Saturday, February 28, 2009

Procrastinators: Leaders Of Tomorrow

I pulled a plethora of unnecessary all-nighters in college because I put things off until the last minute. Unfortunately, not much has changed in seven years (although I now have a much better haircut, but that's beside the point.) I promise I'll write a more substantive post later today, but right now I'm putting it off and giving into my lazier tendencies.

While I'm embracing sloth, here are a few links to peruse:

"All these books may set out prescriptions for changing the world, but one verity they never question is the absolute necessity of having at least one-third of their text taken up by folksy anecdotes." Zingers like this abound as Alan Jacobs discusses The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, Finding Our Way Again: The Return Of The Ancient Practices by Brian McLaren, and New Monasticism: What It Has To Say To Today's Church by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove in Do-It-Yourself Tradition at First Things.

Paul Asay of Focus on the Family's Plugged In website contends that this year's nominees for Best Picture were "movies the Academy thinks you should watch. But there's a real and ever-widening gulf—a culture gap, if you will—between what Hollywood needs you to watch and what you want to watch." I somewhat disagree with Asay's conclusions, but Oscar Apathy is an interesting read.

Need a new t-shirt? Who doesn't! Consider this gem from Threadless.

Pork Brains in Milk Gravy and The Testicle Cook Book

Check out this gem from Caffeinated Thoughts.

"Hey, can you pass me a slice of the rustic testicle pizza please?"

Friday, February 27, 2009

Understanding Jonathan Edwards

Over at Theology Forum Kyle Strobel examines a new book entitled Understanding Johnathan Edwards by Gerald R. McDermott. For those who don't know Strobel is currently attending King’s College, University of Aberdeen and is doing his dissertation on Edwards.

Being a fan of Edwards myself, at times I've struggled to grasp his complex 18th century writing style and deep theological/philosophical references. Therefore I give you a quote from Strobel which I feel sums up what the individual who first encounters the writings of Edwards.

"... for the beginning student, Edwards can seem impenetrable, if not just odd."

He continues on the book itself:

There are several distinctive features of this volume making it stand alone among the many secondary volumes of Edwards literature...What I want to note up front is my favorite aspect - it was written for those who may have little to no knowledge of Edwards or the field of Edwards studies. What excites me about this is that it accomplishes what few (if any) have: an introduction to major themes in Edwards thought that is usable for the classroom.

Read the whole post here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Discipline Yourselves for Godliness

Consider the following cautionary tale,

A man and his family go to church. Everything seems right this day. The sun is out, the parking attendants are friendly, and the family is 15 minutes early. Upon entering the sanctuary, the man glances up at the luminous stained glass, and his thoughts drift heavenward. Those present seem peculiarly friendly. People he's never met introduce themselves, ask him thoughtful questions, and listen intently to his answers. Gradually, the family meanders through the crowd to their respective seats, and worship begins. The choir soars to new sonorous heights, and as the voices of the congregants meet those of the choir, it's as if the heavenly cloud of witnesses has joined in too. The man begins to weep, enraptured by the mellifluous sounds. Once the singing ends, the choir and worship team quickly exit the stage, and the senior pastor solemnly approaches the pulpit. He is to deliver a sermon entitled, "The Holiness of God." His tone and elocution are flawless, his exegesis immaculate, and his personal illustrations are ever so illustrative. His preaching is replete with theological profundity, practical relevance, and white-hot zeal. Those gathered cling to the edge of their seats, and a collective sense of wonder lingers in the room. Upon finishing the sermon, dozens of people line up to speak with the pastor. The man and his family proceed to the fellowship hall. Once again, warm and friendly faces greet them. Joy and gratitude fill the family members. They have never been so thankful for their church.

And then...

they go home. The man instantly gets in a fight with his wife over something utterly inane, ignores his kids, and then assuages his guilt by going down to the den, locking the door, and perusing through some of his favorite porn sites for a couple of hours.

What has happened? The man attends a fantastic church. The worship is Christ-exalting, the preaching is expositional and practical, and the members are outgoing and genuinely concerned with each other's well-being. Why is this man not growing?

My dad's sermon this past week answers this question. He preached on how we change out of 1 Tim 4:7-8;

7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Information and inspiration are not enough to change us. Yes, we need to be in the Bible, and yes, our hearts need to be in the right place. However, while these are necessary conditions for growth, they aren't sufficient conditions. That's why the Bible says things like this, and this. We are creatures of habit, and if we don't cultivate new habits, we won't grow. We are new creations in old bodies, and said bodies have a lot of old habits that take time to work through.

It takes hard training to become godly. Yes it's done in the power of the Spirit, yes it's done with lots of prayer, yes it's done with the realization that apart from Christ we can do nothing, but it's still done. And it's hard work. The grace of God in Paul labors (1 Cor 15:10). Knowing Paul, I'm guessing that doesn't mean he lounged around trying to "let go" while the Spirit labored within him.

Read This, Even if You Don't Care about Sports

If you don't read Rick Reilly, shame on you.

I've already told you once: whether or not you have any interest in sports, you need to be reading his column on

Sadly as of yet I don't see a way to subscribe to only his column (which is bi-weekly) via RSS. In the mean time, do as I do and occasionally check back at and see if he's got anything new (it's on the front page). Also, if you ever at the dentist's office and you see a 5-year-old Sports Illustrated lying around, pick it up and turn to the back page. He wrote for them for a long time.

The current piece is on the pro athlete's responsibility to be a role model, highlighting John Elway's unwavering willingness to do so.

I tried to find an excerpt, but you need to read the whole story for any of it to make sense. Go do it- it's encouraging when we're so used to A-Rod-esque downfalls.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Two from John Owen

I've been "pulling a Damian" by reading some John Owen devotionally of late, and I came across a couple great quotes. Both are from "Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers" in Overcoming Sin and Temptation, edited by Kelly Kapic and J. T.

On the need to constantly be mortifying sin:
Do you mortify;
do you make it your daily work;
be always at it while you live;
cease not a day from this work;
be killing sin or it will be killing you. (50)
And on sin's danger when it seems not to be attacking:
When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion. (51)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gary Burge's List of Crucial Books on the Gospel of John

By Andrew Faris

Interested in studying the Gospel of John? Gary Burge, professor at Wheaton College and author the NIV Application Commentary on John, gives his list of crucial books for studying the Fourth Gospel. Interesting stuff!

(UPDATE): Here is a list of Andreas Kostenberger work on John as well. I've found him to be one of the leading scholars in this area. /dmr

File Under...Desperation

By Jeff Bruce

While we're on the subject of smoking, thought I'd mention this proposal from Tom Ammiano to help ameliorate California's apocalyptic financial crisis.

California would become the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use under a bill introduced Monday by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco.

The proposal would regulate marijuana like alcohol, with people over 21 years old allowed to grow, buy, sell and possess cannabis - all of which is barred by federal law.

Ammiano, a Democrat in his third month as a state lawmaker, said taxes and other fees associated with regulation could put more than a billion dollars a year into state coffers at a time when revenues continue to decline.

He said he thinks the federal government could soften its stance on marijuana under the Obama administration.

"We could in fact have the political will to do something, and certainly in the meantime this is a public policy call and I think it's worth the discussion," Ammiano said. "I think the outcome would be very healthy for California and California's economy."

A spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Agency in Washington, D.C., declined to comment on the proposal. A White House spokesman referred to a statement on a question-and-answer section of an Obama transition team blog that says the president "is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana."

While Californians have shown some tolerance for marijuana, such as use for medical conditions with voters' passage of Proposition 215 in 1996, the proposal will face tough opposition in Sacramento.

A lobbyist for key police associations in the state called it "a bad idea whose time has not come."

"The last thing our society needs is yet more legal intoxicants," said John Lovell, who represents the California Peace Officers' Association, California Police Chiefs Association and California Narcotic Officers' Association. "We've got enough social problems now when people aren't in charge of all five of their senses."

But Ammiano's proposal has the support of San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey, who said the idea "should be the subject of legislative and public debate."

It also has the backing of Betty Yee, who chairs the state Board of Equalization, which collects taxes in California. An analysis by the agency concluded the state would collect $1.3 billion a year from tax revenues and a $50-an-ounce levy on retail sales if marijuana were legal.

The analysis also concluded that legalizing marijuana would drop its street value by 50 percent and increase consumption of the substance by 40 percent.

A spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for reform in marijuana laws and is backing Ammiano's proposal, said any expected increase in consumption is a "false notion."

"They are making an intuitive assumption that a lot of people make that really does not have that much evidence behind it," said Bruce Mirken, the group's spokesman, who predicted it could take up to two years before the idea wins legislative approval.

"Don't tell me that doing something like (this) proposal is going to introduce another drug into society. That's a load of bull."

The Goal of Biblical Exegesis and Theological Interpretation...

Aptly put by Michael Bird from Euangelion...

What is the goal of biblical exegesis and theological interpretation for the reader, practitioner, and minister? In other words, what is the "goal of our instruction" (1 Tim. 1.5) in the Christian Scriptures? I think Eugene Peterson sums it up well when he says that through the Scriptures “we learn to think accurately, behave morally, preach passionately, sing joyfully, pray honestly, obey faithfully”. (Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005], 182).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tying Up Some Loose Ends on Smoking

By Andrew Faris

As I anticipated, there was some objection to my post from Thursday that suggested that smoking in and of itself is not always sinful and can certainly be done to the glory of God.

I am grateful for thoughtful objections, as this is an issue that I'm still processing. I figured I might as well address those in a new post because I have more to say than a comment's worth. In particular here I think of John Bruce's reasonable and humble objection (posted as "Jeff and Jenny's Dad") that goes into the most detail. I'll handle all of this in a point by point manner.

Objection #1: There is no question about it: smoking in all forms does increase health risks, and therefore Christians should not engage in it.

Let me state something upfront on this: if it is true that the kind of smoking I am here referring to significantly increases my health risks, I will stop. But I am still simply not convinced that this is the case. I will continue to use myself as a test case.

I am a 25 year old who smokes a pipe probably two times a week on average. This has been the case for the last six months to a year. When I get married in a month and a half, this number will decrease because I will no longer live in a house with four other men who enjoy smoking, and in fact my fiancee doesn't love it. Put simply, I do not think that this amount of smoking brings serious health risks.

Part of the reason for this is that in the studies I have found (including this quite thorough government-published monograph on cigar smoking), the test cases do not include those who smoke less than one cigar per day. My understanding is that there has been quite little research on this group of smokers (which would include me). And again I hasten to add that pipes contain far less tobacco than do cigars, which leads me to believe that the health risk is far less.

So here is a question for those who object on the grounds of health: can you point me to a study that measures this kind of occasional smoking? Because if you can, please do- I really would like to know. It appears to me that there is not enough risk in occasional pipe or cigar smoking to warrant a serious study, though I most certainly could be wrong about that!

Let me add one more thing to this point: are you, in an a priori kind of way, at all willing to accept even the possibility that the occasional smoking I have described actually does not present significant health risks? It strikes me as I think through this issue that it is so ingrained in the minds of most people that all forms of smoking absolutely will kill you that the simple idea of doing it in a non-destructive way is thrown out as impossible. But as I've said, I'm really not sure this is true.

And here, I maintain my analogy between the health risks of a poor diet and the health risks of occasional smoking. Heart disease is the biggest killer in America, yet there is fast food on every corner. I am reminded of the movie "Thank You For Smoking" where Aaron Eckhart's character suggests that it is inconsistent to want to put giant "smoking kills" type warning labels on cigarette packs while we do no such thing on fast food burger wrappers.

I think the comparison is fair: the National Center for Health Statistics says that a staggering 66.3% of Americans who are at least 20 year old are overweight or obese. says that 33% of adult Americans are obese, and obesity related deaths per year over 300,000 (second only to smoking related deaths!). As far as I can tell, that only measures obesity related deaths, not those related to being overweight more generally. Yet there aren't warning labels on your burger, fries, and soda.

On top of all that, the Bible directly condemns gluttony, but I don't see Christians up in arms about it. Why? Well, culturally the two are perceived differently, probably at least in part due to the addiction issue with smoking. But if you don't think eating food that is bad for you is addictive, then you've never talked to the countless overweight people who have been trying to lose the same weight for twenty years.

