John Owen’s Proposal

I scarcely understand this letter you have sent to me. Indeed, I scarcely understand half the things you say, be they ever so exalted.Mary Rooke (not really)

Just in case you need to start your weekend with a decent chuckle. No, it’s not real, but it’s absolutely spot-on.

Christian Coloring Books

The value of a hobby comes in the rest and relaxation it affords, in the satisfaction, contentment, or creativity of a pleasurable activity that relieves the cares and burdens of life. No one has ever tried to make skeet shooting a meditative practice or to make canasta a new form of spirituality. It’s better that way.
Tim Challies

There’s a push in some segments of the church to make everything in life a “sacred” activity. This usually seems to spring from something like the sentiment about reading (usually attributed to Moody, I believe) which says “I will not read any book which does not help me read my Bible.” In our attempts to justify our hobbies and recreations, we try to convince ourselves that they really serve some redemptive purpose. It is more than adequate that their purpose in our lives is to permit us some relaxation and joy in the good earth God has made. When we blur these lines, it actually ends up spoiling both our hobbies and our spiritual life, since we can honestly enjoy neither.

So color all you want – just don’t pretend that it’s something more than a hobby.

Use Words!!!

“I’m just gonna preach the gospel and use words if I have to.” I hate that statement. Whoo do I hate that statement.John Piper

This is just a short clip, but wow, how often do you hear the sentiment that “real” gospel work consists in simply living well, rather than speaking with words the truth of Christ. Let us stop being cowards who hide behind the moral commands of scripture to excuse our unwillingness to simply speak truth plainly to those around us who need to hear that truth. It really is that simple – just speak.

The Death of Culture

I have sometimes been accused of wishing that the culture roundabout me were truly Catholic, or truly Christian, or truly something or other, but my principal objection to it is that it is no longer, properly speaking, a culture at all. The deep roots have been severed. There is no agriculture in a dust bowl of tumbleweeds, and no human culture among people who derive their mental landscape from the ephemeral and quasi-lingual utterances of the mass media and, God help us, from the new and improved inanities of mass education.Anthony Esolen

While Esolen is a Catholic, I think the malaise that he diagnoses is entirely accurate and, in a sense, it is a desolation more familiar to evangelicals than Catholics. Evangelicals are, by our history and culture, more a movement of the common people than Catholicism. While Catholics can run to the Vatican for authoritative pronouncements, or turn to the various councils and rulings of the church to rebut the tide of inanity, we properly reject those anchors. Cut loose from the false moorings of the Catholic church, where then do we turn for meaning?

I have a great respect for the biblicist leanings of the BPC. Concerning authoritative pronouncements of truth and doctrine, we should have a rigorous and thoroughgoing emphasis on the priority of the Bible. This attitude, however, has produced unfortunate collateral damage in that we tend to dismiss the value of the creation of culture. This is the other side of the “I will not read any book which does not help me read my Bible” coin – it tends to make us not only dismiss trivial endeavors as improper, but also to dismiss the value of genuinely meaningful cultural endeavors which don’t directly and explicitly discuss the Bible. Biblical truth is and must be our foundation, but we are deranged architects if we are not willing to build a beautiful house on such a solid foundation.

Esolen bemoans the complete absence of poetry in our lives at multiple points in his article. I am someone who deeply loved poetry while I was in college, and consumed it not only for academic purposes, but for personal enjoyment as well. I don’t do that anymore. I have realized that I don’t have a category anymore for consuming literature because it is beautiful. I consume literature because it is useful for my development, necessary to address a crisis or problem, or genuinely interesting in developing certain ideas, but I neither consume literature because it is beautiful nor do I ever enter into any reading of literature with the expectation of awe. Sadly, if these are our reading habits in life broadly, they will become our reading habits when we consider the Bible as well.

A Young Pope?

These young people make up a generation of orphans, and not just because so many of their parents divorced and remarried. The baby boomers defined themselves by revolution, and even after that revolution failed, they refused to take on the stern trappings of authority. Rather than forbid and command, they sought to be understanding and therapeutic. They refused to take on the hard roles of father and mother, and so they made their children into orphans.Matthew Schmitz

I recommend this article not so much to commend its message as to point out the cultural trend which it acknowledges. On a broad level, I agree with the message that the church has been entirely too “accommodating” to the culture, rather than presenting a compelling counter-culture. The antidote the author recommends, a return to traditional liturgy and vestments, is ultimately a superficial one. Yes, the donning of clerical vestments and elevation of pomp and ceremony of the church may give it a sense of gravity, but it if is only a “sense,” the substance shall not follow.

The antidote I would like to proffer is different – do not be afraid to be strange. “Strange” has an unexpected currency in our world today, when we live in a culture which has largely defined itself by protesting against the status quo. If young people are looking for a cause, for an overriding mission, why should we not then give them one which is visibly and substantially different than everything they’ve grown up rejecting? The challenge in this is that we have to do the hard work of making clear the substance of our truth. Pithy evangelistic methods might lower the barrier to entry, but such superficial methods usually garner their appeal by minimizing the weight of the commitment required. We should not be so concerned with making the way seem easy, but making its difficulty plain and value clear.

Jason Waeber

Jason Waeber is an elder at Grace Bible Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, OH, where he worships with his wife and three children. He is also a seminary student, under care with the Great Lakes Presbytery. As GBPC is looking forward to planting a church with him in the next few years, he felt called to develop the online presence of the denomination, both for outreach and the doctrinal maturity of the denomination. The Manna and the Stone is his attempt to pursue this. Currently, Jason is serving as the general editor for the site.

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