Worth Reading - 4/21

1. In the interest of presenting an accurate history, very often people rush to tell us the worst about the heroes of history. For example, Calvin didn't stop the killing of Servetus, Luther got venomously anti-semitic at the end of his life, Thomas Jefferson never freed his slaves. These are valid critiques, but are often used to indicate that everything about the individual should be condemned. In an engaging post at The Gospel Coalition, Phil Moore shows that Charles Darwin has a pretty awful racist past, which is often overlooked by those that rely on his worldview.

Victorian Britain was too willing to accept Darwinian evolution as its gospel of overseas expansion. Darwin is still celebrated on the back of the British £10 note for his discovery of many new species on his visit to Australia; what’s been forgotten, though, is his contemptible attitude—due to his beliefs about natural selection—toward the Aborigines he found there. When The Melbourne Review used Darwin’s teachings to justify the genocide of indigenous Australians in 1876, he didn’t try and stop them. When the Australian newspaper argued that “the inexorable law of natural selection [justifies] exterminating the inferior Australian and Maori races”—that “the world is better for it” since failure to do so would be “promoting the non-survival of the fittest, protecting the propagation of the imprudent, the diseased, the defective, and the criminal”—it was Christian missionaries who raised an outcry on behalf of this forgotten genocide. Darwin simply commented, “I do not know of a more striking instance of the comparative rate of increase of a civilized over a savage race.”

Meanwhile, several thousand miles away, Cecil Rhodes was gleefully embracing Darwin’s thinking as justification for white expansion across southern Africa. He was so inspired by Darwinian evolutionist Winwood Reade’s The Martyrdom of Man that he later confessed, “That book has made me what I am.”

2. Aaron Earls gives a compelling exhortation for Christians to keep pursuing holiness and avoid coasting.

How much did you enjoy coasting down a hill on your bike as a kid?

You can put your feet off to the side (or on the handlebar if you’re feeling really daring) and let gravity do all the work. Enjoying the wind against your face is the reward for all the effort you spent pedaling up.

As a kid, that was one of the greatest feelings, but sometimes things can go wrong.

Once, I was going too fast down a hill. I hit a bump, flipped over my handlebars and rode upside down for a few feet before crashing into a briar patch.

Attempting to coast spiritually, has put many Christians in a similar predicament without their even realizing it. Coasting is not an option for the Christian.

You can coast on a bicycle after you’ve put the work in to get up a hill, but as Christians we have not reached the top yet. That does not come until we reach our home—the new heavens and new Earth.

In the meantime, while we are living this life, we are still striving to move uphill. And the headwinds we face are strong—our flesh, Satan, the world (Ephesians 2:2-3).

3. There have been a torrent of posts this week about the benefits and dangers of "platform building." Some of this comes because some well known Christians (who already have a platform) are critiquing those seeking to have a voice in the public square for trying to build a platform. This is a debate in which there seems to be fault on all sides. Karen Swallow Prior does an excellent job cutting through the chatter to get to the heart of the issue by asking what a platform really is and what sort of platform matters eternally.

I don’t think platform is quite what many imagine it to be.

Our real platform is the life we are living and the work and ministry we are already doing. Platform is our proven track record and the authority we’ve gained in whatever area God has called us to—whether we work out of the home and take care of children, or teach and research as a professor.

The classroom is my particular platform, and everything I write flows from the authority I have gained there through teaching literature, writing, and cultural criticism. That authority has taken a long time to acquire, something that always surprises people when they ask how I have achieved success as a writer: it took 16 years for me to get a BA, MA, and PhD (all in English), and another 13 years after that of teaching and writing articles before I published my first non-academic book (and even that was with a small independent publisher). Clearly, I’m a slow study and a late bloomer compared to some, but I think my long trajectory looks more like the rule than the exception. It’s no different for pastors, even if it seems every young church planter has multiple book deals.

Platforms look different for everyone, depending on life circumstances. I have a friend who has managed to overcome years of childhood sexual abuse and to come out of it pretty healthy and whole. That’s not the only thing she’s accomplished, but that alone is far more than I will ever do. My friend has an authority to speak into and about certain issues that I will never have. The platform her authority provides has nothing to do with Twitter followers, pageviews, or book contracts (even if she has those), but rather is the way she uses her experience to help and serve others.

In the end, that’s what we’re all called to do with our platforms: serve others and, in so doing, glorify God. There is no place better from which to do that than in our everyday lives. And there is no greater human affirmation we can get than from the people who live with us in our families, communities, and churches. No number of likes or shares or accolades from strangers on the internet is more important to me than getting a message from my own pastor telling me that I’m doing good work for the kingdom. Because only in connection to the Lord and his church can I find my true identity—and my true platform.

4. Paul Akin writes for the IMB on the connection between sola scriptura and missions. It's a great read.

It may seem obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: the primacy and necessity of the Bible must never be assumed—especially in the Great Commission. The importance of keeping this truth ever before us cannot be overstated.
As I write this from a plane in East Asia, I can’t help but reminisce over recent days engaging others in spiritual conversations and praying for the salvation of people across this vast continent. As I do, I’m reminded of the vital role of Scripture in the work of Christian mission.
No matter the location, whether Taiwan, Singapore, San Diego, or anywhere in between, the words of Scripture are true: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Only the Bible can make someone “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15).

5. A beautifully produced video the explains the connection between marriage and the Christian gospel:

6. In light of the Facebook Live murder that hit the news, Jemar Tisby wrote an excellent piece for the Washington Post about the more significant legacy of forgiveness. As Tisby notes, this is particularly evident in African American Christianity.

Forgiveness is a hallmark of the Christian faith, a powerful act African American Christians facing racism have continually offered.

The families of the murdered Emanuel Nine famously forgave the killer who visited a weekly Bible study at the historic Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston in 2015. After an hour of hearing God’s words of love and charity, he began shooting. By the time he finished, nine women and men had been killed. Days after one of the most blatantly racist and deadly attacks in recent memory, the families of the victims stood in front of the shooter and forgave him.

They, too, cited faith in God as the reason they could forgive.

The sister of Depayne Middleton Doctor, one of the people killed in the attack, said it this way, “For me, I’m a work in progress. And I acknowledge that I am very angry. But one thing that DePayne always enjoined in our family … is she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hating, so we have to forgive. I pray God on your soul.”

7. I wrote a piece for the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics this week about carrying an attitude of reconciliation with us into the workplace.

The hardest aspect of being a Christian is sustaining a focus on being fully gospel-centered over the long haul.

It’s relatively easy to get dressed up on Sundays to do gospel work at church. It’s possible to be energized on any given day to serve faithfully and point to our savior through the everyday work we do.

However, it is much more difficult to be consistently focused on the ministry of reconciliation for months and years.

Paul anticipated this, which is why he begins his list of practical ways the ministry of reconciliation is implemented with “great endurance” (2 Cor. 6:4). This, no doubt, serves to characterize the magnitude of the real persecution he faced, but it also qualifies the nature of the perseverance in the ordinary efforts he outlines.

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.”