October 29, 2007

UnChristian: A Call to Discipleship

This weekend I read UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons and I have a variety of reactions to it. The book reads a lot like Sarah Cunningham's Dear Church in that it expresses the reasons - in detail - why today's younger generations want little to do with the institutional church or Christianity altogether.

One reaction I have to this book is that it's not telling me anything I don't already know, the same reaction I had to Sarah Cunningham's book. Yes, Christians are hypocritical people and we have a degree of responsibility even for the misconceptions or perceptions that people might have about the Christian faith. But in this book's emphasis on what we need to do to win over the mosaics and busters, there is another message of discipleship to be had.

We've seen a serious decline in recent decades in the teaching of theology to the Church. People live fragmented, disjointed lives because they haven't been taught to love God with their heart, soul, and mind. They haven't been taught to think and act Christianly in all areas of life. The entertainment-focused seeker movement has been no help in this regard, a knee-jerk reaction to the church's focus on the content of Christian belief.

I hear it said by those who define themselves as "missional" (new term applied to an obviously biblical concept) that we do much naval-gazing and not enough ministry outside of the Church. As much as we need to do that ministry outside of the church and in the community, the pastor can't do it alone. If we aren't making time to disciple - really teach the people in the pew, then it isn't going to do a lot of good to talk about what speaks to the mosaics and busters. It's time to become a truly theological community, consider the difficult doctrines, understand the meaning of the doctrines on our daily living, and know that theology worked out in our lives is one that expresses love and action that is congruent with the words and actions of Jesus. Just telling Christians to be kind and loving is like putting a band-aid on an infected toe. We must deal with the foundational issues so that amputation doesn't become necessary. I agree with UnChristian's assessment of the Christian community, I just hope that people understand that this comes down to rigorous discipleship.

Actions of love, respect, kindness, acceptance, etc., will take you far in a relationship, but unless these ideals are grounded in pure Christian doctrine, they will not be sustained and will be quickly replaced by ignorance.

Living On the Boundaries

This isn't exactly a book review, I will have more on this later - perhaps even in the form of an interview. But if you have a chance, this book is a well written analysis of the relationship between women theologians, feminism, and the academy. Let me first get this off the table - I'm not a feminist. However, I think feminism has served well to point out some of the disparities associated with gender. This book largely responds to the question, Where are the good women? as it pertains to women theologians in Christian institutions.

I appreciate this particular thought conveyed by the authors about where some women like us often find ourselves....and it can be very distressing.

For academic women to endure anti-intellectual elements of the subculture and to be marginal in the academic culture is a difficult combination, but one that is often taken on as a call or a responsibility. (p. 42)

Says a female evangelical,

Granted, the anti-intellectual aspects of American evangelicalism can be frustrating, and the anti-woman bias has the potential to get on my last good nerve. However, my identification as an evangelical means that I cannot just abandon them whenever they annoy me. (p. 43)

The theological truths that I hold will always be what steers my involvement in all areas of life. I am not at risk of cutting my ties to evangelicalism either. I'm neither interested in for myself or any other women the role of senior pastor or elder, but I do believe women have a great deal to offer the church in the area of education, and as I continue to pursue my own education and seek my first academic assignments, I'm thankful for women like Nancy Pearcey, Christine Pohl, Nicola Creegan, and others who are opening up the discussion. I'm also thankful for the male academics who have seen and communicate about the injustices to women in the theological academy, and I'm especially grateful for those who inspire me to continue.

Living On the Boundaries, IVP
ISBN: 0830826653

October 25, 2007

Secularism Under God

As I was riding on the train today, I was (of course) thinking about how secularism is both the result and the cause of fragmented thinking and why it is that some choose separate one's values from the realm of truth and reason. In article in Harvard's Under-Current, a student writer proposes that "[w]hen a person attempts to use both eyes simultaneously to reach a decision on a particular issue, he discovers that the two eyes often see things differently. Ultimately, he either follows God—a feeling for which he has no evidence—or he follows reason. No other alternative is possible." This is the typical view had among secular thinkers, a view to which Christians could provide a more explicit response. To reduce belief in God to a feeling reveals the assumptions made about religious belief by this writer.