All that said, you can eat greasy food in moderation and probably considerably lessen the adverse health effects- I'm not suggesting that we all become vegans! I am suggesting that the same moderation is possible with smoking.

Objection #2: What about second hand smoke?

I always smoke outside, I don't smoke that often, and I almost make a point of blowing smoke away from everyone sitting with me. I honestly cannot imagine that this presents a significant health risk given these circumstances.

Some even suggest that studies measuring the effects of secondhand smoke are suspect, and it does seem that the major focus is on people who spend lots of time in places where there is relatively constant second hand smoke, such as in a bar or a house with addicted cigarette smokers.

Objection #3: What about the possibility of addiction?

Smoking a pipe or cigar is less addictive than cigarettes because one does not inhale the smoke, which means that nicotine does not enter the bloodstream as quickly or fully. This is probably why there are so many occasional pipe and cigar smokers like me who frankly feel no addiction to it. In fact I myself have never personally known an addicted cigar or pipe smoker, despite knowing so many people who casually smoke them. I myself have never felt an addiction to pipe smoking.

That said, when a roommate of mine was trying to quit smoking cigarettes, the rest of us stopped smoking our pipes and cigars when he was around. We all realize that smoking will kill you if you do it regularly and we don't want that to happen to our friend.

So if you find yourself getting addicted, do everything you can to quit and never start again. This is quite similar to alcoholism: the Bible clearly approves of drinking alcohol in moderation, but it also clearly condemns drunkenness. So if you are an alcoholic, stay away altogether. Similarly, if you know someone who is addicted to smoking, don't invite them to smoke with you.

Which leads to my last point:

Objection #4: What about 1 Cor. 8-10 and Rom. 14:14-15? Even if smoking isn't unclean, is it unloving?

This is exactly why I pick my co-smokers carefully. Those passages in my view address the issue of violating conscience. The logic in 1 Cor. 8 and Rom. 14 seems to be that if we think it may very well be sinful to take part in some action but we go on doing it anyway, then we are not seeking to honor Christ first. And if we lead others to do the same, then we're leading brothers and sisters into sin. Bad ideas, unquestionably.

For Paul the issue is food sacrificed to idols. Paul knows that the pagan gods aren't really gods at all, and therefore the food is just food. It's not mystically cursed, Satanic food; it's just food. But if another believer sees my eating idol-food as condoning idol worship, then I am creating some serious turmoil for that believer. Again, bad idea.

1 Cor. 10 appears to have more of a focus on non-believers (vv. 31-33). Again, if my eating idol-food is seen by a non-believer as condoning idol worship, then that believer will see no reason to exclusively worship Christ. The principle is the same.

So in his comment on my first post, John put it like this: "The issue isn't just whether an activity is legal; it's whether its loving." That is absolutely in keeping with the intent of those passages.

Thing is, that was exactly the logic of my whole post on the matter: occasional smoking has been a way for me to love believer and non-believer alike. But I also strongly advocate carefulness here. For example, I was recently corresponding with my aunt (a non-believer who is nonethless very interested in Jesus) over email who made a point of expressing her disgust for cigarettes, saying that Jesus would never do that sort of thing. So next time I see her, I don't plan on lighting up in front of her because I wouldn't want her to think that I am not satisfied in Christ alone. I have the freedom to smoke or not to smoke, but it could hinder the gospel if I smoke in front of her. It's a no-brainer.

By contrast, my roommate and I recently went to our next-door neighbor's house and enjoyed a beer and a smoke (a pipe for me, a cigar for Joel) with him, his wife, and another neighbor. Sitting there and drinking (in moderation) and smoking with that group was an easy way to build my relationship with them. It breaks down any perceived Christian pretense as well- sort of a reverse way of serving their consciences. And as far as I could tell we were in no way perceived as less Christian either. In fact when my neighbor said, "I didn't know you guys drank beer and smoked cigars," I responded, "Show me the passage in the Bible that says I can't, and I'll stop." I think I also threw in something about how though I do drink, I don't get drunk. I was actually able to affirm Biblical authority in the midst of smoking and drinking with non-believers!

My point in all of this is to restate what I did in my last post, namely that smoking in moderation is Biblically permissible and can be done to the glory of God, just like eating and drinking (1 Cor. 10:31). There is no question that we need to be very careful about it, but I am yet quite unconvinced that the Bible condemns all forms of smoking as sinful.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Life, Liberty, And The Pursuit Of Gingersnaps

By: Jenny Bruce

I think that my growing conviction about the need to protect personal freedom is directly linked to my love of dessert buffets. Dessert is serious business and frankly, I resent someone else dictating my choices on such an important matter. I confess that I die a little inside when I discover we're all being served rhubarb pie at the end of a meal. But my heart leaps for joy when I survey a decadent spread of cookies, candies, pies, and cakes and I can choose whatever I want! Selfish? Maybe. Ungrateful? Probably. Greedy? Yes. But if you ever come to my house for a party, you can expect at least three desserts.

It was only a matter of time before this obsession with buffeting my body spilled over into the rest of my thinking. If I'm perturbed by a lack of dessert options, imagine my reaction when my HOA informed me I couldn't hang red striped curtains in my front window. Yet even I will concede that sometimes we must limit our personal freedoms for the good of society. I think traffic lights are a splendid idea. And I'm cool with theft being illegal. But there are some areas where the issue of personal freedom versus the good of society can be a bit cloudier. Consider the following examples.

1. The Driving Age. Under California law, you must be 15 1/2 to get a driver's permit and begin behind the wheel practice, thus limiting the rights of both the minors and their parents to determine an appropriate driving age. But some would argue that such laws prevent driving fatalities.

2. Smoking In Restaurants. The great state of California declared smoking in restaurants illegal in 1994, thus limiting the personal freedom of restaurant owners to run their business as they wish. (Hat Tip to Stan McCullars' comment on Andrew's last post for this idea!) But some would argue that this protects public health.

3. Social Security. Most American tax-payers must contribute to this government run retirement plan, thus limiting their personal freedom to invest or spend their money in the way they see fit. But some would argue that social security provides for people after they retire and promotes the welfare of our nation.

