How to Help Afghans and Haitians
There have been several tragedies in the world since last week's letter. Between the horrific and shameful violence in Afghanistan and the tragic earthquake in Haiti, Christians in the West have an opportunity to step up and help.
First, of course, we can pray.
King of all creation, we know you are sovereign. This is your world, and we are your people. We pray for Afghanistan. We pray for your sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters there. We pray that you would protect them and that your name would be a light in a place becoming engulfed in darkness. Please, Lord, have mercy upon them and save.
We pray for the Taliban soldiers, Lord. Let your Holy Spirit move among them. Let your people be witnesses to your majesty, glory, and grace. I pray that they would come to know you. For those who do not humble themselves in service to you, we pray that their evil would be restrained. Keep them from harming the innocent. If in your good will you do not bring restraint upon them, I pray that you would bring judgment. Vengeance is yours. You are good. Bring justice to the martyrs who cry out in blood before your throne.
Help our leaders to be wise in dealing with this awful evil.
In your holy name we pray, amen.
Lord of heaven and earth, we know that the earth and the fullness of it are yours. But we also know that creation is laboring under a curse and so it sometimes lashes out in those pains. We understand the scientific and material causes behind such a tragedy as an earthquake, but we also understand that we were not meant to suffer and die in this way. We know that the Haitians were not worse sinners than the rest, and so we labor to bring healing and help to them.
We pray, Lord, that you would bring help and healing to this battered people. Heal their broken land and help the people suffering from injuries. Comfort those who have lost loved ones. Bring the light of the gospel and revival into the hearts of the people.
In the name of Messiah Jesus, Amen
How You Can Help
If you'd like to help, these two articles from Relevant Magazine will give you a few places to start:
Living This Christian Life 🤴👸
Both host Sean McDowell and guest Rachel Welcher have recently written books (see below) on 90s American “Purity Culture” and how we ought to understand sexuality as Christians today.
Purity culture taught (and in some churches, still teaches) a sort of “prosperity gospel for sex.” Wrapped up in purity culture is the idea that if you remain “pure” (that is, no sexual touching) you will be rewarded by God with a great spouse, kids, and great sex.
In the years since the prosperity gospel was in its fullness, American Christians have generally seen the sub-truth of that teaching, but have reacted in wildly different ways. Some big “purity culture” proponents have apologized and left the faith entirely.
Others have returned to the rule of our faith and tried to biblically discern what the scriptures really say about sexuality and how to apply it to our modern culture. Not in a reactionary way where we too often end up in an opposite ditch, but in a creationary way by trying to build from the scriptures a sexual ethic.
- Chasing Love: Sex, Love, and Relationships in a Confused Culture | Sean McDowell 📚
- Talking Back to Purity Culture | Rachel Joy Welcher 📚
Consider the Culture 🎨
In this fascinating podcast, host Collin Hansen interviews Christian journalist Jerry Mitchell, who has spent several of the last decades unearthing evidence against murderers that others have tried to forget.
These murders occurred in the Jim Crow south, those murdered were black or white sympathizers, and the murderers were Klansmen.
He tells this story more fully in a new book: Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era | Jerry Mitchell, 📚.
Consider Another Perspective 🤔
When God restored Job’s fortunes, he also doubled his wealth. Should Christians pray for God to do the same for us today?
Dr. Piper finds a difference between the covenant and religion of the Old Testament and the covenant and religion of the New. In his words (paraphrased), “The religion of the Old Testament was a ‘come see’ religion that used prosperity as a marker of divine blessing on Israel, while the religion of the New Testament stresses a ‘go tell’ attitude with sacrifice and generosity as its markers. We should be showing that our trust is not in this world or wealth but in Christ alone.”
So in Piper’s view, the answer is “sometimes”. But then this brings up the question of whether we should pray for an end to any kind of suffering. He notes that scripture does not see suffering as good or desirable, and therefore it’s permissible to pray for its end. But God’s answer may be no, because he may use suffering to accomplish a greater good.
The aim of the Christian is not to suffer, but to love, and to accept whatever suffering that love requires.
I think that in Piper’s view, praying for additional wealth to give your family necessities, to spread the gospel, or to give is permissible, but praying for more wealth for the sake of wealth or pleasure over the kingdom is idolatry.
This topic is so crucial to Christianity in the West, and my words are a poor representation of his, so please listen to this short podcast.
Read and Reflect 📖
Dr. Prior, an English professor at Southern Baptist Seminary, writes about how she tries to explain the contexts behind various authors and their tales. Each book comes with the baggage of the author’s world and worldview, and understanding that world and worldview helps us to understand, sympathize with, and properly interpret an author. It allows us to see their shortcomings and their mistakes.
