Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Does the Christian life require unpopularity and self-sacrifice?

This post on Eric Chabot’s Think Apologetics blog made me think of someone I’ve been talking to about her life plan. He lists out the components of the gospel in long-form, then asks whether millenials are hearing that in church.

Excerpt:

What Gospel are millennials hearing? The “Jesus will meet all my needs” Gospel?

To summarize  “The Kerygma” of the early Christian community:

1. The promises by God made in the Hebrew Bible/The Old Testament have now been revealed with the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2:30;3;19;24,10:43; 26:6-7;22).

2. Jesus was anointed by God at his baptism (Acts 10:38).

3. Jesus began his ministry at Galilee after his baptism (Acts 10:37).

4. Jesus conducted a beneficent ministry, doing good and performing mighty works by the power of God ( Acts 2:22; 10:38).

5. The Messiah was crucified according to the plan of God (Acts 2:23).

6. He was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples (Acts 2:24; 31-32; 3:15-26;10:40-41;17:31;26:23).

7. Jesus was exalted and given the name “Lord” (Acts 2:25-29;33-36;3:13;10:36).

8. He gave the Holy Spirit to form the new community of God (Acts 1:8;2;14-18;33,38-39;10:44-47).

9. He will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20-21;10:42; 17:31).

10. All who hear the message should repent and be baptized because of the finished work of Jesus (Acts 2:21;38;3:19;10:43, 17-48; 17:30, 26:20).

Conclusion: If millennials are hearing a Gospel that doesn’t mention any of these points, they aren’t hearing the Gospel at all!

[...]Churches need to emphasize that we are called to be servants. Hence, we are looking for Servants! And this means there will be self denial. And he (Jesus) said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.- Luke 9:23.

Do you know what this mean to its original hearers? The cross may be viewed as a symbol of love. But when we look at the first century context, to a Jewish person the cross was not a badge of honor but instead a sign of rejection and embarrassment. In other words, the cross meant misunderstanding, rejection by others, ridicule, etc. In other words, to take up our cross is death to our own reputations, our honor and how we are perceived by others.

In a world that wants instant results, self- sacrifice is tough sell. Part of the problem is that churches preach a Gospel that promises that Jesus will fix all our problems. And when things get tough, many people bail out. A long-term commitment to our Lord which involves self denial (Luke 9:23) is hard to swallow for millennials who have been told The American Dream is the way of happiness. 

I think we need to warn young people that just being willing to serve God does not reward bad planning. I know people in full-time ministry now who are facing a very challenging environment with fewer and fewer donations. It’s important not to bite off more than you can chew, and then blame God for not following through.

I think in my own life, I’ve probably been too defensive, but I still think I’ve been able to score points while on defense. I never believed that I could make risky decisions and then have God automatically bail me out. I just tried to serve the best I could, within the bounds of prudence and frugality. I guess I am trying to say that I can easily see how being overly ambitious could end badly, and I would hate to see someone bail out on God because they incorrectly thought that he would reward sincere desires with happiness. In the real world, what produces results is good planning and accurate budgets. Count the cost.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , ,

Why should a man refuse a woman’s offer of casual sex?

I’ve been having some conversations recently with a good male friend of mine who is not a Christian. I like to talk to him about women because we disagree about women, and Lord knows I love to disagree with people. Anyway, he’s read my rules for chastity, courtship, etc., and he considers them, and me, quite weird. He is coming from the position of having a great deal of sexual experience with women, whereas I strictly avoid sexual activity for a variety of reasons. And what we disagree about is this: I think it’s wrong to have casual sex with women who offer themselves to a man before marriage, and he thinks it’s permissible as long as he warns them that the relationship is going nowhere afterwards.

First, let me talk about where we agree. Both of us agree that most women today have lost the art of making a man like them without using sex appeal. We are in broad agreement that the right way for a woman to make a man like her is by being feminine. And we agree on what that means – showing the ability to be a wife and mother. If a woman talks to a man about his day at work, studies hard things to be more skilled, listens to his life plan, and tries to contribute to the causes he cares about, then he will like her (because he needs her and appreciates her).  Also, it’s important that she have a plan of her own that he can help with, and she should let him help. Men like to give gifts to women, and we like to see how our gifts help women grow.

