Charity and Its Fruits Now Available

My new book Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God's Love (Crossway) is now available. Click here to see it on amazon and here to see the publisher page. In addition to being the first single-volume edition of Edwards's original work, this volume includes:

  • A detailed introduction
  • Over 150 explanatory notes addressing difficult concepts throughout the text
  • Definitions of arcane terminology
  • Relevant quotes from Edwards’s other writings
  • A conclusion showing how to appropriate Edwards’s work
“I am thrilled that Kyle Strobel has edited this new edition of Edwards’s Charity and Its Fruits. This series of sermons holds a special place in my affections for Edwards for three reasons. First, in Munich, Germany, my wife and I read it aloud to each other in 1972. What a way to build a young marriage! Second, Edwards’s treatment of ‘Charity seeketh not her own’ profoundly shaped my emerging Christian Hedonism. Third, the last chapter, ‘Heaven Is a World of Love,’ is simply unsurpassed in its power to make me want to go there. I am unabashed in my love for Jonathan Edwards—and the grandeur of his God. May God give him an ever-wider voice.”
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Porn and the Failure of a Robust Evangelical Sexuality

I was reading the “MIM Porn Pandemic Handout,” the other day and thought I should write something about it. Psychiatrist Norman Doidge, author of the best-selling book The Brain That Changes Itself (Penguin, 2007), writes,

“Pornography, by offering an endless harem of sexual objects, hyperactivates the appetitive system. Porn viewers develop new maps in their brains, based on the photos and videos they see. Because it is a use-it-or-lose-it brain, when we develop a map area, we long to keep it activated. Just as our muscles become impatient for exercise if we’ve been sitting all day, so too do our senses hunger to be stimulated.”

To put this in very different terms, porn changes the way you view the world, yourself, and others. It gives you categories to place ideas and desires that alter how you engage reality. It is certainly not news that porn is ravaging the Christian world. But more importantly, perhaps, is the reality that as evangelicals we simply do not have categories of sexuality by which to respond personally or culturally to this epidemic. It is this point I want to hit on a bit.

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The Demise of Guys: Why Evangelicalism Fuels the Fire of Addiction

CNN ran a short article called ‘The Demise of Guys’: How Video Games and Porn are Ruining a Generation. I suggest that you click over and read it and watch the video at the end. It is truly enlightening. Anyone who works with youth can tell you that this is true. The young men in this generation are so addicted that they are growing more and more socially anemic and relationally superficial. The use of video games, internet, and porn has shown a rise in “arousal addictions,” addictions that cause an obsession with more newness, rather than the same old “high.” These addictions cause a shrinking of one’s location within space-time, if I can put it that way. The present becomes the only real, and the past and future cease to have real import into decision making. This causes an obession with immediate satisfaction. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that this undermines everything about Christian discipleship.

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Debating Driscoll - Some Thoughts

You don’t have to be interested in thinking about or debating Mark Driscoll to find yourself pulled into the wave of his most recent debacle. I am not interested in talking about the situation itself, or even about Driscoll himself, but I want to make some notes about how people react to him. I find it interesting that, for the most part, both sides that debate Driscoll basically say the same thing. The issues debated are not typically over justifying his actions, most people I see interacting with him, on both sides, agree that he “goes too far,” and “lacks wisdom in what he say.” The difference, I propose, has to do with how we understand what a pastor is.

There is a growing belief in the evangelical church that “good” preaching covers a multitude of sins. This is simple another way of saying that the ends justify the means. The question we need to ask, I think, is whether or not it is fitting for a pastor to lack humilty, lack wisdom, and clearly project so many of his own psychological issues onto God’s work. Again, it seems to me that both sides agree to these things, and both think they are at least regretable. The main difference, as far as I can tell, has to do with how we view those things in light of Driscoll’s position as a pastor. One side, the pro-Driscoll side, claims that everything else he does out-weighs these particular sins, or else they invoke something like: “Boys will be boys.” The other side, believes that Scripture is clear about what a pastor is like, and because he breaks these Scriptural mandates so freely, frequently, and publically, that he should undergo, minimally, church discipline.

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Our God is a Consuming Fire: Why I tend to Forget this

I’ve been reading and meditating on the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible) and I just read the passage in Exodus where God descends upon the mountain in fire, thunder, and lightening. Interestingly, the focus of this section is on fearing the Lord but not being afraid of the Lord. It is coming close, but not too close. As I was meditating upon this reality, I came to the conclusion that my upbringing has created too great a flipancy in my relationship with God. In other words, I never really had the sense of God as a consuming fire, even as that imagery was sometimes used to talk about my purification.

