The Shape of Water won best picture at the Oscars last night. If you haven't seen it, you probably have at least heard about the fact that the plot includes a woman having sex with an aquatic creature. You might think that a film with such a scene has little to teach the church. But it actually is an incredibly convicting story for an American church that continues to grapple with racism and sexism.Read More
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, a time of fasting in various ways and preparation for remembering and celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection on Good Friday and Easter. It’s also Valentine’s Day. They are odd bedfellows, but what they both have in common is that they’re both days I’ve had mixed feelings about in the past.
I grew up going to Ash Wednesday services and often giving things up for Lent, from TV and movies to chocolate. I really liked the services and appreciated the results of fasting, if I didn’t exactly enjoy it during the moment.
I also grew up enjoying Valentine’s Day. I loved making a pretty valentine collection box and reading all the valentines from my classmates, and I loved candy and the heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies my mom would make.
But as I got older, I started to wonder a little bit about both of those days. In college, I was surrounded by people from denominations that didn’t celebrate Lent at all, and I heard a lot of questioning about why Lent was even necessary -- if you were giving a bad habit up for Lent, maybe it just meant you should give it up all the time, it was a legalistic Catholic tradition, etc. I had had too many good experiences with Lent to be fully convinced by these arguments, but stressed out from school work and realizing how legalistic I had been at times in pursuing different kinds of fasting, I stepped back from Lent for a few years.
My opinions about Valentine’s Day started to be shaped by others, too. I became increasingly aware from high school onward that the “cool”/“mature” way to feel about Valentine’s Day was to be against it. It was a cheesy, consumeristic holiday pushed by Hallmark to sell cards and make single people feel bad about themselves. And cool girls who were actually in a relationship didn’t need to get a gift on a predetermined day, and if they wanted it, they were probably needy and kind of shallow. I now see a lot of defense mechanisms and internalized misogyny in these views, but there they were. And so my first married Valentine’s Day, I told Dave I didn’t want anything and bought us a romantic Men in Black DVD instead.
But at the end of the day, I felt sad that I didn’t have flowers or chocolate or some token of “Be Mine,” and I realized that, deep down, I did want to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Has it been used for capitalistic gain and caused pain via unmet expectations? Yes. But there’s a lot of good to be found in Valentine’s Day, too, and I still cared about it. The same can be said for Lent -- it’s a church season that has been used for legalistic, shame-ridden purposes. But at its heart, it’s for good, and I was always a little sad when I was part of churches that didn’t celebrate Lent and glad to be part of a church now that does.
Our pastor, in explaining why we follow the liturgical church calendar, points out that our lives are shaped by all kinds of calendars -- the school year, the sports seasons, different holidays, etc. -- and so it also makes sense for our lives to be shaped by a calendar that honors our faith. I’ve realized that I want to be shaped by the religious season of Lent. And when it comes to being shaped by secular calendars and days, I want Valentine’s Day to be one of them, too. Other people may feel differently, but that’s where I’m at, and it is disrespectful and dishonest to pretend otherwise. So I’ll take the strange juxtaposition of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday today, and look forward to the future juxtaposition this year of Easter and April Fool’s Day, although I think I’ll be okay not being shaped by the latter.
Matt Walsh’s article about why he doesn’t think Christians should do yoga has been generating some buzz around the internet. While I don’t want to rebut his article point by point, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share why I love yoga and feel comfortable practicing it as a Christian.
You may know that yoga has its origins in Hinduism, and there are chants and meditations that directly reflect them. I choose not to do those parts of yoga practice; I “plunder the Egyptians” as my philosophy professor Dr. Meek used to say, and take the physical and mental benefits from yoga and leave the rest behind. If the Calvinist idea that “all truth is God’s truth” is true, and I think it is, then we are allowed to celebrate and participate in the truth in secular and non-Christian thought and practice even as we acknowledge the brokenness and try to avoid the pitfalls. However, this is still a matter of conscience, and if you don’t feel good about doing yoga, you shouldn’t do it, and Christians who do feel comfortable doing it shouldn’t judge you for it. And let’s remember that, as someone on Twitter pointed out (whose tweet I can no longer find, unfortunately), Paul let people eat meat that was sacrificed to idols -- if that can be a matter of conscience, certainly yoga can, too.
That said, I think that yoga, at its best, offers physical and mental benefits and a knowledge of how the human body works that serves as a complement and sometimes corrective to the strictly Western view of medicine. Sometimes I think that in American Christians’ desire to avoid the practices of other religions, we reject the truths of Eastern thought in general. Just because something is Eastern doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, and just because something is Western doesn’t mean that it’s right or the only way of doing things.
For example, one of the main reasons I do yoga is that it’s very good for treating my endometriosis. The poses and stretches help keep blood flowing and break up adhesions, which also can decrease my pain. If I stuck to a strictly Western method of treating endometriosis, all I would have at my disposal is surgery and hormonal birth control. I’m grateful that these things exist, and I’ve used both of them at different times, but they both have significant costs, physical and financial. Yoga doesn’t.
In addition to not having physical costs, yoga also has significant mental benefits. For one thing, it’s great for treating my ADHD. I already wrote about how exercise in general is good for my ADHD, and yoga seems to be particularly effective. It forces you to be mindful and brings you back into your body, which is important when you get too much in your own head, as my counselor would say. I also just feel better about myself when I do it, and I suspect this is partially because of the wonderfulness of the instructor I follow, Allannah Law of YogaYin. (I may or may not have a woman crush on her.) She is gentle and positive, encouraging you to accept where your body is and not judge it, and to do things when you’re ready. I’ve been realizing the importance and power of acceptance a lot lately, and she’s helped me do that. I was brought to tears one day when I realized that God might view me in the same gentle, loving way that Allannah views all of her followers. The peaceful, non-judging ethos of yoga has been immensely healing for my judging, shame-fueled modus operandi.
For me, yoga has been immensely helpful, and its benefits outweigh the costs of having to be intentional and careful to not incorporate any elements that are too similar to Hindu beliefs that don’t align with my faith. I hope you can enjoy it, too, and if you do, please help me learn how to make downward dog less terrible. Thank you.
Hey everyone -- Mary’s husband Dave here. Anna, Lisa, and Mary have been taking a little hiatus amid the busyness of summer, (and some small life changes like, you know, getting married or moving across the country -- no big deal). Mary's posts will return next week. In the meantime, I thought I would share some thoughts from one of my most recent creative exploits: photography.
