Acknowledging that God is our origin has implications

by Stanley J. Grenz

Acknowledging that God is our origin also has implications for the human nature we share in common with each other. Above all, it means that we realize that God alone has the prerogative to declare what it means to be human. . . .

. . . If God declares what it means to be human, then our lives are not meaningless collections of unrelated events they so often appear to be. On the contrary, God has designed us with a purpose in view. And our lives have true meaning as they reflect this divinely given design.1

~ Created for Community: Connecting Christian Belief with Christian Living (1998), pp. 71–72.


The Church in dialogue with God

There is several on-going discussions of what is/should be going on when the church meets. This is one response to a very active blog discussion that he references and you can click on the link to catch up.

by LT at blog.

In my quest to understand the current rationale for the centrality of preaching in Protestant church practice I’m evaluating different posts and articles by prominent proponents of preaching. I found “Who is doing the talking in our church gatherings” by Thabiti Anyabwile through Dashhouse.

In the post he responds to someone who reviewed one of his books and aired some typical objections to the centrality of preaching.

The review left me asking myself: Who’s doing the speaking in our church gatherings?

The fatal flaw in my reviewer’s comments was his tendency to think that the service at its best is a conversation between man and man, a human dialogue, a gathering of people of rather equal status speaking to one another. But is that really what’s happening in preaching and in the gathered worship of the church? How we answer this question reveals much about our theology of the church gathering and of preaching in particular.

He then goes on to say

The Christian worship service is inherently dialogical. The dialogue, however, involves a more important party than any living human. The Lord of the Universe speaks during the service. We have the wondrous privilege of being able to speak to Him as a community of saints. When God speaks through the exposition of His word there certainly will be many reactions, but as our Sovereign speaks there should not be an interruption in favor of our pooling our comments and sharing our insights. Our best wisdom is foolishness before God. Better to first listen to the One who speaks, then talk with one another about it afterward.

If I’m reading this correctly Thabiti considers the proper exposition of scripture by a faithful preacher is the voice of God in the church’s dialogue with God. Thabiti appeals to 1Thess 2:13 to support this connection. Here is it with a bit more context:

As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us. You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. (1Th 2:5-13 NRSV)

There are a number of things about this situation that are distinct from a typical conventional church situation:

  • Paul and company personally knew each person and cared for them like family
  • They worked for their living
  • They did not use their authority as apostles of Christ
  • This was primarily missionary activity
  • There is nothing in this passage that implies they preached sermons to Christians
  • The person speaking wrote things we consider to be scripture

If we cross reference this with Luke’s account in Acts 17 we find that Paul “reasoned” or “argued” with the people in the synagogue. The word used is dialogomai and it has a range of meanings from “discuss” and “argue” all the way to “address.” The meaning is determined by the context. In a typical gathering at a Synagogue the scriptures are read and someone offers their exhortation and commentary after the scripture reading. Initially Paul likely engaged with some form of monologue but it was also likely that the Jews would have questioned and eventually objected to what Paul was saying. In the end they ran him out of town and even travelled to the next town to do it again there. It isn’t hard to see where Luke might have got the idea that there was some arguing or disputing going on.

There is nothing in Luke’s or Paul’s account of what happened in Thessalonica that suggests that the people their received their words as the “word of God” solely through the medium of preaching. These accounts raise interesting questions for me about how Paul’s love for the people might be just as important as his words to the people. If the message of Christ’s love is conveyed in a way that is divorced from the tangible reality of that love embodied in the actions of God’s people it won’t have the same impact. Given the stress Paul puts on love, I’m beginning to believe that one can’t proclaim or live the gospel without tangibly demonstrating God’s love. This leads me to conclude that an over reliance on oratory could very well stifle other essential aspects to the proclamation of the gospel.

