Categories
The End of Many Books

Crisis of Responsibility

by David Bahnsen

Some of the men I enjoy and respect the most recommended this book for all the men at our church to read and discuss. I’m glad they did.

Bahnsen lets no one off the hook. It’s an extended look in the mirror, and expects us to look from the financial angle, both the K-12 and higher education angle, the political angle, all the way down to the moral angle. Considered individually, your fault level may vary. Considered as a nation, the image is UGLY.

A great temptation for many men is not to look in the mirror but through the window. At certain moments they see themselves, and acknowledge some of the work they should be doing. But most of the time is spent looking at all the problems…other people have. That guy, that banker, businessman, politician, teacher, professor, immigrant, even robot (or owner replacing humans with automation), someone else is responsible for all the junk making our lives miserable.

Again, Bahnsen pokes at this irresponsible tendency. That’s good.

A few things make me less confident of Bahnsen’s claim that we can “cure” our cultural addition to blame.

First, the book came out in 2018. Sheesh, has a lot happened that has exposed even more of the rot. Even though Big Tech and Big Brother and Big Pharma and Behemoth U. aren’t the only bugs in the system, they sure are BIG bugs, and they’ve all sucked a lot more blood these last five or six years.

Second, speaking of changes since publication, the Foreword was written by David French, and French has gone all footsies with many in Big Media (as full-time writer for the New York Times), those who fancy themselves the taste-makers in elitist, Christian-hating culture. I don’t remember reading French in 2018, but this inclusion (and his name on the cover of the book) means Bahnsen’s book will be judged by the cover.

Third, there’s much less neutrality now, not that neutrality was ever really true, but it seemed like it, or it was easier to coast. Responsibility is not a commodity, it can’t be bought, and it most definitely cannot be sold. There isn’t anyone who wants to buy it! The virtue of personal responsibility has survived in name, but it is only consistently valued by those who believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot imagine a return to a culture of responsibility without a revival brought about by a great work of the Spirit to draw men to true life by the gospel. I don’t follow Bahnsen’s current work, maybe he is more explicit about that now. But while this book is interesting, it’s not compelling apart from a Christian conviction with Kuyperian flavor.

Should you read this? Sure, you should. There’s much to learn. And also, you’ve got to know that it only matters because Jesus is Lord.

Categories
Bring Them Up

On Wanting More

I appreciate this video, not just for how much thankfulness it communicates in two minutes, but for two more reasons. First, the reason to start things like schools/colleges and to do work for our kids is not mostly because we’re fearful but instead because we know that there is more. Jesus is Lord of the cosmos. He created it all, and He cares about it all. Those who are growing up in His image should also grow in their capacity to care about what Jesus cares about, and that means our non-government education efforts have more to do with what we’re running toward rather than what we’re running from. We’re not necessarily wanting to be safe, we want much more than a gun and drug free campus.

The second part I really appreciated was the testimony of starting with what you have and going from there. Call it iteration, call it persistent revision, call it growth. Don’t wait for perfect, don’t expect there won’t be problems, and also don’t panic while addressing the problems. Need to figure something out? Well, you know, try to figure it out. Isn’t that what we want our students loving to learn to do themselves? We are not handing down the final answers from on high, we are “straining forward to what lies ahead” by faith and showing the way by example of learning more ourselves.

Wilson says near the end:

“Twenty-seven years ago we took the plunge. We didn’t know then what we know now, but what we did know we decided to act on. And as you act on what you know, one of the usual results is that God in His grace gives more light. Faithfulness requires no less….” [The work is] “because we wanted something more for our children.”

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

A Strange Idea Indeed

Here’s a strange idea — what if a university marketed itself as a place to acquire an education?

“What if a university took a completely different tack? What if it rejected the claim that subjects like philosophy, theology, literature and history are basically useless? What if, to the contrary, it insisted precisely on the usefulness of the great books, books like the Iliad, the Bible and The Brothers Karamazov? What if it sought not to coddle students, but to strengthen and toughen them for the challenges of adult life?”

These are good questions.

Categories
The End of Many Books

Desiring the Kingdom

A friend gave me a copy of this book and I was eager to get after it right away. It didn’t take too long before I was reading bigger chunks at a time…so I could be finished with it faster.

The book is primarily about the power of liturgy to affect our desires/loves. And amen. This is something I had not thought about until ten or so years ago, and I am very thankful that this book by James Smith is not the first one I came across. It might have messed me up all over.

