Monday, August 31, 2009

How Can a God of Love Send Anyone to Hell?

Check out this excellent and important sermon from Al Mohler.

"The Bible Among the Myths"

From Andreas Kostenberger:

In a recent Zondervan publication, John Oswalt, long-time Old Testament scholar and author of the two-volume commentary on Isaiah in the NICOT series, discusses The Bible among the Myths. In light of recent controversial books by writers such as Peter Enns or Kenton Sparks, Oswalt tackles an important question: How is the Bible (actually, the Old Testament) similar or different from other ancient (Near Eastern) literature? Is it, to quote the subtitle, “Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature”?

In essence, Oswalt argues that while there are doubtless numerous surface similarities between the Old Testament and other ancient literature, on the larger level of the underlying worldview, the difference is vast: only the Old Testament lodges a robust claim of divine revelation, and as a result, only the three religions that take their cue from the Bible—Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—hold to divine revelation as a foundational components of their worldview. This simple, yet profound finding brings much-needed clarity to the debate.

One of my favorite sections in this book is Chapter 9, “Origins of the Biblical Worldview: Alternatives.” The respective headings tell the story: “John Van Seters: Israel’s Understanding of Reality Arose as a Late Creative Fiction”; “Frank Cross: Israel’s Understanding Arose in a Prose Rewriting of an Earlier Epic Poem”; “William Dever: Israel’s Understanding Is an Imposition of a Small Elite”; “Mark Smith: Israel’s Understanding Is a Natural Development from West Semitic Religion.” Understanding alternative views is very helpful especially for students.

Overall, Oswalt’s book excels in clarity of analysis and presentation. It is well written and argues and defends an exceedingly important thesis: that on a worldview level, Christianity and Judaism, with their claim of divine revelation, are unique. Perhaps my only criticism is that references to the above-mentioned Peter Enns or Kenton Sparks are conspicuously absent. This may be because Oswalt is narrowly focused on worldview rather than hermeneutical issues or because his volume was conceived prior to the publication of these other scholars’ works.

In any case, I highly recommend this volume as a supplementary text for courses in Old Testament survey or even in apologetics courses. This is a very welcome contribution to both fields, and I am sure Oswalt’s book will find a devoted following and many grateful readers.

Will we be a culture of dignity or death?

Al Mohler raises some very important questions concerning the fate of fertilized human embryos:
For most Americans, the moral status of the human embryo is a question that seems quite remote. Even as hundreds of thousands of "excess" human embryos are now stored in American fertility clinics and laboratories, to most Americans these frozen embryos are out of sight and out of mind. Thus, one of the most important moral challenges of our day remains largely off the screen of our national discourse. The issue cannot remain out of sight or out of mind for long.

Indeed, for hundreds of thousands of couples (and in many cases, just individuals) this crucial moral question grows more difficult to ignore by the day. For those whose progeny are now frozen in fertility clinics, the "disposition decision" will eventually have to be made. The decision about the eventual disposition of these human embryos will reveal what these couples truly believe about human dignity and the sanctity of human life. On the larger landscape, the pattern of these decisions and the policies adopted by medical practitioners will reveal the soul of our culture as well.

Read the entire post HERE.

Also, check out Choosing Thomas. It is the deeply moving story of how T.K. and Deidrea Laux decided to treat their unborn child Thomas with dignity after discovering he had a fatal genetic anomaly. You can also read Deidrea's journal which helps explain their journey.

In a related story, the VA website still carries a link to "Your Life, Your Choices" which can realistically be called a "death book." It prompts wounded and elderly veterans to consider whether or not their lives are truly worth living. It also asks them to consider whether or not they are too much of a financial burden. This is truly scandalous. Check out this story from the Wall Street Journal.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Getting the Cross Right

Over at Church Matters Greg Gilbert has contributed some great posts dealing with the doctrine of the atonement. Among those posts Gilbert interacts with N.T. Wright who has become increasingly popular in evangelical circles. To be sure, Wright is an excellent scholar who has done particularly good work on the historicity of Christ's resurrection. However, Wright's contributions to the doctrines of the atonement and justification are increasingly troubling.

"Christ defeats evil by letting it do its worst to Him."

That's Lee Irons characterizing N.T. Wright's understanding of the cross, at least so far as anyone is really able to untangle it.

Here's an excerpt from Irons's
excellent article:

Wright's book Simply Christian (2006) is supposed to be his presentation of the essence of the Christian faith. Here, if anywhere, you would expect a clear, simple statement of the gospel. But it is not there. The book has many good things to say, but it doesn't explain the basic gospel -- "Christ died for our sins." Forget about imputed righteousness. We'll set that debate aside. He didn't even explain the basic concept that (a) God is holy and hates sin, (b) we are sinners deserving his just wrath, and (c) the only way we can be right with God is through the death of Christ which satisfied God's justice and gives us forgiveness and acceptance before God. Instead, we find statements like this:

God's plan to rescue the world from evil would be put into effect by evil doing its worst to the Servant--that is, to Jesus himself--and thereby exhausting its power (p. 108) ... It was time for the evil which had dogged Jesus's footsteps throughout his career--the shrieking maniacs, the conspiring Herodians, the carping Pharisees, the plotting chief priests, the betrayer among his own disciples, the whispering voices within his own soul--to gather into one great tidal wave of evil that would crash with full force over his head. So he spoke of the Passover bread as his own body that would be given on behalf of his friends, as he went out to take on himself the weight of evil so that they wouldn't have to bear it themselves (p. 110).

This is all very consistent with his earlier formulations in chapter 12 of Jesus and the Victory of God (1996). You can see how, on Wright's theory, he can say with a clear conscience that Jesus' death was substitutionary, since Jesus let evil do its worst on himself so that it would not have to do so on us. But it is much harder to see how it is penal, i.e., relating to divine punishment. "Evil doing its worst on Jesus" is not the same thing as "Christ Jesus, whom God put him forward as a propitiation by his blood ... so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom 3:24-26).

This is precisely the woefully incomplete understanding of the atonement that seems to me to be taking up residence in too many evangelical minds.

Read the entire post HERE.

Check out the other posts in this helpful series HERE, HERE, and HERE.

My Book Recommendations

You can check in on my growing number of book recommendations over at WTS Bookstore HERE. Scroll down to "non-denomiational" on the "choose denomination" filter. All but a few of the recommendations in that section are mine. You may also subcribe to my recommendations so that you are updated as the list grows.

