The Civil Reader–29 May 2012

Wow, I skipped last week, and now I have a million articles to share.  Thankfully, I’ve forgotten what most of them are, which leaves us with just a few!  I’d like to think that the fact that these have remained in my memory means that they are the creme de la creme.  (Don’t judge me for not knowing how to make accent marks.)

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Culture Wars and the Future of the Evangelical Political Witness, at Mere Orthodoxy

I recently realized that almost all the blogs I read are more theologically and socially liberal than I am.  The problem I have with that is that, through my blog feed, I am giving myself an unbalanced view of reality.  Thus, I decided to add some more conservative voices to my feed and have found that I really enjoy them.  One of these voices is that of Matthew Anderson, who appears to be the chief writer for the site, Mere Orthodoxy.  He is a self-identifying conservative who seems to view politics very similarly to the way I do (which, of course, means he’s right….right?).  In the past week or two, he has been grappling with the idea of Christian political involvement, and I have been very interested to read what he says.  (See also:  “We are All Culture Warriors Now (?)” and “Post-Partisan Evangelicals and the Culture Wars:  An Attempt at Clarification”).

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Love People, Not Projects, by Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

All I really have to say to this article is:  Exactly!  As a naturally task-oriented person, I have a tendency to view people as projects, and these last few years have really opened my eyes to how dehumanizing that is to others.  Instead, God is helping me to better understand His intention for relationships and for the church.  Giving was never meant to be a one-way street.  While there are one-way gifts (um, Christ’s sacrifice comes to mind), the larger intention is always a mutually-participatory relationship.  And I have to tell you from experience that going about it that way is much more rewarding and exciting than the drudgery and ineffectiveness of trying to “save the world.”

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This last section is tricky because the article I read was merely a gateway to another idea.  See, when I read Why Africa Needs a Study Bible, at Gospel Coalition, I was immediately distracted by the fact that the interviewee, Matthew Elliot, has written two books called, Feel:  The Power of Listening to Your Heart, and Faithful Feelings:  Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament.  I then quickly got lost in the reviews of these books and was very intrigued.  As I have alluded before on this blog, I have long been distrustful of the elevation of pure reason over emotion.  Instead, I see them both as tools given to us by God, both of which can be distorted.  In fact, sometimes I think that distorted reason is far more dangerous than distorted emotion.

Oddly, another article backed up my theory this week:  Richard Beck’s Orthodox Alexithymia.  In this thought-provoking article, he argues,

For the Greeks emotion was error-prone and wild. Consequently, the wise person would use reason to subdue, tame, and guide the emotions. Thus the vision of the detached, cool, and cerebral philosopher.

We now know that the Greeks got this wrong. When emotion is decoupled from reason we have something that looks like sociopathy.

He backs this up with some medical jargon about how the brain works and then extends the implications to religion:

When theology and doctrine become separated from emotion we end up with something dysfunctional and even monstrous.

I found myself agreeing with almost all of it.  For one thing, I would argue that the Bible warns us about trusting our intellect more than it does trusting our emotions.  But the bottom line for me is that everyone uses emotions to make decisions; emotion and reason are inextricably intertwined, and rightly so.  That is how God designed us.  Thus, the best thing people can do is to admit the emotions that play a part in their every decision, for the degree to which they believe that they are using reason apart from emotion is the degree to which they are delusional.

But that’s just my two cents on the matter.

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I know I read more good stuff, but that’s all I can remember.  What have you been reading lately?

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tim on May 29, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Really enjoyed Jamie’s take on people not being projects. People are people, and projectifying them doesn’t do anyone any good. God certainly didn’t treat Israel as a project in the Ot, nor is that how we see the Church described in the NT. He loves his people as people throughout the Bible.

    Here’s one I read in the past week over at Sharon Hodde Miller’s blog, She Worships. It’s about fearing where God is taking you: http://sheworships.com/2012/05/24/are-you-ever-afraid-of-god/ Good stuff, and not at all limited to the context of her own pregnancy. Sharon does a great job making this make sense for all of us.

    Tim

    P.S. Had one of my own posted yesterday at Leslie Keeney’s theology site, The Ruthless Monk: http://www.theruthlessmonk.com/too-good-to-be-true/

    Reply

  2. Posted by bekster081305 on June 1, 2012 at 11:53 am

    I know what Jamie means about people getting all funny after hearing the word “missionary.” In my experience, it isn’t so much that people suddenly “shape up” but that they start making excuses for why THEY can’t do missions. When we said we were moving to Nicaragua, the most common response from people was “Wow, I could never do that.” Never did we tell anyone that they HAD to do anything like that (only to serve in whatever way God calls them to serve). It was just weird how defense people got when we never would have thought on our own to judge them for whatever they were or were not doing. (But, since they are bringing it up on their own, maybe that shows that God is working on their hearts. That’s how we were before we finally gave in and opened the door.) Anyway, I wish that people would see that all Christians are “missionaries” in a way, if we are talking in terms of, like she said, loving people and not thinking of them as projects. (And you don’t necessarily have to move to a different country to do this. This kind of love is needed right where people are at the moment.)

    As for the emotion vs. reason thing, I agree that we need both and that they help each other to function. However, I would say that both of them are (well, should be) controlled by the Spirit. I think it is unfair to say that all emotion is of the flesh (the sinful nature) and is inherently opposed to the Spirit. (There are times when denying emotion and going totally with reason/logic can be just as or even more sinful than going totally with emotion.) Rather, part of letting the Spirit “win” is allowing it to mediate between the heart and the mind. But, that’s just my opinion at the moment.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tim on June 1, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      Becky, a friend of ours on the Junior High leadership team used to say “I could never go on the Mexico mission trip with the youth group.” Finally one year he went. Soon after, he began what has now become a 20 year stint as a full time resident missionary in a small village on the Baja Peninsula. Go figure.

      Tim

      Reply

  3. Posted by bekster081305 on June 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    And, Tim, regarding your post at The Ruthless Monk, it’s crazy to me to think that John and the other guys writing about Jesus actually saw him and personally witnessed the events they speak of. I mean, I believe it anyway because of personal experiences in my own life, but I so wish I had the opportunity to see and get to know Jesus in person as a human being. Oh, and I’m really glad the story about the guy losing his teeth was fake. It goes to show you that the media is more interested in a story that will draw readers (people to look at ads which bring in money) than something that is actually true. We all need to be wary. (Though I will admit that I am a bit on the gullible side myself.)

    Reply

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