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An Open Letter to Susan Jacoby

Dear Ms. Jacoby,

I read with interest your article “The Blessings of Atheism” in the New York Times this week.  Following the tragedy of the Newtown shootings, you express quite eloquently and personally why you are thankful to be an atheist.

For as you say, “It is a positive blessing, not a negation of belief, to be free of what is known as the theodicy problem.”  Rather than being loaded down in the midst of tragedy with the problem of why an “all-powerful, all-good God allows such things to happen,” as an atheist you simply sidestep that concern.  Then in a compelling and thoughtful way, in a manner reminiscent (though certainly softer – to me anyway) of the recently departed Christopher Hitchens, you explained how atheists need not shy away from issues of expressing concern during times such as these but instead offer consolation to those in grief.

May I ask you to consider briefly a few concerns I have with the thesis of your article?  I admittedly am writing to you as a Christian pastor.  You may think then my design in addressing you is to score points or ridicule you.  Though you do not know me, please be assured that is not my desire. […]

The Hobbit, Magic, and the Christian Worldview

A good question was recently asked by Scott Doherty.  He wrote,

“I have a suggestion for you fellows, seeing that once again the Tolkein books are being made into movies. A perennial question among Christians is the tension between truth to be found within good literature and the sometimes otherwise forbidden form of that truth. For example, no magic white or otherwise is permitted by God, but the good guys in the literature use magic. How should Christians reason through this?”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved fantasy.  Countless hours have been spent scribbling images of strange creatures and arcane weapons in worn notebooks (usually to the consternation of my teachers).  Even as an adult, I still very much enjoy the genre of fantasy, not only in its written form, but especially as it exists in games.  Crawling through a dungeon with a torch in hand is still a blast, not to mention hurling a fireball at a mob of orcs.  Here one need only check out the wildly fun and popular game Orcs Must Die! or the vast and expansive world of Skyrim to get a sense of what I’m talking about.

Books That Have Shaped Our Lives

While imprisoned in a dank cell, the Apostle Paul made a request.  He asked Timothy to bring him three things.  “When you come,” he said, “bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” (2 Tim 4:13)

It certainly stirs the imagination to think what those books and parchments must have been.  As for the latter, they were almost certainly the Scriptures.  Would not this faithful servant desire above all else the Word of God?  One can easily picture him reading the scroll of Isaiah in the dim light.  So they were most likely Holy Writ.

But what of the books?  What might they have been?

Here we can only guess.  Whatever they were, Paul desired to have them.  He wanted to pore over them again in the remaining time allotted to him.

Books are undoubtedly important.  By inscribing various shaped symbols onto a clean sheet of paper, the very ideas and imaginations of men are communicated.  We can be lifted out of our world into another, where we encounter all manner of strange creatures and places.  We can be shown more clearly man’s true nature through the art of story.  And we can actually […]

Gentle Answers #2: How Fast?

Short and sweet, here’s the next question:

Is it a sin to go 66mph in a 65mph zone?

(I hope you’ll join in the conversation! And remember to keep submitting your questions.)


Rich Holdeman responds:



Barry York responds:

Yes, but it is a far greater sin to keep the speed limit and believe yourself superior to those who do not or, dare I say, to swerve to miss the gnat hitting the windshield only to run into a camel.


James Faris responds:

Is it a sin to go one mile-per-hour over the speed limit? Not if you a first responder such as a police officer! But, what about the rest of us? God has given the state real authority. The state must establish certain laws beyond the specific direction of Scripture for safety, just as parents do for their children. These laws should be obeyed as part of our obedience to God, insofar as the do not require us to sin (Romans 13:5).

We must also understand how the law functions. Jesus showed the Pharisees in Matthew 12:11 that they did understand how the law is to function based on what the Pharisees would do with one of their own sheep that fell into a pit on the […]

Gentle Answers: A New Feature

We’re excited today to announce a new feature here at Gentle Reformation: Gentle Answers! (See the form on the right hand column.)

The vision: At our high school and college conferences, one of the annual highlights is the question-and-answer panel of pastors. To hear several godly men discuss a question close to one’s heart is often a great encouragement as well as a great teaching opportunity. Given the great group of men brought together to author this blog, we see an opportunity to create a similar blessing to you, the readers.

How it works: Simply fill out the form in the right hand column. Your questions will be emailed to me (Jared) and then I’ll pick one at a time to distribute to all the gentlemen authors, asking them to supply fairly brief answers for the question. Once I receive back several answers on one topic, we’ll publish them together.

While this is not a new idea–many blogs have a “suggest a topic” feature–we see Gentle Reformation taking it a step further by making the answer a discussion among several authors, rather than just one man’s thoughts. And, of course, we’ll be excited for you to participate in the discussion as well.

So (drumroll, […]