It’s not just that I don’t care for a number of his terms, such as “precognitive,” but I really came to not believe him when he tried to stick on a weak qualification here or there about how we shouldn’t abandon all propositions/sentences/statements of truth. Liturgy should be emphasized, especially among those who only see worldview issues through catechesis. But Smith emphasized it in such a way that liturgy becomes the autocrat of pedagogy, so to speak. But God gave us His Word. His Son is the Word. Psalm 19:7-8 describes the Word as potent.

I cannot recommend that you read this, and, if you do, watch out that you do not follow Smith in giving too much authority to the experiences and feelings and traditions of men.

1 of 5 stars

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

Enormous Education

In A Centennial Reader, James Bratt introduces Abraham Kuyper’s inaugural address for the Free University of Amsterdam, and why opening this institution was so important for Kuyper:

“Higher education and advanced research had enormous importance for him: religiously, for exploring and enhancing God’s creation; strategically, for (re)shaping society and culture; socially, for raising the self-respect and life-chances of common people.”

Categories
Bring Them Up

So Let’s Do Something About That

A few months ago a friend of mine recommended to me Roaring Lambs: A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World. I’m about to finish it, and will give a Goodreads review soon. But since there’s a group of us working to start a college in the near future, I really appreciated the following quote from chapter 8, “The Christian Academe: Underachievers.”

Christian college graduates typically have commitment, but not confidence. They have ideals, but not vision. Except for those going into the professional ministry, no one has laid out for most of them either the possibilities or the responsibilities of penetrating every area of our society with the message of Christ.” (157, emphasis mine)

Categories
The End of Many Books

Scholarship: Two Convocation Addresses On University Life

by Abraham Kuyper

Good reminders of our great, and highly privileged, responsibility to study all the world of the Lord.

4 of 5 stars

Categories
Bring Them Up

Aiming Senior Arrows

One trend that has bugged me for more than a decade is parents, and pastors, encouraging their kids to move away. This is not the same as encouraging them to move out. Yes, raise kids who grow up and take more and more responsibility for themselves, and then commit to a spouse, and start a family, probably in their own house. All that is great. It is the post high school move-away-if-you-can that concerns me.

The end of May/beginning of June is graduation season. Our school will conduct its second evar commencement this coming Sunday evening. It gives occasion for me to look out the window again, stroke my beard, and ruminate in general, where should parents and teachers aim senior arrows?

I don’t think it is sin to go away to college. Other articles have been written, especially for Christian students, about priorities young people need to consider when choosing a college. Those are great. And of course not every high school graduate even needs to go to college, but that is another post.

But is it the best to send our kids away? Why pour into them for seventeen/eighteen years of life, including thirteen years of schooling, and then offer them nothing close to home after that?

We live in a fairly small town. It might be more exciting to move to a larger place and attend an established school. It would be an experience. I went to three different colleges, all of which were at least seven hours from my hometown. But we are raising our kids to love the place God planted our family, teaching them to love their city neighbors, and encouraging them to be salt and light here.

If they want to go away, and have good reasons for doing so, that will be fine. This isn’t about parental grabbiness. Everyone does not need to stay near home. But telling our kids that it is better to get out is counterproductive to generational change and maybe a sign of our own unthankfulness.

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

I Don’t Believe It

I love Dr. John MacArthur. Much of my spiritual and pastoral growth can be attributed directly to him as the human instrument. When I packed my Ford Probe and moved to Los Angeles in 1997 for seminary it was because I wanted to be a student fully trained with him as the teacher. There is no one else I would rather listen to preach. And thanks to Phil Johnson and other editors his body of published material is without modern day equal. He is one of God’s strongest and clearest messengers and I sit up straight when he speaks.

More than likely, most of the people who read this blog know and love Dr. MacArthur as well. So it’s no new revelation to say he’s the preacher who never met a passage that wasn’t his favorite. Each week, every next verse he unleashes is the most “rich” one. I really do admire his endless positivity, especially in light of everything I imagine he’s seen and heard. His sanguine perspective also spills over into a proclivity for hyping whatever he’s thinking/talking about in the now. I’m amazed how excited he is, or at least sounds, about anything he’s announcing. For instance, though he’s greeted new visitors thousands of times I’ve never heard his welcome sound stale, rote, or disinterested. It’s more than admirable, it’s endearing.

That said, I don’t always believe everything he says. Sometimes sweet things are too good to be true and you get to a point where you can’t handle any more honey (Proverbs 27:7).

