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John Piper Should Christians Watch Game of Thrones

For as long as entertainment has been around, Christians have discussed (and argued) about how to best engage with it and where to draw the line.

It can be tricky to apply biblical wisdom in a way that is not legalistic.

I’ve been guilty in the past of adding rules to the Christian life not set out in Scripture–and have been called on it (thank the Lord for those brothers!). But I have also seen people exercise biblical wisdom to things–and then be called legalists instead of the wise God-fearers that they are.

The recent HBO show Game of Thrones has created a debate among Christians due to its high amounts of sexuality and nudity. In a recent article 12 Questions to Ask Before You Watch Game of Thrones, John Piper exercises biblical wisdom in dealing with this show and the issues that arise. (I highly recommend you read the entire article or listen to the Ask Pastor John episode on SoundCloud below.)

I’m not up with the times when it comes to TV and movies (that ship has sailed a long time ago!) and I’ve never seen the show Game of Thrones, but I do know a lot of Christians watch it. I find Dr. Piper’s biblical argumentation compelling and convicting not only for Game of Thrones, but for any type of entertainment filled with nudity and sexuality.

Below are three highlights from the article with a couple thoughts of my own marked in italics and with an asterisk*.

5. Am I Longing to See God?

I want to see and know God as fully as possible in this life and the next. Watching nudity is a huge hindrance to that pursuit. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). The defilement of the mind and heart by watching nudity dulls the heart’s ability to see and enjoy God. I dare anyone to watch nudity and turn straight to God and give him thanks and enjoy him more because of what you just experienced.

8. Am I Assuming Nudity Can Be Faked?

Nudity is not like murder and violence on the screen. Violence on a screen is make-believe; nobody really gets killed. But nudity is not make-believe. These actresses are really naked in front of the camera, doing exactly what the director says to do with their legs and their hands and their breasts. And they are naked in front of millions of people to see.

*(Let me add that adulterers will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:10) and that our choices in “entertainment” can consist of people performing deeds that will damn them forever. Such a terribly tragic thing that should not entertain–but make us mourn.)

11. Am I Craving Acceptance?

Christians do not watch nudity with a view to maximizing holiness. That is not what keeps them coming back to the shows. They know deep down that these television shows or these movies are shot through with the commendation and exaltation of attitudes and actions that are utterly out of step with the death to self and out of step with exaltation of Christ.

No, what keeps those Christians coming back is the fear that if they take Christ at his word and make holiness as serious as I am saying it is, they would have to stop seeing so many television shows and so many movies, and they would be viewed as freakish. And that today is the worst evil of all. To be seen as freakish is a much greater evil than to be unholy.

*(A couple of verses to keep in mind: Romans 12:2′s “do not be conformed to this world…” and James 4:4 that says, “…Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” We should be concerned about pleasing God with all of our thoughts and actions, not people.)

Read the whole article here or listen to it below.

Book Cover and Review the Good News About Marriage by Shaunti FeldhahnWhat if the next wedding you were at closed the ceremony with the pastor performing a coin toss to decide whether the couple would stay married or divorce? As odd as that seems, the odds of a coin toss are not far from what many people believe about their likelyhood to have a lasting marriage.

You’ve probably heard the statistic quoted that 50% of all marriages end in divorce–and inside the church is no better. Evangelicals quote the 50% statistic like it’s Scripture–but is it true?

The Good News about Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce, Shaunti Feldhahn seeks to put that myth–and several other myths about marriage and divorce–to death. Shaunti and her husband Jeff are the authors of the incredibly helpful For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women (which I reviewed) and bring their statistical approach to marriage and relationships to this book.

The thesis of the book is essentially that the 50% divorce statistic is false and that there are many reasons to be optimistic about the state of marriage; especially marriage in the church. Feldhahn’s careful research uncovered the weak foundation (or no foundation) many popular marriage statistics stand on and analyzes data from a variety of sources to provide a more hopeful outlook for couples that are married. This book doesn’t focus on the overall state of marriage which is weakened by the day due to changing definitions of marriage, more couples avoiding marriage, and the prolonged adolescence of many millennials; but rather focuses on the hope married couples in the church have to stay married.