Recently, Prior came to a realization:
I try to explain all of these contexts and historical developments as dispassionately, academically, and empathetically as I can. I try to help my students understand the mindsets and blind spots of other people in other times sympathetically, urging them (and myself) not to judge with undue (but, yes, certainly, due) harshness those who lived so long ago for their ignorance, their gullibility, their corruption, and their blindness. I have assured my students that we today are no more enlightened, no more advanced, and no more knowledgeable than they in the things that really matter.
The events of one hundred or one thousand years ago seem so clear to those of us examining them through the pages of literature and history books. So why has it been so hard for me to see the troubles of the church in my own time when it is so easy to see theirs then? I guess for the same reasons it was difficult for them.
Just as they were, I am part of the systems and structures which, along with doing good, do evil. Knowing people who have abused or harbored abuse and corruption, working with them, even loving them, I see now how complicated it all is. I see how hard it is when you are in the middle of it, living in the moment, to see the bigger picture, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And how hard it can be, when you are on the inside, even when you do see the truth, to do the right thing.
It is so easy to look with a critical eye on our forefathers' mistakes. How will future generations see us?
Explore the Scriptures 📖
In this lengthy article, Sam Emadi examines the Old Testament practice of polygamy (marrying multiple people, in the Bible, always one man and multiple women).
Most who read the Bible soon notice a rather odd tension between Scripture’s sexual ethics and the often gross sexual perversions of many of the Old Testament’s main characters. Perhaps the most obvious example involves the somewhat frequent occurrence of polygamy in the Old Testament, even among otherwise faithful saints like Abraham and David.
We must remember that Scripture is not an ethical manual. Even its law codes are not designed to be used verbatim (this is an often overlooked point, and perhaps I’ll return to argue for it in another issue). It is emphatically not “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”. It is a story of God’s relations with mankind, with all the messiness and wonder the comes along with that. Into this, Emadi points out:
Scripture nowhere presents polygamy and concubinage as part of God’s design for creation or as morally licit. While modern skeptics may suggest that Scripture uncritically embraces the polygamous and polyamorous practices of ancient cultures, the actual teachings of Scripture suggest otherwise. Far from being complicit in the sexual deviance of ancient cultures — deviance that harmed and oppressed women and children — both the Old and New Testaments rigidly uphold monogamy as normative.
At the heart of this discussion is how we derive ethical principles from Scripture. Yes, Scripture records acts of polygamy and concubinage among Old Testament saints. But description is not prescription. Recording an action — even an action of an otherwise upstanding “hero” of the biblical narrative — is not in itself a commendation of that action. Few characters in Scripture emerge as heroically as the apostles, but no one suggests the Gospel writers want us to imitate Peter’s denial of Jesus.
I have quoted only from the beginning of Emadi’s article. If you’re interested in more, get a pen and paper to take notes.
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Christianity Is True ✝️
Which has primacy: philosophy or science? Atheism usually views science as the only (or at least best) way to know what is true. Stephen Hawking famously said that philosophy is dead…before continuing to do philosophy. There is an interesting undercurrent and thought among atheists and scientists that they can tell us philosophical truths through science, but philosophers can’t tell us scientific truths through philosophy. Therefore, science is primary.
Christian scientific organization Reasons to Believe’s resident theologian and philosopher Dr. Ken Samples joins SAFT Apologetics to discuss the importance of philosophy, and how science sits on the foundation of philosophy.
- Classic Christian Thinkers: An Introduction | Kenneth Samples 📚
- God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader | Kenneth Samples 📚
Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️
A new Christian consortium, dedicated to preserving religious liberty, is promoting its mission with militaristic imagery and language. The group’s website uses terms like “battle,” “fighters,” and “war.” It’s clear the founders of this organization see themselves as being on the front lines of the conflict for the soul of our nation. They’re proud participants in the ongoing culture war.
To some, this approach may seem legitimate. After all, in the struggle for dominance between polarized groups, only one side can emerge victoriously—and it isn’t the side that refuses to fight.
The question we must ask is this: Is a warlike posture the proper response to an increasingly anti-Christian society? Does such an approach represent the “wisdom that comes down from above,” or the wisdom that is “earthly, unspiritual, [and] demonic” (James 3:13–18)?
I cannot recommend this short article to you enough.
Keep Your Mind on Things Above
I will be praying for you this week.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
— Matthew 5:9 (CSB)
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