Weekend Reading: October 29, 2016

Welcome to the weekend everyone! Here’s the latest in what I read, listened to, or watched this week. Every week there are new people on the list, so a quick note to newbies: this email is originally posted on my blog here. Also, I don’t cover all the major stories every week. Some stuff I just assume you’ve seen, and so this isn’t an effort to give you the major headlines, rather its more of an effort to send along stuff you probably never saw, or didn’t have time for until just this moment. Some of what I post comes from friends in and out of politics, and I try my best to read everything you send – so thanks for that!

Let’s get to it…

Let’s start with the breaking news from the end of the week that the FBI is opening up further investigation into additional emails from Hillary Clinton. The new emails actually came to light during an FBI investigation of Anthony Weiner. Weiner, as you might recall, is a disgraced ex-congressman and husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Here’s my paper this morning:

more-emails

Obviously Clinton campaign Chairman, John Podesta (whose wiki-leaked email hits are collected here for your edification) was quick to respond, saying, “it is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election.”  He is inferring that the FBI has acted out of political inspiration. Keep in mind that it was the Clinton who received an unbelievably favorable assist from FBI Director James Comey earlier in the summer. Comey’s explanations for not prosecuting HRC at the time basically boiled down to the fact that she’s Hillary Clinton, and that if she was anyone else (any average citizen), it would be different. It was one of the most lawless and unjust statements ever made by a top member of the American justice system. And its why Podesta’s faux outrage at an official whose clear double standard was so helpful to him and HRC only months prior, is laughable.

I hate to say it, but if Hillary Clinton is elected, you can expect more of this. For those of you who didn’t really “live through” the 90’s, get ready for a wild ride. It will be one scandal after another. Truth and integrity will be so rare that you won’t even remember the days when doublespeak didn’t exist. Americans will long for the time when their President was only arrogant and a liberal who flaunted the constitution. The days will come when the constitution will not be ignored, it will be preached against, and all but relegated to a backseat in the seared consciences of America’s power elite.

I hate to start so gloomy. But it used to be that when these kinds of scandals broke, careers were ended. People were ruined. Repentance and reflection by even the most powerful men and women would eventually be forthcoming. No such resolution is in the offing, I’m afraid. Stay tuned…

Now let’s zoom out a bit….

Al Mohler has an excellent little article that looks back at the legacy and impact of Francis Schaeffer.  He says, “The collision between Kenneth Clark and Francis Schaeffer, confronted in my first reading of How Should We Then Live?, introduced me to the great collision of worldviews that became such a central interest and urgency of my life.”

Speaking of generational impact, Dana Milbank over at WaPo wrote a excoriating piece aimed at Baby Boomers: Baby boomers have been a disaster for America, and Trump is their biggest mistake yet

They gave us the financial collapse of 2008, the worst economy since the Great Depression, a crushing federal debt and worse inequality. They devoured fossil fuels and did little about global warming while allowing infrastructure and research to deteriorate. They expanded entitlement programs and are now poised to bankrupt those programs. Their leadership has led to declining confidence in religion, the presidency, Congress, the Supreme Court, banks and big business, schools, the media and the police. They may leave their children (the millennials) worse off than they were.

Ouch!!!  While Milbank probably goes too far, I have heard similar arguments about this generation for years. Sometimes the complaints are couched in pithy statements like “the greatest generation gave birth to the worst generation” and so forth. Interesting to hear thoughts on this from others.

Let me follow up the Milbank article with somewhat of a corrective.  All generations are sinful, fallen, and (I think largely) ignorant of the mistakes of previous generations, and the latest one isn’t any exception: This Is the Percentage of Millennials Who Believe George W. Bush Killed More People Than Stalin

Staying on the theme of culture and theology, Ray Penngings over at Cardus has a thoughtful post called ‘What to do in Post-Truth Politics?’ Here’s one of the questions he’s asking himself (and us by extension):

And if a candidate who went too far down the post-truth road were to win, and if my vote were to be part of that win, would I not be enabling a willful campaign to make language meaningless and bald-faced lying the new norm for civil discourse?

TECH: Uber is looking at the feasibility of helicopter aircraft.  Pretty cool stuff. (h/t Parris P.)

MORE TECH: The New York Times has a fascinating look at the future of data storage – and it involves diamonds.  Here’s an excerpt:

This storage would also work differently than a magnetic hard drive, because diamonds, as they say, are forever. Every time you access or rewrite your hard drive, the material it’s made of degrades, and after five or 10 years, it’s dead. But the defects in the diamonds don’t change, and if you do nothing, your data could last as long as your diamond.

CREEPY TECH (this could be a continuing theme I’m afraid): A Matrix-like hallucinogenic pill may be the future of entertainment, says Netflix’s CEO.

Tim Challies linked over to a blog by one Steven Kryger on the topic of spiritual health. He asks a provoking question “What’s Your Budget For Staying Spiritually Healthy?”

ICYMI: Ammon Bundy, 6 others acquitted in Oregon standoff trial. What really shocked me was that after the verdict was given, the attorney for the Bundy’s began to argue that the judge should give his clients immediate release. Then, for whatever reason, the U.S. Marshals thought it would be a good idea to taser the man – the attorney!  No matter what you think of the Bundy’s and what they did in OR, it just seems a bit out of control. Perhaps it was the attorney who was out of control or disrespectful in making his case, but tasering him? This is the kind of incident that has people on edge in America, asking themselves just how far lawlessness has extended in this country. If those charged with upholding the law aren’t going to respect the citizens they are charged with defending, then we’re in a very bad place. It will be interesting to see if any additional video surfaces on this front.

