Greg talked to John Stonestreet on yesterday’s podcast about the 21 Days of Prayer for Life booklet he co-authored with Scott Klusendorf, so I wanted to make it easy for everyone to find. It’s not just a prayer guide; it’s also a teaching tool. Here’s an explanation of its purpose from the introduction:
By inviting you to pray with us for these 21 days, we are not asking you to pick fights with friends and family over a surgical procedure. We are asking you to join the most significant human-rights cause of our day, and to equip yourself to engage the culture on a fundamental question it’s already asking—What makes us equal?
This prayer guide has two objectives.
Help Christians pray with understanding by focusing on key aspects of the abortion debate…. Each day, three specific prayer points will address [abortion-related] concerns.
Equip Christians to engage others in true and loving conversation. Friends and family need to know the pro-life view is true and reasonable and worth believing. At the same time, post-abortion men and women desperately need equipped Christians to communicate the supernatural healing found only in the Christian gospel….
The idea of “engaging” others may sound scary, but it shouldn’t. Heart and mind change is not our responsibility. It’s God’s! We shouldn’t worry about converting people to prolife. But we can give them something to think about, however imperfectly we may communicate it. God will do the rest.
Will you join us as we entreat heaven to bring a miracle to individuals and our culture? We need one. Lives hang in the balance.
Download the booklet for free, and with your church, with your small group, with your family, or on your own, I hope you’ll commit to 21 days of prayer.
This July, I’ll be leading a group of high school students and leaders from Grace Fellowship Church on a brand new experience. We’re calling it the Worldview Road Trip, and it’s designed to equip students to think Christianly about every single area of life. One topic we plan to cover is economics. We want students to know the central components of a Christian worldview and how they inform our views on poverty, money, the economy, free markets, and more. As we’ve been creating an outline for this training session, I’ve identified several key theological issues that are especially relevant to this topic:
The Image of God
Fallen Human Nature
The Nature of Marriage and Family
Self-governance and Personal Responsibility
The Role of the Family
The Role of the Church
And here are the key questions regarding economics that emerge from our theological reflections:
How does the Imago Dei inform our view of human activity? Why is man a creator, not merely consumer?
How does fallen human nature inform our views about economics, markets, and human interaction in these arenas? How do various economic systems take into account, or ignore, our sinful and selfish nature? How might a free-market economy hold human nature in check and create accountability?
What is “sphere sovereignty,” and how does this idea emerge in Scripture (e.g., Paul telling us that “if a man will not work, he shall not eat” in 2 Thess. 3:10)? Who is primarily responsible for taking care of us?
Is there a distinction between self-interest and selfishness? How does appropriate self-interest inform our economic views?
What should our approach be to the poor? How does our view of human nature inform our approach? How are free markets effective tools in fighting poverty in the world?
How does God’s design for the family protect people from poverty (e.g., looking at how single parenting greatly increases chances of poverty and how married men with children are the most productive members of society)?
What is man’s fundamental problem and need according to Scripture? How do we prioritize issues like poverty in light of the primacy of the Gospel (e.g., do people need wealth or Jesus more? Are we focusing more on social justice issues or the cross of Christ?)
How would you answer these questions? We will equip students to see how the Christian worldview has tremendous insight into these topics. If you haven’t given this much thought, let me pass along some of the great resources we’re using to prepare this training session. You may find them helpful as you too think Christianly about all of life.
A few years ago, I read a Christianity Today article titled “Go Overboard Celebrating Christmas.” A provocative title, especially given the Evangelical tendency to decry materialism and consumerism this time of year. Of course, those warnings are important to heed, but sometimes warnings and alarm and outrage are the entirety of our message to the world. So the author’s perspective was a breath of fresh air:
Celebrate the stuff. Use fudge and eggnog and wine and roast beef. Use presents and wrapping paper. Embedded in many of the common complaints you hear about the holidays (consumerism, shopping, gluttony, etc.) are false assumptions about the point of the celebration. You do not prepare for a real celebration of the Incarnation through thirty days of Advent Gnosticism.
Celebrate the stuff?! I could imagine such a message rubbing Evangelicals the wrong way. As if an exhortation to embrace celebration and gifts and food is inherently selfish and therefore wrong. If that’s your first impulse when you hear this, let me suggest a helpful distinction to free you up a bit from what I think is a distorted view. We must distinguish between selfishness and appropriate self-interest. This distinction is vital to grasp. Self-interest is not wrong. Do you desire food and shelter? Do you wish to take care of your loved ones? I hope so. Are these just greedy, selfish desires? Of course not. Indeed, appropriate self-interest is assumed by Jesus. How does He tell us we ought to love others? As we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39).
