Issue #51

New Testament Letters Q&A, Evangelical Politics, Jesus Wants Your Wallet, and More...

Issue #51
Photo by Josh Appel / Unsplash

From the Garden 🌳

Book Review: Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just (Tim Keller) 📃 →

Keller opens his book by answering two questions: first, who is this book for, and second, why write a book on social justice when so many Evangelical Christians are suspicious of the term?

To answer the first question, Keller answers with three groups: the young who are more interested in their social status than in helping those in need (xv), those who view “social justice” or “doing justice” with suspicion (ibid.), and those younger people who are very interested in “doing justice” but are leaving behind Evangelical Christian doctrine.

To answer the second question, he tells a story of a fellow student at seminary who was African-American, who told him, “You’re a racist, you know.” (xxi)

Keep Reading →

Christianity Is True ✝️

How Did the Apostles Die? | Joshua Lewis, Michael Rowntree, Michael Miller, and Sean McDowell 📽 →

The Remnant radio crew interviewed Sean McDowell about his work in studying the history of the apostles and their martyrdom. What can we know historically and what is shrouded in myth? I’ve heard from many different Christian preachers and teachers that, “all the apostles except John were martyred for their faith” but evidence isn’t provided.

I’ve read the book that came from Dr. McDowell’s thesis, and his conclusions might surprise you.

Explore the Scriptures 📖

Which New Testament Commands Should We Obey? Letters Q+R | Tim Mackie and Jon Collins 🎧 →

If you’ve had questions about the New Testament letters, it’s probably asked in this podcast. Tim Mackie and Jon Collins field questions as part of their “How to Read the New Testament Letters” series and respond. I’ve listed their own brief description of each question below.

  • Could it be beneficial to memorize and perform New Testament letters?
  • Did Paul craft his letters as meditation literature?
  • What was included when Paul said “all Scripture” was God-breathed?
  • What about 1 Enoch?
  • Did Paul know his letters were inspired?
  • Are the letters wisdom or commands?
  • Why doesn’t the Bible condemn owning slaves?
  • What does it mean to submit to government authorities?

These are all great, and difficult, questions, that I believe are handled well.

Challenge Your Brain 🧠

Why Should Christians Study Ethics? | Jason Thacker 📃 →

I believe this debate over the value and nature of worldview reveals a deeper chasm within Christianity, especially in Protestantism, over our understanding of the proper relationship between theology and ethics. To many, Christian ethics is seen just as the mere application of Christian theology, meaning it doesn’t need to be studied as formally as theology. It is often unintentionally downplayed — subsumed under the theological discipline rather than studied as a crucial element of the Christian worldview alongside theology.

As a result, Christian ethics is frequently neglected in theological education. Many college and seminary graduates entering ministry receive at most one or two courses in ethics as opposed to numerous required courses in theology, biblical studies, and the languages — unless they choose an ethics or philosophy concentration. This emphasis on theology and doctrine is laudable given the biblical emphasis on knowing truth and the ongoing rejection of traditional Christian theological beliefs over the last century or so throughout society. But what good is a head full of knowledge if those beliefs either aren’t put into practice or are put into practice wrongly? It is true that God willingly discloses himself and certain truths throughout Scripture, but equally important is that God also reveals to us how we are to live in light of those truths. Unfortunately, our lack of emphasis on and formal study of ethics is seen throughout many of our churches today as our beliefs, too often, are not reflected in our actions.

As might be expected with an article from the “Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission,” Thacker finds great importance in the study of Christian ethics. I agree with him, the study of ethics has often been subsumed by theological education. Theology is important, but ethics is at the root of so many debates and problems in Evangelical circles right now. Evangelicals largely share the same basic theological commitments, so why are the debates so heated and entrenched? In part, a difference in the application of our theology, which is ethics.

Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

Evangelical Politics: Theology or Sociology? | David French and Curtis Chang 🎧 →

There has been a building discussion in Evangelical circles about the extent to which some secondary and tertiary doctrines are built on the text of scripture or the cultures we are formed through.

