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Tim Challies

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March 15, 2011

There is a new documentary causing quite a lot of buzz today. It is called Orgasm, Inc. and it looks at the strange but inevitable collision of the pharmaceutical industry with women’s sexuality. Liz Canner uses this film to display the sad reality that pharmaceutical companies play a crucial role in shaping the diseases they seek to treat. To make money they need to treat diseases and they are certainly not above fabricating or exaggerating them in order to come to the rescue with some amazing new cure. Such is the case with Female Sexual Dysfunction, the particular focus of the documentary. At least that is what Liz Canner argues in Orgasm Inc. This is not a case of companies reacting to genuine problems and creating cures, but a case of companies generating diseases and then magnanimously stepping in with a cure.

A Cure that Needs a Disease

If Canner is right, it tells us two things: there are some diseases that need a cure and some cures that need a disease. When we think of the pharmaceutical industry, we like to think that they have before them a list of the diseases that afflict us and that they are responsibly seeking to generate cures for them. That’s the rose-colored glasses view. The reality is that these companies answer to the shareholder, they answer to the bottom line. And to keep that bottom line healthy they need to be proactive. And so, like any other industry, they fabricate the need as they fabricate the product. We know this happens in other areas—fashion and personal care and electronics—so why not in pharmaceuticals?

Here’s the rub: if a cure is going to sell, it needs to have insurance companies pay for it; insurance companies will only pay for it if it works against a specific medical condition. But definitions can be changed, and eventually this is what tends to happen: the drug companies work with medical experts to define the disease in such a specific way or in such a vague way that the insurance companies will need to provide the medications for it.

March 12, 2011

I spent the first half of yesterday traveling and the second half at a conference. Along the way I heard one person say something about an earthquake in Japan. It wasn’t until I got to my hotel that I learned there had been an utterly devastating earthquake in Japan and that it was followed by a tsunami. I spent a long time reading about it before turning in for the night. This morning the news is even worse and there is more and more footage showing the extent of the damage. It has really shaken me (and I don’t think I’m easily shaken).

Honestly, I don’t even know what to say. So I’ll turn it over to others (Piper, mostly).

Denny Burk has rounded up some audio from John Piper. Piper spoke to an NPR reporter after the 2004 tsunami that devastated Indonesia and other nearby countries. Denny also points to Piper’s essay “Tsunami, Sovereignty and Mercy.”

Here is some video; it is shocking to see the power of water and the absolute carnage it can bring with it.

Here is Piper’s prayer for Japan:

Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees.

O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you.

And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.

Have you not encouraged us in this? Have we not heard a hundred times in your Word the riches of your kindness, forbearance, and patience? Do you not a thousand times withhold your judgments, leading your rebellious world toward repentance? Yes, Lord. For your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts.

Grant, O God, that the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Grant us, your sinful creatures, to return to you, that you may have compassion. For surely you will abundantly pardon. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, your beloved Son, will be saved.

May every heart-breaking loss—millions upon millions of losses—be healed by the wounded hands of the risen Christ. You are not unacquainted with your creatures’ pain. You did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all.

In Jesus you tasted loss. In Jesus you shared the overwhelming flood of our sorrows and suffering. In Jesus you are a sympathetic Priest in the midst of our pain.

Deal tenderly now, Father, with this fragile people. Woo them. Win them. Save them.

And may the floods they so much dread make blessings break upon their head.

O let them not judge you with feeble sense, but trust you for your grace. And so behind this providence, soon find a smiling face.

In Jesus’ merciful name, Amen.

March 10, 2011

The Curse of Email
Email is a curse. At least for many people it feels like a curse. Our inboxes fill before we can blink, we fight a never-ending and always-losing battle for inbox supremacy. The moment we win the battle, the enemy advances with another 2 or 5 or 25 emails. It doesn’t end. It won’t end. Many of us are constantly overwhelmed.

I’m convinced that one of the reasons we feel so overwhelmed by email is that we read it through an old and outdated paradigm. It used to be that mail carried a kind of significance, a kind of weight of importance. After all, I would only go through the trouble of recording thoughts on paper and placing them in an envelope and buying a stamp and putting that letter in the mail if I had something significant to communicate. Mail was important, it was the means by which I told you weighty things. I would never consider sending a letter that said nothing more than “HA!” and included a brief and silly newspaper clipping or, even worse, a notation telling you where you could find that silly clipping on your own.

Because I put effort into writing a letter and sending it to you, you in turn felt that it merited a response. So you would respond by putting your own effort into crafting a letter and you would go through the same process of stamping it and putting it in the mail. I expected no less. This was a well-established and formal procedure that consumed time, effort and resources. It mattered.

That was the paradigm before the digital age. And then email came along.

March 01, 2011

The Next StoryIf you want to buy the e-book version of my forthcoming book The Next Story for a good price, here’s how: Pre-order it. Zondervan has put together a rather interesting promotion for the ebook. Here’s the way it works:

  • The list price for the ebook at Amazon is currently $9.99.
  • For every 200 copies pre-ordered, the price will fall by $1.
  • This means that if we hit 1,000 copies sold, the price will fall all the way to $4.99 – half off.
  • It means that if we were to get 5,000 copies pre-ordered, the price would fall to $2.99.

When the book releases on April 1, the price will return to $9.99.

What you need to understand is that Amazon does not actually charge you for the book until the day they deliver it. So if you order it at $9.99 and between now and April 1 the price falls, you will pay the lower price, not the price you pre-ordered it at. Understand? So that’s why if you’re going to buy the book anyway, we’d like you to pre-order it. If you do so, it increases the likelihood that you’ll end up paying less than the list price.

Now, some of your are Nook or iBooks users. Unfortunately we have not been able to work out this detail on those platforms; however, along the way we will see if there is a way for us to match the price.

So…if you’re a Kindle reader and are planning on reading The Next Story, why don’t you go ahead and pre-order. Then we’ll be ½00th of the way to reducing the price by another $1. If enough people play along, you can get the book at a great discount.

If you want to pre-order a print version of the book, please click here.

February 28, 2011

Rob Bell may be a universalist. I don’t think this would prove surprising to too many people. Certainly his theological trajectory over the years has been concerning and it’s rare for a guy to suddenly and radically reverse that kind of a path.

Rob Bell Love WinsBell has a book coming out in the near future, one titled Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. According to the publisher’s description, “Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.” It needs to be noted that this kind of copy is typically written by the publisher rather than the author and that it is intended to sell the book rather than necessarily provide an accurate description of the book’s contents.

A few days ago a video appeared on YouTube and Vimeo and other sites. In that video Bell describes the topic of the book. Here it is: (people reading via RSS may need to click this link):

Over the weekend several bloggers wrote about this video: Josh Harris, Denny Burk, Kevin DeYoung, Justin Taylor, Phil Johnson, and Z among them. Some of those articles went viral, garnering thousands of comments between them, making a bit impact on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

I am not going to comment on whether or not Bell is a universalist. To be honest, at this point I think it is a little bit too early to make that determination. I watch the video and read the marketing copy and think that it shows a very deliberate vagueness that is meant to raise questions but not answer questions, that is meant to generate controversy and sell books. And so far it’s succeeding admirably. My guess is that in the end Bell will take a vague universalist position—not outright universalism but still something that is still clearly unorthodox (as Brian McLaren did in his earlier days before he got into the kind of outright denial that has been the core of his more recent books).

February 23, 2011

Over the past few days I have been preparing to preach on Genesis 3, one of those amazing biblical texts that just opens wide as you begin to study it. One clear application from the first seven verses is that we need to know, believe and stand upon the Word of God. Adam and Eve did not do this—they doubted God’s Word. That doubt, that lack of trust, led to sin, led to the Fall, led to this world.

One thing I have been thinking about is the fact that Adam and Eve did not have God’s Word written for them. They had God’s Word spoken to them. And that brought me back to a study I did a few months ago on the ways in which humans have communicated over time. From the first days until today we have passed through various phases of communication, beginning with an oral culture, passing through a written and then printed culture, and now arriving at a digital culture.

I want to outline this flow over time and seek your input on a couple of things. So get reading and then help me out along the way.

Oral Culture

As far as we know, God created Adam and Eve not just with the ability to speak but with ability to speak meaningfully in some kind of a language. Created as adults, Adam and Eve were created with the ability to communicate with one another and with God. The speech they knew when they were created they taught to their children and their children after them. This was the first form of human communication. This was an oral culture in which words were not written but, rather, memorized and recited. What they did not remember or choose to record in their memories was lost forever.

February 21, 2011

My book The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion is set to release on April 1. As part of the run-up to the book, the publisher created a trailer or commercial for it. And today I get to debut it here at the blog. The commercial seeks to lampoon our technological addiction and the fact that we tend to think we own our technology while, in reality, it may just own us.

I would be exceedingly grateful if you’d consider sharing the video via email, Twitter, Facebook, your blog or any other means you can think of. You’d be doing me a great favor in getting word out (look at the bottom of this blog post for buttons that can help you do that). You might also like to pre-order it, in which case I’ll sign your copy of the book before it ships.

(RSS readers will need to click through to see the video—or check it out at YouTube)

Also, I want to share an email I received last week from someone who received an advance copy of the book. This email was a huge, huge encouragement to me. “I spent some time this morning previewing your new book. Honestly, I wasn’t all that excited about a book on technology, etc, but I gotta say I am loving your book. It’s not only well-written (you have an engaging prose), it’s also incredibly insightful and wise. Yes, this book is filled with wisdom, depth and discernment. Thanks for writing it. I can tell you put a lot of work into this—both mind and heart work.” Why do I post that? Because I think it confirms what I was hoping when I wrote the book—that this is a subject that we can all benefit from studying. The Scripture demands a place in our thinking about technology.

February 20, 2011

On Sunday I often post a prayer here at the blog. Today I want to ask you to pray. You may have heard of Said Musa, a man imprisoned in Afghanistan and awaiting execution. His crime? He converted to Christianity from Islam. He needs our prayer.

Here is what Denny Burk posted yesterday. “Said Musa is married and the father of six young children. He has been a Christian for eight years. Compass Direct News reports:

In the two-page letter, a copy of which Compass received in late October, Musa addressed Obama as ‘brother’ and pleaded with the international community: ‘For [the] sake [of the] Lord Jesus Christ please pray for me and rescue me from this jail otherwise they will kill me because I know they [have] very very very cruel and hard hearts.’

Musa wrote of being sexually abused, beaten, mocked, spat on and deprived of sleep because of his faith in Jesus. He wrote that he would be willing to suffer for his faith in order to encourage and strengthen other Christians in their faith.

So why don’t you pray for our brother, that the Lord would spare his life. And if that is not the Lord’s will, that Said would be willing to face death bravely and with his eye on the Savior.

Read more at National Review or The Christian Post.