Monthly Archives: June 2007

Postmodernity and Apologetics

I have spent the last three days in Madison, Wisconsin, teaching twelve staff members for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in classical and cultural apologetics. We have surveyed the great systems of apologetical thought, we have read several books, had some intensely interesting and lively discussions and watched some really wonderful video material. The 20 class room hours I am teaching here ends today with an entire segment on the life and work of Lesslie Newbigin, the finest missional apologist of the second half of the 20th Century. We will finish up a long group segment, where pairs of students are answering major apologetic questions they face in evangelism. Besides the ususal ones, such as "Is Christ the only way?" and "How do you explain that God is good and yet evil is allowed and does so much harm?" we will also talk about the issue of globalization and homosexuality, two huge hot-buttons for Christians in the campus setting.

I have learned a lot this week from these students. First, to teach 12 adults who are all engaged in actual evangelism on a campus

By |June 30th, 2007|Categories: Evangelism|

Bobby Cox Sets a Record to Celebrate

Real fans of the game know trivia and records. Only real fans will care about this blog because they will know that players and managers can be thrown out of a baseball game for arguing excessively or wrongly with umpires. Generally there are a few select words that a player or manager will use in the presence of an umpire and then they are “Gone.” Certain decisions cannot even be contested, at least legitimately. One is the umpire’s call of balls and strikes. This rule is bent now and then but woe to the one who “shows up” an umpire in front of thousands of fans. When an umpire ejects a player or manager there is a huge gesture made by the umpire by which he says, “You’re out of here!”

I say all of this because the Braves manager Bobby Cox, my favorite manager I admit, has recently set the all-time record for the most ejections from a baseball game of any player or manager ever. He was ejected for the 131st time last Saturday as the Braves lost a frustrating 2-1

By |June 28th, 2007|Categories: Baseball|

Did Paris See the Light?

Like most of you I have heard enough about Paris Hilton the last few weeks. I can’t believe the media spends so much time on this stuff when major world issues are before us daily. Yet we can’t fully escape it since the modern media is virtually ubiquitous.

Now Paris reveals to Barbara Walters that she read the Bible for several weeks in jail and that she came to see how she had wasted her life very badly. She also says she wants to redirect her purpose for living. I confess I am skeptical about anything Paris Hilton says right now. Who isn’t? As she left the jail she responded to the media as if she was walking down the center aisle of a parade route.

But I am also reminded that if she did see the light she would not be the first person to come to real faith behind bars. After all, Charles Colson proved to be a real Christian because of a prison term and his Watergate experience and many doubted him for some time. So did Karla

By |June 27th, 2007|Categories: Uncategorized|

Americans Giving at Record Numbers

Charitable giving in America has risen for the third consecutive year. The picture behind this recent report is rather interesting. Due to the absence of natural disasters, both nationally and internationally, large giving to major relief projects declined. Giving to human services also fell. The giving of corporate America rose only 1.5%. But in a shift from previous years giving to the arts and to cultural and humanities organizations grew rather significantly. The lion’s share of giving is still done by individuals, not by foundations, bequests and corporations. In fact, individual giving was about four times the amount given by all of these other sources combined, demonstrating once again that when individuals have the freedom to gain wealth they are enabled to share. But, as always, the largest percentage of giving was not among the rich. (This comment is not one meant to oppose affluence since there are several reasons why this remains true, and not all of these reasons suggest that the rich are universally uncharitable in the least. There is not a simple pattern here to explain this fact.)

Philanthropy in

By |June 26th, 2007|Categories: Donors and Funding|

My Friend's Long Pastorate Ends

In the fall of 1978 I first met Thomas N. Smith, then a pastor in Tanglewood, Oklahoma, a few miles outside of Tulsa. Thom (as he spells his name) was a contributing writer to the Sword & Trowel (Amewican version) and a bright young man who interested me very profoundly. He was fresh, eager to learn, and willing to follow Scrioture where it took him. He was also one of the finest preachers I had ever heard. (He still is one of the finest praechers I have ever heard and those who hear him, down to this day, generally agree with me.) Thom is a unique friend. He has been a friend with whom I have shared great joy and deep sorrow, real differences and growing friendship. We have come close to ending our realtionship several times. We are both strong people with strong opinions, but love has always prevailed as we have worked out our challenges. Profound respect keeps us rooted in a relationship that we both now know will last a lifetime. We have so much invested in our friendship that giving

By |June 25th, 2007|Categories: Personal|

The Abject Failure of the United Nations

The idealism and the goals of the United Nations are laudable. The results, at least in recent years, have often been nothing short of a disaster. One example will suffice—the recently created U.N.’s Human Rights Council, begun a year ago this past week. This council is sadly typical of the modern collapse of the U.N. The Human Rights Council consists of 47 members, almost half of which are "unfree" or "partly free" nations, at least as ranked by Freedom House. Trying to get China, Russia, Cuba and Saudi Arabia to reach an agreement on violations of freedom in various countries is like trying to get the mafia to give up crime.

