More Mythology about the Founding Fathers: Franklin at the Constitutional Convention

According to James Madison’s Notes on the Constitutional Convention, on June 28, 1787, the Constitutional Congress was struggling to move forward in developing the United States Constitution. Small states wanted “One State-One Vote,” while larger states wanted “Representation Appropriated by Population.” The 82-year old Benjamin Franklin stood to plead for compromise. He asked why it was that “this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark…(has) not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?” He reminded them that during the war, these leaders had daily prayed “in this room for daily protection.” He then said, “the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see to this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men.” He moved that the assembly institute “prayers imploring for the assistance of heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, (to) be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business.” Roger Sherman seconded the motion.

Mark Noll, in his essay, “Evangelicals in the American Founding and Today,” (in the book Religion and the New Republic: Faith in the Founding of America, edited by James H. Hutson, 2000, pp. 137-139), explains how Peter Marshall, one of the leading evangelical advocates for “restoring America’s Christian heritage,” moves beyond James Madison’s account of the historical events of the Constitutional Convention.

“Now, however, the story takes on an interesting twist as recorded in two books by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, which in various editions have sold over 850,000 copies in the past twenty years and which have become mainstays in the historical consciences of many evangelical protestants. Their titles are The Light and the Glory: God’s Plan for America, 1492-1793 and From Sea to Shining Sea: God’s Plan for America, 1787-1837.

Franklin’s appeal for prayer “marked the turning point.” It was “clearly the most extraordinary speech anyone had delivered in the entire three months the delegates had been meeting… They immediately declared three days of prayer and fasting, to seek God’s help in breaking the deadlock among them. At the end of that time, all the resentment and wrangling were gone. …Why does [the Constitution] work so well? One reason is that it was divinely inspired. A second is that it was the completion of nearly two hundred years of Puritan political thought. Those early church covenants recognized the sinfulness of man. They anticipated the possibility of human wrong. The Constitution does exactly the same thing. In effect, it documents the Covenant Way on national paper." (From Sea to Shining Sea, pp. 18-19, The Light and the Glory, p. 156).

Much of the force as well as much of the (contemporary) confusion in and about evangelical political mobilization in the United States… is illustrated by the farrago of fact and fantasy surrounding Franklin’s appeal for prayer at the 1787 convention. The facts, as provided by the manuscript resources closest to the incident and clarified by careful historians, are these:

—First, Franklin did make such a motion.
—Second, this same Franklin only a short time later wrote at some length to the Rev. Ezra Stiles about his own religion. Franklin believed in God but concerning “Jesus of Nazareth,” he had, “with most of the present Dissenters in England…some Doubts to his Divinity.”
—Third, Franklin’s motion was not approved but tabled; there was no three-day recess; and the Convention never did begin it sessions with prayer.
—Fourth, the story that the Convention acted positively on Franklin’s motion, that it recessed to fast, and that it was miraculously guided in writing the Constitution was first published in the mid 1820s. Only in 1833, in a tract by Thomas S. Grimké, did this account begin to figure in broader assessments of the American founding. But that tract was explicitly repudiated by James Madison, by then one of the few surviving members of the Constitutional Convention, who told Grimké with great assurance that Franklin’s motion had never been enacted.

It does nobody any good to propagate a mythological history of the founding of our nation, even if the story seems to be for our benefit (and especially so!). If Christians are to have any credibility in political discourse, then we had better steadfastly seek the truth about the history of the founding of our nation. As Mark Noll wrote in a book co-authored with two other top-respected evangelical historians,

“Does it really matter if people hold to this mistaken view that America is, or was, or could become a truly Christian nation? Yes, it does matter. It matters because, if we are going to respond effectively to relativistic secularism, then we need to base our response upon reality rather than error. This is not to deny the positive influence that Christianity has indeed had upon the American way of life. Rather, it is to take it all the more seriously so that we may respond to it all the more effectively.” (Noll, Hatch, and Marsden, The Search for Christian America, p. 131).


Texas Board of Education May Revamp History Curriculum toward Revisionist Christian and Conservative Themes

Texas is a big state; therefore, their curriculum often affects the nation’s curriculum.

