The Two Sides of Election

A struggle for many people in discussions about election is not that God chooses some for salvation but that God chooses others for a future separate from God. For the last few years, this has been a difficulty for me. This summer, I was able to study the Canons of Dort which where this two-fold approach of election (chosen either for eternity in heaven or hell) is most prominently put on display in the Reformed tradition. For many in this tradition, there is where they may stray from affirming the standards of our denomination. Many people have tried to make sense of this by suggesting that God only elects those to salvation; the others, God does not destined for hell, they just are not elect. I do not see how this makes sense though. Maybe it’s similar to the doctrine of double effect in ethics in which one distinguishes between intention and consequence. God intends the elect for heaven; because God does not intend the non-elect to go to hell, it is simply a consequence of God’s actions. But at the end of such an analogy, I am forced to ponder whether it makes a difference in this scenario or not. Because God is sovereign, God knows both his intention in election and the consequences that come with it. There can be no distinction in relation to God because God knows the consequences. It seems logical then to be forced to conclude that because God elects some for salvation, that God must also elect others to damnation. This is a hard pill to swallow. But it follows the trajectory of God’s sovereignty and God’s election. We see this in the example of the Israelites and Canaanites in the Old Testament. The Israelites are God’s elect; the Canaanites are not, nor is written thought that they were elected to damnation. But as non-elect, the Canaanites are actually elected to damnation, which we see when the Israelites drive the Canaanites out of the land.

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Faith in Reason II

A follow-up thought from yesterday’s post. I briefly mentioned how apologists often convey an unwavering trust in reason, either explicitly or implicitly. My struggle with such faith is not only that it elevates reason above all other considerations rendering emotions meaningless (which I wrote about yesterday) but that it does not take into account the depravity of the human mind. Although some acknowledge that their mind and logic is fallen like the rest of their being, they act in a different manner, assuming that their logic, reason, and conclusions are foolproof and they have the answers to some very troubling questions. They seem to look through a glass clearly rather than dimly. They seem to see in whole rather than in part.

I am not suggesting that objective truth is not out there but rather I wish to raise the question about how much the human can know and communicate about this objective truth. In this pursuit of objective truth, reason seems to be consulted more often than what Christian apologists believe this objective truth is (namely, God). This endeavor has fused together the Christian worldview with modernity. Whether this is a good thing or not, I will leave for you to determine. But it is this same group of Christian apologists who so often attack other worldviews in the name of the Christian worldview. Is this the Christendom that persists in our churches? That Christianity is inseparable from modernity?

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Faith in Reason

I’m having to do a lot of reading for my apologetics class thus far. At the moment, one resounding idea has bonded almost all of the books and articles together – an unwavering trust in reason. Now to be fair, reason does and should have a place in the lives of human beings. We should utilize reason all that we can in making decisions. We shouldn’t simply base decisions on the feeling of this moment or that moment. One of the most intriguing parts of the 20-Somethings article I posted yesterday was the psychological findings that the brain does not fully develop until age 25. Adolescence then becomes a period of our lives (now lengthening) in which emotions win out over reason. This can be deemed as a purely negative phenomenon. But I think that is an unwarranted conclusion to come to. Human beings are neither completely rational nor completely emotional beings. We are both rational and emotional beings and these do not have to be diametrically opposed although sometimes they are. We should not only listen to what our mind concludes through reason and logic when making decisions. Nor should we turn the reins over to emotions. We should listen to our heart and our mind.

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A Horde of Articles

A number of articles I have read in the last couple weeks that continue to churn in my mind. You might be hearing about them more in the days ahead.

An interesting look at emerging adulthood in today’s society.

Our brains are not only being high-jacked by fats, sugars, and salts, but also technology.

Character, especially in political dialogue, is both a moral and a mental exercise. An article by one of my favorite columnists.

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Summer Reading II

Yesterday, I listed my top five theological books of the summer. Today, I list my top five that do not fall under that category.

1) Branded Nation by James Twitchell. This book explores the marketing practices of what is commonly conceived as the cultural institutions – churches, colleges and universities, and museums. Twitchell believes that the practice of marketing and branding is unavoidable in the United States today and the cultural institutions that we have thought to exist above marketing are actually adopting the very techniques that businesses have been using. I had a difficult time putting this book down. There may be a little bias in this selection – I was in New York City at the time I was reading about the marketing of museums. Twitchell focuses on Museum Mile for most of that chapter and I was able to see it all firsthand.

2) The Chosen by Chaim Potok. A story about two Jewish boys (one Orthodox and one Reformed) and their fathers and the struggle and search for identity out of this religious and social upbringing.

3) The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. An insider’s look at the life of our current president. But it’s much more than that – I feel like I garnered loads of information regarding the history and practices of Congress.

4) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I admit, I read this one a few years ago for a class. But when a friend told me this was her favorite book, I decided to read it again. And I enjoyed it more this time around. An adolescent named Charlie writes letters to an unknown friend, chronicling his transition into high school and his search for an identity.

5) High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. A novel about a middle-aged man who finds himself in a life that he never expected. Another book in which the main character is in search of his identity, only this time, it’s not during adolescence. A good reminder that our idealistic notions of what life is to hold seldom come to fruition and yet, there is still meaning and joy to be had in the messiness of real life.

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Summer Reading I

Amidst my summer travels and in part because I only held a part-time job while in Denver, I was able to read a number of books this summer. Today, I will share with you my favorite theological or church-related books. Tomorrow, I will share with you my top five of all the books that do not fall under today’s category.

1) Evangelical Theology by Karl Barth. A great introduction to Barth’s thought. More impressive to me, however, was some of the guidelines he provided to those who are engaged with the task of theology.

2) Prayer by Karl Barth. Barth was not an armchair theologian by any means. Rather, he was a pastor through and through. His pastoral heart bleeds through the pages of this short book as one gets a glimpse of Barth’s own spirituality. This volume is supplemented by three articles from Barth scholars which I also found very insightful.

3) Living the Sabbath by Norman Wirzba. I really do not know how this book fell all the way to number three, but it did. Nevertheless, a wonderful book talking about the themes of rest, delight, and rhythm in relation to the practice of the Sabbath. Written with a very practical, ethical bent. I will return to this book many times in the years to come.

4) Missional Map-Making by Alan Roxbaugh. A part of the Leadership Network series, this book shows the current state of the church in relation to our culture today and the challenges it brings. Although it touches on practical implications or practices at the end of the book, I was left wanting more direction on what to do with the picture that Roxbaugh so wonderfully portrayed.

5) Thinking Theologically by Ronald J. Allen. A very short but insightful look into the preaching emphases of different traditions in Christianity, also including an examination of different strands of Christianity that may overlap with the faith traditions. This book has helped me immensely in clarifying what my purpose in preaching is.

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Fall Semester

Greetings friends! Hope you have had a wonderful summer. It’s time for school to begin again and hopefully this year, more consistent blogging from me also. Over to the right, I have updated two of my pages – Course Reading and Fall ’10 Classes. I will begin my second year at Denver Seminary on Monday.

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