The Gospel and the Church

When I came to Church of the Saviour one of my first priorities was to preach a series called "The Gospel-Driven Church." It is my prayer that the message of the doing, dying, and rising of Christ becomes the controling motif for how we interpret both our lives and the mission of the church.

Bob Thune of Coram Deo Church in Omaha, Nebraska has posted some helpful thoughts on the Gospel and the church.
Churches often obscure the glory of the gospel by reducing it to something less than it is. Some understand the gospel only as doctrinal content to be believed. Others diminish it to a personal, subjective experience of God’s presence. Still others see it as a social cause to be championed. The gospel is none of these, and yet it is all of these. A truly gospel-centered church understands and embraces the fullness of the gospel as content, community, and cause.

He goes on to explain these three aspects of being Gospel-centered:

The Gospel is a message that is to be preached or proclaimed (Mark 1:14; Acts 14:21; Rom 1:15; 1 Peter 1:12). It is the story of God’s redemption of his fallen creation. It is the good news that God has acted in history to conquer evil and reconcile sinners to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15:1-12). A gospel-centered church is one where the gospel is proclaimed clearly, consistently, and compellingly (1 Cor 9:16-23).

The gospel is not just a message to be believed, but a power to be experienced (Rom 1:16). The gospel shapes a new community as those who were formerly God’s enemies are reconciled to Him (Rom 5:10) and adopted into his family (Gal 4:4-7). The church is not a place, but a people – a community that is continually being reformed and renewed by the transforming power of the gospel (Col. 1:6).

The gospel is a call to action – a declaration that “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). God is not just interested in the salvation of humans, but in the restoration of all of creation to its original “good” (Gen 1:31; Rom 8:19-22). A gospel-centered church will be active in the work of mercy, justice, and cultural renewal, praying and working against the effects of sin so that God’s will might be done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10).

HT: Timmy Brister

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More on McLaren and Ramadan

From Denny Burk:

Commenting on McLaren's post...

This explanation is so filled with dangerous and damning error, it’s difficult to know where to begin. For starters, one cannot observe Ramadan as a “deeply committed” Christian. Fasting in the Christian tradition is irreducibly Christocentric. It involves praying to the Father of Christ (Mt 6:18) and longing for the return of Christ (Mt 9:15). The meaning and aim of the Muslim fast has nothing to do with Jesus. How can one observe Ramadan in any meaningful sense and do a Christian fast? The answer is that you can’t. If you try, you will end up distorting the Christian fast with syncretistic gobbledy-goop that is no longer recognizably Christian.

I would warn that McLaren is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but he has dropped the ruse. The wolf is prowling about openly.

Read the entire post HERE.

From Doug Wilson:

It is not as though McLaren just announced this, leaving us to figure out why. He 'splains it himself.

"Ramadan is the Muslim holy month of fasting for spiritual renewal and purification. It commemorates the month during which Muslims believe Mohammed received the Quran through divine revelation, and it calls Muslims to self-control, sacrificial generosity and solidarity with the poor, diligent reading of the Quran, and intensified prayer."

And all God's people say ohhhh, their voices trailing off at the end. Then their faces bunch up that funny way that faces have. And then a cluster of hands go up, and the looks on some faces indicate that this might turn into a town hall meeting or something.

"This year, I, along with a few Christian friends . . . will be joining Muslim friends in the fast which begins August 21. We are not doing so in order to become Muslims: we are deeply committed Christians. But as Christians, we want to come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them."

That is, deeply committed Christians who believe that what matters is the deeply committed part, and not the object of the commitment. For, as we have just learned, being deeply committed to a diligent reading of false Scriptures, and intensified prayer to a false god, and sacrificial generosity as a means of ginning up some works righteousness around here, is something that deeply committed Christians can "come close" in order to "share." Sharing, that is, in the experience of getting all the fundamentals wrong. It is as though deeply committed adherents of the notion that the square of the hypotenuse was equal to the sum of the square of the other two sides decided to "come close" to those who thought that it wasn't even close to the sum of the square of the other two sides. But what the heck. What matters is being deeply committed to drawing what you think are triangles on a piece of paper. Is that not what really matters? We have pencils and papers in common. Come on, people. Don't you want to end wars?

"Just as Jesus, a devout Jew, overcame religious prejudice and learned from a Syrophonecian woman and was inspired by her faith two thousand years ago (Matthew 15:21 ff, Mark 7:24 ff), we seek to learn from our Muslim sisters and brothers today."

In other words, we learn from a woman who came to Jesus the lesson of why coming to Jesus is totally not necessary.

"Muslims observe Ramadan in the same basic way world-wide: they fast from food, water, sex, etc., from dawn to dusk. We Christians who are joining in the fast will share these four common commitments . . ."

The dot dot dot at the end of the quote means that it gets even riper.

"We, as Christians, humbly seek to join Muslims in this observance of Ramadan as a God-honoring expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness. Each of us will have at least one Muslim friend who will serve as our partner in the fast. These friends welcome us in the same spirit of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness."

In exchange, each one of these Muslim friends will come over to our houses this Easter for our traditional Easter ham, the kind with the brown sugar glaze . . . oh, they won't come? Curious. Why not? Something about believing their religion . . .
Read the entire post HERE.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

God's Sovereignty and Human Freedom

In a recent post we have been having a discusion on the nature of God's sovereignty. Over at Ref21 Andy Naselli has written a good post dealing with the intersection of God's sovereignty and human freedom.
1. The Bible never says that humans are free in the sense that they are autonomously able to make decisions that are not caused by anything. Libertarian free will is often merely assumed based on common-sense experience but not proved.

2. God is absolutely sovereign. He "works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11). He does whatever he wants, and no one can stop him (Psalm 115:3; Daniel 4:34-35).

3. Humans are morally responsible, which requires that they be free. There is no biblical reason that God cannot cause real human choices. The Bible grounds human accountability in God's authority as our creator and judge, not in libertarian free will.

4. Both (1) God's absolute sovereignty and (2) human freedom and responsibility are simultaneously true. Here are just a few of many passages in which both elements are present without any hint of contradiction. "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.... The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD" (Proverbs 16:9, 33). "This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men" (Acts 2:23). "For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place" (Acts 4:27- 28).

5. The Bible condemns some people for acts not done with a libertarian free will. For example, Judas Iscariot was destined to betray Jesus, which means that he did not have the ability either to do it or not...

