Matthew Parris, a “confirmed atheist”, recently shared his belief that Africa needs God at TimesOnLine:

“Travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing… The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall…  
It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.”

Mr. Parris concludes his article with observations that may well be true, but miss the greatest truth: Christianity is not just liberating and life-transforming for Africans because of their traditional philosophical/spiritual framework; it is liberating and life transforming for everyone, in every culture, in every time… 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

To read the whole article, click here.

~Donovan

HT: Pyromaniacs

Tim Keller:

“Martin Luther had the basic insight that moralism is the default mode of the human heart. Even Christians who believe the gospel of grace on one level can continue to operate as if they have been saved by their works. In “The Great Sin” in Mere Christianity, Lewis writes, “If we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good—above all, that we are better than someone else—I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the Devil.”

Gracious, self-forgetful humility should be one of the primary things that distinguishes Christian believers from the many other types of moral, decent people in the world. But I think it is fair to say that humility, which is a key differentiating mark of the Christian, is largely missing in the church. Nonbelievers, detecting the stench of sanctimony, turn away.

Some will say, “Phariseeism and moralism are not our culture’s big problems right now. Our problems are license and antinomianism. There is no need to talk about grace all the time to postmodern people.” But postmodern people have been rejecting Christianity for years, thinking that it was indistinguishable from moralism. Only if you show them there’s a difference—that what they rejected wasn’t real Christianity—will they even begin to listen again.”

Read the whole article (in the latest edition of Christianity Today) here.

~Donovan

HT: Justin Taylor 

Roles (part 2)

December 28, 2008

CJ Mahaney continues his series on God-honoring time management. You can read his latest post, Roles (part 2), here.

~Donovan

Matthew’s Begats

December 24, 2008

I think this song is pretty clever. And I think a book that can make it’s theme understandable and enjoyable for kids is well worth checking out! Heather and I will take a look at the book (see it here) and let you know… unfortunately not in time for this Christmas, but well in advance for next. See the song performed live (from a concert in 2004) below:

~ Donovan

Penn Jillette is an American comedian, illusionist, juggler and writer. He’s best known as the taller, louder half of the magic and comedy act Penn & Teller. Jillette is an outspoken atheist (actually, he considers himself “beyond atheism” – read an essay he wrote on his beliefs here). This is what he has to say about evangelism:

 

Read the rest of this entry »

I have e-mailed D.A. Carson twice with questions, and received helpful, gracious responses from him both times (the first time he even apologized for taking so long to get back to me! [he had been out of the country!]). If you don’t know who he is: D.A. Carson is an outstanding biblical scholar who has written and edited dozens of books. He also does University evangelism and frequently speaks at major conferences around the world. I have benefitted from his books as much as I have any author (outside of Scripture). The bottom line:  he’s a very gifted, very busy man, who I’m sure is bombarded with e-mails… and I’m blessed that he would take the time to respond thoughtfully and helpfully to both of mine, even though we have never even met. I think it shows both a genuine humility and a true ministry mindset (not to mention exceptional discipline of time). I’m thankful to God for men like him – both gifted and godly (how easily knowledge and ability and renown can puff us up!). And I’m encouraged by his example – to make more of my time, to be the greatest blessing I can be, to as many people as possible… I may not have even a fraction of his gifting, but I can be very purposeful to make the most of what God has given me, for the blessing of others and the glory of God.

~Donovan

P.S.: If you’re interested in our most recent e-mail exchange, you can read it below: 

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Theology for Kids

December 18, 2008

Andy and Jennifer Nasseli review and recommend a number of recent books for younger children:  

“Without pretending to be experts on theological children’s literature, we have sorted through recent theology books for younger children and compiled a short list of outstanding books. Other books are undoubtedly worthy of mention, but these are our favorites. What follows organizes them in three categories and ranks the books in order, beginning with our top recommendations.”

You can read it here (PDF) or here (HTML). If you’re a parent or grandparent, I strongly encourage you to.

This article is from the latest Themelios journal. Themelios is free, and is published three times a year at www.theGospelCoalition.org.

~Donovan

HT: Tim Challies 

Roles (Part 1)

December 18, 2008

I’m really enjoying CJ Mahaney’s ongoing blog series about God-honoring time management and productivity. His most recent post is entitled “Roles (Part 1)“. Read it here.

Preceding posts in this series: 

1. Are You Busy?

2. Confessions of a Busy Procrastinator

3. The Procrastinator Within

4. Just Do It

5. The Sluggard (sharing insights from Derek Kidner)

6. Time. Redeemed. (sharing insights from RC Sproul)

7. Roles, Goals, Scheduling

~Donovan

Roles, Goals, and Scheduling

December 13, 2008

C.J. Mahaney writes: “From my study of this topic and my observation of those I admire (and desire to emulate), it appears to me that being faithful, productive, and fruitful for the glory of God requires that I accomplish three things:

1. define my present God-given roles,
2. determine specific, theologically informed goals, and
3. transfer these goals into my schedule.”

Read the whole post here

~Donovan

Matt and Elizabeth Schmucker of 9Marks ministries wrote this helpful article on parenting. It is based on their personal experience with their five children who presently range in age from 3 to 19. Read it here

HT: Tim Challies