A few months back, Mary let me fit a new camera into our budget, my first DSLR. It has opened up my world to the wonders of good photography and photo-editing, and is my new favorite creative hobby. Photo-editing, in particular, is a lot of fun because it allows you to breathe life back into pictures that seemed to die somewhere between the shutter button and the computer screen.
One of the key steps of photo-editing is adding contrast. What is contrast? Contrast = difference. In photo-editing, it’s about the difference between tones and colors in an image. A photo with higher contrast will have lighter light areas, darker dark areas, and stronger colors, which can make for a more eye-catching and visually interesting picture. The amount of contrast needed depends largely on the scene and the intent of the image. In post-processing work, a little often goes a long way, and too much can be a disaster.
For example, consider this picture I took of Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes State Park:
Unedited, it’s meh. Not the vibrant blue waters I remember seeing in person.
Now here it is again with a little contrast added:
That little adjustment allows the colors and tones to pop, making for a much more appealing image.
Here’s another one of a butterfly I took awhile back, before (left side) and after (right side) increasing contrast:
So if some is good, more is better, right? (#’MURICA!) Well, let’s try turning the contrast all the way up and see what we get:
Ugh! Yuck! What happened?
To put it briefly, turning up the contrast decreased the variety of tones and shades in the picture, making all the dark areas closer to black and the light areas closer to white. In doing this, we effectively lose all the beautiful details and hue variety that made this photo great. All the intricate mid-level tones and colors that bridged the spectrum are gone, and we are left with an ugly and featureless mess.
What struck me the other day is how contrast in photography is similar to how it is with people. Our minds (like our eyes) tend to gravitate towards contrast -- we notice the differences in others quicker than we do the similarities. These differences are what make people (like our photos) so beautiful and interesting. Without any differences at all, everything and everybody would all be a grayish blob of nothing meaningful or true, kind of like the original lake photo with the contrast slider turned all the way down:
Yet the same contrast that helps us understand and appreciate God's world better threatens to distort and destroy our perspective if taken too far. If we see everything in extremes, then we have no eyes for the in-between, the huge spectrum of middle ground that helps us to see others (and ourselves) as beautiful people created in the image of God. In a black-and-white world, there’s no middle ground and no room to relate and understand, leading to a distorted mess.
The more I take photos, the more I realize that this world and the people in it are beautifully complex and different, with endless little details to look for and marvel at. I’m challenged by this thought, because as a Christian I tend towards black-and- white thinking, coloring the world with the limited shades that make up my worldview. But I’ve found I don’t have to compromise my palette of beliefs to enjoy a more colorful world, which is where I often get tripped up. Rather, I just have to turn the contrast down enough in my mind and in my eyes, and I’ll be able to see the shades that others are using.
This concludes my photography and life lesson for the day. :)
[Disclaimer: This post discusses this week’s episode of The Bachelorette. The Bachelorette is usually just entertaining garbage, but every now and again, something happens on it that makes you think. Unfortunately, sometimes, especially this season, that “something” is extremely problematic, and that is certainly the case with the situation I’m going to discuss here, which never should have aired on national television. I’m seriously questioning whether I’ll keep watching the show after this season as a result of this and other choices ABC has made. But, it did bring up a lot of thoughts for me, and I think they’re still worth discussing here.]
This week was “Hometowns” on The Bachelorette, in which our hero, Rachel, goes to visit the families of the four remaining men. One of these men, Dean, had indicated previously that his family wasn’t exactly Norman Rockwell-esque. After his mother died when he was a teenager, he felt emotionally abandoned by his dad. As a result, they don’t have a close relationship, and Dean even admits that he hasn’t seen him in two years. Suffice it to say he is not exactly pumped to introduce his girlfriend to him. Rachel, who comes from a very close, loving family, wants to try to help. And that’s where she goes wrong. As Molly Fitzpatrick writes,
Rachel is concerned by Dean’s estrangement from [his dad], and particularly concerned that he hasn’t tried to close the gap between them. She encourages Dean to confront his dad about the emotional distance he kept from his kids after their mother passed away, which seems like an objectively terrible plan for a high-stress reunion taking place on a national television show about dating. Also, quick reminder: Some parents are toxic and their children have every right to cut them out of their lives. That’s all!
Spoiler alert: It is a terrible plan, and it goes about as well as you might expect.
There was a lot of discussion around the internet and on podcasts about this event that shared Fitzpatrick’s concerns. Many people who also have toxic parents were painfully reminded of times when others didn’t understand their need for boundaries and only seemed to care about whether or not they had done their part to reach out and make it right. There were a lot of comments about the fact that some relationships can’t be saved (or if they can, the responsibility lies with the offending parents, not the child), but because that’s unsettling, people like Rachel can’t help but try to come up with the “solution” instead of comforting and trusting the person who’s hurting.
All of this reminded me of something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, which is that far too often, we assume that people’s problems are always 1) fixable, and therefore, 2) the most important thing we can do is “encourage” them to fix them. We investigate to see if they’ve done everything in their power to solve the problem, and if they haven’t, then we can conclude that they’re just being irresponsible or self-pitying. (Or, we may talk to ourselves about our own problems this way.)
That might be true if your problem is that you’re hungry but you just don’t feel like going to the grocery store. But what if your problem involves real pain? What if you’re really suffering? To fixate on the solutions in that case is just cruel because 1) There might not really be a solution, 2) If there is, it might be really, really hard, and 3) It might not be entirely within your control. In Dean’s case, for Rachel to focus on what HE’s done to fix it makes it seem like she’s kicking him while he’s down: “Sorry that your dad was so awful to you, but I can’t believe you haven’t done this REALLY HARD THING and reached out to him and fixed it!” Many people commented online that Rachel probably just didn’t understand how truly awful Dean’s family situation could be because she has such a good one; the possibility that a family situation may be so bad that it’s better to have your family out of your life doesn’t even occur to her.
