“I sometimes find, especially among my peers, that authenticity is not a…means of growing in holiness, but a convenient cover for endless introspection, doubt, uncertainty, anger, and worldliness. So that if other Christians seem pure, assured, and happy we despise them for being inauthentic.
Granted, the church shouldn’t be happy-clappy naive about life’s struggles. Plenty of psalms show us godly ways to be real with our negative emotions. But the church should not apologize for preaching a confident Christ and exorting us to trust Him in all things. Church is not meant to foster an existential crisis of faith every week”
Kevin DeYoung in Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion, p.89
I wrote this review a while ago, but decided it to post it now after having been at an excellent talk about Calvin by Michael Haykin at a church in Tilbury.
The Humanness of John Calvin: The Reformer as a Husband, Father, Pastor & Friend by Richard Stauffer, Solid Ground Christian Books
If you are at all interested in the Swiss Reformer John Calvin, I must heartily commend to you this book. In a mere 100 or so pages, Stauffer does an excellent job of a painting a portrait of Calvin. It’s probably a different portrait than what you may have in your mind, but its very accurate and corrects a lot of misconceptions of Calvin.
Calvin is slandered by his enemies, but even people who like him tend to pigeon-hole him into something he is not. Calvin was not a one-track theologian with nothing on his mind but predestination. He was not a cold, heartless exegete. He had a soft pastoral heart and a friendly, temperate disposition in many ways. One by one, Stauffer shows Calvin as a Husband, Father, Pastor, and Friend. To me, the most enlightening of these was “Friend”. The book really shows through primary sources how Calvin came along side people, cared for them, and was fiercely loyal to them. And it was not just one or two friendships that he nurtured, instead Calvin sought a handful of friendships and really himself poured into them.
The section on Calvin as “Pastor” is also very good, showing the way he cared for his people and also his humble approach, even upholding the church leadership which overthrew his own, because he felt it was still a valid church. Calvin’s pastoral heart really shines forth and refutes the idea which relegates Calvin to some sort of cold-hearted dictator. The portrayals of his sympathy and care for human suffering really dispels a lot of common misconceptions.
We also get a good glimpse into Calvin’s married life, and how he cared for his children. Their time was not an easy one, and Calvin’s faith and humanness really comes out as they go through various difficulties, including the plague.
There are two other areas that come out in this book, which aren’t part of the subtitle but seemed prominent to me. First of all, there is a great portrayal of Calvin as a Bachelor and second Calvin as a Matchmaker. Calvin’s desire to encourage good matches for his friends really comes out here.
Things have been pretty busy lately, but I’ve decided to waste part of my lunch time to add to what seems to already be an over-saturated topic. One of the negative things about blogging is that it often makes you feel compelled to talk about things that are timely but at the same time stale. The Manhattan Declaration is out. Within the theological community of people who would agree with the morals of the declaration, there are those who, on principle, are not signing.
If your ethical criteria is “which way the wind blows”, then you are out of luck, respected people are landing on both sides of this. I think you are on pretty flimsy ground if you are willing ot sign something merely on the basis that someone else you respect has signed it.
Signatories include Albert Mohler, J.I. Packer, Brian Chapell, William Edgar, Martin Olavsky, etc.
Here are a few scattered comments that come to my mind (they are generic, not specifically tailored for this particular declaration):
1. As a general rule, as of late, I try to be as skeptical I can. I think an appropriate posture is to start assuming no positive obligation to sign and then wait to see if one is presented. We should then refuse to feel pressured to sign. And then if we discover a negative obligation we shouldn’t even give consideration to signing. Emotionalism likes to rally people to causes and often it overstates the necessity. The world is full of causes trying to make you believe you have some positive obligation to join. This sort of “group think” can potentially be very scary.
2. Agreeing with a declaration 100% does not imply a positive obligation to sign it. Signing goes beyond mere agreement. Also, it is possible that we could fully agree with the “what” (the declarations bare statements but could refuse to sign it for reasons pertaining to “why”, “who”, or “when”. We should not be pressured into thinking that support for the “what” necessitates our supporting the “why”, “who”, or “when”.
3. When signing something, beyond the bare question of whether we agree with its terms, we should also consider what it will accomplish. Though it might be easy, we should never see signing something as a trivial matter (whether it be a declaration, a cheque, or a contract). Signing is a serious thing and we should always consider it that, even if it technically takes very little time.
4. This reminds me of how activism is often so much more complicated than we conservative Christians like to make it out to be. The what vs. why, who, how distinction outlines this.
5. The company we keep matters. A reputable name signing a declaration NEVER creates a positive obligation to sign, but a disreputable name signing a declaration COULD create a negative obligation in some circumstances. While signing a declaration is mainly a matter of agreeing with its propositions, I would argue that is not the only consideration.
I will not be signing this declaration for a few reasons that I do not feel compelled to explain in detail here. Suffice it to say, I see no positive obligation and I see cases being made for a negative obligation. In light of that, signing, to me, would at best be a matter of indifference (if there is no negative obligation) and at worst it would be wrong-headed to sign it (in the case that there is a negative obligation).