6. God is omniscient (e.g., he predicts future events). John Feinberg observes, "If indeterminism is correct, I do not see how God can be said to foreknow the future. If God actually knows what will (not just might) occur in the future, the future must be set and some sense of determinism applies. God's foreknowledge is not the cause of the future, but it guarantees that what God knows must occur, regardless of how it is brought about" ("God Ordains All Things," in Predestination and Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom [ed. David Basinger and Randall Basinger; Downers Grove: IVP, 1986], 33- 34).

7. God breathed out Scripture through humans without violating their personalities. The way that God inspired the Bible requires compatibilism.

8. God enables Christians to persevere: Christians work because God works (cf. Philippians 2:12- 13). Indeterminism would mean that Christians can reject Christ and lose their salvation, but the Bible teaches that all genuine Christians are eternally secure and will persevere to the end by God's grace.

9. God himself does not have a free will in the libertarian sense. Can God sin? If not, then he does not have a libertarian free will, and thus a libertarian free will is not necessary for a person to be genuinely free.

10. God's people do not have free wills in heaven in the libertarian sense. Will God's people be able to sin in heaven? If not, then they will not have a libertarian free will, and thus a libertarian free will is not necessary for people to be genuinely free.

Read the entire post HERE.

Brian McLaren Celebrates Ramadan

From Brian McLaren's blog:

We, as Christians, humbly seek to join Muslims in this observance of Ramadan as a God-honoring expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness. Each of us will have at least one Muslim friend who will serve as our partner in the fast. These friends welcome us in the same spirit of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness.

We will seek to avoid being disrespectful or unfaithful to our own faith tradition in our desire to be respectful to the faith tradition of our friends. For example, since the Bible teaches us the importance of fasting and being generous to the poor, we can participate as Christians in fidelity to the Bible as our Muslim friends do so in fidelity to the Quran.

Among the core values of Ramadan are self control, expressing kindness, and resolving conflicts. For this reason, if we are criticized or misunderstood by Christians, Muslims, or others for this endeavor, we will avoid defending ourselves or engaging in arguments. Instead, we will seek to explain ourselves humbly, simply, and briefly when necessary, connecting with empathy to the needs and feelings of others as we express our own.

Our main purpose for participating will be our own spiritual growth, health, learning, and maturity, but we also hope that our experience will inspire others to pray and work for peace and the common good, together with people of other faith traditions.

May God bless all people, and teach us to love God and love one another, and so fulfill our calling as human beings.
So what do you think? Is this syncretism, nice-ness, or just silly?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Piper's Critics and Piper's Response

Last week I posted a link to what became some very controversial observations by John Piper.

Since posting his thoughts on the tornado in Minneapolis Piper has received some very harsh criticism from within evangelicalism. However, much of the criticism is shrill and bears all the marks of an "Aha! We've got him now!" attitude. The usual suspects from the emergent crowd are among those critics. And of course we have to keep in mind that the theological adolescents within the emergent village deny such doctrines as God's judgment and sovereignty. Tony Jones who has been vehement in his criticism of Piper has famously called on the church to show full acceptance of homosexuality and other forms of sexual perversion.

So far, the criticisms I have read are unwarranted. What Piper is accused of saying, I simply do not read in his comments. Denny Burk puts it well:

Pastor John Piper witnessed the storm and later offered his reflections on the message that God might have for us in a storm such as this one. He used Luke 13:4-5 to argue that God uses seemingly random calamities to remind all of us of our need for repentance. He then applied that message to the ELCA who had just voted to approve sin rather than repent from it.

Piper has been hit by a tornado of criticism since posting his short blog, and some of the sharpest critiques have been from fellow “evangelicals” (Tony Jones, Jenell Williams Paris, iMonk,, and ad infinitum from the Emergent wing of the evangelical blogosphere). Christianity Today, the Associated Baptist Press, a local news station, and a host of others have also publicized Piper’s remarks.

A common theme from the critics has been this: Now everyone can see what we Emergents have suspected for a long time. John Piper is a fundamentalist crackpot with a retrograde theology that offends unbelievers. Beware! Tony Jones has even called on Piper’s friends to shun him to the margins. Jones writes:
“Where is Christianity Today? Where is Tim Keller? Where are the presidents of Dallas Seminary or Wheaton College? Where is J.I. Packer, Collin Hansen, or Darrell Bock? . . . Will they, or anyone in the Evangelical intelligentsia, finally say that John Piper is outside of mainstream evangelicalism? I doubt it.”

To Piper’s credit, he has not responded in kind. In fact, his rejoinders have been self-critical. Piper has quoted Psalm 141:5 (”Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let me not refuse it.”) and has talked about how he viewed his own prostate cancer three years ago as a Providential invitation to repent of his own sin (read here).

What are we to make of all this? What concerns me most about Piper’s “evangelical” critics is that the direction of their outrage indicates that something is askew in their priorities. There appears to be little concern about the fact that an entire denomination has just taken a public stand against the Bible and 2,000 years of unanimous Christian teaching. There is scarcely a cross word about the fact that the ELCA Lutherans are walking away from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead, the critics are offended by Piper. Moreover, the offended have responded with what amounts to a lot of ugly mud-slinging—the very kind of stumbling-block to unbelievers that Emergents say they wish to avoid.

I have to say that I think Tony Jones and company and even Greg Boyd have not read Piper’s original article very charitably. Piper never claimed to account for all of God’s motives in this calamity, nor has Piper claimed the punishment of unfaithful Lutherans to be God’s singular motive in the Minneapolis storm. Those who read Piper in this way have missed the point.

Piper is merely applying Jesus’ words about calamities to a current calamity. Jesus did in fact teach that God uses seemingly random calamities to remind all of us of our need for repentance. That truth applies to John Piper’s cancer three years ago, it applies to Denny Burk’s car accident last November, and it applies to Lutherans meeting in Minneapolis this week. As Piper said in the original article, the warning applies to “all of us.” That truth should not be controversial among evangelicals. God help us that it is.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday's Sermon

Sunday's message was part 14 in our series through Hebrews - "Christ: Appointed High Priest" (Hebrews 5:1-6). You can listen to or download it HERE.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Not Home Yet

I have been reflecting a lot the last few days about the painful reality of being a sinful man living among other sinners. The weight of our collective fallenness often seems too hard to bear. When I am hurt or sinned against it is not long until I realize my own culpability in the events that caused my pain. It is an intricate web woven by my own sinful desires and motives. Calvin observed that the heart is a labyrinth. It is very difficult to sort out. We don't even understand ourselves.

One of the afflictions I see in my heart is the desire to be in control; to be sovereign. When things don't go my way then I fight hard to gain control. My style is often passive aggressive. But of course the notion of truly being in control is nothing more than an illusion and the desire to be in control nothing less than idolatry.

