Musical Masterpiece 🎼
I shared McCracken’s “best Christian music” article last year and it was full of great music. This year is no different. I’ve listened to many of these new albums, but I’ve also missed many. Personally, I enjoy the style of music that he seems to enjoy (worship and folk music), but he also shares a variety of genres. I’ve embedded a few songs below.
Find Something You'll Love 🎁
This is the time of year that “best of 2022” lists and 2022 retrospectives roll out. I’ll be sharing some that I enjoy as I see them. The Gospel Coalition often has good retrospective lists. This one asks the editorial staff about the best books they read in the past year. They may be newer or older books and fit into various genres—from historical fiction to theology. I found many books that struck me as interesting I had never heard of.
This is completely optional, and everything that is currently free will continue to be free. Thank you for reading The Garden Weekly.
Listen and Learn 🎧
In another retrospective for 2022, professors Sean McDowell and Scott Rae look at a set of reports on the beliefs of Americans, how those beliefs have changed recently, and how those beliefs line up with core orthodox Christian beliefs.
Every year it seems that Americans who profess to be conservative “Evangelical” Christians know less about the Bible and orthodox belief. Perhaps this is an effect of the co-opting of “Evangelical” into a political category—especially in the 2016 and 2020 elections. Whatever the case, self-identified “Evangelical” American Christians know less about what Christians have believed for 2000 years than ever before.
Explore the Scriptures 📖
Leviticus is one of the most challenging books to read as a 21st-century Christian. 3000 years or so removed from when it was written, so much of the book is confusing and seems strange. This is the second in a series of podcasts by BibleProject on the book of Leviticus.
The three key takeaways:
1. Leviticus describes five offerings God commanded Israel to make regularly: the ascension offering, the gift offering, the peace offering, the purification offering, and the guilt offering. Each of these offerings is about correcting a wrong that’s been committed by Israel and re-entering the relationship with Yahweh in a posture of humility and surrender.
2. The animals chosen to enter God’s presence as sacrifices were not the animals upon which Israel’s sin was ceremonially bestowed. In fact, the sin-bearing animals were sent away from Israel and Yahweh, while the animals who would enter into God’s presence acted as blameless representatives on Israel’s behalf.
3. The Hebrew word for atonement, kippur, means two things: to repay a debt and to purify. Whether we’re talking about levitical sacrifices or Jesus’ death on the cross, atonement is not simply an event that happens when a blameless one dies—the life of a blameless representative is atoning too.
Consider Another Perspective 🤔
I really liked this interview with Professor of Philosophy at Dallas Baptist University Travis Dickinson. He argues that doubt—at least some common versions of it—is compatible with faith. Cameron and the audience ask good questions that are probably on your mind too.
From the synopsis of his book:
Is it wrong to doubt? Many Christians assume that doubt is faith's opposite and that wandering among the hard questions of faith will lead us further and further away from God. True believers, the assumption goes, never waver in their confidence in the fundamental truths of the Christian faith.
Professor and philosopher Travis Dickinson disagrees. Instead, he says, our doubts and hard questions about the faith are actually an important way we can express our commitment and love to God. Doubt isn't our destination but it's an important step on the way. It's possible to wander toward God as we ask our questions honestly, in faith and trust. As we do, we'll discover the truth, goodness, and beauty of God waiting for us.
- Wandering Toward God: Finding Faith amid Doubts and Big Questions | Travis Dickinson 📚 (Affiliate Link)
Living This Christian Life 🤴👸
Should I Use the Word ‘Heaven’? Will We Know Everything in the New Creation? | N.T. Wright, Justin Bass, and Justin Brierley 🎧 →
N.T. Wright is joined in this podcast by American scholar Justin Bass to talk about how “heaven” and “new creation” are portrayed biblically. They answer questions like:
[Does] the suggestion of Old Testament prophets being raised from the dead presents a problem for the uniqueness of Jesus' resurrection?
Will we know everything once we are raised?
- The Bedrock of Christianity: The Unalterable Facts of Jesus' Death and Resurrection | Justin Bass 📚 (Affiliate Link)
Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️
”Spiritual Abuse Is Not As Harmful As Other Kinds of Abuse, So We Shouldn’t Worry Too Much About It”? | Michael Kruger 📃 →
This is the fourth of five articles in Kruger’s series on spiritual abuse—written to promote his book Bully Pulpit about spiritual abuse in the Christian church.
This article in particular addresses an argument that I’ve seen as well: spiritual abuse just isn’t that bad, so we shouldn’t get too worked up about it.
Indeed, some seemed to view the heavy-handed behavior of pastors as one of those “regrettable” things that happen, but not really that big a deal. It’s just an inevitable part of church life that people should just be willing to “get over.”
Sadly, this kind of disposition sometimes morphs into an additional claim that those who are victims of such abuse are probably just overly sensitive to legitimate expressions of pastoral authority. Maybe they have just been influenced by our progressive, anti-authority culture. They are making a mountain out of a mole hill.
Kruger addresses some defenders of Evangelical churches who claim that many of these spiritual abuse victims were not really orthodox Christians at all, and were just looking for an excuse to leave a conservative church. Then he addresses the damage that spiritual abuse can cause:
It is now widely recognized, by both biblical counselors and secular counselors, that non-physical forms of abuse (like emotional abuse) are real and can do serious damage.
As just one example, Bessel van der Kolk’s 2015 bestseller, The Body Keeps the Score, is a fascinating journey into the relationship between trauma and the manifestations of that trauma in the human body.
It’s not that different than child abuse. If a child has a broken arm because they fell playing basketball, that’s one thing. But if a child has a broken arm because they are beaten by their parents, that’s something entirely different. It may be the same physical injury, but not the same emotional injury. And that’s because the one that was supposed to protect you (the parent), is the same one that harms you.
But there may be even more serious damage to one’s relational life and spiritual life. Victims of spiritual abuse are sometimes ostracized by their churches for raising concerns about the pastor and cut off from the fellowship and relationships of the Christian community they’ve worked so hard to build (just read about what happened to those who stood up to Mark Driscoll).
Beyond this, such abuse often crushes a person’s spiritual life and leads them to question much of what they believe. This is why spiritual abuse is a unique kind of abuse. It is perpetrated by God’s appointed leader (a pastor), for God’s appointed ends (e.g., church planting, spreading the Gospel), enabled by God’s appointed institution (the church), and leveled against God’s own people (church members). The spiritual damage can be enormous.
These are serious effects that many, even of the abused, don’t recognize because there is still a minimization (though I’ve noticed it’s lessening as there is more awareness of the effects of these abuses) placed on spiritual and emotional abuse.
Kruger, a conservative reformed Christian himself, labels the problem but he doesn’t just stop there. The end of the article also gives some reflections on how Christians should respond:
Understanding the damage caused by spiritual abuse should have two effects. First, it should give us deep compassion for those who’ve suffered this way. We should “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). We must remember that these people are Christ’s sheep, our brothers and sisters in Christ, many of which are out there right now, probably looking for a new church home where they can rest and heal.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, understanding the damage caused by spiritual abuse provides the motivation for doing something about it. Once one sits down and talks with the victims, and see the damage that abuse has done, they’ll be motivated to do whatever they can to prevent it.
I’ve quoted at length from his post, but there’s much more there. And if you want to dig even deeper into this relevant and important topic in the church, I’ve linked his book below.
- Bully Pulpit: Confronting the Problem of Spiritual Abuse in the Church | Michael Kruger 📚 (Affiliate Link)
Keep Your Mind on Things Above
I will be praying for you this week.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it.
— Matthew 16:24–25 (CSB)