Friday, May 27, 2016

Spiritual Coffee: Christians Defending Criminals - Why John Webster Matters - A Story of Why You Need Limits to Survive

There are quite a few thought-provoking observations in today's links. Click on Spiritual Coffee for prior roundups to sharpen and equip your Christian thinking and enlarge your heart.

I Advocate for Convicted CriminalsCara Wieneke (TGC)
I rarely get to see Christians writing like this about the kind of work I do (I am a criminal defense attorney as well). Many Christians never get a view of what this is like, and Wieneke's story reflects my experiences too. The ugliness and brokenness we see through the criminal justice system is overwhelming. But there are amazing demonstrations of grace - especially the miraculous contrast between grace at work transforming people versus 'business as usual' - that we see as well. What keeps motivating my work is the fact that Jesus never gave us permission to give up on people, and so the Gospel is still a responsibility even toward those whose actions may repulse us. Perhaps especially toward those whose actions repulse us. Sin is horrific. We just aren't shocked by our own sins as much as we are shocked by those we see others committing, and that makes it easy to make excuses for avoiding some people. I thank God for each time He steers me away from avoidance and keeps me attentive to seeing His grace at work.
Wieneke used to wall herself off from feeling the pain of the people involved in her cases. "But after becoming a Christian, my view changed. I began seeing my clients as human beings, and I started feeling the pain and suffering their evil inflicted on others. For every case I reviewed, I felt a small part of the pain and suffering the victims endured. There were times the pain was so great that I considered changing careers. But God kept drawing me back."
She felt overwhelmed and discouraged, but an encounter with a converted man in prison changed that. "He didn’t try to place blame elsewhere for his actions. He didn’t complain about being incarcerated or contemplate ways to obtain his release."Instead, he seemed content with his life. He told me God was changing him, and he seemed almost thankful for his circumstances. He expressed sorrow for the pain he had caused and became emotional when telling me he didn’t feel he was worthy of God’s grace. But he accepted God’s grace and said prison would not be the end of his story. Finally, he told me to take all the time I needed to review his case since he knew he deserved to be sitting in prison.""As I left the prison and walked to my car, it was almost as if the weight had been lifted. No longer did I doubt God was there; no one but God could have been responsible for my client’s transformation."
John Webster: Tribute to a Leading TheologianSteve Holmes (Christianity Today)
Update: Here's a collection of links to John Webster's life and works by Jake Meador (Mere Orthodoxy) [thanks to Matt Crutchmer for sharing]
The author points out that few Christians outside academic circles have heard of John Webster (who entered into his eternal reward this week) and yet demonstrates why we should all be thankful for him. 
"There is an idea around in the churches that studying theology is the surest way to destroy faith. Fifty years ago, that was uncomfortably close to being true. English-language academic theology too often began with an explanation of why traditional beliefs (the Creed, that sort of thing) could not possibly be true, and then constructed some pale imitation out of a passing intellectual fad. John was a leading member of a group of theologians who changed all that."
"If his writing was uncompromisingly intellectual, it was also uncompromisingly Christian. I just picked a book by John of the shelf, and opened it at random. The page begins: 'Christian theology is biblical reasoning. It is an activity of the created intellect, judged, reconciled, redeemed, and sanctified through the works of the Son and the Spirit.'"The authority of Scripture, God's act of creation, our need for atonement and sanctification—all assumed in two sentences."

Detached People Can Only FloatBogumil Jarmulak (Theopolis Institute)
Compelling observations on the necessity of constraints and limits for life to survive, based off the film "Gravity." You may be surprised by how much there is to think about. Jarmulak is a Pastor in Poznan, Poland, and Presiding Minister of the Anselm Presbytery of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches. He quotes significantly from an article by Bronislaw Wildstein in Do Rzeczy. [For the sake of humility, I admit I was not familiar with either of them before reading this. But the article is very good.]
"It turns out that the astronauts could enjoy weightlessness only as long as they were not exposed to it fully. Humans cannot survive in true zero-gravity. We cannot survive in the open space unless we have some artifacts which preserve our lives. The things and forces which limit us or even endanger our lives are the same things and forces which enable us to live and act."
"Precisely because it limits us, gravity puts barriers on our paths, hinders life, also conditions life. 'Human limitations and risks, burdens, and difficulties make up our world. Deprived of them we cannot survive, we fall apart, we perish,' concludes Wildstein.
"Weightlessness is fun, provided there is gravity. Liberty is good, provided we stand on the solid ground."

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