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Gospel-Centered Teaching Conference

Oct 17, 2014 | Trevin Wax

I’m looking forward to participating in this event in January. If you are in the Southeast, I hope you can join us. We’re praying it will be a good day of training for small group and Sunday School leaders.

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Register here.

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How Should Christians Regard Israel and Treat Jews?

Oct 16, 2014 | Trevin Wax

006063796XOur journey through The Moral Vision of the New Testament continues as Richard Hays devotes a series of chapters to the New Testament’s witness regarding specific, controversial issues. (If you’ve gotten behind in the reading or you’re just joining us, see the reading schedule here.)

We began with the question of Christians using violence in the defense of justice. Then, we looked Hays’ treatment of divorce and remarriage, and the issue of homosexuality. Today, we look at anti-Judaism and ethnic conflict by asking Hays’ question: How should Christians regard Israel and treat Jews?

Reading the Texts

Before analyzing the relevant texts, Hays sets up a way of reading them in historical context. He offers several considerations:

  • First-century Judaism was diverse, not monolithic.
  • Earliest Christianity began as a Jewish sectarian movement.
  • Christianity’s success in reaching Gentiles created a crisis of communal identity.
  • Hostility toward Jews and Judaism is to be understood as “sibling rivalry,” a “struggle for possession of Israel’s heritage.”

Perspectives from 4 Major New Testament Writers

  • Paul: God has not rejected His people, but His people have rejected their Messiah – a tragic state of affairs that brings Paul sorrow. Rather than being targets of contempt, Jews should be seen as the objects of sacrificial love, for the final fruition of God’s dealing with Israel remains to be seen.
  • Luke: The way of salvation runs through Jesus, and those who will not follow are no longer part of the elect. Luke’s position is similar to Paul’s, although he tends to stress the continuity of the church with Israel even more strongly. Luke aborbs the line of salvation history into the church.
  • Matthew: Matthew combines ardent affirmation of the Law and vehement rejection of Judaism. His writings are reflective of an increasingly adversarial relationship between church and synagogue. Matthew provides a supersessionist theology where the church replaces Israel.
  • John: Many of the speeches attributed to Jesus are reflective of the Johannine community’s “frustrated and angry response to Jewish interlocutors” who have refused to accept the claims of Jesus. John’s Gospel features an ontological dualism, and his bitter and polemical treatment of the Jews puts him on the other end of the spectrum from Paul’s hope-filled sorrow.

Synthesis: Israel in Canonical Context

Hays begins with a summary of several points of agreement among the four authors above:

  • All New Testament writings show puzzlement over Israel’s failure to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah.
  • No New Testament writer envisions a “separate but equal” salvation for Gentiles and Jews.
  • Paul, Luke, Matthew, and John testify to the persecution of Christians by Jews.
  • No New Testament texts show evidence of racially motivated “anti-Semitism.”
  • Early church conflict should be seen as an intra-Jewish phenomenon.

But Hays sees “wide divergences” as well, tensions that must be allowed to stand. It’s here that Hays makes his boldest claim: “No thoroughgoing synthesis is possible.” So what to do? Hays suggests Paul’s approach should be treated as “the benchmark” because he is the one who best preserves continuity with the larger Scriptural story. Making Matthew and John the norm has led the church to disaster.

Community: The church must adopt an ethic of corporate responsibility that takes to heart Paul’s admonitions in Romans 11.

Cross: Jesus’ death is the enactment and proof of God’s faithfulness to Israel.

New Creation: We are to embody hope and prayer for the eschatological reconciliation of Israel.

Hermeneutics: Responding to the New Testament’s Witness Concerning Israel

We’ve seen how Hays gives Paul the highest place of authority in how we are to view Israel. Next, he examines how the hermeneutical guidelines are presented in the New Testament.

