Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wheaton College more open-minded than Columbia?

Rachel and I got a chance to hear Tim Keller speak at MIT a couple of days ago and it was quite invigorating to see a lecture hall packed with skeptics glued to every word a Christian minister had to say. His new book, "The Reason for God" had made it to #11 on the New York Times Bestseller list in only its first week; praise be to God! I've gotten through most of it, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has doubts about Christianity.

I just finished listening to a panel discussion that Keller had at Columbia University with two secular religion professors. It is a fascinating and friendly discussion, and you can watch the whole thing here. I was quite pleased and startled to hear Wheaton, my alma mater, spoken of highly by a Columbia professor (in the second quote). Here are some provocative quotes.

"If Christians are serious about conversion, that means getting into a conversation where they’re listening and not just talking. Not just bringing the good news, but open to listening to other kinds of news. Not just there with your little tracts, but actually standing there and listening to what other people have to say.”
-Mark Lilla, Columbia Professor

"I’m completely sure that belligerently secular people who are hostile to religion can be just as intolerant as any religious fanatic can be. And I think in fact in some quarters of American intellectual life that the condescension toward religion and the refusal to take religious people seriously is a very serious problem…I spoke not too long ago at Wheaton College, an evangelical institution, and I found that the openness, the intellectual exchange, the sense of diversity of opinion actually compared rather favorably to what we have here at Columbia.”
-Andrew Delbanco, Columbia Professor

"Though we are infinitely exalted in the image of God and therefore we have rights, but at the same time we are infinitely fallen...and if Christians can get in touch with that, and I do agree that an awful lot of the rhetoric from the Christian Right is not in touch with that at all, we’re still not going to have any moral authority and people don’t have to listen to us because it won’t resonate. As a person who believes in the image of God and that Christianity is true I therefore think there are lots and lots of reasons in peoples’ consciences that a lot of these Christian themes will resonate even if these people don’t adopt Christianity per say. Therefore, we have to find ways as exclusive religionists to move out in society with a servant attitude with humility and serving people and recognizing that only if they recognize by the way we live and our attitude that we really are Christians. The onus is on us Christians to earn back any kind of respect in the public square so people will listen to public proposals that have Christian roots to them. Right now people aren’t listening, because in the last hundred years we haven’t earned their respect and you only get it back not by yelling, but by serving and by putting yourself in other peoples’ shoes."
-Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pastors with goatees and stylish glasses

Pastors with goatees and stylish glasses were considered on the cusp of ultimate "coolness" probably 2-5 years ago. Now, I think guys with goatees and glasses (i.e. me -- see picture to the right) mostly get made fun of. And probably rightly so. I've heard a lot of seasoned Pastors poke a little fun at Pastors who have a goatee, wear "granny-style" glasses and show movie clips during their sermons. These are the same Pastors who use candles in their worship service and drink beer and might even use cuss words from time to time. To be honest, all of that makes me a little self-conscious, because I've done all of those things (except cuss, that's just not my style). Actually, it makes me want to get new glasses and shave my goatee. But then, I would just be falling into the same trap: being too consumed by how I look -- just in the opposite direction. And quite frankly, I kinda like the way I look in glasses and in what I call a "goatee." (sidenote: I got my glasses at Costco. They have really good deals on glasses!)

Here are some examples of cool pastors/christians:

Exhibit A. Pastor Mark Driscoll: the unshaven, unbuttoned shirt look:

Exhibit B. Pastor Dan Kimball: the California, punk rock hair look

Exhibit C. Musician David Crowder: the classic old-style glasses with crazy goatee. a crazy 'fro too.

