Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Will you walk in the darkness, or make a fire?

-- Matthew R. Crawford --

“10. Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. 11. Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.” (Isaiah 50:10-11)

This passage, coming at the end of the third servant song of Isaiah (50:4-11), describes two possible responses to the Servant of the Lord. First to recount a bit of the context, I believe that one of the primary themes of the latter part of Isaiah is exile. Chapter 39 ends with a prediction of the exile, and the ensuing chapters appear to be addressed to Israelites in exile, even mentioning Cyrus by name. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the chapters were written after the exile, but that’s another topic. Israel in exile would have considered her experience to be darkness. Indeed, Lamentations 3:1-6 describe it in such terms. Imagine watching the blood bath in the streets of Jerusalem, as a ravaging army cut down men, women, and children. The temple is desecrated and its treasures carted off to be used for a very different purpose than that described in Leviticus. You then find yourself living in a foreign land, everyday hearing a foreign language, not being familiar with the customs of your new city, being surrounded by people worshipping a god other than the Lord.

Isaiah’s answer to this situation is the Servant of the Lord. Yet as it is in our day, so it was for Isaiah – the Servant does not enjoy uniform acceptance. There are those who accept the Servant and there are those who reject him. What is striking about Isaiah’s description of these responses is how he reverses the meaning of a common biblical metaphor. Usually in Scripture, especially in the Johannine corpus, walking in darkness is equivalent to living in disobedience to God’s law – being a child of Satan and an enemy of God. Living in the light is a metaphor for walking in obedience and honoring God. Isaiah flips the metaphor. He says that those who walk in darkness are blessed and those who walk in the light will experience God’s judgment. What are we to make of this seeming contradiction?

Closer inspection reveals that Isaiah is not contradicting, but rather further explaining the typical biblical metaphor. As stated above, these words were written primarily with the children of Israel in exile in mind. In the midst of such apparent hopelessness and loss (i.e., darkness), there were only two options. One could walk forward in the darkness trusting in the Lord or one could make one’s own light to walk by, that is, to trust in one’s own wisdom and strength.

Isaiah is thus saying that there are times when God wills for us to walk in the darkness for a while. How often is it true in our Christian experience that we see as but through a glass darkly? We don’t understand why a certain providence is ours. Life takes an unexpected turn. The church runs you out for preaching the truth. Your child dies at birth. You are rejected by all of your potential graduate programs. How is the Christian to respond to such circumstances? Isaiah would say that the answer is not to think that you are wiser than God and to go forth trusting in your own ability, while accusing God of lack of foresight or malevolence. Rather, the proper response is to wait on the Lord while being faithful to obey all the light that he has given you. Waiting in darkness is difficult. Walking forward in the darkness is even more difficult because you cannot see the way before you. Nevertheless, it is better than the outcome for those who walk by the light of their own intellect – to lie down in torment. As the hymn says, “I may not see the way I go, but, oh, I know my guide.”

Monday, July 30, 2007

On the Worship of the Early Church

-- Matthew R. Crawford --

I just started reading Robert Louis Wilken’s The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. It is a fascinating book. Wilken is a church history professor at the University of Virginia who specializes in the early church. His book was originally published in 1984, but was recently republished by Yale in 2003. Wilken’s method in the book is to look at the early Christians through the eyes of their detractors. He examines the descriptions of the Christians contained in the writings of significant non-Christians such as Pliny the Younger, Galen, Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian the Apostate.

The book succeeds in giving a glimpse into the world of early Christianity. For example, below is a description of the early Christians in a letter written by Pliny, a government official, to Emperor Trajan from Asia Minor sometime during the fall of A.D. 112. Apparently some persons in a certain town were upset because the sale of sacrificial meat was down, presumably due to people converting to Christianity. Pliny made an investigation of the matter and reported it back to the Emperor for advice. He stated that the Christians

declared that the sum total of their guilt or error amounted to no more than this; they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately among themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god, and also to bind themselves by oath, not for any criminal purpose, but to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery, to commit no breach of trust and not to deny a deposit when called upon to restore it. After this ceremony it had been their custom to disperse and reassemble later to take food of an ordinary harmless kind. (22)

It’s quite a description of the worship of the early church, isn’t it? The church met weekly on a certain day. They engaged in some form of chanting or singing to one another. Perhaps they were chanting to one another portions of the Psalms or the New Testament. The focus of their worship was to honor Christ as if he were God. They encouraged one another towards holiness through the means of something like a proto-church covenant. That is, they had a sense of their corporate responsibility to aid one another in sanctification. Finally, they enjoyed fellowship with one another over a meal. How does Pliny’s description of the early church’s worship compare with what you do at your church?

The model of the early church’s worship does not serve as an irrefutable authority for how we should structure our church gatherings today. In fact, the description above leaves out some important elements such as communion and the preaching of the word. Nevertheless, Christians should draw encouragement from the fact that when we gather for worship we are doing so even as so many millions of fellow believers have done for the last two thousand years. We are part of a community that greatly transcends us in both time and space. Nevertheless, we are bound together by our common faith. Let us not forget so. Some have argued for the importance of biblical theology because it gives Christians a cosmic narrative in which to place their own lives and so find significance in this larger story. This is certainly true for biblical theology, but I think it is also true for church history. Pastors should strive to communicate to their congregations that the faith did not arise yesterday, but that there is a long tradition that can teach us much if we are willing to listen. The community of the local church is primary, but this community is a part of a much larger community, the community of those redeemed by the blood of the lamb throughout all the ages.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

On The Life of the Mind and the Pursuit of Beauty

-- Matthew R. Crawford --

In this post I hope to bring together the themes that I have discussed thus far as well as shed further light on them. Another book from my summer reading list is James V. Schall’s The Life of the Mind: On the Joys and Travails of Thinking (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2006). Schall is a Catholic who teaches government at Georgetown University, and he has written numerous books on education, philosophy, and related topics. The Life of the Mind is one of the most enjoyable books that I have read in a while. There are many of us evangelicals who have rightly criticized the anti-intellectualism that mars the modern evangelical movement. However, I have not encountered a book that more effectively encourages the life of the mind than Schall’s book. Schall writes about the life of the mind with such obvious joy that it causes the reader to pursue the same. We as evangelicals must go beyond mere criticism to constructively define how the life of the mind fits into the life of the Christian. It is intriguing to me that such a book comes from the pen of a Catholic priest. I’m still trying to think through what to make of this last observation, but in the least it stirs within me the desire to see more solid evangelicals who interact with the broader Western intellectual tradition as does Schall.

