Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Should Christians expect to know God’s will by means of feelings and intuitions?

There are two views on the topic of decision making and the will of God. The view you learn in the church is called “the traditional view”. I call this view the feelings/intuition view. This view that elevates feelings / intuitions to the level of divine communications from God. The more practical view is called “the wisdom view”. I call this view the battlefield commander view. I am a proponent of the wisdom / commander view.

Let’s learn about the two different views:

[The traditional view is] that God has a plan for our lives and that we receive guidance through methods such as “open and closed doors”, “feeling led” and “the still, small, voice”.

[The wisdom view] holds that God does not have an “individual will” for our lives, but rather that all of God’s will can be summed up within two categories, God’s sovereign will and God’s moral will. Basically God’s sovereign will is all the things that god decrees will happen. It is hidden (mostly) from us, and does not play an active part in our decision, although some of it is revealed in the bible. God’s moral will is the part that we must concern ourselves with in making decisions. It is fully revealed in the bible and our decisions must be made within it. We may use wisdom in applying god’s moral will to our lives, or we may be in an area not covered by god’s moral will. We must finally submit in advance to God’s sovereign will, being prepared for him to sovereignty intervene and redirect us through whatever means he wills (see James).

Here’s a bit more from someone else:

Regarding the view that God has a personal will for us individually that we have to discern and find, J.I. Packer says, “The first thing to say is that the idea of guidance is actually a novelty among orthodox evangelicals. It does not go back farther than the last century. Second, it has led people to so much foolish action on the one hand, and so much foolish inaction on the other, as well as puzzlement and heartbreak when the ‘hotline’ to God seems to go silent, that it has to be discredited. Third, it must be said that Scripture gives us no more warrant constantly to expect personal ‘hotline,’ ‘voice-from-the-control-tower’ guidance than to expect new authoritative revelations to come our way for the guidance of the whole church.” (Hot Tub Religion, page 118).

As to the point of the question, how do I make decisions, I attempt to make decisions in light of three factors: God’s moral will, wisdom, and my personal desires. If something is opposed to God’s moral will, then I should obviously flee from it. If it’s not opposed, then I consider the wisdom of the choices. For example, would it be wise for me to marry a woman who loves Jesus, though we have nothing else in common? Probably not. If the options pass the criteria of wisdom, then I’m free to choose how I wish. If I’m offered two jobs, and both are honoring to God, and both would be wise to take, then I’m free to choose the job I would like more. I don’t need to put out a fleece or await some other confirmation from God. If it’s moral and wise, then the only question as to whether or not it will honor Him is my attitude.

Some examples of this model used in the Bible (in theological circles referred to as the Wisdom Model) are in Paul’s planning of a mission to Rome in Romans 1:9-15, 15:22-24, the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-29), and Paul’s instructions for legal disputes (1 Cor 6:3-6).

The best book on this topic is Garry Friesen’s “Decision Making and the Will of God”. In it, you’ll find a full assessment about what the Bible teaches on this topic.

When I am trying to decide what will be effective, I look at Christian scholars, at their papers, books, and public debates. That’s effectiveness because it is addressed to a non-Christian audience in public with the force of reason and evidence. It is persuasion and it is addressed to rational minds. I want to change the minds of people who have a large influence on society on the whole. I don’t think that offering Christianity as life-enhancement or self-help is really “having an influence”. I think that offering Christianity as truth, with support, is “having an influence”.

