Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Review of "Magnifying God in Christ"

I recently reviewed Tom Schreiner's excellent Magnifying God in Christ for The Gospel Coalition.

I have a simple rule of thumb when it comes to Thomas Schreiner: If he writes it, I read it. I have been sharpened by his commentaries on Romans and 1&2 Peter. His book on the doctrine of the saint’s perseverance, The Race Set Before Us is a wonderful synthesis of sound exegesis and exhortation. Believer’s Baptism is the best defense of credo-baptism I have read. I remember being excited when his massive New Testament Theology was released. It was well worth the time and attention required to read it. However, I remember thinking along the way that a condensed and more accessible version would be a coup for thoughtful lay persons. Thus, I welcomed the publication of Magnifying God in Christ with enthusiasm. I was even more enthused as I realized that this may well be the most helpful summary of the theology of the New Testament I had yet to read.

Thomas Schreiner is both a Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a teaching pastor in a local congregation. I point this out because it is clear that, for Schreiner, careful attention to matters of interpretation and doctrine are not to be confined to the academy but have devotional and doxological implications. In short, this is biblical scholarship in service to the church which is what all biblical scholarship ought to be.
You can read the entire review HERE.

Coming to Church of the Saviour

The speakers for Full Confidence at Church of the Saviour will be:

Carl Trueman

David Garner

Lane Tipton

John Currie

CSM weighs in on the new Calvinism

The Christian Science Monitor recently ran an article that has been getting some attention throughout the blogosphere. It is about the renewed popularity of Calvinism. Of course, this is anything but a new story. Several years ago Christianity Today and many other publications noted the resurgence of Reformed theology. Some have wanted to dismiss this simply as a fad. Certainly there is always the reality of "bandwagonism" with any popular movement. But my experience is that the Reformed resurgence has been primarily driven by two factors: 1) a more careful study of Scripture by a growing number of Christians and 2) a corresponding disgust for the lack of sound doctrine and preaching within evangelicalism.

Of particular interest to me was the article's attention to Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. I admire very much Capitol Hill Baptist and their pastor Mark Dever.

Membership at CHBC isn't for the faint of holy. Classes on theology and Christian history are required before joining. At the "Lord's Supper" once a month, members stand and recite an oath that ties them to one another. In addition to Sunday worship and Wednesday night Bible study, they spend hours each week in small-group study or one-on-one "discipling." They say those sessions – a time for confessions, encouragement, and prayer – are the most challenging and rewarding feature of church life.

"Christian fellowship is so much more than hanging out with friends," says Claudia Anderson, a magazine editor. "It involves spiritual intimacy, support, learning, counseling, and stunning acts of kindness."

Christopher Brown, a lawyer, concurs. "I came for the theology but stayed for the community," he says. "As Americans, we're so individualistic. But the New Testament rebukes this 'rugged individualism.' We're not saved to be lone rangers."

The BlackBerry-wielding Millennials who worship here say they crave teaching that challenges them – "preaching for PhDs," as one puts it. Ask them what books they're reading, and they won't mention "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." They'll reel through names of 17th-century Puritan preachers like a pack of baseball cards...

At CHBC, several members say they became authentically Christian only after a friend studied the gospel with them verse by verse. "As I studied the Bible, I saw that God has every reason to send me to hell," says Connie Brown, a kindergarten teacher. "God broke me down – and renewed my heart."

New Calvinists talk about their sin a lot. Despite that – or rather because of it – they exude not guilt but great joy. Their explanation: If we play down our sinfulness, we'll play down our gratitude for the magnitude of God's love and forgiveness.

Many members were drawn to CHBC precisely because they had yearned to be "convicted of their sin" again and grown frustrated with "watered-down preaching." School vice principal Jessica Sandle says she came after the pastor at her former church read a book on growth and became consumed with filling pews. "So he stopped talking about sin, and why we need God," she says.
The article concludes with some less than illuminating thoughts from Phyllis Tickle, a leader in the emergent church movement.

Carl Trueman has posted an appropriate response to Miss Tickle's historical revisionism.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why we need a righteousness not our own

One of the key doctrines generally rejected by adherents to Federal Vision theology, New Perspective on Paul, and various emergent types is the imputation of Christ's righteousness to believers. Dr. James McGoldrick of Greenville Presbyterian Seminary addresses the meaning and necessity of this doctrine in a recent article.

One of the most pressing questions ever asked comes from one of the ancient books of the Bible. Job asked, “How can a mortal [man] be righteous before God?” (Job 9:2). The apostle Paul found the answer in the gospel of Christ. After describing his impressive achievements as a rabbi, he related how he obtained the righteousness he needed. To his friends in the church at Philippi he wrote:

I consider them [my attainments] rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith (Philippians 3:8-9).

In the gospel Paul discovered alien righteousness, which means the righteousness of another—in this case, the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, is perfectly righteous. Of him God the Father said “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus pleased the Father because of his sinless perfection—his flawless righteousness. By active obedience to God, Jesus met all the divine requirements. He therefore could dare his critics by asking, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46). The sinless character of Christ made it
appropriate for the apostle Peter to refer to him as a “lamb without spot or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).

The righteousness of Christ is his by nature. It becomes an alien righteousness when sinners admit their failure to meet God’s demands and trust in Christ alone for forgiveness and eternal salvation. At that point the righteous God imputes, or accounts, the righteousness of his Son to the credit of believing sinners. Like Paul, at that instant, those who trust in Christ obtain the righteousness “which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:9).

Read the entire article HERE.

