Archives for December 2005

Is depression a sin?

This post is from 2005, and refers specifically to a discussion on another blog which unfortunately is no longer available. Without reference to those earlier posts, my comments here are easily misunderstood, as I was dealing with specific questions they raised. If you want a more thorough and more helpful answer to the question Tim Chester examines “Is depression a sin?” far better than I did here.

This posting has been sparked by two posts on Steve Leher’s blog (1, 2). Specifically, Steve states that depression is a sin, a position on which he is later challenged by a reader (whom he calls ‘Bob’). Bob helpfully summarises the disagreement like this:

The basic point of disagreement we have is whether depression or manic depression are illnesses. Maybe I’m overlooking something but I didn’t notice where you said they were not that you were able to support that Biblically or otherwise to my satisfaction. It’s basically your opinion which you can have but which I can also disagree with.

Unfortunately, this discussion (like so many) boils down to definitions. In his article (PDF link) Steve borrows Robert Smith’s defininition of depression as:

a debilitating mood, feeling, or attitude of hopelessness (despair or joylessness), which becomes a person’s reason for not handling the most important issues of life.

Now it doesn’t take a genius to work out that that is sinful. Simply not handling the “most important issues of life” is (by definition) sinful. It’s also a somewhat pejorative definition. Had it read “which means a person is unable to handle the most important issues” then perhaps Bob would be able to agree with it. As it stands the definition deliberately implies that depression is not a genuine reason, it is only given as a reason.
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GospelDrivenLife

Adrian is looking for Warnie awards for Christian blogs, and in view of the fact they I’ve enjoyed reading GospelDrivenLife more than any other blog, I feel that deserved the nomination from me.

Although I’ve only been reading the blog for a few weeks, it’s a real joy to be confident of reading something that’s both thoughtful and thought-provoking – I almost always want to leave a comment, or write a post of my own in response!

Most importantly though, I don’t feel as though Mark is beating a drum. All his posts are cross-centred. And you can’t say more than that. In a world where there is so much Gospel Drivel, it’s a pleasure to read something Gospel Driven.

Worship Wars

Thankfully, it seems as though Worship Wars are starting to peter out, though occassionally some try and re-ignite them. Mark Lauterbach has a wonderfully balanced piece about these darker days. Let me give you a few excerpts, then you can read the post for yourself.

…the Gospel is a simple message and it can be applied in any culture. It is not time bound nor culture bound. Two centuries ago it showed up in hymnology. Today it is seen in the contemporary style of music.

Most of the wars about worship were about style. Sadly, no one really cared for the words being sung. Granted, much of the contemporary music being advocated was “songs that express how I feel about Jesus” — and much of the hynology had far more substance. But that was rarely the battle…

…unbelievers are not impressed with our style. What captures their hearts is not our great musical productions or coolness of music — they are captured by the love of God’s people, by their sincere and passionate joy in whatever they sing. They sense the active presence of the Spirit.

Church and Community

The various Christmas events that we’ve been involved in around the village has got me thinking about church and the community. Google on community church, and top of the list come Willowcreek and Saddleback. They’re known as churches with a high regard for community, and I wanted to know what we could learn from them.

I discovered that their idea of community is very different from our own. I don’t know if this is small church vs large church, or UK vs America, or traditional vs contemporary – maybe a combination of those things. I don’t want to be seen as bashing a particular way of ‘doing church’, so let me throw in MacArthur’s Grace Community Church, too.

These churches show a concept of community is very different from our own. Let me give you this quote from Grace:

Community is likewise significant. It suggests both genuine fellowship within our church family and an open door to those around us. As members of one body, we seek to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). As a light in our community, we’re a place of peace for those in chaos, a place of forgiveness for the guilty, and a place of hope for the hopeless.

In fairness to Grace, at least they’re clear what they mean. There’s not such a definitive statement on either Willowcreek or Saddleback. But all three churches emphasise the fact that their church is a community.
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Where have all the academics gone?

Yesterday I was looking rather jealously through the list of leaders who form the council of Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Their website states their council is made up of “leading pastor-theologians who reflect major ecclesiastical and ministry networks”. That got me thinking. What equivalent do we have here in the UK?

I didn’t get much further than the word “pastor-theologians”. I know of few who could claim that title (John Stott, Donald McLeod and possibly NT Wright are three exceptions). 17 of the 22 Alliance Council members have PhDs – how many British church leaders do you know with doctorates, or even have written good solid books? Is it no wonder that the UK church is struggling, and good British theological colleges are rarer than hen’s teeth?
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Cataloguing your growing library

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have shelves and shelves of books (all of them read, of course ;-)). I must confess, I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to books, so all of mine are fully catalogued, and classified according to the Dewey decimal system.

If you’re not quite so organised, you may be interested in LibraryThing. Just feed it a list of ISBN numbers, and it will generate your own personal catalogue, scouring the web to find book titles, publishers, authors, even book cover images to match up to the ISBN. It’s free to add up to 200 books, so you can easily give it a whirl. There’s nice widgets (I use one to power the ‘currently reading’ bar on the right), but the very best feature has to be the ‘similar libraries’ section.

I know (for example) that a pastor in Illinois called Steve McCoy has 153 books that I also own. I even know what they are! I can see that across the site, there are 54 of us who own Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, way ahead of Chafer with 4, Reymond (17), Dabney (13), but all trailing behind Grudem (83).
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Skipping church at Christmas?

There’s been a great deal of hot air generated by the number of churches who have cancelled their Christmas services. Most who have followed this route are holding Christmas Eve services instead, as those who usually attend would not be willing to attend on Christmas Day. A Willow Creek spokeswoman made this clear:

“If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don’t go to church, how likely is it that they’ll be going to church on Christmas morning?” (source: CNN)

Frankly, whether Willow Creek has its services on a Saturday or a Sunday, does not matter one iota to me. The Biblical mandate to meet on the Lord’s Day is given to the Lord’s people, not to the unchurched or to seekers.

Willow Creek and other places like it are just being true to its vision. Despite it’s name, it’s not a church – it’s an outreach centre. An frankly, an outreach centre can have its meetings on any day that it chooses.

But it’s impossible to imagine that church leaders would want to prevent people who think that worshipping God together with His people is just about the best thing they can do on Christmas day?
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