4. Home Owners Associations. My HOA has a slew of rules I must follow, thus limiting my freedom to hang adorable curtains and dry laundry on my back porch, even though it's my home and I'm footing the mortage bill. But some would argue that limiting freedoms makes all the condos on my street look appropriate and presentable and ensures higher property values.

So here are my questions for you. How should Christians view their personal liberty in light of being a good citizen? When does limiting personal freedom benefit society? When does limiting personal freedom harm society? And where do you personally draw the line?

As always, I love to hear your thoughts. I'm off to eat chocolate. Or maybe snickerdoodles. Or maybe ice cream. Or maybe all three.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Toward a Theology of Smoking

By Andrew Faris

Today Tim Challies posted this thoughtful and humble piece asking the question, "Is it sinful to smoke?" I thought about commenting there, but instead I've decided to dedicate a full post to the subject because not only have I been thinking of writing about this for some time, but I also have too much to say to fit into a comment there. So here it goes...

First of all, we need to distinguish between types of smoking. The addicted cigarette smoker should quit. There is a reasonable chance that he is killing himself and wasting a heck of a lot of money in the process. This seems obvious.

But once we get past that, the issue gets a little more complicated. Is it sinful to smoke a pipe, a cigar, or occasional cigarettes?

My basic thesis is this: smoking can be enjoyed to the glory of God, or it can be enjoyed sinfully, but the sinfulness is not intrinsic to the action (unlike, say, looking at pornography, which is always sinful).

For one thing, the medical effects of pipe smoking, to the best of my knowledge, have actually received relatively little study, and some studies, no joke, apparently show that casual pipe smoking can prolong life. For those who don't realize, you do not inhale the smoke when you smoke a cigar or pipe (well, you try not to, cause it's dang unpleasant if you accidentally do!); rather, you hold the smoke in your mouth, get the flavor of the tobacco, then blow it out. That is why the biggest health risk for pipe and cigar smoking is mouth cancer of various kinds (i.e. lips, tongue, etc.).

If those studies are real and accurate (note my tentativeness here, commenters), presumably pipe smoking would lead to longer life because it is relaxing. Stress notoriously leads to many fatal diseases, and smoking would ease stress. I am less sure about the effects of cigar smoking, only because there is so much more tobacco in a cigar than in a pipe, such that any adverse effects of tobacco would be considerably intensified for regular cigar smokers as opposed to regular pipe smokers.

If you couldn't tell from my discussion there, I am a pipe smoker (and occasionally, a cigar smoker, but pipe tobacco is way better...), and in fact a relatively avid one. I would say on average I smoke a couple times a week, though that number is a bit inflated at this point in life because I life with seven other guys, all very mature Christians, and several of them enjoy various kinds of smoking as well. When I get married in a month and a half, my smoking will likely decrease. In the mean time, we sit outside and smoke together relatively often in the evenings.

Which leads me to a major point: men do not tend to sit down and have in depth conversations about important things out of nowhere. But put a pipe, a cigar, or a beer in a guy's hand who enjoys that sort of thing, and great conversations arise.

My own anecdotal evidence for this phenomenon could fill more blog posts than you would care to read. Put simply, I have had countless deep conversations about serious life issues (including the state of spiritual lives, difficult issues generally, jobs, girlfriends/fiancees, and theology, to name a few) with my Christian brothers that I honestly think would not have arisen had we not been sitting out and smoking a pipe, a cigar, or for one of my roommates, a Marlboro Red. This kind of smoking is often perceived as manly, as a time for thoughtfulness. It takes awhile (at least thirty minutes), it is genuinely enjoyable for folks like me, and it importantly for the sake of conversation, it falls into the background of the atmosphere while the conversation comes to the fore. This leads to good conversation, which is in my view the reason that smoking can be done to the glory of God.

Further, I keep a pack of cigarettes in my computer bag or messenger bag. I don't particularly enjoy smoking cigarettes, but I'm willing to do it for the purpose of making relationships with those I don't know. I read and study at coffee shops quite a bit, and at coffee shops people often sit outside and smoke a cigarette while talking, reading, and drinking their cup of coffee. There is no easier way to get a conversation going with someone you don't know than by pulling out a cigarette and asking them for a light if they are already smoking. The awkwardness of going up to someone you don't know and beginning a conversation with them is completely alleviated by starting that conversation over a cigarette.

Most cigarette smokers will tell you that one of the most difficult things about quitting smoking is the community aspect. A group of people will go outside and smoke together, and while they do they talk. And of course, an addicted smoker can't stand out there around all that smoke and resist the temptation himself, so he has to stay away. Which means staying from the community and the conversation. And that is no fun. Even as a stranger, the minute I walk up to a group like that and ask for a light, I am typically implicitly invited into the conversation. Imagine if that was your group of regular friends and your could no longer share those conversations.

That said, I do not consider myself to be in any danger of getting addicted to cigarettes. For one thing I've actually done this only a few times in roughly four months of having the cigarettes in my bag, but each time it has allowed me the opportunity to make relationship (I know one guy by name who is a regular at the same Starbucks I'm a regular at because I smoked with him once). Also, I don't enjoy cigarettes, which probably helps, and I go back and forth on inhaling them in those situations.

My point in all of this is this: if smoking occasionally won't kill me anymore than eating In-N-Out will, if I'm not blowing money on it, and if I can use it to deepen relationships for kingdom purposes, why not? I'm not saying that everyone should smoke, but I do think that the stigma attached to it can be unfair, and I do think it can absolutely be done to the glory of God.

Giveaway (3 books)

In honor of our new site release we at CiC are giving away a 3 pack of books from InterVarsity Press.

  1. John Calvin: A Pilgrim's Life by Herman J. Selderhuis,
  2. A Concise New Testament Theology by I. Howard Marshall
  3. Finding God in the Shack by Roger E. Olsen.
There are two ways to enter:

Either sign up for email updates or follow us on Twitter. for Christians in Context by March 15th. Its a simple thank you to all of our faithful Christians in Context readers.

Just scroll down in the sidebar and enter your email address and enter the verification code. You'll then receive an email asking to "activate" your subscription. Only those who activate their subscriptions will be entered in the drawing. Note : Your email will not be given or solicited to any third parties. For those who already signed up for email updates or following us on Twitter you will automatically be entered.

