Friday, July 31, 2009

"Thick Skin and a Big Heart"

I saw the following over at Tullian's blog...

Scotty Smith, Pastor for Preaching, Teaching, and Worship at Christ Community Church (PCA) in Franklin, Tennessee wrote the following prayer based upon Romans 12:17-21:

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Dear Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, apart from you, the admonitions in this passage mock our sensibilities. Everything within us instinctively wants to get even when we are hurt by others. Whether it’s a “light-hearted” insult or an outright assault; whether it’s our forgotten birthday or a remembered failure; whether we’re excluded from a party or included in someone’s madness… so often, too often, the pain we feel get’s recycled and redistributed to others.

We ask you for thick skin and a big heart, Jesus. We want to love well in the presence of everything from non-intended slights to full bore evil. Where evil has already deeply wounded us or is presently lurking, Jesus, let us remember, even deeper in our hearts, that you will repay, you will avenge. Because you have already overcome evil on the cross and have secured its utter annihilation, we can dare to imagine overcoming evil with good. We are clueless about feeding hungry, thirsty enemies, Jesus. Take our hand and show us the way.

And where we are just too sensitive, Jesus, too easily offended, too ready to keep record of wrongs done to us… may the gospel bring us much greater freedom. May this be a week, Jesus, of overlooking everything that should be overlooked, of dealing wisely as peacemakers with the situations we must confront, and a week of revoking all revenge in light of the Day you return to make all things new. All for your glory we ask these things, Jesus. Amen

When a Concordance Falls into the Wrong Hands

Using a concordance ought to require a license. The following video is just one more sad example of sloppy and kooky biblical exegesis. And as long as it sells there will continue to be an audience for "pin the tail on the anti-Christ."



For some sanity and sound biblical studies check out:
The Man of Sin by Kim Riddlebarger
The Bible and the Future by Anthony Hoekema
Christ and the Future by Cornelius Venema

Sunday's Sermon


Last Sunday's sermon was part 10 in the Hebrew's series - "The Sabbath Rest" (Hebrews 4:1-5). You can listen to or download it HERE.

Christians and Health Care Reform


Check out this excellent discussion on the Al Mohler Radio Program on the topic of how Christians ought to think about health care reform.


Healthcare is in the media today, and at the top of the President’s domestic policy agenda. Is it wise for the government to provide healthcare for everyone? Are there limits to what should be provided? Many in Washington would like to see public money support abortions for those who can’t afford them. Christians cannot support any program that doesn’t protect the unborn. Listen as Dr. Moore discusses the dangers of nationalized healthcare with two guests, Congressman Gene Taylor (D-Miss) and Kristen Day, Executive Director of Democrats for Life of America.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Criticism

Criticizing someone redemptively is a spiritual act of service. It is also something that needs to be thought through carefully before doing it. Often times we criticize not for the purpose of blessing and healing but for the purpose of venting anger. Likewise, receiving criticism well is a deeply spiritual act. Too often we are defensive and respond by lashing out, passively or directly, toward the one who wounded us. It's understandable. To be criticized hurts. No one likes it. Criticism strikes a blow to our pride. It also removes the pretense that we can make everyone happy.

David Powlison wrote an excellent article in CCEF's Journal of Biblical Counseling that I hope you will read.

Check it out HERE.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is church too boring?


On a recent edition of the White Horse Inn the discussion dealt with the prevailing attitude among some within the church that the ministry of the Word is boring. How should the church respond to this? Should the church try to be more entertaining in order to better engage a culture that demands entertainment?


The panel is joined by Richard Winter, author of Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment.


Listen HERE.

Machen on Polemics


"...a large part of the New Testament is polemic; the enunciation of evangelical truth was occasioned by the errors which had arisen in the churches...At the present time, when the opponents of the gospel are almost in control of our churches, the slightest avoidance of the defense of the gospel is just sheer unfaithfulness to the Lord. There have been previous great crises in the history of the Church, crises almost comparable to this. One appeared in the second century, when the very life of Christendom was threatened by the Gnostics. Another came in the Middle Ages when the gospel of God's grace seemed forgotten. In such times of crisis, God has always saved the Church. But he has always saved it not by theological pacifists, but by sturdy contenders for the truth."


- J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, p. 174

Machen's Classic


Yesterday was J. Gresham Machen's birthday.


Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity--liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man's will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God.

- J. Gresham Machen


Read Carl Trueman's wonderful forward to the new commemorative edition of Machen's classic and stunningly relevant "Christianity and Liberalism" HERE.


Order "Christianity and Liberalism" HERE. Highly recommended!

You can read it online HERE.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oldest Animal Fossils Found in Lakes


There is an interesting article on a recent find in South China.


Charles Choi writes:


Conventional wisdom has it that the first animals evolved in the ocean.

Now researchers studying ancient rock samples in South China have found that the first animal fossils are preserved in ancient lake deposits, not in marine sediments as commonly assumed.

These new findings not only raise questions as to where the earliest animals were living, but what factors drove animals to evolve in the first place.

For some 3 billion years, single-celled life forms such as bacteria dominated the planet. Then, roughly 600 million years ago, the first multi-cellular animals appeared on the scene, diversifying rapidly.

The oldest known animal fossils in the world are preserved in South China's Doushantuo Formation. These fossil beds have no adult specimens - instead, many of the fossils appear to be microscopic embryos.

"Our first unusual finding in this region was the abundance of a clay mineral called smectite," said researcher Tom Bristow, now at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "In rocks of this age, smectite is normally transformed into other types of clay. The smectite in these South China rocks, however, underwent no such transformation and have a special chemistry that, for the smectite to form, requires specific conditions in the water - conditions commonly found in salty, alkaline lakes.