Keeping Christ the Center

Recently Robert Godfrey, President of Westminster Seminary California was the featured speaker at the Christ-Centered Christianity Conference in Lynden, Washington. Very good stuff. Take time to listen.

Monday, March 29, 2010

"A Mass of the Tremulous Jelly of Mutual Flattery"

I cannot endure false doctrine, however neatly it may be put before me. Would you have me eat poisoned meat because the dish is of the choicest ware? It makes me indignant when I hear another gospel put before the people with enticing words, by men who would fain make merchandise of souls; and I marvel at those who have soft words for such deceivers.

"That is your bigotry," says one. Call it so if you like, but it is the bigotry of the loving John who wrote—"If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."

I would to God we had all more of such decision, for the lack of it is depriving our religious life of its backbone and substituting for honest manliness a mass of the tremulous jelly of mutual flattery.

- Charles Spurgeon

Golden Compass author calls Jesus Christ a "scoundrel"

Philip Pullman, author of the highly acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy has now authored an anti-Christ screed. It seems he likes "the historical Jesus" just fine. It's "the Christ of faith" that has him so bummed. Of course there is nothing new here. Liberal, so-called "Christian" scholars have been saying basically the same thing for a hundred years. It's also been the theme of such schlocky novels as The DaVinci Code.

Sunday's Sermon

Sunday's message was entitled "In My Place Condemned He Stood" as was based on Romans 3:21-26. You can listen to or download it HERE.

A Christ-Haunted Atheist

John Piper is taking a break

I hope that John Piper's theological and pastoral influence will continue with his decision to take an eight month sabbatical. Since I am a pastor of a local congregation I hope I don't seem self-serving in posting the following thoughts from Matthew Lee Anderson. However, Anderson's reaction to Piper's announcement so closely mirrored my own that I wanted to pass it along.

I for one am thrilled to hear that John Piper has asked for, and been granted, an eight month leave from each of his ministries.

But I don’t quite know why I’m so excited by his decision. After all, eight months is a relatively short amount of time, and I don’t know Piper at all.

But I suspect there’s a lesson here that all evangelical pastors and their churches need to pay attention to. And I hope that Piper’s influence can help them learn it.

Growing up within evangelicalism, I saw almost no emphasis on sabbatical periods for pastors, especially in those evangelical communities that have under 200 members and a small support staff. For them, sabbaticals require a greater level of sacrifice by the whole church community, as most pastors fill roles well beyond the pulpit.

But preaching the word of God every week, even when not writing a book a year, is (I have observed) incredibly difficult work and frequently spiritually draining. While Piper cites a growing pride, I suspect that many pastors who have labored long and hard have a sense of numbness to the power of the Word of God and its ability to transform their own lives.

I don’t know what kind of Biblical warrant there is for this sort of sabbatical (though I’ve always thought that if the land got a break from producing every seven years, we ought to allow our pastors the same). But it strikes me as enormously wise, and as bearing witness to the reality of God’s action in a significant way.

Within evangelicalism, we tend to expect a level of spiritual hyper-productivity from our pastors. And so we rarely, if ever, let them enjoy the sort of sustained rest from their labors that is truly required to replenish their hearts and their minds. Sabbaticals, in their core, are breaks from activity to let God be God, and to create space for him to work in us anew. So it is encouraging to see one of our most prominent relinquish his duties and simply enjoy the world and relationships that God has given to him.

I prayed today–and I don’t often pray for people I don’t know–for John Piper and his wife. And you should too.

But more importantly, I pray that evangelical churches around the United States will seek to follow his example and allow their pastors space to replenish, space to delight in their wives, space to seek the renewal of their hearts in their from their labors.

Worthy Reads for Holy Week

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Does it matter if Adam was an historical person?

That was the topic in a recent discussion at Christ the Center. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Religious Liberty?

From the Aquilla Report:
Rancho Cucamonga, a city in Southern California, is demanding that a small home Bible study group stop meeting because it does not have an expensive permit. The permit is not required for similar-sized gatherings in homes, such as book clubs, birthday parties or gatherings centered around sporting events. City officials have also indicated that they might not even grant a permit if it is requested. The city's stance has similarities to, but is perhaps even harsher than, a pending situation in Gilbert, Arizona, and a flare-up last year over a home Bible study in San Diego County.

In Rancho Cucamonga, the Bible study group, which meets on Friday nights, averages about fifteen attendees. The group is affiliated with Shiloh Tabernacle, which rents out a community center for its Sunday morning service and, like countless other churches across the country, offers smaller Bible studies that meet in members' homes during the week.

The City of Rancho Cucamonga has sent a letter to the homeowner insisting that the home Bible study is not allowed because it is a "church," and churches require a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) in residential areas. The City has also indicated that no CUP would be granted and the gatherings must cease by Good Friday, April 2.

Related stories HERE and HERE.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Take and Read

WTS Bookstore is offering two great books at 50% off.
You Can Change by Tim Chester
What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert

Why is N.T. Wright speaking at Redeemer?

I like Tim Keller. His passion for urban church planting has served as both model and inspiration for a new generation of church planters. His commitment to biblical exposition and clarity in the Gospel are an encouraging alternative to the doctrinal carelessness which prevails in far too many churches. Redeemer Presbyterian Church, which Dr. Keller serves as senior minister, is a theologically conservative member of the PCA and fully affirms the Westminster Confession of Faith. For these reasons I am confused, indeed concerned why N.T. Wright has been invited to speak at Redeemer Presbyterian.