I understand how we might try to equate the scriptures with God’s voice. Unfortunately the bible is at best words inspired by God written by one human to other humans in a specific context. We are in a sense observing God’s dialogue with someone else. Observing this dialogue can help people understand God and humanity, find principles to live by and bring inspiration but at its core it isn’t a direct dialogue with God. Because of this there is an extra level of complexity in understanding what is being communicated. Most of us rely on a translator to accurately convey the meaning of words of people that lived in a very different context using a different language. That is one lens of interpretation. The next lens comes from the preacher who in turn is interpreting the words of the translator and he or she has their own bias.

I think a lot of people can do a good job of both of these but is always dangerous to equate one person’s interpretation of scripture with the voice of God. As one who has been authorized to preach a few sermons in my day, I’d never claim such a high level of authority or faithfulness for much of the content my messages. I’m far too aware of my failings as well as complexity of biblical interpretation. That doesn’t mean that I’d be completely unsure of what I’m trying to convey, but we all have things we have a great certainty about and things we aren’t as sure of. As a product of a post-modern culture my circle of certainties might be smaller than it should be, but in this world of conflicting ridiculous notions about God I’d rather be safe than sorry. We enter a dangerous place when we casually equate our interpretations as the “word of God.”

One thing I don’t get about Thabiti’s post is that the words of the preacher are considered God’s voice but the inclusion of a voice from the congregation is considered “pooling our comments” and “sharing our insights” or even an “interruption.” Does God only speak through the preacher? Based on the all the examples scripture provides us of people and even donkey’s speaking for God I’d say this is a pretty dangerous assumption. I’ve observed God’s word proclaimed and God’s love displayed in many multi-voiced church gatherings.

Thabiti suggested that the critic of his book had a low theology of preaching. I would counter by suggesting that Thabiti’s comments suggest he has a low theology of the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit works through the entire body as it wills and can inspire anyone to utter divine truth.

John Piper: “Don’t Waste Your Life”

Thoughts on wasting one’s llife by John Piper, posted on Not for Itching Ears blog. Go to the site at to hear Mr. Piper’s sermon.

“It is possible to waste your life. Few things make me tremble more than the possibility of taking this onetime gift of life and wasting it. Every morning when I walked into the kitchen as a boy I saw hanging on the wall the plaque that now hangs in my living room: “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” And now I am almost 58, and the river of life is spilling over the falls of my days with tremendous speed. More and more I smell eternity. And oh, how I want to use my life well. It is so short and so fragile and so final. You get one chance to live your life. And then the judgment. I speak as a father who has children your age, and I am jealous with Jesus that they and you not waste your life. “

“What is the unwasted life? What does it look like? What is the essence of the unwasted life?   A life that puts the infinite value of Christ on display for the world to see. The passion of the unwasted life is to joyfully display the supreme excellence of Christ by the way we live. Life is given to us so that we can use it to make much of Christ. Possessions are given to us so that by the way we use them, we can show that they are not our treasure, but Christ is our treasure. Money is given to us so that we will use it in a way that shows money is not treasure, but Christ is our treasure.

The great passion of the unwasted life is to magnify Christ. Here is the text that, perhaps more than any other, governs what life is really about: Philippians 1:20-21. Paul says, “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Paul’s all-consuming passion was that in his life and in his death Jesus Christ be honored, that is, that Jesus Christ be made to look like the infinite treasure that he is. The reason you have life is to make Jesus Christ look great. There is one central criterion that should govern all the decisions you make in life and in death: Will this help make Jesus Christ look like the treasure he is?

You can see this in the way Paul talks about the two halves of his statement in verse 20. He says that his passion is that Christ be honored (or magnified, or made to look great) whether by life or by death. There is the life half of the verse, and the death half. How does Paul show that Christ is his treasure by life?

The answer is given in Philippians 3:7-8:

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

In other words, Paul displays the worth of Christ by counting everything else as loss for Christ’s sake. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of Christ.” Which means that the life that displays the worth of Christ—the unwasted life—is the life that uses everything to show that Christ is more valuable that it is. Money is used to show that Christ is more valuable than money. Food is used to show that Christ is more valuable than food is. Houses and lands and cars and computers are used to show that Christ is more valuable than they are. Family and friends and your own life are a place to show that Christ is more valuable than any of them.

