Issue #42

Best Christian Music of 2021, Paradise Lost, Shame Deserved and Undeserved, and more...

Issue #42
Photo by @felipepelaquim / Unsplash

Bible Study: Hebrews Part 7 (2:1–4) — Pay Attention to Jesus

In Hebrews 1, we saw an introduction (Hebrews 1:1–4) that tells us about a Son of God. Then, seven quotations from the Hebrew scriptures form an argument that this Son is greater than the angels. That this Son is distinct from the Father, but nonetheless fully deity.

The author breaks off his argument to give a short aside and application of his argument in Hebrews 1…

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Have Some Fun 👾

The Best Christian Music of 2021 | Brett McCracken 📃 →

I appreciate McCracken’s work in compiling this list. I found some music I wasn’t aware of, and I really try to be on top of new Christian music! I also appreciate that McCracken doesn’t go to the top “radio music” but goes into the thriving Christian indie music scene to find gems. I can recommend the top two albums on his list, they’re outstanding.

In addition to his top six, he has a top-five of hymn albums and a few other lists like that. You're bound to find something you like in his various lists. I’ve also embedded a few songs off of McCracken’s Spotify playlist of the top 100 songs of the year.

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Explore the Scriptures 📖

Q&A: A Bible Scholar Answers Your Questions about the Book of Revelation (Tom Schreiner) | Crossway Podcast 🎧 →

The Book of Revelation is the most confusing book of scripture. It’s a mix of genres, and much of it is “apocalyptic,” which is deeply unfamiliar to modern readers. It’s full of allusions to the Old Testament prophets, probably the area of scripture that most Christians are least familiar with.

Dr. Schreiner has written multiple books on Revelation, and I’m thankful for his intellectual humility. Some Christians are so certain in their eschatological (end-times) beliefs, but the truth is that scripture is not especially clear on the topic. I have some eschatological beliefs that I hold, but the level of confidence that I have is so much lower than my belief that, for example, God raised Jesus from the dead.

For More:

Consider Another Perspective 🤔

LGBTQ Relationships and the Bible: A Progressive and Evangelical Dialogue with Colby Martin | Sean McDowell 📽 →

We need more conversations like this, where people of differing views on important topics can humbly and kindly, yet strongly, discuss and push back on each others’ beliefs.

This topic is so theologically and politically charged that I was nervous to watch it despite having watched their earlier dialogue. I was afraid that they would either not push back on each other at all, or that it would devolve into the name-calling that too many politically charged conversations do. Yet both McDowell and Martin managed to watch that tightrope line of staying above the belt, yet also lovingly pushing back onto each others’ positions.

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Christianity Is True ✝️

Does Modern Cosmology Prove the Existence of God? | Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig 🎧 →

One of the arguments for the existence of God that Dr. Craig is most famous for popularizing is the “Kalam” Cosmological Argument. As Dr. Craig formulates it, it looks like this:

  1. What begins to exist has a cause for its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its existence.

This simple deductive (the conclusion—point three—is logically necessary if the premises—points one and two—are true) argument may seem to have little to do with God. But as Dr. Craig argues, it does have an important bearing on the question of the existence of God.

In this podcast, a naturalistic science writer argues that the Kalam doesn’t prove the existence of God. And he is right…and wrong. Dr. Craig carefully explains.

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Church History Corner ⛪️

Paradise Lost: A Reader’s Guide to a Christian Classic | Leland Ryken 📃 →

I’ve never read Paradise Lost, but Ryken’s article made me feel like I need to read it! It’s not scripture, and part of the reason I’ve shied away from it is that I know there are some untrue and unbiblical ideas in Milton’s story. Ryken nonetheless sees importance and beauty in Paradise Lost, and it’s worth reading with the knowledge that it’s a story that takes biblical ideas but is not strictly biblical itself.

An epic tells a story (and in fact many stories), but its way of telling a story is different from what modern readers are accustomed to. The successor to the epic as a species of long narrative was the novel, and what was particularly new about the novel was its realism. The novel gives us a slice of life in the everyday world. Epic, by contrast, is myth — a story of supernatural characters, events, and places. So the first thing we need to expect as we come to read an epic is myth rather than realism.

One further way in which epic springs a surprise on us is that it is poetry. We expect long fictional stories to be written in everyday prose. In the history of literature, that is a recent development, coming on the scene with the rise of a middle-class reading public in the middle of the eighteenth century. Epic is a hybrid of poetry and story, and we need to give equal attention to both.

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Listen and Learn 🎧

What does “All Israel will be saved” Mean? | Naked Bible Podcast with Dr. Michael Heiser 🎧 →

It’s common among Christians to interpret Paul’s statement that “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:25-26) to refer to mean that national Israel will be saved by God in the end or that all Jews will eventually turn to the messiah in the end times. But is that what Paul meant? How would we know? This episode discusses Paul’s statement and these questions.

Here is the passage being discussed:

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
“and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

Shame, Deserved and Undeserved | David Baggett 📃 →

This short article is from a few months ago but it’s nonetheless important because it shows us the Gospel in a different way.

Whereas guilt reveals that we have morally transgressed, shame pertains more to who we are, not just what we have done. And so shame can be particularly damaging if we allow it to detract from recognizing the value we have in God, which it can all too easily do. If we become convinced that we are useless, that our lives are pointless, that we as people lack value, it becomes exponentially harder to see ourselves as creations of God with infinite dignity and value and worth. The topic of shame is thus vitally important for moral apologists to think about and understand.

A temptation is to think that all shame is bad—nothing but a toxic emotion. Whereas guilt might be fine, shame is thought to just saddle us with needless negative emotional baggage. Victims of abuse may feel great shame over what happened to them, even though they did nothing wrong. That is undeserved shame, and the problem is not theirs. It’s all of ours; we need to listen to such victims, not sideline them, nor silence them, but give them a voice and really hear them. There is also deserved shame, however. If I do something shameful, I should feel shame—if I were the abuser of that victims we just discussed, for example. Not that anyone should let shame decimate their sense of self or think of themselves as unredeemable, nor should engage in the practice of shaming. That is different, and little compatible with loving our neighbors as ourselves. To get a better understanding of shame, both undeserved and deserved, let’s consider an example of both.

I did a quick search and “shame” appears 153 times in the English Standard Version (ESV). Yet how often do we talk about “shame” today? Sometimes, but the meaning is different for eastern cultures. We talk about shame as an emotion, but in eastern cultures, shame is a loss of “social capital”—a loss of standing within the community.

Perhaps you have watched a movie in which someone from Asia loses their honor (the opposite of shame in these societies) and suicide rather than live with their shame. Israel and the Roman Empire deal with shame much closer to these depictions of Asian culture, and that is foreign to us.

Baggett’s article differentiates between deserved and undeserved shame and what we can learn from that morally and Biblically.

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

“Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they disfigure their faces so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
— Matthew 6:16–18 (CSB)

Joel Fischer