Tuesday, 31 May 2011


'It is a common assumption that, in order to survive, churches must accommodate to the age. But in fact, the opposite is true: In every historical period, the religious groups that grow most rapidly are those that set believers at odds with the surrounding culture. As a general principle, the higher a group's tension with mainstream society, the higher its growth rate.'
Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, p.261.


'...the key to restoring a unified concept of truth is to recover a robust concept of creation. Christianity has always taught that there is "a single reality" because it was created by a single omnipotent and all-wise God, explains one historical account. "Given this creation story, it followed that knowledge, too, comprised a single whole." It was the doctrine of creation that undergirded confidence in the unity of truth.'
Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, p.247.

Monday, 30 May 2011


'"But I will be with you." Basically, God has nothing else or more to offer you. You can go through a lot with that promise. It does not answer your questions about the details. It only provides the essential. Nothing about when or how or where or why. Only the what, or better, the Who. "But I will be with you." And that is enough.'
Dale Ralph Davis, Judges, p.95.

Friday, 27 May 2011


'Prophet means spokesman, not fortune-teller. The one whom in their unfathomable audacity the prophets claimed to speak for was the Lord and Creator of the universe. There is no evidence to suggest that anyone ever asked a prophet home for supper more than once.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.73.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


'...love needs to fit within the riverbanks of moral norms to be genuine.'
Thomas R Schreiner, 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law, p.196.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


'...the charges against him have tended to narrow down to one, i.e., that he took the simple and beautiful Gospel of Jesus and loused it up with obscure, divisive and unecessary subtleties.
Anybody who thinks the Gospel of Jesus is simple should go back and take a look at it. Love your neighbor, Be ye perfect, Resist not evil, I and the Father are one, Follow me - the only thing that's simple about the Gospel is the language.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.68.


'Omnipotence delights in encores.'
Dale Ralph Davis, Judges, p.84.

Monday, 23 May 2011


'A chance-meeting, as we say in Middle-earth.'
JRR Tolkien, Unfinished Tales, p.422.


'To meditate is to open the mind to a single thought until it fills the mind so completely that there is no room left for anything else.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.57.

Friday, 20 May 2011


'Lust is the craving for salt of a man who is dying of thirst.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.54.


'In the Christian sense, love is not primarily an emotion but an act of the will. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, he is not telling us to love them in the sense of responding to them with a cozy emotional feeling. You can as well produce a cozy emotional feeling on demand as you can a yawn or sneeze. On the contrary, he is telling us to love our neighbors in the sense of being willing to work for their well-being even if it means sacrificing our own well-being to that end, even if it means sometimes just leaving them alone. Thus in Jesus' terms we can love our neighbors without necessarily liking them. In fact liking them may stand in the way of loving them by making us overprotective sentimentalists instead of reasonably honest friends.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.54.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


'A wonderfully simple and effective means of comparing worldviews is to apply the same grid of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. After all, every worldview or ideology has to answer the same three sets of questions:
  1. CREATION: Translated into worldview terms, Creation refers to ultimate origins. Every worldview or philosophy has to start with a theory or origins: Where did it all come from? Who are we, and how did we get here?
  2. FALL: Every worldview also offers a counterpoint to the Fall, an explanation of the source of evil and suffering. What has gone wrong with the world? Why is there warfare and conflict?
  3. REDEMPTION: Finally, to engage people's hearts, every worldview has to install hope by offering a vision of Redemption - an agenda for reversing the "Fall" and setting the world aright again.'
Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, p.134.


'Despite the common stereotype, intellectual questions are not always merely a smokescreen for spiritual or moral problems. To be effective in equipping young people and professionals to face the challenges of a highly secular society, the church needs to redefine the mission of pastors and youth pastors to include training in apologetics and worldview. We must refuse to dismiss objections to faith as mere spiritual subterfuge, but instead prepare ourselves to give what Schaeffer called "honest answers to honest questions."
When America was a young nation, the clergy were often the most highly enducated members of the community. The congregation looked up to them and respected their intellectual expertise. But today those sitting in the pews are often as highly educated as the pastor; among the general population the clergy may even be looked down as narrowly trained functionaries. In this climate, it is imperative for seminaries to broaden the education of pastors to include courses on intellectual history, training future pastors to critique the dominant ideologies of our day. Pastors must once again provide intellectual leadership for their congregations, teaching apologetics from the pulpit. Every time a minister introduces bible teaching, he should also instruct the congregation in ways to defend it against major objections they are likely to encounter. A religion that avoids the intellectual task and retreats to the therapuetic realm of personal relationships and feelings will not survive in today's spiritual battlefield.'
Nany Pearcey, Total Truth, p.127.  

