Archives For Clint Archer

“Knock, knock.”knocking

-“Who’s there?”

“The Nazis.”

-“The Nazis wh—” [SLAP]

“Vee vill ask de questions!”

Many a debate about ethical systems gets illustrated by the Corrie Ten Boom conundrum posed as Nazis knocking on your door to enquire whether you are hiding innocent Jews in your home. You can either tell the truth and sacrifice the lives of your refugees, or you can lie and, assuming you have the world’s most gullible Nazi at your door, spare the lives of those you have committed to protect.

This scenario captures a classic question of which sin is the greater, and it presumes that there is no other option.

There are three main ethical systems by which people try to attack the problem…

1. Graded Ethics – Shades of grey

This is the most common layman’s ethic. It holds that life is not black and white, but includes shades of grey between right and wrong. You can identify graded ethics easily from catchphrases like “lesser of two evils” or “necessary evil” and “greater good” or “white lie.”

Employing graded ethics, you don’t ask yourself “Is telling the truth right or wrong?”— but rather “Is telling the truth better or worse than selling out innocent lives?”

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As a kid I wore around my neck a small, sterling silver disc with an engraving of St Christopher piggy-backing a youthful Jesus. It brought me comfort to know that the patron saint of journeys was vigilant for my mobile safety needs. After my conversion to Evangelicalism I dutifully replaced reformed my reliance on the amulet, and instead invoke the sacred Protestant privilege of praying directly to God for “journey mercies.”lost luggage

As legend has it, the presciently named Christopher (as in Christ-bearer) was an unusually tall and muscular guy who worked as a human ferry carrying people across a fast-flowing river. One day, in I’m guessing 6 or 7AD, he bore a small boy on his back whose weight became heavier and heavier with each laborious step. As the current swelled to dangerous levels the two exchanged some clever repartee about the weight of the world while Christopher resolved to keep the child safe or die trying. You guessed it, the kid was Jesus. And Christopher was rewarded for his service with a halo and a line of jewellery that has remained in fashion to this day.

The popular practice of wearing St Christopher charms is still clung to by many Coptics, Catholics, and Greek Orthodox commuters, fuelling the haughty derision of iconoclastic Evangelicals who tut-tut at the superstitious silliness of trusting a talisman for protection. And yet, I fear many of us ride our prayers into a parallel groove of error with our prayers for travellers to enjoy journey mercies.

Am I saying it is wrong to pray for travellers? May it never be. As a motorcyclist and frequent flier on budget airlines I am grateful for God’s physical protection in any situation where asphalt, human judgment, and combustible fuel are involved. But I wonder if my prayers aren’t sometimes less concerned with survival and tend more toward the vein of convenience.st christopher

For people who have not experienced real danger, travel is not as frequently life-threatening as it is stressful. Lost luggage, delayed flights, flat tires, and speeding tickets are these days more common that plane crashes and masked highwaymen.

So how, exactly, are we to pray when we boldly go where our itinerary takes us?

Here are three guidelines when praying for journey mercies…

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In honor of the US Presidents Day weekend I wanted to share this highly personal post I wrote as a tribute to a hero of mine the week President Nelson Mandela died. It was originally titled Nelson Mandela Changed me: How to Love a Terrorist.

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) died on Thursday, at 95 years old. Today the world will talk of how his politics molded history. There will be documentaries about his presidential legacy and movies telling his remarkable story. But I doubt any of that will capture the impact he had on people like me. I was a racist and a detractor. I was ignorant and brainwashed. I was a pessimist and a cynic. But Mandela changed my mind.B&W Nelson Mandela

I grew up in the dystopia of Apartheid. As an English speaking White child in the 1980’s I had no idea that the country I lived in was not a democracy—my parents voted, and one day I would too.

I was vaguely aware of banned books, censorship, and protest poetry, but none of that affected my life. I hadn’t an inkling that Whites were a minority, and that Blacks outnumbered us nine-to-one. I lived in a city, which meant that Blacks were only allowed there temporarily and if they had permission papers. They were there to do the dirty jobs. At night they slunk back to their distant and disgusting shanty towns. It never occurred to me that those hodgepodge shacks, built from our rubbish, housed 30 million real people.

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Let me start by saying that it’s not wrong for a new believer to be immature any more than it’s wrong for a child to be childish.

Puerility is only annoying in an adult. When a four year old dons a cape and wears his underwear over his pants, claiming x-ray vision it’s cute. When his dad does that it’s concerning (or certifiable).

When you’ve been a believer for many years though, lack of these indicators should be concerning.

Mature believers possess these 5 indicators…

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Claims of sight-seeing return trips to Heaven and Hell are still in vogue among publishers today. However, I swear A Visitor’s Guide to Hell (Sterling Ethos, NY, 2014) is not a book vying to join that growing club. Launching from Jesus’ teaching about the rich man in Hell and Lazarus in Heaven the book explores the biblical descriptions of the afterlife.VGTH

Frankly, I’m surprised that the claimants of these apparent short-term visits to Hell don’t bother conforming their descriptions to what we have revealed in the Bible. It would make their stories more credible. If you were going to lie about a trip to Paris surely you’d at least peruse a guidebook to check your details line up with reality? Anyway, here is a brief excerpt from the chapter on Heaven titled “Alternate destination.”

(The ellipses represent large chunks missing for the sake of brevity; and so you’ll buy the book!)

Been there done that

Unlike Hell, the road to Heaven is not strictly a one-way street. There have been three credible people in history who have seen glimpses of Heaven, and been allowed to talk about some of what they saw. In this chapter we will draw from what these eye-witnesses saw.