Now, to the issues at hand. As I look back over my two previous posts and the comments they have generated, I see at least three themes/questions:
1) How do we help our churches to see the beauty of God?
2) How do we enjoy cultural products discerningly?
3) What is the Christian’s responsibility regarding the creation of art?

Here is a quote from The Life of the Mind that I think helps to answer these questions:

“In the ancient struggle between philosophy and poetry, Plato only allowed that poetry back into his city which was beautiful in what it held about the gods, in its rhythms, and in its melody. He knew that in the end there is only one way to counteract music or philosophy that does not glorify God as He is supposed to be glorified, and that is to produce a counter-poetry, a counter-music that is even more beautiful. To grasp the central point of Christianity in the intellectual sense means, whether we agree with it or not, to acknowledge that this poetry or myth has been produced, and that its production is not wholly something of human origin, that we did not ourselves produce it.” (88)

To summarize Schall, I think preliminary answers to the three questions would be:
1) By creating sermons, books, and art that echo the beauty/truth/goodness of God;
2) By looking for that which rightly exemplifies the beauty/truth/goodness of God;
3) To create art that resonates with this beauty/truth/goodness

To clarify that last point a bit, let me state that I don’t think this means that songs, films, poems, etc. produced by Christians must always present life in an ideal state. Francis Schaeffer wisely stated that the art produced by Christians should have a major theme and a minor theme. The minor theme is sin and the major theme is redemption. Both must be present in an artist’s corpus of work if he is to be faithful to his calling.

I think that I’m a novice in these matters. I would love to hear from some who have pondered this topic more than myself. What do you think?

Theology at the Movies

-- Matthew R. Crawford --

Summer is the time for big blockbusters at the theater. Movies are fun, at least partially because they allow us to escape for a short while from our less-than-satisfying reality. However, movies also speak volumes about the state of the culture. Many conservative Christians sharply criticize movies with morally objectionable content because they think that such films will lead to the practicing of the type of sin displayed on the screen. Undoubtedly there is truth to this claim. Nevertheless, it is also the case that movies serve as a mirror of where the culture already is, not simply where it is going. It therefore follows that Christians can learn much about the broader culture from movies, especially very popular movies. Let me illustrate this point with two examples. Two of the biggest films of Summer 2007 were Spiderman 3 and Transformers. In what follows I am not necessarily encouraging you to watch these movies. Rather, my hope is that we learn to see such cultural products as a window into the collective mind of our society. I’ll try to analyze the movies without spoiling them for those who haven’t yet seen them and have a desire to do so.

Some critics faulted Spiderman 3 for its many overlapping plots. It appears that the main plot is the internal struggle within Peter Parker, symbolized by the battle between Spiderman and Venom. Will Parker continue to act selflessly and use his great powers responsibly? Or will he use his powers to attain that which he desires with no regard for the concerns of others? In the end, as you could guess, he does what is right and saves the day. Reflecting upon his experiences, Peter Parker, in the last line of the film, states, “Our choices make us who we are and we can always choose to do what’s right.” Both parts of this statement are problematic. The first proposition – “Our choices make us who we are” – seems self-evident enough, but if taken as a summary of human existence it is terribly lacking. One of the great modern lies (stemming from scientific naturalism, I believe) is that humans have no nature, no essence. We are thus free to do as we wish, to remake ourselves, indeed to pursue our own self-actualization to infinity, so long as we do not infringe upon the pursuit of someone else. In contrast, the Christian worldview asserts that humans have a nature, and that our choices are the result of our nature. As our Lord said, “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matthew 12:35). Parker is right that our choices make us who we are, but it is also the case that who we are determines our choices. This leads into the second half of Peter Parker’s statement – “we can always choose to do what’s right.” The problem with this assertion is easier to see and follows from the above discussion. The Bible unequivocally declares that, as a result of the Fall, we have corrupted natures and therefore are prone to sin. Augustine stated it even stronger: natural man is non posse non peccare (“unable not to sin”). Peter Parker was wrong. We cannot always choose to do what is right.

In my estimation, Transformers was an even less satisfying movie than Spiderman. Lingering at the center of the movie is a tacit contradiction, a contradiction that well represents one of the great cultural fissures of our day. The background to the movie is that a very advanced species of aliens evolved into shape-changing robots. Eventually there arose a civil war between two groups of these so-called autobots. The military leader for the ‘good’ side is Optimus Prime. He is thoughtful and virtuous. Optimus Prime’s fundamental belief is that freedom is the right of all sentient beings. However, given the assumptions of the narrative, there is no metaphysical grounding for this assertion. If one assumes a narrative of atheistic evolution, and a corresponding worldview of scientific naturalism, there is no ultimate moral justification for valuing life. Indeed, intrinsic value of any sort is impossible. In fact, the evolutionary process favors the weeding out of the weakest organisms. If evolutionary theory is true, the weak should die so that the strong can live and further the species. Optimus Prime should stop trying to save the humans and join forces with the 'evil' Decepticons.

So there you have it – superheroes, robots, and in the midst of it all a little bit of theology. So the next time you’re watching that movie, listen closely because you might just gain a glimpse into the false assumptions of our age. May we have ears to hear well what the culture says so that we can speak faithfully the truth to the world.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Albert Einstein on Beauty, Science, and God

-- Matthew R. Crawford --

Is it possible for a physicist to instruct a theologian on the topic of God? This is the question that has been rolling around in my mind since I read Walter Isaacson’s new biography of Einstein while on vacation (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007). Physics and biographies are two topics that have long interested me. How could one not be enamored by the forgetful scientist with the disheveled hair? I found the biography to be a stimulating and enjoyable read. Einstein is of course most well-known for the equation E=mc2 (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared), a consequence of his theory of special relativity. However, perhaps Einstein’s greatest contribution to physics was the general theory of relativity in which he gave an explanation for gravity that far surpassed what was known at the time. Isaacson says that the theory “was a whole new way of regarding reality” (223).

The reason I mention the general theory of relativity on a blog like this is to note that what drove Einstein to his scientific conclusions was a conviction that nature displayed a beauty that was discernible, and that a characteristic feature of this beauty was simplicity. One of Einstein’s contemporary physicists, Max Planck, even wrote that in Einstein’s general theory of relativity “the intimate union between the beautiful, the true and the real has again been proved” (260). Similar transcendental statements about beauty and simplicity in scientific theories are echoed in the more recent work of Brian Greene, a prominent physicist working on the much-hyped string theory (note the title of his book: The Elegant Universe). For the Christian, the significance of this concept of beauty is two-fold.

