Christianity – Something Else Entirely

To most people in our society, Christianity is religion and moralism. The only alternative to it (besides some other world religion) is pluralistic secularism. But from the beginning it was not so. Christianity was recognized as a tertium quid, something else entirely.

The crucial point here is that, in general, religiously observant people were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him. We see this throughout the New Testament accounts of Jesus’s life. In every case where Jesus meets a religious person and a sexual outcast (as in Luke 7) or a religious person and a racial outcast (as in John 3-4) or a religious person and a political outcast (as in Luke 19), the outcast is the one who connects with Jesus and the elder-brother type does not. Jesus says to the respectable religious leaders ‘the tax collectors and the prostitutes enter the kingdom before you’ (Matthew 21:31).

Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think.

Tim Keller

Christmas Quote

What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of Days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infant’s bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.
John Chrysostom

Praying from Scripture

“It is one thing to pray, “Lord, please be with us through this day.” It is quite another to pray, “Lord remember your promise, ‘I will never leave nor forsake you’ ”(Heb. 13:5). Can you sense the difference? It is one thing to pray, “As we begin our prayer, we thank you for the privilege of bringing our petitions to you.” It is quite another to pray, “We come at your invitation, O Christ, for you have promised, ‘Ask and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.’ And so we come asking, seeking, and knocking” (Matt. 7:7-8). It is one thing to pray in the middle of tragedy, “Lord we know that you have a plan.” That is a true, valid, and comforting thing to pray. Even so, it is quite another to pray, “O Lord, you have numbered the hairs upon our heads. You are working all things after the counsel of your will. Not even a sparrow may fall from a tree apart from you. You cause all things to work together for good for those who love you, and are called according to your purpose” (Matt. 10:29-30; Eph. 1:11; Rom. 8:28). More effectively comfort the hearts of your people by echoing the promises of Scripture in your prayers.” (Terry Johnson and Ligon Duncan III, “Reading and Praying the Bible in Corporate Worship” in Give Praise to God, ed. by Phillip Ryken, Derek Thomas and Ligon Duncan III, p. 159)

[ht:Praying Publicly (audio, outline)]

The Gospel and Achievers

When the strength of the evangelical movement is found in the suburbs and among the people who are socially upwardly mobile, there is a tendency to think that the gospel is primarily for the achievers in society….While the upwardly mobile must not be neglected…the church must not ignore those who are at the bottom of the pile.  It is good news just as much for the marginalized who aren’t going anywhere because they have nowhere to go.” (ChurchNext by Eddie Gibbs pp. 59-60)

Culinary Pornography: Our Culture’s Unhealthy Obesession with Food

I came across this post when I was doing research for my paper on the food motif in Scripture:

In Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis writes on the Christian view of sex and sexuality, and says that sex is an appetite, and like all appetites, it should be fed in healthy ways but not titillated, not indulged, not gorged. One sign that our sexual appetites are totally out of bounds is the growing phenomenon–Lewis was writing in the 1940s–of striptease shows. He wrote: “Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theater by simply bringing a covered plate onto the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see…that it contained a mutton chop or bit of bacon, would not you think that in that country something had gone wrong in the appetite of food?” I read those words in the mid-’80s, when one of the advertisements frequently on television featured an item of food–I don’t remember what–that was unveiled to an audience in exactly the manner Lewis described. Our preoccupation with food has entered the realm of the absurd. Look at any magazine–page after page of succulent, sauce-laden, sugar-sparkling, fat-glistening food. It’s a kind of culinary pornography. McDonald’s golden arches and Coca-Cola’s logo are more widely recognized symbols than the cross of Christ. Our world’s most prevalent iconography enshrines food.

[source: Buchanan, Mark. 2001. “Go fast and live: hunger as spiritual discipline.” Christian Century 118, no. 7: 16-20.]