As a Reformed presuppositionalist, I get it. Faith is a gift from God, unbelieving man suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit, and so on. The secularist who hasn't had an encounter with God doesn't yet understand how faith and reason are not incompatible. I believe that this is part of our ministry to them, responding to the negative assumption that faith and reason are foes, and responding positively by establishing their necessarily correlation. Conversations with my 14 year old reveal the priority of this dialogue for all believers, not just academics. He asks about the veracity of Scripture, how we know God exists, the relationship between science and faith, etc. And as we discuss these matters, he's hard-pressed to respond to the arguments that (1) because God exists it's not unreasonable to believe that he would communicate to us through the Scriptures and (2) that by subjecting God to our own authority we are placing ourselves in a higher place than God.

October 24, 2007

And the Point is...

That's what my kids say to me every day...."and the point is...?"...because I am always trying to make a point. (I rarely am asked to get to the point.) So here it is for you....you need to get to the point with a Flash Point mug. Give one to your friends, get a couple for yourself....Christmas is coming, whatta great gift!
flash point - a critical point or stage at which something or someone suddenly causes or creates some significant action

October 23, 2007

Women's Leadership: Someone You Should Know

Dana Leahy, Director of Women's Ministries, Bethel Church & Ministries, Crown Point, Indiana.

Dana recently contacted me about the need to address theological, biblical and culturally relevant issues for women. I was delighted that she contacted me as these are important areas for all women's ministries to consider. Hearing from Dana and women like her who take a particular interest in development of the life of the mind of the women they serve is a great encouragement to me as it shows that women are getting it - that there is more to women's ministry than what we've been told.

Dana was in the middle of a graduate course on Hebrew when she was asked to be on staff. Soon after, she assembled a small leadership team, each focusing on developing the basic components of this ministry: discipleship, service/mission and Bible study. In April, they had a day long seminar that addressed discipleship and how to disciple others and in June they had their kick off for Women on a Mission, a biennial opportunity for the women of Bethel to serve the women and children in our community who are in need.

Dana has a B.A. in Literature and Philosophy.

October 22, 2007


Yesterday I visited a church in the area, and I greatly enjoyed hearing the sermon based on Acts 1:4-15. As the pastor spoke on the role of the Holy Spirit in the areas God has called each of us to, he shared about the contents of a book, about a particular missionary from China. I wish he had better detailed the book, the author I believe was Yung. But he offered a paraphrase from the book and it went something like this, speaking about a plea from the missionary, "Please don't pray for the fall of Communism in China as it is the instrument God is using to shape the Church in China." That was hard to hear, but I'm willing to hear more. If you know this book title, let me know.

Another must-read is this article I just found at USA Today. Written by Dinesh D'Souza, the article offers a brief historical reflection on the foundations of Christianity in science and society. Dinesh writes:

Science is based on what James Trefil calls the principle of universality. "It says that the laws of nature we discover here and now in our laboratories are true everywhere in the universe and have been in force for all time." Moreover, the laws that govern the universe seem to be written in the language of mathematics. Physicist Richard Feynman found this to be "a kind of miracle."

Why? Because the universe doesn't have to be this way. There's no particular reason the laws of nature that we find on Earth should also govern a star billions of light years away. There's no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules, let alone mathematical ones. So where did Western man get this idea of a lawfully ordered universe? From Christianity.

The title of Dinesh's recently published book is What's So Great About Christianity.

October 17, 2007

Alive and a Life

But embryos and children are patently not the same and the law should not treat them as such.
The above is stated at the Women's Bioethics blog, of the Women's Bioethics Project. Assertions like this are tossed about without explanation, and this quote certainly deserves a bit more attention. It's actually an idea taken from an article "Sex, Lies, and Embryos." An interesting piece, it questions laws in Louisiana that provide a legal status to embryos that is equivalent to that of a born person.

I'm struck by the use of the term "patently" in this quote, however. This isn't an argument from science, rather it's an appeal to what they hope is the common view among Americans. The term patently refers to that which is obvious or plain to see. The only thing that is obvious is the size differential, but that does not speak to the question of the nature of the embryo, merely its size. So the question that has been left unaddressed by this piece is whether the embryo is a life - a person. We know that embryos can be alive or dead, because researchers are not interested in dead embryos as they are useless. Something that also deserves differentiation is the difference between pregnancy and conception, and pregnancy isn't a prerequiste to the existence of a living embryo.