First, it demonstrates that scientists are far from the objective fact-gatherers that they are popularly held to be. Scientists have presuppositions just as we all do. That is, they’re assuming that something is true (nature exhibits simplicity) and then acting on the basis of that belief (seeking out the most elegant mathematical solutions). Indeed, Einstein’s concept of beauty drove him to spend the last decades of his life in an unsuccessful search for a unified field theory. Today, large expenditures of money and brain power are spent on research that is at least in part driven by the presupposition that the universe is elegant in its rationality. For this reason, Christians ought not be bothered when they are castigated by empiricists for relying upon faith. Indeed, the scientist has his own kind of faith. In other words, the way of knowing for a scientist and the way of knowing for the Christian may have some important similarities.

The second significance of Einstein’s concept of beauty is that it resonates with the God of the Christian faith. Einstein’s own journey of faith never led him to embrace Christianity. After a few brief teenage years as a devoutly practicing Jew, Einstein went on to hold a deistic concept of God. He stood in awe at the beauty and complexity of the cosmos, but could not bring himself to accept the idea of a God who meddles in human history. As Christians we must affirm that Einstein saw correctly that the beauty of the universe reflects the beauty of something or Someone beyond the universe. If God had remained silent, we could say no more than Einstein said – that the vast darkness of the universe presents suggestions of a transcendent beauty. However, the uniqueness of the Christian story is that it asserts that this God has not remained silent. He has spoken into the darkness and revealed his beauty in even more striking colors than can be found in mere mathematical equations. The beauty of God is seen most clearly in the Christian narrative of a God who did meddle in history by doing the most unimaginable thing – becoming a human and redeeming mankind. It is a disgrace that more Christians who have the gift of the word and Spirit do not stand in awe of the beauty of God as did Einstein who only saw through a glass darkly. May we say with David, “One thing have I asked of the Lord . . . to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

On Guest Blogging

-- by Matthew R. Crawford --

The honor bestowed upon a guardian is directly proportional to the value of that which he guards. Allow me to illustrate. My wife and I once had a couple of friends present us with an unexpected request. They asked that we become the guardians of their newly born son in the event of their untimely death. We were honored, since this new child was the most valuable thing on earth to these parents. In a similar, albeit lesser degree, I am honored to be guest blogging for Owen this week, since I know the value that he places upon this blog and on you, his audience. Humbled by this opportunity, I will endeavor to faithfully continue his meditations on the delicate art of Christian conformity. Owen, thanks for the opportunity and have a great vacation.

Introducing My Guest-Blogger, Matt Crawford

Two posts in one day--a veritable avalanche here at consumed. This second post is intended to introduce my guest-blogger for the next week. I'll be going to Oregon tomorrow, and Matthew Crawford will be taking my place. A native of Tennessee, Matt is an MDiv student here at Southern Seminary in the School of Theology. He is a humble, godly guy, a valued friend, and a very gifted thinker and writer. Matt is husband to his sweet wife Brandy, father to a darling baby girl (Violet), and a mean tennis player. He is one of the sharpest guys I know, and I am excited to have him as my guest-blogger. Please feel free to encourage him and keep him on his toes, as you do with me.

I'll see you in a week--and many thanks for reading. Best, Owen S.

Near-Death Living: On Learning to Drive

Walking to work this morning, I was alerted to the presence of a lone car in the seminary's massive parking lots. I noted two cones, a car inching forward, and a tall man watching the car's progress, his arms folded, his lips pursed. Initially puzzled by this scene, I soon realized that it was nothing other than a father teaching his child how to parallel park.

Now, parallel parking is not usually a near-death experience. At least I hope it's not, for your and my sake. But it is part of a larger process that does lead fathers and their teenage progeny to the very precipice of personal extinction. What is that process? The learning-to-drive process. Walking to work this morning, I was reminded of my sainted father and his efforts to teach me how to drive our Nissan Pathfinder over a decade ago. Eleven years later, I can recall the experience with an uncomfortable level of detail.

If I close my eyes, I can see us. It's Dad and me, out for a drive. But this is a drive like no other. This is a drive in which I, not my father, am the pilot. So we buckle up, I start the SUV--which was a manual automobile, not an automatic--and away we go. Well, wait a minute. It's not that easy. Before the "away we go" part, there was a "tires screeching on tar and sand" part. A watching cat nearly lost its fur, and the driveway was never the same. Nevertheless, we were off. I was driving.

We wound our way along the country road, meeting almost no other cars along the way. Things were fine, though I do recall driving, for some inexplicable reason, about ten miles per hour faster than I wanted to. I'm not sure why that happens with young drivers. It's not like you want to do so. You want to go a nice, comfortable speed. However, you invariably seem to push the gas pedal too hard, and thus your turns are sharper, your senses are heightened, and your palms are sweating. You reassure yourself that you are one of many billions of people who drive, and thus that this has to get better, though such a happy result is not immediately on the horizon.

Things went pretty well on this initial drive until, for some reason, I stalled. I have no idea why. At any rate, I distinctly recall sitting on the side of the road, waving cars by, utterly unable to start the car. It's safe to say I reached a new level of human embarrassment in that moment. Eventually I got the car started, and we were, once again, sailing down the road, my shifting clumsy, my posture taut, my father quickly giving me instructions about what to do. Things were looking up.

That is, until it came to turn the car around and head back the other way. This involved merging with oncoming traffic, which was going about 50 mph. I steeled myself for the re-entry. "I can do this. Just ease off the clutch, and push in the gas. I've done this plenty of times. Here we go." And with that, seeing an opening, I proceeded to prosecute the maneuver. While everything checked out in my brain, however, my feet failed to execute as planned, and so the following happened: 1) the car shook with a hurricane's violence, sputtering along, almost dying, 2) my father yelled at me to push the gas, 3) I pushed the gas, 4) we burned rubber for a good 4 seconds, furiously throwing our heads back against the seats, 5) we merged onto the highway. I think my father lost 4% of his life that day. That loss notwithstanding, things got steadily better, and we made it home.

All this flashed back this morning as I walked to work. I watched the father observing his child, and I could see my father, coaching me, helping me, sweating. I knew that though that father was tense, and his child was stressed, they were forging a memory together, one neither would easily forget. Not that my father or I will. You could go to East Machias, Maine today, and there'd be a burnt rubber streak about twenty feet long, a tangible reminder of the sacred, near-death process of learning to drive.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Pleasantness of Vacation

Later in the week I'll be trucking off to Oregon with my wife's side of our family for a vacation. In August, I'll head to Maine to see my side of our family. These coming vacations afford me a chance to reflect on vacation and why it's so magical.

