Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reccomended Podcasts

Many of us like to listen to edifying intellectual content when working out, driving, etc. Here are a couple of reccomends.

First is Al Mohler's daily radio broadcast, The Briefing. For thirteen to fifteen minutes Dr. Mohler sums up the news each morning from a Christian perspective. In addition, about weekly Mohler interviews an author on an important subject. Titled Thinking In Public Mohler's interviews are both helpful, instructive, and keep one in contact with the broader intellectual currents of modern culture. Both arer free downloads at itunes, or can be accessed at http://www.albertmohler.com/

I am also enjoying two other podcasts. NPR supplies both. I am generally going in a different direction from National Public Radio, but I find these two podcasts helpful. The first is Planet Money  a weekly 20 minute program on economics. The other is This American Life. Like the Mohler podcast they are free through iTunes.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Basis for Grace

The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything
In his book, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, Fred Sanders suggests that the Trinity is the basis for grace. Grace is unmerited favor. In the words of A.W. Pink, grace is "favor shown where there is positive demerit in the one receiving it.” The things that makes God's grace so amazing is that he gave it when he had absolutely no need. Nothing outside of him compelled him. The Trinity is the reason we can make this statement.

God did not create and redeem us because he needed friendship. He had the other members of the Trinity to relate to from all eternity. His social needs were filled to the brim. He did not create us because there was any lack in his happiness or joy. The other members of the Trinity brought infinite delight to each other. God was completely happy and satisified. So why did God create? He does all things for his glory. He acts to share his happiness (his glory) with his creatures. He creates to see his glorified exercised so that he can further delight in it. The one thing he did not do was act from need.

Because of the reality of the Trinity “God did not have to save us," Sanders observes. "There was no external necessity imposed on him, nor did he have any internal need. The perfect blessedness of God would not have been compromised by the final failure of humanity. God did not save us to rescue himself from sadness over our plight. He saved us freely, out of an astonishing abundance of generosity…God created freely and also redeemed freely” (Pg 65).

This is impossible for us to understand. We are creatures. Need motivates everything we do. We are God's opposite. We are infinitely incomplete and needy. God created our need to be met by himself. Even our love for God is tainted by our need for God. But God loves without need. He gives himself without reference to any personal gain. 

Contemplate this in light of the cross, an act of love, suffering, and deprivation for the good of others without paralell. On thing is clear. God is not like us. He is holy, and his holiness expresses itself most perfectly in his love for uworthy sinners, i.e. through the grace that is unmerited favor and that rests on a Trinitarian foundation.

New Green Lantern Movie

Director Martin Campbell’s film adaptation of DC Comics’ “Green Lantern” starring Ryan Reynolds (The Proposal), Blake Lively (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and Peter Sarsgaard (An Education) is a fun twist on the age old reluctant superhero story.

Years before Earth’s existence a group of aliens called the Guardians of the Universe formed the Green Lantern Corps to act as an intergalactic police force. The heart of the Green Lantern’s powers were harnessed from the green essence of the Emotional Spectrum of Willpower. The Guardians believed the greatest weapon is one’s will and so taught the members of the Corps to harness their will and use it to fight evil. The greatest member of the Corps was Abin Sur whose fearless pursuit of Paralax, the ultimate being of fear, left the villain in prison and the universe safe from Paralax’s terror. However, when Paralax escapes from prison Abin Sur is fatally wounded leaving him little time to find his replacement.

Hal Jordan (Reynolds) is the irresponsible, womanizing ego maniac one has learned to expect from a reluctant superhero. After losing his job as an Air Force test pilot Hal is unexpectedly chosen by Abin Sur’s ring to be the newest member of the Green Lantern Corps. After learning the nature of his responsibilities Hal is forced to choose between the Corps and an empty life of selfish pursuits. Hal has little time to contemplate his life’s direction before he is thrust into action by Dr. Hector Hammond (Sarsgaard) who has been infected with Paralax’s spirit of fear. When the life of hundreds of partygoers, including Hal’s on again/off again girlfriend Carol Ferris (Lively) are threatened, he springs into action saving the lives of many and ultimately having the decision of becoming the newest inductee into the Green Lantern Corps made for him.

