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Guest Post. J.K. Wall on Christ’s Kingdom and Work

J.K. Wall is a business journalist in Indianapolis, where he is a member of the Christ Church Reformed Presbyterian congregation. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, writing his master’s thesis on the early sermons of Augustine of Hippo. His book Messiah the Prince Revisited, a modern update on Scottish theologian William Symington’s book, was published in September by Crown & Covenant Publications.   J.K. applies Symington’s book to the issue of work in this post entitled “Christ is Using You, Right Now, to Build His Kingdom.”

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I’m a follow-the-money reporter at a city business journal, which is owned by non-Christian businessmen and run by editors with a slightly left-of-center bent.

And yet, I know my work is helping to build the kingdom of Jesus Christ and change the world every day.

In fact, I know your work is too.

How am I so certain? Because the Bible tells us that Christ, as our Redeemer, is using all people and their work to accomplish His work: the building of His church and, through it, the transforming of the world.

This is the special insight articulated by William Symington in Messiah the Prince. I have written a new version of Symington’s 19th Century classic in [...]

Guest Post: J.K. Wall on the Two Kingdoms Debate

J.K. Wall is a business journalist in Indianapolis, where he is a member of the Christ Church Reformed Presbyterian congregation. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, writing his master’s thesis on the early sermons of Augustine of Hippo. His book Messiah the Prince Revisited, a modern update on Scottish theologian William Symington’s book, was published in September by Crown & Covenant Publications.   J.K. applies Symington’s work to a current theological issue in this guest post entitled “Avoiding Double Vision: A Helpful Historical Lens for the Modern Two Kingdoms Debate.”

It’s natural that we look to past thinkers for guidance in the midst of contemporary theological debates—like the one between two kingdoms theology and the one kingdom, neo-Calvinist viewpoint.

So in recent years, there have been numerous back-and-forth arguments as to whether Augustine’s concept of “two cities” or Luther’s concept of “two kingdoms” or Calvin’s comments about the “twofold government” of a spiritual kingdom and political kingdom give the upper hand to one side or the other of this discussion.

Over at the Reformation 21 blog, Matthew Tuininga declared it “anachronistic and impossible” to fit Calvin into the contemporary two kingdoms controversy—a prudent warning that clearly applies more broadly than [...]

The Logic of Abortion ~ Or Why a Mother Can Kill Her Baby

Mara Clarke of the Abortion Support Network (a pro-abortionist organization) recently debated Scott Klusendorf on the Unbelievable radio show. When pressed as to why it is morally permissible for a pregnant woman to end the life of a human being in her womb, Mara Clarke said,

Mara: “At the end of the day, all I can go with is: women who are living outside of the womb absolutely have a right to- and I don’t say this term- I never say this term- bodily autonomy, right? They have a right to continue with or not continue with a pregnancy.”

Justin (the host of the show): “Ok. So that in a sense overrides any issues of whether we’re dealing with a human in the womb or not for you.”

Mara: “Yes.”

Justin: “The autonomy of a woman over her body trumps that- and that presumably is the distinction then we’re drawing between the toddler and the child in the womb. A toddler is separate to the woman at that point, obviously. There’s not a question of her having control of her body at that point. You’re dealing with a separate individual.”

Mara: “Yeah, we can send [...]

Joy at Geneva, or: Oh, the Humanities!

Last night was one of the highlights of my 16 month tenure as chaplain of Geneva College.  I got to participate in the Geneva Reading Series, an initiative of the brilliantly creative Dr. Dan Williams.  GRS has become one of my favorite parts of being at Geneva.  It’s a time when the campus community can come together to enjoy and celebrate God’s good gifts among us.  Music, poetry, humorous stories, contemplative essays and other creative compositions by students and faculty remind us of the joy of being human.  GRS is a time to allow our souls a deep, cleansing breath, to revel in being image bearers of the God who has built spectacular beauty into his creation, and especially into humanity.

GRS represents so much of why I love being at Geneva, why I love Christian higher education rooted in the humanities, and why it breaks my heart that the academic disciplines which give rise to such joyful gatherings and which spark such brilliant fire in the hearts of students – music, literature, writing, history, philosophy and theology – are increasingly considered expendable in the brutal but necessary battle to keep college as inexpensive as possible.  Cutting deeply into such disciplines [...]

The Game of Ethics in a Godless World

Picture an aquarium full of only dirt and rocks.

Now imagine that this represents the sum total of reality. There is no mind beyond the walls of that aquarium, no watching eyes, nothing. Life is utterly absent within and without. There is only the stuff of matter.

Now suppose someone were to ask if the aquarium contained morality. Is it in there? If so, where might it be found? Under a rock? Hidden deep in the dirt? Perhaps floating about in the air?

Search as one might, digging here and there, morality would not be found.  It is nowhere.

But now imagine a creature suddenly forming in some mysterious, almost ineffable way. It is a slithering thing, long and inhuman, devoid of consciousness.

Might morality be found in the aquarium now? Nothing has fundamentally changed, save for the creeping creature, and that changes nothing. Morality is still absent.

Picture another scene. Suppose the slithering creature splits into other similar creatures, ones that in turn morph and change into other creatures. Imagine as well plants suddenly sprouting up. Envision rain beginning to fall and entire colonies of scurrying critters forming, ducking into holes and climbing trees.