It’s hard to just be sad with and comfort someone in deep pain, because let’s face it, deep pain is really uncomfortable, both to experience and observe. And if we’re Christians, we might not even feel like it’s okay. In Good News for Anxious Christians, Philip Cary talks about some Christians’ inability to accept the fact that other Christians may not always “experience joy, ” based on the lie that “You’re not really allowed to be sad at heart, because everybody says Christians are supposed to have a deep inner joy in their hearts, which is always there beneath all the troubles of life” (137-138). (Or, as I like to call it, “But everything’s okay because JESUS!”) He writes:
The idea that Christians are supposed to have a deep inner joy all the time is a terribly cruel notion….it turns people who wish to comfort the afflicted into tormentors. They want to help their suffering friends get their joy back, but in the process they insist their friends accept the underlying idea that it’s not normal for the Christian life to include deep suffering of heart. So in addition to their suffering, their friends are wounded by the suggestion that their affliction is due to some failure in their Christian life---as if there’s something wrong with Christians who have a cross to bear. (139)
Rather than be tormentors, Cary says, oftentimes we ought to simply “be present” with those who suffer and “recognize that sometimes we have no words to make things better” (147).
That’s what I think Rachel should have done when Dean told her about his issues with his family: quietly listened, acknowledged his feelings and his hardship, and let him know she was there for him. Maybe later it would have been appropriate to broach the possibility of talking to his dad as a way of helping Dean heal. But it wasn’t okay for her to blame Dean for not taking those steps yet and to try to immediately “fix” a situation she didn’t really understand, minimizing Dean’s pain.
This isn’t to say that what Rachel did isn’t understandable. I know that I probably would have done the same thing not that long ago. But if (and when) we do encounter someone who is deeply hurting, let’s remember to weep with those who weep.
I grew up in the Christian church, which is very big on the gospel. The gospel goes something like this: All of the bad things we’ve ever done deserve punishment. But Jesus Christ died on the cross to take away the punishment and grant us eternal life and lots of other awesome benefits. To access those benefits, you have to believe in Jesus and repent of all of your sins. When you repent, God forgives you, because of Jesus, and all is well.
Because the gospel is the Best News in the world, Christians talk about it A LOT. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What is bad is when these important categories start becoming the only categories in your life.
To be fair, I do sin quite a bit. And when I sin, I feel guilty. And then it is good for me to confess my sins and turn away from them. It’s a cleansing and freeing process. But having repentance emphasized so strongly meant that I began to see all my problems as sins. And then I started repenting for things I had no business repenting for.
I got depressed, and I repented.
I had negative feelings about people who hurt me, and I repented.
I made silly mistakes, and I repented.
I wasn’t fully reconciled to people I had forgiven, and I repented.
Other people got needlessly upset at me, and I repented.
I had low self-esteem, and I repented.
I got a bad haircut, and I repented (just kidding, but barely).
If I had any kind of problem, or any kind of bad feeling, the obvious answer seemed to be repentance. I needed to say I was sorry for whatever had happened, and then God would forgive me and I could stop feeling bad about it.
Unfortunately, it turns out that repentance is not a cure-all. It does not magically solve any and all problems. It is only good for dealing with actual sins. It’s pretty worthless when you try to use it where it doesn’t apply.
When I get depressed, I need medications or lifestyle changes to help me get out of it.
When I have negative feelings about people who hurt me, I need to know those feelings give me important information and work from there.
When I make silly mistakes, I need to learn from them and move on.
When I’m not fully reconciled to people I have forgiven, that can be hard, but it’s not wrong.
When other people get needlessly upset at me, I need to let it go. It’s not my issue.
When I have low self-esteem, there are things I can do to improve it.
When I get a bad haircut, the answer is hats.
These days, I am repenting for my actual sins, and finding appropriate responses to my other problems. Repentance is great, but it is not the answer to everything. It’s like I was trying to get ahead in Super Mario by destroying all the goombas and other enemies AND destroying all the blocks. You don’t need to destroy the blocks. That’s the wrong strategy, and it’s just a waste of time. I need to focus on the actual enemies, and treat blocks like blocks. My life is much better and makes a whole lot more sense.
This week in my series on Christians and self-esteem I’m going to respond to part of Tim Challies’ post “I Forbid You To Say These Things at My Funeral.” There’s a paragraph in his article that’s a good example of how many Christians are reluctant to refer to themselves or others as “good people,” which I think can be very harmful to those who struggle with low self-esteem, depression, and/or anxiety. Here’s the paragraph in question, in which Challies explains why he doesn’t want anyone to say “He was a good man” at his funeral:
He was a good man. He is now, but he wasn’t always. He is good now that he’s in that place where he has been perfected by an instantaneous act of God. He is good now that God has transformed him to take away all desire for ungodliness and unholiness. He’s good now, but he wasn’t on this side of the grave. Frankly, he could be kind of a jerk at times. He could be moody and arrogant and self-centered. He was bad. But he was also forgiven and battling to kill his love of sin and desire for sin. He was learning and growing and displaying God’s grace. But he wasn’t good. Not like he is now. Not like God had created him to be.
This kind of statement is problematic for a lot of reasons. First of all, let’s look at this from a common sense level. When people say someone was a good man, they’re usually not speaking about the theology of justification.They just mean that he was a decent person who was usually pleasant to be around. And I really think it’s okay to celebrate that. Not everything has to be about how we can’t merit eternal life with God outside of Christ. Just because we think someone is good doesn’t mean we think they were perfect.
Even little kids get this. There are good guys and bad guys, and you want to be one of the good ones. I think when Christians say things like this, especially at a funeral, when people typically want to honor the life of the loved one who’s died, they sound a little delusional, or like they can’t accept a compliment. And if it’s a Christian funeral, I’m pretty sure that the pastor, at some point, will mention the fact that it’s only because of Christ that the person is in heaven, anyway.
Second, this idea that the only real good is perfection and the removal of all sin, and unless you have that, you’re bad and aren’t good at all “this side of the grave,” doesn’t reflect the nuance of the Bible itself when it comes to discussing the good, the righteous, and the wicked. Yes, Jesus says in Luke 18:19 that only God is good, and that’s the kind of goodness that Challies is talking about. But, as Michael J. Kruger points out in his article “Is Anyone More Holy Than Anyone Else? The Missing Category of the ‘Righteous Man,” the Bible also refers to people like Noah, Elizabeth, Zechariah, and Joseph of Arimathea as “righteous,” and the Psalms also describe the “righteous” as opposed to the “wicked.” And Kruger doesn’t think this righteousness is only referring to Christ’s work, as he explains:
Surely we cannot suggest that all these passages are simply referring to the imputed righteousness of Christ (as important as that is). No, it appears the Bible uses this category of the “righteous man” for believers who display a marked consistency and faithfulness in walking with God. Of course, this doesn’t mean these people are perfect, sinless, or able to merit their own salvation. It simply means that the Spirit is at work in such a way that they bear steady fruit in their lives.
