Does Christianity Make Me Less Human?

I finished a seminar yesterday on the Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk. I presented to class his speech upon receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature (2006). (In addition to being a great writer, Pamuk is great for thinking about differences between East and West, secularism and religion, political Islam and secular Turkey, by the way, not to mention that his thoughts about the Muslim notion of huzun resonates with Christian ideas of suffering.) His speech concludes this way, on why he writes:

I write because I have an innate need to write! I write because I can’t do normal work like other people. I write because I want to read books like the ones I write. I write because I am angry at all of you, angry at everyone. I write because I love sitting in a room all day writing. I write because I can only partake in real life by changing it. I write because I want others, all of us, the whole world, to know what sort of life we lived, and continue to live, in Istanbul, in Turkey. I write because I love the smell of paper, pen, and ink. I write because I believe in literature, in the art of the novel, more than I believe in anything else. I write because it is a habit, a passion. I write because I am afraid of being forgotten. I write because I like the glory and interest that writing brings. I write to be alone. Perhaps I write because I hope to understand why I am so very, very angry at all of you, so very, very angry at everyone. I write because I like to be read. I write because once I have begun a novel, an essay, a page, I want to finish it. I write because everyone expects me to write. I write because I have a childish belief in the immortality of libraries, and in the way my books sit on the shelf. I write because it is exciting to turn all of life’s beauties and riches into words. I write not to tell a story, but to compose a story. I write because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go but – just as in a dream – I can’t quite get there. I write because I have never managed to be happy. I write to be happy.

Now if I were a good New Calvinist, I could go Strunk-and-White on Pamuk and say simply and tersely, “I write to glorify God”? Or is it possible to talk about all the human reasons for our work and add the glory of God to them? It seems to me that for as admirable as theocentricity is in worship, it doesn’t make for very interesting or complicated human beings.

92 thoughts on “Does Christianity Make Me Less Human?

  1. D.G.,

    Honest question: Does the chief end of man inform his “non-chief” ends? If so, how? Does it need to?


  2. “It seems to me that for as admirable as theocentricity is in worship, it doesn’t make for very interesting or complicated human beings.”

    This statement is a perfect example of why I keep coming back and reading this site.


  3. Darryl, where do get these idea about neo-Calvinists? The ontology is quite rich. Think of all of Dooyeweerd’s modalities.

    Of course, it’s possible, and right and good and beautiful to talk about all the human reasons for our work. They may not be the chief “end” but they are ends and legitimate ones. It’s part of the goodness of Creation. Thanks for sharing, BTW, I don’t often get to Turkish literature even if it is Nobel prize winning.


  4. Thanks, Darryl. That snippet from Pamuk’s speech was well worth the short read. Reminded me of a C.S. Lewis quote (his last interview):

    Lewis: “I would say if a man is going to write on chemistry, he learns chemistry. The same is true of Christianity. But to speak of the craft itself, I would not know how to advise a man how to write. It is a matter of talent and interest. I believe he must be strongly moved if he is to become a writer. Writing is like a ‘lust,’ or like ‘scratching when you itch.’ Writing comes as a result of a very strong impulse, and when it does come, I for one must get it out.”


  5. I find it very strange that you would consider someone who sought to put God at the centre of their lie boring. Is a Christian only meant to think about God when he’s in the worship service?

    Paul said “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” How do you reconcile what you said to that?

    It’s also Wyeth saying that what this writer is searching for, being, ultimately, happiness, can only be found in Christ. The dissatisfaction he feels, the anger, is a result of the Fall and having to live in this evil world. He will only find peace in Christ. To at anything else is to delude him- and others- and to encourage them towards a list eternity.


  6. Erik, his writing is not really angry. Anything but. Yet, the source of his anger is the West’s hegemony, which if you think about as a Turk makes sense, not to mention those World Wars.


  7. Alexander, well, I was just asking. And you’re response is what I thought some would say. I lose my human reasons once divinity kicks in. So you’re saying Christians may not talk like Pamuk. Fine. But inhuman.