N.T. Wright, the Anglican Bishop of Durham is the most effective spokesperson for what is termed "The New Perspective on Paul" (NPP). To be extremely brief Dr. Wright denies the doctrine justification by faith alone. He also denies the doctrine of imputation whereby our sins were imputed to Christ as His righteousness is imputed to us through His work on the cross (Rom 5). Wright argues that the church has been wrong on these central doctrines. Now, however, he and few others equally enlightened scholars are here to help us understand what the Bible really says.

These are not small matters. It would be one thing if Redeemer had invited a premillenialist to speak or someone who believes in an old earth (or young earth). But they have invited a man who has fundamentally redefined the Gospel and the doctrine of justification. They have invited a man to speak who denies that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to the believer. These are not peripheral doctrines.

Now, some may say, "It is good to hear various views. N.T. Wright is an important biblical scholar. It's a good oportunity to engage in meaningful discussion." But we must remember that the church is not a lecture hall or university. We do not gather to entertain various "opinions" on the Gospel and justification. We are called to proclaim and defend the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Dr. Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary California puts it well:

If there is anything about which a church must be unapologetically clear and unequivocal it is the good news of Jesus Christ and the good news is not that we’re in by grace and we stay in through faith and works. The good news is not that in the resurrection of Christ God has vindicated himself and merely broken down the old ceremonial barriers between Jew and gentile. The truth is that the Rev Dr Wright has fundamentally re-defined what justification is. He has re-defined the good news such that it isn’t “the” good news any more, i.e., it’s not that Jesus has died as the substitute for elect sinners and that his suffering active obedience and his death have been imputed to all who believe in him and that he was raised on the third day for their righteousness with God.

I fear that Redeemer's invitation to N.T. Wright will be seen as an endorsement, at least at some level, of his views. But if not an endorsement Wright's appearance will likely suggest that redefining the Gospel and justification is not that big a problem. It will give his views a veneer of acceptability from one of the most influential Reformed churches in the country. It is not, in my opinion a good idea.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Coming soon from Crossway

Crossway is one of the most reliable publishers of Christian books. You can check out the Crossway virtual catalogue HERE.

FAQ on Abortion and Healthcare

Check out this very helpful post from Matthew Lee Anderson over at First Thoughts. Anderson addresses such questions as:
  • Does the Senate bill cover abortions?
  • Is this bill covered by the Hyde Amendment?
  • Did Bart Stupack get anything for supporting the bill?
  • Does the Executive Order solve the problem of tax payer funded abortion?

And speaking of abortion, it’s fitting that in the final hours, the outcome of the vote hinged on the issue. While many saw abortion as tangentially related to the health care debate, in reality the dispute is central to it, and a harbinger of things to come.

The expansion of government’s role in health care will elevate the importance of social issues and trigger contentious battles in the future over the government’s role in personal decisions. Given that abortion is a legal procedure in a free market, government cannot restrict private policies from covering it. But once ostensibly private policies are regulated by the federal government and subsidized with tax dollars, Washington has a say in the matter.

While the year-long debate over whether this particular legislation should pass this particular Congress has just ended, the broader debate over the future of America’s health care system has only begun.
- Phillip Klein

Monday, March 22, 2010

Professionalizing Pastors

“We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more more spiritual death we will leave in our wake.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday's Sermon

Today's message was part 30 in our series through Hebrews. It is entiteld "What Faith Is" and comes from Hebrews 11:1-3. You can download or listen to it HERE.

Happy Birthday Johan

I share a birthday with J.S. Bach. The following is his Brandenberg Concertos No. 3 - Allegro Moderato. Enjoy...

How to sell out the pro-life cause...

The following is Planned Parenthood's reaction to Bart Stupak's (D-MI) decision to vote "yes" on on the Senate's health care bill:

“While we regret that this proposed Executive Order has given the imprimatur of the president to Senator Nelson’s language, we are grateful that it does not include the Stupak abortion ban.”
Planned Parenthood knows full well what Mr. Stupack apparently does not. The Senate's bill will not ultimately protect us from paying for abortions.

From National Right to Life Committee:
The executive order promised by President Obama was issued for political effect. It changes nothing. It does not correct any of the serious pro-abortion provisions in the bill. The president cannot amend a bill by issuing an order, and the federal courts will enforce what the law says.

From Andrew McCarthy:
That EOs can be rescinded at the president’s whim is of course true. This particular EO is also a nullity — presidents cannot enact laws, the Supreme Court has said they cannot impound funds that Congress allocates, and (as a friend points out) the line-item veto has been held unconstitutional, so they can’t use executive orders to strike provisions in a bill. So this anti-abortion EO is blatant chicanery: if the pro-lifers purport to be satisfied by it, they are participating in a transparent fraud and selling out the pro-life cause.
It is a sad day indeed.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

On Preaching That is Truly Christian...

"Harry Emerson Fosdick, pastor of the Riverside Church in New York City and perhaps the most famous (or infamous) preacher of the twentieth century's early decades, once defined preaching like this: 'Preaching is personal counseling on a group basis.' Earlier evangelicals recognized Fosdick's approach as rejection of biblical preaching. An unabashed theological liberal, Fosdick paraded his rejection of biblical inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility--and rejected other doctrines central to the Christian faith. Enamored with trends in psycholocial theory, Fosdick became liberal Protestantism's happy pulpit therapist. The goal of his preaching was well captured by the title of one of his many books, On Being a Real Person.

"Shockingly, this approach is now evident in many evangelical pulpits. Urged on by devotees of 'needs-based preaching,' many evangelicals have abandoned the text without recognizing that they have done so. These preachers may eventually get to the text in teh course of the sermon, but the text does not set the agenda or establish the shape of the message. The sacred desk has become an advice center, and the pew has become the therapist's couch. Psychological and practical concerns have displaced theological exegesis, and the preacher directs his sermon to the congregation's perceived needs rather than to their need for a Savior...

