Archive for October 15, 2010

Tolkien as Tutor

The fiction of Tolkien points to a grand reality

It is amazing how good fiction, such as that that flowed from the pen of J.R.R. Tolkien, helps us to understand reality better. Consider how he weaved real life issues such as sin, evil, corruption, death, purity, virtue, friendship, love, and hate into his rich characters. Few of us can pick up his Lord of the Rings books and not find ourselves for good or for bad walking in the shoes of one of its cast of players. The beauty of Tolkien is that his timeless missives deal with redemption that by nature we all desire.

There are many greater writers and stories that fill the books that litter the shelves of popular bookstores worldwide. The problem with many of these stories is that the fail to connect with the great story that is written on our hearts. Romans 1 and 2 give us clear teaching on the fact that all men regardless of confession know that there is a God, that He has created us, that He is worthy of worship, and that we have failed Him and are sinful. Tolkien’s fiction is laced with these themes. There is no agnostic ambiguity. Evil is on one side, good is on the other, and his characters find themselves in the middle; some making their flawed but persistent way to good and some tragically being overcome by evil.

There are many ways that we can choose to entertain ourselves. Few methods, however, have the redeeming value that can be found in reading Tolkien. I am re-reading the Lord of the Rings saga for the third time. I am at the point where the party is about to decided to travel through the mines of Moria. As I sit with Frodo and Gandalf and ponder the difficult path that lies ahead I am captivated by imagery that reminds me that I am flawed, that I am a small but important player in a much greater story, and that redemption can be found by faith. This is the legacy of my great tutor J.R.R. Tolkien. I only wish he were here for me to thank in person.

The Gospel Is Not “A” Way But “The” Way

It amazes me to see how some people act so apologetically for believing the truth. The truth needs no apology. The truth of the gospel needs humble, but bold people who will unashamedly live it and share it. The following video is a segment of the Larry King show in which he speaks about the truth claims of Christianity compared with other religions. Note how Dr. John McArthur responds in this discussion. In his response we see a faithful model for how we should all represent the gospel before a watching world.

HT: Tim Challies

Without A Lifeline

Christians Must Be Seeking Out Those In Danger

The last days of Tyler Clementi can be described as nothing less than tragic. How sad to see a young man take his own life out of embarrassment, frustration, and desperation. While there are several aggravating factors that led up to this event the basis for his suicide is rooted in sin.

It is sin that caused his roommate and his friend to tape Tyler’s homosexual encounters and post them on the Internet. It is sin that caused Tyler to believe that he could find happiness by engaging in homosexual behavior. It is also sin that causes Christians to distance themselves from a young man like Tyler who needs to hear the gospel message and learn that true happiness comes only in the forgiveness and healing that Jesus can give.

Dr. Al Mohler has adroitly put the Tyler Clementi into perspective in an article he wrote entitled, Between The Boy And The Bridge-A Haunting Question. In the article Mohler states,

In other words, the believing church cannot surrender to the demand that we disobey and reject biblical truth. That much is clear. We cannot lie to persons about the sinfulness of their sin, nor comfort them with falsehood about their moral accountability before God. The rush of the liberal churches and denominations to normalize homosexuality is now a hallmark of their disobedience to the Bible.

But this is not the end of the matter, and we know it. When gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are wrong. Our concern about the sinfulness of homosexuality is not rooted in fear, but in faithfulness to the Bible — and faithfulness means telling the truth.

Yet, when gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are also right. Much of our response to homosexuality is rooted in ignorance and fear. We speak of homosexuals as a particular class of especially depraved sinners and we lie about how homosexuals experience their own struggle. Far too many evangelical pastors talk about sexual orientation with a crude dismissal or with glib assurances that gay persons simply choose to be gay. While most evangelicals know that the Bible condemns homosexuality, far too many find comfort in their own moralism, consigning homosexuals to a theological or moral category all their own.

What if Tyler Clementi had been in your church? Would he have heard biblical truth presented in a context of humble truth-telling and gospel urgency, or would he have heard irresponsible slander, sarcastic jabs, and moralistic self-congratulation?…

As believers we have a calling to help all who are caught in sin regardless of what that sin might be. We must reach out to those who are marginalized and isolated by their sin. We can’t leave those who are struggling with sin without a lifeline.

The Community As Counselor

The best counseling is found in community.

I have written many times about the absolute necessity of community in the body of Christ. It is something that the Lord has been teaching me and leading me to daily as I think and meditate on His word. It never dawned on me, however, how God has designed the community to serve as counselor in the lives of its members. In other words, the sins, struggles, shortcomings, and failures of believers in Jesus Christ are meant to be worked out in community with your brothers in sisters in Christ.

Any doubt on this score can be easily put to rest by examining the following passages of scripture:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
– Hebrews 10:24-25

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
– James 5:16

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
– Romans 12:4-5

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11

In other words, we have lost our sense of of the sickness of sin and its remedy in the gospel that is represented in Christian community. Our churches have a semblance of community while failing to actually put it into practice. We live lives isolated from one another and either by shame or pride we refuse to let each other be what we all really are namely: sin sick sinners who need the healing that the gospel practiced in community brings. Instead we opt to go our own way and when problems flare-up we try to find a good professional counselor who can help us.

Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely indebted to the fine counselors who have mentored and helped me through the years. There are many out there who are doing the work of the gospel and have God’s blessing in what they do. I dare say, however, that many of these counselors would readily agree with my premise. They are having to deal with an accumulation of sins and struggles that could have and should have been worked out in the community of believers. That is not to say that there are not special cases where the community needs the outside help of a professional but these should be the exception and not the rule.

It is up to us to begin to make the hard decisions required to transform this loose confederation called the church into a tight knit bond of brother and sister counselors who bear each others burdens. This is not optional, this is crucial to our very survival. It is also a gift of grace that we are warned we will need more and more of…”all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”