Christian churches have always undergone periods of revival, so there is nothing new about the presence in America of revival as such. What was new after about the mid-eighteenth century was the way in which revival loomed as the dominant theme defining the nature and purposes of the church for Americans. … This revival was important for many reasons, but for long-standing impact on Christian thinking, two matters were most significant. The first was the way the revival promoted a new style of leadership—direct, personal, popular, and dependent much more on a speaker’s ability to draw a crowd than upon the speaker’s place in an established hierarchy. The second was the way the revival undercut the traditional authority of the churches. Ecclesiastical life remained important, but not nearly as significant as the decision of the individual close to Christ.

– Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 60-61

William Edgar, writing for Reformation21:

One of the most important [issues for Christians to work through] is social justice for all people, regardless of their background, or, indeed, sexual orientation. If marriage is not, strictly speaking, a right, nor a civil right, but a creation ordinance, what of the civil rights of gay people? We ought to be just as zealous to safeguard the rights of gay people as we are to safeguard marriage for monogamous heterosexuals. Not because they are gay, but because they are people, citizens, image-bearers. So legislators need to figure out the most equitable way to ensure that every citizen be given the proper access to social benefits, retirement, inheritance rules, etc.

And, surely, there is much repenting to be done over attitudes toward gay people that are hateful and prejudiced. I went to a boarding school many years ago, where the only view of gay people was “yuck!” Yet surely there were young men there struggling with their sexual identity and in need of compassionate counseling. Furthermore, those of us who are married (heterosexually) have a good deal of homework to do in our own families. It won’t do to criticize gays as unhappy, guilty, etc., if our own marriages are flagging. And then, the church needs to think through what it means to be celibate. Certainly this legitimate calling has also been maligned by sub-Christian attitudes.
 
At the end of the day, however, we do not recommend heterosexual marriage because it works best, because children may be born, or because it is the traditional view. We recommend it because God as [sic] ordained it, and it is a good thing: “Let marriage be held in honor among all” (Heb. 13:1).
 
Read the rest of the article here.

When Christians Become a ‘Hated Minority‘” (CNN):

Edward Johnson, a communication professor at Campbell University in North Carolina, says we are now living in a “postmodern” era where everything is relative and there is no universally accepted truth. It’s an environment in which anyone who says “this is right” and “that is wrong” is labeled intolerant, he says.

There was a time when a person could publicly say homosexuality was wrong and people could consider the statement without anger, he says. Today, people have reverted to an intellectual tribalism where they are only willing to consider the perspective of their own tribe.

“They are incapable of comprehending that someone may have a view different than theirs,” Johnson says. “For them anyone who dares to question the dogma of the tribe can only be doing so out of hatred.”

The One, the Three and the ManyColin Gunton offers some penetrating analysis of this “intellectual tribalism” in his book The One, the Three and the Many: God, Creation and the Culture of Modernity:

The characteristic peril of the modern is to be found in the tendency to homogeneity, to the intellectual and social pressures by which the distinctive individuality of people and things is endangered. … [T]he death of rhetoric is the reason why much modern political dispute takes the form of aggressive confrontation rather than rational engagement: the demonstration rather than the disputatio. Given the loss of confidence in argument, the noisy and potentially violent demonstration is all that remains. … [Alasdair] MacIntyre has argued that there is in the modern world a complete breakdown of a common language in which to argue and decide moral disputes. Listen, he says, to any argument about abortion or nuclear arms, and you will find that opponents speak past each other’s shoulders because they lack a common language in which to communicate. The reason is to be found in emotivism. …

A diagnosis of American conditions similar to that of [Wayne C.] Booth’s underlies Allan Bloom’s much discussed The Closing of the American Mind. … The problem is the cult of openness:

Openness used to be the virtue that permitted us to seek the good by using reason. It now means accepting everything and denying reason’s power. The unrestrained and thoughtless pursuit of openness, without recognizing the inherent political, social or cultural problem of openness as the goal of nature, has rendered openness meaningless … Openness to closedness is what we teach. (101-103)

UPDATE: Justin Taylor has posted a related article entitled “The Gay Marriage Campaign and the Despotism of Conformity.”  Check it out—it’s worth the read.

Next time you’re outside and it’s dark, look up and marvel at the glory and wisdom of our God:

To investigate the motions of the heavenly bodies, to determine their positions, measure their distances, and ascertain their properties, demands skill, and a more careful examination; and where these are so employed, as the Providence of God is thereby more fully unfolded, so it is reasonable to suppose that the mind takes a loftier flight, and obtains brighter views of his glory. Still, none who have the use of their eyes can be ignorant of the divine skill manifested so conspicuously in the endless variety, yet distinct and well ordered array, of the heavenly host; and, therefore, it is plain that the Lord has furnished every man with abundant proofs of his wisdom.

– John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.5.2.

Jonathan BlanchardI have written you much less than I intended and hoped when I left home. The farther we get into life the faster flows the current of events, and the less we control our own motions, but crowd along carrying and being carried toward the ocean.  When I was a boy, I did ten thousand things just because I wanted to; now, I do almost all things simply because I must. Still there is nothing tyrannous in that “must”—but I do my life duties with more satisfaction because my mind is schooled to duty, and suffer far less from disappointment because I serve a blessed Master who takes all the responsibility himself.

– Jonathan Blanchard, “Letter to the Students of Wheaton College at Morning Exercises,” June 18, 1861 (Wheaton College Archives and Special Collections)

John Frame offers 11 principles, 6 of which are reprinted below:

1. This discussion concerns the interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. The question is not whether we should abandon the teaching of these chapters to accomodate science. The question is, What does this passage actually say? It is an exegetical issue. …

2. I am not denying that secular science has influenced the debate. The claims of scientists that the universe has existed for billions of years have certainly motivated theologians to go back to the text, in order to see whether these claims are consistent with Scripture. In my view, that is entirely right and proper. …

3. But there are also wrong ways of being influenced by science. In re-examining traditional views, we should not be governed by any principles of reasoning that are inconsistent with Scripture. …

8. There are reasons for taking the days as normal days.

9. On the other hand, I am not persuaded that figurative views should be considered heretical…

10. In all this discussion, we should remind ourselves that God, speaking through Moses in Genesis 1-2, has a purpose, namely, to display his glory in his creative work and to provide background for the narrative of the Fall. It is not the primary purpose of the narrative to tell us precisely how God made the world, when he did it, how long it took, and how all of this relates to the theories of modern science.

– John Frame, The Doctrine of God, A Theology of Lordship, vol. 2 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002), 302-306

A Prayer for Spring

Posted: April 17, 2013 in creation, music, nature, prayer

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise

– Rich Mullins, “The Color Green