I enjoyed this movie but am aware that it is not for everyone. If you enjoy cheesy otherworldly superhero charged films then you will enjoy “Green Lantern”. I am grateful for the writer’s understanding that not all the viewers are Comic enthusiasts and so the historical background is detailed and much appreciated. Sexual content is limited to Hal waking up with an unidentified girl and foul language is slim to none. While the theme of good concurring evil is redemptive Hal’s solution to finding the good is to look inside himself and see what everyone else has seen all along. This is a politically correct, self esteem charged film, but enjoyable all the same...Stephanie Spurgetis

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Story of Faith and Love

Tortured for Christ
Just finished Richard Wurmbrand's 1969 classic, Tortured for Christ. It is a tale of amazing faith and love.

Born in 1909 to Jewish parents, Wurmbrand grew up in Rumania. He was an atheist in his teens. After conversion in his young adult years he became a pastor to the church in Rumania. At age 35 (1944) the Russian Army invaded. For four years Wurmbrand enjoyed great success evangelizing atheist Russian soldiers. In 1948 the Communist regime imprisoned him for eight years. Three years were spent in solitary confinement in a lightless cell 12 feet underground. The tortures were extreme. It is hard to understand how Wurmbrand survived this abuse.

Nevertheless. He was freed in 1956 and immediately returned to aggressive evangelism in the Underground Church. He was imprisoned a second time. Eventually, when Western churches offered to buy Wurmbrand's  freedom, his Rumanian brothers urged him to go and tell those in the West what was happening. Wurmbrand made it to freedom and eventually testified before the U.S. Senate.

He founded "Voice of the Martyrs." In addition he wrote several books about his experiences. His testimony was not just about himself, but about the thousands of Christians imprisoned and tortured like himself. Wurmbrand died in 2001.

I was encouraged by Wurmbrand's accounts of supernatural grace. How could I endure the kind of torture and depravations Wurmbrand and his brothers faced? God would enable me as he did Wurmbrand. God gave them supernatural love for their torturers. “A flower if you bruise it under your feet," notes the author, "rewards you by giving you its perfume. Likewise Christians, tortured by the communists, rewarded their torturers by love. We brought many of our jailors to Christ. And we are dominated by one desire: to give communists who have made us suffer the best we have, the salvation which comes from our Lord Jesus Christ.” (pg 66). “In our darkest hours of torture the Son of man came to us, making the prison walls shine like diamonds and filling the cells with light. Somewhere far away, were the torturers below us in the sphere of the body. But the spirit rejoiced in the Lord. We would not have given up this joy for that of kingly palaces.” (pg 73). 

God also gave them supernatural grace to endure the pain.
This is a book worth reading. It is reality therapy to those pampered by Western freedoms. It will make you grateful and thankful.  It will fill you with hope!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: “Thor: The God of Thunder”

Thor Poster Movie B (11 x 17 Inches - 28cm x 44cm) Natalie Portman Chris Hemsworth Samuel L. Jackson Anthony Hopkins Stellan Skarsg rd
When reading the credits of “Thor” I was astounded to find Kenneth Branagh as the director. Written by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne, this PG-13 retelling of the mythological story of the god of Thunder moves us away from Branagh’s typical link to Shakespeare and directly into the heart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his younger brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), are the Princes of Asgard learning how to be effective rulers from their father, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Many years later, when Thor is to be crowned king, his coronation ceremony is interrupted by a breech in Asgard’s security causing the arrogant warrior to take matters into his own hands. In a reckless fit of rage Thor ignites a centuries old war with the Frost Giants of Jotunheim ultimately resulting in his exile from Asgard to Earth.

While on Earth, Thor loses access to his hammer, the source of his unmatchable strength, and is lowered from god to mere human standards. It is here he meets scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who not only thinks he is an egotistical brut but belongs in a mental hospital. Eventually, however, Thor is able to convince her he is worth trusting and she ultimately comes to his rescue with perfect timing. Through Jane’s example Thor learns to put others before himself resulting in a series of events benefiting Asgard as opposed to his earlier actions which only brought harm.

I recommend this movie for teens on up. I enjoyed watching the larger then life characters on the big screen, but feel the effect will be just as pertinent from the comfort of your own home. The message of the importance of humility, especially in those in high profile positions, is impossible to miss as is the display of laying down your life to serve others even when they are wrong. Hint: be sure you watch all the way to the bitter end, even ALL the credits. Staying true to their reputation, you will not want to miss Marvel’s tantalizing hint into the next installment of their comic empire...Stephanie Spurgetis

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Where Have The Men Gone?

Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys
A pastor friend recently described a large evangelical church in downtown London with over 1,000 single males between the age of 20 and 35. Although they work responsibly, their relationship with the opposite sex is ambivalent at best. Few are seeking mates. The same phenomenon repeats itself regularly in many North American churches. This is a dramatic change from expectations as recently as 25 years ago.

Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, by Kay Hymowitz describes and chronicles this modern phenomenon in secular society. For anyone desiring to understand sex, marriage, and dating patterns in North America I strongly reccomend. The author carefully chronicles the rise of what she calls the "child-man," i.e. men between the age of 20 and 35 locked in cycles of perpetual adolescence. Hymowitz is not only a good sociologist, but she also writes well, a rare combination.

Why the child-man? Why are young single men giving themselves to potty humor, video games, beer drinking, hooking up, and disrespect for the fairer sex? What happened to marriage and the pursuit of adult male responsibility?

In the seventies George Gilder (See Men and Marriage) accurately predicted that to the degree women, motivated by the feminist movement, usurped the traditional male roles in marriage (i.e. leadership, protection, and provision) that men would abandon those institutions and turn to worthless, or worse, aggresively harmful, pursuits. Although Hymowitz doesn't reference Gilder, her book records the fulfilment of his prophecy .

As Gilder predicted, men are abandoning marriage. In the seventies the median young adult male was married by age 22. Today the median is 28 and rising. This means half of men marry after age 28. And, the more education a person has the later the marriage. A college degree bumps it to age 30, and a post graduate degree even later. This is a problem because women are most fertile in their mid twenties. By age 35, when many today are beginning their familes, the biological clock is ticking down. By age 40 one in five women are infertile. This means that the fertility rate of those deferring marriage is also dropping rapidly. In this demographic it is currently 1.7 children per female. The fertility rate must be 2.2 to maintain a level population. This means those without college are reproducing, but those with higher IQs are not. This does not bode well for the long term health of our culture. In addition, it is a grave threat to our entitlement programs like social security, medi-care, etc.

The solution? Manning Up. Hymowitz suggests that early marriage civilizes men and channels their energies into productive applications. She is right. This is the solution, but cultural expectations of delayed marriage are so deeply rooted in the millenial generation that nothing short of the gospel will solve this problem.

As Christians we cannot change culture, but we can ensure that the church maintains it prophetic posture. We are the people who cherish male and female, with their God-stamped distinctives, as a reflection of the glory of God. We cherish sexual purity. We love marriage, and we see children as God's glorious blessing. However, many join our congregations "stained" by the worldly values recoded by Hymowitz. It is our job to help them. It is our duty to encourage marriage, fidelity, fertility, and chastity. God help us to be the counter culture that pleases him.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Wages of Sin

Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying
Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying by Regnerus and Uecker was an eye-opening read. Regnerus, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas, and Uecker, from the University of North Caroliana, have teamed up to give the reader an inside look at how America's emerging adults relate to the opposite sex.

The effects of the 1960s sexual revolution have been immense. In the sixties and seventies sex outside of marriage existed. This is nothing new. But everyone knew it was wrong. Skip forward fifty years and our cultural moral compass has turned upside down. "The majority of young adults in America," writes the authors, "not only think they should explore different relationships [sexually], they believe it may be foolish and wrong not to" (pg 171). The authors prove that 96% of 18-23 year olds in a romantic relationship are currently engaging in regular sexual intercourse. Tragically, the frequency of sex is higher and the age at first sex are actually lower amongst professing evangelicals.

Although sexual liberation and feminism seek to free women, in the sexual arena, these movements have only furthered the enslavement of females and enhanced the liberty of men. "Sexual economics" are predicated on a transaction. The female give sex and the male gives commitment, love, and security. When there are more available women than men, (the situation in our universities), the odds are tipped even more in the man's favor. He gets sex at an even further discounted cost. In general ladies are the net losers.

Regnerus and Uecker chronicle the changing attitudes toward love and realtionships, the increasing desire to delay marriage, and the ensuing falling fertility rates which threaten western culture. All of these are tied to and affected by the sexual attitudes of our culture.

These details and others are the subject of this book. I expect it to make a significant contribution to this field of study. Anyone interested in the long term effects of feminism, or the sexual liberation movement will be helped by the material in this book.