More Thoughts on #Ferguson

G. K. Chesterton defined bigotry as “an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition” and wrote that “It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.”

It is not wrong to think that Officer Wilson was justified in killing Michael Brown or that those who looted and rioted were committing criminal acts. I definitely agree with the latter and have no trouble believing the former.

It is wrong, however, to assume the right to tell others how they should think and feel without any attempt to understand how they actually think and feel.

It is wrong to tell the African-American community that they should not mourn the loss of another young black male because he was just a thug, brought his death upon himself, and the real problem is black-on-black violence, especially when you make no effort to express sympathy or empathy–to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

It is wrong to assume that your experience as a middle-class white suburbanite is valid and somehow gives you the insight and ability to immediately assess every situation while telling African-Americans that their experience is not valid.

It is wrong to assume the moral high ground–on either side of the issue–without having any dialogue with someone on the other side. (Chesterton also said that “Thinking in isolation and with pride ends in being an idiot.”)

It is wrong to shout down people who disagree with you and bully them into taking down their posts.

It is wrong to assume that if they take a position different than yours that they are promoting looting, rioting, and violence against police (seriously, is anyone actually advocating those things?) or that they must be a racist.

It is wrong to think your own race is the only one that views issues of race objectively or correctly.

It is wrong to attack the image of God in another human being–in word, thought, or deed–just because they believe, act, or look differently than you.

We don’t all have to agree on everything, but let’s treat each other with a little compassion (and, for Christians, with gospel grace), and let’s remember that the onus is on each of us–no matter what stance we take on issues like these–to work for the good.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:18, 21)

‪#‎Ferguson‬

Thoughts on #Ferguson

My heart breaks for ‪#‎Ferguson‬ and for America this morning.

My heart breaks over the fact that the the death of an unarmed teenager at the hands of a police officer is accepted as standard operating procedure.

My heart breaks for all the police officers whose lives are endangered and jobs made more difficult by the suspicion and lack of respect that situations like this breed in the community.

My heart breaks for the African-American community whose cries for justice are drowned out by the sounds of looting, vandalism, and rioting by some of their own number.

My heart breaks that so many others could not muster up any sorrow or sympathy when an 18-year-old was lying dead in the street, but are now suddenly filled with righteous indignation over burned cars and businesses.

My heart breaks that after centuries of slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow laws, there are still people voicing the opinion that looting and vandalism is proof that African-Americans deserve to be shot dead by police (and yes, that sentiment has been voiced by some of my Facebook friends).

My heart breaks that we Christians, who claim to worship the Prince of Peace, the One who tears down dividing walls and who loves justice, are often the ones perpetuating and promoting a divide between the races, and that we so often do not even realize we’re doing it.

My heart breaks that I am often content to ignore injustice and go about my life.

My heart breaks that even with the destructive effects of sin on full display, we are so hesitant to preach the gospel, which alone has the power to root out systemic injustice and heal racial tensions.

“Therefore justice is far from us,
And righteousness does not overtake us;
We hope for light, but behold, darkness,
For brightness, but we walk in gloom. …
All of us growl like bears,
And moan sadly like doves;
We hope for justice, but there is none,
For salvation, but it is far from us. …
Justice is turned back,
And righteousness stands far away;
For truth has stumbled in the street,
And uprightness cannot enter.
Yes, truth is lacking;
And he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey.

Now the LORD saw,
And it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice.
And He saw that there was no man,
And was astonished that there was no one to intercede;
Then His own arm brought salvation to Him,
And His righteousness upheld Him.”

(Isaiah 59:9, 11, 14-16)

Books Every Christian Should Read: Chesterton’s Orthodoxy

This is the first in a (hopefully regular) series on books that every Christian should try to read. I’m starting with this one because it is my favorite and by far the one that has had the greatest impact on my life. My goal is to highlight books that you won’t find on the bestsellers list in your local bookstore or the ‘new and popular’ page on Amazon, precisely because they are not new. But just because they are not new, doesn’t mean they aren’t helpful. As C.S. Lewis pointed out in The Screwtape Letters, “the characteristic errors of one [generation] may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another.”

page11-400px-Chesterton_-_Orthodoxy,_1909.djvuGeneral Facts:

Title: Orthodoxy
Author: G.K. Chesterton
First Published: 1908
One-Sentence Synopsis: Chesterton presents an apologetic for orthodox Christianity (as found in the Apostles Creed) by recounting his own journey from agnosticism to faith.

