The Viral Kids Are Not OK
On one hand, this kind of content, showing happy families living happy lives, appeals to a lot of people and is an improvement in a culture that often treats marriage, kids, and family life like obstacles to “real” happiness. On the other hand, “momfluencer” culture can be exploitative of kids and the audience who are led to believe that hundred-thousand-dollar staged tableaus are actually candid family moments to which we should aspire.
Recently, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt launched a Substack newsletter called After Babel to explore the cultural effects of social media which, he says, reminds him of the biblical account of the tower of Babel. Recorded in Genesis, the project seemed like a good idea at first but, in the end, “everything you built together has crumbled, and you can’t even talk together or work together to restore it.”
Haidt is convinced, as are others, that social media has fueled the exploding mental health crisis among teenagers, especially among adolescent girls. However, if social media is to be consumed, it must first be created. A recent essay at the culture magazine Aeon grapples with how the creation of social media is affecting children on the other side of the iPhone.
The article, entitled “Honey I Sold the Kids,” asks a reasonable question: “We have laws to protect children from factory work. Why aren’t they protected from parents who monetise their lives online?” The author, a British journalist named Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, explores the phenomenon of so-called “momfluencers,” or moms (and sometimes dads) who have become social media stars by broadcasting photos, videos, and essays about their personal family lives to ballooning public audiences. Posting intimate YouTube and Instagram videos to millions of followers, showing kids playing, eating, fighting, crying, even being born, is big business. Big brands pay “momfluencers” to use their products in their posts and videos. In 2021, the influencer industry was estimated to be worth 13.8 billion dollars.
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The Downfall of the Fruitless CityBy Kendall Lankford — 11 months ago
In Jesus’ final week, He enters the fruitless city and they offer Him only leaves. He also goes to the fruitless temple, that lies rotting in rebellion. On the second day, He curses a fruitless tree as a demonstration of what will soon happen to Jerusalem. Then, as Jesus ends His day in the city, He tells the story of a fruitless vineyard that will be torn down, replanted, and given to a people who will care for it.
How to Walk Up to a Six-Fingered Doctrine
When the revenge-seeking Spaniard from Princess Bride uttered his most famous lines: “I will go up to the six-fingered man and say, Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” there was more than an hour and twenty minutes of storyline underpinning that scene. From his motive for revenge atop the cliffs of insanity to his rants and flailing about with his father’s sword in the thieves’ forest, much happens in Inigo’s life that makes his signature scene all the more important. Without that critical context, killing Rugen may appear like nothing more than a frivolous crime of passion.
The same is true when we consider the topic of eschatology. Before we can understand those prickly end-times concepts coming out of Matthew 24 (like the great tribulation, the rapture, and the end of the age) we must first go back and understand the context that is underpinning those statements. We must understand that Matthew is telling the story of the long-awaited Jewish King, who as Malachi foretold would come to set up His never-ending empire here on earth. Those who accept His rule would live forever in His Kingdom. Those who oppose Him, beginning with Jerusalem, would be put under His feet and crushed. If we do not understand that story, we will miss every eschatological point the book is making.
So with that, let us continue along in Matthew, as we seek to understand the end times.
Final Week: The Saga Comes to Jerusalem
Nearly a thousand years before the events in Matthew, the city awoke to the sounds of laughter, worship, and joy. The nations (as God intended) had been coming, streaming into Jerusalem, to see if what they had heard was true. They were coming to see the radiance and power of Israel’s God. They wanted to see the temple where He visibly reigned from, the city that was His footstool, and the wise vice-regent He appointed to sit upon her throne, King Solomon.
Now, a thousand years later, the line of Davidic kings had been completely snuffed out. The temple, which had already been destroyed once before, had become a whitewashed tomb of dead pharisaical religion. The prophet who was called to announce the inauguration of God’s Kingdom had been beheaded by the puppet king, Herod. And, as Malachi warned, the love of God was at an all-time low among the increasingly pagan Jews.
By the time we arrive at Matthew’s Gospel, the rot had sunk so deep into the soul of Judah, that the wound was incurable. Josephus, the Jewish historian, describes this era and its people, highlighting the inevitability of God’s judgment soon to come. He tells us:
And here I cannot refrain from expressing what my feelings suggest. I am of the opinion, that had the Romans deferred the punishment of these wretches, either the earth would have opened and swallowed up the city, or it would have been swept away by a deluge, or have shared the thunderbolts of the land of Sodom. For it produced a race far more ungodly than those who were thus visited. For through the desperate madness of these men the whole nation was involved in their ruin.
By the time of the New Testament, the city of Jerusalem was so odious to God, that she couldn’t even detect her own moral stench. With lying lips, and hearts far from God (Matthew 15:8-9), she not only persisted in her murderous rage (Matthew 14:1-12; 23:29-33), but she was increasingly opposed to God’s own Son. As a result, Jesus tells His disciples that the keys of God’s Kingdom would be removed from her (Matthew 16:13-20) and that some of them would be alive to see her downfall (Matthew 16:28).
When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, during His triumphal entry in AD 30, it was surely for the salvation of His people. But, as Malachi predicted, He also came for the judgment and destruction of Jerusalem.
In the weeks ahead, we will narrow our focus to the final week of Jesus’ life and look at the events happening in Matthew chapters 21-24. In these chapters, we will see how Jerusalem will be punished for her crimes against God and we will gain a clearer understanding of eschatology than we have ever had before. Today, we will focus on Matthew 21 and the cursed city of Jerusalem.