So let me be clear about what I believe:

  • I don’t think that God normally talks to people directly
  • I don’t believe that life is an Easter egg hunt, filled with clues accessible only to emotion and intuition
  • I don’t believe that God expects people to discover a specific will for their lives using non-rational means
  • I think that people make up their own life plan that is consistent with the Bible
  • The goal of the life plan is to be effective, and there are no other considerations
  • I think that there are many good things a person can do, but that some are more effective than others
  • I think that with respect to the goal of serving God effectively, my happiness is expendable
  • I don’t think that the purpose of doing something for the Lord is to feel good about ourselves
  • I don’t think that people should choose ineffective things to do just because they like them
  • I don’t think that people should choose ineffective things to do just because they are good at them
  • I think people should do hard things that they don’t like – as long as it’s more effective
  • I don’t think that any course of action is as effective as any other – some plans accomplish more
  • I don’t think that life is totally unpredictable and irrational and subjective
  • I think that we can know what is or is not effective by studying and learning about the world
  • I think life is like a battlefield that must be surveyed, understood and acted upon deliberately

I think that every person is the commanding officer of his or her own life, and each person must study everything they can, make a plan that is consistent with the Bible’s moral prescriptions, execute the plan and achieve whatever they can achieve for the Lord. And the goal is not comfort or happy feelings, but real achievements. Not for the purpose of being saved, of course, because salvation is a free gift of God because of what Jesus did on the cross. Life is more like a battle than a vacation resort or a buffet or a shopping center. God’s will for us is not have happy feelings, but that we freely choose to sacrifice ourselves out of obedience and service to him. In my case, that means studying hard things, making money, saving money, and giving money away to good scholars, sponsoring good events and being persuasive to non-Christians. None of this necessarily makes me happy, but it does work to bring glory to God. I cried when I had to learn calculus, because it was so hard. But who cares? The main thing is that I have money now to sponsor Christian speakers or to give books to Christians to read, and God is happy with that.

I think that it is very important to realize that God is not impressed by our not being smart and not being effective. If we have the ability to be smart, then we should be smart, whether it makes us happy or not. If we have the ability to make money, then we should make money, whether it makes us happy or not. If we have the ability have a great influence, then we should have a great influence, whether it makes us happy or not. There will be plenty of time for happiness after we’re dead. But this life is a time of serving, and we should try to serve effectively, whether it makes us happy or not. With respect to God’s purposes in the world, my happiness is expendable.

Whenever someone questions my goals and plans by saying that I am asserting my will over God’s will, the first question I want to ask that person is this: “how do you know what God’s will is?” and “what is your basis for thinking that my plan to serve will not be effective?”. I want to know if I have misunderstood something about the way the world is, or miscalculated in some way. I want someone to look at my calculations and show where they are going to produce a less optimal result for the Lord. That’s the only concern I have – effectiveness for the Lord. Usually what I have found is that the other person wants to make the purpose of life their own happiness, and it makes them happier to choose what to do moment by moment, without having to study anything or make plans. It’s not that they have better goals (for God) or better plans (for God). It’s that they want their goals to be above God, and they don’t want to make plans other than to do whatever makes them happy.

This article by Greg Koukl may be helpful.

And I also found this summary of the Friesen book useful:

In nine parts.

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Do Christians have to do something extraordinary to make a difference?

Here’s an interesting article from Relevant. (H/T Eric Chabot from Think Apologetics)

Excerpt:

Ordinary” has to be one of the loneliest words in our vocabulary today. Who wants a bumper sticker that announces to the neighborhood, “My child is an ordinary student at Bubbling Brook Elementary”? Who wants to be that ordinary person who lives in an ordinary town, is a member of an ordinary church and has an ordinary job?

We think our life has to count! We have to leave our mark, have a legacy, make a difference. And all of this should be something that can be managed, measured and maintained. We have to live up to our Facebook profile. It’s one of the newer versions of salvation by works.

[…]In a world intoxicated by such freedom, everydayness is boring. This vision of reality affects us all. Even more than I’m afraid of failure, I’m terrified by boredom. Facing another day, with ordinary callings to ordinary people all around me is much more difficult than chasing the dreams I have envisioned for the grand story of my life. Other people—especially those close to us—can become props. “The Poor” can be instruments of our life project. Our big ideas to “change the world” can become ways of actually avoiding the opportunities we have every day, right where God has placed us, to glorify and enjoy Him and to enrich the lives of others.