A good case in point would be the introduction of his recent chapel message, The Responsibility of a Christian College, in which he claimed that being at a Christian college is the most intense spiritual experience a believer could have. As president of The Master’s College I understand he’s obligated, and I think in his case genuinely excited, to promote the school. But this characterization of life at a Christian college is more like a caricature, and the exaggeration gives a dangerous and unhelpful impression.

For the record, I don’t have a problem with Christian colleges, or The Master’s College in particular. Just the opposite is true. For the last seven years I’ve promoted, organized, and driven students thousands of miles for Preview Weekends at TMC. Some of my favorite people are TMC students or graduates and I wish I could have gone there myself. Furthermore, I attended three different Christian colleges before finally graduating from one of them.

So I agree, as MacArthur opened his message, that Christian colleges should produce “distinctive Christians,” defined by him as those “who’s sanctification is evident.” That’s good if not self-evident. But I couldn’t believe what he said just a little under two minutes in:

Being a Christian in a Christian college should be the most formidable, the most aggressive, the most progressive, the most intense time of sanctification that a believer could ever know. …to be a true Christian, and to be put in this setting, with its level of spiritual intensity, biblical understanding, biblical literacy, theological clarity, ministry opportunity, is a level of intensity in spiritual experience that has no parallel. No youth pastor can produce this level of discipleship. No family can produce the breadth, height, length and depth of this level of discipleship coming from so many different directions, all singularly focused, all founded on the same convictions, all pursuing the same objective.

[Note: I transcribed this quote from the podcast of Chapel @ TMC. At the moment there is no other way to access the message than by subscribing to the entire podcast. Note to the media department at TMC: if you’re going to make the audio available at all (for which we are very thankful), why not create a more inviting way to access the chapel messages than only through iTunes? Anyway, I suspect this quote is exactly the kind of material that might be published in a future edition of The Master’s Current, though I hope it gets buried or lost on the editor’s desk.]

For sake of full disclosure, it’s true that Pastor of Student Ministries is the title on my business card. Maybe I’m howling because one of the rocks he threw hit my head, but I don’t think that’s the only reason.

If he would have said something like, “Sadly it’s true for many Christians that the most intense time of spiritual growth is in college” I’d have no complaint. Certainly that is possible. My objection is that his statement makes it sound ideal.

But if Christian college is truly the ultimate place for spiritual growth and sanctification and discipleship then that’s awful for the majority of past and present believers who never went to a Christian college for whatever reason. We should make everyone enroll immediately for every semester and attend classes at some Christian college as long as they’re alive. (We’re also going to have to do something about the hefty $120,000 price tag for this level of sanctification.) Every family, and church, should organize themselves around the college schedule. Apparently the rest of us are really missing out.

Obviously that’s not biblical. God ordained the church and the family as His institutions for instruction, discipleship, worship, ministry, and personal obedience. Christian college may be a small brick in the wall, but to say it is “a level of intensity in spiritual experience that has no parallel” discourages almost everyone but donors and undermines MacArthur’s message and ministry for over 40 years.

Professors cannot take the place of preachers/pastors and parents. They’re not supposed to. College is also patently NOT discipleship, unless discipleship is defined in terms of classes and chapels, which I’ve argued against elsewhere. In addition, roommates and RAs cannot provide what older, and younger, and otherwise different parts of the Body can.

When I look back on my own Christian college experience, sanctification was indeed formidable. But I always attributed that more to the fact of living in close quarters of a thousand other selfish sinners. And we certainly had some spiritually intense discussions, but most of the intensity was due to our youthful arrogance, not our theological acumen. I’m very thankful for everything I learned and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m even more thankful that it’s done. In fact, trying to be a loving husband, a diligent dad, and a faithful shepherd has no parallel in terms of intensity.

My point is that no Christian college can provide the breadth, height, length and depth of spiritual experience. I don’t believe it. Dr. MacArthur himself has preached and published otherwise for a long time. I don’t think he believes it either.


Comments

Chuck Weinberg said April 30, 2008 at 5:44 am:

Hey Hig, Thanks for your leadership and truth declaring on our behalf. Thanks for your willingness to disagree, when necessary, with someone you love. Our family has been through some “intense sanctification training” lately, and you’re exactly right, it’s the Body that brings all those things so sweetly together. Thanks again for your work at TMC and seminary to move you along in the process, but thank you even more for your continued growth in sanctification over the past years you have been involved in our ministry. You, and Mo, have growth significantly and so has our 128 staff and students. God is Good. Chuck

Clyde said April 30, 2008 at 8:58 am:

i agree with your disagreement. Jesus established the church. He never established LABC.

$ talks. This is a good example.

Jesse Martin said April 30, 2008 at 9:43 am:

Hmmm, I don’t think I care for his dogmatic declaration either. When I first considered colleges, there was almost nothing I wouldn’t have given to be able to attend that college as well – a few years removed from that decision and looking at the growth and intense discipleship I have received through the ministry here in One28 – I KNOW I have received more ministry opportunity and personalized exhortation from the Godly men in this church than I would ever have received from a teacher that is forced into the formality of the academic arena. My deepest gratitude to your “second best” efforts Sean!

bean said April 30, 2008 at 10:05 am:

@clyde – i agree with the disagreement too. and i agree that money talks. but i did want to jump in with a tiny (maybe weak) defense of the book you linked to. from what i understand, many of the “spin off” books are handled by the publisher and macarthur (or phil) has very little, if anything, to do with them. he obviously has very much to do with his message at chapel, though, so there is no getting out of that.

and yes, the next question is why you would let your publisher have that much control and influence…i did say it might be a weak defense.

Mijah said April 30, 2008 at 11:16 am:

Although I am about to graduate from said college in a little over a week and I did sit through that very chapel message, I do agree that he definitely exaggerated the point of the Christian college experience being unique. Honestly, as I listened to him, although what he was saying was superlative and declarative, it didn’t surprise me. The day he gave that message, it was a view weekend, so there were over a hundred prospective students and their parents visiting. We (TMC students) all know that view weekends is when the visitors see the full face of the college. It isn’t that they see anything fake or false, but all Master’s is and represents and stands for is showcased for the visitors. With that said, MacArthur is stepping into the pulpit in front of prospective customers and with enrollment down, it didn’t surprise any of us that he was saying the things that he was.

But that is no excuse for undermining the authority and priority of the local church. I could give plenty of testimony to how God has shaped my life here, but there is no chapter and verse on the necessity to attend Christ’s college.

When I have heard leaders around here say that the college has something that the church wishes it had, I have understood that to mean we live alongside the very people who are discipling us and who we are discipling. We don’t just meet two times a week, but day in and day out we see each other live and confront sin and forgive and love and encourage. Although I see those benefits, living around people that are primarily your own age is not exactly what Titus 2 speaks of.

By the way, you can access the podcast by just visiting the feed through the web browser, where then you can download individual files without subscribing. So, just plug this feed into a browser: http://www.masters.edu/podcast/chapel/chapel.xml

GP said April 30, 2008 at 3:10 pm:

This makes me embarrassed to say where I went to school. I agree with footnote # 4. What you said about husband, dad and shepherd was right.

Dave Crawford said May 1, 2008 at 5:11 pm:

“In fact, trying to be a loving husband, a diligent dad, and a faithful shepherd has no parallel in terms of intensity.”

No kidding.

I truly don’t understand, however, how the book The Extraordinary Mother, which was linked above in the comments, typifies the expression “money talks.” The phrase means a compromise on essential principles for the sake of money. Since the content is biblical, I don’t see how a spin-off book does this, regardless of whether it was initiated by the author or the publisher.

SKH said May 2, 2008 at 11:02 am:

Alright, first of all and to all who have commented thus far, thanks for the feedback and encouragement.

Second, I don’t want to jump into The Extraordinary Mother discussion too deep except to say, Dave, it’s okay, we promise not to tell Jen what’s coming for her Mother’s Day gift.

Leila Bowers said May 5, 2008 at 9:03 am:

Looking back on my schooling experience, I wish I could have mixed private and public university. I certainly would have loved the depth of Biblical insight and knowledge provided by a school like TMC, but the fight to be “in the world and not of it,” the opportunity to meet many diverse Non-Christians, what it means to battle for truth in a hostile environment, refining critical thinking with Biblical truth – that ‘training’ through the UW and UVa was also excellent.

However, Andy and I have often discussed that, if I (or he) had grown up at a church like Grace, we would have been far more equipped for a place like the UW. I didn’t fully understand discipleship, God’s sovereignty – so many things! And I know a good church would have been a more effective equipper than time at a private college.

Biblically, is the ideal mode of sanctification through something like a Church environment or a School environment? I agree with others, and SKH, that this is more a charge to bolster the depth and life-on-life elements of the Church than start investing in the Stock Market in the hopes of being able to send all our kids to TMC…