  • Rule: The New Testament doesn’t provide rules that govern the church’s conduct toward Jews.
  • Principle: The New Testament does not appeal to the principle of tolerance toward Judaism.
  • Paradigm: Paul demonstrates anguish for the Jewish people to believe in Jesus.
  • Symbolic World: The story is unfinished, but already we see how God’s judgment and faithfulness to Israel is revealed.
  • Other Authorities: The church’s tradition is mixed and thus offers little help in understanding the New Testament’s witness. The role of reason is inadequate in answering the question of whether Jesus is the Messiah. Experience (post-Holocaust) has led us to reassess our theology and use of Scripture. “The theological trajectory that begins in John 8 ends – one fears - in Auschwitz.”

Living the Text: The Church as Community Overcoming Ethnic Division

  • The New Testament argues for transcending ethnic divisions within the church.
  • Racism is a heresy. The church must seek reconciliation across ethnic and racial lines.

Some Personal Considerations: This chapter is the most disappointing (and disturbing) in the book. In a sense, Hays throws up his hands at the diversity of the New Testament witnesses and decides that Paul should be allowed to set the framework for the way we read the other witnesses.

My problems with Hays’ approach are not in his conclusions but in his method. He doesn’t simply read John or Matthew in light of Paul; instead, he dismisses the other witnesses in favor of Paul. For example, Hays argues that Jesus’ “revelation discourses” in John are not truly from Jesus but should be seen as prophetic-theological commentary for the evangelist’s own time. We are to see John’s “Jesus” as “historically understandable” but “theologically misconceived” (434).

What is most disturbing to me about Hays’ treatment of “John’s Jesus” is that it reflects a radical revision of how we read the Gospels. His post-Holocaust reflection has led to a dismissal of John’s witness to Jesus. Furthermore, Hays’ method here is at odds with his overall proposal, one that claims to take Scripture as authoritative and desires to hear the biblical witness on its own terms and not ours. Someone to the left of Hays on sexual ethics could easily employ his hermeneutic on John’s Gospel to Paul’s words on homosexuality, something which Hays (thankfully) does not do, even as he hands the methodological sword to his opponents to use it against him.

As an evangelical, I believe John’s perspective of Jesus is equally inspired to the other Gospels and therefore historically accurate. I recommend Craig Blomberg’s Historical Reliability of John’s Gospelwhich adopts a critical realistic approach and makes a cogent case for the historicity of these words. I close this chapter, thankful for the right and true things Hays has to say about ethnic diversity and the heresy of racism, and deeply frustrated that he chose to trample over John’s portrait of Jesus to get there.

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The Mars Hill Postmortem

Oct 16, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Ballard CampusThe news of Mark Driscoll’s resignation closes a painful chapter in the life of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. This is a time to pray for the Driscoll family, Mars Hill Church, and those who have suffered through various forms of spiritual abuse.

What can we learn from this situation? We should consider four lessons to take away, but I want to preface these remarks with two caveats.

First, this blog is not a place for gossip and personal attacks, and I will not allow the comments section to become a feast for those who are hungry to either defend or decry the Driscolls or Mars Hill. Go elsewhere if you’re looking for drama.

Secondly, the title of this post does not imply that Mars Hill Church’s ministry is over. The good news is that King Jesus loves to take seemingly hopeless situations and bring resurrection life from them. (Case in point: New Life Church where Ted Haggard was once pastor.) I use the term “postmortem” because a difficult season of Mars Hill ministry has come to an end, and in between this chapter and the next, we should examine the causes that contributed to this situation.

So, with a heavy but hopeful heart, here are four things I hope we can learn from the events at Mars Hill.

1. Leadership Matters

This situation marks the first time I recall a pastor resigning from a church for a reason other than marital infidelity or embezzlement. There were moral issues and financial impropriety involved in the Mars Hill controversy, of course, but the presenting reason for Mark’s resignation is an abusive form of leadership that revealed significant character flaws.

What we can learn: Leadership matters. Church members need to know what spiritual abuse of leadership looks like, and church leaders need to be trained well, enthusiastically supported when they walk in line with Scripture, and held accountable when they abuse their position of authority.

