Cosmic Child Abuse Or Amazing Grace?

First LoveIf you want people to consider you a thinking Christian in this postmodern age, you must reject the whole idea of God’s wrath. Old Testament writers propagated that obviously misshapen view of God as a product of their unenlightened (and generally barbaric) cultures. The New Testament corrects this blasphemy by emphasizing His love for humankind, progressive Christians tell us.

I recently read some articles passionately protesting the teaching that Christ died in order to propitiate His Father’s wrath. Furthermore, one writer insisted that such a notion constitutes “cosmic child abuse.” Whatever atonement means, Continue reading

Funny That I’ve Grown Serious

ThankfulKittyBlack02Back in the 80s and early 90s, my reputation for practical jokes was such that I got blamed even for those I didn’t orchestrate. My personal favorite was in honor of my friend Bob’s birthday.

Bob shared my dislike for cats (which we both greatly exaggerated for the purpose of teasing each other). When his birthday rolled around, I gave his phone number to my friend Terry, whom Bob had never met. At my instruction, Terry told Bob that he was from the SPCA, and wanted to deliver a kitten to him that afternoon.

Bob declined the offer, and wandered out of his room in bewilderment telling his housemate, “I just got the strangest phone call.” Before he could recount what Terry had said, his housemate doubled over with laughter, causing Bob to remember that I’d spent time with that housemate a week earlier. “DebbieLynne!” he shouted knowingly.

I’m still proud of that one!

These days I have fewer opportunities to play practical jokes, largely because I don’t have an accomplice. Also, I have less energy than I did back then. Practical jokes take work!

But, as much as I miss that part of my life, I have changed into a more serious woman. Oh, I still laugh a lot — a robust sense of humor is downright necessary Continue reading

Flashback Friday: Self-Esteem And The Distortion Of Matthew 22:39

Originally posted October 7, 2015.

Mirror02Today, just let me vent about the notion that Christians should promote self-esteem. I will, in future posts, look at the origins of the self-esteem movement and the various ways it undermines Biblical Christianity, but today I simply want to express my frustration with its influence in evangelical circles.

I recall sitting in a Bible Study over 20 years ago and feeling my heart break as a young college student twisted these words of  Jesus:

 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ~~Matthew 22:39 (ESV)

She explained, with the air of intellectual superiority so common to college sophomores, that Jesus taught in this verse the necessity of self-esteem in order to love one’s neighbor. When I countered that Jesus’ statement presupposed that people naturally love themselves quite well, she launched into a verbal dissertation about suicide, self-mutilation and the national “epidemic” of low self-esteem. The Bible Study leader, seeing that the girl had touched a nerve in me, wisely cleared his throat and resumed teaching.

I’ve heard others teach the same interpretation of Matthew 22:39 as that young college girl offered that night, and I still maintain that such an interpretation wrenches the verse completely out of context as well as reading a principle of pop psychology into it. If we look at the conversation in which Jesus made this statement, first of all, you’ll notice that neither Jesus nor the Sadducee lawyer ever mentioned self-esteem as a prerequisite for loving others.

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~~Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)

In his article, Why You Don’t Need More Self-Esteem, Stephen J. Cole of Dallas Theological Seminary writes:

The question Christians need to ask is, does the Bible teach this? Does it teach that we need to build our self-esteem? Those who say yes usually support it with the verse, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). They say that you must properly love yourself in order to love your neighbor. But that is not the meaning of the verse. It assumes that we all love ourselves just fine, thank you. If we would show the same regard for others that we do in fact show for ourselves, we would be loving them as God commands. Even those who go around dumping on themselves don’t need to focus on loving themselves. Their problem is precisely that they are too self-focused. They need to consider the needs of others ahead of themselves. The mark of biblical love is self-sacrifice, not self-esteem (see Eph. 5:25).

Even in the case of a suicidal person, the problem is not that he does not love himself. Rather, he loves himself more than he loves anyone else. He is not considering what his death will do to family or friends. He is only considering himself: he is in pain and he wants out of his pain.

And, while Dallas Theological Seminary is a little more liberal than I’d prefer, I believe Cole gets it right here. Jesus clearly spoke from the common understanding that human beings have no difficulty cultivating self-love, but need instruction in loving others. An honest reading of Matthew 22:34-40 simply doesn’t support the self-esteem interpretation. And I resent seeing people distort the Word of God for the purpose of advancing a man-centered system like psychology.

Instead of perverting Matthew 22:39 into  yet another excuse to pamper ourselves, why don’t we just obey it? I understand that obeying it may actually involve self-sacrifice, even forcing us to “hate” ourselves in order to truly love someone else. But Jesus modeled just that sort of love when He took our sins upon Himself.

