Michael W. Austin

Big Ideas for Everyday Life

What is Hope?

5743984911_9f77da98e7_mI’ve often been puzzled by the nature of hope. Many think that hope is one of the central Christian virtues, so my lack of clarity on what hope is has bothered me off and on over the years. Recently, however, I think I’ve started to get a better picture.

When we hope for something, in Christian terms at least, we are not merely wishing for something good, or for better things yet to come. If hope was merely this, it would not count as a virtue. However, hope is a central Christian virtue. So what is it?

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What is Faith?

4416372357_7348991248_zThere is a lot of confusion about what it means to have faith in God. Some believe it means to believe in God without any good evidence. I’ve argued elsewhere that this is a misguided view of faith.

The best explanation of a biblical understanding of faith in God that I’m aware of comes from Paul Moser, who argues that faith is “entrusting oneself to God”. To paraphrase Genesis 15, then, “Abraham entrusted himself to the Lord, and the Lord counted this entrusting as a right relationship to himself.” The virtue of faith, then, includes belief, but goes well beyond it. It also includes a lived experience of entrusting one’s very self to God.

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What is Sunday Morning For?

8718277405_bc918ab8b3_mIn many churches, there is great confusion about the purpose of the Sunday morning service. Many on the more theologically conservative end of the spectrum carry out the Sunday service as if it is primarily an evangelistic service. But I think this is a mistake. It should primarily be about worship, equipping members of the church for growth in Christ, and enabling them to reach out to others in love.

This misguided understanding of the point of Sunday morning also in part explains the lack of character formation, minimal spiritual growth, and being ill-equipped for ministry that is present in so many of our churches.

It is of course easy to criticize, but what can be done about this?

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Wealth and Stewardship: Key Biblical Principles

3407402643_7d11d2717f_zIn the most recent issue of the Christian Research Journal, I have an article discussing some of the central biblical teachings concerning stewardship of our financial resources.

I recently was interviewed on CRJ’s Postmodern Realities Podcast about these issues. The content on the podcast is different than, but related to, the article.

I answered such questions as:

  • What are some of the key vices related to wealth? What are some of the key Christian virtues?
  • Who are the rich, biblically speaking? Who are the poor?
  • What are some misconceptions about wealth that Christians should be concerned about?
  • How do our attitudes about money impact our walk with Christ?
  • Is there something more spiritual about poverty?
  • What is the church doing right in this area?

You can listen to the podcast here: http://streaming.integrationworks.com:3000/archive/PMR_EPISODE_005.mp3

Photo: khrawlings, CCL

The Bible and Social Justice

Biblical justice is preoccupied with the needs of those who are poor, weak, disadvantaged, or oppressed (e.g. Deut 24:17; Ps 10:17-18; Isa 10:1-2; Jer 5:28; Luke 4:18-19). Biblical justice is thus less concerned with individual merit or excellence than with individual powerlessness and need. It is focused on aiding those in distress, not on calculating desert. It is more interested in protecting the powerless and enabling everyone to contribute than in identifying what some already contribute. In a biblical context, need and powerlessness are the most basic criteria for the distribution of benefits. It is only after this priority is met that ability and desert can become criteria for justice.”  Joseph Kotva, The Christian Case for Virtue Ethics

I just came across this again today. What do you think?

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