"The preaching of the apostles always presented the kerygma--the heart of the gospel. The clear presentation of the gospel must be a part of the sermon, no matter the text. As Charles Spurgeon expressed this so eloquently, preach the Word, place it in its canonical context, and 'make a bee-line to the cross.'

"The approach of many preachers is to present helpful and practical messages, often generalized Christian content but without any clear presentation of the gospel or call to decision and accountibility to the text or to the claims of Christ. The apostles should be our model here, consistently preaching the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of course, in order for the gospel to make sense, authentic preaching must also deal honestly with the reality of human sin and must do so with a candor equal to that of the biblical text. All this presents the preacher with some significant challenges in our age of 'sensitivities.' But in the end, preaching devoid of this content--preaching that evades the biblical text and biblical truth--falls short of anything we can rightly call Christian preaching."

Al Mohler from He Is Not Silent

Friday, March 19, 2010

Son of Hamas

From Justin Taylor:

Tonight on the Albert Mohler Radio program (5-6 PM ET—streamed online for free) his guest will be Mosab Hasson Yousef, son of a founder of Hamas turned double-agent for Israel turned Christian. His new book, Son of Hamas, has become a NYT bestseller.

For more info on the book, see this recent review by Tim Challies.

See also this interview with him in GQ Magazine.

See also this WSJ interview.

Peter Hitchens - The Rage Against God

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Preachers Who Do Not Believe"

Al Mohler comments on a fascinating, if not disheartening new study released by Tufts University. The name of the study is entitled "Preachers Who Do Not Believe." The title is self-explanatory. One of the authors of the study is the well known atheist Daniel Dennett. I do not believe that Dr. Dennett is a disinterested or impartial observer of the data. He is among the new school of aggressive atheists who believe religious faith is not only specious but potentially dangerous. That said, the study ought to concern those of us who love God and His church.

Dennett and LaScola undertook their project with the goal of looking for unbelieving pastors and ministers who continue to serve their churches in "secret disbelief." Their "small and self-selected" sample of ministers represents a microcosm of the theological collapse at the heart of many churches and denominations.

In their report, Dennett and LaScola present case studies of five unbelieving ministers, three from liberal denominations ("the liberals") and two from conservative denominations ("the literals").

Ironically, Dennett the atheist has a better grasp of the nature of theological liberalism than do many professing evangelicals.

Interestingly, Dennett also proposes a new interpretation of theological liberalism. Noting that many modern people claim to be Christians while holding to virtually no specific theological content, Dennett suggests that their mode of faith should not be described as "belief," but rather as "believing in belief."

Another portion of Mohler's post struck me as especially important for the church. It is a reminder that clear definitions and boundaries in all things doctrinal are vital.

Early in their report, Dennett and LaScola point to a problem of definition. Many churches and denominations have adopted such fluid and doctrineless identities that determining who is a believer and who is an unbeliever has become difficult. Their statement deserves a close reading:

The ambiguity about who is a believer and who is an unbeliever follows inexorably from the pluralism that has been assiduously fostered by many religious leaders for a century and more: God is many different things to different people, and since we can't know if one of these conceptions is the right one, we should honor them all. This counsel of tolerance creates a gentle fog that shrouds the question of belief in God in so much indeterminacy that if asked whether they believed in God, many people could sincerely say that they don't know what they are being asked.

In other words, some theologians and denominations have embraced a theology so fluid and indeterminate that even an atheist cannot tell the believers and unbelievers apart.

"Preachers Who Are Not Believers" is a stunning and revealing report that lays bare a level of heresy, apostasy, and hypocrisy that staggers the mind. In 1739, Gilbert Tennett preached his famous sermon, "On the Danger of an Unconverted Ministry." In that sermon, Tennett described unbelieving pastors as a curse upon the church. They prey upon the faith and the faithful. "These caterpillars labor to devour every green thing."

I would add that these "caterpillars" are not found only in the church. They can be found in many seminaries and so-called Christian colleges and universities. I know what it is to sit with students and graduates of Christian universities who no longer believe because a Bible professor convinced them that they could not rely on the accuracy of the Scriptures. I was told once by a now unbelieving young graduate, "Todd, if I cannot believe what the Bible says in the Old Testament then how can I believe what it says about Jesus?" Indeed.

Read Mohler's entire article HERE.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Doctrine: Uniting and Dividing

Justin Taylor has a very helpful post dealing with levels of doctrine moving from the absolutes to those things that are open questions. Check it out HERE.

From the ESV Study Bible:

The ability to discern the relative importance of theological beliefs is vital for effective Christian life and ministry. Both the purity and unity of the church are at stake in this matter. The relative importance of theological issues can fall within four categories:
1.absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;
2.convictions, while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;
3.opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and
4.questions are currently unsettled issues.

Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least seven considerations:
1.biblical clarity;
2.relevance to the character of God;
3.relevance to the essence of the gospel;
4.biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it);
5.effect on other doctrines;
6.consensus among Christians (past and present); and
7.effect on personal and church life.

These criteria for determining the importance of particular beliefs must be considered in light of their cumulative weight regarding the doctrine being considered. For instance, just the fact that a doctrine may go against the general consensus among believers (see item 6) does not necessarily mean it is wrong, although that might add some weight to the argument against it. All the categories should be considered collectively in determining how important an issue is to the Christian faith. The ability to rightly discern the difference between core doctrines and legitimately disputable matters will keep the church from either compromising important truth or needlessly dividing over peripheral issues.

