Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Three ways that generosity makes sense in the Christian worldview

I’m planning to be study Philippians today with the woman I am mentoring in apologetics, so I thought I would post something about generosity and sharing.

First, let’s look at a few passages from the Bible that show the importance of sharing generously with others. I also want to emphasize the need to work and to not be a burden to others, and to emphasize that the goal of sharing with others is to build them up.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-11: (Paul speaking)

10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.

Acts 20:32-35: (Paul speaking)

32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes.

34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me.

35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said,‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Philippians 4:14-18: (Paul speaking)

14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.

15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone;

16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.

17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.

18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.

Luke 21:1-4: (Jesus speaking)

1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.

And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins.

And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them;

for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

So in an effort to keep this post small, I’m going to be brief. And practical.

Make as much money as you can

The first point I want to make is that it is impossible to share with anyone else unless you have your own financial house in order. Don’t borrow money. Don’t ask for money.  Study hard things (STEM and useful trades) so that you always have work and are always earning money. In the 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11 passage, we learn that able-bodied people need to be working. That is a practical pre-condition of sharing with others. The more money you make the more you have to share. If you want to advance the gospel and build up others, money is absolutely vital. Don’t study crap subjects in school, don’t take useless jobs, don’t neglect the need to build a gapless resume of increasingly more challenging work, don’t get tied down by worldly goods and recreational dating early – so you can finish your education as much as you can. Be practical – charitable giving doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from a person who is ordered and disciplined. Unless you are some sort of skilled Christian scholar, don’t be flying all over the world willy-nilly on expensive mission trips, either – there is plenty of work to do right where God planted you. Be a good steward of your money, and the donations of other Christians.

Partnering with others for the gospel

The second point I want to contrast is the giving I prefer with the giving I do not prefer. The giving I prefer is to give to another Christian who I know personally who is involved in ministry that advances the gospel by arguing for the truth of the gospel using apologetics. So, I like to give to groups like Ratio Christi and to Christian scholars who have ministries or who are doing useful degrees. My goal is to spread the gospel in the only way it can be spread – by demonstrating the truth of it using arguments and evidence. I do not give money to anti-poverty groups like World Vision or to unskilled missionaries who just want an extended vacation in order to satisfy some childhood fancy animated by pride and/or vanity. When I give money to another Christian, my goal is to partner with them, not to feel good about myself. I am trying to get something done for the Lord, not to feel better or to make people think I am nice or to “balance the books” with God (which is heretical).

Building your rewards in Heaven

The third point I want to make is to emphasize that this is not a pointless exercise. Everyone who is a Christian accepts that reconciliation with God is achieved not by human efforts to be good, but by acknowledging and conforming your life to a free gift that was offered by Jesus Christ. Christ died in order to pay the penalty for every individual person’s rebellion against God the Father. That atoning death is the basis for our reconciliation with God, and our eternal life with him. However, the passage in Philippians makes clear that our experience of Heaven after we have been saved by grace is affected by what we do here and now. So often, what you hear in church is do this, do that, and there is never any rationality to it, no emphasis on long-term planning or wisdom in decision-making. It’s all just ad hoc emotivism. But I am telling you something different today. You have a few years on Earth to understand the example of Christ, to follow him, and share in his sufferings as you imitate his obedience. You better have some sort of plan to produce a return on God’s investment in you, and it has to be a good plan. Not one that makes you feel good, but one that is likely to achieve results. Plan your charitable giving like your life were an episode of Mission Impossible, and focus on outcomes, not feelings. That doesn’t mean that results are the measure of success, because that’s God’s job. But it does mean that you should prefer the Thomas Sowell approach to the Disney Princess approach.

The soul-making theodicy

The fourth point I want to make comes from a discussion with my friend Blake Giunta who runs TreeSearch.org. He reminded me that one of the reasons why God allows evil and suffering in this world is to allow us the opportunity to be active partners with him in demonstrating the love of Christ to others. God’s goal for us is not to make us safe and happy. God’s goal for us is to get us to freely enter into and sustain a relationship with him – a relationship that includes an accurate knowledge of who he is, and a free response of love and obedience to him. With respect to that goal, God is fully justified in permitting all kinds of evil and suffering, which in turn provide opportunities for us to 1) enter in to his plan of love and redemption for others and 2) demonstrate his character to the watching world through our actions as his agents. The situation is identical to what parents do in allowing their children to be hurt while learning – God holds back from annihilating some evil and suffering so that we have an opportunity to step into the breach. This advances our relationships with him through shared purpose and shared experiences. This is fellowship with God – not just reading devotional, pious-sounding bilge, but active partnering and dangerous action in some non-trivial enterprise. Give him your best – the same best you bring to your work or anything else in your life that really matters.

Personal application

By the way, if you’re looking for a good place to send a few bucks, I recommend TreeSearch.org.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My recommended charity for 2012: Life Training Institute

Unborn baby scheming about what to get WK for Christmas

Unborn baby scheming about what to get WK for Christmas

Scott Klusendorf, the best and most experienced pro-life debater in the United States, wrote this on Facebook:

Life Training Institute just received a $45,000 gift toward helping us reach 20,000 additional students next year! That’s half of what we need to complete the project!

