Nathan A. Finn

Historian, Theologian, Teacher, Preacher

Culture Archive



December 2013



Andy Crouch on Christianity and the Pursuit of Justice

Written by , Posted in Culture, Ministry, Theology

Playing GodAndy Crouch has the best discussion of the relationship between evangelism and social action that I have ever read. You can find it in an excursion at the end of chapter four in his new book Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power (IVP, 2013). I have copied two of my favorite paragraphs below.

As for the question of why we should work for justice in a world that is passing away—well, the world is passing away. Our work for justice should no more be based on the idea that humanity will somehow progress on its own merits to utopia than proclaiming the good news about eternal life should be based on the idea that someone who accepts Jesus into their heat will never die. The Christian hope is not for a gradually improving world any more than it is for a fountain of youth. But Christian hope overcomes the forces of despair and decay in the midst of this world, and provides foretastes of the coming kingdom where anyone who will receive the Lamb’s sacrifice will be raised to life, and where the glory and honor of the nations will be presented as offerings to the King of kings. Hope for a life beyond this life, and a world of shalom beyond this world of injustice, is the greatest resource for the work of justice here and now. Christian hope for a world made new is not an alternative to doing justice—it is the most essential resource for it.

Christians who truly want to seek justice cannot afford to let “justice” be reduced to the lowest common denominator we may be able to agree on with our neighbors. To do that would be to surrender to gods that are not real gods—to assent to the serpent’s promise that apart from relationship with God we can be like God, knowing good and evil. We can work for common goals for uncommon reasons. Because we believe every one of our neighbors is an image bearer, however broken their relationship with the One whose image they bear, we will find much common ground for working for justice and freedom. The things our neighbors seek are good; they are just not ultimate goods. We can work alongside them for the good while worshiping the One who alone is good.

I would highly recommend you pick up a copy of Playing God. For a fine classic treatment on this topic, check out John Stott’s 1975 book Christian Mission in the Modern World, which was reprinted with a new introduction by Ajith Fernando in 2008. The latter was written in the wake of the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in 1974.



December 2013





December 2013



Nelson Mandela’s 1998 Speech at Harvard

Written by , Posted in Culture, History

By now, you have probably heard that Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) died yesterday. He was 95 years old. Mandela is one of the great world figures of the past seven decades. After spending 27 years in prison as a political prisoner, Mandela was the first black South African to serve as president of that nation from 1994-1999. He also formed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which helped South Africans transition to a post-apartheid democracy while also valuing justice, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Below is a video of Mandela’s 1998 speech at Harvard University. It is probably Mandela’s best-known speech in the USA.




November 2013



On Celebrating Thanksgiving Christianly

Written by , Posted in Culture, Family, Spirituality

Thanksgiving has always been a secular American holiday. Nevertheless, it is one that, when celebrated in a particular way, resonates with the Christian worldview perhaps as much as any holiday besides Christmas and Easter. When celebrated in an intentionally Christian manner, Thanksgiving can be a spiritual discipline. The holiday reminds us to slow down long enough to thank God for what he has done in our lives, especially over the past year.

Now we need to be honest. This isn’t how many folks celebrate Thanksgiving. For far too many people, Thanksgiving is almost exclusively about feasting and football, which are good things when properly enjoyed. Perhaps more diabolical, for a growing number of Americans Thanksgiving is simply the day you get well-fed and rested in preparation for “Black Friday” shopping.

It’s easy to get distracted at Thanksgiving. Frankly, some people want to be distracted. I hope you’re attitude today is different than that of the comedian Craig Ferguson:

I like football. I find it’s an exciting strategic game. Its a great way to avoid conversation with your family at Thanksgiving.

For Christians especially, we don’t need less conversation with family at Thanksgiving, we need more conversation! But we need to be intentional about those conversations. I would encourage you today to pause and be thankful for all that God has done in your life, your family, your friends, your work, your church. Share your thankfulness publicly, whether around the Thanksgiving table or in conversations with family and friends. Celebrate this quintessentially American holiday in an intentionally Christian way. And may God receive all the glory for how we give thanks for all he has done, especially in the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving.

(Note: This post is cross-published at Between the Times)



October 2013



What Does a Missional Spirituality Look Like?

Written by , Posted in Books, Culture, Ministry, Missions, Spirituality

Missional SpiritualityOver the past year, I’ve spent a good bit of my time thinking about the nature of evangelical and Baptist spirituality. In the coming months, I will probably share some of my reflections here and there on this blog. I’m not certain of what will ultimately comes from these musings, besides (I hope) my own spiritual growth and some material to pass on to my students and church members.

One of the more interesting books I’ve read recently is Missional Spirituality: Embodying God’s Love from the Inside Out (IVP, 2011).  The authors, Roger Helland and Len Hjalmarson, are Canadian evangelical leaders. Furthermore, Helland is a Baptist and Hjalmarson is a Mennonite, so these two brothers are uniquely positioned to think about missional spirituality from the perspective of low church, free church, baptistic evangelicals. While I don’t agree with all of their conclusions or emphases, I have found them to be helpful conversation partners as I have been pondering the relationship between spirituality and mission.

As I was thinking of the best way to mention Missional Spirituality on this blog, I came across a helpful summary of the book by Scot McKnight.  What follows is not a bulleted list excerpted from Helland and Hjalmarson, but rather McKnight’s summary of the emphases put forward in Missional Spirituality.

1) Practicing union with Christ: abiding in Christ is what discipleship is all about. Focus on John 15:1-17.

2) Practicing obedience: “the spiritual life is the surrendered life.”

3) Practicing humility.

4) Practicing missio reading and prayer. Not just prayer that fosters intimacy but prayer that fosters love for others, the Jesus Creed.

5) Practicing worship. The problem is defective views of God; we need an expansive sense of God’s grandeur and majesty and glory.

6) Practicing enchantment. Attentiveness to God’s handiwork.

7) Practicing Christ-mindedness.

8) Practicing faith-thinking. This is about theological reflection to learn to think our way into the goodness and glory of God and what God is doing in this world. Theological imagination can be developed.

9) Practicing gratitude.

10) Then a series on “From all your strength”: practicing treasure-talents-time, loving God from our treasure, loving God from our talents, and loving God from our time.

11) Practicing loving your neighbor: by practicing presence, by practicing refuge, and by practicing hospitality.

While I would perhaps tease out some of the details differently than the authors of Missional Spirituality (and McKnight), I think this list is a helpful starting place. I would encourage you to pick up a copy of Missional Spirituality and give it a close read.