Through it all I am reminded once again that I am not home yet. I am still living east of Eden. As a result I will continue to disappoint be disappointed. I will continue to offend and be offended. But hope is not lost. In fact Christians are unapologetically future oriented. Hope, for us, is like air. We can't live without it and God does not intend for us to live without it.

I have been helped by the writing ministry of Paul Tripp. It's not that Tripp has stumbled upon brand new truth. He is refreshingly un-trendy. Tripp does what all good Bible teachers do. He takes the Scriptures and like a mirror holds them up in a way that helps me see my heart. Specifically Tripp takes me time and again back to the centrality of the Gospel as God's great means of transformation.

I was challenged this morning as I continued reading in his new book Broken-Down House. In particular I was confronted with my idolatry of control.

"[When] we encounter an area that we cannot control, we tend to see it as out of control! We need to understand that God's sense of order is very different from ours. What looks like utter confusion to us is actually a discrete piece of divine planning, every time. But in the finiteness of our understanding, wisdom, and experience, it is often hard to see the order...

When you question or lose sight of the good and perfect rule of the Lord, you can end up fearing the power of another. Whether a malevolent hidden terrorist, a very real and immoral relative, or a pure figment of your imagination, you will perceive someone as having character and intentions that tempt you to anxiety...

Only when you are comforted by the fact that God's ultimate, comprehensive, flawless, holy authority, can you stop being afraid of human authority. When you truly know that the 'king's heart is in the hand of the Lord' (Prov. 21:1), you can be freed from the anxiety of flawed human rule...

We simply need to accept that the reasons God does what He does in our lives, or how our life fits into the whole of his grand redemptive plan, will never be completely clear in this life. This is why real rest and peace is not found in knowing and understanding. It is only found in trust. Only when you have a quiet confidence in the Lord behind the plan and have come to know his love, wisdom, power, and grace, will you be able to rest in hope - even when you do not understand what God is doing in a particular moment in your life. This is exactly the experience expressed in Psalm 33:2021, 'We wait in hope for the Lord; his our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.'

Friday, August 21, 2009

Timely Words

“The outside observer sees us as staggering from gimmick to gimmick and stunt to stunt like so many drunks in a fog, not knowing at all where we are or which way we should be going. Preaching is hazy; heads are muddled; hearts fret; doubts drain strength; uncertainty paralyses action…. Unlike the first Christians who in three centuries won the Roman world, and those later Christians who pioneered the Reformation, and the Puritan awakening and the Evangelical revival, and the great missionary movement of the last century, we lack certainty.”

- J.I. Packer

“Jesus is the Truth. We believe in Him,—not merely in His words. He Himself is Doctor and Doctrine, Revealer and Revelation, the Illuminator and the Light of Men. He is exalted in every word of truth, because He is its sum and substance. He sits above the gospel, like a prince on His own throne. Doctrine is most precious when we see it distilling from His lips and embodied in His person. Sermons [and songs] are valuable in proportion as they speak of Him and point to Him. A Christless gospel is no gospel and a Christless discourse is the cause of merriment to devils.”

- Charles Spurgeon

“An aversion to doctrinal Christianity has been growing for several decades, along with an increasing intolerance for doctrinal and confessional accountability. Evangelicals have embraced the technologies of modernity, often without recognizing that these technologies have claimed the role of master rather that servant."

- Albert Mohler

Life and Ministry in a Broken-Down World

Sometimes you just have one of those days. Other times you have one of those weeks, or months, or years when it becomes painfully obvious that we are living in a world that is deeply broken. This is not just an abstract concept. Indeed, we are broken people living among other broken people. This is why trying to live life in community is relentlessly difficult. It is never easy. It is sometimes a glad labor but it is always a labor. I hope that does not sound cynical but my experience tells me that life and ministry among people like me (saved sinners) is difficult work that must be engaged in deliberately.

In his new book Broken-Down House Paul Tripp deals with this reality.
The fact that you live in a broken-down house in the midst of restoration makes everything more difficult. It removes the ease and simplicity of life. It requires you to be more thoughtful, more careful. It requires you to listen and see well. It requires you to look out for difficulty and to be aware of danger. It requires you to contemplate and plan. It requires you to do what you don't really want to do and to accept what you find difficult to accept. You want to simply coast, but you can't. Things are broken and they need to be fixed. There is work to do.

You can tell if a house is being condemned or restored by the size of the tools that are in use. If there's a crane equipped with a wrecking ball out front, you can give up on restoration. But if there are a lot of hand tools around, that's a sign of hope. True restoration takes patience, subtlety, skill, and grace...

A primary goal of all this diagnosis, description, warning, comfort and council is to call us to certain ways of living. Why would you need to be 'completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love,' (Eph 4:2-3) if you were not living in a community of flawed people where this kind of character is essential? Relationships in a fallen world are hard. Miniistry to flawed people is fraught with difficulty. Character is needed because the world is broken.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fall Reading

Here are a few books being released in the fall that I am looking forward to cracking in to...

by Jason Stellman

by Jim Belcher

by Michael Horton

by Tim Keller

God's Sovereignty, the weather, and holy fear

On Wednesday August 19th there was an interesting confluence of events in Minneapolis. Seemingly out of the blue a tornado struck the Minneapolis Convention Center damaging the roof. Also, the Central Lutheran Church across the street from the convention center was hit, splitting the steeple. What makes this all so unusual is that the tornado did its damage at 2:00 pm, the time that the annual meeting of the Evangelical Lutheran Church gathering in the convention center was scheduled to vote on a measure that would allow homosexuals to be ordained for pastoral ministry.

John Piper who pastors in Minneapolis has written a post worthy of sober consideration.

1. The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God.

The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

2. The church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires, rejoicing with them that all our fallen, sinful, disordered lives (all of us, no exceptions) are forgiven if we turn to Christ in faith.

Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

3. Therefore, official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God, are evil. They dishonor God, contradict Scripture, and implicitly promote damnation where salvation is freely offered.

4. Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados.

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:41)

5. When asked about a seemingly random calamity near Jerusalem where 18 people were killed, Jesus answered in general terms—an answer that would cover calamities in Minneapolis, Taiwan, or Baghdad. God’s message is repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God’s judgment.

