Archive for the Recommended Link Category

Oct 21

Unity, the Church, and this Election

2016 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Recommended Link

It’s election season. As Americans entrusted with the hard-won privilege of self-government, we have a responsibility to participate in the process of electing those who serve us. Elections are wonderful and yet often unwieldy things. Elections are like giant negotiations between millions of diverse people as to who will lead all of us in a variety of roles: legislative, executive, and judicial.

The very nature of this mass negotiation means that total unity is never achievable. This is certainly true in the election of our nation’s President every four years. Yet, most of the time, a pretty remarkable degree of unity is found around at least two candidates, as various groups within our diverse nation let go of certain priorities in order for the chance to do good on others. America has worked exceptionally well.

Yet this election season reminds us that the political process is inherently tied to the people that engage that process. Winston Churchill put it this way: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried.”

Unfortunately, this election exposes the reality of an increasingly fractured—and, we must say, spiritually darkened—nation. The parties are pulling farther apart, and within parties there are sharper divisions. The nature of these divisions are often over matters of inestimable importance.

Yet there is a more dangerous prospect than the fracturing of the nation. If we’re not careful, the question of what to do in this election can harm not only the nation’s unity, but unity within local gospel churches.

Kevin DeYoung has done us all another favor by expressing some timely and needed ideas clearly in his piece, “Seeking Clarity in this Confusing Election Season: Ten Thoughts.” After saying that, for his part, he will not be voting for either major candidate, Kevin offers this exhortation to deference among brothers and sisters. We resonate with this spirit.

“This does not mean I think every Christian must come to the same decision in order to be a good Christian. There are simply too many prudential matters in the mix for Christians to be adamant that you absolutely cannot vote for so and so. Someone may think Trump is a lecherous oaf, but still conclude that his policies and judicial appointments have a better chance of being good for the nation. Likewise, someone may find Clinton’s position on abortion utterly deplorable, but conclude that Trump’s pro-life credentials are untrustworthy and that Clinton is less likely to be recklessly incompetent. Others may be convinced that an unpopular Clinton presidency may be better for conservative principles in the long run than a train wreck Trump administration would be. Some people may think voting third party is a waste. Others may figure it is one way to send a message that the system failed us this time around. Or maybe they really, really like Gary Johnson or Evan McMullin or whomever. Do I agree with all these arguments? No. But am I able to tell Christians that these arguments are manifestly unbiblical? No. They are conclusions that require prudential judgments. While our church might discipline a member for holding the positions Clinton holds or for behaving the way Trump has behaved, this does not mean we have biblical grounds for disciplining a church member who, for any number of reasons and calculations, may decide that voting for either candidate (or neither) makes the most sense. And if we wouldn’t discipline someone for a presidential vote, we should stop short of saying such a vote is sinful and shameful.”

Kevin has much more to say, and so much of it helpful. Read Kevin’s entire post here. Though it was written in the context of a different election, Kevin’s post, “What Am I Doing When I Vote?” offers us helpful distinctions for more careful thinking about what a vote is and isn’t. Evidence of Kevin’s perceptivity is the fact that this article from 2012 practically accounts for our present situation.

On a closely related subject, seasoned former pastor of Chicago’s Moody Church, Erwin Luther, was asked once as to whether he would endorse a political candidate. He declined. Here’s his thinking:

“First, I did not want anyone to think that the Gospel was tied to a political party. If I were to endorse a candidate, people would identify Christianity with that political label, and this would be a stumbling block to those of the opposing political party. Instead of endorsements, over the years I have preached on those issues which cross the biblical/political divide, such as abortion, the role of law, same-sex marriage, etc. But throughout I have always insisted that the cross of Christ must be held above political wrangling, particularly before an election. We must be able to say to Democrats, to Republicans, and to Independents, ‘All of you are lost forever if you do not put your faith in Christ.’

The second reason for my refusal was that I feared a politician I endorsed could turn out to be a disappointment, and I would then be embarrassed that I had lent my name (and by extension that of The Moody Church) to the man or woman who acted in an un-Christian manner.”

These are wise words.

If you read around the web or track with social media, you’ll be familiar with the strongly prescriptive and often condescending or dismissive spirit from all sides around the question who Christians should or shouldn’t vote for. Strong opinions are good, and even needed for robust self-government. But if we’re not careful, we can end up treating the voices of leaders we trust as a kind of extra-biblical papal authority. Let us remember that we account to God for our decisions, and let us with all seriousness live and vote like that is true.

Lutzer’s tone, along with Kevin’s, really is the spirit to model. Or at least it seems that way to this writer and Christian. Whatever you purpose to do this election, surely you have heard silly, misrepresentative, and wrong-spirited arguments against your decision. It’s good to remember, and even to self-consciously acknowledge, that not everyone who disagrees with you disagrees with you for those same reasons and in that same spirit. Kevin and Lutzer will likely vote differently, and yet they express their arguments and their disagreements reasonably and in a manner appropriate to the murkiness of the moment.

