I am now writing exclusively over at the Christians In Context blog. Click on this banner to be taken there!

Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
Looking for a church in the Omaha area? Come check out ours on Sunday mornings at 11!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Book Review: The Lost Virtue of Happiness by J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler

I was fully prepared to enjoy this book, having already enjoyed one by J.P. Moreland earlier this summer called Love Your God With All Your Mind. So if he can write such an excellent book on the role of the mind in the life of the Christian, why not on the role of the spiritual disciplines in the life of the Christian? After all, that is how The Lost Virtue of Happiness by Moreland and Issler was billed.

"Discovering the disciplines of the good life"
"A fresh look at the spiritual disciplines"

Alas, I was disappointed on two fronts. Unfortunately, the earlier book I'd read by J.P. Moreland was a factor in this book being a let-down. In at least two rather extensive portions (that I noticed), J.P. borrowed heavily and even quoted word for word sections from Love Your God With All Your Mind. This is not a grave offense, I've noticed other authors do it before. However, in this instance it felt forced and a little out of place because the sections did not seem to fit the expressed intent of the book.

Which brings me to my second critique. For a book supposedly dealing with spiritual disciplines, they were not the disciplines I was expecting. Instead of chapters devoted to prayer, fasting, and the study of the Scriptures, there were chapters like "Embracing the Hiddenness of God" and "Defeating Two Hardships of Life: Anxiety and Depression".

After I got over the initial disappointment of being misled by the packaging, I found the book somewhat insightful in finding happiness in the Christian life (I would recommend this book to any Christian dealing with depression).

I know that often the publishers have the final say on what is on the front and back cover. Unfortunately, if that was the case with this book, it made some truly engaging and helpful material feel like a "miss" for me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

For the Joy of the Master

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, "Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more."

His master said to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant.You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master."

And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, "Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more."

His master said to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master."

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, "Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours."

But his master answered him, "You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." - Matthew 25:14-30

This parable used to really bother me as a kid. I was always upset that the master gave the servants different amounts to work with. What bothered me even more was the fact that the master, upon his return, seemed to add talents and rewards proportionate to the gain that the servant made on the money, regardless of the fact that they didn't start with the same amount (Don't believe me? See the parallel passage in Luke 19).

Now I don't consider myself a financial guru by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know that it's easier to make five of something back if you start with five rather than two. So when the master seemingly rewards in proportion to the profit, that seemed extremely unjust.

I say "seemingly" because I noticed something recently I had not noticed before. I had been confusing exactly what the reward was.

I realized that when the master rewards the servant with the pronouncement "I will set you over much" (in the Luke passage this is authority over cities), he is not giving the servant a reward. He is adding to his responsibility. The master is not giving money to the servant for making him money. The money, the cities, the "much" all still belongs to the master.

What then is the reward for the servant? "The joy of your master". With this short phrase, all of my materialistic categories of life are crushed.

I am guilty of using the gifts and abilities that God has given me for the motive of gaining more. I want more stuff, status, prestige, in this life and the next. How foolish! How could I have missed for so long that it all belongs to the master!

Nothing that is given to me belongs to me. Nothing that I add to what has been given to me belongs to me. And nothing that is placed under my care because I have been productive in the past belongs to me.

If I am working for anything but the joy of the master, I am working foolishly. So to those of you who are constantly jealous of the gifts or possessions or status that someone else has, consider what you have and work for the joy of the master. To those of you who have said gifts and possessions and status, work for the joy of the master. And remember, to whom much is given, much is required.

And above all, work for the joy of the master.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Imputation of Adam's Sin: A Theory

I was challenged recently that the idea of original sin and Adam's fall as our Representative Head was an unfair and antiquated idea. Nobody still believes that today, do they?

The push-back was not on universal sin, a cursory read of the Bible (or the newspaper for that matter) will settle that one. We're all sinners, no son of Adam (save one) has ever lived a sinless life. "But this idea that we are sinners because Adam sinned, that's so archaic!"

As I considered an answer, I was reminded of a similar complaint. Why did God make humans so we could sin at all?! Why not create us so that we would always choose to love and worship God?The answer is that this sort of love and worship would not be real, would not be genuine. In order for our love and worship to be real, it must be free.

So God created the first two humans with genuine moral freedom (a freedom we don't possess or fully understand). God made them this way not because he wanted humans who would sin, but because it must be so in order to have free God-worshippers.

The nature of God-worshipping freedom requires it.

And I think this may illuminate our question of the imputation (or the passing down) of sin. Just as the nature of freedom played a role in the sort of humanity God made, I think the nature of worship played a role in the sort of humanity God made.

Remember, sin is not just disobeying God, it is the love and worship of something other than God. The devotion, allegiance, obediance, and affection that should be God's is turned to something (or someone) else. So while God did not make us sinners (nor did he create sin), sin happens when we put anything else in God's place. We remove God from the throne in our hearts and place ourselves there.

So perhaps God did not make us linked to Adam in our sinfulness just because he wanted it that way. Perhaps God made us this way because it must be so in order to have the sort of worshippers he desired. The nature of freedom required the potential for a fall, and the nature of worship required the potential for slavery to sin that is transferred from parent to child. Perhaps the nature of our relationship to sin is the way it is because that's the way God desired our relationship with him to be. At least that's my theory right now.