Some strengths of the book include an easy format to read and reference (with convenient chapter summaries), practical application of statistics for those married and those who work with married couples, and hope. I say hope because many couples believe the 50% statistic and think that divorce is inevitable. When a couple is feeling hopeless, hearing a few simple words of hope could be all they need. Here are a few nuggets of hope Feldhahn shares:

  • Most of those who are the least happy will be the most happy if they stay committed for five years.
  • Most marriage problems are not caused by big-ticket issues, and simple changes can make a big difference.
  • The rate of divorce in the church is not the same as the rate among those who don’t attend worship services.

While there is much to commend about this book, it has a few weaknesses. Feldhahn said early on that, “It is imperative to emphasize that this was an extremely complicated area of study, an inexact science, and a moving target…” This is excusable (but maybe not entirely) because the book is meant to encourage and not be the definitive book on marriage statistics. I thought that admission also weakened the power of statistics  she cited later to prove her points.

One other weakness worth mentioning is something strangely absent in a Christian book about marriage with “good news” in the title–you may have guessed it: the gospel and much mention of how God sustains and empowers marriage. The purpose of her book was not to lay out the biblical truth regarding marriage, but build upon a biblical foundation and explain how statistics give us reason for hope as well. Yet at times, it seemed too focused on statistics in a way that diminishes the supernatural power God provides couples in marriage. That is the real hope married Christians have–not that 73% of people in a similar situation stayed married and were happy, but that God is actively working in your marriage to sanctify you and is one you can lean on for strength. While this book is valuable, it would be more valuable if it were a companion to a book like The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller or When Sinners Say “I Do” by Dave Harvey.

Overall, I enjoyed The Good News About Marriage and would recommend it to anyone looking to hear some statistic-based good news about the state of marriage in the church. I think  pastors, marriage counselors, and lay leaders could find this book very helpful in shaping their thinking about the important topic of marriage.

Book: The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce
Author: Shaunti Feldhahn
Year: 2014
Publisher: Multnomah Publishers
Rating: 3.5 – 4 Stars

Watch an interview with Shaunti Feldhan about this book at the 01:23:00 mark:

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I have been getting into BiblicalTraining.org and their free training courses in Christian foundations, leadership, and ministry. (Personally, I am just starting going through Douglas Moo’s lectures on Romans. See more of their courses on my recent Free Online Seminary Resources post.)

Here is a short post from their blog by Dr. Ronald Nash:

What are the five most important issues of Worldview thinking?

The five most important issues of worldview thinking:

1) The question of God – Is there a God, what is God like?

2) The question of ultimate reality – Which philosophers describe with the technical word metaphysics- how old is the universe? How did the world get here? What is the relationship between the universe and God. And then the question of knowledge. Is knowledge possible?

3) How do we know the truth? – Is truth relative or is truth absolute and unchanging?

4) And then ethics – What are the principles of right and wrong behavior? Are those principles absolute and unchanging?

5) And then the fifth of these would be what do we know about human nature? – What is a man? What is a woman? What is a human being? Are we just bodies and when that body dies does that mean the end of the human being or is there conscious existence after death?

See Dr. Nash’s Essentials of Worldview Analysis for more on these five questions.

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24 Travel Tips that Will Change Your Life Forever found at Distractify

I enjoyed these tips and they should come in handy for my work at Leadership Resources.

15 Beautiful Benefits of the Word of God by Kristen Wetherell

If you’re wondering how to come to the Word today, consider these 15 beautiful benefits of Scripture:

Book Review of How to be a Christian without Going to Church from the Gospel Coalition

Bottom line about the book and the premise of a church-less Christian:

I feel grieved and embarrassed wondering how Christians outside the contemporary West—Christians who walk a dozen miles to meet with their church, or who meet underground for a 10-hour service—would feel about the idea that sitting in an air-conditioned sanctuary for 90 minutes is just too difficult.

5 Things Netflix is Showing Church Leaders about the Future by Carey Nieuwhof

This post shares a few interesting observations about why we like Netflix and applying it to church. This isn’t to say we should change our model for church, but has implications to keep in mind as we seek to minister (specifically through media).

Millennials Need a Bigger God–Not a Hipper Pastor by Drew Dyck

Title says it all.

Weird Al makes grammar teachers everywhere rejoice with “Word Crimes”

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I recently ran across an interesting hashtag on Twitter called #YouMayBeCulturallyCaptive that describes Christians who are more influenced by culture and the world around them than Scripture, what @OnceCaptive (a ministry of Probe Ministries) calls “Culturally Captive.”