"The researchers collected hundreds of rock samples from several locations in South China. All their analyses suggest these rocks were not marine sediments.

"Moreover, we found smectite in only some locations in South China, and not uniformly as one would expect for marine deposits," Bristow said. "Taken together, several lines of evidence indicated to us that these early animals lived in a lake environment."

Read the entire article HERE.


I'll be honest. I'm not a big fan of the creation science movement. In my opinion they tend to insist that the Bible says more about scientific matters than it truly does. For instance I am satisfied that the biblical record does not insist upon a relatively young earth. But some of my brothers in the creation science movement read the biblical genealogies in a wooden literal sense. By this standard they reason that the Bible teaches that the earth must be approximately ten thousand years old. This presupposes that the biblical genealogies are not abridged or abbreviated which in fact was a common practice.


There is also the matter of the creation account itself. Does the biblical language insist on a single week of seven 24 hour "days"? Some insist that it does. I do not believe the Bible insists on such a time frame. That said, I do not think we should be dogmatic on the issue. We certainly should not divide over the issue. I believe God created man uniquely. I do not believe mankind evolved from lower life forms (although there are godly, Bible believing people who do). Also, I believe Adam and Eve were historical figures and the garden a real place and the fall as described in Genesis a real event.


The reason I linked to the article on the discovery of ancient fossils in a lake environment is that it underscores the need for humility in the discipline of scientific research. The discoveries in South China depart from the conventional wisdom regarding evolution. Scientific paradigms seem to be in a state of frequent flux. What is "settled science" one day may have to be completely rethought the next. I offer this as a word of caution against whatever tendency we may have to subordinate the Bible to the changing paradigms in paleontology.

I'm Offended!

"We all hear things we don't like said about people and causes that we are fond of but in the changed social atmosphere we are being encouraged to give public notice if such language offends us. I am now being repeatedly told that I am entitled not to be offended. So--from now on--not offended is what I intend to be. Does this heightening of sensitivity make for social cohesion? Does not such cohesion depend rather on enduring what we don't like, and doing so in an adult way? Does not the glue of civic peace rest on such intangibles as the ability to laugh at oneself, to take a joke about even the deepest things? And is it not a measure of the strength of a person's religion that they tolerate the unpleasant conversation of others? Isn't playing the offendedness card going to result in an enfeebling of the culture, the development of oversensitive and precious members of the 'caring society'? Whatever happened to toleration?"

- from an article by theologian Paul Helm

Carson on Polemical Theology

Yesterday I posted a link to the book "Beyond the Bounds" in reference to a larger point I was trying to make briefly on the necessity of polemics. Polemics is the practice of proclaiming the truth with reference to specific errors. The Scriptures frequently engage in polemics. We find polemic in books as varied as Genesis and Galatians. The prophets, Jesus, and the apostles engaged in polemic. And so the polite, undiscerning, never offensive, and effete impulse so alive in the western church needs to be confronted. This is especially true in a culture that has been so heavily influenced with a post-modern hermeneutic which has no problem setting mutually exclusive truth claims side-by-side as if no claim to truth has any more validity than any other.

Don Carson's editorial in the latest issue of
Themelios addresses the issue of "polemical theology."

Caron writes:
Polemical theology is nothing other than contending for a particular theological understanding (usually one that the contender holds to be the truth) and disputing those that contradict it or minimize it. It is impossible to indulge in serious critical thought without becoming enmeshed, to some degree, in polemics. Every time you include a footnote that begins “Contra” you are engaged in polemical theology; every time you assemble six reasons as to why your interpretation of a biblical passage or your formulation of a theological issue is correct, and assert, or at least imply, that alternative interpretations or formulations are correspondingly incorrect, you dabble in polemical theology. The person who advances an exegetical or theological stance without reference to competing formulations may avoid polemics, but will usually not be taken seriously by those who have studied any issue, precisely because there is no serious engagement with those who disagree. It is not easy for Christians to be entirely free of polemics, and it is not wise to attempt such freedom. Their arguments will inevitably attract adjectives like ignorant, reductionistic, unengaged, naive—and rightly so.

So it is not surprising that the Bible itself casts up countless examples of polemical theology. One thinks of Yahweh’s sneering refutation and condemnation of the idols in Isa 40–45; of the direct condemnation of alternative stances in, say, Galatians or Jude, or of Jesus’ condemnation of hypocrites including what they teach (e.g., Matt 23); of the symbol-laden destruction of imperial pretensions in the Apocalypse. One also thinks of many subtler forms of polemics. When Jesus tells parables to indicate that the kingdom dawns slowly, quietly, over time, and in function of how the Word is received (e.g., the soils, the yeast, the weeds and the wheat), he is implicitly challenging alternative conceptions of the kingdom, and thus he is engaged in polemical theology. When the Letter to the Ephesians devotes much of its space to working out the glories and characteristics of the one new humanity that God has brought about in Christ, joining together Jew and Gentile (and, in principle, people from every tribe and language and people), it is overturning alternative views of ethnicity, of self-identification, of how to find the true locus of the covenant people of God. In other words, any robust theology that
wounds and heals, that bites and edifies and clarifies, is implicitly or explicitly engaging with alternative stances. In a world of finite human beings who are absorbed in themselves and characterized by rebellion against God, polemical theology is an unavoidable component of any serious theological stance, as the Bible itself makes clear.