  8. Every local church is made up of actual humans, all of whom are actually quite different from one another and unique. But fundy churches (of all types) require everyone to look, act, and speak (around each other) the same way. This creates cognitive dissonance which undermines the message, causes guilt, develops odd and harmful emphases, and encourages secret “sin” — so there’s more at stake than our preference for “humanity.” But I refuse to utter the “a” word since the emergents and TGCers have worn it out (rhymes with schmawtethicity).


  9. Alexander, your response is the sort of therapeutic Christianity that rings so hollow and two-dimensional. What are you suggesting, that believers can’t experience anger and dissatisfaction in this life? But if Vos is right that eschatology precedes soteriology then it’s part of being human to experience these things. But for those so influenced by modernity and its need for creaturely comfort and ease, redemption swallows up creation and out pops something weird about Christian faith making all the boo-boos go away.


  10. This is where someone comes in and quotes Rookmaker, right?

    “Jesus didn’t come to make us Christians; Jesus came to make us fully human.”

    Although reading that again now, I’m not sure which side of the fight that actually supports.


  11. Erik, Turkey is in NATO but Europe has yet to admit the Turks to the EU. It’s where Christianity meets Islam, where Eastern Christianity meets Western Christianity, where secularity meets tradition. And I haven’t even mentioned the Hittites and Assyrians. You thought America was diverse.


  12. Zrim-

    I’m not saying anything of the sort and you know it. What I criticised was the position- assented to by Mr. Hart- that writing is the solution to the anger this man feels and the position explicitly advanced by Mr. Hart that what this writer expresses is really human and to be admired.

    What this writer is promulgating is the reasoning of the natural man: solving my spiritual predicament with natural remedies. Writing novels will not satisfy and it will not solve the problem all humans face: they have fallen short of the glory of God, rebelled against Him, are alienated from Him. And writing all the novels in the world won’t solve that.

    And of course Christians are all different but, frankly, all the Lord’s people have commonality in important areas, one of which is the understanding that this world is passing away; that it is empty and corrupting and only Christ will ultimately satisfy, however lawful pleasures may satiate for a time. But even when enjoying the comforts of family life, lawful employment &c. the Christian knows these are temporal pleasures which are not to be rested in. This writer expresses the exact opposite.

    I can assure you the Christians I know know all too well the woes of this world. We don’t accommodate ourselves to this world to make these woes more palatable like you.


  13. AB – Switcfoot isn’t making Chrisianity any better; they are just making rock and roll worse.


  14. Darryl, I guess I’m not used to all the jots and tittles around here. Remind me what New Calvinism is? (YRR?) I thought you were just being cute with “neo”. As you can see, I have no problem with the gist of your post. Sorry for the false accusation if you weren’t talking about neon’s.


  15. Darryl, how can a melting pot be diverse? You’ve nailed it there–we have no idea. That’s why I think the 2k notion of “common” is really difficult. Dealing with pluralism is not the same as dealing with common.


  16. Pardon the tangent, but this post made me think about my TKNY-influenced, transformationalist-leaning PCA church. I find myself in the land of skinny jeans, small groups, and being “community-oriented.” I’m often left wondering why we as Christians have to turn everything into a mission. Can’t we just (imperfectly) pursue our vocations, enjoy our friendships, and engage in simple worship?


  17. Alexander, you just did it again. But maybe it’s not about solving or satisfying eternal angst with natural means, i.e. redemption swallowing up creation. Maybe it’s just doing earth with earthly means. Yes, believers have a superior grasp eternity, but unbelievers do earth better.


  18. I found that quote very inspiring- especially in light of the situation my life is in right now. I wish I could communicate it more clearly. It reminded me of this quote by Kafka:

    “I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.”
    ― Franz Kafka


  19. I’m often left wondering why we as Christians have to turn everything into a mission. Can’t we just (imperfectly) pursue our vocations, enjoy our friendships, and engage in simple worship?

    Ding! But there’s no money for NCGOs (non-church governmental orgs) in that approach. The Gospel-Industrial Complex must be served.


