“Many pray for the power of God. More every year. Those prayers sound powerful, sincere, godly, and without ulterior motive. Hidden under such prayer and fervor, however, are ambition, a craving for fame, the desire to be considered a spiritual giant. The person who prays such a prayer may not even know it, but dark motives and desires are in his heart…in your heart.

Even as people pray these prayers, they are hollow inside. There is little internal spiritual growth. Prayer for power is the quick and short way, circumnavigating internal growth. There is a vast difference between the outward clothing of the Spirit’s power and the inward filling of the Spirit’s life. In the first, despite the power, the hidden man of the heart may remain unchanged. In the latter, that monster is dealt with.

(Edwards, Gene. A Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness. 1980. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale. 1992. 40-41.)

Inward Power vs Outward Power

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“The loosening of the marriage bond, that is the gradual return to a temporary union made and broken by mutual consent…reverts to what it was at first…The social vision…returns to regard the present only. Pride in the past, responsibility for the future, both disappear. And when a generation arrives which has known no sterner discipline, but which spends its early years in an atmosphere in submission to impulse, it does not add one whit to what has gone before, but, sinking into unrelieved lethargy, ekes out its meagre existence in the grip of forces which it is no longer able to control. Its energy sapped by its own indulgence, its vision reduced to a single dimension, it finds that it can no longer cope with the ultimate causes of things, and there comes a loss of affirmation, a failure of nerve, a denial of the gods, and a despondent fear of the future.”

(J.D. Unwin, “Monogamy as a Condition of Social Energy,” The Hibbert Journal, vol. 25, no. 4, 662-77, 1927)

The Decline of Monogamy and Social Deterioration

“We have fallen into the bad and unquestioned habit of thinking that our educational system is broken, but it is working on all cylinders. What our educational system aims to produce is cultural amnesia, a wholesale lack of curiosity, history-less free agents, and educational goals composed of content-free processes and unexamined buzz-words like “critical thinking,” “diversity,” “ways of knowing,” “social justice,” and “cultural competence.”

“Our students are the achievement of a systemic commitment to producing individuals without a past for whom the future is a foreign country, cultureless ciphers who can live anywhere and perform any kind of work without inquiring about its purposes or ends, perfected tools for an economic system that prizes “flexibility” (geographic, interpersonal, ethical).

“In such a world, possessing a culture, a history, an inheritance, a commitment to a place and particular people, specific forms of gratitude and indebtedness (rather than a generalized and deracinated commitment to “social justice”), a strong set of ethical and moral norms that assert definite limits to what one ought and ought not to do (aside from being “judgmental”) are hindrances and handicaps.”

 

(Patrick Daneen, “How a Generation Lost Its Common Culture,” Minding the Campus, 2 Feb 2016)

Daneen on Education and Cultural Amnesia

There are many things I could say about the spiritually dangerous view known as the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel. Rather than spew my thoughts, I decided to share an excerpt from an opinion piece published in The New York Times this past Valentine’s Day Weekend. The author is Kate Bowler, who is a Biblical scholar at Duke University, who spent nearly a decade researching prosperity preachers, their teachings, and their churches for her book titled, “Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel,” which was published in 2013. Ms. Bowler’s words are honest, loving, and trenchant. Kudos to her and may the Lord continue to lead and embolden her to speak his truth.

“The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty. The movement has perfected a rarefied form of America’s addiction to self-rule, which denies much of our humanity: our fragile bodies, our finitude, our need to stare down our deaths (at least once in a while) and be filled with dread and wonder. At some point, we must say to ourselves, I’m going to need to let go.

“CANCER has kicked down the walls of my life. I cannot be certain I will walk my son to his elementary school someday or subject his love interests to cheerful scrutiny. I struggle to buy books for academic projects I fear I can’t finish for a perfect job I may be unable to keep. I have surrendered my favorite manifestoes about having it all, managing work-life balance and maximizing my potential. I cannot help but remind my best friend that if my husband remarries everyone will need to simmer down on talking about how special I was in front of her. (And then I go on and on about how this is an impossible task given my many delightful qualities. Let’s list them. …) Cancer requires that I stumble around in the debris of dreams I thought I was entitled to and plans I didn’t realize I had made.

“But cancer has also ushered in new ways of being alive. Even when I am this distant from Canadian family and friends, everything feels as if it is painted in bright colors. In my vulnerability, I am seeing my world without the Instagrammed filter of breezy certainties and perfectible moments. I can’t help noticing the brittleness of the walls that keep most people fed, sheltered and whole. I find myself returning to the same thoughts again and again: Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.”

(Kate Bowler, “Death, The Prosperity Gospel, and Me,” New York Times, 13 Feb 2016)

Kate Bowler on Mortality and The Prosperity Gospel

“As an advocate of Birth Control, I wish to take advantage of the present opportunity to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the “unfit” and the “fit,” admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation to the mentally and physically fit though less fertile parents of the educated and well-to-do classes. On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.

“Birth Control is not advanced as a panacea by which past and present evils of dysgenic breeding can be magically eliminated. Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupidly cruel sentimentalism.

“But to prevent the repetition, to effect the salvation of the generations of the future–nay of the generations of today–our greatest need is first of all the ability to face the situation without flinching, and to cooperate in the formation of a code of sexual ethics based upon a thorough biological and psychological understanding of human nature; and then to answer the questions and the needs of the people with all the intelligence and honesty at our command. If we can summon the bravery to do this, we shall best be serving the true interests of Eugenics, because our work will then have a practical and pragmatic value.”

 

(Margaret Sanger, “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda,” Oct 1921)

Margaret Sanger on Birth Control and Eugenics

“Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset…, a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure. For some it is a weekly jaunt to church; for others, occasional visits to special services. Some, with a bent for religious entertainment and sacred diversion, plan their lives around special events like retreats, rallies, and conferences. We go to see a new personality, to hear a new truth, to get a new experience and so somehow expand our otherwise humdrum lives. The religious life is defined as the newest and the latest: Zen, faith healing, human potential, parapsychology, successful living, choreography in the chancel, Armageddon. We’ll try anything — until something else comes along.”

 

(Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p 16, 2000)

 

The Tourist Mindset of Today’s Religion

“The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar.”

 

(A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, p 69, 1982 – Tozer Legacy Edition; original pub date, 1948)

Cultivating Faith vs Instant Faith