Tuesday, June 30, 2009
When parishioners of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Roman Catholic Shrine in Melrose Park decided to create gold crowns for statues of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, they donated to the cause by reaching deep into their hearts and memories.
Joe Rosa gave his grandfather's wedding band. Corinne Principe wept as she slipped her own wedding ring off her finger. Antonio Godinez removed the big Jesus medallion he wore close to his heart and plopped it into a collection basket.
In all, 15 pounds of gold was given, including a dozen gold watches, several rings, bangle bracelets, earrings, chains and medals. Carrying out a religious tradition from Southern Italy, the donated gold was then melted down and molded into two new 14-karat gold crowns appraised at $75,000.
The call for jewelry went out last July during the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and brought donations not only from the parish but from Italian Catholics across the nation. Struck by the devotion, the pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Rev. Claudio Holzer, e-mailed the Vatican to request a papal blessing for the crowns.
Few expected a response. But within a week, a Vatican aide approved and asked that the crowns be brought to Rome. Last month, Holzer and 35 parishioners traveled to Italy for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI where he blessed the crowns."This is very emotional for all of us," said Principe, who has been married for 41 years. "I didn't think twice about giving my wedding ring. I wanted a piece of me to be with her always, so she could pray for me and my family."
News out of Great Britain indicates that Richard Dawkins, perhaps the world's most famous living atheist, is setting up a summer camp intended to help children and teenagers adopt atheism. As The Times [London] reports: "Give Richard Dawkins a child for a week's summer camp and he will try to give you an atheist for life."
The camp, based upon an American precursor, is to be financially subsidized by Dawkins. According to media reports, all 24 places at the camp have been taken. As Lois Rogers of The Times reports:
Budding atheists will be given lessons to arm themselves in the ways of rational scepticism. There will be sessions in moral philosophy and evolutionary biology along with more conventional pursuits such as trekking and tug-of-war. There will also be a £10 prize for the child who can disprove the existence of the mythical unicorn.
The organizers of the camp are doing everything possible to emulate more traditional summer camps, generally organized by Christian groups or venerable organizations such as the Boy Scouts. Campers are to learn about evolution even as they go canoeing and swimming. Like their counterparts at Christian camps, these campers will sing songs around the campfire. As might be expected, the songs will be quite different. "Instead of singing Kumbiya and other campfire favourites, they will sit around the embers belting out 'Imagine there’s no heaven . . . and no religion too.'"
Monday, June 29, 2009
Chalke asks some interesting questions. He is concerned that people almost universally think of ‘certain elements of the Church as judgemental, guilt inducing, bigoted and self-righteous’ (RTC, p. 1). He fears that these perceptions arise from what we believe about the cross, since how we behave inevitably stems from what we believe. If our society dismisses the cross, perhaps that is because we have misrepresented it in our lives. In particular, perhaps we have failed to grasp the wider significance of the cross. Here Chalke has social and political concerns. He wants to know what the cross means not just for individuals, but for the creation and its life as a whole: ‘Has Christ’s death on the Cross got any relevance or meaning beyond the individual eternal destiny of his followers?’ (RTC, p. 2). What, for example, does it mean for foreign policy or for the present terrorist threat? Chalke does not in so many words say that he thinks that the doctrine of penal substitution is to blame for our neglect here, but he implies it. The pieces raise a set of problems, and the only finger pointed as they unfold is aimed at penal substitution.Read the entire article HERE.
As he moves on, Chalke is keen to affirm ‘a clear substitutionary element’ in his understanding of the cross (RTC, p. 2). This is of course distinct from a penal substitutionary element, since it implies only that Christ did something in our place, not that he bore punishment in our place. For Chalke, this substitutionary element is part of a ‘multicoloured rather than monochrome’ theology of the cross (RTC, p. 2). That said, the ‘centre point of this biblical mosaic’ is the idea that by both his death and resurrection Jesus Christ is victor over the forces of evil and sin (RTCS, p. 2).
By contrast, Chalke introduces penal substitution: ‘a righteous God is angry with sinners and demands justice. His wrath can only be appeased through bringing about the violent death of his Son’ (RTC, p. 2). This, he says, ‘is a totally different matter’ (RTCS, p. 2).
Chalke does not here accurately state the doctrine of penal substitution. Note that he does not say that ‘some people express the doctrine like this’ or that people often mangle it when they explain it, which may be true. Rather, he explains the ‘concept’ itself (RTCS, p. 2). Perhaps he has heard this account of the doctrine or been taught it somewhere, but the inaccuracy remains, and it comes from a leader who wishes to explain how we should think about the death of Jesus and who presents himself as competent to give a potted summary of the history of the doctrine.