Jesus: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4-5)

6. Conclusion: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.
Read the entire post HERE.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In Their Own Words

The following is a representative sampling of what the prosperity false teachers actually teach:

Paul Crouch, speaking to Kenneth Copeland, said: "Somebody said--I don't know who said it--but they claim that you Faith teachers declare that we are gods. You're a god. I'm a god. Small 'g' now, but we are the gods of this world. . . . Well, are you a god--small 'g'?" To this, Jan Crouch, referring to Copeland, enthusiastically exclaimed: "He's gonna say, 'Yes.' I love it." ("Praise the Lord" program on TBN [5 February 1986])

Paul Crouch: "He [God] doesn't even draw a distinction between Himself and us. . . . You know what else that's settled, then, tonight? This hue and cry and controversy that has been spawned by the Devil to try and bring dissension within the body of Christ that we are gods. I am a little god! . . . I have His name. I'm one with Him. I'm in covenant relation. I am a little god! Critics, be gone!" ("Praise the Lord" program on TBN [7 July 1986])

Benny Hinn: "When you say, 'I am a Christian, you are saying, 'I am mashiach' in the Hebrew. I am a little messiah walking on earth, in other words That is a shocking revelation.... May I say it like this? You are a little god on earth running around." ("Praise-a-Thon" program on TBN [6 November 1990])

Kenneth Copeland: "I was shocked when I found out who the biggest failure in the Bible actually is....The biggest one is God....I mean, He lost His top-ranking, most anointed angel; the first man He ever created; the first woman He ever created; the whole earth and all the Fullness therein; a third of the angels, at least--that's a big loss, man. . . . Now, the reason you don't think of God as a failure is He never said He's a failure. And you're not a failure till you say you're one." ("Praise-a-Thon" program on TBN [April 1988])

Benny Hinn: "Jesus Christ knew the only way He would stop Satan is by becoming one in nature with him...He became one with the nature of Satan, so all those who had the nature of Satan can partake of the nature of God." ("Benny Hinn" program on TBN [15 December 1990, emphasis in original]. This message, titled "The Person of Jesus" [delivered during Orlando Christian Center's Sunday morning service on 2 December 1991], comprises Part Four of Hinn's six-part series on "The Revelation of Jesus" [Orlando Christian Center, 1991], videotape #TV-292)

Creflo Dollar: “ That was God in that body, we always think of that with the last Adam but we never say that with the first Adam. It was God. God took a reflection of Himself and put it in a physical body formed out of the dust and gave him authority of all physical things on the planet. So that like He was God in heaven, now He’s made Adam God of the earth. Adam has been crowned God of all physical things from the dust of the earth including the moon the stars and the planets. I’m going to show you all thin in Scripture but just follow me now… I’m just askin’ you to trust me for a minute until I open the Bible." (Our Equality with God Through Righeousness 1/21/2001)

Creflo Dollar: “And God said, I tell you what I’m going to do this time. I’m going to have to reproduce Myself. Like I’m God up here in heaven. I’m going to make Me a god and put Myself in the physical body so that he can guard the earth and keep out all intruders in the earth so the next time that sucker tries to come in he will meet the God of the earth Adam.” (Our Equality with God through Righteousness 1/21/2001)

Creflo Dollar as a guest on Kenneth Copeland's program 2002 gave his rendition of Phil. 2:5: “let this way of thinking that was in Jesus be in you let this confidence that was in Jesus be in you. Jesus didn’t think it was robbery he didn’t he didn’t think it was dishonor he didn’t he didn’t think it was, was “oh the you ought not think that way.” No he said let this attitude let this way of thinking be in you who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God. Now if I’m to take what he said here and, and put it on, the normal attitude now should be I have equality with God. That’s my way of thinkin’, now somebody says its hard to think this way, well keep saying it I have equality with God talk yourself into it, you’ve talked yourself into other things, talk yourself into this attitude talk yourself into this way if thinkin’ talk yourself into it until you feel the confidence on the inside of you that I have equality with God.”“were not gonna shine as lights until we change what the way we think. We’re not gonna shine as lights until we accept our equality with God, were not gonna shine as lights until we stop thinkin’ that being equal with God is a dishonor and a robbery.”

Preaching Greed

Great post from Al Mohler on the false gospel of the prosperity preachers:

"God knows where the money is, and he knows how to get the money to you." That was the message of Gloria Copeland as she was speaking at the Southwest Believers' Convention recently held in Fort Worth, Texas. The event drew the attention of The New York Times and reporter Laurie Goodstein contributed a compelling report about the meeting and its message. The Southwest Believers' Convention drew a crowd of more than 9,000 to hear an "all-star lineup" of preachers deliver the message of the prosperity gospel. One by one, the preachers and the speakers enticed the gathered thousands by offering them the assurance that God wants them rich -- even fabulously rich.

As Goodstein reports, the preachers were not shy about drawing attention to the luxurious lives they lead. "Private airplanes and boats. A motorcycle sent by an anonymous supporter. Vacations in Hawaii and cruises in Alaska. Designer handbags. A ring of emeralds and diamonds." According to the preachers of the prosperity gospel, these are merely examples of the riches and rewards that come to those who have sufficient faith -- and invest sufficient funds in the ministries of the prosperity preachers.

The New York Times took note of the fact that the current recession and financial distress did not keep the crowd from attending the Southwest Believers' Convention. The event is part of the ministry of Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, described by Laurie Goodstein as the "current patriarch and matriarch" of the prosperity gospel. The paper summarized their message as the promise that if an individual has sufficient faith in God and donates generously, God will reward that generosity by multiplying the offerings a hundredfold.

Read the entire post HERE.

As the post mentions, the prosperity false gospel is a part of what is often referred to as "word faith theology" which is nothing more than sorcery. They teach that the words we speak create reality. Faith, they teach, is a universal force to which all things including God are subjected. Therefore one needs only to speak the right words (it must be out loud) with enough faith and reality will yeild to the force of faith. Again, speaking words in order to create reality is pagan sorcery, not Christianity. Incidentally, these false teachers like the Copelands, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, and others teach that God must exercise faith in order to get things done.

Make no mistake these people preach a different Gospel. And let us not forget what the apostle Paul writes about those who distort the Gospel:
"...there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:7-9).

Theology Is...

From Russell Moore of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

Theology is helping a shellshocked widow clean up after a suicide. Theology is about crying with a teenage boy who’s body is shaking with crystal meth. Theology drives you to rock orphans in India, singing “Jesus Loves Me” while you pray they learn what that means. Theology is hugging an animist African’s neck while you tell him Jesus can protect him from the spirits he fears…or hugging a self-righteous Southern Baptist American’s neck while you tell him he doesn’t fear those demonic spirits nearly enough.

