The motto of the United Negro College Fund is “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” This is an excellent observation, but according to Christian theism the stakes are actually higher. According to Scripture, human beings, including their mind, are created in the image of an infinite, eternal, and Triune God. Therefore, the mind takes on an eternal dimension and we have an obligation to use our mind to the glory of our Creator.
As any regular reader of Reflections knows, I am passionate about the life of the mind. Over the next few weeks, I will unpack this concept and what it means for the average Christian via a conversation with Reasons to Believe editor Maureen Moser. This discussion will appear in four installments on Reflections.
I’ve had the great honor and pleasure of meeting (and, on occasion, getting to know) some of Christianity’s finest contemporary apologists of the last 50 years. These people have taught me so much about logic, philosophy, history, science, literature, theology, and doctrine. In many ways, whatever limited apologetics wisdom can be gleaned from my own books was shaped by other authors and the Christian thinkers I’ve talked with and studied under. Continue reading
As a person committed to the truth of historic Christianity, I am compelled to pursue the life of the mind to the glory of God. That means that a critical part of my love for and devotion to God involves rigorously using the mind he gave me to pursue truth, goodness, and beauty. The robust Christian world-and-life view reveals that the Triune God is the source and ground of these profound realities. Therefore, when I encounter and apprehend these actualities, in a sense I move closer to God. Continue reading
It is critically important to sing Christian songs and hymns that are consistent with Christian theology and worldview overall. Yet the only way to know if the song or hymn is compatible with the faith is to think carefully about the words and meanings it mentions.
For example, if you’ve ever attended a liturgical Christian church then you’ve likely heard and even sang the popular hymn “Glory Be to the Father,” known in Latin as the Gloria Patri. When I attended the Roman Catholic Church as a youth we also called it the “Glory Be.” (It is often the case in Christian history that document and song titles are taken from the very first words to appear on the page.)
The Gloria Patri serves as a doxology (short hymn of praise) to the eternal Triune God. Here is the English version that we sing at every service at the Reformed church that I attend:
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Amen.
A friend of mine, who grew up reciting the Gloria Patri while attending a Presbyterian church, asked me about a specific phrase that appears in the doxological hymn. Here’s his question:
The last stanza of the hymn seems to conflict with what I understand about Scripture, and also with RTB teaching: ‘…as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.’ Scripture clearly teaches that the universe is in a state of decay (entropy) since the Fall (thus not the same now as in the beginning); and will one day be burned up at the Final Judgment, replaced with a New Creation (thus the current world will one day end).
This is a good question; however, we need not worry that the Gloria Patri violates scriptural teaching. The unusual English expression “world without end” refers not to the physical cosmos we are presently in, but to the eternal glory of the Trinity that endures throughout the ages (beginning, now, evermore). “World without end” is another way of saying “forever and ever” or “ages upon ages” and it applies to the appropriate glory of the Trinity. It is not a reference to the present created order enduring forever. Thus, we can go on reciting the Gloria Patri without fear of false doctrine.
Since the Gloria Patri is a wonderful historical and doxological hymn to sing in praise of the Triune God, let me also recommend a book that I recently reviewed. Delighting in the Trinity by theologian Michael Reeves is one of the very best books that I have read on the Trinity. He does a great job of explaining the importance of the Trinity for Christian belief and life and why only the Triune God can be love and offer loving forgiveness to repentant sinners.
I consider my role as a father one of the most important of my life. When my oldest child, Sarah, left home for an apartment of her own, it was a bittersweet experience that brought both pain and pleasure.
My relationship with Sarah, as father and daughter, is one of the closest of my entire life. So even though she moved only a few miles away it still hurt to see her go. Yet it is also a pleasure to see her transitioning into a more independent stage of life.
I spent many hours praying for all my children, asking the Lord to lead, protect, and equip them for His kingdom and glory. A Christian parent’s role includes preparing children to be good citizens of two kingdoms. Believers have responsibilities in the present age (call it the civil kingdom) as they live out their temporal destiny. At the same time, they have everlasting duties that impact the age to come (call it the eternal kingdom). Broadly speaking, these dual allegiances are sometimes referred to as the two kingdoms doctrine (see here for a three-part explanation of this doctrine).
All these things are now coming to pass in Sarah’s life. Her robust Christian faith stands at the focal point of her life. At the same time, she is a fine citizen of our great nation and a competent and skilled stenographer with a strong work ethic and desire to succeed in her career. She is also a deeply reliable and trustworthy person. I’m so proud of the wonderful woman she has become.
This Father’s Day, I encourage you also to prayerfully consider Christians’ civic and spiritual responsibilities and how to guide your children to deeper understanding of their roles in these dual kingdoms.
When it comes to contemplating a Christian’s duty before God and country, I recommend theologian David VanDrunen’s book Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture.
When I played baseball as a youth, I had no idea that the game was actually preparing me for later life. Being a hitter involves a lot of failure. In fact, even the truly great Major League hitters fail (or get out) seven out of every ten times at bat. As I later discovered, coping with a batting slump in baseball isn’t all that different than coping with a string of difficulties and challenges in life overall.
I remember a particular game in which I was playing as catcher. I made a throwing error that allowed the other team to score three runs in the very first inning. Afterwards in the dugout, one of my teammates saw that I was really down on myself. He came over and told me that the sign of an excellent player is how they come back from adversity. I decided then that I would shake off this major blunder and concentrate on helping my team. As things would have it, I got a key hit late in the game that helped my team to come from behind and win the game.
In life I’ve also experienced some slumps, setbacks, and failures. As with baseball, I’ve had to shake off discouragement, refocus my energies, and “get back in the game,” so to speak—because my teammates (family, friends, ministry, and church members) were depending on me. In retrospect, while I was never a great baseball player, the game itself taught me many lessons that I’m still applying today.
With baseball season beginning anew this week, here’s an article I wrote some time ago that explains how I came to love baseball and how the game echoes life itself: “Reflecting on Baseball and Life.”
German philosopher and atheist Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was the first to proclaim, “God is dead.” Nietzsche holds an important position in the history of philosophy, serving as a forerunner to the secular movements of atheistic existentialism and secular postmodernism.
While Nietzsche remained very critical of institutionalized Christianity and Christians in particular, on occasion he spoke respectfully of Jesus Christ and of his character. Continue reading
A critical component of living a good (happy, satisfying, and meaningful) life is incorporating the concept of gratitude. Being aware of and appreciative for the good things one has been given can serve to transform one’s whole existence. This attitude of gratitude in life is one of the most important teachings from the historic Christian world-and-life view. Continue reading
Popular Christian bumper stickers featuring the letters “NOTW” remind drivers that Christ’s kingdom is “not of this world” and that His followers are “foreigners and exiles” in this world. For many American Christians, however, our spiritual loyalty can often get tangled with patriotism. How can we claim to be “not of this world” and yet still honor our earthly nations?
As the son of World War II soldier, I take great interest in the history of my country and look forward to celebrating our freedom tomorrow on July 4. I also have a moral responsibility to fulfill the civic duties my country requires. However, like all Christians, I must comply with my “eternal” responsibilities first.
Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430) called these two allegiances the City of Man and the City of God, respectively. Knowing how these obligations relate to each other and how to balance them is a challenge. Check out these two previous posts for details on Augustine’s City of Man-City of God ideology and see how it can help Christians balance their present and eternal obligations.