Archive by Author

The Chickens of Postmodernism

The chickens of postmodernism and the social construct theory of truth are coming home to roost. They have been for a while, but it is helpful to consider the implications from time to time.

The social construct theory essentially asserts that truth is what the society agrees upon as being the truth; the one absolute is that there are no absolutes. Thus, murder is wrong because everyone agrees that it is wrong, not because it is objectively wrong. When I talk to people in our republic about the nature of truth and probe for their understanding of it, the social construct theory is by far the most frequent explanation people give – especially young people.

What are the implications when we abandon the objective truth of divine revelation? There are many, for sure. Here are five implications that have struck me recently from various events in our culture. Of course, not everyone who believes in the absence of revealed or objective truth would express these five perspectives in belief or action; many are blessedly inconsistent. However, these are consistent with the position and are increasingly evident:

Might makes right. The truth is established by the 51%. Thus, political and judicial processes must establish […]

The Tender Heart of the Mother

For your encouragement in anticipation of Mothers’ Day, the following are the reflections of D. S. Faris on his mother Nancy Faris (1806-1881) upon her death. Earlier this week, this article highlighted her husband. In a biographical sketch, her son wrote of her life, including her industrious nature and business savvy; these selected paragraphs sample his praise for her motherly virtue. She raised seven sons and one daughter in the fear and admonition of the Lord. May the Lord continue to raise up such mothers:

Her talk to the children was from the heart to the heart. Besides teaching them the catechisms she gave them practical lessons about heaven, hell, God and Christ, justification and good works. From her lips I first learned the sinfulness of sin, and that self-righteousness will not justify.

It is the mother that makes the coming man. Her husband may be the pattern, but she does the molding and finishing. So long as there are sterling mothers, we can be sure of the coming generation. But the decay of womanly virtue brings the wreck of morality and manhood. It may be that woman did her best when she contented herself with giving to the world sons and daughters brought […]

Faris Way, Bloomington, IN 47408

In April 2015, the trustees of Indiana University named a road within its athletic complex on the Bloomington campus “Faris Way.” The land on which Memorial Stadium and Assembly Hall sit is that of the historic Faris family farm. James Faris (1791-1855), my great-great-great grandfather, originally owned the land. More than sixty years ago, the trustees’ minutes instructed that “in view of the fact that this land has been the Faris homestead since the original entry, the name ‘Faris’ be preserved by so designating a street or other part of the proposed development” (October 23, 1954). The street name was promised in negotiations when the state condemned the farm through eminent domain against the will of the family to construct the stadiums.

When I was five years old in 1982, my father took me to a Syracuse versus Indiana football game at Memorial Stadium. From the stands, he pointed at the land all around the stadium and told me that this land had belonged to my namesake but had been taken. That night, I was instructed to remember this injustice and the abuse of governmental power against God-given liberty.

Today, the street name Faris Way seems fitting and will serve as poignant reminder […]

Indiana’s Opportunity

Those of us living in Indiana live at a rare juncture in history. We made big news a month ago with our Religious Freedom and Restoration Act in the statehouse. The waters have calmed for now, and many people wish the whole episode would just disappear. Maybe the whole attempt to pass the RFRA was unwise on the part of the Christians who authored the bill. Whether it was or was not, proponents of LBGT rights have promised to press for more comprehensive protections in next year’s general assembly. Rare is the occasion when a people have the promise of a spotlight and the opportunity to prepare for eight months before taking the stage.

Fellow Hoosiers of various persuasions should take time to serious think through the possibilities and implications that are before us. Whether you are convinced that your side will win or lose the political contest, you will have many open doors for discussion if you live here that could powerfully impact our lives and the lives of those around us. Rather than run from the discussion, let’s embrace the opportunity set before us.

Marvin Olasky has long argued that Bible-believing Christians today are less like the ancient Jews in […]

Training In Christian Piety

Matthew Myer Boulton is president of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana and is a pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He comes from a very different theological perspective than I do, but in seeking to get to know my neighbor better, I have enjoyed his work Life in God: John Calvin, Practical Formation, and the Future of Protestant Theology. There, his educated speculation on the title of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is fascinating as he seeks to show how practical Calvin intended his magnum opus to be. Boulton writes:

What should we make of the Institutio’s title? The most familiar English translation, “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” is unfortunate in several respects. First, the phrase “the Christian Religion” rings today as if Calvin is picking out Christianity from among the world’s religions, but the modern notion of “religion” had not yet taken hold in sixteenth-century Europe, and so for Calvin and his early readers, religio meant something quite different. Wilfred Cantwell Smith has argued that in Calvin’s work the term religio refers to a universal, innate “sense of piety at prompts a man to worship”; Brian Gerrish has suggested that “Calvin’s use of the words religio […]

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

You must read Nabeel Qureshi’s autobiography. Nabeel vividly tells the story of his conversion from Islam to Christ in his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity which was published in 2014. Nabeel converted in 2005 after wrestling with the claims of Christ through his college years. Today, this brilliant young man serves as an apologist with Ravi Zachariah International Ministries. You may have seen him in debates online such as this one from last week, or perhaps you have seen clips of him answering questions from Muslims like this.