HT: Creed or Chaos

Theology is the most practical thing in the universe. Without proper theology, that is theology that flows from the right interpretation of Scripture, we would not know how to think, how to feel, or how to live.

"What I Learned in My First Pastorate"

Writing for Towers, a publication of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jim Hamilton reflects on lessons learned during his first pastorate. I identify with much of what he writes. It's worth reading as churches often struggle with what a pastor is to be and do.
Jesus gets glory when pastors forsakethe wisdom of the world, set aside attempts to show off, open the Bible and preach it.

David Wells says the mark of the evangelical church in America is superficiality. I am convinced that authenticity comes from the clear exposition of the Scriptures. People encounter God when His Word is read to them, explained to them and applied to them by the power of the Spirit. How do you get past the happy smiley veneer people wear to church? Preach the Word.

Do you want singles in their late 20s and early 30s confessing anxiety about finding a mate, asking you to pray for them to trust the Lord’s providence in their lives? Do you want guys confessing their struggles with pornography as they seek to join the church? Do you want people with real problems (homosexual urges and the fallout from past sexual sin, whether lingering STD’s or guilt from an abortion) joining the church and coming for counsel in their struggle against sin? Do you want guys coming to you because they’re afraid of the way they’ve been rough with their wives and they don’t want it to go any further, so they’re seeking accountability?

You don’t get this from wearing cool clothes, having a trendy name for your church or learning to preach from comedians. If it comes — and if the authenticity about “big” sins is accompanied by authenticity about “acceptable” sins — it will come by the power of the Spirit through the preaching of the Word. The Bible convinces us to quit playing games. The Bible shows us the beauty of holiness. The Bible convicts us of the worth of this treasure, and we sell all we have — or risk exposing our sin — to buy the field in which the treasure lies.
Read the entire article HERE.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Say it ain't so Discovery Channel!

The Sad Legacy of Theological Liberalism

'How Liberal Theology Infected Scotland' is a deeply instructive short article written by R. A. Finlayson, the late professor of Systematic Theology in the Free Church College in Edinburgh.

Finlayson attributed the nineteenth century infiltration of Liberalism into a confessional Church to wrong priorities by the leaders. He wrote:

...not content with opening three colleges, in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen...her theological students would not deem their course complete, or their standing in the Church assured, without a postgraduate course of one or more years in one of the more famous Colleges in Germany.

From that folly, the product of spiritual pride, the Free Church was to reap a bitter harvest. Germany then was the nursery of Liberal theology, which was spreading like prairie fire through the Protestant Churches of Europe.

Reading this assessment reminded me of the words of Archibald Alexander to the young Charles Hodge. Hodge has been given leave by the Seminary to spend two years studying in Europe. As well as developing his linguistic skills, Hodge would become acquainted with biblical criticism. Alexander cautioned him:

Remember that you breathe a poisoned atmosphere. If you lose the lively and deep impression of Divine truth, if you fall into scepticism or even into coldness - you will lose more than you gain from all the German professors and libraries . . .

At the start of the twentieth century a similar situation was faced by the young Gresham Machen as he studied in Marburg, Germany, under the renowned Liberal scholar Wilhelm Herrmann. Machen said that Herrmann believed hardly anything essential to Christianity. Yet here was a man who at the same time exuded an incredibly impressive piety. Although he rarely spoke of the profound spiritual struggle that he went through in Germany, one of Machen's students recalled him saying that:

. . . the great Dr. Herrman presented his position with such power I would sometimes leave his presence wondering how I could ever retain my confidence in the historical accuracy of the Gospel narratives. Then I'd go to my room, take out the Gospel of Mark and read it from beginning to end in one sitting - and my doubts would fade. I realized that the document could not possibly be the invention of the mind of a mere man.

It was a remarkable act of mercy that kept the young Charles Hodge, and the young Gresham Machen, from capitulating to the errors of their teachers. Embracing orthodoxy, and remaining orthodox, cannot ultimately be attributed to our own powers. How different would the history of Princeton have been if the poison of Liberalism had infected the blood stream of Charles Hodge. Perhaps we can see what it would have looked like by observing the influence of a notable Hebrew scholar on the other side of the Atlantic.

It ought to be kept in mind that, more often than not, theological teachers who embrace errors remain convinced that they are still orthodox. In Scotland, A. B. Davidson, who was appointed in 1863 to the Chair of Hebrew Old Testament Literature in the New College, Edinburgh, had drunk deeply at the wells of German Liberal theology. He subtly began to introduce the new theology. Finlayson notes that Davidson gave this counsel to his students:

Be careful to give this to your congregations in small doses.

A. B. Bruce, professor at the Glasgow College, is a further tragic
example of the deleterious effects of Liberal theology:

Of some others in the forefront of the movement, it can only be said that there was a breakdown in character as well as in faith, over which the veil of charity must be drawn. As sad a case as any was, perhaps, that of A. B. Bruce, because of the early promise of his work on the teaching of Christ; and yet at the end of the day one of his closest friends commented sorrowfully: 'Sandy Bruce died without a single Christian conviction.'
Read the rest of this important article HERE.

"A Lover's Quarrel with the Evangelical Church"

From The White Horse Inn:

Is something wrong with the soil in the evangelical garden? According to Warren Cole Smith, author of A Lover's Quarrel with the Evangelical Church, the answer to that question, unfortunately, is yes. On this edition of the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton talks with Warren about his provocative new book and the current state of evangelical Christianity.

Listen to the program HERE.

How did we get the Bible?

If you're looking for a good introductory answer to this question (in 12 pages), here's a helpful presentation by Matt Harmon, delivered at the No Doubt Apologetics Conference in Indianapolis.

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pastors take note

Actual Craigslist post:

washington, DC craigslist > district of columbia > for sale / wanted > items wanted please flag with care:

Wanted: Christian Church

Date: 2009-08-17, 9:12AM EDTReply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

Looking for a church based on the teachings of the Bible. Recommendations?

*Please don't treat me like a customer at Starbucks.

*Please don't entertain me like I'm at a concert or manipulate my emotions like I'm watching a movie.

Please just open the Bible, explain what it says and what it means for my life.

it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests PostingID: 1327299219

HT: Church Matters

John MacArthur in The Washington Post

Here is yet another reason why I like John MacArthur:
Let's be brutally honest: most of Jesus' teaching is completely out of sync with the mores that dominate our culture.