Christians are not to be conformed to the world but to have our minds transformed through constant mind renewal in the truth (Romans 12:2). Scripture also says that if you are a friend of the world, you are an enemy of God (James 4:4). That means if we are accurately described as “culturally captive”–we have a desperate need to reexamine our Christian lives in light of the Scriptures.

Before I share great tweets from the hashtag, here’s a quick description of what “once captive” means:

WHAT DOES ONCE CAPTIVE MEAN?

WE WERE ALL ONCE CAPTIVE but [God] rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Col 1:13-14

WE MAY BE LIVING AS CAPTIVES STILL! . . .captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world. Col 2:8

INSTEAD, LET US LIVE IN FREEDOM—BEING BOUND TO CHRIST. . . so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith. Col 2:6-7

16 Signs You May Be a Culturally Captive Christian

What would you add?

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Summary of Christianity and Liberalism in 40 J Gresham Machen Quotes

Not many books can be just as relevant 90 years later as they were the day they were written. Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen is just that. Originally published in 1923, Machen combats liberal theology that crept into the once conservative Princeton Seminary with surgeon-like precision. His main thesis being that liberal Christianity is diametrically opposed to true, biblical Christianity.

In Christianity and Liberalism, Machen, who co-founded Westminster Theological Seminary, dissects liberal views of doctrine, God and man, the Bible, Christ, salvation, and the church, destroying liberal thought with Scripture and logic while calling all men to true faith in the Savior and biblical faithfulness.

On a personal note, I was floored by this book and gripped as it shattered to pieces many lines of thinking I have heard from liberals or those leaning liberal. I heartily endorse Christianity and Liberalism for pastors and all Christians interested in theology and apologetics–especially those who want to know the differences between the type of Christianity in most evangelical churches compared with many mainline denominations who have strayed from biblical Christianity. There aren’t many books that are “must reads”for pastors–this is clearly one.

I have gathered a smattering of quotes that sum up many of Machen’s main point and thesis which provide somewhat of a summary of this classic and important work.

Resource: Free Kindle Book of Christianity and Liberalism
Bonus Resource: 250+ Free Seminary Resources (Courses, Classes, Book Recommendations, and more)

A 40-Quote Summary of Christianity and Liberalism

The type of religion which rejoices in the pious sound of traditional phrases, regardless of their meanings, or shrinks from “controversial” matters, will never stand amid the shocks of life. In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.

The chief modern rival of Christianity is “liberalism.” An examination of the teachings of liberalism in comparison with those of Christianity will show that at every point the two movements are in direct opposition.

The many varieties of modern liberal religion are rooted in naturalism–that is, in the denial of any entrance of the creative power of God (as distinguished from the ordinary course of nature) in connection with the origin of Christianity.

Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity–liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man’s will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God.

It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men.

What is the relation between Christianity and modern culture; may Christianity be maintained in a scientific age? It is this problem which modern liberalism attempts to solve.

The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion; but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all.

If the liberal party, therefore, really obtains control of the Church, evangelical Christians must be prepared to withdraw no matter what it costs. Our Lord has died for us, and surely we must not deny Him for favor of men.

As a matter of fact, however, it may appear that the figure which has just been used is altogether misleading; it may appear that what the liberal theologian has retained after abandoning to the enemy one Christian doctrine after another is not Christianity at all, but a religion which is so entirely different from Christianity as to belong in a distinct category.

We shall concern ourselves here chiefly with the former line of criticism; we shall be interested in showing that despite the liberal use of traditional phraseology modern liberalism not only is a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions.

The movement designated as “liberalism” is regarded as “liberal” only by its friends; to its opponents it seems to involve a narrow ignoring of many relevant facts.

There are doctrines of modern liberalism, just as tenaciously and intolerantly upheld as any doctrines that find a place in the historic creeds.

If all creeds are equally true, then since they are contradictory to one another, they are all equally false, or at least equally uncertain.

According to the Christian conception, a creed is not a mere expression of Christian experience, but on the contrary it is a setting forth of those facts upon which experience is based.

Vastly more important than all questions with regard to methods of preaching is the root question as to what it is that shall be preached.

The greatest menace to the Christian Church to-day comes not from the enemies outside, but from the enemies within; it comes from the presence within the Church of a type of faith and practice that is anti-Christian to the core.