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


'Traditional evangelism addressed a person's moral "lostness," which can be an effective method when that person is aware of standing guilty before a holy God. But today many people do not believe in a transcendent moral standard; if you speak about guilt, they think you're talking about a psychological problem that requires therapy, not about true and moral guilt that requires forgiveness. 
Yet there is also a metaphysical "lostness" that we can address. The tragedy of the two-storey split is that the things that matter most in life - like dignity, freedom, personal identity, and ultimate purpose - have been cast into the upper story, with no grounding in accepted definitions of knowledge. We must never treat the divided concept of truth as merely academic; it produces an inner division between what people think they know (that we are merely machines in a deterministic universe) and what they desperately want to believe (that our lives have purpose and meaning).'
Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, p.119.  

Monday, 16 May 2011


'Perhaps the most common imbalance in American evangelicalism is to overemphasize the Fall. Consider the typical evangelistic message: "You're a sinner; you need to be saved." What could be wrong with that? Of course, it's true that we are sinners, but notice that the message starts with the Fall instead of Creation. By beginning with the theme of sin, it implies that our essential identity consists in being guilty sinners, deserving of divine punishment. Some Christian literature goes so far as to say we are nothing, completely worthless, before a holy God.  
This excessively negative view is not biblical, however, and it lays Christianity open to the charge that it has a low view of human dignity. The Bible does not begin with the Fall but with Creation. Our value and dignity are rooted in the fact that we were created in the image of God, with the high calling of being His representatives on earth. In fact, it is only because humans have such a high value that sin is so tragic. If we we were worthless to begin with then the Fall would be a trivial event. When a cheap trinket is broken, we toss it aside with a shrug. But when a priceless masterpiece is defaced, we are horrified. It is because humans are the masterpiece of God's creation that the destructiveness of sin produces such horror and sorrow. Far from expressing a low view of human nature,. the Bible actually gives a far higher view than the dominant secular view today, which regards humans as simply complex computers made of meat - products of blind, naturalistic forces, without transcendent purpose or meaning.
If we start with a message of sin, without giving the context of Creation, then we will come across to nonbelievers as merely negative and judgemental. After an extended trip through Africa (described in Dark Star Safari) the writer Paul Theroux said one of the saddest moments in his journey was "hearing a young woman [missionary] tell me she was heading for Mozambique and adding, "They're all sinners, you know." Theroux concluded that missionaries only make people "despise themselves." We need to begin our message where the Bible begins - with the dignity and high calling of all human beings because they are created in the image of God.
Moreover, in our secularized culture, startrting with the Fall renders the rest of our message incoherent. In an earlier age, when most Americans were brought up in the church, they were familiar with basic theolgical concepts - which meant that the revivalist's simple message of sin and salvation was often adequate. When people heard, "You're a sinner," they had the context to understand what it meant, and many were moved to repentance. But contemporary Americans often have no background in biblical teaching -which means that the concept of sin makes no sense to them. Their response is likely to be, What is sin? What right does God have to judge me? How do you know He even exists? Beginning with sin instead of creation is like trying to read a book by opening it in the middle: You don't know the characters and can't make sense of the plot.'
Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, p.87.


'The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.'
Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, p.85.

Sunday, 15 May 2011


'In printer's language to "justify" means to set type in such a way that all full lines are of equal length and flush both left and right; in other words to put the printed lines in the right relationship with the page they're printed on and with each other. The religious sense of the word is very close to this. Being justified means being brought into right relation. Paul says simply that being justified means having peace with God (Romans 5:1). He uses the noun "justification" for the first step in the process of salvation.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.48.


'Happiness turns up more or less where you'd expect it to - a good marriage, a rewarding job, a pleasant vacation. Joy, on the other hand, is as notoriously unpredictable as the one who bequeathes it.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.47.


'Idolatry is the practice of ascribing absolute value to things of relative worth. Under certain circumstances money, patriotism, sexual freedom, moral principles, family loyalty, physical health, social or intellectual preeminence, and so on are fine things to have around, but to make them the standards by which all other values are measured, to make them your masters, to look to them to justify your life and save your soul is sheerest folly. They just aren't up for it.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.40.