Moving on…We can’t get enough of articles like this one from Jon Bloom: Lord, Align My Heart with Yours.  Bloom is getting at the fact that all of our decisions spring from our desires, and those desires are the controlling factor for our ambitions.  If you’re interested in exploring this topic in more depth, you ought to dive into some Jonathan Edwards, or take an excellent half-step there by reading our friend Dave Harvey’s primer ‘Rescuing Ambition.’ 

Speaking of theology, Ligonier has a neat resource available for free its an audio reading of the Westminster Shorter Confession by Sinclair Ferguson. Very cool stuff here!

POLITICS: Here’s the latest look at the polling averages and how that affects the electoral college voting. And here’s a look at the inside thinking of the Trump data folks. Politico guys reported on this on Thursday with the headline ‘BOMBSHELL: Trump’s own data team has him losing.’  Obviously that headline is a bit deceiving, and it actually does a disservice to the story, which provides outsiders a (perhaps) fascinating look inside how a campaign digital operation functions during debates.  I think by now everyone knows Trump is trailing in key battleground states, but one thing that might surprise some folks is the level of strategic sophistication from some of the head Trump honchoes who are regularly depicted by media types as only a half-step above troglodytes.

THEOLOGY IN PUBLIC LIFELifeWay Stops Selling Jen Hatmaker Books over LGBT Beliefs. I know this is going to be a big deal for a lot of ladies I know who really enjoy Hatmaker’s commentary and previous writing. That said, if you follow some of her recent statements, she’s been dancing closer and closer to heterodoxy, and it seems like she’s finally crossed the line to a point that LifeWay would rather surrender profits from her books in order to stay on the side of theological orthodoxy. As the CT story sums up:

In an interview published Tuesday, the Austin-based author and pastor’s wife told Religion News Service columnist Jonathan Merritt that she supports same-sex marriage and believes that LGBT relationships can be holy

The original interview with Hatmaker was conducted by Religious News Service and has been posted here.

COMIC BREAK: how in the world is this guy doing this???? (h/t my Kate)

Continuing the theme of how popular evangelical luminaries interact with the culture, I want to point out some insightful and important articles re: Andy Stanley.  Stanley has come under increasing fire for a recent sermon he preached (and subsequent interviews he gave) that describe his philosophy of preaching – a philosophy that seemingly has moved beyond relying on the Bible as the sole source of infallibility in his preaching to what he terms a “post-Christian” audience.

However, like many things in life, what’s going on here with Stanley is not that simple. This week Stanley very helpfully laid out his thinking in a VERY long article here.  I read the whole thing…for which I think I deserve a medal!  You can certainly see the man’s heart here, even if his reasoning is flawed. After this, I read an equally long article from John Piper who wrote in response to Stanley’s article. Piper also  had correspondence with Stanley which helped him understand the man’s perspective.

Even though they are both long articles, I would encourage them to be read and thought through – carefully.  Even if you just read Piper, you’ll get the context presented fairly, and you will be edified by the thoughtful and kind way he works through Stanley’s propositions. In the meantime, you can get a taste for the essence of the discussion in a few graphs near the close of Piper’s post:

I think Stanley is only half right when he says, “Appealing to post-Christian people on the basis of the authority of Scripture has essentially the same effect as a Muslim imam appealing to you on the basis of the authority of the Quran.” He is right in that this happens. God’s inspired word is sometimes heard with no effect. But not always, and not usually. It is different from the Quran. It is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). It is not preached in vain — especially not when, in the hands of a Spirit-filled preacher, the truth and beauty of its depths and heights are spoken with clarity and conviction for what they really are.

He then concludes as follows:

So my concluding suggestion is this: join Andy Stanley in caring deeply about winning “post-Christians”; join him in moving beyond simplistic and naïve-sounding shibboleths; join him in cultural awareness and insight into your audience; join him in the excellence of his teaching and communication skills; and join him in his belief in the complete truthfulness of the Bible. And then spend eight years blowing your people’s post-Christian circuits by connecting the voltage of every line in the book of Romans with their brains.

When it comes to preaching, nothing is more powerful and self-authenticating than the Spirit-anointed, passionate, expository exultation over the inspired text of Scripture. If you don’t believe that, perhaps you have never seen such preaching.

That’s powerful and poignant writing. And these things are really important, for the sake of the church in America and for future generations. The discussion itself is also important because it reminds us of why its so very valuable to have wise leaders thoughtfully responding and interacting with the spirit of the age.That’s why I sometimes spend extended periods of writing time discussing religious leaders who interact in the public arena.  While Stanley’s heart certainly seems to be completely in the right spot, like some of the short-sided well-meaning heretics of the last 2,000 years, sometimes good intentions don’t equal good theology.

I want to close with a reminder that came to be in a round about way from a good friend in politics. Sometimes it can feel as though we are reeds just blowing in the wind, with no one else seeing or feeling the momentous changes we are experiencing. This election will likely end badly no matter who wins. The country is in a world of hurt for numerous reasons. But I was encouraged by the words of Matthew as he recorded something from Isaiah 42 about Jesus, and his care for his people. I’m not speaking about Americans – but the church, those whom he’s saved.  He says this:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.

Jesus is unlike any other king, or president. He didn’t come in the same way, full of pomp and ceremony and fighting his way to the top. His justice will be and is perfect. He doesn’t create mass media spectacles, or surround himself with corrupt advisors. He does not overlook the needy or the smallest and most insignificant among us. He will protect the suffering church from being extinguished. He will not break the bruised reed. Indeed, he was broken for us so that we could be healed and enjoy a life that will one day undue all the hurt and the sin and corruption we see around us – especially what dwells in our own hearts.

My prayer this weekend is for my fellow Christians. Don’t be discouraged – we know in whom we have placed our hope!

Have a great weekend!

PJW

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