Nevertheless, Carson wisely warns against building ones entire identity on polemics or what he calls the “everyone-has-got-this-wrong-before-me-but-here-is-the-true-synthesis.” He also helpfully points out that there is not one single "tone" to polemical theology.
[R]egardless of its audience and of the particular stance that is being challenged, polemical theology ought to develop a wide range of “tones.” Re-read Galatians. Within the space of six short chapters, Paul can be indignant with his readers, but he can also plead with them. He openly admits he wishes he could be present with them so he could better judge how he should adjust his tone. He can be scathing with respect to his opponents, precisely because he wants to protect his readers; he can devote several paragraphs to clarifying and defending his own credibility, not least in demonstrating that his core gospel is shared by the other apostles, even though he insists he is not dependent on them for getting it right. He happily connects his theological understanding to ethical conduct. All of this suggests that a mature grasp of the potential of polemical theology wants to win and protect people, not merely win arguments.
Read the entire article HERE.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gay Marriage and the cult of self-fulfillment

Mark Galli has a great article on gay marriage at Christianity Today.
‘Evangelicals are sensitive to this reality, but are less aware of how much we proactively participate in the culture of individualism. While stopping short of abortion, we have not given much thought to our easy acceptance of artificial contraception. I’m not arguing for or against contraception here, only pointing to the reality that contraception has separated sex from procreation. That, in turn, has prompted most couples, evangelicals included, to think that sex is first and foremost a fulfilling psychological and physical experience, that a couple has a right to enjoy themselves for a few years before they settle down to family life.

‘In essence, we have already redefined marriage as an institution designed for personal happiness. . .

‘We are, of all Christian traditions, the most individualistic. This individual emphasis has flourished in different ways and in different settings, and often for the good. . . But it is individualism nonetheless, and it cuts right to the heart of one of our best arguments against gay marriage.

‘We cannot very well argue for the sanctity of marriage as a crucial social institution while we blithely go about divorcing and approving of remarriage at a rate that destabilizes marriage. We cannot say that an institution, like the state, has a perfect right to insist on certain values and behavior from its citizens while we refuse to submit to denominational or local church authority. We cannot tell gay couples that marriage is about something much larger than self-fulfillment when we, like the rest of heterosexual culture, delay marriage until we can experience life, and delay having children until we can enjoy each other for a few years.

‘In short, we have been perfect hypocrites on this issue.’

Read the entire article HERE.

False Doctrine, Polemics, and Naming Names


In the history of God's people it has been a necessary practice to identify false teaching and, yes, those who are responsible for it. It seems however that all too often the effite American church has a distaste for hurting the feelings of false teachers. But when the shepherds of God's people do not identify those wolves who teach lying doctrines then they do violence to the people of God.


The book "Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity" is an oustanding example of polemics done well. You can order the book HERE. Also Desiring God has made it available for free download HERE.


Endorsements:


Here is a weighty tract for the times, in which a dozen Reformed scholars survey the “open theism” of Pinnock, Sanders, Boyd, and colleagues, and find it a confused, confusing, and unedifying hypothesis that ought to be declared off limits. Some pages are heavy sledding, but
the arguing is clear and strong, and the book is essential reading for all who are caught up in this discussion.
—J. I. PACKER
Professor of Theology
Regent College


The downsized deity of open theism is a poor substitute for the real God of historic Christianity—as taught by Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox theologians through the centuries. This book offers an important analysis and critique of this sub-Christian view of God. Well researched and fairly presented.
—TIMOTHY GEORGE
Dean of Beeson Divinity School
Samford University

The Stubborness of Depression

I saw the following video of Ed Welch over at Justin Taylor's site.



I highly recommend the book "Depression: A Stubborn Darkness." It is perhaps the most helpful and biblical thing I have read on the topic.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Jim Hamilton on Inerrancy


Dr. Jim Hamilton of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has written a helpful article explaining what he calls "the evangelical view of Scripture." Read it HERE.

Preaching Conference

I'm looking forward to the 2009 Preaching Conference at Westminster Theological Seminary. You can download the brochure HERE. There is a great line up of speakers including Derek Thomas and Carl Trueman.

The Case Against Cultural Relevance


As some of you know the Episcopal Church USA has taken serious steps toward fully embracing homosexuality (see HERE). This of course is nothing new for this denomination. The ordination to bishop of openly homosexual Eugene Robinson.


Interestingly, but not surprisingly the denominations that are mocking God by embracing homosexuality are declining fast. This trend is cited by Dan Gilgoff in an article in U.S. News and World Report. Gilgoff quotes Mark Silk who defends the church's embrace of homosexuality:


In a word, the Episcopalians are moving with all deliberate speed to fully normalize the status of gays and lesbians within their church. More conservative religious bodies will of course regard this as surrendering to the culture, but the truth is that all religious bodies must slow march to the beat of the culture if they expect to remain relevant to the lives of their members — that is, unless they want to relegate themselves to sectarian status. The Episcopalians are more willing to own up to this than most; indeed, they are doing so precisely by citing the changes in civil law respecting same-sex marriage.

When the church takes its cues from the culture rather than God's unchanging Word then the church will surely cease to be the church. The first calling of the church is to be a light to the world not to be conformed to the world. The world, which loves darkness, will not enjoy the light. It does not embrace the light. The church is not called to have "open minds" but minds conformed to the Word of God. If relevance means adopting the standards of the world then irrelevance will be the church's true gift to the world.

Carl Trueman on Church History

Some worthwhile articles from Carl Trueman at The Sola Panel on the importance of church history:

1. The Theological Importance of Criminal Profiling
2. Sticking It to the Man
3. Learning from the Pretenders

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Well done Tebow!



