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No Hemming, Hawing and Tiptoeing Around

After yesterday’s quoted passage, J. Mack Stiles goes on to give us the rest of the bad news:

We are treasonous rebels who, without constraints, would murder and destroy God himself to establish ourselves in his place (John 19:15). … What awaits us—what we’ve all earned—is hell.

Does that offend you? Are you angry at these comments? Do you say, “It’s not true. I’ve never been in rebellion with God! It can’t be that bad. I’m a good person. What about Ghandi? I love God; we’re friends; I’m spiritual; ‘my God’ would never say such things.”

But I contend that if this news, this bad news, offends rather than humbles, you are the one most in danger. For it’s not said to offend but to instruct and to warn about a reality—the same warning my doctor might bring of a grave illness, but with far, far greater consequences.

…I am well aware of the umbrage people take at such news, Christians included. But why? Doesn’t our offense only point to our self-centeredness and self-righteousness? Those very sins we most hate in others?

Actually, our offense convinces me of its truth. The older I get, the less I feel compelled to avoid the subject by hemming, hawing and tiptoeing around, and the more I want people to open their eyes.

From Marks of the Messenger: Knowing, Living and Speaking the Gospel.


Round the Sphere Again: Evangelism

Its a Tough Sell
I’m reading Marks of the Messenger: Knowing, Living and Speaking the Gospel by J. Mack Stiles, a book on evangelism that I first heard about from a recommendation in a lecture by D. A. Carson. It’s a little book; I read a quarter of it in half an hour this evening. When I’m finished, I may review it; but meanwhile, here’s a quote on the bad news before the good news:

Have you heard people say that Christianity is a crutch? They’re far too optimistic. We don’t need crutches; we need spiritual defibrillators. The fact is, we were born rotten sinner to the cors. We may be upright physicaly, but spiritually, we’re dead on arrival. Left to ourselves we have no hope (Romans 5:19; Ephesians 2:1,12)

It’s not that we can’t do loving or even amazing things—after all, long ago we were made in the image of God. But these are fleeting and inconsistent moments, and no part of anything we do remains untainted by sin (Luke 18:19; Romans 7:18). We think acts of worldly goodness can mask sin, but they only add to our debt since worldly good deeds fill us with superficial self-righteous pride (Isaiah 64:6), as if we could smile our way out of treason. Our own meager good works could never help us avoid the death sentence that has been pronounced on us. We are chained to sin; we can’t help but sin, for it is in our nature (Romans 7:5). And this sin cuts us off from God. In our natural state we rebel against God and all his ways (Isaiah 59:2; Ephesians 4:18)— and this wickedness spits in the face of God (Isaiah 50:6; Mark 14:65). We are as attractive to God as a corpse at a dinner party (Matthew 23:17).

Tough sell, huh?

That’s one hard package to market. After all, it’s not exactly the generous orthodoxy that speaks to the postmodern world today. Not exactly a message that’s going to win friends and influence people, you say. Since this message is difficult to swallow, you can see why pragmatic evangelists leave it out and focus on other parts of the message.

But wait, there’s more…

Maybe I’ll tell you what the more is tomorrow. Here’s a hint: It’s more bad news.

For Those of Us Who Struggle
A list of resources to help “encourage and equip Christians to share the good news of Jesus Christ” from  John Starke at The Gospel Coalition Blog.

An Example to Follow
Dusman reports on the outreach conversations he had on a college campus (Triablogue). This time the discussion starter question was, “In your personal opinion what does it take for a person to go to heaven?”


Thankful Thursday

A couple of days ago I noticed a charge on my online credit card statement that I couldn’t remember making. I do  online shopping at the Apple Store, and sometimes I can be forgetful, so I checked my Apple account to see what I’d ordered recently. There was nothing there. I called the credit card company to dispute the charge, only to find that their had been recent authorizations for other fraudulent  online orders, including one at for $700. These latest purchases just hadn’t shown up yet on my statement. Coincidentally, or maybe not, at the same time the same credit card company red-flagged my son’s business card because of online purchases made for airline tickets in Europe, among other things. So we both had to cut up our cards and have new ones issued. Its been an annoyance and a little unsettling, but really, not much more than that, and for that I am thankful. I am thankful that it was all so easy to take care of.

I’m thankful for online credit card statements which help me keep track of things, and for online shopping in general. I’d hate to go back to the days when I had to buy everything at stores here in town. There were always a lot of things that just weren’t available, and would have to be bought on trips to other cities or not bought at all. Over the winter, we’d save up lists of things we needed to buy when we were outside (That’s Yukon-speak for down south.) in the summer, and then we’d spend half our holiday time shopping. But no more, and woohoo for that.

Just this week, the belt broke in the power nozzle of my vacuum, so I ordered a new one online for $9.00. Ten years ago, that fix would have been a lot more difficult and maybe impossible. Online shopping is a good gift, both for me and for my son, who is constantly ordering things for his business that he would not be able to get otherwise.

I’m thankful for our continued warmer weather, which also make life easier and better. I’m thankful that the big job cleaning and rearranging the kitchen cupboard is done. I’m thankful for a few good books in my reading line-up and beef barley soup in the crock-pot.

In case you think I have only small things to be thankful for, let me say that I’ve got at least two big items of praise that I’d be unwise to post publicly.

I’m thankful that our God is a God who works in both small things and big things, so that we can thank him for everything because it all comes from his hand.

 Throughout this year I’m planning to post a few thoughts of thanksgiving each Thursday along with Kim at the Upward Call and others.


Open Question

I spent a bit of time responding to a comment on this week’s Theological Term, which was, in case you’ve forgotten, open theism.

From the comment from Kane:

Have you read Gregory Boyd, or John Sanders? Perhaps Clark Pinnock?

I’m thinking more specifically about the books God At War, Satan and the Problem of Evil, The God Who Risks, or Most Moved Mover. They’re all very impacting reads and make exceptional cases for providential openness.

I haven’t read all of those books, but I have read one of them, so I gave a quick summary of the reasons that I reject the arguments in it.

I’ve read John Sanders quite thoroughly. (Once upon a time we went to the same church.) I’d have to say that I didn’t consider his arguments compelling and here’s a quick summary of my reasons why:

  • First, I don’t share the philosophical assumptions that gave rise to the whole openness system. It’s hard to buy the system if you don’t buy the presuppositions.
  • I’d also argue that the notion that classical view of God borrows from Greek philosophy is bogus. That criticism actually better fits the openess view.
  • What’s more, I found the exegetical arguments unconvincing. I accept that most of the proof texts used to support the open view are anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms. After all, God is not like us, so we would expect that when he communicates truths about himself to us by means of human language, it will always be by way of analogy, because there are only inadequate human categories to use.
  • And last, even though open theists claim to be vindicating God, I find open theology to be useless as a theodicy.

If you want me to explain more about any of the points, let me know.


Round the Sphere Again: An All Fun Edition

Dear Dad
A young boy asks for more allowance (Letters of Note): “I put in my plea for a raise of thirty cents for me to buy scout things and pay my own way more around.”

Guess who?

Birthday Books
Find out the New York Times best sellers for the week of your birth. I’ve read none of the books on my list, but I’ve heard of a couple of the non-fiction ones:

  • The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
  • Abraham Lincoln by Carl Sandburg

Have you heard of any of the books on you list? Read any of them?