The way we display the supreme worth of Jesus in our lives is by treasuring Christ above all things, and then making life choices that show that our joy is not finally in things or even in other people, but in Christ.

And the same is true in the second half of what Paul said in Philippians 1:20, namely, his honoring Christ by the way he dies. “It is my eager expectation and hope that . . . Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” How is Christ honored—how do we make much of Christ and display his worth—by our death? He gives the answer in the next verse (21): “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Why is death gain? It’s gain because verse 23 says, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Death is gain because death means more of Christ. It means to depart and be with him—with him!—and that is far better.

How do you show that Christ is a treasure in death? By experiencing death as gain. Christ will be most magnified in you, in your dying, when you are most satisfied in him, in your dying. When Christ is more precious to you than all that life can give, then being with him through death will be gain. And it will be plain to all that Christ is your treasure, and nothing on the earth.

Here is the essential lesson for living the unwasted life and dying the unwasted death:

Life and death are given to us as means of displaying the supreme value of Christ.

The supreme value of Christ is displayed when you treasure him above all earthly things and all other earthly persons.

This treasuring of him above all earthly things and persons is most clearly seen in what you are gladly willing to risk, or to sacrifice in order to enjoy more of him.

Here is the radical way Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, where Christ refused to remove Paul’s painful thorn in the flesh:

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [There’s more of Christ!] Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Magnifying the surpassing power of Christ in his own weakness and pain was Paul’s supreme passion! I will rejoice in whatever makes Christ look magnificently satisfying—including all my pain.”

[The bolding was my emphasis for the impact of those statements on me. ]

From Calvary’s cross wave upon wave of grace

From Calvary’s cross wave upon wave of grace reaches me,
deals with my sin,
washes me clean,
renews my heart,
strengthens my will,
draws out my affection,
kindles a flame in my soul,
rules throughout my inner man,
consecrates my every thought, word, work,
teaches me thy immeasurable love.
How great are my privileges in Christ Jesus!

– Puritan Prayer, from Valley of Vision


The Worst Accountability Group Ever

I like these reminders about small groups by  Luke Gilkerson at Covenant Eyes blog. Ours is more an encouragement group than accountability. We do have some, but it is much more in line with what he promotes below.

I just finished reading a very interesting blog post by Billy Graham’s grandson, Pastor Tullian Tchividjian. His thoughts on accountability are worth noting:

Are you tired of being told that if you’re really serious about God, you must be in an “accountability group?” You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones where you and a small group of “friends” arrange for a time each week to get together and pick each other apart–uncovering layer after layer after layer of sin? The ones where all parties involved believe that the guiltier we feel the more holy we are? The ones where you confess your sin to your friends but it’s never enough? No matter what you unveil, they’re always looking for you to uncover something deeper, darker, and more embarrassing than what you’ve fessed up to. It’s usually done with such persistent invasion that you get the feeling they’re desperately looking for something in you that will make them feel better about themselves.

Well, I hate those groups!

The symptoms of these kinds of groups are numerous. These groups tend to…

  • Breed self-righteousness
  • Cause unnecessary guilt
  • Tempt us to be less than honest
  • Produce a “do more, try harder” moralism

The key question to ask yourself about your accountability group is this: does the atmosphere of our group give the impression that we believe Christianity is all about personal improvement? Tullian says we should sniff out this “narcissistic presupposition” and destroy it.

Tullian’s primary problem with these kind of groups is they tend to focus on our sin, not our Savior. He writes that when we focus mostly on our need to get better we actually get worse. “We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with my guilt over God’s grace makes me increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.”

What should our accountability groups look like?

The accountability I need, therefore, is the kind that corrects my natural tendency to focus on me—my obedience (or lack thereof), my performance (good or bad), my holiness—instead of on Christ and his obedience, performance, and holiness for me. We all possess a natural proclivity to turn God’s good news announcement that we’ve been set free into a narcissistic program of self-improvement. We need to be held accountable for that!