Tune into today’s episode as Curtis and David tackle the fascinating interaction between politics, culture, and the Bible… and end with a surprising take on abortion and systemic racism.

I think that this is a careful and insightful primer on the debate. This is coming from a perspective that systemic racism is a real and remaining problem in America. No matter your position on that debate or any other, it’s worth stepping back and asking how much of your theology is shaped by liberal, or conservative, or white, or black, or any other culture, rather than the text of scripture. It's impossible to completely escape our lenses, but we must make the effort to see scripture from the culture it was written, not in our own culture(s). What lenses have you been seeing scripture through?

Listen and Learn 🎧

I Enjoy Being Alone — Is That Unloving? | John Piper 🎧 →

God made some Christians to enjoy spending a lot of time alone. But what makes the difference between a Christian loner and a self-centered loner?

Introvert or extrovert? What’s your enneagram? What animal are you? Most people have a self-understanding of their personality type. Part of that is how we relate to other people. Do you feel energized by being around others, or do you prefer to be alone? Piper, with typical pastoral care, answers a question that is on the mind of many Christian introverts.

Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

Jesus Wants Your Wallet | Douglas A. Sweeney 📃 →

I’ve included this link and the below together because they both address the same fundamental problem: American Christians do not give much money to charitable causes. I’m going to quote from Sweeney’s article.

According to a recent poll by Infinity Concepts and Grey Matter Research, 19 percent of American evangelicals (defined by belief in the authority of Scripture, the importance of evangelism, penal substitution, and gospel exclusivity) give no money whatsoever to churches or charities. Among those with six-figure incomes, 10 percent gave nothing in the past 12 months. (Those who did give donated 4 percent of their income to churches and charities. And when evangelicals who don’t give anything are factored in, that number falls to 3.2 percent.)

Bear in mind that these numbers are inflated by a small group of very big givers. The median figure is worse. It is only 1 percent, which means half of evangelicals give less than 1 percent of their income to churches and charities. (Americans at large give at much the same rate; being an evangelical Christian makes very little difference when it comes to generosity.)

As if this weren’t enough to convince us of the need to improve, the Barna Group reports that younger Christians give at even lower rates than their elders. This has yielded what some now call a “generosity gap,” which does not bode well for the future.

Most believers today think God wants to bless them with financial resources. In 2018, LifeWay conducted a survey in which 69 percent of American Protestant churchgoers affirmed that “God wants me to prosper financially.” And the more these respondents went to church, the more likely they were to say God wants to prosper them. Evangelical respondents—defined, again, by belief—were the most certain of all that God wants to give them money (75 percent).

Sweeney’s article then approaches the Bible again to look at the question of giving. How does God call us to steward our money? Does God want us to be financially blessed? Are we called to give, and why?

Charitable Giving Isn’t Optional. Do It Well. | Paul Rezkalla 📃 →

Rezkalla’s article takes the assumption that we should be giving, but if we do give, how should we give? I will again quote at length.

We tend to think of giving to charity as a heroic act: something that’s good and praiseworthy when you do it, but not bad if you don’t do it. I myself had this attitude into my early adulthood despite inhabiting biblically faithful circles all my life.

How did we lose track of such an important thread of the biblical narrative? Scripture makes more than 2,000 references to the poor and uses strong language to describe our obligations to those who can’t acquire their basic necessities:

Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise (Luke 3:11)

If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:17–18)

If we can feed the hungry, heal the sick, and clothe the naked by forgoing some extravagances of Western living, are we not required to do at least that? How can we claim to love with Christ’s love if we use our financial blessings on our luxuries when there are people who have neither food nor drink?

Here the inevitable question arises: “But how much should I give?”

The two of these articles together will only take you 15 minutes to read. I commend you to take those 15 minutes are be inspect your life. Are you willing to sell all that you have for the kingdom (Matthew 13:44), or does money have power over you (Hebrews 13:5)?

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
— Matthew 6:33 (CSB)

Joel Fischer