I'm talking, of course, about the Jesus we encounter in Scripture, not the always-gentle, never-stern, ├╝ber-lenient coloring-book character who exists only in the popular imagination. The real Jesus was no domesticated clergyman with a starched collar and genteel manners; he was a bold, uncompromising Prophet who regularly challenged the canons of political correctness.

Consider the account of Jesus' public ministry given in the New Testament. The first word of his first sermon was "Repent!"--a theme that was no more welcome and no less strident-sounding than it is today. The first act of his public ministry touched off a small riot. He made a whip of cords and chased money-changers and animal merchants off the Temple grounds. That initiated a three-year-long conflict with society's most distinguished religious leaders. They ultimately handed him over to Roman authorities for crucifixion while crowds of lay people cheered them on.

Jesus was pointedly, deliberately, and dogmatically counter-cultural in almost every way. No wonder the religious and academic aristocracy of his generation were so hostile to him.

Read the entire article HERE.

This is what I call "Pro Life"!

From 11 Alive News:
METRO ATLANTA, Ga. -- Last weekend an Atlanta pastor made a promise that stunned his congregation and most of the people who heard it.In a speech that discussed abortion, the President, and the sanctity of life, the most provocative statement from Pastor Vic Pentz of Peachtree Presbyterian Church came towards sermon's end:"I make a promise to you now and I don't want you to keep this a secret," the pastor pronounced, "the Peachtree Presbyterian Church will care for any newborn baby you bring to this church."We will be the family to find a home for that child, and there's no limit on this. You can tell your friends, you can tell your family, you can tell the whole world ..."Reflected Pentz a week later, "I seem to have touched a nerve by saying that to the congregation."It's a speech he repeated this past Sunday, and it can be found on the church's web site under the sermon title, "Ethics of Life".

HT: Tim Challies

The Workers are Few

HT: Justin Taylor

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday's Sermon

Sunday's sermon was part 13 of the series through Hebrews - "Since we have a Great High Priest" (Heb. 4:14-16). You can lisen to or download it HERE.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Pray the Bible"

I have posted a link to a great resource for prayer under the "devotions" section in the right-hand column. It is called "Pray the Bible" and is based upon Matthew Henry's classic Method for Prayer.

Being offended by the right things

As a follow up to my last post take time to read Erik Raymond's thoughts about Michael Vick. He wonders what is wrong with a culture that is more scandalized by the death of some dogs than it is by over one million abortions each year.
Why is it that abortion is relegated to a controversial taboo and Vick’s dog fighting is not? Why are we united in condemning Vick and not condemning abortion? Why is our flame of righteousness burn so bright in the face of Vick but is flickering in the face of 50 million abortions? What is wrong with the American conscience?

There are lots of things in common between the two issues. In both cases you have the willful disregard for life, the deaths are both accomplished by humans, there is plenty of merciless brutality toward the victim, and there is a self-sovereign decision to end the life.

However, there is one significant difference: you get time in a federal prison for killing dogs but you get federal funding for killing babies.

Redeeming Michael Vick

"Two things you need to understand about WASP's: They love animals but they hate people."

- Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street

Initially I greeted the news about Michael Vick becoming a Philadelphia Eagle with a measure of cynicism. Certainly his participation in dogfighting was wrong, foolish, and, as he found out, illegal. Vick went from being the highest paid player in the NFL to being a resident in a federal prison after being convicted of conspiracy and running a dogfighting operation. That's enough for even PETA to seriously consider capital punishment.

But should his behavior, bad as it was, be the final chapter on Michael Vick? Should it disqualify him from ever again playing football professionally? Some reply with an unqualified "yes!" I agreed at one time. Now however I have had to reconsider my position. It's not that I don't think his crime should be without consequences. Indeed, Michael Vick has paid a steep price for what he did. When he steps out onto the field and is greeted by booing Philly fans he will be reminded that when he left the federal prison the consequences of his behavior did not come to a close.

The question for those of us who call ourselves Christians is whether or not we believe that someone who has offended our sensibilities so deeply can be redeemed. Do we believe that Michael Vick can be redeemed to the extent that he is allowed to return to that which he does so well? Make no mistake. Even if his talents are resurrected and he becomes once again a great football player he will for the rest of his career be known as the guy who killed dogs.

What I hope does not happen is for his first season with the Eagles to turn into the Michael Vick 'I Love Animals' Tour. I don't want him to wear 'I (heart) Puppies' t-shirts. He has done his time. His name is permanently tarnished. His redemption, if it is to occur, will not consist of words designed to assure us of how miserable he feels. The reality of his redemption will be revealed over time by the quality of his life. We ought to give him the time, and yes, our prayers toward that end.

Baby Talk

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New and Notable Books

Bryan Chapell's commentary on Ephesians is the latest installment in the wonderful Reformed Expository Commentary series. Right now you can get it from WTS Bookstore for only $9.99 (67% off!).

Also, "The Cradle, The Cross, and the Crown" promises to be an outstanding contribution to New Testament studies. It is currently 37% off.

The Two Natures of Jesus Christ

This Sunday, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Hebrews 4:14-16 which deals with both the divinity and humanity of Jesus. As a word of comfort for struggling saints the inspired writer emphasizes Christ's identification with us through his humanity. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (v. 15).

In his wonderful little book Concise Theology, J.I. Packer writes of Jesus' dual nature:

Jesus was a man who convinced those closest to him that he was also God; his humanness is not therefore in doubt. John’s condemnation of those who denied that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 7) was aimed at Docetists, who replaced the Incarnation with the idea that Jesus was a supernatural visitant (not God) who seemed human but was really a kind of phantom, a teacher who did not really die for sins.

The Gospels show Jesus experiencing human limitations (hunger, Matt. 4:2; weariness, John 4:6; ignorance of fact, Luke 8:45-47) and human pain (weeping at Lazarus’ grave, John 11:35, 38; agonizing in Gethsemane, Mark 14:32-42; cf. Luke 12:50; Hebrews 5:7-10; and suffering on the cross). Hebrews stresses that had he not thus experienced human pressures—weakness, temptation, pain—he would not be qualified to help us as we go through these things (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:15-16; 5:2, 7-9). As it is, his human experience is such as to guarantee that in every moment of demand and pressure in our relationship and walk with God we may go to him, confident that in some sense he has been there before us and so is the helper we need.