[…]Taking a summer to build wells in Africa is, for some, a genuine calling. But so is fixing a neighbor’s plumbing, feeding one’s family and sharing in the burdens and joys of a local church. What we are called to do every day, right where God has placed us, is rich and rewarding.

Sometimes, the best way to change the world is to live extraordinarily in what looks like an ordinary existence—to radically love and serve those around us every day, no matter where we are.

I want to quote from a post by Wes Widner. He is a talented software engineer, and a very practical person.

Here’s a challenging post he wrote about about short-term missions.

Here’s what was said:

Because of this misunderstanding of the great commission and what it truly means to make disciples of those around us, we tend to overlook questions of stewardship and logistics. In fact, since we think the imperative is to go we tend to start to think that any cost is acceptable and questions of logistics are a mere nuisance.

How much does a round-trip plane ticket usually cost to travel overseas? $1,000, $2,000? More? Once you count the cost of food, lodging, transportation, etc. you can often approach figures well over $3,000 just to send a single person overseas. Is this really the best way to reach the lost?

[…]Why do we go? Why do we really go? If our real aim is to make disciples as we are commanded to, then we will gladly step back and examine the questions raised above (and many will come to the conclusion that short-term, long-distance mission trips are simply not a good idea) but I believe the main reason most Christians go is to satisfy a desire for an emotional experience which they equate with “being close to God”. And therein lies the heart of our dilemma.

So that’s the first point to make – do the people who want to fly off to far-flung places for a few weeks want to make a difference? If so, how does throwing away thousands of dollars do that?

In my own life, I’ve favored stewardship and strength over recklessness and thrill-seeking. I have been working out a slow and steady apologetics-focused plan that started when I was in high school when I was reading C.S. Lewis and winning awards in computer science. From there, I got my BS and MS in computer science and have proceeded to built a gapless resume and a fortune which I use to support Christian students and fund apologetics events. I have sponsored dozens of apologetics events during the last 15 years, and let me tell you, I can fund several campus events with as much as people spend on a 3-week mission trip. And it’s a much higher impact. A much better use of funds. We need to be influencing the university, that’s where future leaders come from.

Let’s take a look at another concern.

Look at this post by a male reader of The Thinking Housewife blog.

Excerpt:

Since I wrote you last, I have decided to sign up for a few online dating sites, mostly out of curiosity. I could not imagine finding a serious mate on, say, OKCupid, but anything is possible. In poring over many hundreds of profiles in the past few days, a few things stand out to me.

  • I have not seen any woman make her desire for children, or even marriage, the central focus of her profile. Even though I filter profiles based on the “wants kids?” question (which is, surprisingly, often answered “yes”), nothing in the written profile suggests it is important to them. (This is occasionally not the case for Asian women)
  • The emphasis is instead on career, activities, hobbies, favourite movies/books/music, travel, and political inclinations (always to the left, sometimes the feminist left)
  • The surpreme goal of women my age appears to be to start an NGO in a Third World country.
  • Every woman my age has read Eat, Pray, Love.
  • Most are doing (or have done) advanced degrees, often in education or healthcare.
  • It is rare that a woman expresses interest in cooking, though most express interest in restaurants and food.
  • I have never seen a woman mention that she desires a good home, a place to call her own, or that she is otherwise domestically inclined.

I suspect these line up with your readers’ experiences too. That said, it may be that women view these traits as being desired by men, and they may be at odds with more deeply held needs.

So marriage and family are not viewed as ways to make a difference, and all the effort is put into travel, education, politics, social work and career.

The Thinking Housewife adds her own thoughts:

Right now, in this country, there are many children growing up in single-mother homes. Growing up without a father and with a mother who is usually not at home and who may bring strange men into your life is a desolating experience that has been proven to damage many people. I have a friend who is a teacher in a white working-class neighborhood. Many of the children there are growing up in homes of never-married or divorced mothers. These children are hungry for attention and love. Their situation portends further social chaos. Do you think the young Evangelical women you mention would brag about helping these white children? Would volunteer work with them have the same cachet?