Prepare yourself for some truly amazing insights on vacation. For example, vacation is pleasant because one does not work while on vacation. See, there you go. It takes me hours to think of this stuff (and hence the overwhelming need for one). In all seriousness, is there not exhilaration in vacation? The sheer joy of reading for pleasure is enough to make vacation worthwhile in itself. As one who reads for school, and has done so for, well, almost my entire life, there is nothing quite like working through a really well-written book. Sun and cold drinks also do not hurt. Time with family is always full of meaning and quiet joy. In simply catching up, in returning to the old rhythms of life, one finds a few moments of solace. For a little while, we can enter fully into the roles which we still occupy but devote less time to now: son, brother, nephew, grandson, etc. For a few days, a week, two weeks, the balance of the past is restored, and we laugh, talk and explore as we once did, time granting us a brief exception to its laws.

Vacation allows us a taste of heaven. That may sound a bit grandiose, and perhaps it is, but how else am I to apply this MDiv education? No, in reality, it does. We get to feel for a short while what heaven will be like--a place of rest, joy, and comfort, a place where deadlines do not exist and where our love for Christ will be made whole. Don't you often find that vacations are spiritually refreshing? I certainly do. I can't help it. Put me on a beach, give me some time to pray and think, and I can't help but worship God in a way I find evasive during the hustle of normal living. Those moments--some of the best moments of my life--are an appetizer for heaven, where contemplation and worship of God comprise the sum total of our existence. How kind of God to give us vacations to rest, relax, and practice for heaven.

Vacation invariably draws us back into our former days. It allows us to reminisce about vacations gone by in a way that is not doleful but celebratory. When I visit Maine, and sit in an ocean cottage, I know that memories will slowly drift through my mind, syncopated with the incoming tide. My sister and I pitching a wiffle ball to each other on a private beach in Maine. My father playing "beach golf" with us. Jumping off a raft at a cottage my mother's father rented for several weeks. Eating an occasional Blizzard. Sitting in a ocean cottage, reminiscing about the past. Yes, I've done that for many years now, such that the past blends with the present, the present with the past, and the pleasantness of vacation lingers with me for just a little while longer.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Living a Beautiful Life

It is easy for the Christian faith to become a set of propositions. To paraphrase a recent Russ Moore quotation, God can become a side to an argument, a conclusion, and not a living being. We can easily fall into mere assent to doctrine and fail to embrace God as a presence in our midst. In short, we can lose sight of the beauty of God and see only the dim outline of His presence.

We do this when we fail to understand the world-changing nature of the gospel and the Christian faith. Our preaching can easily become dry and flat. Our evangelism becomes a simple good-bad proposition--hell-bad, God-good--and our lives become either Pharisaical or amoral. Isn't that what happens when the gospel becomes merely a statement? You end up in one of two places, it seems to me. Either you make the Bible's commands--which call us to holiness and are intended to show what the gospel life looks like--demands, or you cast off all constraints and live as if the gospel doesn't really matter. The way we present the gospel, no, the way we think about the gospel and then present the gospel, closely relates to the way we live.

Too many of us live normal, ordinary, boring lives that show no dread of hell and no delight in God. Too few of us have an eye for beauty and a care for imagination. We have been given a calm, boiled-down, watery gospel, and we live listless lives as a result. It is my contention that we need to restore the power of the gospel in our thinking and presentation. If the gospel is a great neon sign proclaiming the way to heaven, we need to turn the sign on, to light it up, and show the world that we do not follow dogma. We follow a risen Lord, a conquering Christ, and He has reached down and rescued us from the face of horror and lifted us to heights of world-shattering glory. That is our message. When we believe this, perhaps then we will be able to live a beautiful life, an odd life, a transcendent life that calls out to all who witness it to see and believe.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Staggering Wonder of Christ

You just really have to wonder: do we make the gospel easy for people to receive? I think sometimes we do. We portray sin as no terrible thing, something everyone does. We portray hell as a place of separation. We urge people to trust Jesus but make it sound as if we're setting them up with a new friend. The average person, imbued with some sense of morality and some sense of sympathy for Jesus, finds it no difficult thing to "accept" Him. Yet the gospel they have accepted is not truly the gospel, is it? Is it not a weakened, watered-down version of the evangel?

The corollary to the idea that hell, and our sin, is horrible is that Jesus, and heaven, is wonderful. Jesus is altogether wonderful. He came here for us, He suffered here for us, He bled and gasped and writhed in pain for us. He is tender, compassionate, long-suffering, loving. Jesus is an awesome person, yet He is more than this--He is simultaneously an awesome God. He is a being of exquisite nobility, of princely bearing, and yet when on earth he called beggars His friends. He is strong for His people, never ducking away from His duty, never taking a moment off, never sidestepping a moment to serve His God. He is an incredible figure, worthy of worship, majestic in splendor, enthroned in glory. This--and not some toned-down peasant--is the One we worship. He is altogether wondrous to us. As is heaven, the place He lives. If hell is a place of shattering horror, heaven is a place of staggering beauty. We cannot imagine its splendor. Its perfection is everywhere. There is no sadness or suffering there. No, God is the center of heaven, perfect God, God in three persons. God loves His people in heaven, and they have no need of anything else. It is theirs simply to be loved for eternity.

People who do not believe the gospel must hear of this picture of Christ. They should hear of the great horror of hell and the great beauty of heaven. They must hear of the horror figure who is real, Satan, and they must hear of the deliverer who truly lives, Christ. We should not share a gospel that is easy to accept and walk away from. We must share the gospel in its fullness. We must share that great horror does exist but that a Man of great beauty has overcome it by His substitutionary death. Christians need to extol the glories of heaven and the majesty of Christ. We need to teach that people do not truly fear God until they see their sin as horrible, and that people do not truly love God until they Christ as wonderful. Someone who can look into the face of hell as revealed in the gospel and walk away unmoved, and who can hear of Christ and not adore Him and worship Him, is no true Christian.

A true Christian is one who revels in the beauty of God and shudders at hell's horrors. We are those who understand the gospel not to be a weak, palatable, man-friendly message, but a holy word come down from God that kills the flesh and resurrects the soul. This, not any fresh face or sunset, is beauty. Jesus Christ is no mere man, and no simple savior. He is a figure of holiness, love, and staggering wonder. May we remember this as we call the lost to Him.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Presence of Horror in a Glossy World

Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.