The other half ($45,000) must come from concerned donors like you. Would you consider helping us get there?

We’ll use the money to get our speaking team into more schools than any year previous.

Excited to see our work growing,
Scott Klusendorf

Donate on-line at: https://www.prolifetraining.com/donate_general.asp

Scott is one of my favorite Christians, and I fully endorse his pro-life ministry. Some of you have asked how you could help me with the blog or donate. I am fully supplied already, so if you really want to send me a present, please consider making a donation to Scott’s pro-life ministry. They are absolutely solid in their use of evidence as well as in their theology. You couldn’t find a better group to support.

If you are more the kind of person who likes to buy books, then you can do that as well. Scott is the author of the #1 pro-life book at the popular level. It is call “The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture”.

And he has a new book out as well, called “Stand for Life: Answering the Call, Making the Case, Saving Lives”:

And if you want to see Scott in action, here is a recent debate he did with Nadine Strossen:

Abortion can be a complicated issue, but the nice thing about Scott is that he cuts right to the core of the debate and makes sure to clarify what each side is saying. He strips away the rhetoric and gets down to the real arguments on each side and  the pro-life side comes out on top.

Recently, Scott taught two classes on the techniques that he uses when debating abortion.

The first talk was on Tactics. Here is the PDF. In the handout, Scott explains how to use questions to make your opponent give reasons for their views instead of just asserting them.

The second talk was on Relativism. Here is the PDF. In the handout, Scott explains what moral relativism is, and some of the problems with the view.

Filed under: Personal, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Romney gave 1,000 times as much to charity in one year as Biden gave in a decade

From the Weekly Standard:

The release of Mitt Romney’s 2011 tax returns shows that he freely gave away more than $4 million to charity last year (about 30 percent of his income).  In comparison, when Joe Biden was first running for vice president, his tax returns showed that he had given away just $3,690 to charity over the previous ten years (about 0.2 percent of his income).  In other words, Romney gave away a thousand times as much to charity in one year as Biden gave in a decade.

That’s despite the fact that the Bidens earned well over $2 million over that decade.  In fact, their income was $320,000 in 2008, thereby putting them comfortably over the $250,000-a-year line that marks the entry point for “millionaires and billionaires” in Obama-speak.

Last year, Romney freely gave away more than $10,000 a day to charity — an impressive sum by nearly any standard.  Of course, it’s not too hard to beat Biden’s tally.  Over the span of that decade, or 3,650 days, he gave away $3,690 — an average of $1.01 a day.

Should we be surprised by this lack of charity from leftists? Well, Democrats are typically non-religious, as you might expect of people who support killing unborn children. In fact, Obama leads Romney 69% to 23% among non-religious people. So do people of no religion typically give a lot to charity, like the religious Romney, or are they mostly opposed to giving charity, like the pro-abortion secularist Joe Biden?

Consider this article from the Boston Globe.

Excerpt:

States with the least religious residents are also the stingiest about giving money to charity, a new study on the generosity of Americans suggests.

The study, released Monday by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, found that residents in states where religious participation is higher than the rest of the nation, particularly in the South, gave the greatest percentage of their discretionary income to charity.

The Northeast, with lower religious participation, was the least generous to charities, with the six New England states filling the last six slots among the 50 states.

[…]The most generous state was Utah, where residents gave 10.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity. Next were Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina. The least generous was New Hampshire, at 2.5 percent, followed by Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

[…]The study found that in the Northeast region, including New England, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, people gave 4.1 percent of their discretionary income to charity. The percentage was 5.2 percent in the Southern states, a region from Texas east to Delaware and Florida, and including most of the so-called Bible Belt.

[…]The study was based on Internal Revenue Service records of people who itemized deductions in 2008, the most recent year statistics were available. The data allowed researchers to detail charitable giving down to the ZIP code.

To ensure that states with differing costs of living were judged by the same standard, researchers calculated each state’s median discretionary income — the money remaining per household after variable but essential costs such as housing, child care and food are paid for. They then looked at the percentage of discretionary income that the typical household in each state gave to charity.

[…]Of the 10 least generous states, nine voted for Democrat Barack Obama for president in the last election. By contrast, of the 10 most generous states, eight voted for Republican John McCain.

If you think that this is the only life you have, and there is no one out there to hold you accountable, then it’s easy to be self-centered. Unless charity makes you feel good, there is no reason to do it on atheism. And when you don’t have a reason to be moral, then you often won’t be.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Should Christians give money to help the poor or to apologists and scholars?

Here’s a post from Triablogue, the Internet lair of the most fearsome Calvinist bloggers!

Excerpt:

As you make donations over this Christmas season, are you including apologetics ministries in your giving? People will donate many millions of dollars to helping the poor, finding cures for diseases, and other such causes. Governments, universities, and other segments of society will also invest large amounts of money in such things. On an average day, you might hear a few advertisements for charities on the radio, see a few more on television, see a couple others in a magazine, and get an email about one from your employer. Part of the money you earn by going to work will go to government programs intended to do things like providing food and shelter for the poor, in this country and around the world. These efforts involve a tremendous number of organizations and individuals and a tremendous amount of time and money, among other resources. But you’ll rarely be encouraged to give a single penny to any apologetic work.