But if any one fact is clear, on the basis of this evidence, it is that the Christian movement at its inception was not just a way of life in the modern sense, but a way of life founded upon a message. It was based, not upon mere feeling, not upon a mere program of work, but upon an account of facts. In other words it was based upon doctrine.

Faith is essentially dogmatic. Despite all you can do, you cannot remove the element of intellectual assent from it.

Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith.

“Christ died”–that is history; “Christ died for our sins”–that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity.

The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine.

After listening to modern tirades against the great creeds of the Church, one receives rather a shock when one turns to the Westminster Confession, for example, or to that tenderest and most theological of books, the “Pilgrim’s Progress” of John Bunyan, and discovers that in doing so one has turned from shallow modern phrases to a “dead orthodoxy” that is pulsating with life in every word. In such orthodoxy there is life enough to set the whole world aglow with Christian love.

The great weapon with which the disciples of Jesus set out to conquer the world was not a mere comprehension of eternal principles; it was an historical message, an account of something that had recently happened, it was the message, “He is risen.”

The dominant tendency, even in a country like America, which formerly prided itself on its freedom from bureaucratic regulation of the details of life, is toward a drab utilitarianism in which all higher aspirations are to be lost.

The liberal doctrine of God and the liberal doctrine of man are both diametrically opposite to the Christian view.

Modern preachers are trying to bring men into the Church without requiring them to relinquish their pride; they are trying to help men avoid the conviction of sin.

Laymen, as well as ministers, should return, in these trying days, with new earnestness, to the study of the Word of God.

So modern liberalism, placing Jesus alongside other benefactors of mankind, is perfectly inoffensive in the modern world. All men speak well of it. It is entirely inoffensive. But it is also entirely futile.

What was it that within a few days transformed a band of mourners into the spiritual conquerors of the world? It was not the memory of Jesus’ life; it was not the inspiration which came from past contact with Him. But it was the message, “He is risen.”

The Sermon on the Mount, like all the rest of the New Testament, really leads a man straight to the foot of the Cross.

According to Christian belief, Jesus is our Saviour, not by virtue of what He said, not even by virtue of what He was, but by what He did. He is our Saviour, not because He has inspired us to live the same kind of life that He lived, but because He took upon Himself the dreadful guilt of our sins and bore it instead of us on the cross. Such is the Christian conception of the Cross of Christ.

When Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” he was speaking not as a philosopher calling pupils to his school; but as One who was in possession of rich stores of divine grace.

According to modern liberalism, faith is essentially the same as “making Christ Master” in one’s life; at least it is by making Christ Master in the life that the welfare of men is sought. But that simply means that salvation is thought to be obtained by our own obedience to the commands of Christ. Such teaching is just a sublimated form of legalism. Not the sacrifice of Christ, on this view, but our own obedience to God’s law, is the ground of hope.

If Christ provides only a part of our salvation, leaving us to provide the rest, then we are still hopeless under the load of sin.

God send us ministers who, instead of merely avoiding denial of the Cross shall be on fire with the Cross, whose whole life shall be one burning sacrifice of gratitude to the blessed Saviour who loved them and gave Himself for them!

It is not the Bible doctrine of the atonement which is difficult to understand—what are really incomprehensible are the elaborate modern efforts to get rid of the Bible doctrine in the interests of human pride.

Faith is the exact opposite of works; faith does not give, it receives.

But if Christian faith is based upon truth, then it is not the faith which saves the Christian but the object of the faith. And the object of the faith is Christ. Faith, then, according to the Christian view, means simply receiving a gift. To have faith in Christ means to cease trying to win God’s favor by one’s own character; the man who believes in Christ simply accepts the sacrifice which Christ offered on Calvary. The result of such faith is a new life and all good works; but the salvation itself is an absolutely free gift of God.

The grace of God is rejected by modern liberalism. And the result is slavery—the slavery of the law, the wretched bondage by which man undertakes the impossible task of establishing his own righteousness as a ground of acceptance with God. It may seem strange at first sight that “liberalism,” of which the very name means freedom, should in reality be wretched slavery. But the phenomenon is not really so strange. Emancipation from the blessed will of God always involves bondage to some worse taskmaster.

The Church is the highest Christian answer to the social needs of man.