Tullian points his readers to the book of Colossians for a great example of this. The Colossian Christians were being tempted to believe counterfeit ideas of salvation, to buy into a “gospel” of self-improvement and a rule-keeping mentality. “Paul repeatedly reminds them of the treasure they already have in Christ,” Tullian writes. “His point: don’t buy false versions of what you already have.”

When accountability partners see their primary task as reminding one another of the gospel and the all-sufficiency of Christ, it is then we truly stir up one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I say “Amen!” to that.

Getting the “I” Out of Your Eye

A devotional that is a good reminder to us all by Max Lucado

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil. 2:3-4 NASB)

Love builds up relationships; selfishness erodes relationships. No wonder Paul is so urgent in his appeal: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit” (Phil. 2:3 NASB).

But aren’t we born selfish? And if so, can we do anything about it? Can we get our eyes off of self? Or, better asked, can we get the little self out of our eyes? According to Scripture, we can.

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind. (Phil. 2:1-2 NASB)

Paul’s sarcasm is thinly veiled. Is there any encouragement? Any consolation? Any fellowship? Then smile!

What’s the cure for selfishness?

Get your self out of your eye by getting your eye off your self. Quit staring at that little self, and focus on your great Savior.

A friend who is an Episcopalian minister explains the reason he closes his prayers with the sign of the cross. “The touching of my forehead and chest makes a capital ‘I.’ The gesture of touching first one shoulder, then the other, cuts the ‘I’ in half.”

Isn’t that a work of the Cross? A smaller “I” and a greater Christ? Don’t focus on yourself; focus on all that you have in Christ. Focus on the encouragement in Christ, the consolation of Christ, the love of Christ, the fellowship of the Spirit, the affection and compassion of heaven.

If Christ becomes our focus, we won’t be like the physician in Arkansas. He misdiagnosed the patient. He declared the woman to be dead. The family was informed, and the husband was grief-stricken. Imagine the surprise of the nurse when she discovered that the woman was alive! “You better tell the family,” she urged the doctor.

The embarrassed physician phoned the husband and said, “I need to talk to you about the condition of your wife.”

“The condition of my wife?” he asked. “She’s dead.”

The doctor’s pride only allowed him to concede, “Well, she has seen a slight improvement.”

Slight improvement? Talk about an understatement! Lazarus is walking out of the tomb, and he calls that a “slight improvement”?

He was so concerned about his image that he missed an opportunity to celebrate. We laugh, but don’t we do the same? We’ve gone from cremation to celebration. We deserve a lava bath, but we’ve been given a pool of grace.

Yet to look at our faces you’d think our circumstances had made only a “slight improvement.” “How’s life?” someone asks. And we who’ve been resurrected from the dead say, “Well, things could be better.” Or “Couldn’t get a parking place.” Or “My parents won’t let me move to Hawaii.” Or “People won’t leave me alone so I can finish my sermon on selfishness.”

Honestly. We worry about acid rain in silver linings. Do you think Paul might like to have a word with us? Are you so focused on what you don’t have that you are blind to what you do? Have you received any encouragement? Any fellowship? Any consolation? Then don’t you have reason for joy?

Come. Come thirsty. Drink deeply from God’s goodness.

You have a ticket to heaven no thief can take,
an eternal home no divorce can break.

Every sin of your life has been cast to the sea.
Every mistake you’ve made is nailed to the tree.

You’re blood-bought and heaven-made.
A child of God—forever saved.

So be grateful, joyful—for isn’t it true?
What you don’t have is much less than what you do


Should Christians Be Cobelligerents in Ecumenical Coalitions?

A challenging article by Scott Klusendorf. I highly recommend subscribing to The Christian Research Journal. It will help keep you aware of many important apologetics issues. We all need to think about the issue of “doing good” even when it is not directly evangelical. Some would say we waste time sending missionary doctors and clean water specialist to other lands, we should only spend money on direct evangelistic workers. I think that is a wrong perspective and Scott does a good job explaining that.