Diagram copyright 2009 Crossway Bibles.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Case Against "Christian Universalism"

Mike Pohlman at the Gospel Coalition has posted a very helpful list of resources to counter the idea of "Christian Universalism." I have reproduced it below because it is worth your time to check it out. "Christian Universalism" is universalism with a veneer of Christianity. It is the belief that, in the end, Jesus will redeem all mankind unto salvation regardless of what they have believed.

We recently had an email inquiry to The Gospel Coalition asking for resources on “Christian Universalism.” And because we all learned in school why we should ask questions (i.e., other people probably have the same one), we are posting our recommendations here. (This list, of course, is not exhaustive and can be added to by our community in the comments below.)

Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism (IVP Academic, 2008)
Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment (Zondervan, 2004)
Let the Nations be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 3rd Edition (Baker Academic, 2010)

•Sermon: “Hell Isn’t Worth It” (Mark Dever)
•Sermon: “The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell” (John Piper)
•Sermon: “The Final Judgement” (Ligon Duncan)
•Lecture: “What Happens to Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel?” (Mark Rogers)
•Q&A: “If Hell is real, how can God be loving?” (John Piper)

•Q&A: “What is the importance of believing in Hell?” (Sandy Willson)
•Q&A: “How should pastors preach about Hell?” (John Piper)

“Is Universalism Biblical?” (Ron Rhodes)
“Are those who have never heard of Christ going to Hell?” (R.C. Sproul)

•1990 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors: “Universalism and the Reality of Eternal Punishment” (Sinclair Ferguson, John Piper, Greg Livingstone, Tom Steller)

TGC Confessional Statement
•Section 13:
The Restoration of All Things We believe in the personal, glorious, and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ with his holy angels, when he will exercise his role as final Judge, and his kingdom will be consummated. We believe in the bodily resurrection of both the just and the unjust—the unjust to judgment and eternal conscious punishment in hell, as our Lord himself taught, and the just to eternal blessedness in the presence of him who sits on the throne and of the Lamb, in the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness. On that day the church will be presented faultless before God by the obedience, suffering and triumph of Christ, all sin purged and its wretched effects forever banished. God will be all in all and his people will be enthralled by the immediacy of his ineffable holiness, and everything will be to the praise of his glorious grace.

Paying for Abortion

From Al Mohler:

Ground Zero for the sanctity of human life is now the U.S. House of Representatives, where the Democratic leadership is pulling all the levers to come up with the 216 votes necessary to pass the Obama health care bill. While most of the nation seems preoccupied with the politics of the issue and the political machinations of the frenzied legislative process, the preeminent issue is abortion and the sanctity of human life.

While President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders have insisted that the current bill is "abortion neutral," it is not. As Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life argues, the bill represents "the single greatest expansion of abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision."

Some background information is in order. Federal funding for abortion is prevented by the Hyde Amendment, passed by Congress in 1976 in order to prevent taxpayer funds from paying for abortions. The concept behind the Hyde Amendment is simple and important. Abortion is a highly divisive issue, and the federal government should not require American citizens to violate their consciences by subsidizing abortions. Just a few months ago, the House of Representatives adopted language similar to the Hyde Amendment in the form of what became known as the Stupak Amendment, named for Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, who introduced the legislation.

The bill currently before Congress does not include the Stupak Amendment, nor anything like the Hyde Amendment. When the President and congressional leaders insist that the current bill does not subsidize abortions, they mislead the American public.

Read the entire article HERE.

These Last Days

Christian Focus will soon be releasing a new book by Don Carson that is much needed and timely for the people of God.

This is not another book on what view to hold about the reality of Jesus' return but it is about how to live in the light of his imminent return. Don Carson accurately determines that the Christian church has always lived in what the bible terms 'the last days'...the period between his ascension to his Father in heaven and his return on the clouds of heaven.

Based on Paul's teaching in 2 Timothy 3, Don Carson gives wise counsel to today's church to avoid false teaching and to seek good mentors, those who will lead us in truth.

He shows that to rely on worldly wisdom is folly, that the world is utterly sinful, but rather to cling to the Bible as the source of our counsel and guidance and help. But more than that he shows us that it is in holding the Bible out to a needy world we take its message to where it is needed the most.

To live in the last days is not to hang on in quiet desperation but to boldly take the word of God and apply it to every situation knowing that it will meet every need just as it has throughout the two millennia since Jesus promised to return again. That is how to live in the last days!

HT: Martin Downes

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Word Did Everything

"I will constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion. Take myself as an example. I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God's Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything."

- Martin Luther

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Coming to Church of the Saviour

In September Church of the Saviour will be pleased to host Full Confidence, a conference affirming the full trustworthiness of the Bible as God's Word.

Change is inevitable. And when the unpredictability of tomorrow consumes our minds it devours any sense of stability, confidence and peace.

But there is good news. In fact, there is great news for the people of God. Into our changing lives God has spoken. His impecably true and powerful Word gives us strength, hope, and confidence. Indeed, we can have full confidence in God's unbreakable Word which never fades like the grass of the field.

Plan now to attend Full Confidence on September 24-26 at Church of the Saviour. We will be instructed and encouraged by:

Rev. John Currie

Still Time to Register!

Together for the Gospel: T4G 2010 Conference from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Carl Trueman on the decline of mainline Protestantism

Check out this interview with Carl Trueman on the Janet Mefferd Show. Dr. Trueman is Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary.

It is an important reminder of the high price of compromise.

"Mission Accomplished"

Carl Trueman just forwarded the following video to me. I love Shai Linne's work. I defy anyone to find anyone in contemporary Christian music who is writing lyrics with half the depth that is demonstrated in his work.