Five Lies the Church Tells Women

Sue Bohlin of Probe, an apologetics ministry based in Texas, has a great piece posted at LeaderU on the functions of women in ministry. I thought you should take a look at it....here are the 5 lies, go read the rest when you have a moment.

Lie #1: God Created Women as Inferior Beings, Destined to Serve Their Husbands.

Lie #2: A Man Needs to "Cover" a Woman in Her Ministry Activities.

Lie #3: Women Can't be Fulfilled or Spiritually Effective Without a Husband or Children.

Lie #4: Women Should Never Work Outside the Home.

Lie #5: Women Must Obediently Submit to Their Husbands in All Situations.

October 15, 2007

Media Bias? Of Course!

As the 2008 primaries and presidential election approach, I anticipate the widespread concern as it relates to the media and it's in/ability to be neutral in its reporting. As a Van Tilian worldview thinker, I know that neutrality is a myth because everyone has a set of lenses through which they view the world. I suppose I can differentiate between the personal views of the journalist and whether the views actually reveal themselves in the work of the journalist, but even in the set of questions framed by a journalist there can be seen a particular lack of objectivity. And that's to be expected.

So when we think about the presuppositional framework that guides the media, we can see one particular dominant stream of thought that can best be described as secular. Wikipedia defines secular as the state of being separate from religion. I suppose that isn't a bad definition, especially as it pertains to the media because the common understanding of objectivity or neutrality (as if it were really possible) is to be void of religious notions. Secularism is deemed the safe place for the religious and nonreligious, but while the media tries to follow the rules of secularism they accomplish 2 very obvious things: they adopt a worldview as they seek to demolish another. This simply cannot be avoided because, again, secularism isn't really a place of safety or neutrality, rather it is an intentionally anti-religious perspective.

So as you continue to be frustrated by reporting in the media, noting obvious flaws in reporting, remember that the journalists are people with their own set of presuppositions about the way things are suppose to be. This isn't an excuse, but rather an explanation. As soon as we have an understanding and appreciation for what the media actually is, we can manage our expectations and react appropriately. I'm not shocked anymore. If there is one thing we can do, we should be quick to point out that we see the media bias and name it - call it what it is - then what will be most evident is that the secular thought is the overarching framework for the media and many in politics, and then it will make sense why it seems that they are working together - because they are.

October 9, 2007

Worldview and Bioethics

As a student of theology and evidential apologetics over 10 years ago, it became clear to me that a piecemeal approach to the content of my faith and the practical day to day was insufficient as it did not cohere with the testimony of Scripture. While Scripture captures a coherent, meaningful story from creation to consummation, it does not embrace the disorder that has plagued humanity since the Fall. And though this chaos is a manifestation of sin in the world, Christianity has not been immune to its influence of fragmentation. This fragmentation is not helpful to the believer in that it will often point him in a direction where God is not. An approach to Christian living that forces our life into fragments – the vocational and the spiritual as examples of the dichotomous secular and sacred- does not serve to give God glory in all areas of our life, even while he is sovereign over it all. This approach to living our lives before God does not represent a biblical worldview. Obviously every practitioner of his or her faith falls short, but it is my belief that the Reformed Christian worldview best captures God’s intent for humankind in all areas of life.

From Scripture, we learn the story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, all of which are answers to the questions asked by man since the beginning of time. How did I get here? Why does evil exist? How can things be better? How can I be spared death and live forever? As worldviews representative of other religions attempt to answer these questions, they often find themselves falling short or borrowing from Christianity in order to avoid charges of inconsistency. We find secularism, a religion grounded in man, a not-so-worthy-opponent to the Reformed Christian worldview, yet one that provides a great deal of challenges to the transforming of our culture.

