Christian Hate Speech and Gay Marriage

Over at Reformation 21 Carl Truman again gives insightful comments on the current issue hitting the California airwaves: gay marriage. he gives a few things consider as we make our next move in the new culture wars. He writes:
We can no longer assume our children will just agree with us on this issue; they are going to want arguments for holding that homosexual practice is wrong.  We need to go back to scripture and sharpen our swords, so to speak, as we can no longer assume that the cultural bias will play our tune anyway.
Sobering words indeed. I think we have got to come to place where we realize that the West is changing, and we don't have the high ground. We will have to contend with new attitudes, moralities, and mentalities. As a Christian teacher, I wholeheartedly agree that we must be able to give sound biblical arguments as to why we oppose the gay marriage. More so, we owe it to our congregations to do so.

The last point Truman makes is worth the read. He points us to a future for us in the U.S., that is already being realized in Canada and Europe. He writes
Those evangelical leaders, academics and evangelical institutions that prize their place at the table and their invitations to appear on `serious' television programs, and who enjoy being asked to offer their opinion to the wider culture had better be prepared to make a choice.  As I have said before in this column, we are not far from the place where to oppose homosexuality will be regarded as in the same moral bracket as white supremacy.   Those types only appear on Jerry Springer; and Jerry generally doesn't typically ask them their opinion on the ethics of medical research, the solution to the national debt, or the importance of poetry to a rounded education.
Sadly, I'm sure that those churches that already try not to rock the vote, may have already make their choice. Keep praying for California as we continue to have this debate, but keep thinking through the issues, we owe our people, and our God, no less.


How do you pick a book?

As this is a book blog, I have tried to gather some good ideas on how to pick a book. Hopefully this can be of use to you all. Since many of you may be Christian, I will jump ahead and focus on how to get a feel for a book by a Christian author (though I think this would also apply to non-Christian authors too).

1. Amazon
If you are like me, you spend time on Amazon.com just browsing to see what's around, what's coming up, and what people generally think. I usually do this when I buy, am about to buy, or read a new book. Read the reviews. Does it have one, two, or five stars? Do the reviews seem fair? Are there any recurring problems mentioned? Many older theology books are notorious for having bad binding. Are you better off buying it used or in a newer digital format?

2. Blurbs
Who blurbed the back of the book? Blurbs are the endorsements given to an author by other recognized authors, personalities etc.. They're usually found on the back of the book. This one can say a lot or a little. I once thumbed through a book that was endorsed by Donald Miller. He is the author of "Blue Like Jazz" which many of you know makes some "interesting" theological statements. I almost put the book away, but it turned out to be a great book on how to do church discipline today. If I could remember the title of said book I'd recommend it (Something like 10 mistakes churches make)! Of course, seeing well known, respected leaders recommend a book helps. But you must go deeper still. Does anyone who's opinion you trust like the book you are about to read?

3.Table of Contents
Yes, at some point you have to pop open the book and read what the author intends to communicate (you knew you were going to at some point). Is there a structure? What are the headings? Is there an apppendix? If it has a scripture index, does it have a lot of scripture? How long is the book? Who gets mentioned a lot in their bibliography or endnotes? I once had to read a book that had a lot of end notes referencing Carl Jung. It was by a Christian psychologist and it made me be a bit more wary about what the author had to say. 

4. Publisher
Who published it? A company like Crossway is known to publish Reformed authors. The same goes for P&R Publishing and Reformation TrustZondervan is one of the bigger evangelical book  publishers. Though recently, I've been concerned as they are cashing in on the Emergent movement with an Emergent line of books. This doesn't mean that all Zondervan books are bad. And yes, to be fair some Emergent books are decent (sometimes). If anything Intervarsity Press is guilty of publishing many questionable books (the openess of God anyone?). I should also add that a publisher's website could have some helpful information-maybe even a free copy of the book. 

5. Time
What year was this published? If this is older than a decade, the information maybe outdated. But, there are those few books that stand the test of time, so don't hold onto that too hard and fast to this rule.

6. Author Info
Who is this person that you are about to let into your thoughts? Thanks to today's world, you can find a ministry website for almost all Christian authors. Just be careful that their book isn't just an endorsement for even more (and more expensive!) material from them. What is their testimony? What school do they teach at? Have they made controversial statements in previous books? Is their church a good place? Do they have a blog? Are there incriminating pics of them with Lady Gaga?

7. Your own interest
Why do you want to read this? What is it that you need to know? Some books need only a quick glance and a read through a chapter or two to get what you need. Others demand a lot of time, and are worth every hour of reading. In other words, "what's the point"?
8. Does your enemy hate or like it?
You either see this one or you don't.

9. What are the bloggers saying?
Tim Challie's page Challies.com is now THE place to get a good Christian book review. He truly is the Christian Uber-blogger/book reviewer. I trust his judgement when it comes to reviews.

10. Author's intent?
Why was this book written? To inform? Persuade? Make a point? Share an experience? These are things you want to keep in mind. If it's just an angry screed, it would be best to leave it at Borders.

11. Would I want to own this?
Or would I be happy borrowing it from the library? There are a few books I wouldn't want to be caught dead with. Seriously.

12.The friend test
Ask your friends what they think about it (if they have read it). They may save you a trip to the bookstore.

13. Re-read factor
Is this one of those books you'll want to own long enough to read again? Granted some of those books are hard to spot at first, but some you just know you'll read again and again.

Ok there you go, p
ray, reflect, but for goodness sake tell people. We need to have more open discussions about the books we're reading. 


Who is Jesus? How would you answer that today?

Jesus asked his disciples the question, "Who do you say that I am?". He made it clear that a vague answer was not enough. A definite answer to that question was the only one that could be life changing. Over at Pastoralia, Pastor Jason Coker, has been having people blog on a project where people give an answer to that question. Specifically the questions are: Who is Jesus? what has he done? and why does it matter?  I'm glad to know that thousands of years later, this question is still seen as pivotal to where a person stands with God.
One of the contributors is Pastor Ben Sternke. I was very impressed with his answer. It was clear, biblical, and relevant in the best sense of the word. I have hope that churches can actually present a gospel message like this without making it formulaic, fake sounding or worse: boring.  I'd like to put it here in full with a minor critique after that.
Who is Jesus Christ? Wow, where to start. Jesus is a lot of things. First, I should say he was a man who caused quite a stir around 2,000 years ago by claiming that the God who created the entire cosmos was working through his life to save the world from itself, to make everything right.
Which sounds incredibly cliché, doesn’t it? It’s easy to find nutcases like that today. The thing about Jesus, though, was that he backed up his claims by making things right with unusual power and effectiveness: delivering people from sickness and psychological oppression, bringing freedom from guilt and shame, challenging injustice, and teaching people how to live well.
Ultimately this put him on a collision course with the religious and political authorities of his day, because they had stock in keeping people fearful and needy. But instead of fighting them, Jesus allowed them to torture and kill him. Even those closest to him didn’t understand this. Why not fight to stay alive? They thought it was over after that.
Hang with me, because here’s where the story gets crazy. He didn’t stay dead. A few days later he was alive again, in a totally new way, like he’d gone through death and out the other side. He had actually conquered death by his own death and through his resurrection opened the door for everyone to enter into a truly blessed life in God’s family.
We enter into that life by becoming an apprentice of Jesus. It might sound kooky, but you can actually know Jesus today. You can really be with him and he will teach you how to live a blessed life in God’s family, just like him.
Pretty unlikely story, huh? Yet I find myself living in it every day.
I hope you saw what I saw. It's something I could share with anyone I know.  My one concern is one of personal sin. I know he touched on basically anything any of us would (and discipleship has been on my mind a lot lately) but I think we can also forget that our sin placed Christ on that cross as well. As I put it in my response, "Not only did people one day put Christ on that Cross, I did. My sin, my own contribution to the worlds wrongs, put him on there. He died to actually forgive that. If I didn’t have that, I’d be completely lost". The Apostle Paul put it like this:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3,4)
That the Lord died to forgive our sins is pivotal to the gospel message. Without the justification of our past, there is no hope for the future, with it, our whole world changes. I'm glad for the people out there who are making sure the gospel is getting out to the masses clearly. I look forward to seeing more good work from this project.  I'd also like to include some video of people answering the very question of who Jesus is.