Finally, we simply must conclude with a word from Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University. George, reflecting on the difficult options our political process has left us with, looks forward with perspective and offers these wise words on Facebook:

“. . . This is where charity is required. There is no point in getting angry at people for whom what is obvious to oneself in these appalling circumstances is not obvious. Every single one of us needs to do his or her best to think this thing through carefully and then follow the dictates of conscience, acknowledging and appreciating the fact that conscience might lead other reasonable people of goodwill to a different conclusion.

Whatever happens, whichever of these people is elected, those of us who believe in limited government, constitutional fidelity and the Rule of law, flourishing institutions of civil society, traditional principles of morality, and the like are going to have profoundly important work to do. And we will need to do it together. Let us not break the cords that bind us together in friendship and conviction.”

If that’s true for broadly like-minded Americans, how much more the church. As the Apostle Paul commands, let us eagerly “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Let us have strong opinions about this election. Let us speak and persuade and struggle together as Americans. Let us have stronger unity around the gospel as Christ’s church.

There are good men and women among us—even within our own church—who are serving or will one day serve in public office. Let’s pray for them, even as we pray for our national leaders. And if this election season leaves us disappointed, let’s not give up on participating. In a democratic republic, a nation ultimately get’s what it asks for. So let us not withdraw from the process, but participate all the more—with more wisdom, more attention, and more love for neighbor than we have before.

Mar 21

Gender Ideology Harms Children: Eight Statements

2016 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Recommended Link

The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) has released an important statement on gender identity, gender ideology, and children.

Here’s how their statement begins:

The American College of Pediatricians urges educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex. Facts – not ideology – determine reality.

In the full statement here, each of the following points is elaborated on in the space of a paragraph.

1. Human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait: “XY” and “XX” are genetic markers of health – not genetic markers of a disorder.

2. No one is born with a gender. Everyone is born with a biological sex.

3. A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking.

4. Puberty is not a disease and puberty-blocking hormones can be dangerous.

5. According to the DSM-V, as many as 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.

6. Children who use puberty blockers to impersonate the opposite sex will require cross-sex hormones in late adolescence.

7. Rates of suicide are twenty times greater among adults who use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery, even in Sweden which is among the most LGBQT – affirming countries.

8. Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse.

This is what they are calling a temporary statement that precedes a fuller project to be released this Summer. We can be thankful for socially conservative healthcare professions coming together in organizations like this and for these kinds of bold and needed statements.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Aug 21

Kevin DeYoung: A Pastoral Guide for Political Reflection

2015 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Recommended Link

Kevin DeYoung is the lead pastor at University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan. Since he began publishing, DeYoung has served the church well through the publication of many timely books. He also writes regularly at his blog hosted at The Gospel Coalition.

One topic DeYoung speaks to from time to time with nuance, insight, and conviction is politics. That shouldn’t be heard the wrong way. He’s not a political junkie who cares more about politics than his work as a pastor. But he understands the real, somewhat complicated, but always consequential role of political engagement for Christians given our opportunities in a democratic republic. He has done a nice job over the years of speaking to Christians concerning their role of citizens of this world, albeit a role secondary to our role as citizens of the next.

A nice example of this would be a piece published earlier this week, “Ten Things to Remember as the Presidential Campaign Season Gets Into Full Swing.” Here are his ten things:

1. We’re not electing a king.
2. Elections matter.
3. Character matters.
4. The best predictor of future performance is past performance.
5. You almost certainly will not have a beer with the next president.
6. The big picture matters more than all the details.
7. The candidates will say something stupid.
8. The media will do very little to help you understand the issues and what each candidate believes.
9. It is extremely unlikely that either party will nominate someone with no political experience.
10. The system could be much worse.

Click here to read DeYoung’s explanation of each point. Here’s his explanation of the last point:

Sure, there is plenty to complain about. The presidential campaign seems interminably long. It takes a boatload of money to stay in the race. We are all stupider because of Twitter and the 24-hours news cycle. And even the best debates are hardly Lincoln-Douglas material. But we do get a say. We do get a vote. We basically get the presidents we deserve. I’d rather have candidates pandering for our votes than dictating the terms of our surrender. Yes, if you want to be president it helps to be rich and famous, but you also have to hang out in New Hampshire all winter and shake the hand of every farmer in Iowa. I like that. There are good reasons to be frustrated with both parties. But with only two major parties, it’s hard to completely ignore most viewpoints. You can’t build a coalition without trying to appeal to a lot of diverse groups of people. So is the system broken? I’m sure it is, but I’m also sure there are more ways than we can imagine to fix it even worse.

