Flotsam & Jetsam (9/13)

Guys, It Matters Whom You Marry, Too – The follow-up to this post. Both are well-worth your time.

Free Speech is Free Speech is Free Speech – Mark Steyn says, “The mob of ‘Islamic rage boys’ gets mad about all kinds of stuff — cartoons, dogs, teddy bears. You can never make a long enough list to satisfy them. So you might as well tell them you’re not going to start.”

How to Think About the Embassy Violence – Kevin DeYoung asks a very pertinent question: “Will peoples who believe in free speech and freedom of religion sacrifice both when faced with the angry shouts and gunfire of those who don’t?”

Six Myths of American History – Excellent.

My Chains Fell Off – “I know God is sovereign over every second of my life including the years of gospel ignorance. Perhaps, those lean times were necessary for me to appreciate how good the good news really is.”

John Calvin and Michael Servetus – So what really happened between those two? Probably not what you’ve been told. (HT Truthinator)

iPhone 5 and Our Fascination with Newness – “Bigger screen. Better camera. Faster processor. We’re fascinated with newness. We love improving our gadgets. There is much common grace in a new iPhone — an image-of-God creativity to appreciate. And a danger to beware.”

Do You Love Jesus or Your Robust Theology? – Good stuff to consider.

The Chocolate Milk Test – Love it. Wilson writes, “I sometimes describe the mentality of soft despotism that surrounds us on every hand as the ‘free chocolate milk for everybody’ mindset. So let this be your litmus test. Do I have a right to buy chocolate milk if I want? Or is someone else being obligated to buy me a chocolate milk whenever I want?”

A Little of This, A Little of That – And a whole lot of awesome.

Leaky Canons and Moralizing Gospel Misfires: An Analogy – Dan Phillips is one of my favorite bloggers. Here’s another reason why.

“Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.” – G.K. Chesterton

Why Christianity is a Religion of Peace and Islam is Not

As we reflect on the anniversary of 9/11, I think it important for us to reflect on the contrast between how the genuine Christian faith is advanced with how the religion of Islam is advanced. Robert Spencer is one of our nation’s most articulate and spot-on critics of Islamic extremism. He is the author of The Truth About Muhammad, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), as well as other books on the relationship between Islam and terrorism. His more recent book, Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t, includes a short bio that informs readers that “Spencer lives in a secure, undisclosed location.” The reason for his self-imposed seclusion is because he fears for his life. Continue reading —>

This is a timely article from Gary Demar. It never ceases to amaze me that people still swallow the notion that Islam is “religion of peace”. Seriously?

Mark Steyn deftly skewers this kind of thinking in his book America Alone. “Bomb us,” he observes, “and we agonize over the ‘root causes’. Decapitate us, and our politicians rush to the nearest mosque to declare that ‘Islam is a religion of peace’. Issue blood-curdling calls at Friday prayers to kill all the Jews and infidels, and we fret that it may cause a backlash against Muslims. Behead sodomites and mutilate female genitalia, and gay groups and feminist groups can’t wait to march alongside you denouncing Bush and Blair. Murder a schoolful of children, and our scholars explain that to the ‘vast majority’ of Muslims ‘jihad’ is a harmless concept meaning ‘healthy-lifestyle lo-fat granola bar’.”

This is what Steyn calls “the lopsided valse macabre of our times: the more Islamists step on our toes, the more we waltz them gaily around the room.” Bingo.

Reading Together

One of the best chapters in Lit! is the one where Reinke discusses the benefits of reading together, with other Christians. Once we shelve (pun intended) the notion that reading is only a solitary exercise, we open ourselves up to a world of opportunities – to learn and to teach, to bless and to be blessed.

Reinke’s own love for reading was sparked by a pastor who took the time to walk him through his library of books. “All Christian readers,” Reinke adds, “have an opportunity to encourage other readers in the same way.

We fail to see God’s plan for books if we view reading as nothing more than a discipline done in isolation and for nothing more than personal edification. (p. 159)

Reading together is especially beneficial in the case of theology. Christians are, after all, people of the Book, and we should value opportunities to mine the treasures of theology with other Christians. “Theology,” says Reinke, “is especially suited for reading within the community of faith, because the community shares a personal stake in its promises.”

Marilynn Robinson puts it this way:

Good theology is always a kind of giant and intricate poetry, like epic or saga. It is written for those who know the tale already, the urgent messages and the dying words, and who attend to its retelling with a special alertness, because the story has a claim on them and they on it.

Reading theology together with Christian friends, as Reinke explains, “provides us with a place for collective discernment, and a place for spiritual illumination. And those are sweet moments!”

All this talk of “reading together” reminds me of family worship in my own house – we read, we pray, and we discuss. These are glorious truths we are studying here… so why would we not talk about them? How could we not?

I’m also reminded of worship in the Pliego household – which (as I quickly discovered during my vacation there) proceeds in almost identical fashion. Reading was done, and discussion began almost immediately afterwards. And it wasn’t a thin, forced, dispassionate kind of discussion either – it was full, it was genuine, and it was alive.

Sweet moments, indeed.

Reading together often requires us to agree to disagree: not just with each other, but with the author as well. Reinke says,

Disagreements can become rich and rewarding discussions in themselves, because it suggests that the group is engaged, thinking, and discerning… The amount of unified disagreement with an author has often caught me off guard. But I have come to cherish these opportunities. Reading groups have helped shape my discernment in ways few other contexts can provide. And no other setting has more convinced me that Scripture is the only book that is perfect, sufficient, eternal, and transcendent. (p. 161)

I got to experience some of that first-hand at the Pliegos, where collective disagreement with a particular author surfaced more than once. The reader would close the book, and for about ten seconds, pregnant silence would reign. Glances were exchanged around the table, and occasionally, one of us would cough – the kind of cough you cough when deciding how to voice your disagreement in the most coherent way possible.

Then someone spoke.

And then everyone spoke.

Viola. Rich and rewarding is right.

I love how Reinke likens literacy and good books to nails. Disciplined reading helps us to set those nails. And reading together with our brothers and sisters in Christ helps us sink some of those nails into our hearts and minds.

If you’re like me, you know only a few select ideas will be sunk deeply into your long-term memory. That’s the reality of reading books. Most nails are set, but never sunk. A good reading group will determine which of the nails to drive tight and which nails to leave hanging. But choose carefully. It’s the ideas and passages from books that are discussed most carefully with friends that are sunk the furthest into the mind, and those sunk the furthest are the ones you will carry the longest. Those are the truths that remain on the tongue when you trade with other needy sinners in your life.

While reading is mostly a solitary task – and a very important one – comprehension is a community project. I am convinced that we forget so much of what we read not because we are poor readers, rather, I believe we forget so much of what we read because we are selfish readers. And we all suffer because of it. (p. 163)