Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Bible: Inspired but inadequate?

I'm reading through an odd text for a course I'm taking. It consists of a number of interviews done for Preaching magazine over the past couple of decades, and it has a truly eclectic group of preachers as its subject, including Max Lucado, George Barna, R. C. Sproul and John MacArthur.

I was truly horrified to read the following quote:

I think it's very tempting for traditional preaching styles to present Christ and the Word of God as the quick cure-all for whatever ailment is afflicting an individual today. I think that might be a little simplistic. If someone has been sexually molested, if someone grew up in the home of an alcoholic father, if someone has been beaten as a child, there are some deep psychological wounds that have to be carefully treated by trained Christian counselors before these wounded people can thorougly appropriate the promises and precepts of Scripture. (Communicate with Power, ed. Michael Duduit. (Michigan: Baker, 1998), 74-75.

The speaker is Bill Hybels, back in 1992. It is a frightful thing to see how even the pastors of the church are willing to exchange the glorious resources of God for the muddy cisterns of modern psychology.

Were there no sexually molested people in first century Palestine? Were alcoholic fathers absent throughout the Roman empire? Is child abuse purely a 21st century phenomenon? Nonsense. God provided what they needed then, and what we need now, in the marvelous riches of his Word illuminated and made active through his Spirit!

As David Wells so trenchantly observes in The Bleeding of the Evangelical Church:

Biblical inspiration was affirmed but its consequences were not worked out for our preaching, our techniques for growing the Church, our techniques for healing our own fractured selves. These all happened largely without the use of Scripture. It is as if we think that while the Bible is inspired, it is nevertheless inadequate to the tasks of sustaining and nourishing the twentieth-century! The result of this divine myopia is that he has left us with something that is inadequate to the great challenges that we face today.

I can personally testify to the power of God's Word to heal brokeness. My step-father was an alcoholic who was at times physically abusive. But I am neither, having both forgiven him and loved him. All of my aunts and uncles on both sides of the family have been divorced at least once. My wife and I have been married for almost 10 years and are deliriously happy. My wife's father is a mean-spirited man who often was (and still is!) physically abusive. But she is a loving, devoted Mom.

And we attribute all of our health to the work of God's Spirit primarily through his Scriptures. He is the God who heals us, and to turn to anything else is sinful, dishonouring and destructive. Not that there isn't a place for counseling, but all the wisdom of the counselor will come through the Word and all the effectiveness of the counselor will be of the Spirit through the Word.

If you want a remarkable testimony to this truth, I highly commend the story of Jan Fletcher to you. In her pamphlet God's Complete Provision: for healing the pain of childhood sexual abuse, she describes the start of her suffering:

Molestation in my pubertal years by a church deacon, and later, incest by my stepfather in my mid-teens, led me to engage in rampant promiscuity, as I tried to find love in all the wrong places.

By Hybel's standard, this woman needs specialized counseling. Some, including my former church, would recommend mystical prayer counseling, which Mrs. Fletcher is very familiar with (see her online book Lying Spirits). But when she was 39, God graciously led her to true healing, in reconciliation with himself:

No gimmick and no special formula discovered by any man can heal the human soul. Only the power of God can truly give lasting healing. God's healing is absolutely unique, because the result is a changed heart and a new spiritual birth. God freely offers it to us, but the cost of giving it to us was not cheap. It was very costly. This precious gift of spiritual rebirth required that Jesus, the Son of God, suffer a humiliating death on a Roman cross.


True healing comes through reconciliation with God, as we accept God's gift and submit our sinful nature to God's work in us through the cross. This reconciliation is not based in a mystical encounter we initiate. ... Instead, as the Apostle Paul explains in Romans 10, our salvation, and the healing to our souls that it brings, does not come through a subjective feeling. It comes through a willful and reasoned acceptance of the objective truth of the message of the Gospel heard through the word of Christ.

Let us flee all false and worldly solutions to the all-sufficient, all-powerful Word of God!

Tech: Performancing blog editor

I'm never satisfied with my blog editor.Flock Icon

Until now, I've been using the Flock editor. A variant of the firefox web browser, it has a built-in blog editor which has been a great tool. Unfortunately, it does have a small number of annoying quirks, and is missing a few features, most importantly text colouring. However, as the developers state clearly, these are the early days for Flock, which is not yet ready for day-to-day use. I believe it will mature into an excellent, stable and capable editor.

This post is being written using Performancing, a tool I've never seen before. It has been written by professional bloggers for professional bloggers, and while I neither style myself as a professional nor aspire to be, I'm impressed with this bit of software.

It runs as a plugin for firefox, which allows you to run the browser in the top part of the window and the editor in the bottom. This greatly simplifies browsing for references while you're writing your blog. It also allows editing in both "preview" and HTML modes, a necessary feature for tweaking the format of your article.

So, if you use the firefox browser (and you should!), I recommend trying out the Performancing editor.

[The only limit on my enthusiasm for that recommendation is the fact that this is the 2nd time I've written this article. The editor ate the first version. Your mileage may vary.]

Saturday, January 07, 2006

So long, Santa! (Christmas alternatives)


How was your Christmas?

I hope it was blessed with making much of Christ and the unimaginable, incomprehensible wonder of the eternally-begotten Son of God born as a man.

Two years ago, my wife and I, were trying to keep both our focus and that of our young children on Jesus, on his birthday. But it was a struggle. In particular, the kids had trouble seeing beyond the pile of presents under the tree.

When Christmas day came, we were dismayed to see the idea of presents consuming all of their attention. Skip the Bible reading, let's get on to the gifts!

Then we watched them rush from gift to gift, caring very little for each individual present, and very concerned about where their next present might be hiding. We knew that if they had received any one of these gifts on a normal day, they'd be thrilled. Instead, the value of each gift was lost in the yuletide potlatch.

There had to be a better way.

At the time, we were receiving the Christian Parenting magazine from Christianity Today. Though we were rarely impressed with the magazine, the article Bye-Bye Bunny made the entire subscription worthwhile.

Following the authors' suggestion, we have stopped giving presents at Christmas (we still do stockings). This frees us up from the shopping madness of December, as well as reducing the focus on gifts, and makes room for bringing in a full focus on the miracle of the Incarnation.

This doesn't mean that we are being stingy with our kids. Instead of giving gifts at Christmas time, we have "GOTYA days" for every individual member of the family at some point throughout the year. On that day, we celebrate the person, give them gifts, and spend time together as a family. This is the time when they receive what would otherwise be kept back until Christmas. For the kids, the date of their GOTYA days is a surprise, although we schedule those days approximately 6 months from their birthdays. Since two of our birthdays are very close to Christmas, this means we don't have to go 12 months between celebrations as before.

So, why the name GOTYA? Well, we don't like the name, but we haven't come up with a good replacement. The authors of the article created it as an acronym meaning "God Thinks You're Awesome." We believe that's an inappropriate description and don't use that phrase, but we still call them GOTYA days, although without a good explanation for the word.

Check out the article. Then, let me encourage you to try out their suggestions with your family. We have been absolutely delighted with the impact it has had on ours!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Between Two Worlds: Pray for Piper

Between Two Worlds: Pray for Piper

You may have seen this already, but even if so, please take this as an opportunity to pray for John Piper.

Words literally cannot express the value of what God has done in my life and the lives of my family through the teaching of this man. There are many excellent expositors and defenders of the Reformed faith, men who can explain theology and Scripture compellingly, but no one writer stirs my heart for God like John Piper.

Even this letter is a blessing. May God pour his riches of grace and strength upon you and those around you, Dr. Piper!