It's good to know that there are still some role models in sports.

Update:

Great cover article in Sports Illustrated on Tim Tebow.

MacArthur on Spurgeon

A former President's troubled relationship with his own denomination

Al Mohler provides historical and biblical perspective to former President Carter's public denunciation of his own denomination:

In his article, President Carter reiterated his decision to sever public ties with the Southern Baptist Convention. In his words:

So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service. This was in conflict with my belief - confirmed in the holy scriptures - that we are all equal in the eyes of God.

To his credit, President Carter apparently did not claim that this was a new decision or a fresh announcement. Though some media sources jumped on the announcement as "news," others were careful to put his statement in an appropriate historical context. Furthermore, President Carter's reference to the Southern Baptist Convention was not the main point of this article. Instead, his reference to the Southern Baptist Convention introduced his argument that any religious teaching that denies what he construes as full equality for women "is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God."

That, suffice it to say, is a mouthful. This is not a new argument for the former President. But in his article in The Observer he does make some interesting assertions. While acknowledging that he has not been trained "in religion or theology," he went on to argue that "the carefully selected verses found in the holy scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths."

All this fits a pattern for which Mr. Carter is now well known. He simply rejects the texts in the Bible that clearly establish different roles for men and women in the church and the home. He dismisses these verses for the simple reason that he also rejects the inerrancy of the Bible.

He may well be the world's most famous Sunday School teacher, but over just the last several years he has publicly expressed his rejection of the belief that persons must come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in order to be saved. He has also stated that his faith would not be shaken if Jesus did not perform some of the miracles attributed to him in the New Testament. His denial of biblical inerrancy is not merely theoretical -- he actually operates on the assumption that at least some texts of the Bible are false, untruthful, malignantly oppressive, and thus untrustworthy.


Read the entire article HERE.

Parenting Resources


Justin Taylor has posted the following links to parenting seminars from Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland:


Parenting Ages Infant to 5 (by Brian Chesemore)
Training, Discipline, and the Rod Outline (PDF)
Biblical Principles of Parenting Outline (PDF)


Additional Resources:
“Sowing Plan” (PDF)
Plan to Overcome Complaining (PDF)






Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Doctrine Matters


One of my favorite books on the church is 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by one of my favorite pastors Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. Dever identifies biblical theology as one of the "marks" of a healthy church.


Dever writes about an incident which illustrates the importance of conforming our thoughts about God to what He has revealed about Himself in His Word.

I had made a statement in a doctoral seminar about God... [Dever attended a liberal seminary]. Bill responded politely but firmly that he liked to think of God rather differently. For several minutes Bill painted a picture for us of a friendly deity. He liked to think of God as being wise, but not meddling; compassionate, but not overpowering; ever so resourceful, but never interrupting. ―This,‖ said Bill in conclusion, ―is how I like to think about God.

My reply was perhaps something sharper than it should have been. ―Thank you, Bill, for telling us so much about yourself, but we‘re here to study God. We want to know what He‘s really like, and not simply about our own desires.‖ The seminar was silent for a moment, as they took in this potential breach of politeness on my part, but they were taking in the point. I made some appreciative noises towards Bill, and we got on with our discussion about the nature and character of God as revealed in the Bible.

What do you think God is like? Not what do you like to think God is like, but how do you put together the God of Christmas with the God of the great Judgment of the final Day? What is your understanding of God and what He is like? To some of you, that whole discussion may sound nonsensical. Why expend any energy at all over what various people believe about an invisible being? I can understand that kind of skepticism over the importance of this topic. Regardless of our religious confession these days, who can dispute that in many ways religious beliefs seem irrelevant to our world. On television we see Roman Catholics fawning over the pope in his visit to St. Louis, while ignoring his teachings about contraception and abortion. Southern Baptists, who used to be known for decrying illicit sex, drugs, and rock and roll music (lest they lead to dancing, drinking, and playing cards) are now portrayed in a national magazine as antinomian Christians who have made peace with an anything goes morality.

This inattention to belief fits our culture‘s impatience with detail. In society today beliefs have been domesticated. We no longer fight about them. We don‘t really argue about them. We may not even care about them any more. After all, we think so many beliefs are merely passing fashions, or momentary expressions of individual wants or desires. Americans create designer religions and smorgasbord faiths – ―Oh, I‘ll take a little of this from Hinduism, and a little of this from Christianity, and a little of this from my grandmother (I don‘t remember what she was), and put it all together – as our own individual unique religion. Today people believe to be true simply what they desire to be true. Long held Christian beliefs about everything from the nature of God to morality have been reshaped, and have become unimportant to many people. They have been jettisoned in the name of making Christianity more relevant, more palatable, more acceptable to today‘s hearers.

How relevant are your own beliefs to your daily life? When you last sat in church, how much did you examine the words of the prayers you heard? How much did you think about the words of the songs you sang? Or how about the words that you heard from Scripture? Does it really matter to you if what you said or sang in church was true? How much does it really matter anyway? If I attend church and I‘m friendly, and I feel encouraged, and if I give my time to being there and even give my money, how much does it really matter if in my heart of hearts I really don‘t believe all this stuff that people around me say? Or maybe even that I say? How important are religious beliefs?

He Died in Our Place


Martin Downes has posted two excellent articles on the doctrine of Christ's Substitutionary Atonement. Specifically he defends the doctrine from the claims that it is 1) inconsistent with Jesus' command to turn the other cheek and 2) that it is akin to child abuse on the part of the Father.


Check out the posts Here and Here.

