Chaplaincy and Evangelism: Is “Sharing the Gospel” the Same as Proselytizing?

So in reading a few other blogs yesterday looking for other comments and thoughts on faith and chaplaincy I came across the following clip.

I found this clip interesting on many levels and got in to a discussion with the blog poster who brought it up as an example of how postmodern Christians, especially mainline chaplains, seem unable or unwilling to present the Gospel to those who need it. But I found this clip very interesting regarding the skills a chaplain needs as well as whether or not it is considered proselytizing for a professional chaplain to share the Gospel. Continue reading

Peter Rollins on Seminary Dropout

I just wanted to give a shoutout to one of my favorite podcasts, Seminary Dropout. The host, Shane Blackshear, interviews some real movers and shakers in the Christian literary and cultural worlds, as well as people you probably never heard of. I’ve been listening for years, and Shane is one of the best interviewers I’ve heard.

Peter Rollins, author of “The Divine Magician”

He recently interviewed author Peter Rollins and I thought it was so good I wanted to highlight and link to it. You can go to the show’s episode page here, subscribe in iTunes or your podgrabber of choice, or click the link below to listen right away. You can even enter contests for books here and there. And he’s not famous, so he will actually interact with you if you hit him up on Twitter!

listen to the episode

Is John Calvin’s God Capable of Love?

After sitting dusty on my shelf ever since I bought it, I decided several weeks ago to crack open Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. I’ve been questioning my Calvinist upbringing for some time, mostly because I didn’t feel like I ever owned it. I was trained Reformed: Presbyterian church (PCA of course), Presbyterian college (Reformed Presbyterian, which even the PCA thinks is too stodgy). Mom and dad had RC Sproul on the radio and Tabletalk on the bookshelf. So I was thoroughly baptized in Calvinism and had been taught it exhaustively, even though I never really studied it per se. I had read plenty of Calvinists, but never Calvin. I decided to change that.

I now believe that if more Calvinists read Calvin, and not just other Calvinists, there would be fewer Calvinists.

Before I go on I’ll say that this is not a book review, a scholarly article, or even all that well thought out. I’m only about a quarter of the way through the Institutes, so I would expect that many will read this and respond to my objections pointing out that I don’t know all the facts. You’re absolutely right – I don’t. This is more my reaction as I encounter Calvin and Calvinism directly in the moment. It’s part of the process. I’m not going to bash him as a person, but I do have serious questions about his theology and reasoning(which God foreordained me to have before the beginning of time for the purpose of manifesting His glory, hallelujah). I’ll have more of these I’m sure in the future.

Is Calvin’s God capable of love?

As I read the Institutes I encountered a discussion of God based primarily in terms of will. It is God’s will that maintains the universe, that seeks his own glory, that creates and destroys, that is providentially manifest in every action and reaction from the cosmic to the subatomic. The answer to why God governs all these things has to do with manifesting God’s own glory and purpose according to Calvin. There is, at least so far in my reading, no mention of God’s love for what he has created, though. Continue reading

What Does it Mean to “Trust the Process”?

In any kind of Clinical Pastoral Education experience, you will probably hear this phrase at least once: “trust the process”. I know I heard it several times in my own CPE classes, and it was never spelled out what it meant to “trust the process”.

That is part of trusting the process.

Many seminarians enter CPE because they have to, because they want to enhance their pastoral care toolbox, or enhance their resume. I’m not going to pan these reasons at all. They are all good reasons to take a CPE unit. However this is only part of what CPE does. The tools and materials used in CPE to help develop interpersonal caregiving skills – books, group work, role-play, writing essays and reports, films – are also designed to work intrapersonally as well. When entering in to the work at first, the focus is outward. We come to learn to help others, to manage others’ crises better, and see how caregiving fits in to our theological and scriptural paradigms. Continue reading

Inerrancy, Nature and Scripture

While flipping through the radio stations the other day I came across a message by R. C. Sproul. He was speaking about philosophy, science and scripture and told an interesting story. In his seminary classes, whenever he asks who thinks the bible is inerrant every hand goes up. However when he asks if nature, as another revelation of God, is inerrant, there is a lot more hesitation. He raised an interesting question: why are some Christians so suspicious of nature as a means of God’s revealing Himself?