This article first appeared in the Viewpoint column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 29, number 3 (2006). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to:

Evangelical Christians who are committed to sound doctrine must distinguish themselves theologically from people who reject fundamental truths of the Protestant Reformation. Those truths must never be discarded so as to achieve a greater unity with nonevangelicals. Are evangelicals forsaking the gospel, however, when they unite with Catholics, Jews, and other religious groups to address cultural issues?

Cultural reform efforts are not primarily about religious doctrine, but social justice. To work, they must be broad and inclusive; for example, cultural reform efforts that were designed to abolish slavery and establish civil rights for all Americans historically were led by large ecumenical coalitions. These coalitions, despite their theological differences, committed themselves to a common goal: establishing a more just society. The same is true regarding the current struggle to abolish abortion: although we must reject religious pluralism (the belief that all religions are equally valid), we must work closely with those who oppose the destruction of innocent human life, regardless of their religious persuasion.

Not all evangelicals agree with this view, however. Steve Camp, a gifted Christian musician, for example, thinks that evangelicals who work with nonevangelicals to reform culture are guilty of cobelligerence and that this behavior compromises the Great Commission. “There can be no real cultural impact apart from the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” argues Camp on his Web site.1 Christians, therefore, should focus on preaching the gospel, not on cultural reform:

Evangelical Co-Belligerence is culturally impotent in dealing with the depraved hearts, minds and souls of a pagan world. Satan is pleased when any discourse designed for Christ and His gospel is turned into a political rally to pacify unsaved people in their sin while at the same time creating a superficial morality that is not based upon the salvific work of Christ alone! The tragic result is unredeemed people are left to feel comfortable and safe in a “Christian morality”—yet, they are still lost, still dead in their sins.2

This view, though common, does not stand up to scrutiny. First, it does not follow that because cultural reformers cannot make a culture blameless before God, we shouldn’t try to make it better for the weak and oppressed. I do not know of a single pro-life leader, for example, who argues that cultural reform can save souls eternally; only the gospel does that. The fact that cultural reform cannot get a man to heaven, however, does not mean that it cannot (in many cases through political means) save him from injustice here on earth. In short, pro-life advocates like me do not work for change in culture to save the world from spiritual death, but to save the most vulnerable members of the human family, the unborn, from physical death.

Second, the goal of cobelligerent cultural reform is not necessarily to change the hearts of individuals (whether saved or lost), but to restrain their evil acts. Martin Luther King, Jr., put it well: “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”3 The purpose of government, according to Scripture, is not to ensure salvation, but to promote justice (Rom. 13:1‑4). The primary purpose of the church, of course, is to preach the gospel of Christ, but if Christians, collectively, do not also challenge government to fulfill its duty to protect the weak and defenseless, who will?

Third, the notion that “there can be no real cultural impact apart from the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ” sounds good, but it is simply incorrect. Consider the moral evil of slavery in America, which did not end because of mass conversions to Christ. It ended when believers and nonbelievers joined forces to stand against it—and paid for it with the lives of 360,000 Union soldiers. Was the abolition of slavery not a “real” cultural improvement? True, it did not make those who participated right with God, but it did take the physical whips off the backs of oppressed people. That is moral and cultural improvement by any reasonable standard.

Fourth, it is not spiritually unacceptable for Christians to mobilize with non-Christians for causes other than preaching the gospel. Prior to the Civil War, Protestant clergy worked with non-Christians and organized the Underground Railroad to free black slaves. Anyone who thinks that God’s people are wasting their time pursuing social justice may want to take a look at how important it is to God:Jeremiah 5:26‑28; 9:24; Isaiah 1:16‑17, 21‑23; 58:6‑7; 61:8; Psalm 94:1‑23; Proverbs 24:1‑12;Matthew 25:41‑46.

Fifth, why should anyone suppose that pro-life advocacy detracts from the discipline responsibilities of the local church as outlined in Matthew 28? Simply put, the answer to a lack of evangelical fervor for the Gospel is not to withdraw our political advocacy for the weak and vulnerable; it’s to encourage Christians to do a better job presenting the gospel. We don’t have to stop rescuing the innocent to do that.

