Martin W. Bender
Having spent the past few years listening to a variety of podcasts on a regular basis I now find myself a little bored of news and discussion about pop culture (except of course for what can be found here every Thursday). In light of this, I have taken to listening to courses on iTunes U instead of my normal schedule of jokers and smokers that I had been enjoying of late. So far I have listened to courses on philosophy, preaching, the New Perspective on Paul, and have just finished a rather long collection on church history.
Having finished about seventy forty-five minute lectures on church history in last two weeks I can say with confidence I have only the slightest grasp of the most important issues on the subject. There is so much to gain from understanding the manner in which the church has come to us and yet, for some strange reason, there is surprising little interest. A solid grasp of church history helps us to know the reasons for much of what happens in the church today, and yet we dismiss it as boring or of little value. Below you’ll find some of the reasons I think church history should be studied by all Christians.
Those are just three quick reasons why we need to study church history. There are more. I hope that as I continue to learn about the history of the church I will come to a greater understanding and love of the Christian faith.
I recommend listening to:
Have you ever had to give your child "the talk"? In this episode, Justin tells the tale of how he told his son about the birds and the bees with minimal embarrassment. Martin shares some of the things that are only learned during basic training. Both describe how they learned about one of God's greatest gifts to humanity as they try to explain the reasoning behind the preacher comb over. It's all here in this week's episode. Don't forget to share on social media.
In this episode, Justin and Martin answer some questions about violence, biblical masculinity, and Beverly Hills 90210. Hear Justin try and justify his unnecessarily aggressive perspective on life. Listen to Martin's case that Justin is, in fact, a violent psychopath bent on destruction. They also discuss the rationality behind Justin's preacher comb over as some listeners attempted a hairdo intervention. This is undoubtedly podcast gold.
Martin W. Bender
Jacob Needleman asks a timeless question in his book Why Can’t We Be Good? Namely, why do all people fail in doing good and avoiding evil. The problem of wickedness in the world is identified by everyone from the philosopher to the kindergartener. Every person sees in others and in themselves a fundamental flaw: we don’t live up to our moral standards (let alone God’s). Needleman attempts to explain this problem in light of philosophy and religion and offers up a response which on the surface seems plausible, but ultimately fails when applied.
Needleman’s answer to the ethical dilemma demonstrated daily in human living is that people have to potentiality to be good, but fail to do so because they are not yet fully human. He sees a difference between humanity as it is and what it is becoming. Man’s morality is, in essence, a glimpse of what we are in the process of becoming and tragically, part of that process is failing in the ideals that formulate our ethical standards. He traces this idea in history by linking it to values displayed in the Abrahamic religions. In doing so he demonstrates a fundamental flaw in his understanding of Christian anthropology.
Christianity’s view of mankind is that it is by nature evil. This is a result of Adam’s sin in the garden and as a consequence, the nature of man has fundamentally been changed from innocence to guilt. It is this gross misunderstanding of the Christian teaching on human nature that leads me to doubt his application of Jewish and Muslim thought as well. Needleman glosses over the concept of original sin completely, dismissing the explanations of Moses, Jesus, and Paul about human nature leaning instead upon humanistic optimism loosely tied to the traditions of Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammed.
Why Can’t We Be Good? Seeks to place the love an individual has for God, others, and themselves as the root of all moral behavior. Such a thought doesn’t seem terrible at face value, but fails to see that love, as a source for morality is rooted in God’s love for his people rather than the individual’s love for him. The Creator is primary in all things thus morality is rooted in the triune God rather than the perceived potentiality for goodness in man. Each individual is not on a path toward becoming good, rather some are proclaimed good on the basis of Jesus’ undeserved death.
The idea of love for the Other Needleman uses to argue for the eventual goodness of humanity did spur a thought I believe will be helpful in another area. In the soteriological argument between human free will and divine determinism (Arminianism and Calvinism, Pelagianism and Augustinianism, Monergism and Synergism, etc.) frequently the question of the individual’s love for God arises. The challenge being that love that isn’t freely given (from man to God) is meaningless. The problem with this objection is that it places the creature’s love for his Creator above the Creator’s love for his creature. Meaning that God’s love for his people is somehow secondary to their love for him. Such a thought seems ridiculous in light of passages like Galatians 2:20 and 1 John 4:19.
Back to the book, Needleman provokes deep thinking on the nature of man, the interaction of individuals within society, as well as what could prompt a person to endeavor to become this idealized person who is morally good. His misuse of Christian themes due to his gross misunderstanding of Christian anthropology is unsettling and could cause immature believers to adopt a humanistic understanding of morality. In light of this, I don’t recommend Why Can’t We Be Good? Unless one has a good understanding of the biblical teaching on the nature of man.
 Now, before you go all crazy on me understand that I am still thinking this argument through. It came to me last night while finishing the book.
It's time for the Olympics and the Two Bearded Preachers are barely aware of it. Listen as Justin and Martin try to sound like they know what they're talking about as they discuss the greatest sporting event outside of American Football and NASCAR. Before they get to that though they discuss how they deal with stress when their extended families are losing their minds. As if that weren't enough you'll also hear Justin tell a story about how he threw caution to the wind and let his congregation create his sermon illustration. Oh, and Justin wears a speedo.
The 2016 Summer Olympics have all eyes pointed to Rio as once again we send American athletes to compete with their counterparts from all over the world. The idea behind the modern Olympics is that through cooperative efforts between nations a period of peace can be experienced in our world. That was the thought when the games were brought back into prominence in 1896. 120 years later we realize the hope of world peace is much further off than was imagined.
The Olympics do, however, offer us a chance to imagine what the world would be like if countries were able to cooperate with one another consistently. There would be great accomplishments and advances in technology, art, and science. Unfortunately, the ultimate end would be destruction. In Genesis, there is an account of what happens when humanity is united together. You probably know it as the Tower of Babel. This is when the people chose to ignore the cultural mandate to fill the world and subdue it and instead built cities and a tower to their own glory.
The Tower of Babel account lets us know that when we work together we can accomplish great things, but because our nature is fallen, those great accomplishments are really great offences to our God. Real peace will only be experienced in our world when Christ returns and makes all things new. Until that time, we as the church, the bride of Christ, eagerly away the coming of our Lord and Savior. What a wonderful day that will be.
In this episode, Justin and Martin talk about baptism practically and theologically as Justin shares about some of the strange experiences he has had as a youth minister. They also talk about a recent trip to Disney World where the ride operators are good, but only in the Magic Kingdom. The discussion then turns to the most wonderful time of the year: back to school. You'll hear about how Martin's town is voluntarily segregated, how little Justin walks during the week, and the perils of big government. It's been said before, but this episode really has it all.
Oh, and there are some jokes too.