The teaching of Evolution has always been the source of contention for school boards; but now, the Texas Board of Education is making American History the next battle ground in the culture wars. The Texas school board have brought in six outside reviewers to make recommendations on changing the social studies curriculum. Some on the board have bought into the mythology that America was founded as a Christian Nation, so two of their outside reviewers are Peter Marshall and David Barton. Marshall and Barton are not historians; they are Christian activists who feel called to "reclaim America’s Christian heritage." All the other reviewers, including the three appointed by the more moderate and liberal board members, are credentialed historians.

Marshall and Barton are advocates of a revisionist history of America, stating that the aim of the founding fathers was to have a Christian nation. This revisionism severely harms the good arguments that should be made (on solid historical grounds) that much of the nation’s ethos at its founding was influenced by a Christian worldview. For instance, there is ample evidence to suggest that the reason we have a separation of powers in American government comes from a biblical understanding of humanity’s fall and sinfulness, so the Constitution set up the system of checks and balances. This information should not be kept from students being taught in secular schools simply because it mentions religion. That is revisionist history, and does more harm than good.

However, Marshall and Barton continually overplay their hand, making bold and unsubstantiated claims about the history of the nation in terms of Christianity. Mark Noll, evangelicalism’s most respected historian, has lambasted Peter Marshall’s books – pointing out how Marshall actually gets history wrong because he so wants to believe what he wants to believe. (A must read book on this subject is The Search for Christian America, by Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch, and George Marsden).

The current arguments in the Texas Board of Education revolve around who should be included in the history curriculum and who should be excluded. Peter Marshall and David Barton have suggested to the Texas Board that certain people should be excluded from the history curriculum: They want Thurgood Marshall, the lawyer who argued Brown v. Board of Education and later became the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, to be excluded from First Grade curriculum. They want Anne Hutchinson, who was exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for teaching religious views at odds with the officially sanctioned faith, excluded from Fifth Grade curriculum. They want César Chávez, who (because of his Catholic sense of justice) led a strike and boycott to improve working conditions for immigrant farm workers, excluded as an example of citizenship for fifth-graders. "He's hardly the kind of role model that ought to be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation," Marshall wrote.

John Fea, Associate Professor of American History at Messiah College, has written an excellent opinion piece in the Houston Chronicle this week ("Don't taint teaching of history in Texas"). John and I were dorm mates back in seminary.

In it, John says that the bigger issue at stake in this matter is the purpose of history curriculum in our students’ development.

“The study of history develops civic awareness and provides us with heroes from the past that we can look up to. This is the kind of history that Barton and Marshall want to promote. This kind of search for a useful past makes sense. Our natural inclination is to find something familiar in history — something that affirms our own convictions in the present.

Historians know, however, that not all of the past is familiar or useful. Not all of the past serves our present-day agendas.

Yet we must study it.

Students do not have to see themselves in the past in order to learn from it. The study of history can develop character, the kind of moral and intellectual development that happens when they encounter historical actors who are strange to them.

Real education takes place when students learn to respect the ideas of people with whom they (or their parents) might differ. Historical thinking forces them to lay aside their own biases and enter into the mind of a person from the past who may have views that do not conform to their own.

Such an engagement with the past lends itself to the cultivation of certain virtues — empathy, prudence, hospitality, self-denial — that might just make our students better people. This is the real value of the study of history in schools.”


Coldplay's 42: Those Who are Dead are Not Dead...

A Christian Interacts with Viva La Vida, Or Death and All His Friends

Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams chuckle when we hear the number 42.

In Adams’ Galaxy, a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the answer to the Ultimate Question of “Life, the Universe, and Everything” from the supercomputer, Deep Thought. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be…


But, ironically, even though the answer is found, the question for the answer was still no known! Deep Thought designs another computer (which happens to be the planet Earth) in order to discover “The Ultimate Question.” It will take another 10 million years to do the calculations to find that! But unfortunately, five minutes before finding the "Ultimate Question," the Earth is destroyed by the Vogons in order to make way for a new Hyperspace Bypass. Ain’t that a bummer?