Therefore, according to Kruger, it is possible for some people to be more sanctified than others, even though we are all equally in need of justification, and so he rejects the tendency by Christians “to flatten out distinctions among believers and declare there are no differences between them.” To do so, he says, betrays a false belief that people can’t really change after they become Christians and ignores the fact “that Christ is also glorified in our sanctification.” As I said in a previous post, we don’t have to constantly tear ourselves down to give God more glory -- he gets glory in our goodness, too.
In fact, I’ll go beyond Kruger and say that we can talk about the goodness of non-Christians. Even though, as non-believers, non-Christians are not being sanctified and are not walking with God, they can and do follow God’s laws by his common grace, and that brings him glory, too. I think we can all attest that some non-Christians are way better people than some Christians, even as we acknowledge that only Christ can save them.
It’s clear that to speak about goodness and badness as all-or-nothing traits without nuance oversimplifies biblical truth, but it’s easy to do if you have high self-esteem. It’s a way to check your pride and reference the theology of justification while looking appealingly self-deprecating.
But if you struggle with depression, anxiety, and/or low self-esteem, it can be devastating. You already hear “I suck” and “I’m bad” in your head all day long, and reading things like Challies’ paragraph gives you confirmation that you’re right to think that way. It’s easy (and sounds pious) to talk about how bad you are when you actually feel pretty good about yourself in general. But if you don’t actually feel good about yourself, it’s a permission slip to continue your self-loathing.
Never calling people good sounds really holy, but it actually hurts people, AND it doesn’t even reflect the complexity of biblical truth. People like Tim Challies are afraid to call people good, because then they’ll think they don’t need Jesus. But you can need Jesus, and you can be a person worth celebrating. And if you struggle with low self-esteem, you desperately need to hear both of those messages.
Thanks to everyone who read and gave me feedback on this series! This will be the last post for now -- unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I'll continue to come across negative Christian messages about self-esteem, so I’ll likely be revisiting this topic from time to time. Until then, remember the words of Bob and Larry: God made you special, and he loves you very much.
As part of my series on Christians and self-esteem, I’m responding to what I see as a number of fallacies in Phylicia Masonheimer’s recent article, “Dear Women’s Ministry, Stop Telling Me I’m Beautiful.” Last week, I addressed the “it’s never about you” fallacy, or the idea that all we need to do to fix our issues is focus on God. I argued, in particular, that a high God-esteem isn’t enough to fix low self-esteem. This week, for my final post on this article, I want to look at another part of Masonheimer’s argument I’ll call the “it’s all your fault” fallacy.
Masonheimer’s article explicitly links the roots of insecurity and “poor self-image” to sin, and importantly, to “rebellion,” in the following passage:
The truth is that, apart from the transforming power of Christ, I’m not beautiful, special, or all that unique. I’m born into sin, and bent to rebellion. My insecurities and fears pulse through Adam’s blood in my veins. These can’t be rooted out with shallow “encouragements”. What I need – what every woman needs – is a soul-deep solution to the problem of sin. Insecurity is not the problem. Fear, poor self-image, marriage problems – these are just symptoms of the real disease. The disease is sin, and we all have it.
We need freedom, not compliments.
The gospel is good news only to those who recognize their need for Jesus. When you create a culture that uses Jesus for little more than a spiritual feel-good, it’s no wonder the women it produces can’t get victory over anxiety, anger, insecurity, or fear. They leave our churches knowing all about themselves, and knowing little about Christ.
Our insecurities and low self-esteem, therefore, are merely signs of a deeper problem, which is the sin that “we all have,” and that “[w]e need freedom from.” Our sin is also later referred to as “our pre-Jesus ugliness.”
The problem with attributing insecurities to sin and rebellion in this generalized way is that it implies that they are always the result of personal sin, or something that you are guilty of. In other words, insecurity is always “all your fault”( which is why I’m calling this idea the “it’s all your fault” fallacy).
The truth, though, is that there’s more nuance to sin than that, an idea first brought to my attention in Edward T. Welch’s book Shame Interrupted. (I’ve since realized that this book has its own issues with self-esteem, so I can’t fully endorse it, but on this point, it’s good.) Welch argues that we not only feel “shame from our own sin before God” but “from the sins of others and from our own weaknesses,” the latter of which include “[v]ictimization, neglect, physical disability, [and] intellectual disability” (265, 267). He also notes that shame is different from guilt:
Guilt. . . . says, “You are responsible for wrongdoing and legally answerable.” “You are wrong.” “You have sinned.” The guilty person expects punishment and needs forgiveness.
Shame. . . . says, “You don’t belong--you are unacceptable, unclean, and disgraced” because “You are wrong, you have sinned” (guilt), or “Wrong has been done to you” or “You are associated with those who are disgraced or outcast.” The shamed person feels worthless, expects rejection, and needs cleansing, fellowship, love, and acceptance. (11)
Guilt comes from our personal actions; shame can stem from guilt, but it can also stem from things that are not our fault at all. But because shame still feels bad, it’s easy to think we really did do something wrong, even if it’s not true (Welch 52). It’s even easier to make this mistake if Christians don’t do a good job of discussing sin, guilt, and shame in all of its complexities, and in my experience, they usually don’t. I hadn’t heard of any of this until I read Welch's book when I was 24.
And if there’s one aspect of sin that’s discussed the most, it’s our personal sin. If distinctions aren’t made, then, it’s easiest to assume that a discussion of sin refers to things that are our fault. That’s especially the case if you struggle with poor mental health and are already used to constantly putting yourself down.
Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, Masonheimer’s discussion of sin lacks nuance. I don’t think you have to mention all aspects of sin every time it’s discussed, but if you’re going to talk about insecurity and poor self-image, I think it’s absolutely necessary, because those issues are NOT always due to personal sin, and as I just said, the people who struggle with them are already more inclined to blame themselves.
Yes, you can have low self-esteem as a result of pride, the thinking being, as Welch says, “‘I want to be greater than I am and I feel bad because I am not more successful’” (though, I would add, this shouldn’t be confused with normal ambition or the desire to succeed) (9). But another of “low self-esteem’s accomplices” is shame that doesn’t come from guilt. I would go so far to say that if struggles with depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem are ongoing, they almost always stem from non-guilt shame.