The problem is simple. Penal substitution, rightly understood, does not teach that ‘God […] brought about the violent death of his Son’ (RTCS, p. 2). It teaches that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit together purposed that the Son should become a man and as a man bear on the cross God’s just punishment for sin in the place of sinners. Chalke’s phrasing makes it look as if party A (God) ‘brought about’ the death of party B (his Son), with the overtone being that this was something inflicted by A on B. I do not infer unfairly: this implication emerges clearly when Chalke speaks of such a God as a ‘cosmic child abuser’ (RTCS, p. 2).
- Octavius Winslow from Personal Declension and Revival
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
When the Lord’s ways do not neatly conform to our pat little paradigms of what seems (to our fallible minds) right and just, and good and faithful, it says something about human nature that usually the first thought that comes to mind is that something is wrong with God. Somehow the last thing that occurs to us is that God is simply too big for our small boxes. It is imperative at such times that we learn to be humble, not haughty. God always deserves the benefit of the doubt. And, faith always pleads with us, “Dear soul, trust in God’s power, trust God’s wisdom, trust God’s goodness, trust God’s faithfulness—even though to your mixed-up, emotionally over-charged mind he doesn’t seem to be living up to his resume or promises. Just do it anyways.
Christian common sense should also remind us that divine revelation is always a far more reliable barometer of reality that our personal perceptions, distorted as they are by how we think a moral and upright God is obliged to behave in this situation or that. Friends, my advice is this: discount personal feelings—rest in the biblical facts. Don’t always be awash in how things seem; anchor your faith on how divine revelation says they are. Never allow blind emotions to float you off into the open sea of doubt.
With that adjustment, one can trust his goodness even when God may not seem to be good; one can trust his wisdom even when he may not seem to be wise; one can trust he is acting in character even when he may not seem to be measuring up to his own revealed profile; one can trust his power even when it seems he is weak; one can trust his faithfulness even when it seems he is not being faithful.
Sanford may very well turn out to be guilty of hypocrisy if he refuses to resign. But he is repeatedly being refereed to as a hypocrite for the wrong reasons by people who are apparently ignorant about what hypocrisy is.Read the entire article HERE.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines hypocrisy as “The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.” The British literary critic William Hazlitt once explained, “He is a hypocrite who professes what he does not believe; not he who does not practice all he wishes or approves.”
By all appearances, Sanford does indeed believe in marital fidelity. His failures so far are due to his behaving in a way that does not comport with those values; a matter not of hypocrisy but of moral inconsistency. Such consistency is essential—particularly for democratically elected representatives—for establishing and maintaining trust. This is why private behavior has such public implications. The marital infidelity of a elected officials strong signal they are untrustworthy: If a man cannot be trusted to keep a sacred vow to an intimate, how can I trust him to keep his word to me, a stranger?...
Sanford believes that there is an objective moral standard and that his sin (his word) was a result of his external actions being inconsistent with his internal beliefs. Many of his detractors, however, believe that because all moral standards are subjective and internal, behavior can’t be objectively immoral, it can only be inconsistent...
The problem is not with pointing out moral inconsistency, which can aid a person in readjusting their level of integrity. The problem is that this approach rewards those with low moral standards. Anyone with high moral standards is likely to come up short, thus opening themselves to the charge of being morally inconsistent (or in their mangled use of the term, a hypocrite). But I would prefer to have politicians who fail to live up to objective moral standards than to to have those who think no such standards exist.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Personalized List of Anticipated Consequences of Immorality
Grieving my Lord; displeasing the One whose opinion most matters.
Dragging into the mud Christ's sacred reputation.
Loss of reward and commendation from God.
Having to one day look Jesus in the face at the judgment seat and give an account of why I did it.
Forcing God to discipline me in various ways.
Following in the footsteps of men I know of whose immorality forfeited their ministry and caused me to shudder. List of these names:
Suffering of innocent people around me who would get hit by my shrapnel (a la
Untold hurt to Nanci, my best friend and loyal wife.
Loss of Nanci's respect and trust.
Hurt to and loss of credibility with my beloved daughters, Karina and Angela. ("Why listen to a man who betrayed Mom and us?")
If my blindness should continue or my family be unable to forgive, I could lose my wife and my children forever.
Shame to my family. (The cruel comments of others who would invariably find out.)
Shame to my church family.
Shame and hurt to my fellow pastors and elders. List of names:
Shame and hurt to my friends, and especially those I've led to Christ and discipled. List of names:
Guilt awfully hard to shake—even though God would forgive me, would I forgive myself?
Plaguing memories and flashbacks that could taint future intimacy with my wife.
Disqualifying myself after having preached to others.
Surrender of the things I am called to and love to do—teach and preach and write and minister to others. Forfeiting forever certain opportunities to serve God.
Years of training and experience in ministry wasted for a long period of time, maybe permanently.
Being haunted by my sin as I look in the eyes of others, and having it all dredged up again wherever I go and whatever I do.
Undermining the hard work and prayers of others by saying to our community "this is a hypocrite—who can take seriously anything he and his church have said and done?"
Laughter, rejoicing and blasphemous smugness by those who disrespect God and the church (2 Samuel 12:14).
Bringing great pleasure to Satan, the Enemy of God.
Heaping judgment and endless problems on the person I would have committed adultery with.
Possible diseases (pain, constant reminder to me and my wife, possible infection of Nanci, or in the case of AIDS, even causing her death, as well as mine.)
Possible pregnancy, with its personal and financial implications.
Loss of self-respect, discrediting my own name, and invoking shame and lifelong embarrassment upon myself.
Read the entire post HERE.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
A.: True faith is not only a sure knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his Word, but also a hearty trust, which the Holy Spirit works in me by the Gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.
- From the Heidelberg Catechism
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
There has been quite a bit of buz concerning the latest stats about the number of young people raised in the church who abandon the church and even the faith once they graduate from high school. In light of these trends Kimberly Wagner over at True Woman has posted some thoughts for the church to consider.
- 69–94 percent of Christian youth forsake their faith after leaving high school.
- An additional 64 percent loss after college graduation.
- 75 percent loss of students from The Assemblies of God churches within one year of high school graduation.
- 88 percent loss of students from churches within the Southern Baptist Convention.
- 94 percent fallout within two years of high school graduation was reported by Josh McDowell Ministries.1
What is the problem?
A heavy burden for the next generation of Christian leaders caused my husband to spend an extended period seeking God's guidance and direction for insight into this growing trend. What he came away with resulted in (for us) a completely new approach toward ministry.
We grew up in the "program-driven model" of doing church. That's all we'd ever known or experienced. My husband surrendered to ministry when only 13 years old and was asked to preach a message at youth camp the very next evening! He was called to pastor his first church when he was barely 18, before he even started college. We kind of "slid into" the pattern of "doing ministry" the only way we knew how. But after seeking the Lord on His view of the church, my husband came to a few different conclusions than what we'd practiced most of our lives.
We noticed our young families were spending more evenings attending church activities than they spent at home, often dragging young ones through the church door, rushing them into some childcare program, dashing down a hall to slip into an adult Bible study class without even having time to eat an evening meal until possibly 9:00 at night! We started counting up how many hours that our church was dividing up the family in order to have "spiritual activities." We were alarmed by what we discovered.
Read the entire article HERE.
Do you think these stats are acurate? Are there any "qualifiers" for these stats? For instance, those young people who depart for only a season but return.
Earlier this week, members of the President’s Council on Bioethics were told by the White House that their services were no longer needed. President Obama’s decision was made and implemented in his typical style—gracious, pragmatic, and imprudent. According to the New York Times, the council was disbanded because it was designed by the Bush administration to be “a philosophically leaning advisory group” that favored discussion over developing a shared consensus. The new bioethics commission appointed by Obama will have a new mandate to offer “practical policy options.”Read the entire article HERE.
In other words, the Obama administration already knows where it stands on all those pesky moral issues like human cloning, chimeras, and euthanasia, and just needs a group to provide advice on how to implement its preferred policies. Whereas the previous councils wrestled with such questions as “What is the nature of human dignity?” the new one will most likely be addressing more practical policy options, such as “How much should we pay women to harvest their eggs for cloning?”
The previous councils appointed by President Bush were accused of being ideologically biased. And so they were. Most of the members appeared to have a bias in favor of dignity and against giving free reign to technological innovations that alter our identity as humans.* The new council, of course, will also be ideologically biased, though likely in a more narrow way that is in line with progressive bioethics. (To predict where the new council will stand you merely have to ask, “What would Art Caplan do?”)
Friday, June 19, 2009
Richard Gamble offers a comprehensive theology attuned to the methodological advantages of biblical theology combined with the strengths of historical and systematic theology. Drawing on the best work in these disciplines throughout church history, he leads us in an integrated pursuit of the whole counsel of God.
This volume, the first of three, recounts God's mighty acts in the Old Testament, disclosing the theology of the Old Testament within the progressive and historical development of the Bible. It contains a survey of the entire Old Testament with discussions of many diverse topics.
This volume, the first of three, recounts God's mighty acts in the Old Testament. It discloses the theology of the Old Testament within the organic, progressive, historical development of the Bible. Gamble blends a survey of the entire Old Testament with discussions of topics as diverse as the canon, days of creation, faith and reason, covenants, the Ten Commandments, Old Testament ecclesiology, the nature of God, justification, and Old Testament apologetics.
“But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has given over the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers. So today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it.”
From the Daily Beast:
Statistically speaking, Christians can be annoying. That’s according to a poll cited in the new book Lost and Found, in which religion researchers Ed Stetzer, Richie Stanley, and Jason Hayes reveal that 46 percent of non-church-attending young adults agree with the statement, “Christians get on my nerves.”
