David Westerfield

Gospel. Culture. Technology. Music.

Tag: Narcissism

Freed to be Ordinary

http://www.challies.com/christian-living/ordinary-christian-living-for-the-rest-of-us

“‘You can’t market a book like that. It won’t sell. Nobody wants to read a book on being ordinary.’ They are probably right. Nobody wants to read a book on ordinary living because nobody aspires to be ordinary. It is not likely to sell as a book or a theme. Crazy, wild, radical, more, greater, higher, this-er, that-er, the comparatives and superlatives, these are the themes that fly off the shelves. But once we’ve been crazy and radical and wild and all the rest, why do we still feel, well, so ordinary? Why do we still feel like we’re missing out?” – Tim Challies

I don’t believe this is an argument against excellence or being proactive in things that we should be more proactive in, but rather an argument that amongst all the talk in modern Christian literature of being “awesome” and “extraordinary” and “doing big things for God” (summed up, “radical”), most of us are, well, ordinary. I’d count myself in that category. I’m an average IT guy, working at a financial company, providing for my family, ministering to a group of high school guys, who loves Christ. And it’s freeing to know that that’s okay, because the Gospel frees us to be ordinary. Are there things I could improve? Sure, no doubt. But the pressure to do something or be something big is huge it seems. And most of us are ordinary people who don’t live an extravagant, radical life and feel grossly inadequate and out of place.

This doesn’t mean some of of us won’t be extraordinary though, or that in our ordinary living extraordinary things won’t happen. And it doesn’t even mean that we shouldn’t, should the opportunity arise, pursue extraordinary things in our lives. But not everyone can or should be pursuing that (a concept handed to us by celebrity culture I believe, that we must aspire to “be awesome,” “dream huge so you can do what I’ve done” and so on; think in terms of an Academy Award acceptance speech). If everyone is extraordinary, doing extraordinary things, no one is extraordinary; the word loses its meaning. In fact, I would argue that God mostly uses ordinary people in the church to accomplish His ends throughout the world. We only see the big, headlined, mega-marketed things that are broadcasted, not the ordinary pastor in a small town, consistently shepherding a small group of people under the teaching of the gospel for 40 years.

Now if they do extraordinary things it’s because of His work and it can and does happen from time to time. Most people who accomplish incredible things for God do so because of His multiplying effect though (like Jesus with the fish and loaves), not because they were trying to “be awesome.” Rather it was precisely because they minimized themselves and got out of His way that He then did big things. In other words, extraordinary things happen because of God, not us necessarily, though certainly He uses us.

I believe the antidote to a lot of this thinking that we have to do “big things” or “be big things” (as we millennials have defined it; I guess I’m a millennial?) is a re-recovery of the Reformed view of vocation.

http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=881

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/calvin-and-the-christian-calling-20

American Psychosis – Article by Chris Hedges

“What happens to a society that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion?” (Hat tip: roryking)

I know Carl Trueman from Reformation21 would appreciate this article. I don’t agree with every point, assumption or conclusion in this article (try to guess). But the broader, general points about American society being completely oblivious to the things that matter as far as democracy and our society is concerned are right on. I really sympathize with how this guy feels looking out over American society and seeing the utter banality of so much of what people are devoting their lives to. I don’t say this as one looking out and feeling better about myself, but one who mourns what is happening to society as a result of sin. It is immensely saddening to witness. You start talking about things going on in the news that matter and affect us collectively and privately and eyes glaze over, in general. Most in our society, even confessed Christians, are obsessed with their image and their “brand”. Or if they’re not obsessed with themselves, they’re obsessed with the next new fad or movement or whatever. And this thinking greatly influences the church in negative ways. A few good sections from the article:

The United States, locked in the kind of twilight disconnect that grips dying empires, is a country entranced by illusions. It spends its emotional and intellectual energy on the trivial and the absurd. It is captivated by the hollow stagecraft of celebrity culture as the walls crumble. This celebrity culture giddily licenses a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness and betrayal. Day after day, one lurid saga after another, whether it is Michael Jackson, Britney Spears or John Edwards, enthralls the country … despite bank collapses, wars, mounting poverty or the criminality of its financial class.

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Is Social Media Bad For Our Souls?

A couple of articles from Carl Trueman and one article sent to me by a friend from Justin Taylor’s blog, quoting another article, all do a great job of helping us consider what we’re using social media for. Are we merely making exhibitions of ourselves, using these tools to become our own personal marketers to make us feel like we belong somehow or to draw attention to ourselves because … well, we just think we’re that great? Or in the context of Christianity, are we using it to make God look good or promote and make ourselves look good instead (that whole messy idolatry thing, exchanging the glory of God for anything else)? These articles are seriously making me take a step back and consider what I do with social media, because I surely know I’m not guiltless in how I use these things.

No Text Please, I’m British! (Archive) – Carl Trueman, Reformation21.org

Making Exhibitions of Ourselves (Archive)- Carl Trueman, Reformation21.org

Twitter: The Telegraph of Narcissus (Archive) – Justin Taylor, theologica.blogspot.com

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