They can be the result of chemical imbalances in the brain, the sad result of the brokenness of our bodies in a fallen world. They can be the result of years of being hurt by others through abuse or trauma. They can be both. The people who struggle with these things don’t need to be given another reason to feel bad about themselves by hearing about their “pre-Jesus ugliness” -- they need to know that they are accepted and loved and supported.
So please women’s (and men’s, and children’s) ministry, tell us we’re beautiful. We are God’s good and beautiful creation. We’ve sinned, and been sinned against, and suffered from the effects of sin on creation, but we’re not worthless, ugly worms. In fact, God valued us so much that he sent Jesus to give us life. He loves and cares for us in our struggles and will someday make all things right. Until then, we love and care for one another.
We can hear the whole truth of the gospel and feel good about ourselves. But some Christians, even if they do feel good about themselves, are reluctant to ever refer to themselves as “good people.” Next week I’ll talk about why I think that’s harmful by responding to a piece from Tim Challies. Stay tuned!
As part of my series on Christians and self-esteem, I’m responding to what I see as a number of fallacies in Phylicia Masonheimer’s recent article, “Dear Women’s Ministry, Stop Telling Me I’m Beautiful.” Last week, I addressed the “worms” fallacy, or the idea that we have no value or beauty apart from Christ and his redeeming work, and argued that we do have inherent value because we are created by God, whether we ever become Christians or not. This week, I want to look at another part of Masonheimer’s argument I’ll call the “it’s never about you” fallacy.
Masonheimer argues that focusing all of our attention on Christ will solve our insecurity issues. She refers to these as “insecurity, fear, and identity crises,” “poor self-image,” and “anxiety.” Hearing that we are beautiful won’t fix these problems, she argues: “exalting Christ” will. We don’t need to talk about us, just God. As she writes:
[W]hen all women do is worship Jesus, the insecurities, fears, and anxieties pale in comparison to His everlasting glory.
When our eyes turn to His beauty instead of pandering to ours, insecurities die.
When our ears listen for His voice instead of listening for more about us, fear has no place.
When our minds think about who He is instead of who we are, we find an identity wrapped in eternal purpose.
Worshiping and hearing about Jesus is all we need, then, to feel okay about ourselves. Masonheimer made this sentiment more clear in her comment to my first article:
The message I am writing "against", if you will, is "fluff" theology. Never digging deep into the gospel, saturating ourselves with God's Word, studying the Bible for ourselves to defeat depression, anxiety, and "low self esteem". A high God esteem, like you said, is the cure for low self esteem.
As I wrote back to her, I distinctly did not say that “A high God esteem...is the cure for low self esteem.” But this wording helpfully sums up the “it’s never about you” fallacy: the idea that “high God-esteem,” by itself, will solve low self-esteem, that all I need to do is focus on God to fix my personal issues. I don’t need to hear any application of the truth about God or understand how it applies to me, because it should never be about me or my issues. Praising God is all I need to “defeat” any insecurity, anxiety, or depression.
If you think I’m reading this idea into Masonheimer’s article, look at what one of the commenters wrote:
I’m only a senior in high school, so while I haven’t been to many women’s ministry events, I do see this idea also permeating youth ministry–instead of telling students about Christ, they try to tackle the superficial issues of relationships with peers and watered-down theology. Thank you for this reminder of what we really need to be focusing on–your writing has blessed me so much! It’s so important to remember that Christianity is, at its heart, so simple–all we need to focus on is Jesus. Not ourselves, not beauty, not marriage or self-esteem–only Christ.
Masonheimer’s response? “Excellent observation Kimberly! Good for you to notice this and be a difference among your peers!”
Masonheimer is being consistent here. The “it’s never about me” fallacy logically follows from the “worms” fallacy. If we believe, as she does, that all of our beauty and value comes from Christ alone, that we’re really just worms without Christ, messages really shouldn’t ever be about us. It makes perfect sense that all we need to do to cure our insecurity, anxiety, depression, or any self-esteem issue (or, apparently, any issue), is to focus on Christ and how good He is -- talking about ourselves won’t solve anything, because all we are is worms, anyway. I’ve already made my case for why the worms fallacy is wrong, but there other reasons why having high “God-esteem” and solely focusing on him won’t give us high self-esteem all by itself.
First, obviously, clinical depression and anxiety are mental illnesses that need mental, emotional and sometimes even physical solutions. They’re not spiritual problems. No one would tell a cancer patient that all they need to do is pray more -- they’d tell them to pray, but also to get chemo. Likewise, if someone has clinical depression, she should pray, but she also get counseling, cognitive therapy, medication, etc.
But let’s say we’re not even talking about clinical mental illnesses, but just about having low self-esteem or insecurity. Focusing solely on God and talking about how great he is, and never hearing about ourselves, won’t fix that either.
First, on a very general level, the whole idea that Christianity is only about looking at Christ and never focusing on ourselves and the issues we deal with cuts out half of the gospel. The gospel message is about God and all of his goodness and holiness, yes, but it’s also about what God has done and is doing for you. And even if we know that Jesus died for us, the question remains, as the title of one of Francis Schaeffer’s books says: How should we then live? Look at Paul’s letters -- they start out with theology and who God is, but then they move to specific instructions about specific issues, or application. It makes no sense that we would never, as Christians, need to focus on beauty, marriage, or self-esteem -- how we look at those issues should be influenced by how we view Christ and his gospel, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to look at the issues themselves. To go even further, the Christian life can’t just be solely about Jesus, because otherwise we’d never learn anything else, like math or spelling or how to drive a car.
But to focus more specifically on insecurity and self-esteem, only saying how great God is without any reference to ourselves will never give us self-worth. Just imagine the thought process here:
You: “Wow, I really don’t like myself that much. I don’t feel confident that I have anything of value to offer to anyone.”
Women’s Ministry Leader: “Well, did you know that Christ is AMAZING and he died for you?”
Would your response be: “Really? Great! I feel great about myself now! Thanks!”
That certainly hasn’t been my response. It’s been more like, “Wow, God really is great to die for someone as terrible as I am. He’s so great that he loves me even though I’m awful.” That’s high God-esteem, but does that sound like high self-esteem? From my personal experience, I can tell you that it doesn’t. I can talk all day about how great God is without feeling any better about myself.
What I need to hear is something like this:
Women’s Ministry Leader: “I’m really sorry you’re struggling with that. I hope you know that God, who is AMAZING, created you in His image and for a purpose, so you have dignity and worth. You are beautiful and special to Him. In fact, you are so valuable to him that even though you, like everyone else, are a sinner, he died for you so you could have a relationship and life with him, forever."