Pro-life advocacy, in fact, often serves an important preevangelistic function because it reawakens people’s moral intuitions. A skilled Christian apologist knows how to utilize this for the sake of the gospel. For example, once the man next to me on the plane concedes that right and wrong on these issues are real things and not just matters of personal taste, he’s now ready for me to ask, “So where do these moral rules come from?” They can’t just exist in a vacuum. If objective morals exist so does an objective moral lawgiver. At this point, I can implement apologist Gregory Koukl’s line of questioning and ask, “Have you ever committed moral crimes? And do you think that people who commit moral crimes deserve to be punished?”4 I may not persuade my conversation partner to convert on the spot, but I likely will get him to think about his moral culpability within the context of a Christian worldview.

It is not morally wrong even for Christians to focus, for example, on saving human lives rather than primarily on spreading the good news. The fire department, for example, is not “distracted” when it spends time putting out fires rather than preaching the gospel. The purpose of the fire department, clearly, is not theology, but rescue. Its job is to save lives. The same is true of the pro-life movement. Its primary goal is not to save souls, though we rejoice when that happens. Its mission is to protect lives. We don’t need a theological litmus test to do that.

Sixth, the theological claim that cultural reform efforts hinder the gospel because they leave unredeemed people feeling “safe” (falsely) in “superficial Christian morality” is misguided. Are we to conclude that God’s ability to save His elect decreases when cultural morality increases? That is counterintuitive and hardly consistent with the notion of God’s sovereignty. The fact that a person thinks that he is moral (like Saul of Tarsus once did) in no way limits God’s ability to save him. Most sinners, in fact, think that they are good prior to God granting them the gift of repentance. Following the critics’ logic, if an increase in cultural morality means fewer souls make it to heaven, shouldn’t Christians pray for evil to abound that more may be saved (cf. Rom. 3:86:1‑2)?

I’m often told that getting people to realize that certain acts are wrong only treats the symptom; it may well coerce them into living a more moral life, but without Christ, it will only serve to deaden their sense that they have sins that require forgiveness. Using this logic, one could argue that doctors who cure people of cancer are only treating a symptom and, in reality, are giving unsaved patients a false sense of security about their eternal states. One also could argue that evangelical leaders in the Sudan are wrong to partner with Catholics and Jews in reforming a militant Islamic culture (one bent on butchering its wives and children), because their cobelligerence only creates a superficial morality, one that leaves unregenerate men dead in their sins.

Koukl writes, “When someone tells me that laws can never change a fallen person’s heart, I ask them if they apply that philosophy to their children. Does the moral training of our children consist merely of preaching the Gospel to them? Wouldn’t we consider it unconscionable to neglect a child’s moral instruction with the excuse that laws can never change a child’s rebellious heart?”5

Seventh, why shouldn’t evangelicals work with Catholics or nonevangelicals against abortion? Gregg Cunningham of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform affirms that many Christians are inconsistent on this point. For example, if a critic of evangelical cobelligerence had a two-year-old daughter who stumbled into a swimming pool and needed immediate medical attention, he would gladly work with Catholic paramedics to save her life. If she were injured and needed surgery, it wouldn’t matter for a moment if the best surgeon were a Catholic operating out of a Catholic hospital. If the critic of cobelligerence will work with Catholics to save his own child, what’s wrong with working with them to save somebody else’s (unborn) child?

Cunningham points out, “The Good Samaritan did not preach salvation to the beating victim; he risked his own life to save a fellow traveler. Jesus used this example to illustrate our duty to love our neighbor. It is cold comfort to a dead baby that we allowed him to die to avoid working with Catholics.”6

Finally, critics of cobelligerence need to substantiate their claim that evangelicals are spending too much time on cultural reform. What is their evidence for this? Can they list even 10 churches in the United States with 1,000 members or more who systematically train their members to persuasively defend a biblical worldview on social justice issues? If not, perhaps we need to spend more time on cultural reform, not less.


