Friday, March 31, 2006

The Greenwood Commonwealth had some empty space to fill

An Article I sunbmitted to the paper...

What’s Your Worldview?

In Nancy Pearcey’s book Total Truth she talks about a book titled Conversations with God for Teens by Neale Donald Walsch. This book of conversations contains questions teens ask questions about life and God. The author answers as if he were God. Consider the following example from a girl of 13:

Question: “But how can I ever erase the bad things I’ve done from your judgment book?”

Answer: “There is no “judgment book.”…It may be a surprise for most humans to learn that there is no such thing as right and wrong. There is only what works and what doesn’t work…absolute right and absolute wrong do not exist.

Question: So right and wrong are a changing thing?

Answer: Yes, changing and shifting from time to time and place to place.

Now regardless of whether you agree with “God” here, the statement should be evaluated, shouldn’t it? At the least, “God” (the author) should be asked by the reader, “Are you absolutely sure there is no absolute right and wrong.”

You see, everyone has a way of looking at the world. Everyone has a “worldview.” Everyone has a perspective on reality. And this perspective on reality affects the way we look at everything. Everything. Mr. Walsch, the author of Conversations with God for Teens has a Worldview he is teaching (preaching!) to teenagers. The question is, “how do we evaluate such worldviews?” Mrs. Pearcey, the author of Total Truth helps us here.

She suggests to the reader that every Worldview must be evaluated through a fairly simple grid. This grid consists of the following three points:

Creation – “Where do we come from?” “Why are we here?”

Fall – “What went wrong?” “What is evil and suffering?”

Redemption – “How can things be made right?” “Is there any reason for hope?”

According to Mrs. Pearcey, every Worldview must be able to answer these questions. If it cannot answer these questions in a sensible way then it must be discarded. It follows then that this grid can be used to evaluate the Worldviews that are beamed into our homes and sit on our bookshelves and bounce around in your child’s backpack.

In the South, most people probably do not need to be convinced that the most logical and intellectually satisfying is the Biblical Worldview. A Biblical Worldview answers the question in our three-point grid by looking into the Bible. In other words those who have a Biblical Worldview see the world through the “lens” of the Bible. Their perspective on reality is determined by the way the Bible views reality. Again, most people in the South, specifically in Mississippi, do not need to be convinced that a Biblical Worldview makes sense, indeed the only worldview that makes sense. The problem is that most are not equipped with the tools needed to respond to various issues in their life with a Biblical Worldview. Most Bible-believing Christians have trouble living their life in a way that is consistent with a Biblical Worldview. Let’s see if Pearcey’s grid is a helpful tool.

Take Sports for example. What would participation in athletic contests look like for people who live out their Biblical Worldview and for those who reject a Biblical Worldview?

Let’s look at the one who rejects the Biblical Worldview first. The goal is only to win and whatever it takes to win must be done (Creation). After all there is no objective standard by which to measure what ought to be done, only what can be done to win. That includes inflicting injury, trying to get away with breaking the rules of the game and trash-talking. If the athlete gets elbowed under the goal, how do they respond? They elbow back! What if one player gets taken out of the game by injury (Fall)? Retaliate! The only hope is to win and that alone (Redemption). And what if you lose? Complain about the officiating, reluctantly congratulate the other team, who probably cheated and whine intolerably. There is no reason for the athlete or spectator to act any different.

So what about the athlete who lives out the Biblical Worldview? According to the Bible, we exist to glorify the God who created us and everything else (Creation – Romans 11:36; Isaiah 43:7). If that is the purpose in life it ought to be our purpose in all parts of life…even sports. And we can say “ought” because there is a Standard by which we measure our lives, God himself. How do we then treat the other players (Fall – Romans 3:10)? As those who have been created in God’s image and therefore as we would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12). But what if a player on an opposing team gives us an elbow in the stomach? We respond in kindness instead of in kind. We remember that while we were once enemies Christ died for us (Romans 5:10). We forgive because we have been forgiven. We extend mercy because we have received mercy. And in winning and losing we enjoy the game as a gift (Philippians 4:1). Winning is not the best news we could get and losing is never our worst problem. This is not to say we should not strive to win, winning simply cannot be the ultimate goal in a Biblical Worldview. Our biggest problem was dealt with on the cross (Redemption – Romans 3:21ff). Our hope is not the glory of winning; our hope is the glory of God (Romans 5:2; 2 Cor. 4:6).