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Voltaire on free speechMy American friends who were born into a bastion of free speech sometimes take their First Amendment privilege for granted. But I was raised in South Africa under the Apartheid regime. We were taught brainwashed that freedom of speech was a destabilizing ideology held by Liberals, Communists (ironic!), and terrorists (more ironic in the shadow of the attacks on a French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo). Banned books, censorship, and a regulated media were commonplace and seemed normal and necessary in order to provide order in our society.

“Yikes,” you say, “Orwell much?” But this was all we knew. We lived in the nescient pre-Internet world where information came from regulated news stations and government libraries.

Thankfully, under our new and improved constitution (est. 1996) freedom of expression and a free press are rights that have been granted and protected in perpetuity. But this newfound freedom ushered in a fresh set of ethical conundrums.

Should I, as a Christian, be politically in favor of the right Muslims have to denounce my faith? Am I to joyfully accept that public schools present teaching on various world religions to my children? May I justifiably be upset when a satirical cartoonist or movie maker ridicules Jesus?

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I didn’t realize my new book on Hell had hit the shelves until Tim Challies mentioned it on his blog.VGTH

Why a book on Hell? Interesting story:

Apparently some market research found that a trending topic is non-fiction “afterlife tourism” or first person narratives of people who claimed to have been to Heaven or Hell. This egregious genre is one of my pet publishing peeves (for evidence, see my review Heaven is for Real…Well Duh!) When my agent was approached by a secular publisher (Sterling Ethos, New York) looking for a book compatible with that genre, we instead pitched the idea of a non-fiction, biblical explanation of Hell framed in the first person of the Rich Man in Hades whom Jesus mentioned in his parable in Luke 16. Sterling loved the idea and the journey began. In keeping with the after-life tourism theme it is titled A Visitor’s Guide to Hell.

I should warn those who intend to read the book: though this sobering topic must never be treated flippantly, anyone who knows me understands that I can’t even preach a funeral sermon without using levity. This bugs some people, and I understand that. But I think in this book I avoid being glib while still being myself.

Also readers should bear in mind that this is not written only to an Evangelical market but is intended to be evangelistic. My intention was that the book could be given to an unbeliever, who would find it engaging enough to complete and be exposed to a clear explanation of the gospel.

Here is a snippet from the introduction, followed by the table of contents…

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corks with datesAs every sommelier worth his saltine crackers knows: good wine comes from tortured grapes. It is a dusty secret Californian vintners accidentally unearthed that the more the grape has to struggle for survival, the higher the quality of wine that can be gleaned.

Thus, arid and gravelly mountainsides are good for nothing, horticulturally speaking, save for some masochistic grapes, notably the Bordeaux varietals. Grapes harvested after a season of longsuffering produce a vintage that insiders will dub “a good year.”

This phenomenon is not an idiosyncrasy of oenology alone, but of theology as well.

If I ask you what makes a good year in your life, you may reply with one or more of these generic blessings: physical health, career promotion, relational fulfillment, financial prosperity (or at least solvency). But you’d be wrong.

Well, you would be half-wrong. A good year is whatever improves our sanctification, i.e. what makes us more like Christ, draws us closer to God, and increases our usefulness in giving God glory.

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December 29, 2014

Your Tombstone This Year

by Clint Archer

A sagacious life-coach would urge us all to occasionally zoom out and put our lives in perspective. A written assignment might include, “What would you want the epitaph on your tombstone to say?” A percipient piece of advice for looking ahead. But there is a far less lugubrious genus of tombstone on the market that commemorates accomplishments as they occur. And the best part: you don’t need to die to get one!

deal toyIn 1931 the DuPont corporation developed a material called Lucite, a type of tough glass used for fighter plane windshields. Half a generation later the corporate world annexed the material to fashion paper-weight sized trophies as mementos that mark milestones and reward deal makers for a noteworthy coup. Lehman Brothers apparently employed a full time tombstone designer at $85k per annum to keep the offerings fresh (that was before a real tombstone was raised over its belly-up corpse).

The diminutive size of the Lucite tombstone (or “deal toy”) matches its import—as your gravestone will encompass the impression your lifespan left, these translucent trinkets announce lesser accomplishments, but can still act as little goal markers for which to strive throughout life.

The epitaph visualization is intended to calibrate our lives for the inevitability of eternity. I am a sucker for this type of long-range planning. When Jesse Johnson was my roommate in seminary, he discovered (read: pried in my stuff and stole…) my planning tools; he still teases me about the timeline that has targets and goals for every year from age one (acquire teeth) to age one hundred (remember to pull rip cord while skydiving). Yes, some of those were penned in retrospectively, and the future milestones are all in pencil as per Proverbs 16:9.

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Christmas is traditionally a time for family. And since no family tree can be completely homogenous Christians will be dining with unbelievers on Christmas Day. And sadly, some Christians I know are dreading that time.bride in the mud

You know the type: the believing bubble babies who were birthed into a Christian home, were either homeschooled or attended Christian school K-thru-college, and got a job in a sanitized and Christianized office where even the janitor has a fish sticker on his minivan. They get their teeth whitened by a Christian dentist and their oil changed by a Christian mechanic.

But the one time of the year they can’t escape rubbing shoulders with spiritual grime is at Christmas. Perhaps they even wish God would do some pruning of their family tree to make life neater.

Having been an unbeliever for many years I have news for that crew: your unbelieving family members are also dreading time with you. They view you as annoying, sanctimonious, holier-than-thou hypocrites.

This species of believer is not going to change its ways by reading a blog post. They will either mature into loving, gracious, witnesses for Christ, or they will become more entrenched in their judgmental ways until no family invites them over anymore. But if you are one, and would like to try change, here is one simple strategy to employ this Christmas to be less abrasive to unbelieving family and friends: accept that mud is muddy.

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