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Friday, June 27, 2014

Great Summer Reading

Before I take my customary break from blogging, I have some great summer reading to recommend.

First: Dr. Erik Strandness’s delightful new book, The Director's Cut: Finding God's Screenplay on the Cutting Room Floor. 

You don't find many medical doctors with degrees in theology. 

After practicing neonatal medicine for twenty years, Dr. Strandness went back to school to study theology, and he obtained a master’s degree in that field. This turn in his journey, and the book that ensued, was born out of his loss for words when someone asked him why he was a Believer. 

Once in a while, someone manages to put ageless Truth into such a fresh package that it cries out, "Read on!" That’s just the way I felt while reading The Director's Cut. It's not just Dr. Strandness’s engaging word images that make this book such a great read, but the profound Truths communicated in such a creative and thoroughly enjoyable manner. It's a fun read! 

I got to know Erik when he was part of the Colson Centurions Affiliate Program in Seattle, and I can tell you he is "the real deal."  Today, Erik is teaching science, religion and history at a Classical Christian school in Spokane, Washington. To learn more about Erik's move from medicine to theology, click here. To learn more about why Erik wrote the book, what it is about, and how you can obtain a copy, click here.

Next, I recommend Henry's Glory: A Story for Discovering Lasting Significance in Your Daily Work, by John Elton Pletcher.

John Pletcher is a pastor who gets theology of work. His book is unique in that it deals with this topic in the form of fictional story. Jesus used parables to communicate Truth to the masses, and great Christian writers of the past, such as John Milton and C.S. Lewis, used this technique with success.

Pletcher follows the story-telling tradition by skillfully weaving Truth into a contemporary narrative about Zach, Maggie, and a classic old pickup truck named "Henry." But don't let the story-form fool you. His treatment of theology of work is not superficial, by any stretch of the imagination. Pastor Pletcher engages with big issues, including eschatology and platonic dualism, and does so with excellence, in a winsome way!

To read a review of Henry's Glory that appeared in The Marketplace magazine, click here. To obtain a copy of John's book, click here.

Happy reading!

I'll see you in September.

Henry's Glory makes a great family read, suitable for ages 9 to 99.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

He Bettered The Condition Of A Nation

Jesus identified the two most important commandments: "Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and, "Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.”

What greater motivation can there be for our daily work? Loving God and loving people. It's pretty basic.

Through some vocations, people love others directly, as in the work of a nurse. Through other vocations, people love others indirectly, as in the work of a truck driver who delivers supplies that empower the nurse to nurse.  

Through his work as a botanist, chemist, professor, and entrepreneur, Dr. George Washington Carver loved God and loved people. If there ever was a person who combined Weslian-Haugian faith with a Moravian-Haugian approach to the marketplace, it was Carver.

Carver asked God to give him “orders for the day” during morning walks. And Carver continued to commune with God throughout the day, particularly in his lab at Tuskegee Institute, where he created new products from peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans. Not for his own glory, but for the common good and human flourishing to the glory of God.

Carver said: “God is going to reveal to us things He never revealed before if we put our hands in His. No books ever go into my laboratory. The thing I am to do and the way of doing it are revealed to me. The method is revealed to me the moment I am inspired to create something new. Without God to draw aside the curtain I would be helpless.”

Carver’s love for humanity shaped his work at Tuskegee. He came to Tuskegee in response to Booker T. Washington's invitation: "I cannot offer you money, position or fame...I offer you in their place work─hard work─the challenge of bringing people from degradation, poverty and waste to full manhood." Carver replied: "I shall be glad to cooperate with you in doing all I can through Christ who strengtheneth me to better the condition of our people."

He did just that! And in the process, he bettered the condition of a nation.

Of all the video clips Worldview Matters has produced, none has generated more hits than the following clip about Carver, nearing 10,000 views. Find out why:

If the video does not play, click here: http://youtu.be/1wv4qYIyJoM

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Friday, June 13, 2014

China Is The Unlikely Evidence

Today's guest post is from Darrow Miller and Friends, written by Gary Brumbelow, reprinted by permission. Gary provides a fitting capstone for my five-month series on how Christianity has positively affected nations where followers of Christ have practiced wholistic faith. We would be remiss if we omitted one country most people would least expect: China.    

China is poised to pass the US later this year as the world's #1 nation in terms of real GDP at purchasing power parity, according to the Financial Times.

In 1872, the United States beat out the UK to become the world’s #1 economic power. But that 142-year supremacy is about to end. Forecasters now believe China will move into the top spot later this year, four years ahead of the earlier prediction of 2019. That’s the story reported in Financial Times, “on the basis of new figures published today by the world’s leading statistical agencies.”

