Category Archives: Culture and Economics

Mass Shootings and Bad Disciples

In the wake the recent mass shooting, I find myself silently judging all the jeremiads hammered out on keyboards and then slung out into the middle of the information superhighway.  This silent judgment is then swiftly followed by my own internal chastisement, “Oh yeah, Mr. Judgy-Judge McJudge-Pants?  And how are you contributing to a solution, sitting there sipping your re-heated coffee in the comforts of your first-world surroundings?”  And I think of all the suggestions people of both high and low positions have made and they all seem somewhat reasonable but ultimately not satisfying for a variety of reasons.

No more AR-15’sPeriod.

Better mental health screenings for gun-purchasers.”

Get the right judges on SCOTUS.”

Since all mass shooters are male, no more guns for male civilians.”

Ok… I made up that last one.  But a couple days have gone by and I think I have an action item we could all implement.  Pray for God to put bad disciples in your life.  Like one of my seminary profs said, “We all want good disciples.  We all want someone who hangs on all of our words and immediately puts our advice into practice.  We all love someone who thinks we are right about almost everything and tries to convince others that we are right.  But no one wants someone who listens to our advice and pretty much does the opposite.”  Boy oh boy, he was right.  I don’t want a disciple who bores me with inane babble about stuff that only three people in the world care about.  I don’t want someone as a disciple who ignores my advice, is lazy, is stubbornly foolish, who chews with their mouth open, or has bad body odor.outcast-katelynn-johnston

But if I only pursue the good disciples, it’s more about my comfort and my satisfaction, not love for my fellow human.  But if we learn to love bad disciples, then we might have to sacrifice something that we would get no return on.  Learning to love bad disciples might require us to change.  Learning to love bad disciples might help us know the mind of Christ better.

Maybe learning to love a bad disciple is how we get upstream with the next mass-shooter and save the next 17 victims.  Maybe it isn’t.  But getting credit for changing a life and preventing a future mass shooting isn’t the point either.  There will be no metrics attached to this action-item that some statistician somewhere can track.  No political body could ever point to something on the books and take credit for it.  This kind of action won’t make it into your newsfeed on Facebook.  But it’s what’s best for the outcast who feels alone.  It’s what’s best for the family who doesn’t know what to do with their brooding child.  It’s what is best for our communities where all sorts of people feel alienated with no real friends.

So let’s learn to pursue that awkward high-schooler we notice at church.  Ask them to lunch on a regular basis.  Ask that 18 year-old sitting by themselves on their phone if they could come over to help you change the oil in your car or help you rake your leaves.  Ask them questions and listen.  Wade through the awkward silences.  Endure the extensive talk about the latest thing they’re into.  Resist the urge to correct them right out of the gate.  Our first job is to listen and know them.  Pray for them (and their parent(s)!).  At the end of the day, we might not make a long-term friend or get much gratitude for our time and effort, but we will become an embodiment of our Lord who “…sets the lonely in families…” (Ps. 68.6).



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13 Reasons Why… Life #3: God cares about your tears

Here’s the latest installment of my “13 Reasons” series over at my church’s website.

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13 Reasons Why … Life #2: You have value.

Here’s the 2nd installment from the church’s website:

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A Series I’m Attempting

Because the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” is proving to be a dangerous and abiding presence in popular discussions, I’m trying my hand at a series that is related to it over at the website of the church where I serve.  If you have an adolescent in the home, check out the first installment:

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Princeton, why am I not surprised?

In another blaring case of an institution speaking out of both sides of the mouth, Princeton Theological Seminary declared that it would rescind its offer to Rev. Tim Keller of the Kuyper award for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness as well as affirmed its commitment to “the critical inquiry and theological diversity of our community.”  Evidently, Rev. Keller’s good status as a minister in a denomination  that doesn’t permit the ordination of women or LGBT individuals is a step too far for the “diversity” of their community.  Or, if Orwell’s animals were describing the situation here, they might say that, though everyone in the Reformed community is equal, Keller’s views make him not quite as equal as those at PTS.  Thankfully, Keller is evidently a classy enough guy to accept their invitation to come and speak regardless of the snub.

But the irony here just keeps right on coming.


The award that PTS has rescinded for Keller is named after Abraham Kuyper, a Dutch statesman and theologian from the late 19th-early 20th century, known as one of the earlier voices that began speaking into a North American context about the concept of a worldview (from the German Weltanschauung).  In other words, Kuyper helped American Christians begin to think of biblical truth as applicable to all areas of life (e.g. industry, art, science, etc.) and not just as it relates to the church, salvation, and the hereafter.  Here’s the ironic part.  Kuyper delivered a series of lectures at PTS in 1898 in which he issued some warnings to the American theological community about what he called “Modernism”, a distinctive of which Kuyper said “denies and abolishes every difference, [and] cannot rest until it has made woman man and man woman, and, putting every distinction on a common level, kills life by placing it under the ban of uniformity.” (Lectures on Calvinism (1943), 27)  So Kuyper, for whom the award is named, would have decried the demolition of distinctions that is today’s zeit geist, and Keller, in apparent agreement with Kuyper, is denied the award by the institution for reasons that Kuyper warned it about 120 years ago.

If that wasn’t rich enough, I discovered through my highly sophisticated research on the interwebs that Keller wouldn’t have been the first “holy man” to receive the Kuyper award who belonged to a religious order that doesn’t ordain women.  In 2010, PTS awarded it to Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, an Orthodox Jewish movement that “…has yet to officially accept women in its rabbinate…” (see context here).   But we Americans have short memories, tender toes, and institutions like PTS apparently determine their standards by licking a finger and holding aloft to see the direction the winds of cultural change are blowing.  So I guess the moral of this story for all who seek honor in the hoary halls of PTS is, you better not be a conservative Protestant.

Sorry Keller.  I hope your speech is at least well-received.


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C.S. Lewis on Fake News

You’re probably thinking, “C.S Lewis on fake news?!  Uhhh… wasn’t he dead long before this whole fake news trend started?”  Well… yes and no.  Yes, in the sense that it wasn’t called fake news in his day.  But, no, in the sense that misrepresentations of current events in order to shape or alter public discourse/opinion (e.g. yellow journalism, etc.) has been going on for a good long while.  Only our chronological snobbery (also a CS Lewis-ism) would allow us to think that fake news is a postmodern American problem.  So I commend this reading (and illustration!) of Lewis’s take on how we can be done with wicked journalists.  An added bonus in this video is this: Lewis shares some very clear-headed thinking on a subject that many in our knee-jerk culture struggle to grasp, namely that it is possible to make a moral judgment on someone’s actions or words without necessarily falling prey to the charge of “self-righteous”.

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Questions to ask yourself before you cast your ballot

There’s a level of anxiety being expressed on social media right now that is far from healthy and giving birth to an ugly sectarianism.  And for the Christian, that kind of anxiety and sectarianism is both damaging to an individual’s walk of faith as well as harmful to the unity of the Church.  Yet turning a blind eye to matters political and neglecting our privilege of voting is being a poor steward of the kingdom we are to be seeking above all things (Matt 6.33).  So in this soup of sound bites, polarizing talking heads, nasty barbs and zingers, suspicious conspStei101028iracy theories, red-faced cries of injustice, and enough analytical info to cause the most patient among us to throw up their hands in disgust, here are a few questions that we all can ask ourselves to help bring focus to our faithfulness at the polls.

  1. Who possesses my greatest motivational allegiance?  Our loyalties call us to be motivated to all sorts of things.  As a Washington Redskins fan, I’m motivated to support them through thick and thin.  However, if Kirk Cousins, the surprise QB star of the Redskins’ most recent season came out in favor of voting for Attila the Hun for POTUS, I’d probably have to respectfully decline to follow suit regardless of how cool Cousins’ first name is.  This comes into political play when the party we most often align with puts forward a nominee that requires a Christian to check his or her allegiance to Christ at the door before casting their vote.  Are you being asked to violate your conscience in voting for someone of questionable character and/or competencies in order to “support the party?”  If so, ask yourself, “Why do I feel an allegiance to this particular political party?  Would I ever ask a politician to violate his or her conscience in order to support some agenda that I have?”  There is a cost of discipleship when one claims allegiance to Jesus Christ.  Sometimes that cost entails relegating one’s vote to what the world might consider irrelevant.
  2. Should I submit my conscience to the ‘lesser of two evils’ argument?  Or another way of asking the question is this: how despicable does a nominee for my party of choice have to be before I refuse to support them?  I mentioned Attila the Hun earlier only partially in jest because the choices for nominees Americans are being offered have been increasingly distasteful over recent years.  But I want to point out the ethic that is often behind the motivation to vote for one ‘evil’ over another one.  Most people think, “I have to vote for Candidate Gag.  I don’t like it one bit, but Candidate Blech has to be stopped.”  Or another way of describing this ethic is this way: the ends justify the means.  But not only is this a sub-Christian ethic, it is the ethic that gave this world such atrocities as Hitler’s “Final Solution” and Mao’s “Great Leap Forward.”
  3. Is my choice of candidate driven more by fear of the future or by the fear of the LORD?  So much fear-mongering goes on on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media avenues that the Christian must be careful to guard their heart.  And part of that guarding process is reminding oneself that no Christ-follower ought to fear whoever occupies the oval office.  Though our nation’s Commander in Chief wields more authority now than ever was intended by our nation’s founders, it doesn’t alter the fact that “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lordhe turns it wherever he will (Prov. 21.1).”  Do not fear the state.  Fear God.  Or as Psalm 143 puts it: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation… Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever (Psalm 146.3, 5-6).”
  4. Am I familiar with what God’s Word says about what makes a good leader?  I considered not putting this point in this post but I keep hearing my bride’s voice tell me things like, “Go ahead and believe the best about what other people know but state your point anyway.”  To that end, part of fearing God is a working knowledge of what His Word has to say about who is qualified to lead and who isn’t, who is a fool and who is wise, who is a righteous person and who is wicked.  I am fully aware that we are not electing a PastorOTUS, but the Bible nevertheless gives us a glut of data by which we can judge who is fit to be a public official and who is not.  Consider just a few verses from just 10 chapters of Proverbs that apply to at least one of the top three major party candidates: 10.4; 10.9-12; 10.18-19; 11.2; 11.9; 11.12; 12.15-18; 13.10; 13.16; 14.2; 14.5; 15.1-2; 21.4; 21.23-24; 21.29; 22.5; 22.10-11; 25.14; 25.19; 26.1; 26.12.  Take these earthy proverbs alongside other biblical data about what kings aren’t supposed to do (Deut. 17.14-17) and what kind of person an overseer in the Church is supposed to be (1 Tim 3.1-7; Titus 1.7-9) and a much clearer picture emerges about what a public, elected servant ought to look like. [Note: Harry Reeder in a recent blog post put an important qualification: “[I]t must be remembered that at times, God’s common grace produces leaders that though unsaved have a dependable and reliable character.”]

Can we not look at the major party candidates as well as independents and minor party candidates, vote for the best person available with a clear conscience, and trust that we are cared for by the mighty hand of the King on His heavenly throne?  Can we not trust a long-range view in which there is major reform in the existing major parties or their break-up and subsequent shift in the political centers of gravity?  So yes.  We have a right to be upset with both the Democratic and Republican parties.  But no.  We should not allow our anger to cause us to respond faithlessly at the polls.  We must consider how the reactions in our own hearts can lead us down unwise paths.  We must weigh our decisions and actions according to the clear teachings of scripture, for “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established (Prov. 24.3).”

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