Now where do we disagree? Well, I think it’s a bad idea for a man to submit to casual sex with a woman who is unable or unwilling to set boundaries and have a Christian goal for the relationship. I think that casual sex is an inappropriate technique that a woman uses to make a man love her without demonstrating that she really understands him or wants to help him. Sometimes this is done inadvertently because the woman has never learned how to deal with men appropriately, but sometimes it’s done deliberately in order to get attention without have to care about or help the man.

Here are three reasons why men should not accept an offer of casual sex:

Reduced courting capability

A lot of men spend a lot of time and money and the best years of their lives pursuing a lot of different women for sexual gratification. But the pursuit of casual sex takes away from the goal of having a helpful wife and effective Christian children, (e.g. – children like Stephen C. Meyer, Jay Richards or WLC). It takes up time and resources that are better spent on building up teachable responsive girl friends. Chasing non-marriageable women also detracts from learning apologetics and theology, which are needed in order to impress the tiny minority of women who want a man who can be an involved, nurturing provider and mentor. There is no way to assess a woman’s fitness for marriage and mothering through casual sex. It has no value whatsoever when it comes to courting, because it removes the self-control needed for objective evaluation. Casual sex doesn’t show women that you can lead your future children, either.

Reduced vulnerability and romantic capability

I would not be able have sex and break up with that person without suffering serious emotional damage. I subscribe to the velcro theory of sexuality – the more you attach and separate, the less well you can attach the next time. I simply do not believe that men who do intimate physical things with women can be as vulnerable and susceptible as when they remain chaste. Casual sex kills the man’s ability to love a woman as if he has never been hurt before. If you want to be a knight, you have to be capable of chivalry and romance. If a man has casual sex with enough women, he will likely develop a low opinion of of the trustworthiness, wife-capability and mother-capability of women. He becomes cynical and predatorial. The binge-drinking hook-up culture does not build up faith in the opposite sex.

Causes women to doubt God’s existence

Every woman was made for a relationship with God. When a woman uses sex to try to get a man to pay attention to her, to love her and to commit to her long-term, it usually fails, causing her pain and suffering. Sex doesn’t make a man who doesn’t want to marry suddenly want to marry. Without a Christian worldview, the woman may not realize how to tell a good man from a bad man, and how to drive a relationship through to marriage. If a woman has sex with enough men, she may develop a low opinion of the goodness and reliability of men. She may think that she is handling men correctly and that the relationship should work out. But the trauma from failed relationships with unreliable men can cause her to suffer emotionally, and even to doubt God’s existence or goodness.  Christian men should therefore avoid casual sex so that they don’t push women away from relationships with God. Don’t be part of a process that drags women away from God. We need women to serve God, and we are not so long on resources that we can just throw them away to the other side. Every single one counts.

Conclusion

Now I haven’t actually experienced this problem of women throwing themselves at me to make me “love” them, but if someone finally did offer me drunken hook-up sex, I hope that I would remember my little list.

But I might also remember something else.

Consider this passage from “A Man For All Seasons“, a play by Robert Bolt. The lead character Sir Thomas More has refused to compromise with King Henry VIII over the legality of divorce, and now the King wants to have his head chopped off. More’s daughter Meg tries to convince to take the oath supporting the divorce in order to save his own life.

Meg: Then say the words of the oath and in your heart think otherwise.

More: What is an oath then, but words we say to God? Listen, Meg.
When a man takes an oath, he’s holding his own self in his own hands… …like water.
And if he opens his fingers then, he needn’t hope to find himself again.
Some men aren’t capable of this, but I’d be loathed to think your father one of them.

That’s how men should try to be with their chastity. I agree that it is almost impossible not to see things and to think things that are unchaste – but I am talking about doing something unchaste. Men need to avoid that, at least. The problem is that men don’t realize what they are giving up by being unchaste, because they don’t study these issues to know the costs, the lost capabilities to love unselfishly, or the virtues that give them honor with God. No one tells us. Instead of reading “A Man for All Seasons” or “The Faerie Queene”, we pick our role models off the bottom shelf of Hollywood or other crap in the culture. The schools are no help at all, most parents are busy, and the church just orders people around without any arguments or evidence. We are on our own, and by the time we realize who we want to be to a woman, we are often already in a hole.

But my main point is that even if there wasn’t a woman left in the world who believed in chastity, courting, marriage and family, that would still not be a justification for a Christian man to give up on his ideal of chastity. It’s better to be a hero and be alone than to make peace with the world as it is. Go down fighting, never give in just to fit in.

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

Is it “brilliant” to accumulate $185,000 of debt studying the humanities?