So, Coldplay’s Chris Martin titled this song "42," which may indicate that he's writing about ultimate questions of life. And interestingly, those questions have something to do with death and heaven.

The song starts out with a melancholy piano backed by orchestra as Martin sings,
Those who are dead are not dead
They're just living in my head
And since I fell for that spell
I am living there as well

Time is so short
And I'm sure
There must be something more

It seems that the character has died and has discovered that death is not the end of existence. People continue to live in some sort of immaterial existence – “they're just living in my head.” And since the singer has also “fell for that spell” of death, he is “there as well.”

Many of the young people who listen to Coldplay feel so young and invincible, and are so caught up in pursuing immediate pleasures, that they rarely contemplate what is sung here: “Time is so short / And I'm sure / There must be something more.” Yes, life is short… and then what? Isn’t there something more? Isn't it fascinating that Chris Martin is asking this question? Will it help his audience to stop for a moment and ask the same?

Then, the song suddenly shifts moods to a driving rock song, where another person sings to the person from the somber section:
You thought you might be a ghost!
You thought you might be a ghost!
You didn't get to heaven but you made it close
You didn't get to heaven but you made it close

The character is informed that his spirit is in some in-between place – he’s not a ghost, but he’s not in heaven either. He didn’t quite make it to that destination (though he did make it close!).

And so the song shifts again to the sad refrain,
Those who are dead are not dead
They're just living in my head
And just trails off.

This is intriguing – No resolution to the tension; no sense that there is victory. Just the resignation of being not dead, yet not alive either. Sad.

When it comes to matters of life, death, and the afterlife, many people are confused. And like the supercomputer Deep Thought, they do not have the answer, and they do not even know how to ask the right question. I understand why; after all, nobody has actually died and come back to explain what happens on the other side, right?

Well, yes…
Matter of fact, somebody has.

One of the most captivating things about Jesus Christ is that he is the one person who has done so, and he has done so in order that we can understand why we die, what the ultimate questions of life are, and what the ultimate answers to those questions are. And the answer is not, alas, 42.

Jesus reveals the mysterious. And here is what the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus reveals:

About death, Jesus reveals that there is indeed “life after death.” And – get this – there is “life after life after death.”

Jesus died but he was raised from the dead. He was the vanguard, the pioneer, the “firstfruits” of a harvest of others who will also resurrect from the dead. Those who “belong to Christ” (in other words, those who have given their lives over to Christ as their Lord) will be raised from the dead.
“Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… But in this order: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23)

But what's in between the time of death and resurrection? Are you a ghost? Do you go to heaven? And if so, how do you get into heaven? I’d hate to only “make it close!”

What the Bible reveals is that there is a place for our disembodied selves between death and resurrection. This is what many Christians call “heaven.” But because of this, many Christians get confused about the afterlife. Since they call this place “heaven,” they assume that this is the ultimate destination for Christians. They think that the ultimate goal is the make it to heaven.

Actually, this in-between death and resurrection place is what theologians call the “Intermediate State.” “Heaven,” by definition, is the dwelling place of God, and when Christians die, they are blessed to be with God in heaven. But that is not the ultimate destination - we were not created to live in heaven; we were created to live on earth. Far too many Christians say that "Heaven is my true home;" but, if we are biblical, we understand that "heaven" is God's home, and earth is our home.

One day, those who trust in Christ and his grace of redemption and restoration will experience something truly remarkable: Their disembodied selves will reunite with their bodies and these bodies (yes, the bodies we are in now), will be raised from the dead. The dwelling place for these restored, glorified bodies will not be heaven but earth. God will restore the earth to its original intended existence – absent of sin and decay.

The Bible does not end with us being whisked up into heaven to be with God for all eternity; it ends with God coming down to dwell with us humans on earth for all eternity!
“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”(Revelation 21:2-4)

N. T. Wright, in his must-read new book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, writes,
“The early Christian future hope centered firmly on resurrection. The first Christians did not simply believe in life after death; they virtually never spoke simply of going to heaven when they died. (As I have often said… heaven is important but it’s not the end of the world.) When they did speak of heaven as a postmortem destination, they seemed to regard this heavenly life as a temporary stage on the way to the eventual resurrection of the body… The early Christians hold firmly to a two-step belief about the future: first, death and whatever lies immediately beyond; second, a new bodily existence in a newly remade world. (p. 41)
“[Resurrection] was, in other words, life after life after death.” (p. 151)

Those who are dead are not dead...
If they belong to Christ, they are living in the intermediate state with Jesus
And that’s not the end of the story...
They will one day be resurrected from the dead and live on a restored earth, with heaven and earth no longer being two separate dimensions, for God will be with us and we will be his people.

