give back rubs for cash.
About 30 percent of all jobs in the United States today require some sort of occupational license, up from 5 percent in the early 1950s. This rather dramatic shift is evidence that the economy has indeed become increasingly rigged — which is really just another word for "regulated."
But the rigging of the economy is not just the story of occupational licensing. It’s also the story of big-city gentrifiers who block construction projects that would reduce the cost of housing by expanding its supply, which has the effect of rigging the economy against workers who can no longer afford to live where the best jobs are.

2. Alan Noble, editor at Christ and Pop Culture and Star Wars aficionado, recently wrote a piece that calls for a different sort of culture in churches, including youth groups. There needs to be a space for struggle, and a reason for hope.

I needed to be told that God loved me and that whatever “authentic self” I was so desperately trying to piece together and display for all my peers to approve of, I would never really find it and I didn’t need to try to. I needed—and still need—a church that has space for sadness, fears and anxiety, depression and mental illness. I also need a church that doesn’t let me continue to believe the lie that my life is meaningless until I achieve something, or am loved by someone, or I craft some impressive identity.
All along, my identity was hidden in Christ’s finished work on the cross, an act of unmerited love that objectively grounded and sustained my being in the world regardless of how I felt or what I thought about myself.
The funny thing about working to make yourself good enough to be Christian is that you inevitably end up more self-absorbed and less assured of God’s love for you. If we are not careful, our youth groups and churches can easily develop a culture of image-making—Christians striving to define themselves, especially according to some Christian cultural norms, instead of resting in Christ’s definitive work. The gospel frees us from these endeavors and gives us the space to be fully human, with doubts and anxieties and loves, but also with the grace and love which flows from a heart unburdened by identity and committed to others.

3. Aaron Earls, author in residence at Wardrobe Door, explains that Christians need to embrace the role of villain in contemporary culture.

We are the villains.
Look at our culture’s obsession with radical personal autonomy. Society encourages us to be completely self-absorbed—look out for “number 1,” take care of you and yours.
While everything around us is saying your personal preference should be the deciding factor for every important decision, Christianity is asking us to put that aside for the sake of others.
Instead of getting our way and living how we want to live, we are asked to pick up our cross and die to ourselves. Following Christ means you should be interdependent with others. You should use your gifts to serve the church, working with others who are doing the same.
When others see this lifestyle, it—like our sexual ethic—seems odd and out of place in modern culture. In one sense, it seems too traditional. In another, too extreme.

4. From the New York Times, efforts at advancing renewable energy sources are pushing attempts to curb climate change off course. This includes the devaluing and shutting down of nuclear power, which is the best reliable, low-carbon energy source available.

In Southern Australia, where wind supplies more than a quarter of the region’s power, the spiking prices of electricity when the wind wasn’t blowing full-bore pushed the state government to ask the power company Engie to switch back on a gas-fired plant that had been shut down.
But in what may be the most worrisome development in the combat against climate change, renewables are helping to push nuclear power, the main source of zero-carbon electricity in the United States, into bankruptcy.
The United States, and indeed the world, would do well to reconsider the promise and the limitations of its infatuation with renewable energy.
“The issue is, how do we decarbonize the electricity sector, while keeping the lights on, keeping costs low and avoiding unintended consequences that could make emissions increase?” said Jan Mazurek, who runs the clean power campaign at the environmental advocacy group ClimateWorks.
Addressing those challenges will require a more subtle approach than just attaching more renewables to the grid.

5. Egalitarians have taken to smearing all complementarians with caricatures of abuse. One wife in a complementarian marriage answers some of a recent, vocal critic's questions on her blog.

Jesus condemned a personal-power view of authority. He condemned men who exercised authority in a selfish, domineering manner. He said, “It must not be like that among you!” (Mark 10:43-45)
The misuse/abuse of authority is an abomination to God. He wants leaders to be shepherds after His own heart. (Jeremiah 23:2; Ezekiel 34:1-4; Zechariah 11:17). Some of the Bible’s most scathing condemnations are directed toward leaders who fail to exercise authority in a godly manner. The Lord’s anger burns hot against them (Zechariah 10:3).
According to the Bible, a wife’s submission is her choice alone. A husband does not have the right to force or coerce her to do things against her will. He does not have the right to domineer. He does not have the right to pull rank and use strong-arm tactics. He does not have the right to make his wife submit. No. According to the author of our faith, it must not be like that among us!

6. From BBC, Switzerland is the nation that hates to be late. A fun, interesting read.

Whenever I visit Switzerland, I go through several stages of punctuality reaction. At first it delights me, especially if I’m coming from neighbouring Italy or France with their rather more flexible approach to timekeeping. By contrast, life in Switzerland is sturdy and dependable, like a Saint Bernard dog. If someone says they will meet me at 2 pm, they arrive at 2 pm not 2:05 (or 1:55, for that matter). I like this. For a while.  

Then it annoys me. The extreme punctuality strikes me as a kind of stinginess, and I find myself agreeing with the English writer Evelyn Waugh who said that “punctuality is the virtue of the bored.”

That is unfair though, and finally, invariably, I come to appreciate Swiss punctuality for what it is: a deep expression of respect for other people. A punctual person is a considerate one. By showing up on time – for everything – a Swiss person is saying, in effect, “I value your time and, by extension, I value you.”