Saturday, May 28, 2016

Spiritual Coffee: Being Christian Without Church or Bible? - Alan Jacobs on C.S. Lewis and Steve Jobs Moralizing - Listening to Christians with Same-Sex Desires

Weekend roundup of three thought-provoking articles for sharpening your thinking as a Christian.
(Click on Spiritual Coffee for prior posts collecting resources for the Christian mind.)

Majority of American Christians Do Not Find Bible Reading and Church Attendance Essential, Chris
Martin (Millennial Evangelical)
Thoughtful reflections on what Pew research shows about how millennials understand Christianity. A majority seem to believe in a Christian faith that requires no church body, Bible reading, or service to other Christians. It's essentially a Christian faith divorced from all religious activities. Think about the implications of that view, and what it means for trying to disciple and encourage millennial-age believers. It's not just a worldview issue, like previous Barna Group research on whether Christians have a biblical worldview. It's an issue that goes to the root of identity and soul - trying to be Christian without being part of the vine. (John 15).
"Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center published some data on what American Christians value in everyday life. The data is fascinating, and I’d encourage you to read the summary here or the full report here. Today, I want to look at just one of the graphs they provide.
"Following “believing in God” the four “essential parts” that received the most votes were: “being grateful for what you have,” “forgiving those who have wronged you,” “being honest at all times,” and “praying regularly.” 
"Obviously, all four of these actions are admirable and should be present in anyone who calls him- or herself a follower of Jesus. Any day of the week I can carry out one of these actions with some success I consider it a good day as far as obedience is concerned. 
"However, the intrigue in this graph is not so much in what is valued, but rather, what is not valued by a majority of American Christians."

Middle-Aged Moralists, Alan Jacobs (
In 1944, C.S. Lewis gave an address at King's College in London that is widely regarded as one of his most valuable messages. The Inner Ring is something every Christian should read (I summarized here the reasons why) because it teaches something penetrating and revealing about what influences and motivates us. Here, Jacobs (a biographer of Lewis and a remarkably interesting writer and professor) focuses on something else: the differences between the way Lewis gave something like a commencement speech and what we find in typical speeches today.
"When C. S. Lewis gave the Memorial Address at King’s College, London in 1944the occasion being very like an American university commencementhe began by commenting, 'When you invite a middle-aged moralist to address you, I suppose I must conclude, however unlikely the conclusion seems, that you have a taste for middle-aged moralising. I shall do my best to gratify it.'
"It was a shrewd move. Lewis himself always loathed the pompous didacticism he had found endemic to the English educational system, and expected that his audience would too. 'Everyone knows what a middle-aged moralist of my type warns his juniors against. He warns them against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.' But with a smile on his face, he declared that he would play to type: 'I shall, in fact, give you advice about the world in which you are going to live.'
"Let’s fast-forward about sixty years, to a commencement address at Stanford University. The speaker this time is not a professor but rather a businessman named Steve Jobs and he makes it clear from the outset that he’ll not be doing any “middle-aged moralising.” Rather, he says, “Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.”
"And yet it’s not clear, when you think about it, that Jobs’s message is any less moralistic than Lewis’s. It just bears a different moral."

You Are Not Your Sexuality, Sam Allberry (TGC)
Video message with a short summary at the link. Allberry is a pastor who has resisted same-sex attraction throughout his life, and can speak from the inside about how to think biblically about homosexuality. This is exceptionally important for Christians. Too often we have missed the difference between disputing a cultural and legal change regarding marriage and sexuality vs. listening to and caring for individual people who have same-sex attractions and desires. Many of us have never really learned to understand what it feels like for people, partly because we are afraid that listening to their feelings will make us just like modernist and post-modernist Christians who affirm whatever someone feels is true. That has caused us to fail at ministering to people with this burden.

We need to understand, and yet remain biblical and Gospel-based in how we handle sharing this burden with our brothers and sisters. We need to excel at loving people while still caring for them in truth and wisdom. I am thankful for pastors like Allberry who can help us do that.

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