Consider the Culture 🎨
My employer publicly celebrates the LGBT+ worldview and has announced it will pay for employees to travel to get abortions. Those things are anti-Christian and make me uncomfortable. As a Christian, am I obligated to quit in protest?
I suspect that many conservative Christians are thinking about the same questions.
At its core, this is a question about the dissonance between your biblical convictions and the viewpoints of your employer. Let’s start by anchoring ourselves in two foundational reminders before we get to some practical advice.
2. Your workplace isn’t meant to serve as the compass for your soul.
It’s not easy to see a system we’re part of espousing ideas that are counter to our worldview. It can even be a little disorienting, as we so clearly see the brokenness of the world we live in. While we should take offense to the things that offend our Lord, there’s no need to lose our footing. God is still seated on his throne, and the world is still insignificant compared to his greatness (Isa. 66:1).
Our workplace won’t always provide us with wise cues for living a Christian life. It’s important to remind ourselves that our workplace isn’t meant to serve as our moral authority or the compass for our souls. The sacred position of lordship over our lives belongs to our Creator.
Being a Christian does not mean isolating ourselves from sinful people or places. It does mean seeking wisdom to faithfully display Christ in those places.
Challenge Your Brain 🧠
I enjoyed this congenial debate between two brothers in Christ who differ in their interpretation of Genesis. Ross takes the view that the early chapters of Genesis are a scientific/historical record, while Jones takes the view that the early chapters of Genesis describe creation in a theologically truth-telling—but non-scientific—way that is nonetheless compatible with scientific theories of evolution.
There are many views on the early chapters of Genesis. Jones is not the only “non-scientific” view and Ross is not the only “scientific” view, but I always learn something from the nuances of these discussions.
Challenge Your Brain 🧠
We can become so familiar with modern translations of the Bible that we forget it’s actually ancient Jewish literature. Many Bible translators took the time to consider what the biblical authors meant in their ancient language and culture so they could find an equivalent way of communicating the message to us. That’s a big assignment! But even when a translated text is complete, the work of reading and interpreting remains challenging. Modern translations still convey ancient cultural assumptions about cosmology (the story about the world’s beginning), community, and customs. How do contemporary readers like you and I make sense of it all?
The biblical authors are ancient foreign citizens, speaking another language. Our modern translations are bilingual translators. And we are learners, having a cross-cultural experience as we read. We have a guide (the translation) who speaks our native language, but there are still things we will need to pay attention to. When a modern translator gives us the word “heart,” we want to know if they are talking about emotions, a cardiac muscle, or a figure of speech referring to a whole person. We want to hear the word in its own context—informed by ancient cultural cues—to understand the biblical author’s intended meaning and respond properly.
So what are some of the ancient ideas that shaped the biblical authors’ literary context and cultural lens?
It’s incredibly hard for us to remove the lenses by which we see the world and put on another’s lenses. But doing so is essential for understanding scripture because we are separated by a tremendous amount of time and location from these ancient scribes. They thought about the world differently than we do in our modern American homes.
Just think about how different their day-to-day life was. Many lived on the edge of famine and drought where an early frost or a dry season could spell death. The modern practice of science didn’t exist until a few hundred years ago, and many of these authors lived more than 2,000 years ago! Democracy wasn’t a concept for thousands more years. The way they conceived of the world, their governments, and their own lives were radically different from ours.
Understanding that these writers didn’t conceive of the world like we do takes us a long way to seeking to understand it as they do. And when we seek to understand it as they do, we go a long way to understanding what they wrote and why.
Hayes helps us understand what she calls the authors’ “paradigm”: how they view the world.
We might empathize with aspects of the biblical authors’ culture, but we are living today, while they lived thousands of years ago. The ancient context of their assumptions differs from our modern index of understanding, and by acknowledging this we can hear biblical authors more clearly.
Explore the Scriptures 📖
Following on from that last article is one that seeks to help us understand some of the most difficult books of scripture—the prophets.
Much of the ancient world strove to hear from their gods by manipulating objects or people. They practiced divination and made sacrifices—even human sacrifices—and they consulted mediums and necromancers. God, by contrast, spoke to the Israelites. His revelation was given to men like Abraham, Moses, and the prophets, and it was usually backed by miraculous signs and wonders that confirmed its authenticity.
There’s one big difference, though, between the prophets and the other patriarchs. While God established his covenants with Israel through Abraham and Moses, the prophets applied the covenant. They communicated to the people, priests, and even kings about whether Israel had kept the covenant or was in breach of it. The stipulations of Moses’s covenant were laid out in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. The prophets were sent by God to apply these terms.
