After writing 233 weekly columns over nearly five years, it’s time for a change.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to have worked with “Context: Beyond the Headlines,” a TV program and associated media aimed at providing Christian perspective on the news—a rare thing in the history of Canadian broadcasting.
I am particularly grateful to former executive producer Lorna Dueck for hiring and inspiring me, and to current executive producer Susan Ponting for enthusiastic encouragement along the way. Context did want me to stay, but in a reduced capacity that didn’t fit my sense of vocation.
If you want to keep up with my online writing, then, please subscribe to my weblog, where I will either post what I write or at least notify you where I’m writing. I’ll likely inform readers also via Twitter (@jgsphd) and Facebook, as usual, but the weblog subscription gets you notices that land nicely in your email inbox.
I hope the best for Context’s next chapter, and I thank the many of you who have read and shared my work there over the years.
An influential pastor recently posted this graphic on Facebook to strong acclaim from his followers. See what you think of it:
This way of describing God is very popular, of course. It’s always been popular in certain circles, and it is increasingly popular on the leftward edge of evangelicalism.
But it’s wrong.
It won’t pass the test of even a single book of the Bible: I John.
I John is the source for the oft-cited phrase: “God is love” (I John 4:8). The author likes that phrase enough to repeat it later in the same passage (v 16).
It is one of the few phrases in the Bible set up as a copula: “God is X.” So it’s attractive to those trying to answer the big question of the nature of God: “Let’s see if the Bible anywhere gives us a straightforward answer to the question, ‘What is God?’ Ah! Here’s a place.”
So far, then, so good.
But in the very same epistle we encounter a parallel construction: “God is light” (I John 1:5). Let’s see it in context:
To conclude this four-part series with a fifth part, let’s just take the various elements in this series in order.
To be for or against postmodernity in many ways is like being for or against the weather. The fragmentation of hypermodern society and the doubt about whom we can trust is everywhere around us, however much or little each of us is characterized by them.
Christians should always oppose the hypocrisies of power that postmodernists have unmasked. We will also, however, oppose such a fragmentation of the self that it also amounts to outright hypocrisy.
As we follow a modern person throughout her week, we should recognize that is a good thing to embrace multiple goods in God’s multifariously good world: good to be physically fit, good to be well-informed, good to be successful at work, good to be loved and loving in family life, and so on. Only a weirdly shrunken version of Christianity insists that in every sphere of life the imperative is to share the gospel or care for the poor. (If you’re wondering about these questions of God’s calling on your life, here’s a guide.) Diversity of this sort should be celebrated by the Christian.
It is a bad thing, though, to capitulate to sub- or even anti-Christian values in this or that pursuit. It is wrong to pursue physical beauty and power by using performance-enhancing drugs or by spending time and money in the gym that ought to be spent elsewhere. It is wrong to be successful at work if “success” is measured only by financial gain and not by adding goodness to the world in harmonious relationships with co-workers, customers, and even competitors. It is wrong even to pursue spiritual growth while neglecting the physical and emotional needs of one’s family. Fragmentation promotes a hypertrophy of the values of a particular social sector to the exclusion of balancing virtues should be resisted by the Christian.
Postmodern doubt is appropriate, from a Christian point of view. We should never have trusted so much in monarchs, or politicians, or magnates, or priests. Many of us still give too much allegiance to attractive celebrities and causes. No human being other than Jesus has been perfect, or even close to it.
Still, God didn’t need postmodern theorists to acquaint him with the limitations of human knowledge and leadership. And God has given us what we need to know in order to be whom we need to become and in order to do what we need to accomplish. God has given us inspired Scripture, yes, but also Godself as ever-present Teacher, Guide, and Adjudicator—in our own hearts and in the company of the Church. This is a large part of what Christians mean by referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit of God as a constant presence in our lives. (And if you’re wondering how this works out in terms of thinking confidently as a Christian, here’s a guide.)