Terry Eagleton on the New Atheists

“Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”

- Terry Eagleton on "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins

Check out this article on Eagleton from "The New Humanist."

The NEA takes its stand

From a post by Gene Veith:
The National Education Association, the country’s major teachers’ union, had more than education on its mind at its annual convention:

The National Education Association has thrown its full support behind homosexual “marriage.”

The NEA recently held its annual convention in San Diego, California, where members voted on two issues of importance to those involved in the culture war. One of those issues was whether the union would support same-gender marriage. According to Jeralee Smith, co-founder of the Conservative Educators Caucus, the resolution passed by roughly a two-thirds majority.

“There are quite a few items where the NEA absolutely puts its political muscle behind taking down any legislation in any state that they consider to be discriminatory to homosexuals,” says Smith. “And some of the language in the resolution also hints that the NEA will try to take down the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] on the federal level.”

Smith told Baptist Press that when a representative of the Conservative Caucus spoke against the resolution and mentioned the words “marriage should be between a man and a woman,” the speaker was booed.

Also up for a vote was a resolution for the NEA to take a “no position” stance on the issue of abortion. That proposal was voted down 61 percent to 39 percent.

How about voting on improving math instruction? Or passing resolutions about homework?

And yet, the voice of the union must be emblematic of where our nation’s public school teachers stand on these political, moral, and cultural issues.

Information Overload Syndrome

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Take and Read


John Piper has recently said that David Daniell's biograpy of William Tyndale is one of the best books he has ever read. That's a pretty good endorsement. Anyway, if you are not in the habit of reading biography I encourage you to take it up.

Will we believe God's Word?


From Al Mohler:

Tom Krattenmaker, a Portland, Oregon based member of the paper's Board of Contributors, levels a broadside attack on the unity, inspiration, and veracity of the Bible as the Word of God in his column, "Fightin' Words".

Krattenmaker first celebrates what he describes as "a year of retreat and retrench" for conservative Christianity. Now, he says, "here come more challenges to traditionalist views of the Bible and Christian faith from a lineup of big-name, liberal-leaning scholars and theologians."

First up on Krattenmaker's list is Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina. As Krattenmaker explains, Ehrman "mounts evidence against literalist conceptions of the Bible as factual history and a divinely transmitted testament to an afterlife-focused religion called Christianity."...

Bart Ehrman has established himself as the media's go-to professor in terms of denying the truthfulness and unity of the Bible, especially the New Testament. Ehrman, who has written several best-selling books seeking to debunk and discredit the New Testament and classical Christianity, is a popularizer for many accusations long alleged against the Bible. He takes passages (such as the passion passages from Mark and Luke) and sees contradictions where the church has always seen complimentary accounts. Christ did indeed utter the cry of God-forsakenness recounted by Mark, but this was itself a citation of the Psalms that points to a much different purpose and meaning than Ehrman implies. Which is the true account, Mark or Luke? It takes very little imagination to understand that, in the crucible of the crucifixion event, Jesus experienced both the agony of the God-forsakenness he experienced (and knew He was meant to experience on behalf of sinners) and the serenity that He also experienced, given his faith in the Father's purposes and power to raise him from the dead.

Of course, if you are coming to the Bible from the perspective of one who has rejected Christianity, you are likely to see the kind of pattern Ehrman alleges. Of course, if he did see the Bible as the perfect and completely truthful Word of God, he would not remain a rejecter of the Christian Gospel.

No one comes to the Bible without presuppositions and a basic intellectual disposition. That is true for Bart Ehrman, and it is no less true for the evangelical believer. In both cases, the presuppositions assign the way each will read the Bible. Krattenmaker simplistically cites Ehrman as his authority for suggesting that Jesus spoke of himself as God in John's gospel but not in Matthew. But this facile assertion, offered without any supporting argument, does not take in to account that throughout the Gospel of Matthew Jesus speaks and acts as God. When Jesus delivers the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, He cites Scripture with the formula, "you have heard it said." When Jesus then continues by saying, "but I say unto you," He speaks as God in a way that any first-century Jewish person would have readily understood. Nature obeys his command, and he performs miracles (even bringing the dead back to life) that show his providential control over the created order.

Read the entire post HERE.

For further reading:
Misquoting Truth by Timothy Paul Jones
The Erosion of Inerrancy by Greg Beale
The God-Breathed Scripture by E.J. Young
The Infallable Word ed. by Stonehouse & Woolley
The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible by B.B. Warfield
Fundamentalism and the Word of God by J.I. Packer


Inventing Crimes

It looks like the U.S. Senate is creating more crimes and potentially more criminals by expanding hate crimes legislation. Preachers, or anyone else for that matter, who proclaim the truth of God's Word concerning homosexuality and sex outside of marriage will likely be exposed to the possibility of prosecution.

Baptist Press reports:
The U.S. Senate passed legislation July 16 to expand hate crimes protections to include homosexuals and transgendered people.

The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act gained approval as an amendment to a Department of Defense authorization bill, which is expected to be voted on the week of July 20-24. The amendment would add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the current categories -- such as religion and national origin -- protected from hate crimes. "Sexual orientation" includes homosexuality and bisexuality, while "gender identity," or transgendered status, takes in transsexuals and cross-dressers...

The House of Representatives passed a similar measure -- the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, H.R. 1913 -- with a 249-175 vote in late April.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and others oppose such efforts to expand hate crimes protection based not only on their inclusion of categories defined by sexual behavior or identity but also concerns about the potential impact on religious freedom.