I encourage you to test (Romans 12:2) the Biblical Worldview and all other worldviews using the above grid of Creation, Fall and Redemption. Everyone has a Worldview. What’s yours?

Matt Redmond
Pastor of Student Discipleship
Westminster Presbyterian Church

Maybe the Best Review of Blue like Jazz Yet

Click on the link for a really good review of Blue Like Jazz.

Thanks a ton to Boring Dan!!!

(update! Check out an article version of the post linked to above

Again, thanks to Boring Dan!)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Some Articles and Sermons on Suffering

I have had a couple of people comment on my post regarding Debbie Maken's Book, Getting Serious About Getting Married. I wanted to post some articles on Suffering and Singleness for anyone interested.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Darn Good Album

This is one that I keep listening to again and again. I just bought it a couple of weeks ago and keep enjoying it the more I listen to it. It is different than "Live at the New Earth" or any of the many bootlegs out there. Don uses some loops and there is an ethereal sound that fits well with the pathos of Waterdeep. Lyrically and artistically this album is way good. You can download it for a measly $7.50 at

Monday, March 20, 2006

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Review of Miller's Blue Like Jazz

I read Blue Like Jazz are my reflections

  1. First, there is this honesty that precludes critique and excludes repentance. The whole book is filled with shocking honesty. It is almost James Frey-like, and I get the idea it is to cut off criticism from the outset. You see, that is the difference between self-deprecation and real sorrow over sin. If you point out your faults before anyone else does then you can just say, "yeah, I already knew that!" Also, it is easier to laugh about. If honesty is so dadgum good, where is Paul's? Sure, he was honest about having sin. But come on, not one single detail...just the struggle. That tells me that honesty does not enjoy a status of being always a good thing.
  2. Almost all "I" and little "He"
  3. His stories of living in community were inspiring and motivating.
  4. The content of the gospel got little press.
  5. Since when is autobiography an acceptable genre for Christian Spirituality? This may be the most distrurbing and dengerous part of the book. It only makes sense that a book on Christian Spirituality would look closely at the best resource for such a subject...the Bible. Whip me, beat me and call me a fundamentalist but I am stickler for looking to the Bible for help in these matters. Anecdotes of a personal nature might be helpful but they are shifting sand. Perhaps it would be easier to understand this book as one Christian's Spirituality instead of Christian Spirtuality.
  6. This book more than any in a while has caused me to ask the question of whether I lean towards mercy or justice.
  7. He seems to have it in for the Republican Party way more than the Democratic Party. And he assumes that evengelicals who "support" the Republican Party are naive and he equates the two. This straw man gets beat to death. I am an evangelical and I wholeheartedly will support any party that wants to end abortion. If that makes me naive, so be it.
  8. Also, he leads the reader to believe that the only involvement in governemnt and politics for the Christian is prayer and protesting. This is troubling. Political theory, the intellectual marketplace of ideas and theological tenets are not independent of one another. And beacuse of this truth we must not write off the policies and actions of others without discussion of them. To simply state that feeding the homeless on the street in America is more merciful and biblical than economic systems which make it possible for them to produce wealth and participate in the marketplace might fit on a bumper-sticker but it might not be true. I bring this up because it passes faddish witty quips off as intelligent statements. He may be right. But he has done little to show it or prove it.
  9. The whole book comes off as adolescent ranting. Do not get me wrong there is a lot of maturity too. But the tenor and tone of the book is marked by a tiresome immmaturity. this book will only sound profound to a college student or someone who thinks like one. I have elsewhere read that this book says old truths in a different way. That is true, there is not a whole lot of novelty here. But you can translate the "saying it a different way" to "saying it like a kid."
  10. I do not know if it is a good thing or not but the book reminded a lot of the last book I finished, Bob Dylan's Chronicles. Now to Miller that is probably a compliment. Maybe it is and should be. I liked Dylan's book but the writing style had an undistinguishable order to it that made it hard to know where he is and what he was talking about. That will be very attractive to the Postmodern-emergent types. To me it just felt lazy. The one word sentance is powerful when employed scarcely. Miller uses it everywhere. Literally.

