Friday, May 21, 2010

Reasoning Together

While on a bike ride this afternoon, I was thinking about a recent comment made by a Facebook friend of mine. It was a quote of Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD..." And then commentary lamenting that evangelicals don't do much thinking these days, in contrast to this command of God regarding reasoning.

I have to agree in a sense with what my young friend was saying in his comment. Modern, or should I say postmodern, American evangelicalism seems to have a real challenge thinking deeply about much of anything. But then, I'm not so sure this is limited to evangelicals. Just look at the urbane, banal, superficial, fantastic and fleeting subjects that seem to capture the attention of the American public at large, and it's evident that thinking deep thoughts and applying the laws of logic and reason in public and private discourse are rare commodities. Most evangelicals seem to be more shaped by this emotions-over-mind culture than by the words of God. And this affects so much in the life of the average Christian, who fails to think deep thoughts about God, the only One who is worthy of deep thinking, and indeed requires deep thoughts about Him to begin to comprehend Him as He's revealed Himself to us. So yeah, I'm with my friend in this sense.

But I also see another sense in which certain segments of the postmodern church violate this command as well. Not by not thinking or applying reason, but by doing so in the wrong manner. Just as anti-intellectualism is un-Biblical and un-Christian, so also is super-intellectualism. By that I mean overly embracing the deep thoughts and philosophies of those who are wise according to this world, but foolish towards the things of God. I see a tendency among some, especially the young, to become fascinated with the thinking and writings of man-centered philosophies, and seek in some way to reconcile or combine these views with Biblical Christianity.

But how does God say we should reason, in Isaiah 1:18? He commands us to reason "together," to think with Him. We are to apply the rational minds that God has given us to think along with Him, with our thinking and reasoning informed and transformed by His thoughts. To be sure, His thoughts are higher and deeper than ours can ever be (Isaiah 55:9). But at the same time, if we are in Christ then His Spirit dwells within us and leads to transformation in our thinking (Romans 12:1-2). In fact, we are told that we have the very mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:13). Therefore any thinking Christian needs to first and foremost be reasoning with the mind, will, purpose, nature and authority of God in view, as He's revealed these things to us. We must reason together with Him.

But if our starting point for thinking deep thoughts about spiritual things begins not with the mind of God and His revelation of that mind to us, but instead with the philosophies and ideas of men apart from Christ, we are not reasoning together with Him, but with them. Beginning our thinking with any philosophical system or worldview or metanarrative that is sourced in the reasoning of man cannot lead us to a deeper understanding of God, but will instead lead us away from Him. And try as hard as many might, it is impossible to reconcile these thought systems with the mind of God, since they're sourced elsewhere and are in fact in opposition to Him. How can one rationalize existential thought with the God who defines existence? OK, so Kierkegaard tried, but not so successfully. How can one make sense of postmodernism's claims to reject all metanarratives or "big stories" with the redemptive history of God revealed in His word? How can the meaninglessness of nihilism be of use in understanding or explaining the God who alone creates meaning by His purposes and actions?

There is, however, one sense in which studying the man-made philosophies and thoughts of deep thinkers according to the mind of man can and should be useful to the Christian. And that is to allow us to better understand the spiritual bankruptcy of these ideas and ideologies apart from God. Every one of these thinkers and thoughts are an expression of the depravity of man's mind in isolation from the mind of God. If we engage in reading the works of Hegel, Nietzsche, Sartre, Rorty, Lyotard, Foucault, and others, while at the same time reasoning together with God, we will gain insight into where the corrupted mind of man will go apart from the redeeming grace of Christ. And we'll gain deeper insight into the thoughts and views of those in the world around us, making the gospel of Christ shine even brighter. To the praise of His glorious grace.

So come, let's reason together...with God.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Otherwise Occupied

So yeah, the posting here at the Den has been pretty sparse of late. Well, life's like that sometimes. Seems I've been otherwise occupied with a number of time-consuming things that have precluded me from paying much attention to this blog. And what are those things? Well, thanks for asking.