2. Church Polity Matters

The last Mark Driscoll talk I listened to was several years ago. In it, he mocked Congregationalists for our inefficient and ineffective structures of authority. His prescription sounded something like this: gather a group of aggressive “yes men” to run the church, implement changes, and then rubber stamp the pastor’s agenda.

I understand why Driscoll’s bravado appealed to younger pastors. But efficiency is not and never has been the point. Polity is about authority and governance, not what makes the best sense in corporate America.

Churches of all kinds often have squabbles and pastoral issues (we’re all sinners, after all). But whatever polity your church adopts, you should ensure an appropriate accountability to people within the body. No leader should be unable to be confronted. If your elders never say no, you don’t really have elders.

Please don’t misunderstand me: there were sin problems at Mars Hill, not merely structural problems. But not all structures are equal in helping churches through sin problems. Evangelicals don’t like to talk about polity because we’re so diverse on this issue, but we must not ignore the impact these questions have when a church is in crisis.

What we can learn: Polity matters. Know your church’s structure of authority well and do your best to empower godly people to lead well through times of crisis. 

3. Character Matters as Much as Doctrine

In conservative evangelical churches, we often determine “who’s in” and “who’s out” by doctrinal and theological precision and pay less attention to the fruit of the Spirit. Doctrine matters, for sure, but the Apostle Paul commanded Timothy to watch his life, too. And I worry that we are slow to see some leaders’ “life” not lining up with godly character as long as their doctrinal checklist turns out to be sound.

Conservative evangelicals are not alone in this regard. Every tribe has its blind spots. It’s human nature to assume the best of your friends and worst of your enemies. I have seen this club mentality when well-known evangelicals with good reputations and solid character are dismissed simply because their biblical exegesis differs from ours. And I think some Christian leaders were slow to see the problems with Driscoll because he ”believes the right things.”

If anything, evangelicals gifted with discernment and biblical doctrine of sin and grace should have been the first to expose these problems. I know some of this critique happened behind the scenes, inside and outside Mars Hill. But more could have been done sooner to warn and protect the flock.

Like my friend Lizette Beard says, “I don’t care who you are or how big your church or ministry is. Nobody gets a pass on the fruit of the Spirit.” Theological precision is vitally important, but never at the expense of failing to love our neighbors and never as an excuse for sin.

What we can learn: Don’t dismiss people outside your theological circles who exhibit the fruit of a vibrant walk with Christ. Also, don’t overlook or excuse character flaws from leaders inside your theological circles, as if doctrine matters more than life.

4. The Celebrity Culture Hinders Our Witness

Some have pointed out the dangers of celebrity-ism in Christian circles, to the point the critics of celebrity have become quasi-celebrities themselves. Fame is not inherently bad, and a pastor or leader who is appreciated and respected for faithful service is worthy of commendation.

But let’s not ignore the kind of celebrity culture we live in, where we are apt to jump on the bandwagon and praise someone simply because everyone else is, regardless of credibility or ministry qualification. This YouTube prank in New York City of a man pretending to be a celebrity for a few moments is illustrative of the kind of world we live in. The crowd wants to be in tune with the latest trend and fashion and therefore makes up reasons to gawk at the celebrity.

In our celebrity-driven world, we are more apt to promote and praise people simply for attracting attention than for demonstrating faithful service and ministry experience over many years. The social media world adds another layer of complexity, as people who burst onto the scene with a strong social presence and later torn apart limb from limb on the same social media channels. We prop people up and then watch them fall.

What we can learn: Look for wisdom and maturity more than glitz and glamor. Be willing to ask tough questions of the popular leader no one wants to challenge.

Conclusion

Tim Keller describes a “gospel-based ministry” not merely in terms of doctrinal correctness but as being “marked by loving honesty, not spin, image, and flattery.”

Likewise, John Stott writes: The Christian minister should be preoccupied with the people’s spiritual progress and care nothing for his own prestige.

The temptations to make your ministry all about yourself are ever-present. Take heed, lest you fall. For, in Stott’s words, “Only when pastor and people keep their eyes on Christ will their mutual relations keep healthy, profitable, and pleasing to God.”