They fear the measure, combined with existing law, could expose to prosecution Christians and others who proclaim the Bible's teaching that homosexual behavior and other sexual relations outside marriage are sinful. For example, if a person commits a violent act based on a victim's "sexual orientation" after hearing biblical teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, the preacher or teacher could be open to a charge of inducing the person to commit the crime, some foes say.
Read the entire article HERE.

I wonder about the consequences of tyring to legislate thoughts and motives. The irony of naming hate crimes legislation after Matthew Shepherd is that his murderers were sentenced to the fullest extent of the law and rightfully so. But this happened without the help of hate crimes laws. Shouldn't it be enough to denounce murder equally, regardless of the status or behavior of the victim? I am concerned by laws that communicate that it is worse to murder someone because you hate homosexuals than it is to murder someone simply because you are evil.

Anyway, Canada and Scandanavia have attacked free speech through hate crimes legislation and preachers have been put on notice - don't preach against homosexuality.

Of course, in His good providence God may well be moving His people in America into a time of testing. We certainly know that God has and does use the persecution of the state to purify and strengthen His church. We certainly do not know what persecution is in this country. Perhaps in our lifetime we will.

Knowing Abortion Laws


I assume most of us would agree that any person serving as a justice on the United States Supreme Court ought to know the laws in our country concerning abortion. It appears however that this may not be the case, at least with Judge Sonia Sotomayor who will in all likelihood be overwhelmingly approved. But if she is indeed not fully aware of the laws relating to abortion then she is not much different than the average American.


Writing for Public Discourse Matthew J. Franck considers the Sotomayor hearings and what they tell us about her, and perhaps our knowlege of our nation's abortion laws.


Franck writes:


Does Judge Sonia Sotomayor know the law as well as a future Supreme Court justice ought to know it? If a discussion during her confirmation hearings with
Senator Tom Coburn (who is not a lawyer, but rather an experienced obstetrician) is any indication, it would seem not.

Sen. Coburn: You’ve been asked a lot of questions about abortion. And you’ve said that Roe v. Wade is settled law. Where are we today? What is the settled law in America about abortion?

Judge Sotomayor: I can speak to what the court has said in its precedent. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court reaffirmed the core holding of Roe v. Wade, that a woman has a constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy in certain circumstances. In Casey, the court announced that in reviewing state regulations that may apply to that right, that the court considers whether that regulation has an undue burden on the woman’s constitutional right. That’s my understanding of what the state of the law is.

Sen. Coburn: So let me give you a couple of cases. Let’s say I’m 38 weeks pregnant and we discover a small spina bifida sac on the lower sacrum, the lower part of the back, on my baby, and I feel like I just can’t handle a child with that. Would it be legal in this country to terminate that child’s life?

Judge Sotomayor: I can’t answer that question in the abstract, because I would have to look at what the state of the state’s law was on that question and what the state said with respect to that issue. I can say that the question of the number of weeks that a woman is pregnant has been—that approach to looking at a woman’s act has—was changed by Casey. The question is, is the state regulation regulating what a woman does an undue burden? And so I can’t answer your hypothetical, because I can’t look at it as an abstract without knowing what state laws exist on this issue or not. . . .

The judge’s answer to the senator’s question was miles wide of the mark, and indicated either that she does not know the truth about the constitutional law of abortion in our country, or that she is willing—for whatever reason—to mischaracterize the matter before a national audience. Senator Coburn had an opening here that cried out for exploitation, but he passed it by for the moment.

The next day, however, he returned to this subject, taking Judge Sotomayor through another brief exchange and pointing out to her that “the truth is, ever since January 22nd, 1973 [the day Roe was decided], you can have an abortion for any reason you want in this country,” and that the stage of one’s pregnancy at the time does not matter at all. The senator was perhaps too kind to the judge, when he might have leaned in and said with quiet intensity, “Why don’t you know this?”
Read the entire article HERE.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday's Sermon


This week's message was part 9 in our series on Hebrews - "The Faithless Shall Fall" (Heb. 3:7-19). You can listen to or download it HERE.

Capitol Hill Podcasts

Capitol Hill Baptist Church, one of my favorite churches, has a new podcast page. Lot's of stuff well worth listening to. Check it out HERE.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

You MUST listen to this!

I posted a link to this back in 07 and just had to revisit this incredible story...

Stop whatever you are doing and check it out HERE.

A Good Perspective on the New Perspective


Kevin DeYoung provides a very helpful annalysis of N.T. Wrights perspective on the doctrine of justification.


Check it out HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What Makes Church Boring



Church isn't boring because we're not showing enough film clips, or because we play an organ instead of guitar. It's boring because we neuter it of its importance. Too often we treat our spiritual lives like the round of golf used to open George Barna's Revolution. At the end of my life, I want my friends and family to remember me as someone who battled for the Gospel, who tried to mortify sin in my life, who fought hard for life, and who contended earnestly for the faith. Not just a nice guy who occasionally noticed the splendor of the mountains God created, while otherwise just trying to enjoy myself, manage my schedule, and work on my short game...

We all have different callings. Some may be drawn to pro-life issues, and others to addressing global hunger, but let's make sure as Christians that our missional concerns go father than those shared by Brangelina and the United Way.

What makes the church unique is its commitment, above all else, to knowing and making known Christ and Him crucified. True, the biblical story line is creation, fall, redemption and recreation. But the overwhelming majority of Scripture is about our redemption, how God saves lawbreakers, how sin can be atoned for, how rebels can be made right with God.

From "Why We Love the Church" by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Just for Fun

Bathtub IV from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

This is not annimation or stop-motion. This is real photography. It's called "tilt shift."

“Tilt-shift lenses sit off-center of the film (or sensor) plane of your camera to produce photos with extremely limited depth of field, giving the effect of a macro shot of a tiny scene. When the effect is matched with the surreal speed boost of many stills strung together into a time-lapse movie, we get the other-worldly privilege of seeing real Australian beach goers as an elaborate Playmobil scape. Or Sydney Harbor in a bath tub.” (Gizmodo)

She actually said it!


"Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong."

- United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg


Eugenics anyone?

Inside the weird world of the pastor's mind


I saw the following post over at LeadingChurch.org. There is a lot of unsettling truth in this post:



I have a friend who is a pastor and his father is a doctor. He told his son “I feel sorry for you. I don’t have to be friends with all of my patients.”

When someone comes to a pastor the pastor can’t say “you’re a jerk, I don’t feel like talking to you today” or “your problems are a result of your sinfulness and stupidity so stop whining and do something about your life…” A pastor can’t say “I realize that you’ve got a lot of pain but I’m increasingly uncomfortable with how you and I are relating so why don’t you go to another church.”

Ken said it well, pastors are isolated and they are often trapped too. Those are two very scary dynamics. Our calling system makes it tough for pastors to leave or to transition for other jobs easily. For most pastors a change of jobs requires a move to a different part of North America. That’s tough on families.

I think pastors (including myself here) often are in a lot of emotional denial. Sometimes we just want to tell people off but pastors can’t do that. Sometimes we’re tired but pastors can’t be that either. As Ken noted pastors are supposed to stand in for God but pastors can’t handle the job and the temptation to play-act the God role is more dangerous still.


You can be a jerk and an engineer and people will still tolerate you. If you’re a jerk and a pastor you’re pretty much going to be without a job. Studies on job stress regularly indicated the highest amount of job stress is with people who have to stifle their natural emotional responses, customer service reps, receptionists, airline employees, etc. You can have someone standing there publically splaying your guts before the congregation and you just stand there and let it all run out onto the floor with a smile. One slip up, one show of anger, and your ministry reputation is never the same. You’ve got a recipe here for a lot of repressed anger and depression, a lot of needs that become opportunities for indulging in deeper brokenness.


My father regularly notes that the job a pastor is called to do is radically different
than it was 40 years ago. The CRC has a majority of churches that are “at risk” and in most cases it is the pastor who is held responsible for the impossible.

I can’t let pastors off the hook here. We’ve let ourselves be put into this box. We’ve got to let ourselves out of it, and be willing to pay the price when we do. There are more resources available for pastors today and there is a greater understanding that pastors need friends besides their spouses. Pastors need safe places to talk, to vent their frustrations, to be encouraged, to be accountable. Pastors need all those things.

For the most part churches don’t really know much about the care and feeding of a pastor. Things are improving but there is more work to be done.

Pastors have to also spend more time in self-leadership. Bill Hybels on the subject said that he thought a pastor should spend 70% of his time on self-leadership. When I heard that number I almost hit the floor!

What is self-leadership? Praying, being in community with those on the journey (again the isolation weighs here), reading, studying Scripture, writing, care for your own soul so you can lead others in the care of theirs.

Christianity is the religion of the wounded healer. Christianity has as a matter of profession Jesus’ revelation to Paul that Jesus’ power is made perfect in weakness. Instead of seeing imperfect pastors as the deviation from the norm, perhaps we should see them as resources in learning how to live by faith, lean into grace, and be emblematic of forgiveness in the face of brokenness.

"Why Christian Institutions Are So Easily Lost"

Listen to an excellent discussion on the Al Mohler radio program of why so many institutions that were once evangelical have become liberal or completely secular.

This is one of the reasons why I am thankful for the leadership of Drs. Trueman and Lillback at Westminster Seminary in insisting that WTS remain faithful to her confessional identity. In the Philadelphia area there are abounding examples of seminaries, universities, colleges, and churches that once held to biblical orthodoxy that are now either drifting away or have become truly apostate.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Just for Fun


Taco Bell's New Green Menu Takes No Ingredients From Nature

"Broken-Down House"


The Discerning Reader has posted a helpful review and recommendation of Paul Tripp's new book "Broken-Down House."


Paul David Tripp, whom I readily disclose as one of my favorite Christian authors alongside John Piper, puts the Christian-life-as-a-house metaphor to effective service in his newest book, Broken-Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad. Special mention ought also to go to editor Kevin Meath, who strengthened the manuscript for publication...

Whereas many Christian books focus in on a single aspect of the Christian life as though it were a separate compartment, Broken-Down House is comprehensive in its scope. A biblical theology of the Christian life, if you like. I cannot do better than to quote Tripp sketching out the architecture of this book:

Well, sin has ravaged the beautiful house that God created. This world bears only the faintest resemblance to what it was built to be. It sits in slumped and disheveled pain, groaning for the restoration that can only be accomplished by the hands of him who built it in the first place. The Bible clearly tells us that the divine Builder cannot and will not leave his house in its present pitiful condition. He has instituted a plan of restoration, and he will not relent until everything about His house is made totally new again. That is the good news.

The bad news is that you and I are a living right in the middle of the restoration. We live each day in a house that is terribly broken, where nothing works exactly as intended. But we do not live in the house by ourselves. Emmanuel lives here as well, and he is at work returning his house to its former beauty. Often it doesn’t look like any real restoration is going on at all. Things seem to get messier, uglier, and less functional all the time. But that’s the way it is with restoration; things generally get worse before they get better...