Me: “Wow, God really is great. And if GOD created me and loves me so much that he died for me, I really must have value and worth.”
That’s high God-esteem and high self-esteem. I need to hear not only about our great God, but about what our great God thinks about me (and, to get back to the worms fallacy, that he doesn’t think I’m worthless).
So, it’s not only okay but necessary for women to hear about themselves in addition to hearing about God, especially if they struggle with low self-esteem, depression, and/or anxiety. It can be about us sometimes.
But there’s another reason why Masonheimer thinks that it should only be about Jesus and not about us. She argues that insecurity is only one of many “symptoms of the real disease,” which is sin, often implying that the root cause of insecurity and low self-esteem is always personal sin. Next week I’ll discuss the fallacy behind that idea.
This week, Buzzfeed published a full document of unsubstantiated claims against Trump.
This was, as the Times said, a “break from typical journalistic practice,” and it’s been widely condemned. But you wouldn’t necessarily know that scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, which would lead you to believe all of journalism is falling to pieces.
This election season in general was not great for “the media.” People hate “the media,” and I use quotation marks, because who is “the media”? As a reporter, I'm pretty sure I'M "the media." Yes -- I absolutely agree that click-baity news is literally the worst, and that articles like Buzzfeed’s are extremely worrisome. But let's take a moment to remember there is still a lot of genuine, quality reporting going on.
This is why this article, written by a Christian journalist for the Washington Post late last year, spoke to my soul:
Your quick dismissal of the entire “mainstream media” feels deeply inaccurate to me as a Christian and a journalist — at least the kind of Christianity I was raised on, where the newspaper informed how we understood the world. The act of doing journalism is a way to live out my faith, a way to search for and then reveal truth in the world around me.
Her article talks about how much of the danger with villainizing the mainstream media is that people then rely on opinion sites, and then people live in their self-selected silos of information. That IS dangerous.
But what’s also dangerous is that of the little kids growing up in church communities that are constantly bashing the media -- how many of them do you think will grow up wanting to be a reporter? And if you think the media is so bad, why on earth wouldn't you want more Christians in journalism?
I had a pretty negative experience earlier this year visiting churches with my friend Katelyn, who is also a reporter. We went to a “meet the pastor” event, and he engaged us in conversation afterward: Where are we from? What did we do?
This was all well and good for about 30 seconds, until he found out we are reporters at the CapTimes.
The CapTimes is one of Madison’s traditionally progressive newspapers, and there’s no question the editorials tend to lean to the liberal side. But news and editorials are two completely different things, which is why the pages, editors and offices for each are completely separate. Everyone I work with has incredible integrity. If we published unsubstantiated claims, we would (rightly) hear about it from readership. Believe me, I have heard from readers for a lot less. (For example, I forgot to include an address in an article this morning, and someone tweeted at me five minutes later to tell me I had missed a "journo basic.")
I think if this pastor had read the CapTimes, he would see that. Instead, he asked whether we take all the facts, and then write a story, or just go in with the story we want to tell and rearrange the facts around that. He said reporters need to take logic classes. He spent about 10 minutes talking at us, and at the end we didn’t feel valued or treasured or even just politely engaged -- we felt attacked.
We did not go back to that church. But Katelyn did write an email politely explaining how offensive the experience was, so he could learn or whatever, because she is a good person.
And supposing we were columnists who had written scathing articles condemning the church --- shouldn’t he have welcomed us anyway?
Because think about this: if I, as a white, privileged Christian who has grown up in the church felt in no way welcome-- could you imagine if I wasn’t white, or had a criminal record, or was on the brink of poverty, or knew nothing about theology or wasn’t sure how I felt about Christianity? If Katelyn and I were condemned that much for being reporters, I can’t imagine how much condemnation those people would feel.
Why are we, as a church, so quick to villainize everybody? Wasn’t Jesus about the opposite of that? (Hint: yes.)
Here’s a great, encouraging tweet I saw this week, right after I saw one that was from a popular evangelical ripping into “the media”
We could all do with a little more of that.
I introduced a series on Christians and self-esteem several months ago, then promptly postponed it once I realized I didn’t have the brain capacity to devote to it while moving. I’m happy to say that I’m ready to start up again. As a refresher, I’m taking a look at harmful messages about self-esteem that I’ve seen being taught by Christians, messages which can have especially devastating effects for those who struggle with depression or anxiety. I described these types of messages in my introductory post as follows:
Some Christian teachings that I’ve read or heard really do contain the message that self-esteem is wrong, or at least it’s their logical conclusion. Some Christians really do think that feeling good about yourself denies the truth that we’re sinful. For some, there seems to be an obsession with sin, that above all else, we must never forget that we really do suck and don’t deserve anything.
It was pretty easy to get back into this series this week because, unfortunately, a fresh new example of this kind of thinking has been making its way around social media: “Dear Women’s Ministry, Stop Telling Me I’m Beautiful” by Phylicia Delta. The basic gist of her post is a plea to women’s ministries to “Stop preaching the easy message [that we’re beautiful and special], and start preaching the right one. Stop exalting us as women and start exalting Christ.” In other words, stop focusing on messages that raise self-esteem. Delta’s point might not seem harmful at first blush, but it is problematic on several levels. Today and over the next few weeks, I’m going to address the different fallacies Delta uses. Today I’ll start by discussing what I’m calling the worm fallacy. (I highly recommend you read her article first before reading the rest of this post.)
Delta begins by sending mixed signals about the message often given at women’s events -- “You are a beautiful, chosen, special woman of God. There is no one in the world like you!”” She starts out saying this message is “well-intentioned” but “deficient,” because we’re “not actually that special,” and “any woman who knows the depth of her own inadequacy will find these Christianized platitudes of beauty and ‘chosen-ness’ entirely insufficient for daily victory.”
But in the next paragraph Delta writes:
I’m not saying these encouragements are false. We are God’s handiwork (Eph. 2:10). We are chosen (1 Pet. 2:9). We are unique (Matt. 10:29-31). The question is not whether or not these things are true, but whether or not this is the most important message women need to hear.
Wait, what? So it is okay to say we’re beautiful and special?