Friday, March 12, 2010

What will happen to pro-life Democrats?

Representative Bart Stupack (D-MI) has been leading an important fight to keep tax payers from being forced by the federal government to fund abortions. It is yet to be seen whether or not he and others will be successful.

From National Review Online:

Stupak notes that his negotiations with House Democratic leaders in recent days have been revealing. “I really believe that the Democratic leadership is simply unwilling to change its stance,” he says. “Their position says that women, especially those without means available, should have their abortions covered.” The arguments they have made to him in recent deliberations, he adds, “are a pretty sad commentary on the state of the Democratic party.”

What are Democratic leaders saying? “If you pass the Stupak amendment, more children will be born, and therefore it will cost us millions more. That’s one of the arguments I’ve been hearing,” Stupak says. “Money is their hang-up. Is this how we now value life in America? If money is the issue — come on, we can find room in the budget. This is life we’re talking about.”

If Obamacare passes, Stupak says, it could signal the end of any meaningful role for pro-life Democrats within their own party. “It would be very, very hard for someone who is a right-to-life Democrat to run for office,” he says. “I won’t leave the party. I’m more comfortable here and still believe in a role within it for the right-to-life cause, but this bill will make being a pro-life Democrat much more difficult. They don’t even want to debate this issue. We’ll probably have to wait until the Republicans take back the majority to fix this.”

“Throughout this debate, even when the House leaders have acknowledged us, it’s always been in a backhanded way,” he laments. “I’m telling the others to hold firm, and we’ll meet next week, but I’m disappointed in my colleagues who said they’d be with us and now they’re not. It’s almost like some right-to-life members don’t want to be bothered. They just want this over.”

And the politics of the issue are pretty rough. “This has really reached an unhealthy stage,” Stupak says. “People are threatening ethics complaints on me. On the left, they’re really stepping it up. Every day, from Rachel Maddow to the Daily Kos, it keeps coming. Does it bother me? Sure. Does it change my position? No.”

Boys to Men

From an article by Dr. Vern Poythress entitled "How I Have Helped My Boys to Become Christian Men":

Almost every culture in the world has something to mark the difference between a boy and a man. A boy goes through a "rite of passage," after which he becomes officially a man. The rite of passage may involve an ordeal, a test, or a training period of some kind. The boy who has reached a certain age must kill a crocodile, or train with a bow and arrow, or go on a long journey alone, or join in a dangerous hunt with the men.

When does a boy become a man in white American culture? When he gets a driver's license? When he graduates from high school? When he moves away from his parents? When he can vote? When he gets his first full-time job? When he is 21? When he gets married? When he owns his own home?

No one can say. There is no clear point of transition. There is no one "rite of passage." One of the unfortunate effects can be that boys are insecure. They don't know when they are men. Again and again they may try to prove that they are "grown up." Sometimes they may choose destructive ways-join a gang, go hotrodding, learn to smoke, get drunk, take a girl to bed.

What do we do to give proper guidance? I know and you know that there is no magic formula. God must be at work in teaching us and our boys, and he must be the one who causes them to grow (1 Cor. 3:7). But you and I can plant and water.

I decided that one way I could help my sons was by showing them what it was to be a man. What is a man? What marks maturity? In the Bible, true maturity does not consist in being able to kill a crocodile! The true maturity is spiritual. It is wisdom in knowing God and his will, and being able to carry it out in your life (Prov. 1:1-7).

I must set an example by my manhood. I must be like Paul, who said, "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1). That is an awesome challenge. I fail to live up to the biblical standard. But part of being a man is being able to admit it when I fail and then to ask forgiveness...

In what does the training consist? Christian manhood is the goal. The training must match the goal. So we set for them projects. They acquire and demonstrate skill in each of several overlapping areas.

1. Knowledge of the contents of the Bible.

Know the names of books of the Bible in order.

Know Bible history.

Read the Bible all the way through.

Know main themes of biblical books.

Understand how Biblical teaching centers on Christ.

Know Greek and Hebrew (amount of knowledge tailored to the child's ability)

2. Memorization of selected verses and passages of the Bible.

3. Knowledge of the major teachings of the Bible (doctrine).

Memorize a children's catechism as a summary of doctrine.

Be able to explain doctrines and respond to questions using one's own words.

4. Personal piety.

Using devotional materials

Prayer diary

Day-long personal retreat for prayer and fasting with Daddy

Growth in understanding of means for overcoming sin

5. Projects of service and mercy.

Serving the church; serving the needy.

6. Wisdom in dealing with various spheres of life.

Finances: tithing, drawing up a year-long budget; checkbook balancing; investing.

Etiquette: table etiquette, greeting etiquette, letter etiquette, conversational etiquette, sexual etiquette.

Apologetics: answering questions and objections about Christian faith; understanding the Christian world view and the main competing worldviews and ideas in the United States.

Sexuality: knowing Christian teaching and standards for thoughts and actions. Understanding how God designed male and female bodies.

They work on these areas over a period of years. Many times we just integrate the work into our family devotional times. At other points we have periods where they have concentrated study in one area. When the boy is 11 years old, we assess progress. If our boy is honestly far from ready, we are willing in principle to put things off for another year. But if he is showing more maturity, we have a time of more concentrated preparation.

In the two or three months before the Bar Jeshua celebration, we enlist our pastors, young people's leaders, and (in my case) my seminary professor friends to test the boy privately in each of the areas (1)-(4). I am present at these tests to provide moral support, but not to coach my boy on the answers. We also reserve the fellowship hall at our church as a site for the coming celebration. We send out invitations. We draw up a program sheet and buy decorations and food.