--Luke 16:22-23

Besides the idea that God became a man, the concept of eternal, conscious torment for sinners--known as hell, the dreaded gehenna in the Greek--is the most startling idea in the Bible.

Hell is such a horrible concept that even Christians don't think or talk much about it. Yes, even though the New Testament speaks repeatedly about the reality of hell, and even though Christ Himself teaches extensively about it, most Christians prefer not to think or to speak about it. In our witnessing, particularly, we edit out "hell" when speaking about the consequences of sin, replacing it with the (slightly) more acceptable notion of "eternal separation from God".

Now, I'll grant you that eternal separation from God is not likely to sound good to anyone. But conscious punishment for a life of unrepentant sin is so much greater and possesses so much more horror than does "eternal separation from God". This would be like saying that heaven is "eternal separation from suffering and sin". It's true, but it's not half the story. The story--the good news, the euangelion--is that we are able to taste for eternity the sweetness of fellowship with a majestic and loving God who saved us to exalt the Lord Christ. That is a fuller description of heaven, at least to my ears. In the same way, we who desire to present the gospel as faithfully as possible need to emphasize that the fate of the unrepentant sinner is not merely separation, but torture. This very idea sounds rather draconian to our modern ears, influenced as they are by a culture with an endless thirst for tolerance and happiness. It is this culture that tempts us to avoid the truth about hell, and to speak easier, nicer words about separation and "everlasting death". Yet when we do so, when we sidestep speech about the eternal abyss, we rob the gospel of power. Irony of ironies--when we fail to speak about the bad stuff truly, we fail to speak about the good stuff truly.

The gospel is designed to be good news, beautiful news, a wonderful mystery, and we'll talk about that tomorrow. But before you get there, you have to know the bad news. You have to face the horror. You have to look into the darkness, and see yourself there. You won't be able to fully fathom the reality of hell, and the Bible doesn't require you to. You and I cannot and do not know comprehensively what hell is and is like. We have mere snapshots of this actual place, though these snapshots, like the Luke passage quoted above, are like photographs of genocidal atrocities or natural disasters: though only a glimpse, they tell a full story.

The world is light and airy, glossy and feathery, and America has airbrushed out its sense of dread and horror. With this loss has come the loss of any fear of God and of the power of His vengeance. Yet the Bible speaks of a place that is darker than the darkest corner of this world. As we read of this darkness, we are not gleeful or filled with enjoyment. We are transfixed by the horror of hell, and terrified. As such, we cannot sit with this story--so true--in our laps. We must get up, and go out, and tell our friends, our coworkers, our peers, of the presence of horror in a world that seems so glossy and fair.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Book of Unspeakable Horror and Staggering Beauty

Our culture is fascinated with the two concepts mentioned above. Horror movies, Stephen King books, and Halloween events captivate countless Americans. Physical beauty, artwork, and love for the outdoors draw our eyes from the mundane. We are a people who are equally transfixed by horror and beauty.

These concepts seem so detached from the Bible. We are not used to hearing either of these words associated with scripture. We come to the Bible aware of its neat, clean theology, its moral framework, and its relevance to our spiritual lives, but we are unaware of its awesome, unearthly character. Some weeks ago I did a post on preaching and how it is not a nice, orderly exercise but a lightning show. So it is with the Word on which preaching is based. The Word is not tame or quiet. It is a book of majesty, of miracles, of strange and mystical events. It contains such beauty, beauty that causes you to lose your breath, and it contains such horror, horror that leaves you flatfooted in terror. The Word is not static. It is a living, breathing, radioactive text.

I would suggest that this basic scheme, the horror/beauty scheme, is an effective one in ministering to our culture. We may approach our peers from this literary perspective and communicate to them of the horror of sin and hell and the beauty of God and heaven. We may thus connect to their aesthetic sensibilities without diminishing in any way the propositional content of the gospel. Those who agitate for the Christian church to leave its propositional, "Platonic" categories of truth are terribly wrong, but they do have a point when they encourage us to use all the "thought-tools" of this world to reach the lost. To put this more simply, we can communicate truth through imagination. In my humble opinion, we need to teach people that becoming a Christian does not mean losing one's imagination. Rather, becoming a Christian means that we connect our imagination to the real world and learn that the Bible's story is impossibly more scary and wondrous than any fairy tale or mythological narrative. We Christians have not accepted truth and left our imaginations behind; instead, we have plugged our imagination into truth, and discovered a story--a true story!--that is almost too fascinating to be true. The fact that it is indeed true reveals the magic of Christianity.

In the next few days, I want to explore this dual-sided scheme and attempt to illuminate how it can potentially influence the way in which we understand the faith and share the gospel. I am not presenting this idea as the means by which the church and its evangelism will be revolutionized or some such silly thing. I am not advocating that we depart from propositional truth. I am merely suggesting that the Bible has much more in common with our world than we might think, particularly as it presents a world vision that is as horrifying as it is breathtakingly beautiful. When we understand this, we position ourselves to speak to the lost around us, who think they see and know beauty and horror, but who have so much more to learn than Stephen King or Pablo Picasso can teach them.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Great Music

Ah, the summer weekend. Is there much better than a summer weekend? I think not. So relaxing, so calm, so full of possibility. As you enjoy the next few days, here are a few songs to check out.

The first is Death Cab for Cutie's "Brothers on a Hotel Bed". This song, by an emo/rock group, is one of the best sad songs I have ever heard. It's about a couple who is aging rapidly and forgetting their life together. It's poignant, and the music is achingly good. To those who swear off modern music, Death Cab, as they are sometimes called, is in the habit of crafting great songs and setting them to moving, thoughtful lyrics. Not everything is recommendable to everyone, but they have some great music.

The second is Mr. J Medeiros's "Constance". Mr. J is a rapper with the group The Procussions. He recently put out a solo album. Even if you don't like rap, you should listen to this song, as it's about child pornography. It's a haunting song, one that you won't easily forget. The chorus is sure to stick in your head. Shows that rap can be meaningful, constructive, and moving. Pretty understandable, too.

The third is Timbaland's "The Way I Am". If you are looking for a song to exercise to, this one will up your mile time by a solid minute. It's that good. I haven't watched the video, so I don't know what's in it. But the song is a great dance/exercise tune, and we all need those. Timbaland is a great producer. Fun, and a good portion of his stuff is pretty harmless lyrically.

