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Article Notes: “Googling Ourselves to Death,” by Jason Stellman

I found this article an interesting read today. In it, Jason Stellman discusses thoughts on what the Internet as a medium is doing to the way we think. But then Stellman goes on to look at the impact it might be having on our spiritual growth. For example, might our repetitive truncating of messages in texts and tweets be leading to more truncated prayer? He points out that sometimes we only grow to the extent that we put in effort–a principle that is certainly true in other realms, such as the intellect and the body.

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Tim Keller Article Notes — “Three Ways with Families”

In a February blog entry titled “Three Ways with Families,” Tim Keller posted a brief look at the secular, religious, and gospel-centered view of the family. He introduces the topic with an interesting fact: in Japan, Russia, and Western Europe, the birth rate has dropped below replacement levels. Interestingly, these are societies that are becoming increasingly secular; societies that tend to be more religious are having no problems with population decline.

Why might secular folks not be interested in having kids?

  • “The sacrifice factor” — Sociologists studying secularism for the past thirty years have found that it fosters individualism. The idea of having kids doesn’t exactly mesh well with the idea of going out and following your dreams.
  • “The hope factor” — With environmental and technological disasters threatening, the secular folks don’t see the prospect of bringing new life into the world very enticing. Why bring someone into such potential suffering?

Does this mean, “Yay, religion is a friend to the family!” Not necessarily; people from religious or moralistic backgrounds have a tendency to idolize family. Yet, “according to theologian Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University, Christianity was the very first religion or world-view that held up single adulthood as a viable way of life. Jesus himself and St. Paul were single.” In the Gospel, one does not need a family to have the love and acceptance and honor of God.

So, what does the Gospel do for singles?

  • frees them from the shame of being unmarried found in conservative cultures.
  • allows them to nurture lives for the family of God just as Christian parents do.

And what does the Gospel do for marrieds and families?

  • Gives us the hope and strength for the sacrifices required in marriage and child-rearing.
  • “Christians grasp that they were only brought to life because of Jesus’ radical sacrifice of his independence and power. We know that children are only brought to life and self-sufficiency if their parents sacrifice much of their independence and power. In light of the cross, it is the least we can do.”

The article’s not long, and definitely worth a read. Being from a conservative background, I can relate to the tendency to idolize family and family honor. Like all idols, these idols are good things that my heart tends to change into ultimate things. Praise be to the one who gives us a family and family honor that cannot be shaken!

Tim Keller Article Notes — “The Importance of Hell”

(Update: Kevin DeYoung posted a 20-page review of Love Wins.)

When I read on Kevin DeYoung’s blog about the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s promotional video for his upcoming book Love Wins, I was reminded of a Tim Keller article that I read awhile back, titled, “The Importance of Hell.” (Longer, more detailed version is located here.)

Now, remember: Keller preaches in New York City, where the topic of hell is not merely widely questioned, but widely dismissed as irrational or met with anger. Yet, for a long time, I remember “The Importance of Hell” being directly linked to from Redeemer’s home page.

Keller’s article follows this basic outline, with each point answering the question, “Why is the existence of hell important?”:

  • Because Jesus taught on it more than all other biblical authors put together.
  • Because it shows how infinitely dependent we are on God for everything.
  • Because it unveils the seriousness and danger of living life for yourself.
    • Quoting J. I. Packer: “[H]ell appears as a God’s gesture of respect for human choice. All receive what they actually chose, either to be with God forever, worshipping him, or without God forever, worshipping themselves” (Concise Theology, p.262-263)
    • Quoting C. S. Lewis: “Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others… but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God ‘sending us’ to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE Hell unless it is nipped in the bud” (The Great Divorce).
  • Because it is the only way to know how much Jesus loved us and how much he did for us.

Regardless of whether you agree with the finer details of Keller’s teachings on hell (i.e., what is hell like?), I hope pointing you to his article will help you see why this isn’t the evil trick of an evil God, but that without hell we wouldn’t have a loving God at all.

Tim Keller Article Notes — “The Honors of the King”

In a March 2011 newsletter article for Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Tim Keller continues the discussion he began last month (“Backlash and Civility”). His writing addresses the question, “How does the Gospel interact with politics and the public sphere?” It’s a quick read, so do check it out here. Some notes:

  • Winston Churchill once offered to nominate C. S. Lewis for quite an honor–no less than the honorary title, “Commander of the British Empire.” However, Lewis turned the offer down. Why?
  • Though Lewis admitted in a letter to Churchill that the honor suited his personal feelings, he “knew that if Churchill, a Conservative politician, recommended him for the [honor] it would only lend credence to what people believed about the Christian faith, namely, that it was not really about truth, but was rather a tool for non-progressive political interests. Lewis refused to let a political entity reward him for Christian service, fearing it would identify Christianity too closely with one political system” (Keller).
    • That last line deserves repeating, because in any workplace where there are politics involved, Lewis’ example merits consideration: “Lewis refused to let a political entity reward him for Christian service, fearing it would identify Christianity too closely with one political system.”
    • Essentially, Lewis eschewed a coveted national honor for the sake of clearly communicating about God.
  • Because Christianity is filled with many truth claims, there is plenty for any political party to pick and choose from, which means that just about any political party can claim to be the “Christian” party.
  • Therefore, any alliance between churches and political parties should be avoided.
  • Yet “the gospel shapes all areas of life. Christians can and should be involved in government, and their Christian faith will be the driving force behind how they engage in politics as well as how they evaluate many policy issues. Also, [we believe] God’s word and often what the Bible says will have public policy implications that are direct and/or indirect. But Christians must not implicitly or explicitly identify their Christianity with political figures and parties” (Keller).

 

Tim Keller Article Notes — “Only Believers or Disciples?”

In an article for Redeemer’s January 2011 newsletter, Tim Keller discusses the importance of his church having “a broad base of the well-taught in the Word of God” in order to serve and love New York City (Derek Kidner, The Message of Jeremiah, p. 97). Some parts of the article that I found interesting and/or encouraging:

  1. The call for us to be not passive believers but active disciples: “Jesus called his apostles to go into all the world, to evangelize and baptize, and the ultimate goal was to produce not merely converts but disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). The word “disciple” is packed with meaning, but it is clear from the New Testament that it meant, first and foremost, students of Jesus. They followed him and learned from him (Luke 10:38-42). Second, it meant putting allegiance to Jesus first in your life (Mark 1:16-20). Lastly, it meant to be a man or woman in mission, sent into the world to minister both in word (Luke 10:1-20) and in deed (Luke 10:25-37), both sharing your faith and loving your neighbor (Tim Keller, January 2011 Newsletter).
  2. Some advantages and disadvantages to both large and small churches.
  3. An explanation of why the Presbyterian form of church government uses both ministry professionals and laymen as elders.
  4. Finally,  Keller references Redeemer’s current transition to a collegiate model of church organization — essentially, they are seeking to “de-megachurch” themselves into four distinct congregations throughout Manhattan. There are a multitude of benefits to this move, my favorite of which is the creation of a much greater need for leadership; instead of having one central office that oversees all of the work that Redeemer does (and that is primarily staffed with paid professionals), Redeemer’s four congregations will each need to be staffed according to the needs of their respective neighborhoods. This will create a greater need for lay leadership, which means more Redeemerites will be pulled into the essential work of the church out of sheer necessity.