'Ordinary Christians working in business, industry, politics, factory work, and so on, are "the Church's front-line troops in her engagment with the world," wrote Leslie Newbigin. Imagine how our churches would be transformed if we truly regarded laypeople as frontline troops in the spiritual battle. "Are we taking seriously our duty to support them in their warfare?" Newbigin asked. "Have we ever done anything seriously to strengthen their Christian witness, to help them in facing the very difficult ethical problems which they have to meet every day, to give them assurance that the whole fellowship is behind them in their spiritual warfare?" The church is nothing less than a training ground for sending out laypeople who are equipped to speak the gospel to the world.'
Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, p.67.  


'...worldview is not an abstract, academic concept. Instead, the term describes our search for answers to those intensely personal questions everyone must wrestle with - the cry of the human heart for purpose, meaning, and a truth big enough to live by. No one can live without a sense of purpose and direction, a sense that his and her life has significance as part of a cosmic story. We may limp along for a while, extracting small installments of meaning from short-term goals like earning a degree, landing a job, getting married, establishing a family. But at some point, these temporal things fail to fulfill the deep hunger for eternity in the human spirit. For we were made for God, and every part of our personality is orientated toward relationship with Him. Our hearts are restless, Augustine said, until we find our rest in him.'
Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity fropm Its Cultural Captivity, p.55.  


'Sin is not simply an action you do or fail to do, that you can choose to do or not to do. Sin is a power that holds you in its grip. That is precisely what the apostle meant when he averred that all - both Jew and Gentile, both religious man and pagan man - are "under sin" (Rom. 3:9), by which he means "under the power of sin" (RSV). And until the church gets a proper view of sin, we will never see salvation as much more than a moving religious charade rather than as an act of holy, vicious violence by which Christ wrenches his people out of the clammy clutches of the prince of darkness (cf. 1 John 3:8).'
Dale Ralph Davis, Judges: Such a Great Salvation, p.43.

Saturday, 14 May 2011


'Ture humility doesn't consist of thinking ill of yourself but of not thinking of yourself much differently from the way you'd be apt to think of anybody else. It is the capacity for being no more and no less pleased when you play your own hand well than when your opponents do.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.40.


'The true history of mankind and the true history of each individual man has less to do than we tend to think with the kind of information that gets into most histories, biographies and autobiographies. True history has to do with the saving and losing of souls, and both of these are apt to take place when most people including the one whose soul is at stake are looking the other way. The real turning point in a man's life is less likely to be the day he wins the election or marries the girl than the morning he decides not to mail the letter or the afternoon he watches the woods fill up with snow. The real turning point in human history is less apt to be the day the wheel is invented or Rome falls than the day a boy is born to a couple of hick Jews.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.38.


'Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over greviances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back - in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishing Thinking: A Theological ABC, p.2.


'Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.20.


'...the desire to escape is not always something to be denounced, as any prisoner or slave could tell you. Jesus said, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32). Free from sin, he explained when they pressed him. Free from imprisonment within the narrow walls of your own not-all-that-enlightened self-interest. Free from enslavement to your own shabbiest instincts, deceits, and self-deceptions. Freedom not from responsibility but for it. Escape not from reality but into it.
The best moments we any of us have as human beings are those moments when for a little while it is possible to escape the squirrel-cage of being me into the lanscape of being us.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.21.


'Compassion is that sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it's like to live inside somebody's else's skin.
It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.15.


'The visible church is all the people who get together from time to time in God's name. Anybody can find out who they are by going to look.
The invisible church is all the people God uses for his hands and feet in this world. Nobody can find out who they are except God.
Think of them as two circles. The optimist says they are concentric. The cynic says they don't even touch. The realist says they occasionally overlap.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.15.  


'A true atheist is one who is willing to face the full consequences of what it means to say there is no God.
To say there is no God means among other things there are no Absolute Standards. For instance, an atheist may believe with all his heart that murder is wrong, but if he runs into somebody else who believes with all his heart that murder isn't wrong as long as you can get away with it, there is no Absolute Standard by which it can be shown that one view is better than the other, just as there is no Absolute Standard by which it can be shown that vanilla is better than chocolate.
If an Atheist says that murder is wrong because it works against the good of society in general then he is saying that the good of society in general is gooder than the good of the murderer in particular, and having thrown out all Absolute Standrads, he can't say that. All he can say is that vanilla is better than chocolate because he likes it better and so do most of his friends.
If he says, "In the absence of Absolute Standards, I declare that murder is wrong in the name of common sense," he has simply made common sense his Absolute Standard. What is in accord with common sense is Right and what isn't is Wrong.
What is American is Right and what is un-American is Wrong. What is ethical is Right and what is unethical is Wrong. These all bring God back under different names, i.e. Nationalism, Ethics, Pragmatism. To be a true atheist is to acknowledge no rule except the rule of thumb...
Thus many an atheist is a believer without knowing it just as many believer is an atheist without knowing it. You can sincerely believe there is no God and live as though there is. You can sincerely believe there is a God and live as though there isn't. So it goes.'
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p.2.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