You can buy all of these songs on Itunes, I'm sure. They're fun and thoughtful, and the last song is energizing. What would life, and a summer weekend, be without good music?

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Expectant Life: When God Answers

One of the best experiences of life is affirmative answer to prayer. Our God is so frequently kind to answer our prayers in a generous and loving manner.

Prayer is a major part of the expectant life. We pray often, and thus our waiting is not idle, but active. Many times, we find that our solution to whatever faces us, our request, is not actually what is best for us. In these moments we learn submission to the Father's will. In other times, we see the Lord answer our request, and we feel His smile as the sun on our face. This is a needed emphasis for many of us who struggle to walk by faith. Desiring not to presume on the Lord's grace, we actually place ourself in a position to doubt God, as we seek to avoid presuming that He will grant our request. It is right not to presume, but it is wrong not to see God as good and believe that He will give us great gifts.

It often seems that those who have the most faith are indeed those who are the most blessed, in any sense of the word. Good things seem to happen to those who trust. There are exceptions to this, of course, but the Lord loves a faithful heart. The Lord really seems to be different than we sometimes think Him to be. We see Him as stingy and easily angered, when He is in reality amazingly generous and slow to anger with us. In my sin and struggle, I often expect a thunderclap and a lightning bolt to strike, but it is most often the case that God actually continues to bless me even though I have sinned against Him. God's generosity far exceeds what even our strongest moment of faith knows. This is an essential part of the expectant life. We do not presume on Him, we wait patiently on Him, we submit to Him, but then, we trust Him to work in earth-defying ways. What a great God we worship. Our expectancy is not simply for things to be revealed, then, but for wonderful things to be revealed. God loves His people, and He will reward those who wait for Him. That, and nothing else, is the end of the expectant life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Expectant Life: Are You Really, Truly Patient?

I don't think I am. I think the Lord has done some good work in me, but I can see in myself a desire to vault myself out of my present station into the wonderful plans I have for myself. Even if I am patient in conversation and don't get mad when people go after, I'm not necessarily patient. I may have the appearance of patience, and may be patient to an extent, but the truly patient seem to me to be those who wait on God in both the smaller and the greater aspects of life.

Is this not a struggle for us? It is for me. It seems to me that we can fool ourselves into thinking we possess a certain spiritual fruit when we really don't. What do I mean? Well, when it comes to biblical texts, I think we're very quick to say that we obey them. "Husbands, love your wives? Sure, I love my wife. I've always loved her!" Meanwhile, one's wife feels alone and sad, because though one has a principial commitment to one's wife, one does not show this love in practical, tangible ways. This is startlingly common among Christians, I think. I know it certainly is in my life. I often think I've attained a certain level of maturity such that the preacher's application doesn't apply to me, but then the Lord reveals a whole massive outlying area in my heart that has not been ceded to the Spirit. I think we do this alot with waiting. We want so much to have what we do not possess, and so we thrash and fight against our station. When we behave in this way, we reveal that we don't really wait, and that we aren't truly patient.

The mature Christian is the one whose commitment to holiness transcends the principial level and extends into the practical level. Let me be very down-to-earth here, and repeat something I've said recently on this blog (not that anyone's noticed, but I'll repeat it to myself). We who blog as young men preparing for the ministry reveal that our commitment is only principial when we blog as if we have sixty years in the pastorate behind us, or as if we possess a doctorate in Wisdom Concerning All Things. We are not truly patient when we write in this way, for we are showing that we are not willing to wait for the experience that will authenticate such words and invest them with authority. Like the runner who starts a second early, we are cheating. We're getting ahead of ourselves. We need to slow down and ease off the polemics. I've come to the conviction in my own life that I ought to blog more along the style of an essay (as if my writing actually reaches the level of essay!), and not the level of polemic, or treatise, or, to put it more harshly, narcissistic, self-absorbed, self-crowned, blogging king. As a young blogger, I know all too well that it is easy to take this title for oneself without even realizing that one has done so.

We need to make sure that we do not do this. Satan roams the blogosphere just as he does the terrestrial land. He is present, and he wants young bloggers to speak beyond their wisdom, beyond their years, and create division and anger and hostility. He wants young men to speak too strongly, and old men to correct them in harshness and not in love, and the two sides to begin to snipe at one another in private, one calling the elders "authoritarian tradition-lovers," the other calling the youngsters "proud, narcissistic know-it-alls." The elders are wrong to correct us young bloggers too harshly, but we have made the first wrong. We have caused the problem by not speaking wisely. The primary blame lies with us. We must recognize our place and speak as befits our age. We should not antagonize our elders, or speak as if we are on their level, and know their lessons. We do not. God has given them their maturity, and He has not given it to us. We can disagree, and contend for our beliefs, but as young men, we must try very hard to do so charitably and wisely. We should speak softer than we might initially do. In these ways, we can begin to become truly patient, and show ourselves to possess not a fading, fictitious maturity, but one that lives and breathes and affects all that we do--and every blog post we write.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Expectant Life: The Duty of Submission

No, not mutual submission. I haven't switched to the egalitarian camp. The title refers to the duty all Christians have to submit to the will of God.

The pattern of submission to the Father's will was laid down by Christ. John's gospel in particular emphasizes how the Son submitted to the Father's will, though Luke records Christ praying to the Father, "Not my will but thine be done." (Lk. 22:42) That's a loaded statement, one chock full of meaning for us. Here is the mighty and majestic Son of God humbly expressing His desire to do only what the Father wants. The Son did not come to earth to do as He saw fit, to enact justice and vengeance and grace wherever He thought it best to do so. He came, very simply, to do just what God wanted Him to do. He submitted to His father's will, and handed us a blueprint for how we should live.

My line of argument should not be read as proposing a subjectivized, over-spiritualized understanding of the Christian life in which we only act if we have several "signs" that we should do so. The Son knew the Father's character, and He acted accordingly. He also prayed to His father, and then acted to bring His Father's will to pass. So it is with us. We are submitted to the Father's will, desiring to do all that He wants, and yet as we pray and study the Word and take counsel, we act accordingly. We are not passive patsies. We are assertive agents who take dominion of our little sphere of the world, to the glory of God.

