The Mood of Nihilism

Today, in Worldview, I talked about nihilism, which is less a worldview than a mood that is the psychological consequence of naturalism. Once again, my remarks were based on James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door, 4th ed.

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Review of Books on Evangelical Youth

Check out Naomi Schaeffer Riley's review of two books on the evangelical youth movement in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. The books are Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement by Lauren Sandler and Body Piercing Saved My Life by Andrew Beaujon. She pans the former but praises the latter.

True Love Hates (Romans 12.9)

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Love is the foundation of Christianity.  

Such love refers, first of all, to God’s love for us. According to Romans 5.8, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” But that public demonstration bears private fruit. According to Romans 5.5, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” So intense is God’s love for us that, according to Romans 8.39, there is nothing “in all creation, [that] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

Second, love refers to our love for one another. In Romans 12.9-16, Paul lists twelve character qualities that ought to guide Christians in their relationships with one another. In his commentary on Romans, John Stott lists these character qualities as sincerity, discernment, affection, honor, enthusiasm, patience, generosity, hospitality, good will, sympathy, harmony, and humility. Today, I want to look at only the first two: sincerity and discernment, for Paul talks about them in a way that might be confusing to some. 

Romans 12.9 says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” For most of us, love and hate are mutually exclusive. If you love, you do not hate. If you hate, you do not love. But Paul teaches that love and hatred are both character qualities of a Christian. How is this possible? Let me give you an example from marriage. 

Marriage is the purest demonstration of love a man and a woman can give one another. But there are many ways to pollute that love. For example, a husband could spend his best efforts at the office rather than at home. Or he could use online pornography. Or he could begin an extramarital affair. By the same token, a wife could give into bitterness about her husband’s freedom to work outside the home. Or she could resent his lack of involvement in chores and childrearing. Or she could indulge in gossip with friends about their respective husband’s failings. I admit that these examples are a bit traditional and stereotypical, but you get the point. Something pure becomes adulterated. 

You’ve no doubt heard the expression, “True love waits.” That’s correct. If you love someone, you’ll wait to engage in sexual activity with them until you’re married. But here’s an expression you’ve probably never heard: “True love hates.” It never hates another person, but it always hates the attitudes and activities that destroy a relationship. Show me a wife who doesn’t hate her husband’s adultery, and I’ll show you a wife who doesn’t love her husband. 

If love is sincere, it hates evil and embraces good. As expressions of love, then, whether in marriage or any other relationship, sincerity and discernment work together. If I love you, I will hate the things that push us apart and embrace the things that pull us together. After all, isn’t that how God expressed his sincere love for us on the Cross?

Don’t Call Me Pastor! (Romans 12.4-8)

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When I was born on Thursday, May 8, 1969, my parents named me George Paul Wood. Ever since, they have called me George. My sister calls me George. My wife calls me George. My extended family calls me George. My friends and colleagues call me George. And that’s the way I like. It is, after all, my name. But sometimes, people at church call me Pastor. Listen, if you’re my friend, please don’t call me Pastor. 

There are several reasons why I don’t like to be called Pastor. One, it makes me feel old. Two, it makes me feel like I ought to be wearing a clerical collar and uttering profound mysteries about God. But I hate wearing black, and while I like talking about God, very little that I say about him ever rises to the level of the profound or the mysterious. And three, I don’t call you by your spiritual gift, so why should you call me by mine? 

In order to explain that last reason, I need to quote Romans 12.4-8: 

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. 

With these words, Paul lays out a vision of church in which every member makes a valuable contribution to the life of the community. Keep two things in mind: First, each person’s contribution is different. Just as one body has many parts, so one church has many ministers. Some of the ministers have the spiritual gift of pastoring, but others of prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing generously, leading, and showing mercy. Second, each person’s contribution is equally valuable. Pastors may stand in the spotlight on Sundays, but behind the scenes and throughout the week, others are also doing the work of ministry. 

And that’s the basic reason I don’t like being called Pastor. The title, which is sincerely intended as a form of respect, ends up privileging one spiritual gift over others, mine over yours. I may be Pastor George, but you’re just as equally Prophet Peter or Serving Steve or Teaching Theresa or Encouraging Eve or Contributing Ken or Merciful Marianne. So if you’re going to give me a title, why can’t I give you one too?  

Through Christ, we’re all equal but differently gifted children in God’s family. Brothers and sisters call each other by their first names, the names their Heavenly Father gave them. Mine’s George. What’s yours?