The interdisciplinary nature of bioethics has allowed for many different voices to enter the discussion – scientists, medical professionals, philosophers, politicians and theologians. It is exciting to me, as a theologian, to see how the concept of worldview plays an important role in many, if not all, areas of bioethics including biotechnology, genetic research, end-of-life care, and so on. While bioethics is interdisciplinary, no one is without a worldview, their own set of presuppositions, and theology is able to speak to science, medicine, philosophy and politics.

So the questions of worldview, whether they are Sire’s seven questions or framed by the influence of Orr, Kuyper, or Van Til, are especially relevant to the bioethics discussions now and into the future. The question of origins is especially relevant, not only for the reformed theologian who accepts that man was created in the image of God, but also for the philosopher who posits that we are here by means of evolution. For the scientist and politician, the question may not be about how we got here, but how can we create humans again through the process of somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning) for addressing the healthcare needs of humanity through embryo-destructive research. Human dignity is ultimately what is at stake with the question of origins in worldview discussions, and the best theological response to secularism on these issues will come from a reformed point of view.

Other worldview questions extremely important to bioethics matters are: How can things be better? How can I be spared death and live forever? In the advent of physical enhancements, anti-aging remedies, and embryo-destructive research and human cloning, these questions are not only being asked, but they are being answered by those whose presuppositional framework does not acknowledge that man was created in the Image of God. Rather, it is all about the possibilities of scientific progress. They believe physical enhancements or embryo-destructive research for cures should continue to be pursued. Unfettered science is where today’s secularly-minded scientists, politicians, and even some who claim to be religious, believe there is access to cures and to a more dignified way of living – or dying.

The many areas of bioethics including biotechnology and genetic research will continue to have an impact on society and require a worldview analysis from Christians in the field. Training believers to engage these areas is not just a matter of academic training, but also about preparing of families how to best answer dilemmas such as infertility and end-of-life care for family members. Trying to discuss bioethics outside of an integrated worldview framework will always leave the individual with questions and irresolvable inconsistencies. Therefore, considering bioethics issues within the Reformed worldview tradition is the manner in which I choose to educate and equip individuals and groups.

Developing and cultivating a Reformed Christian worldview is important for the Believer who wants to dig deeper into these urgent issues of our time. Bioethical reflection grounded by the Reformed Christian worldview proves to be an effective approach to engaging the issues as it seeks to glorify God as a matter of purpose.

October 8, 2007

Christians, Democracy, and Unbelief

A Crosswalk blogpost by Michael Craven asks the question, are Christians contributing to unbelief? He discusses the influences of recent books written by atheists Dawkins, Hutchins, et al, and wonders why people who profess some kind of belief in God are persuaded to pick up these books. He talked to David Kuo about this:
According to Kuo, a self-professed conservative Christian, growing interest in questions about God's existence may be the result of a "backlash against the mingling of religion, politics and public policy," and this idea that "Jesus was about a particular conservative political agenda." In essence, he means that the actions of some Christians may be encouraging the spiritual seeker to further doubt the existence of God.
He asks the reader to to immediately dismiss Kuo's statement, and by asking
Could it be that our own actions are causing the religiously-inclined but nonetheless lost to doubt the existence of God? Is it possible that the Church is pushing people toward unbelief by virtue of its approach to culture and the world? Has Christianity become so politically defined that true faith and the person of Jesus Christ is obscured in the minds of many? Is it possible that Christians are conducting themselves in such a way that the spiritually seeking are looking anywhere but to Christ? I don't know for sure but I certainly think it is possible and that is enough to make me examine my self in light of these questions. It should cause us all to examine ourselves.
There's a lot of meat in this blogpost, and a lot of good things are mentioned such as the churches come hither attitude rather than having an intentional missional focus. He also draws attention to the church's embrace business methods such that the church resembles a "well-ordered corporation" with no need for God. But I do take issue with a portion of the above quote where he asks "Has Christianity become so politically defined that true faith and the person of Jesus Christ is obscured in the minds of many?"