You see, when we get our eschatology right, we are on the proper route to answer the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything. The ultimate questions are (I'm borrowing here from Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton's excellent book, The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview):
(1) "Who am I?" Or, what is the nature, task, and purpose of human beings?
(2) "Where am I?" Or, what is the nature of the world and universe I live in?
(3) "What's wrong?" Or, what is the basic problem or obstacle that keeps me from attaining fulfillment? In other words, how do I understand evil? and
(4) "What is the remedy?" Or, how is it possible to overcome this hindrance to my fulfillment? In other words, how do I find salvation? (p. 35)

And the answers, in my short form, are:
(1) You are a person created by a personal, loving God, and in the image of that triune, relational God. The image of God in you gives you purpose and meaning, as you fulfill what it means to reflect God. The purpose for every human is what is called the "Cultural Mandate," to take the raw materials that God has given and continue the creative work of creating culture, working for the good of all other creatures, and reflecting the good creativity of the God who made us.
(2) You live in the cosmos that God created and deemed to be "very good."
(3) But this cosmos has been severely damaged by the rebellion of those created in God's image. Work has been frustrated; our calling to create culture is severely marred by our selfishness and evil desires.
(4) The remedy is found in the person of Jesus Christ, who redeems humans back to the fullness of the image of God, and thus restores the creation that he loves. As we follow Jesus, working out our salvation, we are able to cooperate with God in the redemption of all things.
Death and all of his friends will not have the final say. Those created in the image of God are redeemed, they will be resurrected, and they will live for eternity on a restored earth. All things will one day be put to rights. This is the Christian hope.

And in the meantime, we can participate with God as he is actively bringing redemption to this fallen cosmos. This is the Christian meaning of life.


Coldplay's LOST! And the Proper Christian Response

A Christian Interacts with Viva La Vida, Or Death and All His Friends


The second biggest hit from Coldplay’s album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends is the single Lost! In this song, Chris Martin writes of a character who laments that his efforts often are frustrated by the world around him. In the first chorus, he sings,

I just got lost!
Every river that I tried to cross
Every door I ever tried was locked
Oh and I'm just waiting ‘til the shine wears off

What a great line that is… “I'm just waiting ‘til the shine wears off.” He’s saying that every time things look good, he knows that there will be a time that it no longer will be good. Like a shiny new toy, everything will inevitably end up being a disappointment. Every time he has tried to do something, he ends up lost and frustrated.

This is not just his personal experience; he warns us, his listeners, that it will be our experience as well –

You might be a big fish
In a little pond
Doesn't mean you’ve won
‘Cause along will come
A bigger one

And you'll be lost!
Every river that you tried to cross
Every gun you ever held went off
Oh and I'm just waiting ‘til the firing’s stopped
Oh and I'm just waiting ‘til the shine wears off

The Christian worldview explains why this is so. Everything was created good, humans and creation were in a synergistic harmony, but something awful has happened to this universal flourishing, this “shalom.”

Christian theologians call it “The Fall.”

The deep relationships that humans were meant to have with God, with each other, and with the rest of Creation have been deeply wounded. The Fall explains why we are “alienated from and enemies with God” (Colossians 1:21). The Fall explains why there is “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy” (Galatians 5:20-21). The Fall explains why “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22).

The Fall is a universal experience. It seems that no matter what we do, we are frustrated by the Fall. No matter what, no matter how new and improved we make things, we end up resigned to waiting ‘till the shine wears off.

What is the Christian response?