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How Advice On Blogging Resembles Church Growth Strategies And Why Both Demean You

Head Stick Pics 007As a blogger, I’m supposed to understand that you readers can’t read lengthy paragraphs. Just like church growth strategists understand that you can’t listen to sermons over 20 minutes long.

You need easily readable blog posts and digestible worship experiences for a few critical reasons.

  • You have short attention spans
  • You shouldn’t have to use Dictionary.com or learn Biblical doctrine
  • You need bloggers and pastors to quickly tell you how their material immediately benefits you

According to a blog I read on the art of blogging, I apparently expect you, my readers, to read with more maturity and engagement than you can muster. Reformed pastors have the same unrealistic expectations of people in their pews.

If I want more readers, I should dumb down my blog, just as my pastor should dumb down his sermons to gain new members.

Okay, I’m ready to stop writing this parody of the blogging advice blog (although I certainly entertained myself by imitating his writing style and implementing some of his suggestions). Having majored in English Continue reading

Giving Thanks Should Have A Direction

2004_0810Plymouth0052Does anyone seriously deny that America has become a secular society?  On the local news this morning, for instance, reporters had difficulty concealing their celebratory attitudes as the first shops to legally sell recreational marijuana opened at 8:00 a.m. today. Two of them. Only shops on the East Coast. Right here in Massachusetts! I grieved over the obvious disregard for God’s standards of sobriety.

Not long after running the story showing the massive amount of people lining up to buy their legal pot, the station ran another story predicting the massive amount of people who will be traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday. Maybe I have a quirky way of viewing things, but it struck me as odd that Americans thumb their noses at the God of the Bible as they flock to celebrate a holiday originally intended as worship for His care and provision.

The Christians who celebrated that first American Thanksgiving (right here in Massachusetts, by the way), called for the feast as an expression of thanks to the Lord for sustaining them through that harsh New England winter and for the abundant harvest that ensuing Fall. (Do public schools still teach that part of American history?) Their thankfulness was more than a nebulous gratitude directed at nobody in particular, but heartfelt thankfulness to a personal Lord Who had lovingly taken care of them.

It’s important to count our blessings. Absolutely! In some ways,  I suppose it’s good that secular people step back and recognize the value of being grateful to something beyond themselves.

At the same time, I feel troubled that so many Americans have such enthusiasm about the Thanksgiving holiday when they demonstrate a total lack of interest in God Himself. As I see it, their nebulous gratitude lacks the beauty and depth of praising the glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and worship before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. ~~Psalm 86:8-13 (ESV)

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Saturday Sampler: October 28 — November 3

Symetry Sampler 03

Did you celebrate Reformation Day on Wednesday? Sadly, many evangelicals (if they even know what Reformation Day is) don’t see the Reformation as having any bearing on their lives. Thankfully, The Cripplegate features Clint Archer’s 3 Ways October 31, 1517 Affects You Life Today as a means of showing us that history really does impact our daily lives.

I usually wince a little when I read Growing 4 Life because Leslie A applies truth like an antiseptic. Of course, antiseptics are necessary in halting dangerous infections. The Expedient Lie forces us to examine how we answer awkward questions. Her observations sting only until they bring the sweet healing of repentance.

Reformation21 features The Statement on SJ&G Explained: Article 9, Heresy by Justin Peters. Demonstrating the deterioration of mainline denominations due to egalitarian beliefs and practices, Justin warns that a seemingly minor relaxation of Biblical principles now can have devastating consequences in the future.

Who wouldn’t want Free A’s And No Homework? SharaC writes about the harmful consequences of such policies on Into the Foolishness of God.

You’ll find that Michelle Lesley has more than one interesting perspective in Throwback Thursday ~ Band-Aids vs. Chemotherapy: Why Suffering Women are Drawn to False Doctrine and 7 Things We Can do to Help. I love her practical application of Scriptural principles.

Jason K. Allen’s 3 Questions for Christians on Social Media appears in For The Church as a welcome challenge to think carefully before we click or tap that “Send” button. Oh boy, do we need to implement his advice!

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Jesus As The First And Greatest Being Created By God?

Have  you seen The State of Theology survey put out by Ligonier and LifeWay (strange bedfellows) last week? While not the most scientific poll ever conducted, most of its findings probably reflect the general spiritual condition in the United States of America.

Warning: This blog post starts out a little dry, but fairly soon you’ll be screaming, “Yo mama — Continue reading