All persons have the potential to be political because everyone generally has an opinion on an issue facing our world - whether all of our opinoins are valid or well-grounded is another issue. But why is it the Christian's responsibility to appear apolitical when the needs of our culture not only need to be addressed by the church, but sometimes we must involve ourselves in such a way to secure the protections and helps that are needed by so many people? Christians - like any other group of people, may err in their approach to political issues, but Christians and Christian views ought not be forbidden from being a part of the processes of our democratic society. I'm sorry if the errs Christians do make causes anyone to question the integrity of the institution, but I'm not convinced that uninvolving ourselves will make us more "attractive" and, like Craven, I don't think being more attractive is our job. The gospel is our purpose, but we're also called to protect the vulnerable in our society. I think uninvolving ourselves from the democratic process will only benefit our opponents and weaken our testimony to those who depend upon the church as their advocate.

October 7, 2007

Longing to Know More

Ok, I realize that I stole the title of this post from the title of a great book, Longing to Know, written by a very intelligent woman, Esther Meek. Have you ever realized that the more you learn, you realize how little you actually know? That just spurs me to want to learn more. My future goals include teaching in a college or university setting and pursuing phd studies in ethics and theology. I'm open to creative ideas how I can begin the latter, after all, that requires time and money. But I know that God is bigger than me and in him incredible things are possible. I fear that I'm beginning to squander the gifts and talents he's given to me, so I appeal to you. Any thoughts? I long to know so much more, not for my self edification, but for the church and ministry within the larger culture.

October 6, 2007

Synergy: Leadership Summit for Women - Final Thoughts

In my effort to finish blogging through the end of the conference, sadly, my battery died. So I decided I would complete the work and offer you my final thoughts on this extraordinary event. I know many of you have watched Flash Point throughout the event, thanks to Rosalie at Ministry to Women Life Purpose Coaching for her reactions.

So what did you miss? Rosie DeRosset presented Thinking Theologically in a Hollywood Mindset. Offering no apologies, she addressed our culture's preoccupation with sexuality and its embrace of the provocative images - and how the church really isn't all that much different from the world in these matters. It was refreshing to hear her speak about how Christian women's magazines, though different in great degree, embrace and promote unhealthy views on appearances.

Other presenters at the conference were Sarah Cunningham, author of Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation, and my friend Carolyn Custis James, author of When Life and Beliefs Collide. I highly recommend you read both of these books.

The treat at the end of the conference was to hear Jill Briscoe speak about the Great Commission and - simply - doing the ministry God has called you to, where he has put you. She could not have emphasized more the necessity of the Gospel and the practice of communicating it - no matter what level of eloquence a person may have. No gimmicks, just being Jesus and and sharing what he has done.

If you didn't get to attend Synergy 2007, they offer this conference for women's ministry leaders every 2 years. I wish it were an annual event.

October 5, 2007

Live Blogging at Synergy Women's Leadership Conference: Jane Creswell

As a teen, Jane says she heard God's calling to be a missionary to the corporate world.

Early lessons learned in corporate work:
1. How to lead like a woman and not a girl.
2. Stretch beyond your skills, but stick to your strengths. This became #1 coaching topic while at IBM.
3. Apply the R.O.I. concept to everything. (Return On Investment) - sometimes it's a calculation that happens after the completion of a project. Need to look at this before a project. Looking at R.O.I. is valid even if the return isn't about dollars. Is Parable of Talents about R.O.I.?
4. Develop leaders who develop leaders.

Live Blogging at Synergy Women's Leadership Conference Reactions

There are about 600-800 women here today and yesterday. It's been a wonderful time, women from all over the country - I believe 15 states are representative. Looking around and observing who is here, it seems to be predominately attended by white, middle class 35-40ish women (on average). The sessions are doing a great job integrating professional and academic insight into practical ministry. Next speaker is Jane Creswell to discuss business principles brought to bear on ministry.

Live Blogging at Synergy Women's Leadership Conference: Sarah Sumner

Sarah continues to discuss from her book Leadership Above the Line. How do different ways of approaching an issue as strategists, humanitarians and diplomats. (Positives and negatives with each approach)

3 primary temptations that Jesus went through.
1. "Throw yourself down" Luke 4:9 - diplomat: to show off, to prioritize ego over team.
2. "Command the stone to become bread" Luke 4:3 - Strategist: to forego the pain of waiting; to grasp for control
3. "If you will worship me...it will all be yours" Luke 4:7 - Humanitarian: to bow down to the status quo; to let the devil be in charge. This is the way it's always been done. Going with the flo when it's not of God.

