Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Christian Carnival XCVI: Applying the Gospel to All of Life

It is my privilege to present Christian Carnival XCVI (96). The gospel of Jesus Christ is Good News, is it not? For it presents a revelatory, divine solution to the problems of humanity. Other religions and philosophies may at times say things similar to the Christian message, but Christianity alone centers upon what God did to reach out to humanity, whereas other religions focus upon human efforts to reach God, or to become more "god-like".

In "cyber" travels within the Christian blogosphere, and "real world" encounters with other believers (such as in my recent visit to the first-ever God Blog Conference at La Mirada, California), I have been pleased to meet Christians who seek to intelligently apply the gospel to all of life. The gospel of Christ, and the message of the Bible, provide a framework for interpreting reality, and one of our great challenges as believers is to find and live out truly biblical answers to the deep questions life presents. If Christianity is indeed true, it ought to be able to stand up to this challenge. The Christian blogging community is a great resource in this process, as we share answers, questions and explorations with each other, seeking to refine our thinking, and most importantly, improve our application, of biblical truth.

Christians, I believe, are not inherently wiser, nor morally superior to anyone else, but if we have truly received the gospel into our hearts, we are slowly being transformed in our minds, in our behavior, and in our character, by the Spirit of God. Thus we have a great foundation for deep exploration/application of truth.

So this week's Carnival theme is "Applying the Gospel to All of Life". May the entries here spur us on to do just that, with more wisdom and success.

The 96th Christian Carnival: Applying the Gospel to All of Life

Character Development and Relationships
At the heart of a truly successful Christian life is the question of who we are becoming-- are we becoming more like Christ in the way we love others? Given our theme this week, I think it fitting to open the Carnival with an entry by Phil Steiger of Every Thought Captive titled Building Character, Shaping Life. Phil's post begins some thoughts on how the development of virtue in our lives changes and enhances the way we know life and Christ. Steiger argues that the more virtuous (i.e., Christ-like) we are becoming, the clearer we will be able to see spiritual realities.

It's not often that we think about what it means to be an authentic man of God. The world's stereotype of what it means to be a man is obviously way off base, but coming from imperfect homes with less than perfect up fathers, as many of us do, even as Christians our definition of manhood can use refining. Geared to men, but with points that women can be encouraged by as well, Bill at White Ribbon Warriors presents a post titled Authentic Manhood.

The transformation of character that God calls each one of to is not accomplished in a vacuum, but happens in the context of relationships and the pursuit of our callings. In A Biblical Problem in our Seminaries, Ann of Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength questions the popular approach to grooming and selecting church leaders. The Bible instructs that church leaders be chosen from those with a proven leadership track record in their own families. Does our seminary system place obstacles before the mature "family man", while pressuring the young and untried into positions they cannot yet handle successfully? What's the best way to train up new leaders and still heed the Scripture's call to value maturity and proven leadership ability?

Of course the weakness we experience "in the flesh" means that relating to others and pursuing our callings must be through the power of the filling of the Spirit. John Howell of Brain Cramps for God reminds us of this important foundational truth in Back to Basics: How to be Filled With the Holy Spirit.

Do we have anything to fear but fear itself? Biblically, we are warned to fear God, for He alone is the One to whom we must answer someday. Nevertheless a relationship with God immunizes us to other kinds of fear. God wants us to trust Him and obey Him. His purpose and plans are far higher and greater than our own. He won’t call us to do His will unless He is with us. He won’t leave us alone, no not ever. He will enable us to fulfill the destiny He’s called us to. What do we need to fear? Kim Bloomer of Sharing Spirit offers her thoughts and personal experiences with this topic in Don't Be Afraid.

Of course, cultivating a relationship with God requires faith to obey his commands, sometimes in the face of cultural expectations to the contrary. In Limiting your career with the Sabbath, David Knowles of All Kinds of Time takes a brief look at the faith that it takes to honor God by observing the Sabbath.

In the post, On the Need to be Right, The Bloke from in the outer reflects on the human need to be "right", as a followup to an earlier post, "On the Need for Proof". He surmises that this need sometimes overwhelms what ought to be our first priority, right relationships.

