Sunday, January 25, 2009


[Evangelical theology] can expect justice for itself only by the fact that God justifies it. It can give only him and not itself the glory.
Karl Barth, The Place of Theology

It is not the place of the Christian to vindicate himself in thought or deed—as both are elements of theology. Evangelical (regarding the Good News of Jesus' death and resurrection) theology and life is measured by the same standard and bound by the same ethic as Jesus' life and death.

Just as Jesus died a shameful death to the world, so the Christian should expect to be shamed by the world. Just as Jesus' faithfulness to the Father's will was considered foolish in the eyes of the earthly wisdom of his disciples (who would have had him instigate a military revolt against Rome), the Christian's adherence to the good will of God will lead to scorn.

Where, then, is vindication for the Believer? If the Christian is united with Christ in his shame and suffering as in his death, vindication comes in Christ's resurrection; God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead.

As a follower of Jesus, it is neither my duty nor right to vindicate before man, nor should I expect it in this life. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Hope of vindication, justice, and justification is entirely in the resurrection of my body on the basis of the resurrection of Christ's body. This is the basis of hope for the Christian.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why Me?

The question, "Why me?" is loaded with meaning. Expressed negatively, it is the epitome of self-pity. "What did I do to deserve this happening to me? I didn't do anything wrong!" It's an attitude of arrogant entitlement, and leads only to misery.

But those two words can have a completely different meaning, one of thankfulness and wonder: Why me? What did I do to deserve this favor? In light of the Gospel—God giving himself to us freely through Jesus Christ—"Why me?" becomes a jubilant expression of gratitude. Why should I possess faith and not another?

In realizing we deserve nothing—and that we even deserve to be left to our sins—our perspective is changed as God grants eyes of faith to see Jesus for who He is. Repentance follows, and the transformed attitude: "Why me?" is filled with humility and leads to joy upon joy; grace upon grace; a heart of thankfulness.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eternal, External

Helmut Theilcke, a 20th century German theologian, wrote a short book (really a lecture transcribed) exhorting to stay strong in faith and in service to the church through their time of theological study.
Faith makes sense only as unconditioned faith, because it has to do with our eternal destiny. It is impossible that it could be dependent upon and conditioned by the changing results of historical investigation or of scientific fashion.
It's a profound (and reformed) perspective: Our faith—as that which bring us eternal salvation through Jesus—is not dependent on conclusions we draw or discoveries we make. Thus, every wave of challenging theology or attack from culture on the faith of the Christian need not cause doubt or despair.

What comfort to be released from thinking of my faith as something I must preserve intellectually to recognizing that faith is a gift from God that is not on the basis of works I have done—moral or intellectual.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Gospel Tranformation in Africa

About a week ago, Times Online posted an op-ed by Matthew Parris with the self-explanatory title, As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God. In short, Parris notes how the missionaries who have come to Africa over the years bring with them not only hospitals that care for the sick, but a message that brings about change in people—a change for the better.
The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.
Parris grudgingly admits this change has entirely to do with the God of Christianity—though he says it is a pity that "salvation is part of the package," and stunningly, he is personally unmoved by what he admits to be a positive transformative force.

Such a testimony to the transformation that takes place in African believers is a helpful illustration and reminder to western Christians of how the Gospel changes people. Western culture, though in decay in many ways, still bears many marks of being a Christian culture.

Thus, when Jesus transforms a life, the difference is perhaps not as externally remarkable from a distance. Western culture bears many marks of common grace.

Yesterday I started reading The Reason for God and came across a quote from Lamin Sanneh's Whose Religion is Christianity? regarding the process that happens as Africans begin to read the Bible in their own language (and are thus empowered to do their own theology):
Christianity answered this historical challenge by a reorrientation of the worldview...People sensed in their hearts that Jesus did not mock their respect for the sacred nor their clamor for an invincible Savior, and so they beat their sacred drums for him...Christianity helped Africans to become renewed Africans, not re-made Europeans.
It is refreshing to see how Jesus renews and recreates people and cultures.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Everything Sad is Going to Come Untrue

From Tim Keller, The Reason for God,
"Just after the climax of the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee discovers that his friend Gandalf was not dead (as he thought) but alive. He cries, "I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself! Is everything sad going to come untrue?" The answer of Christianity to that question is—yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost."
In this chapter Keller is addressing the problem of evil, as it is often called. Keller's emphasis in the chapter is two-fold. First, that we lack the proper perspective to see the purpose of what we judge to be evil. Second, he submits that the Christian perspective on evil is that it will not only be vanquished, but will "serve to make our future life and joy infinitely greater."

The interesting effect of this theology of suffering in my mind is that it empowers us to suffer, to be hurt, to be sinned against, and to loose loved ones. We do not need to ourselves "make things right" for ourselves, because God himself will make right what was wrong.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Out of Darkness (A Hymn)

I wrote the retreat song for the College Group fall break retreat this year. The text, my one of my first attempts at writing a hymn text, is not as topically coherent as I would like, but it did fit the retreat theme reasonably well.

Out of Darkness

So hopeless the plight of man born into Adam’s sin!
And deadly is our transgression’s venom.
While dying, the sinner would still spurn the Savior’s face.
What can bring life to this body of death?

It’s grace, flowing down from the cross where Jesus died.
See him arise! Bringing life, O come and praise the Lamb who died!

And into the darkened world has come the one true Light.
Obtaining a people from every nation
When before our dying eyes, the Son is lifted up,
What work is done, as the Savior ascends?

A people called out of darkness to this wondrous Light;
A priesthood, a holy, chosen nation;
Proclaiming the wonders of the God who calls us “loved.”
What has giv’n life to these dry bones again?

Through all of the lies of hell would bid us turn from grace,
Our eyes are still fixed upon our Savior.
Though friends scorn, and foes deride, our outcome is secure:
What is our vict’ry in Jesus our Lord?

Words and Music by: David Jordan (2008)

Monday, December 08, 2008


My very dear friends Reed and Bekah had their first child this week; a daughter, Evangeline Monroe. Here is a picture of me holding her. It's my sweater. You're gonna have to believe it's me wearing it.

I like the kid's style.