DeYoung isn’t the only one to read during election season. He’s not going to write ongoingly about every turn and every issue in the presidential race. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will be more helpful there. And there are others worth listening to who write and reflect from an explicit or roughly Christian worldview including Albert Mohler, Michael Gerson, Ross Douthat, etc.. The Gospel Coalition will publish a number of thoughtful pieces along the way, and Justin Taylor will drip pieces like these into the line of his blog at The Gospel Coalition:

But mixed in with posts on just about everything else a pastor would care about, DeYoung will provide consistent and timely insight into politics. Here are a few helpful pieces he’s published on Christian political reflection and engagement over the years:

Finally, since this is a post about who to listen to, let me suggest that TV news will be one of the least helpful resources for receiving and processing ideas and the specific views of candidates during this season. This is not to mischaracterize every network or show, but generally speaking TV news is a circus of perception creating and narrative forming media. Generally speaking, TV news does not foster careful or extended thought. Generally speaking, TV news cheapens and askews both good and bad arguments, both good and bad candidates. So, watch, yes. But read more than you watch. Be thoughtful and careful in the coming months.

For a pastor who writes on these things with care, concern, and a critical mind, Kevin DeYoung is worth the read.

May 15

Commencement and Contentment, Joblessness and Joy

2015 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Recommended Link

This time each year, many among us are graduating from something: from a grade, from high school, or from college.

But while the path through school is often predictable and well worn, the path to a job is not always so predictable. Not in every way, but in some ways the experience of going through school is insulated from the economic pressures of the changing world around us. If we work hard—sometimes very hard, depending on the degree, our own abilities, and our other obligations—and play by the rules we’ll likely come out the other side with something to show for it. But finding and keeping a job can be quite different.

For those who have lost a job or who are looking for a job, two articles hit the web this week on the occasion of commencement. The articles address graduates, but I’m highlighting paragraphs specifically suited to those who are struggling in their search for work. Of course, the entire articles are worth your time.

The Joy of Graduation and the Crisis of Joblessness,” by Marshall Segal

If you’re feeling discouraged and abandoned by God while looking for work, you have a friend in the apostle Paul. He also experienced an intense period of hopelessness and despair. He writes, “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8–9).

Now, Paul was facing death, not joblessness. So the differences are real, but the principle is the same. God intends for our neediness to bring us to our knees. A good Father would never watch his kids suffer for the sake of suffering. He might wait to rescue them, though, if he knew it would eventually bring them a better and longer lasting peace, strength, and joy. We all desperately need to learn the futility of self-reliance and the reward of relying wholly on God. Go to him with your questions, your restlessness, and your heartache.

Dear Graduates, a Glorious Commencement Awaits,” Bethany Jenkins

The key to surviving disillusionment, I said, is found in accepting God’s providential care. As Proverbs 30 says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (vv. 8-9). The secret to contentment, in other words, is found in seeking God’s face, not our hands. It trusts the Planner, not the plans.

Commencement is a beginning. It launches graduates into “the real world,” which is full of disconnects that breed disillusionment—beauty and brokenness, debt and riches, joy and suffering. In this age, it will always be the best of times and the worst of times.

For more on the topic of faith and work, swing by The Gospel Coalition’s Faith and Work channel. For good print resources on the topic of vocation, swing by the Book Nook for a copy of Greg Gilbert’s, The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs,  or Kevin DeYoung’s, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will or How to Make a Decision without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc.

Mar 5

Sunday Worship or Community Group: Which is More Important?

2015 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Recommended Link

If you’ve been around DSC for a while, you’ve heard us talk about Community Groups. In fact, hopefully you’ve more than heard about Community Groups, but you’ve been invited into one and encouraged to get involved. There are many crucial reasons to embed yourself in community in this way, but if we had to pick going to church on Sunday or to Community Group, which should it be?

In his article, “Worship is More Important than Your Small Group,” Jason Helopoulos addresses this question. Here’s how he begins:

Like most of you, I love small groups. I love the “give and take” of the discussion. I love the interaction with others. I love the questions raised and the answers discovered. But as much as you and I may love small groups, corporate worship is more important.

Someone recently commented to me that pastors are the only ones who really enjoy Sunday mornings as the high point in the week. I hope not! This individual insisted that other Christians look forward to their small groups more than corporate worship. She said it is more exciting for the congregant to be in a small group where they can ask questions, pray for others, discuss their own views, and get to know one another more intimately. I understand this sentiment and appreciate the desire to connect with others, but in all humility I would say to this well-intentioned individual, “You don’t understand the distinct privilege corporate worship is. We are communing with the saints before the holy throne of a majestic God.”

In the rest of his article, Jason addresses the uniqueness of Sunday morning and the common reasons that some might feel that it’s second to their Community Group. Read the whole article here.