In Rights And Obligations, Parableman Jeremy Pierce has a more philosophical approach as he asks questions about the relationship between rights and obligations. In particular, he asks, are there cases where I might have an obligation toward you where you don't have any right to the thing I owe you?

Equuschick at The Common Room proves that people are quite funny in their inconsistencies, in her post, In Which People Are Proved to Be Funny.

In Did You Get It, Martin Labar of Sun and Shield speaks of futility in our understandable attempts to hold on to beautiful experiences by capturing them somehow, in a digital photo, for instance. Does the increasing sophistication of modern devices for recording events enhance our experience of reality? Perhaps not, but still there remains the very human desire to try to preserve wonderful experiences forever.

Which is what Donna-Jean of Liberty and Lily attempts in her post A Full Heart, about a visit to her church by bestselling author, Jan Karon. Her recounting of the event indeed helped me appreciate the joy she experienced in this event and her relationship with Ms. Karon.

Most of the time we remember John Calvin as a great theologian whose writings inspired "TULIP", but in Calvin and Piety, Matt Jones shows us that Calvin ought to be remembered and admired more for the piety with which he lived out his theological convictions.

Zaccheus provides for us an example of how to deal with personal shame, writes A Penitent Blogger, in Shame, shame, an examination of different kinds of shame.

Yusuf has two wives. Can he get baptised? In One faith, one baptism...two wives...? (Part 2) Keith, at Under the Acacias, continues the story of Yusuf and the issues he faced.

Developing Sound Theology and Proper Biblical Interpretation

Yusuf's story shows how cultural concerns may interact with our theological questions, adding another layer of complexity to the challenge of properly interpreting and applying the Bible to life. Nevertheless, developing sound theology and accurate interpretion of the Bible are more than mere academic exercises. Rather, these tasks are a fundamental calling and a critical skill in the life of the believer. Without such a foundation, we be can be led astray by false gospels, or be at a loss when deciding how to apply faith to real life.

In Bible/Greek Mumbo Jumbo Alert, Andrea Graham of Adam's Web found new meaning in a familiar scripture, giving her strength to face a frightening task.

If we do not know the nature of the true gospel, through the careful study and application of it to our lives, Kristina of The Daily warns that we may be suceptible to the deceit of false new "gospels", in There Is No Right and Wrong with The New Gospel.

But how do we interpret the Bible correctly? There are no shortage of theological debates raging back and forth in the blogosphere, and likewise no shortage of biblical quotations hurled around in support of people's positions - but are we using the Bible correctly? Steven Harris looks at some of the dangers of trying to solve theological arguments simply by hurling scripture at them, in his post Using the Bible in Blogging Debate.

The doctrine of hell is perhaps one of the most unpleasant and avoided in today's church. Yet there is no escaping hell as a part of the message of the gospel, for Jesus Himself spoke about hell often. In Hell Hath No Fury? Annihilationism Considered, Lyndon Perry of Thought Renewal examines the topic, arguing that "understanding the nature of hell is important because the effectiveness of evangelism is at stake". This post sparked my own thoughts, which turned into Heaven and Hell, my contribution to this week's Carnival. In this post I discuss the way both heaven and hell are reflected in this world we live in, and the implications for believer and non-believer alike of contemplating the inevitable destiny for all of either heaven and hell.

In Death and Destruction and God, Tom Gilson of Thinking Christian, touches on theological issues similar to those raised in my post. His article continues a series that asks very challenging questions, such as how can God be good, yet call for a nation to be destroyed without mercy?

Did the cross of Jesus Christ completely avert for all who receive it the wrath of God? Or is some other means necessary to deal with sins committed after becoming a believer? Richard of dokeo kago grapho soi kratistos theophilos explains the historical origin of the problem of the medieval penitential system (penance) that eventually led to the Reformation.

What about the love of God? Is God more loving in the New Testament than he is in the Old? Ron Stewart of Northern 'burbs blog continues his series on the theology of salvation in his post NBB Theology: God - Part IV.

