Christianity, Unplugged – K. Scott Oliphint

Christianity, Unplugged by K. Scott Oliphint | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

The second article I read yesterday from the June Tabletalk that was convicting and profitable for me was K.Scott Oliphint’s “Christianity, Unplugged” (see below). It is a call for Christians to “unplug” themselves from all their devices which, he argues, are distracting us from pursuing Christ-like thinking and Christ-like living. I have referred to articles like this before in connection with reading, and that certainly is one good application of the principle Oliphint is defending. But he also goes deeper, and his thoughts I found insightful and challenging. I hope you will too.

Again, I quote a bit form the article and urge you to read the rest at the Ligonier link above.

 

When was the last time you withdrew? Not the last time you were the only person in the room or in the house — when was the last time you withdrew from contact with anyone else? Jesus “would withdraw” from the crowds “to deslolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16). He knew that His busy schedule required time alone — completely alone — with His heavenly Father.

In the twenty-first century, being alone and withdrawing mean much more than being the only person in the room. They mean being unplugged. In our appreciation for the help that technology can bring, we have perhaps been unaware of its more subtle dangers. And its dangers are not simply located in the content that technology can deliver, harmful as that may be. Its dangers lie also in the behavior that is required by its use.

…With the ever-burgeoning advances in technology, we have become a society (and a church?) that has committed itself, perhaps unwittingly, to distraction. The problem of distraction is serious enough, but the power of that distraction to train our plastic brains can be deadly for Christian growth. If the brain is really molded by how we think, then it is possible that our addiction to distraction will eventually train us not to think at all. We will be so mastered by our constant urge to check and answer our email, to look at our smartphones every time they buzz, to check the scores of our favorite teams, to “text” notes that our ability to think, to pray, to savor the truth of God will be all but gone.

…Like Christ, Christians must withdraw, unplug. It is time to make sure that we are molding our plastic brains in a way that they will be trained again to think carefully, to concentrate, to work through difficulties, to meditate on God’s character, to revel in His glory. The Apostle Paul commanded us to let the Word of Christ dwell in us. It might be possible to fulfill that command by reading and memorizing Scripture. The adverb, however, is all-important. The word of Christ is to dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). The adverb expresses a depth and abundance that can come to us only if that Word that we read, even memorize, takes its place in our minds such that we contemplate and meditate on its truths. If the medium is the message, then the Word of God in Scripture is given to us so that we might continue to renew and train our plastic minds to think God’s thoughts after Him.

 

K. Scott Oliphint is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and author of God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God.

The Sovereignty of God and Evangelism – Paul Helm

The Sovereignty of God and Evangelism by Paul Helm | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

For this Monday we feature two articles from the June issue of Tabletalk from which I benefited for my “Sunday-before-church” reading yesterday. This first is one of the main articles on the theme this month, “The Theology of Evangelism”, and is written by Paul Helm (see below).  He addresses one of the frequent criticisms leveled against Reformed evangelism, viz., that a belief in the sovereignty of God (especially election) rules out any need for evangelism. He answers this well, from Scripture and from experience. And he answers it from both sides, showing the need for the church to preach the gospel and for the sinner to hear the gospel.

I provide you with a few quotes here and encourage you to read the rest at the Ligonier link above.

Many people struggle with God’s sovereignty in election because they believe it excludes the activity of evangelism. If people are eternally elected or not, they ask, what good will preaching do? What difference will it make? However, as Scripture teaches, God’s sovereignty in election and the activity of evangelism are not enemies but friends. Evangelism is rooted in election, and while man may plant and water the seed of the gospel, God brings the growth.

…It may seem that such a choice makes any human activity unnecessary. How could any creature affect anything? But consider this simple example: Suppose that God eternally wills that you receive a letter from me. For this to occur, other things must happen first. Obviously, I must write the letter and then use some means or other to get the letter to you. These activities — the writing and the sending of the letter — do not take place apart from the will and purpose of God Almighty but as part of His will and purpose. They are means to the end of you receiving a letter from me.

What does this show? It shows that in the divine purposes, means and ends are connected. Perhaps in electing people “in Christ,” God could have immediately glorified them. But according to Scripture, He has not chosen to do this. Instead, He uses means. He brings the good news of salvation to our attention. How does He do that? He could presumably have done this by imparting the news immediately to a person’s mind in a dream or by a “whisper.” But, in fact, He does it by the twofold agency of “Word” and “Spirit.”

…So, preaching is ordinarily an indispensable means for calling out God’s elect. In a parallel fashion, listening to and making an effort to understand gospel preaching is indispensable.

The reasoning that says, “Either I am elect or not; either way it is pointless to attend to the Word of God,” makes the very same mistake as does the belief that God’s eternal election makes preaching unnecessary. We separate the end of election — renewal in the image of Christ — from those means of communicating the gospel through preaching and the other ways God has ordained. It divides what God has, in fact, united. “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”

 

Paul Helm is professor of theology at Highland Theological College in Scotland and teaching fellow at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. He is author of The Providence of God and John Calvin’s Ideas.