The launch of a new ministry focus and vision at my church has involved me getting hands on with a new blog site intended to help communicate and engage members in the process. The whole thing is themed Even More, and is rooted in Jesus' words in John 15:2 - "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit." God's done incredibly gracious things in our church over a number of years, and now we sense Him leading us to ask Him to do even more. Which is expressing itself in a number of ways, which will be rolled out as the plan unfolds. This really is an exciting time to be part of Highland Park Church, and I'm loving being able to play the role of content guy for this one component of the whole thing. So go check out the blog site at

Related to parts of the new ministry vision roll out are a couple other things keeping me occupied. As I've noted in previous posts, I'm developing a new in-depth study of Ephesians, 26 lessons worth, to begin teaching in one of our new flock groups launching this fall. Lots of exegesis and application left to do there (I'm working on lesson 3 now). And I'm also working on a sermon I'll be preaching in August as part of a series on the letters to the seven churches in Revelation. Got the exegesis done, now starting to think about homiletics. I'm expositing on Christ's words to the church at Philadelphia, the faithful church that needs to persevere to be overcomers. Great stuff.

And outside of that, I've also been putting a lot of time and effort into some work-related things. Since I serve as a volunteer leader for the Utilities Community of the Americas SAP User Group (ASUG), I've been heavily involved in planning and prep for the ASUG Annual Conference coming up next week in Orlando. In fact, I just finished packing and am flying to Orlando in the morning, will be emceeing a group meeting all day Sunday and then helping with the rest of the conference the rest of the week. Expecting 15,000+ people. Yep, it's a big deal. The Amazing Algore is one of the keynote speakers, along with Colin Powell and others. Of course, the best part is the free Santana concert on Wednesday nite.

So sorry if you few readers out there, wherever you are, haven't had much silage to chew on here lately. I have been occupado, and will be for a bit more. But I promise eventually to get back to something of substance here. Someday...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Blessings All Mine...I Mean Ours

Working on exegesis of Ephesians chapter one for teaching prep, and am taking apart verse 3. Paul here is opening up this long section outlining the blessings of God upon His people. A careful examination of this single verse gives some deep insight into these blessings, which we so often breeze over. And also gives us a much more Biblical understanding of what the term "blessing" really means in God's view.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

First, we see that the blessings in view here are already ours. Note the past tense: "has blessed us." Not will, of might, or could, or is. The tense is in the past. God has already given these blessings to us. They are ours now.

Second, we see that the blessings are sufficient. We have been given "every" blessing. There are no good things the Father intends to bless us with that He has withheld. Every means complete, sufficient for all our needs.

Third, these blessings are not physical. They are in fact "spiritual." There are of course physical blessings from God, such as children, spouses, friends, employment, health, etc. But that's not what Paul has in view here. The focus is on the eternal spiritual good that God has done for us. This alone destroys the false ideas of the health and wealth gospel charlatans.

Fourth, the blessings are not of this world. They have their reality anchored "in the heavenly places." God's good to us finds its ultimate fulfillment not here and now, but there and then, for eternity.

Fifth, these blessings are available only through Jesus Christ. God the Father has given His blessings not arbitrarily, but specifically to those who are "in Christ." The goodwill of the Father has flowed to His people through their trust in and unions with His Son.

And lastly, these blessings are given to the church. Notice that Paul says God has "blessed us." The inclusive plural reference makes it clear that these blessings from God the Father are to us. To individuals, yes. Each person must embrace the gospel and Christ personally. But the blessings listed here are for us, corporately, the people who God has specifically chosen as His to receive His blessings, as a community of His people. In fact, verse 4 goes on to reinforce that intentionality of God in providing these blessings through His Son: "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him."

This first opening verse of Paul's benediction serves as a gateway to the great truths contained in the rest of this section of the letter. All the details of those blessings -  chosen by the Father, adopted as children, redeemed by the Son, heirs of God, sealed in the Spirit - have to be linked back to these fundamental principles.

Blessings all mine,,,I mean ours. With ten thousand beside...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hold On, It's Comin...

Wow, it's been almost a month since I last posted something here. Lots of stuff been happening, like the death of my wife's father, but I haven't been in the posting mood lately. But right now I have two projects going on. One the development of a large study (26 lessons) of the epistle to the Ephesians. The other preparation for preaching on Revelation 3:7-13, the letter to the church at Philadelphia, later this summer. Both of these are challenging texts for exegesis and homiletic study. And I intend to share some of these bits of insight with you couple of faithful readers in the near future. So hold on, it's comin'.