From the Des Moines Register, an article by Ms. Rehha Basu.

Excerpt:

Sixteen years ago, Patricia (P.J.) Johnston of Des Moines made the front page of this paper for collecting her diploma from Drake University at just 19. “Johnston was reading books on French existentialism while others her age were still buying comic books,” wrote reporter Tom Alex of the young woman who majored in religion and philosophy, dabbled in music and astronomy and found time to take part in online discussions on the Bible.

“I think I’m probably meant to be an academic,” Johnston was quoted as saying. And she has been, getting a master’s in one institution, going to seminary at another, doing field research in India in her area of interest — Indian Catholicism — and currently working toward a Ph.D in religious studies at the University of Iowa.

President Barack Obama came through Johnston’s university on Wednesday, where he said there is no greater predictor of success than a good education. “This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of everybody who’s willing to work for it,” Obama said. “That’s part of what made us special. … That’s a commitment that we need to reaffirm today.”

He talked about the untenable debt that’s limiting options for today’s college-goers — $25,000 on average — because tuition and fees have more than doubled since they were born.

Johnston didn’t get to hear him since she was teaching a class on Buddhism. But she knows a lot about educational debt. She has $185,000 in student loans to repay.

As it is, she sleeps on her office floor on the days she has to be in Iowa City, riding the Greyhound bus in from Des Moines. She helps support her mother with the approximately $16,000 she earns as a teaching assistant. But she is in danger of dropping out before getting her doctorate because she has hit her limit on loans, and most likely won’t be able to get a teaching assistant position next year because of cuts in undergraduate programs.

If that happens, she wrote me, she would be this far along, “facing the job market in my mid-30s with no marketable job skills of any kind.”

Johnston grew up on welfare and other forms of public assistance. Her divorced mother was unable to hold down a job for reasons that were never diagnosed. Johnston got through college with scholarships, grants, some help from her late grandmother, and only $18,000 in debt.

Student loans should not be connected to the government as they are now – they should be privatized. That way, taxpayers are not stuck with the bill if the person cannot make a career out of what they are studing. What is this person doing going abroad in India? What is she doing riding on Grayhounds? It makes no sense. If she had to go to a for-profit bank, then she would never get a student loan, because they know they would never get the money back. We have to have a system where people pay their own way, so that they can’t take risks with anyone else’s money but their own (or their loan guarantor’s). No taxpayer money should be available to them, and no taxpayer money should be given to subsidize universities, either – it just raises the cost of tuition. Once the number of students applying to the humanities is reduced because no loans are available, then tuition will come down for those who really intend to make a go of it.

I think a lot of the problem here comes from growing up without a father. Fathers teach their children to be practical because they worry more than mothers about the children not being able to be independent and fend for themselves.

UPDATE: The Captain comments on this story here.

UPDATE: This is from the woman’s Facebook page:

I have never asked anybody to pay my student loan debt for me, and I will pay it down someday, even if I have to eat ramen noodles for the rest of my life. I was willing to undertake my studies at any cost and at any degree of personal risk because I believe in God and I am convinced that I am doing what God is calling me to do. If you read the New Testament, you will find a great deal about how people are called to give up everything they own – houses and wealth and family and respectibility and everything else – to do whatever it is that God calls them to do. I am not brave and no longer optimistic, but I have tried to take God at his word.

I am not financing education entirely through student loan debt. I held work study jobs as an undergraduate, and have usually held some kind of on-campus employment. I have been a TA for the university for the last seven years. The fact is, government support of higher education is down and the cost of tuition has outpaced salaries to such a great degree in this country that virtually nobody is able to afford an education on their own wages without taking on a substantial burden of student loan debt. The vast majority of the anecdotes to the contrary concern degrees earned twenty or thirty years ago, before major structural changes in the financing of higher education – in the post-war years, government funding allowed the vast majority of expense for education to be met through Pell grants and scholarships, making it possible for many people to work themselves through school. That hasn’t been possible for most people in most degree programs for at least thirty years, and these nostalgic memories of an entirely different time and set of circumstances are not doing the debate on higher education financing in this country any good at all.

I am not a “professional student” nor am I taking an especially long time to pursue my degree – this is simply how long humanities education takes. http://chronicle.com/article/In-Humanities-10-Years-May/16231

If you only see value in STEM disciplines, I probably will not convince you that humanities education is valuable. There used to be a sense in this country that certain things had value and meaning in their own right, not simply because they produced nice technological gadgets or made bundles of money for businesses. Even conservatives such as Allan Bloom used to realize that it impoverishes us spiritually when we turn away from the humanities, the cultural legacy of Western society. Would that their political descendants had as much grace or wisdom.

She’s not being forced into this course of action. She’s choosing it deliberately, and she wants other people to pay to make her impractical flight from reality financially sound.

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

Are Christians responsible for making plans and making good decisions?

Here’s a wonderful post on decision making and the will of God posted on Neil’s blog. Neil links to another post where someone is trying to figure out what God wants him to do.

Excerpt:

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

He has a helpful picture posted as well:

This is actually a very important topic for me, because I like making plans and making good decisions. I like being the quarterback or squad leader of my own life. I like to pick objectives and then make plans to achieve them. (Nothing too exotic, just simple stuff like saving money or reading more books)

Actually, I really oppose the idea that God has a magical fairy tale will for each person that will make them happy and fulfilled. For me, life isn’t like that. I don’t expect God to lead me along like a child at a scavenger hunt. I expect to survey the battlefield where I am and then do something to make a difference. There are lots of things you can do that will please God. Should you focus on your career and sponsor apologetics conferences? Or should you use your spare time preparing Sunday school lessons? There are lots of good things you could do to please God. Your job is to pick the one that will be the most effective. It doesn’t matter if it makes you happy, it only matters if it’s effective and if you are good at it.

Who is Rifleman Dodd?

A while back, I was busily working my way through the U.S. Marine Corps Official Reading List, and I came across a book by C.S. Forester called Rifleman Dodd, or alternatively titled Death to the French. It’s a work of historical fiction that takes place during the Napoleonic wars. The story is about a British marksman named Dodd, who is cut off from his own lines during a withdrawal maneuver. He is subsequently left to fend for himself behind enemy lines. An ordinary man might be full of despair and forget about his mission entirely. But Dodd is no ordinary man. Not only does he find a way to survive by finding food to eat, water to drink and places to sleep, but he also tries to remember his orders and to think about what he can do to advance the cause of his General, the Duke of Wellington.

Here’s an excerpt from a gritty book review:

It’s about a green-coated British infantry rifleman in the Napoleonic Wars, an age when rifles were a novelty and most of the army was red-coated and carried muskets. Private Matthew Dodd gets separated from his regiment during a retreat and finds himself stranded behind enemy (French) lines in Portugal. With the occasional aid of some natives, but mostly on his own, he harasses the French with his rifle and tries to prevent them from building a bridge across the Tagus River. It’s a remarkable tale of survival and solitary achievement, of a rank-and-file soldier who lives by his wits and slowly learns to make plans without orders, and shows leadership qualities and a knowledge of warfare.

I think we’re in the same situation as Dodd.

There is no point in us looking for breadcrumb trails to happiness at this point. That’s not the point of Christianity. The point of Christianity is friendship with God, imitation of Christ, honoring moral obligations, self-sacrificial love for your neighbor (and even your enemies!), and dedication to the truth – whether anyone else likes you or not. It’s not supposed to make you happy, and it’s not necessarily going to be a normal life like everyone else has. Things may not work out the way you’d like them to.

We seem to be making such a big deal about compassion and forgiveness in the Christian life these days – such a big emphasis on our feelings. Almost like we have forgotten that we have obligations to our friend – and his objectives. A relationship doesn’t mean that one person completely disregards the character and goals of the other person and then is automatically granted forgiveness whenever they want it. That’s not a friendship – that’s using someone else for your own ends. Maybe it’s time to remember what this is all about.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , ,

Should you marry someone who promises you that “there will be no divorce”?

I was having a chat with a friend of mine who just got out of a serious relationship and I was trying to pick his brain to find out everything about the woman he was intending to marry so I could see why things went wrong. He told me that she had told him over and over that “there would be no divorce” and that he found that very convincing, despite very obvious warning signs in the area of respect (which I wrote about yesterday).

Well. I was very surprised to hear this, and so I asked him whether he thought it was enough that this woman told him that “three will be no divorce”. He said yes. This woman had experienced the divorce of her own parents and she was resolved (by act of will) never to let that happen to her. He found that acceptable, but I didn’t because I know the numbers on this, and I know that children of divorced parents are more likely to divorce themselves. So the pain of divorce is no deterrent here.

So should we believe that people can avoid a divorce just by saying they will? I told him no. And for an example, I offered a thought experiment. I said to imagine two runners on a track who are charged with completing 10 laps. One runner is a Navy SEAL like Mike Murphy, who has been trained to run miles and miles carrying a 60 pound load. In the mountains. The other is a 300-lb couch potato whose idea of exercise is reaching for the TV remote control. Suppose I ask both runners: do you intend to finish the 10 laps? Should I believe them if they both say yes?

Look, marriage is like building a house. People can say whatever they want about their prospects for success, but the will doesn’t decide here. You have to certain skills, you have to have a certain amount of money, you have to have a plan, you have to be able to read blueprints, you have to be able to hire specialists, you understand the differences between materials, etc. When you think about it, no long-term enterprise can be accomplished by act of will. Piano recitals, math exams, investing for retirement… nothing can be done by sheer act of will.

Now with that being said, let’s take a look at an example.

An example

I found this article in the Wall Street Journal way back in 2011, but it fits my conversation with my friend.

The author, Susan Gregory Thomas, lists some of the mistakes she made that led her to get a divorce in her first marriage.

This is the first thing I saw that caught my eye:

“Whatever happens, we’re never going to get divorced.” Over the course of 16 years, I said that often to my husband, especially after our children were born.

So she is trying to express an intention here, repeatedly, to her husband. I think the point here is that she did have good intentions but as we shall see that was not enough to prevent the divorce. That’s a warning to others that good intentions are not enough.

Here is the second thing:

I believed that I had married my best friend as fervently as I believed that I’d never get divorced. No marital scenario, I told myself, could become so bleak or hopeless as to compel me to embed my children in the torture of a split family. And I wasn’t the only one with strong personal reasons to make this commitment.

I noticed that a lot of people seem to think that being compatible is very important to marriage. But I don’t think that it is the most important thing. For example, you would not expect two cocaine addicts or two gambling addicts, etc. to have a stable marriage. I think marriage is more like a job interview where there are specific things that each person has to be able to do in order to make it work. So again, she’s giving a warning to others that compatibility is not a guarantee of marriage success.

And there’s more:

My husband and I were as obvious as points on a graph in a Generation X marriage study. We were together for nearly eight years before we got married, and even though statistics show that divorce rates are 48% higher for those who have lived together previously, we paid no heed.

We also paid no heed to his Catholic parents, who comprised one of the rare reassuringly unified couples I’d ever met, when they warned us that we should wait until we were married to live together. As they put it, being pals and roommates is different from being husband and wife. How bizarrely old-fashioned and sexist! We didn’t need anything so naïve or retro as “marriage.” Please. We were best friends.

Sociologists, anthropologists and other cultural observers tell us that members of Generation X are more emotionally invested in our spouses than previous generations were. We are best friends; our marriages are genuine partnerships. Many studies have found that Generation X family men help around the house a good deal more than their forefathers. We depend on each other and work together.

So here I am seeing that she rejected sex roles, parental advice, or the moral guidelines of Christianity. Again, she is discussing some of the factors that I at least think contribute to divorce. I think that she is right to highlight the fact that she was wrong to disregard the statistics on cohabitation.

So here are some of the mistakes:

  • reject advice from parents
  • avoid chastity
  • cohabitate for EIGHT YEARS
  • embrace feminism, reject complementarian sex roles
  • thinking that good intentions would overcome every challenge

So, what does the research show works to have a stable marriage?

  • chastity
  • rejection of feminism
  • regular church attendance
  • parental involvement in the courting
  • parents of both spouses married
  • no previous divorces

Guess what? You can’t break all the rules and still succeed by sheer force of will.  If you break all the rules like that woman in the story, you can’t have a working marriage. Not without repudiating everything you believed, and taking steps to undo all the damage from everything you’ve done. You can’t keep all the bad beliefs and bad habits you’ve built up and marry them to a marriage that will stand the test of time.

A good marriage is an enterprise, and it requires that your character be changed to fit the requirements. There is no way to short-circuit the preparation / selection processes by act of will. And just because your friends are getting married, that’s no reason for you to rush into it unprepared. The best way to prepare for marriage is pick people of the opposite sex and practice marriage behaviors (e.g. – listening, helping) with them – even with people you don’t intend to marry. Take an interest in their lives and practice denying yourself to help them with their problems. That’s better than making idle promises you’re not able to keep. And this works the same for men and for women. Both people need to get this right.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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