Friday, March 30, 2018

support letter for 2018 Burkina Faso trip

Dear Friends,

Exciting news: Kurt and I are taking a team to Burkina Faso in late July!! Our team includes Mark Downs, Clay Hume, and Marie Kuster—three DC grads. After our trips to northern Ghana in 2015 and 2016, we’ll be working again with Francis & Pamela Bukachi’s ministry, Hope Alive Initiatives (HAI). Kurt & I met Francis five years ago in Louisville. HAI's focus is empowering people to minister in many arenas—from schools to business, from dental to vision, from starting new churches to making disciple-makers. And that's why we're so excited to partner with them! (You can read my accounts of our first two trips on my blog: in 2015 and in 2016.)

HAI ministers to churches which are blessed with many converts. But most of the leaders are newer believers—and need to be strengthened in their faith, the Scriptures, and the disciple-making model of Jesus. They have relatively little in terms of Biblical worldview, Christian theology, and the ability to disciple others effectively. As such, our training and the DC28:20—Getting Equipped curriculum (the lighter, 36-week version) are a great fit for helping them build up believers, equip Kingdom workers, and fulfill Ephesians 4:11-16 and all of the Great Commission.

Francis is led to work in areas where Muslims are the majority. In northern Ghana and Burkina Faso, the Muslims and Christians get along well at present—with Muslims even attending Christian schools. We pray that these relationships would develop further. The leaders in Ghana have led the trainings in Burkina Faso—part of that multiplication we seek!

As we go to a new country, we again look forward to equipping Christians to more effectively share the love and grace of God with their neighbors. One new challenge: Burkina Faso is a former French colony and French is the dominant European language. Francis’ team has already had DC28:20 translated into French. Marie is a native French speaker; Mark and I will get to dust off our years of high school French; and well, you probably just need to pray for Clay and Kurt!

We will get to train dozens of leaders for 4-5 days, replicating what we’ve done in previous years: Identity in Christ, Spiritual Warfare, a “Freedom Appointment”, an Intro to Hermeneutics, teaching on Genesis 3, and small-group simulations. (They will prepare two weeks of material before we get there—on leadership and managing conflict—and we’ll “run” two sessions of DC with them.) In small groups, we’ll also use DC material to talk about marriage and personal finance/stewardship.

If you’re interesting in financially supporting the trip, you can send a check to SECC Missions (920 Blankenbaker Pkwy; Louisville, KY 40243), designating it for me and Burkina Faso—or give on-lineOur first deadline for financial support is May 3rd for the first half (and July 11th for the remainder).

Beyond your financial support, we crave your prayers. We’ll work hard to make our plans, but we’ll need to be flexible and rely intensely on the Spirit for guidance. We’ll do what we can, but we need the Lord to go before us to open ears, clear minds, and soften hearts. We’ll train leaders, but we’ll also have a number of divine appointments—from adults as we travel to children in the street. We’ll teach, but we’ll surely be taught much as well. Pray that we’re open to the Spirit; pray for God’s hand of protection on our health and strength; and pray that His will would be done in the Church in Burkina Faso. Thanks for your love, your prayers, and your support!

Grace and peace, eric

hatred toward vs. indifference or ignorance about Jesus

Joe Sobran from 1999 with a classic essay on why people hate Jesus (h/t: Lew Rockwell for republishing this today)
Hate for Christ is not all that common. Indifference is a far larger problem. As Elie Wiesel said, the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Or Biblically, Esau is described as "godless"-- not because he opposes God, but because he's uninterested in the things of God.

