Making Men

Father and son

The article is called “The Fear of Having a Son” and it is one of the saddest things I’ve ever read. Andrew Reiner, an English professor, begins by describing his response five years ago when a student asked him how he felt about having a son: “‘Terrifying,’ I blurted. ‘All I can think about is bullying.'”

He feared his son would be bullied, he explains, because “this boy’s going to be raised to feel and express his vulnerability. That’s a curse in this culture.” But in addition to fearing how his son would be received by a hostile culture, he also dreaded the appeal of that culture, worrying that his son would be drawn into the “alpha domination” and “tight-lipped John Wayne ethos” that form “the limiting script of traditional masculine norms.” Small wonder that raising a son felt like a terrifying journey.

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Thursday Roundup

This week’s video looks at an odd and challenging story from Mark’s gospel and considers how a little context can make a big difference. The Answers for Ambassadors episode is about agnosticism and evidence, and the links of the week discuss gender confusion, late bloomers, an epidemic of overwork-related deaths in Japan, and more! (If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

“The wealth of material that is available for determining the wording of the original New Testament is staggering: more than fifty-seven hundred Greek New Testament manuscripts, as many as twenty thousand versions, and more than one million quotations from patristic writers. In comparison with the average ancient Greek author, the New Testament copies are well over a thousand times more plentiful. If the average-sized manuscript were two and one-half inches thick, all the copies of the works of an average Greek author would stack up four feet high, while the copies of the New Testament would stack up over a mile high!”
~ Reinventing Jesus

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North Carolina Voter Guide for 2016

Voting sign

It seems like every election someone asks me to write a voter guide, so I finally decided to put one together this year. Since I and many of my readers live in North Carolina, I’ll be focusing on statewide races at both the federal and state levels. Even if you are choosing to abstain from supporting either major-party presidential candidate, as I am, voting in down-ballot races is a very important way to shape our legal system and seek the best interests of our neighbors. At the state level, races for governor, lieutenant governor, judges, etc. have very real effects on areas like education, law enforcement, and taxes, while, at the federal level, having solid representatives in the Senate and House is one critical way to rein in whichever presidential candidate we end up with.

Since I write on both theology and politics, I ought to take a moment here to make an important distinction. What follows is not intended to be a guide to how a Christian “has to vote.” As Christians, we each have a responsibility to wisely and prayerfully consider biblical principles in combination with practical experience in order to determine how we ought to exercise the little bit of political power which is our vote. Personally, I believe that limited government, rule of law, and free markets are the best way to achieve the good of my neighbor, so I describe myself as politically conservative and I usually end up voting Republican. But I try to make sure my political loyalties are conclusions I reach, not premises from which I start. If you have similar political views, I hope you’ll find this guide useful.

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Thursday Roundup

Today’s roundup starts with a video about the Old Testament law and its application to us today. The Answers for Ambassadors podcast considers the Christian idea of God while responding to Chapter 2 of The God Delusion. And the links of the week cover the growing phenomenon of voluntary male unemployment, the unexpected fruit of religious persecution in Iran, the benefits of family worship, and the pros and cons of voting for Donald Trump.

“Outside the will of God, there’s nothing I want.
Inside the will of God there’s nothing I fear.”

~ A.W. Tozer

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On Overcoming Ourselves

Ramsey confronting Kirby

In the classic movie You Can’t Take It With You, the climatic scene is a confrontation between the brutally capitalistic Anthony P. Kirby and his competitor and one-time friend, Ramsey, whose business Kirby has just destroyed. Kirby is on top of the world, about to sign a hard-won deal which will make him fantastically rich, when a broken Ramsey bursts into his office with a prophetic warning.

I have suddenly realized that I haven’t lost a thing; that I never gained one moment’s happiness out of it. And I warn you, Anthony, neither will you. In spite of your victories, you can’t shut out every decent impulse and survive. You’re top-heavy with power right now, Anthony, but you’re going to crack under it. You’re bound to crack under it… You’ll scream for help and suddenly find yourself alone in the world. You’ll wriggle on the hook and find that nobody gives a hang. I know—because that’s what happened to me. And it’ll happen to you. That’s what happens to all men like us, Anthony; it’s coming to us.

Kirby listens quietly to the hoarse warning and watches impassively as his old friend collapses on the boardroom table before being helped out of the room. Moments later, in the sort of instant reinforcement which only happens in the movies, the businessman’s only son, Tony Jr., comes to tell him he’s leaving, unwilling to follow in his father’s footsteps. He departs, and the great Anthony P. Kirby sighs, gathers himself to his feet, and walks into the elevator that will take him up to the top floor to sign the deal.