Applied Christianity
If, as Francis Schaeffer once said, "Christianity provides a unified answer for the whole of life," then Christian answers need to be applied, not just to the individual in his personal relationship with God and others, but also in the public square. It is argued by many today that a strict separation of church and state is needed in formulating public policy, based upon the idea that our Constitution supposedly advocates such a separation. But it is clear that the founders of our country, while not uniform in their religious beliefs, were nonethless on the whole a religious group of men who thoughtfully applied the principles of Christianity (or at least belief in God) to the issues of government and public policy. These men saw truths derived from belief in a Creator as universally applicable, and thus had no problem with applying principles for properly relating to our fellow man that were derived from and informed by their religious beliefs. What the critics of faith-based public policy-making fail to note is that all policy-making is based upon values of some sort, derived from "faith" of some kind. Policy-makers and thinkers with faith in God usually have a worldview that sees truth as having an objective reality, as well as universal implications/applications to all spheres of life. But just as much, secularists approach policy-making with a desire to apply its values universally, often with the faulty presumption that since their conclusions are not based on religious foundations, they are somehow more objective, rational, or scientific.

Thoughtful Christians find fallacy (and some hypocrisy) in this line of thinking. Thus we aim to apply the truths we derive from our faith to the world at large, just as others apply the truths they find, from other sources.

The Gospel in the Public Square

In the series of posts that follows we see how those who believe in the gospel attempt to apply its truths in various spheres.

In The Gospel and the Public Square, Mark Olson of Pseudopolymath shares some "relatively incomplete thoughts on what it means to be a Christian and comment or participate in the Public (Political) Arena."

John Willis of Baptist Revivals Blog says It's Time to Deal With Pro-Gay Churches!. Even in governing the church, do we bow to the pressures of political correctness, or take our stand firmly upon scriptural principles and values?

Are the words, "Merry Christmas" offensive? Many retailers seem to think so, going to the point of barring employees from uttering the phrase. But are we Christians offended when those retailers make such a rule? Rev-ed at Attention Span examines this idea in Merry Chris... er, Happy Holidays!

The influence of the Supreme Court judges upon public policy is second to none, and the next two posts examine this issue. Natural law might be "fluff" in this multicultural age of cultural equality. The vague term, referring to a higher law to be found, can mean many things, depending on who finds it! So what exactly, did Justice Scalia mean when he called natural law "fluff"? Cwv warrior of Christianity is Jewish makes an attempt to clarify in his post, Natural Fluff.

Lennie at examines the writings of Judge Alito in No Right to Abortion. Does what one wrote 20 years ago matter? Have his views changed over the last 20 years? And what does this imply for whether or not Judge Alito should be confirmed?

A business match made in heaven? Horn+Swoggled takes a satirical look in X Games Sign Deal with Willow Creek

How does faith apply in the area of education? Should all Christians homeschool? Spunky answers questions from a concerned reader in her thought-provoking post Our Children As Missionaries. A lively discussion ensues in the comments section of the post.

As mentioned at the beginning of the Carnival, Christian answers to the problems of sin, questions of the afterlife, and justification in God's sight are very different from those of other religions and philosophies. For example, in Islam And Suicide Bombers, Ziba Dearden of Once More Into the Breach examines the question,"How is it that Moslems willingly blow themselves up?" and discovers that the answer is rooted in the very different religious understandings of Islam.

In his post Diwala, Kevin at Technogyspy speaks of his local participation in this Indian "Festival of Lights" holiday, and writes that Christians ought not to "stay hidden in Christian ghettos", but rather interact with the world, in such a way that they can sense our love and respect, even if we don't always agree with them. This reminds me of the recent discussion about the Halloween holiday on this blog and elsewhere, where the question of Christian engagement or principled abstinence is often debated.

We end this week's carnival with Jollyblogger David Wayne's thoughtful (and very thorough!) Book Review- Revolution by George Barna, which touches upon many of the issues of application of the gospel discussed above.

Thanks to all who made contributions to this week's carnival, and to all visitors, may the Lord use what is of value in any of these posts to bless your life.

Alex Jordan
Jordan's View

No comments: