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Tim Challies

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January 2008

January 23, 2008
Wednesday January 23, 2008 Pray for the Third Wave
“The end of abortion as a business is in sight when the prolife movement is not only joined by, but led by, the African-American and Latino Christian Community. I call it the Third Wave.”
46 Million
Here is a page that seeks to show what 46 million looks like (46 million is the number of babies aborted since Row v. Wade).
Top Ten Science Predictions…
Here’s a list of ten science predictions that didn’t come true.
Winter Theology Conference
Northwestern Baptist Association just posted audio from their recent conference. Dr. Jonathan Pennington from SBTS spoke on the gospels.
January 22, 2008

Inside Prince CaspianInside Narnia was one of the many books published in advance of the most recent movie adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. The book has proved a success, going through six printings since its release in 2005. In the book Devin Brown, a Lewis scholar and aficionado, offered a detailed look into the world of Narnia, digging far beyond the surface, and exploring this magical world. As I had just read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe with my children, I decided to read this as a commentary of sorts, to see what I had missed and what I would want to look for the next time I read the book. I learned more than I would have thought possible. Reading Inside Narnia greatly enhanced my understanding of C.S. Lewis, of the stories he wrote, and of the worlds he created.

January 22, 2008
Tuesday January 22, 2008 Roe v Wade 35 Years Later
Justin Taylor interviews Robert P. George, the author of “Embryo: A Defense of Human Life.”
I Was Adopted, Not Aborted
Carolyn McCulley writes that “in the 35 years since Roe v. Wade, a generation has come to maturity who can speak to the loss from the other side.” She has an interesting interview.
The Christian Manifesto Review of My Book
“There are very few books on the market that talk about or attempt to define spiritual discernment. This book helps to fill that void.”
Everything Hasn’t Changed
So says John Wilson, editor of Books & Culture at “Christianity Today” in his review of Brian McLaren’s latest book.
Pray Without Ceasing
John MacArthur explains what it means to pray without ceasing.
January 21, 2008

A short time ago I had the opportunity to interview Max McLean. You may know McLean as the narrator of the Bible in the ESV, NIV or KJV or as the narrator of the audio version of The Valley of Vision. He has also released recordings of several Christian classics and has been involved in many stage productions. Most recently he has starred in a production of C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters in New York City (with the production moving to Washington this April). You can learn more about him at listenersbible.com.

My particular interest in interviewing McLean was in understanding how his genre of art—performance art—can bring glory to God. I also wanted to understand how being a member of a local church impacts his art.

Tell us a little bit about yourself—who you are and what you do?

I was born in Panama City, Panama and came to America via New York harbor and the Statue of Liberty at the age of four. The first thing he had to do was master the English language. Due to Dad’s military career, ‘home’ included many places across the continental United States, the Far East, and Europe.

Currently, I live in New Jersey just outside of New York City with my wife of 31 years, Sharon,. I have two lovely daughters Rachel, 27 who is married and lives in Long Beach CA with her new husband (she was just married last month) and Julia, 26, who lives in Hoboken NJ.

Sharon and I are members of Redeemer Presbyterian Church where we serve as fellowship group leaders and serve communion. I also lead the scripture reader’s ministry there.

Tell us how you came to be a Christian

It was in 1976, soon after graduating from college. I grew up a nominal Catholic and was quite interested, though frightened by the thought of God, when I was young. I made a clean break from anything to do w/ Christianity after receiving the sacrament of Confirmation when I was about 14. I dabbled a bit in eastern mysticism but nothing serious.

When I began to date my wife, Sharon, I knew she grew up in a strong Christian home and was a regular churchgoer. I didn’t understand it but since I was interested in her I would go along from time to time. She introduced me to some of her friends who were studying the Bible together. I felt compelled to attend one of their sessions which was unusual because I would never be interested in that. They had a guest teacher the night I was there, but I remember not being that engaged by the teaching. But I was drawn immediately to the scripture passages being read. I believe it was from Galatians 1. I remember the words of the text hit me as passionate and forceful. I had not been confronted by the power and insight of the Bible prior to that. From that moment God began to work in my life and convict me of my sin. At first I wanted to run away, but I couldn’t. Then I read John’s Gospel - in one sitting. As I read it, I could see and feel it in my mind’s eye. I thought Jesus was going to come right out of the pages of the Bible and take me with him. At his crucifixion I was in tears. But after the resurrection appearances, an inexplicable joy just overwhelmed my whole body. I knew this story was true and that my life would never be the same again.

When did you first discover your abilities in acting and your love for it? Have you received any formal education in this discipline?

I started acting in college as a way of overcoming my fear of being in front of people, sociophobia. I think people recognized my talent but they were also aware of how raw I was. I also needed a lot of voice work. My plan after college was to do post graduate work at a drama school in London. My “born again” experience which happened in the intervening months, did not derail those plans at all. In fact, I was more energized than ever. I knew God would use it, though I wasn’t sure how. I completed my post-graduate work in theater and then did some work on stage in Great Britain, New York and in regional theaters.

Within two years I was married with a child on the way. Before long I realized that an actor is really nothing more than a hired hand. His job is to brilliantly communicate other people’s ideas regardless of their intent. It was both demanding and unfulfilling. At the same time, God was calling me to Himself. He let me know that “you cannot serve two masters.” So I was compelled to leave the theater and acting altogether.

That left a huge void in my life. I didn’t know what I would do. To fill the void, I became much more active in my local church. My pastor preached the Bible with conviction. He also invited outstanding guest speakers to come in on a fairly regular basis. So I was exposed to great preaching and Bible teaching from the pulpit and also on tape. I found myself being so moved by the insight from their sermons and the conviction in their voices. The way they connected with the Bible and were able to inspire and exhort others was absolutely riveting. There was so much power coming out of their personal devotion to the Word of God.

This encouraged me to study the Bible more closely and gave me the desire to go to seminary. While at seminary I had an epiphany that would redirect the course of my life. A key faculty member discovered that I had a theatrical background and he encouraged me to use drama in ministry. At that time, drama in the church was starting to get some attention. But it was mostly sketches to illustrate sermons. I wasn’t motivated to go in that direction. Rather, the Lord inspired me to do something different. ‘Why not use the skills and techniques developed from acting and the theater, integrate it into what I had learned from preachers and teachers, and apply all of that into word for word dramatic presentations of the Bible?’

Well, it was an event waiting to happen. From the first time I presented the Bible in this way the impact was immediate and profound. Since then God has provided opportunities to present the Bible of all ages and across the religious and cultural spectrum in live presentations, on radio and on television to hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of people.

That led to recording the Bible in three different translations (NIV, ESV & KJV), a radio ministry called Listen to the Bible that airs on 675 radio affiliates worldwide and doing one person shows of Mark’s Gospel, The Acts of the Apostles and Genesis. Over the years I’ve worked with and trained other solo artists who have gone on do such books of the Bible as John, Exodus, Revelation, and Daniel among others. Currently we are producing a stage adaptation of C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters that opened off Broadway in New York City [and which is moving to Washington in April]. And we just released a new recording called Classics of the Christian Faith that includes The Conversion of St. Augustine (from Book Eight of His Confessions), Martin Luther’s Here I Stand, John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Jonathan Edward’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, and George Whitfield’s The Method of Grace. The idea is to introduce these extraordinary works to a contemporary audience.

What is Fellowship for the Performing Arts?

Fellowship for the Performing Arts (FPA) was incorporated in 1992 as a means to support my work of expressing faith through the dramatic arts. At the time I was on the road perhaps 150 to 200 nights a year and it was a tough way to live or to fulfill the vision God was calling me to. By starting FPA I could raise support, put my self on salary and be more strategic in fulfilling my vision.

The first thing we did was produce the NIV New Testament that has since grown into the Listeners Bible line in the ESV, KJV and NIV translations. Then we launched the daily radio program and last we started producing our dramatic presentations of the Bible into theatrical events in secular and collegiate venues in New York and around the country.

How do you seek to bring glory to God through performance art?

At the root of Christianity is the admission that this world is not what it ought to be, and at the heart of being a Christian is the confession that, “I am part of the problem.” Our vision is to select literature from the Bible and the treasury of Christian history that help us to see our predicament; and to move us toward a more humble understanding of ourselves and a closer relationship with God. For the theatre our vision is to select stories that explore how and why consequential choices are made, and to produce those stories in a manner that engages diverse audiences.

The great theatre critic, Harold Clurman, who started The Group Theatre in NY in 30’s and who really revolutionized the acting profession as a legitimate agent for social change wrote “make them laugh…and while their mouths are open pour truth in.” Of course he was referring to a political ideology that was important to him but the premise of the argument stands. In fact in rehearsals recently the director game me similar advice w/ regard to telling The Screwtape Letters ‘tell the story and the ideas will emerge. If you focus on the ideas you will lose the story and the audience.” Good advice.

In the biography at your web site you make it clear that you are an active member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Has being a member of a local church contributed to your understanding of your role as both a Christian and as an artist? How has being a member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in particular helped your faith serve your art (or helped your art serve your faith)?

Well, in NYC with the idolatry of work and self glory so prevalent having a church community that preaches humility and working for the peace and prosperity of the city; “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices.” Proverbs 10:10 is absolutely critical. Redeemer, being an urban NYC church is filled with artists of all disciplines. It has at least two full time staff persons dedicated to serving and disciplining artists to grow in service and grace. Redeemer’s vision is committed to prayer, evangelism, social justice and cultural engagement through intense interaction w/ the gospel. And that rubs off if you are more than just an attendee. Being involved in small group leadership is grounding. So yes, Redeemer is a motivating, inspiring, correcting and challenging place to be if you are called to work as Christian in the arts.

You provide performances in which you combine narration and acting to bring dramatic expression to the Bible. What value does this kind of performance have? Can this help people come to a better understanding of Scripture?

I think so. Scripture says in Romans 10:17, faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ. Capturing that essence is the uniqueness of our ministry. Much of the Bible’s content was originally communicated orally. Jesus wrote no words that have been handed down to us. In Gal 4 Paul writes “how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone.” He wants them to hear his voice too truly understand the energy and weight behind his words. Just like a well written sermon is not really energized until it is spoken so is much of our understanding of the Bible. There is a level of insight that emerges when you hear the word that is often missed when you read it. Our desire is that our presentations not be an end in the themselves, but rather a catalyst that encourages folks to devote daily time in God’s Word.

What are your hopes and dreams in regards to your career? What roles would you like to play? What books or other content would you still like to record?

In terms of hopes and dreams I don’t believe I think that way. I am interested in fulfilling the calling God has for me. Working on The Screwtape Letters and getting Lewis’ amazing thoughts across in such an inverted, back handed way has been thrilling. I absolutely loved working on Martin Luther’s Here I Stand CD and would love to expand that into a full length theatrical production. I think Luther’s story is immensely appealing, contradictory, almost operatic in scope and touches on so many elements that still inform our world; not the least of which is grace and his understanding of the gospel. I definitely would like to see if we could tackle that story. As for the classic’s series. I loved working on Augustine and Edwards and would enjoy finding other great works of the past for CD recording. Currently I’m looking at recording a condensed version of Wilberforce’s Real Christianity and a representative sermon form Charles Spurgeon.

January 21, 2008

Today marks the end of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment blog tour. This was meant to be only a two week tour, but events conspired to keep me from visiting SharperIron on the scheduled date. We decided we would add one date to the tour so I could make that stop.

The guys at SharperIron focused on the common belief that discernment is intuitive rather than something that requires dedicated thought and practice. How does Scripture tell us to view discernment as a step of rational thought guided by the Holy Spirit, rather than a supra-rational sixth sense? After that opening question, they asked several questions that furthered application. For example, If I use my knowledge of Scripture to judge some action as evil, and this discernment seems clear, how should I view my brother who does not make the same discernment? These were surprisingly difficult questions that I struggled with for quite some time.

Read my answers here.

I am grateful for all of the bloggers who chose to participate in this tour:

January 7Evangelical Outpost
January 8Tall Skinny Kiwi
January 9A-Team
January 10Adrian Warnock
January 11Gender Blog
January 14Jollyblogger
January 15Between Two Worlds
January 16TeamPyro
January 17Michael Spencer
January 18Church Matters
January 21SharperIron
January 21, 2008
Monday January 21, 2008 Dr. Mohler Reviews My Book
Dr. Mohler has posted a quick review of my book.
Church Discipline
The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article critical of the practice of church discipline.
Hershael York Replies
Pastor Hershael York, who was interviewed for the WSJ article, calls it a hatchet job. “The article is tantamount to being against spanking because some parents abuse their children, or criticizing ‘time out’ because some parents lock their children in the basement.”
January 20, 2008

Today seemed like a good day to share a few music-related notes that I’ve been saving up to post together. I am no authority on music but I do listen to a lot of it and always enjoy finding new albums or new bands that are worth listening to. Here are a few suggestions.