The aquarium is now teeming with life.

Peering through the glass wall, we [...]

Podcast: Distance Education and the Seminary

Online education is dramatically changing the playing field in higher education.  In 2011, 89% of four-year public colleges and universities in the U.S. were reported to offer online classes. Though seminaries have lagged behind, in 2011-2012 nearly 20,000 of about 74,000 seminarians enrolled at accredited schools had completed at least one online course while still on campus.   Seminaries are having to learn how to navigate the strange, new world the Digital Age has brought in.

Recently Austin and I discussed with Dr. Jerry O’Neill, president of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Aaron Sams*, Director of Distance Education at RPTS, the new online courses being offered at RPTS.  We heard about the incredible blessings as well as the intriguing challenges this form of education brings to the seminary.  Click below to listen along!

*Just wanted to add a congratulations to Aaron, who this past weekend was honored with his colleague Jon Bergmann for their work in using technology in the flipped classroom approach at the Bammy Awards in Washington, D.C.  The educational equivalent of the Grammy Awards, the Bammy Awards are sponsored by The Academy of Education Arts and Sciences and give recognition to dedicated and innovative educational leaders.

http://gentlereformation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Distance-Education.mp3

 

 

 

 

The Rural Church Potential

“In short, I like living in a small town. The urbanites may say that this is sentimentality, but I refuse to let the word frighten me. I believe that small-town life has values that should be preserved if they possibly can be. After all, the human race has spent the greater part of its existence in small communities, and I doubt if we have outgrown the need for a comprehensible society.”

That was written by Granville Hicks, a twentieth century intellect who was allured to small-town living. In 1946 he could already see the coming decline of rural America. “Has any small town,” he wrote “a future in this age of industrialism, urbanism, and specialization?” That didn’t stop him, however, from celebrating the lasting values of community. He even survived small town living to write a penetrating and winsome sociological commentary on rural life titled, Small Town. This American classic isn’t a how-to for rural ministry, but, it may surprise some, his perceptive awareness of society is very beneficial for the country church.

Let me just come out and say it. Either explicitly or implicitly, the modern church seems to place little to no value on the rural church. I get it. [...]

Suicide and Atonement

The tragic death of Robin Williams in August briefly caught the public imagination in our country. A uniquely gifted man died before his time because he was unable to cope with the depression that haunted him. Well-meaning supporters opined that Mr. Williams was now free at last. Others speculated about what must be wrong with our society that would drive someone like Mr. Williams to despair. While Robin Williams’ suicide dominated the news, there was another high-profile suicide that went virtually unnoticed in our country. Just six days before Williams’ death, Dr. Yoshiki Sasai, a world famous stem cell researcher from Japan, was found hanging in a stair well in the building in which he worked.

Earlier this year one of Dr. Sasai’s research associates made a revolutionary discovery regarding the reprogramming of common cells into cells with the properties of embryonic stem cells. The process of transforming cells is ordinarily done by genetic manipulation of the cells. The new discovery purported to show that the cells could be reprogrammed by simply manipulating the environment in which they grew, thus eliminating the need for altering the genetic composition of the cells. This advance would have moved the use of reprogrammed cells [...]

Praying for our Nations

As I write this, the people of Scotland are voting on whether or not they want to remain in the United Kingdom. A remarkable 97% of the people have registered to vote in the referendum, and the turnout at the polls is expected to be the highest in Scottish history – remarkable indeed in a climate of electoral apathy. As I write, the result is impossible to predict – experts reckon it could be decided by a margin as slender as 60,000 votes. The polling organisation Ipsos Mori are saying 51% yes, 49% no.

 

As a Northern Irish citizen of the United Kingdom, I have heard and read plenty of arguments over the last few months as to why Scottish independence would be either the kiss of life or the kiss of death to both Scotland and the rest of the UK. In the ‘yes’ camp and in the ‘no’ camp experts hold forth eloquently, persuasively, passionately, supporting their arguments with telling and pertinent statistics. And then the other side comes back with forceful counter-arguments and equally plausible statistics. It’s all too easy to become like the sheep in Animal Farm who just believed whoever spoke last! How do we pray about [...]

iDolatry

First, a disclosure.  I have an iPad and and an iPhone.  These tools are wonderful helps to me.  After a few double or missed bookings because my wife and I were unaware of each other’s calendars, this summer I synchronized them on these devices (after I convinced her to not use the large printed one anymore in our kitchen).  In teaching, I love how easy it is to plug my iPad into the projector so my students can follow my notes.  I just discovered the Doceri app (I’m always a little behind), which allows me to use my iPad as a whiteboard as it projects what I write on the screen.  Having my iPhone on my commutes saves me invaluable time, as I catch up on phone calls, listen to SermonAudio, or even record sermon or blog thoughts (including these) that I speak out loud in the semi-privacy of my car.  Though far from tech savvy, I am fairly integrated and love these tools.

Yet I am uneasy.  My hand seems to reach for my iDevices automatically, without thinking.  Some nights I stay up too late catching up on emails or just reading the news or blogs.  I find it more difficult to [...]