Also more common than hate: ignorance about Jesus, downplaying Him to a great teacher (while ignoring at least His doctrinal teaching), imagining that He's a legend (vs. what science says about the origins and perpetuation of legends), or having unwarranted faith in a variety of conspiracy stories about the resurrection.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Dineen on Middlebury, Murray and the elites' ironic and illiberal desire to avoid his work

More on Murray and Middlebury from Patrick Dineen in First Things:

Most of his essay will be too thick for most people. But the middle is in reach and quite interesting. I hadn't thought of the fascist Middlebury episode (which I've written about at great length; see also: Sam Harris' lengthy podcast with Murray; summaries from The Bell Curve; and responses in academia to Murray's work) as anything more than an ironically illiberal rant. But Dineen makes the further point that Middlebury represents the sort of growing inequality that Murray fingers in his work. And thus, "the violent protests against Murray had the convenient effect of preventing any exploration of the pervasive class divide in America today, and leaving the elite students and faculty of Middlebury self-satisfied in their demonstrative support for equality."

So, was Middlebury driven by blindness or by the self-interests of elites (at least subconsciously)?

Dineen also notes that "One might have thought that students at such a school would be keenly interested in hearing a lecture by someone who would discuss the evidence, basis, and implications of economic and class divergences in America today. Indeed, one might suspect that if the students were upset about inequality, they would have been inspired by Murray to direct the onus of their discontent against Middlebury College itself as a perpetrator of class division or even against themselves as willing participants in that perpetuation. At the very least, one might have thought that they would be interested in listening to an analysis of the role educational institutions play in creating and maintaining inequality. Instead, they shouted down the man who was going to speak with them about the role they play in perpetuating inequality—in the name of equality itself."

letter to the editor of The Atlantic (unpublished)

Dear Editor, 

I'm amused by efforts to defend either major political party-- or to throw a lot more rocks at one or the other. Should we "boycott the GOP"? If you're not boycotting both major parties, your standards are too low; your policy preferences are incoherent; or you're willing to thoroughly compromise whatever principles you might have. The GOP is the party of fiscal conservatism, but they're profligates. The Dems are the party of peace and civil liberties, but they're content with warmongers and are leading the charge to trample free speech at universities. The GOP is the party of family values, but they gave us Trump. The Dems support women's rights, but they gave us a candidate who forcefully enabled a sexual predator. And so on.

In December, Peter Beinart asked whether GOP'ers and their policies are racist. Maybe, I guess, sometimes. But on the other side, you have Dems who subsidize the destruction of family through welfare policies; insist on K-12 education dominated by government-run entities with tremendous monopoly power over those with less income; work to make it much more costly to hire less-skilled workers through a higher minimum wage; and say nothing about the 15.3% FICA payroll tax on every dollar earned by the working poor and middle-class-- all of which disproportionately harm disadvantaged people of color.

Really, by these metrics, it should be a pox on both houses. Boycott both major parties. Criticize both parties for causing so much damage to the vulnerable. Turn more of your energy from politics to economics, from striving for power to a better understanding of public policy.

D. Eric Schansberg
Professor of Economics
Indiana University Southeast

New Albany, IN 47150

Saturday, March 24, 2018

a key insight in Peterson's "Eat This Book"

We placed a number of nuggets from Peterson's Eat This Book within our DC quotes. It's a terrific meditation on devouring the word of God as a meal, a love letter, Scripture as text, form, and script-- what has classically been called lectio divina and what Peterson calls "spiritual reading". 

Here, I want to lay out part of his argument in the final chapter, "The Message", where he talks about the art and science of translation and paraphrase-- in part, to make the case for his own paraphrase of the New Testament. 

Peterson notes the two types of Greek that co-existed-- a formal form learned by scholars and a common form (called koine) whose continued popularity was driven by the New Testament. Of the 5,000 words in the Greek NT, 500 were unique to the NT, "never appearing in any extant Greek literature up to that point." (144) When archaeologists discovered copies of the NT in 1897, they were able to account for nearly all 500 words (145).  