'Sometimes the most effective thing you can do to combat temptation is to leave your accountability group for a while and sense a foretaste of the New Jerusalem with your local congregation, singing hymns and songs, eating bread and drinking wine, and hearing the voice of Jesus through the preached Word. As you do so, remember you're part of a transnational, transgenerational, trans-ethnic body of the redeemed. Those singing with you in heaven right now have already been through your struggles. The cloud of witnesses gathers round you, spurring you on in hope. Those round you are likewise groaning for the same redemption for which you long. And before all of you stands Jesus - who was tempted, tested, tortured, and yet is, finally, triumphant. As you perceive his invisible glory, you begin to see what seemed incredible in the wilderness. You will find you'll be able to say, as did writer Flannery O'Connor: "I believe love to be efficacious in the loooong run."'
Russell D Moore, Tempted and Tried, p.189.


'...you may have a genetic basis for that alchoholic craving or that sexual urge or that fiery temper. But the fact that you have it means that God designed you, knowing you can follow Christ even with that thorn in your flesh (1 Cor.10:13). As you face the temptation, know that God is walking you through it, just as surely as the Spirit led our Lord Jesus in and out of his desert testing. The temptation itself ought to be a revelation. God is saying, "You have been created and gifted with the ability to walk away from this."
The problem is, though, that we often think escape from temptation, promised by God, means escape from the agony of temptation, which is does not. Don't pray for an end to the struggle. Pray for your warfare to be more effective as you dodge fiery darts on the way into the kingdom. Peace is the fruit of the Spirit, but that's peace with God and with one another. It is emphatically not peace with the world, the flesh, and the Devil. That's why the Bible can include such a seemingly discordant statement about peace as "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (Rom.16:20). Don't be discouraged or depressed if you're in agony fighting against your temptations. That means the Holy Spirit is there. And where the Spirit is, for now anyway, there is war (Gal.5:17).'
Russell D Moore, Tempted and Tried, p.184.


'It is infinitely better to feel the weight of glory in the Scriptures, to know the contours of the shape of Scripture even if you don't know your way to the specific chapters and verses, than to have detailed memorization of Scripture as a cognitive category. There are some, I fear, who will be able to diagram in Greek the last words they ever hear voiced: "Depart from me, you worker of iniquity."'
Russell D Moore, Tempted and Tried, p.182.  


'Sanctification isn't usually rapid (at least as we count time). The drive for self-control then is often piecemeal. It could be that whatever tempts you is simply too "big" for you to contemplate as a whole. If so, hack away at individual bits of it. For instance, you might be tempted toward a fearfulness of what other people think of you. It's probably not doable to commit to "stop being fearful." What you could do, however, is start with something small - say, working up the courage to give your testimony in your church small group. The victory that you, through the Spirit, acheive there can give you the war map for further taking on this issue in your life. You probably can't contemplate how to "stop being lazy," but you can start getting out of bed fifteen minutes earlier each day, learning the discipline to deny yourself what you crave in order to train yourself for godliness.'  
Russell D Moore, Tempted and Tried, p.182.


'Resistance to temptation means taking desire seriously. Both Jesus and Satan do. There is a way to seek to coach people toward "victory" over their desires simply by downplaying how powerful those desires actually are. It is the message of, "Just don't do it." For a while that makes perfect sense. It makes sense (it has, in fact, "appearance of wisdom") to say of those things that might awaken the lusts of the flesh, "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch." But such restrictions "are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh" (Col.2:21,23).
Why? Because the desires are made to be more powerful than human decisions. They are meant to show you that you are a creature and to point you to Christ. The antidote is to see where those desires point to the gospel and to cling to the mystery itself, or rather to the mystery himself.'
Russell D Moore, Tempted and Tried, p.178.


'I keep temptations and sins covered over because of my pride. I don't want to be thought of as someone who is weak in some particular point, and I'm fearful of what someone might think of me if I confess that I fear I don't have the resources to combat something that's stalking me.
But that kind of isolating pride is countergospel. We've been crucified with Christ. We are already humiliated. In Jesus, our corpses were hanging in the sun, publicly marking us out as sinners worthy of death. If we are repentant, we are always clinging to the fact that we agree with God's just judgment against us. What then is there left to hide?'
Russell D Moore, Tempted and Tried, p.174.