One of the excuses sometimes cited to justify Christian neglect of apologetics is that God doesn’t need apologetics in order to work in people’s lives. He doesn’t need to use something like a philosophical, historical, or scientific argument.

Let’s apply that same reasoning to other areas of life. God doesn’t need our prayers. Let’s stop praying. Or just let a tiny minority of the church do it occasionally. God also doesn’t need Bible translators and publishers, and He doesn’t need to have you read the Bible. He can just implant the information directly into your heart. He also doesn’t need parents. Or pastors. He’s omnipotent. He can accomplish things without using us. Let’s not just neglect apologetics. Let’s neglect these other things, too, and see what happens.

I’m convinced that one of the most significant weaknesses of the modern church is a neglect of apologetics. And we’re living in an information age, when apologetics is even more important than it was previously. What if God sometimes allows us to suffer the normal consequences of our intellectual carelessness? What if, instead of constantly supernaturally intervening in order to make up for our neglect, He sometimes lets us suffer the natural consequences of our bad choices?

Ideas have consequences, and persuading people to hold one belief rather than another can have major significance. It’s something that can “greatly help” (Acts 18:27-28). If you give money to alleviate something like poverty or a disease, then why not give money to uproot ideas that produce those symptoms? We’re often focused more on shallow solutions than ones that are deeper and more lasting. We give money in response to poverty, a tsunami, or the spread of a disease, but we give much less, if anything, in response to the false ideas that surround us. Instead of feeling guilty for giving money to an apologetics ministry rather than something like a ministry that helps the poor, we ought to feel guilty for giving such a low percentage of our donations to apologetic work. If you give all of your donations to non-apologetic causes and none to apologetics, the world will applaud you. But we should be judging things by a different standard.

That’s a perfect post, and I left some of it out. The Triabloguers also give a list of charities that they support, and I support those too.

But here are the ones I personally like best: (in alphabetical order)

Jim Wallace is a bit of a neat case, because as far as I can tell, he doesn’t accept donations. But I list him here anyway, because I respect him highly.

And by the way, if you know any Christian scholars who are busy getting their undergraduate and graduate degrees, why not fire them a book or two? I have five good friends on Facebook who are working hard on their degrees, and it’s a good thing for us to take an interest in their progress.

UPDATE: Justin Brierley, the force behind the recent Reasonable Faith UK Speaking Tour, writes this in the comments:

Well since we’re in a generous mood… follow the link below to contribute towards funding the production of the videos from the UK Reasonable Faith Tour!

http://www.bethinking.org/what-is-apologetics/introductory/helping-fund-the-reasonable-faith-tour.htm

Not a bad idea. Getting the recordings of those debates out there is good work, and deserves funding.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , ,

New study: frequent Bible reading leads to charity and openness to science

From the leftist Huffington Post.

Excerpt:

Franzen speculates the reason so little research has been done on the effects of reading Scripture may be because “the ubiquity of references to the Bible promotes the idea that we all know what it says and, consequently, reading it is simply a habitual and ultimately meaningless activity.”

But that is not true, according to his study using data from Christian respondents to the 2007 wave of the Baylor Religion Survey.

In many cases, Franzen found frequency of Bible reading was one of the most powerful predictors of attitudes on moral and political issues. Consider some of the findings:

  • The likelihood of Christians saying it is important to actively seek social and economic justice to be a good person increased 39 percent with each jump up the ladder of the frequency of reading Scripture, from reading the Bible less than once a year to no more than once a month to about weekly to several times a week or more.
  • Christian respondents overall were 27 percent more likely to say it is important to consume or use fewer goods to be a good person as they became more frequent Bible readers.
  • Reading the Bible more often also was linked to improved attitudes toward science. Respondents were 22 percent less likely to view religion and science as incompatible at each step toward more frequent Bible reading.
  • The issues seemed to matter more than conservative-liberal tags. In the case of another major public policy debate, same-sex unions, nearly half of respondents who read the Bible less than once a year said homosexuals should be allowed to marry, while only 6 percent of people who read the Bible several times a week or more approved of such marriages.

Among other issues, more frequent Bible readers also were more likely to oppose legalized abortion, the death penalty, harsher punishment of criminals and expanding the federal government’s authority to fight terrorism.

[…]But the results are consistent with some past research.

In a 1998 article in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, sociologists Mark Regnerus, Christian Smith and David Sikkink found that data from the 1996 Religious Identity and Influence Survey suggested that, contrary to “conventional wisdom,” conservative Protestants were among the most generous Christians in giving to the poor.

Surprise, surprise – reading the Bible makes people more moral.

I think we need to be open to letting our ideas about goodness, God and science be determined by what research shows, instead of what our feelings are. If science shows that atheists are generally more irrational and more amoral than believers, then we have to go where science leads. Not every atheist is irrational and immoral, but we have to believe what science tells us about atheism.

This study showing how authentic Christians get divorced less often than average is also interesting.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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