  20. Chortles nailed it. The most dangerous aspect of this whole missional movement is that the gospel becomes a means to an earthly end, that end being the growth and influence of the organization and its leaders.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. The problem with many people who read and write books, like myself, is that they think literacy is a virtue, that arguing with philosophical skill is redemptive, that they are original, new and finally ready to share their enlightenment with the benighted. Pamuk seems quite counter to this tendency, which may be more pronounced among Christian book readers and writers than among others. That’s why the Pamuk quote is nice. And what I wouldn’t give to write a few sentences like Orwell:

    “She was very young…she still expected something from life, she did not understand that to push an inconvenient person over a cliff solves nothing.”


  22. AA, fair enough. But at least my listening to them as a kid, and playing for my children, doesn’t make us less human.


  23. Chortles, my nightmares routinely consist of random interlocutors on religious blogs who use not their real names.

    Yes, I’m scared.


  24. The problem with many people who read and write books, like myself, is that they think literacy is a virtue, that arguing with philosophical skill is redemptive, that they are original, new and finally ready to share their enlightenment with the benighted.

    I hereby nominate this as OL quote of the day.

    Or, David, Carver’s way of ending a short story: “I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.”


  25. OL folks,

    Ok, this blog has made numerous valid points about the dangers of celebrity and $ in the evangelical world, and about the absurdity for some evanjellyfish to try to redeem cupcake-baking. All fair enough.

    But, I have a sincere question. It was said above “I’m often left wondering why we as Christians have to turn everything into a mission.” Well maybe you’re right – maybe not ‘every’ thing has to be turned into a mission.

    But, is the sum total of our calling as redeemed believers only to “pursue our vocations, enjoy our friendships, and engage in simple worship?” Isn’t there a bit more?

    I’ve heard the OL critiques of the evangelical world loud and clear. I’d like to hear more, though, on what, if any, sense of evangelistic responsibilities you feel the average joe-Christian in the secular world should have. Thoughts?


  26. John, I like Kafka also, but don’t be legalist or utilitarian about it. Why read only as a means to an end, be it to wake up or to sleep or to pass the time? Read Tolstoy’s War and Peace not for the history or the moralism, but simply the delight in its existence…..

    Gilead—“Your hair is straight and dark, and your skin is very fair. I suppose you’re not prettier than most children. You’re just a nice-looking boy, a bit slight, well scrubbed and well mannered. All that is fine, but it’s your existence I love you for, mainly. Existence seems to me now the most remarkable thing that could ever be imagined.”


  27. Petros – But, is the sum total of our calling as redeemed believers only to “pursue our vocations, enjoy our friendships, and engage in simple worship?” Isn’t there a bit more?

    Erik – Yes, glaring omission of beer drinking.


  28. mboss

    “Can’t we just (imperfectly) pursue our vocations, enjoy our friendships, and engage in simple

    Answer: No. Probably not. You attend a “TKNY-influenced, transformationalist-leaning, “community-oriented” PCA church.


  29. Petros, I don’t see where 2K is at all unfriendly to evangelism. Machen seemed to think global missions were important.


  30. David- It is exactly that sort of redemptive power Pamuk believes writing has. That’s why he writes- he says it himself.

    Zrim- but there’s the rub: I don’t want to “do earth” better. I don’t want to be better at living in this works: I want to live for Christ, following his way, be a better disciple. That should be the desire of the Christian. Pamuk may “do earth” better, but where will he be in eternity?


  31. Darryl, it’s just proof that I don’t read your blog every day. Sorry. I do get you on Twitter, but I don’t always click through to actually read the post. Besides when I do, I have an irresistible urge to comment. (Really, I can’t keep up with you and Erik and Zrim.)

    But thanks for the link. was particularly helpful (and by and large I agree).


  32. Petros, confessional Protestantism makes a distinction between the ordained and lay members of the church, leaving evangelism proper to the select few that number the former. It is for the latter to take up their tasks of vocation–pursue a quiet life, work with their hands, fear God, honor the emperor. Without that kind of distinction, and without a doctrine of vocation, everything turns into mission for everybody, to wit mboss’s observation.


  33. Alexander, then don’t. But when unbelievers do earth well don’t then turn around and cast it in such cynical and dismissive terms or that believers do earth better because they have a view of eternity. Why not let unbelievers do earth well, give them their due praise for it, learn a few things and benefit (hey, if anybody’s borrowing capital maybe it’s us of them), then put it into an eternal perspective so as not to get too tied to perishing things.


  34. Zrim – thanks. Your feedback is essentially what I’ve been gleaning is the dominant view here. Could you elaborate (or, point me to a book, or whatever) that explains the Biblical rationale, in a positive manner, for your view?


  35. Peter, what is your basis for thinking that the average Joe has evangelistic responsibilities? Be careful lest you turn biblical texts directed at church officers into ones directed at Joe-six-pack.


  36. Zrim, thanks for the references. I’ll definitely check them out.

    Darryl, the vast majority of the NT is written to, and for, joe-six-pack. Perhaps you have a hermeneutic that says verses like Mt 28:19, Jn 20:21, and Acts 1:8 were narrowly intended only for the twelve disciples?

    But, as only a few examples:

    From church history. The Story of Christianity, Justo Gonzalez. P. 35. “The missionary task itself was undertaken, not only by Paul and others whose names are known – Barnabas, Mark, et al – but also by countless and nameless Christians who went from place to place taking with them their faith and their witness….mostly these nameless Christians were merchants, slaves, and others who traveled for various reasons, but whose travel provided the opportunity for the expansion of the Christian message.”

    Jesus to Gerasene demoniac: “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19 “And he (the ex-demoniac) went off and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone marveled.” Mark 5:20

    Paul to (rank-and-file-church-members) Thessalonians: “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith toward God has gone forth”

    It would appear that a non-church-officer named Epaphras brought the gospel to Colossae. Col 1:6,7

    Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving for the faithful witness of the Romans (no hint he’s only writing about ordained church leaders): “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you ALL, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the world” Rom 1:8

    Peter to all believers “be ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” I Peter 3:15

    There are all kinds of churches noted in the NT that seemingly sprung up from nowhere, outside of any connection to official ‘ordained’ ministers. “Greet Nympha and the church that is in her house” (Col 3:15)

    I’m mostly trying to learn and understand — not debate. But, I would think you’d have a greater burden of proof to demonstrate that the Text intends evangelism to be done only by church leaders.


  37. Pete, if “evangelism” is speaking about the Gospel, inviting people to church, answering questions, pointing the way — yes, for everyone, more or less. The great commission encompasses the the whole process — preaching, baptizing, teaching, administering the sacraments. That’s for church officers. That is making disciples.


  38. Chortles,

    I think you’ll be hard-pressed to make a Biblical case that making disciples is a duty for only church officers.

    2 Tim 2:2 sets an expectation that Timothy entrust Paul’s teaching to ‘faithful men, who will be able to teach others also’. No mention of those guys first being a church officer of any kind.

    For that matter, the pastoral epistles are notably silent about the administration of the sacraments being the duty of only church officers. Curiously, administering baptism wasn’t particularly high on Paul’s radar (I Cor 1:14-17).

    As an example, say person X (a non-church officer) shares the gospel with person Y and Y comes to faith, and X meets twice per week with Y for Bible study and prayer, and Y grows in his faith and starts to attend X’s church. Y comes to a point where he realizes he should be baptized to publicly profess his faith, and Y asks X (because of X’s formative role in Y’s life) to baptize him. Would X be subject to your church’s discipline for administering baptism? I’m not suggesting that this situation should be normative, but I’m interested in how far you’d take your position.

    Perhaps I’ll find more insight in the articles that Zrim referenced, but I’m struggling to see the Biblical basis for the clergy-laity dichotomy that seems to exist in the P&R world.


  39. Mark,

    It was not my intention to be “legalistic” or “utilitarian” with my comment. And I don’t always pick up a book to receive a “blow to the head.” Perhaps it’s just because I happen to be pissed off lately about my station in life these days. I like their brutal honesty- even if their motives are probably tainted by their sin. The main point being, as the post makes, I think, it takes on a more human element to it. We all are sinners saved by grace- still simultaneously justified yet sinful. The pressure in the church is to put on a mask and veneer of holiness. I don’t think that is a good thing. I also think it does damage to the fellowship in the church. I am just telling my opinion though. I might be wrong.


  40. I don’t say average church members don’t have a part to play, but “disciplemaking” became a buzzword among evangelicals and hatched a cottage industry of literature (Gospel-Industrial Compex, again). This devalued the institutional church’s role. The totality of discipling must include discipline — accountability to elders and admission to/via the sacraments. Of course my church would discipline someone for performing a private, unauthorized baptism — unless it was an extreme circumstance like a dying infant or a battlefield, etc.


  41. Petros:

    Epaphras certainly appears to be an official teacher of the church. When Paul writes Colossians, Epaphras is with him in prison. That certainly suggests that the two had an established relationship. Paul refers to Epaphras as “our [referring to Paul and Timothy] beloved fellow servant,” a “minister of Christ,” and a “servant of Christ” (1:7 and 4:12). In his letter Philemon, he refers to Epaphras as his “fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus” (1:23). Paul trusts not only Epaphras’ reports concerning the Colossian church but also commends his teaching and ministry to them. Epaphras prays and works not just for the church in Colossae but also for the nearby churches in Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:14).


  42. RL,

    That Epaphras is a commendable figure, I totally agree. The question is how you can read between the lines of the Text and infer that he, or any of the other joe-six-packs in the NT or in church history, were “official” officers of the church. It seems that you’ve got a lot riding on making such a strong clergy-laity distinction, and yet there’s such a weak Biblical case for it.



    At least be aware that evangelicals would apply a few of the same critiques to you, that you do to the RCC. You’ve got a lot staked on clergy-laity distinctions, a lot staked on sacramentology, and a lot staked on the illegitimacy of ministry that happens outside the boundaries of your church.


    Rick Phillips, presumably an approved “Old School Calvinist”, wrote something apt just yesterday. “because Keller is right about one thing. Too often, Old Calvinists pat themselves on the back for being doctrinally faithful when we are not being missionally faithful.”


    I’ll go back and digest all the articles that Zrim passed on, in hopes of finding a stronger Biblical case for the perspectives here.


  43. Petros, Phillips writes:

    “To be sure, we should be discerning about these media to ensure that they are used in a manner that is biblically wise. I have already mentioned the video church phenomenon as one that should be avoided. But Old School folks would do well to imitate the wide use of video for the purpose of general communications, including video round table discussions, video recordings of sermons (not to replace the live version), and video podcasts.”

    An old schooler might wonder what is either the wisdom or biblical warrant for wrenching a sermon from its larger doxological (even sabbatarian and sacramental) context. There is being properly logocentric, and then there is transforming preaching into a form of sto-and-go spiritual didacticism that meets the felt needs of the broadcast generation.


  44. Pete, you’re not breaking any news here. And Phillips is no fan of 2k and I would call him more conservative than old school. He may want to be the next Ligon Duncan so making nice with the Newcs is de rigueur.


  45. May apply to some Old Life haters…

    Classified ads which were actually placed in U.K. Newspapers:

    8 years old, Hateful little bastard. Bites!


  46. Pete, I’m only following the hermeneutic of pre-Pretty-Good-Awakening church men who never thought that the passages about preaching and teaching and baptizing and administering the Supper were intended for Joe-six-pack. But if you want to follow J. Gonzalez instead of Calvin, it’s your call.

    And if you’re citing Jesus in Mark 5 about telling others, you better include all those times when Jesus told the people on whom he performed miracles to keep quiet — and then they disobeyed the Lord.

    If you want to broaden this to discipling and the role of vocations other than pastors and elders, then why didn’t you say so. But I’m thinking that you’re okay with every-member-ministry. How American of you.


  47. Thanks again, Zrim, for the reference articles. Modern Reformation just got a paid subscription out of me.

    Please understand when you talked about (cf your 4/25/14, 6:24pm post) “leaving evangelism proper to the select few”, why that raised some questions by me.

    It turns out that I’ll happily assent to the following quotes from a couple of the articles, and I hope you would, too:

    “With this perspective on work, Christians may think they do not need to seek the conversion of non-Christian co-workers. This understanding is wrong, especially since the Apostle Peter urges us always to be ready “to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).” DG Hart, “Work as (Spiritual) Discipline”

    “Indeed, the good news of Pentecost is that the Spirit has made us all witnesses of Christ, a nation of evangelists.” “….we are all equally called to be Christians and inherent in our union with Christ, the “Light of the world,” is our missionary identity”. Michael Horton, “What About Bob?”

    So, lo and behold, I just might be in violent agreement with you folks, assuming you agree with the above Hart and Horton excerpts, which (I’m pleased to see) go further than just pursuing a quiet life, working diligently, taking care of one’s family, et al.


  48. Petros, I don’t think the point has been the utter deletion of witness among ordinary believers. I think it’s been a matter of accent and putting it on ordinary vocation for laity, on the extraordinary work of evangelism for clergy.

    ps you’re welcome. I’ll be waiting with baited breath for my “Mike Horton is My Homeboy” tee shirt for getting you signed up.


  49. Zrim,

    I understand that Reformed folks want to differentiate themselves from any variety of unflattering caricatures of eeeeevangelicals. But realize that most laity spend way more time in the secular world with far greater numbers of unchurched folks than clergy do. Further, I’m assuming that your church services are likely not seeker-sensitive and do not routinely include weekly altar calls. So, in the normal course of life, I’m not clear on how, either as a practical matter, or as a matter of Biblical principle, that the greater weight of evangelism duties fall upon the clergy.

    I’m happy with the quotes from Hart and Horton, even if those sentiments do not get much of a profile at Old Life.


  50. Peter, the preaching of the word is evangelism. What in the Confession of Faith do you not understand?

    Q. 155. How is the word made effectual to salvation?
    A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; or building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.

    Seeker sensitive? Do you still listen to Disco?


  51. Darryl,

    I fully understand and agree with that portion of the Confession of Faith. What you/Zrim have failed to explain is the Biblical rationale for why the primary weight of evangelistic duties should fall to the clergy, and the practical rationale for how/why/when the clergy are even able to fulfill evangelistic duties, which of necessity will involve a high level of interaction with unchurched/secular people.


  52. Pete, Paul asks how shall they hear without a preacher? Paul tells Timothy, a pastor, to preach the word. I think you can figure that out. Why did God give us pastoral epistles if everyone is a pastor?

    Does this mean that lay folks should be silent about their faith or not give an account of their faith? No. It does mean that the regular guilt evangelicals inflict on believers who don’t summon up their personal testimony at every opportunity is unbiblical.


  53. Petros, since I am one who does, you don’t need to point out how most laity spend way more time in the secular world with far greater numbers of unchurched folks than clergy do. But how that implies I’m to do more evangelizing than work isn’t clear. Isn’t the burden of proof on you to tell me how most of my time should be spent dividing the Word of God for the benefit of others? My employer might disagree, and she’d be right.

    As far as the biblical case, are you saying the links I provided didn’t cover that?


  54. Zrim – that’s correct. The articles/links you provided gave a sufficient account of the doctrine of vocation. They did not, in my opinion, support your extrapolation that evangelism is primarily the responsibility of the clergy. I make no argument as to how much time laity or clergy should spend on evangelizing. I’m not in a position to judge that, as both laity and clergy have many other God-ordained duties to fulfill. It’s not about “time”, per se. (I live in the secular world, too, and would absolutely agree that Christians are to bust their chops in the workplace and do a good job.) None of this is about inflicting guilt, either.

    My issue is how does you surmise, from Scripture, that evangelizing is primarily the duty of clergy. DGH offers up 2 dots (Rom 10:14 and 2 Tim 4:2) and connects them. Those two dots are fine as far as they go, but to my mind hardly account for the overall sweeping message of the Text that we’re all equally called to play our part in bringing the message of redemption to a fallen world.

    “However, you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people who belong to God. You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I Peter 2:9 (I realize that in commbox-land that it’s easy to lob proof-texts in support of this or that viewpoint, but this, and so many other, verses, were not written to clergy.)


  55. Petros, I wouldn’t agree that Evangelism is solely the clergy’s role. Some laypeople clearly have a gift or talent for Evangelism and they are very free to get going with it, in my humble view.

    But to make Evangelism into the only or most important thing that believers can do, and then to put constant browbreating pressure on everyone to have to do it, is objectionable.

    There are so many other things to do if one isn’t remotely cut out for that public work.


  56. Petros, how about Matthew 16:19-20; 18:18; and John 20:22-23 whereChrist tells his disciples that he has given them–the few fellows selected from out of the throngs of followers–the keys to his kingdom? But if the greater weight of evangelism doesn’t fall on clergy then what’s the point of clergy in the first place?