Would I recommend the book. No, probably not. I especially would not reccomend it to less than discerning readers. College students are snatching this book up left and right. I am not surprised. Let's face it, the book sounds rebellious and cool, after all it is called Blue Like Jazz. The fact is that this is a poor book on Christian Spirtuality. It is a funny book and an poetic book. But it is not a book on Christian Spirituality. A good book on Christian Spirituality is Schaeffer's book, True Spirituality.

I do not fear books by Spong and other heretics. I fear books that have lots of truth but will still lead young Christians down the wrong path. This book will be very attractive to young believers who suffer from an aversion to authority, fall in love with what is cool easily, and love different for different's sake.

(update: I lead a Bible Study on Thursday Night of young couple's where I always learn more from them than they do from me. Last night was no exception. A girl named Allison gave me a quote (not original to me) that helped me think more about this book and why I did not like it. The qoute is, "True humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking about yourself less." Blue Like Jazz failed miserably if this qoute is right on.)

(another update: I read in Philippians 3 about this group of unbelievers who "glory in their shame" I am not convinced I know what this means. But it did get me thinking about how some people in giving their "testimony" seem to glory in the shameful acts they committed before they beleived the gospel. They use humor liberally or they speak about past sins in a trite way. Perhaps, that is why the "honesty" of Blue Like Jazz irked me so. Maybe he did not mean to sound so trite but it was very easy for me to walk away feeling as if he was.)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rethinking Biblical Paradigms

Getting Serious About Getting Married by Debbie Maken states its purpose on the front cover...Rethinking the Gift of Singleness. Indeed, the entire book is predicated upon the idea that singleness is not a gift and to teach that it is a gift is to teach something contrary to the Bible and indeed to go against God's will. Her argument goes like this...
  1. We were created to be married.
  2. The Bible treats Marriage as the norm for men and women.
  3. Therefore singleness is not the norm and not an equal status before God.
  4. Therefore singleness is not a gift.
  5. For if we were created to be married then singleness cannot be a gift.

The premise of the book is that singleness cannot be a gift. If this premise is shown to be false then the book falls apart. My hope is that the book will fall apart in the minds and hearts of singles and pastors and teachers everywhere. Why?

There are two points at which this book fails.

  1. First, she compares not having a spouse to not eating. I think this is a fair comparison. For she says, and I agree that we were created to eat just as well as we were created to be married. It isn't a perfect analogy but one that works. Her argument is that someone not being married is like someone being hungry. And to tell someone that singleness is a gift is tantamount to telling someone that hunger is a gift. This argument actually betrays some unbiblical paradigms in her thinking. She assumes that suffering is not a gift to rejoice over, whether it be suffering because you are single or suffering because you are hungry. Such a way of thinking ignores James 1 and Romans 5, not to mention the stories of Job, Joseph and Paul who said, "...I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:11-13). And what is so frustrating is that such discussions are treated with contempt throughout the book. This is not a pat answer. Paul is in prison and is in a position of suffering that makes not having a spouse seem a little small. He might die. I agree that we should be careful when we discuss this with someone who is single. I actually agree that it is biblical to encourage someone to seek a spouse. But like anything, it must be done with the understanding that if you do not get married in your youth or ever, that contentment should be the order of the day. Why not counsel them to seek a spouse but not at the expense of their contentment with where God has them now.
  2. Second, Mrs. Maken fails in her discussion on Providence. She is guided by experience over against the testimony of Scripture. She argues against those who would trust in God's Providence by using a personal anecdote of someone who is "lazy" about getting a wife. Well Hell's bells, I could use the argument of someone so desperate to live out the creational mandate to get a spouse that he beat a woman over the head and dragged her back to the cave to say that we ought not listen to her book! In other words she should have argued with scholarly defenders of a classical evangelical view of Providence and its day in and day out relevance to life. But she chose to argue with someone who does not have a biblically informed picture of Providence. If she had, she would have read (even if done so randomly) that a confidence in God's Providential Hand has nothing in common with laziness but much to do with the fact that whatever difficulty, suffering or trial or even hope realized and dream fulfilled is to be seen as done by God. It is simply foolish to presume that because God's revealed will calls for everyone besides a distinct few to have a spouse (a premise I reject) that all must reject the call to contentment because they have no spouse. Let's talk about Joseph, who should not have been in jail as women should not be single. He did not choose jail and some single women do not choose singleness. He suffered because of the sins of sinful men. Some single women suffer because of the sins of single men who would rather play video games and drive sports cars than grow up and get married. Joseph wanted out of jail as some single women want out of singleness. God provided a way for him to get out of jail and God provides a spouse so that some single people escape (some sooner and some later, for Joseph it was later) the suffering they were enduring. Joseph attributes the sins of other men (brothers) as God doing something through their sins...we have no record of complaint. Though the author of Getting Serious is now married we have the very opposite in printed form, for in her way of thinking he might be sovereign over singleness but it is not really relevant to the quest of a spouse. She simply assumes that if we cite God's Sovereignty over the sinful actions of others we have excused the sin. This is to fight a strawman. Those of us who would disagree with her simply want to assert that every suffering (even loneliness) and every dream that is realized (marriage) are circumstances in which we should rejoice (I did not say act like all is easy and rosy). Listen to James, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." To rejoice in suffering (Romans 5) and count it all joy when you face various trials (James 1) is to assume the suffering is for a good reason and therefore a gift. This of course does not excuse sin that might cause these trials, it simply explains that there is a purpose in trials, even in Singleness.

I can appreciate her frustrations to some degree. But her bitterness never rises to the level of righteous indignation. Sneers seem to leap from the page and anger is the rule and not the exception. Those she disagrees with she either writes off or rolls her eyes at. Let me say in closing I sympathize a lot with some of her cultural diagnoses. She sees many of the problems that are really there. But borrowed cultural analyses even if good, is no cover for ignoring Biblical paradigms. Her view of suffering is at odds with the Biblical paradigm. God is obviously sovereign over sin and the results of sin(Romans 11) and yet is angry at it. This differs from Mrs. Maken as she is not in control and seems to be angry about that.

File Sharing

Last Sunday Night I discussed with my teens the uncomfortable subject of file sharing. I say uncomfortable because most of them had never really given it much thought. They were simply in the dark about the moral and legal issues involved. They were very receptive and seemed to see the moral implications of it all. We all walked away with the sense that downloading songs through file sharing programs and copying other people's cds is stealing, pure and simple.

This was another of our Learn to Discern exercises. I used the following article to get the discussion going...

One of the things I learned during this discussion was that all of my 6th and 7th graders were easy to convince. Why is that? Well, none of them had ever downloaded a song for free or otherwise. They saw file sharing and cd copying for what it was...walking into a store and stealing a product that someone worked hard to produce.

The hard part was getting them all to see the relevance of the gospel. So we talked long and hard about being content because we, who have Christ have all we need. We do not need to steal to be happy. Happiness because of the gospel is rooted in the justifying work of the gospel. Because they stand before God, justified by grace through faith they have no need to steal. Their biggest problem is not being without a particular song or album. Their biggest problem has been dealt with on the cross.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

At this very moment Sara Butler is sitting right next to me and wants to be on my blog...

Name: Sara Butler Makamson
Favorite color:Pink
Favorite food:Pizza
Favorite Church: Westminster
Favorite Youth Pastor: Matt Redmond (the only one she knows)

Discovering a "New" Old Band

Over the Rhine is new to me. I was downloading some bootleg (legal ones) concerts of Waterdeep and I found some bootlegs of Over the Rhine. I had, of course, known of them for years but had never really given them much of a listen to this past week. I have fallen in love with their sound and lyrics. I recommend their studio recordings as well as these bootlegs.

I started with the latest bootlegs from last year and worked my way backwards. They are all now on my ipod and will provide me with hours of bliss. The bootlegs are actuallt really good quality. Folk-ish music bootlegs the best.

You should also check out their website as their are lots of free downloads of studio recordings and two free live mp3 from an upcoming live release.


What we did last Sunday PM

We did a learn to discern with the video Dirty Little Secret. I was rather surprised at how well it went. There were some snickers and some confusion and more than a little embarrament but it went better than I expected.

What did they learn?

  1. Peoples problems/sins are not funny.
  2. Everyone struggles with things they are ashamed of about themselves.
  3. The hope that we ought to hold out to to people dealing with their dirty little secrets is the hope of the gospel of grace in Christ Jesus.

They are still talking about it.