Last week we brought you a video with Tim Keller discussing how the church ought to respond to LGBT neighbors. This week N.T. Wright discusses the need for meaningful debate on the issue rather than a shouting match. He also unpacks how he reads the Scriptures on the issue of marriage.
How our culture often misunderstands both worship and Scripture.
Clive from What’s in the Bible? makes a guest appearance to sing the podcast theme song. The crew discusses Skye’s article on a study finding worship can be chemically addicting, and why mountain top experiences can be bad. Skye and Phil also talk to guest--and Leadership Journal senior editor--Brandon O’Brien about his upcoming book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, which discusses our contextual biases when reading scripture. They unpack the parable of the prodigal son and the way different cultures define vices and virtues.
A new study finds large worship gatherings can be chemically addictive, and why it is a serious problem for the church.
by Skye Jethani
In 1515, Michelangelo completed a sculpture of Moses. The marble figure depicts an old but very muscular Moses with the Ten Commandments under his arm and a billowing beard. But tourists are often shocked to see what appear to be devilish horns protruding from Moses’ head.
The horns can be traced to a mistranslation of the Bible in the 5th Century. The story from Exodus 34 says that after Moses met with the Lord on Mount Sinai, the people were afraid because, “the skin of his face shone.” The Hebrew word for a ray or beam of light was mistranslated into Latin as “horns.” So, when Michelangelo read his Bible he believed the people were frightened because Moses had grown horns while meeting with God on the mountain.
Today we no longer depict Moses with horns, but a misunderstanding of his mountaintop experience remains all too common. According to the Apostle Paul in the 2 Corinthians 3, Moses did not hide his face because the people were frightened, but to hide the fact that the glory of God was fading away. Whatever transformation he experienced in God’s presence on the mountain was temporary, and the veil hid its transient nature. Moses’ mountaintop experience was genuine, glorious, and full of God’s presence-but it did not bring lasting transformation.
Through the influence of our consumer culture we’ve come to believe that transformation is attained through external experiences. We’ve come to regard our church buildings, with their multimedia theatrical equipment, as mountaintops where God’s glory may be encountered. Many of us ascend this mountain every Sunday morning wanting to have an experience with God, and many of us leave with a degree of genuine transformation. We feel “pumped up,” “fed,” or “on fire for the Lord.”
No doubt many, like Moses, have an authentic encounter with God through these events. But new research indicates another explanation for our spiritual highs.
This week’s podcast opens up with a special guest – Sunday School Lady from What’s in the Bible? – talking about the end of the Olympics. Phil, Skye and Christian talk about Bill Gates’ initiative to invent the toilet of the future, the search for other intelligent life in space, and the new billboards from the American Atheists for the upcoming political conventions.
A copy of Apples, Snakes and Bellyaches was given to me in 1991 while serving as a student missionary in Oregon. I stayed up half the night reading and laughing aloud at thought-provoking poems addressed to children, yet instructive to adults.
This was my first exposure to the writings of Calvin Miller. It would not be my last.
The next year at university, I came across the book The Table of Inwardness. I did not immediately connect the author of this book to the same man who wrote Apples, Snakes and Bellyaches. And why should I? Children’s poetry and Christian mysticism are completely different genres. To this day, Table remains my favorite book. I read it once a year.
Entering Southwestern Seminary, I made it a priority to meet Calvin Miller and take every class he offered, whether or not they were part of my course requirements. Along the way, a friendship was born. The greatest honor Calvin bestowed upon me, besides that of being my mentor, was the opportunity to serve as his research assistant. I learned as much sitting across the desk from Calvin as I did in many of my seminary courses.
It was also a privilege to be part of a small group that met at Calvin’s house on Tuesday nights to read through his final draft of Walking with Saints. There were five students in this group, and every one of us remains in ministry. Statistically, at least two of us should be washed out by now. I believe it was Calvin’s influence that prepared each of us for the trials of ministry.
Ed Stetzer, president of Lifeway, says the findings point to challenges ahead for the convention. "Most Baptists are not Calvinists, though many are, and most Baptists are not Arminians, though many are comfortable with that distinction. However, there is a sizeable minority that see themselves as Calvinist and holds to such doctrines, and a sizeable majority that is concerned about their presence. That points to challenging days to come."