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Thursday Roundup

I’m going to be adopting a new format for my regular Thursday posts. Monday posts will continue to feature an original article, but on Thursday I will be compiling the latest episode of my (newly resumed) Answers for Ambassadors podcast, any YouTube videos I’ve recorded that week, links to the best articles I’ve read recently, and other bits of miscellanea.

This week, I have a short video talking about the 30-year gap between the events of Jesus’s life and the first written gospel accounts, and what that means for our confidence in the Bible’s accuracy. My podcast starts a series on The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, and the links discuss the social implications of healthy families, how power undermines the church, and the need for virtuous elites.

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Faith Amid the Waves

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee

One of my favorite Bible stories is the account of Peter walking on the water in Matthew 14. Caught in a dangerous storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were surprised and frightened by the sudden appearance of their Master, walking through the storm. Peter, impetuous as always, cried out to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water,” and Christ replied simply, “Come.” So Peter came, but partway there his fear of the waves overcame his faith in the Lord and he began to sink, until he cried out for help and Jesus snatched him to safety.

The story has much to teach us about the nature of faith—about the danger of focusing on our circumstances rather than our God, and about the hope that comes from having a God who acts to help us even when our meager faith is spent. But there is also a danger in Peter’s story if we take it too specifically as a guide for what faith should look like. The danger lies in a detail which is vivid and memorable—the stuff of ten thousand Sunday School flannelgraphs—but is ultimately of secondary importance: That faith, in this particular situation, involved getting out of the boat.

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The Presidential Election Is Not a Binary Choice

Clinton and Trump faces

In honor of Monday night’s presidential debate, about which I shared a few thoughts here, I wanted to consider a common argument for voting for Donald Trump. (It actually works equally well as a case for voting for Hillary Clinton if you’re a liberal, but being on the conservative side of things I personally hear it being used to argue for voting for Trump.) It is the idea of the “binary choice”: If you are not voting for X, that effectively means you are voting for Y. If you are a conservative, not voting for Trump is the same as voting for Hillary. If you are a liberal, not voting for Hillary is the same as voting for Trump.

Since I am politically conservative and agree that Trump would probably be a “less bad” president than Clinton, the binary-choice argument is somewhat compelling. However, ultimately it has a fatal flaw.

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Born Bound Together


According to the Bible, the sinful choice of one man and his wife thousands of years ago profoundly affected the course of every human life after theirs, including your own. As Romans 5:12 puts it, “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” I Corinthians adds simply, “in Adam all die” (15:22). We are not told the precise mechanics of the Fall and how it influences us today, but the Bible makes it clear that it had debilitating effects on every one of Adam’s race. We still make real, meaningful choices whether to sin or not, but there is something ugly in us now; something which draws us to sin and keeps us from the innocence and freedom that Adam and Eve enjoyed, and squandered, in the Garden.

It’s easy to feel this isn’t especially fair. Why should the rebellion of the first humans have any effect whatsoever on their descendants? Why should we be tied to our first parents by metaphysical cords which pull us down after them?

On one level, the answers to these questions are simply a mystery. Perhaps we will understand more in Heaven, or perhaps not. Perhaps this is one of the ways in which God’s ways are not our ways, and our finite understanding cannot plumb the depths of divine wisdom. But that does not mean we cannot understand at all. As we consider why the Fall had such a morally crippling effect on the rest of the human race, something which appears at first glance to be another, different “problem” with the biblical account is both clarifying and comforting.

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Sin Cannot Justify Sin: A Response to the Charlotte Riots

Charlotte riots over Keith Lamont Scott

I am hesitant to write a critical word about the Charlotte protesters against a backdrop of centuries of sin against people who look like them by people who look like me. I am hesitant to mention a speck in the eye of black America when white America has not yet fully dislodged the log from our own. If I was merely writing as a white person addressing black people, I would be silent. But our Savior tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28), so I write as a Christian addressing Christians.

We have all seen the now-familiar images of broken windows, looted stores, and angry rioters these last few days. They come with a sad sense of familiarity after Ferguson and Baltimore and the other protests-turned-riots of the past couple years. But I am actually less troubled by the violence and property damage of a few—often agitators arriving from out of town, causing damage that affects the black community more than anyone else—than by the permissive attitude taken by many others, both black and white.

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