“Well because nature is fallen, dummy.”

“But even in it’s fallen nature, does it tell us something incorrect about God? Does nature lie?” Continue reading

Thoughts on calling, obedience and “Radical” by David Platt

I’ve been reading Radical by David Platt with some guys in my church small group. I’m about half way through it, and while there are good points to be made I have some major issues with others. Not to go too far into it, but I think he has a gift for overstatement.

Anyway, one point he makes is that all Christians are called to global evangelism. He equates calling with command in this case:

We take Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations, and we say , “That means other people.” But we look at  Jesus’ command in Matthew in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” and we say, “Now that means me.” (p73)

It is true that we often pick-and-choose what we find most appealing in Jesus’ teaching and apply what we like the most to us while putting aside what we don’t. However this argument made me think about the notion of “calling” in general. Continue reading

Clinical Pastoral Education isn’t just for Chaplains

Back in seminary I had the opportunity to do CPE at a local hospital in New Haven. It was a great facility and a prime opportunity – the slots fill up fast. But I didn’t take it because I planned on doing more traditional church ministry, not chaplaincy. While some of my classmates jumped at the opportunity to get CPE, others, like myself, said “why bother if I’m not going to need it?” Looking back I can see that I missed out on a great opportunity.

So do you need Clinical Pastoral Education if you’re planning on traditional ministry? Is it really only for hospital chaplains or navel gazers? Absolutely not.  Continue reading

God can handle our anger

So is being angry at God a sin?

I’ve come across this a couple times from some Christians, especially those from the Reformed/Calvinist end of the spectrum. I heard this most recently on the radio from a very well respected theologian who was doing a Q&A at a conference. For some reason most of the questions he got seemed to irritate him, and this one really hit a button with him apparently. Someone asked about how he could handle and reconcile his anger at God following the death of his son, who was in his 20’s if I remember right. The speaker said that there was absolutely no reason to be angry at God, rather that he needed to “repent” of his anger lest it lead him into some even worse sin. His reasoning was that God gives us so much, and when one thing gets taken away we get all upset and feel He is unfair.

Continue reading

Romans 1:18-20; What about the unreached and unreachable?

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking about the idea of salvation, namely who is saved, who isn’t, and why. Having been raised Calvinist I’m now questioning some points of it more directly than I have in the past, the state of the “unreached heathen” or “reprobate” being one of them. Traditionally Calvinism and many other branches of orthodox Christianity would say that those that never hear are lost based on the passage here in Romans. The teaching is that all of humanity knows something of God which can be inferred from the world around them. However this truth has been suppressed by the idolatry of others, leading all mankind to be in a state of sin. The implication is that all of humanity has been given knowledge of God but that humanity has rejected God from the beginning. Therefore, the species is under righteous judgment. Continue reading

Humble orthodoxy and the narrow well

I recently listened to a message by Joshua Harris put out by The Gospel Coalition on the subject of “Humble Orthodoxy”. I have to say that he hit the mark generally, although I slightly question his exegesis of some of the scriptures he used to defend his position. That’s neither here nor there – I don’t want to debate pins and angels. He made a good point in that, in defending doctrine many Christians come off sounding conceited or arrogant. At worst, we have Fred Phelps. Harris proposed rightfully that supporting orthodox doctrine is not about asserting our own rightness but about pointing to God and His rightness. Though some may say “the gospel offends”, we don’t need to add to the offense.

However I don’t think he went quite far enough. I think we need to be not only humble in regard to our presentation of our faith, we need to be humble about what we believe our faith is. That is to say, not only do we need to be humble but our orthodoxy needs to be humble. We need to acknowledge that our wisdom is limited and our knowledge is finite. We are still, along with Paul, looking through the glass darkly.  Continue reading