See also:

Eric Geiger – “A Tale of Two Mars Hills”

Ed Stetzer - “Unhealthy Christian Organizations”

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Worth a Look 10.16.14

Oct 16, 2014 | Trevin Wax

WorthALook1Kindle Deal of the Day: Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional by Martin Luther. $2.99.

A treasury of accessible devotionals taken from Luther’s best writings and sermons from the years 1513 through 1546. This carefully updated translation retains the meaning, tone, and imagery of Luther’s works.

Crushing Idealism in Community:

It’s easy to have a grand picture of what living in Christian community looks like. But we should consider whether idealism is actually getting in the way of experiencing good gospel community. If we are leading people to an idealistic view of community then they are going to be disappointed and disillusioned when it actually gets hard.

Derek Rishmawy – The Progressive Evangelical Package:

Many of us labor under the illusion that the progressive package, the party line, doesn’t exist. Some of those within the camp take its putative diversity and ideological inclusiveness as a point of pride. I suppose for them my aim is to pop their balloon. For others floating within progressivism’s orbit but not yet diving in head-first, I’m hoping to provide some smelling salts. Those looking in with interest would do well to consider the real intellectual and communal pressure there is to conform to the package and examine whether they find the underlying premises convincing and consistent with the gospel.

Fascinating interview with Nancy Writebol about battling Ebola in Africa:

Writebol, who has previous experience working in Ecuador and Zambia, moved to Liberia with her husband, David, in 2013. Nearly a month into treating infected patients, Writebol learned she herself had contracted Ebola. After she and Brantly failed to improve in West Africa, they were flown back to the United States, where they both were treated with the experimental and controversial ZMapp antibodies. Both recovered fully. Writebol and David, currently based in North Carolina, spoke with CT editorial resident Morgan Lee about treating Ebola, where God went during her illness, and her thoughts about those who protested her return to the States.

Check out Amber Stamper’s terrific review of a terrific documentary - Sing Over Me:

Sing Over Me sets out to tell the story of a life and a conversion, and does so. Dennis Jernigan’s story is one of hope and is a beautiful one to hear and share. But as is the hope with any Christian testimony, the goal is for those on the receiving end to be challenged and changed as well. At one point in the film, Jernigan mentions that when he first came out with his testimony in 1988, he was “flooded with people” who wanted to talk to and meet him. Clearly there’s a need for this particular type of testimony — the experience of redemption from homosexuality — to be shared. That was nearly three decades ago, and we now live in a world with even more complex feelings towards homosexuality.

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Pastors, Don’t Commit “Greek Apostasy!”

Oct 15, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Fall-leaves-028-copy1One of my favorite professors in seminary was Robert Plummer. I put his Hermeneutics class in my list of Top 5 Seminary Classes, and I also did a Greek class on James with him. A couple years ago, I interviewed him about the book, Journeys of Faith. 

Today, I want to introduce a free online resource designed to help busy pastors maintain their Greek language skills post-seminary.

Trevin Wax: When I talk with pastors about studying the biblical languages, they often talk about their love for Greek (Hebrew is another story!) and their appreciation for what they learned in seminary. Sometimes, they admit they don’t use their Greek as much as they used to, and they are worried they will lose it. What changes from seminary to pastoral ministry that leads to a looser grip on Greek?

Rob Plummer: Studying Greek in college or seminary is an artificial environment. Tests and quizzes hold you accountable, you are paying for the instruction, and your regular life is somewhat “on hold” as you focus on acquiring more knowledge and skills. You have a peer group around you, helping move you forward. You have a brilliant and inspiring professor. (ha!) And, if you don’t keep up with your Greek, you’ll get a poor grade or fail.

These outside strictures are a blessing—working together to bring students to an acceptable skill level in NT Greek. When you leave the seminary environment, however, you simply need to face with stark honesty the danger of your apostasy from the language you have come to love.