I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis's explanation in his essay “The Weight of Glory”:
If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive…. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.
Does self-interest have limits? Of course. When appropriate self-interest is abandoned and we move into selfishness, we have crossed the line into sin. Paul tells us, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests [appropriate self-interest], but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). But selfishness must be dealt with within the individual’s heart and not merely pawned off on the “stuff”:
At the same time, remembering your Puritan fathers, you must hate the sin while loving the stuff. Sin [is] not resident in the stuff. Sin is found in the human heart—in the hearts of both true gluttons and true scrooges—both those who drink much wine and those who drink much prune juice. If you are called up to the front of the class, and you get the problem all wrong, it would be bad form to blame the blackboard. That is just where you registered your error. In the same way, we register our sin on the stuff. But—because Jesus was born in this material world, that is where we register our piety as well. If your godliness won't imprint on fudge, then it is not true godliness.
So in your holiday celebrations, go overboard. Did not God go overboard for us?
Some may be disturbed by this. It seems a little out of control, as though I am urging you to “go overboard.” But of course I am urging you to go overboard. Think about it—when this world was “in sin and error pining,” did God give us a teaspoon of grace to make our dungeon a tad more pleasant? No. He went overboard.
Stephen Nichols explains how our worldview affects our gratefulness and expression of thanks, and what this means for an increasingly-secular society:
In his scientific study of gratitude, Emmons came to the realization that gratitude raises a singular and significant question: When we say thank you, to whom are we grateful?
The interesting thing here is that if we trace this “to whom” line of questioning back, like pulling on the threads of some tapestry, we find a singular answer at the end of each and every thread. The answer is God.
To whom are we grateful? We are grateful in an ultimate sense to God….
When we consider God as the “to whom” we are thankful, we may well be seeing both the necessity of thanksgiving and the eclipse of thanksgiving. As culture veers more and more towards a secular state it shrinks back from gratitude. So vainly we think we did this all ourselves. So wrongly we think we deserve, or even have a fundamental right to, all of this. We also know what is at the end of the string if we pull on it long enough. We know that we will be confronted with a Creator. We know we will be accountable to a Creator. Saying thank you means we are dependent, not independent. We would rather be ungrateful. Paul says we know God from all the evidence He has left of Himself, but we don’t want to “honor him or give thanks to him” (Rom 1:21). Then the downward spiral begins. A culture of ingratitude careens ever downward into decline….
Today is your opportunity to do something radical and beautiful—give thanks to God openly and publicly, amidst your family and friends, in front of Christians and atheists alike. May your public glorifying of God today bring some light to our nation.
Tonight is my live event: “5 Tools to Help Equip Your Kids with the Truth,” 6:30–7:30 (PT). If you'd like to ask questions during that hour, join the event on Google+. Otherwise, you can watch the whole thing live right here tonight (and anytime afterward).
The goal of tonight's event is to help parents and pastors be more focused and intentional in their discipleship of the next generation. I'll talk to you about the tried-and-true classical method of education and offer some very specific ideas and practical tools to equip families and churches. (See here for more info.) See you then!
[Update: Because of technical difficulties, the first eight minutes are audio only.]
Raising kids to be faithful followers of Christ in the 21st century can be very challenging. Our culture continues its secular slide, with entertainment and education—which permeate our kids lives—leading the way. Of course, life is busy and it's difficult for families to avoid simply being pulled along with the world. In light of the current challenges, parents and the church must be very intentional in their discipleship of the next generation. We must think carefully about our strategies and be more aggressive in training up our children.
As our oldest daughter approached the junior high years, my wife and I began to rethink our views on educating and discipling our own kids. We were dissatisfied with things we were seeing in her life not only academically, but also spiritually and morally. In that process of reevaluation, we discovered “classical education.” Educator Susan Wise Bauer offers a concise description of this approach:
“Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study [Grammar Stage]. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments [Logic Stage]. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves [Rhetoric Stage].”
I think this model offers parents a way forward. My wife and I have been using it with our own kids and I think the church can also use it as it comes alongside families to help disciple our children.