Monday, 9 May 2011


'The first step of any kind of Christian engagement with the outside world...is to focus on the primary arena of Christ's reign - his church. We threaten the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places by our life together, by being the kind of alternative community that demonstrates that the blood of Christ has triumphed, making those who were at odds into one new reality in Christ (Eph.3:9-12)...
What would it mean if the leadership structures of our churches weren't as predictable as the leadership structures of every other organisation in our communities? What would the outside world say if they saw, in the pictures of our Christian publications, people who would be rejected by the advertising industry for being too fat or too pimply or too awkward? What would our neighbors think, to see that our chairman of deacons has Down syndrome or that a minimm-wage janitor is mentoring the millionaire executive of the hotel chain where he cleans toilets? It would look awfully strange. But it would look no stranger than a starving homeless wilderness wanderer turning down the opportunity to rule the world.'
Russell D Moore, Tempted and Tried, p.159.


'It is not enough...to condemn racism. We must love the racial supremacist enough to call him to repentance in order to offer him forgiveness through the blood of Christ. It is not enough to work to end abortion. We must demonstrate to women who've had abortions that there is no condemnation for them - none - if they are hidden with Christ. It's not enough to care for orphans and widows and the elderly and the poor. We must do so while offering the whole world the opportunity to find a home in a kingdom made up of those who are lame and blind and lost.'
Russell D Moore, Tempted and Tried, p.157.


'In the attempt to protect the gospel from being too big, some Christians undercut the gospel and bypass the cross just as surely, if not more so, as their hyperpolitical cousins. The gospel cannot be understood without an awareness of sin. Gospel preaching means defining what the kingdom of God is and what it is not and defining as rebellion what God calls rebellion. Sin includes what we sometimes dismiss as social or political concerns - such as unjust workers' wages (Lev.19:13; Deut.24:15; James 5:4-5), usury (Lev.25:35-37; Neh.5:6-10), abuse of the land (Jer.2:7; Hos.4:1-3), and mistreatment of the poor, the elderly, the sojourners, the widows, and the orphans (Ex.22:22; Deut.10:18; Ezek.16:49; Zech.7:10; James 1:27).'
Russell D Moore, Tempted and Tried, p.156.


'...the suburbs of heaven...'
Richard Sibbes, 'God Reserves the Best for the Last' in Nancy Guthrie (Ed.), O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, p.155.

Friday, 6 May 2011


'We ought to be willing to be ridiculed and scoffed at because our audience isn't this present band of spectators. We can listen to them, love them, and hear their arguments with the same patience with which we comfort our children when they insist to us there's a goblin under the bed. I know there's no goblin. And I know Darwinism and hedonism and nihilism and whatever else is the proposed alternative to a Christian vision of things aren't true. Sure, I'll open the window and show my son that what he hears is just a dead leaf banging aginst the window screen. And I'll show my non-Christian neighbor how not even he believes the universe is random and meaningless and amoral. But I don't rage against my little son's "stupidity" in crying about the goblin. He's a child. And I don't rage against my unbelieving neghbour's unbelief. He's held captive to a mind-blinding snake (2 Cor.4:3-4). In both cases, what's important is something other than that I'm proven to be right. What's important is truth and hope and, above all these, love.'
Russell D Moore, Tempted and Tried, p.123.


'In the hour of death especially, the Christian needs a Savior who is no less than God. An angel could not sympathize with our trial, for they cannot feel the pangs of dissolution. A human friend cannot travel with us the path through the dark valley; for the creature that yields to the stroke of death is overwhelmed, and returns no more to guide his fellow. The God-man alone can sustain us; he has felt the mortal blow, for he is man; he has survived it, and returns triumphing to succour us, for he is God. Unless the divine guide be with us, we must fight the battle with the last enemy alone and unaided.'
RL Dabney, "Lord Jesus, Receive my Spirit" in Nancy Guthrie (Ed.), O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, p.140.

Thursday, 5 May 2011


'Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be not gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.'
Charles Spurgeon in CJ Mahaney, 'The Pastor and Personal Criticism', p.11. Available at: www.sovereigngraceministries.org/Reference/CJ_Mahaney_P_PC.pdf


'...the day of a godly man's death is better than the day of his birth on the account of the glorious change made in his circumstances by his death.'
Jonathan Edwards, 'The Day of a Godly Man's Death' in Nancy Guthrie (Ed.), O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, p.136.