I am a pastor too, and I know of the many, many real and pressing needs that constantly clamor for our attention. Many pastors begin well, planning to use Greek in ministry – but Greek soon goes the way of the new diet or exercise routine.

Trevin Wax: How did “Daily Dose of Greek” come about?

Rob Plummer: I turned 43 this year, and I realize that I likely only have 20 or so years left of full-time teaching. I asked myself what I really wanted to accomplish and in what ways God has gifted me. I feel like God has gifted me with a love and ability to teach Greek – but one frustration I have is the erosion of many students’ Greek abilities after they graduate. The “daily dose of Greek” website is part of my ongoing life work to leave behind a vast spiritual army of men and women knowledgeable in and zealous for the word of God.

While I was re-taping online Elementary Greek this last summer, I got excited about the tablet and recording technology we were using. I realized it would be possible to produce a series of daily screencasts.

One day, I doodled a medicine bottle with Greek in the spoon and wrote, “Daily Dose of Greek.” I vetted that possible webpage name with the Greek “Secret Society” (club) I oversee. (The club is made up of more than two hundred former students who scored 100 on an exam and thus were inducted into the A.T. Robertson Secret Society. We have a closed facebook page and website www.atrsecretsociety.org.)

An officer in our Society, Brad Clark, has been a constant source of creativity and encouragement in this project. Another member, Jack Brannen, designed the “double delta” brand graphic. Another member, Joel Wildberger and his wife Katherine Anne, taped the welcome video in their apartment. (Katherine Anne is an amazing wedding filmmaker.) Also, Brian Renshaw in the online SBTS office was invaluable in researching and acquiring the new screencast technology I am using.

Creating the website has been more like rolling down a hill than climbing up one. It has naturally progressed – and the response has been enthusiastic. I’ve received personal messages of thanks from Germany, China, Australia, etc. People from 75 different countries have visited the site.

Trevin Wax: I’ve been using “Daily Dose of Greek” ever since I found out about it. I watch the video while my tea heats up every morning at work. (Seriously!) What other tools should we be using to keep our Greek skills fresh?

Rob Plummer: Recognizing that inexperienced readers of the Greek New Testament are often frustrated by unfamiliar vocabulary words, several publishers are now offering a “reader’s edition,” with uncommon vocabulary words listed verse-by-verse at the bottom of each page. Two of the most popular readers’ editions are:

(1) The UBS Greek New Testament: Reader’s Edition with Textual Notes. The Greek text is the United Bible Societies’ critical text of the Greek New Testament. The volume includes glosses (brief definitions) at the bottom of each page for words that occur thirty times or less. Parsing information with difficult grammatical forms is also sometimes provided. Very abbreviated information about the most significant textual variants is given.

(2) Zondervan’s Reader’s Greek New Testament. The Greek text is the same as the UBS or Nestle-Aland text except in a very few cases, which are footnoted. At the bottom of each page, brief glosses are provided for all words that occur thirty times or less. No parsing help is provided. The second edition also includes a mini-lexicon with definitions for all words that occur more than thirty times.

Technology changes quickly. Nevertheless, one thing that will remain constant is the ability to read the Greek New Testament and access Greek resources in digital format. The majority of students who continue faithfully reading do so in digital format. This is probably because of (1) ease in access and (2) linked resources. Visit the following websites to keep up on the latest in digital Greek resources and tools:

Trevin Wax: How many people are subscribed to Daily Dose of Greek? What has the response been so far?

Rob Plummer: 2,725 subscribers. We have had overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. I pray I can live up to the expectations.

Trevin Wax: What disciplines do you recommend for us to keep up our familiarity with Greek?

Rob Plummer: Below are a few suggestions to help make this journey a success:

  1. Read the Greek New Testament in your daily devotions. Don’t be afraid to use the digital tools or reading helps mentioned above. Some Christians will be able to read a chapter of Greek every day; others could aim for five to ten verses. Some daily readers like to overlap with the previous day’s reading to help solidify unfamiliar vocabulary.
  2. Include Greek study in your weekly ministerial preparations. Whether preparing for a Sunday School lesson, exposition of a text in a denominational newspaper, or a sermon, the pastor should make study of the Greek New Testament a regular part of his teaching preparations. When Greek study is incorporated both into your private devotions and formal ministry preparations, you have a good chance of faithfully journeying in the Greek New Testament for your lifetime. Southern Baptist statesman Jerry Vines reports that he reads through his Greek New Testament every year.
  3. Take a “Greek retreat” once or twice a year in which you read longer sections of the New Testament, a technical Greek resource, or a Greek grammar. The Greek retreat need last no more than a day or weekend.
  4. Teach Greek. One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. Teach Greek to your children, at the local Christian school, or at a Christian college or seminary. You can also volunteer to tutor Greek students in different settings.

For more information, check out Daily Dose of Greek. Also check out Dr. Plummer’s forthcoming intermediate Greek grammar, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek, from which some of this interview was adapted.

Dr. Plummer Daily Dose of Greek Intro from Daily Dose of Greek on Vimeo.

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Worth a Look 10.15.14

Oct 15, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Worth a Look MagnifyingKindle Deal of the Day: Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows by Ravi Zacharias. $3.99.

This book is about Ravi’s journey, from meaninglessness to the abundant joy of Christ, from East to West and back again, in the all-consuming passion of letting the world know about true freedom, and in whom that freedom is found.

GetReligion helps you see through the media fervor about the news that the Vatican had “stunningly” reversed its position on homosexuality.

As Dias says, “Looking for revolution can be misleading. It can mar the actual story of what is and what is not happening.” The real story is that a discussion is taking place at the highest levels of the Catholic Church – a discussion that is by no means over. That may be exciting to some who are hoping for change, but it’s not earth-shattering – not yet, anyway.

George Weigel – The Great Catholic Cave-In that Wasn’t:

If the Times and others really want to dig into a serious debate that’s underway beneath the surface at the 2014 synod, they might consider this: The experience of the 20th and early 21st centuries suggests that there is an iron law built into the Christian encounter with modernity, according to which Christian communities that maintain a clear sense of their doctrinal and moral boundaries survive and even flourish, while Christian communities whose doctrinal and moral boundaries become porous wither and eventually die.

Why Millennials Love Renting:

With Millennials facing an unemployment rate of more than 8% and $1 trillion in student loan debt, they’re increasingly renting instead of buying homes. In fact, the true homeownership rate for 18-34 year olds has fallen to a new low: 13.2%. But finances aren’t the only reason for the dip in homeownership. Millennials are recognizing the many benefits of renting — including reasons that have nothing to do with money.

Don’t Quit Yet, Pastor! Revitalization Might Be Right Around the Corner:

Are you just about ready to throw in the towel? I want to encourage you to hold on. Even if you are at year five or six, wait. Things might not be going well at your church, but the gospel is all about bringing life out of death. It feels like Good Friday to you, but, as one pastor said, Sunday’s a comin’.

So before you submit that resignation letter, consider three signs that you’d think indicate that your church is dying, but may actually point to the potential of revitalization.

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Vertigo: Revisiting Hitchcock’s Masterpiece

Oct 14, 2014 | Trevin Wax

JIMvertigoIf you’re not a subscriber to World, you should be. It’s one of the handful of “must-read” magazines for me. I’ve started to contribute occasional movie reviews there. Here’s my review of one of the most acclaimed films of all time.

VERTIGO

Once a decade, Sight and Sound magazine from the British Film Institute, polls an international group of film professionals and ranks the greatest films of all time. Roger Ebert highly regarded this list, claiming it to be the only one that matters to “serious movie people.” For five straight decades (1962-2002), Citizen Kane (a 1941 drama starring Orson Welles) occupied the highest spot. But in the 2012 poll, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film, Vertigo, supplanted Kane as the Sight and Sound pick for greatest film of all time.

Recently released on Blu-ray after undergoing an extensive digital restoration, Vertigo tells the story of a police detective from San Francisco, John Ferguson (James Stewart), who, after a traumatic experience, is forced into early retirement because of severe acrophobia (fear of heights). An old college friend asks him to trail his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak), a young woman on the verge of a mental breakdown.

It is difficult to determine what part of Vertigo‘s allure is most crucial to its critical acclaim. The cinematography is outstanding, offering an array of San Francisco sights and sounds. Bernard Hermann’s score is eerily beautiful; the horns and strings create a quiet sense of dread before swelling into madness. The costumes and colors are vibrant, purposefully chosen to parallel themes throughout the film. As a forerunner to movies like The Sixth Sense, the plot includes a twist so surprising one can never watch the film the same way again, a turn that immediately suffuses Stewart and Novak’s performances with layers of complexity.

Meanwhile, the story touches on several big ideas: the loss of dignity from unemployment, the craftiness of the human heart in devising murderous schemes, the frailty of the human psyche, the exploitation of women, and the toll that forbidden love takes on a person. Vertigo is a deeply psychological film that ends with a tortured cry for justice amidst a palpable sense of romantic longing and loss. Viewers today may find the first hour to be too slow and plodding, but Vertigo is the kind of film that rewards patience and careful attention.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 20, 2014, issue of WORLD magazine. Reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2014 WORLD News Group. All rights reserved.

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Worth a Look 10.14.14

Oct 14, 2014 | Trevin Wax

WorthALook1Kindle Deal of the Day: Engaging with the Holy Spirit: Real Questions, Practical Answers by Graham Cole. $1.99.

What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? How does a person resist him? Ought we to pray to the Spirit? How do we quench the Spirit? How do we grieve the Spirit? and How does he fill us?

Tim Challies – 7 Things Your Church Needs from You:

I chose to speak about how any Christian (not only young adults) can make a church better and stronger. Here are some of the things I came up with: 7 things your church needs from you.

The Atlantic - Buy Experiences, Not Things:

Waiting for an experience apparently elicits more happiness and excitement than waiting for a material good (and more “pleasantness” too—an eerie metric). By contrast, waiting for a possession is more likely fraught with impatience than anticipation.

Here’s a post I contributed to Church Leaders - 5 Tips for Promoting Causes in the Local Church:

What do you do when one person wants their passion to be the primary passion for the whole church? This is the tricky part. You want to encourage and bless the efforts in the world without allowing your congregation’s primary focus be diverted to other activities. You don’t want church members passing out voter guides or hijacking every small group experience so that politics reign supreme.

There are no easy answers to this question because every church and every community and every activist is a different mix of personalities and passions. But here are some principles to keep in mind…

Joel Miller – What’s the Difference Between Prayer and a Selfie?

The entire Christian life is communal, encompassing how we worship, interpret the Bible, and especially how we pray. Given the individualist bent of our wider culture, that means purposefully leaning toward the instruction of the church and praying not just for ourselves, but for any and all.

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Why I Publish the “Know Your Southern Baptists” Series

Oct 13, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Church-On-HillOver the weekend, I was tagged in a Facebook conversation. Anthony Bradley was lamenting my “Know Your Southern Baptists” series for making TGC lean too heavily toward Southern Baptists, because there is no comparable series for Anglicans, Presbyterians, etc. This charge caught my attention since Christianity Today’s recent profile on me in their millennial edition mentioned this as a distinctive element of my online work:

While other young Christians may be casting off denominational identity, Wax celebrates the legacy of the SBC with his blog series Know Your Southern Baptists, featuring the church’s pastors, authors, and musicians.

Anthony is a writer I pay attention to – a mix of insight, wisdom, and all-around feistiness that makes him always interesting to read. So, since I was part of “instigation tagging” – a new phrase that popped up in the comment thread (yes, Anthony, please write about this new phenomenon!), I thought I’d jump in and explain the rationale for the “Know Your Southern Baptists” series.