I suggest to you that it would not.

I understand that people in Third World countries are materially poorer than these white children I mention. But in the Christian view, the immaterial is foremost and the spiritual conditions of these white children are nothing less than dire and probably worse than that of most children in the Third World. They are being raised by nihilistic popular culture.

[…]Christianity will not flourish in the Third World if it is dying in the West. We need these idealistic women to do their work at home, and that work includes becoming wives and mothers themselves.

The idealism of these women is not wrong, but the direction it has taken is. Volunteering in the Third World has become a status symbol for Christians.

This is definitely something that I have seen with young, umarried Christian women. There is very little effort into choosing the right man, and planning for marriage and parenting with him. Everything is about missions trips, graduate degrees, changing the world with broad brush strokes. Being in the spotlight. Being recognized by everyone as important.

Last link – this time from Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason.

He writes:

You can make a difference as long as you’re making a difference with someone else with whom you have a difference (here I mean difference in ability). So maybe you know a little bit of theology. Let’s say you know like three theological truths. Well, you can teach those to somebody who know less than three theological truths, or don’t know those three. You can teach them what you know. That means just about anybody can participate as long as you find someone who knows less than you do, and there’s a lot of them around.

Take what you know, take the circumstance you’re in, and bloom where you’re planted.  And that is when you learn best. When you’re teaching someone else, you learn it better. It’s very simple. You have a small group. Sometimes your group is two or three people. You have an audience of one, over coffee at Starbucks. You could be sharing, talking, teaching, instructing. You take those opportunities, and you are faithful in those smaller opportunities, and more opportunities will probably come your way.

You may not have an audience of 100 or 1,000 or 3,000. I rarely have that size audience, anyway. But Jesus said, “If you’re faithful in smaller things, you’ll be given greater things.” Jesus wants you to make a difference in small ways. The fields are white with harvest.  There are all kinds of need out there, and you’ve been gifted to meet that need. So it stands to reason, to coin a phrase, that you will be used as you become better at what you do by the One who distributes these gifts, God, through the person of the Holy Spirit.

My answer to the question is then, keep your eyes open, and take the opportunities that come your way, look for opportunities.  Bloom where you’re planted. Do whatever you can, wherever you’re at. And then watch the Lord work and see what He decides to do with what you’ve done.

Here’s the Scripture he mentioned from Luke 16:10:

10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.

Even more than teaching another person what you know, you can just care for them and encourage them. You can just love them.

My view has always been to learn skills through study and save money I needed to be able to respond to challenges. If opportunities arose, then I could do something. I also made big plans. But even with these big plans, I always thought that I should be flexible. There have been times when opportunities to mentor someone one-on-one came up, and when they did, I invested heavily in those other people.

So I did have big plans. But then along came individuals, some of them from rough situations, who needed my help. What should I do? Keep trying to make my big important plan happen? What if the person who came along had a story that fit my abilities and experience so well that I was sure that God had placed us together for me to love and serve this person?

I’ve always felt that I should be flexible about letting my big plans go and working on these one-on-one relationships. But in order to do that, I had to accept that I might never get the recognition I wanted. That I might never get the excitement that I wanted. But sometimes, I got the joy that comes from supplying another person with what they needed, so that their wounds are healed and they move closer to God.

If we all slowly and carefully built up the skills and resources we needed to be able to make a difference with one person at a time, in the places and times where we are right now, then wouldn’t that change the world?

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Christian philosopher William Lane Craig offers marriage advice

This post is a 3 in one: one lecture, one question and answer, and another lecture – all on different topics.

First, I’ve got a lecture from the Reasonable Faith web site.

Dr. William Lane Craig is the top living Christian apologist and debater in the world today, and has 2 Masters degrees and 2 Ph.Ds. He also has scores of academic publications including books from Oxford University Press, etc.