There seems to be two differing responses vying for the American Christian’s devotion. One says that since Christ has come and empowered Christians with His Spirit, we can reverse the results of the Fall for ourselves through our God-given ability to think and speak things into existence. The thinking is that since we are made in God’s image, we have the ability to create by way of our words. If we think positively, if we envision a different, better life, if we speak positive truth, then we can reverse the results of the Fall.

The other Christian response says that since Christ has come and empowered Christians with His Spirit, we can reverse the results of the Fall for ourselves and the rest of God’s Creation through our God-given ability to discern how to cooperate with God to bring redemption. This differs from the other in that it faces squarely the fact that life difficult, that there are forces that seek to bring death and decay to the world around us, and that it will be a battle to bring redemption to the world. This also differs because it believes that ultimate redemption cannot be achieved until Christ the King returns to make all things right.

It should be apparent that I think the latter worldview is the true one. It seems to match the biblical storyline and the reality of existence much better than the former one. However, many Christians evidently do not see it the way I do, because they have made Joel Osteen’s book Your Best Life Now a best-seller.

Let’s look at how Osteen feeds the reader lies about how to deal with a fallen world.

After encouraging the reader to “Enlarge your Vision” (Part 1), and to “Develop a Healthy Self-Image” (Part 2), both of which seem pretty nice things for a Christian to do, Osteen goes straight into the Word-of-Faith teaching of his Prosperity Gospel. Part 3 is entitled, “Discover the Power of Your Thoughts and Words.” Osteen tells the reader,

“When you think thoughts of failure, you are destined to fail… But when you align your thoughts with God’s thoughts and you start dwelling on the promises of His Word, when you constantly dwell on thoughts of His victory, favor, power, and strength, nothing can hold you back. When you think positive, excellent thoughts, you will be propelled toward greatness, inevitably bound for increase, promotion, and God’s supernatural blessings.” (p. 104)

Osteen’s biblical evidence that this is true? He cites Proverbs 23:7, which he quotes as saying “As a person thinks in his heart, so he will become.” Sounds like an open-and-shut case… until you look up the verse in the Bible. Proverbs 23:7 does not say what Osteen wants it to say – it is about how we should avoid eating a stingy man’s food because within himself he is not thinking with a pure heart toward you. Not exactly a name-it-and-claim-it formula there.

Not only are you to think positively, Osteen says that your words have actual power.

Sadly, many people are living discouraged lives because of their words. They say things such as:
  • “Nothing good ever happens to me.”
  • “I’ll never be successful.”
  • “I don’t have what it takes. I can’t do it.”
  • “I’ll never get out of this mess.” (p. 122)

What is Osteen’s biblical mandate on this teaching? He goes to James 3:4.

“The Bible compares the tongue to the rudder of a huge ship. Although the rudder is small, it controls the direction of the entire ship, and, in a similar manner, your tongue will control the direction of your life.” (p. 122)

Now, I know that I went to Seminary and I always have my antennae up to hear these misinterpretations of Scripture, but doesn’t normal Joe Christian not recognize that major leap of logic? Since the Bible warns us that our tongues are evil in that they “boast of great things,” then, according to Osteen, we should use them to not say negative things, but to boast of great things. Hmmm…

Not only are we to stop the negative talk, Osteen wants us to go on the offensive.

“The Scripture says, ‘With the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10). This same principle is true in other areas… If you are facing sickness today…say something such as, ‘Father, I thank You that you promised me in Psalms that I will live and not die and I will declare the works of the Lord”… If you are struggling financially, instead of talking about your problems, you need to boldly declare, ‘Everything I put my hands to prospers and succeeds!’ Friend, when you make those kinds of bold declarations, all heaven comes to attention to back up God’s Word.” (p. 130)

So, to Chris Martin of Coldplay, Joel Osteen would say,

“Friend, your problem is because you are not thinking positively and saying bold words of prosperity! You must stop saying these negative words! Instead of dwelling on and talking about all the negatives in life, you need to choose to dwell on the positive! You need to sing, Every river that I try to cross I will cross successfully! Every door I ever try will be opened for me!"

So, Chris listens to the advice, but he still feels “lost" - the shine continues to wear off. Things continue to feel fallen and life often feels discouraging: Somebody else gets the promotion, a loved one dies suddenly, the bills continue to pile up, and there is still all the brokenness in the world around him – hunger and disease, terrorism, war, etc.

