Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Christian Carnival #299

Last week, I was praying that I could the temptation to spend too much time playing games on my computer. The answer came in a form I wouldn’t have chosen – a crashed computer. My games are gone, and I’m now working from an old, slow computer that often freezes and needs to be restarted without warning. It’s a challenge for me, as I depend on my computer far too much, and I expect it to be a learning experience. I am thankful to the carnival’s organizer, Jeremy Pierce of Parableman, who helped me out by forwarding the carnival submissions I lost in the crash.

I hope many of you are having your prayers answered this week, as well, though hopefully not with broken computers. Maybe one of this week’s carnival posts will provide the wisdom or answer you have been requesting from God. At the very least, I hope that the following posts will give you a fresh perspective on life offline.

In “Puddleglum's Wager” Jeremy Pierce of Parableman relates Puddlegum’s Wager in A Silver Chair to Pascal’s Wager. It’s a thought-provoking post even if you’re not familiar with either wager, and even if you think you aren’t a gambler.

Musician Dawn L. Low discusses the use of others’ artistic work and the value of craftsmanship in “Conceptual Art and Craft” posted at Dawn Xiana Moon: Randomness. Her ideas are relevant to all Christians, not just artists, as many of us face the temptation to take credit for work that is not our own. We should pursue excellence in our work and give credit where it is due.

Tyler Williams examines the significance of what I Samuel says and doesn’t say about the reign and death of Israel’s first king in Saul: The King Who Should Have Never Been (The Kings of Chronicles)” posted at Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot.

Bible SEO has outlined a Bible study guide, “Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts” at Bible Study Exposition Online (BibleSEO).

In “Is There A Covenant of Works?” Rey Reynoso of The Bible Archive examines the text to see if such a covenant (with Adam) existed.

Brian Marchionni tells us he “appreciates the contribution of biblical theology to Christian hermeneutics,” encouraging readers to see the Bible’s big picture in his post, “God Unchanging,” at Boston Bible Geeks.

Saying, “I find great faith from the Bible. Here are three passages that have helped me with one of the most challenging times of my life,” Kim from Self Personal: Inspirational Thoughts and Encouragement For You offers “3 Inspirational Bible Quotes for Really Difficult Times.”

In “Adding to God's Glory,” posted at Seeking the truth..., Marcus Maher asks (and answers), “What does it mean to give God glory?”

Free Money Finance highlights several blogs that examine personal finance from a biblical perspective in “Christian Money Blogs.”

A bonus blog on personal finance, not highlighted in that post, is Out of Debt - Christian Finances and Debt Help. There, Big Larry presents “A Biblical Perspective on Inheritance,” considering whether biblical warnings against spoiling a child apply after a parent’s death.

Tom Gilson asks, “What happens to good communication when Intelligent Design opponents insist on calling it ‘Intelligent Design Creationism’? It's not entirely wrong--but it's not intended to clarify anything.” He explains further in "‘ID Creationism:’ The Communication Question,” posted at Thinking Christian.

John at Brain Cramps for God discusses Atheism, Utopianism, and Totalitarianism. For some reason, my finicky computer chose to freeze every time I tried to read this post, which is a shame, because the parts I did read were interesting. Hopefully, when I get my regular computer back, I’ll get a chance to read it more carefully. Thanks, John, for posting!

Michelle, still a girl who loves Jesus, is becoming a foreign missionary through Pioneers. Read about some of her preparations and find out how you can pray for her in her 10.17.09 post at Stepping Out In Faith To The Nations....

Barry Wallace presents “Jerry Bridges on ‘The Pursuit of Holiness’" at who am i?, explaining, “This illustration has always helped me combat discouragement in my sometimes faltering pursuit of holiness.”

Jaime, the author of For His Glory, uses her 100th post to encourage readers with the reminder “You Are Loved.”

Thanks for checking out the Christian carnival. Enter your best post for next week’s carnival (today through next Tuesday) here. Join the carnival’s Google group to get notices when new carnivals are posted.

One final note: I made a few judgment calls and left out four or five of this week’s submissions. While a post does not necessarily need to be explicity about Christianity to be included, a few of the blogs that submitted posts did not seem to be even remotely related to the topic of faith. Two others talked about Christianity but included language that would be offensive to many Christians or content that directly contradicts the Bible’s teachings. While I am a strong supporter of free speech and don’t expect all Christians to agree with me on the finer points of theology, this carnival is a Christian carnival, and these submissions just didn’t seem appropriate to the topic or audience.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Can A Program Honor God without Talking Specifically about Jesus?

The local pregnancy care center, where I used to volunteer, has an abstinence education program other centers envy – they have earned the privilege of talking to students in most of the county’s public schools, explaining the physical and emotional benefits of sexual abstinence in a way that gets students’ attention. I believe this abstinence program has been responsible for preventing the county’s high teen-pregnancy rate from being even higher.

But this week I received a letter from the center, stating that they will soon stop making abstinence presentations in public schools because the presenters are not allowed to mention Christ or use biblical arguments for abstinence. The board decided that such presentations were not consistent with their mission to offer “Christ-centered” and “God-honoring” services to the community.

I do not know all the factors that went into the decision to cease public-school abstinence presentations, but if the reason given was the sole reason, I believe the board made a mistake. Passion for Christ is what motivates abstinence presenters (many of them volunteers) to take the time to talk with students, often discussing the painful consequences of their own teenaged sexual experiences. These presenters may not be allowed to give the reason they do what they do, but they make students aware that they can come to the pregnancy care center if they ever need help with an unexpected pregnancy. Those who do come hear the gospel in addition to receiving practical assistance. I would certainly call this abstinence program “Christ-centered” and “God-honoring,” even if many students do not hear His name mentioned explicitly.

Many conservative Christians fear that if we don’t present the Romans Road or offer a wordless book to everyone we meet, we are failing to make Christ the center of our lives and are losing opportunities to bring more people into His kingdom. And we don’t want our favorite parachurch organizations to go the way of the YMCA and Harvard University, whose foundations in orthodox Christianity have become so deeply buried that their missions are now completely secular or even anti-Christian. But could the Holy Spirit sometimes lead Christian organizations to offer some “no strings attached” services as a demonstration of love and good will before they introduce clients to their core reason for being? Could abstinence programs that don’t mention Christ by name still be part of His plan to prepare the way for those He is drawing to Himself?

I believe so.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing: A Review of Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaff

Hank Haanegraaff offers an acronym for everything in Christianity In Crisis: The 21st Century, an update of his earlier book with the same title. The book contains so many acronyms that none of them are useful as mnemonic devices, and they are just one contributor to the overall effect of the book, which is to numb the mind with exhaustive (albeit well researched and well documented) details about the false theology of contemporary preachers of the Faith Movement. Repetitive use of the same quotes for illustrations, multiple levels of sectional divisions, and a bland writing style don’t help matters.

While Christianity in Crisis addresses a real problem – heresies too readily accepted by the Christian community today – the style of the book may prevent it from accomplishing its purposes. Those who believe the Faith teachers may think that Haanegraaff protests too much (if they even attempt to read a book with 427 pages of fine print, including nearly 100 pages of appendices and end notes), while those who already know the Bible well should be able to recognize the heresies for what they are, without reading the book.

This review is written as part of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Bloggers program. If you have a blog and love to read, check it out.