Nabeel grew up in the West, in a strongly Muslim family with Pakistani roots. Because Nabeel must begin the account by describing his Eastern family environment in the midst of a Western context, the book began a bit slowly for me and for others I know who have read Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Eastern history, names, words, and customs do not immediately resonate with most of us as Westerners. But, within a few chapters, I was hardly able to put the book down. Nabeel recounts the ministry of David Wood, a Christian classmate at Old Dominion University, who quickly became his best friend. The two were evenly matched […]

Of RFRA and the Resurrection

Last week, I was on vacation with my family, away from our hometown of Indianapolis. From hundreds of miles away, I watched with consternation as the media ripped our state lawmakers to shreds over Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Not many bills in the Indiana statehouse warrant a Wikipedia page, but Senate Bill 101 did after all of the publicity. The attempt to protect ours as a culture of pluralism became more complex by the “fix” our lawmakers and governor added in response to the media frenzy and outcry from public figures and corporations. Little remains to be said that has not already been said, so I will simply add one thought.

No one I saw or heard in the public square connected Easter with the RFRA. Easter weekend followed the bulk of the RFRA controversy. Both were on the front of our society’s mind. Yet, virtually no one publicly connect the resurrection of Christ with the right and obligation to obey the living God.

In the book of Acts, the resurrection of Jesus was the defining feature of the apostles’ life and proclamation. The Council in Jerusalem sought to silence Jesus’ disciples for speaking of the resurrection, “But Peter and […]

What Your Pastor Sees In Worship

The following is an open letter to the saints I serve at Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis:

Dear Saints,

The way you worship matters. You do not see everything I see in worship as your pastor, and so today, I’m writing to tell you some of what I see.

It starts in the hour before worship. I gather with ESL (English as a Second Language) students who come for worship along with one elder’s wife who brings her large heart and multilingual abilities. You know these students through your work with them in the Wednesday evening ESL classes. In the hour before worship, they read the Scripture passage through which I will preach and we work through the text. Though most have advanced degrees, they have very little experience with English. They usually have even lesser knowledge of the Bible. For instance, few begin with the understanding that the Bible is a single story, rather than a collection of wisdom literature is the case with most religious texts.

So, through language barriers and against the pressure of the ticking clock, we labor for the hour to understand the gist of the text and the central point of the coming sermon. We read together, explain […]

Real-Life Narnia

“The stories of Narnia seem childish to some. But to others, they are utterly transformative. For the latter group, these evocative stories affirm that it is possible for the weak and foolish to have a noble calling in a dark world; that our deepest intuition will point us to the true meaning of things; that there is indeed something beautiful and wonderful at the heart of the universe, and that this must be found, embraced, and adored….(Lewis) borrowed and scripted (a story) that he already knew well, and had found to be true and trustworthy – the Christian narrative of Creation, Fall, redemption, and final consummation… the Narnia stories allow us to step inside and experience the Christian story” (Alister McGrath 2013)

Have you ever wished you could be transported to Narnia? Or at least be transformed by it as you step inside and experience the Christian story – and then see that worked out in real life? Well, it is happening in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Greg Enas and Don Palmer are calling Christian brothers at a common stage in life to do the same through an invigorating group named Narnia Indiana. Narnia gathers men from around the city who are mostly in […]

Parent Worship Day

Does your God have the power to rise up himself, or do you have to put him in a high place?

Ten days ago, several of us from our local church zig-zagged through the local international marketplace here in Indianapolis to hang posters and distribute flyers for our English as a Second Language program. Within a few hours we had interacted with people from some fifteen different countries as we made our way to a few dozen restaurants, markets, tire shops, and hair-braiding salons.

On the community board in the Indian plaza, a poster (pictured above) caught my eye with the title “Parent’s Worship Day.” A Hindu activist group has begun promoting Parent Worship Day as an alternative to Valentine’s Day. Next to the poster was a sheet with an eleven-step guide to worshiping your parents. Step number one was: “Make parents sit on a clean and high seat.”

Unsurprisingly, the remaining steps involved forehead markings, garlands of flowers, lamps, incense, circling the parents, bowing to them, recognizing their divinity as the givers of life, and vowing to serve them. Of course, nothing was said of sin, or guilt, or death. No solution was proposed for them. No hope was given that parents […]