I believe in the sanctity of human life, the dignity of Christian marriage, and the rights of conscience and religion liberty. I do not feel compelled to sign the Manhattan Declaration in order to affirm that. The creators of the declaration have no particular reason to be concerned about my non-signing. Nobody is going to follow in my footsteps for the sake of following in my foot steps. At least I hope not.
Here are a few things I’ve been wondering about recently (a laundry list)..
1. Where does the Meat Eater’s Creedo come from? I posted it here in 2007 and Eric Raymond contacted me inquiring about the source. I thought I had a source, but apparently not. If anyone knows about the origins of this charming, classic quote which found its way into many Unix Fortune Cookie Files, please do spill the beans (err… the beef, I mean)!
2. Why is there not yet a half descent way to manage a podcast collection (on ones mp3 player) that runs natively on Linux? (I’m talking something that automatically deletes listened to episodes, is relatively painless, etc.) Am I missing something? (and, yes, I’ve already tried gPodder, its going in the right direction, but IMHO not there yet).
3. Why can one buy a descent Mac desktop AND a descent 18″ PC laptop combined for LESS than the price of a descent 17″ MacBook?
3. Are all devotees of Gordon H. Clark (Christian apologist) chess players? (I’m almost convinced that one of his disciples proclaimed the white bishop on A8 a heretic.) Is this Clarkian fascination with chess something I should be concerned about, being a sort of neoVanTillan? What is a characteristically Van Tilian game?
4. If we took John Robbins (The Trinity Foundation) and Marc Carpenter’s (Outside the Camp website) heretics lists, and concatenated them, would there be any orthodoxy left? What would have happened had they sat in the same room? Is anyone else relived that Marc or John never have been the leader of a state church?
5. Are there any Arminians who practice Exclusive Psalmody?
6. In the debate movie Collision, what are we to make of Christopher Hitchen’s comment about not wanting to convert the last Christian to atheism (to Dawkins dismay)?
7. What was C.S. Lewis possibly thinking when he wrote Reflections on the Psalms?
8. It seems clear to me that there are fundamentalistic/militant atheist public figures. Are there any that would correspond moreso to a “theologically liberal” Christian? If so, who are they? Who is redefining the boundaries, playing word games, and denying/reinterpreting the fundamentals? Is there any softening, liberalizing influences within the New Atheism, or is it a fast track to fundamentalism?
9. Why is it so hard to find a good Greek salad? How can so many places, especially sit down restaurants, get it so badly wrong? It can’t be that hard, can it?
10. How old is Jeeves supposed to be in Wodehouse’s novels? Is there a way to deduce it? The book covers tend to portray him as a bit oldish, but the TV series Wooster and Jeeves portrays Jeeves as older than Bertie, but still fairly young looking.
11. (In reference to Wodehouse’s portrayal of Honoria Glossop) Am I the only one who would can only shake my head at Bertie Wooster on this account? How could he possibly fall for a disciple of Nietzsche? (Interesting psychological quetions raised here)
12. What would have happened differently in NHL hockey if Mike Bossey landed on the Quebec Nordiques team (as almost happened while they were in the WHA) instead of the New York Islanders? Would New York still win 4 cups in a row? How would it change the fate of the Nordiques? Would they win a cup with Goulet/Stasany brothers/Bossey? Would they move to Colorado after that? Would Bossey still score 50-60 goals a year? Would he still retire before reaching 10 years?
That’s it for now. If you have any answers, I’m all ears.
- What Is A Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile: Good
- The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse: GREAT!
- Is Christianity Good For the World? by Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson: An excellent meeting of two brilliant minds. I’d say Wilson won, although I’m sure Hitchens would differ with me on that point.
- Future Men by Douglas Wilson: Good and challenging, recommended for parents!
- Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy: Hey Jude… You’re a wretch! … Take a sad song and make it sadder.
- The World of P.G. Wodehouse by Herbert Warren Wind: Written before he died. Excellent. More intimate and far better than McCrum’s biography I read recently.
My friend Matt, a former Jehovah’s Witness, was interviewed by Apologetics.com recently. It is titled “All Along The Watchtower: A Former Jehovah’s Witness Gives A Guided Tour Of Watchtower Theology”. There is a summary here, and you can grab the mp3 here.
“3 years ago Matt Fenn became one of the 30,000 people per year to be disfellowshipped from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He shares with us his journey and sheds light on the teachings of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society along the way.”
OK, I can resist posting a few favorite Wodehouse quotes:
“He felt like a man who, chasing rainbows, has had one of them suddenly turn and bite him in the leg.”
“He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life, and found a dead beetle at the bottom.”
“His whole attitude recalled irresistibly to the mind that of some assiduous hound who will persist in laying a dead rat on the drawing-room carpet, though repeatedly apprised by word and gesture that the market for same is sluggish or even non-existent.”
“She could not have gazed at him with a more rapturous intensity if she had been a small child and he a saucer of ice cream.”
“He uttered a sound much like a bull dog swallowing a pork chop whose dimensions it has underestimated.”
“Jeeves lugged my purple socks out of the drawer as if he were a vegetarian fishing a caterpillar out of his salad.”
The Reformed Forum just recently had an excellent podcast on Credobaptism During the Reformation. Anyone interested in Baptist history and the Reformation will find this fascinating. The Reformed Forum is usually quite good, but I’d say this show was especially outstanding.