And yet as we do so there is so much ahead of us that is unclear, so much that we do not have figured out. Our family members are quite ill, and we do not what will come of this. Our career choices lie ahead of us, and which way shall we go? We are aging, and unsure where we will live for the duration of our life. We do not know what the Lord has in store for us regarding children, and so we wait to find out. So much of our lives involve waiting. Yet even this waiting is a form of obedience. It is a sign that we are submitted to God's will. We can trust Him, and fight the natural anxieties that arise. In this way we are like children who obey the words of their parents even when they do not know what is coming ahead. Such children beautifully model submission. So we are to be when unsure about this life. So we are to handle our potential anxieties, fears, and worries. Not as raging, squawling infants, but as quiet, trusting children, those who wait patiently for their parents' guidance. When our hopes seem frustrated, or our love fails to heal a dying body, or great uncertainty looms before us in our careers, we do not wail or despair. We remember the faith of the little child, and the demeanor of the Lord Christ, and so we live, waiting, expectant, submitted.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Expectant Life: Or, a Theology of Waiting

I've been doing a good bit of thinking about this topic lately, as I've been thinking about the need to wait in my own life. Waiting is tough work. It touches every one of us in some way in every moment we live on earth. We might go so far as to say that waiting is our calling as Christians.

I will not be doing a biblical exposition of texts on waiting in the next few posts. That's not my style on this blog, though it certainly would be in a Sunday School class or even sermon series. We can quickly say, though, that waiting is a key part of the lives of biblical figures. We see this particularly in the Old Testament. Waiting is a part of Adam's pre-fall life. Waiting is therefore not necessarily a bad thing. Adam had to wait for a wife. He may not have known what he was missing, but it is clear that he was alone, and that there was not "a helper suitable for him." This would not have caused him to sin, obviously, but it would have appeared before him as a matter of trust, if indeed he himself did understand himself to be alone. Thus we see that waiting ought not to be seen automatically as a matter of deprivation. Instead, we ought to think of it as a matter of expectancy. When we wait, then, we ought not to concentrate on our lack, on our unfulfilled desire. We ought to focus on the hope that is before us. As Israel hoped for deliverance from God, as Hannah hoped for children, as Abraham hoped for a son, so ought we to hope. Many of the biblical figures, of course, did not wait perfectly. There were indeed many times when hope crossed into the dark land of despair. But this does not negate the central idea here, that waiting is not necessarily a bad thing, and that our waiting should be hopeful.

The term I used in the title is expectancy. Speaking representatively, I am not desperately unfulfilled in the present and waiting for my desires to be granted at some future hour. I am expectantly trusting in the Lord to reveal the fullness of His sovereign plan in time. When He desires to incorporate definitive action on my behalf into that plan, He will do so. Until then, He desires to incorporate definitive waiting on my part into His plan. In accepting this reality with gracious trust, I am walking in the old ways, treading the path carved out by the feet of so many believing Israelites. They waited centuries for a Messiah. They trusted that God would bring a deliverer, though He made no pre-appearances. The Lord taught Israel to trust, to wait expectantly, and to look for His coming.

How ironic that this is our lot as well, and that things really haven't changed all that much. We still await a Savior. We await the Messiah. We wait on His return. He is coming soon. In this, the ultimate desire of our life, we wait with patient faith, and so teach ourselves about all of life. We are to wait on guidance and restored health and church restoration in the same way that we wait on our Savior: trusting that the Lord's hand will move at the right time, knowing that it is not wrong or unkind of the Lord to leave us to wait. No, so far from this, it is in this season of waiting, this life of expectancy, that we are trained to understand God Himself. Though we wait, we do not despair. We have not strayed from our calling. We have found it.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

The Beauty of Marriage, pt. 2

I closed yesterday with a comment about gazing at my wife's beauty. I want to pick up there as I finish blogging for this week.

Every husband out there reading this knows of what I speak. Women have an alien quality to them, an essence and nature that calls out to us to behold its beauty. You see this everywhere. The sex-saturated culture in which we live represents a perverted version of the masculine love for feminine beauty. The singers on the radio who croon only of sex and lust are themselves captivated by feminine appeal. Where they should confine this appreciation to one woman, though, they spread their "affection" to many. This is a cancerous and common practice among contemporary males.

As one can see from the Old Testament, it is not entirely natural for men to restrict their hunger for femininity to just one woman. As we know from Solomon, for example, even the greatest of men regularly distributed their attention to dozens of women. This goes against God's plan for the men who walk His earth. We are called to restrain our natural appetite and take one woman to our side. When we do so, we sign ourselves up for a lifetime of intense joy, of fulfillment, of happiness, of delight.

I gaze at Bethany, my beauty. She is alien to me. She is lovely. I am regularly seized by a love for her that goes beyond mere appreciation and affection. It is something that I cannot articulate. God has made a man to love one woman. When he does this, though he does it imperfectly, he prepares himself for a life of happiness and wonder. The mix of emotion and sensitivity and grace and dignity that is woman can only have been created from an otherworldly imagination. Such complexity, and such beauty. This is woman. This is Bethany. This is God's gift, and this is the beauty of marriage.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Beauty of Marriage

The above title is actually a double entendre, because I am writing today and tomorrow about my beauty, Mrs. Bethany Strachan. We celebrate our one-year anniversary on Sunday. In light of this occasion, I wanted to share a few thoughts on how good God is in giving marriage to us.

It's incredible to think that the world today doesn't like marriage. Many people prefer cohabitation or a single lifestyle characterized by much partying and one-night stands. This is amazing. Marriage is hard work, as all of us married folks know, but it is also wonderful. It is, in short, a gift. It is one of God's greatest gifts to His creation. In marriage, we experience a bit of what God does. We are in covenant with another. We remain steadfastly with them no matter what arises in our lives. Our love is strong and unbreakable. We have bound ourselves to our spouse, and we will not let them go. It is a powerful thing to experience just a tiny slice of what God does in being covenanted to His people.

Of course, our role wildly varies from God's, because we ourselves sin against our spouse, and thus we experience their faithfulness, their covenant love. We live with someone who must regularly mirror the Father in forgiving our sins. This is a powerful reality. There are times in marriage in which the ugliness of your sin stands nakedly before you. You are raw and detestable. And yet this person loves you, and even cares for you, and even tells you they love you. Marriage, and the love that fuels marriage, is an incredible gift.

Bethany is an incredible wife. How kind the Lord is to give men wives, and how clever of Him to tailor two people to fit one another. By this I do not mean that all couples--or even any couple--fits perfectly together. Some couples are quite different from one another. But all of us can see clearly reasons that the Lord brought this particular person to us. In Bethany's joyful life, her lively sense of humor, her sensitivity, her reverential understanding of God and His ways, her commitment to fighting sin and honoring her Lord, her appreciation of dark chocolate, her love of a good action flick (tempered by her equally strong love of chick flicks), her zany wit, her concern for health, her love of biblical femininity, her tenacious commitment to me, and so many other things, I delight. I delight in my wife. In these and a thousand other ways, she is a gift to me.