I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one who finds Delta’s it’s-true-but-it’s-not-true dance a little unclear. If her issue was really that saying we’re beautiful isn’t telling the whole story, because we’re also sinners too, she would just say that. But she doesn’t do this. She decides that while the fact that we’re beautiful is true (with caveats), the fact that we’re sinners is more important, and in fact, we need to stop teaching the beauty message entirely.
Delta’s ultimate problem with the beauty message is revealed when she says that “women who think they’re pretty awesome don’t need a Savior,” and I think it’s this same anxiety that prompts so many Christians to downplay self-esteem in general, because if we feel okay about ourselves, why would we need God? After all, as Delta writes, “The gospel is good news only to those who recognize their need for Jesus.” So, it’s much more important that we focus on our sinfulness, lest we get too cocky.
Delta doubles down on this position in the comments:
In order to actually live out our identity in Christ as beautiful, chosen, etc., we have to recognize that we are first fallen, sinful beings ONLY made beautiful by the grace of God. If we were beautiful “just as we are”, Christ would not have had to die! Rather, we are MADE beautiful by the grace of God. When we turn our eyes to magnitude of that grace, we find security in our identity. But when we separate “you’re beautiful” from “…because of who Christ is”, the message becomes all about us and not about God.
This is a classic example of what I’m calling the worms fallacy, based on Dale Fincher’s and Chuck DeGroat’s excellent articles that I am heavily indebted to, “Unworthy, but Not Worthless” and “Dear Calvinist - You’re Not as Bad as You Think You Are,” respectively. It goes like this: Before Christ came and before we let him into our lives, we were like worms, with no beauty or value or worth of our own. In fact, we still have no worth apart from Christ. Fincher opens his article with a story of when he read about a worship leader who “said that the purpose of worship is to remember that we are worms before God.” DeGroat recounts a similar story:
I saw a pastor some time ago who was buried in guilt and shame. His mantra – I am far worse than I think I am, but God is far greater. He constantly reminded me of how much he needed the Gospel. I never understood what he meant by ‘Gospel’ (good news) until I said at one point, “Can you see that God smiles at you, embraces you, calls you his son?”
“No, no, no,” he retorted, somewhat reactively. “God cannot look upon me. He can only look upon Christ, who covers me. That is the Gospel.”
I don’t think DeGroat could have responded any better: “If that is the Gospel, that is not good news.” Because it isn’t! If our ultimate message as Christians is that everyone is tremendously awful, even once they’re Christians, that is insanely depressing, and I can’t think of any normal person who would want to get on board with that.
“But, Mary,” you might say, “Of course the world doesn’t get on board! The message of Christ has always inverted the expectations of the world. The first shall become last, etc.! Christ has always been a stumbling block to those who don’t trust him. Realizing that we have no value apart from Christ is just another thing that Christians have to hold to in the face of the comforting lies and deceptions of the fallen world that we’re beautiful and unique.”
To which I say, yes, the Gospel can seem foolish to the world, but it’s never because Jesus valued people less. The Pharisees were scandalized because he valued the the people that the world didn’t -- the poor, the struggling, the weak, the uneducated. His life showed that everyone has value, not that nobody does.
This isn’t to say that we’re not sinners, or that we deserve God’s grace. But that doesn’t mean that we have no value outside of Christ. Fincher explains this well in his article when argues that we are unworthy, not worthless:
“Unworthy” is failing to live up to requirements….If you fail to study for a test, you do not deserve a high grade….You are unworthy of reward when you fail to do what is reward-worthy….You do not deserve God to reward you when, through sin, you’ve done nothing to deserve that reward….To be worthless, however, is quite different. While being unworthy is about our merits, being worthless is about our value. If you lost the Boston Marathon, you are as full of value as the person who won….Jesus did not come for the worthless. He came for the unworthy. Jesus came for those who are valuable. His coming did not make us valuable.
But where does that original value come from? Or as Delta asks in a reply to another comment, “But if we are “beautiful just the way we are”, what role does God even play?” How about the role of creator? We’re valuable and beautiful because God created us, even more so because we were created in his image. How insulting to God is it if we deny that value? As Fincher says, “Creation came before the Cross. We were made valuable in Eden before any temptation to think otherwise.” DeGroat argues the same thing using Calvin’s idea that “sin is not our core identity” but “an invading vandal,” meaning that we have, in fact, an “original goodness.” Shocking, right? It sounds wrong to say that, doesn’t it? And it’s all because of the anxiety that we’ll think we don’t need Jesus if we think we’re any good; as DeGroat goes on to say,
I do sometimes wonder if we’re so afraid of ennobling humanity that we choose a perverted form of Calvinism – a neo-Puritan wormology which defines us first and foremost as depraved rather than dignified. We start at Genesis 3 rather than Genesis 1.
Creation comes first. If we’re going to tell the whole story, it has to be the real whole story, of Creation, Fall, and Redemption, not just Fall and Redemption. In another comment, Phylicia says, “We only fully grasp our beauty when we understand the grace of God and the profundity of the gospel!” That’s true, but only when we know the entire gospel!
But won’t understanding our value diminish God’s glory and goodness in saving us? After all, getting back to Delta, isn’t it true that “our pre-Jesus ugliness magnifies the beauty of God’s love”? It is true that God’s love is shown in the fact that he saved us when we were sinners -Romans 5:8, anyone? But we don’t have to berate ourselves and focus on how we’re even worse than we thought to demonstrate this. Delta says that women’s ministries should focus on Christ, not women. Perfect! Because, as my husband Dave says, we can emphasize God’s glory by focusing on his holiness and bringing him up, not bringing ourselves down.
What does this look like? It’s not by saying, as Delta does, that “He came because we were too grossly sinful to bridge the gap between ourselves and God.” Notice that she says we were too sinful. That implies that if we were less sinful, we might have been able to bridge that gap on our own, which is exactly what Delta doesn’t mean. The truth is that even if we were the best people in the world, who never sinned except for having one fleeting uncharitable thought, we still couldn’t bridge the gap. That’s how holy God is -- anything less than utter perfection leaves us in desperate need of a savior.
So while we are indeed more sinful than we think, I think it’s unhelpful to make that the emphasis to prove the point of God’s glory, especially if you struggle with anxiety, depression and/or self-worth. Start with how great God is, and we’ll figure out how sinful we are. You notice that Isaiah did not say “I am ruined!” after God presented him with a list of all of his sins, but after he saw God in all of his holiness and glory.