Peterson then segues into a discussion of the Lord's Prayer as an example of the need for accurate translation. The word "daily" for "daily bread" is not known in classic Greek. First, Peterson observes (147) that the phrase is central to the prayer:

This is the only petition that deals with materiality. The Prayer has six petitions: the first three pray for the furtherance of God and his work — his holiness, his will, his kingdom; the matching triad is oriented around human needs — food, forgiveness, deliverance. The pair of triads is connected by the phrase, “on earth as it is in heaven,” which is to say that prayer has its source in heaven, the home country, so to speak, of God, but the action takes place on earth – our home country. Prayer that is not firmly grounded “on earth” is not prayer as our Lord taught us to pray.
Commentators have been tempted to spiritualize the reference to daily bread. But Peterson notes that the Greek word was discovered in a "shopping list" in "an ancient housekeeping book". (149)
Peterson also notes that "Israel shared the Canaanite language and culture without being overpowered by it...while they used similar literary forms, the content was radically different: Israel faithfully wrote the family stories of their ancestors, in contrast to the Canaanites, who invented fanciful myths about gods." (154) As an example, he cites their "unembarrassed" use of the Canaanite term for god, el. Peterson notes that myth is "cut loose from history" (156) with "no mystery" or "personal relationship" (157).

quotes from Peterson's "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction"

Two biblical designations for people of faith: disciple and pilgrim. Disciple (mathetes) says we are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master. We are in a growing-learning relationship, always. We don’t learn in a school, but at the work site of the craftsman. We seek not to acquire information about God but skills in faith. Pilgrim (parepidemos) tells us that we are people who spend our lives going someplace, going to God, and whose path for getting there is the way, Jesus Christ. (17)
The whole history of Israel is set in motion by two such acts of world rejection, which freed the people for an affirmation of God: “the rejection of Mesopotamia in the days of Abraham and the rejection of Egypt in the days of Moses.” All the wisdom and strength of the ancient world was in Mesopotamia and Egypt. (31)
There are more people at worship on any given Sunday, for instance, than are at all the football games or on the golf links or fishing or taking walks in the woods. Worship is the single most popular act in this land. (51)
If we stay at home by ourselves and read the Bible, we are going to miss a lot, for our reading will be unconsciously conditioned by our culture, limited by our ignorance, distorted by unnoticed prejudices. (55)
I am put on the spot of being God’s defender. I am expected to explain God to his disappointed clients. I am thrust into the role of a clerk in the complaints department of humanity…But if I accept any of those assignments I misunderstand my proper work, for God doesn’t need me to defend him…The proper work for the Christian is witness, not apology…It does not argue God’s help; it does not explain God’s help; it is a testimony of God’s help…(72)
What would we think of a pollster who issued a definitive report on how the American people felt about a new television special, only to discover later that he had interviewed only one person who had only seen ten minutes of the program? We would dismiss the conclusions as frivolous. Yet that is exactly the kind of evidence that too many Christians accept as the final truth about many much more important matters—matters such as answered prayer, God's judgment, Christ's forgiveness, eternal salvation. The only person they consult is themselves and the only experience they evaluate is the most recent ten minutes. (166-167)
Grace evokes gratitude like the void an echo. (198)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

quotes from Kierkegaard's "Provocations" (and an overview)

Charles Moore provides an intro to the version of Provocations that I read/enjoyed. He discusses Kierkegaard’s primary goals: to be aware and to act—vs. merely to "know".

Moore: Kierkegaard’s task was not the introduction of new ideas, a theology or philosophy of life. Rather, he said “My task is in the service of truth; and its essential form is obedience.” Kierkegaard was fundamentally existential: “to keep people awake, in order that religion may not again become an indolent habit...” His aim was to provoke the individual so as to become an individual in the truth.

He also made an absolute demand that “idea” should be translated into existence (being and doing), which is exactly what his contemporaries, in his opinion, failed to do: “Most systematizers stand in the same relation to their systems as the man who builds a great castle and lives in an adjoining shack; they do not live in their great systematic structure. But in spiritual matters this will always be a crucial objection. Metaphorically speaking, a person’s ideas must be the building he lives in – otherwise there is something terribly wrong.”

His strategy was to help them take a decisive stand: “I wish to make people aware so that they do not squander and dissipate their lives.” Faith, therefore, requires a leap. It is not a matter of galvanizing the will to believe something there is no evidence for, but a leap of commitment. Christianity is not a doctrine to be taught, but rather a life to be lived.

Here's what Kierkegaard says on this topic:

I have wanted to make people aware and to admit that I find the New Testament very easy to understand, but thus far I have found it tremendously difficult to act literally upon what it so plainly says.

The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it moved them to make that long journey. The scribes were much better informed. They sat and studied the Scriptures like so many scholars, but it did not make them move. Who had more truth? The three kings who followed a rumor, or the scribes who remained sitting with all their knowledge?

When Christianity becomes nothing but doctrine, the test is nothing but a scholarly examination.

If a person does not become what he understands, then he does not understand it either. Between understanding and willing [are] excuses and evasions.

When it comes to doing what we know to be God’s will, we do not dare to say: I will not! So we say: I cannot. Is this any less rebellious? If it is God’s will that you do it, how is it possible that you cannot?

What is needed is not professors but witnesses. No, if Christ did not need scholars but was satisfied with fishermen, what is needed now is more fishermen.

When we see someone holding an axe wrong and chopping in such a way that he hits everything but the block of firewood, we do not say, “What a wrong way for the   woodcutter to go about it,” but we say, “That man is not a woodcutter.” Now for the application. When we see thousands and thousands and millions of Christians whose lives do not resemble in the remotest way what – and this is decisive – the New Testament calls a Christian, is it not tampering with the meaning to talk as one does in no other situation and say: “what a mediocre way, what a thoroughly inexpressive way these Christians have.” In any other situation would one not say, “These people are not Christians.”

And finally, on the implications for apologetics: A king’s existence is demonstrated by way of subjection and submissiveness. Do you want to try and demonstrate that the king exists? Will you do so by offering a string of proofs, a series of arguments? No. If you are serious, you will demonstrate the king’s existence by your submission, by the way you live. And so it is with demonstrating God’s existence. It is accomplished not by proofs but by worship. Any other way is but a thinker’s pious bungling.

Miscellany from Provocations:

On commitments and keeping them (reminiscent of Seinfeld’sreservations): Now, what is the point of this parable? Is it not meant to show us the danger of saying “Yes” in too great a hurry, even if it is well meant? Though the yes-brother was not a deceiver when he said “Yes,” he nevertheless became a deceiver when he failed to keep his promise. In his very eagerness in promising he became a deceiver. When you say “Yes” or promise something, you can very easily deceive yourself and others also, as if you had already done what you promised. It is easy to think that by making a promise you have at least done part of what you promised to do, as if the promise itself were something of value.

On being lukewarm (Rev 3:16): The greatest danger to Christianity is, I contend, not heresies, heterodoxies, not atheists, not profane secularism – no, but the kind of orthodoxy which is cordial drivel, mediocrity served up sweet. There is nothing that so insidiously displaces the majestic as cordiality. Perpetually polite, so small, so nice, tampering and meddling and tampering some more – the result is that majesty is completely defrauded – of course, only a little bit. And right here is the danger, for the infinite is more disposed to a violent attack than to becoming a little bit degraded – amid smiling, Christian politeness. And yet this politeness is what our Christianity amounts to. But the very essence of Christianity is utterly opposed to this mediocrity, in which it does not so much die as dwindle away

On the Spirit (a la Jn 5:30, 15:5; Gal 3:2-3): Such self-knowledge we are referring to is really not complicated. But is one not able, then, to overcome oneself by oneself? How can I be stronger than myself? When we speak of overcoming oneself by oneself, we really mean something external, so that the struggle is unequal.

We should not, then, speak about one’s coming into debt by receiving love. No, it is the one who loves who is in debt. Because he is aware of being gripped by love, he perceives this as being in infinite debt.

On true/false repentance: Yes, in the temporal and social sense, repentance may come and go. But in the eternal sense, it is a quiet daily commitment before God. In the light of eternity, one’s guilt is never changed, even if a century passes by. Repentance, if it is forgotten, is nothing but immaturity. The longer and the more deeply one treasures it, however, the better it becomes.

All the objections to Christianity – what are they, after all, to the person who in truth is conscious of being a sinner and who has experienced belief in the forgiveness of sins and in this faith is saved from his sin? One conceivable objection might be: Yes, but is it not still possible for you to be saved in some other way? But how can one reply to this? One cannot. It is just like a person in love. If someone were to say: Yes, but you could perhaps have fallen in love with another – then he must answer: To this I cannot reply, for I know only one thing, that this is my beloved. As soon as the person who is in love tries to reply to this objection, he is by that very fact not a believer. It is claimed that arguments against Christianity arise from doubt. This is a complete misunderstanding. The arguments against Christianity arise out of rebellion, out of a reluctance to obey. The battle against objections is but shadow-boxing, because it is intellectual combat with doubt instead of ethical combat against mutiny.

The true Christian is one who becomes a sacrifice in order to call attention to the truth that Christ is the only true sacrifice.

On God’s word: My listener, how highly do you value God’s Word? Imagine a lover who has received a letter from his beloved. I assume that God’s Word is just as precious to you as this letter is to the lover. I assume that you read and think you ought to read God’s Word in the same way the lover reads this letter…If there are obscure passages but also clearly expressed wishes, he would say, “I must immediately comply with the wish – then I will see about the obscure parts.

On followers of Jesus: He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for… A follower is or strives to be what he admires. An admirer, however, keeps himself personally detached. He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him, and thus he fails to be or strive to be what he admires.

On forgiveness: Is it not pure conceit to believe in your own forgiveness when you will not forgive others? If we fail to understand that forgiveness is also a burden that must be carried, even though a light burden, we take forgiveness in vain. Forgiveness is never earned – it is not that heavy. But neither is it to be taken in vain, for it is not that light either. Forgiveness is not to be paid for – for it is not that costly and it cannot be paid for. But neither is it to be treated as nothing; it is bought at too high a price for that.

On grace: That Jesus Christ died for my sins certainly shows how great his grace is, but it also shows how great my sins are.

On good intentions: whenever things are really serious, honest good intentions never suffice…Good intention makes a person think that everything is settled by a resolution. But if anyone allows himself to be nourished by good intentions, the resolution itself becomes a seducer and deceiver instead of a trustworthy guide. It is a proud thing to dive into danger, and it is a proud thing to battle with untold horrors, but it is also wretched to have an abundance of intentions and a poverty of action, to be rich in truths and poor in virtues.

On politics: Politics is nothing but egotism dressed up as justice.

On prayer: He who prays knows how to make distinctions. Little by little he gives up what is less important, since he does not really dare to come before God with it, demanding this and that. In proportion as one becomes more and more earnest in prayer, one has less and less to say, and in the end one becomes quite silent. Indeed, one becomes quite a hearer. And so it is; to pray is not to hear oneself speak, but it is to be silent, and to remain silent, to wait, until the one who prays hears God.

On preaching: If it is assumed that speaking is sufficient for the proclamation of Christianity, then we have transformed the church into a theater. We can then have an actor learn a sermon and splendidly, masterfully deliver it with facial expressions, gesticulations, modulation, tears, and everything a theater-going public might flock to.

On solitude/silence: In a passionate age great events give people something to talk about. Talkativeness, on the contrary, also has plenty to talk about, but in quite another sense. In a passionate age, when the event is over, and silence follows, there is still something to remember and to think about while one remains silent. But talkativeness is afraid of silence, for silence always reveals its emptiness.

On the Kingdom and the “not yet”: This is the paradox of Christianity – namely, that a kingdom which is not of this world still wants to have a visible place, yet without becoming a kingdom of this world. This is why Christian collisions are produced. It is no good for you to say that the world is immersed in evil, and then slip through it easily. If you do this, your life expresses that it is really a very good world and simply cannot be done without your also being an accomplice in one way or another.