Here are the top five posts from the month of August. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised to see The Psychology of Social Networking at the top of the list. Getting a link from Tim Challies really messes with your blog stats (not that I’m complaining!). And for some reason my post on reading fiction also got a lot of traffic from somewhere. So even though it’s an older post, it shot into the top five.
- 12 Reasons Why Public Worship Is Better than Private Worship: If you had the choice between private Bible reading and prayer, or going to church, which would you choose? The Puritans would choose church.
- Hitting Pause in the City: It is a constant struggle to try to find God and peace of mind in a city of almost 3 million people.
- The Option of Errancy: Debates about biblical inerrancy can often take a rather abstract quality. I have a lot of sympathy for those who struggle to understand why it matters whether the numbers in Numbers are completely accurate; after all, an awful lot of people who deny the Bible is inerrant nevertheless believe it is true, and authoritative, and even infallible, so what difference does it make if they think there might be the odd factual error in there?
- Rakoff and Hitchens on Death, with Nothing Afterward: In their end-of-life writing, however, both men struggled with the same question of how to await death in a godless world. In doing so, they reinvented the way we write about death, which is no longer the province of sublime exaltations and solemn majesty. Gone are the ethereal martyrs dying with smiles on their faces as they meet God. Death, for blessed heretics like Rakoff and Hitchens, is neither graceful nor dignified.
In the last post I argued that the image of God builds off the idea of “representational presence.” To be created in the image of God means to be the ones through whom God manifests his own presence in the world.
That’s pretty heady stuff. We don’t just “mirror” God through some attribute we possess (e.g. rationality), but we humans are the means by which God has chosen to manifest his presence in creation. He does this in other ways, of course, but apparently there’s something special about the way in which he has chosen to manifest his presence through us. That’s what makes us image bearers.
But what exactly does that mean? If God is present everywhere, then he’s present in a poodle (hard as that might be to believe). But we don’t say that poodles are in the image of God. (Please, oh please, don’t say that. You’ll create instant atheists.) So what is it about God’s “presence” with humans that makes us image bearers?
I think the key is that the kind of presence God manifests through his people is his personal presence. Let me unpack that a bit.
- A Word to My Calvinist Friends: Leaving debates about the extent of the atonement aside for a moment, I want to point out something else that continues to trouble me – the equation of Calvinistic soteriology with the gospel itself. I wish, for the sake of all of us, that you would abandon this divisive rhetoric, not because it’s divisive but because it’s simply untrue. The gospel cannot be reduced to a particular view of soteriology.
- All Gospels Were Not Created Equal: the reason early church leaders privileged those particular four gospels was that they were so evidently the earliest and most authoritative texts, without serious competition. No body of cranky patriarchs sat around and said, “Well, we have to vote out Mary because it’s, um, a tad sexual. John can stay because it spiritualizes everything, and that’ll be useful in a century or so when we get political power.”
- Elie Wiesel on His Fear of Being the Last Holocaust Witness: Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel talks…about the fear of being the last one to bear witness to the crimes of the Nazis, and why the world still hasn’t learned the lessons of the past.
- Holy-wood: The Film Industry’s New Passion for Christ: With Russell Crowe playing Noah, Paul Verhoeven bringing us Jesus and Warner Bros tackling Moses, the movies are well and truly back in the good book
What does it mean to be created “in the image of God”? Over the last few posts, we’ve explored that question and raised some concerns about each of the major approaches. Does that mean we can’t really know what the image means? Should we give up and conclude that it’s just a mystery?
Never cry “mystery” until you’ve wrestled with all the issues. And that includes proposing your own solution. So that’s what I’m going to do.
First, let me summarize. We currently have four options on the table: (1) the structural image; (2) the functional image; (3) the relational image; and (4) the multifaceted image. I don’t want to rehearse all the arguments here, so I’ll just say that I think (1) is wrong and (4) is a problem as long as it includes (1). You can go read those posts and find out why. Although (2) and (3) have some problems, I think there’s a lot to be said for both of them. So I’m inclined to think that an adequate understanding of the imago needs to find some way of holding those two together. But you can’t just mush them together like the multifaceted view tends to. You need some explanation that provides a coherent picture.
And that’s just what I’m going to try and do. It’s will take me a couple of posts to lay this all out. But step one is to realize that the imago has to do with “representational presence.” Let me unpack that just a bit.
