I have recently heard the idea that “you can’t appreciate the highs without the lows.” Most of the time it comes from well-meaning people trying to encourage someone who is going through a tough time or who has made some mistakes. Other people invoke this expression justify why they have to “learn things the hard way.”
I think we should file the phrase “you can’t appreciate the highs without the lows” under “statements that have no meaning at all.”
Can I appreciate a good marriage without experiencing a bad marriage? Can I be thankful for a good job if I haven’t had a bad job? Can I enjoy sobriety unless I have battled addiction? Must I experience bankruptcy to appreciate wealth?
Obviously it is illogical and unbiblical to think that bad is necessary to appreciate good. Granted, the bad times can provide perspective to the good, but I am of the opinion that information can be as good as experience. I, for one, prefer to learn from the mistakes of others.
The Bible teaches us to learn from tough experiences and mistakes, but it never indicates that we must experience these things to appreciate the blessings of God. I imagine that the Bible would never warn us about sin if we could only “learn the hard way.” Warning someone to avoid sin would be of no use because the only way they could learn that something is bad or has negative consequences is from experience. Do you see where I’m going with this?
If sin was necessary to appreciate God’s goodness and grace, then God is deficient. God either created sin or is in need of sin to accomplish his task. Since this is not a Biblical or logical option, we can deduce that we don’t always have to learn the hard way (though we often choose to learn things the hard way). I think that faithful obedience and simple trust in God is a more fulfilling avenue to joy than the highs and lows of experiential learning.
I recently read this article about various pastors and worship leaders at Christian churches who have embraced atheism. It is amazing that someone can get to such a position of leadership in a church without evidence of genuine salvation. In addition, these pastors/worship leaders have kept their atheism a secret to maintain the income that comes with their church position. The “atheist pastors” continually are affirming that they had to be “honest” with themselves about what they believe. Apparently, that “honesty” does not include full disclosure to their congregation.
This is particularly depressing news, the kind that makes me think the situation with the “American” church is grim.
Thankfully, my hope is in Jesus and not dishonest “pastors.”
I was dismayed last year when my favorite pair of shoes were ruined. Thankfully I found them on sale recently and purchased a new pair. I love the look and feel of these shoes; and I feel “green” when I wear them. Made of a combination of natural (e.g., jute, hemp) and recycled materials (e.g., tires) they are “earth friendly,” stylish, and comfortable. WWCPW – What Would Captain Planet Wear (in addition to his green mullet)?
I recently received an e-mail from Randy Forbes, one of my Congressional representatives, updating me on his work to “affirm America’s Judeo-Christian heritage.” I have written in the past on the meaninglessness of the term “Judeo-Christian.” While I respect Randy Forbes as a man of principals and godly character, I think he is clearly wrong on the issue of America’s heritage and future.
America was never a “Christian nation… united in some evangelical consensus. Church membership at the time of the American Revolution was no more than six percent of the population” (C. Douglas Weaver, In Search of the New Testament Church: The Baptist Story).
Here is an excerpt from Forbes’ e-mail newsletter.
Last May, I spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives affirming America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and its importance in shaping our government. My statement came in response to President Barack Obama’s April 6 speech in Turkey where he said, “And I’ve said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is — although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation.” Currently, my video has been viewed over 3 million times, proving America’s religious heritage continues to be a heightened point of debate in our society.
In this particular instance, President Obama is correct. America is neither Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. If it was we would be subject to the laws and dictates of that religion. America is not and was not ever a theocracy.
While Forbes promises “to protect the freedoms of religious expression in public life” I am afraid he is more concerned with protecting Christian freedoms than the freedoms of other religious persons. We must never forget the mistakes that have been justified by the myth of America as God’s “chosen nation” (e.g., Native Americans, etc.). I am, of course, wary of the idea that Forbes or any other person can discern the absolute intent of the Founding Fathers or that the “religious values” of the “Founding Fathers” are worth fighting for. It is clear from history that America is not God’s “chosen nation” and that the most important things to protect our are freedoms.
At the time of the American Revolution many Baptists’, for instance, were being jailed and persecuted for there particular brand of religious beliefs (i.e., voluntary association, baptism by immersion, priesthood of believers, etc.). Many Baptists felt that religious uniformity and collusion of church and state had produced the “shocking monster of [a] Christian nation” (Weaver). This sort of language might seem inflammatory to the modern Christian, but it was central to the beliefs of many at the time of the Revolution.
As a Christian it is important for me to distinguish my nation from my heavenly citizenship; my duty is to proclaim the gospel in all of life. All of the political parties and movements in America have proven to be unsuccessful in producing genuine gospel change in the lives and hearts of the American people. In fact, the collaboration of churches with political movements have produced disinterested “disciples” with mixed motivations.