  1. Steve Camp, “Are We Playing Politics with God?” f7b69a48e099e9e5825c44bda6624425.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Taken from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s address at Western Michigan University, December 18, 1963.
  4. Gregory Koukl, “Am I Going to Hell?” site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5098.
  5. Gregory Koukl, “No Hint of Politics,” Stand to Reason,
  6. Gregg Cunningham, personal correspondence with author, May 2001.

Community as the New High Priest, Or In Defense of Indvidualism

Interesting thoughts and warning on commuity and individual by Gerald Hiestand at SAET blog as he considers Boenhoffer.

Bonhoeffer has, of course, given us much to think about when it comes to the importance of living in community. In this respect he counters the radical individualism of modernity and post-modernity. Yet in emphasizing community, Bonhoeffer provides a needed reminder about the priority of the individual:

“Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called” (Life Together, 77).

Beware the man who cannot be alone, Bonhoeffer warns us.  An emphasis on community — when done in a way that absorbs and neutralizes the importance of the individual — presents an unbiblical picture of community and compromises the integrity of the very community being emphasized.

I have three children, and I love each of them as individuals — not simply as a collective whole. And I do not love them because they are part of my family in some generic sense, but because they are part of me. And their participation in my ontology (if I can use that term) is independent of their relation to each other.  The love they have for each other is a based on their love of the me that they see in each other. It is the me in them that ties them to each other. What’s more, they are not tied to me via their relationship with each other. Even in the case of adoption, a child is welcomed into the family via it’s relationship with the parents, and only by that relation does the adopted child have a relationship with the other children of the family. In the same way, Christ is the one that ties us to himself via our spiritual union with him, and it is our spiritual union with him that ties us to others, in as much as those others are also tied to Christ.

Or to say it again another way, we as individuals are baptized into Christ, and only thus are baptized into Christ’s body. It’s not the other way around.

Thus the evangelical impulse that causes us to prioritize one’s “personal relationship” with God as antecedent to an emphasis on community is proper and good. Certainly there is a reciprocal relationship between the individual and the community; the one who is baptized into Christ is indeed baptized into his body. But it is more proper to say that I am a part of the Church because I am a part of Christ, than to say I am a part of Christ because I am a part of the Church.

Emphasize community, but don’t make community a new (and illicit) High Priest.


A Prayer for a Fresh Connecting with Jesus

by Scotty Smith

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13

Dear Jesus, this simple story is simply what I need this morning. Peter and John, two unschooled, ordinary fishermen were noticeably different and engaged in life because “these men had been with Jesus”—with you, the same Lord who lives in our hearts and rules all things from heaven. More than anything else I need fresh, vital fellowship with you, Jesus.

Though it’d be nice to astonish others and hear comments like, “He’s obviously been with Jesus. What else could explain his merciful heart for the broken; his outrage in the face of injustice; his calm in the midst of provocations. What other motivation would he have for loving so boldly, forgiving so deeply and giving so generously? He’s been with Jesus, alright.” Jesus, as nice as that would be, that’s not at all what I’m thinking about and longing for this morning.

Jesus, I don’t really care what people think or don’t think about me right now, what they say or don’t say about me. I crave fresh fellowship with you in the core of my being. Union with you by faith is one thing, but vital heart engaged communion with you is quite another. I’ve got great theology, I want Spirit-generated doxology.

Doing things for you is not the same thing as spending life-giving time with you. Thinking great thoughtsabout you is not the same thing as connecting intimately with you. Helping others understand the gospel is not the same thing as crying out with the Psalmist,

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips. (Ps. 63:3-5 ESV)

Come, Holy Spirit, come. Ignite within each of our hearts renewed affections and life-changing communion with Jesus. That’s what we need and want more than anything else. We pray with famished and expectant hearts, in Jesus’ most gracious and loving name.


The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me

by C.S. Lewis

The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance