A Faith and Culture Devotional
Daily Readings in Art, Science, and Life
Kelly Monroe Kullberg and Lael Arrington
Zondervan, 2008, 302 pp. ISBN 978-0-310-28356-0
Kullberg is founder and director of The Veritas Forum and author of Finding God at Harvard. Arrington is the author of three books and cohosts The Things That Matter Most, a radio talk show about faith and evidence. This book consists of fifteen weeks of daily readings by a variety of authors in the areas of theology, history, philosophy, science, literature, arts, and culture, exploring significant ideas, people, and events from a Christian worldview. I have taken selected quotes.
String theory is the idea that everything in the universe consists of vibrating strings. But what makes sense of strings? Why do they exist? “The answer is that everything exists for the glory of God. Everything—from quarks to quasars, from butterflies to brain cells—was created and is sustained so that you and I might delight in the display of divine glory.” (23, Sam Storms)
“God is not passive, for love is never passive, but always passionate; and passion always leads to action.” (39, Erwin McManus)
“The finest art has always offered transcendence—inviting us to stand outside ourselves and gain perspective. Artistic images, music, and stories engage our rational faculties, which mediate and critique our emotional and visceral responses. Entertainment makes an end run around the intellect, stimulating the nervous system in much the same way as drugs do.”
“If the primary effect of the media has been to turn nearly everything into entertainment, the secondary and ultimately more significant effect has been to force nearly everything to turn itself into entertainment in order to attract media attention. … In the entertainment culture, the gold standard of personal value is no longer moral virtue or even significant accomplishment, but whether a person can grab and then hold the public’s attention.” (54, Lael Arrington)
“In art and in popular culture, there has been a gradual slide away from any sense of what is taboo. Without taboos, there is no meaning. Taboos fence in a particular experience—and what is fenced in also fences other things out. Case in point: sexuality. The fence around sexuality is there to protect something that is very vulnerable and precious. If you knock the fence down, you no longer have the sense of preciousness, and eventually all sensitivity is lost.” “Sex at its best is trust. Why have a fence around it? Because it is so precious, so vulnerable, and so subject to corruption. That which is most precious is most rare.” (73, Bruce Herman)
“Be egalitarian regarding persons.
Be elitist regarding ideas.” (Peter Kreeft)
“Treat people as equally valuable, but treat ideas as if some are better than others…because they are. Some ideas are true, some are false. Some are brilliant, others are dangerous. And some are just plain silly. To say so does not violate any meaningful standard of tolerance. Real tolerance…is about how we treat people, not ideas.” … “Whenever you are charged with intolerance, always ask for a definition. If tolerance means neutrality, then no one is ever tolerant because no one is ever neutral about his own opinions. This kind of tolerance is a myth.” (100-101, Greg Koukl)
“The most potent way Christianity is marginalized in modern society is through the division of life into two separate spheres: a sacred realm of prayer, worship, and personal morality against a secular realm of politics, business, academia, and so on. The institutions of public life claim to operate by principles that are objective, scientific, and ‘value-free.’ But what does that mean for values? They have been relegated to the private sphere of personal choice. Thus, this division is sometimes called the fact/value split. Split off from objective truth, values have been defined literally as whatever a person values. … When religion is redefined as a value, it is no longer considered an objective truth to which we submit, but only a matter of personal taste which we choose.” (137, Nancy Pearcey)
“Job 38 includes nearly fifty questions about nature that underscore the incomparable wisdom and power of God. Scientists today can answer just ten—an indication of how much we still have to learn.” (140, Hugh Ross)
“Research psychologists have now clearly demonstrated that self-esteem is the consequence of accomplishing something significant in life, not the cause of accomplishments or failures. … [Martin Seligman’s] research shows that teens from the ghetto have the highest self-esteem ratings of any group, not the lowest! The problem is that their self-esteem is ‘unwarranted.’” (147, Archibald D. Hart)
“Paul outlines the essential ingredients for building a Christian understanding of what I call ‘authentic self-esteem,’ an understanding and acceptance of yourself for who you really are. [Romans 12:3] There is nothing wrong with being imperfect. Sometimes feeling bad acts as a stimulus to do better or try something different. It can prompt confession, change, and courage. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a parent is to always protect your children from pain and failure. By cushioning feeling bad, the self-esteem movement has made it harder for us to feel good. It has encouraged cheap success. From the words of Paul, I deduce that the essence of a healthy self-attitude must be based, first, on an honest and truthful self-understanding and image…; then, second, on a willingness to accept that you are who you are, created in God’s image…. All other self-feelings lead to self-hate. Your attitude to yourself (which is what self-esteem is really all about) must be based plainly and simply on thinking about yourself with complete honesty. You must own your flaws and your strengths. Your self needs to become more and more transparent to itself as you become less and less self-conscious. This is authentic self-esteem. You know who you are, how you have been redeemed, and how precious you are to God—not because you are wonderful but because he has made you his child.” (147-49, Archibald D. Hart)
“Years ago I read in one of Francis Schaeffer’s works that there are two themes to the gospel: a major theme of hope, love, and life triumphant, and a minor theme of suffering, sorrow, and loss. How are we to understand this, especially the minor theme, in the context of the gospel? There is the cross, there is suffering. It may be internal things (shame or fear) or external things (physical suffering, difficulty in a marriage or a relationship, loss of a career, a church that falls apart), just wherever and however life is hard. That’s what we mean by the minor theme. … Like nothing else, suffering disrupts us. It exposes all sorts of things beneath the surface of our lives. God is in that. Having said that, however, I think a terrible theology has taken root in the church: I believe we have made the minor theme the major theme. … Where’s the breakthrough? … I want to talk about that major theme as well…and make it the major theme. We must be honest about the minor theme, but we must keep it the minor theme.” (151-53, John Eldredge)
“Peter Kreeft gestured toward the hallway, ‘On my door there is a cartoon of two turtles. One says, ‘Sometimes I’d like to ask why he allows poverty, famine, and injustice when he could just do something about it.’ The other turtle says, ‘I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.’” (156, Lee Strobel)
“If we find out through scientific discovery that the universe is intricately ordered in a way that invites discovery, then it’s most reasonable to cease trying to imagine ourselves as the hapless creatures of a nihilist cosmos. As the history of chemistry reveals, when we reflect on ourselves as knowers, it is clear that we are pattern-seeking and pattern-finding creatures, creatures curiously made to be curious amid an order curiously designed to be discovered.” (175, Benjamin Wiker)
“The visible world daily bludgeons us with its things and events. They pinch and pull and hammer away at our bodies. Few people arise in the morning as hungry for God as they are for cornflakes or toast and eggs. But instead of shouting and shoving, the spiritual world whispers at us ever so gently. … Nearly all areas of life in which we could become spiritually competent (hearing God, praying, receiving guidance, leadership) confront us with the same type of challenge. They all require of us a choice to be a spiritual person, to live a spiritual life. We are required to ‘bet our life’ that the visible world, while real, is not reality itself.” (185-86, Dallas Willard)
“We cannot resolve conflicting ultimate premises by argument. These are essentially faith commitments from which life and logic should proceed; they are not doctrines that require proof. … Ultimate premises do not yield to arguments or evidence…. You cannot prove that ‘in the beginning was the Word;’ it is something you accept or not.
If you are a rationalist, you will probably recoil at the thought of an acknowledged premise, a fundamental proposition that comes at the beginning rather than at the end of a chain of logical reasoning.
But the rationalist also has a first premise: the reliability of the autonomous mind and its power of reasoning…. I wonder if anyone has ever held on to such faith in the aftermath of a stroke.” (208-09, Phillip Johnson)
“Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell.” “Humility is not the mere absence of pride, any more than white is the absence of color. Humility is a ‘vivid and separate thing,’ a prize worth pursuing. It is only when we learn through humility to think on things greater than ourselves that we will be able to abandon our pride.” (221, Betsy Childs)
“We should not merely hate what is evil, we should also cling to what is good. In doing so, we move from the defensive to the offensive, a move that is a major turning point in the winning of any war.” (222, Betsy Childs)
“Despite ever-present cell phones and WiFi connectivity, the interpersonal infrastructure of America is weakening. Lifestyles are busy. We don’t mean to, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep relational connections, and we are suffering for it … God has wired us for connection. Our health and our happiness depend on it to thrive. … The new scientific research confirms God’s message to us: to pursue our own happiness is to pursue connection.” (135-137, Catherine Hart Weber)
“A universe that began in a big bang rather than a universe that eternally existed clearly supports theism over atheism. Robert Jastrow, founder of the Goddard Space Center and a preeminent astronomer (and agnostic), put it humorously, ‘for the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story (of the big bang) ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.’” (248, Walter L. Bradley)
“Our subjects’ ignorance of history and theology both is of an absolutely unprecedented greatness. Never before have so many known so little about so much of great importance.” (251, Eric Metaxas, Screwtape to Wormwood on The Da Vinci Code)
“Beginning pilots fly by sight—what their own eyes and fluid in their inner ears tell them (spatial orientation). … As pilots advance in their training, they learn to ‘fly by the instruments,’ which means they submit their senses to the most accurate and sophisticated measures of reality… I’ve flown over three thousand helicopter flights during the last three decades, but living each day as a follower and imitator of the Designer of flight and the Instructor of life is far more exciting. His ‘instruments’ are trustworthy and life giving. Take the time to be proficient in using them.” (264-65, Robert Durfey)
“When Eve, with her husband in tow, chose to eat of the wrong tree, the image was cracked in each of those four directions: God-alienation, self-shame, other-blame, and Eden-expulsion. The rest of the Bible, from Genesis 4 through Revelation 22, is about these cracked image-bearers being restored to personal union with God, freed from shame, placed in communion with others, and offered to the world. Any gospel that does not expand the ‘problem’ of Genesis 3 to these cosmic dimensions is not robust enough. A robust gospel has a grand vision. A little gospel promises me personal salvation and eternal life. But the robust gospel doesn’t stop there. It also promises a new society and a new creation.” (274, Scot McKnight)
“What kind of a God would create a universe with the ability to support hundreds of billions of active galaxies, teeming with stars and solar systems? … I believe we cannot answer these questions, nor can we truly comprehend in our minds the magnitude of our astronomical discoveries. But let’s look up from time to time to the heavens and remember that our God is truly an awesome God. And remember that when we say, ‘Jesus is Lord of all,’ that ‘all’ is quite a lot more than we tend to think about in the world immediately in sight.” (283, Jennifer Wiseman)
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