Do I think that the gospel is the only hope for every person? Absolutely. However, knowing how politicians and power-brokers use religion as a means to dominance, I am careful to separate religious affiliation and law. Further, based on abuses of the past, it is essential that all people of all religions have the same acceptance and protection under the law.
Have you seen those LifeLock commercials where the CEO of the company glibly displays his social security number with no fear that someone might steal his identity? For a small monthly fee you can have the same peace-of-mind!
Apparently, Todd Davis (the smiling LifeLock salesman/CEO) has a reason to be alarmed. According to the Phoenix New Times Davis, whose social security number is plastered all over the internet and television commercials, had his identity stolen thirteen times. From lines of credit to cell phones, people have used the silver-tongued spokesperson’s ubiquitous personal information to “steal his identity.” Despite LifeLock’s spin, it is clear that the company can not even protect their spokesperson from identity theft. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission fined LifeLock $12 million for “deceptive business practices and for failing to secure sensitive customer data.” In fact, the FTC accused LifeLock of “operating a scam and a con operation.”
There is always a con artist waiting to capitalize on the fears of the ignorant. If is beautiful and ironic when such a con artist get’s what he deserves.
There is a popular notion floating around the motivational speaking circuit and infiltrating elementary school character education that your future possibilities are endless. The pop-psychologists and unflinching optimists tell us we can “be whatever you want to be” if we put our mind to it, try harder, and think happy thoughts.
A personal example to make my point: in two years of junior, junior varsity (that’s two juniors) I scored negative one point; I made one basket for the other team and one free throw for my team. The fact is, no matter how hard I try and how much I practice I will never be in the NBA. I have certain vertical challenges that make playing professional basketball infinitely improbable.
No matter how hard I believe I can fly, gravity says otherwise (sorry to disappoint the R. Kelly and Space Jam enthusiasts among my readership).
Before you despair I want to make clear that a lack of superiority does not mean that one should avoid a particular hobby, activity, or interest. Some things are worth the time and effort whether or not you will ever be an expert or a professional (e.g., Bible Study, parenting, etc.). I still, for example, enjoy playing Basketball despite my lack of professional prospects. I do, however, have realistic expectations. The problem with overly optimistic rhetoric is that it produces unrealistic expectations.
One of my favorite things about the Bible is that it provides the perfect mixture of hope while grounding me in a perfectly realistic understanding of human frailty. How can the Bible explain the depths of human debilitation while describing the hope of change and growth? We are not the ones responsible for our hope but, rather, the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ. By the grace of God we have a realistic understanding of our sinfulness and a genuine hope of redemption.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect… No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).
I recently watched Kevin Vanhoozer’s presentation, “Wrighting the Wrongs of the Reformation? The State of the Union with Christ in St. Paul and in Protestant Soteriology,” given at the 19th Annual Wheaton Theology Conference last month (audio or video can be found at Wheaton’s website). Vanhoozer offers a humorous and helpful overview of the differences between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ perspectives on Paul. In the process he clarifies where both camps have misunderstood each other and offers ways forward in the discussion of justification, salvation, and the mission of God.
Below is embedded the audio and video of his talk.
Dr. Jim West, one of the most interesting and incendiary bloggers has commented on the Liberty University saga containing Ergun Caner. In his typically sardonic style Dr. West has pointed out that this situation is about honesty and integrity. Unfortunately, Ergun Caner’s mistakes (allegedly) will affect not only himself but the institution at which he serves.
Also, “it’s not wise to ignore the insights of the blogosphere.”
I am still withholding judgment on the internet musings (see here, here, or here – to list only a few) regarding Ergun Caner. However, I knew the allegations that he intentionally embellished his testimony (post 9/11) were gaining steam when Christianity Today and other “mainstream” news agencies began reporting on this story.
It appears that Liberty University is taking these allegations seriously as well and have formed an internal investigative committee to study all the facts involved.
I suspect this is such an important story because a seminary president at one of America’s leading evangelical universities is being accused of lying and manipulating Islamiphobia for the purpose of gaining celebrity and expertise.
If these allegations prove to be true it will be another example in the long line of Christian celebrity moral failures (another reason that “celebrity” is antithetical to the servant nature of Christianity).
After hearing a Relevant Magazine podcast feature on the band “Gungor” (formerly the “Michael Gungor Band”) I was immediately hooked (you can listen to the live performances or download them for free… I particularly recommend the riveting guitar version of “Doxology”).
I am rarely impressed by the musical depth of a band that sings almost exclusively “Christian” music. Gungor’s music, however, has all of the range and experimentation of an Arcade Fire while managing simple folk interludes and classical guitar flourishes. I was pleased to find variety and meaning with Scripturally deep and redemptive songs. Michael Gungor and his bandmates manage to explore moving and creative musical and lyrical content while avoiding any hint of kitschy or trivial “contemporary Christian music.”