When Chris goes back to Joel Osteen or one of the other Word-of-Faith teachers, and complains about all this, he is shut down immediately. “Do not speak negatively! Your words have power! Your lack of faith will continue to bring you tragedy! Think and say only positives!”

Hopefully, Chris will see the folly of this worldview.

Hopefully, he come to sober judgment about himself, the world that is in perpetual struggle, and what he is called to do about it.

And Jesus is there, offering him grace to move from being a part of the problem to becoming a part of the solution.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)


Coldplay's Viva La Vida - The Will to Power vs. Shalom

A Christian Interacts with Viva La Vida, Or Death and All His Friends

Coldplay’s latest hit was one of my top ten albums of 2008. In it, lyricist Chris Martin explores the subject of death from different angles. As I listen to this wonderful album, I wish Chris was sitting next to me. I’d love to understand what he would think of my opining about his lyrics. In future posts, I’m going to do that, with you, here in the vanguard.

Viva La Vida

In the most famous song from the album, the main character is a man reflecting on lost power and prestige, a king who no longer rules but rather lives a very humble and humiliating life.

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

This king was able somehow to overtake the previous king, but his power was fleeting –

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

Just as he had taken power, others were seeking to overthrow him –

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

So now, after the “wicked and wild wind” had allowed him to have power, he finds himself no longer “ruling the world.” And he is now wondering about his eternal fate. What will happen to him? In the chorus the king sings –

I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
Roman cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
I know St Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

Why does he feel that “St. Peter won’t call his name?”

Throughout the song, there is a clear indication that the character understands what philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called “the will to power," that most of us will often allow our need for achievement to outweigh our desire to be good to our fellow human beings. Our ambition and our striving to reach the highest possible position in life often does incredible damage to the harmony and love that should be the standard for our human existence.

The main character understands this. It was not right that he took power; it was also not right that he lost power. It was not right that he once ruled the world; it was also not right that he now sweeps the streets alone. It was not right that there was “never an honest word” while he “ruled the world.” And now, “for some reason,” he knows that St. Peter won't call his name.

This concept of peace and harmony between human beings, where we do not will to have power, but we submit to one another out of love, seeking the very best for others, is an old biblical concept. It was what the Hebrews called “Shalom.”

Nicholas Wolterstorff says that a society characterized by shalom combines peace, justice, and enjoyment of all relationships so that all peoples can flourish in their lives, and that they can also delight in their relationship with God (Wolterstorff, Until Justice and Peace Embrace). Writing on shalom, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. embraces and expands Wolterstorff's definition:
“We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight…the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” (Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: The Breviary of Sin, p. 10)

So what the character in the song Viva La Vida is experiencing is this: the lack of SHALOM. Plantinga has it right: Things are NOT the way they are supposed to be. There is evil where Shalom is supposed to be. I like the way Plantinga describes it:
“We might define evil as any spoiling of shalom, any deviation from the way God wants things to be. Thinking along these lines, we can see that sin is a subset of evil; it's any evil for which somebody is to blame – sin is culpable evil... Sin grieves God, offends God, betrays God, and not just because God is touchy. God hates sin against himself, against neighbors, against the good creation, because sin breaks the peace... God is for shalom and therefore against sin." (Plantinga, Engaging God’s World, p. 51)

So why does the character feel that St. Peter won’t call his name? Because he has a deep-seated understanding that his life was full of sin, that he was culpable for his will to power. And, if God is just, there must be consequences to the destruction of shalom.

Fascinating song.


Check out the new Orphan Project


Review of their debut album, Orphan Found, from the Dutch Progressive Rock Page:

"Orphan Project dub their music "hard prog". It is indeed "progressive" in the sense that it goes beyond the borders of ordinary rock, using different instruments and song structures. And it is indeed hard in the sense that Orphan Project borrow powerful vocals and guitars-with-distortion-wide-open from our tougher musical neighbours. Somewhere between Under the Sun and Threshold, I'd say, Orphan Project show very capable musicianship and writing. Not without reason (band leaders) Shane Lankford and John Wenger credit American bands like Journey, Kansas/Kerry Liv
gren, and Petra, as well as prog rock giants Yes/Trevor Rabin and Genesis/Peter Gabriel for inspiration. One could safely add Pink Floyd/David Gilmour and Steve Hackett."