It’s not surprising that pushy evangelists and holier-than-thou Jesus freaks are an irritant to many. What’s surprising is the stat: Only 46 percent? The researchers could have recorded a far higher rate of annoyance had they identified specific Christians: Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt get on my nerves. Agree or disagree?
That’s the only conclusion one could draw following an active fortnight of on-air proselytizing from Montag and Pratt, the married stars—collectively known as “Speidi”—of the MTV reality series The Hills. This two-headed publicity monster has dominated the celebrity news cycle with Gosselin-like ubiquity this week, dishing out Christian drama and name-dropping Jesus Christ like old-time celebvangelists.
Read the entire post HERE.
Man today rejects out of hand the idea that he must one day render account for his life and its decisions. His loss of conviction concerning an after-life, combined with the erosion of the notion of moral responsibility on the basis of popular understanding of psychological and psycho-analytical theories, has contributed to the moral indifference and pragmatism of our times. Moral issues, in so far as they matter at all, relate only to the present moment and to considerations of personal happiness. The thought that they might relate to some transcendent divine dimension, or that all men will one day be inescapably summoned to accept responsibility for these very moral decisions in the all-seeing presence of their Creator, is anathema. Unforunately for modern man it happens to be true. Judgment is inevitable and awaits us all. In face of this modern tendency to dismiss future judgment there is the greater and more urgent responsibility placed upon the Christian church tenaciously to maintain the biblical perspective.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Carl R TruemanCornerstone OPC Sunday SchoolDecember 2007
1. Introduction *
Audio HERE / PDF HERE
Audio HERE / PDF HERE
Audio HERE / PDF HERE
Audio HERE / PDF HERE
Click on the audio link to play. To download, right click on the name of the file and click on save.
*The first lecture was given at Twin Lakes Fellowship, April 2008. Audio provided by First Presbyterian Church, Jackson Mississippi.
I posted on Biblearc.com a while back. Seeing Justin Taylor's post on it today prompted me to give another opportunity to check out this very helpful approach to studying the Bible.
Tom Steller recently wrote about the wonderful tool that's been developed, Biblearc.com:
It is a crucial tool in our discipleship of those preparing for a vocational ministry of the Word and for hungry men and women and teens who simply want to see more clearly the beauty of biblical truth in its scriptural context. Biblearc.com has made the method so much easier to learn, to teach, to use, and to share insights with others.
It was developed by a graduate of The Bethlehem Institute, who is currently preparing to go to the Middle East to spread a passion for the supremacy of Christ among unreached peoples there. He is in process of donating Biblearc.com to Bethlehem College and Seminary, who will pay him to maintain and further develop the site, which in turn will contribute toward his missionary support.
Though the site is free for anyone in the world to use, a growing number have chosen to subscribe to a service which allows you to store your arcs on line and share them easily with others. This $10 yearly subscription will allow us to contribute toward the support of this couple serving in the Middle East. Like a lot of things we do, this subscription fee is a “whatever you can afford” fee. So if you can afford only $5 a year, that’s ok. If you can afford $50 a year and want to support this missionary couple that would be great as well.
Here are a few improvements that have been recently made to Biblearc.com:
- a "Share" section by which you can view others' work, with Email Alerts
- ability to Email Your Arc from the site
- Instant Parsing of Greek words
- the Old Testament in both English and Hebrew
- LBLA (Spanish translation) added
- Auto-Save option
- Translucent Sticky Notes
- new Tabs for easier viewing of your arc, notes, and comments
- Rich Text Editor for propositions, sticky notes, and notes tab
- Instant Search of your arcs
- new Arc Graphics (for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari) that are 10x faster and
much more attractive
James D.G. Dunn once referred to the epistle of James as "the most Jewish, the most undistinctively Christian document in the New Testament."  We all know that Martin Luther had serious concerns about the content of the epistle of James referring to it as "an epistle of straw" and noting that it contained "nothing of the nature of the gospel."  The epistle of James has been saddled with accusations of being "sub-Christian" and bereft of Jesus. On top of all this, the epistle has to be continually defended against charges that it conflicts with the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith alone.
Clearly, the epistle of James is much maligned and, in my opinion, these charges have resulted in a paucity of preaching Christ from the epistle of James. While it does require some additional exegetical effort, the voice of Jesus can be heard among the verses of this grand epistle. In fact, the voice of Jesus can be heard in the epistle of James in ways it is heard no where else in the New Testament epistolary corpus. This article will explore three ways in which the voice of Christ resounds in the epistle of James.
Read the entire article HERE.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
“In Reformed churches, the tradition has been to put the Pulpit in the center because of the centrality of preaching and the Word as a means of grace. The Pulpit is not just a utility stand for the preacher to use to hold his notes, but a weighty visual anchor to point to the significance of the proclaimed Word itself (which is why some churches have favored massive pulpits). In fact, some churches have a big pulpit (with Bible) in the center that is used only for preaching, with a smaller lectern to the side used for other readings and worship leading.
In contemporary times, we’ve seen a reduction of pulpit size generally because of our culture’s increasing emphasis on the person doing the preaching. We don’t want our preachers hiding behind a wall. We want to see them, and connect with them as people, not just with their spoken ideas. That emphasis has its pastor-as-rock-star dangers of course, but it’s also an expression of the incarnated Word. God comes to us not as an idea, but as a person who empties himself of greatness and loves and suffers and dies along side us and in our place. The preacher does the same in trying to bear witness with their whole being.
So I think the way we’ve reduced the pulpit is entirely appropriate, though I’d rather not see the pulpit disappear altogether. The Word is still central. And even more than the Pulpit, we should find a place for the Bible as a visual reminder.”
- Steven Koster
Not out of any relish for the five-century split, but out of concern for the only source of the church's existence, unity, and mission, a couple of fairly recent news items are worth bearing in mind when we ask whether John Calvin is still relevant after five centuries.
U.S. newspapers have recently been running stories on the Vatican's 'Year of St. Paul.' The focus of most articles is teh pope's decision to offer indulgences to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of the apostle's birth. Best known for his rich proclamation of free grace and severe condemnation of any church that would preach a different gospel, Paul's birth being celebrated with indulgences is ironic in the extreme. The special year is to last unitl June 2009. According to the Vatican website:
"The gift of Indulgences which the Roman Pontiff offers to the universal Church, truly smoothes the way to attaining a supreme degree of inner purification which, while honouring the Blessed Apostle Paul, exalts the supernatural life in the hearts of the faithful and gently encourages them to do good deeds...[Supplicants who do this] will be granted the Plenary [full] Indulgence from temporal punishment for his/her sins, once sacramental forgiveness and pardon for any shortcomings has been obtained...The Christian faithful may benefit from the Plenary Indulgence both for themselves and for the deceased, as many times as they fulfill the required conditions but without prejudice to the norm stipulating that the Plenary Indulgence may be obtained only once a day."
The conditions of the indulgence are also clearly stipulated. Absolution will be granted to the soul that does penance, receives Communion, makes a pilgrimage to the Papal Basilica of St. Paul in Rome, 'devoutly recites the Our Father adn the Creed, adding pious invocations in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul...and who prays for the Supreme Pontiff's intentions.' If they do this 'in a spirit of total detachment from any inclination to sin' and also 'take part devoutly in a sacred function or in a pious public exercise in honour of the Apostle to the Gentiles' during this 'Pauline Year,' they may receive time off in purgatory up to full (plenary) exoneration.
For anyone who might not recall, the sale of indulgences built St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and provoked Luther's Ninety-Five Theses. Since the mid-nineteenth century, direct payment of money is forbidden, but charitable contributions are part of the penance that contributes to the indulgence. Like Luther, Calvin criticized indulgences not merely for overarching for salvation, but because of the grotesque distortion of the gospel that could make such a travesty possible...
[In] mid-celebration, the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity issued a caution. The statement began by praising the consensus announced in the Joint Declaration, but then added, 'The Catholic Church is, however, of the opinion that we cannot yet speak of a consensus such as would eliminate every difference between Catholics and Lutherans in the understanding of justificaiton.' Citing the Council of Trent, the Pontifical Council reminded Roman Catholics that they must hold as dogma that 'eternal life, is, at one and the same time, grace and the reward given by God for good works and merits.'
Dan Burrell, a former pastor, offers what he calls “some things that I’m guessing your pastor wishes you knew about him” (part 1 / part 2).I really resonate with these words. I must confess that we pastors can tend toward self-pity. I think that is born chiefly in the fact that we often times feel as if no one understands us. Boo Hoo! Right? Whether right or wrong I think Dan Burrell's post gives some valuable insight into why we pastors are the way we are.
He lists ten main points:
1. Bible college and seminary weren’t enough.
2. Good sermon preparation takes time.
3. His family is important too.
4. Be kind if you have a criticism.
5. Give your pastor time to grow.
6. Your pastor probably views you differently than you view him.
7. Pastors sometimes find it difficult to have friendships.
8. Your pastor may well be different out of the pulpit than when he’s in the pulpit and that doesn’t necessarily make him a hypocrite.
9. Your pastor has bills too.
10. Your pastor loves the work of the ministry.
Monday, June 15, 2009
This weekend I started reading the new book, Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word: A Model of Faith and Thought (IVP, 2009), by Doug Sweeney, Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Director of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding.
Just in reading the Preface and the Introduction: The Word in Edwards'World (both available free on the IVP site), I found myself resonating with Sam Storms' blurb, who wrote, "I love this book! . . . I highly recommend it!" (Read the full blurbs here.)
The book closes with seven theses for discussion. Sweeney writes, it is naive to think that we should try to replicate his ministry. His world was different from ours. We face new challenges today. The question is not how we might clone him. Rather, the question is how to live in our own, twenty-first-century world, loving the people whom we serve, but using insights and examples gleaned from Edwards' life and ministry to enhance our Christian faith and fortify our gospel witness. (p.197)
Here are the seven theses (the book contains an explanation of each):
1. Edwards shows us the importance of working to help people gain a vivid sense, an urgent impression, of God's activity in our world.
2. Edwards shows us that true religion is primarily a matter of holy affections.
3. Edwards shows us the advantages of keeping an eschatological perspective on our lives.
4. Edwards shows us how God uses those who lose their lives for Christ.
5. Edwards shows us that theology can and should be done primarily in the church, by pastors, for the sake of the people of God.
6. Edwards shows us that even the strongest Christians need support from others.
7. Edwards shows us the necessity of remaining in God's Word.
I want to draw attention to one of Sweeney's theses in particular (see the previous post): #5, namely, that "theology can and should be done primarily in the church, by pastors, for the sake of the people of God" (p. 199). Sweeney writes:
In the early twenty-first century, when many pastors have abdicated their responsibilities as theologians, and many theologians do their work in a way that is lost on the people of God, we need to recover Edwards' model of Christian ministry. Most of the best theologians in the history of the church were parish pastors. Obviously, however, this is not the case today. Is it any wonder, then, that many struggle to think about their daily lives theologically, and often fail to understand the basics of the faith? I want to be realistic here. A certain amount of specialization is inevitable in complex, market-driven economies. And the specialization of roles within God's kingdom can enhance our Christian ministries. But when our pastors spend the bulk of their time on organizational matters, and professors spend the bulk of their time on intramural academics, no one is left to do the crucial work of shaping God's people with the Word. Perhaps our pastors and professors, Christian activists and thinkers, need to collaborate more regularly in ministry. Perhaps the laity need to give their pastors time to think and write--for their local congregations and the larger kingdom of God. [my emphasis]
Sunday, June 14, 2009
I was pleased to have lunch with Steve and Carl Trueman from Westminster last week. God willing COS will be blessed to host these two men sometime next year for a special event.
Check out this interview with Steve Nichols:
Saturday, June 13, 2009
The anger of people toward genuine wrongs is usually mixed. Anger is a just and justified response to true evils, an expression of the image of God. The fact that we see a wrong as wrong is a good thing; the fact that we care enough to be troubled is a good thing. But human beings tend to return evil for evil, expressing the image of the evil one. For example, a person can get angry for good reasons, but express the anger in many wrong ways. The mix can be tipped significantly towards either end of the spectrum. Sometimes it is barely good, quickly returning evil for evil. Sometimes it is significantly good in patiently and firmly facing down evil (though who of us is immune to the infiltration of self-righteousness?).
Read the entire article HERE.
Dorothy Sayers, quoted in D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God, page 53.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Publisher Review: Genesis is a book of orgins--the orgin of the universe, the origin of life and the origin of man. It places man in his cosmic setting, shows his particular uniquness, explains his wonder and his flaw, and begins to trace the flow of human history through space and time.Many today, however, view this book as a collection of myths, useful for understanding the Hebrew mind, perhaps, but certainly not a record of what really happened. Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer challenges that view and shows how the first eleven chapters of Genesis stand as a solid, space-time basis for answering the tough questions posed by modern man.
It is well frequently to weigh ourselves in the scale of God's Word. You will find it a holy exercise to read some psalm of David, and, as you meditate upon each verse, to ask yourself, "Can I say this? Have I felt as David felt? Has my heart ever been broken on account of sin, as his was when he penned his penitential psalms? Has my soul been full of true confidence in the hour of difficulty as his was when he sang of God's mercies in the cave of Adullam, or in the holds of Engedi? Do I take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord?" Then turn to the life of Christ, and as you read, ask yourselves how far you are conformed to His likeness. Endeavour to discover whether you have the meekness, the humility, the lovely spirit which He constantly inculcated and displayed. Take, then, the epistles, and see whether you can go with the apostle in what he said of his experience. Have you ever cried out as he did—"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death"? Have you ever felt his self-abasement? Have you seemed to yourself the chief of sinners, and less than the least of all saints? Have you known anything of his devotion? Could you join with him and say, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain"? If we thus read God's Word as a test of our spiritual condition, we shall have good reason to stop many a time and say, "Lord, I feel I have never yet been here, O bring me here! give me true penitence, such as this I read of. Give me real faith; give me warmer zeal; inflame me with more fervent love; grant me the grace of meekness; make me more like Jesus. Let me no longer be 'found wanting,' when weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, lest I be found wanting in the scales of judgment." "Judge yourselves that ye be not judged."
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
that he might be repaid?”
God so Uses the Works of the Ungodly, and So Bends
Their Minds to Carry Out His Judgments, That He Remains Pure from Every Stain1. No mere "permission"!From other passages, where God is said to bend or draw Satan himself and all the wicked to His will, there emerges a more difficult question. For carnal sense can hardly comprehend how in acting through them he does not contract some defilement from their transgression, and even in a common undertaking can be free of all blame, and indeed can justly condemn his ministers. Hence the distinction was devised between doing and permitting because to many this difficulty seemed inexplicable, that Satan all the impious are so under God's hand and power that he directs their malice to whatever end seems good to Him, and uses theire wicked deeds to carry out his judgments. And perhaps the moderation of those whom the appearance of absurdity alarms would be excusable, except that they wrongly try to clear God's justice of every sinister mark by upholding falsehood. It seems absurd to them for man, who will soon be punished for his blindness, to be blinded by God's will and command. Therefore they escape by the shift that this is done only with God's permission, not also by His will; but He, openly declaring that He is the doer, repudiates that evasion. However, that men can accomplish nothing except by God's secret command, that they cannot by delibeating accomplish anything except what he has already decreed with himself and determines by His secret direction, is before from the psalm, that God does whatever he wills [Ps. 115:3], certainly pertains to all the actions of men...God's will is not therefore at war with itself, nor does it change, nor does it pretend not to will what He wills. But even though His will is one and simple in Him, it appears manifold to us because, on account of our mental incapacity, we do not grasp how in divers ways it wills and does not will something to take place..."There is a great difference between what is fitting for man to will and what is fitting for God, and to what end the will of each is directed, so that it be either approved or disapproved. For through the bad wills of evil men God fulfills what he righteously wills" [quoting Augustine].
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Read Dr. Waters' review HERE.
The real sticking point is Darwin’s claim that all of life–human beings included–developed through a blind and undirected process of natural selection acting on random variations. In the words of late Harvard paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson, “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”
There are ways to try to reconcile Darwinism’s undirected process with theism, but they involve throwing overboard some long-cherished beliefs about God.
The first idea to go is the belief that God directed the development of life toward specific ends. According to biologist Kenneth Miller, one of the most prominent proponents of “theistic” evolution, God did not plan the specific outcomes of evolution–including the development of human beings. Miller describes humans as “an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out.” While God knew that undirected evolution was so wonderful it would create some kind of creature capable of praising Him, that creature could have been “a big-brained dinosaur” or “a mollusk with exceptional mental capabilities” rather than us.
Seeking to lessen the discomfort such arguments pose for most religious believers, Francis Collins suggests that God “could” have known the specific outcomes of evolution beforehand even though He made evolution appear “a random and undirected process.” In other words, God is a cosmic trickster who misleads people into thinking that nature is blind and purposeless, even though it isn’t.
One need not be a religious fundamentalist to find such arguments less than satisfying. Indeed, one need not be religious at all. Media coverage notwithstanding, theistic evolution has been shunned by leading evolutionary biologists, 87 percent of whom deny the existence of God and 90 percent of whom reject the idea that evolution is directed toward an “ultimate purpose” according to a 2003 survey.
While theistic evolutionists are mired in the past trying to defend Darwin’s nineteenth-century mechanistic process, other scientists and scholars are suggesting that twenty-first century science is fast making Darwin obsolete. Experiments with bacteria, where evolution can be tested in real time, are showing just how little undirected processes like natural selection can actually accomplish. Experiments with protein sequences are revealing how astonishingly fine-tuned protein sequences must be to work at all. And the DNA inside each of us is disclosing massive amounts of genetic information that points to mind, not chance and necessity, as the ultimate source of biological innovations.
Such discoveries do not “prove” God’s existence, but they do provide tantalizing evidence that life was produced by an intelligent process rather than a mindless one, a finding that certainly has positive implications for faith.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I have quite the extensive movie collection. Actually, my husband says I have an extensive “chick-flick” collection. I remember in college when my girlfriends and I would try to borrow each other’s movies. It was often a useless exercise because we would discover we already had all the same titles. The women will know some of the ones I speak of . . . “Pride & Prejudice,” “Sense & Sensibility,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “Ever After,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” . . . you can likely name your own list of must-have romantic classics. But why does Hollywood know how to make a movie that most women will not only love, but want to own -- and then (this is the part that perplexes my husband) be willing to watch countless times, sighing or tearing each time at the same sappy endings? Could it be that these movies strike an emotional nerve -- a nerve that longs for the bliss of falling in love with the perfect man or the rush of romance that will replace our emptiness and loneliness?
Whether we realize it or not, as we munch our popcorn, films communicate underlying emotional messages to us. What are these messages teaching us about life, love, and romance? Better yet, what do these films teach us about the nature of true masculinity and femininity? Does watching such movies actually affect our understanding of romance or shape how we go about looking for this ideal husband?
I think the answer is yes...
In this article, I’d like to discuss briefly what I think are three powerful lies communicated to and believed by women through this genre of “chick-flicks” as well as “chick-lit” (literature).
Professor Enns invites evangelicals to interact with his provocative ideas for sharpening theological discussion about the nature of Scripture. Upon my first reading I was struck with his commendable, unflinching honesty. Not allowing dogma to overwhelm data, he attempts pastorally to assist students who think the Reformed doctrine of Scripture is not viable. Enns holds with conviction the concept that both the Word of God as Scripture, and the Word of God as Jesus Christ, become incarnate: fully divine and fully human, as Warfield propounded in his concursive theory of inspiration.
Upon my second reading and more reflection, however, I questioned whether Enns’s answer helped doubters to keep the faith. This forced me to reflect more deeply upon the theologically disturbing cache of texts that Enns so helpfully collected, categorized, and then sought to resolve by his ‘‘incarnation’’ model of thinking about Scripture. A model, however, that represents the Mosaic Law as flexible, the inspired religion of Israel in its early stage as somewhat doctrinally misleading, the Chronicler’s harmonization as incredible,NTteachings as based on questionable historical data, and an apologetic for Jesus of Nazareth’s Messianic claim as arbitrary,would not be helpful to me inmy theological education. Nevertheless, I owe Enns a tremendous amount of gratitude for challenging me to think honestly and soberly about these texts that are troubling to all who hold Reformed convictions about the inspiration of holy Scripture.
JobWaltke's response is as follows:
If disobedience leads to God’s curse (Deut. 28:15-68), then it is not too hard to reason back the other way: if you are cursed, you must have done something to deserve it. This is the assumption [of Job’s friends]. . . . Anyone well versed in Old Testament teaching would likely have drawn the same conclusion [as Job’s three friends]. (p. 81)
But this statement is not accurate or helpful to me. Is it true that anyone well versed in theOT would draw the conclusion that it teaches that a person who is cursed—I take it that Enns uses the word loosely, for the friends never use it of Job—must have done wrong? A person well-versed in Scripture—so it seems to me—certainly knows that righteous Abel ismurdered by Cain and, while Abel’s blood cries out for justice, themurderer lives out a normal life-span. After Abraham by faith arrived in the Promised Land, God inflicted a famine on the land, a drought so severe that Abraham felt compelled to leave the Promised Land. Innocent Joseph was sold into slavery where he suffered hard iron. Job points to numerous situations where the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper within the divine scheme of things, and that surely his friends also knew. (A person less well-versed in the OT literature may not be aware that in the book of Proverbs the father’s first lecture represents the wicked as dispatching the innocent to a premature death while the wicked fill their house with plunder taken from him [Prov 1: 11-14].)Moreover, one does not have to be well-versed in theOT literature to know from the NT that the righteous Son of God was nailed to the cross and that his apostleswere martyrs for their faith in Jesus Christ. In sum, the three friends illogically drew a conclusion that did not square with the teachings of Proverbs, which is also well aware that the wicked are full while the righteous hunger (cf. Prov 16:8)—but that is not the whole story.
"I want to assure you that reproductive rights… will be a key to the foreign policy of this Administration… I was very proud when President Obama repealed the Mexico City policy. (Applause.) As a result, nongovernmental organizations overseas can once again use U.S. funding to provide the full range of family planning services so that women and their families can get access to the healthcare that they need.”
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
DeYoung sounds a Biblical wake-up-grow-up-and-get-moving call to an over-introspective, hyper-spiritualized, omen-seeking, vapor-locked, pseudo-spiritual, choice-overloaded generation. He rightly exposes the mania to seek, know, and do "God's personal will for me" as un-Biblical, and opposes it with the Bible's vision of a God who has given a sufficient, full, written revelation of Himself, has every detail in our lives (and everything else) under His sovereign control, and wants us to get moving in the path of obedience and wisdom.
It's theologically solid, and packed with Biblical grounding from start to finish.
Kevin DeYoung is a skilled pastor, theologically astute and a clear communicator. He gives you content but makes it easy to absorb and understand.
In this book he will show you what trips you up from moving forward in decisions. He'll talk about how God speaks to us and what it means be guided by wisdom. In a gentle and loving way he will challenge you. There's a good chance that you've picked up some faulty ways of thinking about this issue. I love the way no-nonsense way Kevin pulls us back to truth: "God is not a magic eight ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for him."
I'm a pastor. And the highest praise I can give this book is that it is my "go to" book on decision making and "finding God's will." If you were in my church and you came to be and said, "I have a big decision to make (marriage, job, house, etc), and I need to know what God wants me to do!" I would put this book in your hands.