Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Day in the Life: The Drive Home

The first of some vlogs where you get to follow me around as I do what I do in Fallbrook. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

John Piper on TV

At a Q&A session after the Advance 2009 Conference, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Ed Stetzer, J.D. Grear, and Eric Mason sat on the panel and answered questions.

The first question had a humorous tone to it.

"Piper says get rid of my TV; Driscoll says buy more DVR's. How do I reconcile the difference?"

Piper: Get your sources right. I never said that in my life. Next question. There's probably something else. (Now to Driscoll) Say something significant.

Driscoll: I think it is that you don't have a TV, correct? That's probably where they got it.

Piper: I'm sure that's where they got it from.

Driscoll: But you wouldn't say that they shouldn't have a TV, you just choose not to have one.

Piper: Yeah. I'm just an addict and I know my limits.

Wow. How many of us are addicts and we don't even think twice about it. Blind to our own addictions.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Man and Woman

Oh the joys of man and woman. Ashley and I love how much we have in common, but we also love how much we are different. We get a good kick out of failed communication. Take this story, for instance.

It was a Friday morning, and I had received a package in the mail that Ashley had not opened yet because it was made out to me. So while Ashley was making breakfast, I was sitting at the table opening it. It was a Christian magazine, so I started perusing through it. We had her iPod on shuffle as background music, and we were talking about the day.

Suddenly, she says, with some sense of hurry, "Do you know what it is?" I was a little taken aback at her urgency, and I pause. I say, "Yeah," while she is laughing and saying, "You don't know what it is!" Still clueless, I say, "Yes I do, it's a magazine." She pauses, looks confused, and then bursts into laughter. I begin to laugh too, even though I don't know what in the world she's laughing at. Finally, she says, "I was talking about the song!"

Apparently, a Beatles song came on the iPod while we were talking, and she was seeing how quickly I could name that tune. I was on a completely different page thinking she was asking me (with some strange urgency) if I knew what was in the package. We laughed heartily for a few moments (during which I correctly labeled the song--Octopuses Garden) and then sat down for breakfast.

Oh the joys of husband and wife!

Global Missions: God's Passion.

I recently subscribed to a magazine called "Mission Frontiers". It is a publication of the U.S. Center for World Mission, and organization founded by the late Ralph Winter in 1976. It is a magazine that carries Winter's vision of sending missionaries to the "unreached people-groups" (a term coined by Winter). The latest publication, the May-August edition, is a tribute to Winter that includes a short biography, testimonials of his family and friends, and articles about how Winter impacted lives.

One of the articles was written by Tom Steller, the pastor of leadership development at Bethlehem Baptist Church (where John Piper is the senior pastor). This article had a special impact on me. Here are some excerpts:

"...During the summer of 1983 both John Piper and I were confronted with the 'statistics of missions' as outlined in the Hidden Peoples Pie Chart. We were thinking of adding another full-time pastor to our staff when a young couple from Bethlehem sent us a letter challenging this decision. They wrote in the letter, 'How can you justify adding another full-time Christian worker in a church that already has two in a city that has a thousand churches?' Then they proceeded to lay out the statistics of missions and encouraged us to consider that when the Bible used the word "nations" it doesn't mean countries, but ethno-linguistic groupings of people. This pesky letter was part of what God used to wake up John Piper and me to the reality that is we love the glory of God we will not be content until His glory in the face of His Son has been proclaimed to all the nations and worshippers have been won from every tribe and tongue and people.'"

This is back when John Piper's church was new and small. And to me, it demonstrates how and outward focus on missions has an inward benefit of growth. Instead of building up their staff as their budget allowed, they did something that might look foolish in the business world (or the modern church world). They put the money toward a full-time missionary. One might think that the money would have been better spent on someone who would be working in the church. I'm beginning to believe that God's desire is that every church be a beacon to the nations. And when the church has that correct focus, God blesses tremendously. Bethlehem Baptist has been dedicated to foreign missions for almost thirty years now, supporting 80+ full-time missionaries. It was Ralph Winter who said, "The success of a church should not be measured by its seating capacity but by its sending capacity."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Note I Wrote to a Person Quoting Immanuel Kant

Hey, I went to school with you and I stumbled upon your note about why you once opposed the right of women to vote, and your writing kept my attention. And I got to the end of your note, and I read this about Immanuel Kant.

"Immanuel Kant once wrote that an action is only moral if it is done out of a sense of duty, which in turn is decided by reason. That's the mentality that I am desperately working on incorporating into my life."

And I wanted to comment on the note, but I couldn't, so I decided to send you a message- you seem to appreciate comments and discussion, so here I go.

I think that the concept of morality Kant is getting at here is not true, and is actual damaging to biblical Christianity. Let me explain.

A Kantian morality says that Christians should obey God out of duty, decided through the mental processes of reason. It states that the virtue of an action decreases when we aim to derive any benefit from it. Actions are good when the doer is disinterested. We should do good because it's good--not for ourselves. Any action that is motivated by our own desire to seek happiness or pursue joy, then, lacks virtue because it is not done out of a reasoned "sense of duty". Am I right?

First of all, is that even possible? I don't think so. Every decision ever made by any person is always done for the same universal reason that goes like this: "It is better for me to do this than not to do this.". The man who hangs himself pursues relief. The man who wakes up early to study seeks knowledge. We are, at all times, in pursuit of fulfillment/gratification/happiness/satisfaction--whatever you want to call it. Pascal was right: "All men seek happiness without exception. They all aim at this goal however different the means they use to attain it...They will never make the smallest move but with this as its goal. This is the motive of all men, even those who contemplate suicide." Therefore, acting ONLY in a sense of duty, apart from personal, self-motivations (Pascal calls it "seeking happiness"), is impossible.

Secondly, Kantian morality is not only impossible, it's unbiblical and undesirable. Think about a man who is virtuous by biblical standards, not Kant's. He is one who LOVES kindness (Micah 6:8)--the implies that the reason a good man is kind is because he loves being kind, not because being kind is his "duty". He DELIGHTS in the Law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2)--same implication is here--a righteous man keeps the Law of the Lord because he loves keeping it, not because he has to. How can a man be virtuous in Kant's view of morality? He wouldn't be virtuous, by God's standards--if anything, he'd be a hypocrite.

Kant loves a disinterested giver. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Kantian obedience is dead-set against Christian, biblical obedience. The Bible is replete with incentives of rewards, including joy, pleasure, fulfillment, contentment, and happiness. So to say, like Kant does, that an action is moral only if it is done out of a sense of duty is to deny the role of affections in the life of a believer. The Christian life is not about cold obedience done out of a "sense of duty". It's about God changing your affections so that you fall out of love with the world and in love with God, so that obedience is a JOY.

C.S. Lewis says, "It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can."

And Jonathan Edwards: "Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of."

And even Jesus, who set the example of perfect obedience (Phil. 2:5-11), had this mindset. Consider Hebrews 12:1-3:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who [catch this!!] FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Jesus' obedience was motivated by joy. So should ours.

All of the works of John Piper share this theme--that pursuit of joy IN GOD ought to be the motivating incentive for everything we do. "Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist" changed my whole view on obedience, and really helped me understand it. I suggest you read it, you'll probably love it like I did.

I know this is lengthy, and I apologize, but once I found out you even ATTEMPTED to read Critique of Pure Reason I figured you'd be able to read this.

What do you think?

--Eric Durso