The MP3 file is here. (14.5 Mb, about 41 minutes)

Topics:

  • the stresses of ministry on marriages
  • the Christian position on divorce
  • balancing marriage with academic pursuits
  • the importance of marrying the right person
  • Dr. Craig’s politically incorrect advice for choosing a spouse
  • Advice for men: Marry someone who believes in you and who supports you in your calling
  • Advice for women: Be the kind of person who can commit to being a helper and supporter
  • Advice for men: Beware of the career woman who will put their career over supporting you in your calling
  • Advice for women: Be careful about marrying if you think that your goals are more important than your husband’s goals
  • Advice: Don’t try to find the right person for you but instead focus on learning about marriage and preparing for marriage
  • Advice: Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, love and peace
  • Advice: God intends for sex to be within the bounds of marriage, so you need to guard yourself against unchastity
  • Advice for men: be careful what images and movies you see with the goal of keeping your chastity
  • Advice: your highest responsibility after your relationship with God is your spouse, and your studies are third
  • Advice: it’s better to drop classes or give up your graduate studies entirely rather than destroy your marriage
  • Advice for women: understand that you have to work at the marriage in order to help your man finish his studies
  • Advice: set aside a period of the day for communicating and bonding with your spouse
  • Advice: cultivate the ability to talk with your spouse on a personal level, and maintain eye contact
  • Advice for men: do not break eye contact with your wife, and also hold her hand when communicating
  • Advice: do not be embarrassed to seek out a marriage counselor, but make it a good counselor
  • Advice:  don’t just be doing stuff for your mate, but also be vulnerable and transparent with your mate
  • How your relationship with your wife helps you with your relationship with God
  • How do you handle the rebellion of children without being overbearing and authoritarian?

There is a period of Q&A at the end. There is another piece of advice that comes out in the Q&A for women: take an interest in your spouse’s work even if you don’t care about it, and ask him about it every day and try to understand it. Go to the man’s workplace and see what he does. Go to his presentations. Get involved in the man’s ministry and help him in practical ways. Another piece of advice is to not paper over the differences – it’s good to argue, because it means that problems are being confronted and worked through. Husbands should have a good male friend to talk to, and wives should have a good female friend to talk to.

I like how Dr. Craig has thought about how to have a successful marriage, how to choose the right woman, and how to love his wife. I like how he calls out men on the chastity thing. I think that chastity is more important for men than for women, because it’s the men who take the lead in choosing and pursuing the right woman for their plan.

Secondly, here is my previous post on Dr. Craig’s advice for married couples, where he gives 5 points of advice for married couples.

Here are the main pieces of advice Dr. Craig gives:

  1. Resolve that there will be no divorce
  2. Delay having children
  3. Confront problems honestly
  4. Seek marital counseling
  5. Take steps to build intimacy in your relationship

And here’s the controversial one (#2):

2. Delay having children. The first years of marriage are difficult enough on their own without introducing the complication of children. Once children come, the wife’s attention is necessarily diverted, and huge stresses come upon you both. Spend the first several years of marriage getting to know each other, working through your issues, having fun together, and enjoying that intimate love relationship between just the two of you. Jan and I waited ten years before having our first child Charity, which allowed me the finish graduate school, get our feet on the ground financially, establish some roots, and enjoy and build our love relationship until we were really ready to take on the responsibilities of parenthood. The qualifier here is that if the wife desperately wants children now, then the husband should accede to her wish to become a mother, rather than withhold that from her. Her verdict should be decisive. But if you both can agree to wait, things will probably be much easier.

Third and finally, here is a previous post on Dr. Craig’s advice for choosing a good spouse, with illustrations from his own marriage.

For example, Bill’s first story about Jan occurs early after their marriage while he is working on his first Masters degree at Trinity:

And it was also at that time that I began to see what an invaluable asset the Lord had given me in Jan. I remember I came home from classes one day, and found her at the kitchen table with all the catalogs and schedules and papers spread out in front of her and she said, “look! I’ve figured out how you can get two Masters degrees at the same time that it would normally take to get one! All you have to do is take overloads every semester, go to all full-time summer school and do all these other things, and you can do two MAs in the time it takes to do one!”

