Francis Chan and “The Blind Side”

On Sunday nights, some of our youth have been working through a video series by Francis Chan called “Crazy Love” based on the book of the same title.   In chapter 4, Chan turns up the heat in the book, going after what he calls “lukewarm” Christianity (other terms like “cheap grace” (per Bonhoeffer) mentality might also work).  He gives a list of many different attitudes and actions that characterize “lukewarmness” along with relevant Scriptures for one to chew on.  For our study, we split into smaller groups and had the youth themselves come up with real-world examples to correspond with the profiles they were given.

To me, one stood out though, because something I had been chewing on for a while illustrated Chan’s point well.

from the book:

“Lukewarm people are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act.  They assume such action is for “extreme” Christians, not average ones.  Lukewarm people call “radical” what Jesus expected of all His followers.”

I immediately thought of the success this past year of the sports film “The Blind Side”, based on the true story of NFL rookie Michael Oher.  (I know there are some criticisms with the type of charity portrayed in the film, but I want to leave that aside for now.) The movie made more than $200 million dollars domestically.  I wonder though how many people watching had that same reaction as Chan describes above.  “Wow. That family really helped out that kid.  What a nice thing to do”, they say, as they put away their $25 popcorn/soda combo box.

I wonder how many Christians would rather spend their time and resources being entertained and emotionally moved by stories of sacrifice on the big screen than creating their own stories of sacrifice.  I wonder what other kids needing adoption or villages needing wells might have benefited more from that $200 million dollars than the movie studio.  (And that doesn’t even include DVD sales.)

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Easter book thoughts…

I’m kicking myself right now.  I’m getting ready to prepare a Bible study on the events of Easter for our youth and I was mining a couple books for great quotes.  It’s usually easy for me to find a great quote.  I just start looking at all the stuff I’ve underlined (or formerly-“highlighted”…I’ve since learned that my inability to draw a straight line makes mechanical pencils far easier to correct!  Plus, for some reason, my wife brought about 100 fully-leaded of them into our marriage…so might as well get some use out of them.)  However, apparently I was rather inconsistent a few years ago when I spent a month or so reading NT Wright’s “Resurrection of the Son of God.”  The first couple chapters bear some highlights, but then…NOTHING!!  And I know that’s nothing to do with the book’s content (It picks up a lot of steam near the end as he goes through the New Testament itself).  Arrrgh.  Nothing like reading a 700-page book to find out that 3/4 of it bears no sign of your having visited.

That said, when the topic of Easter and the Resurrection comes up, I have two works that I find really helpful:

The Resurrection of the Son of God (RSG)– NT Wright

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (CFRJ)– Gary Habermas and Michael R. Licona

RSG is the work to read on the theology and historical background of Jesus’ Resurrection.  Wright wades through Greco-Roman and Jewish thoughts on the afterlife, as well as spending time doing some excellent biblical theology in both Old and New Testaments regarding the concept.  His continual reminder that resurrection isn’t merely “the afterlife”, but clearly refers to a bodily “life after life after death.”

CFRJ is a more “lay-friendly” approach focusing on a “bare minimal fact” approach to arguing for the Resurrection.  The authors essentially want to defend 4 or 5 things almost all historians (Christian and secular) agree upon.   They are: the crucifixion of Jesus, Jesus’ disciples believing he rose and  appeared to them, the conversion of Paul, the conversion of James the brother of Jesus, and lastly (though with a few caveats distinguishing it from the previous four) the empty tomb.  Using those facts alone, they provide a fairly impressive argument.

I know there are probably some more “theological” or “devotional” works on the Resurrection.  If you know of any, I’m certain I would be glad to hear about them.  These two are very useful in each their own way.

Now to finish kicking myself!

For the book lover

Some of the world’s most beautiful libraries.

Tips on writing.

I don’t have any.  But I read someones who did.  Neat article.

National Repentance…CS Lewis

I wish I had this essay in pamphlet form every time the first Thursday in May rolls around (National Day of Prayer).  It is titled “Dangers of National Repentance” and can be found in the God in the Dock collection of essays.

“The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the more congenital one of bewailing–but first, of denouncing–the conduct of others.  If it were clear to the young that this is what he is doing, no doubt he would remember the law of charity.  Unfortunately, the very terms in which national repentance is recommended to him conceal its true nature.  By a dangerous figure of speech, he calls the Government not ‘they’ but ‘we’.  And since, as penitents, we are not encouraged to be charitable to our own sins, nor to give ourselves the benefit of any doubt, a Government which is called ‘we’ is ipso facto placed beyond the sphere of charity or even of justice.  You can say anything you please about it.  You can indulge in the popular vice of detraction without restraint, and yet feel all the time that you are practicing contrition.  A group of such young penitents will say, ‘Let us repent our national sins’; what they mean is, ‘Let us attribute to our neighbour (even our Christian neighbour) in the Cabinet, whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.”
But we would never do any of that in America, would we?

on that Sermon on the Mount…CS Lewis

In another essay entitled “Rejoinder to Dr. Pittenger” from the God in the Dock collection, Lewis gives a dead-on evaluation of the Sermon on the Mount in response to criticism that Lewis liked Paul’s theology of sin too much and didn’t “care for” Jesus’ more optimistic ethics, such as found in the Sermon on the Mount.  (For anyone who has read Lewis and knows how LITTLE time and energy he spends discussing Pauline theology, this accusation itself is ridiculous.  This compares to someone accusing Martin Luther of spending too much time in practical books like James and not enough reading Paul.)

From Lewis:

“The statement that I do not ‘care much for’ the Sermon on the Mount but ‘prefer’ the ‘Pauline ethic’ of man’s sinfulness and helplessness carries a suggestion of alternatives between which we may choose, where I see successive stages through which we must proceed.  Most of my books are evangelistic, addressed to tous exo [Greek for “those without/outside”].  It would have been inept to preach forgiveness and a Savior to those who did not know they were in need of either.  Hence St. Paul’s and [John] the Baptist’s diagnosis (would you call it exactly an ethic?) had to be pressed.  Nor am I aware that our Lord revised it (‘if ye, being evil…’)

As to ‘caring for’ the Sermon on the mount, if ‘caring for’ here means ‘liking’ or enjoying, I suppose no one ‘cares for’ it.  Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledge-hammer?  I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of the man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure.  This is indeed to be ‘at ease in Zion.’  Such a man is not yet ripe for the Bible…”

On Trimming Theology…CS Lewis

In an essay entitled “Horrid Red Things” from the God in the Dock collection, which later appears as a chapter in the longer work Miracles, Lewis makes a bold challenge to those of his day attempting to strip the Christian faith from its theological baggage, especially that of an historical* or miraculous nature.

“I think there are two things that Christians must do if they wish to convince this ‘ordinary’ modern man.  In the first place, they must make it quite clear that what will remain of the Creed after all their explanations and reinterpretations will still be somehting quite unambiguously supernatural, miraculous, and shocking.  We may not believe in a flat earth [and I add that most Christians in history didn’t either, contrary to the myths about Columbus] and a sky-palace.  But we must insist from the beginning that we believe, as firmly as any savage or theosophist, in a spirit-world which can, and does, invade the natural or phenomenal universe.  For the plain man suspects that when we start explaining, we are going to explain away: that we have mythology for our ignorant hearers and are ready, when cornered by educated hearers, to reduce it to innocuous moral platitudes which no one ever dreamed of denying.  And there are theologians [and still are today] who justify this suspicion.  From them we must part company absolutely.  If nothing remains except what could be equally well stated without Christian formulae, then the honest thing is to admit that Christianity is untrue and to begin over again without it. [italics mine]