Christians, focusing on Jesus’ deity, have sometimes thought that it honors Jesus to minimize his humanness. The early heresy of Monophysitism (the idea that Jesus had only one nature) expressed this supposition, as do modern suggestions that he only pretended to be ignorant of facts (on the supposition that he always actualized his omniscience and therefore was aware of everything) and to be hungry and weary (on the supposition that his divinity supernaturally energized his humanity all the time, raising it above the demands of ordinary existence). But Incarnation means, rather, that the Son of God lived his divine-human life in and through his human mind and body at every point, maximizing his identification and empathy with those he had come to save, and drawing on divine resources to transcend human limits of knowledge and energy only when particular requirements of the Father’s will so dictated.

The idea that Jesus’ two natures were like alternating electrical circuits, so that sometimes he acted in his humanity and sometimes in his divinity, is also mistaken. He did and endured everything, including his sufferings on the cross, in the unity of his divine-human person (i.e., as the Son of God who had taken to himself all human powers of acting, reacting, and experiencing, in their unfallen form). Saying this does not contradict divine impassibility, for impassibility means not that God never experiences distress but that what he experiences, distress included, is experienced at his own will and by his own foreordaining decision.

Jesus, being divine, was impeccable (could not sin), but this does not mean he could not be tempted. Satan tempted him to disobey the Father by self-gratification, self-display, and self-aggrandizement (Matt. 4:1-11), and the temptation to retreat from the cross was constant (Luke 22:28, where the Greek for “trials” can be translated “temptations”; Matt. 16:23; and Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane). Being human, Jesus could not conquer temptation without a struggle, but being divine it was his nature to do his Father’s will (John 5:19, 30), and therefore to resist and fight temptation until he had overcome it. From Gethsemane we may infer that his struggles were sometimes more acute and agonizing than any we ever know. The happy end-result is that “because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:18).

* Packer, J. I. (1995, c1993). Concise theology : A guide to historic Christian beliefs. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House.

Blunting The Truth

"We have to deal with a spirit, I know not how to denominate it, unless I call it a spirit of moderatism in the pulpits of protestant churches. Men have begun to rub off the rough edges of truth, to give up the doctrines of Luther and Zwingle, and Calvin, and to endeavour to accommodate them to polished tastes. You might go into a Roman Catholic chapel now-a-days, and hear as good a sermon from a Popish priest as you hear in many cases from a Protestant minister, because he does not touch disputed points, or bring out the angular parts of our Protestant religion. Mark, too, in the great majority of our books what a dislike there is to sound doctrine! the writers seem to fancy that truth is of no more value than error; that as for the doctrines we preach, it cannot matter what they are; still holding that 'He can't be wrong whose life is in the right.' There is creeping into the pulpits of Baptists and every other denomination, a lethargy and coldness, and with that a sort of nullification of all truth. While they for the most part preach but little notable error, yet the truth itself is uttered in so minute a form that no one detects it, and in so ambiguous a style, that no one is struck with it. So far as man can do it, God's arrows are blunted, and the edge of his sword is turned in the day of battle. Men do not hear the truth as they used to."

- Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"When Helping Hurts" (2)

Okay, I said my next post would be a review of the book "When Helping Hurts." However, I found this interview with the authors and thought it would be beneficial. I'll begin going into detail on this important book in the next post.

Worship Carefully Considered

It seems that worship is too often limited to the topic of music. Since music is an emotional issue (in the church at least) this narrowing is probably why discussions concerning worship often generate more heat than light. There is also a tendency to assume that the forms of worship are completely up to the worshipper. It is said that we should be as creative as we like and use whatever elements we like so long as our "heart is in the right place." Now, I could go on about the issue of our hearts being in the right place. What exactly does that mean? But I digress.

Josh and Nick over at Reformed Forum discuss the Regulative Principle of worship with Dr. Derek Thomas (one of my favorite preachers). Check it out HERE.

Treating Terminally Ill Infants with Dignity

While serving as a pastor in Wichita, Kansas I had the honor of being connected with Choices Medical Clinic (a pro-life) medical clinic. They have had an awesome ministry. One of the creatively compassionate things that Choices provided for parents who discovered that their yet unborn child had a fatal anomaly was perinatal hospice. I was able to participate directly with several families who went through the perinatal hospice program and was deeply moved by seeing how blessed these hurting families were by the opportunity afforded them by Choices. Was it less convenient than an abortion? I would suppose so. But these parents were able to look at themselves in the mirror knowing they had treated their little one with dignity. That is infinitely more valuable than convenience.

Writing for World Magazine, Matt Anderson reports on the alternative of perinatal hospice.
When a pregnant woman clearly understands the primary purpose of genetic testing—abortion of a handicapped baby—a majority decline testing in my experience and almost all pro-life women decline testing. Nearly every problem now identified by prenatal diagnosis has no treatment. David Grimes, a well-known OB/GYN, professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and a strong abortion advocate, spoke truth in a rare moment of public clarity when he said prenatal diagnosis would disappear if abortion were not available.

But what happens when a routine 20-week ultrasound shows a baby with a profound abnormality, possibly an abnormality that will certainly result in the death of the baby prior to or shortly after birth? Or when a genetic test is done and shows similar results and the patient then decides against abortion? What then?

Enter perinatal hospice, the brain child of Byron Calhoun, a pro-life maternal-fetal medicine specialist.

Perinatal hospice honors life. The woman carrying the disabled child receives extensive counseling and birth preparation involving the combined efforts of MFM specialists, OB/GYN doctors, neonatologists, anesthesia services, chaplains, pastors, social workers, labor and delivery nurses, and neonatal nurses. She carries the pregnancy to its natural conclusion. She and her husband are allowed to grieve and prepare for the short time God may grant them with their child while their baby lives inside or outside the womb. Such a process obviates the grief caused by elective abortion, killing the child before it could be born.

Read the entire article HERE.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Emergent" Briefly Stated

Even as the emergent movement begins to slip into obscurity where it will eventually end up on the trash heap of other unhelpful fads that have harmed the church I am still frequently asked about it. Emergent is a notoriously slippery little bugger but there are nevertheless some things about it that are generally true across the board.

Monergism has a very helpful and brief discription of "emergent".
Emerging Churches usually define themselves as those who like to take the life of Jesus as a model way to live, welcome those who are outside, share generously, participate, create, lead without control and function together in spiritual activities or communities who practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. While all of these activities may be good, please notice that all of the above emerging principles are not about what Christ has done for us, but what we do for him. So the the very central core of Christianity is left out. The true gospel, rather, is news about what Christ has already done for us as a Savior, rather than instruction and advice about what we are to do for God. The primacy of His accomplishment, not ours, is the essence of our faith. The gospel of Christ above all brings news, rather than instruction.

Read the entire thing HERE.