And I thought, whoa! Are you sure you really want to make the commitment it takes to do this kind of thing? And she said, “Yeah! Go for it!” And it was then I began to see that God had given me a very special woman who was my supporter – my cheerleader – and who really believed in me. And as long as she believed in me, that gave me the confidence to dream bigger dreams, and to take on challenges that I had never thought of before.

If you want to hear another Christian husband talk about how his wife supports him, listen to this lecture called “Giants in the Land” with Dr. Walter Bradley. It’s actually my favorite lecture. I also really like his testimony lecture. If you’re looking for guidance, these are some of the people I would recommend.

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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.

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Are you training your replacement?

I saw this post on Pastor Matt’s blog (H/T Truthbomb Apologetics), in which he talked about how William Lane Craig, the foremost Christian evangelist today, was inspiring a generation of young Christians to study hard subjects and to have an influence.

Pastor Matt then describes his own efforts with the Alliance Defense Fund, where he serves as Director of Development.

He writes:

My primary job is to serve the Christian legal ministry Alliance Defending Freedom.  Other than winning approximately 80% of our cases, we have committed to training the next generation of Christian lawyers (yes, there is such a thing).  Alliance Defending Freedom (or ADF) instituted The Blackstone Legal Fellowship to impact future generations.  We pick the top Christian law students from across the country, train them and place them in a paid internship with attorneys already fighting everyday for life, marriage and religious liberty across the globe.  The results have been tremendous.  After all, think about the impact an Ivy League law student committed to following Christ would have if properly trained in Constitutional law and given real world experience in defending the 1st Amendment? Such students go on to become federal law clerks, U.S Attorneys and federal judges.

The Blackstone program inspired me to think about applying the same to rising Christian apologists.  After all, if we lost significant ground in the culture war because we ceded academia to the left, what would happen if we identified the best and brightest committed Christians studying philosophy or science and helped them to rise to the top of their fields via a training program including internships and networking opportunities?

For example, let’s say a grad student at Houston Baptist University or the Talbot School of Theology has been accepted to study philosophy of science at Cambridge or physics at Cal Tech.  Wouldn’t it make a difference if he or she were given a chance over their summer break to spend time learning about the latest in New Testament studies from N.T. Wright and intelligent design from Stephen Meyer followed by a paid internship with the Discovery Institute or RZIM? Then think of the possibilities of linking all of these men and women through an online network and regular get togethers where they could support one another through prayer and commenting on each others’ writings. The benefits could be not only better writing but friendships that help avoid unnecessary divisions as well as maintaining the momentum Dr. Craig and others have initiated.

I’m definitely a huge fan of the ADF and Blackstone Legal Fellowship, but I have my own plan to train my replacements.

For some time now, I have been getting to know young Christians who want to make a difference for Christ and his Kingdom, and I have been encouraging them. Sometimes, that encouragement means sending money, sometimes it means sending books, sometimes it means sending care and encouragement, sometimes it means picking college courses and sometimes it means helping with homework or technical issues. Sometimes it means listening as they get through a bad break-up or deal with doubts. Sometimes it means giving them advice on courting and marriage. It could mean anything – but the goal is to build them up to have an influence.

I am a single man and have been careful to study difficult subjects and move around as necessary to find good-paying work. That leaves me in a position where I am able to spend my free time caring for these younger Christians as they grow their skills, build their resumes and get their ministries set up. I expect them all to surpass me in their achievements and influence. So although I have been able to escape my upbringing and reach some measure of success, my hope for them is that they will reach even higher than I was able to. But that’s not going to happen unless they have a vision for their lives and are supplied in order to reach their goals.

So, do you have a plan to develop influential and effective Christians who will replace you?

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , ,

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