Read the entire article HERE.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Panel Discussion of McLaren's new book

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary held a panel discussion on Brian McLaren's newest book A New Kind of Christianity. The discussion was hosted by Al Mohler and featured several SBTS faculty members.

Watch the video HERE.

Listen to the audio HERE.

The other Hitchens OR A tale of two brothers

Christopher Hitchens is among the world's most famous atheists. What is not as well known in the U.S. is that his brother Peter is a successful journalist and, ironically, a Christian. An article written by Peter recounts his journey toward Christianity and the challenging relationship he shares with his brother.

The swearing of great oaths concentrates the mind. So did the baptisms first of my daughter and then of my wife who, raised as a Marxist atheist, trod another rather different path to the same place.

Word spread around my trade that I was somehow mixed up in church matters. It was embarrassing. I remember a distinguished foreign correspondent, with a look of mingled pity and horror on his face asking: "How can you do that?"

I talked to few people about it, and was diffident about mentioning it in anything I wrote. I think it true to say that for many years I was more or less ashamed of confessing to any religious faith at all, except when I felt safe to do so.

It is a strange and welcome side effect of the growing attack on Christianity in British society that I have now overcome this. Being Christian is one thing. Fighting for a cause is another, and much easier to acknowledge - for in recent times it has grown clear that the Christian religion is threatened with a dangerous defeat by secular forces which have never been so confident.

Why is there such a fury against religion now? Because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. The one reliable force that forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of law.

The one reliable force that restrains the hand of the man of power. In an age of powerworship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.

While I was making my gradual, hesitant way back to the altar-rail, my brother Christopher's passion against God grew more virulent and confident.

Read the entire article HERE.

Life After Death?

The theme of the 2009 Ligonier West Coast Conference was "Is There Life After Death?" and featured such preachers and theologians as Alistair Begg, R.C. Sproul, and Michael Horton. Below are the videos of the message which Ligonier has graciously provided.

Thinking Biblically about Social Justice (3)

Kevin DeYoung continues his series on the major passages of Scripture which call for justice. In this most recent post he deals with Jeremiah 22.
Today I return to my series on social justice. As we look at the third of the seven passages we’ll see once again the Bible says more and less about social justice than we think. More, because God definitely and clearly commands his people to do justice. But less, because what the Bible means by doing justice is not always equivalent to contemporary notions of social justice.

Jeremiah 22

The basic command for this unit is given in verse 3: “Do justice and righteousness.” So there it is: God’s people (technically the kings in this verse) are commanded to do justice. We cannot obey God and ignore the divine call to justice.

In fact, the Lord tells the kings of Judah that judging the cause of the poor and needy (rightly) is to know him (15-16). It didn’t matter their titles, their wealth, or their religious observance, if the kings oppressed the poor instead of treating them fairly and mercifully, they proved their own ignorance of God. And if they continued in such flagrant disobedience, the kings and their kingdom would be wiped away (24-30).

So doing justice is hugely important. But what does it mean? Thankfully Jeremiah 22 gives us some answers.

Luxury by Tyranny

Jeremiah 21-22 were not addressed to anyone and everyone (though the chapters apply in various ways to all). These were words directly for the kings of Judah (21:3; 22:1, 11, 18). Ancient kings had tremendous power to do good or evil. To put it anachronistically, they wielded, all by themselves, executive, legislative, and judicial authority. They tried cases, made decrees, and enforced laws, just or unjust.

Tragically, in the waning years of Judah’s sovereignty, the kings acted unjustly on all three accounts. Their one overarching vice, what Phil Ryken calls “luxury by tyranny,” took many forms.

• The kings did not defend the oppressed against their oppressors (3a).

• They wronged the weak, even to the point of murder, shedding innocent blood for dishonest gain (3b, 17).

• They built their lavish houses by unrighteousness. This was not an instance of the rich getting richer as the poor also get richer. These kings, in an effort to live like the opulent kings of the other nations, conscripted forced labor and cheated the workers of their wages (13-16). They lived in luxury on the backs of the poor. The rich got richer because they made the poor poorer.

Doing Justice

Doing justice, against this backdrop of crimes, was not terribly complicated. It meant the kings would do the following: judge the poor fairly instead of exploiting them, stop cheating the poor and lining their own pockets through oppression, and quit snuffing out the weak in order to get their land or the stuff. No king, or any Israelite for that matter, guilty of these sins could possibly know, in a covenantal sense, the God of Israel. To know God was to obey him.

So here’s my unsexy, but hopefully exegetically faithful conclusion to this passage and others like it: Christians who do not cheat, swindle, rob, murder, accept bribes, defraud, and hold back agreed upon wages are probably doing justice. Christians guilty of these things are probably not Christians at all.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In The Genes

From Tom Schreiner's article A New Testament Perspective on Homosexuality:

Even if some sins could be traced to our genetics, it would not exempt us from responsibility for such sins. The Scriptures teach that all human beings are born into this world as sons and daughters of Adam, and hence they are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). They are dead in trespasses in sins (Eph. 2:1, 5), and have no inclination to seek God or to do what is good (Rom. 3:10–11). We come into the world as those who are spiritually dead (Rom. 5:12, 15), so that death reigns over the whole human race (Rom. 5:17). Indeed, human beings are condemned by virtue of Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:16, 18). Such a radical view of sin in which we inherit a sinful nature from Adam means that sinful predispositions are part of our personalities from our inception. Hence, even if it were discovered that we are genetically predisposed to certain sinful behaviors like alcoholism or homosexuality, such discoveries would not eliminate our responsibility for our actions, nor would it suggest that such actions are no longer sinful. The Scriptures teach that we are born as sinners in Adam, while at the same time they insist we should not sin and are responsible for the sin we commit. We enter into the world as slaves of sin (Rom. 6:6, 17), but we are still morally blameworthy for capitulating to the sin that serves as our master.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How Does God Reveal Himself?