Phil's brother and law professor, Rob Vischer, joins the crew to discuss Chick-Fil-A, Sharia Law, and the health care mandate.
The podcast is live this week from Arnold’s Park, Iowa and features Phil’s brother, Rob, at the Bible conference their grandfather founded. Rob Vischer is a former attorney who is the associate dean of the University of St. Thomas School of Law and writes about the intersection of law and religion. The crew talks about Chick-Fil-A, Wheaton College’s lawsuit against the federal government and anti-Sharia laws that are being debated across the country.
Rob Vischer serves as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. His scholarship explores the intersection of law, religion, and public policy, with a particular focus on the religious and moral dimensions of professional identity. He received his B.A. degree, summa cum laude, from the University of New Orleans, and his J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
All are made in the image of God, even those we disagree with.
by Mel Lawrenz
A chill went up my spine when I got home from church on Sunday and heard about the shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, just a few miles from where I live. I was stunned because the shooting was taking place at the very time I was preaching at Elmbrook Church on Psalm 46:9: "He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire."
I had said in the message: imagine if today the suicide bomber’s detonation device shorted out, all tanks and artillery stopped working, all AK-47's in the world (75 million of them!) suddenly jammed. All M-16's and M-4's turned to dust. In the light of future judgment when God brings all violence to an end, how can we not commit ourselves to being peacemakers in whatever ways we can?
At times like this we ponder (or at least, we should) what Scripture says about violence. Much, of course.
Becoming a Church that confronts, rather than embraces, brand identities.
by David Swanson
It turns out that boycotts are great for business. Last Wednesday Chick-fil-A broke previous sales records as costumers came out it droves to purchase chicken sandwiches and waffle fries in support of the fast food joint. Speaking his mind about marriage may have been the savviest accidental business move CEO Dan Cathy ever made.
Some of the comments on my first post questioned whether there is a connection between the threatened boycott of Chick-fil-A and the power of brands. I appreciate the pushback, but the massive outpouring of solidarity (and dollars) on Chick-fil-A Day makes me think I’m on to something. To recap: when our personal identities become enmeshed with that of a company whose product we love but whose values we come to question, we may experience a crisis of identity. At this point many choose to boycott. Or, in the case of Chick-fil-A Day, others come to the rescue of a corporation they feel represents their values. Either way, the chosen response says a lot about where we find out identities.
More than one comment made the case that supporting Chick-fil-A had nothing to do with identity or branding; rather, it was an opportunity to affirm besieged Christian values. As one person put it, “I don't think we have to find any thing sinister or unhealthy in the Christians who take offense at the attack and react by going to get a sandwich. They are not being commercially ‘branded,’ they are simply expressing themselves in a concrete way on a conviction of deep concern.” Many of Chick-fil-A’s supporters probably share this sentiment but it’s not the whole story.
How a chicken sandwich came to symbolize so much more, and why it's a problem.
by David Swanson
It’s been about two weeks since Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, made his now infamous comments about marriage during a radio interview. "I pray,” he said, “God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.” Whatever one thinks of Cathy’s original comments, it’s clear that his words set off a storm of hot air and lightening-fast judgments. My own mayor – rather ridiculously in my opinion – jumped quickly into the fray suggesting that no more Chick-fil-A franchises be allowed in Chicago until the restaurant “reflect Chicago values.”
The Chick-fil-A craziness has reminded me of a summer during college when I interned at a Southern Baptist church in the suburbs of Washington DC. This remains my closest association with the Southern Baptists and it’s one I remember happily despite being regularly reminded that I was a visitor to the SBC culture. This crystallized when I learned of the congregation’s discussion about participating in their denomination’s boycott of the Walt Disney Company. My denominationally unaffiliated self had been unaware of the possibility of a boycott and the reasons behind it.
With the Disney and Chick-fil-A boycotts there are two ideologically opposite groups calling for boycotts on companies that don’t share their values. I’m sympathetic. Abstaining from certain companies or national regimes for dehumanizing and exploitative practices seems a legitimate option. It’s unclear to me whether any participant in a globalized world can rest easy in her ethically pure purchases, but that doesn’t take away from the conscious decision to do less harm.