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To change the world

A book which deserves a much longer review is James Davidson Hunter’s To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the Later Modern World. As I say, I cannot possibly do this book justice in these few words, other than to say that if you are interested in the problem of cultural change in our day you really should read it. I don’t agree with everything that Hunter says. For instance, it is frustrating that Hunter (so sure footed elsewhere) makes if not monumental gaffes in historical summary, at least takes a particular side in the historical debate about particular events without seeming to realise that the side he is taking is far from non-controversial. He seems to regard it as an open and shut case that Luther was at least partly responsible for the German genocide of the Jews, and that Calvin was entirely responsible for the...

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The Ideological War in the Aftermath of September 11

With the recent renewed furor over the legacy of 9/11, I was interested to dig around and find what I had posted about it for our church in New Haven soon after the original 9/11.  Yale sends a lot of people to work in Manhattan so in the immediacy of that terrible event New Haven was in mourning with lots of connections to the workers in downtown Manhattan. I remember coming out of our apartment and seeing a Yale undergraduate sitting on the steps of the house – we were renting a multifamily at the time – and my wife noticing that she was simply sitting there weeping uncontrollably.  This didn’t seem normal and when she told me I immediately switched on the news channel on the TV and saw one of the buildings with a plane stuck in the side of it. Sometime later, I thought some ideological reflection on what 9/11 was going to do to us would be helpful.  This...

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War

Let me talk about an important book bearing on the American scene. Sebastian Junger’s War (New York, 2010) is a specifically non-religious book, but with great relevance to assessments of the effects and experience of war in Afghanistan for American troops. Junger ‘embedded’ himself with the ultimate front line troops in a far flung outpost of Afghanistan to experience daily life in combat. This book is not for the faint-hearted, nor for those who cannot ‘blank’ or ‘beep’ in their minds over the fairly frequent expletives. What makes it interesting, and important, is that it describes life as it appears to really be for those who are on the front line of fighting in Afghanistan from the perspective of an eyewitness, and a sympathetic ‘embedded’ eyewitness at that. Junger is, it seems, non-religious himself, or at least attempts to explain the phenomenon of war and the comradeship that it produces from a strictly atheistic...

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Environmentalism USA

The growing environmental crisis in the (Mexican) Gulf, following the breakage of the BP oil pipe, is doing something unexpected to evangelical environmental concerns: there is a developing tenderness. Dr. Moore, Senior Vice President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes winsomely and captivatingly about his epiphany after his recent exposure to the issue in the Gulf area. Liberal agenda? For some reason, being willing to say that polluting things is bad, makes people sick, and ruins peoples’ lives can sound to some ears like a ‘liberal’ agenda. I’m not sure why. Well, I could have a go at explaining it, extrapolating from various historical antecedents and shifts in emphasis from a God-centred gospel to a social gospel, or that tendency for the discussion to be hijacked by those with Mother Earth, Gaia, ‘crunchy’, organic, no-deodorant kind of agendas. But, on the other hand, millions of barrels of oil spilling into the sea is a...

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Western evangelicalism and ‘postmodernism’

I understand the normal apologetic narrative of evangelicalism’s standard engagement with contemporary culture, and by and large agree with it. Typically, we are told, that we now live in an age where ‘modern’ scientific certainty has given way, or is in process of giving way, to more ‘postmodern’ relativistic assumptions about the meaning of life. Along with this shift, and at its root, is an epistemological issue, which impacts how our language, conversation, preaching, evangelism and truth claims are made, or heard to be made at the least. And connected to it is a different attitude towards morality, whereby the queen of moral achievement is a tolerant society where there is freedom to think and be whatever you want, as long as you also accept that anyone else can think and be whatever they want. This is not a free society in the ‘old’, ‘modern’, sense but relativistic pluralism, where truth is...

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The Ten Commandments of Preaching

I recently did a seminar on preaching for the European Leadership Forum in Hungary–http://euroleadership.org/. I used the pneumonic ‘E-X-P-O-S-I-T-O-R-Y’ for the ten commandments of preaching. These are some of the notes from which I spoke. E—Evangelistic. Gospel preaching must have an evangelist edge. You might not have an altar call but you’ve got to call people to the altar. X—Excellence. It’s hard work. You need sweat to make it sweet. P—Proclamation. Certainly, all preaching is dialogic in mood though monologic formally. But there is an essential authority to the preaching of God’s Word. God’s Word need be preached winsomely but must not be preached wimpishly. O—Organization. Structure and lack of it is the hidden failing of many an otherwise good sermon. S—Scripture. Preaching is to bleed the Bible. If as JI Packer says the Bible is God preaching then preaching is re-preaching the Bible. All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for: not just...

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Economist Bruce Howard on the current state of the global economy

Bruce Howard is a professor of business and economics at Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois). He maintains a professional association with Tyndale House Publishers and also has experience in the fields of health care administration and banking. He took a few moments to talk with us about the current economic situation. GCL: Has everything changed economically, or is it all the same, or is it somewhere in between? BH: Who said the more things change, the more things stay the same? GCL: What’s changed? BH: The value of financial and housing assets has decreased by hundreds of billions of dollars. Thousands of people have lost their homes and many thousands more have lost their jobs. Many formerly credible institutions (like GNMA) have lost their credibility. GCL: What hasn’t changed? BH: All the good people willing to work are still here waiting and willing to do their part to create goods and services that people need and want. All the physical capital we had before the melt-down...

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George Whitefield: the First Blogger

Whitefield’s journals have long occupied pride of place on the eighteenth century section of my Church History bookcase, snuggled up nicely against Jonathan Edwards (co-laborers), and jostling happily against the rather different Benjamin Franklin. Whitefield is the model par excellence for all mass movement evangelists, from DL Moody to Billy Sunday, to Billy Graham. Whitefield has sometimes been described as ‘the divine dramatist,’ and however controversial that appellation was to generations of evangelicals who have lauded Whitefield’s spirituality and not just his rhetoric, there is little doubt that he was golden tongued.  Mind you, it helps when your message is basically ‘be born again’ in one form or another over and over again as you itinerate around the British Isles, and across the eastern coast of America. Whitefield was a social activist, if such an anachronism be allowed, as well as an evangelist. He founded a well-known orphanage which became the...

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