Day 1: A Procession of Joy and Judgment
Matthew 21 opens with Jesus, the true Davidic King, preparing to ride into the royal city on the back of a donkey. At that time, kings would only ride upon horses if they were going out to war. But, if they approached a city in peace, they would ride on a far less threatening mode of transportation, which was the mule or a donkey.
This is especially true during the Israelite changing of the guard ceremonies that became a tradition at the time of David. Per David’s command, Solomon (his son) would be anointed for the office with oil by the High Priest of Israel. He would then ride into the capital city on the back of a donkey, and as he rode a procession of important people would follow him singing and chanting “Long live the King”. By the time he and the procession arrived at the city of Jerusalem, where Solomon would sit upon his father’s throne, the entire city was in a joyful uproar (1 Kings 1:38-40).
Since John tells us that Jesus was anointed with oil just before His triumphal entry (John 12:1-8) and since Luke tells us that He rode into the city with a crowd of people singing “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord;” (Luke 19:37-38), and since Matthew tells us that the city was stirred up upon His arrival (Matthew 21:10) there can be no doubt Jesus was coming as King to set up His Kingdom. Whether the people understood the ramifications of His coming or not, matters very little. Jesus saw Himself as the true Solomon, the true son of David, who was coming to establish His Kingdom.
If there was any doubt about this interpretation, Matthew Himself clears it up for us, by quoting from Zechariah 9:9, which says:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
From this quotation alone we can see how Jesus is the long-awaited messianic King. He is the one who came to Jerusalem that day, in order to provide salvation for His people and to bring them into His Kingdom of peace. But, what we must not miss, is how the context of Zechariah 9 also says much about this King coming in judgment.
“The Most Difficult Thing of All”: Luther on Justification and Passive RighteousnessBy E.J. Hutchinson — 10 months ago
Written by E.J. Hutchinson |
Sunday, August 7, 2022
“We always repeat, urge, and stuff people full of this topic about faith or Christian righteousness so that it would be preserved and accurately distinguished from the active righteousness of the law. (For from and in that teaching alone does the church come into and remain in existence.) Otherwise, we will not be able to preserve true theology, but rather we immediately become jurists, ceremonialists, legal eagles, papists; Christ is obscured, and no one in the church can be taught and encouraged rightly. Therefore, if we wish to be preachers and teachers of others, it is right that we take the greatest care over these matters, and skillfully maintain this distinction between the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of Christ.”
One might think that justification by faith alone is the easy way. In fact, just such a thing quite frequently has been thought. “What, you don’t even do anything? You wanna be a libertine or something?”
The objection has some force–but only when considered in general and in the abstract. It only has force, that is, when made a speculative morsel chewed by a mouth with no existential teeth.
“On the ground,” as it were, the situation is quite different. We humans like to be in control. We like to have something left to us to take care of. If there’s just something we can do–something to which we can point and say, “See? I did what I was told! I did good!”–we feel better, more assured. We like gold stars, pats on the back, a sense of achievement, of having done our bit.
For that reason, in particular and in the concrete there is nothing more difficult than believing that we are justified by faith alone. There is nothing more difficult than assenting to passive, rather than active, righteousness (that is, the righteousness of Christ rather than of ourselves) in relating to God.
Luther saw this, and it was one of his most important insights. Some deniers of justification by faith like to think of themselves as the mature ones, the purveyors of virtue, the upholders of Western Civilization, the builders of culture. In comes justification, out goes society, along with literature, the arts, and religion, to be replaced by licentiousness, barbarism, modernity (GASP).
The Heart of EschatologyBy Kendall Lankford — 6 months ago
For far too long, the Church has been standing around like a gaggle of state-paid road workers, watching one or two men wield a shovel. We have been far too docile and lethargic and have spent too much time trying to stay out of everyone’s way. This needs to stop.
As the murky shadow of evil grew like kudzu in the forrests of Mirkwood, Gandalf passionately addressed the white council. His suggestion was to swiftly attack the rising dark Lord Sauron while he could still be easily defeated. Yet, his guidance was rejected because a nefarious little fox named Saruman had worked his way into Middle Earth’s hen house. Had the council banded together under Gandalf’s advice, the entire saga of the Lord of the Rings would have never occurred, at least not with such panache. And while the books and movies are markedly better due to the treachery of Saruman, we can see the simplest of points: doing nothing in the face of rising evil almost always makes things worse.
This brings us to the very heart and center of Biblical eschatology. While Mordor’s shadow darkens daily across the waning empire of America, our goal mustn’t be to hide all knobby kneed in an evangelical version of Helm’s Deep. We must not bury our heads like a herd of ostriches, wet our pants like terrified turtles, or blend in like chameleons until the danger has subsided. As the end draws near, no matter how long that drawing draws on, we are called to take up our weapons of warfare and do four things as we wait on our savior to return.
These four things show up in today’s passage that we will examine below.
Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his Master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his Master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that evil slave says in his heart, “My master is not coming for a long time,” and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the Master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.—Matthew 24:45-51
Be Faithful Where You Are
No matter your eschatological position, these words could not be any clearer. Instead of wasting our time trying to identify the next candidate for Antichrist, or which shade of red the next blood moon will be, or living in total ignorance as if eschatology doesn’t matter, we are called to be faithful. Scripture tells us not to look back while we are plowing (Luke 9:62) and not to look up while we are supposed to be working (Acts 1:11). Instead, we are to look forward with hope as we labor faithfully wherever we are at.
And where are we? We are in the household of the King of kings and Lord of lords (Matthew 28:18). He is the one who purchased this down-and-out dilapidated mess called earth with His most precious and holy blood. All of it now belongs to Him! And through His Church, whom He left with the renovation plans, we’ve been tasked with reshaping everything to His vision.