Let me take a stab at why this was. I think a lot of evangelicals are functionally Marcionites. Marcion was a second century heretic, who accepted Jesus but reject the God of the Old Testament. In doing so, he rejected the Old Testament itself. While evangelicals have never done this explicitly, I think we tend to do it implicitly. We read the Old Testament for prophecy about Jesus, for historical information about Israel, and for the Psalms and Proverbs, but generally, we do not believe it speaks meaningfully into our lives today (I always laugh when I hear pastors, who almost never preach from the Old Testament, suddenly act like Old Testament scholars when they preach about money – tithing specifically!).

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Rethinking Education for Pastors: Why I am Underwhelmed

To start this post, let me begin with several qualifications: First, I think that theological education has some serious meditation to do concerning its task. Second, I think the overall model / approach upon which we’ve built is flawed. Third, I am excited about virtually anything that seeks to think creatively about this. In comes Mike Breen. Mike Breen, who I know little about but have heard good things, posted this back in November. It is a wholesale engagement with the kinds of worries I have. In light of that, let me again state some qualifications: First, I know nothing about this other than this post. Second, if I saw this right when I graduated seminary I probably would have called him up and said, “Sign me up and tell me what to do.” Third, I have some doubts about some of the statistics in the video, but for the purpose of this discussion lets assume they are true.

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The Wound of Loneliness

I’ve been reading some Jean Vanier lately for some work I am doing on theology and disability, and I’ve come across what appears to be an idea central to his thought – that at our core, as fallen humans, is a wound of loneliness. Most of what we do is develop strategies to protect this wound, and most of our relational decisions stem from how we respond to others in the midst of our woundedness. The disabled, for Vanier, are special because they tap into our wound in a way others do not. The disabled, and I’m thinking mostly mentally disabled here, do not pick up on the kinds of strategies we usually employ in conversations, nor are they impressed with the kind of things that impress the world. Instead, they want someone to be with them, to love them, and not leave them. The disabled only want what we do, and yet they refuse to settled for what we do (i.e. shallow conversations, approval, etc.).

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Being a Christian Writer

There are a couple of things very close to my heart that I never seem to blog about. I'm not sure why that is. So here, I want to address one of them - writing. I come from a family of Christian writers. My dad, Lee Strobel, is well known in this area, but my sister is a Christian novelist and my brother-in-law writes children's books. It is just what we do. I have a deep love of writing, it feels like it is engrained in my DNA, but out of all of us, I am the least of a "writer." Let me explain.

Some people write because of the love of writing itself. I am not like that. I do love writing, but I can't just write anything. My writing is attached to my calling as a theologian. I write because I want to proclaim who God is. In this day and age, that can be difficult. I write in two realms, the academic and the popular. The academic world is easy. The audience does not drive the publishing nearly as much as in the popular realm. When the audience drives what is being published, it is often hard to speak deeply about something without being practical - when "practical" is taken to be "addressing the felt needs of your audience." The Bible is not practical in this sense. Our felt needs are the problem, so addressing those is a sure-fire way to make your work sub-Christian. I think audiences intuitively know this. Notice how well the Shack did. It was not practical in any specific sense, but its message that you have to walk through your pain to get beyond it is immensely helpful in the day to day reality in which we live. 

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Metamorpha Retreat: Endurance

The ministry I co-founded, Metamorpha, is continuing to offer spiritual retreats based on the concept of virtue. The next retreat is on endurance. If you are in the Southern California area, this retreat will be on November 19-20. For more information and to sign up, follow this link.

Visual Bible: Judas' Kiss

The painting we are looking at this week is by Giotto di Bondone (1266-1337). I was mesmerized by this painting. It is chaotic. It is intense. It is probably a lot like the real event portrayed in the Gospels (see Matthew 26:47-56). When I think of the event, on the other hand, it is often much more calm than this. If you read Matthew's description particularly, there is a sense where there is an initial scene that Jesus dispels rather quickly. In my mind, the action stops when Jesus starts speaking, and the mob just stands there dumbly as he teaches his disciples. But that probably wasn't how it happened. Peter cut off someone's ear for goodness sake.

Bondone's painting reveals the tension I feel in my own reading well. There is something of a painting within a painting here. Immediately, upon looking at it, your eyes are drawn to Jesus and Judas. Their embrace is not one of enemies, but almost of lovers. As their eyes are locked into each others', so are the eyes of the mob locked in on their embrace. The other painting is the larger chaotic struggle, as Peter cuts off someone's ear, and the dark figure on the bottom left grabs John's cloak as he runs away. But your eyes, as much as they try, cannot stop pondering the Jesus/Judas embrace. Is Judas' expression a realization of what he has done? Is Jesus' expression and peace an act of grace or condemnation? 

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Kyle is a theologian, author, and ministry director for Metamorpha Ministries. His interests are theology, spiritual formation, and community life under the reign of Christ. His passion is to help people “think Christianly."