The key that unlocked the prophets for me was understanding this role they played as covenant prosecutors—a term I first heard from Richard Belcher. The prophets were sent to prosecute the Israelites for their success or failure in carrying out the terms of their covenant with God. Sometimes they came to proclaim covenant blessings (Deut. 28:1–14; Lev. 26:1–13). Then, Israel and Judah would experience God’s presence and favor in battle or at harvest time. Often the prophets came to proclaim curses (Deut. 4:25–28; 28:15–68; 29:16–29; 32:15–43; Lev. 26:14–39), and the people would be disciplined.
Listen and Learn 🎧
Why does the Trinity matter, biblically speaking? Why is the doctrine of the Trinity important, philosophically speaking? How does the fact that God is triune impact me personally? Why should I care about the doctrine of the Trinity?
The Trinity can seem to be an abstract thing. Why should we care that God is one being but three persons?
But its theologically important I think for at least two reasons, one is that I think that the deity of Christ is essential for our salvation. In my work on the Atonement, I discovered that at the very center of the multifaceted doctrine of the atonement that we find in the New Testament is the notion that Christ died in our place to pay the penalty for our sin and no mere human being could atone for the sins of all of humanity, past, present and future. In order for one person, through his substitutionary death, to pay the penalty for all the sins of mankind, that person would have to be a divine person, someone whose death was therefore of infinite worth. And so I think essential to Christ's atoning death and our salvation is the deity of Christ. That Jesus Christ is God, just as the Father is God.
Secondly, I think that the deity of the Holy Spirit is also essential to the life of the individual Christian and of the church. When you read the New Testament, you find that in this post Pentecostal age it is in many ways the Holy Spirit who is the most important divine person to us. He is the one who regenerates us, and through whom we are born again into God’s family. He then indwells the believer. He fills and empowers us for daily Christian living. He gives us spiritual gifts in order to serve the church. He produces in our life the fruit of the spirit as we walk in his fullness and the Holy Spirit guides us in our life. He and intercedes for us in our prayers he directs us in our evangelism and witness. He produces sanctification in the Christian life, conforming us to the image of Christ. And so the deity of the Holy Spirit, I think, is really essential to all of those functions. He, like the Father, and the Son, is God.
Church History Corner ⛪️
The name was a popular one in the Roman world, for the adjective valens expressed the idea of being vigorous and robust. In fact, we know of about a dozen early Christians who bore this name. Our Saint Valentine was an Italian bishop who was martyred on February 14, 269, after a trial before the Roman emperor Claudius Gothicus (reign 268–270). According to the meager accounts that we have, Valentine’s body was hastily buried, but a few nights later some of his associates retrieved it and returned it to his home town of Terni in central Italy.
What seems clear, though, from all that we can determine, is that Saint Valentine was a martyr — yes, a lover, but one who loved the Lord Jesus to the point of giving his life for his commitment to Christ. For Christians to adequately remember Saint Valentine, then, we would do well to consider what it meant to be a martyr in the early church.
This is completely optional, and everything that is currently free will continue to be free. Thank you for reading The Garden Weekly.
Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️
Prayer is one of the biggest struggles I hear about from my conversations with American Christians. It’s one of my own biggest struggles. It can be difficult to know what to pray for. It can be difficult to know how to pray. It can feel difficult to pray without a response.
Pastor Kevin DeYoung feels the same:
I often feel like I’m struggling in my prayer life, and I daresay most of the people in my church feel like they’re struggling in their prayer life. I think that there are a few things in the Christian life that we know we’re supposed to do, and we constantly feel like we’re failing. I think evangelism is one, generosity might be another, parenting—but certainly, prayer could be at the top of the list. How many of us think—and I’m sure I’ve said this as a pastor—You never get to the end of your life at the hospital bed and say, “I wish I had prayed less.” No, you always wish you had prayed more. That’s true, and so we want to be inspired and motivated to pray. We know that prayer is important for the Christian, and yet I feel like even the days where I’m knocking it out and I’m doing it, then you miss your devotional time or it’s gone stale. You hear the stories of Martin Luther and on a busy day he had to pray for four hours before he went to bed. I know an older pastor brother who really did pray for four hours a day. That’s not my story, at least not yet in my life, so it’s easy to be discouraged, and yet we know we should pray.
Many of us know about the Lord’s Prayer, and many of us recite it often. But that too can become rote. I enjoyed this podcast because it looks at the Lord’s Prayer as a model for our prayer. If you’re struggling to pray, take a listen.
Keep Your Mind on Things Above
I will be praying for you this week.
Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
— Revelation 1:4b–5 (CSB)