Check out the latest episode of the White Horse Inn HERE.

Can we discover truth about God outside of the Bible, or is Scripture the only true source of heavenly knowledge? On this edition of the program the hosts will outline the distinction between general and special revelation. In the former, God reveals himself through creation, and in the latter he reveals himself in the pages Scripture and in the person of Christ. Though we can know many things about God by the things he has made, only Scripture reveals his good will toward us in the Gospel.

The Bible is About God

It is not unusual for Christians to be familiar with the stories in the Bible but to miss what is most important in those stories. We hear messages like, "Dare to be a Daniel" and "Slaying the Giants in Your Life". Ironically, what is missed in the telling and preaching of those stories is God Himself. The most important question we can ask about any passage of Scripture is not "What does this mean to me?" but "What does God say about Himself in this passage?" Phil Ryken's book Discovering God in the Stories of the Bible will help you read the Bible through this most essential lens.

Human beings from the beginning of time have tried to figure out what God is. They have worshiped nature and idols and everything in between because they haven’t had a true answer to the vital question “What is God?” But the Bible tells us stories that illustrate just who God really is. It gives us a true answer to that question, an answer that has crucial implications for each of us in our daily lives. The 13 Bible stories explained in this book are full of exciting truths about God, and studying those truths is the key to knowing and loving God more. Each story gives us a a new facet of God’s nature and character.

Slaughter in Nigeria

The mainstream media has been largely silent about the ongoing Muslim massacre of Christians in Nigeria. One notable exception has been an article in the NY Times by Adam Nossiter. Still it would be nice if the media were as outraged by the murder of Christians as they are by the mistreatment of dogs.

The mood in Jos was tense Monday. Troops were deployed in the streets, shops closed early and residents remained indoors.

A few miles south of the city nearly 400 of the victims were buried in a mass grave in Dogon Na Hauwa, the village where the worst violence occurred. Some of the bodies had been mutilated.

There, women cried unconsolably amid crowds of mourners, and the smell of burned and decomposing flesh hung in the air. Officials combed a large area around the village, continuing to find bodies during the day.

Shehu Sani, president of Civil Rights Congress, said in a phone interview on Monday that members of his group counted 492 bodies, mainly in Dogon Na Hauwa. He said that security forces had not been much in evidence in the “vulnerable areas” south of Jos. Mr. Sani said that the attackers were motivated at least in part by a large theft of cattle by members of the same Christian ethnic group as the victims.

“We were at the scene of the violence,” Mr. Sani said, suggesting that the local government figure of 500 was not an exaggeration.

“We have counted as many bodies as that,” he said. “There are not enough functional mortuaries to take them. It’s possibly even more than that because many were buried without documentation.”
Read the entire article HERE.

And though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the Ruler yet

Biblical Manhood with C.J. Mahaney

In this interview C.J. Mahaney tackles some important questions:

  • How can a young man be wise and how should fathers lead their sons?
  • How can men mature in leading their wife and children?
  • How can men seek fellowship and invite criticism?

Q&A on Biblical Masculinity from Sovereign Grace Ministries on Vimeo.

Monday, March 8, 2010

No substitute for the Gospel

Spiritual experiences and the disciplines are no substitute for that which is the matter of first importance: the Gospel.

From D.A. Carson:

A litany of devices designed to make us more spiritual or mature or productive or emotionally whole threatens to relegate the gospel to irrelevance, or at least to the realm of the boring and the primitive. The gospel may introduce you to the church, as it were, but from that point on assorted counseling techniques and therapy sessions will change your life and make you happy and fruitful. The gospel may help you make some sort of decision for God, but ‘rebirthing’ techniques—in which in silent meditation you imagine Jesus catching you as you are born from your mother’s womb, imagine him hugging you and holding you—will generate a wonderful cathartic experience that will make you feel whole again, especially if you have been abused in the past. The gospel may enable you to be right with God, but if you really want to pursue spirituality you must find a spiritual director, or practice asceticism, or discipline yourself with journaling, or spend two weeks in silence in a Trappist monastery.

These are not all of a piece. What they have in common, however, is the diminishing of the gospel in order to magnify the current device that is guaranteed to bring you toward wholeness. By contrast, the New Testament passionately insists that everything we need for life and godliness and a walk in the Spirit is secured for us in the gospel. It follows that if someone chooses to adopt some ascetic practice in order the better to focus on the Jesus of the Bible, the attention is still on Jesus.

But if someone so ties asceticism to altered moods or to experiences of ‘spirituality’ that the gospel itself is virtually ignored or is implicitly dismissed as a sort of initial stage now to be improved by ascetic practice, the name of the game is idolatry.

Again, if someone has experienced cathartic relief and emotional integration after an imaginative ‘rebirthing’ session, I am glad that the emotional integration has taken place. But we must insist that a better emotional integration could have been achieved by meditating on, say, the passion narratives, or on Ephesians 3:14–21. For then the emotional catharsis would have been tied to what God himself insists is the clearest and most complete demonstration of his love for us in Christ Jesus. In other words, the emotional integration would have been tied to the gospel instead of to something as ephemeral and diverting as manipulated imagination.

This is a time for Christians to return to the basics, the comprehensive basics, and quietly affirm with Paul, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith”’ (Romans 1:16–17).