On Tuesday night, November 17th, at 6:30 pm (Pacific Time), I will host a live online event to help parents and pastors think through the discipleship of the next generation. We'll dialogue more about this classical method. I'll also offer some very specific ideas and practical tools to equip families and churches. And you can participate too. We'll be taking live questions and interacting with your comments. Follow this LINK and join us for this live online conversation.
Churches and families must be focused and intentional in order equip our kids with the truth, and I think this event will help you do just that.
[Footnote:…Plaintiffs’ marriage licenses have been altered so that “Rowan County” rather than “Kim Davis” appears on the line reserved for the name of the county clerk, Plaintiffs have not alleged that the alterations affect the validity of the licenses. Nor do the alterations impact the Court’s finding that the deputy clerks have complied with the Court’s Order.] The Court is therefore satisfied that the Rowan County Clerk’s Office is fulfilling its obligation to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples, consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Obergefell and this Court’s August 12, 2015 Order. For these reasons, the Court’s prior contempt sanction against Defendant Davis is hereby lifted.
Kim Davis’s name has been replaced with “Rowan County,” so clearly this was a reasonable step that was easily taken without burdening the state. But now Volokh has clarified that Davis is asking for these two things in particular:
the licenses would be issued, as a matter of Kentucky law, under the authority of someone other than Davis or the County Clerk, for instance the County Judge Executive or a deputy clerk who was willing to put his name on them, and
the licenses reflected that accommodation, by including the name and office of the authorizing person (again, the Judge Executive or deputy clerk or whoever else) instead of Davis’s name and office.
Davis’s objection to the federal judge’s order — and the licenses and certificates issued pursuant to that order — is that the licenses and certificates are still being issued (in her view) under her ostensible authority, even though Davis has not authorized them.
This accommodation is somewhat broader than the one I originally discussed in my post Friday (which was just removing her name from the licenses and certificates, and possibly replacing it with “Rowan County Clerk”). She would object to the documents noting that they come from the office “Rowan County Clerk,” and she would also want an official declaration from the court that the licenses aren’t being issued under her authority. It’s possible that these demands go a bit too far for the Kentucky RFRA (as I noted in my post, the more burdensome a requested accommodation is, the less likely it is that a court will grant it), though it’s hard to tell, given that RFRAs are written in general terms, and a lot of the line-drawing questions are left for judges to make on a case-by-case basis. Still, the accommodation doesn’t seem tremendously burdensome, or that different from what’s already being done under the judge’s order, so it’s possible that this is what will happen.
This changes the reasonableness of the request somewhat, though Volokh still thinks it doesn’t seem burdensome.
I want to reiterate what I said in an earlier post: Even if Davis has a legal case under Kentucky’s RFRA, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s wise to pursue it rather than resign (see here for more on this), and it certainly doesn’t mean turning this into a political spectacle is a good idea. Because the future of religious freedom in this country matters, my goal over the last week has merely been to clarify some key points about this situation that many people seem to be missing:
Employee requests for religious accommodations are not outrageous; they are available and are granted, even to public officials.
The laws of many states (including Kentucky) have conscience protections. State RFRAs vary, but in general, if someone’s sincere beliefs are being burdened, exemptions can be granted if there’s a reasonable alternative that doesn’t harm the government’s “compelling interest.”
Even if you strongly disagree with Kim Davis’s concern, her requested exemption may indeed meet the requirements of Kentucky’s RFRA.
You don’t need to agree with Kim Davis’s concern in order to support her receiving an accommodation; RFRAs are there to protect people with whom the majority disagrees. In keeping with the values of our country, we ought to support reasonable accommodations for people’s consciences whenever possible, even if we personally find their concern unreasonable.
You don’t need to disagree with Kim Davis receiving an accommodation in order to think she’s not handling this situation the way she should.
Ultimately, Davis’s goal is not to prevent anyone from getting married; it’s only to remove herself from being the authority authorizing those marriages. (This means her goal is not to impose her views on people trying to obtain licenses, though that was the unintended consequence while no licenses were being issued.) The question of whether or not her requested accommodation would cause material harm to a “compelling government interest” (the requirement for denying an accommodation) remains to be seen. It will need to be weighed by a judge. There’s no reason to oppose it if it meets Kentucky’s RFRA standard.
Widespread understanding of these points would ease tensions both now and in the future.