Presently there are only nine countries on the human rights "watch list." These are Burundi, North Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Cambodia, Burma, Somalia and Sudan. But if Cuba is watching "the watched" then that is somewhat like the the fox watching the hen house. And at China’s request the council now insists on the "broadest possible support" of at least fifteen nations on the council to act. This

By |June 23rd, 2007|Categories: Politics|

Miss Potter: The Life of Beatrix Potter and the Tale of Peter Rabbit

The newly released DVD, Miss Potter, is a superb period-piece with a sterling lead performance by Renee Zellweger as the famous Beatrix Potter, the best-selling children’s author of all-time. I confess I actually like most period-piece movies, especially nineteenth century Victorian ones, and many younger people do not. Maybe it really is a generational thing, I’m not sure. It could also be my love of English culture, custom and literature. But this movie, regardless of your perspective, reveals Beatrix Potter as a sheltered but courageous woman who authored dozens of children’s books, including the children’s classic, "The Tale of Peter Rabbit."

I do confess that I feel pity for every person who did not grow up hearing the story of Flopsie, Mopsie, Cottontail and Peter Rabbit. And Mr. MacGregor’s garden was quite a place for a misbehaving rabbit. Beatrix Potter’s imaginative abilities were astounding and the real story of this marvelous film is how this imagination was rooted in her real life story. Potter was born into English affluence in a time when women had few rights. She did not go to

By |June 22nd, 2007|Categories: Film|

Whither Methodism?

I am sometimes asked, "Which of the large mainline denominations is the least likely to follow the liberal agenda to its own complete demise?" My answer has consistently been, "The United Methodist Church (UMC)." A movement of evangelical and traditionalist leadership in the UMC has made the greatest gains over the last twenty years. Those who are more liberal and non-traditional, especially on moral and doctrinal issues, are clearly a minority within the Methodist Church. This means that they are nervous about this conservative response. They use powerful structures to oppose it on many, many fronts. The battles are tough and they are real.

Some estimate that 70% of Methodist people are not liberal theologically or morally. Yet on the whole the official leadership of UMC is quite liberal, with a few wonderful exceptions. But the grassroots membership of the UMC is not liberal. Further, renewal ministries in the UMC have been much more successful in organizing grassroots efforts within the denomination. My good friend James V. Heidinger II, president of Good News, says that "more clergy and laity representing that constituency

By |June 21st, 2007|Categories: American Evangelicalism|

How Canines Look Like True Christians

It is absurd to some, and slightly funny to others, but it is quite evident to all who know me that I love my little doxie, Neo. (See the photo of my pooch on this site.) She rules my house as the "best canine on the earth." I know, you think I am crazy. I am a 58 year-old minister-theologian-author and I put my dog and wife both in the picture I include here. So be it, what can I say? Those who know me are greeted by my little ten-pound canine when they arrive at our front door. She barks so loud that they wonder if she’s friendly, but her tail gives her away. She really likes everyone and has never snapped at a soul. She is truly filled with simple goodness, something I can’t say about many people I’ve known. 

F. R. Maltby once said that "Jesus promised his disciples three things—that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble." That sums it up pretty well don’t you think? I reflected on these attributes today and thought

By |June 20th, 2007|Categories: Personal|

Reflections on the Life of Ruth Bell Graham (1920-2007): R.I.P.

Ruth Bell Graham (1920–2007) passed away last week after lapsing into a coma. She was a remarkable woman for a number of reasons, most notably because she lived honestly from the heart. Newsweek writer Lisa Miller called her, in a moving tribute, “The Heart of the Family.” And it was not an easy family to guide since her famous husband was away from home while she reared their four children alone at times.

The Grahams relationship began, as most everyone knows, while they were students at Wheaton College. After her first date she got down on her knees and prayed, “If you let me serve you with that man, I’d consider it the greatest privilege of my life.” From her journals you wonder if she had many, many second thoughts about the second part of that prayer as the years went by. By all accounts Billy and Ruth Graham had more than their share of disagreements and struggles. What matters is that she supported her husband’s vocation while she challenged many of his decisions. His ambition and charisma desperately needed her graceful

By |June 19th, 2007|Categories: American Evangelicalism|

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