- Politics and the Kingdom of God: Because of the cultural disconnect between our ideas about church and state and those of Scripture, approaches that try to strip-mine the Bible for principles for contemporary government and politics will go nowhere.
- The Top Three Myths about Myths: We all love to see supposed myths debunked, but these opinion articles and blog posts are not as straightforward as they seem. It’s important that readers know how to interpret them.
- I’m Tired of Hearing “The Gospel” (Warning: Mild Rant): It’s ubiquitous. And it’s becoming an inflexible law. We dare not face any issue without the requisite hat tip to “the gospel.” If we do, there’s bound to be someone to write us a ticket for our verbal violation, to insist we missed a “gospel” opportunity.
- Confused by Complementarianism? You probably should be: Given that the issue of complementarianism is raising its head over at The Gospel Coalition, it provides an opportunity to reflect on an issue that has always perplexed me: why is the complementarian/egalitarian debate such a significant bone of contention in parachurch cobelligerent organisations whose stated purpose is to set aside issues which divide at a church level but which do not seem to impact directly upon the gospel?
John Owen, famous English Puritan pastor, preacher, and theologian, died on August 24, 1683. Rising to fame during the English Civil War, Owen was a prominent noncomformist (i.e. a non-Anglican English minister).
Best known for his theological writings, Owen also wrote quite often on the Christian spiritual life and the nature of prayer. So, to commemorate his passing, this morning’s “prayer” comes from him, though it’s actually a comment on prayer rather than an actual prayer.
“The faithful soul, pouring out without ceasing those prayers which are supplied to us by God’s Spirit in gracious provision for our infirmities, enjoys communion with God Himself as he shares in the understandings of the things of the gospel. By practice in prayer, he increases daily in fellowship with his Lord while his soul within him testifies to the extent of its progress, while assurance of saving knowledge waxes stronger daily. Such a soul – such a gospel student – is gradually admitted in the secrets of God’s covenant, plighted to the saints in Christ Jesus, while all the time it is growing more and more into the image of Him who is our Head and is Lord of all.”
Biblical Theology: The History of Theology from Adam to Christ (Soli Deo Gloria, 2012), p. 702
If you’re in college right now and are wrestling with whether you picked the right major, or if you’ve already graduated and are consumed by doubt about whether your major was the right one for you, don’t worry about it. According to this song, they’re all terrible anyway.
Even theology get a jab. Apparently theology is for those who can’t predict the future and aren’t terribly good at reading the past either.
This video is actually a musical tribute to a fabulous comic poem posted by XKCD called “Every Major’s Terrible.” So check the comic out if the words in the song go by too fast for you.
Do you know how to separate good test-takers from bad ones? The bad ones think “all of the above” is their friend, giving them an out when they don’t know the right answer. Good test-takers know better. ”All of the above” is usually a trap.
You see, evil professors know that multiple choice questions can actually be very difficult to answer. Worded properly, the answers all sound pretty good. So the ill-prepared student has a hard time figuring out which one is correct And then the professor slips in “all of the above.” If all the answers sound good, that must be the right choice. It covers all the bases! When in doubt, cover as much territory as possible.
The problem with “all of the above” is that there only needs to be one little mistake in any of the options for your choice to be wrong. A and C could be perfectly true, but if B is a little off, then “all of the above” is flat out wrong. It’s just there to suck you in with it’s seductive promise of all-encompassing thoroughness.
- Ten Things about Church You Should Know (But No One Had the Guts to Tell You): There is no sin in making little mistakes of spelling or grammar. We all make them. But in case you wanted to know (you probably don’t), or in case you wanted to mention it gently to someone else (more likely), here are ten tiny things to keep in mind as you lead in worship, prepare the bulletin, or just converse about the church service.
- Permission to Sin: Why the 7 Deadlies Aren’t So Terrible After All: Scientists have found that the seven deadly sins aren’t all bad. Consider this your official permission to give in to temptation.
- Top Ten Things Augustine Contributed to Philosophy: While Augustine had no formal education in philosophy, he was nevertheless an intuitive philosopher with varied interests. He also left a deep and abiding influence on Western philosophical thought. (Read part 2 here.)
- Schools Make Room for Religion (USA Today): Fifty years after the U.S. Supreme Court banned official prayers in public schools, religion remains alive and well on school campuses.