Give-a-way rules:

1 - One entry per email subscribed or Twitter follow. You may increase your chances by referring someone. Just send us an email to info [at] christiansincontext [dot] org and include the email of who you referred. If they activate their email you'll receive 3 entries into the drawing.

2 - You must carry an active subscription until the drawing takes place.

3 - Free shipping only available within the United States. International winners will receive a $5.00 USD discount toward shipping.

Good luck!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Christians in Context 3.0 (New site design)

Unless you're reading this post in a reader, you can clearly see that we've revamped the website once again. Those who've been with us from the beginning have seen some changes over time. Well, we at CiC are doing whatever possible to not only bring you sober content but also an enjoyable experience overall. After several months of consulting and tweeking we've come to the conclusion that the CiC 2.0 layout was just too overwhelming with content and not visually appealing. So we've scaled back on several items and made the posts themselves easier to read (we've even added a font size option). Hopefully the new color format to brighten up the blog for easier reading.

What we haven't changed is the background, which has acted as our "signature" since the blog's inception. All in all we hope that this will make for a greater, more streamlined experience for everyone. We'd love your feedback on the new look as we are, like all blogs, reader supported.

This new site design is just the beginning of several changes we plan on making as we consider what's next for us at CiC. We may start podcasting some shows (perhaps once or twice a month to start) and utilize some visiting bloggers. We've dabbled with the latter in the past and we think those outside contributions have been good.

Perhaps more exciting for the rest of the bibliophiles out there, next week we'll be offering another book giveaway which will be our largest yet- so stay tuned for details. Our friends at InterVarsity Press have graciously endowed us with some gifts, and we are eager to pass those along to our faithful readers.

One last thing: we so greatly appreciate the support we've received this past year from you all. Without your daily feedback, commenting, opinions, and even encouragement we would not be here.

And for that, we thank you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Church Practice and Semper Reformanda

By Jeff Bruce

I'm about halfway through Dave Browning's brand new book, Deliberate Simplicity: How the Church Does More by Doing Less (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009). He makes some great points about our need to continually reform our practice in order to bring it in closer alignment with the teaching of the New Testament. He quotes Chesterton in this regard...

All conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white fence post alone it will soon be a black post. If you want it to be white you must always be painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post.

Complacency is deadly in ministry, for - as Chesterton notes - when we leave things alone, we subject them to a torrent of change. It seems there's a ministerial law of entropy continually at work, ensuring that deterioration will follow from stagnancy. Thus, we must take up the cry of the Reformers, and be always reforming (i.e. semper reformanda). Of course, this is not reformation for the sake of reformation. The goal is to think in new ways to get back to old ways; to think of the future in terms of the past. I think our natural tendency is to stray from the New Testament model of church, since the NT picture is...well... brutally challenging.

I get downright giddy thinking about the impact we could have if we prayed relentlessly about how to best live out Christ's commission (Mt 28:19-20), and if we were willing to make tough changes to see it fulfilled.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Your Monday Morning Pep Talk

I don't think I've ever met an Isaac Watts hymn I didn't like. Even if Andrew Lloyd Webber decided to write alternate melodies to Watts' entire catalogue, I'd probably still love them all.

Here's one I just stumbled upon that's a great encouragement for the start of the week. Enjoy "Awake, My Zeal; Awake, My Love."

Awake, my zeal; awake, my love,
To serve my Savior here below,
In works which perfect saints above
And holy angels cannot do.

Awake, my charity, to feed
The hungry soul, and clothe the poor;
In Heav’n are found no sons of need,
There all these duties are no more.

Subdue thy passions, O my soul!
Maintain the fight, thy work pursue,
Daily thy rising sins control,
And be thy vic’tries ever new.

The land of triumph lies on high,
There are no foes t’encounter there;
Lord, I would conquer till I die,
And finish all the glorious war.

Let every flying hour confess
I gain Thy Gospel fresh renown;
And when my life and labors cease,
May I possess the promised crown!

Friday, February 13, 2009

What's the Problem with Michael Phelps Smoking Pot?

By Andrew Faris

A lot of us by now have seen the picture of Michael Phelps smoking a bong.

One question for all the non-Christians who are on him for being a bad example: why do you care? In a culture that is always willing to pull out the "we all did it in college" stamp of approval (you know, for people like the president, who practically got hailed as an everyman for admitting to it), why does it matter?

"Well he's a bad example to all the kids" they say. But since we apparently don't care if those kids grow up and smoke pot anyway, what exactly is Phelps a bad example of? Maybe he is actually a great example of how to manage recreational drug usage and career success. After all, he apparently waited until after winning eight gold medals to smoke dope- or at least he never got caught for it before that. Thataway to keep success first and pot smoking second, Mike!

To me this whole thing is just another case of total moral confusion in a pluralistic society. The moral outrage that has ensued is assumed to be reasonable. No one gets mad at you for getting mad at Michael Phelps- of course we should all be disappointed, right? But I don't know what I'd be disappionted about if I wasn't a Christian.

Heck, as a Christian I'm definitely not disappointed because I don't consider Michael Phelps (or any other ultra-successful athlete, musician, politician, or even philanthropist) to be a hero anyway. Impressive, yes. A model of discipline, yes. But not a hero. I look up to Piper, Mahaney, Carson, and a few personal mentors because they point me to Jesus and his kingdom. And if I didn't look up to people who pointed me to Jesus, I'd have no principles that Phelps would be violating.

And I'll tell you this much: eight gold medals or not, I'm sure not surprised to find out that humans sin. Whatever else there is to say about Phelps, in some ways he is apparently just like everyone else.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Justification and Justice

By Jeff Bruce

Protestants have been justly criticized for understanding justification in a manner that trivializes Christian obedience. We should vigilantly guard against sundering justification from the ethical imperatives of Scripture. But how do we relate a robustly Protestant conception of justification to what we're actually supposed to be doing as Christians? The answer has to do (in part) with the relationship between justification and justice.