Benefits

Many Christians can probably point to a particular book, sermon, or experience as the moment (post-conversion) when their faith finally ‘clicked’ for them, when the world started to make sense. It’s like someone with impaired vision putting glasses on for the first time or a mostly deaf person being fitted with hearing aids. You might not even have known there was a deficiency, but in hindsight, you can’t even believe how you ever lived that way. From casual conversations I’ve had, it appears that most Evangelicals who had that experience reading a book point to C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. For me, it was Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. Continue reading Books Every Christian Should Read: Chesterton’s Orthodoxy

My Family’s Baseball Legacy

Some of my favorite memories from my early childhood are of going to watch my dad play for the I.B.E.W. Local Union 164 softball team. In addition to going to games throughout the NY/NJ area, I travelled with him to tournaments in Chicago and Indianapolis. He was a pretty good pitcher and played the game hard. I remember him coming home with bloody, broken fingernails, bruises, and even the imprint of the softball’s stitches in his skin.

Brooklyn Dodgers LogoApparently, his skill and love for the game was hereditary. His father was good enough that  he was drafted by the Dodgers in the 1940s, when they still played in Brooklyn. Players made so little back then, however, that his dad encouraged him to get a “real” job instead so he became a union electrician instead, and thus missed an opportunity to possibly play with the likes of Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider.

But the baseball genes go even further back. A few months ago while looking up my family on Ancestry.com, I found the following listings (among others) for my great-great-grandfather in the city directories for Pottsville, PA and Jersey City, NJ in the 1880s & 1890s: Continue reading My Family’s Baseball Legacy

Books I’ve Read (2013)

Previous years: 2012 | 2011

Apologetics

  • The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton – Liked – A classic Christian apologetic that interacts with objections posed by evolution and modernism, and the book C. S. Lewis credited with moving him toward faith. Chesterton is never stronger than when he is defending Christianity in general, but he is never weaker than when he is defending Catholicism in particular.

Biographies/Memoirs

  • Roger Williams by Edwin S. Gaustad – Liked – Short, concise, scholarly biography focusing on Williams’ crusade for religious liberty. A good introduction both to Williams and his most important literary contributions. While Gaustad does not focus on Williams’ religious beliefs as much as some others do, he nevertheless does a decent job of integrating the religious aspects of Williams’ calls for liberty.
  • The Challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution, and the Bible by James P. Byrd, Jr. – Loved – Excellent look at how Roger Williams’ exegesis of Scripture influenced his view of religious liberty. In addition to a chapter each on how Williams interpreted the Old Testament, the parable of the wheat and the tares, the Pauline epistles, and Revelation, the book provides a short biography, a brief review of modern historiography of Williams, and a summary of Williams’ impact on American history and thought. A great book for anyone interested in history, politics, or hermeneutics.
  • Roger Williams: The Church and the State by Edmund S. Morgan – Liked – Less a biography than an introduction to Williams’ thought in light of his historical context. Morgan seemed to have less of a grasp of biblical and theological topics than Gaustad or Byrd (see above), but this book was an very good, and fast-moving, introduction to Williams and his ideas of how government and the church relate.

History

  • The Reformers and their Stepchildren by Leonard Verduin – Liked – An excellent look at the Protestant Reformation from the perspective of the Anabaptists. Each chapter looks at a different aspect of “heresy” that was incorrectly applied to the Anabaptists by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and their followers (as well as those in the English Reformation). The only downside is that in defending the Anabaptists and their descendants, Verduin at times glorifies heretical groups that preceded them in order to make his point that the Anabaptists were in fact orthodox.
  • America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln by Mark A. Noll – Loved – A fantastic history of American religious thought in the 18th and 19th centuries that provides much needed context for how the various Christian denominations, traditions, and hermeneutics developed.

Church/Ministry

  • How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart – Liked – This book left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it makes biblical interpretation accessible to people who otherwise might be intimidated by the prospect. On the other hand, there are significant issues where Fee and Stuart do not fairly represent opposing viewpoints (or even mention that there are legitimate opposing views). They set out to write a book that bridge the gap between scholar and layman, but it’s difficult to recommend the book for either because the layman might be swayed by arguments that have been misleadingly portrayed as being obvious, while there are more advanced texts that go into greater detail than this one that would be more appropriate for the scholar.
  • Two Views on Women in Ministry by James R. Beck (editor) – Liked – An examination of the role of women in ministry. The four contributors are divided equally between the egalitarian and complementarian positions, but even those who generally agree disagree on specifics. This book is a good way to see how the two sides interpret various passages of Scripture and apply them to the contemporary church.
  • Addictions–A Banquet in the Grave: Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel by Edward T. Welch – Liked – A good resource for anyone who loves or ministers to someone caught in addiction. While not completely dismissive of programs like AA, Welch consistently points the addict, as well as those whose lives the addiction impacts, back to the gospel as the only path through which true freedom can be found. The book focuses mainly on drug and alcohol addiction, but the principles are applied to pornography and other addictions as well.