Rest assured you’ll be hearing more about that story. Here’s what may not get as much press.
Peter Cai, writing in China Spectator, recently reported that three Chinese professors—Yuyu Chen, Se Yan and Hui Wang—make the case that that there’s a connection between Christian missionary work and Chinese economic growth. Here are some excerpts from his article, Jesus and the Chinese Economic Miracle.”
·         “In a nutshell, Protestant missionaries helped to build China’s human and social capital before Mao took over in 1949. These cultivated values and capital endured even through Mao’s mad reign and have been put to good use again after China opened itself to the world again.”

·         “The Peking university scholars’ argument does not deny the importance of the historic change unleashed by Deng and his followers but they point to another element of the story -- the crucial role played by the protestant missionaries in spreading Western science, technology and social values in China.”

·         “A lot of China’s best education institutions including Peking University can trace their origins to missionary schools in the 19th and 20th centuries. … graduates from missionary schools went on to become much-needed professionals in China such as engineers, doctors, teachers and other professionals."

As we have quoted elsewhere, David Aikman, in Jesus in Beijing, wrote a decade ago about Chinese scientists who visited the US who recognized that “in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics."

The Bible affirms God as Creator and man as steward. The Cultural Mandate, which spurred the blessing of Western nations where Judeo-Christian virtues have been honored, does not belong to the West! The gospel is supposed to change nations. China is the unlikely evidence that it does!

To read Gary's complete post, click here. 

Also note this: China to have the World's Largest Population of Christians by 2025.

For more on the Financial Times report: 

If the video does not play, click here.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

The Quintessential Silent Partner

Noah Webster, in his Preface to the Dictionary of 1828, wrote: "In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government out to be instructed...No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people."
In his Value of the Bible and Excellence of the Christian Religion (1834), Webster declared: "Men may devise and adopt new forms of government, they may amend old forms, repair breaches, and punish violators of the constitution, but there is, there can be, no effectual remedy, but obedience to the divine law," and in a letter to James Madison (1829), he maintained: "...the christian [sic] religion, in its purity, is the basis or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government."  [1833 portrait by James Herring, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.]

For Noah Webster ["Schoolmaster of the Republic"], and other beneficiaries of the Reformation that grew out of northern Europe, liberty was built upon a foundation of self-government under God. This remarkable and revolutionary concept of freedom provided hope that a Constitutional Republic might work. At least it provided hope for those sharing Webster's convictions. Christianity was the quintessential silent partner: it provided the needed moral capital, yet did not force control.

Here's the catch: No state can mandate self-government under God, yet only people who practice self-government under God can build and maintain a truly free society. Democracy in and of itself is no brass ringHitler came to power through democracy. If 50.1% of voting Americans reject Truth, our system will produce outcomes as bad as any godless despot. If government by one Truth-rejecter is ruinous, imagine what government by millions will do. We're watching it now.    

Daniel Webster, Secretary of State under three presidents, summed it up this way: “Our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits. Living under the heavenly light of revelation, they hoped to find all the social dispositions, all the duties which men owe to each other and to society, enforced and performed. Whatever makes men good Christians makes them good citizens.”

Both Websters would be castigated by Christophobics today.  

Another high office-bearer declared: "America became the common meeting-place of all those streams of people, great and small, who were undertaking to deliver themselves from all kinds of despotism and servitude, and to establish institutions of self-government and freedom...It was the principle of personal judgment in matters of religion for which the English and Dutch were contending, and which set the common people to reading the Bible. There came to them a new vision of the importance of the individual which brought him into direct contact with the Creator. It was this conception applied to affairs of government that made the people sovereign…The logical result of this was the free man, educated in a free school, exercising a free conscience, maintaining a free government. The basis of it all, historically and logically, is religious belief.

These are the fundamental principles on which American institutions rest…”

Calvin Coolidge, our 30th President, said this. 

Were the views of Americans quoted above mere opinions of eccentric and marginal voices? Not according to French historian Alexis De Tocqueville. In Democracy in America (1835/40), De Tocqueville observed: "...in America, religion is the road to knowledge, and the observance of the divine laws leads man to civil freedom." In our present day, Anglo-Irish cultural critic Os Guinness concludes: "Americans today are heedlessly pursuing a vision of freedom that is short-lived and suicidal. Once again, freedom without virtue, leadership without character, business without trust, law without customs, education without meaning and medicine, science and technology without human considerations can end only in disaster."  In A Free People's Suicide, Guinness declares: "...the ultimate threat to the American republic will be Americans. The problem is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor."  

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