Justification is the contingent legal metaphor Paul employs to speak of one aspect of God's saving righteousness (cf. Michael Bird, The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification and the New Perpspective [Wipf & Stock/Paternoster: Eugene, Or/Milton Keyes, UK, 2007]; 17). It's a significant aspect, but it is an aspect. God's rectifying work has its end in making all things right. I explored these ideas in a post on Isaiah's use of righteousness language. God asserts righteousness through justifying his people (Is 45:25), but also through the establishment of justice (Is 1:21, 27; 5:7; 9:7; 11:4; 16:5; 26:9; 33:5; 59:9). Perhaps if we envisioned justification as an integral part of this larger plan, it would be easier to connect the doctrine to our mission of being salt and light to the earth.

The ripple effects of God's saving righteousness are first felt in the church. A clear implication of justification is that everyone who believes - irrespective of race, gender, class, etc. - is to be accepted within the family of God. Faith is the identity marker of the church, thus justification by faith undercuts prejudicial judgments. This is patent in St. Paul's epistles. The apostle to the Gentiles speaks of justification with an eye to the brouhahas besetting his fledgling congregations (cf. Gal 2-3; Rom 3, 15; implicit in Eph 2). Dietrich Bonhoeffer went so far as to say,

...the community of Christians springs solely from the Biblical and Reformation message of the justification of man through grace alone; this alone is the basis of Christians longing for one another.
- Life Together (trans. John W. Doberstein: San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1954); 23.

When we experience God's welcome in Christ, we can extend acceptance to one another (Rom 15:7). Hence, the cure for the various "isms" that lead to unjust treatment in the church (not to mention the world) is found in the justifying verdict of God.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On the Methodology of Systematic Theology (or You Can Take Sexy Back)

By Andrew Faris

I recently heard that Dr. Henry Holloman, a Talbot systematic theology prof, has memorized most, if not all of the Bible.

Most of us would at least pay lip service to the impressiveness of that accomplishment. But how much clout does that give him in the minds of we who study theology on even a partially academic level?

Having been at least somewhat in the academic theology world for the last 6+ years now, it troubles me that this doesn't make more students flock to sit at Dr. Holloman's theological feet. Insofar as systematic theology's chief end is to increase our knowledge and love of God (and make no mistake- our academic accomplishments do not matter at all if this is not our end) and insofar as its content is what the whole Bible says about, well, everything, then why don't we respect (not just admire) this kind of knowledge more?

Memorizing the Bible isn't as sexy as all of the academic nuance of, say, Barth's approach to Scripture (the sexiest current theological discussion?). But if I understand Ps. 1 and Ps. 119 correctly, then what we really need is meditation on the text- the kind that gets it into our heads, hearts and souls. That's the kind of theology we should care about most.

Don't get me wrong: I love the academic theology world. My entrance into it under the supervision of profs who went through all of it changed my life. But the ones who seem to be doing the most for the church and for the kingdom and the ones who seem to have the most vital spiritual lives and who spend a lot of time with the text (and with their students and churches). I find no Biblical command that says, "Do nuanced theology." I see a lot that say things like, "On His Law I will meditate day and night" and "I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you."

And if we can't understand what those passages are saying, then we're definitely not good theologians.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Neil Cole on Discipleship

By Jeffrey Bruce

Over the past few weeks, it has dawned on me that planting churches is all about discipleship. The point isn't church planting per se. Making disciples is the point, and when disciples are made, churches emerge from the harvest. Neil Cole makes the primacy of discipleship eminently clear.

Christianity is always just one generation away from extinction. If we fail to reproduce ourselves and pass the torch of life into the hands of the next generation, Christianity will be over with in just one generation. Yet because of the power of multiplication, we are also one generation away from worldwide fulfillment of the Great Commission. The choice is ours.
(Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens [San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 105)

I'm also thankful that the church will not fail because Christ will ultimately reign over all.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Evil Giant Wal-Mart

By Andrew Faris

You've probably heard all the same stuff about how Wal-Mart is an evil mega-oppressor of the working poor that I have. I've been skeptical of that attitude for awhile because it always seemed like people were mad at them for succeeding as a business, but don't want to turn a blind eye to oppression.

Well Charles Platt went undercover as a Wal-Mart employee to try to figure out what the problem is, and his article about that experience is well worth a look. He comes out quite favorable to the retail giant, and it is one of the most interesting pieces I've read in awhile.

(HT: Mark Stump)

CIC is now on Twitter!

For any of you who have found themselves addicted to one of my favorite latest fads, twitter, you can now find Christians in Context on there too! For the most part it will simply be another way to keep up on our most recent posts. However it will include previews of forthcoming posts, discussions, giveaways, and any other updates.

So feel free to add us to stay even further in touch.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Yelp! I Need Somebody

By: Jenny Bruce

Do you remember when you were a kid and you worried so much about what people thought of you? Remember how your mom would always comfort you with the idea that people think much less about you than you fear they do? The internet has proven your mom wrong. (Yes, it's 2009 and I'm writing about the internet. Sue me.) If anything, the internet has taught us that not only are people thinking about you much more than you think they do, they're also writing angry and poorly spelled diatribes against you for the world to see.

Have you ever accidentally stumbled upon negative comments about you that you probably weren't meant to see? My first experience was four years ago when I played Rapunzel in a production of "Into The Woods." While searching online for newspaper reviews, I came across the blog of one of the members of the orchestra. He completely ripped the show and singled me out, saying that my screaming was enough to cause tumors in lab rats. (I thought about making him rat shaped sugar cookies with gumdrop tumors and leaving them on his seat in the orchestra pit, but I ultimately decided against it.)

Now this certainly wasn't character assasination (and my screaming was pretty wretched), but I was burdened by the realization that I can't keep people from writing whatever they want about me and sending it out to the world.

This brings me to Yelp. I was searching for something on Yelp the other day and stumbled across a somewhat negative review of a church in my community. My heart started beating a little faster like it had when I discovered the comment about my performance years ago. Did anyone in the church know about this review? Did it discourage them? Did it keep others from visiting the church? Had anyone reviewed my church? Had they written things like, "Well the service was all right, but we absolutely LOATHED the children's ministry"?

Needless to say, I'm currently not so keen on the idea of reviewing churches like I would a neighborhood diner or coffee shop. I worry it might encourage a consumer driven attitude towards church, foster a competitive spirit between churches, and (undeservedly) taint a church's reputation. However, I'm still recovering from the whirlwind that was this morning's community valentine making party and my thoughts are muddy. Dearest Reader, will you grant me some clarity?

Here's what I want to know:

1. Do you think reviewing churches is a good idea? Why or why not?
2. Have you ever used reviews to find a church? Were they helpful?

Yes, I'm asking you to do the heavy mental lifting. But do you really want firm opinions from someone who spent the majority of the last two days pondering how to make fish valentines out of paper hearts? I thought so.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

R. A. Torrey on D. L. Moody

By Andrew Faris

Another gem on Scriptorium, this time from R. A. Torrey (i.e. Fred Sanders posting something from Torrey). Today is D. L. Moody's birthday, and Torrey has posted his essay (originally a sermon?) on why God used Moody.

It is long, but go read all of it. This piece is easily one of the most encouraging things I've read on a blog in a long, long time. Especially if you are a young man like me, you need to go read this post. I really cannot recommend it much higher.

Here are my two favorite quotes from the piece. First, regarding Moody's humility and our need of the same:
Oh, men and women! especially young men and young women, perhaps God is beginning to use you; very likely people are saying: “What a wonderful gift he has as a Bible teacher, what power he has as a preacher, for such a young man!” Listen: get down upon your face before God. I believe here lies one of the most dangerous snares of the Devil. When the Devil cannot discourage a man, he approaches him on another tack, which he knows is far worse in its results; he puffs him up by whispering in his ear: “You are the leading evangelist of the day. You are the man who will sweep everything before you. You are the coming man. You are the D. L. Moody of the day”; and if you listen to him, he will ruin you. The entire shore of the history of Christian workers is strewn with the wrecks of gallant vessels that were full of promise a few years ago, but these men became puffed up and were driven on the rocks by the wild winds of their own raging self-esteem.
(NB: I think this applies to all young ministers who are gaining any acclaim...including bloggers!). Second, on Moody's insatiable commitment to reach the lost:
The sixth reason why God used D. L. Moody was because of his consuming passion for the salvation of the lost. Mr. Moody made the resolution, shortly after he himself was saved, that he would never let twenty-four hours pass over his head without speaking to at least one person about his soul. His was a very busy life, and sometimes he would forget his resolution until the last hour, and sometimes he would get out of bed, dress, go out and talk to someone about his soul in order that he might not let one day pass without having definitely told at least one of his fellow-mortals about his need and the Savior who could meet it.
I pray that God would raise up more of us like Dr. Moody who are so committed to the Lord's work with total surrender to Him, with prayer, Bible study, humility, freedom from the love of money, commitment to reaching the lost, and the special endowment of God's power.

Web Wanderings

By Jeff Bruce

I'm trying to read like 263 books right now (and review two of them) and it's starting to cut into my blogging. Unless some teacher/authority figure mandates that I complete a book by a given deadline, I am incapable of reading quickly. Having said that, here are some things on the web I've found amusing.

1. Two things that are awesome (here and here).

2. Halden writes a great little post on God's incomprehensibility.

3. Trevin Wax makes me want to read more books...namely, those by Malcolm Gladwell. Here's his review of Gladwell's latest, Outliers.

4. John Stackhouse writes about loudness in worship (I'm guessing everyone has an opinion on this one).

5. Happy Birthday Dietrich. (Well, I suppose when this gets published, today will be yesterday, so happy belated birthday Dietrich).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Seeker Movement

By Damian Romano

In these churches, Christian orthodoxy is not jettisoned, but it is tailored for the new consumer audience, which is one much given to spirituality shorn of theology, one stripped of much of its cognitive structure. Messages are preached with civility and they are more user-friendly than they used to be. Their effectiveness is judged by their “market value” (that is, their practical usefulness). God is much friendlier, too. Gone are the notes of judgment, though these are more displaced then denied, and they are replaced by those of love and acceptance. God, in one such message, was presented as the one “who loves you, is proud of you, believes in you, and will give you strength to stand up to the forces of evil in the world.” Sin is preached but is presented more in terms of how it “harms the individual, rather than how it offends a hold God. Sin, in short, prevents us from realizing our full potential.” Conversion is insisted upon but then, paradoxically, it is the this-worldly benefits that are accentuated, the practical benefits of knowing Christ receiving all the attention with scarcely a look at what happens if we turn away from him. To turn away from him, Hybels says, leaves that person not so much under God’s judgment as unfulfilled. Thus the exclusive message of classical evangelicalism is maintained but parts of it are de-emphasized and parts are transformed to make the adjustment to this consumer-driven and therapeutically-defined culture. Evangelicalism is now presented “in the friendly guise of an egalitarian, fulfillment-enhancing, fun, religious encounter with God” And is this not sailing dangerously close to adapting the gospel to the postmodern disposition for the sake of success, adapting it to those yearning for the sacred without addressing what stands in the way to knowing God? When Paul wrote to the Galatians, whom he had to rebuke, he was painfully aware of the temptation to soften the gospel. He firmly rejected the desire to “please men” because, he said, if “I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

David Wells, The Seeker Movement p. 305-306

(HT: Monergism)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Review of Sam Storms' Chosen for Life

By Andrew Faris

True confession: despite having been a Calvinist since 2002, it was not until these last few months that I actually read a whole book on the subject. Some theology nerd friends started telling me about Calvinism when I was a freshman at Biola. They showed me the passages, I was convinced, and no other interpretation has swayed me yet.

So when I graduated from Talbot a few weeks ago and my uncle gave me a copy of Sam Storms' Chosen for Life as a graduation gift, I thought it was time to make my way through a Calvinism book for two reasons: (1) there may be aspects of the system left out in my reading of systematics, commentaries, and my conversations with friends and professors; and (2) I was hoping that if Storms' book was good, I would be able to confidently recommend a book on the subject when asked.

Given these goals, I was not disappointed. Chosen for Life excels as an introduction to Calvinism (or at least to divine election, which is the heart of Calvinism). If you are an experienced, widely-read Arminian, Storms' exegesis is unlikely to convince you. But if you are new to the subject, you will receive an introduction to both systems that even Arminians are likely to think fair, while confronting the arguments that have convinced Calvinists.

The book begins with the hypothetical brothers Jerry and Ed. Both have been to church plenty, but neither is a Christian. Sitting in church like they often do one Sunday, Jerry is listening to just another sermon, but this time his heart is awakened to the truth of the gospel. Why has Jerry suddenly repented and given his life to Jesus when he never had before? Storms repeatedly returns to this hypothetical and explains how each system interprets it as he unpacks them both.

Of course, Storms argues for a Calvinist understanding of the conversion, and he does it in the standard ways. Both camps believe in election- Arminians believe in conditional election according to foreknowledge, while Calvinists believe in unconditional election. Bost believe in total depravity- Arminians believe God overcomes this with prevenient grace, while Calvinists believe in irresistible, electing grace and regeneration prior to conversion. And so on.

The book has two chapters on unconditional election in the Gospels and Epistles and three more dedicated specifically to Romans 9. Clearly Storms hedges his bet that Romans 9 will be (as it was for me in 2002!) the most convincing passage for his case. Finally, Storms closes with a defense of a defense of Calvinism (yes, you read that correctly), and both here and in his introduction suggests that the debate, provided that it is humble and loving, is worthwhile because our apprehension of the glory of God is at stake (cf. Eph. 1). There are also three appendices, the most important of which is his discussion of "problem passages" for Calvinists.

As Carson's endorsement suggests, fairness is indeed one of the key features of this book. Storms' explanation gave me a greater clarity on the Arminian understanding of prevenient grace (just before he of course argues that it is entirely unbiblical!). I suspect that any Arminian who read the book would appreciate the irenic tone and clear presentation of Arminianism.

That said, the Arminian may be frustrated where I myself was: Storms repeatedly insists on the all too common but misguided Calvinist argument that the Arminian understanding of salvation violates a true "grace alone" view of salvation. While I do agree that Calvinism understands the grace of God in salvation more biblicallly than does Arminianism, I am unswayed by the idea that a free choice to receive Christ constitutes anything close to what the Bible calls a "work." I have given my argument for this elsewhere on this blog, so I won't rehash it here. This is one of the most glaring drawbacks of this book, especially since it works best as an introduction.

If you were raised in an American non-denominational evangelical church like me, you were probably raised an Arminian by default, even if you would never have known what that word meant (I certainly wouldn't have). When my friends started commending this crazy "Calvinism" to me, I reacted negatively until they kept taking me to the Bible. Storms does that in this book. If you are new to this subject and want a clear, fair but decidedly Calvinist introduction to the doctrine of divine election (or if you know someone else who fits that description) go get Sam Storms' Chosen for Life.

Hannah More on Christianity and the Heart

By Andrew Faris

I knew nothing of Hannah More until I read Fred Sanders' "Today is Hannah More's Birthday". Check out this quote from the "First Victorian":
All the doctrines of the Gospel are practical principles. The word of God was not written, the Son of God was not incarnate, the Spirit of God was not given, only that Christians might obtain right views, and possess just notions. Religion is something more than mere correctness of intellect, justness of conception, and exactness of judgment. It is a life-giving principle. It must be infused into the habit as well as govern in the understanding; it must regulate the will as well as direct the creed. It must not only cast the opinions into a right frame, but the heart into a new mould. It is a transforming as well as a penetrating principle. It changes the tastes, gives activity to the inclinations, and, together with a new heart, produces a new life.
Good stuff for all of us to remember, but especially we bloggers, academicians, and wanna-be academicians.

And by the way, Fred Sanders is one of the clearest reminders to me that I have read next to nothing.

Innovation3: A Synopsis

By Jeff Bruce

I got back from Innovation3 last week. I'll try to refrain from hyperbolic pronouncements regarding the conference, but it was truly amazing. I tend to (sinfully) view the American church with a good measure of cynicism/pessimism, predominantly because so few churches experience genuine conversion growth. Thus, I was encouraged to hear that people are indeed planting churches in America, said churches are making disciples, people are coming to Christ, and the gates of hell are not going to prevail against the church. I'll try and distill what I gleaned by providing some axioms from various speakers (n.b. these are
, and hence I'm playing it safe and not putting anything in quotations).

1. We must look to God alone for blessing. Any dependence on human blessing in ministry will kill us - Tim Keller.

2. Successful ministry depends on an absolute willingness to fail. The fear of failure is crippling to ministry - Craig Kroschell.

3. You have to actually listen to non-Christians if you want a fruitful ministry - Stacy Spencer.

4. We need to change our conception of church from a "what" to a "who". The church is not an entity "out there", which we can detach ourselves from and analyze. We are the church - the presence of Christ- wherever we find ourselves to be - Reggie McNeal

5. The dangerous church in 2010 must do the following...
- Increase our generosity/stewardship (particularly in lieu of the current economic crisis.
- Have a biblically robust/well articulated view of gender/sexuality.
- Address sexual brokenness (we are just scratching the surface of this topic in the church).
- Rethink discipleship

- Ed Stetzer (there were gobs of other good things he said, but I can't recall them at present).

6. A gate is not an offensive weapon. The gates of hell are not assailing the church. We will knock down the gates of hell through making disciples for Christ - Neil Cole

7. Church planting is an outgrowth of making disciples. The focus isn't church planting; it's disciple-making - A whole bunch of people.

8. Community without mission will fail. Mission gives a community its energy and purpose - Matt Carter.

That's about all I can think of at present. Keep checking Leadership Network's site for material from the conference.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion

By Andrew Faris

I finally decided it was time to re-open my personal blog on the side of this one. So in the off-chance any of you are interested (I know I mostly read this blog for Jenny's and Jeff's posts these days...), Farismaticism is back.

You can get a sense of that one there. And just to be clear, I'll still be contributing in the same way here that I always have been.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I Didn't Know First Graders Could Be So Heartless

By: Jenny Bruce

This morning's elementary lesson covered 1 Samuel 2-3 and we discussed the sins of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas.

I asked the kids what they would have done if they had been in Eli's place and seen their sons dishonoring God. There were many interesting/rather horrifying responses, but one sweet and shy little first grader's answer topped them all.

She looked up at me with her big eyes and solemnly said, "Torture them."

Perhaps a few more Sunday school lessons on compassion are in order.