Russell and Duenes

Archive for December 2011

2012: 1 Corinthians 7 and “As if Not”

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In 2011, God has given me many things for which to be abundantly grateful. My third son was born to us in March, I completed 10 years of teaching Bible at Redwood Christian Schools, I was accepted to law school and given a generous scholarship on top of it, my family and I were given a spacious house to rent here in Kansas, we were able to find a faithful, Bible-believing church as well, while making a few friends in the process. Most importantly, God has faithfully given us his presence and promises through all of it. My wife and I would not have made it through this first difficult semester of law school if God had not given us special grace, and probably the promise I have leaned on the most is the very simple one that many children learn: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

So I head into 2012 grateful for all that God has done, and for the opportunity to continue my legal studies. My desire has always been to offer my legal practice up to Jesus for him to use as He sees fit. I want my practice to be an extension of the saving work that God is doing in me and in the world. To that end, God has impressed something upon me recently, which you may also find encouraging as you pursue your work in 2012. I have been translating through 1 Corinthians 7 and along with it, doing some reading in Gordon Fee’s wonderful commentary on the same. In the central thematic section of the chapter, the apostle Paul says something totally revolutionary:

“What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:29-31).

Paul then goes on to relate this theme, specifically, to the issue of whether or not one should get married. However, it obviously applies to everything in life. And Fee comments on it in a particularly powerful way. He writes,

“What [Paul] is calling for is a radical new stance toward the world, predicated on the saving event of Christ that has marked off our existence in a totally new way. Just because one’s existence is determined by God, so now one does not so much live ‘detached’ from the world…as totally free from its control. Therefore, one lives in the world just as the rest – married, sorrowing, rejoicing, buying, making use of it – but none of these determines one’s life. The Christian is marked by eternity; therefore, he or she is not under the dominating power of those things that dictate the existence of others…Being eschatological people (i.e., people who live in the reality of our eternal life in Christ) is to free us from the grip of the world and its values. We are to live ‘as if not,’ that is, as fully in the world but not controlled by its systems or values. Such freedom, which comes only from Christ, removes from one the anxiety about which existence (married or single) is better…The answer again lies in our becoming eschatological people who live in the present with such a clear view of our certain future that we are free from such anxiety.” (Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), pgs. 340-41, 348-49, emphases mine).

It is within this realm and reality of freedom that I want to live and work in 2012. I want to pursue my legal studies and my relationships  “with such a clear view of my certain future that I am free from anxiety.” I want to study the law and pursue excellence as an attorney “as though not engrossed in it,” to use the things of this world “as if they were not mine to keep,” and in the words of Jim Elliot, to give “that which I cannot keep to gain that which I cannot lose.” I’m not totally clear on what this looks like in practical terms, but I trust that it requires a certain self-forgetfulness and other-centeredness for which I will need Christ’s constant grace and power. It requires regular and sustained meditation on the future glories that await those in Christ. It requires me to subsume my own personal lusts for recognition, advancement, and power to the greater satisfactions of doing the will of God from a sincere faith and a pure heart. It most certainly means that I must repent of my desire to always be well-esteemed by others. May it be so, Lord. Soli Deo Gloria.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

December 31, 2011 at 8:07 am

Anonymous Father’s Day

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My friends at The Center for Bioethics and Culture have recently completed their new film, which I highly recommend, of course. Here’s the official trailer.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

December 31, 2011 at 6:48 am

Africans, Lobsters, and the Unborn

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Abraham Lincoln said in his well-renowned speech at Peoria in 1854,

Equal justice to the south, it is said, requires us to consent to the extending of slavery to the new countries. That is to say, inasmuch as you do not object to my taking my hog to Nebraska, therefore I must not object to you taking your slave. Now, I admit this is perfectly logical, if there is no difference between hogs and negroes.

As I read this, I thought that, with slight modification, it would also apply to the pro-abortion argument:

Equal justice to those who favor legalized abortion, it is said, requires us to consent to the extending of a woman’s choice to abort her child to all nine months of pregnancy. That is to say, inasmuch as you do not object to my taking the life of my lobster I purchased at the fish market, therefore I must not object to you taking the life of your child. Now, I admit this is perfectly logical, if there is no difference between lobsters and unborn humans.

Of course, this is not a major argument of the “pro-choice” side, and we can understand why. They still want to retain some sense of “the value of human life,” while preserving any mother’s right to take her child’s life through all nine months of pregnancy. Also, saying that a woman’s unborn baby and a lobster have equal value doesn’t sound too good “on the street.”  But practically speaking, the lives of lobsters in our society are probably more protected from taking by the average citizen than unborn babies are from taking by their mothers. Consistency then would seem to demand that, when it comes to what a mother is legally allowed to do to her unborn child, we say that there is no difference between lobsters and unborn humans as to their right to live, or indeed, that lobster life is even more valuable than unborn human life.

But the so-called “right” to abortion has never been about consistency or logic. No, there has always been some other interest upon whose altar we are willing to sacrifice their lives.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

December 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Who May Live On Your Holy Hill?

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Psalm 15 is a curious psalm if one reflects on it. It begins with what surely is an ultimate question: “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?” In other words, who may reside in God’s presence, in His good graces?

It then describes the kind of person who may indeed dwell there, but the “list” of characteristics that point up this qualified person is not made up of qualities we would intuitively expect. Of course the person must be one “whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous.” This would mean living, by faith, in conformity with God’s law. But then it gets more specific, and includes…

“Has no slander on his tongue…casts no slur on his fellow man.” So my commonplace use of the slander and slur, so acceptable to us, is out.

“Who despises a vile man, but honors those who fear the Lord.” This seems quite uncomfortable, as we may think it odd for God to require us to despise a certain type of person. Doesn’t this smack of judgmentalism?

“Who keep his oath even when it hurts.” Wow! This one really makes me squirm. But what if it’s just easier to break my word, my contract, or my promise? What if it’s more efficient? What if it will allow me to just “get on with my life” by washing my hands of my oath?

“Who lends money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.” Who would have thought that banking practices, as it were, would come into it? So how we handle money with respect to others, particularly those in our debt, makes the list.

Much, much more could be said by way of reflection here, but one would think that there would be something explicit about sexual purity or gratitude or avoiding envy, jealousy or drunkenness on the list (though to be sure, such matters are implicit).

At any rate, I’ve read this psalm numerous times, but this time it struck from a new angle. It ends by saying, “He who does these things will never be shaken.” That sounds good. Lord, may we do these things, by faith in your Son, for our good, that we may dwell in your presence, and for your glory.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

December 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Posted in Duenes, Ethics, Theology

Secular Christmas or Sacred Christmas: Isn’t It all Just About Good Feelings?

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If Christmas is simply a matter of “holiday cheer,” of feeling good and thinking good thoughts, of decorated trees and flying reindeer and snowmen, of getting together with friends and family, and perhaps some generalized religious sentiment, then does it really matter whether a man named Jesus, who was both divine and human, actually entered our world as a historical fact, to rescue sinful man from his rebellion against God? Many think not, but it may do us good to keep in mind at Christmas that there will be a different trajectory to the lives of those who truly believe that Jesus came to us as an infant, than to those who think it’s mostly about Santa and secularism. C.S. Lewis brings home these different trajectories in his little essay, Man or Rabbit?

If Christianity should happen to be true, then it is quite impossible that those who know this truth and those who don’t should be equally well equipped for leading a good life. Knowledge of the facts must make a difference to one’s actions. Suppose you found a man on the point of starvation and wanted to do the right thing. If you had no knowledge of medical science, you would probably give him a large solid meal; and as a result your man would die. That is what comes of working in the dark. In the same way a Christian and a non-Christian may both wish to do good to their fellow men. The one believes that men are going to live forever, that they were created by God and so built that they can find their true and lasting happiness only by being united to God, that they have gone badly off the rails, and that obedient faith in Christ is the only way back. The other believes that men are an accidental result of the blind workings of matter, that they started as mere animals and have more or less steadily improved, that they are going to live for about seventy years, that their happiness is fully attainable by good social services and political organisations, and that everything else (e.g., vivisection, birth-control, the judicial system, education) is to be judged to be “good” or “bad” simply in so far as it helps or hinders that kind of “happiness”.

The difference between the two couldn’t be more stark.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

December 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections