To The South African Black Man: You Are Evil. Admit it.

The recent xenophobic attacks in South African townships and towns have got South Africans talking – and coming to varying conclusions. There are all sorts of discussion about how we could alleviate the problem and discussions about why exactly this is happening. For me, this matter makes my blood boil. I have dear, dear friends whom I’ve lived with, men like Patrick from the Congo and Lionel – whom I love dearly and the thought that were they in the country right now they and their families would fear being burned by my own people brings a blinding mixture of shame and anger. I think it’s high time me and my people start looking hard at ourselves.

If you survey the net at the moment, some would have us blame the government for what’s going on – all the lack of jobs and businesses and structures are the cause of this. Whether or not those facts are true in my view is irrelevant; the government aren’t the people right now in Durban and Verulam looting foreigners’ businesses. In fact, the government has always been publicly speaking against this – from Thabo Mbeki’s moving speech in 2008 to Zizi Kodwa’s public statement today. Some would have us blame the Apartheid government for this; well, pray do tell, when did we stoop down to pointing at other people’s misdoings to justify our own? I’m no lawyer but I hope that kind of argument does not hold water in a court of law. Still others would have us blame the foreigners themselves; they sell drugs and come here and have businesses that flourish at the expense of our own. This is basically saying; they had it coming. Forget that we employ police officers to deal with the minority that commit illegal actions. Forget that we have BEE and citizenship which by definition gives us an edge over them.  No, no, folks, these aren’t natural disasters, we don’t need advanced degrees to understand them. These attacks are clearly being done by a particular group of people on another particular group of people; namely, black South Africans (we’ll now refer to them as SABM – the South African Black Man) on foreign African nationals. We first have to admit that black South Africans – in Soweto, in Durban – are guilty of what’s going on. This is important because when we linger on that, objectively, and we examine the black population in the country, we start seeing some terrible trends which make it clear that these attacks, whether now or back in 2008, shouldn’t surprise us.

Since about 1948, when the Apartheid system of structural discrimination in South Africa came to existence, the SABM has been the recipient of the world’s support and pity in various ways. It was a heinous thing; the man was oppressed in his own land, and to free him was a cause that both communist and capitalist alike subscribed to. The lasting result of this worldwide support was that to this day, the SABM is seen to be above reproach. A lot of his problems are from the past, and so he is quickly acquitted of accusation and he subscribes to no self-examination. To accuse him of wrong doing is to invite a history lesson about the past, and what necessarily follows is whatever explanation he gives for his wrong doing is justified – and the worst part, is that he believes this. He sincerely and wholeheartedly believes that the blame can always somehow go to the past. But can he now manoeuvre away the blame for these cold-hearted actions? I want to argue that he can’t. I want to argue that he is less of a saint than he thinks he is, and I want to examine with you some evidence as to why he needs to start asking himself some hard questions.

Now let me throw in this caveat: I grew up in rural KZN, the large majority of my young life I spent in a no-lights, no-running water village in the midlands. I finished high school in a rough township in Zululand. I know first-hand SABM’s struggle with poverty, lack of resources and all round hardship. I am SABM. But, SABM, I also know of another side to you, a side that to me shows that these xenophobic attacks aren’t an inconsistency with your character.

Let’s start here; SABM is corrupt. So much is said about the government being corrupt and such, but what strikes me as ironic is that most of the same black people who point fingers at government are the same ones who buy drivers licences. Yes, buy. If you’ve spent any amount of time in a township or a village, you know there are three common ways of getting a licence; buy one, bribe to pass the test, or do the long winded legal way of actually learning how to drive. My goodness, I only wish I had official stats with me. You think black South Africans are famous for violent robberies and hijackings? Nah. Those are the minority, those are criminals we hate. In our societies, this here corruption is a corruption that even the most respected men and women are guilty of. It’s a sin we drink as though it were water. We don’t blink an eye to it. There is perhaps no illegal activity that would send more black South Africans to jail then this one. Old and young alike. You, SABM, you know I’m telling the truth. We complain that traffic officers want bribes all the time, yet don’t we realise that there wouldn’t be any traffic officer asking if no one was giving? Also, SABM is terribly violent. Folks, these xenophobic attacks aren’t an anomaly. We are a violent people. We fight all the time. We kill each other all the time. We beat up our women. We rape our grandmothers. Mob justice is prevalent in communities that are dominated by us. And perhaps there is no sphere of our life that our violence is more profound than in one of our chief industries; the taxi industry. Our taxis are known in the media mostly for the bad driving.  Alas, if only that was the chief issue with that industry. It is possibly singularly the most widely known to be violent and yet legal industry in the country. This is another juncture where I wish I had stats. But I know, and the majority of SABM know, that only tough guys enter the taxi business. By divine grace I’ve lived and survived through many a territorial war between taxi associations, and I’m willing to bet my breakfast that the majority of SABM’s reading this have too. Or at least have been aware of one. We even have a DSTV show, Isibaya, which has a wide following because it reflects the reality of that industry so much.  We are a brutal, ruthless people who fight amongst ourselves all the time.

SABM is sexually immoral. Someone has to say it; the situation in our high schools is a reflection on our character. By and large, in our communities it is an anomaly that a child gets born in wedlock. It’s that bad. It is no longer shameful that a girl comes back from a normal school day to announce that she is pregnant. Don’t believe Soul City (if that show is still on), the shame is long gone. We’ve accepted it as the norm. SABM, you’re evil. You’ve been harbouring self-pity for a long time and you may have been able to hide your sins in the past but now, with these xenophobic attacks, you’re naked in front of the whole world that sees your deeds. You’ve done much evil; you feast on the vulnerable; just think, why aren’t there xenophobic attacks on the rich foreigner who lives in Sandton?  Because you can’t get your hands on him. You’d burn him too if you could but you can’t, so you burn the weak men and women among you who are simply trying to make a living. This is a testimony to the depravity of your hearts. You’re no longer a broken and weak people, SABM; you’re a violent and unloving people. You care only for your own stomachs, and your deeds now show that you will stop at nothing to get what you want; you will even murder the same people who kept you safe as exiles during the times of your distress. Tell me, Tambo, Mandela, Bizos – did they all struggle so you can be free and not share the spoils of your freedom with your neighbours? Was this what the struggle was all about – that you can live out your greedy, immoral and corrupt lives and be heartless while you’re at it?

Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.”_ Loki, Marvel’s The Avengers

We have always been like this. The whole world has always been this way. There has always been violence and corruption and immorality. Trying to solve these attacks by creating refugee camps and arguing for more jobs is like putting a plaster on an infected wound. It may seem to control the problem for a while, but we’ll always find a way to be violent again. You need to clean the infection. Loki, in Marvel’s The Avengers, put our infection accurately in the above words. 1516a70cc06e4085b1981f9519c824c2The problem with humanity is indeed that we were made to be ruled, and yet we want to rule ourselves. We were created, and designed, to be subject to a good Master, but we fight constantly to rule ourselves. Before you start objecting and thinking I’m being religious, hear me out. We had black kings in the past, men like Shaka, whom we were not too happy with. Then we had the colonialists ruling over us. We were also not happy with them. Then we had straight up oppressors in the form of the Apartheid government, and we were appalled by them. And now we have some of our own ruling us again. Are we happy? The fact of the matter is, no human ruler will ever be to our satisfaction. We clearly aren’t happy with ourselves as well; the outcry from what’s going on in KZN right now is proof of that. Our dissatisfaction with human leadership is rooted in our DNA – God the Almighty fashioned us to be ruled by Him. He is the righteous Judge of all the earth. He is the One who never lies. He is the One who knows no corruption. And the terrifying thing is, He is the defender of the weak. He is the One who is incensed by xenophobia. You should be very afraid, because you will have your day in front of Him to be judged.

Let it be clear to you, SABM, that the problem has never been racism. Or which continent anyone or their forefathers are from. It has never been land grabs. The problem has never been systems of government or resource allocation. These are symptoms. The problem, for thousands of years, has been sin – our desire for self-rule.  Notice that the problems that I listed here that are prevalent among you have also been prevalent in one measure or another in all societies of mankind since the serpent spoke. Hear what I’m not saying; I’m not saying you are worse than anyone else, but I’m simply stating that you are bad, you must not be so defensive all the time, you must accept accusation. Indeed, yours is a problem that is not unique to you, but my hope for you is that you would admit it. Stop playing the race card. Stop playing the victim. It is terrifying to hear a senior government official blame the unequal society as a legacy of our exclusionary and racist past” in the wake of the mad violence in Durban. Absolute blather! You, SABM, are clearly now the victimiser and its time you took responsibility and repented of your actions. Forget the white man for two seconds – you are the one who is killing helpless people who are peacefully living among you. There is no gun to your head; you’re doing it because you want to. Your heart is now exposed for the whole African continent to see, and your brothers up north see you for what you are. We must take responsibility, and admit that we don’t have it all together. That our main problem isn’t the exclusionary legacy of our past, but rather the source of our current misbehaviours: sin.

Just two weeks ago, over the Easter period, we were reminded of a climactic event in the history of humanity. No other event in history amounts to this period – Jesus Christ, the Son of God – died and rose again from the dead. God, the judge of all mankind poured out His righteous anger on Him who became sin – which means, he became the very personification of corruption, immorality, indecency, evil – and this same Son rose again from the dead so that all who would hope in Him would have forgiveness of their sins. My fellow people, this is our only hope. God has in His kindness given us a way to Himself by destroying His Son on a cross so that we who should be destroyed can have life. We are clearly guilty; and this Son, Jesus Christ, is the only one who can acquit us by His blood. If we only acknowledge our sin, and stop making excuses, and repent before Him, we will find that in Him even these terrible crimes against our fellow African brothers can be forgiven without money and without cost.

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An Insurmountable Passion

Over the course of the past few weeks, in my progressive study of the New Testament, I’ve been engrossed in the Apostle Paul’s letters. As I’m nearing his final canonical letter (currently in Titus), I feel myself to have been a student of this man and as a progression I have tasted of what this man’s heart was. As you navigate through his writings, it is in the little characteristics thereof that make it impossible for an engaged reader to miss the fact that Paul was an extremely passionate man. Inspired by the Spirit, whether teaching foundational doctrines or reprimanding the disobedient, his passions flow in such a manner that I think is quite instructive for young men like myself who need to know what manhood is truly about. Of many of his passions, three amazed me the most: A passion for Christ, a passion for His people and a passion for what is to come. I will be reflecting on these in my next couple of posts.

A Passion for the Man, not just His teachings

In our day, just from simple observation, it seems the church has to keep emphasizing on the Lord Jesus’ teachings. I particularly live in a country and work in a setting where many believe themselves and call themselves Christian yet the disposition of their lives proves otherwise. Paul indeed calls the church “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1Tim 3:15) and it would be an act of apostasy not to emphasize His teachings and commands. However, the Apostle Paul seems to me to exhibit  a passion more than just for His teachings; rather a deep seated and insurmountable passion for the Man Jesus Christ Himself. It is from this fountain whence love for his teachings flow; an allegiance and loyalty and deep love for his God.

He articulates the reason as to why Christians are to live in obedience this way: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2Cor5:14-15) It is looking at the cross, and being passionately drawn to Christ for his redemptive work, that controls – compels, presses, urges, constrains, drives, coerces – him to live how he lives. This is not some fickle feeling; this is not some advert for singing love songs; this is love for Christ that makes Christ so real, so present, and sees Him as so glorious, and so insurmountable, that inevitably He becomes so compelling and His mission so urgent. Suffice it to say, I am completely and utterly envious of Paul. O, what it would be to be so compelled by nothing but love for Him who pursued me unto death; to be constrained to serve and do all that He would have me do simply and purely and unmistakably by love for Him and love alone. Nothing of man; none of his praise, none of his fear, none of his feelings, none of his acceptance, none of his words. Nothing of myself; none of my desires, none of my hopes, none of my natural disposition, none of my appearance of strength. Nothing of the world; none of its riches, none of its possessions, none of its lusts, none of its empty promises. But all of Him, the pursuit thereof; the pursuit of His matchless glory, the pursuit of His fame, the pursuit of all of the riches of His Loveliness, His Holiness, His unwavering Grace, His timely direction, His peace, His comfort. To be a man like Paul, constrained by the love of God.

He brings this idea even more fervently in his letter to the Thessalonians, “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” (2Thess 3:5). Oh, what a rich text! Pauls prayer for this church was that the Spirit of God (“the Lord”) would  have their hearts fixated on the Father’s love for them and on the Son’s steadfastness. That love for God would flow from receiving love from God, because right after saying that, he gives them commands (c.f. 2Thess 3:6).

A Passion For What Is To Come

If there is one attribute of God that gives me great trust in Him when life hands me lemons, it is His eternal nature. He knows the end from the beginning, and whatever happens within our finite construct is as new as it is old to Him. I fumble my words even trying to think of this. Which is why I am so drawn to the Apostle Paul’s view on this present life; he sees it mainly as a passage to our future glory. He is so sure that what is to come is better in every way, more excellent, more worthy of pursuit than anything in this present age. When he speaks of those who are entrenched in this world’s joys, he speaks of them with tones of pity (c.f. Demas who forsook him for ‘love of this present age”, 2Tim 4:10) and when he speaks of this world’s sufferings, he says they are absolutely nothing ( c.f. Romans 8:18). That’s the full spectrum; whether the joys that this age provides or its sufferings, his perspective is that what is coming is far better. This is clearly seen in his desire to depart and be with Christ, “for that is far better.” (Phil 1:23).

To depart and be with Christ. To depart and finally behold Him whose hands still have those nail scars, an eternal reminder of His passionate pursuit, drinking to its dregs the cup that I deserved. Alas, to depart from the snares of this world’s pleasures, from the deceitfulness of wealth, from the never ending fight with the dead man within our members, to depart from the necessity to gouge our eyes out. To depart from this world’s disappointments, this world’s sorrows, it’s constant griefs, it’s many burdens, the effects of that one day when man disobeyed God. But not just an escape; but to go to Him whose eyes are like fire, Whose voice is like the sound of rushing waters, just to see Him and be with Him forever, without end. Paul’s desire is indeed warranted, for to depart and be with Christ is truly nothing but gain.

Christ’s Glorious Church!

One of the passages in the Bible that most fascinates me is Ephesians 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” This passage is not remarkable because of the commandment in the beginning of verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives”. After all, that is a given. It ought to be an obvious duty of a husband. But what makes the passage remarkable and therefore fascinating is the basis and grounds given for why husbands ought to love their wives.

Christ Loved and Gave Himself for the Church
Christ loved the Church, God’s chosen people (1 Peter 2:9). He loved her so much, that He gave Himself for her. In other words, He delivered Himself to His people and endured the suffering from them, to the point of death. But why did He do that? As seen previously, it was an expression of His love. But it was much more than that. It was not merely an expression of love with no effect. Unlike any human expression of love, it was love that effectively accomplished something. Christ’s love in delivering Himself into His people’s hands, who were then His enemies, was so that they might indeed become His people, His Church. Verses 26 and 27 state the reasons why. Firstly, it is to purify Her. That the Church might be made pure, as the Word purifies them, is one of the effects of Christ’s delivering of Himself. Secondly, as a result of such a purity worked out in Her, that He might present His Church to Himself, on that grand day, in all radiant, sparkling, pure, beauty, as She loves Her Bride, namely, Christ, with absolute perfect captivation, and pure delight.

In other words, Christ has taken upon Himself the responsibility to redeem a people for Himself. He achieves this by giving Himself over to them, His enemies, so that as a result of the suffering and death they offer in return, Christ might in turn offer resurrection life. And by giving them that resurrection power and life, those who were indeed His enemies might become His very own Church. And that by virtue of His resurrection power the Church might now be enabled to know what life is, and how to live that life, until they are pure; all of this accomplished by the power of the Word. This is Christ’s vision for His Church; His Glorious Church!

So what?
What must this mean, and what weight must this carry to us as Christians? Well, the obvious application of this passage is the one that Paul himself makes. That husbands, likewise, must love their wives. That they love their wives by giving themselves over to them, endure her everyday struggles, with long-suffering, pray with and for her, strive with her, so that she, like the husband himself, in Christ would be presented faultless and pure by Christ, to Himself on that grand day.

But this passage, by extension, has applications for the rest of us in His Church. Wives, do you strive with your husband, just as Christ Himself does with many like your husband, including yourself? Pastors, are you faithful in your service to those of His Church, that Christ Himself has entrusted to your care and nurture? Do you functionally realize that your service to the depressed, rebellious, broken-hearted, sinful people in your congregation, are indeed given you by Christ? That you are to minister to her by the Word, and with the Word with all patience and humility (2 Timothy 4:2)? That you endure the imperfections, as Christ does theirs, and your own? Do you discipline your church members, in hope that they might repent and turn to Christ and love Him more fully, and purely? Do you serve Her with the faithful preaching of the Word, with the goal that She might be made pure? Well, that is what is in Christ’s mind. Is it your mind too?

Brothers and sisters, do you desire to belong to a community of believers? Do you desire to be cared for, to serve, and be served by a local church, by being a member? Or do you instead desire to live the Christian life by yourself? Please realise that Christ’s love is for a people, of which you are one. And so when you are redeemed, you are part of a community of believers. Therefore, you ought to rightly desire to belong to a local church.

Dear local churches, and denominations, how do you view and treat your brothers and sisters, in the other church or denomination who have different beliefs and practices than yours? Does the fact that Christ died for them, and that by the power of His resurrection sanctifies by them, through the Word, increase your love for them? Do you love them by praying for them, and that if they are indeed wayward in their beliefs and practices, that Christ, their Lord, and yours, might in His work of sanctification, draw them closer to the truths of His Word? After all, He is far more concerned about their every purity, than you and I can ever care.

In other words, the vision of Christ’s glorious Church must affect every relationship, and influence and affect our position in Christ’s Glorious Church!

Church of God, elect and glorious,
holy nation, chosen race,
called as God’s own special people,
royal priests and heirs of grace:
know the purpose of your calling,
show to all his mighty deeds;
tell of love that knows no limits,
grace that meets all human needs.

God has called you out of darkness
into his most marvelous light,
brought his truth to life within you,
turned your blindness into sight.
Let your light so shine around you
that God’s name is glorified,
and all find fresh hope and purpose
in Christ Jesus crucified.

Once you were an alien people,
strangers to God’s heart of love,
but he brought you home in mercy,
citizens of heaven above.
Let his love flow out to others,
let them feel the Father’s care,
that they too may know his welcome
and his countless blessings share.

Church of God, elect and holy,
be the people he intends,
strong in faith and swift to answer
each command your Master sends;
royal priests, fulfill your calling
through your sacrifice and prayer,
give your lives in joyful service,
sing his praise, his love declare.

– James E. Siddon

Dear Idolater: Be Captivated

Hymn: Hast Thou Heard Him Seen Him Known Him?

Words: Ora Rowan (1834 -1879)

Category: Consecration

Click-to-Listen: Morgan Bennett, Indelible Grace VI

Some hymns are so powerful in their delivery of a biblically accurate message, even with their extensive use of poetic licence, that you’d be forgiven for thinking they were inspired. Ora Rowan’s Hast Thou Heard Him Seen Him Known Him? is of such a caliber. She utilizes imageries directly from the Scripture to warm the heart and turn it masterfully toward it’s Saviour. The best modern rendition of this hymn I’ve listened to is this one by Morgan Bennett, with an equally arousing chorus by Kevin Twit.

The point of this romantic poem is evident in every verse: Christ is more captivating, more beautiful, than all idols. It is a hymn that calls the believer to turn their eyes to Christ and see His worth, to drink from thence, and have their heart captured away from idols to One whose beauty, whose majesty, is unrivaled. As you sing, this is a hymn that should never stay only on your lips, nor just fulfill the curiosities of your mind. Nay, this is a hymn that demands to go to your heart; tis one that demands to bring you to your knees in adoration of His peerlessness; tis one that should move the members of your body to grab a hammer and with all thine might destroy all the high places where you have set up your idols, to rid yourself of all sensitivities that have caused you whore yourself to other lovers; this is a hymn that aims to make thee long for heaven, to long for His overwhelming presence, when you shall more than catch a glimpse of Him, and more joyously, when your heart shall be forever free from idols. Free indeed, and free to worship and love completely He who ransomed you with His own blood:

 HAST thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand own Him,
Joyful choose the better part.

Idols once they won thee, charmed thee,
Lovely things of time and sense;
Gilded thus does sin disarm thee,
Honeyed lest thou turn thee thence.

What has stripped the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty,
But the sight of peerless worth.

Not the crushing of those idols,
With its bitter void and smart;
But the beaming of His beauty,
The unveiling of His heart.

Who extinguishes their taper
Till they hail the rising sun?
Who discards the garb of winter
Till the summer has begun?

‘Tis the look that melted Peter,
‘Tis the face that Stephen saw,
‘Tis the heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw:

Draw and win and fill completely,
Till the cup o’erflow the brim;
What have we to do with idols
Who have companied with Him?

Why Johnny Can’t Preach

Why Johnny Can’t Preach is a book written by David Gordon stirred with a concern for the decline in preaching today. The goal of the book is directed toward this. As he says, “… my thesis: that many ordained people simply can’t preach.” As such he does offer some good critique and suggestions for today’s ministers and even aspiring preachers and seminarians.

In the first chapter titled “Johnny Can’t Preach”, Gordon begins by saying “Part of me wishes to avoid proving the sordid truth: that preaching today is ordinarily poor.” He recounts the numerous experiences that he and his wife have had where they listened to sermons and wondered what the sermon was about at the end of it. He calls such sermons “religiously useless” because his family would be unable to have an intelligent conversation about the sermon. Because of a lack of good preachers, the churches have settled for something lesser as Gordon notes. He then calls attention to Robert Lewis Dabney’s Lectures on Sacred Rhetoric where Dabney lists what according to him are the seven requisites to every sermon. They are: Textual Fidelity (point of the sermon to be the point of the text), Unity (one single impression on the audience), Evangelical Tone (a tone of the gospel in the sermon), Instructiveness (the sermon to be engaging), Movement (a sustained progress in the sermon), Point (the effect of the sermon on the audience to be the same) and Order (organization). These are very helpful to the preacher to have in mind while he is preparing the sermon. This he suggests can aid in “…the sermon length (that) is not measured in minutes; it is measured in minutes-beyond-interest…”