Here's my main point. I am a young guy, and I'm impressionable. I've spent the last five years probably getting too caught up in trying to be a "cool pastor." On one hand, I think it is a very important and good thing to try to understand our culture especially for the purposes of reaching it with the Gospel. On the other hand, I admit that young guys like me get really excited about the "newest, coolest, and most innovative" new techniques. I still have these tendencies. But I think I'm beginning to realize that the most important thing is not being cool, but rather the most important thing is getting your message right. If you're cool, and people think you're cool, and they're going to your church, but they aren't changed, challenged, and completely transformed by the Gospel, you've really accomplished nothing. I'm far from perfect, but I'm thankful that for the next two to three years, I am required to read books from theologians and saints from centuries past who did not have goatees or cool glasses. I doubt that St. Augustine or Abraham or Jesus or the Apostle Paul were considered stylish in their day. I'm trying to undrstand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The more I study, the more I realize how rich, complex and multi-layered it is. But my prayer for myself and all the other young cool pastors out there is that we will focus on things of first importance: understanding the Gospel, and taking it deep into our hearts and identities. Then, we can have debates about the coolest eyewear.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

We Rocked the Vote

I meant to post this the day it happened, but never got around to it until now. But just so you know...
Ben did, too, but he was too cool for a sticker.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My German Friend Marty

I am reading a biography of Marty (Martin) Luther for my church history class. What an interesting dude. Luther came from a poor but hard-working peasant family. His father desperately wanted him to become a lawyer, but instead, he was struck by lightning and took it as a sign to become a monk instead, much to the displeasure of his dad. (at this point, I was wondering if Luther was actually an Asian boy born to demanding immigrant parents) For years, he tried with all of his might to live a Godly, moral life. He spent all his time praying, fasting, reading the bible. He attended Catholic mass and confessed his sins to priests about every little sin he could think of. Yet, he was tormented by the fact that no matter how hard he tried, he knew that even his attempts at becoming good actually just revealed how selfish he was: he wasn’t truly good for goodness' sake, he was just trying to be good to appease a righteous God and avoid hell. All of this led him to a great awakening in his life: that perhaps the Scriptures actually taught that the Christian life wasn’t about trying to be good…but perhaps that a life of faith was actually about admitting he could never be good and constantly trusting, believing and depending on a God who had died for him who had already made him completely acceptable before God; and being transformed from the inside out as a result.

Although today’s world is much different from Luther’s 1500s world, I can’t help but think of the nominal Christianity of America. Don’t most American Christians think Christianity is really just about becoming a better person and going to church so that hopefully their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds and they make it to heaven? Here are Luther’s words:

“You Lord Jesus are my righteousness, but I am your sin; you have taken on yourself what you were not and have given me what I was not.” (Luther’s prayer)

“The Christian life does not consist of being but of becoming, not of victory but the fight, not of righteousness but of justification [being declared righteous], not of comprehending but of stretching forward, not of purity but of purification.”

“The law says ‘do this!’ and it is never done. Grace says ‘believe in this man!’ and immediately everything is done.”

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lesson for Current and Future Married Men

I know that a lot of married men play with their wedding rings. They get bored or fidgety and start tossing it around, spinning it, etc. I saw my friend Jose do this at my last job and I also saw Conan O'Brien challenge himself to see how long he could get his ring to spin on his desk. Anyway, this is a minor pet peeve of mine because I am always afraid the ring will get lost. Ben does this fairly frequently and I tell him to stop, but he still does it.

So I wasn't too shocked when I came home one day last week and saw this on the kitchen table.

Me: "What is that?"
Ben: "Funny story..."

As you might've guessed, he had been playing with his ring and it rolled underneath the oven. So he crafted a hook device from some rolled-up magazines to get it out. 

*dramatic reenactment

Guys, please don't play with your wedding rings! Thank you.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ultimate Kick-back Music

I don't know about you, but every time I listen to Jack Johnson, I immediately want to lay around and do nothing. It's the ultimate relaxation music. I got my copy of "Sleep Through the Static" and it's relax-erific. Artists I would like to see live: Jack Johnson, U2, Coldplay and Linkin Park.

On another note, Rachel and I saw "Waitress" last weekend and I would definitely recommend it. I owed Rachel a chick flick b/c we have been watching all action movies recently, but it is a very thoughtful chick flick and really captures some very real, human moments in lives of ordinary people. It also presents an interesting pro-life argument (though that is not its agenda).