  57. Pete, you haven’t shown that Peter was talking about evangelism. Various translations render it as proclaiming his excellencies or praises. A lay person does that in worship. I think you’re reading evangelical piety back into the text.


  58. Zrim & DGH – Mostly, I inquired to learn your perspective, and you’ve helped me in that regard, even if I don’t find your arguments compelling. I’m a cafeteria-calvinist, I suppose, with many sympathies of what is expressed here, but a few pts of departure, too. Working out a more complete theology of evangelism in the brevity of a comm-box is likely futile for us all. Many thanks for your thoughts.


  59. There are really only two types of Calvinist: cafeteria and confessional. OK, there are those in large cities and affinity movements that treat the confessions like a buffet, sticking mostly to the dessert section.


  60. The great thing about eating cafeteria style is that it allows some of us to bypass less savory parts of the 17th century confessional menu, and yet gorge on the better stuff. Semper reformanda!


  61. Pete,

    Just last night we were reading the passage where Jesus tells his followers to pray that God would send out workers into the Harvest field. Who was he talking about, plumbers?


  62. Ha ha! Army mess hall, indeed. Nicer to pick/choose cuisine out of the best 5-star restaurants. You’ve got a few 5-star quality offerings here, to be sure, but a couple spaghetti-with-ketchup ones, too.


  63. Erik – when Paul tells the Corinthians to imitate him (1 Cor 11:1) or when he tells the Philippians (4:9) to practice the things that they had learned and received and heard and seen in Paul, who was he talking to? Only the church officers or clergy? This is a rhetorical question, of course. Likely, neither of us can full develop our views through comm-boxes, but let’s just agree that there are a lot of Texts that have bearing on the clergy-laity thing.


  64. Beware of aggressive lay evangelism, yo:

    The Apostle Paul writes to the various congregations strung out through the Gentile world. He speaks to them as one commissioned by the risen Christ to spread the word. He calls his readers to imitation of Christ and himself but never does that imitation include assuming the functions of his office. He neither commends the churches to which he writes for their active evangelistic enterprise nor chastises them for failure to implement an evangelistic program. However, he repeatedly reminds them of his own calling and ministry, prods them to prayer and doing good; he asks for money and hospitality. He reminds others of their particular and special ministry (e.g., Timothy, 2 Tim. 4:5); but nowhere does he place upon the general membership of the church the obligation to evangelize. His interest was an integrated Christian life which he referred to as the Christian’s “walk.” One searches in vain the passages in which Paul deals with the Christian’s “walk” for mention of, let alone endorsement of, the modern notion of aggressive lay evangelists.


  65. Dear Professor Hart,
    A friend sent me the link to your, “Does Christianity Make Me Less Human? (24 April, 2014.) I was surprised by your saying “that [Orhan Pamuk’s] thoughts about the Muslim notion of ‘huzun’, resonates with Christian ideas of suffering!” Behind the Muslim notion of suffering is his belief in Fate, and since Allah is impersonal, his will is capricious; while the Christian finds comfort in Romans 8:28, and sings “Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure, By the cross are sanctified; Peace is there that knows no measure, Joys that through all time abide.”
    Your response to Erik baffled me. Did you mean that in Turkey: “Christianity meets Islam, where Eastern Christianity meets Western Christianity, where secularity meets tradition. And I haven’t even mentioned the Hittites and Assyrians.”
    After the death of Kemal Ataturk in 1938, the slow, but steady process of the re-Islamization of Turkey began; now Turkey is governed by Recep Erdogan, an Islamist Prime Minister. By the way, where and when is the encounter or dialogue going on in today’s Turkey, between Christianity and Islam; or between Eastern and Western Christianity?


  66. Mr. Madan,

    I have encountered your opposition to Islam before. I do not have your personal experience (which I believe is that of a Christian Arab). I can only comment on my own experiences in Turkey and study of Turkish history.

    But to answer your question about the dialogue going on, consider this. I don’t necessarily approve, but Kuyper is being translated (okay only quotes) into Turkish.


  67. Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on this blog loading?

    I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.


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