In the following two chapters titled, “Why Johnny Can’t Preach, Part 1: Johnny Can’t Read (Texts)”and “Why Johnny Can’t Preach, Part 2: Johnny Can’t Write”Gordon offers two primary reasons for the decline in preaching today. In chapter two, he deals exclusively with the reality that today’s world is so used to reading information that it lacks the ability to read the texts and how the matter is composed. Indeed, as he notes, “…reading a text is a laboriously slow process; when one reads a text, one is reading a piece of literature that survives beyond its initial generation largely because of its manner, irrespective of its matter.” And this is true even in our reading of the Scriptures. Today’s Christians, including preachers, are unable to pay close attention to the text. He gives an example of how this is true with Psalm 23. Many would preach this to be a sermon of God’s being a Shepherd. True. But it is not talking about an agricultural shepherd but Israel’s shepherd. Preachers miss the fact that it is a royal psalm. He goes on to say how the media has played a key role in such a decline in reading of texts – the kind of reading that “demands a very close and intentional reading” and one that “cultivates the sensibility of significance.” Picking up on the same issue of technological development being the cause of much of the decline in reading the texts, Gordon remarks that the same is the cause for writing as well. He states the example of how telephone has made conversations easier, faster and a quicker means of communication. The amount of words that can be spoken in a given time is remarkable. Yet, unlike writing, it lacks a proper thought construction and intentional thinking that writing demands.

In chapter four titled “A Few Thoughts About Content” Gordon offers some suggestions on the content of the sermon. He begins by stating how the sermon must be Christ-centered and gospel-centered. He also says how several Reformed theologians including Calvin and Luther (who is a non-Reformed theologian) have stressed on such an emphasis in the sermon. Gordon states how the sermon should also have an emphasis on the Fallen Condition Focus (FCF) and how Christians ought to live in light of Christ and the Gospel. He then goes on to state four alternatives to preaching: Moralism (understanding Christianity as a moral framework and Christ as a moral teacher), How-to (unlike Moralism’s emphasis on the what, it emphasizes on the how-to of going about doing it), Introspection (self-analysis, actions determining who we are and Christ is mentioned only in passing) and finally, the Social Gospel (where the pulpit is used to address the things that are wrong with the culture). All these are failures because as Gordon comments, “None of these false surrogates for real Christian proclamation nourishes the soul.”

In the final chapter titled “Teaching Johnny to Preach”Gordon suggests how the continuing present decline can be stopped. He comments on how certain sensibilities can be cultivated. He suggests that an annual review from the congregation apart from occasional feedback that can be received through secondary feedback persons can be very helpful both to the preacher and the congregation. He talks of the preacher developing three sensibilities at a minimum. He gives the first attention to the sensibility of reading. As he comments, “How can he preach the Word of God if he can’t read the Word of God?” He notes how putting ourselves in an environment that takes texts seriously makes one a good expositor and potentially a good expository preacher. He then talks about the preacher cultivating the sensibility of composed communication. He suggests how hand-written letters is one way of working at it. And finally the preacher ought to cultivate the sensibility of the significant.

The book is a nice, short yet detailed with a natural flow to it. It has a beautiful structure that makes the reading enjoyable. Gordon engages the reader with his life experiences when necessary, with witty statements, and not a few necessary blows. He communicates his concern regarding preaching in the pulpit today clearly through this book. I would expect a few more help-tips but since his goal is no more than a general assessment, this book is a job well-done and is highly commended to preachers of the gospel and seminarians.

What’s so bad about income inequality?

GUEST POST: Today’s Guest Post comes from a very dear friend of mine, Jeremiah von Kuhn, who is an American (North Carolina) preacher spreading the “foolish” message in Durban. Here, he thoughtfully tackles a subject that, in light of the current economic discussions in S.A, is very timely. Enjoy the read!

The von Kühns in South Africa

Politicians use the phrase ‘income inequality’ to describe the income gap between ‘the rich’ and ‘the poor’.  Carl earns $350,000 per year while Joe only earns $35,000.  “That’s not fair!” cries the progressive.  This topic is on my mind because here in South Africa, the gap between the rich and the poor is high and ‘income inequality’ has become a hot moral issue in the States.

I am an evangelical Christian who thinks that capitalism is a (generally) good system and who favors low taxes.  Therefore, I’d be labeled by liberal progressives (who sip on their $4 lattes in their ‘awareness’ T-shirts that supposedly ‘help the poor in Africa’) as ‘anti-poor’ or ‘making war on the poor.’  When they make such accusations, we feel bullied and pushed into a corner.  Perhaps we tell our self-righteous friends to look at history.  If they did, they’d see that the standard of living amongst the…

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Foolish: The Hard Verdict Against Young Men

There is an excellent illustration in the English language that I find very effective in illustrating the power of ignorance, and that illustration is this: a fish does not know that it is wet. The reason I think this illustration is almost flawless is because it presents two perspectives; one, the perspective of the fish in water, and the perspective of the reasoning person who is outside of water. Think with me for a second; if a fish could talk, and you were to inquire of it, it would probably tell you that it knows it’s in water, it knows that it gets its food and living from here, and it probably knows that if it were to exit water it would die, but it wouldn’t use the word wet as you would use it; it would use the word wet to explain the sphere of its existence, the very space in which it has its being, outside of which it knows nothing. This is very different from how we’d explain ‘wet’ to a fish.

This illustration is very helpful to me when I grapple with the Scriptures as they continuously and unrelentingly present this charge: if you’re young, you’re foolish. The data is insurmountable, a few examples: with age comes wisdom (Job 12:12), the term ‘youths’ is used interchangeably with such words as ‘simple’ and ‘unwise’ (Proverbs 7:7), there are lusts that are distinctly youthful (2Tim 2:22), and so we can go on. What is clear is that young people don’t get high marks for wisdom from the Scriptures perspective.

Two Perspectives

Now back to our fish analogy. In the same way a fish doesn’t know that it’s wet, the way that humans use the word wet, I think is exactly the same way in which a youth does not know that he is being foolish, the way that a wise person would use the term foolish. What I mean is, I don’t think any of my peers (myself included) wake up each morning and purposefully say we’re going to act in a manner that is foolish. Sure, when a student chooses to watch Rugby instead of studying for the test coming up,  he probably knows that that is not the most beneficial thing to do at that moment, but my contention is that his very reasoning processes, the manner in which he employs his faculties in order to come to the decision to watch Rugby or not  at that moment is the very core of his foolishness. He reasons that he will catch up later, or convinces himself that what he hasn’t studied is unlikely to be present in the test anyway. He is so deep in his youthful foolishness that he cannot even see that the reasoning he is doing, the concessions he is making in his mind, are a product of his foolishness. His perspective is that of the fish; he knows nothing else. And if we’re to understand Job 12:12, “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”(NIV), then we have to come to the assumption that once he has “long life”, once he is “aged”, he will have wisdom, which seems to be brought along by hindsight. Once he is aged, he will see that he  should’ve sacrificed that Rugby match for a few extra marks.

Which brings us to the other perspective, the perspective of wisdom. As an illustration, take Proverbs 7:6-7: “…I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense..”(ESV). This guy is the observer, and he is making some strong judgments against this young fellow he is observing. Just like you would see a fish in water and instantly know it’s wet, with the correct definition of wet, in the same way this wise man looks at this youth and calls it; there he is, a fool, and he’s about to do something stupid. The perspective of wisdom is always there, which tells us two things; one, wisdom always has something to say in every situation, because there is always a wise thing to do; and two, wisdom is attainable, otherwise the perspective of wisdom wouldn’t exist. These should be encouraging to some of us youngsters who’ve felt the brunt of the consequences of our foolishness.

An Ode to Young’ Uns

Paul famously tells Timothy “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1Tim4.12, ESV), James tells Christians “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James1.5, NASB), and the Teacher in Proverbs tells his students “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction and be attentive, that you may gain insight..” (Prov4.1). These and many other exhortations show us some remedies for our innate foolishness; that is, to pursue godly speech and conduct, to beseech God for wisdom, and to listen to the teachings of our elders. In an age where the catch-phrase of the day is to be independent of instruction, we will do well to hold our minds captive to these thoughts.