From Soundmass.com:

"Orphan Project returns with Spooning Out The Sea, an album that is bound to go down in history as a progressive rock masterpiece! Taking elements of hard rock and progressive rock, Spooning Out The Sea will appeal to fans of Dream Theater, Peter Gabriel, Yes and Kansas!"


Get a Free Review Copy of "The Gospel-Centered Life"

One of the very best studies I've ever done was when two teachers from World Harvest Mission led the staff of the CCO through The Gospel-Centered Life earlier this year.

Now, for a limited time (until 7/31/09) you can get a free review copy of this study.

The Gospel-Centered Life
is a nine lesson small group study
intended to help participants understand how the gospel shapes every aspect of life. Each lesson is self-contained, featuring clear teaching from scripture, and requires no extra work outside of the group setting.

Designed for:

  • Pastors and leaders who want to spur Gospel renewal in their churches and ministries.
  • Church-planters who want to form Gospel DNA in the churches they start.
  • Students and campus ministers who are looking to live out the Gospel on campus.
  • Christians who want to be more deeply formed around the Gospel.
  • Small group leaders who are looking for content that “works” with diverse groups of people.
  • Missionaries who are looking for simple material to disciple new Christians.

"This is a rich gospel-centered small group curriculum that I am really excited to see published."
Mark Driscoll, Founding and Preaching Pastor, Mars Hill Church; President, Acts 29 Church Planting Network; President, The Resurgence

"I have not seen a better resource for training people in the implications of the gospel. It communicates both to the new Christian and to the seasoned pastor, much like the gospel itself."
Darrin Patrick, Lead Pastor of The Journey, St. Louis, MO and Vice President of the Acts 29 Network

'With simple and direct language, The Gospel-Centered Life helps people understand and effectively apply the gospel to their lives, regardless of where they are in their spiritual journey. It's one of the few resources out there that explicitly challenges others to reach out with the gospel, even as it is growing deeper into their own lives. I highly recommend it!'
Dr. Steven L. Childers, President & CEO, Global Church Advancement; Associate Professor of Practical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary-Orlando

"The phrase 'gospel-centered' has become a popular buzzword in Christianity. But just because you talk about the gospel doesn’t mean you’re being transformed by it. I’m familiar with both the publisher and the authors of The Gospel-Centered Life, and I know they are profoundly aware, first and foremost, of their own need for gospel renewal. That’s why I’m so excited to recommend this material to pastors, leaders, and Christians everywhere who long to see gospel transformation in themselves and in their churches."
Daniel Montgomery, Founding Pastor, Sojourn Church, Louisville, Kentucky


Take the Missional Church Assessment

Milfred Minatrea, author of the book Shaped By God's Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches from Leadership Network, offers this free assessment tool based on his book.

"A missional church," according to the Minatrea, "is not about programs, but rather is a distinct church culture. Churches, like any organism, adopt and are influenced by culture. Culture can be identified by observing behaviors. In fact, culture is the set of underlying values that drive our behavior. We act like we do, because we believe what we do. The only way to evaluate culture is through analyzing actions." Therefore, the assessment "gauges responses to statements about the behaviors of a church in order to provide a framework for dialogue concerning the compatibility of the church with a missional culture."

The assessment tool analyzes your church based on nine "Culture Checkpoints," and you receive a chart that graphically provides the assessment.
# 1 - High Threshold For Membership
# 2 - Real, But Not Real Religious
# 3 - Teach To Obey Rather Than Simply To Know
# 4 - Rewrite Worship Every Week
# 5 - Live Apostolically
# 6 - Expect To Change The World From Their Own Front Porch
# 7 - Order Their Actions Based Upon Their Purpose
# 8 - Measure Growth By Capacity To Release Rather Than Retain
# 9 - Value Beliefs And Are Passionate About The Kingdom Of God
You can take the assessment for free at XPastor.org.