Christian Living/Theology

  • Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by Christopher J.H. Wright – Liked – The book isn’t so much about finding Jesus in the Old Testament as it is a look at how Jesus read and interpreted the Old Testament and how his ministry related to the Old Testament Scriptures. Regardless, it is an interesting and informative book about the interconnectedness of God’s mission and message throughout the Old and New Testaments. You can read my full review here.
  • I Am Not But I Know I Am: Welcome to the Story of God by Louie Giglio – Liked – A good book for seekers and new believers, and a good reminder for season believers that it’s all about God and not about us. I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. You can read my full review here.
  • Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will to Discern by John F. MacArthur, Jr. – Loved – A fantastic look at the disturbing trend within the church to trust in external authority structures (church hierarchy, tradition, etc.) and personal experience rather than God’s word. For a book that is almost 20 years old and out of print, it is remarkably pertinent to today’s church.
  • Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament by Peter Enns – Didn’t Like – Enns emphasizes the human side of Scripture, and in so doing calls the doctrine of inerrancy into question. While there are indeed some aspects to the book that could be corrective to the extremes of Evangelical interpretations of the Bible, overall it is not worth reading–especially since it is targeted toward laymen who do not know the legitimate alternative views.
  • Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God by Gordon D. Fee – Liked – Overall a good book that corrects the Evangelical tendency to overlook the Holy Spirit. Fee is charismatic, and this is evident in the last chapter or too, but the rest of the book makes up for whatever disagreement non-charismatics might have with that portion.
  • Christian Theology by Millard Erickson – Loved – An extremely thorough and accessible systematic theology written from a Baptist perspective.

Politics

  • Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture by Wayne Grudem – Liked – Great book for what it is: a broad, general introduction to political issues, especially as they relate to early-21st-century America, written with a popular audience in mind. Someone who has not given thought to a biblical view of politics or who does not follow politics will find it extremely well-thought out, informative, and practical. However, someone used to reading political treatises will probably find it elementary and somewhat limited by its 21st-century American context.

Philosophy

  • On Religious Liberty: Selections from the Works of Roger Williams by Roger Williams, James Calvin Davis (ed.) – Liked – Davis does a good job or providing a representative sampling of Williams’ writings, particularly those that touch on religious liberty, while also smoothing out Williams’ characteristic idiosyncrasies in spelling, grammar, and syntax.

Science

  • Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality by Manjit Kumar – Liked – When I start a book, I usually plow right through it and finish it quickly. This is one of the few that I put down several times, only to pick it back up several months later. The history, philosophy, and personal stories of and relationships between the scientists were fascinating, but the mathematical and scientific equations were tough to get through for a lay-person more than a decade removed from a physics or high-level math class. Overall, a good book that provides a very thorough introduction to a complex subject and its philosophical roots and implications.

When You Feel Like Giving Up

my sermon from this past Sunday:

When You Feel Like Giving Up
1 Kings 19

I. Elijah’s Problem
A. Focus on the Temporal
B. Forgetfulness
C. Fear
D. Flight

II. God’s Solution
A. Resources
B. Revelation
C. Relationships
D. Recommission

When You Feel Like Giving Up:
1. Trust God to provide.
2. Seek God in His Word.
3. Avoid isolating yourself.
4. Get/stay involved in ministry.

The Civil War Record of Sam Caton

Yesterday, I found my great-great-great-grandfather (Andrew Mason “Sam” Caton) in the 1907 Alabama Census of Confederate Soldiers. While I had previously found evidence of a 1st cousin 6x removed that was killed at the Battle of Murfreesboro and a great-great-great-grand uncle who died at the Battle of Chickamauga (both while fighting for the Confederacy), this was the first time I’d found a direct ancestor who served in the military during the Civil War. Continue reading The Civil War Record of Sam Caton

A Profile in Strength & Courage

A few weeks ago, my mom wrote on Facebook,

Thinking of my grandmother lately and realizing that she set some pretty good examples for me when I was young. I find myself … praying that I can live with the dignity and strength that she exemplified.

My great-grandmother died 4 years before I was born so I had no personal knowledge of the dignity and strength that my mom remembers, but my time researching my family’s history had enlightened me to a certain extent. Then earlier this week, I met up with some of my mom’s cousins from her father’s side of the family, who had also started researching that branch of the family tree. As we shared our (mostly their) information, stories, and findings, I thought back to what my mom had posted and realized again how strong of a woman my great-grandmother must have been.

A picture of my great-grandparents and 5 of their 9 children taken c. 1921.

Continue reading A Profile in Strength & Courage

To the Class of 2012

I wrote the following for the senior class at Trinity Christian School as part of a special issue of the student newspaper that was dedicated to them:

—–

Beloved Class of 2012,

I am so thankful that God gave me the opportunity to play a role in your lives and development (1 Thess. 2:8). As you head off to college, allow me to impart some final wisdom. Continue reading To the Class of 2012