This and That – 01-14-12

What’s the Message of the Bible in One Sentence – That’s what I recently asked a handful of thoughtful scholars and pastors. Answers below. – Dane Ortlund

My Brother’s Life: Very Valuable Despite Down Syndrome – How does one measure whether a life was a success, or a failure?  Some would measure it by recognition, that is, how many knew the person’s name. For others, the measure of a successful life would be the amount of wealth accumulated, or possessions held. Still others would say a life was successful if the person made a major contribution to society — in medicine, sports, politics, or the arts… By that standard my brother, Marshall Stephen Thomas, who died January 5, was a failure. If, however, your standard for a successful life is how that life positively touched others, then my brother’s life was a resounding success… Shortly after he was born in 1950, Marshall was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Some in the medical community referred to the intellectually disabled as “retarded” back then, long before the word became a common schoolyard epithet. His doctors told our parents he would never amount to anything and advised them to place him in an institution. Back then, this was advice too often taken by parents who were so embarrassed about having a disabled child that they often refused to take them out in public. – Cal Thomas

Why I Love (Pure) Religion, But Hate False Dichotomies – Jesus loves His church. I worry about the conclusions that many will draw from rhetoric like this. Many who dislike “religion” also dislike “the church,” thinking it’s full of disingenuous, self-righteous people. And they’re right – the church is full of disingenuous, self-righteous people because the church is full of sinners! But Christ loves His church. He created it, sustains it, and is Lord over it. And He desires that His people live, worship, and evangelize the world in community. There’s no such thing as a “lone ranger” Christian. We were (re)created for Christian community (aka, the church). Additionally, the New Testament clearly outlines a certain organization, structure, and authority for the church. Yes, it can be abused, but that doesn’t mean we have the right to throw it out. Pitting Jesus against “religion” is potentially dangerous.

Jesus was Religious –  Some make a boogeyman out of the idea of “religious people,” by which it becomes clear what they mean is “traditional people” or the uncool. My feeling is that the Bible-thumping, starched suit-wearing, hellfire and brimstone religious people taking the fun out of fundamentalism are becoming fewer and farther between, while the church is brimming with self-righteous hipsters and cooler-than-thous. The Pharisees look like Vampire Weekend now. I’m not saying Jefferson is one of those guys; I’m just saying he’s offering them red meat. – Jared C. Wilson