Reilly

Reilly is a band hailing from Philadelphia that plays what they term “symphonic rock.” Largely acoustic but with some strains of good old rock ‘n roll, their music is bound to have wide appeal. “On their latest album, vibrant melodies mix with soul-searching lyrics for a listening experience that you won’t soon forget.”

The album Let June Decide is available from their website. They also have songs available at MySpace if you’d like to sample them.

Indelible Grace

Chances are you have already heard of Indelible Grace as they have already produced several albums and have taken the lead in providing new takes on old hymns. They recently released their fifth album and it is now widely available. Paul and Zach have posted reviews on their blogs (and both guys are far more qualified to discuss music than I am!). I’m partial to the first couple of I.G. albums but did enjoy this one as well.

You can find Indelible Grace at their website and at MySpace.

Lashey and Joyner

I stumbled across these guys a few days ago and downloaded their album “Hymns” which is available at iTunes. Similar to Indelible Grace, they provide new takes on old hymns, though with a little less of the Nashville influence, I think. In some instances they merely perform the song with a contemporary spin on an old melody while in others they provide an original melody. I particularly enjoyed their versions of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and “He Leadeth Me.”

You can find their website here and listen to a couple of full songs at their MySpace site.

January 19, 2008

I have no memory of reading (or having read to me) C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia (though I’ve been assured that my parents did read them to me at least once). On the other hand, I remember reading Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit many times. I read Tolkien for the joy of reading his stories. I love the world he created and I love the epic scope of the adventures. But for some reason Narnia has never appealed to me in the same way. Over the past months I’ve been reading the Chronicles with my children and have been experiencing them for the first time. I’ve enjoyed them and have enjoyed drawing comparisons and contrasts with The Lord of the Rings.

It may be unfair to compare the two series but really comparisons are inevitable. After all, the books were written by close friends and were written near the same time. The authors often compared notes and there are quite a few shared elements between them. After recently completing Prince Caspian, and in anticipation of the forthcoming film, I have been reading Devin Brown’s new book Inside Prince Caspian. I previously read Inside Narnia and found that it greatly enhanced my enjoyment of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Brown is a C.S. Lewis enthusiast (or scholar, perhaps) and uses these books to provide literary analysis of the Chronicles. He often refers to Tolkien and I found this short passage helpful as I’ve considered why I prefer Middle-earth to Narnia.

Tolkien more frequently not only gives the impression of depth but also provides actual depth. For example, if Tolkien had placed a Stone Table with letters in Middle-earth, he might very well have included a rendition of the letters themselves, a history of the language they were written in, and not only the names of the people who had originally carved them but also the names of their parents and grandparents. When we come to an open door on the backdrop of Tolkien’s stage, he will often open it for us. In contrast, as Doris Myers rightly asserts, the doors in Narnia typically “do not open unless the story requires that someone go through them.”

This observation about Lewis’s technique of suggesting more than is stated and not answering every question extends beyond historic details. Thus, as Myers points out, with Lewis there is no point in asking questions like, “Since there were no other humans, who ruled Narnia after the Pevensies returned to our world?” or “Since Caspian the First gained Narnia through conquest and unjustly destroyed Nature, under what law is Prince Caspian the rightful king?” Myers’s answer to closed doors like these is that Lewis’s stories are “sufficiently powerful” so that we do not question or perhaps even notice any lack of of more adequate explanations.

And I think this explains why I prefer Middle-earth. Middle-earth, as a world, and The Lord of the Rings as a story, are far more developed than Narnia and The Chronicles. I haven’t ever bothered to read Tolkien’s long, dense and boring histories of his world, evolutions of the language, and so on. But his attention to the smallest detail of his world is obvious through his stories. But with Lewis there are many unanswered questions and many doors that seem to lead nowhere. The world does not seem to have the internal consistency of Tolkien’s. The stories are good, but the world is not so immersive.

Yet I think the simplicity of Lewis’s world may be part of its appeal to some people, and to younger people in particular. Never are there long, dry explanations of fictitious history. Lewis tends to stay closer to the narrative without having to dedicate so much time to the back story. Also, Lewis provides interesting moral lessons and life lessons that are easier to find and more naturally read out of the story than what is found in Tolkien. These lessons are easily found and easily applicable, even to young readers.

But still I prefer Middle-earth. It has been good to read The Chronicles but even while I do so, I look forward to eventually reading through The Lord of the Rings with the family. It will be a long haul, but it is a challenge I am eager to take on.

Which of the worlds or the stories do you prefer (and why)?