Saturday, October 31, 2009

Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World - by David F. Wells

"God's disappearance not only is evident on the one end of the production chain. It is evident all the way along and, not least, in what keeps it all going: unbridled consumer desire. In an older time, desire used to be bridled." (pg. 38)

"In a secularized culture, God has ceased to be a player in regulating our desires and, besides, his regulation, such as it is, has ceased to be moral and has become only therapeutic. The restraints, therefore, are gone." (pg. 39)

"If postmoderns do not want to find any objective realm in which what is true and right finds its validation - and they do not - what other avenues are left open to them but that of nihilism?" (pg. 67)

"As our world has thus fallen in on us, stripping us of a worldview larger than our own perceptions, denying that we have access to what is true, and leaving us purposeless, so many people in the West are, perhaps surprisingly, now reaching out for what is spiritual." (pg. 89)

"Here, then, are what we might call the underlying motifs of the postmodern mind. They constitute a gravitational pull toward three simple affirmations: no (comprehensive) worldview, no truth, and no purpose." (pg. 90)

"Spirituality travels light. It needs no buildings, no rituals, no professionals, or even sacred books. It can be practiced alone. Perhaps, then, it should not be so surprising that in the business world, for example, which is driven by fierce competition, suffused with insecurity, where corporate vitality can turn to corporate death with astonishing speed, spirituality is appearing everywhere." (pg. 111)

"In the absence of an authoritative, and perhaps privileged, interpretation, one that can comprehend all of life, what we are left with is simply our own private perspectives." (pg. 118)

"For Christian [in Pilgrim's Progress], the pilgrimage through life is all about its destination, not about the experience of wandering or, in contemporary parlance, of being a spiritual seeker. Christian always knew where he was headed; postmoderns on the spiritual journey do not and their modus vivendi is to experiment rather than to imagine they know the destination to which they are headed." (pg. 121ff)

"It is true, of course, that the modernization of the Western world has also filled it with abundance and with relief from so many of the ills that once afflicted life. It is offering up new possibilities, new choices, and an astounding array of new opportunities. Yet, at the same time, we live with more anxiety, more loneliness, more meaninglessness, a deeper sense of having been uprooted from family, place, and work. And the technology that has produced miracle drugs and genetically altered foods has also produced a world more dangerous and threatening than ever before with its nuclear bombs, its chemical and biological weapons, and its pollution. What has enabled us to progress in some ways also casts its own long, dark shadow across life in other ways." (pg. 146)

"Given our cultural climate, religion which is useful is that which is therapeutically helpful. And the need to discern between what is true and what is false, we have come to think, is a bad habit which needs to be abandoned." (pg. 150)

"For while the evangelical Church is aware of such things as the fight for gay and lesbian rights, hears about the eco-feminists, knows about pornography, has a sense that moral absolutes are evaporating like the morning mist, knows that truth of an ultimate kind has been dislodged from life, it apparently does not perceive that in these and many other ways a new worldview is becoming ensconced in the culture. If it did, it surely would not be embracing with enthusiasm as many aspects of this postmodern mindset as it is or be so willing to make concessions to postmodern habits of mind." (pg. 158)

"Paul's teaching [1 Corinthians 15] is not that life loses its emptiness because there is life beyond the grave but that what has made life empty is destroyed by Christ's death and resurrection." (pg. 198)

"In a decentered culture, eclecticism is the coin of the realm. This is what excessive choice has done to us. There is simply too much to choose between, ranging from products, to beliefs, to lifestyles, so choice becomes almost random. And the sheer weight of all of the information - the knowledge of other religions, belief systems, products, and services - blurs everything so that one idea seems no truer than another." (pg. 235)

"Exploiting generational distinctions in the pursuit of success, which is what is at the heart of the seeker church movement, should be as offensive as exploiting racial differences for personal advantage." (pg. 295)

"Needs, in a therapeutic society, multiply faster than fruit flies. No sooner is one need met than two take its place. Coopting the needy to church is not the same thing as seeing a sinner converted and brought into the Church." (pg. 303)

"In a postmodern culture, with its deep relativism and its pervasive individualism, any belief is tolerated up to a point. What is not tolerable, and what will not be tolerated, is the kind of faith which makes absolute claims, which recognizes the right of all religions and spiritualities to exist but does not accept as viable their claims to religious truth. Christianity practiced and believed in private is not in any jeopardy; Christianity which makes its beliefs public in the sense that it asserts its own beliefs as being normative is not wanted. This is seen as plain, unvarnished bigotry and, in this age of unrepentant relativism, it simply is not acceptable." (pg. 312ff)

"The more the culture abandons truth and goodness which are absolute, the less the evangelical Church speaks about truth and goodness which are absolute!" (pg. 314)

David F. Wells, Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Serpent of Paradise: The Incredible Story of How Satan's Rebellion Serves God's Purposes - by Erwin W. Lutzer

"Let us boldly affirm that whatever mischief Satan is allowed to do, it is always appointed by God for the ultimate service of and benefit to the saints." (pg. 13ff)

"Our age believes in a tame devil. He is eager to serve our need to explain the existence of evil and willing to be a symbolic description of the horrors we struggle to understand." (pg. 19)

"We must stand in awe of a God who can use a rebel to glorify His name. We must never see Satan without seeing God." (pg. 22)

"Lucifer's bad judgment is a warning to us. We must never think that our obedience is best for God, but not best for us. When God commands us to obey Him, he no only has His best interests in mind but ours too." (pg. 28)

"If we really knew God, we would always choose righteousness. Satan's opening gambit is always intended to cause us to think wrongly about the Almighty." (pg. 44)

"...The devil is just as much God's servant in his rebellion as he was God's servant in the days of his sweet obedience." (pg. 102)

"A thousand devils cannot keep a soul from believing in Christ if God has chosen to grant such a one the gift of life." (pg. 104)

"Satan never becomes our friend, for he hates us and seeks our destruction, but he can do us good if he is sent by God to purify us. God uses Satan to show us that God's grace can be sufficient even in the thorns of life." (pg. 113)

"The devil does not have absolute power over human beings; he simply takes a bad situation and makes it worse. He tempts us with evil, but at the end of the day it is we who do what we want to do. Let us face up to our own sins, the sins of the flesh." (pg. 153)

"Control - the desire to own, possess, and command - is the fruit of self-will. It is just one more characteristic that we share, at least in some way, with the Evil One." (pg. 159)

"We must get beyond the notion that something has to be pleasant in order for it to be good. We must also get beyond the notion that if it is from Satan it is bad. Of course Satan means it to be bad, but God means it to be good. Satan's attacks can only be bad if we respond to them wrongly." (pg. 164)

"When we are willing to put "to death the deeds of the body" (Romans 8:13), we will no longer tell God what He can and cannot use to refine us. The ownership of our lives will have been transferred, and we will believe that God is greater than our circumstances and the devil, who often is permitted to arrange them." (pg. 164ff)

"Whether our day has been good or bad, our basis for approaching God is always the same, namely, the blood of Christ. And whether our guilt is objective (the guilt that appears before God) or subjective (the feelings of guilt we have within our own consciences), the remedy is always the same: the blood of Christ." (pg. 176ff)

Erwin W. Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise: The Incredible Story of How Satan's Rebellion Serves God's Purposes (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1996)