To sum up: Delta’s post gives harmful messages about self-esteem because she believes that we have no beauty apart from Christ. The implication is that without Christ, we really are the worst, and that’s what’s most important for Christian women to hear. Can you imagine how hard it would be for women who suffer from mental illness and/or low self-worth to be part of a women’s ministry that emphasizes this?
The thing is, I think Delta thinks that her message will help those women; she claims that focusing on Christ’s beauty and not our own will kill our insecurity. Next week I’ll address the fallacy behind that idea.
After publishing this post, it was brought to my attention that Phylicia's last name is not Delta but Masonheimer. I apologize for the error.
Today's post comes from my wise and encouraging husband, Andy.
Recently I’ve had several conversations in which someone makes a startling admission: “I don’t really know how to read my Bible.”
This admission shouldn’t be startling, even though we often pretend it is. Let’s get real for a second: the Bible is a complicated and tough book, and it takes time to get the hang of it. There’s poetry, historical narrative, prophecy, letters, and ancient proverbs. Sure, the Game-of-Thrones-like action of Judges is easy enough to get behind, but what about Lamentations? And even with the good stories, what am I supposed to be learning from this stuff?
And since this is a safe place here, let’s admit it: we all struggle with reading and learning from the Bible. Unfortunately, this blog post is not going to fix that problem, but hopefully I can point you in the right direction. Here are three tips for better Bible reading:
1. Realize that Reading Your Bible Is Not the Measure of Your Piety
Not many Christians would say outright that Bible reading is the highest Christian practice, but many of them communicate in such a way that leaves this impression. Just as an example, in Donald Whitney’s modern classic Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, the only topic that receives two chapters is “Bible Intake,” while topics such as worship, prayer, fasting, and a host of other important Christian practices are given only one chapter.
This sort of thinking leads many Christians who are discouraged about their own Bible reading to stay silent. They know that if they told people that they struggled with reading their Bibles, those people would question their commitment to their faith. If they told people they hadn’t read the their Bible in seven months, those people would probably start praying for their salvation.
Realize that you are probably in both groups of people: you have struggles with reading your Bible, but if you heard someone else was struggling in the same way, you’d worry about them. Since everyone is on both sides of the aisle, I only need give one piece of advice: R-E-L-A-X (cf. Aaron Rodgers).
Is Bible reading important? Yes. Should we encourage one another toward this habit of grace? Yes. Does it prove who is a good Christian and who isn’t? No. You are saved by faith in Christ and his benefits, applied to you through the means of grace (preaching, Baptism, Lord’s Supper). Bible reading is just one of a host of things we should be encouraging each other to pursue in light of this fact.
The Bible is much more interested in your character than in your Bible reading. Kevin DeYoung hits the nail on the head:
Christians often equate holiness with activism and spiritual disciplines. And while it’s true that activism is often the outgrowth of holiness and spiritual disciplines are necessary for the cultivation of holiness, the pattern of piety in the Scripture is more explicitly about our character. We put off sin and put on righteousness.***
If you have a choice between following the sermon you heard on Sunday and practicing patience more consistently, or reading your Bible more consistently, go with the former. Now, of course, this is a false dichotomy. You can do both; just be sure your priorities are in the right spot. One is a biblical imperative, the other is a helpful practice for Spiritual growth.
2. It’s a Long Game
The nineteenth century Presbyterian Professor of Preaching R.L. Dabney told his students, “Now, it is the preacher’s business, in his public discourses, to give his people teaching by example, in the art of interpreting the Word: he should exhibit before them, in actual use, the methods by which the legitimate meaning is to be evolved.”*
In other words, we should learn how to read our Bibles from hearing the sermon on Sunday mornings. And not just one sermon, but hundreds. You aren’t going to listen to one sermon and be able to read the Bible just like your pastor. It will take some time. Just let the sound teaching of the Word of God slowly seep into your consciousness, and soon that sound teaching is going to start flowing back out again when you read your Bible.**
In fact, let me blow your mind a little more: the Bible doesn’t really say that much about personal Bible reading. Many portions of Scripture that exclaim the virtues of the Word of God, are contextually talking about the preached word of God. For example, the beautiful description of God’s word being “God-breathed” in 1 Timothy 3 flows not into an exhortation to read the Scriptures, but a strong charge to the young preacher Timothy to “preach the Word” (1 Tim 4:1-3). Don’t overemphasize your personal devotions to the detriment of the place of preaching in the Christian life.
3. Get a Plan and Start Trudging Away
Like most habits, Bible reading is hardest at the beginning and slowly gets easier. Get your hands on a good reading plan and just start. I would recommend a plan that isn’t schedule dependent (reading for Jan 1, then Jan 2, etc.). These plans are nice in theory, but leave no room for a forgotten day, Sabbath rest, a day when you are sick, visiting relatives, etc. Eventually you find yourself reading Jan 15th’s readings on Feb 2nd, you get discouraged, and never pick it up again. Find a plan you can pick up easily, even after a dry spell.
The system is built around quantity and diversity in Bible reading. Each day you read one chapter of the Bible from ten different locations. The links above provide ten different lists of biblical books. Each day you read one chapter from each list. When you finish a list, you start it over again. Ten chapters might sound like a lot, but the diversity of the readings, and the fact that you are in ten different stories each day, keeps even the rookie reader engaged. The idea is that, while you won’t understand everything, the breadth of what you are reading will give you the scope of doctrine taught by Scripture.
In my opinion, Professor Horner’s dispensational roots show in the lists provided (very New Testament heavy), so I modified it a bit for my personal reading. If you have no idea what I just said, don’t worry about it. Here are my modified lists (only 9, not 10):
List 1: Matthew, Mark, Acts, Luke, John, Acts
List 2: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
List 3: Romans, I&II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Hebrews
List 4: I&II Thess, I&II Tim, Titus, Philemon, James, I&II Peter, I,II&III John, Jude, Revelation
List 5: Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Proverbs
List 6: Psalms
List 7: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I&II Samuel, I&II Kings, I&II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
List 8: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel,
List 9: Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
I highly recommend this plan. If you follow the link provided above you can find a printable .pdf with bookmarks for each list to put in your Bible. It has been great for me. But hey, it might not work for you. There isn’t one right plan. Find one that works for you and go for it.
*Dabney, “Evangelical Eloquence,” Lecture 5.
**...and talk to friends and parent your kids and disagree with your spouse and make life decisions, etc. I think you get the point. Listen carefully to the Word preached.
***Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 40.