October 4, 2007

Live Blogging at Synergy Women's Leadership Conference, Elmbrook: Laurie McIntyre

What is the future of women's ministry? Is there a future for women's ministry?

10 Clouds in the Sky

1. Negative Perceptions
2. Collision of modern and post-modern thinking
3. Busyness of today's woman
4. Emergence of the small group model in the mega church - specialty ministries (like women's ministry) get erased.
5. Being attractive and relevant to the next generation
6. Alienating our more mature population
7. Failure of the church at large to the model women in all aspects of ministry
8. Video dependency
9. Resistance to change
10. Attitude of entitlement of overfed Christian women

Cloud with the silver lining:
At the core, all women have the same needs. To feel loved and valued, to live a life of purpose, and be Christ-centered.
Style vs. Substance
Vocabulary shift
Partnership and ownership

I will interact on this more later.

Live Blogging at Synergy Women's Leadership Conference, Elmbrook

First Speaker: Anita Carman

"Today what we're going to try to....learn to transform the world....to reach the world for Christ...beginning with where we are."

"Where's your 'I am here?'" As it relates to your priorities, circle of relationships, and emotions.

Jesus cast a global vision, "Go into all the world and make disciples..."

1. Whatever you are doing, check against the global vision.
Do you care that some are not on board yet?
Do you need to adjust your priorities?

2. How limited are you by the circles of your relationships? Our tendency is always go to the familiar. We must have a broader vision. As we get use to doing things, we often label it "the Christian way" of doing whatever it

3. Learn to manage emotions. Are you stuck in a dream and can't move on?
Women come into church and everyone is wearing a "mask." We're all wrestling with something. What is the mission God has called you to? God will provide the helper (Gen 2:15). Keep your focus on what God has called you to.

Live Blogging at Synergy Women's Leadership Conference, Elmbrook

I just arrived at Elmbrook Church for the start of Synergy. The day opened with a video akin to the Mac/PC guys, "Traditional" vs. "Contemporary" perspectives of ministry. Today we're going to hear more about bringing these 2 together in Synergy.

October 3, 2007

Women's Ministry: What Does the Future Hold?

Tomorrow, I will be participating in the Synergy Leadership Summit for Women at Elmbrook Church, Brookfield, WI. A time has been set aside for current leaders where we will discuss the future of women’s ministries, reaching emerging generations of women, and tending to our own souls in the midst of ministry. I have my own perspectives and stats on these matters but would love to hear from you so that I can take some of your thoughts with me to the meetings.

I believe considering the future of women's ministries is to be considered as part of the ministry of the church, not in isolation and not something totally other. As a matter of making disciples, teaching all that Jesus taught, our focus should begin with Scripture and take into account the needs of women in our world today. This goes hand in hand with reaching emerging generations of women.

Where women's ministry could use change is in its relationship to the leadership of the church. Many pastors and church boards have abdicated their responsibility, allowing the women's ministry to have their fun events and outings, without the expectation that something more substantial can and should occur. Bringing pastors on board not only to support this ministry, but also recognize the importance of it in light of our existing cultural landscape is essential to the future of women's ministry.

October 1, 2007

My Plans for Preparing Women for the Future

In my work as a women's ministry leader, I find that the contact I want to have with younger women is limited because the typical women's leader isn't in her twenties. I usually find these twenty-something young achievers in the academic realm. Anyway, I've been developing seminars that will encourage and equip young women toward excellence and godliness in whatever they do, especially in their chosen vocation. But where I really want to continue making an impact is in the area of bioethics because this is where women will find, in hindsight, that this is where they were most vulnerable. Young women today are tempted by money to subject their body to the harms of scientific research, and for those women who want it all, reproductive technologies turn out to be the way for women to wait til later in life to have children. Nothing necessarily wrong with that except for the risks placed on the mother and her unborn child, and the ethical implications of outsourcing pregnancy. Where the future is going in medical ethics has a profound impact on the real lives of young women. Feminism will continue to develop leaders among young women who preach choice as the highest value, but evangelical bioethics can develop young women as leaders for human dignity by valuing every life.