Moving to TGC

When I moved my blog over to The Gospel Coalition’s website in 2012, I spoke of TGC as a ”neighborhood” I was excited to belong to and serve. I mentioned several reasons for moving my blog, expressing first my affinity for TGC’s Theological Vision for Ministry and also how much I had benefited from the other bloggers on the site. My third reason was related to my denominational home:

I want to see Southern Baptists represented in this neighborhood. Although several of the contributors to the TGC group blog are Southern Baptists, there hasn’t been a consistent SBC voice at The Gospel Coalition. The Southern Baptist Convention is the most populous denomination within evangelical circles, and as a member of a Southern Baptist church by conviction and confession (Baptist Faith and Message 2000), I hope to accomplish a broader goal of “being Southern Baptist among and for evangelicals.”

There are eight regular bloggers at TGC, and at the time, I was the only Southern Baptist among them. This, despite the fact a large segment of TGC’s readership belongs to the SBC.

On Denominational Identity

Evangelicalism is often critiqued for its lack of ecclesiology. The neo-evangelical movement depended, at some level, on putting aside our denominational distinctives in order to come to the table and have fellowship. One of the unintentional side effects of this ecumenism is that it downplays the importance of the local church, which leads to, in my estimation, a weaker evangelical movement. Evangelicalism is only as strong as our churches are.

I remember having lunch one day with an Eastern Orthodox priest in Kentucky. We were talking about our respective churches, our similarities and differences, and he relayed to me a situation where he was asked to pray at a civic event in his city. He was asked to pray a generic prayer that would not offend anyone. His response? “I am not a generic priest. You’ve asked an Orthodox priest to pray; you’re going to hear an Orthodox prayer.”

I am not a generic evangelical. I am a Southern Baptist who loves and wants to edify likeminded evangelicals in other denominations. My churchmanship doesn’t mean I take an adversarial posture toward other brothers and sisters. I am not in the SBC over against over denominations, but for the benefit of my brothers and sisters who are in other churches.

And how could I not adopt this outlook when I have benefited from so many people outside of the SBC? My blog readers aren’t surprised when in the space of just last week, I recommended the Anglican turned Catholic G. K. Chesterton, interviewed a writer from the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, provided a summary of the work of a United Methodist theologian on Thursday, and then featured a Southern Baptist leader on Friday. Anyone reading Kingdom People on a regular basis is going to learn from others.

Why “Know Your Southern Baptists?”

Several years ago, Joe Carter did a blog series called Know Your Evangelicals, in which he posted profiles some of the most well-known evangelicals of our day. I found the blog series to be helpful, and so about a year ago, I chose to do something similar with the Southern Baptist Convention.

In a day when we are less and less likely to feel any sense of loyalty to the churches we’ve been shaped by, I believe it’s helpful to express gratitude for the good God is doing through our denominations and networks. If Kevin DeYoung were to do a blog series called “Know Your Presbyterians,” I’d be the first in line to rejoice and give thanks to God for the glory He is receiving from my Presbyterian brothers and their ministry. I’d also love to see a series on influential Anglicans, so I could get to know and learn from some of them too.

The Your in the series title is intentional, not because all of my readers are Southern Baptist (they aren’t), but because I believe Southern Baptists are at their best when they are among and for evangelicals. So, there is a sense in which a missiologist and researcher like Ed Stetzer doesn’t belong just to the SBC. He is yours too. The same is true of Matt Chandler preaching, Beth Moore leading conferences, Trip Lee rapping, Russ Moore fighting for religious liberty, and any other number of prominent Southern Baptists who are serving others through their ministries.

Conclusion

I love The Gospel Coalition and what it stands for. I love the cultural engagement I see on the website. I love Keller and Carson and the vision they have put forth.

But I come to this place with a strong ecclesiological identity, and even though I’m going against the grain of evangelicalism’s muted denominational distinctives, I believe I’m a better blogger, writer, and thinker when I recognize and affirm my local church affiliation rather than keep it under wraps. Evangelicalism will be stronger when we come together as robust and committed church people.

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