Bethany's beauty grows each day we are together. We are so young and so inexperienced compared to many other couples. Yet it is gracious of the Lord to bestow increasing maturity and joy in marriages devoted to Him. Just one year is in the books. And yet so much has happened and changed. The married life is not for wimps. Through the challenges and weeks yet passed in our young life together, though, I find myself gazing at my wife. Perhaps other husbands will understand what I mean when I say she has a beauty I cannot quite understand, a loveliness I struggle to articulate. I enjoy marriage immensely, but it is her--my wife--who is the true beauty of this covenanted love.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Finding One's Place in Life

It's hard to find your place in life. It's not always apparent just exactly where one fits. I certainly feel this as a seminary student, and I imagine students in other fields feel the same way. This post obviously follows on the heels of yesterday's post, because finding one's place in life is linked to humility. When you know who you are, you know how to speak. When you don't know exactly who or where you are, you don't how to speak. This can result in a form of confused pride.

I suppose that this is good for those of us who are students. It forces us to be careful, to be discerning, to think about our station in life and the way we present ourselves. After all, we're not an established pastor, and thus we can't really talk like one. We're not an accomplished theologian, and so we can't speak with the same confidence that a scholar can. We're not even an experienced layman. We're caught in the middle.

Yet though we're caught, we have to strive to speak well and humbly. I see the need to strive for such a posture in my own life. I want to state ideas and discuss arguments, but I want to do so in a humble manner. Yet I've got just enough learning and training to become arrogant, if I allow sin to rule me. I'm in the middle, then. I know I'm not established in the ministry, but yet I've got solid training. I want to find my place, but my place seems to be nowhere sometimes. (Of course, I put myself in awkward positions sometimes, like when I speak too strongly about a certain matter. I believe I did so on the topic of women and contact sports, and for that I am most sorry. If I hurt or offended you by the tone of that series or any other, please accept my apology. I hope to grow in this area, and am trying to do so.)

Essentially, one discovers in such seasons that life is not easy. This is a remarkably simple insight, but it's also a helpful one. Life is not easy. One also finds comfort in a reality I mentioned yesterday, namely, that even the greatest among us had times of training and seasoning. I find it significant that Christ waited on the sidelines for almost all of His life before beginning His ministry and bringing His kingdom. We who are young and ambitious often struggle to wait. We don't want to sit. We want to get out in the world and work to change hearts and minds and lives. We want to speak truth and live boldly and share what has been percolating within us for years. Yet there is great wisdom in remembering Christ's example when we are seized by such desires. Far better to avoid speaking than to speak foolishly. I have personally become aware of this equation in my own life, and I want to speak carefully and humbly now and always. It is hard to be a student, to be in-between, to have knowledge but little outlet, passion but little preaching opportunity, conviction but little seasoning. The fact that this stage is hard, though, must not drive us to despair, but to seek humility and godliness all the more, to realize that we are being sanctified, that God will have His way in us, that like our Savior, the Lord is preparing us for whatever paths He will lead us to take. This knowledge, not comments, hits, or trackbacks, is our comfort.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Thoughts on Blogging as it Relates to Humility

I've been considering lately how blogging fits in with my understanding of the Christian faith. On gray matters like this, it takes time and effort to discern whether one should be involved and then, if one determines that one should blog, it takes time and effort to figure out how to do this well. I am still working on the latter matter.

1) It is easy to blog in an imperious manner. I have seen this in myself as I have continued blogging. I blog to hopefully improve my writing, to think quickly, logically, and rigorously, and to introduce ideas which may be worth thinking about. In the process of doing this, however, as one gains a readership, one can easily title oneself an expert. To put it less clunkily, blogging can easily go to your head. You get some hits, some people tell you you have a nice blog, you get a link or two, and all of a sudden you're King of the World. This is a common problem among bloggers. Blogging tends to bring out the self-appointed expert in all of us. Upon reflection, I can see that it sometimes has brought out this sin in my own life. For that, I am sorry. I hope to do a better job of thinking humbly, and thus to do a better job of writing humbly.

2) It wasn't always this way. The Internet has given the young person who has not worked their way up the ladder an opportunity to circumvent the system. This situation can bring to light good insights and writing. Certainly we could point to cases where this is true. But it can also inflate an ego and render a person insensitive to correction and humility. When you're getting hits and comments, and people on the street tell you they love your blog, it can be really easy to ignore whatever criticism might come your way. We who are young and blogging need to remember this. In my opinion, we should attempt to write with humility and deference, presenting our ideas not as the Perfect Solution but rather as a humble consideration. As I said above, I am indicting myself here.

3) This does not mean that we should not present ideas and make arguments. Blogs are great for this sort of thing. But it does mean that we should argue in a godly way. We should not think ourselves lords of our own blogging manor. We are not. We should write with gentleness. In short, we should keep in mind our elders, most of whom, perhaps, are not blogging. We should ask ourselves, "How would they read this? Do I sound like I'm trying to be them? Am I fulfilling the role of self-appointed expert?" It's one thing to present one's opinion on politics in a persuasive way. That's fine, and even commendable. It's another thing, however, to sound as if you're a politico on a writing hiatus. If you're not a professional in the area you're talking about, don't write like one. We need to write in a manner appropriate to our station in life.

4) Younger bloggers in particular should blog with their elders in mind. Though the Internet presents us with the opportunity to build a readership and attract impressionable admirers, we should not allow ourselves the indulgence of thinking we are wise when we are not. We must remember that Christ Himself did not begin His ministry until around age 30. There is a time for seasoning, gaining wisdom, and living humbly, and youth is that time. It is not wrong for young people like myself to blog, then, but it is best, I think, if we blog carefully. I cannot spell out exactly what this will look like (that's impossible), but I can suggest that one will blog very differently when remembering one's inexperience and youthfulness than one will when focusing on one's giftedness and popularity. The two mindsets produce two different types of behavior.

5) As I've frequently said in this little post, we need to pursue humility in our blogging. Blogging can be good, and blogging can be bad. Pride oftentimes makes blogging bad. We need to be humble bloggers even as we consider ideas and debate principles. I very much want to take my own advice here. I am not an expert in anything, I am a young man, and I am a follower of Christ. There are three great reasons for me to be humble. I hope for myself and my fellow Christian bloggers that we will not only find reasons to be humble, but that we will take these reasons and convert them into action.