Broken-Down House is a book for everyone and everything. Everyone in that no one is exempt from its message, and everything in that there is not a single aspect of the human condition (that I could think of) absent from this book. Even more importantly, it is a piece of work whose cornerstone is Christ, and whose chief architect is God himself. Read it and weep, read it and rejoice.

Read the entire review HERE.

The Deceitfulness of Sin


"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

- Hebrews 3:12-13


It is rightly called the deceitfulness of sin because it deceives under the appearance of the good. This phrase "the deceitfulness of sin" ought to be understood in a much wider sense, so that the term includes even one's own righteousness and wisdom. For more than anything else one's own righteousness and wisdom deceive one one and work against faith in Christ, since we love the flesh and the sensations of the flesh and also riches and possessions, but we love nothing more ardently than our own feelings, judgment, purpose, and will, especially when they seem to be good. For the same reason Christ said, when he healed the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, that it was impossible for such people to be able to believe: "How can you believe who receive glory from one another?" (John 5:44). Why are they not able to believe? Because the "deceitfulness of sin," that is, the love of their own righteousness, blinds them and hardens their heart. Yet at the same time they think it a good thing to glory in their own righteousness and be pleased with it, though that indeed is the very worst of all vices, the extreme antithesis of faith. Faith rejoices and glories in the righteousness of God alone, that is, in Christ himself.
- Martin Luther

I can relate disturbingly well with what Luther writes. As much as I don't like to think of myself in these terms, there is too much of the Pharisee in me. It is often times subtle. But pride in good behavior is an ugly thing. As much as my theology tells me the opposite and as much as I resist it I still see the snake of self-righteousness slither into my heart and mind. It's not that we should be uninterested in works of righteousness. Quite the opposite. Our lives ought to abound in good works. The problem however, at least in my own heart, is that those works can easily become an occasion for boasting. And by boasting I do not mean open braggadocio. The boasting takes the form of a kind of faith; faith that I am okay with God because of my good behavior; faith that so long as I am more well behaved than others then I am doing well.


To the untrained mind that may not sound nearly as bad as certain other sins. But to the God who sent His Son to be my subsitute; to cover my sinfulness with His righteousness, it is a particularly noxious kind of wickedness for it tramples on the very grace by which I am saved.


"Wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

- Romans 7:24-25a

Monday, July 13, 2009

Recommended Reading


You can subscribe to my book recommendations at Westminster Bookstore by 1) clicking HERE 2) click on the first book 3) click on "pastor/elder review" 4) click on "Todd Pruitt" 5) click on "subscribe" under my name. You'll receive updates when new books are added to my list of recommendations.


Also, the good folks at Westminster Bookstore were kind enough to give me a copy of the new book "When Helping Hurts". My plan is to read it over the next two days and then post a review. It looks like a very interesting and perhaps important read.


From the publisher:


Churches and individual Christians typically have faulty assumptions about the causes of poverty, resulting in the use of strategies that do considerable harm to poor people and themselves. When Helping Hurts provides foundational concepts, clearly articulated general principles and relevant applications. The result is an effective and holistic ministry to the poor, not a truncated gospel.

A situation is assessed for whether relief, rehabilitation, or development is the best response to a situation. Efforts are characterized by an "asset based" approach rather than a "needs based" approach. Short term mission efforts are addressed and microenterprise development (MED) is explored.

Endorsements:


"Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert are zealous to make sure that we honor the gospel not only in word but also in deed by caring for "the least of these" as Christ instructed. But how can a local church make a difference, and how do individual Christians meaningfully reflect Christ's grace, when the disparities of wealth and power in our world are so great? And how do we show material care without drifting into a social gospel devoid of spiritual priorities? When Helping Hurts explores biblical principles in terms of real-life situations to offer real help and grace-filled answers for such questions."
- Dr. Bryan Chapell, President, Covenant Theological Seminary

"Becoming more and more aware of the poverty in the world, the North American church is responding and ministering to the poor in unprecedented numbers. But this is easier said than done, as poverty is a complex problem. Good intentions are not enough, for faulty assumptions can result in strategies that do considerable harm. If churches truly want to help, this book is a must-read. It presents a biblically based framework for understanding poverty and its alleviation. The principles and strategies will help the church build an effective ministry for a hurting world, both at home and abroad.
- Dr. Paul Kooistra, Executive Director of Mission to the World

"Christianity and Liberalism"


From Al Mohler:


On November 3, 1921, J. Gresham Machen presented an address entitled, "Liberalism or Christianity?" In that famous address, later expanded into the book, Christianity & Liberalism, Machen argued that evangelical Christianity and its liberal rival were, in effect, two very different religions.

Machen's argument became one of the issues of controversy in the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversies of the 1920s and beyond. By any measure,
Machen was absolutely right--the movement that styled itself as liberal Christianity was eviscerating the central doctrines of the Christian faith while continuing to claim Christianity as "a way of life" and a system of meaning.

"The chief modern rival of Christianity is 'liberalism,'" Machen asserted. "Modern liberalism, then, has lost sight of the two great presuppositions of the Christian message--the living God and the fact of sin," he argued. "The liberal doctrine of God and the liberal doctrine of man are both diametrically opposite to the Christian view. But the divergence concerns not only the presuppositions of the message, but also the message itself."

Howard P. Kainz, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Marquette University, offers a similar argument--warning that it is now modern secular liberalism which poses as the great rival to orthodox Christianity.

Observing the basic divide in the American culture, Kainz notes: "Most of the heat of battle occurs where traditional religious believers clash with certain liberals who are religiously committed to secular liberalism."

Read the entire post HERE


Order "Christianity and Liberalism" HERE.