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Written by Philip Monroe Friday, 18 April 2014 00:00

distressing and suffering

Recall for a minute some of the statements made in the Bible by heroes going through distressing events,

  • If I perish, I perish... Esther as she decides to risk her life by breaking the law to defend her people (Esther 4:16b)
  • You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good... Joseph as he offers his brothers mercy for their evil deeds (Genesis 50:20a)
  • The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him... Jeremiah after lamenting over God’s destruction of Israel (Lamentations 3:25a)
  • Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes…no sheep... yet I will rejoice in the Lord... Habakkuk after learning of God’s impending doom on Judah (Habakkuk 3:17f)
  • Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering... But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ... Peter to suffering believers (1 Peter 4:12-13)

These and many other pictures from Scripture might suggest to some that increasing maturity in the faith not only enables one to be obedient, even rejoicing, in the face of personal distress, but also decreases the sensation of distress. The examples above might lead some to think that faith and fear/anxiety are incompatible, that faith and angst, faith and lament, faith and spiritual struggle cannot go hand-in-hand.

Why do I think this? Because many of my Christian clients wonder why their faith does not seem to reduce their own distress.

 

Written by Philip Monroe Wednesday, 16 April 2014 00:00

suffering

If you are not a fan of David Brooks you should be. David is a New York Times columnist who seems to be hitting it out of the park on a weekly basis in his columns. In his most recent editorial (April 7), he says this:

People shoot for happiness but feel formed through suffering.

He then makes it clear that while suffering may produce good results, it isn’t something that has intrinsic good value. We may cherish the results, but we never cherish the suffering. Here’s what Brooks thinks about what suffering does (or can do) to us:

   

Written by Drew Hart Monday, 14 April 2014 00:00

Disunity in Christ

Jesus' prayer for the Church was that we would be 'one', yet it seems that oneness couldn't be any further from the current reality of the Church in our society. Every imaginable division possible seems to be wreaking havoc in the Church. The Church is divided by race, socio-economics, partisan politics, education, theology, geography, and the list could go on and on. While we all know that we are called to unity in Christ, it seems that we are helplessly lost, moving towards a trajectory of deeper and deeper division. Why can't the church live into its calling, so that we can be a distinct and visible alternative to the normal patterns of division found within society?

**Cue for Christena Cleveland to enter the dialogue**

For those who do not know, Christena Cleveland is a Christian leader, educator and author. She also happens to be a social psychologist. With that particular skill set, coupled with her strong commitment to the unity of the Church, she is situated quite nicely to help the Church understand many of the "hidden forces" at play in our every day interactions that unknowingly divide us. Thankfully, she has written that exact book in Disunity in Christ. In an accessible, thoughtful, and often entertaining manner, Cleveland weaves together social psychology research and theological principles on unity, with effortless grace. She manages to breakdown complex concepts, time and time again, with everyday illustrations and encounters as her teaching tools. Far from a highly theoretical text, Disunity in Christ will leave its readers with a basic yet usable foundation of social psychology when they are done. Yet, much more than that, they will walk away more committed to the unity of the church, and better equipped to actually live out such unity in their lives.

   

Written by R. Todd Mangum Thursday, 10 April 2014 00:00

Lordship of Christ

We take back not one iota the truths with which we started three blogs ago:

  1. Is truth “pluralistic”? Hard to say and may depend on what one means; but falsehood definitely is.
  2. Truth — including and especially metaphysical truth about Jesus’ being Lord — can be known by human beings; this is stated explicitly in Scripture, and, when it is, this “knowledge and understanding” is credited actually to a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit (on the person’s mind, heart, soul) in the metaphysical realm.
  3. Not only is the Lordship of Christ discernible as a truth principle, affirmation of this truth is crucial for an overall perspective that is accurate or at all credible in forming a general worldview.
  4. Truth has an antithetical quality — that is, truth statements (in this case, about the Lordship of Christ) assert a point positively that must be affirmed over against rival points of different perspective that are false.
  5. The biblical portrayal does not imagine the world as consisting of a vast mural of truthful perspectives in which the truth of Yahweh or the Lordship of Christ adds a slight hue of additional nuance; rather, on the contrary, the biblical picture suggests a world consisting of a sea of falsehoods and rival swill, against which the small-but-sturdy vessel of truth rows to the sure arms of the one-and-only Lord Creator God.
  6. To these very conservative and traditional sounding points, we have added in the last blog this additional point, which adds a qualification, a nuance:

  7. All truth statements — including truth statements about “absolute” (metaphysical) principles — are inherently non-absolute. That is, all truth statements are inherently contextual statements, subject to qualification by context; and as context changes, either the statement or the understanding of the statement, likewise needs to be adjusted accordingly.
   

Written by R. Todd Mangum Wednesday, 09 April 2014 00:00

Lordship of Christ

(That’s a Harder Question Than You Think!)

(Biblically speaking) There is only one Creator God, and only one Lord: Son of God, Lord Jesus Christ. These are points of truth, affirmed consistently by Scripture, and affirmed over against rival truth claims. Whatever claims would cast doubt, deny, or otherwise impinge on these truth claims are regarded not as potential providers of nuance of these truth claims, but as false. Period. Full stop.

From here, it would seem almost natural to simply drive the point home to the bedrock of “absolute truth” and be done with it. “God is Creator; Jesus is Lord. Anyone who denies these truths is accursed; anyone who affirms these truths is Holy-Spirit-prompted. These truths are absolute. Affirmation of them brings life; denial brings damnation.”

   

Written by R. Todd Mangum Tuesday, 08 April 2014 00:00

Christ Lordship

In my last blog, we observed just how emphatic are the Hebrew Scriptures on the exclusive singular existence of one-and-only-one God. We now move to examination of New Testament teaching concerning the Lordship of Christ and find it no less emphatic in affirming the singular uniqueness of Jesus’ Lordship (that is, “Godship,” really). Brief analysis of just a couple of key passages will suffice.

1 John 4:1-3 serves as a nice prototypical sample:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

   

Written by R. Todd Mangum Monday, 07 April 2014 00:00

Christianity Falsehood

I am freshly returned from the Eastern Region Theology Conference on “Evangelicals in a Pluralist Society: Evangelical Engagement, Interfaith and Ecumenical” at which I gave one of the parallel papers. Here is a portion of the thoughts I shared there.

Pluralism

We are aware of the dizzying pluralism that characterizes our own 21st century world. In some ways, this is actually not so new. The polytheistic religious nature of the ancient world provided a no less “differentiated” quality of perspective(s) than the culture(s) to which we have grown accustomed in our day. Perhaps the fact that North America is self-consciously a “melting pot” (or “tossed salad” or “mural” or “cacophony” — pick your imagery of choice) may represent a more recent, post-Peace-of-Westphalia-sort of phenomenon.

   

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