Monday, April 27, 2009

The Question of Normal

Awhile back I really enjoyed the movie I am Legend, to the extent that I wanted to read the book. Now I had a few worldview issues with the movie, but the book (which only shares a basic premise with the movie) raised many issues. The only one that I want to discuss is what I believe was the authors overall theme; which was the issue of what is normal and who gets to define what normal is.

I was pleased to discover that this was a thoughtful book that was going somewhere and had a point, the author was aiming at something. Now he chose a strange genre to make his point, but the point was clear nonetheless.

The story revolved around a man named Robert Neville who is the last human survivor of a plague that has turned the remainder of the human race into basically a race of vampires (not Bram Stokers however). Neville spends his days discovering the nature of the disease, killing vampires, and trying to survive. Early in the process of his study he reflects on the nature of the vampire myth; that they were a terrifying story of a people who lived in the shadows doing legendary horrible things. By the end of the book he discovers that they have learned how to control their disease and are building a new civilization that has no room for him. After he is captured and is about to be executed he sees many of the vampires looking at him with fear and he realizes that he has become the dark legend that will haunt their dreams in the future.

This is all driving to the subtle point made throughout the book, that normal is a social construct determined by the majority. Before the plague he was part of the majority that had determined that vampires were ok to hate and kill. Now the vampire are the majority so they are normal and now it ok for them to hate and kill him.

I'm sorry it took me so long to get to the point but, this book really got me to thinking about the concept of normal. And it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The Bible doesn’t really seem to have a category for normal. There is true and false, righteous and unrighteous, good and evil, glory and horror, these kind of categories are abundantly found in the Bible but normal versus abnormal, well its difficult to find. But certainly as a Christian I had to believe that if there is a normal then it is God the creator who gets to determine who is normal and who is not.

The conclusion that I have come to is that there are two ways to think about normal as a Christian. For Matheson normal is something that gets voted on, but for us normal isn’t determined by our culture but by our creator, so the closest thing we would have to normal would be the purpose for our existence. There are many reasons given in the Bible for our existence, to exist in a right relationship with Him, to bring glory to Him, or to serve His purposes for the world. But it is here that we find normal, in our design. But I think that normal got a subtle redesign. The Bible says now that we are to be conformed to the image of Christ. This is our new goal. To grow to become like Jesus in His holiness, love, obedience to the Father, etc. So normal for the Christian is set in our design (which was marred at the fall) but is now also looking ahead to the future purpose for the redeemed children of God, likeness to Christ.

There is no voting only receiving from the creator. May we grow into greater conformity to Christ to the glory of God.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


We here at B&B want to welcome Sophia Grace Fugate to the world. She was born on April 20, 2009, she weighed 6lbs. 5oz, and was 19 inches long. Edna is doing well after an unexpected C-Section delivery, and Jamie is a proud daddy. Please take time to extend your love and encouragement to them in the comments section of this post.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Faith and Pop Culture: A Christianity Today Study

I had never seen one of these studies before so I was very intrigued. Also I feel that too often culture evaluation is far too focused on High Culture as opposed to Pop culture which for many people is simply the air that we breath. So I went into the study with high hopes.

What I found was a series of studies evaluating eight angles of popular culture. The eight studies were; an analyses of movies as the new art form, great literature and faith, sports and the Christian, the TV dilemma, movies with crude content, violence in media, Christians in Hollywood, and the culture of entertainment.

I found this to be a great study. I will comment on the two features that I found most profitable. First the format itself was beneficial. Each study starts with a thought provoking article. I didn’t always agree with details of every article but they were selected well and set out the issues clearly and demanded reflection and response. Second the questions required biblical reflection not just knee-jerk opinions and the questions were great for group discussions not just pat answers.

Overall highly recommended and enjoyable.

Friday, April 10, 2009

We Need More Tyler Hansbroughs

First I want to say that I am a University of Kentucky fan. I bleed blue. When I was a kid I would cry every time UK lost. I still have trouble saying out loud the name of a certain Duke player whose shot is shown over and over again every march. So I was really surprised to find that during the championship game I found myself pleased that North Carolina was winning. I was surprised at myself because I have a general dislike for all ACC teams in general and UNC and Duke in particular. Yet the reason was a person - Tyler Hansbrough. I found that I actually wanted him to get a ring. And it makes sense because he embodies everything that we want to see in college basketball.

He could have went pro after every season, he probably would have been a lottery pick as a freshmen but he kept coming back. We all bemoan the fact that college basketball has simply become a stepping stone to the NBA, and Hansbrough has now been an example to other kids that staying might be worth it. But it was also his style of play, he is certainly not the most talented player in basketball, maybe not on his own team but he played tough and hard. Fighting for every loose ball, he just wanted it more than everybody else, every loose rebound you could be certain that Hansbrough was after it. And even in that championship game he didn’t lead his team in scoring. He had another workmanlike game. He didn’t need the limelight, he didn’t need to own all the stats, he just wanted to win. And he was willing to do what it took to make that happen.

I think college basketball needs more Tyler Hansbroughs, but so does the church. We need more Christians to see the calling we have in the Bible and be willing to go hard after it. We need people who are willing to do the small things that don’t show up in the ecclesiastical stat sheet. We need Christians who are willing to do the unseen things that further the Gospel but don’t get trumpeted from the rooftops. We need Christians who are willing to make personal sacrifices for the Great Commission. College basketball needs more Tyler Hansbroughs, but the Church needs them even more.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reflecting on Visit the Sick by Brian Croft

In his little book Visit the Sick Brian Croft challenges us to a commitment to minister to the sick. I think for many Christians this might not at first glance be a welcome book. With the pace of life being what it is and with all the other demands on church leaders one more thing to think about or to move up the priority list might seem overwhelming or like an unwelcome burden.

Yet in this very small book (you can read it in an hour or two) Pastor Croft gives such a convincing challenge that all readers should feel not only convicted about the need for such a ministry (we already know its important in our minds at least) but also encouraged by the power of such a ministry.

He points both to the Biblical storyline; beginning with a creation where sickness was absent and ending with a restored creation where once again sickness is only a memory. Along the way we learn about Jesus’ commitment to the sick and the churches commitment to the sick. Several times in the book he also points to the churches history of caring for the sick, Richard Baxter for example. The remainder of the book contains some very practical and helpful advice on how to go about this ministry. I recommend this book very highly.

However it also left me wondering. Why do we need such a book? Why doesn’t the ministry to the sick in the Bible jump out to us. Is it the modern church conviction that ministry is for the ministers? That the Pastor is to do all the work of the ministry? Maybe partly. Is it just the busyness of life, that there simply is not time? Is it that we are so self-absorbed that we simply are unable to care about others? I think that’s closer to home. But I think another reason is that we fear the reminder of our own mortality. Some of us are afraid to die, even Christians are sometimes afraid of death. And those who are sick remind us that eventually we will get die.

As I read this book I felt the need for assurance in this Christian life. We who minister must minister from a place of assurance, but we also need to communicate assurance to those sick believers who are in need of assurance (unless we are not convinced they are believers).

PS - I want to offer some public thanks to the guys at Standing on Shoulders ( who gave this book away on their website. I was pleased to win it because I had honestly never won any drawing before and then I was pleased with the quality of the book. Thanks guys.